Melissa Strawser and Darwin De Mars Sweep Jumper Action at HITS Culpeper
It was a perfect hat trick for Melissa Strawser during the Constitution Classic at HITS Culpeper as she swept all three of the major jumper classes with Darwin De Mars. They kicked off the week with a win in the $5,000 HITS Open Welcome on Wednesday, and then went on to win the $10,000 HITS Open Prix on Friday. With two victories already in hand, Strawser felt confident headed into Sunday’s $20,000 HITS Open Prix, and it paid off as they topped the three-horse jump-off, leading the lap of honor for the third time.
“Darwin did well here in July too, and he really loves this arena,” smiled Strawser. “When we first got him, we didn’t know how fast he would be, and in July, we found another gear. I knew he already had liked this arena, and I went in with a little confidence at the beginning of the week. We had to lay down some fast jump-offs – Friday was a fast class! He was just right there willing to do it. I think I had a little advantage knowing that he liked the facility and having the support group – my mom was here to watch this week, which was great. It was really fun!”
Darwin De Mars is a 9-year-old Selle Francais gelding that Strawser began riding last fall, and their partnership has been steadily progressing over the last year. “When I got him, he just wanted to jump huge over every fence,” she explained. “I knew if we wanted to move up he needed to learn to jump a little smaller and jump across the jump a bit more. I took it really easy this spring and did a lot of 1.35m, and then just moved up in March to the 1.40/1.45m. We had a lot of success, a lot of clear rounds, and then starting in July we asked him to start to go faster at that level. He just picked right up on it, and he’s gotten very competitive. I’ve had him less than a year and I feel like I’m finding more and more gears as we go together.”