Edited Press Release
Nick Haness and his trusty steed Reese’s, owned by West Coast Equine Partners, came back to the desert in their typical form and dominated during Desert Circuit 3, presented by U.S. Bank, winning the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby – Open, sponsored by 100X Equine.
Scores were high from the get-go, as Haness was second to go with Reese’s out of 45, putting in a score of 96. Returning last, the duo did what they do best, living up to the nickname “Handy Haness” and scoring a 91 for a combined total of 187. Simon Schroeder and Totally, owned by Teddi Mellencamp, took second and Jenny Karazissis took third aboard Really, owned by Michelle Cobb.
“It definitely feels good to have a victory today,” Haness said. “Reese’s last week had an unusual mistake and had a rail which was sad for us, but it was a good practice derby to get us back in the swing. We were really hoping this week it was a higher stakes class with $10,000 on the line, so we’re really happy that we won it.”
The wins are special for Haness and the 11-year-old Warmblood gelding, especially since Haness has had him since the horse was only 4. But they have reached stellar heights together and they have an important title to uphold as they continue winning.
“Reese’s is actually currently the lifetime highest ranked horse in the USHJA national hunter derby standings, so he has the highest lifetime earnings in the nation,” he explained. “Each of these derbies we do we try to keep chipping away at that and keeping our title. I’d love for him to be able to hold that lead for his whole life.”
The derby saw a change in location from what hunters are typically used to. Originally scheduled for the grass field, the week’s rainfall changed the plan and put the hunter derbies in the grass field warm-up ring, which gave derby horses and riders a new territory to conquer. Riders and trainers were grateful for all the accommodations property wide to make sure the week went on as planned.
“Desert Horse Park came to the rescue when we had a hard week with a lot of rainfall,” Haness shared. It was great that the management made a call for the horses and riders and their safety. I really appreciate all they did at the horse park to make the derby fun and special. It was a great view back here and they decorated the ring amazingly. It’s a fun and big ring to ride in with a special feeling.”
Reese’s and Haness go back quite a few years, being imported as a 4-year-old and sharing every “first” with the horse.
“Reese’s is one of my most favorite horses,” Haness said. “I love him to ‘Reese’s Pieces’. He is a really good derby horse. Now in his career we don’t show him in anything else and no one else rides him. He’s my baby. This week I had a busy week with other clients and horses so I didn’t ride Reese’s in any other classes before this class, so I was feeling a little underprepared but knowing him so well and he’s such a true winner, he came out and was awesome.”
It didn’t take long for Reese’s to shine, so it’s no surprise he holds the title for most prize money won. “By 6 he was winning derbies. Every time he’s advanced to a new level of competition he’s excelled,” he continued. “It’s a horse that always tries and he loves to win. He’s got a very fun personality and we treat him in a unique way. Between horse shows he just goes to my farm and he’s like my lawn ornament. He just likes to play around and enjoy the farm.”
Haness is racking up plenty of airline miles as the winter season gets underway, spending time on both coasts at the biggest winter circuits.
“I’ve been blessed to be able to compete both west and east throughout the winter circuits and I’m always blown away at the level of quality we have here on the West Coast,” he shared about his experiences both leaving and returning to his home state. “Wellington is known for being the creme de la creme, but when I am there I think a lot of the horses here could be winning there. It’s nice to see that both coasts have a lot of great quality and both sides of the country have great programs to develop young horses. It makes it really fun when we can all come together and battle off at Devon or Derby Finals because there’s a lot of talent here on the West Coast.”