Lexington, Ky.—Aug. 19
Over the course of her riding career, Tori Colvin’s name has become synonymous with the hunters. Her name appears countless times on the trophies awarded at all of the championship horse shows and as a junior she won the WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Spectacular (Fla.) four years in a row.
So far the top prize in the hunter derby program has eluded her, but now her name joins the other top hunter riders whose accomplishments grace the Beaver River Farm Perpetual Trophy as the winner of the $268,550 USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship with John & Stephanie Ingram LLC’s Cuba.
“He was fantastic,” she said of Cuba. “I couldn’t have asked for him to be any better. I’ve been doing this for many years, so it was very nice to win it once. It was amazing.”
While Colvin is a veteran of seven derby championships, Cuba, a 10-year-old warmblood is a newcomer to the scene. Colvin just started showing him in derbies this season, and after a couple of good results during the Florida winter circuit they decided to make the championship a goal.
“He’s not very spooky, and he’s an honest horse, so I didn’t really think he was going to bat an eye or anything,” she said. “But I didn’t know how much experience he would have with the very large ring, and it’s more intense than regular classes. I felt like he was going to go really well in the handy. All day he’s been quiet and perfect and in a good frame of mind. He kind of went like I thought he was going to, which worked out as planned, which was perfect.”
The Alan Lohman and Danny Moore-designed course invited riders to show off their horses’ individual strengths, and judge Danny Robertshaw felt the top three riders set themselves ahead of the rest by establishing a forward pace and keeping it throughout the course.
“There were some nice trips in the beginning, but they were very safe and not flowing and not fluid, and these three, what was beautiful about it is they went for it,” said Robertshaw. “They rode like they were going to win, and they did that. They stuck to that rhythm, and the horses were beautifully prepared, and they followed the rein beautifully and looked out of the bridle. They were able to turn and keep balance and find a real distance and not a made up one instead of choking and freezing, and that made the ultimate difference in the end for sure.”
View Colvin and Cuba’s handy round, courtesy of EQSports.net:
And what was Colvin’s secret for playing it cool in a high pressure environment?
Taking care not to overthink it.
The 19-year-old professional didn’t walk yesterday’s classic round, and today she spent just 10 minutes walking and looking over the course to evaluate her options for being handy. After that she prefers to watch a couple rounds to solidify her plans, and then she sticks to her gut.
Coming into the derby championship Geoffrey Hesslink never expected to find himself at the press conference as the reserve champion and the winner of the Section B. His mount Cadoretto is just 6 and is still incredibly green to the sport.
“I’m extremely happy,” he said. “I came here with low expectations, with some goals, but this was amazing, and I’m over the moon that the horse was this good.”
The gelding arrived at Heritage Farm in April to be tried as an equitation horse. However they didn’t have anyone looking specifically for an equitation mount, and when Hesslink sat on “Cadbury” he felt something special, so he went ahead and purchased him for himself.
“He rides like he’s completely made up, and for being as young as he is I thought he was exceptional from basically the day I got him,” said Hesslink. “He’s been nothing but easy and wonderful. I’m really lucky.”
Like Hesslink, Amanda Steege was surprised to be leaving the competition with a third-place ribbon with Maitre D’.
“I really can’t believe it,” she said. “I think I’m still digesting the whole thing. He just went out there like he owned the place, and it was an amazing feeling.”
The pair sat 12th after the classic round, so she decided to go for broke.
“Right from the [beginning] you could pick up your gallop and just keep galloping around,” she said. “There were some places that you could be tidy and go inside, but I think in general the goal of the course was to really show off the gallop as you did your handiness. I think it allowed us all to do that really well.”
Class leader after the classic round John French ran into a little bit of trouble with both Skyhawk and Center Court, who went into the class sitting second. Center Court had a bit of an awkward jump at fence 3, which dropped them to 12th overall. Then Skyhawk knocked a brick off of the wall at fence 4, which fell for a number of riders on course.
Want more from the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship? Read about Love Game, a horse nobody thought would ever be rideable after a severe case of laminitis. Read full analysis of the event in the Sept. 4 issue of the Chronicle.