Living up to her reputation as a rider with nerves of steel (not to mention innate talent), 17-year-old Hayley Barnhill nabbed the most lucrative prize at the Spring Gathering Horse Show, April 9 in Katy, Texas. Best known for her wins last fall in the Pessoa/USEF Medal and the ASPCA Maclay finals, this time Barnhill took home the trophy in the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby aboard Alliy Moyer’s 9-year-old warmblood gelding, Safari.
The high school senior from Collier-ville, Tenn., started off by winning the classic round over Jennifer Alfano (who was runner-up in that first round aboard SBS Farm’s Jersey Boy and third on Helen Lenahan’s Miss Lucy). Miss Lucy took the blue in the handy round (just ahead of Safari), placing second overall by 3 points. Tracy Fenney of Flower Mound, Texas, finished third overall on Alexandra Zell’s Exposure.
“I liked the courses,” said Barnhill. “The first round was nice; you could judge more on the horse’s style. It was very inviting, nothing too trappy. I loved the long gallop to the big single oxer. Safari has such great range; you can pick up a gallop from miles away, and he gets there and goes sky high. We knew the four-foot options were no problem for him.”
Richard Jeffery designed the indoor derby courses, and Barnhill admitted that the handy round “was a lot tougher. It was a lot trickier than it looked on paper. The tight inside turns to and after the extremely long one-stride proved to be harder than we all thought. There were a lot of options for tight turns that didn’t end up being very smooth. [But] it was a good test that gave you lots of options.”
Barnhill said riding last in the handy round helped her. She got a little bit of breathing room when Jersey Boy, who’d been on their heels in the classic round and was fresh off a big win at the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby in Wellington, Fla., pulled a rail at the last oxer. He finished eighth overall.
“After all the mistakes [made by some other horses and riders], I knew I didn’t need to do anything crazy, but
I couldn’t play it too safe with Jen having big scores [on Miss Lucy],” Barnhill said. “We decided to go right around to the one-stride but stay handy everywhere else. Safari went around so smoothly, I never had to touch the reins and he jumped great.
“Safari is everyone’s type,” Barnhill added. “He’s the same every time; he rises to the occasion of a big class and goes even better. He could do it on his own. You just tell him where to go, and he has the rest covered.”
Barnhill caught the ride on Safari (and on Moyer’s other horse, Libretto) when the Spring Gathering dates conflicted with Moyer’s SAT testing. Barnhill had ridden Safari during Week 7 of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. Moyer, a 16-year-old from Carmel, Ind., acquired Safari as a junior hunter right before the Pennsylvania National Horse Show last fall and the pair has racked up tricolors ever since.
Tricolors came Barnhill’s way at Spring Gathering as well. She and Safari were champions in the small junior hunters, and she rode Libretto to the top of the large junior, 16-17, division. Barnhill also won the junior hunter classic aboard Libretto and finished third on Safari.
The Whole Package
Tammy Provost of Meadowview Farm in Sheridan, Ind., trains Moyer and was pleased that Barnhill could fill in for her absent student.
“I can’t say enough about Hayley,” Provost declared. “She’s a junior, yet she rides better than most professionals. She’s just so soft, and the horses love her. She rides well under pressure, as she showed at the equitation finals last fall. We needed someone to travel to Texas to ride Alliy’s horses, and I couldn’t imagine anyone else I’d rather have.”
Provost brought nine horses to Katy, four of which earned championships. She was inspired to make the trip after talking with Spring Gathering manager and friend Peter Pletcher.
“We’re very happy that we did, and we’ll probably come for two weeks next year. We really, really enjoyed the horse show: good footing, great jumps, everything. So far, it’s been one of my favorites.”
Barnhill agreed: “Peter does a great job with the show. It’s run very well, they give great prizes, and they work to keep the classes special.”
While in Texas, Barnhill was far from her usual team of trainers: Kelly and Tim Goguen, Missy Clark, Michael Delfiandra, John Brennan and Tom Wright. She began riding with David Pellegrini when she was 8, and while she doesn’t ride much with him anymore, “He is still very influential to my riding. We haven’t been at many of the same shows in the last two years, but we talk on the phone every week. He’s still a big part of my life.”
Barnhill, who takes correspondence high school classes, was grateful for the opportunity to ride in Texas. “I really appreciate the Moyers and Tammy letting me do these classes on such nice horses,” Barnhill stated.
“Tammy does such a great job with the horses. It was a really good experience.”
Pletcher of Magnolia, Texas, dominated in the $25,000 pre-green hunter classic, walking away with the top three spots on Nanette Hebert’s Bleu, Lori Motlagh’s Jimmy and Mary Stone’s Enrico. He also won (on Enrico) and finished second (on Lynn Walsh’s Outta The Park) in the $20,000 USHJA National Hunter Classic.
“I think it’s amazing,” Pletcher said of the USHJA National Hunter Classics, with fences set at 3′-3’3″, a series which debuted last spring. “It’s such a great stepping stone to provide for pre-green horses and younger ones that are just starting out. A perfect example: We did one of my first-year horses in the first week [Pin Oak I], and then I bumped him up to the derby at Pin Oak II.”
The Spring Gathering show partnered with the Pin Oak Charity I and II shows (an annual back-to-back series of three) to create the Texas High Perfor-mance Series, which this year offered more than a half-million dollars in prize money. Spring Gathering supported the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, while the Pin Oak shows traditionally support the Ronald McDonald House of Houston and Texas Children’s Hospital.
“It’s just amazing how generous people are when it comes to donating money for children’s charities,” Pletcher said. “We have a lot of people from different places all over the country who have donated money. But no state is more generous than Texas.”