Devon, Pa.—May 29
Kelley Farmer may only have shown Mindful three times, but that hasn’t stopped them from positively trouncing the field at Devon. And everyone on the show grounds is sitting up and taking notice.
Yesterday they won the high performance hunter championship, and today the pair topped today’s $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby over Hayley Barnhill and her new partner Airport 48, with three-time class winner Jennifer Alfano taking third on Maggie May.
When asked if Farmer’s short partnership with Mindful affected her plan in the handy round, Alfano couldn’t help chiming in.
“Not much!” she said, with a laugh. “Wait until she gets to know him! She only got a 95 and doesn’t know him well.”
Watch her handy round below.
Actually, it was two raw scores of 95 in the handy, with bonus points of 10 and 9 to boot from judges Jack Towell, Chris Payne, Bill Ellis and Brian Lenahan, along with extra points for jumping all four high option fences in the handy. That gave them a jaw dropping second round score of 217. She trailed the leaders heading into the handy by 8.5 points, and ended up winning by a solid 4.5.
And it’s not that Barnhill and Airport 48 slacked. They found slick turns to earn raw scores of 90 and 91 in the second round, but it just wasn’t enough to overcome Farmer’s new superstar.
“Every time I’ve asked him, he’s given me 110 percent and he gave me 150 percent there,” said Farmer, Keswick, Va. “He was amazing. He has a ton of ability. He’s rideable and the harder you ask him the harder he tries.”
Barnhill just paired up with Airport 48 as well. That 2010 winner of the Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals (Pa.) is in her third year as a professional, working with Tom Wright.
“We got him as an equitation horse for Martha Ingram, and he’s seeming very hunter-y and amazing at this job, so I know he’ll definitely keep doing the derbies and a bit of junior hunters and equitation with Martha,” said Barnhill.
Watch his handy round below:
Barnhill finished second to Farmer and Mindful at the derby at Kentucky Spring three weeks ago, Farmer’s first show on the 9-year-old Hanoverian.
Alfano couldn’t have been happier with her third-place finish on second year green mount Maggie May, owned by Billie Steffee.
“She just started doing the derbies this year,” said Alfano, Buffalo, N.Y. “I think this is maybe her fifth one and she’s actually been quite consistent, getting lower ribbons in most of them, but she really stepped up today and I was thrilled with her.”
Exhibitors set up chairs around the Dixon Oval in anticipations of tonight’s grand prix early, and there was plenty of excitement to watch. Jenny Jones’ Countdown came in awkwardly to an in-and-out, nearly unseating her in, but she stuck tight as he overjumped out. Jones laughed it off, grinning the rest of the way around the course. Winn Alden’s Ariel wasn’t in the mood to play, and she reared high before the first fence, prompting Alden to tip her hat and walk out. Amanda Steege’s Classic Contender wasn’t in the mood either, and he stopped twice at the first fence.
Another dramatic moment came for Farmer on her derby star Taken. Toward the end of Allen Rheinheimer’s classic round, he caught sight of hubub outside the ring and spooked badly, tipping Farmer out of the tack and onto her feet.
“He pulled a Lewis,” quipped Alfano, referring to her notoriously quirkly mount Jersey Boy, who’s been known for his sideways antics.
“I don’t know what he saw,” said Farmer, laughing. “Of course I never pick up the reins on him, so it wasn’t like I was expecting him to spook in the corner. I just kind of popped right off. I felt like I was a child on a small pony, popped out of the saddle because I wasn’t expecting it.”
“I am always much better prepared,” joked Alfano, who occasionally has to give Jersey Boy a defensive ride.
All three riders hope to reuinite again at USHJA International Hunter Derby Championships (Ky.) in August.