Wellington, Fla.—Feb. 28
In a corner of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, sectioned off from the flair of the main arenas, there’s a piece of land designated to the congregation of ponies and their people.
Today though, Pony Island saw the absence of its namesake, instead hosting a field of 55 combinations in the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at the Winter Equestrian Festival. When the Top 12 moved on to the handy, Hannah Isop and the 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding Believe (Stolzenberg—Lesley) earned a combined score (183 and 199) of 382 to win.
“This is a really lovely venue, and I’m really happy that WEF decided to open up this ring to the international and national derbies,” said Isop. “It’s a great open space, which is perfect for this horse because he’s got a big stride to him to I could really show off in Round 1. I thought the ring and the course let me do that. I was happy with it, and he was super.”
When Isop partnered with Believe in 2016, the horse was a newly minted hunter, having gone from the jumpers to the equitation ring after his import from Europe.
“We really took our time the first year; started little,” said Isop. “We worked on clapping; sometimes the clapping gets him excited and just learning to go soft and smooth through the course.
“I wouldn’t call him hot; he was more amped, high power,” said Isop. “He needed to learn how to relax and take a big deep breath before he went in the ring. Time is your No. 1 friend. You’ll see me go in the ring and give him a big pat and encourage him to take a deep breath. Going slow, less bit and kindness. Kindness and time, taking the pressure off of him.”
Jennifer Hannan and Olympic Fire finished second on a score of 374. Tori Colvin and Avatar Z took third with 372.25.
Be sure to check out the March 9 print edition of the Chronicle for more from the Winter Equestrian Festival, and follow along online with all of our coverage. Be sure to follow us on social media: Twitter I Instagram I Facebook I COTH Podcast