For Daniel Bedoya, one of the intimidating parts of his job is riding through the in-gate for an USHJA International Hunter Derby. The professional from Bolivia has jumped around $1 million grand prix tracks, but when it comes to the hunters, his confidence wavers.
“Those classes drive me nuts,” he said. “I get more nervous in a hunter derby than any grand prix. Because in grand prix, you can pull and kick, you can make a mistake and as long as the horse jumps the jump, you can still go clean. But in the hunters, you have to make that look pretty. There’s no clear round—you have to make it so pretty and even and nice. Any mistake gets amplified.
“When you’re coming out of ring in a grand prix, you could have two rails down and your friends are like, ‘Oh my God, your horse jumped amazing! He’s getting better in the combinations. He looks great here and there,’ ” he continued. “You go in the hunter derby, and if you’re late on the change, and when you’re coming out nobody even talks to you. They’re [whispering,] ‘Oh he missed a change. Oh he had a rub.’ I’ve had my share of bad luck and bad luck sometimes because of nerves because I get nervous.”
But on Feb. 2, Bedoya was able to quell those nerves when he topped the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at the Texas Winter Series I in Katy with Carolyn Elsey’s Gabli.
“Hopefully we’ll repeat it,” said Bedoya. “This was especially fun because I was competing against two of my best friends [Will Roberts and Frankie Owens]. We completed the first round and with one of them we were tied in first place, and my other friend was 1 point behind. At the end of the class we were first, second [Roberts] and third [Owens], so it was fun to compete with good friends like that.”
Bedoya first started riding the 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Advance—Nirmosa) in March of last year when the Elsey family moved to his program. The gelding previously competed in the jumpers and won the 5-year-old Young Jumper Championship Midwestern League Final with Trapp O’Neal in 2016. But getting Gabli pumped up enough to go into the jumpers proved quite a chore, as the gelding was prone to laziness, so Bedoya thought he’d give the hunters a try.
“We tried it for a couple of weeks, and the horse just got better and better and better,” said Bedoya. “And I think he loves it. He is a lot more relaxed. He’s a very easy keeper. No prepping, no lunging, you don’t have to do anything, just get on and go jump. I’m a believer that you have to find the job that they like, and then they will be better.”
Gabli spent the 2017 season getting his feet wet in the 3’6″ performance hunters and the national and international derbies, and Bedoya felt he came out this season feeling better than ever. The gelding is now qualified for the derby championships in Kentucky, so they’ll spend the rest of the season showing in derby competition to make sure he’s prepared for his championship debut.
“It’s nice to see that [his owner] was crying this Saturday when she saw her horse win,” said Bedoya. “We have people ask about him and try to buy him because he’s qualified for derby finals. And she said ‘I want to wait until derby finals because the horse is so cool.’ It’s becoming a really special horse for her.”
Gabli lives at the Elseys’ farm in Cypress, Texas, and on the days Bedoya doesn’t come over to school him, Elsey hacks the gelding herself. She also owns Quilona V Z, a 14-year-old Zangersheide mare (Quasimodo Z—Ilona, Nimmerdor) that Bedoya rode in the 2017 Bolivarian Games in Colombia.
“It was a great experience,” said Bedoya. “It’s really different. When I jump FEI classes here you go sign up; they say you’re representing Bolivia, but you’re jumping for yourself. It’s a little different when you go to Games like that and there’s a team and a coach and the other competitors and people in the stands with flags. It changes. It’s really cool to do it. And I’m for sure thankful to the owner for sending the mare and being supportive of something like that.”
Bedoya hopes that championship served as a warm-up for a bigger goal of his—representing Bolivia in the FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina, this year with another mount named Quattro.
“In 2016 we had a great year,” said Bedoya. “He was jumping FEI classes, placing in almost every class he did, jumping five-stars. He jumped the $1 Million [Grand Prix (New York)]. He was going really well, so I’m hoping we can have that kind of year and I can make it. Now 2017 was not so hot, so hopefully that changes.”
Bedoya, 43, first came to Texas to study business in college; due to the ever changing political and economic climate in Bolivia, he elected to move to the United States permanently and set up his business. The rest of his family soon followed his lead and moved to Texas. He runs Bedoya Training Stables in Magnolia, Texas, with his wife Lindsay Bedoya, and the two have a 7-year-old daughter named Natalia Bedoya.
Natalia is fearless on the back of a horse, but she hasn’t caught the horse-crazy bug just yet.
“Sometimes she rides, sometimes she does not,” Daniel said. “I don’t push it. If she wants to ride she can ride. If she doesn’t, she doesn’t. I think if you push her then probably she’ll end up not riding. Sooner or later she’ll like it or dislike it enough to make a decision.
“It’s so expensive that sometimes I want to buy her a tennis racket or golf clubs or something like that,” he joked. “I can’t even think about, ‘Oh let’s buy the first pony. Oh, let’s buy the first children’s hunter. Oh, junior hunter. Oh, we’re broke.’ ”