Halie Robinson had herself a day on Friday of Desert Circuit 7, presented by Kask and Vogel. A derby win to start, and a Pro Eq Challenge win to end. Specifically, the $50,000 Valencia Saddlery Pro Eq Challenge, and the first-ever running of the class in the Grand Prix Arena. Robinson went first in a field of 48 entries, and she took the highest round one score, claiming the win as hers after three competitive rounds.

“I am just so thankful to get to ride the horses that we have in the barn and do it with all the people that are so wonderful and so special to me, so I’m just happy,” Robinson said of her incredible day. “I’m so grateful for all of it.”

In rounds one and two, Robinson piloted Tangled Up In Blue, a horse owned by 3P Equine Partners LLC. The pair rode to a score of 91, despite being the first ones to take on the track.

“This horse is 15 years old this year,” she said of the Dutch Warmblood mare. “She is a very seasoned derby horse, actually. She’s an international derby specialist. There’s really nothing that she hasn’t seen or done. With her age we try to save her for the special classes.”

Robinson competed quite a bit to warm up this week, but “Piper” actually came in completely fresh to the Friday evening class.

“She didn’t show at all this week. She actually didn’t even do a warm-up class,” Robinson explained. “She hasn’t jumped since week five here and I said to Emily, who owns her, that I think this would be a great set up, and I think she would be really really fantastic doing it. She’s so brave, she’s so stridey, she’s so scopey, and she’s just such a wonderful mare, so it worked really well.”

After all 48 trips, there was an additional course walk before the top 12 returned in reverse order of scores. Robinson waited patiently, enjoyed the class, and came back fighting as the last to go in round two.

“I have so much confidence on that horse, so I never really feel any pressure,” she said of handling the situation. “We got to do Derby Finals last year together and everything after that felt really easy. She’s just a horse and I have so much trust in. I was honestly just so excited to do a different class. I wanted to win it for sure, but I was just excited to go out there with a horse that’s so special to me and Emily and give her a nice experience.

“The first round was honestly quite easy,” Robinson continued. “It was nice and it was built up really beautifully, which is great for her. She’s so brave so the spookier the better and then I just kind of hung out with some friends and sat around and enjoyed the class and hopped back on and did it again.”

The top four returned for a third round, where they switched horses. Robinson swapped horses with Kendall Bourgeois, and Savannah Jenkins swapped horses with Nicole Bourgeois. All four riders stood atop the podium to accept awards, with Robinson on top, Nicole in second, Kendall in third, and Jenkins in fourth.

“I have done the pro eq class in the Main Hunter ring but it was so much fun having it out here in the Grand Prix field,” Robinson reflected upon the opportunity. “It was something that I’ve been looking forward to for a few weeks now. I did a lot of equitation as a junior and it’s always fun, especially with horses like Piper to get to do it, because I just know that she’s always gonna do her job so wonderfully.”

With a seasoned equitation past, Robinson fully understands the value of the discipline and how it sets you up for a career in the sport.

“I think you have to be so precise with everything,” she explained. “You have to be so accurate, and you have to be so invisible with everything that you do, which I think really helped me in hunters and doing that for the rest of my life. I think having a good foundational position is really important. I think that is really important for hunters also. I think it makes them jump their best. I am a big believer in equitation and it’s fun to get to go back to it, and especially with the professionals and your friends makes it just a really fun class.”

Robinson shared the podium with not only three stellar professionals in the sport, but three good friends.

“Nicole is one of my good friends and it was so fun that we got to be up there with her sister and Savannah, too,” she continued. “I learned that I don’t know how to open champagne bottles and I got champagne in my eye too. I’ll do it better next time hopefully, but in hunters you don’t practice the champagne a lot, so that was really fun. I really enjoyed that. It was just a great class to do with great people.”

Evening action continues Saturday night with the $50,000 Kask & Vogel Grand Prix.

Halie Robinson and Hemingway Write History in $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby – Open

Hemingway, owned by 3P Equine Partners, is not even 7 years old, but he’s already winning derbies like he’s been doing it all his life. On Friday of Desert Circuit 8, presented by Kask and Vogel, Hemingway took the win, with Halie Robinson aboard, in the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby – Open, sponsored by Platinum Performance.

“He’s 6 turning 7 this year, and this is his third horse show,” Robinson said of Hemingway, a Zangersheide gelding by Heart Touch. “He came here Week 3 straight from the airport from Europe. He went in just like that for his very first horse show. He’s incredible. I can never believe he’s only 6 years old.”

