Sunday, Apr. 21, 2024

Renaissance Has The Right Stuff At Gulf Coast Magnolia Classic

David Wright rides to the win in the International Hunter Derby.

With natural fences such as brush boxes, coops and logs and even a gate that riders had to open, the $10,000 ASG Software Solutions USHJA International Hunter Derby at the Gulf Coast Magnolia Classic, March 5-9 in Gulfport, Miss., felt like a throwback to a bygone era.
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David Wright rides to the win in the International Hunter Derby.

With natural fences such as brush boxes, coops and logs and even a gate that riders had to open, the $10,000 ASG Software Solutions USHJA International Hunter Derby at the Gulf Coast Magnolia Classic, March 5-9 in Gulfport, Miss., felt like a throwback to a bygone era.

“It was almost like they re-created Devon [Pa.] 30 years ago,” said David Wright, of Murfreesboro, Tenn., who won the hunter derby aboard Renaissance. “It was just beautiful.”

To add to the elegance of the event, Bob Bell, show co-chairman, said they hosted a catered breakfast for everyone in attendance and no other hunter classes were held during the event. “We had the entire horse show come to a halt,” Bell said.

This schedule change allowed everyone the opportunity to watch the hunter derby as well as root for riders from their barns. Bell said the 30 riders who competed represented almost every barn at the show.

The hunter derby consisted of two rounds, with the top 12 riders returning for the second-round handy course. The courses, designed by Allen Rheinheimer, consisted of mostly natural-looking obstacles, ranging in height from 3’6″ to 3’9″ with several 4-foot options.

“They’ve never done a course like that really down here at all,” Rheinheimer said.

Wright led after the first round with a  172 and maintained his lead with 191 in the second round to win. He said when he walked the course that morning he knew he would need a “bright and forward” ride on the 18-hand, bay gelding, owned by Cortney Patterson and South Point Farms. Wright said the big Hanoverian has a “light” feel, more like a Thoroughbred.

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It’s Genn Again In The Grand Prix

A nap on the golf cart may have been the secret to success for Wilhelm Genn, who guided three of his four rides to the jump-off March 9 in the $25,000 Harrison County Grand Prix at the Gulf Coast Magnolia Classic and ultimately won the class with Chantal.

“I had to get myself pumped up for the grand prix,” Genn, of Lebanon, Ohio, said. “So I walked the course and I took like a 10-minute power nap on the golf cart and then off we went.”

Seven horses made it to the jump-off. “It wasn’t just one problem spot,” Genn said. “I think the whole course was challenging.”

Genn said that for the jump-off, he wanted to be conservative but stay clean with his first ride, Happy Z, because there weren’t a lot of fast horses in the jump-off.

“Happy could have gone a lot faster,” he said. “But I didn’t want to risk a rail.”
Genn and Happy Z went clean, but their time of 43.83 seconds was bested by Megan Nusz and For Fun, owned by TNT Partners, who finished clean in 43.40 seconds.

“She’s such a nice girl, and she rides well and I really would have been very happy for her if she’d won it,” Genn said of Nusz. “But then we all want to win.”
Genn had the final ride of the day with Chantal and shaved more than 3 seconds off Nusz’ time. “Chantal puts his toes into the ground,” Genn said. “When he gallops out there through the turns, he runs like a sprinter.”

Genn was also pleased with the performance of Cedric, his third horse in the jump-off. Cedric, who has done one season of grand prix, placed fourth. For Genn, it was also “a real family day,” he said. His sons, Theo and Ryan, each found success in the jumper ring as well. Theo won the high junior/ amateur-owner jumper classic and Ryan won a class in the hopeful jumpers.

Wright has only been riding Renaissance for a couple of months. He shows him in the regular working hunters, where they have been champions every week at Gulfport. Daphne Thornton trains Renaissance. “I meet him at the horse shows, and we get on the same wavelength really quickly,” Wright said. Patterson also shows him in the junior division.

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Wright said Renaissance was “a little impressed” by the course and jumps, such as the coops, which provided variety to his normal routine. He also said there were a few places where he was able to comfortably leave out a stride.

“It’s nice to have jumps you can actually put your leg on and ride at a little bit, and you get some really nice jumps out of a horse when they take interest in the jumps,” he said.

Wright also mentioned the need to ride off his eye on a course such as this. “You might walk an unrelated distance and just have a number in mind that might fit there, but you’re really riding off your eye and you realize later that what came up that worked the best wasn’t exactly what you walked,” he said. “It was fun to have the option to leave out strides in a few places and to jump the bigger jumps [4- foot] and the lines rode nice and open.”

Both Bell and Rheinheimer mentioned the gate in the handy course as one of the most challenging elements for the riders. “Originally I didn’t have it in the course, but Bob asked me if we could have a gate, so I built him a gate,” Rheinheimer said.

Competitors had to ride up to the gate, open it, walk through it and then continue on to the final fence. For some, it proved to be quite a challenge. Bell said many of the riders tried to approach the gate head-on, rather than walking up to the side of it and leg yielding. The gate went smoothly for Wright.

“My theory was just canter as late as I could, then pull up to a walk, leg yield over to it, open it up and be ready to canter out,” he said.

Andy Kocher took a more traditional approach to the gate and decided to dismount, lead his horse through it, and then remount. The judges rewarded his smooth round with a pair of 91s, and Kocher and Finding Neverland took second in the class.

Renaissance’s former trainer, Christopher Ewing, imported him from Europe and showed him until the Pattersons purchased him at the end of 2007.

Jennifer Smits

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