By Sydney Lowe
Derby contenders took center stage for the first of two derby opportunities during the fourth week of Desert Circuit. A field of thirty-three entries competed in the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby Open, sponsored by Amberway Equine, Friday morning. Alexis Taylor (Medina, WA) and Q The Music, owned by Claire McNichols, emerged victorious thanks to two exemplary rounds that earned them a total score of 178.25 points and the blue ribbon prize.
With a cumulative score of 174 points, Nick Haness (Temecula, CA) aboard Crowd Pleaser, owned by West Coast Equine Partners LLC, claimed the second place award. With only .25 of a point separating second and third, Kylee Arbuckle (Petaluma, CA) and Kristen Polsky’s Opulance completed the top three with a two round total of 173.75 points.
Gerry Briggs (East Bridgewater, MA) built an open, forward flowing derby course that put riders to the test. “It was different from the other derby courses that we have had so far. It was a bunch of unrelated distances. The question was get up to a gallop and maintain it and then make everything look the same,” explained Taylor. “Tubs likes to be very slow off the ground so my challenge was to show a little bit of flare and a little gallop while still letting him be slow at the base of the jumps because that is where he is the most comfortable.”
The top twelve scoring riders were asked back to compete in the handy round. Among those twelve riders were some very talented veterans who enjoy the creativity of the tracks in the handy rounds. “I watched Nick do the hardest track and I said ‘Well I’m going to do that’. We have been friends forever and I love being super handy,” said Taylor. “The harder the better for me. I like the tighter turns and the trickier courses. I love getting into it and I thought it was awesome.”
Q the Music, also known as ‘Tubs’ around the barn, is a newer mount for Taylor. “We purchased him this last fall. He is seven years old and he is owned by Claire McNichols. She shows him in the young Children’s Hunters and I have been doing him in the 3’3” Green Hunters,” Taylor narrated. “We haven’t even had him that long. He never puts a foot wrong; he has just been so solid and he just has the best brain. He is a very talented young horse and I couldn’t be luckier.”