By Laura Ware
The USHJA International Hunter Derby made its debut at the third week of HITS Thermal, and has proven to be a success every time it was held. This unique class attempts to create spectator interest in Hunters, with difficult courses consisting of bending lines, natural jumps, and four-foot fence options, all set in the main Hunter or Grand Prix arena. Other special features of this class are that it rewards bonus points for brilliant riding, and has a minimum amount of $10,000 prize money.
The most recent Hunter Derby was at the Oaks Spring Tournament in the small, intimate indoor ring, which has never before been used for a hunter class. Shelby Wakeman, a talented and successful rider in the hunter, jumper, and equitation rings, placed second in this past Hunter Derby, making her the highest placing junior rider. She was gracious enough to answer a few questions for me.
Laura: What were the classic and handy courses like?
Shelby: The classic course was more like a hunter course with a forward ride and couple of bending lines. There were natural options, including a skinny plank, multiple brush jumps, and a log under a jump, which made it different from any other hunter course. The handy course was hard, with a lot of tight inside turns that I could not get on Truly because they were more like jumper turns. It was difficult, but fun.
Laura: What was it like showing hunters in such a small arena?
Shelby: I was a little skeptical about showing a hunter in an indoor ring, but the course designer did a good job, and I really enjoyed riding it.
Laura: Tell me about the horse you rode.
Shelby: I rode Truly, who is owned by Ashley Pryde. He was a bit spooky in the Derby at Thermal, so I didn’t know how he’d be, but he ended up being really good and relaxed.
Laura: What makes this class special?
Shelby: The fact that it was in the indoor ring was fun and special, because the hunters never show in there and it is a completely different environment. It was at night and under the lights, so a lot of people came to watch it, adding to the uniqueness of this class.
Laura: Did you get any bonus points for taking risks in the handy round?
Shelby: You can get up to 8 bonus points from each judge team in the handy round, so a maximum of 16 points. This can really add to your score. I watched Jenny Karazissis (who had won the class at Thermal) go before me, and she took all the inside turns and got 7 bonus points. I didn’t know what it would take to earn 8 bonus points, so I planned on taking all the inside turns.
Once I got into the ring, however, I realized that the turns were tighter then I had thought. I ended up missing a couple, but I still ended up with 5 bonus points from one judge and 2 from the other.
Laura: How did it feel to be second in a class with famous professionals?
Shelby: It felt really good. I was honored to do well in such a prestigious class.
Laura: What are your riding goals for 2008?
Shelby: I want to do well at Devon. I’ve never been there and it’s my last junior year, so it would be really special if I did well. I’d also like to compete effectively at Indoors, and end my junior career on a good note.
We congratulate you Shelby, and wish you all the best in your last junior year.
Results of the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby:
1st On Top Keri Kampsen
2nd Truly Shelby Wakeman
3rd Cinico Katie Taylor
4th Palmar Jenny Karazissis
5th Aragon Jenny Karazissis
6th Rumba Erin Duffy
7th Wesley Shelby Wakeman
8th Fiona Elizabeth Blaisdell
9th Norah Jones Ali Leopold
10th Rascal Archibald Cox
11th Mata Hari Hilary Neff
12th Chaucer Peter Lombardo
Laura Listens is brought to you by Laura Ware. Winner of the 2007 LAHSA Junior Medal Finals and a recipient of the 2008 WCAR Jumper Rider Grant, Laura rides with First Field Farm and often trains with Archie Cox. She is very successful in the all three disciplines on her own mounts as well as catch riding other horses.