Nick Haness, Shauna Pennell and Jaime Krupnick Shine in USHJA National Hunter Derby Sections at Desert Circuit VII

Nick Haness and C’est Moi rode to the victory in the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby Section A at the Desert International Horse Park.

By Sydney Lowe

THERMAL, Calif. – March 12, 2021 – The Desert International Horse Park continued with Derby Day showing off the lush landscape and new jumps in the main hunter ring as it hosted the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby, sponsored by Pyranha. A large number of participants allowed the derby to be split into two sections plus a junior/amateur section to accommodate the entries. Approximately fifty horse and rider combinations had their time to shine with Nick Haness and Shauna Pennell rising to the occasion to take the top honors.

Haness, of Hunterbrook Farms in Temecula, CA, had multiple rides in the derby, including some catch rides, which helped to land him the top three placings in section A of the derby. C’est Moi, owned by Breanne Karanikolas, earned the highest scores in the class with a first round score of 89.5 and added the highest handy round score of 90, totaling 179.5 for the win. Haness first rode the 2011 Oldenberg gelding for trainer Sean Leckie on Tuesday in the 3’6” Greens, then the group decided to enter him in the derby with great results. 

“Yesterday was Sean’s [Leckie] birthday so [the win] is a great birthday gift and a “congrats on the new baby” gift!” laughed Haness. Leckie and his wife, Sophie, just had a baby last month. 

Nick Haness and Epic Sporthorses’ Astronaut Z finished in second place in section A.

Haness placed second on Epic Sporthorses’s Astronaut Z, owned by Jennifer Berman and collected third place with Loco Lex, owned by Hollis Winkler. Both horses are trained by Crystal Theisen.

“Astronaut Z is a really young horse, only six years old, and I’m very thrilled about how well he came back with the atmosphere and the weather and the wind, and he’s never done a handy in his life before that I’m aware of and he came right to the party and jumped some really good jumps and couldn’t be happier with the outcome today,” said Haness.

Nick Haness and Loco Lex rounded out the top three placings of the USHJA National Hunter Derby.

With so many rides in the derby, Haness enjoys laying down a really good handy round and tries to “go big or go home” with each ride in the ring.

“For the most part I always feel that the handy is the time to really be handy and be brilliant and live up to my name, Handy Haness. I always try my best to give a good handy round and sometimes it works and we prevail as the winner and sometimes it goes to crumbles and we’re at the bottom but you’ve got to take the risk and give it all you’ve got!”

Haness is considering his options for the $100,000 West Coast Hunter Spectacular during Week VIII of the Desert Circuit. Riders are restricted to a limited number of horses they can ride so Haness will determine which horses have the best shot for the World Championship Hunter Rider Week (WCHR).

Peter Lombardo and Camelia took home fourth place with their consistent rounds in section A of the USHJA National Hunter Derby.

Taking the fourth place spot was Peter Lombardo and Camelia, owned by Paige Clark. Lombardo, of Frontier Farm in Moorpark, CA, scored an 84.5 and an 85, showing the consistency of his mount. The horse shows in the 3’3” Green Hunters and at seven-years-old, got a later start because she had a foal. Lombardo is in no hurry to push the horse but has enjoyed giving the horse great experiences. He sometimes takes her in a low jumper class just for a change of scenery.

“I think she enjoys the derby better than regular divisions,” said Lombardo. “There’s more to look at and she’s really easy going. She’s not spooky but she pays attention. I think she will move up to the 3’6” Greens and maybe the conformation. Her owner rides her in the 2’6” divisions now and her goal is to do the Amateur Adults.”

Lombardo is staying for Week VIII to participate in the WCHR week and plans to add another derby to Camelia’s resume.


Shauna Pennell and Saturday Night took the top prize in the $5,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby Section B.

In section B, Shauna Pennell scored an 85 and a handy round score of 87.25 to take the lead in the victory gallop with Saturday Night, owned by Beverly Engelberg. Pennell of Moorpark, CA, has worked with the horse for several years. The owner, Engelberg, rides the horse at home and jumps around 2’3” courses while Pennell takes the horse to the shows and outperforms the rest of the field like it did today for the win. Pennell shows the horse in the 3’3” Green Hunters.

“He can go and take care of his nice amateur lady and he can turn around and do what he did today which is amazing,” said team member Wendy Carter. “Shauna [Pinnell] can be under pressure but she is cool as a cucumber every time she walks in the ring.”

Karli Postel and Winsome rode to the second place finish  with a total score of 172.25 after laying down an 89 in the first round nudging out Olivia Brown and Inkwell, who claimed the third place prize with a score of 171.5.


Jaime Krupnick and Conux rocked the handy round landing them a score of 88.

Amateur rider Jaime Krupnick and Conux beat out the field of thirty horse and rider combinations in the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby Junior/Amateur section sponsored by Stal Hendrix, to take home the top prize.

The pair has been together for about four years, starting out first in the equitation ring and last year moved into the 3’6”Amateur Owner Hunters. Krupnick’s goal is to enter more derbies and work up to an International Derby.

Krupnick rides with trainer Archie Cox and meets up with him at the horse shows while keeping her horse closer to home. She spends a lot of time in her small ring at home working on flat work. Krupnik hasn’t shown since last November and in fact, this was the first day of her first horse show back. Krupnick said she was getting used to the big ring, since her ring at home is very small. She made a conscious effort to to keep pace in the turns in the handy round since the lines rode forward. She outdid herself in the handy, scoring an 88 and by adding it to her 86.5 in the first round, she was the clear winner with a total score of 174.5

Jaime Krupnick and Conux won the Junior/Amateur section of the USHJA National Hunter Derby.

Krupnik plans to show next week for the WCHR week and will of course, enter the derby again,

How Sweet It Is and Sierra Geisler landed the second place spot with a final score of 156. Carmen Gonzalez and Beforeanythingelse followed for third place with a score of 155.5.

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