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Why I Ride: Hunter Derbies

Posted on: August 09, 2020 by Tamika Sheffield

Hunter Derbies are scored on pace, performance, jump style, and quality of your round. They incorporate hunter type obstacles with an almost Equitation-style handy course in a two-round format. Two judges are utilized for a point scoring system and where the top 25% of the first round come back to compete in a second phase. The classic turnout, the expression, the invisible and precise calculation just make it a wonderful challenge that brings happiness to my soul. My Thoroughbred mare, J.P., has been my partner for a few years now. She is a brave little one with a fire in her spirit that tends to keep the judge’s eye in the Derby ring.


Inclusivity: Derbies encourage the bold and clever in their classes which leaves an opening for everyone. Horses and riders that are often in the Equitation or Jumper rings can enjoy a good derby too. You could be competing against a Grand Prix rider, an amateur, or a junior. It’s always great to watch the other competitors because with so many different levels of horse and rider there’s always something you can learn.


Singularity: These classes bring a wide variety of style and flair, and encourages me to be more competitive with myself. Derbies often have large classes so the goal is to be remembered on top of all of the other things required for a jumping class. We compete against horses who could be handier, more experienced, or more flashy, so we must play our strengths to the best of our ability. J.P.’s naturally bold style and game-for-anything attitude give us the presence you love to see and make the handy-round a wonderful challenge!


Energy: Both the spectators and exhibitors at the Derbies are awesome to be part of. The classes are often held in the largest ring (oftentimes on grass if available) with the riders donning white pants or Shad belly Jackets. The horses will have manes and tails braided with fake tails as well. You look great, you feel great, and you’re feeling the vibes from the crowd! This brings exciting energy that keeps me smiling throughout my entire round. There’s no feeling like walking into the ring on my sparkling-clean grey mare and knowing the eyes are on us. It makes me sit up a little taller to let my tails drape neatly across the back of my saddle and I sink my heel a little deeper in perfectly polished boots. I know J.P. feels the same, and while getting her and myself clean and put together is no small feat, it’s more than worth it for how much we love the rush of competing together.


Hunter Derbies simply have my heart even though I will also do some other classes. Whether I am competing or spectating I am always trying to learn a different track or a handier turn. They’re simply too much fun for J.P. and me to stay away from!