Monday, July 25, 2016

$5,000 Milner Downs Canadian Derby - (same same, but different)

***** photo spam alert. I caved and bought all the images this week. so prepare for all the Windsor you can handle!*****

We are back from a really fun week of showing up at Milner Downs.  Winds was a dude (mostly) and there was a lot of success... but for now I'd like to get a post up on the Canadian Derby.  Which is *just* like a USHJA Derby. 


Except it's different-ish. 

But still really, really fun.

Yup.  Really, really fun.
The Derby was slated for Friday Night, and just like the last show - I opted to scratch my 2'9" rounds (there were 2) slated for that day in favor of fresh legs and not pulling the horse out too many times.

I recall friends of mine showing a lot at Milner in the 80's and 90's but I had never actually been and was excited to scope out a new (to me) facility.  Most of the reason I opted to enter this show was the big, pretty grass field that acts as the main Hunter ring. 

More specifically the fact that I would also get to show in said field (heart fields), even in the smaller 2'9" division... 

The field is lovely.  It's set down in a bowl like an amphitheater, which makes for good spectating, and great backdrops for photos.... and it also made for some fun topography for the Derby.

Note Pretty banked sides in background
In the States, the USHJA Derby program runs on a two-round format.  The first round is a "classic" round, that is to say it's (mostly) judged as a normal hunter round, with the possibility of adding one bonus point for every high option taken.  The second round is a Handy, so the overall handiness of the horse is considered strongly when giving the base score, and again - there is a possibility of adding one bonus point for each high option jumped.  Scores from both rounds are combined to determine the winner.

Canada judges their Derbies with all the same components... but they do it in one round.  So there is the base Hunter Score, and then you are given 2 (!) bonus points for every high option jumped (with a max of 5 options, or 10 points) and an additional Handy score from 1-10.  Those all total up for your final score and it's a one-and-done format.

The one round format means you have to play the game a bit differently.  For one thing, you don't get the first round to see how manageable your horse is before you determine how risky to be in the Handy.  For another, you go in a drawn order of go, which means you don't necessarily know what score you will eventually have to beat.

The USHJA format allows you to have some context for how big of a risk to take with your Handy options... Because you know exactly how many points you need to make up in order to take the lead.

I think I have a slight preference for the two round format - because I enjoy the drama of watching everyone come back in reverse order.. And I also like watching the difference between the Hunter and Handy rounds.. but it does make for a rather long class.


Canadian Derby. 

The course was posted early in the day, and people lost their minds.

Mostly because obstacles 7, 8 and 9 involved cantering out of the arena, up the grassy bank, jumping a jump and then cantering back down again.

can they do that? are these banks even meant to be ridden on? it's absurd the amateurs have to do this. maybe we can trot down the hill... has anyone spoken to the office? I hear people are protesting the course design. has your horse ever gone up a hill? How do you jump if you aren't on flat ground???

Mayhem I tell you.  Polite, hunter mayhem.

The course didn't change, people slowly got over it, and the start time approached. 

I was a little curious how Windsor would handle the slope.  I knew he'd go down it just fine, but he might not be the most manageable while doing it... especially with a jump at the bottom.  Fortunately there was a relatively steep slope in one end of the Jumper Warm Up, so he was able to test his balance a little bit before going in.

But he was a star.  I'll post the video first, then the breakdown.  Ignore the 30 seconds of blank video at the end, I was waiting for scores to be announced but I gave up.  Also, I apologize for the poor angle. N ended up moving up in the order and went in two horses early which caught me off guard and away from my planned vantage-spot.

Also - I pretty much miss the first fence... that's a lot of caveats.. feel free to skip the video..

And now, your play-by-play....

First fence was good - since the Handy score is incorporated, N cantered straight from the in-gate directly to it - which is what you missed on the video..

on course over 1
Then it was a beautifully ridden inside track to fence 2, a single oxer, and another inside turn to the two stride home.

into the two stride
5 was an end fence... very straight forward

5 - slightly out his shoulder..
Fence 6 was straw bales and a high/low option.  There was a VERY inside turn (only one horse tried it) that required a hard slice and pretty much eliminated the high option.  Or a medium turn, or a long way around... N took the middle road and high option well..

7 was "flagged" as cantering up the bank.  Winds.... cantered up the bank.  not a lot to say.

8 was the fence at the top of the hill, which went well.  No one stopped up there - but several horses had wonky distances mostly because I think they were excited about being someplace new and were just simply distracted...

9 had an option - a shallower bank with a vertical set at the base, or around the tree and a steeper bank (no jump) back into the main arena.  The shallower bank with fence was flagged as a "high option" and also had a shorter runway to fence 10.

There was some debate as to whether or not you would be penalized for trotting the downhill slope, which was quickly answered after the first few horses who showed a trot received scores in the 50's. 

