Traverse City, Mich. – July 10, 2016 – To close out the last day of the first week at this year’s Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, the main hunter ring played host to the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby sponsored by Glory Days Farm, LLC. Tackling the bending lines and tight rollbacks, Maggie Gould and Drommels came out on top to win the blue.
Round one of the class saw 25 riders, with course designer Nick Granat offering many different high and low options leading to either a direct or bending line. After round one, it was Gould and Drommels, owned by Taje Warrick, who held the lead, earning a whopping 90 points with a spectacular round that included all four high options.
Ringside, one would never guess that Drommels is recently a jumper turned hunter mount. The 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding competed in the Children’s Jumper divisions during this year’s Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida, and this week is only the third hunter show of his career.
Gould commented on her first round, saying, “The first round, I was just trying to keep my cool and canter around a piece at a time. I wanted to let him do his thing and step his way around.”
Douglas Boyd rode Calido’s Son to finish round one closely behind Gould with a score of 89, also tackling all of the high options in his course. Rounding out the top three after round one was Winn Alden aboard Cassino, following Boyd by only one half of a point with an 88.5.
The top twelve riders came back for the handy portion of the class, facing new challenges to include a few tight rollback options. Perhaps the most difficult task was the immediate rollback turn that followed the trot fence, making riders question whether or not to attempt it.
Geoffrey Hesslink and Esco may have finished round one in fourth place with a score of 88, but the pair came back strong in the handy round, skillfully navigating all tight rollback options. Hesslink and Esco’s handy round earned an impressive score of 91, enough to move them up in the rankings and take the lead.
“The course was great,” Hesslink said. “It really worked to my advantage because it was, for the most part, singles and disconnected lines, which is my strong suit, so it worked really well for us.”
Hesslink’s mount Esco is owned by Garland Alban, and has been with Hesslink since the end of this year’s Winter Equestrian Festival. He noted, “Esco is super sweet, he is really quiet and really easy to work with. He has a great personality!”
Gould went second to last in the lineup, with riders and spectators watching anxiously as she challenged Hesslink’s lead. Her flawless handy round matched Hesslink’s by earning a score of 91, and it was enough to secure Gould the first place with a total score of 181.
Gould explained, “We were a little unsure of which inside turns to do and if to do all of them, but then Geoffrey went and did all of them, and did them well, so then I had to go and follow him and [Drommels] was perfect.”
Hesslink ended the class in second place with a total score of 179, with Boyd and Calido’s Son rounding out the top three after a handy round score of 84, totaling his final score to 173. Alden and Cassino maintained their top four spot by finishing in fourth place with a handy round score of 81 to total their score to 171.5.
After concluding the last day of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, Gould reflected on her years competing at Flintfields Horse Park. “I love it, it’s beautiful here, and management does a great job,” she said. “Morrissey Management puts on wonderful horse shows. They changed the footing for this year, which has been fantastic this week, and it’s just so beautiful!”
The second week of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival kicks off on Wednesday, July 13, at 8 a.m. For more information, visit www.greatlakesequestrianfestival.com