Robinson secured a 91, the highest score in the first round, coming back last for the handy round, where she laid it down again, scoring a 90 and proving to everyone she has a special horse on her hands.

“We bought him with the hopes of having him be a really good Derby Finals horse,” she said of her hopes for Hemingway as he continues to progress. “3P Equine Partners owns him and we are really excited to have such a special horse. I hope we get to keep him forever and see what he gets to do. I think he’s going to be so special. There’s so much to look forward to.”

Despite looking like a seasoned pro, Hemingway is only in his second-ever hunter derby appearance. “He did only one derby a few weeks ago and he was sixth,” Robinson reflected. “He was absolutely beautiful. Every time he goes in he just amazes us. He has never put a foot wrong so it was really fun today how well he jumped. There’s surprisingly little for him still to figure out. Next week we’ll maybe do his first international derby out in the Grand Prix ring. He’s really beyond his years. It’s so fun even with him being so young to focus on the details and let him do his thing.”

Simon Schroeder scored second with Totally, owned by Teddi Mellencamp, while Sara Petersen and Chaplin, owned by Jan O’Brien, took third.

Robinson has spent her entire season in Thermal for the first time, and she’s loving every minute, as are her horses.

“We got season stalls here this year, and it’s my first time staying almost the whole time through,” she shared. “It’s been really nice to switch out the horses every week, and I love the consistency that it offers the horses. We have the paddocks they can go out in. It’s a really nice, liveable place for the horses. I think they can still get to be horses. Here you’re able to keep them going and let them be animals.”

With a jam-packed schedule of special classes, Robinson looks forward to derbies, equitation opportunities and more that garnish the DIHP schedule all season.

“It’s so much fun; there’s always something to look forward to,” she said of the DIHP schedule.
“We’re going to do the $50,000 Pro Eq class on Emily’s other horse tonight, and that’s something I”ve been looking forward to for a while. It’s also nice for the younger horses to have the feature classes for later in their careers when they go on a larger stage in a different environment. The circuit, for all levels and ages, allows you to ramp them up. There’s always a good variety and chances for the horses to see different things. That always plays into their development.”

Gabriella Anzelc and Golden Hour Z Shine in $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby – Jr/Am

Keeping up the trend of young horses winning hunter derbies on Friday, Gabriella Anzelc claimed a very special win aboard Golden Hour Z, who is just 7, in the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby – Jr/Am, sponsored by 100X Equine.

“I imported him from Europe and my trainer, Jenny Williams, and I have been working on him for about a year and a half now,” she said of her relationship with the Zangersheide gelding by Solid Gold Z. “I’m just really proud of all the small and big accomplishments he made and I just knew it was a great round.”

Similarly to Robinson’s position, Anzelc put in a stellar first round, scoring an 89 and putting her at the top of the list, returning last for the handy round. She brought it home with an 87.5, scoring a 176.5 total for the win. In second was Kelsey King aboard Closing Time, while Margrethe Munkdale took third with Look At Me.

“I was a little nervous going in and I just told myself to breathe,” Anzelc said of remaining calm despite the pressure. “I just walked in and I knew I needed to attack fence one, and that’s exactly what I did. I just knew the rest was gonna be great.”

Through the past year, Anzelc and Golden Hour Z have been solidifying their partnership and the win was a thrill for Anzelc, who knows she’s working in a good direction.

The most special part of the win was knowing “That I brought him from going just jumpers to stepping into the equation and hunters and all of it. He was just so good at it and he loved the job,” she said.

Outside the show ring, Golden Hour Z is just as cool. “He’s super sweet,” she said of his personality. “I’ve taught him to give kisses, and he’s just super sweet he always looks for me and he’s just a very happy horse.”

In her first season at DIHP, and only her third week at the venue, she’s already enjoying every ride and winning has made it even more special. “I love that it is so big and that there’s so much competition. It’s just so great here and lovely,” she concluded.

Talise Baker-Matsuoka and Katouscha Claim $10,000 NAYC Trial

Young Rider contenders took to the NAYC Trials for the first time Friday, with top young athletes trying their hand at a 1.40m course for the $10,000 Whittier Trust NAYC Trial. Ultimately, it was Talise Baker-Matsuoka and Katouscha who put in the quickest clear round, claiming the win. Baker-Matsuoka also took second aboard Levisto Junior A Z, and Brooke Mostman and Feyon, owned by Most Management Equestrian LLC, were third. The Young Rider competitors will head back into the ring Sunday for the $20,000 Brown Advisory NAYC Trial Classic on Sunday morning.