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Inaugural Tri-Star Hunter Classic


by Allison Armstrong Rehnborg
Photos by Ryan Rehnborg

For a hunt seat rider, few things in life bring as much pleasure as a clean trip around a challenging course. On June 13-15, 2014 more than 600 entries pursued that hard-won ideal trip around the ring at Peak Equine Productions’ inaugural Tri-Star Hunter Classic, held at the Tennessee Miller Coliseum in Murfreesboro, TN. Combining a no-frills open hunter show with AQHA special event classes and high and low Huntfield Derbies, the show drew participants of all skill levels, from beginners to multiple-time AQHA World Champions.

“My vision was to be inclusive,” said Patrick Kayser, show manager and CEO of Peak Equine Productions, LLC. “By joining AQHA, Huntfield Derbies, and Middle Tennessee Hunter Jumper Association members, we hoped to bring together people with a passion to ride hunters regardless of the breed. It was fun to see the ponies, Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds, and warm bloods all competing at the same show. We had exhibitors from Virginia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Alabama, and Tennessee compete in the derbies and medal classes.”

The $1000 Huntfield Hunter Derby and $500 Huntfield Low-Hunter Derby on Saturday were premier highlights of the weekend, attracting many great riders and high-caliber horses.

For Hannah Bedwell of Ball Ground, Georgia, the $1000 Huntfield Derby was one of the main reasons she chose to attend the classic – and it proved to be her time to shine. With USEF trainer Julie Mohr of Alpharetta, Georgia by her side, Bedwell juggled multiple rides on her two, bay American Quarter Horse geldings in various classes throughout the weekend, including the “high” derby.

“I’ve ridden in a lot of derbies,” Bedwell said. “I like the derbies because you get different courses, not just the usual ones, and then in the handy round, you can use your imagination. Your imagination can take you so far into what you think you can do.”

Like many derbies, the $1000 Huntfield Derby on Saturday featured a regular hunter round and a “handy round,” where riders could put their own spin on the course.

“You make the course as handy as you think that you should by taking shorter turns and a different path,” Bedwell explained. “It’s still flowing and the judges still give you a course, but you can change it up as much as you like and do as much as you and your horse are capable of.”

In both rounds, exhibitors could choose to take “high option” fences for bonus points, and in the handy round, riders earned additional bonus points for more imaginative maneuvers, which demonstrated their horse’s versatility and overall “handiness” around a course.

“With Clay and Kim Farrell taking over the Huntfield Derby and developing the National Quarter Horse League, it was easy to jump on the hottest thing in the Quarter Horse world [with this show],” Kayser said. “The Huntfield Derby is hot. The courses are fun, challenging, and riders can raise their scores by riding the harder lines.”

Many competitors, including Bedwell, intended to raise their scores in the derby by taking some of those “harder lines,” plotting out some daring maneuvers ahead of time as they walked the course on Saturday afternoon.

“Since this is a smaller show, I’m gonna do the kinds of things in the handy round that might make people ask me, ‘Are you sure that’s going to work?’” Bedwell said with a laugh. “But I want to see what my horses are capable of. I know one of them is plenty capable, but the other one’s plenty green – so we’ll see.”

Bedwell’s horses proved they were more than capable – especially her veteran show horse, 12-year-old Quarter Horse (and two-time AQHA World Champion) Regal To A Te. With “Paddy,” Hannah secured first place in the $1000 Huntfield Derby with a score of 85 in the hunter round and an astonishing 90 points in the handy round. With her green horse, 7-year-old Do You Have The Magic? (aka “Jackson”) Hannah took third place, with scores in the low eighties.

Other attractions were the Equine Chronicle Youth Equitation Over Fences Medal Class and the NQHL Amateur Equitation Over Fences Medal Class. Both classes began with riders taking a series of fences as usual. Then the top four riders for each class were invited back for testing, which typically involved a series of maneuvers designed by the judges.

Youth rider Mandy Myers of Punta Gorda, Florida took first place in the youth medal class with her 9-year-old, gray, appendix Quarter Horse, Deep Blue Skies. Myers trains with Clay Farrell of Fox Lea Farms in Venice, Florida.
“The judges were good and the tests were good,” Myers said after her winning ride. “It went really well. I went in for my first round and I got a 76, so I was in second place. Then the top four came back for testing.”

For testing, the top four youth riders were asked to drop their stirrups, canter two fences, halt, regain their stirrups, canter a third fence, trot a fourth fence, and then return to the line-up. The absolute silence in the arena during testing only added to the tension, and since the riders had been asked to stand with their backs to the course, only the thwack of a knocked rail or the thud of a hard landing indicated to the top four how their fellow competitors were doing.

“The tests were a really big challenge,” Myers said. “When they said to drop our stirrups, my trainer went, ‘Oh, geez!’ You don’t hear that a lot. And we all had our backs to the course, so we couldn’t watch each other go. You never know who does the best!”

In the NQHL Amateur medal class, Miller Henard of Kingsport, Tennessee, took first place with a score of 79 on Twothousand Model Te, a 14-year-old, appendix-bred Quarter Horse with two AQHA World Champion titles to his name.

In the testing round, the amateurs were asked to canter three fences, halt, and then perform a sitting trot back to the line-up. “We never get tested [in the Quarter Horse shows],” Henard said. “It adds that extra competitiveness and spark to your classes, and I think everybody really enjoys it. It’s an area where you can show off your best skills. Most medal classes are like that in the USEF show circuit, and I think it’s fantastic. The judge gets to see your thinking skills and what your plan is going to be, and it really tests the rider’s capabilities.”

Henard and Twothousand Model Te also took second place in the $1000 Huntfield Derby with 72 points in the hunter round and 85.5 points in the handy round.

With the success of the first-ever Tri-Star Hunter Classic fresh in his mind, Kayser was already thinking ahead to next year’s events.

“Peak Equine Productions, LLC is dedicated to providing the horse industry events that promote the diversity of the equine athlete,” Kayser said. “I plan to have the event next year, and I’m looking to expand. I would like to have the Tri-Star Hunter Series next year by having three events, highlighted by the Tri-Star Hunter Classic with a Huntfield Derby in June and a possible Tri-Star Hunter Championship rated show in the fall of 2015.  I am very encouraged by the support of the MTHJA, AQHA and NQHL. I think we really can make this series great in Tennessee.”

The Tri-Star Hunter Classic featured courses designed by Jumps By Fuzzy. Sponsors included the Equine Performax Orthopedic Centre at the Jaeckle Centre, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Franklin Horse Supply, Missy Jo Hollingsworth, and Prairie Star Farms.

For more information on future Tri-Star Hunter Classics, check out

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