Amanda Steege and Lafitte De Muze Shine in $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at HITS-on-the-Hudson V

Saugerties, N.Y. – July 28, 2023 – It was derby weekend at HITS Saugerties as riders gathered Thursday and Friday to showcase their mounts in THE Ring at the world-class facility. Friday morning saw 16 horse and rider combinations go head-to-head for the top spot in the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby. Ultimately, it was Amanda Steege and Lafitte De Muze who put in the most impressive round of the day, garnering the winning title with a smooth and forward ride during the “Hunt and Go” style competition.

Amanda Steege and Lafitte De Muze. Photo by: ESI Photography

“[Lafitte] is one of the most intelligent horses I’ve ever worked with,” expressed Steege after her victory. “There’s something about when you look him in his eyes – he looks back at you and communicates with you in a much different way than the other horses do. He is very sensitive, and he likes you to do everything very softly and smoothly. He jumps his best when he can canter with a little pace, and usually when things are going right for us, I feel like we are so in sync that he almost reads my mind and knows where we’re going to go before I’ve even told him.”

The $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby hunt and go course featured twelve jumps with four high options, including several rollbacks, two combinations, and a few bending lines placed throughout the arena. Jumps 1-7 were what judges were looking to award first-round scores to for the classic round, while the rest of the course was scored as the handy round.

Kristen Bumpus and Diadora. Photo by: ESI Photography

After Kristen Bumpus and Diadora scored an 87 in both their classic and handy rounds, their combined score of 174 made them the class leaders. Seven rides later, Sara Taylor and Perfect Symphony were the first to come close to beating Bumpus and Diadora’s score. They put in a beautiful performance, earning a first-round score of 86.5 and a handy round score of 84 for a total combined 170.5. However, Taylor and Perfect Symphony’s score fell just shy of Bumpus and Diadora, and they eventually became the third-place recipients of the day. Following Taylor and Perfect Symphony, Steege and Lafitte De Muze were up two rides later.

Sara Taylor and Perfect Symphony. Photo by: ESI Photography

“I have not had a lot of experience doing the hunt and go course,” explained Steege. “My plan for the whole week here was to practice with Lafitte, riding forward confidently and trying to be as handy as possible in the handy portion of the class without getting carried away and losing my smoothness.”

As one of the last pairs to go, the pressure was on for Steege and Lafitte De Muze. Nevertheless, they executed a flawless round where they were awarded classic and handy round scores of 96, making their combined total 192 points. Steege and Lafitte De Muze’s flawless round earned them the winning title ahead of the 2023 USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals.

“I don’t think you can say enough good things about the footing in today’s ring,” Steege concluded. “The footing has felt nice in both the show ring and in the schooling area today. I know [HITS] has done a lot in a quick amount of time and I'm really looking forward to next year and future improvements- but I think what they’ve been able to do so far is amazing.”

Amanda Steege and Lafitte De Muze. Photo by: ESI Photography

One more week of competition remains as part of the Summer Series during the HITS-on-the-Hudson season, which runs through September at the world-class facility. Week Six is a World Champion Hunter Rider event and will feature another $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, as well as the $5,000 USHJA Hunter Team Challenge – East and the Children’s Hunter Pony Finals.