WOODSIDE, Calif.— In a field of over 45 horse and rider pairs, it was Nina Alario who piloted Sonja Petri’s Drop The Mic to an impressive win in the USHJA National Hunter Derby at the LEG Woodside Bay Area Festival (June 26-30) on Thursday evening. Nina successfully navigated a challenging track designed by Pat Muskus, earning top scores in each round of 91 and 88, respectively.
In the first round, Pat’s placement of the first three fences posed challenges to even the most experienced horse and rider duos. “It was tough on some people,” commented judge Mary Babick. “The first course started on the left lead and the first three jumps made a serpentine. There were some riders who had issues with swapping leads at the second jump.”
“I wanted to make the first round a little more special and interesting than the traditional hunter round,” Pat explained. “I wanted riders to allow and encourage the horses to flow from one fence to the next.”
Nina’s track worked out well and the pair effectively executed the first round course. “Since I went late in the first round, I was able to see many rounds and got an idea for how the lines were riding,” she said. “I knew that the first and second fences were presenting problems for some, so I planned to give him a quiet yet confident ride.”
Nina made a challenging course look effortless, and the judges took note. “The horse had a lot of presence and his rider was very smooth,” commented Mary. “She had a plan and rode the course as one big smooth piece where everything matched.”
Returning for the handy round with the highest score of the first round, Drop the Mic was the last horse to compete and the pressure was on. “We were in a challenging spot,” Nina said. “I knew I needed to keep it simple, so I decided to do just one inside turn and ride a moderately tidy track. We rode a smooth track and he jumped great.”
Pat created many options for riders in the handy round to ride a tidy track and take inside turns. “Some riders tried to be too handy and took too many options,” he commented. “For instance, one person took an inside track to the trot fence and had a refusal when they could’ve gone around and trotted straight over it. I felt like Nina had a really nice flowing, consistent ride.”
Meanwhile, junior rider Ava Lakey who won last week’s Woodside Circuit Opener USHJA National Hunter Derby earned a third place overall, nearly clinching a LEGIS Hunter Rider Bonus. “Ava started out beautiful, but found an unfortunate long spot in the handy round,” commented Mary.
Drop The Mic is a relatively new mount for Nina who just started riding him in February of this year. “He’s a seasoned horse, but this was only our third derby together,” Nina said. “It was such a gratifying feeling to win. Our hard work is starting to pay off. I’m grateful to my husband for his help and to the owner for giving me this ride.”
“Thank you as well to the LEG Woodside Horse Show staff and management for staying late because the class was so big,” Nina added. “It was a great experience all around and I really enjoyed riding in the nice main hunter ring.”
Stay tuned for additional updates from the Woodside Bay Area Festival (June 26-30), highlights include the Bay Fest Grand Prix, our annual Stick Horse Classic, and the Brooke USA Barn Challenge. The winner of the Brooke USA Barn Challenge be revealed during the BayFest Grand Prix and the winning barn will receive a party plus special prizes.