Lexington, Ky.—August 20
If you took Kristy Herrera’s handy round with Miss Lucy in the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship at face value you would see a beautiful round turned in by a great rider on a spectacular horse.
You wouldn’t know that she’d only sat on the mare two weeks ago when they jumped the $100,000 derby in Saugerties, N.Y. You wouldn’t know that the chestnut mare was feisty and took some getting used to.
But that quick partnership pulled things together right when it counted to take home the top check in the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship.
“I still cant believe it,” said Herrera who was visibly lost for words. “It’s obviously a dream come true and of course I have to first thank [regular rider Jen Alfano] for letting me ride that horse. I can’t believe it.”
Miss Lucy and Kristy Herrera. Photo by Ann Glavan.
Herrera got the ride on Lucy after regular Jen Alfano suffered a fall at the Devon Horse Show (Pa.) and has been out of the tack with a torn ACL and a shoulder injury. Herrera, who rode with Alfano as a junior, was thrilled to get the ride on a top derby horse.
“I’m still in shock,” said Alfano. “Everyone knows that that horse has such a special place in my heart for a lot of reasons and so does Kristy. It was hard for me to be here not riding, but I was in tears and had goosebumps.
“It was so beautiful and to watch the two of them together was just—I’m so proud of both of them,” she continued. “It’s really amazing. It was meant to be.”
Watch Herrera’s round with Miss Lucy:
“She loves being in that ring and I just steered, really,” said Herrera. “I mean we talked a lot about the course and a lot about the turns and different approaches, and honestly this is the first handy round that I’ve done on her that I felt like I knew where I was going, and all I could just do was steer.
“She just rose to the occasion. It’s unbelieveable, the feeling on a horse that knows what it’s like to be a show horse, and I’m kicking and legging, and I know [Alfano is] riding from the side for me and every jump felt unbelievable, especially the last.”
Kristy Herrera could not stop grinning after her winning ride aboard Miss Lucy. Photo by Ann Glavan.
The last, a formidable 5’1 1/2″ cordwood fence with a brush face to be more inviting to the horses, was the brain child of course designers Bobby Murphy and Danny Moore. For perspective, the grand prix course Murphy is building for Sunday is set at 1.54 meters while the final derby fence equates to 1.57 meters. The lowest high option was an oxer set at 4’7” and they just kept building from there.
“The hunters jumped bigger than the grand prix horses tonight which is a great step forward for the hunter derby program,” said Murphy. “I’m sure the hunter derby program created new fans tonight through this course and through these riders, through them jumping this gigantic wall. It was an exciting class.”
In addition to the sand sculptures that were a major feature of the classic round, they added a jump made of sand with a turf top to the handy course. Overall there were few problems on course, though six riders lowered a fence, several of which were the final wall.
Second to last in the ring, Herrera and Lucy earned a 587 to take the lead over Kelley Farmer and Kodachrome (582). But Farmer had one more ride with Baltimore, who had a commanding lead after the first round of competition.
The pair swept around the course, and galloped up to the final high option, but as they landed, Baltimore ticked a brick at the top of the fence sending it toppling to the ground.
“I have three coolers of that same color from three different horses,” said Farmer, referring to her reserve championships with Mythical, Mindful and Kodachrome. “I did tell Liza in the ring I was getting a little bit tired of that color. Look, he’s an amazing horse. Kristy went beautifully. It’s not my nature to take the easy way out. She went great. She got big scores and I’d be kicking myself if I didn’t jump the high options and I got beat doing that.
“You know what, it is what it is and it’s horse shows and it’s horse sand that horse did nothing to let me down tonight it just happened to be a little bit of bad luck,” she continued. “The way [Herrera] went and the way her horse went and with the scores she got deservedly so she went beautiful, I wasn’t going to beat her doing anything else but trying to do that.”
Kelley Farmer and Kodachrome. Photo by Ann Glavan.
Farmer got the ride on Kodachrome after his rider Russell Frey died suddenly in May. The handy round landed on the late rider’s birthday, making it an emotional night for the crew at Lane Change Farm and owner Nina Moore.
Watch Farmer’s round with Kodachrome:
“He was unbelievable wasn’t he?” Farmer asked. “That horse had to carry the weight of the world for the last month and he’s done nothing but get better and better.
“Nina’s a great owner,” she continued. “She bought that horse for the purpose that Russell wanted to come here, and Russell wanted to bring that horse and when she sent him to me she said that’s what she wanted him to do, she told Russell that he would, so this is what she wanted him to do.”
It was an emotional night for Kelley Farmer as she rode the late Russell Frey’s former mount Kodachrome to a reserve championship finish. Photo by Ann Glavan.
Three-time reigning champion Liza Boyd rounded out the top three with O’Ryan, who typical shows in the junior hunters with Stella Styslinger.
“I just had fun on my junior hunter, and he stepped up for me,” said Boyd. “I shed a little tear when I drove out of the driveway and gave Brunello [three-time winner of the championship] a kiss, said ‘I can’t do this without you,’
“Tonight [O’Ryan] stepped up for me, and I couldn’t be happier,” she continued. “I thank the owners the Styslingers for letting me do him. I wasn’t sure I was be in this press conference without Brunello, so I was glad to be here.”
Though she didn’t have her longtime partner in Kentucky with her, Boyd did carry a piece of him with her. She rode with a lock of his tail in her pocket to bring her good luck.
Reighning derby champion Liza Boyd rode her student Stella Stylslinger’s junior hunter, O’ Ryan, to third place in the championship. Photo by Ann Glavan.
Junior rider Sophie Michaels took home top honors in the Section B handy, after earning a 530.5 with Coco over Will Roberts with State Hill (528).
“It was my first time doing this class,” said Michaels. “I was doing my two equitation horses, so I was sort of doing it for the experience to get them in the ring and doing these cool courses.
“He really rose to the occasion and pretended he was a hunter, and it was really good and jumped really well and didn’t rub any jumps which he sometimes tries to do,” she continued.
Want to know more about how the Kristy Herrera’s fairytale came together? Be sure to pick up a copy of the Sept. 5 issue of the Chronicle.