Lexington, Ky.—Aug 17
Pretty much every rider in the 84-horse line-up for the Platinum Performance USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship got rained on a bit during the opening classic round Friday morning, but Holly Shepherd takes the cake—both for riding through the worst of the storm and for winning! Shepherd guided Tybee through the pouring rain to scores of 91, 88, 92, plus 4 height option bonus points for a total of 283.
“I had to tie knots in my reins because they were slipping so bad,” Shepherd said with a laugh. “So it was the first time I’ve ever shown with knots in my reins.”
Shepherd wasn’t so sure Tybee was even going to play ball when it first started raining while she was warming up.
“I’ve never ridden him in the rain; I haven’t had him that long,” said Shepherd, whose stable is based in Mobile, Alabama. “He stopped and put his nose down in his chest [in the warm-up], and I was like, ‘Uh oh,’ and he put his ears flat back, and I turned around and thought maybe the other direction would be better. Nope! He tucked his tail, and I thought, ‘Oh lord.’ ”
Shepherd let the horse walk around until they were both soaking wet from the moderate rainfall before trotting in the ring to start their course. And then the skies opened up for approximately three minutes, just long enough for Shepherd’s entire trip. Perhaps most remarkable is where Shepherd was on course when the deluge started—cantering down to the toughest part of the course, a long, spooky two-stride composed of beefy oxers.
“When I turned the corner I was really glad I had a lot of step and a lot of scope to go with the rain in my face,” Shepherd said. “You just do what you have to do out there. Nothing you can do about the weather.”
Shepherd has been riding Tybee since May of this year for owner Helen Brown.
“I saw you in Tryon on him, and I knew we were in trouble,” said Liza Boyd, who took third in the opening round aboard Tradition and fourth with Clemens. “Remember, you left really, really long to the log, and he jumped like he did every jump out there, and I went, ‘Oh, this pair could be trouble.’ ”
Shepherd has been showing the 11-year-old gelding on and off since then and has been impressed by the efforts he gives her.
“He really comes to the party,” Shepherd said. “He jumped around the first few jumps out there today great and went down to the third jump and jumped it so hard I wasn’t sure if I was going to stay on. And the whole crowd went whoa, and I was really glad I was still on!
“He was really good the rest of the time, just jumped out of his skin and really held his shape together nice,” Shepherd continued. “It was a good feeling; I’ve never won here, so that’s fun.”
Watch Shepherd’s round with Tybee, courtesy of EQSportsNet:
Taking second to Shepherd by 4 points was Private Practice and Tori Colvin. Colvin won the championship last year aboard Cuba and has won several international derbies with Private Practice since pairing up with the gelding over the winter.
Watch Colvin’s round, courtesy of EQSportsNet:
Alan Lohman designed the course, and he gave horses plenty to do in the Rolex stadium. Along with the two-stride of oxers riders had to navigate a careful split-rail oxer, a two-to-two-stride triple combination, a large faux log, and almost every fence was off a galloping, unrelated distance.
“The two oxers was definitely one of those places where you cough up the hunter gap,” Shepherd said. “You’re like no, not that one, there is one more. It was challenging, which is good. It did a good job separating the horses. You had to have a good horse with some scope and a lot of heart out there today.”
The top 20 riders will come back for the handy round Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. Click here for full results from the first round.
You can find all of the Chronicle’s Platinum Performance USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship coverage. Don’t forget to follow the Chronicle on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @Chronofhorse