The discipline of hunters is deeply rooted in tradition, and when the USHJA High Performance Hunter Committee developed the International Hunter Derby, their goal was to bring that tradition and the art of horsemanship back to the show ring. One event that captures the essence of the class is the $50,000 Chicago Hunter Derby (CHD) presented by CN.
Held in the suburbs of Chicago at the beautiful Annali Farm in Antioch, IL, the Chicago Hunter Derby is one of the most traditional classes held throughout the country each year. CN is one of the biggest supporters of the sport and their sponsorship helps to keep the tradition alive at this event.
The popularity of the USHJA International Hunter Derby continues into the 2012-13 Qualifying Series as 64 Member Event classes are being offered throughout the country. Many fantastic classes are hosted and a few far exceed expectations.
The CHD is hosting its fourth annual event in 2012 and is going above and beyond this year. The CHD has doubled its prize money from $25,000 to $50,000 for this year’s class. The increased prize money makes the CHD one of only three classes out of all 64 Member Events in the 2012-13 Series to award $50,000. The Hampton Classic in Bridgehampton, NY, and The FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL, are the only others.
The $50,000 Chicago Hunter Derby presented by CN will be held on September 9, 2012, with the $5,000 ABBA Vet Supply National Hunter Derby on September 8. An impressive roster of judges has lined up to evaluate the classes, including Ken Smith, Geoff Teall, Bob Crandall, and Julie Winkel. Teall will be co-course designing with Bobby Murphy.
The movement to expand the discipline and feature international classes for the high performance hunters has given new life to the industry. The USHJA International Hunter Derby Series has brought attention to show hunters at the international level and showcases a very special type of horse. Competitors show over complex courses featuring natural obstacles such as logs, brush fences, and stone walls. The classes highlight the tradition and excitement of the American hunter discipline and give competitors the opportunity to earn significant prize money at many of the country’s most prestigious horse shows.
The Chicago Hunter Derby is a very unique event that draws some of the best athletes in the country, both horses and riders. The class is held on the beautiful grass in-field of an old steeplechase track with a stunning pond in the background. The class is true to the roots of the hunter discipline, featuring elements of the hunt fields of days past.
As an esteemed judge who has presided over many derby classes throughout the country and in fact judged the Chicago Hunter Derby during its first year, Geoff Teall praises the event on maintaining that tradition and noted that it is a special horse that wins in that setting.
“It is a different group of horses that excel in derbies in general, but at that derby in particular, because it is on grass and it is up on a hill. It is kind of through the woods and over the stream and to grandmother’s house we go,” Teall described with a smile. “It is really interesting to watch. It is fun to see which horses handle it and which ones don’t. It is also really fun to see the riders that can handle that – the ones that have had enough experience that they can handle the grass, the hills, everything.”
“It is very different than what we are used to, but it is exactly what that class was designed for,” Teall pointed out. “Their committee does a great job and they make a big effort to make sure that they really keep the concept of the derbies in mind.”
Many of the nation’s top hunter horses and riders compete in the derby each year. Last year, Canadian rider Erynn Ballard won the international derby riding the well known gelding Taken, a mount of top hunter rider Kelley Farmer. Taken is a horse that excels in many venues, but has taken a particular liking to the unique hunter derby setting. In the 2011-12 derby series, Taken was the highest money earner of all horses for the year from the 16 competitions that he took part in. Farmer was also the highest earner as a rider. Prior to Ballard and Taken’s win, top hunter derby competitors Jennifer Alfano and Jersey Boy won the class for the first two consecutive years.
In addition to the fantastic competition, The Chicago Hunter Derby is also held as a charity event. Following in the footsteps of its first three years, the 4th Annual CHD hopes to raise even more money for Chicago Equestrians for a Cause, a philanthropic group that donates money to significant charities.
The CHD has been held as a benefit for the Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago for the past three years and will continue that assistance in 2012. In addition, the event will raise money for The USHJA Foundation for a second year and, always looking to increase their support in the community, has also added the University of Chicago’s Cancer Research Foundation as a brand new beneficiary this year.
For more information on the upcoming Chicago Hunter Derby, please visit www.chicagohunterderby.com.
By Lauren Fisher