Thermal, Calif. – Dec. 5, 2021 – Top pony athletes vied for top honors in the $1,500 USHJA Valencia Saddlery Pony Hunter Derby to help conclude week one of hunter competition at Desert Holiday I. Each horse and rider combination tried their hand over a classic hunter round and a handy round at their respective fence heights. In the end, it was Always Happy and Taylor Morrow who took home the coveted Championship title. So Driven and Desi Cyr claimed the reserve champion title, while Bedford Falls and Violet Rheingold rounded out the top three.

Always Happy and Taylor Morrow

After laying down two beautiful rounds, Taylor Morrow and Always Happy, a 17-year-old Welsh/Connemara/Thoroughbred cross mare owned by Monarch Farms LLC, were awarded the champion title with a total score of 160. The pair was rewarded for consistency, flowing pace, and beautiful form over each jump in the first round, earning a score of 76. The dynamic team came into the handy round looking to make their mark and once again impressed the judges with their handiness and forward pace as they met each jump with grace and earned a final round score of 84, helping them to secure the win out of a competitive group of pony riders.

Fellow competitor Desi Cyr and her very own So Driven, a 13-year-old Dutch Riding Pony, were first at the Large Pony height to try their hand over the first classic round impressing the judges with their fantastic form and flow that they demonstrated throughout the whole course. The pair was awarded a first-round score of 82, putting them into a good position going into the handy. Once again, the dynamic pair stepped up to the plate in the handy, laying down a consistent round, earning them a 76 and a final round score of 158, slotting them into second place.

Desi Cyr and So Driven

Rheingold and Bedford Falls, a 15-year-old Welsh/Warmblood gelding owned by Rheingold, rounded out the top three of the Pony Hunter Derby, earning a first-round score of 79. The strong partnership between the two was apparent as they fluidly flowed through the course, demonstrating perfect form, helping them stand out against the pack. Rheingold continued to impress the judges in the handy round as she navigated Bedford Falls to a strong second round, demonstrating their ability to maneuver throughout the tactful course, earning a second-round score of 75 and a total of 154, putting them into the third position.

The Junior 3’3” 16-17 Hunter division, sponsored by Noelle Wolf Stables, wrapped up Sunday with Mia Burlington and County Line, an 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Aleron LLC, taking home the championship title in the older division. In addition, Katie Durban and Hats Off, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Durban, were awarded championship honors in the Junior 3’3” 15&U Hunter division, sponsored by Antares.

Wrapping up the final division in the Main Hunter Ring was the Junior 3’6” Hunter 15&U and 16-17 divisions. Alexandra Mikhail and M Monroe, a 9-year-old Oldenburg mare owned by Stock ‘Em LLC, rounded out the Junior 3’6” Hunter 16-17 division, sponsored by Callidae, by taking home champion. Finally, violet Tatum and North Star, a 9-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Colleen Harp, swept the Junior 3’6” Hunter 15&U division, sponsored by Bijard Sporthorses, and was awarded the championship title to help close out hunter competition for week one in Hunter 1.

Hunter competition concluded at the Desert Holiday I and will start back up Wednesday, December 8, at 8 a.m. in Hunter 1 with the Green 3’6” Hunter division.


Taylor Morrow – $1,500 USHJA Valencia Saddlery Pony Hunter Derby

On Always Happy:
“I have had her for a year now. I just started doing the Medium Pony Hunter division on her and I used to do the Children’s Pony division on her. She has brought me up from the Children’s division all the way up to the rated Mediums now. I train with Bridgeport Farms and am very thankful for all of the training and help from them to get me to where I am now.”

On being at the Desert International Horse Park:
“It has been really fun! I have really enjoyed being able to ride my ponies and hang out with my friends. I will be here for the whole circuit this year and am really looking forward to showing here.”

On plan going into the handy round:
“We focused on the trot jump going into the handy and that I needed to go on an angle to get to the oxer.”

On goals for 2022:
“My main goal for this year is to qualify for Pony Finals and to just keep doing well in the Medium Pony Hunter division.”


$1,500 USHJA Valencia Pony Hunter Derby
Horse / Rider / Owner / R1 Score | R2 Score / Final Score
1. Always Happy / Taylor Morrow / Monarch Farms LLC / 76 | 84 / 160
2. So Driven / Desi Cyr / Desi Cyr / 82 | 76 / 158
3. Bedford Falls / Violet Rheingold / Violet Rheingold / 79 | 75 / 154
4. Shenandoah Coral Reef / Sofia Popescu / Sofia Popescu / 84 | 66 / 150
5. Northwind Just Josh’n / Madeline Luddy / Madeline Luddy / 64 | 83 / 147
6. Quicksilver Bells / Sylvie Ruby / Xia Tabanou / 60 | 70 / 130
7. Unforgettable / Sienna Smith / Sienna Smith / 69 | 60 / 129
8. Touch The Sun / Violet Rheingold / Violet Rheingold / 70 | 45 / 115