Nick Haness and his trusty steed Reese’s, owned by West Coast Equine Partners, came back to the desert in their typical form and dominated during Desert Circuit 3, presented by U.S. Bank, winning the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby – Open, sponsored by 100X Equine.

Scores were high from the get-go, as Haness was second to go with Reese’s out of 45, putting in a score of 96. Returning last, the duo did what they do best, living up to the nickname “Handy Haness” and scoring a 91 for a combined total of 187. Simon Schroeder and Totally, owned by Teddi Mellencamp, took second and Jenny Karazissis took third aboard Really, owned by Michelle Cobb.

“It definitely feels good to have a victory today,” Haness said. “Reese’s last week had an unusual mistake and had a rail which was sad for us, but it was a good practice derby to get us back in the swing. We were really hoping this week it was a higher stakes class with $10,000 on the line, so we’re really happy that we won it.”

Nick Haness and Reese’s. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

The wins are special for Haness and the 11-year-old Warmblood gelding, especially since Haness has had him since the horse was only 4. But they have reached stellar heights together and they have an important title to uphold as they continue winning.

“Reese’s is actually currently the lifetime highest ranked horse in the USHJA national hunter derby standings, so he has the highest lifetime earnings in the nation,” he explained. “Each of these derbies we do we try to keep chipping away at that and keeping our title. I’d love for him to be able to hold that lead for his whole life.”

The derby saw a change in location from what hunters are typically used to. Originally scheduled for the grass field, the week’s rainfall changed the plan and put the hunter derbies in the grass field warm-up ring, which gave derby horses and riders a new territory to conquer. Riders and trainers were grateful for all the accommodations property wide to make sure the week went on as planned.

Nick Haness and Reese’s in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“Desert Horse Park came to the rescue when we had a hard week with a lot of rainfall,” Haness shared. It was great that the management made a call for the horses and riders and their safety. I really appreciate all they did at the horse park to make the derby fun and special. It was a great view back here and they decorated the ring amazingly. It’s a fun and big ring to ride in with a special feeling.”

Reese’s and Haness go back quite a few years, being imported as a 4-year-old and sharing every “first” with the horse.

“Reese’s is one of my most favorite horses,” Haness said. “I love him to ‘Reese’s Pieces’. He is a really good derby horse. Now in his career we don’t show him in anything else and no one else rides him. He’s my baby. This week I had a busy week with other clients and horses so I didn’t ride Reese’s in any other classes before this class, so I was feeling a little underprepared but knowing him so well and he’s such a true winner, he came out and was awesome.”

It didn’t take long for Reese’s to shine, so it’s no surprise he holds the title for most prize money won. “By 6 he was winning derbies. Every time he’s advanced to a new level of competition he’s excelled,” he continued. “It’s a horse that always tries and he loves to win. He’s got a very fun personality and we treat him in a unique way. Between horse shows he just goes to my farm and he’s like my lawn ornament. He just likes to play around and enjoy the farm.”

Haness is racking up plenty of airline miles as the winter season gets underway, spending time on both coasts at the biggest winter circuits.

“I’ve been blessed to be able to compete both west and east throughout the winter circuits and I’m always blown away at the level of quality we have here on the West Coast,” he shared about his experiences both leaving and returning to his home state. “Wellington is known for being the creme de la creme, but when I am there I think a lot of the horses here could be winning there. It’s nice to see that both coasts have a lot of great quality and both sides of the country have great programs to develop young horses. It makes it really fun when we can all come together and battle off at Devon or Derby Finals because there’s a lot of talent here on the West Coast.”

Avery Glynn and Prost Shine in $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby – Jr/Am

Avery Glynn and Prost. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Following Nick Haness’ lead, Avery Glynn also brought home a first-round score of 96 in the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby – Jr/Am, sponsored by Voltaire Design, wowing the crowd and signaling that she might have the win in the bag. She came back for round two aboard Prost, owned by Hope Glynn, and proved her partnership with him, earning a 93 and taking the win with a score of 189.

“I have had Prost for a few years; we bought him in Europe when he was 5 turning 6 and I believe he’s 9 this year,” Glynn said of the Warmblood gelding. “In the barn we call him ‘Doodle’ and he’s genuinely the sweetest, kindest, and most calm horse I’ve ever met. He usually goes out for a handwalk before we show. He’s the easiest horse in the barn. He lets you cuddle with him in his stall.”

Glynn’s connection with Doodle is evident, as every time they step in the ring it’s seamless and easy. A partnership like this one is a special one for Glynn, who’s very used to catch riding and sales horses.

Avery Glynn and Prost in their winning presentation. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“I’m used to riding horses for just a weekend; I’m not used to getting to ride horses for multiple years so [I’m grateful for] all these different derbies and classes I get to do on him,” Glynn shared. “I know him like the back of my hand now and I can really trust him with every single course I get to face with him.”

