During the USHJA International Hunter Derby at the Kentucky Spring Horse Show, 24 competitors tried for the champion ribbon, but no horse-and-rider combination could catch Kelley Farmer, who took home the top prize with a cumulative score of 392 with Aizlynn Radwanski’s Because. Farmer sat in a good position to claim the lead in some fashion, as she had entered with four different horses.
“This might be one of the most amazing animals to ride ever,” Farmer said of Because. “I rode him sporadically through the [Winter Equestrian Festival (Florida)], but this is the first time he’s back jumping the 4′ again, and he was amazing. He’s such an amazing animal. It’s such a pleasure to ride him because he tries so hard, and he’s so easy. He’s very fun to ride.”
Farmer and Because tackled the first round of competition with ease, despite some technical elements to the course including a wall fence that was placed in challenging location. During the handy round the pair secured the highest score of the day by utilizing all four of the high option fences in addition to accumulating 15 handy bonus points from the judges.
“My plan with him is always just to stay out of his way,” said Farmer. “If I don’t screw up, then chances are it goes well because he always tried to do right. My plan was to be smooth and stay out of his way. The two walls in the course, if I wasn’t careful, could have been a problem but he is so careful, so I wasn’t too worried.”
In second was another veteran hunter rider, Jennifer Alfano aboard her own Candid, a 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding. The pair rode to second place with a cumulative score of 382. Alfano also claimed third place with Sharon O’Neill’s Miss Lucy with a score of 380.5. The pair recently placed second in the $50,000 USHJA Pin Oak Charity Horse Show (Texas).
Earlier in the day, the USHJA National Hunter Derby took place in the Stonelea Ring as well. Athletes navigated over a 10-fence course that offered four high option fences. The top twelve riders were asked to return to complete a handy round where they demonstrated their capabilities over a trot fence and multiple options for tight turns.
Despite being a relatively new combination, Jeff Gogul and Just Ruffy dominated the first round of competition with a score of 91. They were the only competitors of the day to achieve a score in the nineties, which put them in a good position entering the handy round. After the handy round, the pair had a cumulative score of 180.
“I had a pretty good lead going into the handy round, and I don’t always have that luxury,” said Gogul. “I don’t always have the time to watch other’s rounds, but today I had enough of a lead that there was one tight turn, from jump one to two that I thought maybe I had to try because no one else had tried it. So I had the luxury of giving myself a little more time to the second jump. Honestly, Ruffy was so good today with is turns that I didn’t even have to think about it. I didn’t have to set anything up for him; he was super automatic today.”
Just Ruffy has been a reliable derby mount for Gogul, having won six derbies during the winter season at the World Equestrian Center in Wilmington, Ohio.
“Ruffy is awesome,” said Gogul. “I think this is his seventh derby win just this year. He has been such a consistent contender for me in this derby series. He is a blast to ride. He has a lot of experience; I can trust him to make tight turns and he is usually really good about the trot jump. He is always looking for where we’re going next and he’s just always really game. He just a beautiful horse with such a beautiful way of going and an impeccable jumping style.”
Second place was captured by Jordan Allen and Eclypse, a 10-year-old Hanoverian owned by Holly Orlando. The pair narrowly missed tying for first place with Gogul, acquiring a final cumulative score of 179. In a similar fashion, Alyssa Mansfield and Candor placed in a third with a score of 178 after two rounds of competition.