A local rider tops them all in the Patrick Saltz Children’s/Adult Hunter Derby.
Caroline Cheatham wasn’t a hot favorite to win the Patrick Saltz Children’s/ Adult Hunter Derby on July 19. Not only is she not a regular on the A-rated show circuit, but she’d also had a difficult time in the children’s division at the Old Dominion Horse Show.
But in front of crowded stands and all of her friends and family at the Deep Run Hunt show grounds in Manakin-Sabot, Va., Cheatham put in two beautiful rounds on Park Lane and topped the derby over 19 other entries.
“It was very exciting. My second round went very well. I was a little nervous but tried to be confident,” she said. “The day before I’d had a really bad day, so coming back and doing well felt really good.”
“She’d not had a great day the day before,” agreed Cheatham’s trainer, Jeff Bradner. “She was doing a handy hunter class, which she doesn’t get to do much, and got a bit lost. She was very upset with herself about that, so it was great that she could come back in the derby and win.”
Cheatham’s blue ribbon came on the steady-Eddy Park Lane, a 14-year-old Thoroughbred she’s had for more than three years. “He can pretty much do anything,” Cheatham said. “He’s taught me that I really can trust him.”
Cheatham, 15, lives in Hanover, Va., and keeps Park Lane at the Rockville Equestrian Center with Bradner. Not only does she ride, but she also plays softball and field hockey and swims on a local team.
“She’s a great kid. She doesn’t get to ride as much as she’d like because she does other things, but she does well. I was thrilled with her win,” Bradner said.
Since she usually sticks to showing locally, Cheatham didn’t expect to set the world on fire at Old Dominion, an AA-rated show.
“There were a lot of nice horses there. When I did the children’s on Friday and Saturday, I was competing against a lot of nice horses, so we didn’t get the best ribbons. That made winning on Sunday in the derby all the more exciting,” she said.
The show offered two derbies on the final day, July 19, the children’s/adult derby and the North American Pony Hunter Derby.
Taylor Brown rode Will Kennedy’s Smoke Screen to the top of the pony hunter derby. The pair had claimed the large pony hunter championship earlier in the week.
“I love that pony,” Brown said. “He has a big stride and walks the lines. He just flows up to the jumps and fires. He’s a lot of fun. He’d been great in the larges, so I just kept thinking to myself, ‘OK, don’t blow the derby!’ ”
Smoke Screen, a Westphalian pony, has been shown by Samantha Batt, Lillie Keenan, Ashley Foster and Brown. He’s currently eighth in the U.S. Equestrian Federation National Large Pony Hunter standings. Smoke Screen earned the championship at Keswick Hunt Club (Va.) and St. Christopher’s Hunter/Jumper (Pa.) with Foster and Lexington Spring Encore (Va.) and Rose Mount Farm April (Va.) with Brown. Keenan rode him to one large pony championship and a reserve during the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.).
The derby courses at Old Dominion included a brush jump and snake jump with options. “There were mostly bending lines and ride-off-your-eye lines. He just walked right in and didn’t look at a thing. It definitely was hard for some people. But he just marched right around,” Brown said.
For the second round of the derby, riders had a choice between trotting a small jump and getting off their ponies and leading them over a jump. Brown didn’t want to repeat a mistake.
“At the Deep Run Horse Show [in June], I did the Bryan Trophy [equitation class], and I was winning going into the test,” she said. “The last jump was a trot jump, and my horse didn’t even notice it was there and trotted right through it. So, in the pony derby, I said, ‘I haven’t had the best luck with trot jumps lately.’ And I got off and led him over.”
Discretion was the better part of valor, as the round won the day. “He’s like a little horse. I’m glad I got to show him one last time,” Brown said of Smoke Screen.
Brown, who was also the large junior hunter, 16-17, champion on her own Window Dressing, is winding down her pony career. She’ll ride her Devon (Pa.) grand championship catch-ride, Vanity Fair, at the USEF Pony Hunter Finals (Ky.) in August and at the East Coast fall indoor shows, but then she’s done. And she starts college at Baylor University (Texas), where she’s on the riding team, on Aug. 17.