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Trainers Equitation at Blowing Rock

By Susan Harris


Always one of the most-anticipated classes at Blowing Rock, this year’s Trainers Equitation class lived up to its advance billing… and more. While some people may think of “trainers equitation” as an oxymoron, there are always a handful of expertly riding trainers and instructors who take this class most seriously. An equal number come in the ring purely for the entertainment value.


Nine trainers entered this year’s class. One of the buzzes going around the show grounds ahead of time was that Judge Nancy Becker would be expecting pocket workouts. If Judge Becker thought she would call this class like most others, she was quickly disabused of that notion when Jon Walker entered the ring. With a grotesque mask and wearing overalls rolled up to his knees, Walker maintained his reputation for outrageous outfits and behavior in this class. Having served as Walker’s foil in past years, Midge Hunt had an accomplice this year in her mother, Jo Cornell, riding a Friesian.

Where does Jon Walker come up with these get-ups?

Jon Walker, Jo Cornell, and Midge Hunt
ride three abreast

Ashley Walker has a long way to go
to catch up to her dad.

Some of those taking the equitation challenge more seriously included Lewis Eckard riding Cagle James’s new equitation mount LA Blues, Christy Absher Johnson, Erica Savary, and Lindsey Hammond. 


Judge Nancy Becker inspects
 Lindsey Hammond in the line-up.

Even though the normal sequence of gaits was called, most of the riders freelanced quite a bit with some riding three abreast at times. Others tried to “intimidate” their competitors. When Jon Walker rode up on LA Blues’ tail, Eckard quite smoothly moved out of the way and then proceeded to ride circles around Walker with the crowd voicing its approval. Walker then had to prove his horse could do “equitation circles” as well.


Once the line-up was called, the crowd buzzed with excitement and started calling out for workouts. When Eckard handed his pocket workout to Judge Becker, she read it and then doubled over in laughter. It read in part, “From the line-up, trot directly to winner’s circle.” He actually performed a series of serpentines and cantered diagonally across the ring. Christy Johnson, after standing on her saddle and saluting the crowd, was joined by Meghan Toms and rode double as they performed their workout. A portion of Lindsey Hammond’s workout involved cantering (or galloping) with no reins or stirrups. At this point the officials pretty much lost control of the class.


What did Eckard’s pocket workout really say?


Jo Cornell hands her pocket workout
to Judge Becker

 Christy Absher Johnson salutes her fans.


Christy Johnson performed her workout
with Meghan Toms riding double.

Once a semblance of order was re-established, the ribbons were called out in the following order:

  1. Lewis Eckard
  2. Midge Hunt and Jo Cornell (tie)
  3. Jon Walker (the highest he’s ever placed)
  4. Christy Absher Johnson
  5. Lindsey Hammond
  6. Erica Savary

One can only wonder what next year will hold.







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