Winds didn't hesitate about the downward slope, but got a bit braced in his mouth at the bottom and had a difficult set up for 10, which was 5 strides out.

10 had a high option, but we missed it since Winds was ignoring his jockey and refusing to sit back and balance.  She basically had to rip is face off to get him back.

11 was a forward 10  strides or quiet 11to a big oxer (also with a high option). from there you could take an inside turn or go around a haybale to a vertical at 12 (also a high option).

Because it's awesome...
 Winds jumped the snot out of 11 and wasn't quite tidy enough to take the inside turn nicely... so he went around for 12.

Then it was a bending eight strides to 13 and your final choice on track to 14, a simple oxer home.

For all the questions in one course, and for the wildcards that we don't often practice, I was really pleased with how Winds went around.  He was rewarded with a base score of 84, plus 8 points for his 4 high options (having missed the one after the bottom of the hill.) and 8 points for Handiness, for a total of 100.

He held the top spot all through the 3'3" section (you can elect a 3'3" or a 3'6" height).  But with 5 horses to jump the 3'6" section, one finally beat us. 

They started with the same base score of 84 but picked up all 10 points for high options and got a 9 for handiness for a total of 103. 

It was a letdown to be so close to another Derby victory, but the more I watch the video the more I can acknowledge that we missed one inside turn and Winds looked uh... not so handy after the down slope.  If we had hit that turn and not lost his mouth over 10... I'd feel a bit more robbed since I can definitely say that Winds had the nicer jump and way of going between fences. But, c'est la vie. and realistically - for his third Derby class, I'm still pretty ecstatic with how well he's going.

Finally, Winds was not thrilled with the ribbon ceremony (it was dinner time) and made his disinterest in not leading the victory gallop known

Grazing.  During awards... facepalm

BUT! Since the ribbons are all wonky in Canada and 2nd place is Blue - my takeaway from all this is that we got another Derby blue ribbon and scored 100 (lol). 

Which sounds pretty cool - even if it means something different North of the boarder...

Lots of media from the rest of the week to catch up on as well... stay tuned!


  1. Doing one round instead of 2 totally changes strategy. I wouldn't know what to do. But your trainer and Winds did a lovely job figuring it out.
    We have a sloping bank at the show park here and people tend to freak out when there is jump on top of it. Isn't that kinda the point? :)

    1. I know!! I remember the first time I was at Thermal, people were freaking out about the "bank" that the 3' Children and AA hunters had to jump. Silly me I was thinking it was an XC bank and got all excited, but erally it was just a slope up to a fence (on the flat) and a slope back down. Gentle slopes at that.....

  2. Congrats! I love when I'm at HJ shows and because of stuff I have done at events I don't bat an eye at most any of the funny stuff that they can throw. That said I have questioned some of the stuff that course designers throw at events bc sometimes I think it looks scary AF...

    Anyways glad that winds was so good for you!

    1. haha. Hunter-Scary and XC-Scary are for sure not the same :)

  3. Always such gorgeous photos & I love your attitude to blue ribbon score of 100 for Derby result 😂

  4. I have the biggest crush on your horse. Beautiful round, he looked like he really enjoyed going down the hill!

  5. That's a really long course that really goes back and forth all over the arena! You guys are doing a great job with him for that to look so easy for him. He looks fantastic as always.

  6. That is honestly an amazing score! I lol'd at the "polite hunter mayhem" Do y'all know what the sport is derived from? I too enjoy the drama of the two round format, but I'm also a lazy butt, and if you can get everything done at once, sure.

  7. Wow that is awesome, Winds is so amazing and you are so lucky to be his momma.

  8. I love how much commotion the hill caused! My eventer brain finds that pretty hilarious, but I totally appreciate how challenging it would be to canter down that hill to a fence while looking like a gorgeous little hunter pony.

    1. My endurance brain was pretty amused at the concept as well :)

    2. I can appreciate that it would be a little intimidating to canter downhill to a fence if you never school outside of an arena... but my response to that is just to school outside of an arena if you are training a Derby horse...

  9. Please don't ever apologize for buying all the pictures and including them all in the same blog post. I can never have too many gorgeous photos of Gray Brad :)

    CONGRATS on another successful derby outing! I loved watching the video, Windsor really seems to understand his job more and more and the jumps look effortless for him. Way to go!

    1. Haha, well the ones with Trainer are lovely... I have some more "educational" shots of me riding him (ugh). Still some goodies though!

  10. Those photos are GORGEOUS! I think your trainer and Winds put in a lovely round!

  11. I love your Derby recaps :)

  12. Uh yes please to all the pictures of my Windsy. <3 He looks good in blue.

    Oh and I never skip a video of his, haha.

  13. Gosh, I haven't been to Milner Downs in forever! One of my favorite venues. Congrats to you and Windsor!

  14. Neat to see an up and down bank incorporated into a HUnter Derby - he handled it well!


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