BY EMILY RANDOLPH/RANDOLPHPR
Katy, Texas – April 1, 2021 – Ilana Halpern of Lafayette, CA, rode Prosecco to victory in the $30,000 United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) Hunt & Go Format International Hunter Derby on Thursday, April 1, during Week II of the 75th Pin Oak Charity Horse Show in Katy, TX.
Halpern and Prosecco were one of 24 entries that first completed an eight-fence Classic Hunter Round set in one ring before immediately clearing a trot fence set between two connecting rings and continuing on to an additional six-fence Handy Hunter Round in the second ring.
In the Classic Hunter Round, Halpern and Prosecco earned dual scores of 83 from both of the two judging panels, and their performance only improved as they continued on. With scores in the high 80s from both judging panels in the Handy Hunter Round, coupled with three high option bonus points added to each judging panels’ scores in both rounds, the pair finished on an overall 349 total.
Second place with an overall score of 331.5 went to Caitlin Burns and her own Fila. Third place went to Frank Owens who rode Carrida, owned by DS Holdings, LLC, to an overall score of 326.
“I’m so thrilled!” said Halpern, 34, who is competing at the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show for the first time. “I have been working with this horse for a little over three years now, and I love him and believe in him. I thought he was so excellent tonight. Not only was he great, but he finished stronger than he started. As the trainer and caretaker of the horse, that makes me feel especially good.”
Halpern rode Prosecco, an 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Devin Lanzone, to second place in the $30,000 USHJA International Hunter during Week I of the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show, and she has spent the past week working on the gelding’s fitness.
“One of the things that we talked about strategy wise last week was that maybe he was a little bit lacking in fitness for the handy,” explained Halpern. “So, I’ve been really flatting him and taking advantage of the bit of warmer weather to build him up a little bit. I felt like it cooled off today, and as a result, his fitness showed.”
In addition to spending time working on Prosecco’s fitness this past week, Halpern has also been the horse’s primary caregiver, something she says plays to her advantage in the saddle.
“When Craig [Starr] and I travel to shows with primarily our own horses, as long as the number of clients isn’t too large, we do like to groom our own horses from an economic standpoint,” explained Halpern. “And, to be very honest, it’s a joy! [Prosecco]’s a very careful, cautious horse. For him to jump at this level, it takes a bit of encouragement and nurturing, I think grooming him myself has been wonderful for that. I feel like I know everything that’s happened in his day, and I know where he is mentally and emotionally. With a sensitive horse, that’s so incredibly important. I’m just really proud of him, not just for this class, but for the entire time we’ve been here.”
For Halpern, who originally hails from Buffalo, NY, the major victory at the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show is the realization of a lifelong dream.
“Since I was a little girl, I would see that Jennifer Alfano always came here, and she always won the Derby,” said Halpern. “I always wanted to be exactly like her. I still do! I just really, really wanted to make it happen….For this to turn into an opportunity for this horse and for his confidence, it couldn’t have been better!”
Running through April 11, the 75th annual Pin Oak Charity Horse Show features three weeks of top hunter, jumper and American Saddlebred competition while benefitting the Texas Children’s Hospital. Week II continues through Saturday, with competition highlights including Friday night’s $50,000 Pin Oak Charity Grand Prix, sponsored by the Hildebrand Fund.
Learn more about the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show by visiting www.PinOak.org, and find the horse show on Facebook here. To purchase competition photos, visit www.AndrewRyback.com.
For additional coverage throughout the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show, follow The Plaid Horse on Facebook and Instagram.