Traverse City, MI - July 22, 2011 - With few clouds in the sky and a light breeze, it was a lovely afternoon for the $20,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at Horse Shows by the Bay Series III. The Flintfields Horse Park grounds were buzzing all day with excitement for the evening's event, which challenged 21 entries with a traditional course in the Grand Prix ring.
Kelley Farmer made a clean sweep of the top four spots on Clearly, Praise, Red Sky, and Bases Loaded. Amazingly, Farmer and her first three rides produced a three-way tie involving an overall high score of 387. Peter Pletcher smoothly jumped into the next three places on Copperfield, Primero, and Tell All, accumulating several highly impressive scores of his own. An enthusiastic crowd turned out for tonight's derby, making the class a definite favorite among spectators and riders alike.
The event kicked off with an exhibitor party, generously sponsored by Outback Steakhouse of Traverse City, which featured great food, drinks, and conversation. The first horse took the course at 5:30pm, with high scores dominating the scene from the very start. Kelley Farmer and Bases Loaded hit a home run with a combined score of 180 in their first round. Bases Loaded is owned by Am Free, Inc. Peter Pletcher and Copperfield, who is owned by Jennifer Noski, also turned in a great early combined score of 171 in the first round. Carson Gibson and Caden, owned by Shadyside Farm, had a flowing first round that resulted in a solid 163 combined score. Farmer returned on Clearly, owned by Jane Gaston, to add a 185 combined score to her growing list of first round feats. Farmer's highest first round score came on Red Sky, owned by Larry Glefke. A whopping 196 put Farmer in contention for a second derby win, but Pletcher was also a competitive presence in the Grand Prix ring tonight. On Tell All, owned by Susan Baker, Pletcher earned a 173.5, adding to the slew of stunning scores in the much-anticipated derby. Near the end of round one Farmer returned on Praise, owned by Selma Garber, and received plenty of praise for another high score of 191.
In the handy round, the top twelve riders returned to take on a course that featured inside turns, a direct canter to fence number one from the gate, and a trot to an obstacle. Those returning for round two included Farmer on the following: Bases Loaded, Clearly, Praise, and Red Sky. Pletcher also stayed in the game aboard Copperfield and Primero, owned by Sleepy P Ranch LLC. Others making an appearance in an efficient handy round were Rachel Geiger on her own Midnight Date, Micah Gentry on INXS of Robin Swinderman, David Beisel on Ammeretto, owned by Equine Holdings LLC, and Melissa Donnelly on Chin Chin, owned by Elizabeth Stroh. Carson Gibson and Caden were also present in the handy round, with Caden being owned by Shadyside Farm. With Clearly, Praise, and Red Sky, Farmer produced overall scores of 387 on each horse. Farmer opted for the higher fences on most of her mounts, while the judges awarded her horses high handy bonus points that further boosted Farmer's scores. In addition to placing first, second, and third on Clearly, Praise, and Red Sky, respectively, Farmer also achieved an excellent overall score of 364 on Bases Loaded, coming in fourth as well. Pletcher, who earned the evening's highest handy bonus points (15), came in fifth, sixth, and seventh on Copperfield, Primero, and Tell All. Finishing eighth was Carson Gibson on Caden, placing ninth was Melissa Donnelly on Chin Chin, and coming in tenth was David Beisel on Ammeretto. Eleventh in the class was Micah Gentry on INXS, and twelfth was Rachel Geiger and Midnight Date.
Despite her own winning skills in the hunter ring, Farmer gives lots of credit to her horses for tonight's success. "It's unusual to have that group of horses together. How much luckier could I get? Usually you're lucky enough to have just one of those horses, but I have been blessed enough to ride all of them." Describing the slew of talented mounts she rode in the night's derby, Farmer said, "I got him (Red Sky) right after Devon, right at Lamplight. He's a great horse; we're very lucky to have him. Praise came from the jumper ring; I bought him in Florida so he knows the handy. With Clearly, he just 'gets it.' Bases Loaded, he won here last year, and he just loves it. They're a great group of horses." In addition to her equine partners, Farmer also praised tonight's course. "The course was built hard enough," she observed, "but it was also built so that the horses jump well. That ring is beautiful to ride in, and the footing is lovely."
Larry Glefke, who owns Red Sky, commented, "Thank god for owners like Jane Gaston. I have some great owners who give Kelly the opportunity to ride these horses. Just really amazing owners." Farmer also expanded upon the importance of owners. "Before," remarked Farmer, "you couldn't keep four foot horses because there was no benefit in the end, for the owners or for anyone. There just wasn't any profit out of it. Now, with these classes, they get a return, they can go and watch their horses show, there's more to the hunters. There's a crowd, and owners want to own for these. It's great." Glefke noted, "before, you couldn't accumulate four four foot horses. Now, I can mix them, match them, bring them to these horse shows, I can have four quality animals."
"It's good for the business," Farmer added about the growing significance of derby classes. "I think it's been an excellent thing for the hunters, because now we have people who want to own horses for it, to keep horses for it, and you're not using-up the horses; you don't have to do them four days a week. For these four foot horses, these classes keep them sharp. It keeps them interested, keeps their blood up a little bit, and keeps them thinking about it. I think it's a great thing for the horses, for the sport, for the owners, for the crowd. You actually get crowds to watch the hunters! It's a good thing for our sport."
Tonight's hunter derby was brought to spectators by USHJA and Horse Shows by the Bay. Additional sponsors included Dietrich and Company equine insurance, Charles Owen and Company, and Essex Classics. The awards sponsor was The Clothes Horse, and Dover Saddlery also sponsored the derby, awarding a hunter derby bridle to tonight's winner. The derby winner also earned a coveted spot on the Stanley W. Rheinheimer Memorial Trophy. Judging tonight's event were Betty Oare, Andrea Wells, Sue Ashe, and John Roper, with George Heston serving as field judge.
The USHJA International Hunter Derby Program has been designed to bring the great tradition of horsemanship back to the show ring. For competing in this hunter derby, horses will receive National Horse of the Year points and could qualify for the USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals in 2012. To learn more about the USHJA International Hunter Derby Program, including Derby Finals and class and course specifications, visit http://www.ushja.org/ihd/Default.aspx.
The multi-series Horse Shows by the Bay will continue to offer riders and fans the ideal horse sports venue throughout the month of July. Highlights in Series III, which runs through July 24, include a $10,000 Show Jumping Hall of Fame Junior Amateur-Owner Jumper Prix, a $5,000 Low Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic, a $5,000 Adult Jumper Classic, a $5,000 Children's Jumper Classic, Adult and Children's Hunter Classics, and a $30,000 Grand Prix of the Great Lakes and VIP Sponsor Luncheon.During the fourth and final week of competition, notable events include the $30,000 D-BRAIDER Cherry Capital Classic Grand Prix, as well as a $10,000 Children's/Adult Jumper Prix and VIP Sponsor Luncheon. The final week will also feature the fourth $10,000 Open Jumper Welcome Prix, multiple equitation medal classes, and the finals for the Hunter Jumper Association of Michigan's medal events. Over half a million dollars in prize money will be awarded by the conclusion of this month-long celebration of equestrian athletes.
For more information or to view schedules, please visit www.horseshowsbythebay.com or call 231-267-3700.
Photo: Kelley Farmer and Clearly Credit: Katie Anich/PMG