Long Valley, N.J.- Aug. 20, 2021 – It was another day of premier competition as the 2021 Monmouth at the Team hunter riders prepared for one of the event’s most-loved classes, the $5,000 Bobcat Derby, presented by The Nature Conservancy. Monmouth at the Team debuted this year at Centenary University Equestrian Center to host seven straight days of A and B-rated hunter, jumper and equitation competition. All hunter riders had center stage for before the jumpers took over for the weekend. Local favorite Eleanor Kunsman packed a one-two punch in the 3′ section aboard Premier Blend and Bettins respectively, while Kelley Norton piloted Urlala to the top spot in the combined 2′-2’6” section.
The Bobcat Derby is one of Monmouth at the Team’s most anticipated events with fun activities, free bobcat ear headbands and top VIP service offered throughout the afternoon. Held at a combined 2′-2’6” height and a 3′ height, the derby offers a total of $10,000 in prize money with $5,000 being awarded to the winner of each section.
presents the award to Eleanor Kunsman. Photo by Anne Gittins Photography
“The Bobcat Derby has grown into a ‘thing,’ really embraced and celebrated by the equestrian community,” said The Nature Conservancy’s Director of Marketing Mary Conti. “We are so pleased to help make that happen with Monmouth at the Team and to feel the energy build on the showgrounds each year. The class format including the optional bobcat quiz makes the event accessible to different level riders, and of course, the tufted ears on the helmets are the perfect touch to put the focus on fun and hopefully alleviate a little stress.”
Forty-nine horse-and-rider combinations consisting of juniors, amateurs and professionals signed up to contest the first of Skip Bailey’s tracks with the majority of pairs entered in the 3′ section. Flemington, New Jersey’s Eleanor Kunsman produced back-to-back successes to take both the first and second place title in the higher section.
“A client of mine actually just bought this horse so we have only had him in the barn for about a week,” Kunsman said of her winning mount Premier Blend, a 12-year-old Warmblood owned by Mackenzie Teasdale. “She was champion on this horse in the Pre-Children’s division this week and we decided to pick a few other select classes for him to do with me, just for fun.”
Premier Blend is no stranger to the show ring and his seasoned status played a role in their success. The pair took home the award for The Top Trip of the Day, presented by Stal de Eyckenhoeve.
“In the handy, the approach to the first three jumps was optional as long as you kept them in the correct order,” she explained. “While most did a serpentine track, I knew I had experience on my side with this horse so I took a bit of a gamble and chose to do the direct approach to the diagonal jumps and take them in a straight line. I think that really displayed his handiness and stood us out from the crowd.”
On the opposite side of the spectrum, her second-place mount, Glen Eden Farm’s Bettina, a 7-year-old KWPN mare (Entertainer x Chanel), was taking on her very first derby course.
“I have taken my time bringing this mare along because she is very special, but she has really come into her own this past summer,” Kunsman said. “We are so grateful to be back here at Monmouth at the Team because they really go above and beyond to make it a show that even people who aren’t showing want to come be a part of.”
Photo by Anne Gittins Photography
Amateur rider Kelley Norton (Framingham, Massachusetts) took the honors at the lower height with Terry Maloomian’s 20-year-old Royal Dutch Warmblood mare (Hors La Loi II x Victoria) Urlala. While the victory was Norton’s first derby win, her partner has won a slew of top hunter competitions including a $250,000 Hunter Prix at HITS Horse Show.
“Urlala has won more things than I can even list,” Norton said. “She gives me that extra boost of confidence because she is always one step ahead of me.”
Cheyenne Bianchi and J&J Imperatore, LLC’s 16-year-old Swedish warmblood mare (Diamant De Semilly x Little Queen), Daisy Chain VT took the reserve honors in the combined section.
“Tucker and Michael are very supportive of The Nature Conservancy’s mission, and they create a show environment with a lot of flexibility for creativity and fun while also helping us spread the messaging about the important habitat work we are doing for wildlife in New Jersey,” Conti said. “On the flip side, The Nature Conservancy recognizes that the show is a unique opportunity to engage with the local community, so we try to bring in as many fun enhancements as we can think of, like the spotted ear headbands, free ice cream and unusual raffle prizes.”