Huntfield AQHA Derby Series

Competing in the storied Rolex Stadium at the Kentucky Horse Park gave hunters the chance to check an item off their bucket list.

By Tracey Clark Berry
The American Quarter Horse Journal
June 29, 2012

Alfred Hewitt and Decorated By Mito won the Hunfield AQHA Derby at the Kentucky Horse Park photo by Tracey Clark Berry

The Huntfield Derby champion of the day was Decorated By Mito, owned by Andrea Baumgart of Tarpon Springs, Florida, and ridden to the win by AQHA Professional Horseman Alfred Hewitt of Loxahatchee, Florida. (Photo by Tracey Clark Berry)

It was a postcard-perfect day on June 23 as the soft glow of the early morning sun bathed the white pristine fences on the grounds of the beautiful Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky.   

Paired with the 2012 Mid East Kentucky Quarter Horse Association Bluegrass Classic, the newest challenge for AQHA hunters, the young but growing Huntfield AQHA Derby Series, drew folks from around the nation. The derby offered hunters the chance to cross off their bucket list competing in the internationally famous Rolex Stadium, home of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.   

The Huntfield Derby champion of the day was Decorated By Mito. A 9-year-old brown gelding by UK Mito Boss and out of Our Careless Miss (TB) by Well Decorated, Decorated By Mito was bred by Tammy Lickliter of Xenia, Ohio. Now owned by Andrea Baumgart of Tarpon Springs, Florida, Decorated By Mito was ridden to the win by AQHA Professional Horseman Alfred Hewitt of Loxahatchee, Florida.

Following their win, Alfred said, “The challenge of the handy hunter course was fun for everyone! Riding in the Rolex was a great experience for me and for my customers; we look forward to the next one.”

That sentiment was one echoed by many competitors at the derby in Rolex Stadium.

Molly Berkemeyer of Alexandria, Kentucky, put in a win in the Showstring 2’ 6” Championship division aboard her gelding, The Article.

“It was truly amazing to be in the very same place that Beezie Madden once rode in!” Molly said. “My horse loved how much room there was out there. When I learned I had won the Showstring 2’ 6” Championship, I was so happy that I cried. It was an awesome feeling!”

The Article, bred by William Erdos of Creston, Ohio, is a 10-year-old bay gelding by Artful Move and out of Pleasant Wait (TB) by Keycolony.

Jesilyn McCarroll of Blanchard, Oklahoma, also competed in the Showstring 2’ 6” on her 19-year-old gelding, We Take Cash.  

“The jumps were creative, the footing was great and the arena was so inviting,” Jesilyn said. “My horse was like a different horse out there. It was such a cool and fun experience; a nice change from the same thing we do all the time.”  

Additional class winners included high-point Select amateur champion Brenda Berndt of Flower Mound, Texas, on her mare Sleek N Unique (1996 bay mare, Truckin Kinda Guy (TB)-Modern Music by Fools Turn (TB), bred by Ann Call of Fort Worth, Texas) and the non-pro high-point champions Heather Brown of Versailles, Kentucky, on Bigtime Texan (2003 sorrel gelding, Mimis Dash-Maggie Day by Rubarb Jones, bred by Dennis Maddox of Tuleta, Texas). Both Brenda and Heather won $100 purses and agreed that their rides in the Rolex Stadium offered thrilling experiences.

“It was definitely a great opportunity to try something new,” said Meghan O'Malley of Suffolk, Virginia.

Meghan showed 2010 AQHA All-Around Amateur Reserve Champion A Chanceof Blueskies in the Huntfield Derby.

“In order to better yourself, you always have to have a challenge,” Meghan said. “The derby concept gives us another option to make things a little harder and to push us as riders to do better. I can already see what I want to improve on for next year.”

USHJA judge and trainer Leslie Emerson, who presided over the sixth leg of this newest option for the AQHA hunter family, is already a fan of the series.

“To see something like this that allows the Quarter Horse community to shine is wonderful,” Leslie said. “I applaud them for taking this leap.”  

The Huntfield AQHA Derby Series is the brainchild of AQHA Professional Horsemen David Warner of Frankfort, Kentucky, and Lainie DeBoer of Forest Lake, Minnesota. The inaugural event in the series was held in conjunction with the Fox Lea Farm Winter Circuit in January in Venice, Florida. The series, which has visited five states since then, has increased in popularity. The June 23 competition boasted a respectable 20 entrants in the 2’ 6” and 30 in entrants the 3’ classes.

“If you had told me six months ago that we would have 50 in the derby – here in the Rolex – I never would have believed it!” Lainie said.  

“The old (style) is coming back to the new,” David remarked, “and it’s very appealing to people.”

“Part of our mission statement was to make this not only competitive, but fun, and to help our industry and our horses get better and grow,” Lainie explained, “The support from other trainers, riders and those interested in helping sponsor these events has been truly amazing! Everyone keeps asking, ‘What can we do to help?’ ”      
By the end of the day, every rider had expressed their gratitude to Lainie and David for the experience, and they were already talking about coming back next year.  

Jesilyn, who rides with AQHA Professional Horseman Chuck Briggs of Azle, Texas, said, “Our whole barn was excited to be able to come here. It's the talked about ‘thing’ right now. This is the only horse show I can remember in my life that feels like a vacation! The (Kentucky) Horse Park is so beautiful.”

Long-time amateur Rodger Call of Fort Worth, Texas, riding past Huntfield Derby champion Go Big Sky, said, “It is such an honor to show here. It's so big out there – our horses just want to go. They just love it!”

A faithful supporter of the series, Rodger added, “The thing I like about the derby is that it’s a step upward and an advancement for our Quarter Horse group. Learning to ride with such 'handiness' is only going to improve our riding skills, plus it's fun!  I really appreciate the people who have been so professional and diligent in organizing this series; it's a real first-class organization.”

Now if that isn't an endorsement then I don't know what is. With a whole new type of show experience, in a beautiful wide-open world-class arena that both horse and rider love, in arguably the equine capitol of the world, plus surrounded by good friends – that’s a recipe that can’t be beat.    

The interest and unparalleled support from sponsors like David Miller and Scott Jones of Showstring Farm, Butet, Perfect Products and a host of other generous and supportive sponsors offering up sought after prizes and purses of over $1,500 spoke loud and clear that they believe in the series. With time, the awards will only get bigger.  

If this sounds like a train that you want to be on, you better start making plans early for the next event in the series. I have a feeling this one’s going to catch on!  

For more information about class standings, upcoming show dates and sponsorship opportunities check out the Huntfield AQHA Derby Series Facebook page.   

The Huntfield Derby was held in conjunction with the Mid-East Kentucky Quarter Horse Association's Bluegrass Class. Don't miss the Journal recap of the Bluegrass Classic.

Tracey Clark Berry is a freelance photographer and writer in Northern Kentucky who has been invoved in the equine industry around the country for many years. She can be reached at myequinelight@gmail.com or visit her website at equinelightphotography.com.