Thursday, June 25, 2009

International Hunter Derby

I have to say that I am just dying to see a Hunter Derby class. I was so excited when the class was first announced in 2007. This month's In Stride, the magazine published by the United States Hunter Jumper Association ("USHJA") has several articles about the class and I read it cover-to-cover on the plane to Colorado.

It's no secret that I've always loved the hunters. I could sit and watch the professionals do the greens all day long. A beautiful hunter round just never gets old. But the Hunter Derby is a step above the rest. Not only do the classes add a sense of drama to the hunter ring that we don't necessarily always see, but they have this romantic mystique about them too, since they're aimed at "returning to the style and substance of the older hunter courses." (See Jeannie Blancq Putney, "Not Your Basic Hunter Course," In Stride, Vol. 4, Issue 3, p. 28-31). The horses are judged on their jumping style and the "brilliance of the round." (Id. at p. 31).

I love how the riders talk about the courses, and their horses' reactions to the courses, in this month's In Stride. Patrick Rodes says it's "like nothing [he's] ever seen," and John French says about the horse he shows in the Derby, Rumba: "It was such a great feeling to ride him over that course. He was so interested in the jumps and his ears were pricked." Jenny Karazissis says, "Aragon fears nothing." I love how these riders are excited by the fact that the courses are difficult and the jumps are a little spooky, and I love that the horses are rising to the occasion. It just seems like so much fun.

I'm nowhere in the same league as the riders who do these classes, and I'll probably never have the finances to campaign a horse but I would just love to have Alicia show Tucker (or maybe Julie!) in one some day. I don't know if Tucker's fancy enough, but he's definitely brave and he's definitely handy. He'd have no problem walking a jump or opening a gate. He could also help flip the lights on in the indoor, reach your water bottle, pet a kitten, stop a loose horse, and carry your jacket, if any of those challenges ever came up in the handy round. . . .

Hopefully, these videos will give you an idea of what I mean. Doesn't it just look amazing? I can't identify this rider/horse (apologies for my ignorance) in the first video, but I thought this course was just beautiful. It's at Wrenwood Farms in Naples FL:

Here's Jenny Karazissis with Aragon at Thermal:

And here is a beautiful winning round by Samantha Schaefer under the lights at Devon:

I love everything about this class. I love the concept, the challenge, the allure, the tradition. It's no wonder that huge crowds gather every time a class is held. Has anyone seen a class? I would love to hear about it.

Fyi, Regarding horses also has a post on the Hunter Derby, with some more great video footage.


  1. I asked the COTH H/J forum and someone kindly identified the first horse and rider combo as Samantha Schaefer and Perfectionist. Thank you!

  2. I don't think we have this in Australia but I wish we did - it looks awesome! So what are the rules? Do you do the course with no rails down in a relaxed round frame and a steady canter? I am sure there is more to it than that! I think it would be something that I would love to have a go at!

    Tuvker helping you with things sounds like my horse Sam. If I have lunged Sam he likes to carry the lunge whip back to the stables for me! He is also happy to lead himself sometimes!

  3. Hi Nina! I visited your blog -- Sam looks like a real sweetheart! I'm not surprised to hear he's got a bit of a personality!

    I lived in Adelaide, South Australia for six months where I attended the University of Adelaide for a semester so I'm glad to see that my blog has reached you all the way across the world! I didn't ride when I was there but I always figured there must be horses somewhere!

    Here are the official rules for the class:

    Round 1: Hunter Classic Course

    - 10 jumps minimum
    - Fence height 3'6-3'9
    - There must be four 4'0 fences in the course, set as option jumps
    (Exceptions may be considered, please contact the USHJA office for additional information)
    - At least one In and Out
    - At least one Bending Line
    - At least one line with an unrelated distance
    - Jumps:
    - Obstacles must simulate those reminiscent of the hunt field and the course should offer a variety of jumps with different appearances such as: natural post and rail, stone wall, white board fence or gate, coop, aiken, hedge, oxer, brush, logs, natural foliage
    -Natural obstacles such as banks and ditches are encouraged
    - A 3" difference is required for the back element of an obstacle
    - Ground lines must be of one material for each jump
    - Ground lines are not to exceed 18," but less is encouraged where possible
    - For appropriate jumps, no ground line is acceptable

    Round 2: Handy Hunter Course

    - Fence height 3'6-3'9
    - There must be four 4'0 fences in the course, set as option jumps
    (Exceptions may be considered, please contact the USHJA office for additional information)
    - The course must have a minimum of 2 of the following options: trot jump, open gate while mounted, lead over a jump, tight turn option, clever options for jump approaches, halt and/or back, walk a jump
    - A minimum of 6 fences must be offered in the Handy Hunter Round
    - A minimum of 12 entries must return for Round 2, if available.

    Class Format
    Two Round Format
    I. Jog:
    Two judges or one judge and a veterinarian must be present. All horses entered in the class must jog for soundness in order to be eligible to compete. In order to be considered for an award, a horse must be serviceably sound. Unsoundness during the competition will be reflected in the scores from the judges. (See USEF HU 124 and GR 1031.7).
    II. Round I Classic Hunter Course
    III. Award winners in Round 1
    IV. Round II: Handy Hunter Course
    Top 12 horses to return for Round II
    V. Award winners of Round 2
    VI. Award Overall Top 12, all riders must ride for ribbons
    • Jump Off:
    In the case of a tie for first place, the horses and riders involved will be asked to perform another round over a shortened jump off course. The course diagrams for all three rounds must be posted a minimum of one half hour before the start of the class. For all other ties, one panel of judges will be designated the tie breaking panel. The total of this panel's scores from both Round 1 and Round 2 will be used to break any remaining ties.

    From what I have seen, the winning rounds seem to be a bit bolder than your traditional hunter round. Riders are showing their horse at more of a hand gallop, but still in the controlled, classic style of the hunters. And of course, the winning horses have an incredible jump. It's a chance to really showcase hunters as athletes, which is so exciting.

  4. I think Adelaide is a beautiful city and I hope to live there one day! My husband is in Defence so we move around a lot and that is one of the cities we might be able to go to!

    Thanks for all the rules! It does seem like a great sport. I bet Tucker will be awesome at it!

    Thank you for visiting Sams blog. He is lovely though sometimes I want throttle him! But then I look at him and give him a kiss and we are ok again! :)

  5. You have an award on my blog!

  6. That is my friend Tonia's horse Aragon! Jenny is a really great rider. I love watching the hunter derbies, and especially like the rounds where they take the four foot options.

  7. Aragon is an amazing horse and Jenny did a beautiful job with him. Your friend Tonia is a very lucky girl! I loved what Jenny said about him in the June issue of In Stride, that he "fears nothing." He does seem to really enjoy the Hunter Derby and I'd say he's fearless!


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