Wellington, Fla., April 1
Kelley Farmer isn’t a fan of going slow—and that goes double when she's sitting on Taken. At today's $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby in Wellington, she didn’t have a choice.
“Everyone’s usually yelling at me that I'm going too fast,” said Farmer. “Once I get him going, at some point in time I probably should slow him down, but if I don’t gallop, these guys beat me. Because guess what? These guys aren’t pulling on the reins. So if I am not galloping, I know one of them is going to beat me.”
Watch Farmer's round below.
Farmer came into today’s handy round sitting third behind fellow regular derby winners Scott Stewart (Dedication) and Jennifer Alfano (Jersey Boy). Farmer came in kicking and didn’t stop until she soared over the last fence. Taken pricked up his ears, kicked into gear and soared to scores of 93 and 94 and bonus points of 10 and 8, good enough to top the day. Stewart finished second on Fashion Farm’s Declaration, with Jersey Boy, owned by SBS Farms, claiming third.
Watch Stewart and Declaration below:
A Brand New Venue
There were plenty of nerves about riding on the giant grass field at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center’s Stadium. This was the first hunter class ever set on the field (in past years the handy round for this class ran at night in the International Ring.) While the horses had a chance to handwalk around in the ring before the class—standard practice in these classes since the series’ inception—no one had ridden on it.
The most hand-wringing came over “Mount Wellington,” the huge hill and bank complex that was built a year and a half ago and introduced at the G&C Jumping Derby earlier this season. Course designer Bobby Murphy offered riders a choice of how to tackle the obstacle: Riders could canter up a gentle slope then down a somewhat steeper one, or those seeking bonus points could canter up a stepped hill, also cantering down that somewhat steeper side. After that, riders picked up a hand gallop to finish over a hedge.
“Mostly it was the [hill] that worried me and not even the going up. It was coming down, and you don’t get to practice going downhill at a gallop much,” said Alfano, Buffalo, N.Y. “It was fine, and both of my horses cantered right down, but I really had worked myself into a lather about that before the class.”
Here's Jersey Boy and Jennifer Alfano:
The tougher option proved popular and uninfluential. But before the class, there was so much concern about how show hunters would handle the terrain that the judges decided horses wouldn’t earn the normal automatic score of 55 for breaking to trot on the hill, but it would affect their handy bonus. In the end, the stress was all for nothing, as no one broke from canter heading up and down the hill.
“I loved that field. It was so much fun to get to gallop like that and do banks and hedges,” said Farmer, Keswick, Va. “It’s been lovely to get out of the ring.”
Not A Formality