Blue skies and slightly lower temperatures made for a gorgeous day to horse show in the outdoor complex at World Equestrian Center. This afternoon saw thirty one stunning entries contest for the win in the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby and, by the end of the class, it was three Jumpers, both current and former, that earned scores into the nineties and claimed the top three spots. First place was awarded to Summer Hill and her talented former Grand Prix mount owned by Andrea Simpson, Vendome DH Z (Va-Vite x Veronique).
The course for the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby was designed by Tucker Williams of Ocala, Florida and featured natural obstacles that emulated those found in the hunt field. The course began over a brush vertical headed down the diagonal nestled between two brush vertical options, then led up a bending line on the rail where most entries opted for eight strides. Next, the course led down the diagonal over a natural branch six-stride line, then up the rail over a brick one-stride that bent to a stone vertical option where most entries rode the bending line in seven strides. To finish, the course led down the vertical brush option that flanked the first fence, then bent to a birch oxer option down the center line where most entries chose to do seven strides.
Near the top of the order were Melissa Donnelly and Elizabeth Becker’s Corlando 49 (Cartani x Olanda I), a thirteen year old Holsteiner gelding. Corlando 49 has competed in the Jumper ring as recently as 2018, winning the High Schooling Jumpers, but visits the Hunter ring in the Performance Hunters and Junior Hunters far more often. Today, Donnelly and the handsome grey gelding were quick to set the standard for the class, navigating an effortless round and taking all four high options for a score of 85.
About mid-way through the Derby, Summer Hill and Andrea Simpson’s Vendome DH Z (Va-Vite x Veronique), a twelve year old Zangersheide gelding, took to the course. Vendome DH Z has a great rapport as a Jumper, winning multiple Grands Prix. Recently, the grey gelding has switched gears to take on the Hunter ring, competing in the Children’s Hunters. This afternoon, Vendome DH Z looked like a seasoned Derby mount, gliding through the ring and taking each fence with ease. He and Hill chose to take all four high options, earning a score of 88.
Close to the end of the order was Timothy Maddrix and M&M Sporthorse’s Casey Jones, a six year old Warmblood gelding. Even at his young age, Casey Jones dabbles successfully in both the Hunter and Jumper rings. This afternoon, Maddrix and the bay gelding looked the part in the Hunter ring, taking each fence with impressive style. The pair chose to take all four high options for a score of 88.5, the highest score of the first round.
The ring was refreshed as twelve horse and rider pairs prepared to return for the handy round. A cutoff score of 79.75 signaled that competition would be tough in the second round. The course for the handy round began over the stone vertical option on an angle at the top of the ring, then led to the brush vertical option on the diagonal that bent to the birch oxer option down the center line. The course then asked entries to roll back to a brush trot fence at the bottom of the ring, then continue up the brick one-stride line. From there, the course led to the brush vertical down the diagonal, then rolled back to the oxer option at the top of the ring. To finish, the course asked for a long approach to the out of the natural branch line.
Donnelly and Corlando 49 were the first of the top three contenders to return for the handy round. Like most other entries, the pair chose the inside track to the brush vertical, the oxer option and the natural branch oxer, as well as all four high options. However, to stand out, the duo also chose to take the handy inside track to the brush vertical option. The pair were rewarded for their efforts, earning a score of 91 and bringing their two round total to 176, which led the class.
Next, Hill returned aboard Vendome DH Z. Like Donnelly, Hill chose the inside track to the brush vertical option, as well as the remaining possible inside turns and all four high options. Hill and Vendome DH Z were flawless, taking the snug turns with incredible precision and flowing smoothly through the course. The pair earned a score of 92, bringing their two round total to 180 and deeming them the new class leader.
Last of the top contenders to return was Maddrix and Casey Jones. The pair did not opt for the inside track to the brush vertical, staying out to ensure a fluid approach. However, Maddrix and Casey Jones did execute the remaining inside turns and four high options flawlessly. The pair earned a score of 90, bringing their two round total to 178.5, placing them second and moving Donnelly and Corlando 49 to third place while leaving Hill and Vendome DH Z in first place.
Summer Hill of Fairbanks Riding in Lexington, Kentucky stuck around to chat with us after the class. “The course was really nice for this horse. This was my Grand Prix horse two years ago. I’ve won quite a few Grands Prix with him. After an injury, we gave him a new career. This is my second show back on him. I know him really well and I trust him, so the course just rode really nicely for him,” explained Hill.
Hill also gave us some insight on Vendome DH Z’s personality, “Vendome is a quirky one. He’s very sweet but he has a little spook to him. He’s really sensitive, but he tries harder than any horse I’ve ever ridden and I’ve always gotten along with him from the moment that we got him. It’s nice to have one that really fights for you out there.”
$5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby Results
- Vendome DH Z, Summer Hill – 88 | 92 | 180
- Casey Jones, Timothy Maddrix – 88.5 | 90 | 178.5
- Corlando 49, Melissa Donnelly – 85 | 91 | 176
- Grand Tour, Melissa Donnelly – 87 | 87 | 174
- At Last, Jeff Gogul – 81.5 | 90 | 171.5
- Improv, Melissa Donnelly – 84 | 87 | 171
- Chemistry, Stephanie Portman – 81.25 | 84 | 165.25
- Snowbird, Jeff Gogul – 82 | 83 | 165
- Legolas, Jessica Borton – 79.75 | 82 | 161.75
- Chamonix, Sydney Miller – 80.15 | 78 | 158.15
Photos courtesy of Winslow Photography.
Get your entries in for the WEC Fall horse shows featuring 5 back-to-back shows with nearly $1 Million in money and prizes offered. Feature classes include two $20,000 USHJA National Hunter Derbies (Open and Non-Pro) weekly. Entries are open now and stall reservations can be made online at www.horseshowing.com.