Lexington, Ky. – May 19, 2023 – Clouds hovered over the StoneLea Ring during the final USHJA National Hunter Derby of the Kentucky Horse Show Spring series, wafting the crisp, spring air through the 10-jump course. Horses and riders walked intentional course familiarizations prior to the start of the prestigious hunter class, in which 20 combinations would be competing. After traveling through the thoroughly embellished jumps inspired by the Bluegrass state’s woodsy environment, followed by a second round of showing off technical skill, Tim Goguen and Calisto were named the Kentucky Horse Show Spring Classic’s national derby champion.
The course was set in the early afternoon by the Kentucky Horse Park crew and United States Equestrian Federation hunter and jumper course designer Jasen Shelley. Utilizing flowers of different color variations, natural brush, mixed textures and highly decorated islands, Shelley insisted on horse bravery to set each entry apart.
Most riders chose to come off the right lead at the far end of the arena to travel to the first oxer in order to seamlessly make the long trek to the diagonally set 10-stride (or long nine-stride) bending line. The next single fence required careful thinking, as it led to a two-stride combination. From there was the first high option, serving as the front half of the second bending line, and then another high option after a change in direction. The course finished up on a tricky oxer coming out of a corner, running parallel to the length of the ring.
According to the 2023 USHJA National Hunter Derby Specifications, there are five things judges are looking out for in the first round: “…performance, hunter pace, jumping style, quality… and movement.” Many riders faced challenges with the ‘jumping style’ piece of the puzzle, specifically when choosing the first high option; the vertical was placed on a bending line leading to a vertical shorter in height, making the task to skillfully clear the jump, without rubs or knockdowns, in preparation for the downhill track difficult.
Michaella Gerlacher and Callestino were the first to step in the ring, demonstrating powerful and confident movement through each corner. The pair left on a score of 78.00, leaving room for high hopes from next-in-line, Meagan Murray-Tenuta and Gambit. Taking both high options to earn four extra points, the two came away from the first round experience on a score of 83.00.
Not long after his daughter, Blythe Goguen’s brilliant 81.00 point scoring round, T. Goguen took over the leaderboard with an 85.00. Had Ana Lisa Carr and MTM Bazinga taken both high options, they could have taken over Goguen’s leading spot after earning an 84.00. However, he was able to hold this position for a handful of trips before junior riders Elise Stephens and Noah Nelson were scored marginally better than Goguen. Not wanting to stay off the first-round podium, he slid back into first on his second mount, Calisto, being the only horse and rider combination to break the 90s.
The top twelve scoring athletes were brought back to the StoneLea ring for the handy round, appearing in the order of lowest scoring to highest. A new course was demonstrated, testing riders’ abilities to cover minimal ground and instill a quicker pace. With many opportunities to ride in between jumps and two high options, B. Goguen made a comeback with Common Sense, finishing their derby efforts and setting the lead on a total of 166.00 points.
As the order eased its way into the combinations with the highest first-round scores, the results became more and more shaken up. Nelson, who was in fourth place, moved up to third, while Taylor Horace and Royal Crown, who were in fifth place, moved up to first.
After Elise Stephens and Cholita made use of all of the inside tracks, maintained pace and perfectly executed the trot jump, they took over top spot on the leaderboard with just T. Goguen left to ride. Cholita, a ten-year-old Hanoverian mare owned by Rendezvous Farm of Whitefish, Wis., has been partnered with Stephens in the Large Junior Hunter 16-17 division the past year, most recently earning many top ribbons at the 2023 Winter Equestrian Festival.
Despite some minor faults in the second round leading to a score of 85.50, T. Goguen and Calisto were able to maintain brilliance throughout the course, along with their lead. The Selle Français bay gelding, born in 2012, is owned by Rushing Dreams Farm, LLC and was brought along in the Green Hunters by renowned hunter rider, Greg Crolick. Goguen began working with Calisto in January of this year, making this their first derby effort and subsequent win together.
Hunter competition at the Kentucky Horse Shows Spring Classic concludes on Sunday, May 21 with the announcement of the Grand Hunter Champions in the junior, children’s and adult divisions. The Grand Amateur/Owner Hunter Championship will be covered and streamed live tomorrow, May 20.