LEXINGTON, Ky. — The U.S. Hunter Jumper Association expects its International Hunter Derby and Green Hunter Incentive programs to set participation and payout records in 2018, having paid out more than $14 million to owners across the two programs since they began.
Currently more than 250 horses have enrolled in the USHJA International Hunter Derby program, putting the program on pace to surpass its largest enrollment numbers by the end of the year, which were 267 enrolled horses in 2016.
The addition of regional championships and added fence heights for the USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Program have that program on track to surpass prior participation numbers, as well. In less than half of the year, more than 375 3'/3'3" Green Hunter horses have enrolled in the program thus far, bringing it within reach of the 2015 record participation year in which 407 horses enrolled in the program throughout the entire year. The addition of more than 150 3'6"/3'9" Green Hunters puts total participation well over anything the program expected in its first year with the additional fence heights.
"It's exciting to see how quickly these programs have grown and breathed new life into the Hunter discipline," said Ron Danta, chair of the USHJA International Hunter Derby and Incentive Task Force. "They've changed the way people buy and develop Hunters, opening up the landscape to more horses. Today, we see people buying horses specifically for the Derby and Green Incentive programs, and the shift is happening across the country. With the onset of the Green Hunter Incentive Regional Championships, we're seeing even more excitement with people eager to compete at this level in their own area."
The Derby concept has already grown from the International Hunter Derby to include the USHJA National Hunter Derby and the USHJA Pony Hunter Derby, as well as a 2'6"-2'9" Derby format at the USHJA Outreach level.
Beyond the growth of the USHJA programs, competition managers at all levels from local to premier have been inspired by these programs to innovate as they develop smaller series using the Derby or Green programs as a basis.
"It's great to see how the programs have inspired even further innovation within the sport," continued Danta. "And, the numbers show it's working."
The Platinum Performance/USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship and Platinum Performance/USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championships are set for the Bluegrass Festival Horse Show, August 14-18, in Lexington, Kentucky. Last year, between the two championships competitors earned more than $500,000 in prize money, including payouts to riders based on a Rider Ranking System aimed at encouraging riders new to the program to participate.
"The Rider Ranking System is important because it gives everyone a chance for a top ribbon and check," said Geoffrey Hesslink, who earned prize money and recognition as overall Reserve Champion and Champion as a Tier II rider at the 2017 USHJA International Hunter Derby. "It allows juniors, amateurs and young professionals to compete alongside our country's top professionals while still separating the awards to keep everyone enticed. It's so nice for everyone to have goals and something to take away from a top championship like this."
Enrollment for both the USHJA International Hunter Derby and Green Hunter Incentive increased from $550 to $750 as of June 2.
June 1 was the deadline to have earned a minimum of $500 in USHJA International Hunter Derby classes while enrolled to be eligible for the Platinum Performance/USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship.
Competitors interested in participating in the Platinum Performance/USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championships have until July 25 to participate in the minimum of two USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Stake classes and enter the Championships. USHJA will begin issuing invitations to qualified horse owners in June.
To learn more about the USHJA International Hunter Derby and Green Hunter Incentive programs, visit www.ushja.org/programs.
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