Parker, Colo., July 17
When Kelley Farmer comes to a hunter derby, she shows up ready to compete. Her horses are fit and well schooled, and she always has her game face on. But at the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at Summer In The Rockies VI, things didn’t look that way at the start of the class.
Two of Farmer’s top contenders dropped off the list in Round 1. An imposing rolltop oxer that stretched up to 4’6” had her up-and-comer Vox dig in his heels, and her stalwart partner Taken, who won the $50,000 edition in Wellington  and isn’t short on scope, pulled a rare rail at the final fence.
But Farmer still made the trip to the Colorado Horse Park worth it when she and Red Sky topped the class. She narrowly edged out last year’s winners, Jessie Lang and C. Quito, and picked up third on Selma Garber’s Praise.
“It was a beautiful course, but a lot more course than I thought it was going to be,” said Larry Glefke, who trains Farmer. “The fences were huge, and you couldn’t just canter over them. If these horses have trouble with them, you know they’re big.”
Skip Bailey and Pat Boyle laid a major track on the derby field on Tuesday, which served as derby day in Parker, Colo. The derby program featured a $5,000 pony derby, a $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby and the feature event. Bailey described the bigger jumps in that class as “honest options.”
While the course caused no disasters, it was tough to shine.
“The high sides were true risks,” said Bailey, Wellington, Fla. “They were 4’6” high and built to really be a decision as to whether to take them. I like the option to be a true option—setting the high side too low becomes ‘the way,’ not an option.”
Sure enough, many of the 19 entries—including Farmer—elected the lower sides of the obstacles in both rounds, and those who attempted the higher sides often paid for their bravado. The field itself added to the challenge as there’s a significant slope across the middle of the arena. Riders came down that hill on the way to the oxer that backed off Vox. Most of the rest of the riders took Farmer’s mistake as a cautionary tale and opted for the low side there.
“The hill makes you really aware of where your horse’s balance is,” explained Farmer. “You don’t realize it until you’re out on course how much it affects everything.”
The track included an incomplete circle of jumps which riders traversed as an in-and-out twice in the first round and once in the handy. In the handy, riders tackled that in-and-out then doubled back through the opening to trot over a log before heading toward the bank complex. There, horses had three options. If they selected the bank, they could either canter up two steps, around 2’ each, or across the side of the bank complex up and down a smaller table bank. All but one rider elected the bank, which didn't cause any problems. The outlier, Lang, chose a third option: an in-and-out over two natural fences.
Red Sky lay third after the classic round behind Kelsey Thatcher (Humor Me) and Praise. The Dutch Warmblood (Amsterdam—Lovelle) moved up with a lovely handy round that earned marks of 87 and 84, with bonus marks of 7 and 6 from judges Steve Wahl, Scott Williamson, Chrystine Tauber and Brian Lenahan.
Farmer was especially happy for Red Sky’s owner, Garber. She had been pining after “Sammy” for ages and purchased him just in time for this win, his third derby blue in 2012. 
For her part, Lang was thrilled with the her second-placed finish aboard the gray Belgian Warmblood stallion (Parco—M. Quita Van Het Eetseveld). While he’s been busy in the breeding shed, they haven’t shown much this year, and at the derby held at Summer In The Rockies IV (Colo.) two weeks ago she felt a little rusty.
“Today I felt really good about the handy,” said Lang, Jackson Hole, Wyo. “He listens to everything, he knows where we’re going and just lands on the lead. He’s so happy to be doing this.”
C. Quito will compete later this week in the adult amateur hunter division with his owner, Margot Snowdon.
For full results, visit the Showplace Productions website .