I still can't believe it! He went out there like he owned the place, and it was an amazing feeling," said Steege. "These guys have had really illustrious junior careers and have gotten to be in these big events and these spotlight situations, and I didn't have that experience as a junior. I've worked really hard to control my nerves, and I've been really lucky to have people to support me and believe in me. Maybe Tori doesn't need to walk the course, but I walk the course 20 times! It's a different experience for me, but I'm feeling more and more confident."
The competition in the Rolex Stadium at the Kentucky Horse Park featured a beautiful Handy Hunter course designed by Alan Lohman and Danny Moore. The creative fences, supplied by Fuzzy Mayo and CCI Jump, included decorations reminiscent of a beautiful hunt field with lush trees and colorful flowers in full bloom.
The overall feeling of the course was to simulate cantering through hunt country, with natural jumps of planks and logs. The fence heights ranged from 3'6" to 4' and offered riders an opportunity to pick up bonus points by taking any one or all of the four option fences.
The 12-obstacle course featured several areas where riders could show off their handiness with tight turns and rollbacks. Four high options were offered at 4'3" and 4'6" in addition to a trot fence at fence 7.
The judges included Linda Hough and Danny Robertshaw (Panel 1), Rob Bielefeld and Patrick Rodes (Panel 2) and Linda Andrisani and Scott Williamson (Panel 3), who were placed in strategic positions around the Sheila C. Johnson Ring.
The Handy Hunter scoring included three components. Each judging panel gave their base score for each horse-and-rider combination based on accepted handy hunter judging principles. Then, each panel gave a High Option Bonus Score (the number of higher fences jumped) followed by the Handy Bonus score. The Handy Bonus Score consists of between 0-10 points based on each judging panel's opinion of how handily the round was ridden, such as brilliance, pace and tighter turns.
This year the riders once again contested a tiered Handy Hunter Round format. The top 25 pairs from Friday's Classic Hunter Round returned for action in the Section A Handy Hunter Round, with 17 horses shown by Tier I Riders and eight horses shown by Tier II Riders.
The Section B Handy Hunter Round included a field of 25 riders, with 17 jumping for Section B money only. The scores for the eight Tier II Riders in the Section A Handy Hunter Round carried over to the Section B Handy Hunter Round and Overall Standings.
For Colvin's performance, she received the Beaver River Farm Perpetual Trophy along with a custom CWD saddle as the winning rider, and Cuba was awarded the Wrenwood Farm Trophy and a TheraPlate Equine Unit as the winning horse for the Ingram family.
Hesslink's second-placed Section A title was just one of many awards he received as he also earned the Section B Overall title, the Rider Bonus awarded by Ron Danta and Danny Robertshaw, and the First Time Rider Award, presented by Perfect Products. In total, Hesslink earned $42,003.21 in prize money and bonus awards.
Heritage Farm's Charisma and Taylor St. Jacques were presented with this year's Shapley's Best Turned Out Award. Sally Stith-Burdette was on hand to present Charisma's groom with a Shapley's Awards Package.
Charisma was awarded the Shapley's Best Turned Out Award. Photo credit: Louise Taylor/USHJA Archives
Peter Pletcher received this year's Rider Style Award. The award, presented by Bill Rube, went to the rider who best displayed the American style of riding in the ring and sportsmanship outside of the competition arena. The recipient will serve as a role model for preserving the integrity of the sport and maintaining a standard of excellence and tradition in his or her riding.
The $10,000 Derby Challenge, supported by the Spring Gathering Horse Show and PJP Farm, attracted 38 competitors and allowed those who didn't qualify for the Section A or Section B Handy Hunter Rounds to return with a clean slate. The class was held at 3 p.m., prior to the Section A and B Handy Hunter Rounds, and gave competitors another opportunity to compete in the Rolex Stadium over an impressive Handy Hunter course.
Timothy Maddrix will now return home with a blue ribbon and check for $3,000 after claiming first aboard Wimberly DeBono's Indecision.
The evening also featured an emotional retirement ceremony for SBS Farms' Jersey Boy, the 2012 USHJA International Hunter Derby Champion who has won the most prize money in Derby history with more than $297,800 in earnings.
Jennifer Alfano escorts Jersey Boy out of the ring one final time. Photo credit: Tricia Booker/USHJA Archives
Since 2008, the USHJA International Hunter Derby Program has paid out more than $10.75 million. This year 232 horses were enrolled in the program from 32 states and Canada.
The 2017 USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship is generously sponsored by: Official Cooler: The Clothes Horse; Challenge Prize Money Donor: Spring Gathering Charity Horse Show and PJP Farm; Awards Sponsors: Essex Classics, FITS Riding Breeches, Shapley's and TheraPlate; Donors: Ron Danta and Danny Robertshaw. The USHJA Official Sponsors include: Charles Owen, Inc., Professional's Choice, Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, Standlee Hay Company, Professional's Choice and CWD Sellier. The USHJA Contributing Sponsors include: Nightwatch™ and Perfect Products. Envisian is a Supporting Sponsor, and EQSportsNet is the Official Host Broadcast.
A special thanks to Kentucky Horse Shows LLC for their outstanding management of the USHJA Championship Week.