Temecula, Calif. – May 22, 2022 – Sunday morning sunshine set the scenes for derby day in the Grand Hunter Arena at the Temecula Valley National I. 23 horse-and-rider combinations took to the expertly manicured ring to try their hand at the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby, sponsored by Rusty Brown Jewelry. In traditional hunter derby format, riders navigated a first-round course of ten fences before the top 12 qualifiers were invited back to demonstrate their mounts’ handiness over the shortened track. At the close of the class, it was Shauna Pennell and Top Story who took top honors.
Richard Cram returned to the hunter ring, designing the two courses for the hunter athletes, testing their abilities to lengthen, shorten, and show off scope and style over each fence. Cram utilized every inch of the expansive arena as the handy round navigated around the four large oak trees planted down the centerline of the arena, setting a spectacular backdrop for the rounds to follow. Of the natural fences set throughout the ring, he included four high options allowing riders the opportunity to add up to four bonus points to each round.
Leading the pack after round one was Nick Haness and Tami Cabaniss’ Inkwell, a 10-year-old Warmblood gelding. The pair navigated the first round flawlessly, flowing down the lines while showcasing the horse’s scope and rhythmic cadence.
After a quick course change, the top 12 horse-and-rider combinations were invited back to show off their mount’s nimbleness and execute their differing strategies over the shortened handy track. After carefully watching the first few rounds, Emily Esau Williams and Kuala Lumpur entered the ring confidently with a plan in mind. The pair was operating on the same wavelength, topping their first-round effort with an impressive score of 90 in the handy round. Choosing to take the inside tracks, Esau Williams and Kuala Lumpur a 7-year-old KWPN gelding, wowed the judges with the young mounts’s scope and adjustability taking an early lead in the class.
Shauna Pennell and Top Story returned to the ring shortly after Esau Williams, knowing she had ground to make up in order to have a shot at the first place prize. Having ridden WJC Farms, LLC’s 10-year-old Westphalian gelding since he was just 4-years-old, Pennell took a bold approach to the handy track impressing the judges with the smoothest inside turns, efficient track, and well thought out plan suited to her talented mount. The longtime pair were rewarded for their expertly ridden round posting a high score of 91 points. Matching their first-round score of 91 points, their combined efforts propelled them to the top of the class on a total score of 182.
Not only did Pennell come out on top in the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby, she and her long-time partner Czechers, a 12-year-old Czech Warmblood gelding, secured the third place title. The pair had an impressive first round, putting in a score of 85, opting for all four high fences to secure an additional 4 points to add to their total score. With a score of 86 in the handy, Pennell and Czechers earned a total score of 175, settling them into the third place position.
Pennell and Top Story have been paired together for over six years, making their win extra special. Pennell’s bond with Top Story is one that many strive for, having had Top Story since he was just 4 years old. Although the win was just as sweet, this is Pennell’s second time taking champion in the USHJA National Hunter Derby. In 2019, Pennell took the title aboard Top Story in the Verdugo Hills August Aloha at Hansen Dam Horse Park located in Lake View Terrace, California.
Following the conclusion of professional competition, junior and amateur riders took over to try their hand at the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby track. Coming out on top was Aedan Mooney aboard Brannon Loomis Mooney’s Camelot TN with a score of 180. Earning the second place title was Ella Cate Duke aboard her own Understudy and wrapping up the top three was Ella Cate Duke and Kennedy Duke’s Galan.
Hunter competition resumes at Galway Downs Wednesday, June 1st, for Temecula Valley National II with the Green 3’3” Hunter in Hunter 1. Temecula Valley National II will also consist of the High Performance 4’ Hunter in the Grand Hunter Arena, the $15,000 USHJA International Derby, the NHS Adult 3’ Medal and the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal 3’6” wrapping up competition for the week.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Shauna Pennell – $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby winner
On her plan:
“Everything went to plan going into the ring. He was reserve champion in the High Performance 3’9” Conformation Hunter this week, so he had a really good week. He knew the ring and we’ve had this horse since he was 4 year old so he’s kind of our baby.”
On Top Story:
“He’s the type of horse that would like to come home and sit on your couch and watch tv with you.”
On future plans:
“We plan on doing the international [$15,000 USHJA International Derby] next week and try to do a few more internationals to get qualified in the derbies and then we’ll continue to do the High Performance 4’ Hunter and the High Performance 3’9” Conformation Hunter divisions.”
On Nilforushan Equisport Events:
“Oh my gosh! This is the best show ever! We love Ali [Nilforushan] and they just put on such a spectacular horse show. It’s truly great!”