Austin Hunter Derby

Austin Hunter Derby

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.

47 thoughts on “Austin Hunter Derby

  1. YASSSSSS! You and Simon look like you are IN IT TO WIN IT! You wanted fancy photos and you got ’em! I totally agree on dressing the part. I feel like at least I LOOK like I know what I’m doing. I am trying to psych myself up for our little upcoming schooling show…me and the old man OTTB lesson packer are doing the 2′ class…it’s tough (on my ego lol) being a grown up and riding against the teens (and ok let’s be honest sometimes kids).

  2. These rounds made me smile so wide! You guys look really great — Simon is SO HAPPY, and you really finessed his sassy jumper side when you needed to. And he took care of you when you needed it!!

    P.S. I LOVED how you chipped into the two-stride and galloped out without an ugly chip on the out. You should be SO PROUD of that!!

    P.P.S. Your turnout totally fucking rocks.

    1. Thank you! I feel like overall we are a lot more confident and forward than we used to be. The fact that he’ll cover up my mistakes with related distances is amazing, because it used to be chip in – chip out or add city when it came to that.

  3. That’s pretty sucky how they changed their mind about calling back everyone, I would have been upset about it too! But your pictures are definitely fantastic and Simon looks great. And you look awesome in that shadbelly!

  4. I love, love, love how much you love this horse. You two are AWESOME together and I’d admire your partnership with Simon. It is so, so awesome and makes me smile.

    1. Thank you. I’m sure people wonder why I like this creature so much, because he is very plain and lord knows has his issues… but he’s just the best boy. Can’t help it!

  5. Congrats on a personal best! The ribbons are always great (obv) but having such a good horse and having a personal best round are also pretty damn great! I hope that you are able to do some more fun and fancy classes in the not too distant future!

  6. 1- I’m SO pumped for you. You both looked great and those pictures *mini swoon*

    2 – I’m totally with you on the decision the show made. Things like that are a big part of the reason that unrated shows are struggling to fill. We want friendly, encouraging, positive experiences with at least the feeling that pinning is a possibility. It wouldn’t have been much effort on their part to build a lot of good will – plus having more horses in the handy would have been more fun for spectators.

  7. I love this- congrats girl! So much confidence in there! And I love that flyer pic- those knees 🙂

    Bummer about the Handy- the beauty of a schooling show is that it’s supposed to be for practice and I agree with Kristen- that it would not have been any extra effort to let everyone participate.

    You guys looked super!!

  8. LOVE the photos! Good job seeing the photos. I can totally relate to feeling happy about your own ride/progress but a little frustrated/bummed about being placed lower against fancier horses. And that STINKS that they decided not to bring everyone back for the handy round! I understand your frustration there! But good on ya for getting out there and having fun – you guys looked great!

  9. You and Simon look great! I love watching him go- he’s such a pleasant change from the slow, dead-eyed hunters I sometimes see dragging themselves around the ring.

  10. That really was a shitty decision by management. They’ve already got two sets of ribbons – want to make people happy and have them want to come back? GIVE THEM THE RIBBONS.

    1. They had two little cooler’ettes too! 😉 I understand not wanting to pay out the prize money for both sections, but some extra time in the ring + little victory gallop does tons for overall enjoyment.

    1. To try and be as far as possible, they could have decided before I went in the ring and I just didn’t know about it… but definitely heard conflicting information as the day went on.

  11. Dressing to impress for the photos is a philosophy I can get behind. I would feel sour about those organizational choices too. Bc like….. Why? What harm could there have been to just run it a little more open like the schooling show it is??

    But. Years from now you’ll still have all these baller pictures and only the happy memories attached to Simon killin it. Well done – y’all look great!!!!

  12. That’s crappy that they decided MID CLASS to combine them. And I agree completely with you that if it’s a schooling show (which it is) and for that high of an entry fee at a schooling show, they should have left it split. Obviously they already had the ribbons and what not.
    You guys did great though! And I also agree that if you’re wearing shadbelly, your horse best have braids in his mane. You definitely should have gotten some points for best turnout. Too bad there was no style award.

  13. I am wondering who did they the videos for you? Please let me know who to contact if this was a professional videographer. I had a horse competing that day and I would like to see a video if available.

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