Hunter derbies make my little heart go pitter patter. I love to watch them, read about them, take pictures of them and hopefully soon… ride in one. Large or small I don’t care, I am pro derby!
Even though I adore them, I know enough about derbies to be dangerous. Not totally clueless, but it’s not like I’ve campaigned in the derby ring for a season. In lieu of an “informative” post from someone who’s definitely not an expert, I decided to just write why I’m kind of obsessed with them. It’ll share a bit of insight to those who really don’t know anything about hunter derbies, but hopefully not make me look like a clueless asshat trying to play pro.
The derby is a formal hunter/jumper class… which means bring out the shadbellies! Dressed to the nines is the standard here, especially for bigger derbies. You will even occasionally see quartermarks, which isn’t so prevalent in the hunter/jumper world. If a shadbelly isn’t your style, formal whites are also encouraged and you will see them on male riders as well as women sporting the more jumper look.
Sure, all hunter classes are derived from fences you would see in the hunt field… but hunter derbies are the class where this is really taken literally! You will see logs (real or faux) in the ring, up and down banks, stone walls, and sometimes ditches. Depending on what level of derby and where it is there will always be a mix of jumps, but you tend to get a lot more variety than your normal run of the mill hunter class.
A score, a score!
Technically all classes are scored in some way shape or form (and at big shows most riders know their score after each round… not just in derbies), but the run of the mill hunter class I do… I have no idea what that is. Derbies usually have a classic round followed by a handy or a final round. Your score is announced after your ride, so the rider immediately knows “Yay 82!” or “68, acceptable!” or “45… jesus!” Sure, the scores are subjective… but at least they are there!
Handy Options for the win!
Derbies often have a special category for “handy points” or courses that provide “handy options”. This puts them more similar to the realms of equitation and jumpers than traditional hunters. Example of handy options could be hand galloping to a fence instead of just cantering it, taking a tighter turn, or slicing a jump. The challenge is… these handy options still must be done beautifully like they aren’t “handy” at all.
More Pace Please
This isn’t a standard across all judges, but derby scoring tends to allow a LOT more pace than a traditional hunter course. When I first witnessed the WEF Hunter Derby in 2012, I was blown away by Kelley Farmer really going out there and making a good clip. Some went slower, but the top finishers were really rolling right along.
This is just a quick overview, but there really is a lot to love about hunter derbies. Whether your goals are 2’6″- whatever local ones (like me!), 3′ National Hunter Derbies, or the 3’6″+ International ones… I think there’s something to enjoy for almost every kind of rider.
What about you – are you as obsessed with derbies as I am?