Edited Press Release
East Dorset, VT – July 14, 2022 – Competition at the Vermont Summer Festival resumed Thursday morning under the picturesque mountains. Over 40 combinations kicked off the day with the $5,000 Seesaw Lodge USHJA National Hunter Derby, one of several during Week II. Garnering an impressive total score of 179 across both rounds of the class under the Hunt & Go format, Vermont native Geoffery Hesslink piloted Chivalry to the winning honors. Hesslink also took home this week’s Style Award, presented by Morgan Ward and the Everleigh Collection.
While Hesslink has never competed in a class where you cross into another ring, you would never have known. “I have done a few more Hunt & Go style classes this year, so I am a bit familiar with the format now, but I have never done a derby or class like this where you have to go in and out of a ring like that,” he noted. “I was a little bit nervous about going through the opening – but I rode him through it in the morning before the class and he was great!”
In a Hunt & Go style derby, every horse and rider combination completes their first-round classic round, and immediately continues on the handy round by cantering directly into the connected Hunter Ring 2. Across the first round, riders were presented with a classic style round of jumping that included two high-option jumps and a two-stride combination. The handy included a bending line to the third high option, followed by two rollbacks and a final high-option jump. The trot fence was the last test on course and showed a great deal of handiness as riders landed off the fourth high-option and trotted straight to the final jump, before exiting at a walk.
“I was born and raised in Vermont, so it always holds a special place in my heart [here]. I grew up showing at this venue, so it is always a treat to come back and relive those memories – it’s definitely been fun so far,” expressed Hesslink. “Chivalry came to me with Lauren Little in the fall and has been nothing but amazing. He has done little derby and big derby classes – he’s just very special in these types of classes because he is super brave. It is just always exciting to do him in these types of classes – he is just a guy I can rely on and makes it fun to do stuff like this.”
Hesslink and the Little Brook LLC entry, Chivalry, were middle of the pack to take their turn around the track. The chrome chestnut gelding immediately wowed the judges, and the duo continued to captivate as they showed off their beautiful style and classic hunter jump. Their effortless classic round earned them a score of 88. Immediately following, their handiness in the handy hunter phase and well-executed trot jump was awarded with an even higher score of 91, and an overall score of 179 – setting the bar high for the second half of the competitors.
Holding the lead until Hesslink and his mount took their turn, was Jennifer Wright and Campari. Starting 10th in the original order, the pair laid down the most impressive rounds that judges had seen. With scores of 90 and 87, Wright and Campari held a solid lead and eventually finished second to Hesslink by just two points. Rounding out the top three was Morgan Ward riding Comissario, who went towards the end of the class, posting an overall score of 175.25.