Rider Spotlight: “Derby Dustin” Has Found His Niche

Langley, BC — The nickname “Derby Dustin” implies a certain level of hunter derby success, and the feature class of the hunter division has brought out the best in Vernon, BC native Dustin Goodwin.

Goodwin captured the Amy Brattebo Real Estate Canadian Hunter Derby 3’6″ at tbird’s Canadian Open and will bring forward the exciting mare Reputation in the USHJA International Hunter Derby at this week’s Odlum Brown BC Open. Goodwin’s International Derby win total is nearing double-digits, and he boasts more than 25 USHJA National Derby victories in his career, despite stepping away from equestrian sport for eight years in his 20s.

“[A hunter derby] feels like a special moment,” Goodwin said. “When we show hunters, we want to to try to have 100 perfect rounds at a show and get as much out of our horses as possible. When I walk in the ring [for a derby], I feel more focused on creating the most beautiful [single] round I can.”

Goodwin has always had a passion for the hunter ring, but he wasn’t always sure he was meant to ride professionally. Another love for design drew him away from the saddle at age 18, as he pursued and attained a degree from the Ryerson University’s School of Fashion in Toronto. Upon graduation, he worked as an art director at a company in Vancouver, honing his craft in logo and graphic design, marketing, and social media.

The saddle called him back in 2012, but the experience has set himself up well to run his Goodwin Horses business.

“I loved my job [in design], but I still just wanted to ride,” Goodwin shared. “I do feel like what I went to school for and what my other life was is useful in our industry. There’s design in everything—your business cards, your logo, how you want your tack room setup to be, your drapes.”

Goodwin’s background is obvious at just a glance at Goodwin Horses’ logo design: It’s simple, well-balanced and scalable with a font that’s eye-catching but easy to read—and shaped well to suit embroidery on a saddle pad.

“For any sort of 18-year-old kid that asks me, ‘What should I do?’ I tell them to do whatever they’re thinking about doing,” Goodwin shared. “You need to learn about the world [outside of horses]. All of our customers live in that world. Sure, we spend the bulk of our time riding, but you need to be able to talk to people.

“When I first came back [to the sport], I thought it was a mistake [to have taken a break], because I felt so behind, but it really wasn’t. I caught up quickly, and I was right back in it,” he added. “It was worth what I got out of it to go and have other experiences.”

Goodwin spent nearly a decade working at Oz, Inc. in Canby, OR, before taking another leap and starting up his Goodwin Horses in 2021, a move initially sparked by a forced return home to Canada during the global pandemic. He began freelancing before business picked up at a brisk rate. He now bases out of Snohomish, WA at the Crooks family’s Clearview Farm; the business celebrated its two-year anniversary in November.

“It’s been a really great experience,” Goodwin said. “I knew that I wanted to come back to the U.S., because the hunter business so much stronger there, and that’s my passion. I also wanted to be as close to family and friends as I could be. Everything fell into place with the timing. It’s been busy from the start.”

Relatability

Thunderbird Show Park has played a role in Goodwin’s career since he was a teenager, when the current venue first opened for business in 1999. As a professional, it’s now a favorite destination among his clients.

“When I was 13, I was a very nervous rider and probably showing in the Pre-Child, maybe Children’s Hunter [divisions]. I was probably blacking out the whole time, because I was so nervous!” Goodwin recalled.

It was his childhood coach Claudia Cojocar who brought out Goodwin’s confidence, keeping him mounted on reliable horses and not over-facing him in unsuitable divisions. While Goodwin has established himself as a top professional—and loves producing young and inexperienced hunter prospects—he admits that nerves are something he’ll always deal with. However, those nerves have also enabled him to ride and manage his students smartly—and be a relatable coach.

“I just had so much trust in [Claudia] that I could remove myself from the nerves. I could follow her lead, and they’d never overtake me,” Goodwin expressed. “Then all of the sudden, I was doing all these things and feeling confident. She orchestrated that for me.

“I accept that I have to manage my nerves,” he continued. “I’m happy to ride green horses, but the key is knowing where you fit and being aware of your strengths and weaknesses.”

At tbird, Goodwin has continued to develop his strengths in the derby ring, and as his business has grown, so too has the caliber of his derby mounts. Imported in December, Kalli Heffner Gay’s 10-year-old Holsteiner mare Reputation is showing promise for all the right things, including Goodwin’s bucket list item—the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championships.

“I definitely would like to try to go to Derby Finals next year. I have never gone, and it is definitely on my bucket list,” Goodwin said. “You have to put yourself out there to make it out there, and I’m trying to push myself to do it next year. This horse is brand new to me, and she’s just learning, but she’s just been incredible.”

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