My First Hunter Derby & Second Broken Finger – Part I

My First Hunter Derby & Second Broken Finger – Part I

Overall?  We did the hunter derby!  I had a lot of fun doing it and checking that (hopefully first of many) item off the bucket list.  That being said, it was not without any shenanigans.

I headed to the show grounds at a reasonable time to meet my trainer and the horses.  Since this was a one day show, we didn’t have stalls… which usually isn’t a problem.  Historically Simon has been great tied to the trailer.  Historically.

On my way I got the following text message:



Once I arrived at the show, my trainer warned me he had been acting pretty weird about tying in general.  She went off to school some of our other riders, and I attempted to lunge in knee high grass.  Though Simon is really never a crazy guy on the lunge line, he was especially dead Saturday morning.  Grass > Trotting.  I had to chase him with the whip to get him to trot, and getting any decent amount of canter out was just not happening.


After lunging, we headed to the ring with the hunter derby set up.  They allowed hand walking for an hour, which was a great opportunity to walk the lines, let Simon see the jumps and be terrified of the height and width of every oxer.  And there were so many oxers.



I had been warned of these oxers, and we’d been working on more at home… but nothing compared to seeing them up close.  A barnmate tried to make me feel better saying she was sure some of them were set to 3’… yeah no, just gigantic 2’6″ – 2’9″.


Simon though could give 0 f’s about the jumps or the ring.  He strolled around like a gentleman and nibbled about 50% of the jumps.


Thoroughly petrified of about 50% of the jumps in my ring, I took Simon back to the trailer.  I tied him up, and started to head to the office to register.  There was a registration cut-off in about twenty minutes, and if I didn’t confirm my derby entry by then than I wasn’t going to be allowed to enter.

He wasn’t even tied for five minutes before he started pulling back, and that’s when I lost any ounce of horse sense.  See, I always tie horses with a quick release knot.  Always.  Simon was tied with a quick release knot when he started pulling back, but I didn’t quick release it.  What did I do instead?

I grabbed his halter with my right hand and said “Whoa”.  Like an idiot.

Simon did not whoa.

Simon sat on his ass and waited for his halter to break… with my hand stuck inbetween his nose and the leather strap.  By the time I remembered I had a quick release knot and went for it, the halter snapped and my hand wrenched free and I dropped many, many f bombs.  I apologize to any short stirrup kids in the near vicinity.  We caught him quickly without any drama, but my hand was not looking good.

One of my barnmates offered to register for me so I could sit at the trailer and babysit my horse who can no longer be tied.  When everyone left, I had a little meltdown and did what any rational adult would do – cried and texted my husband a SOS please come immediately.


After some tears, I was able to calm down.  I could bend my finger, but it was a bit numb and super swollen.  We went to the EMT (might as well earn my $35 fee) and got an ice pack.  They told me it was either sprained, deeply bruised or a hairline fracture and to take it easy.  By take it easy, I assume they meant ride?  Because that’s what I did.

Honestly once I realized that my hand wasn’t seriously f’ed up, my biggest disappointment was that I couldn’t braid.  I had planned to braid in my downtime before the derby, but with a sausage finger that hurt when I bent it… that wasn’t really possible 🙁  Sad panda.

Before the actual derby, we were allowed a ticketed warmup.  The warmup had a limited course where we could jump some of the derby jumps as well as let our horse see the ring.


Trotting in he immediately gave a hard look at the trot log, and I sighed.  My finger was fine so long as I didn’t need to close it on the reins and didn’t bump it.  If I bumped it left or right, there was a huge searing pain.  Luckily for me, I had giant jumps to distract me from the pain.


The overall consensus of my warmup round was that I rode really well to the jumps that intimidated me (ie giant oxers).  Since I kept a lot of leg on, Simon was okay with a longer spot and I felt really with him.  Our big snafu was the outside line.  The combination was set for a two stride to a five stride bending, and I didn’t have enough coming into the two.  We chipped the two, and then chipped out of the five.  Not great for sure, but it was just warmup so I told myself not to worry about it.


