By: Ann Glavan for The Chronicle of the Horse
Antioch, Ill.—Sept. 6
Kelley Farmer was on fire at the $50,000 USHJA Chicago International Hunter Derby, and it wasn’t just due to the 91 degree temperatures in Illinois. The powerhouse rider took the top three places, with her super horse Mindful grabbing the top spot, and Dalliance and So To Speak taking second and third, respectively.
Despite galloping six horses total around the course in the gorgeous, massive field at Annali-Brookwood Farm, Farmer was still in good spirits as she stopped to talk about her winning day and the whirlwind work loaded schedule it took to get there.
“I’m warm, a little warm, I have to say. But I don’t know what to do with idle time or sitting down, and I don’t like the gym, so this is how I stay fit, and I have to do a lot of horses to stay fit!” Farmer said with a laugh.
Luckily Farmer’s mother, Bibby Hill, was on hand to assist with crops, spur changes and Gatorade-supplying (and after this year’s results, Farmer hopes she’ll come back again).
“She’s the lucky charm today. I love having Mom here,” Farmer said, smiling at Hill, who, as every proud horse show mom should, insisted on snapping a phone picture of her daughter and Mindful before Farmer hopped off for an interview.
All of the horses coming out of Farmer and Larry Gleke’s Lane Change Farm go beautifully, but Mindful is in a league of his own. His base scores were a pair of 97s from the two judging panels and cemented his position at the top of the class, having already won Saturday’s opening classic round.
“Where it’s hard for some of the others, and I mean I have some beautiful animals, he makes it easy,” Farmer said.
“Grappa” had no issues navigating the wide-open field set with all sorts of different challenging fences. A hedge and rail on top of a ridge, a two-stride made of arched brush bridges, a set of logs standing vertically—not a one fazed Grappa, not surprising given the decorated horse’s derby history. He’s coming off a second-placed finish at the USHJA International Derby finals.
“He’s an amazing, amazing animal; I think he speaks for himself,” Farmer said.
Next on Grappa’s schedule is a trip to New York City for the Central Park Horse Show, and while you would think Farmer would be eager to take a break after a long show weekend, she’s got nothing but horses on the mind.
“We’re driving back to Kentucky. I have a new horse coming, and it landed in New York and will be at the farm in the morning. We’re still like little kids. Every time a new one comes in we’re like, ‘OK, gotta go home and see it,’ ” Farmer said with a smile.
Check out the photo gallery  for plenty of pictures of Farmer, other competitors and all the action going on Sunday at the Chicago Hunter Derby (spoiler alert: presenting sponsor Canadian Pacific had a miniature train driving around giving rides to kids and *cough* Chronicle reporters *cough*).