Wednesday, Jul. 24, 2024

Rumba Dances To The Top

There was a dramatic backdrop for the $10,000 ASG Software Solutions USHJA International Hunter Derby, held during week 3 of the HITS Desert Circuit in Thermal, Calif. Light rain in the morning of Feb. 7 had given way to a wide sky of broken clouds, with the mountaintops shrouded in mist and fresh snow.

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There was a dramatic backdrop for the $10,000 ASG Software Solutions USHJA International Hunter Derby, held during week 3 of the HITS Desert Circuit in Thermal, Calif. Light rain in the morning of Feb. 7 had given way to a wide sky of broken clouds, with the mountaintops shrouded in mist and fresh snow.

John French came to the ring for the second round with Mountain Home Stable’s second year green hunter Rumba. The pair were trailing at that point, having finished third in the first round. But Rumba turned in a spectacular trip, earning a score of 92 from one pair of judges. That same pair also awarded 9 bonus points for handiness, giving Rumba a score of 101. The other judges saw it similarly, and Rumba got to lead the victory lap.

“This week I really wanted him to be fresh for this, so I didn’t show him in the second year division,” said French, a trainer from San Juan Bautista, Calif. “It was a good decision. He really likes the big field. He has such a great canter that you can really show off the gallop.”

French purchased Rumba for his clients, the Siebel family, last December. Junior Taylor Siebel shows the gray gelding in the large junior, 16-17, division and was reserve champion in week 1.  French and Rumba were second year green champions in weeks 1 and 2.

“I knew he’d be a horse for life,” he said. “When Taylor goes off to college, he could be a horse that her little sister and their mother could ride. We could keep him forever.”

The ride to fence 4 in the handy round was one place riders were given a chance to show off. Course designer John Manning had placed a line of faux stones at right angles to the jump, with a gap just wide enough to turn through to the fence. The three options were to make a tight turn inside the stones, jump over the stones, or go very wide around them, losing handy points.

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French opted for the tight turn: “When I went in for the first round he spooked at the stones a little bit, and I was thinking, ‘Gosh, what am I going to do?’ I can’t jump the stones, but if I go around I’m not going to get a very good score, so I hoped we could make that really tight inside turn.” Rumba made the turn, jumped the fence in spectacular style, and the rest was history.

Jenny Karazissis finished second and third in the derby with Tonia Cook-Looker’s Forbes and Aragon. “That was so much fun,” said the Calabasas, Calif., professional. “That horse Rumba is pretty impossible to beat. That horse is a gorgeous jumper, and I’m thrilled to be second and third.”

Karazissis won the first round with Forbes and was pleased with the 7-year-old. She was particularly happy with his performance in the second round. “It was a little darker and a little colder and the lights were on—it was a whole new experience for him.”

Karazissis knew all about Rumba and his spectacular jump. Forbes, like Rumba, is a second year green hunter.

“When I got to Thermal and saw that John had Rumba in the second year division, I said, ‘Forget it—we’re going right into the four-foot!’” she said with a laugh. She and Forbes earned ribbons in the regular conformation division in week 2 of Thermal and owner Cook-Looker rode him to ribbons in the amateur-owner, 36 and over, division in weeks 2 and 3.

Karazissis, who won the same class in 2008 with Swoon, was thrilled to be competing in it again. She’s already looking forward to the next USHJA Derby in Thermal in late March. “It’s a complete joy, and it brings a lot of excitement back into my riding,” she said.

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