Today I'm going to discuss a fairly recent development in the history of hunter showing--the International Hunter Derby. This is a series of classes held at various large hunter/jumper shows throughout the country and culminating in a series final each August. Each Hunter Derby offers a minimum of $10,000 prize money with $100,000 being offered at the finals. The photos accompanying this post were taken at the USHJA Hunter Derby that was held in conjunction with the Colorado Summer Classic at the Colorado Horse Park in Parker, Colorado.
Hunter Derby courses differ from regular hunter courses in that they are designed to more closely resemble obstacles found in the hunt field. They may include taller, narrower fences, jumps without groundlines and natural obstacles such as ditches, gates, banks, hedges and walls. The approaches to the jumps are also rather atypical and feature winding tracks , variable routes and even optional jumps.
Each Hunter Derby consists of two rounds, the first of which is held over a Hunter Classic course. These courses must include a minimum of ten jumps ranging in height from 3’6” to 3’9” with at least four 4’0” option fences spread throughout the course. Riders are rewarded for taking more difficult routes and jumping the higher side of the option fences.
For comparison sake, here’s a different competitor jumping the less challenging side of a different option jump.
In addition, there must also be at least one in and out, one bending line and one line with an unrelated distance. Where appropriate, some jumps may not have a groundline.
The top twelve horses in the first round will come back to compete over a Handy Hunter course. The jumps for this course are the same heights as in the Hunter Classic and once again there will be four 4’0” option fences. The course will also include at least two of the following: a trot fence, open gate while mounted, lead over a jump, tight turn option, halt and/or back and walking over a jump. Unfortunately I was not able to stay and watch this part of the competition, but you can see pictures of a regular Handy Hunter class here.
The Hunter Classic round is judged on style and brilliance. The Handy Hunter round is judged on style, brilliance and handiness. Behaviors such as shaking the head after a jump and swapping leads are not penalized in a Hunter Derby. The judges are looking for athleticism and brilliance rather than eight identical jumps. Horses that show expression and enthusiasm will be rewarded.
Attire for a Hunter Derby is formal. Most female riders will wear a navy or black shadbelly coat with a white shirt and stock tie, buff breeches and tall boots. All riders must wear an SEI certified helmet with a chin strap.
Unlike a dressage shadbelly, the tails on a hunter shadbelly are not weighted. They should fly out behind the rider as she negotiates the course.
Generally, men will wear a dark (navy or black) coat with white shirt and tie, white breeches and tall boots.
Although technically not required, every horse in the class will have a braided mane and tail. Most horses will wear a D-ring snaffle bit on a regular hunter type bridle. However, pelhams and double bridles are also allowed.
Standing martingales are commonly used and most saddles will be sitting atop a fitted saddle pad…
For more information about Hunter Derbies, be sure to check out the USHJA’s homepage.