Make Your Own Hunter Derby Fences

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Hunter Derby

Jasen Shelley, a United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) hunter and jumper course designer, encourages riders at all levels to try a hunter derby, whether at a USEF-rated or local horse show.

“Course designers and judges are often looking for elements of a course that will help riders show off the best aspect of their mounts, whether that’s using a long gallop to showcase how efficiently a horse can cover ground while still meeting the fence out of stride, or utilizing a fence that is interesting [without being scary] to demonstrate how brave a horse is and how well he jumps,” says Shelley.

You can introduce your horse to jumps similar to those he might see in a derby class at home so that he won’t be startled when he comes across them in the show-ring. Shelley offers these ideas:

  • Use artificial Christmas trees or garlands under oxers or in front of verticals to simulate a natural brush jump.
  • Use seasonal items such as pumpkins and gourds as fillers to resemble the more solid, hunt-country fences your horse might encounter.
  • Place potted flowers on a raised box to look like the large flower beds your horse may be asked to jump.
  • Place multiple jumps standard-to-standard, jumping some fences from one direction and others from the opposite side. This will be similar to a derby course, where once a fence is jumped from one direction, others in the same consecutive line are jumped later from the opposite direction.
  • Paint solid boxes to look like stone walls to add depth.
  • Place hay or straw bales under fences to add dimension and height.
  • Utilize terrain changes, like banks or hills, to teach your horse to balance himself. These obstacles are sometimes seen in USEF-rated derby classes.
  • Ride into and out of the woods, if available; this forces your horse to pay attention to you as the light changes.

Back to Intro to the Hunter Derby >>


This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of Horse Illustrated. Click here to subscribe.

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