Hunter Der­bies for Grass­roots Rid­ers

Not ju•t for the elite any­more

Practical Horseman - - Contents - By Tri­cia Con­a­han Pho­tos by Tri­cia Booker

Top plac­ers at this year’s USHJA In­ter­na­tional Hunter Derby Cham­pi­onship— Tori Colvin, Liza Boyd and Holly Shep­herd— share in­sights and train­ing tips for try­ing out a hunter derby for the first time.

Ten years ago, the U.S. Hunter Jumper As­so­ci­a­tion in­tro­duced the hunter derby, a two-round class de­signed to bring more ath­leti­cism, brav­ery and bril­liance into the hunter ring, ini­tially just at the in­ter­na­tional level. It has been so pop­u­lar that USHJA has since cre­ated sim­i­lar op­por­tu­ni­ties for rid­ers at other lev­els, rang­ing from in­tro­duc­tory, or “out­reach,” der­bies to pony der­bies and na­tional der­bies. This year alone, more than 2,300 horses and ponies were en­tered in USHJA­sanc­tioned hunter der­bies. Why so much growth in derby com­pe­ti­tions? For pro­fes­sion­als, these com­pe­ti­tions of­fer large cash purses and can be a good venue to show­case and sell tal­ented hunter prospects. Der­bies of­fer ju­niors and ama­teurs an in­trigu­ing for­mat that en­cour­ages them to learn new skills and ride more chal­leng­ing cour­ses. Like the in­ter­na­tional der­bies, na­tional and pony events held at rated shows of­fer prize money, which en­gen­ders more ex­cite­ment for rid­ers and spec­ta­tors alike.

In 2019, pony rid­ers will have the op­por­tu­nity to com­pete at one of two cham­pi­onships of­fered on ei­ther coast. The USHJA Pony Hunter Derby East and West Coast Cham­pi­onships will be held at the Ken­tucky Sum­mer Clas­sic, July 30 to Au­gust 4, in Lex­ing­ton, Ken­tucky, and the Blen­heim Fall Tour­na­ment, Septem­ber 11 to 15, in San Juan Capis­trano, Cal­i­for­nia, re­spec­tively.

What is A Hunter Derby?

Most hunter der­bies are run as a tworound com­pe­ti­tion. Both rounds typ­i­cally in­clude nat­u­ral fences rem­i­nis­cent of the hunt field, such as stone walls, logs, brush jumps, white board fences, post-and-rail jumps, gates, coops, banks and ditches. Longer than a stan­dard hunter course, the clas­sic round in­cor­po­rates in-and-outs, bend­ing lines, lines on un­re­lated dis­tances and fences with long ap­proaches.

The top-scor­ing com­peti­tors in the clas­sic round come back to ride the handy round, which in­cludes a trot fence, roll­backs and tight turns to show off the horse’s ride­abil­ity. Rid­ers earn ex­tra points for demon­strat­ing hand­i­ness. In both rounds, they can se­lect jumps with higher height op­tions to earn ad­di­tional bonus points. The com­bi­na­tion of scores from the two rounds de­ter­mines the win­ner.

The pony and out­reach der­bies of­fer slightly mod­i­fied ver­sions of this for­mat. Pony cour­ses do not have high op­tions. Out­reach der­bies, held at both rated and un­rated lo­cal shows, com­bine the two rounds into a sin­gle round that in­cor­po­rates both clas­sic and handy el­e­ments.

Fences in pony der­bies are set at 2-foot-3, 2-foot-6 and 2-foot-9 to 3-foot for small, medium and large ponies, re­spec­tively. Out­reach der­bies are set at 2-foot-6 with three high-op­tion fences set at 2-foot-9. Na­tional der­bies are set at 3-foot, with four high op­tions at 3-foot-5, and in­ter­na­tional der­bies are 3-foot-6 to 4-foot, with up to four high-op­tion fences at 4-foot-3.

Tips from the Top

Hunter der­bies are great train­ing grounds for all rid­ers. In this year’s Plat­inum Per­for­mance/USHJA In­ter­na­tional Hunter Derby Cham­pi­onship in Ken­tucky, re­turn­ing cham­pion Tori Colvin won on Brad Wolf’s Pri­vate Prac­tice; Liza Boyd was re­serve cham­pion on Cle­mens, owned by West­erly Farm and her fam­ily’s Fi­nally Farm, and third on Mag­gie Hill’s Tra­di­tion. Holly Shep­herd won the clas­sic round and fin­ished fourth over­all on Ty­bee, owned by He­len Brown. All three of these elite rid­ers say the skills you de­velop to nav­i­gate a derby will make you a bet­ter com­peti­tor in the reg­u­lar hunter di­vi­sions. If you’re con­sid­er­ing giv­ing a derby a try, here are their thoughts and tips.

How are der­bies dif­fer­ent from reg­u­lar hunter classes?

“Der­bies are a great mix be­tween the hunters and jumpers,” says Tori. “Some of the jumps can be spooky. And the tworound for­mat brings more of a jumper feel to the ring.”

Liza adds: “The first round is sin­gle fences, lines and bend­ing lines—the same things you would see in a hunter clas­sic, maybe just more of them. The handy round is sim­i­lar to a handy round in a hunter class, but longer and ask­ing more ques­tions and adding more dif­fi­culty.”

Liza Boyd be­lieves that prac­tic­ing wider ox­ers and triple bars at home helped Cle­mens (and third-place Tra­di­tion) stretch a bit over the wide ox­ers in the clas­sic round at this year’s derby fi­nal.

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