by  | Apr 6, 2024 | FeaturedPress Releases

Natalie Rae Sibert and Sligo. Photo by McCool Photography

April 6, 2024 – San Juan Capistrano, CA – For Natalie Rae Sibert and Sligo, the 2024 Blenheim EquiSports season could not have gotten off to a stronger start. After sweeping the 3’3” Green Hunters and taking home the division championship, the duo capped off their time at the Blenheim Spring Classic I with victory in the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby – Hunt & Go on Friday, April 5.

Following the Hunt & Go format, the horses and riders in Friday morning’s class first completed a classic-style section of the course, before immediately progressing into the handy phase, which featured a two-stride combination, a hand gallop set on a bending line and a trot fence set by the ingate.

With the benefit of going 10th in the class on Sligo, Sibert had already contested the course once on her first mount, Montego Bay, and her goal with Sligo was greater consistency.

Shelby Drazan on her horses in 2014

Natalie Rae Sibert and Sligo were presented as the winners of the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby – Hunt & Go. Photo by McCool Photography

“After watching the earlier horses, my goal was really just to not have a rail!” said Sibert, who operates Merak Farms out of Las Vegas, NV. “I wanted to stay consistent, and luckily it worked out nicely.”

Consistent they were, receiving a classic phase score of 86 and a handy phase score of 87 for a winning 173 total. Second place with an overall score of 163 went to Skylar Wireman and Chapter, owned by Foundation Farm LLC. Rounding out the top three were Simon Schroeder and Erin Boatwright’s Azucar with a score of 155.

“The course was so fun!” said Sibert. “He loves the derbies specifically. You don’t kick. You don’t pull; he’s just fun to ride. I really just wanted to ride the horse that I had.

“He is a total puppy dog,” continued Sibert in speaking of Sligo, a now 7-year-old Oldenburg gelding that she has had for four years. “He’s the love of my life. He’s the one you can go lay on in the stall, take him out bareback in a halter on a trail. I do all the little kid things with him. He’s basically my pet. He’s just a pleasure. He comes out every day and does his job.”

Shelby Drazan on her horses in 2014

Second place went to Skylar Wireman and Chapter. Photo by McCool Photography

After a bout of heavy rain earlier in the week, Sibert and her team were not initially optimistic at the prospect of jumping on the grass, but thanks to the hard work of the crew at Blenheim EquiSports, the Pacific Field at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park was in top shape.

“It was so nice that the weather cleared up, and that we were able to go out on the grass,” concluded Sibert. “It’s always great to be able to go on these big, beautiful grass fields. The fences are so beautifully decorated here, and they just make such a nice presentation of the derby. Thank you to everyone that puts on our day here at Blenheim and to everyone behind the scenes!”

For full results of Friday’s $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby – Hunt & Go, click here.

The hunter competition at Blenheim EquiSports continues with a World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) week during the Blenheim Spring Classic II, running April 9-14 and featuring USHJA National, International and Pony Hunter Derby classes.


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