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What are judges looking for in the derbies?

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  • What are judges looking for in the derbies?

    The young gal leasing my older jumper just informed me that she's entering him in a derby tomorrow (with the blessing of the trainer, so it's perfectly fine). I'm just a little confused as to why. He's amazing in the jumper ring, but to be honest, he moves like an egg beater.

    With the movement aside, he has a metronome canter and an adorable jump. You can loop the reins at him and he'll lope around. He's also very pretty to look at. But still, that movement! He literally pounds the ground when he canters. It never would've crossed my mind to enter him in anything in the hunter ring! He's fine in the eq, but the hunters??

    Are the criteria for pinning in a derby so different from a typical hunter division? What are the judges looking for anyway?

  • #2
    Judges are looking for a consistent, flowing pace and a beautiful jump. You don't have to have a phenomenal mover to do well in derbies, you need a great jump. You need both if you want to be competitive in the derby finals but for your average national and below derby (unrated etc), you can be quite competitive on a horse that's not a great mover but carries consistent paces, finds the jumps well with you and has great form in the air and a pleasant expression. It really depends on the level of derby you're looking at.

    I used to pin towards the top of the old school open height combined derbies (when they first came out and you could pick the 2'6 or 3' and didn't matter if you a junior, ammy or pro, ah the good 'ol days) on a gypsy vanner pony (in full feathers no less at least one of those times) who was a terrible mover but had a knees to nose jumping style and an adorable expression.

    Regardless, derby courses are SUPER fun to ride and I highly recommend playing in them if you can find fun ones to enter that don't have exorbitant entry fees. Jumpers who can carry a quieter consistent pace actually do pretty well in them because they tend to be braver and more accustomed to the handyness while being forward required.


    • #3
      I bet she’ll have a blast!

      Here is recent thread with some good thoughts -


      • #4
        If your guy has great jumping style and even pace she will do great! Surprisingly the derbies aren’t about being a daisy cutter mover - brilliance, good jump and scope, and a great pace pin well, which is why you see so many former jumpers that weren’t quite fast enough for the jumpers do so well in the hunter derbies. I hope your guy has a ball!


        • #5
          There was some interesting discussion about this on the livestream for Round 1 of Derby Finals. Liza, Sandy, and Bill mentioned how the movement they look for in a traditional hunter division (say an AO or JR hunter class) is different from what they look for in a derby. In the derbies, they look for a very athletic canter, which often doesn't lend itself to a traditional daisy cutter movement.


          • #6
            I also think it would be totally acceptable to ride in one not particularly expecting to win it, just because it would be fun and really good experience for the rider besides.
            If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


            • #7
              Heck, why not? Let her have some fun with your old guy. Depending on the kind of Derby it is. Could be anything from a glorified title for a round on the Hunter course to a more Eq style course or even outside the ring, depends on the show and what specs they are using. If any.

              Generally, they look for more boldness and handiness in the horse and a willingness to take the more difficult track or higher options if they are offered in that particular Derby. It’s still a Hunter class however you need to get around the course and leave the rails up before style figures in. She’ll probably be fine and have fun with it. Horse might like it too, no timers.
              When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

              The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


              • Original Poster

                They go later today! Wish I could be there to watch. I’ll have to update y’all on how they do. That horse will do anything asked of him. He’s that guy. So I know she will have a ball.


                • #9
                  Sounds promising and, if nothing else, a nice cross training effort for both of them. Might surprise you too. All comes downtown to what kind of Derby, what kind of course and the level of competent competition able to negotiate the course cleanly enough that style and movement factor into the results. Betting your horse and this rider will get around fine. The other part you can’t do anything about so don’t worry about it.
                  When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                  The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.