Mary Lisa Leffler and Wyatt Win $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby at Vermont Summer Festival

Mary Lisa Leffler and Wyatt. Photo: Jess Windhurst Photography

Edited Press Release

East Dorset, VT – July 28, 2022 – The second half of the Vermont Summer Series is well underway with Week IV’s $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby taking top billing Thursday morning. Starting out the day, dozens of top hunter riders navigated their mounts over a Hunt & Go style derby course. Mary Lisa Leffler piloted Wyatt to the winning honors by garnering two impressive scores of 93 and 90 after demonstrating a flowing pace and a brilliant jump over each fence.

The derby veteran duo used their experience to their advantage, having competed in several derbies earlier in the year. “I like the Hunt & Go style because you can go in there and get everything done in one trip,” noted Leffler. “We have had [Wyatt] for a few years now and he did a lot of derbies at HITS Ocala over the winter season. He did really well with those, so it was great to do him in the class up here.”

In the Hunt & Go style derby, every rider and horse combination completes their first-round classic round and immediately starts on to the handy round, which begins with cantering directly into the connected ring. This week, riders began their classic round in the Main Hunter Ring and then entered the neighboring Hunter Ring II – cantering on a bending line to their first jump of the handy round. Horse and rider combinations showed their handiness as they navigated tight turns and rollbacks. The handy course featured a trot jump, two additional high-options, and a two-stride in-and-out before finishing right in front of the exit gate.

 “He really shined in the handy round with his rollbacks,” Leffler commented on Wyatt.  “I thought those were his best today and everything else just came up for us the way we wanted it to.  I saw the course and was hoping I could do all the turns and just be smooth – it worked out and he was just amazing today!”

Leffler and the Heather Bamford entry, Wyatt, went in the first half of the original order, laying down a combined score that would not be beaten. The 15-year-old bay gelding captured the judges’ attention as soon as the duo took the track. Their classic hunter style over fences and consistent jumps over round 1 earned them a 93 – including two-high option points. They continued their impressive performance by effortlessly tackling all the inside turns, rollbacks, and a seamless trot jump in the handy round to capture another top score of 90 – which was good enough to top the class with a 183 total.  

Mary Lisa Leffler and Wyatt. Photo: Jess Windhurst Photography

Being a long-time attendee of the Vermont Summer Festival, Leffler continues to make this a stop on her summer calendar. “This show is one of our absolute favorites – we have been coming here for over 30 years. We will definitely be coming here for these classes for years to come.”

Finishing in the second spot by only half a point was Tara Valade with MTM Maybelline. Valade rode Michelle Shapiro’s 8-year-old Westphalian mare at the end of the class, which proved beneficial as the pair captured an impressive score of 93.5 in the classic round, followed by 89 in the handy round. They also took all four high options, which gave them a grand total of 182.5. The third spot went to Heather Hayes riding Romana Black. This partnership captured the highest first-round score of the class with a whopping 95, followed by 87 for a 182.