Q&A with Kevin Babington at National Sunshine Series

Riders and horses returned to the desert gem that is HITS Desert Horse Park for a two-week extravaganza of shows at the National Sunshine Series in Thermal, California. Over the summer, HITS gave the property a few special upgrades, and who better to offer suggestions for change than the West Coast riders and trainers themselves.

HITS caught up with winner of Wednesday’s Johnson Horse Transportation Open Welcome, Kevin Babington, for a rider’s first-hand take on the improvements.   

Q: How’s it going out there? What do you think of the improvements to the property?

Kevin: “This is my first time out to this facility, I came out to the old facility for the winter circuit in ’95. But as my first time in Thermal, I was very impressed. The weather is beautiful—there’s really not much you couldn’t like about it here."

Q: Now that you’re out there and experiencing National Sunshine Series, would you like to come back to spend the winter with us next year?

Kevin: “It’s great out here. I’ll be coming out for a few weeks, and I’d like to show in the Million. I’m a little tied up with some things on the East Coast, but I would love to come back for the entire [Coachella] Winter Circuit if I could.”

© ESI Photography | Kevin Babington and Double o Seven 7 on their way to a $5,000 Johnson Horse Transportation Open Welcome win in the Grand Prix Ring.  

Q: The Grand Prix Ring got a nice facelift with new footing, as well as a freshened up schooling area. After competing on that ground, what are your thoughts?

Kevin: “The footing felt great to me, both in the warm-up and in the Grand Prix. It’s probably the best footing I’ve jumped on all year. What I liked is that there is plenty of cushion, and the course designed by Alan Wade was really nice as well.”

Courtesy of iJump Sports | The Grand Prix schooling area. The in-gate to the Grand Prix Ring has also been relocated to the west/south end of the warm up ring.

HITS Staff | The new Grand Prix Ring in-gate on the west/south end of the warm/up ring. 

Q: What has your stabling experience been like?

Kevin: “We’re really happy with the stabling. The stalls were matted when we got here, so my groom was really happy about that! It’s lovely—we’re on an outside aisle and the sun is on the back of the horses all day, it’s just really nice.”

Q: There was about 3 miles of paving done to the property to help with dust control and to make things more comfortable for horses and exhibitors, what’s your take?

Kevin: “I wasn’t here last year to attest to the dust, but I can tell that that is a big improvement. The property looks just fantastic and we’re glad to be here.”

HITS Staff | The stabling entrance received all new landscaping and paving work

Stay tuned for more rider Q & A’s from the National Sunshine Series. Coming to Coachella Desert Circuit? Get your digital prize list, here.