The $1,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby, part of the $40,000 LEG 40th Anniversary National Hunter Derby Series, showcased a combination of veteran and rookie talent during Gold Coast 3 (May 18-20). Famed show jumper and recent Show Jumping Hall of Fame inductee Hap Hansen served as the lead judge, and young professional Tommi Clark topped the field aboard Exupery (Stephen Borders, owner).
“It was great that I got to go first on my most solid horse," Tommi remarked. "Exupery has the most experience out of the four horses I rode. He has been showing for several years, whereas the other horses are fairly green and some are in their first year of showing.” Tommi focused on having a smooth, consistent round and keeping everything at an even pace. She executed that plan beautifully and took all four higher options, receiving a score of 88. Tommi's cool ride kept her in the lead for the entire first round, but other riders were not far behind, with Jenny Karazissis on Jersey Girl (Morgan Allison, owner) in second with 86, Michael Leon on First & Goal (Stage Left Farm, LLC, owner) in third with 85.5, and all top eight riders with scores in the 80s.
In the handy hunter round, it was Jenny Karazissis on Jersey Girl who impressed the judges and the crowd with her nearly flawless round. Jenny made the entire ride look effortless, yet incredibly handy, as she angled every jump, took tight turns, and successfully completed a tight left turn into the rail off of the final trot jump. Jenny was the first of only a few riders to receive ten points for handiness and received a near perfect score of 99 for the second round, bringing combined score to 181 for the lead at that point in the order. Her effort set the bar incredibly high for the other riders. Leila Ward-Maroney and Roxbury (Samantha Sneider, owner) easily handled the pressure and also turned in a very handy round with tight, short turns. She received a score of 97 for the second round, but her total of 178 was still short of the lead.
Tommi returned for the final round of the class to try and take home the blue ribbon. “It was great having the lead the entire time, but it was nerve-wracking having to go last in the second round,” she commented. After so many handy rounds and several scores in the 90s, Tommi wrestled with her plan. She explained, “I went back and forth on how handy to make the course because Exupery generally isn’t a handy horse. But we’ve been working really hard with him on his handiness, so I decided to go for it, especially since Jenny had thrown down the gauntlet with her incredible round.” All of their hard work paid off, and Exupery was as handy as he could be, making the tighter turns and taking angled jumps with ease. The judges gave Tommi nine points for handiness and a score of 97.5 for a total of 185.5 for the win.
“Exupery is a really special horse," Tommi remarked. "He has an amazing jump, and I’m very grateful to his owner, Stephen Borders, for letting me ride him.” Tommi also rode her own horse, Kampari, to sixth place in the class. Kampari’s first derby was at Gold Coast 2, where they placed third. “I was really happy with the result tonight. We have a few things that we need to work on together because we are new to each other, but Kampari is a really unique horse and he will definitely be one to watch in the future.”
Elsewhere in the hunter rings, Laurel Hicks (Alanna Snowden, trainer) had another successful Gold Coast show. Riding her Tall, Dark, and Handsome (Zephyr), Laurel was champion in Junior Hunters 17 and Under, reserve champion in Modified Junior-Amateur Hunters, and reserve champion in ‘B’ Modified Hunters.
Laurel is a familiar face at Gold Coast, having frequented the show for many years. “I always enjoy coming to Gold Coast," Laurel said. "Not only is it the closest major show to my home in Santa Barbara, but it’s also well run with great facilities.” Laurel is a junior at Santa Barbara High School, where she helped found their new Interscholastic Equestrian League (IEL) team. Though the team only has seven riders, they finished in the top ten schools this year at IEL. Currently, Laurel is working hard studying for her AP tests and SATs and fitting in riding when she can. She said, “I was really glad I could make it to this Gold Coast show. It was the only show that fit in between my AP tests!”
Laurel and Zephyr have made an excellent team together and this will be her third year competing in the Junior Hunter Finals. In the future, she wants to move up to some of the higher hunter classes. "I didn't do the derby at this show, but I would love to do more of them in the future because I think they are a lot of fun for both the riders and the horses," she added.
Zephyr has been with the Hicks family for eleven years; he has been Laurel’s show horse for the past five years and was her mom’s horse before that. Laurel likened Zephyr to a cat and explained, “Zephyr can be pretty particular on the ground and he definitely doesn’t do hugs. But when you’re riding him, he is super sweet, generous, and forgiving.”
Competing in the pony hunters, twelve-year-old Emma Hansen (Randy Durand, trainer) rode several ponies to championships. Emma was both champion and reserve champion in Small/Medium Pony Hunters with her Silver Lining (AKA Crackers) and My Little Romeo respectively, as well as Small/Medium Green Pony Hunters with Silver Lining and Heavenly Patch of Blue (Kellie Purfoy, owner).
