November 6-21, 2015, Oklahoma City
Journal at the World

November 10, 2012

Huntfield AQHA Derby Finals

In a nutshell: “Brilliant.”

By Christine Hamilton
The American Quarter Horse Journal

AQHA Professional Horseman Linda Crothers and Go Big Sky win the 2012 Huntfield AQHA Derby finals at the AQHA World Championship Show.

AQHA Professional Horseman Linda Crothers and Go Big Sky win the 2012 Huntfield AQHA Derby finals at the AQHA World Championship Show.

At the draw party/reception for the 2012 Huntfield AQHA Derby finals, AQHA specialized hunter judge Dawn Casey had this advice for the gathered riders:

“You want brilliance. And you want to show. And your ability to negotiate turns and maintain style is what you’re going to be scored high on.”

That brilliance is exactly what spectators were treated to November 10, as 28 open and non-pro riders contested top spots in the finals, and their share of approximately $40,000 in cash and prizes. The winner also received a perpetual trophy donated by AQHA Professional Horsemen Bill Ellis and David Connors of Colt’s Neck, New Jersey.

Riders competed in two rounds, taking different courses through the jumps: a classic hunter round first, and a second “handy” round designed to test horses’ adjustability and “handiness” through a course. Four jumps offered high-low options and riders could earn one bonus point for each high option completed correctly. The goal was to end with the highest combined score from both rounds, both judges.

AQHA Professional Horseman Linda Crothers of Mocksville, North Carolina, and Rodger Call’s Go Big Sky took the top spot in the open with 366 points, just one half point ahead of AQHA Professional Horseman Bill Ellis of Colt’s Neck, New Jersey, and John Hull’s Into The Blue. Miller Henard of Kinsport, Tennessee, and Twothousand Model Te won the non-pro with 351.5 points; with Annette Fowler of Azle, Texas, and Lets Get Started finished second.

“It was kind of a hectic morning,” Linda told the Journal. “I didn’t get the wakeup call and woke up at three minutes to 6 a.m. (AQHA Professional Horseman) Chuck Briggs did a great job getting the horses ready for me.

“I got (Go Big Sky) in the ring, and I was like, ‘Don’t chip!’ But he was a good boy; he was a good horse today.”

The competition began with a jog for soundness at 6:30 a.m., prior to the competition start at 7:30. The derby served free breakfast crepes and cupcakes in the Performance Arena concourse to exhibitors and spectators.

And then the fun began.

“The first round is more of a basic, classic hunter round,” Linda explained. “So I just tried to go in and be solid and have a nice trip, get up there. We had a lovely trip the first round, he was really good.

“And then the handy round was a little more turn-y, not a jumper round at all, but showing just how broke and consistent and versatile your hunter is in tight turns. With the trot jump, the walk-through, (it had) all kinds of options. You plan a different track for that and try to keep it neat and short and gallop-y.”

Linda thought the gallop to the first jump was the toughest part of the handy round: “It was hand-gallop from the gate to the first jump, and it was a long way down to the end of the ring. I know myself and a couple of my friends were like, ‘Please, let’s not chip the first jump,’ because when you go into that gallop, you’re committed. To me, that was the most nerve-wracking. Then I was like, ‘OK, we can do this after that.’”

The Huntfield Derby series has appeared at several AQHA shows throughout 2012. Linda won the very first one, held at the Fox Lea Farm Circuit in Venice, Florida, with Alexis Parisek’s Slow N Natural. The finals were set to be held in conjunction with the 2012 AQHA World Championship Show, after the amateur and open over fences finals classes.

“(Winning the finals at the World Show) was my goal,” Linda said, and she plans to try again next year. “It was a great class, the jumps were beautiful and the course rode great and it was a lot of fun.”

AQHA Professional Horsemen Lainie DeBoer of Saint Paul, Minnesota, and David Warner of Frankfort, Kentucky, founded the series, watched it gain momentum all year long in fan, exhibitor, owner and sponsor support. They planned the final event, including the draw party and building the jumps, getting help from a huge volunteer turn-out.

“I think it is wonderful that you all are doing this, it adds another wonderful dimension to the AQHA World Show,” AQHA First Vice President Johne Dobbs said to David and Lainie at the draw party.

“I think (an AQHA Derby series) is going to open up the hunter industry a little bit for us,” Linda told the Journal. “It’s something a little more challenging, and showcases hunters a little bit. It’s a lot of fun. We appreciate it being at the World Show, it’s a great place to do it.