“It’s probably my favorite show on the west coast.”

Kylee Arbuckle, professional hunter rider and human ray of sunshine, first rode in the Franktown Meadows Hunter Derby of Carson City, Nevada two years ago. She was a fan of the stand-alone hunter derby then. Odds are she became an even bigger one today.

The Sonoma Valley Stables rider piloted Earl Grey to victory in the $10,000 3’ Franktown Meadows Hunter Derby on Saturday. A near flawless first round saw the winsome pair take all the high options, earning a score of 90—just one point behind Jenny Karazissis and Big Shot (91).

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“The first round I just wanted to give him a confident ride. Take my time out there and really enjoy it. It’s such a big beautiful field. The horses seemed to really like it,” said Arbuckle.

With the top 12 returning to contest the Handy Round, she and the nine-year-old gelding sealed the overall victory with a perfectly executed inside turn to the CWD option fence after the double combination.

“There was one inside turn that was a little questionable but I decided I might as well go for it,” she explained. “He’s really brave. He totally followed me right there. It just worked out perfectly.”

Karazissis, last to enter the ring, opted to take the long route to the option fence, a decision that landed her half a point behind Arbuckle and Earl Grey on the overall standings.

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Earl Grey, aka “Smoke,” was originally purchased for amateur Leslie Shein a year and a half ago as a 2’6”–3’ hunter. Arbuckle has been bringing along the “green” horse on her behalf.

“He’s really come a long way. He won one of the derbies at Sonoma this spring,” she said. “I’m very proud of him!”

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Come Sunday, grey gelding will face his biggest challenge yet.

Arbuckle plans to compete with Earl Grey in the $30,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, presented by “Friends of Franktown Meadows.”

“It’ll be his first one. But he feels great. He’s confident out there. And totally brave. I think it’ll be fun,” said the Petaluma, CA-based rider.

Just don’t expect to see her sipping a cup of his namesake anytime soon. Said Arbuckle:

“I need my coffee, that’s for sure! You don’t want to see me ride him without it.”

Tune into Horse Network Live on Sunday, June 24 for the $5,000 3′–3’3″ Non-Pro Hunter Classic, sponsored by Balmoral and the $30,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, sponsored by “Friends of Franktown Meadows.”