Hulla-Balou and Michael Dennehy Strut Their Stuff in $10,000 DIHP Under Saddle Championship

Michael Dennehy and Hulla-Balou. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Edited Press Release

Hulla-Balou has basically never lost an under saddle. That was an edge Michael Dennehy was glad to have in Friday night’s $10,000 DIHP Under Saddle Championship during Desert Circuit 6, presented by IDA Development and Barnwalkers. The duo strutted to first place in a highly competitive class under the lights of the Grand Prix Arena.

“Hulla-Balou has been the horse of a lifetime for me,” Dennehy said of Dana Vollbracht’s 14-year-old Westphalian gelding. “He has taken me places I never thought I’d go. It has been such a thrill and it is such a thrill to get to do this $10,000 Under Saddle class out here in the Grand Prix Arena under the lights so grateful that the hunters are running out here all week is such a great opportunity for us.”

The judges pulled horses away from the action one by one, until only Dennehy and Hulla-Balou remained. The thrill was unique, even though the feeling of winning an under saddle is nothing new to Dennehy.

“Well first off, Balou, as we call him, has won I think almost every under saddle class that he’s ever been in, so when I saw that in the prize list, I thought, ‘I am definitely doing that week’. Then with fact that it was here in the Grand Prix Arena under the lights, it was another great opportunity to get out under the lights and show and just get him acclimated because there are so few opportunities to get the hunters out at night under the lights.”

Dennehy comes to Thermal every winter from Denver, so his horses are accustomed to indoor riding arenas, making them a little braver under the lights in an outdoor setting.

Michael Dennehy and Hulla-Balou in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“The biggest thing about him is he is very sensitive to atmosphere, like when there’s a lot of people, and if it’s a big class he gets very keyed into that,” Dennehy explained of Balou’s energy for the evening session, which he just funneled into strong movement. “I thought he was super because the longer that we went tonight the more relaxed he was.”

Having won a major International Hunter Derby on the grass field back in December, Dennehy and Balou are on a high, with quite a few big classes still to come before the season ends. They’ve qualified for Saturday evening’s $10,000 C3RV Winner’s Circle Hunter Stake, which is another opportunity to relive the atmosphere and thrill the lights of the Grand Prix Arena bring.

But no one was surprised Balou was the judges’ ultimate pick as winner of the under saddle, even up against so many beautiful movers.

Evie Becky and Best Blonde were the highest placing pony pair. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“First of all, he’s stunning to look at,” Dennehy explained of what makes Balou so striking. “He’s shiny and bay with white feet and the blaze. He has the big, goldfish eyes; he’s so cute and so he’s stunning to look. Then you watch him trot and you’re like, ‘Oh my goodness what a mover.’ He has his enormous stride and he’s a phenomenal jumper as well.”

The jumping gets put to the test Saturday night, but Balou already had his warm-up session in the big arena to prepare.

“They really do a great job here at the horse park of making you feel special,” Dennehy continued. “I love the fact that they change the rings around. Last week we got to show out on the grass; that’s as good a grass field as there is a North America and I’ve gotten to go to a lot of places. This week we got to be here in the Grand Prix ring so it’s very special.”

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