Monday, June 27, 2016

Derby Double Down

Spoiler Alert
After a couple days of what seemed like Windsor performing at 90% I wasn't too sure what to expect for the Derby on Friday Night. 

He wasn't able to sneak a massage in before the class, so he had to settle for some long hand walks and a good grooming.

I got myself stuck in traffic on the way back to the show (that's what I get for trying to sneak home for a day) and was busy having a panic attack for two hours over the fact that I might actually never make it out of the mountain pass and I'd never get to see my horse go again (drama much?).

But, the traffic finally broke loose (though only after I had the pleasure of watching at least one dude pee out the side of his truck...) and I made it in time to check out the course and watch the walk.

The course was set much bigger (maxed out high options, whee!) and quite a bit bolder than last week. I know things can't get that technical on a Classic Derby Round, but the questions were there and I thought we'd see a bigger separation in scores. 

For one thing, there were a few new jumps that were brought out (always exciting), and they made use of some straw bales for the two stride, which (for non eventers) is sort of exciting and definitely looks more visually imposing than just a single straw jump..  I also felt that some of the high options were placed such that a bad jump off a big fence would make your next question a bit harder.

To top it off, the sun was shining brightly giving some life to the color on course, and the wind had picked up - so if nothing else I was expecting the horses to be a bit more.... up... for the class.

Winds took a quick spin on the lunge and showed zero interest in working harder than necessary, so it was a pretty short session (no joke, two laps each way).

Winds was 8th in, which was remarkably similar to his draw last week.  We got to watch a couple rounds before hitting the warm up and solidifying a game plan.

I never thought *not* riding could be so fun
The sun and wind proved to be a bit energizing, and I definitely saw several horses get more than a tad hot about the ring.  The high options did prove a bit tougher and fewer people seemed to casually take all four.  Lots of people got one or two, some avoided them all together and only a couple horses tackled them all.

Another major change from  last week was that instead of incorporating jumps into the chain that divided the two hunter rings all week, they opened up two larger gaps to gallop through on your way to the next fence. 

My human brain assumed this would be far less spooky and preferable for most horses, but NOPE.  Apparently being asked to jump a "barrier" that's been there all week was NBD, but cantering though a large, groomed gap where once there was a small chain... that was just too much for some horses.  They huffed and puffed, some downright refused to cross over to the far side of the ring and others bucked as they made the transition. 

Just another example of how my own thought process does a crap job of translating to pony brains...

Anyway, back to the warm up. 

Winds was stuck behind the leg again.  He would move up when he was straight, but quite sulky in the corners.  We decided to avoid the high options and hope that he was a bit more willing to move out in the bigger ring. (warm up has a pretty short runway and Winds for sure doesn't enjoy that..).

Once he stepped into the ring, he picked up and moving out was certainly not a concern.  If anything, he was a bit on the muscle and significantly more explosive (relative, lol) than I'm used to seeing. N opted to stay low on all except one option and did a great job of covering up his desire to play...

Ultimately the extra energy made his jump pretty snappy and he scored a 85 + 1 high option for an 86.

Unlike last week, that held the top spot after the first round, which meant Windsor would return last in the Handy.

I preferred this week's Handy course, but again - not that many opportunities for crazy options. After last week when the judges didn't seem to really reward inside turns - we opted to plan for a conservative course, staying low and outside for a nice, consistent trip.  Winds seemed just lit enough that too much turning-and-burning (lol) or high fences, might throw him over the Jumper Ledge into crazy town.

However, this week the judges were definitely awarding points for handiness and people were posting some Big Scores including the horse in the #2 spot who threw up an 88 in the Handy which combined with their 85 from the first round gave them a pretty comfortable score that would be tough to beat. 

I gave Winds a final pat - told the trainer to just ride what she thought was right for the horse that day, and tried to remove any owner-pressure from the round.

As I walked back to the side of the ring to watch, I told a few other barn mates "he's a little fresh so I think she's going to keep is simple and hope for the best."

Well, after Jump 1, when she went for the inside turn and then the high option for #2  I knew it was on.  The conservative plan was out the window, and she was definitely in it to win it.

Winds looked pretty damn good.  I couldn't see any of his playfulness and he was jumping beautifully.  He really rounded softly over the oxers and offered a good trot jump.  There was a stride of cross lead after the high options at fence 6 (eeeeek) but then he had a lovely turn and approach to 7.  The final fence (also a high option) was supposed to be taken on a Hand Gallop and I got a tad nervous when I didn't see Winds really move up, but then N let him out after he passed the gap in the arena fencing.  She stayed low for the final fence (which I can appreciate) and finished smoothly.

They grabbed a base score of 86 + 3 high options for a 89 and then win.  I definitely squealed (again) and (again) was totally surprised.  I mean, I know this horse is awesome, but when he's not at his sparkliest self, and it's really only his third outing as a hunter - it just blows my mind how well he tackles the job.

Trainer gets huge points and credit for giving him such a slick ride.  She covered up his tension and stickiness masterfully and definitely knows how to make him stand out. 

It was great evening, made all the more fun by one of my friends coming out to watch.  I always get a tad apprehensive when non-horsey friends spectate the Hunters.  I mean they're slow.... and boring... and it's really hard to understand who's winning when you're watching 67 rounds on 5 open cards..

She was a great sport though, and after about 6 rounds she was able to offer disdain at an unusually low score, or agree with high marks for a nice horse. 

I guess Derbies are about as exciting as it gets in Hunter Land - and the announced scores are about as spectator friendly as we get...

Anyway, lovely evening, capped by a lovely dinner in town and about a million treats for Mr. Windsor man. 

What. A. Dude.

The only downside to back-to-back Derby wins is that it's painfully obvious who's fault it is when I don't put in a good trip.... (hint: not the horse's)

Next up.... Ammy Days!

(practicing for leadline 2017)


  1. LOVED the handy -- gorgeous trip and a well-deserved win! Congrats!!

  2. I could watch those videos all day. Congrats!!

  3. Those were such lovely trips! Winds just gets cooler and cooler it would seem.

  4. Wow. If that was my horse I wouldn't be getting much accomplished this week because I would be watching those trips over and over and over. Congrats!!!

  5. Can't wait to read about your rides! Also can we just keep that handy round on an endless loop? He is such a stud!

  6. Woohoo congrats to all involved ☺☺☺

  7. CONGRATULATIONS!! I'm in awe of how quickly Winds seems to be adjusting to the Hunter life, when he was doing the 1.40m's not too long ago. The rounds are lovely and the handy round was stellar: you can tell your trainer is showing him off as best as possible! It must feel so wonderful to have all this success so early on, I'm sure it will continue for a long while. So happy for you!!

  8. Huge congrats! Winds is just awesome, loved watching his playfulness in the first video and how wonderfully trainer recovered it. So happy for you!

  9. Such an awesome guy! So handsome! And your trainer just put in such a lovely round... Congrads!

  10. Swooning and drooling over here... beautiful!

  11. Wooo, go pony go!


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