Didgereedoo VDL Dominates $10,000 USHJA National Hunt & Go Derby
Fan favorite Didgereedoo VDL did what he does best Sunday afternoon in the $10,000 USHJA National Hunt & Go Derby to close out World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) week at Traverse City Spring Horse Shows, presented by Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel. Kelsey Epperson piloted the 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding to dual scores of 90 in each round for a combined total of 180.
“I was excited to ride Diddy today because this is a big week for us,” Eppseron said of Didgereedoo VDL, owned by Lashier Properties. “He was champion early in the week in the 3’3” Performance and I was excited about how he felt. I wanted to keep him feeling really good so we decided to do the derby today instead of doing [the WCHR Spectacular] last night because we knew he’d be super comfortable there. I was really looking forward to doing it today.”
Epperson and “Diddy” have won countless hunter derbies in Traverse City and Diddy himself has become a bit of a celebrity around the show grounds. His unique look and stellar jump set him apart from the crowd, which worked in his favor in Sunday’s class.
“He initially came from a VDL auction and Brian Shook bought him and did some grand prixs on him,” Epperson said of Diddy’s background. “We ended up having him for a kid to do the junior jumpers on. She decided she wanted to do the junior hunters one week and we thought he jumped cute enough so he could do that. After that we realized he was such a good hunter and really loves to perform and loves his job. When he goes out and does the derby he knows it’s important.”
Epperson and the team behind Diddy are very practical about planning the gelding’s schedule, knowing they should aim him at more important classes to increase his chances of succeeding and bringing home top prize money.
“We’re going to keep it pretty simple for him,” she said of the rest of his summer schedule. “We want to keep his jumps minimal because he is jumping so well. We’re going to keep him here for the rest of the summer but he’ll probably show every other week. He’ll do the Performance and the derbies with me. We want to keep him happy and excited to do it.”
Just prior, the $10,000 USHJA Non Pro National Hunter Derby saw 36 entries, and it was Logan Jacobson who took top call on MTM Crossed My Mind. The junior rider earned a score of 91 in the first round, putting her right at the top to return last, then laid it down in the handy round, scoring a 93 for the win on a total score of 184.
“Going in I was planning to play it safe but then I heard a couple other high scores, so I thought I’d be tight with my turns but nothing too major,” Jacobson, of Austin, TX, said of her plan. “I like to keep a bold canter in handy rounds to get higher scores. I trust my horse. He’s really good in the handy rounds.”
Jacobson has helped the horse grow over a year and a half and now, in their first trip to Traverse City, they’re aiming at the rider’s first ever Adequan®/USEF Junior Hunter National Championships appearance next week.
“I got him a year and a half ago from MTM Farm in Ocala, FL,” Jacobson said of the 8-year-old Oldenburg gelding. “I took him from the 2’6” to the 3’6” Juniors. He’s been really great and has gotten better and better with each show. He always looks so happy to do it and always wants to be here. He’s very brave and bold and has a big lofty jump.”
Jacobson has both MTM Crossed My Mind plus another up-and-coming young horse that she has been working with to eventually take into the show ring. “I really enjoy bringing horses up,” she remarked. “I love seeing their progress and how much better they get, what they develop into. It feels great to get to show them myself. Being able to go in and win on a horse you develop yourself is amazing.”
In Jacobson’s first trip to Northern Michigan, it was a nice reprieve from the hot temperatures back home in Texas in the dead of summer. “It’s so beautiful here,” she said of Traverse City Horse Shows. “The first few days were a little cold and it’s been wonderful since then. I love the rings. Everything’s been so nice. The show is planned out so well. It’s really great.”
The Adequan®/USEF Junior Hunter National Championships begin Wednesday, June 28, with the USHJA Gladstone Cup Equitation Classic in the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel International Ring.