No Secret De La Pomme isn’t a stranger to big rings and bright lights.
Having competed with his owner Beth Von Brecht in the amateur jumpers at venues like the Pennsylvania National Horse Show and Winter Equestrian Festival (Florida), and in several grand prix classes with trainer Matt Cyphert, the gelding is used to the charged atmosphere of competitive show jumping. But on June 10, “Pom Pom” experienced a very different kind of competition: the $40,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club Charity 1 Horse Show, held at Tryon International Equestrian Center (North Carolina).
Cyphert, of Argyle, Texas, piloted Pom Pom around the Skip Bailey-designed course, earning the pair a combined score of 179 in the first round.
“The course was really nice to look at,” Cyphert said, noting it was mostly single fences with few related distances. “You got to pick a track and really show your horse off.”
Pom Pom returned for the handy and earned a score of 203—for a total score of 382—with a bold hand gallop to the final fence.
“That’s something we’re used to doing the jumper ring, so [hand galloping] is right in his wheelhouse,” said Cyphert. “That’s one thing we didn’t have to teach him as a hunter.”
Pom Pom, a 9-year-old Belgian Warmblood (RMF Cadeau De Muze—Geneve De Muze) came to Cyphert’s Woodhill Farm two and half years ago after he was imported by Donald Cheska.
“We were the first people to look at Pom Pom when he came in,” Cyphert said. “We fell in love with him.”
Von Brecht bought the gelding and began competing him in the low amateur jumpers across the East Coast and Texas. At the end of April, Cyphert and Von Brecht decided to transition Pom Pom to the hunter ring. They started showing him the high performance divisions, producing top results almost immediately at the Texas Shoot-Out, April 27-May 1, and Week 4 of the Tryon Spring Series, May 25-29.
“He just has such a good jump, and he has the right mind for the hunters, so we wanted to dabble in it a little bit.” Cyphert said after their June 10 win. “About a month ago, we did him in a horse show. He was fantastic: champion in the four-foot division and good in the derby. I think he’s found a new career.”
There has been a bit of a transition, Cyphert acknowledged, but with some tack changes and Pom Pom’s good brain, he’s adapting quickly to hunter life.
“The back-to-back trips in the high performance are a bit challenging,” Cyphert said. “He doesn’t quite understand why he’s not supposed to go faster the second time he goes in the ring, but he’s really so willing, and I think everything came together Friday night.”
Cyphert plans to keep Pom Pom in the hunter ring for the remainder of the summer. They will go to shows at Lamplight Equestrian Center (Illinois) and Traverse City (Michigan) before hopefully heading to Lexington, Kentucky, for the Platinum Performance USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship.
“Our definite goal is to do Derby Finals at the end of August,” Cyphert said. “He’s really taken to it. I think it’s a job he really wants to do and do well, and it’s just a matter of time before that becomes second nature.”
For full results from the $40,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, click here.