World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) week closed out Sunday afternoon at the Lamplight Equestrian Center with the $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, sponsored by Bull Run Equestrian Center. Dorothy Douglas and MTM Exceptional rose from second place after executing a flawless handy round to take over first place and ultimately win the class.
Holly Shepherd and Triompf, owned by Loretta Patterson, kicked off the first round of the class taking an early lead. The pair received a total score of 184 for their round, besting the field of 27 horse-and-athlete combinations to maintain the lead throughout all of the first round attempts. Falling close behind Shepherd and Trompf was Douglas with MTM Exceptional, owned by Abigail Davenport, with just one half of a point separating the two.
“The course was great, and I thought the course designer did a great job,” shared Douglas on the first round. “For sure my plan was to get all of my leads and do all of my strides. The eight-stride line was a little long, but I thought he handled all of the high options so great, no rubs and I loved his attitude. This was kind of his warm up for Derby Finals next week. So my mind was focused on getting the plan ready and for sure we feel ready for next week!”
Shepherd also held third place going into the second round riding Helen Brown’s Tybee. Shepherd and Tybee received a total first round score of 179 to put them in third position headed into the handy round. Tracy Fenney and MTM Silver Alert trailed close behind Shepherd and Tybee in the fourth place spot with a total first round score of 176.
Following the closely contested first phase of competition, the top 12 riders were called back to the Grand Prix Arena to tackle the challenging handy round. The course, designed by Paul Jewell, featured three different high options, as well as various turns and rollbacks for riders to showcase the handiness of their horses.
Fenney and MTM Silver Alert returned to the handy round to receive a standout score more than 20 points higher than their first round marks. The pair jumped all three high options, and received 17 handy bonus points plus scores of 90 and 84 for a second round total of 197 and a combined score of 373. Fenney would ultimately secure the third place with MTM Silver Alert.
Douglas and MTM Exceptional were the second to last to enter the ring, hoping to close the small gap between them and the leaders, Shepherd and Triompf. Douglas only took two of the high option fences, but showed off MTM Exceptional’s impressive handy skills to receive 18 handy bonus points. The pair received two scores of 88 for a total second round score of 198 and, combined with their original points, a composite score of 381.5.
“I actually ran right over to Abby [Davenport] when I saw the option of the first jump and asked her if I should do the high option or the low option. And she said ‘No matter what you better keep your leg on! That’s what you tell me all the time – keep your leg on and use pressure!’”, joked Douglas. “We decided to do the low option because I thought it was a little bit handier going inside. I was most worried about the trot jump because I feel like we never practice that, and you can either nail it or not. But [MTM Exceptional] was super, he’s amazing.”
The final ride of the class, Shepherd and Triompf, had to overtake Douglas’ new class leading combined score to earn the blue. With that in mind, the pair opted for all three high options but could not quite match Douglas and MTM Exceptional’s handy bonus points, finishing with just 13. In addition to their handy points, Shepherd and Triompf earned scores of 86 and 87.5 to receive a second round score of 192 and a combined total of 376, enough to secure them the second place finish.
Douglas has been partnered with MTM Exceptional, a 9-year-old Holsteiner gelding, in order to prepare him for Davenport to move up in divisions. While Douglas has the ride in the professional hunter divisions, Davenport takes MTM Exceptional into the Children’s Hunters, most recently receiving reserve champion in the Children’s Hunter division this week at Equifest II. In the future, Davenport plans to take MTM Exceptional into the Amateur Hunter divisions, as well as show him in the hunter derbies herself.
Prior to the $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, Douglas also won the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby with S & L Lion King, owned by S & L Farms. The pair received scores of 92 and 93 for a total score of 185 to come out on top. Hannah Stevens and Susan Fowell’s Darsino took second place with scores of 88 and 91 for a combined total of 179. Rounding out the top three was Erin Cummins riding her own My BFF to scores of 84 and 88 for a total score of 172.
$15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby results:
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / R1 Score / R2 Score / Total Score
1, MTM Exceptional / Dorothy Douglas / Abigail Davenport / 183.500 / 198.000 / 381.500
2. Triompf / Holly Shepherd / Loretta Patterson / 184.000 / 192.000 / 376.000
3. MTM Silver Alert / Tracy Fenney / MTM Farm / 176.000 / 197.000 / 373.000
4. Tybee / Holly Shepherd / Helen Brown / 179.000 / 183.000 362.000
5. MTM One Time / Dorothy Douglas / MTM Farm / 168.000 / 184.001 / 352.001
6. Poetic / Ryan Sassmannshausen / Melissa Williams / 166.000 / 186.000 / 352.000
7. Standing Ovation / Maggie Jayne / Pony Lane Farm / 173.000 / 167.000 / 340.000
8. MTM Here’s 2 You / Natalee Haggan / Candu Farm / 168.000 / 168.000 / 336.000
9. Longstreet / Holly Shepherd / Barbara Risius / 172.001 / 163.000 / 335.001
10. MTM Outbid / Tracy Fenney / MTM Farm / 169.000 / 166.000 / 335.000
11. Flamboyant / Holly Shepherd / Debbie Holland / 161.500 / 162.000 / 323.500
12. Gt 40 / Tiffany Hammack / Roger L Schramm / 159.500 / 156.000 / 315.500