By Caroline Malan

What makes Derby so amazing for you?

Derby is on every rider’s bucket list. It’s a show I have competed in for the past seven years and been lucky enough to jump the big 1.50m once before. It draws large crowds and you get a feeling of overwhelming gratitude to be a rider at this event- it’s a true honour.

What are your thoughts on this year’s Derby?

Derby this year will be something special- it always is! The new sponsorship opportunities provide an entirely new dynamic, getting many more involved in our sport. I would anticipate that the collective sponsors will bring new faces to this established event. This initiative bring us one step closer to bringing our sport back to the people.

Derby has definitely stayed an extremely exciting event for spectators and I know first hand how each person cannot wait to get their tickets and fight for their favourite seats at the various stands – the stand by the dyke being the most popular!! It’s by far the biggest crowd we riders have the privilege of riding in front of and it’s what makes Derby so special.

The competitors are definitely increasing in numbers and without a doubt in capability. The 1.50m classes are seeing some 50 odd riders fighting for their spot on the Sunday in the top 24. This again makes for great sport and spectator value!

Derby is also unique in terms of the fact that a newbie or first timer can very well pull the cat out of the bag and WIN at their first attempt. However, it goes without saying that the greats like Nicole Horwood, Barry Taylor and Ronnie Lawrence (to name a few) won’t go down without a good fight come Derby day.

Which horses will you be jumping in the show – what grades

I am fortunate enough this year to have Biogen’s Caspar in the 1.50m classes for owner Paige Lee Goetsch. I will also be competing on Air Holidays Callaho Luca Vella in the 1.30m classes for owner Karenza Hunter.

What horse are you most excited to compete on for this show and why?

I’m super excited about Biogen’s Caspar this year as I haven’t had a chance to compete in the big class since 2014. This will only be my second time.

Caspar was previously owned and ridden by Bryan Meyer and jumped around two Derbys with him. Having had this previous exposure to the new obstacles, I know he enjoys the Derby fences, even if I wouldn’t call him a seasoned Derby horse. I have had the ride on Caspar since the Goetsch family purchased him for their daughter in late December 2018 and we have spent the last eight months getting to know one another. Caspar really loves the Bob Charter arena and performs well on the grass surface. If we come close to our performance in the 2019 SA Outdoor GP, I’ll be more than happy.

Explain your best ever Derby round to us

As I mentioned, I’ve only had the privilege of  riding around the big Derby once before in 2014. It was on Air Holidays Cowan House B and the goal was to qualify and then survive the track, which we did. That was a memory I will never forget!

Who are your horse and rider combo favourites for this year and why?

Kelly O’Connor and Hera – they are title holders from last year and I think she will be well prepared for the event.

Lisa Williams and Campbell – I don’t have to explain why!

And I’m obviously backing myself – ha ha!!

What is the one improvement you would like to see made to Derby to make it better/ more appealing?

I think our sport has grown to such an extent that the top 24 riders needs to be increased to the top 30 riders. Spectators come to watch showjumping at its best and why not give them more of what they want to see!

What are some of the techniques that you use to calm 1) yourself and 2) your horse down before entering the main Derby class?

The morning of the big class, I usually will go to the stables and stretch Caspar out. I will pop into the show for a short while but I don’t like to be around until I need to. Once I have changed into my gear I usually go to a quiet place by myself and try visualize what I want to do throughout the track. We are lucky enough to know exactly what the course plan is and we can prepare ourselves mentally for what’s to come. I am at my calmest once the bell has rung.

In the parade do you ride your horse or a borrowed horse and why? 

I will be riding Caspar in the parade – he revels in it and it’s a nice way for him to see the crowds before he has to go in there and actually concentrate on the job later on. It’s a wonderful way to get Caspar excited for the job at hand and gives him that extra spring in his step.

Who is your favourite horse on the SA circuit at the moment and why?

I’m very fortunate to be able to ride the horses of my dreams, Biogen’s Greta G and Caspar and as such, without a doubt, they get my votes! Having said that I do think Govett Triggol’s mare, Callaho’s Wolke is an exceptional athlete and is most definitely one of my favourites on the circuit.

What is your biggest challenge whilst jumping that Derby championship?

Being mentally and physically fit for the longest track of the year and the BMT to handle the largest spectator crowd.