Upper Marlboro - Oct. 6
Nick Haness describes himself as a gambler, and at the World Champion Hunter Rider Handy Hunter Challenge at the Capital Challenge Horse Show, he made one gamble that paid off in spades.
Near the end of the course, a small tree forced all of the other riders to make an outside turn, but Haness knew his mount, Gelato, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Cavalier—Patricia) owned by Conor Perrin, would be able to make the extreme inside turn.
“He really loves being challenged,” said Haness, 24. “I thought there’d be a few more options for me to show his brilliance because that’s where he shines. It was a great course, but it didn’t allow for any tricks other than just that one.”
The tight turn led immediately to an in-and-out combination, but Gelato landed perfectly without a mishap and earned an average score of 89.66 from the three sets of two judges.
“The tree was really close to the in-and-out. It was basically one of the craziest turns I’ve ever tried to do in the show ring, but I just wanted to gamble,” he said. “That was my one opportunity to really show my horse’s versatility and show that he’s a great partner.”
After six years as a team, Haness and Gelato know each other backward and forward. Haness started working with “Ned” as a 4-year-old. Over the years, the gelding has competed in equitation and amateur-owner divisions as well as in derbies.
“He can do whatever; he’s amazing. Every time I win with him, it’s just one more thing to add to our friendship,” said Haness, of Hunterbrook Farm in Coto de Caza, Calif. “I love that horse so much. He’s never going to be for sale. We’ve had offers, but he’s just a great horse to have.”
Haness rode early in the class, second out of 14 riders, and he was confident that no one else would execute the turn as well as his mount, if they tried it all.
“I thought no one else was going to try it because it looks impossible, but maybe if they saw me do it, someone else would try it and maybe not do it as well, but no one did,” said Haness. “To be back here as a professional and have a win like this is pretty exciting. There was definitely some good competition; there were a few really top riders. Tori Colvin’s hard to beat; she is slick.”
Colvin rode Dr. Betsee Parker’s Listen to second place in the one-round class for an average score from the three judges of 89.16. Although Colvin didn’t include any risky turns, she rode around the course neatly and smoothly and impressed the judges.
Katie Taylor rode to third place with a round that included a unique turn in the middle of the course. She certainly earned credit for creative thinking, but as Haness said, the course offered few options to demonstrate handiness.