Kate Parker snagged second place with West Port and Alexandra Thompson was third with Lambado. All of the top seven pairs scored into the 90s in at least one round, showing the strength of the class and its competitors.

For Glynn, she’s spending less time at horse shows and more time studying nowadays, but she’s still making time to come back and do what she loves best.

“This is my first year as an amateur, which is crazy,” she reflected. “I’m a freshman at Auburn University so I flew in for this weekend. I competed with him [Doodle] week one in the A/O Hunters and the derby and I wanted to come back and do the $10.000 derby with him this week. I’m glad I made the smart decision to come this weekend and get to show him again.”

Sharing a special bond with Doodle, Glynn knows the future is uncertain with him, but she hopes it’s an even longer term partnership than it’s already been.

“It’s hard for me because sometimes we’ll buy and sell horses but whatever Doodle does in his future he’s already proven to be such an incredible horse,” she said. “He’s basically my pet; I hope I can keep him forever. He’s honestly one of the best – if not the best – horse I’ve ever owned.”

The rest of Desert Circuit will be up in the air for Glynn as she returns to Auburn to begin competing for her team. “I’m going to come out here as many weekends as I can,” she said of her plan. “I go to class Monday through Wednesday then I get on the plane Thursday morning. I love coming out here. California is always going to be my home though so this horse show will always have a special place in my heart. They’ve done so many amazing things to the showgrounds over the years.”

Michelle Berry Blazes a Trail in $7,500 Interactive Mortgage 10 & Under Futurity

Michelle Berry and Duerers Macho. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Right after Michelle Berry dismounted from her victory lap, a fan came up and asked for a photo. It’s not the first time she’s been approached by a fan, and it certainly won’t be the last. Against some of the best in the sport, the 15-year-old took the win in the $7,500 Interactive Mortgage 10 & Under Futurity Series under the lights Friday evening.

Aboard Duerers Macho, owned by Opus Sporthorses, Berry had a late draw in the order of 34 young horses, and she was one of the only young riders in the field. When she stepped in, Belgian superstar Gregory Wathelet held the lead, and it was a convincing lead. But with her newer mount, she blazed around the short course and took the lead for herself, keeping it until the end.

“He’s awesome,” Berry said of Duerers Macho. “I just started with him in December so it’s a very new partnership. I’ve been fortunate enough to get to ride him. He is really careful and he’s a big love bug. He loves cuddling and going on walks. He’s probably the sweetest horse we have in the barn. He’ll sit in your lap for an hour. He loves cookies.”

Michelle Berry and Duerers Macho in their winning presentation, pictured with Gregg DeLong of Interactive Mortgage. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Berry knew from the start it would be a good match with Duerers Macho. “He’s just really a fast one,” she said of why he appealed to her so much. “I love being able to turn and he’s super honest. If I’m nervous he’ll still jump and take care of me, which I really love.”

The nerves were slightly higher than usual for Berry, not because of the 1.35m fence height, but because of the atmosphere of the night class.

“I was very nervous,” she reflected. “I looked at the rider list and Gregory and James Chawke were in it, and I was nervous. It wasn’t about the height, it was about the lights. I had never ridden this horse under the lights before. I’d only shown him about six times and I’d won five out of the six times.”

They’re continuing their winning streak, and this win felt extra special because of the caliber of rider that came behind her. Wathelet ended up second to Berry, and he was aboard Kristalic, an entry owned by Morning Star Sporthorses. Mathijs Van Asten took third with Vedet DK Z.

“It’s a big deal,” Berry said of winning against such top athletes and horses. “I went in and thought I’d go for me. I knew I had a fast horse. I was very surprised I could beat them, but it feels amazing. It feels really cool to be only 15 and beat Gregory who is maybe one of the biggest names in the world. It’s quite an honor.”

It’s just the beginning of what is sure to be a great partnership between Berry and Duerers Macho. Next week, they intend to jump FEI if things go smoothly, and from there they’ll embark on a grand prix mission together and continue building mileage.

Show jumping resumes Saturday with the $40,000 Bridgeport Farms National Grand Prix, followed by the evening’s $117,000 U.S. Bank CSI3* Grand Prix.

Ali Ramsay Snags Another Win in CSI3* 1.45m Speed

Ali Ramsay (CAN) and Godfather B Belesbat. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Canada is on fire during Desert Circuit 3, presented by U.S. Bank, and Ali Ramsay is leading the charge, scoring her second FEI win in as many days. This win came aboard Godfather B Belesbat, owned by Britt Scheifele, in the $5,000 U.S. Bank CSI3* 1.45m Speed.

On a horse she acquired the ride on due to his rider’s recent injury, she blazed around the course set by Bernardo Costa Cabral (POR) in 62.28 seconds, proving she’ll be one to watch out for on this horse. There were only four clears throughout the class, but Ramsay is feeling confident with her string of three FEI horses for the week heading into Saturday’s $117,000 U.S. Bank CSI3* Grand Prix with two wins in her pocket.