In order to get a top ribbon in the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby on at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, a horse had to be two things: by the stallion Balou Du Rouet and ridden by grand prix rider Aaron Vale.
Aboard Redfield Farm’s Monday Balous, Vale topped the class with a two-round score of 365. Vale also earned reserve honors aboard Donald Stewart’s Dress Balou after securing a 354 two-round performance. Daniel Bedoya claimed third place honors aboard Carolyn M. Elsey’s Gabli, finishing on a score of 336 with two consistent scores of 168 in both rounds. A feature class of the 90th Tryon Riding & Hunt Club Annual Charity Horse Show, the International Derby was hosted on the Derby Field at TIEC and saw 14 entries tour the course designed by Andy Christiansen of Wellington, Florida.
“It rode pretty nicely,” Vale said. “The jumps looked pretty big when I walked it, but out there on this grass, it’s such a great field. The footing is firm and consistent for the horses that they really jumped well on it. When I got out there I got a little braver, and I jumped all the high options on Monday Balous. I wasn’t quite sure how it would go. I just showed him in the warm-up class the other day, and it was the first time I’d shown him!”
Vale’s more familiar derby partner, Dress Balou, is less experienced competing at the international level. “I know [Dress Balou] a little better and was actually trying to jump the high options, but he’s never jumped this high before,” said Vale. “He’s only done about 3’5″ before in National Derbies, so it took me until the last option until he felt comfortable enough. This field is just so great for the hunters and the jumpers, and it’s nice to ride on.”
Before the handy round, Vale sat in first with Monday Balous on a score of 175 and sixth with Dress Balou on a score of 158 and got the chance to test the handy track on his reserve ride first. “I’d already ridden Dress Balou in the handy before I rode Monday Balous, and my first ride ended up with pretty high scores. I had only jumped two high options, so I took the same track,” Vale said. “He did have one rub that I think cost a few points, but he had a good enough first ride that the handy points added to not making an error was enough to win the class.”