Fig Street's Duchess Rises to the Occasion at Derby Finals

As summer draws to an end, we here at Fox Lake Farm have spent some time reflecting upon all of the experiences we had this season. There were countless successes and ample learning opportunities for us all. This summer was certainly a time for celebration for Cynthia Hallman, owner of Fig Street’s Duchess. Fig Street’s Duchess, or “Gracie” as she’s called at home, took 4th place with Holly Shepherd in the $10,000 Derby Challenge at the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship in August. This was Gracie’s first trip to the Derby Finals at the Kentucky Horse Park, an exciting conclusion to her first year of consistently competing in the International Hunter Derby classes.

Hallman purchased Gracie, a Hanoverian mare by Don Principe out of Comtessa, as a three year old and has had the pleasurable experience of witnessing her young horse develop at Fox Lake Farm over the past four years. With this being Gracie’s first trip to the Finals, Hallman’s expectations were modest: “My hope, going into the Finals, was for Gracie to have a positive experience on a national stage and establish herself within the International Hunter Derby community.  I just wanted her to have positive, consistent rounds.” With Holly Shepherd’s guidance in the saddle, Gracie rose to the occasion.

Gracie and Shepherd jumped to a total score of 243.00 in the Classic Round of the Finals on Friday, August 18th, putting them in the 38th spot. They would go on to compete the following day in the $10,000 Derby Challenge. Hallman’s favorite moment of the Finals came that Saturday the 19th, as Shepherd and Gracie executed the Derby Challenge Round, a course designed to test each horse’s handiness. Gracie was in her element—Hallman remarks, “to receive 9 out of 10 possible bonus points for handiness from each of the judging panels was beyond my expectations.” The bonus points were smartly rewarded—Shepherd executed four strides in the first line of the course, which nearly no other horse and rider pair attempted.  They also successfully navigated all four high fence options offered. The pair received a total score of 284.00, securing them a 4th place finish.

This year’s Derby Finals fulfilled a long-held dream of Hallman’s, who has aspired to have a horse of her own attend the event since its inception in 2009. “I watched John French and Rumba lay down breath-taking course after course in Southern California then perform flawlessly in the Finals and thought how amazing it would be to own such a horse. Now I do!”

Gracie’s success is the culmination of both Hallman and the Fox Lake Farm team’s hard work, and Hallman is quick to give credit to Allison Black, Mark Tompkins, Guerry Force, and Chaz Harpman: “They mapped out the perfect program for Gracie – from the types of schooling she received at home, to the shows at which she showed leading up to August, to her chiropractic, massage and TheraPlate sessions – which set her up perfectly for the Finals.  They see Gracie as the individual she is and created the perfect custom program to meet her needs.  I couldn’t be more grateful!”

When asked to summarize the experience, Hallman says, “The Derby Finals were everything I hoped they would be.  My mare was relaxed, happy and competitive!  The weather was wonderful, and the courses were big and interesting.  And, most importantly, I was able to share the experience with Allison [Black], my mother, my sister and two of my dearest friends.” We wish Gracie and Cynthia continued success together in the Adult Amateur Hunters, and are excited to see what the future brings for Gracie in the Derby ring.

Photo credits to Zelda Hallman

-Carlyle Brown