Competing in Europe tops the wish lists of many hunter/jumper competitors. It’s a dream for riders young and old, for those aspiring to international success and those just interested in a world where show jumping is a “real” professional sport. In Europe, show jumping involves big money, sponsorship and spectatorship, and the intense level of competition that goes along with all that.
But competing in Europe isn’t easy. Expenses aside, there are show invitations to be secured, finding the right horse to ride and the considerable logistics of traveling abroad.
A few years ago, Arizona-based trainer and Grand Prix rider Janet Hischer helped arrange for her niece Georgie Murray to spend time competing in Germany. The trip was a smashing success and it occurred to Janet that other riders would love such an opportunity. Plans are now underway for a third season of tours: this summer in Holland and, this September, an already sold-out adventure in Italy, Slovenia and Zagreb. Janet hopes to someday develop an additional tour in Mexico.
Each tour can accommodate four riders, amateurs or juniors, capable of jumping at least 1.10 meter classes, the equivalent of 3’6” to 3’9”.
“We designed the tour to be informative for those riders who want a taste of international exposure,” says Janet, whose main business is running her successful training and sales barn, Twisted Tree Farm in Scottsdale. Unlike a typical American competition, European show jumping tournaments attract sports fans of all stripes, and lots of them. “It’s a real eye opener!” Janet comments.
Janet’s partner in arranging these unique experiences is Dutch rider Peter Bulthius. It’s his job to locate the right horses for participants. So far, the tours have taken students from several states, including Utah, Colorado, Texas and New Mexico. They typically start as strangers to Janet, but after observing them compete at domestic shows, she relays to Peter what type of horses would best suit each student. Most of the time, the rider stays with the same horse throughout the tour, but changes can be made if necessary.
Her charges have fared well, Janet reports. “We search to find horses that can be competitive. One of our riders ended up third in a class of 75.”
Janet serves as chaperone on each tour, providing as much supervision as is necessary. One past trip included two 20 year old boys whose parents had green-lighted them to sight see on their own. Other families request closer supervision and Janet is happy to comply with either request.
The Holland Show Jumping tour runs July 21 to Aug. 10, built around shows in Valkenswaard and Roggel. Training time is spent both at Peter’s barn and at the competitions, and the schedule allows for time off to sight see. The “gold package” version of this tour costs $15,000 Euro and includes training, coaching, all lessons, the lease and transportation of a horse, entry fees, VIP accommodations that include elegant meals at the competition and hotel stays with breakfasts. Two lower-priced packages are shorter and/or offer less but are still excellent opportunities for curious American equestrians.
Meanwhile, Back at the Farm
When she is not gallivanting about the world with students, the down-to-earth Janet devotes her time to Twisted Tree Farm. The program offers everything from school horses for beginners to a show agenda that hits the Arizona A circuit hard and ventures to California frequently for much of the Thermal circuit, as well as the Oaks and Del Mar events. “Arizona has a lot of fantastic riders, but the density of talent is not what it is here,” said Janet during the second of her three-week stay at Thermal.
These days, Janet works mostly with Twisted Tree’s jumper students, while hunter and equitation riders train with Alicia McNeil and Allison Miller. This capable pair also handles the pony contingent.
Whatever their level or focus, the riders at Twisted Tree are a fairly untwisted lot. “Our barn is quite nice,” says Janet. “People seem to really care about each other and it is grounded by people with nice, strong values.”
With an average of 35 horses in training at any given time, the barn’s size is just right, Janet says. She hopes that future growth will come in the form of enthusiasts looking to sponsor an international caliber jumper. Her current Grand Prix mount, Vlemenko, is a big, scopey guy with whom Janet was doing very well in Thermal’s biggest classes.
Janet’s niece Georgie Murray is one of a few Twisted Tree students now riding against their trainer in the big ring. “She’s very tough mentally and she can take the pressure,” says Janet proudly of the 20 year old Arizona State University student. Tina DiLandri is a former student who has gained fame on the West Coast and national hunter/jumper scene. A winner in every division these last few years, Tina started riding at Twisted Tree.
Horse sales are a big part of Janet’s business, and in this area, too, Peter Bulthius is an important partner. “He’s very good about sending me great horses,” says Janet.
Janet says her “wonderful husband” of 25 years, Larry Hischer, is the crux of a support system that enables her to maintain a great business and a calm, happy outlook.
Janet and Larry’s Twisted Tree Farm consists of two training facilities. They live in a Southwestern style home on one of the properties. This site in the scenic foothills of Scottsdale features all the top riding and training amenities, plus a beautiful 19-stall barn with fans and misters for the area’s hot summers. The second facility is on a 10-acre parcel nearby. It features jumping and dressage rings, plus miles of trails to explore.
Twisted Tree Farm has been humming along since 1984. In that time, Janet has built a great reputation as a trainer, rider and, more recently, show jumping tour facilitator. It hasn’t always been easy, but whenever times get tough she can look to her farm’s logo: a twisted tree, and the banner above it that reads: “Persistence: The trait that makes a champion.”
For more information about the Show Jumping Tours and Twisted Tree Farm, visit www.twistedtreefarm.com or call 480-860-8215.