Saturday, Jun. 8, 2024

A Sensational Start For The Hunter Derby Finals

The atmosphere surrounding the $100,000 ASG Software Solutions/USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals at the Kentucky Horse Park was unexpected—excitement, enthusiasm and wonder all come to mind. And those aren’t generally the words most people would use to describe a hunter competition.

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The atmosphere surrounding the $100,000 ASG Software Solutions/USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals at the Kentucky Horse Park was unexpected—excitement, enthusiasm and wonder all come to mind. And those aren’t generally the words most people would use to describe a hunter competition.

But that’s what made this event—and the overall hunter derby series—such a grand slam for our sport: the fact that riders, owners and spectators have so quickly embraced the format and are so passionate about participating in and watching the derbies.

One of my favorite moments at this year’s derby finals occurred while I was standing at the in-gate during the awards ceremony while Rumba and John French received their well-earned and substantial prizes. A small group of fans awaiting his autograph stood behind me. One young girl said, “Wow, this derby was a blast! This makes me want to ride hunters instead of jumpers!”

I believe this is just the response that the sport’s leaders hoped to hear when they envisioned this night 18 months ago.

In his opening address at the derby finals, Ron Danta, the chairman of the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association High Performance Hunter Committee, noted that the derby was “changing the way that people look at hunters and changing the way that those within the sport are looking forward into the future.”

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The derby finals and the series have grown by leaps and bounds in 11⁄2 years, and a lot of dreams, energy, planning and hard work went into this first final championship. Our columnist and the USHJA President Bill Moroney celebrated the derby finals and those who made it happen in this week’s column “It’s All About Teamwork.”

Indeed, a great many people took a risk in establishing and supporting a new program, especially in this past year’s down economy, but the time was right. Those with foresight believed that the only way that the hunters were going to thrive, if not survive, was to take a chance and create something fresh and innovative. And so the hunter derby program was born.

Ron and his committee set out to retain the tradition of the sport while maintaining the principles of the “American Hunter System,” which embraces the ideals of classical horsemanship, skill and structured discipline. “By thinking with open minds, we’re entering the future while honoring the past,” Ron noted.

The result was an inaugural hunter derby finals that was nothing short of remarkable—hundreds of spectators watched the event in person, thousands followed the Chronicle’s daily online coverage and photo galleries, and more than 30,000 viewers tuned into the live online streaming video supplied by Equestrian Life.

I’m delighted that the Chronicle has joined the USHJA as the title sponsor for the 2009-10 series and the 2010 derby finals. We’re looking forward to providing you with continuing coverage of these great events all over the country in the coming year and beyond. It’s an exciting time for show hunters and their people, and we’re thrilled to help take you on the ride!

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