BY SOPHIA BONSIB
A horse show at a winery? While not a traditional venue, this pairing has been very successful. Kimberly Riale of Paradox Country Farm LLC is bringing back the classic hunt field format with a fruity twist. The Derby @ the Vineyard has become one of the most anticipated horse shows in Chadds Ford, PA. I have been lucky enough to have shown there twice so far, and I am a huge fan of the series.
What is the Derby @ the Vineyard? It’s a classic derby on the grass, with vineyards on one side of the field and spectators seated on the other under striped billowing sunshades. In America, most spectators are only there if they have some connection to a rider. This Derby is unique in that the general public comes out to watch too. There are food trucks, vendors (that appeal to equestrians and non-equestrians), a special area for sponsors, a best-dressed contest for spectators, and of course, wine.
To keep the crowd engaged, there was a Meet & Greet area where exhibitors could bring their horses to safely meet spectators over a fence–this was a wild success. Between classes, I brought my horse, Buster, to the petting station and he loved the attention. For many spectators, this was their first time meeting a horse! Everyone was kind and curious. It was fun for both Buster and me.
I donned a fancy hat and dress at one of the shows in order to get the full experience. Lounging ringside with a wine glass and a cheese plate was as fun as showing! The bustling atmosphere and the gorgeous hunter braids made it feel like we could have been at a National Hunter Derby. Despite feeling like it could be an AA rated show, the most important aspect of the show is to have fun. That was clear to see from nearly every rider leaving the ring smiling. Kimberly shared that this is her favorite part of the show—she said she sees more smiles from riders who may not have the high score, but were purely proud of their horse.
Part of the fun is that riders are able to express themselves through their braids. At the most recent fall Derby, my braider Hannah outdid herself with autumn-themed braids with yarn in yellow, orange, and red, with a fake sunflower in his tail to make it extra fun. I’m pleased to say we won the Best Turned Out award! Another fun aspect is that the jumps are creative and play up the vineyard aspect. At the last show, there was one jump made of wine barrels with grapes along the top. It was as fun to jump as it was to look at. The courses challenge the horses and riders and are tricky enough that even the most seasoned riders can go off course (I’m speaking from experience here).
Rome wasn’t built in a day; the idea first blossomed as the Hunter Derby Nights in 2015 at Kimberly’s lifelong home of Pebble Creek Farm in Landenberg, PA. It was a small show hosted on Friday evenings on a monthly basis during the summer over the course of the next few years. The concept of the Hunter Derbies took a step closer to today’s format with Kimberly hosted a show with Thea Hall in 2019 at Thea’s farm turned winery, Broken Spoke Winery in Earlsville, MD. The indoor arena was in the process of transforming into a venue to host weddings and while there was an outdoor area, it was a field that caught Kimberly’s eye. With vineyards in the background of the field, this next evolution of the Derbies hosted three shows throughout 2019.
Then 2020 hit and things fizzled out for a bit, as did everything else worldwide. But not for long—one of Kimberly’s new students had heard all about the derbies and how much everyone missed them. Andrea happened to be the General Manager at Penn Woods Winery, where her husband Davide Creato is a winemaker. Andrea brought Kimberly to the vineyard to see if the venue had the potential to be the home of the derby, and viola–the Derby @ the Vineyard show series was born. The inaugural event was hosted on October 17, 2020. There are limited classes, so competition was stiff, especially with competitors driving from over two hours away to participate.
To add to the specialness of the show, after each division there is an awards presentation with long ribbons and prizes. In the past, prizes have included customized coolers, wreaths of flowers created by a local florist, custom wooden wine glass holders, wine glasses with the Derby logo, and more.
Kimberly has great plans for the Derby @ the Vineyard. She plans to continue the semi-annual format at Penn Woods Winery. Kim plans to host a June Derby at Fulkerson Winery in Dundee, New York, and has future plans with other wineries on the East Coast. I know I’ll be there, with the reins in one hand and a wine glass in the other (drink responsibly!)
Sophia is an Adult Amateur rider based in Delaware who loves horses and wine. She has been riding and showing in Hunters and Equitation since kindergarten. She competed in IEA in high school, attending the 2013 Nationals. She also competed in IHSA for Otterbein University. She currently shows her beloved OTTB Buster in the Adults and her mother’s young KWPN gelding Palmer in the Baby Greens. You can find her at the next derby!