Hunter derby action commenced on Friday, June 14, during the second week of the Lamplight Spring Spectacular Series at HITS Chicago with the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby, one of three scheduled for the weekend. Thirty-nine horse-and-rider pairs competed in the classic round, striving to impress the judges and advance to the handy round. The event concluded with Molly McAdow from Wood Dale, Illinois, securing first place on Karin Martin’s nine-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding, Pompeii, after delivering two exceptional rounds in the highly competitive class.

Emphasizing smoothness, rhythm, and the quality of the horse’s jump, course designer Chris Collman featured ten obstacles, including four high options, multiple rollbacks, and an in-and-out, in the first round. The handy round, in contrast,  was set very technically with eight obstacles to test agility and precision with tighter turns and multiple track options.

Molly McAdow stands for presentation. Photo by Alison Hartwell Photography

“Pompeii was only imported about two months ago,so he’s pretty new to hunter life,” explained McAdow, “but he jumps with excellent style and looks beautiful going around the ring. However, he still has that European jumper mentality, like, ‘Okay, I’ve landed, now what?’

“ That mentality makes the regular hunter rounds a bit tricky because he hasn’t quite figured out that we go in a straight line,” she continued. “However, the handy rounds are always super easy for him. He totally understands turning, jumping, and galloping,” McAdow elaborated. “The turns from fences one to two and then three back to four were quite tricky. They weren’t turns any of us would normally choose, but with Pompeii, I went for it knowing it was clearly what the judges wanted to see, and they rewarded us for the galloping approach to the final oxer.”

Meagan Murray-Tenuta and Dessert First. Photo by Alison Hartwell Photography

Molly McAdow and Pompeii impressed the judges with their rounds, earning a total score of 182.5 to secure the win. Meagan Murray-Tenuta finished second on Leap of Faith Sport Horses’ eight-year-old Oldenburg mare, Dessert First (Cador), with a total score of 178.75. Ryan Sassmannshausen secured third place on Alyssa Quinn’s Warmblood gelding, Signature, with a total score of 175.5.

Ryan Sassmannshausen and Signature. Photo by Alison Hartwell Photography

McAdow, a longtime exhibitor at the Lamplight Equestrian Center, is thrilled with the improvements being made to the historic venue. “I grew up in Chicago and have shown at Lamplight since I was nine years old. It’s been great to see the venue grow. Small things, like improving the parking, barns, and landscaping, make a difference when you’re spending a lot of time showing here,” she stated.

Maggie Urban and Windchill. Photo by Alison Hartwell Photography

Hunter derby excitement continued on Saturday with junior and amateur competitors aiming for top honors in the $750 Bit O’Straw 2’6” Hunter Derby and $750 Tiny Bit O’ 2’ Hunter Derby. Maggie Urban from Downers Grove, Illinois, won the $750 Bit O’Straw 2’6” Hunter Derby with a beautiful round on Old Barrington Sales’ Warmblood gelding, Windchill (Cabardino). The week’s derby events concluded with McKenzie Schultz from Hawthorn Woods, Illinois, winning the $750 Tiny Bit O’ 2’ Hunter Derby on Kim Carey’s Belgian Warmblood gelding, Rico.

Mackenzie Schultz and Rico. Photo by Alison Hartwell Photography

For a full list of results, please visit