I was just pretty happy that we jumped everything.  Of the two option fences, we chose both low options in the warm-up.  The oxer high options looked huge and even though I wasn’t worried about the high options on the singles, we decided it would be better to start nice and easy for Simon.


Ticketed warmup out of the way, I started to feel a lot better than the derby.  The finger incident really rattled my confidence, but I did the very best I could to push aside expectations.  There were 26(?) in the 2’6″ derby section.  I was slated to go towards the end so I had plenty of time to watch some rounds and unwind.  Looking around, it was pretty obvious that we were the newbs here.  I was competing against pros who rode jumpers, horses who showed in the 3’6″ at A shows fairly recently, and lots of really nice packer types who had more miles at 3′ than 2’6″.  For us I just wanted to get through in one piece and have a good time doing it.


For those details you’ll have to wait until tomorrow though!

40 thoughts on “My First Hunter Derby & Second Broken Finger – Part I

  1. Wow – a broken finger – so sorry to hear that happened. But – major kudos to you for getting on and riding!! 🙂 Those jumps do look a bit scary – but fun at the same time. Looking forward to part 2!

  2. So sorry about Simon. Looks like all our fur babies tend to have their moments. Glad you were able to get to the derby and get it done! By the way, I’m LOVING the oxer picture!!! New favorite for me!

  3. Yikes!! I broke one of my fingers once and it was soooo not fun, good for you for toughing it up and getting on! I know I probably would’ve tried but then dismounted two seconds later. 😉 You both look awesome, great photos!

  4. Simon you goob! (FWIW – Gogo used to set back whenever she was out at the poll. Then of course she learned that she could break halters, and she sucked at tying for the rest of forever. Since then I’ve only tied with things that don’t break cause I will be damned if any of mine learn how to break halters!)

    1. Definitely a goob. He could be out at the poll (chiro has told me he was before) but we do special stretches every ride to keep him flexible there. I think the grass turned him into a crack head because this was REALLY atypical behavior for Simonpants.

  5. My girl was the queen of setting back against ropes and breaking halters. She once ripped the tie ring off the trailer she was tied to when the lead rope and halter held. She was 95% good but if it was a 5% day you better get ready. I remember once my Mom went up to pet her and Buttercup glanced at her, sat back, broke the lead rope and flipped over leaving my Mom standing frozen with her hand in the air where the silly mare’s neck would have been.

    Sorry to hear about your finger but I’m glad you were able to still ride. I broke a knuckle/finger playing volleyball one summer so I can sympathize with how it feels to ride. Can’t wait to hear the rest of the story and see more pictures!

  6. Bad Simon! I feel your pain – literally!!!

    Wicket has never tied, which I also learned doing the EXACT same thing you did…grab the halter and say WHOA!!! That didn’t work – his leadrope broke and the snap hit me in the arm. He was still on trial, loose, near the road, no halter, and impossible to catch. Luckily, while I contemplated the two-wrists-on-one-arm look, a barnmate caught him, took me to the ER, and sat with me until the doctor gave me the good news that it was just BADLY bruised.

    Since then, I have discovered the rope halter – looks awful, but they generally only pull back one time and then learn it HURTS to pull back, but feels fine when I stand like a gentleman. I have broken many of non-tying horses that way – all for $6.99!!!

  7. You look great in the sneak peak photos though!!! I think you’re at this fork where you really ride better and are capable of more than you give yourself credit for- and once your confidence catches up there’ll be no stopping you 🙂

    Tying is one of my biggest pet peeves! I’m afraid to leave Wiz tied for long without supervision because his breeder never ties her horses… says its dangerous… (if I do tie him it’s with a quick release and safety halter- always scared he’ll still pull back). I do let him wonder around in a halter and lead rope though (per my trainer’s advice)- when he steps on it, he learns to release to the pressure instead of pull. If people see it they always freak and are like “hey your horse is stepping on his lead” and I’m like, “um, I know, it’s ok…” way safer way to train them to release… Sorry Simon is being a weirdo :\ Looks like you all did great though!

