Monday, February 13, 2012

HITS 1992

Twenty years ago I didn't have to wait for the snow to melt so that I could go riding. Back then, I was living full time on the A show hunter/jumper circuit, managing a mobile tack shop based out of Memphis, Tennessee. Now Memphis is no Denver, but the winters can be cold and wet. It's not good horse show weather, so come January, my bosses and I did what everyone else in that industry does. We packed our bags and headed to Florida.
The tack shop's annual pilgrimage to the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit was a major production involving four adults, two trucks, two trailers, a Winnebago, 
one baby, 
big dogs,
one little dog,
and a very nice Amateur Owner hunter. 
Once we were there, I spent most of my days working in the tack shop.
This kept me busy, but I have to admit that it got a little lonely hanging out with the saddles.  
I was pretty shy in those days and hadn't lived on the circuit long enough to have made any close friends. The only people I remember hanging out with that first year were my bosses, their friends and this Canadian girl who would bring her rabbit to the shop.
She let it hop up and down the aisle, which was kind of weird, but whatever. She was good company!
Of course, the horsey benefits of wintering in Florida more than made up for a little bit of loneliness. The HITS circuit wasn't as big or as glamorous as the Winter Equestrian Festival in West Palm Beach, but I didn't care. I was just so excited to be there and to be a (small) part of it all.  

The mobile shop was set up next to the Grand Prix ring, so I spent a lot of time watching jumpers. I barely had enough money to buy film, but that didn't stop me from taking a few photos. This is Ragan Roberts on Italia.
The next two horse and rider teams both hailed from Canada. This is John Pearce on Super Trooper...
and this is Jay Hayes on Zucarlos.
My friend with the bunny rode with Jay Hayes, so I made sure to get several pictures of him.
Vicky Miller was there with her two good jumpers--Catch a Wave... 
and Pilot Point. 
This big gray was named Mafito. He had some kind of rags to riches story that I can't quite remember, but it impressed me at the time. Nancy McClure is in the irons.
Last but certainly not least, is Czar. This was Rodney Jenkins' double silver medal winning mount in the 1987 Pan Am Games in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was in Andrew Philbrick's barn in 1992, and that's Andrew riding him in the picture. Interestingly, my good friend Tracey was working for Andrew at that time. Even though my bosses' hunter was stabled with Andrew's horses, it would be another couple years before Tracey and actually I met.  
One person I did meet at the tail end of the 1992 HITS circuit was my friend, Cathy. She became a huge part of all my future trips to Ocala. In fact, it's safe to say that my friendship with Cathy was one of the best things about wintering in Florida!
I have a pretty good life these days. I like my husband and kids, the dogs and the rats, the part time pony, my tackmaking business, even the messy little house in the suburbs...  I wouldn't trade what I have now for what I had then. Still, I wouldn't mind going back for a day or two!


  1. I think either your Zucarlos or Crown Royal Artos pictures may be mislabeled. Looking at those two pictures, they appear to be the same horse and rider--down to the tack and the weird blood mark on the horse's side.

    Nevertheless, that's a pretty amazing story, and I hope you're able to get a good horse-y fill soon!

  2. Hmmm, I wonder which is worse--not labeling photos or labeling them incorrectly... Obviously I am guilty of both offenses!

    You're absolutely right about that being the same horse. I'm surprised I didn't catch myself, and since I don't have any other pictures of either horse, I'm at a loss to say who it really was! Off to google to see what I can find!

  3. Update--that was surprisingly easy. Both horses are Zucarlos. I'm editing the original post.

  4. My dad lives about 30 miles from Ocala...

  5. I'm heading down to HITS at the end of the month to catch the last three weeks. Judys tack shop is still there every year. She has started selling mini ponys and mini donkeys at the show along with her assortment of tack and custom dog jumps. It's quite the site to see her with her golf cart pulling a one pony/donkey open top trailer around the show grounds. I will try to get some photos of everything for you while I am there. Wouldn't it be great to have some updated photos of the riders you saw 20 years ago?!

  6. I liked seeing the "antique" saddles in that photo! I personally don't miss the hard flat ones with no knee roll, even if they did force you to develop a tighter leg...

    Neat showjumping photos. I'm glad you were at least next to a ring so you could watch.

  7. Teresa--The bunny was cool, but I still think that's a weird travelling pet!

    Regan--I don't think I'd like to live in Florida full time, but I do wish I had a reason to go back to Ocala to visit! I had some really great times there. 1992 was fine, but other years were better. And 1995... Now that was the best winter circuit ever!

    Monsters Groom--Judy's selling mini donkeys? I just can't imagine that! I haven't talked to her in years, but I'm loosely in touch with several current and former JTS employees plus I used to see her ex Dave every year or so at the big Colorado summer shows. No one's ever mentioned minis, but then, I never thought to ask!

    And I would LOVE to see photos!

    And RiderWriter--We almost always parked by either the main hunter or main jumper ring. One of the reasons that I hated the old St Louis show so much is that we were out in the parking lot. Talk about boring!

  8. I seem to remember some story about you driving one of the trailers (or maybe campers) loaded to the brim with tack - and there was concern that a mandatory trip through the weigh station along the highway could pose some problems...tack got moved from one trailer to another or something along those lines. Totally legal, I'm sure. Almost sure. Not really sure. Who knows...

  9. Gina!!!!

    Actually there were a lot of different weigh station stories. When the fuel tanks were full, the mobile shop was always in danger of being overweight. One time Dave got a HUGE ticket because he was 80 lbs over. He had both the big dogs in the truck with him when he went over the scale and after that they always rode with me!