The derby is over and Simon is extremely relieved that he doesn’t have to wear braids for probably at least another year. We came, we saw and we huntered. For us, it was a personal best.
Since we’re not exactly hunters, my goal for the derby is usually just survival and photographs. Mid-last week I texted my trainer and asked if she would be embarrassed if her fat client with the leadchangeless ottb was the only horse at the horse show who was braided. She texted back, lol you can braid! which I’m not exactly sure means she wasn’t embarrassed… but braid I did.
They weren’t perfect, but they were acceptable for a local show… a lot like our actual derby round! As predicted, we were the only pair there braided but I have a hard time donning a shadbelly without braids. A lot of the competitors who did the derby also show rated shows, so might not have been a big deal for them but it was to us. I figured since we weren’t going to have the best round, we could try to have the best turnout.
I was scheduled to go first for the derby (boooo), so I ended up doing my ticketed warmup in our full getup. This was nice because it gave us an opportunity to get more fancy pictures. When I got on to head to the schooling ring, Simon was amped. The last time he showed her, he did the open jumpers (a big 3’3″) with his leasee and was flying over everything. I don’t think he forgot. Luckily I know this horse super well, so after a lot of trot circles we were able to settle back down and head into the show ring for our warmup.
The ticketed warmup is a special class they offer to let the horses see the jumps, because schooling for the derby is not allowed in the morning. They set a course, and you get to jump maybe 1/2 the jumps. My goal was to sit up, and keep a forward momentum to the fences. When something (see “large oxer”) intimidates
us me, I tend to let Simon die out before the fence and cause an ugly chip. I didn’t want to do that on Saturday, so I trotted into the ring with as much confidence as I could muster.
The warmup round was actually pretty damn good, especially on Simon’s part. Because he was feeling so great, I decided to take the high options to get a little of the “omg this jump is so large” jitters out of the way. As we cantered towards the white option fence on the rail, I was feeling cocky.
Oh Heather is standing over there! I’m going to take the high option and we’ll get a really nice picture.
Because I ride for pictures folks, and well… I got one!
I saw a close-ish add to that fence and Simon saw the flyer annnnnnd he won. 🙂 He totally launched up in the air and I landed in a heap on his back while he cantered away, totally unphased. As we cantered toward the last fence I had a huge grin on my face thinking, This is why I love this horse. Completely unflappable despite my many amateur moments. So I got my picture, but it’s a funny one instead of a fancy one.
After the warmup, we had a short wait until the derby officially started. Participation this year was low. I counted 7-8 in the 2’6″ section and slightly less in the 3′ section. This made me nervous, because I figured I might have a chance at a ribbon in the 2’6″ if I landed on my leads and got decent distances. Also, one of the show organizers asked a few trainers/derby competitors if we should all just come back for the Handy round since numbers were low. To me this sounded great, because Simon can really excel with handy options.
For those of you not super educated in derby, it’s judged in two rounds. Classic round is run like a traditional hunter course with high options. You get a score for your round as well as 1 point for each high option you take. The handy round is after, and usually only the top % of the class is called back. In that round there are harder questions like inside trot fences and options for tight turns (aka Simon’s favorite). By allowing everyone to come back for the handy, I knew I had an opportunity to pick up a lot of extra points if I rode well. Before I went in for my derby class, I was super pumped about the handy later.
Our classic round was probably a personal best for us in the hunters. I got a few close distances, and had one really ugly jump… but he landed on his leads every time I asked except for the first fence. So we botched one lead, but didn’t add anywhere and kept a pretty even pace. He did swap in the front before two of the oxers, which is kind of a Simon trademark move and a big no no in the hunters. Still, I was really happy.
They announced our score as a 64 + 4 high options, which gave us a total of 68. I was super happy with that. The first derby I did I ended up with a 62, and it was ugly. This was not ugly, and I hit my goal to get into the 60’s.
Since I went first, I had to stay by the ring and wait around until the handy. I watched a lot and listened for scores, and learned how quickly we were outclassed by nicer horses. Even today I really do think my score was fair, but I also think that a lot of the slower moving warmbloods were maybe shown more forgiveness. That’s how the hunters go though… it’s just the nature of the sport. I can’t be upset about that, and if I’m being honest I might have just been feeling sensitive because I secretly hoped our “as good as we can do right now” hunter round might get rewarded with some kind of satin. You know, because I am still a 12 year old child who loves satin.
What I did get upset about though, was by the second or third round of the 2’6″ section I heard that the show not only decided that they wouldn’t bring everyone back for the handy, but they were going to combine the 2’6″ and 3′ sections. So I had to wait to see if my score would be enough to be called back. It was until one of the last few horses to go in the 3′ section, and once they finished the classic round I learned that I missed the cutoff by one point.
Bummed, I took Simon back to the trailer to take out his braids and tell him a million times how good he was. Because he was so, so good.
Reflecting back on the derby today, I am over the moon about my horse. Besides a few things here or there I wish I had done differently, I’m pretty over the moon about my riding. As far as the decision with the handy round and combining the sections, that I’m down about. This derby is pitched as a great experience for local showers to learn and get a taste of what hunter derbies are like. It has prize money attached to it, but I give 0 f’s about money. For a $75 class and what ends up being a $150 day with all the fees, I think they should have kept the separate judging for 2’6″ and 3′ as well as let everyone back for the handy like originally stated (I think there were only 4 who didn’t make the cut). There was a lot of tragedy in the handy round with scores in the 30’s, and I know I could have made up some ground there.
But that’s out of my control, so as of now I’m letting it go. I can control my horse, my turnout and my riding — all of which I’m pretty damn tickled about.
Plus my pictures were pretty damn fantastic.