Katherine Mercer Hits Her Stride in USHJA Pony Hunter Derby, Presented by MARS Equestrian™
Ponies took to the Derby Field at Equestrian Village on Friday as the spotlight shone on 81 tiny but talented pony hunter riders. Pairings in the class came from the large, medium and small divisions to contest the first round of the Andy Christiansen Jr.-designed derby track in the $5,000 USHJA Pony Hunter Derby, presented by MARS Equestrian™.
Four panels of judges put forward scores for each entry that were then averaged into one overall tally for the first round and another overall score for the handy phase. Shooting straight to the top in round one, Katherine Mercer and Goldhills As You Like It paired a high-score of 92 with an 81-point score in the handy round to take the top spot on a final overall score of 173.
At the completion of round one, the 14 leading entries were invited to return for the handy course and the lineup featured the best of the best from each section. Mercer sat two points in the lead from first course with her medium pony mount, Goldhills As You Like It and was the final entry to return as the mediums were the final grouping to take their turn over the handy track. Christiansen fully utilized the field he was given and included a trot fence, rollbacks, and combinations in the second round.
“Today felt amazing,” gushed Mercer of her round on Vivian Golden’s 15-year-old Welsh Pony mare by Gayfields Call The Cops. “I did this derby last year and it didn’t go so well for me, so it felt really good to come out here and have two solid rounds. She’s a bit mareish in that she likes having her way, so if I just listen to her and let her do her thing it usually goes well.”
Mercer’s plan for redemption this year consisted of having a clear head and being consistent.
“I tried not to overthink today and just keep a clear mind while being patient,” said Mercer, who trains with Ali Sweetnam. “When I get on a rhythm it’s easy to find the jump out of stride, so I tried to just sit and wait for everything to come up. As I went in for the handy my trainer was telling me ‘don’t blow it out of the water’ because I have a tendency to get overzealous for the long spot and then end up with a chip instead. I really worked on that today.”
Scarlett Samuels procured the highest score in the handy round as she completed the course with an 86 aboard Royal Treasure. Combining that with her first-round score of 78.5, she secured the second place ribbon on Catrine Golia’s 15-year-old Danish Sport Pony with a 164.5. Hailey Guidry, who returned for the handy in second place, completed the day with a third-place ribbon aboard Honor Hill Farm’s nine-year-old Dutch Riding Pony Prince Charming as she paired her scores of 90 and 74 for a two-round total of 164.