Wellington, FL: Kelley Farmer (Keswick, VA) and Mindful topped Round 1 of the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at the Winter Equestrian Festival. The 2014 Chronicle of the Horse "Hunter Horse of the Year" earned matching scores of 90 and topped all the high option fences on their way to the top of Round 1. She had a 10-point lead over Say When and Canadian Darcy Hayes, with Tori Colvin riding Heritage Farms’ Vaillero into third. Mindful, an 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Graf Grannus - Baronesse by Bold Indian) has a light 2015 show schedule—only coming out to do the division at major shows and for select hunter derbies. Farmer believes he will be the one to finally give her the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championships title.
The class, held in the Eugene Mische R. Hunter Ring, wasn’t without drama. Many horses spooked seriously at the first fence of the Kenny Krome-designed track, with several riders heading back to the barn early without even jumping one fence. The first fence, a vertical, was set on the diagonal away from the in-gate, with walls on either side of it. Five horses of the original 51 didn’t make it around, with Lillie Keenan hitting the dirt when Troubadour spooked badly before Fence 1, and David Olinyk’s Cascor’s Splendor reared and spun dramatically before there too.
"Honestly I think the crowd got them," said Farmer of the first fence. "These horses have jumped in this ring all circuit with no people. The first jump itself was kind of plain and they could look through it. Their focus went right through the jump to the people. Obviously we're all jumping the same course. It is what it is."
Farmer's had a relatively abbreviated season after taking a tumble week 5 when a young horse fell on her, tearing her rotator cuff and suffered a hairline fracture to her sternum. She showed the next week—WCHR week—but admitted she wasn't at her best. She took a few weeks off from showing, so many of her horses—including Mindful—have had a lighter season than expected. She was thrilled with his performance today.
"When the day’s not going right, and you need someone to pull it out, he’s a class act," said Farmer.
Mindful's 2014 season with Kelley Farmer was decorated with accolades ranging from championships at Devon (PA) and indoors which earned him the Protocol Trophy for high scoring horse in the professional divisions at Devon, Pennsylvania National and Washington International (D.C.), to four USHJA International Hunter Derby wins. He was named the Chronicle’s Show Hunter of the Year and the WCHR Hunter of the Year.
It’s easy to see Mindful has captured Farmer’s heart. When she speaks of him her voice softens and her tone is full of adoration. Their partnership is less than a year old, but she talks to him as if he were an old friend. His trainer, Larry Glefke, fields a large number of calls asking about a price, but owners Selma and Ken Garber aren’t budging. While their business is primarily sales, the gelding has proven to be such a solid citizen, so he’s at Lane Change Farm in Wellington, FL, to stay.
Since arriving at Lane Change Farm last spring, Mindful’s been under the dutiful care of Marcos Martinez who was quick to note that Mindful is one of the easiest horses under his care. “It’s fun to take care of him. When he goes to the ring, you know he’s going to be first,” he said. He’s known as “Grappa” around the barn—his former show name. Farmer changed it to Mindful when she bought him so he would stand out from the famed equitation horse of the same name.
Here’s what you need to know about Mindful aka "Grappa":
- “He for the most part, would just as soon be in his paddock,” said Farmer. “He’s very sweet and very friendly but he doesn’t really need people. He’s kind of a little bit above needy.”
- He’s ever the professional. “He’s very business-like!” said owner Selma Garber. “Some of my horses get silly or goofy and will play, and Grappa appreciates your company but he’s very professional about everything he does.”
- If you offer him a peppermint, you better get it unwrapped quickly because he doesn’t like to be kept waiting. Once he’s received what he wants, he’ll happily return to his grass.
- His best friend is a miniature horse named Mini, who he shares with Taken and a few youngsters. Grappa’s been known to jump out, but as long as he has Mini, he’s content to eat grass or play within his paddock. Grappa’s also very protective of Mini, letting other horses know that Mini is his friend. If the weather is poor and they’ve run out of stalls, Mini sometimes spends the night in the stall with Grappa.
Video: 2014 WCHR Pro Finals - Kelley Farmer and Mindful, Winning Handy Hunter Round at Capital Challenge