Emma has been riding ever since she could sit up. “When my mom found out that she was having a girl, she went out and got a pony before I was born,” she shared. Emma’s mom is a dressage rider, but plans to begin jumping with Emma’s trainer Randy later this year. They still own Emma’s first pony, Merry Legs, now happily retired. This is Emma’s second year of competitive showing and she has enjoyed competing in hunters. She commented, “I like how the jumps have to be perfect in hunter classes.” Emma has also enjoyed coming to the Gold Coast shows and said, “We’ve been coming to a lot of Gold Coast shows this year because Crackers is green and it’s a good way for him to get experience. I like coming to the Los Angeles Equestrian Center because it’s a fun environment and it’s close to home.”
Emma trains with Randy Durand. “I like Randy because he’s funny and really nice," she explained. "Before I go into the ring, he usually tells me not to go for the long ones and be patient. He also always reminds me to have fun.” When she gets older, Emma aspires to compete in the Maclay Medals, but for now she is happy to stick with pony hunters. “I’m going to stick with ponies for now because I’m tiny. My parents always tell me not to grow,” Emma admitted with a laugh.
Emily Maclean (Devon Gibson, trainer) had a successful show as well. Because Emily is still under twelve, she is often asked to catch ride ponies at shows. “It’s a lot of fun to still be able to ride ponies,” she commented. Emily rode Toddlerz N Tiaraz (Lori Johnston, owner) for Alanna Snowden and was champion in Schooling Pony Hunters. She also piloted Lalique (Bridge Donovan, owner) to reserve champion in Children’s Pony Hunters.
Though she still likes riding ponies, Emily started leasing her first horse, San Francisco (Golden Goose Investors LLC, owner), four months ago. She started riding San Francisco at the HITS Desert Circuit at Thermal, winning several medal classes there. At Gold Coast 3, she won the LAHJA Junior Medal Class and the Rosewood Medal Class and placed in the CPHA Foundation Equitation Class and PCHA Horsemanship Class. Emily said, “San Francisco is really just perfect. I’m looking forward to doing the Rosewood, Onondarka, and PCHA medal finals with him this year.”
Emily’s family has a shared history with her trainer, Devon Gibson, as Emily’s mother and Devon went to high school together and grew up riding together. Today, the Macleans are working on renovating a small barn and arena in their own backyard and making it usable again. The previous home owner used the barn to host parties, but Emily and her mom would love to see it filled with horses again. Emily said, “It would be great to have our trail horses at home so we could trail ride in Palos Verdes.”
In the jumper arena, Allison Mullen (Karen Perlow, trainer) had a great show with Dusk (Josie Martin, owner). Allison began leasing Dusk in early March, but their young partnership has been successful as they were champion in the 1.00M Jumpers. Now a senior in high school, Allison’s love of horses began when she was very young. “My house is right around the corner from a barn and when I wase little, I used to ride my bike over there," she recalled. "I really wanted to take riding lessons, but I was too young at the time. So for my fifth birthday I got riding lessons there and I’ve been riding ever since.”
Allison has been showing at Gold Coast shows since she was eleven. She commented, “I like coming to the Gold Coast shows because I know the facility really well and everything is familiar. You know how the show will run, which makes it easier not to get nervous.” Though she showed in hunters and equitation when she was younger, Allison now prefers doing jumpers. “For me, jumpers is just a lot more fun. I think it’s because I’m kind of a speed demon,” she explained with a laugh. She makes a good pair with Dusk, who loves going fast in the arena as well. Allison commented, “It’s funny because he is really calm and collected usually, but in the arena he just wants to go.”
This summer, Allison will fit in riding in between traveling as she has plans to go to Australia and Fiji with her family. “My dad’s a diver and I just got my certification, so I’m super excited to go diving in the South Pacific. I’m hoping we’ll be able to maybe do some trail riding in Australia as well.” Currently a senior at Valley Christian in Cerritos, Allison will be attending Cal Poly San Louis Obispo in the fall and plans to major in animal science and ride for their ISHA team. “I want to become a vet, possibly an equine vet, so I’m looking forward to going to a college with such a good animal science program.”
For more information on Gold Coast 3, including a prize list and complete results, visit the LEG website.
The next installment in the LEGISequine.com Gold Coast series will be June 15-17. Also in Southern California, the Verdugo Hills series of shows at Hansen Dam Equestrian Center will wrap up with League Preview (Oct 26-27). In Northern California, the Woodside show season will continue with the Woodside Circuit Opener (June 20-24), and in Colorado the show jumping action returns Sep 6-9.
Photo: Tommi Clark and Exupery top $1,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby Photo: Flying Horse Photography