Thursday afternoon at the Devon Horse Show brought top hunter horses and riders together to showcase their best efforts in the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby sponsored by the Wheeler family. At the end of the afternoon, it was Hunt Tosh of Alpharetta, Georgia and Ceil Wheeler’s Flamingo K who bested the playing field of 30 other entries.
In the first round, Tosh guided the 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding to scores of 88 and 85 from the two judging panels, which consisted of Sissy Wickes and Marylisa Leffler in addition to Timmy Kees and Brian Lenehan. The pair swiftly jumped all four high options in the classic round for a total score of 181 points.
The course also tested riders with a two-stride combination consisting of two oxers that challenged some horses, as it was set on the rail where bystanders were sitting in lawn chairs. It proved to be no feat for Flamingo K and Tosh, whose partnership started last year at Devon when Ceil Wheeler purchased the horse for the professional hunter rider to show.
Sitting in third place going into the handy phase, Tosh was determined to show off his mount’s rideability and bravery in order to earn handy points. Course designer Allen Rheinheimer featured three high-option fences set at 4’ in the handy round as well as a trot fence and a brush wall. After watching Tori Colvin set the standards high with many inside turns, Tosh and Flamingo followed a similar track and once again jumped all three high-option fences with ease.
“The handy round offered a couple of options that I wasn’t sure about, but of course I saw Tori go in and ride so well. She snuck around all of the inside turns and put a little pressure on everyone else. It was definitely quite handy. The only thing I did a little differently was to go directly at jump one. I went inside of the trot jump on the way to the first fence. It was definitely very handy, I felt like I couldn’t take a breath because everything came up so fast,” recalled Tosh.
The first judging panel awarded Tosh and Flamingo K’s handy round with an 89 and 6 handy points while the second judging panel gave the round an 88 and 9 handy points, bringing the total after both rounds to an impressive 379 points to take home the blue ribbon.
“My horse is very scopey,” Tosh shared. “I actually met the first jump a little slower than I would have liked, but my horse took care of me. There were a lot of challenges in the handy. I thought after the two stride coming back around was a little snug – probably the most difficult was the vertical then back to the trot jump, it came up really fast.”
Finishing up in second place was Tori Colvin aboard Nicodemus Farms’ Gelato with 373.25 points. The new pair demonstrated their partnership as they earned scores of 84.75 and 82.5 in the classic round and effortlessly tackled all four high-options. In the second round, Colvin and the 9-year-old Hanoverian gelding received scores of 88 and 87 with 8 and 9 handy points, respectively.
Colvin shared her thoughts on the courses for the day: “The first round was kind of a nice classic hunter round that suited both of my horses. The handy rounded offered a few tight turns and honestly I didn’t think that I was going to do any of them, but then Tom [Wright] said I had to, so we went for it. It worked out well.”
Rounding out the top three spots in the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby was last year’s winning pair, Maggie Jayne and Pony Lane Farm’s Standing Ovation. Jayne and the 11-year-old stallion finished up with a total of 370 points after earning an 87 and 84 in the classic round and jumping all four high-options, then returning to the handy where they earned an 83 and 89 with 6 and 7 handy points, respectively.
Looking ahead to August, all three riders have their sights set on going to Kentucky for the 2018 Platinum Performance/USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship. Tosh is hoping to bring Flamingo K, while Colvin is aiming to ride Cuba, Private Practice, I Love Lucy, and possibly Gelato at the finals. Jayne will take her longtime partner, Standing Ovation, to try her hand in the 2018 Platinum Performance/USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship.
Competition at the historic Devon Horse Show will resume on Friday morning at 7:30 a.m. in the Dixon Oval with the Amateur-Owner Jumpers before the 3’6” Amateur-Owner Hunter 18-35 division gets underway.