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August 15, 2014

Colvin Keeps A Cool Head To Lead Classic Round Of USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship

Tori Colvin and Inclusive rode to the top spot in the classic round of USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship. Photo by Taylor Joyce

Lexington, Ky.—Aug. 15           

Tori Colvin never gets nervous to compete, not even going into the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association International Hunter Derby Championships, held Aug. 15-16 in Lexington, Ky. And even though Inclusive hasn't seen a derby course since last year, and the derbies aren't Colvin's main priority, the pair radiated confidence to earn the top spot in the Classic Round. 

Inclusive, an 11-year-old warmblood gelding owned by Betsee Parker, pulled scores of 92, 90 and 95 from judges Jimmy Clapperton, Jeanne Marie Dunford-Miller, Hap Hansen, Scott Williamson, Julie Winkel and Chris Wynne, who scrutinized 75 other trips today, to place one point ahead of Jimmy Torano catch-riding Glefke and Kensel's Mindful. 

Junior star Colvin kept a cool head knowing she was well-mounted. "We showed [Inclusive] at Devon [Pa.] and then [USEF Junior Hunter Championships—East (Pa.)], and he's done a couple shows," she said of his preparation. "We wanted to keep him fresh and ready. He never spooks, and we just thought he would be perfect to go right into derby finals."

While many of the high options caused problems for other riders, Colvin took all four and thought they were par for the course. "It was very open and beautiful, and for a first round it wasn't too spooky. The high options weren't too high, so I think it was a nice course," she said of the flowing track designed by Steve Stephens and Allen Rheinheimer. 

"I've never had a really good round going into the second round, so it's different being on top going into the second round," continued Colvin, 16. 

The plan for tomorrow's handy round: maintain her usual confidence. "I'm sort of just going to go in and see how he feels and see what happens!" she said. Colvin has recently made some changes to her training program, and today marks her first win independent from former trainer Scott Stewart. 

The top 25 riders will return for the Section A Handy Round, which, combined with the Classic Round will determine the overall champion. Another five Tier II riders will compete in the Section B Handy to help determine the Tier II championship. Peter Pletcher will be the busiest rider in that round with three rides: Luxe, Charlie Brown and CR Beethoven.

Torano's String Ends With A Bang

Torano was the busiest rider in the Classic Round, campaigning seven of Lane Change Farm's slated entries—Scripted, Unspoken, Why, Point Being, Taken, So To Speak and Mindful—since Kelley Farmer was sidelined with a broken collarbone. In addition, he rode Cinema for owner Emily Curley. However, his day didn't get off to a stellar start. After several subpar performances, including sticky distances and refusals, Mindful, his last entry of the day, finally gave him the round he'd been hoping for. 

"I've ridden thousands of horses and that's probably the easiest, most straightforward, most direct horse I've ever sat on," Torano said of the 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding. "You don't have to touch the reins; all you basically have to do is barely steer! Going in, I thought that was the horse we would do it on and it was sort of my best mount today, so it was kind of nice that he was my last horse.

"Before I went, I think there was a lot of pressure riding on me but the fact that it was that horse—I was really so relaxed," he continued. "I was just cantering around the course. That horse could really jump the course by itself!"

Lane Change Farm trainer Larry Glefke joked with Torano before that round. "I told Jimmy in the schooling area, 'Can I just climb on behind you? Because I'd really like to go for this ride!' " said Glefke with a laugh. "I just really wanted to see what this feels like because it's amazing at home."

Mindful will be Torano's only mount in the Section A Handy. Even though things didn't go as smoothly as they could have, there was no added pressure on Torano from the owners of his mounts to correct anything that was obviously wrong.

"If anybody knows Larry Glefke, I've got an opinion," said Glefke. "And I had no opinion on any of them that came out. I never said, 'Jimmy, we could have done this; we should have done that.' "

"I've had a lot of bad luck," added Torano. "I've never ridden any of these horses; I barely know them. I watched videos of them a couple days ago to sort of see how they go. Larry [Glefke] called me last week and said, 'I need you to do this!' And I thought he was out of his mind! The fact that they had that kind of trust in me to ride that level of horse—the quality of those animals—says a lot."

Torano was glad he delivered a top performance in the end, but felt a bit regretful nonetheless. "More than anything I felt bad for [Farmer and Glefke]," said Torano. "I felt bad for Kelley—it's hard for anybody when you're hurt and you're sitting on the sidelines and you've got to watch all your horses go. The first couple [of rides] I wasn't really getting frustrated. By the fifth or sixth horse, I was getting a little bit frustrated!"

Reigning And Refreshed

Reigning hunter derby champion Brunello is the oldest horse competing in the championship this year at 16, and rider Liza Boyd had a baby girl at the end of May, but that didn't stop the pair from taking the third spot behind Torano and Mindful. She also qualified her second mount, Eloise, for the Group B Final.

"He has his driver's license now!" joked Boyd of the championship veteran. "He had a nine-month maternity leave as well, so we both had a break. He actually feels fitter than ever. I think he feels better than he did last year. Just because I was pregnant, I really made the girls work him a little harder, and I probably did more with him to keep him fit. And he's fitter than I am probably right now!"

Boyd was back in the saddle right away, though secretly, just two weeks after the birth of her daughter Adeline. "I was not supposed to be riding probably quite then, and I did a little sneak in!" she said with a laugh. "Everyone was at a horse show and I walked in [the ring] and said, 'Shhh! Don't tell anyone!' to the boys and the girl that work for me."

Though she was berated by her mother and husband shortly thereafter, no one could keep her off the horses for long. "I tortured myself at home!" she joked. "I really, really wanted to be fit here, really for that horse, because who knows how many more years he has," she said of the Hanoverian gelding, her longtime partner. "He doesn't owe me anything, but he feels great and I wanted to be ready for him. So in about 100 degree weather [this summer] I rode about five or six horses every day. 'Bring that 5-year-old out in the snaffle!' [I'd say]."

Boyd has been able to balance her riding schedule and time with her baby with the help of family and friends.

"I'm just glad to be riding, let alone to be sitting here with these two, so I couldn't be happier," she said.

Visit equestrianlive.com for full results. Want to learn more about the derby competitors? We've got top hunter riders dropping their most embarrassing show ring moments, and a blog helping you pick a favorite for tomorrow's final round. 

To read more about the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship, check out the September 1st print issue of The Chronicle of the Horse.

To learn more about the competition, click here

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