Devon Gibson Finishes LEG’s 40th Anniversary Season in Style

by devonpgibson on November 18, 2012

Devon Gibson and Belafonte (Brent Stevens, owner) finished the year with a bang when they brought home the victory in the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby Final at Los Angeles National Horse Show (Nov 7-11) with a stunning handy hunter round. “One of the judges actually stopped me the following day to tell me that I had truly nailed the course. That meant so much to me,” Devon shared enthusiastically.

Devon has shown in the derbies at LEG shows all year, but the second round has proven to be an obstacle for her and Belafonte. “I’ve made it back to the handy round many times this year, but something always went a little awry when I got there. At the Memorial Day Classic, we made it into the top twelve, but Belafonte was a little green for the handy hunter round. At the LA International, we were in the lead going into the second round, but I had a really bad chip. This time, we stayed consistent and had a good trip so winning this really meant so much.” The pair had two excellent trips, earning a first round score of 86.5 and a second round score of 94.

“I decided to make the first round a more traditional hunter classic course with the required four high/low option fences, but not too much in the way of track options,” explained course designer Chris Collman. “We used a lot of natural derby-style jumps, such as the horseshoe-shaped hay bales, narrow coops, hedge oxers, and split-rail fencing so I didn’t feel it was necessary to get too difficult with the actual track.”

Many of the riders showed well on the first course, with several scores in the 80s. Among those, amateur Erika Scherer aboard Serantino (Starview LLC, owner) scored 88 and professional Peter Lombardo aboard Gaston (Janie Andrew, owner) scored 89 and joined Devon in the top three leading into the second round.

The handy hunter round proved quite a challenge for returning riders. “The handy round offered a lot of track options, depending upon how handy you wanted to be,” Chris elaborated. “There was a trot fence option that could be taken one of six different ways, and there were three different ways to approach the hay bales. For the final oxer, which was a high/low option, the oxers were located in two different parts of the ring. Riders could be really creative in what tracks they rode, depending on the ability of their horse.”

Devon enjoyed answering the questions Chris asked in the course. “The biggest challenge was getting up to the first fence because you had to be very bold from the beginning. Then during the option in which you had to jump through the hay bales, you had to decide whether to go on the inside turn or loop around. It was very fun, especially the second round when we were under the lights, which made the jumps brighter.”

Devon and Belafonte certainly stepped up to the plate in the second round and took all of the four higher options for an overall score of 94. As the first of the top three to go, Devon showed Erika and Peter they had a job ahead of them if they wanted to take the title. Erika rode next, but unfortunately broke to the walk just before the trot fence and scored a 72. Last to go in the class, Peter showed his consistency and scored another 89 in the second round, which was not enough to catch Devon. “I actually had no idea that I had won until someone told me,” Devon admitted. “I thought I had only moved up to second place because Peter had gotten such a high score in the second round. When I realized I had won, it was mind blowing.”

The win was an excellent end to Devon’s season, and she has big ambitions for next year. “The Hunter Derby Final was definitely the highlight of the year. I love that LEG has hunter derbies throughout the year. Next year, I’d like to qualify for the HITS $500,000 Classic and maybe even the USHJA International Derby Finals.”

Reprinted from Leg Up News.

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