Balancing their legs on one side of a horse while looking elegant, graceful and, most of all, comfortable is the basic challenge of competitors in the ladies' world sidesaddle championships at the Washington International Horse Show at US Airways Arena. But before these fancy horses and riders ever enter the ring, there are some lengthy checklists to go over.
The "appointments" are the accessories in the undersaddle part (on the flat) of the three-class division, which includes one jumping class. If competitors forget even one mandatory appointment, their chances of winning are slim, because the stiff judges are sure to penalize no matter how well the horse moves.
"Appointments make up for about 25 percent of the class. So much is the overall look of the old hunting tradition," said Penny Denegre, the 1998 WIHS champion. "You have to have the white string gloves, the stitched reins, the hunting whip and the sandwich case," said Denegre, who is hoping to defend her title with her horse True Blue.
The ladies' sandwich case is one of the more interesting appointment pieces. The leather case must have a fresh chicken or turkey sandwich made with crustless white bread. Mayonnaise is forbidden, though butter is allowed. The sandwich must be wrapped in a white kerchief or wax paper. The accompanying flask must have sherry, or tea if a competitor is a junior.
"It [the assignment] dates back to the Earl of Sandwich, who invented the sandwich. The idea behind it [is that the sandwich] should be made of something that won't spoil while you're out hunting all day," said Denegre, who is joint master of foxhounds at Middleburg Hunt in Middleburg, Va.
She adds that the judges are not shy about opening up the case to smell the sandwich to determine if it is fresh.
The riders wear brown leather gloves and their accompanying white gloves stick out under the saddle on the off side of the horse (the right side). The white gloves should be visible to the judges and in easy reach of the rider. The judges discourage flashy jewelry.
Denegre does not believe in relying on a mental checklist when preparing for competition.
"Oh no, I have a long written list and I check it over and over again," she said. "It is the worst feeling if you have forgotten something, because you can't just run over to one of the vendors and buy some of these things. Most are special-ordered or handed down to you."
The sidesaddle competitors' formal attire (called "habits") is navy blue or black in the appointments classes, and competitors wear a four-inch top hat with matching veil. Most use vintage saddles.
Show Notes: Laura Linbeck and her horse Kennedy, from Mundelein, Ill., were the stars of the $10,000 Amateur/Owner Ambassador's Cup Jumper Classic, wowing the crowd with the fastest time in the jump-off. Eight of 25 horses advanced to the second round. Tolley Ewing and Western Run, of Monkton, Md., were a close second, with Kristen Monchik and Wichita at third. Wichita was the Amateur/Owner Champion and True Grit (Wendy Chapot) was reserve champion.
Regular Working Hunter Under Saddle -- 1, Carleton Brooks (Centerstage); 2, Scott Stewart (Dialog L); 3, Olin Armstrong (Play With Fire).
Regular Conformation Hunter -- 1, Larry Glefke (Visionary); 2, Olin Armstrong (Play With Fire); 3, Carleton Brooks (Centerstage).
Green Working Hunter Robotyping Challenge Trophy -- Sienna Farms, The Winning Edge (Holly Hays).
Green Working Hunter Fairfax Hunt Race Association Challenge Trophy -- Patricia Raynes, Spectacular Ruler (Kara Hanly Raposa).
Regular Working Hunter -- 1, Leslie Steele (Lyle); 2, Linda Langmeter (Fritha); 3, Patricia Stovel (Frascati).
Regular Working Hunter Stake -- 1, Tony Workman (San Siro); 2, Patricia Stovel (Frascati); 3, Leslie Steele (Lyle).
M&S $5,000 Children's Hunter Final -- 1, Alexandra Gold (Spoonful); 2, Annie Connelly (One In A Million); 3, Katie Williams (Paparazzi).
M&S $5,000 Adult Hunter Final -- 1, Michelle Woodall (Silver Rhythm); 2, Fiona Turner (Brigadoon); 3, Eliza Brown (Brown Bear).
$10,000 Amateur/Owner Ambassador's Cup Jumper Classic -- 1, Laura Linbeck (Kennedy); 2, Tolley Ewing (Western Run); 3, Kristen Monchik (Wichita).
Amateur/Owner Champion -- Wichita (Kristen Monchik); Reserve Champion -- True Grit (Wendy Chapot).
World Champion Ladies' Sidesaddle Hunter Over Fences -- 1. Penny Denegre (True Blue); 2, Susan Sisco (Ante Up); 3, Kit Roszko (Senator Mickey).