Edited Press Release
Luckily for Nicole Bourgeois, no birds played a role in Friday’s $10,000 Amberway Equine USHJA National Hunter Derby – Open at Desert International Horse Park (DIHP)—that is, except for her horse.
The decorated hunter rider has a fear of birds, but she has no fear when it comes to riding Amy Bean’s Tic Tac Toe, also known as “Pigeon.”
“His owner really likes birds,” Bourgeois said. “I actually don’t like birds, so it’s a joke between us. I’m terrified of birds. When I was younger my neighbor had pigeons and one of them attacked me once, so now I think all birds are going to attack me. I don’t think at this point I’m not going to get over it.”
Bourgeois and Pigeon posted sky-high scores of 95 and 99 in the two rounds, respectively, and the win with a total score of 194. Just barely in second was Nick Haness with Reese’s, owned by West Coast Equine Partners LLC, with a score of 193.5. Skylar Wireman and Emma Woodworth’s Fine By Me claimed third with a score of 184.5.
“I was most nervous, actually, about the turn after the first jump,” Bourgeois said of her handy round. “I knew Nick would do it no matter what, so I had to do it. That tight turn was definitely the hardest thing out there. The rest of the course rode very smoothly; I was really happy with my horse and the course. It was really fun. Sometimes you don’t get the options to do really tricky things like that.”
Bourgeois’ long-term relationship with Pigeon proved to be a big asset.
“He’s been with me for about four years,” Bourgeois said of Pigeon, a 16-year-old gelding who is in good company among Bean’s elite line-up of bird-named horses, including himself, Goose, and Ducky. “He has done lots of jobs in his life. Amy Bean has owned him all four years, and he’s shown in the Amateur-Owner Hunters with her, he’s done international derbies, the WCHR [West Coast Hunter] Spectacular, my sister has shown him, and now Amy’s daughter is riding him in the 2’6” here. He’s a true unicorn. He will do whatever you ask him to do. We are very fortunate to have him in our barn. He’s never going anywhere.”
Later Friday, Caroline Ingalls and Concerto won the $10,000 Kubota USHJA National Hunter Derby – Junior/Amateur with scores of 92 and 96. Greenley Achuck and Arvantos claimed second place, while Sara Simpson and Einstein took third.