Today's $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby was a labor of love. The class was presented by the Wheeler family in honor of their parents Kenneth and Sally Wheeler, whose names alone bring back images of phenomenal Hunters exploding over huge solid natural jumps on outside courses.
Doug Wheeler spoke on behalf of the family, "This is in honor of my mom and my dad. Devon has been a part of our family's tradition and history for years. I was there as a lead liner myself, but I've always enjoyed Devon through the eyes and memories of my parents. The entire family is enjoying this through their legacy.
All three (Wheeler) boys, their children, we all do horses in some capacity. I do the Hunters and my two brothers do the Saddlebreds, which are also a part of Devon. Hopefully we boys can continue a little of the tradition that my parents created."
Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of Diane Carney of Telluride Farm and Rush and Carl Weeden of Brookwood Farm, this year's Hunter Derby jumps were shipped in all the way from Chicago. The stand alone Chicago Hunter Derby held in Antioch, Illinoisis considered one of the finest in the country due in part to The Weeden's and Diane's passion about, and commitment to the Hunter Derby.
Rush Weeden says his passion for beautifully executed Hunter Derbies may have stemmed from what he describes as a mid-life crisis, "I love doing the jumps and getting things organized. I've had a good time riding in them. I'm one of the older riders, so it brings back memories for me. Back in the day you didn't need a jump crew back then, you just needed an ambulance!"
Diane Carney of Telluride Farm based in Hampshire, Illinois has spent many decades in the horse industry and points out that the competitive Hunter has evolved from Foxhunting to outdoor courses to the ring. "I vividly remember what was the Hunter Classic at Chagrin with Rodney (Jenkins), Bernie Traurig and Charlie Weaver. We watched that, knowing that on grass, with different looking jumps, that weren't necessarily spooky or gimmicky, but asking the questions that resulted in great riding. It's that type of riding that I think the Derbybrings back into fashion." To Diane, "Tradition equals classic values. Great tradition evolves. A good hunter, a good course, no matter what, comes from roots."
Photos: Kenneth & Sallie Wheeler; Douglas Wheeler; Diane Carney