Menlo Park, Calif.—Aug. 8
Last year Nick Haness left the Menlo Charity Horse Show with a red ribbon from the biggest hunter class of the competition, and an itch to come back and do even better. So he came back this year and made it happen.
He tacked up Ecole Lathrop’s Banderas to jump to the top of the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby and edge out last year’s winners, Hope Glynn and Kings Peak. Junior Halie Robinson galloped up the standings on Captiva to take third.
“After Hope goes it’s always stressful and I personally don’t usually do well when I’m leading a class and I have that pressure,” said Haness. “It’s hard. I usually do better when I’m lower and can step up and make up points and win. I’m personally very proud of Banderas for keeping his composure and staying on top."
The track, set in the grass footing of the main hunter ring, had plenty of challenges for the 38 competitors. The toughest part of the classic round came midway throught he course, when riders faced an option of coops right out of a turn. Most of the horses who attempted the higher option, which was set on the inside track, ran into problems, including Haness’s earlier ride, Edgewood's Cilantro. The construction of the fence didn’t seem to cause the biggest issue, just the placement right out of a turn. Sure enough the fence was reversed in Round 2, and everyone went for the high side, which caused no problems.
“That line was definitely a riding test,” said Haness, Orange County, Calif. “It’s alarming for people to come out of this corner to that big jump like that, it’s pretty wide. I thought that was the only place I was more concerned about.”
Michael Roy Curtis also included an oxer-oxer in-and-out in both rounds, and airy in-and-out of birch rails tripped up a few greener competitors. Natalie Mutch took a tumble off Bountiful, and both walked off course without incident.
In the handy, riders had the opportunity to show off with some tighter turns and demonstrate some extra handiness with a hand-galloped jump and a trot fence. Bert Mutch and Ciara van de Broekhant dropped out of the running when they jumped a fence not intended as an option and were ruled off course. Haness tested out a super-snug turns on veteran derby competitor, Krave, who slipped a bit in a few turns, discouraging Haness from repeating the same bravado on Banderas.
“I personally feel like a handy should be very handy—that’s always been my style,” said Haness. “I’ve always been a risk taker in that. I don’t like to go play it safe. It drives me nuts. I try to go for the handiest thing. But it was almost dark and on grass, and riding Krave first helped me realize that for Banderas I needed to go between those two options. Not too tight or that boring.”
Haness has only had the ride on Banderas since the start of 2014, and they clicked right away—but that wasn’t a given.
“He’s a particular horse,” Haness explained. “He’s super brave, but he’s not a horse you can get rough with. You can’t get after him with your hands. You have to gently guide him and use some extra finesse.”
Haness, who operates Hunter Brook Farm, rides Banderas for amateur Ecole Lathrop, who trains with Archie Cox of Brookway Stables.
For full results visit showgroundslive.com.