Kathryn Padilla and Heavenly Patch of Blue Reign in USHJA Pony Hunter Derby Championship – West

San Juan Capistrano, Calif.—July 2, 2024—Ponies claimed the stage at the Blenheim June Classic for the 2024 USHJA Pony Hunter Derby Championship – West on Saturday, June 29. Defending their grand champion title from 2023, Kathryn Padilla and Highland Farm, LLC's Heavenly Patch of Blue reigned victorious to take home the tricolor ribbon for the second year in a row. Finishing in reserve was Taylor Morrow, aboard Rivers Edge's Chapeau, followed by India Kulkin on her own Small Romance. 

Eighteen ponies took to Scott Starnes' first-round course held at Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park and judged under the watchful eyes of Mary Cohen, Ellen Gates, Richard Slocum, and Steven Wall. Morrow, of Rancho Santa Fe, California, initially took to the top, sitting on a score of 87 after the first round. Three points behind her was Bettina Lando, of Santa Barbara, California, riding Suzanne Chambers' Crowd Pleaser. Padilla from Palos Verdes Peninsula, California, sat close behind in third on an 83.25. 

Twelve combinations were called back to vie for the coveted tricolors, including last year's champions, Padilla with Heavenly Patch of Blue. To defend her 2023 USHJA Pony Hunter Derby Championship title, Padilla would have to ride strategically to move up from third. Doing just that and collecting a score of 88 in the second round, the duo secured their spot as champion with a total score of 171.25 and earned the Small Pony High Score Award. 

"The pony I rode was Heavenly Patch of Blue," Padilla said. "She is really fun to ride because she is easy to turn and that's why I love doing Handy [Rounds] on her. She has a big personality, she's very sassy, and she is just perfect." 

"I loved the course because there were good inside turns and I love to do inside turns with her," Padilla continued. "I want to thank my parents and my trainer, Paige Dendiu, for everything they do for me and for always supporting me." 

After the second round, Morrow and Chapeau dropped down one place to take reserve champion on a total score of 169.5. The pair also took home the Large Pony High Score Award. Kulkin, of Montecito, California, and Small Romance moved up to round out the top three on a score of 166.5. Coming in fourth overall and picking up the Medium Pony High Score Award was Lando and Crowd Pleaser. 

The USHJA Pony Hunter Derby offers Juniors the opportunity to compete ponies in a series modeled after the International and National Hunter Derby programs. Competitors can earn National and Zone Horse of The Year bonus points, year-end series awards, and qualify to compete in either the East Coast or West Coast Championships.

The USHJA Pony Hunter Derby Championships feature two rounds—a Classic Hunter style course and a Handy Hunter course. Fence heights are adjusted by size (small - 2'3", medium - 2’6", and large 2’9"-3’0"), but the class is not split by size. Each derby is pinned through 12th place.

The USHJA sends special thanks to the entire Blenheim Equisports team for hosting the Championship; to Official Sponsors CWD, Nutrena, and Parlanti; and to Award Sponsors Essex Classics and Boy-O-Boy Bridleworks.

For more information about the USHJA Pony Hunter Derby, visit ushja.org/PonyHunterDerby.

Photos: McCool Photography

USHJA Pony Hunter Derby Championship – West Results

Horse | Rider | Owner

Round 1 Avg. | Round 2 Avg. | Final Score

1. Heavenly Patch of Blue | Kathryn Padilla | Highland Farm, LLC

83.25 | 88 | 171.25

2. Chapeau | Taylor Morrow | Rivers Edge

87 | 82.5 | 169.5

3. Small Romance | India Kulkin | India Kulkin 

81 | 85.5 | 166.5

4. Crowd Pleaser | Bettina Lando | Suzanne Chambers

84 | 76.5 | 160.5

5. Crocodile Rock | Luciana Gonzalez So | Luciana Gonzalez So

75.5 | 73.5 | 149  

6. Special Gift | Sylvie Ruby | Sylvie Ruby

67 | 79.5 | 146.5  

7. Button and Blues | Victoria Fuglesang | First Blue, LLC

67.8 | 77 | 144.8  

8. Best Summer | India Kulkin | Kai Kulkin 

68.125 | 76 | 144.125     

9. Puppy Love | Sylvie Ruby | Sylvie Ruby

70 | 61.5 | 131.5    

10. Power Point | Victoria Fuglesang | First Blue, LLC

 67 | 64 | 131    

11. Smallwood Mystic | Kathryn Padilla | Highland Farm | LLC

 78 | 47 | 125  

12. Sugarbrook Georgia Peach | Maclean Sennhenn | Millennium Farm Inc. 

80 | 39 | 119