    1. “You look great in the sneak peak photos though!!! I think you’re at this fork where you really ride better and are capable of more than you give yourself credit for- and once your confidence catches up there’ll be no stopping you”


  8. Carlos went through a breaking halter/leadropes phase, we started trying him with 3 ropes at the trailer and just left him in an enclosed area one day and he sat down and was still tied and was confused and gave up after that. 🙂

    If you can bend your finger its probably not broken, or you are super stoic like me lol.

  9. Ow, ow, ow! Your poor hand!

    Guinness is terrible about setting back when having his feet done, getting spooked, or having a bath. I finally resorted to buying a velcro quick release halter for him, and it works beautifully. He sets back, it snaps, he … stands there. I probably would follow Andrea’s protocol and use something more unbreakable if he wasn’t such a gentleman the moment the pressure snaps. Hopefully this is was just a mental fart with Simon and not something long term!

  10. Horses! Glad you made it through and your photos are beautiful! It’s pretty cool that they let you show all of the fences to your horse and let you you have a warm up in there.

  11. Aye girl! BUT good for you for pushing through! 🙂 I can’t wait to hear all the details! I am sure that you guys did great and yay for experience!!!

    PS. Ticketed warm up round!! Jealous!

  12. Gina went through “not tying” phase a while ago. Anything I’d tie her up to, she’d immediately set back. I think we went through at least two halters and four lead ropes. It got to the point that at shows, I’d just hand her to Johnny and say, “Gina isn’t tying right now. Just hold the horse.” while I went to the bathroom or something. (Incidentally, now she is tying fine. Horses.)

    You and Simon look great, and what a badass to ride with a broken finger! And I second the above comments about your cute shirt.

  13. Poor finger! Ow! My horse never could be tied, so I know what that’s like to be the babysitter (if you don’t have stall access). 🙁

    I LOVE the picture of the downward descent over the hay (straw?). Such a cool looking fence and shot. Good job!

  14. I have a mare who sets back all the time because she just learnt that she could. Now we have ugly rope halters when she’s not penned. They may be uglier than leather but they do the trick.

    Well done for doing your round despite having a broken finger – ouch!
    You guys look awesome and I too, love the shirt!

  15. I totally would have done what you did: have a meltdown cry, call the BF, and then decide how to move forward. TOTALLY rational, I can relate big time and have the crooked finger to show for it. And of course, more recently, (as you might know) I had my own little private meltdown after I learned that my hip was fractured :-z and then I moved forward… rawr!

  16. Ouch on the finger, and bad Simon for pulling back! Sounds like some tying lessons are in store for him! Can’t wait to hear how you did!!!

  17. Bright side of hurt finger is the body releases some really good opiate-like chemicals (why it doesn’t hurt as much initially) that also help with anxiety. I would need 3 broken fingers and whiskey to even think of entering that derby, I can’t wait to read more!

  18. Ouch!! Ugh, sorry to hear about the finger, but major props to you for riding anyways and facing those oxers!

  19. Good for you for getting on with the broken finger! I have some experience with the broken digit thing. Please please please if they rx you PT or OT… GO. I couldn’t afford it and i wish i would have begged borrowed or stolen the cash cuz i do not have full use of the hand a year later. I’ll wait for part two before i send you the worried mother hen email!

  20. My dear horse doesn’t tie either. I mean, she ties 99% of the time…she ties until something gives her an excuse…she ties until I become complacent. We got a gorgeous leather halter for Christmas and the first day she wore it happened to be 1% day. Annihilated the halter. Lesson learned. We use one of those tie rings at all times now and never again will she be tied with something fancy on her head lol.

    Good for you for working through a broken finger and the (pardon the pun) set backs! Not sure I could have.

  21. Damn girl are you sure you aren’t an eventer riding with a broken finger 😉

    You guys need bailer twine to attach your lead ropes too….gone through many halters at shows myself lol

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