A Rising Hunter Star: Carlson Returns to Winner’s Circle in USHJA National Hunter Derby 

Emily Williams and Carlson, with Archibald Cox - Photo by Andrew Ryback Photography

Edited Press Release

Derby Sundays returned with the coveted USHJA National Hunter Derby to cap opening week of the Traverse City Spring Series, presented by Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel, with top talent showing up and out in true derby fashion. Taking the first derby win of the season was Emily Williams of Double Oak, TX, riding Carlson, owned by Archibald Cox. 

New to the hunter world but quickly becoming one to watch, Carlson returned to the winner’s circle for the second time in one week after taking champion in the 3’6” Junior Hunters with Violet Tatum in the irons on Saturday. Williams piloted Carlson to the blue after earning an 89.5 in the classic round and an unbeatable 94 in the handy, for a total of 183.5. 

“He’s a special horse in general, he’s got a great attitude,” said Williams. “He surprises me because he really has no business doing this as well as he does.” 

Carlson is new to the hunter show circuit, after starting his career as an eventer. “He comes out and does it. This is probably his third derby of his entire life.”

Emily Williams and Carlson – Photo by Andrew Ryback Photography

Following Williams on the leaderboard was Jacob Pope of Columbia, MD, and Unbelievable, owned by Forget Me Not Farm. The pair claimed the red ribbon after scoring an 86 and 92 for a total of 178. Closing out the podium with scores of 84 and 93, for a combined 177, was Nick Haness of Temecula, CA, and Baby Blue, owned by Candyce Johnson. 

Williams has been aiming for a derby win after a string of runner-up finishes lately. After coming in second in an International Derby during the winter season in California, William’s win was long awaited and well deserved. 

After a life-long friendship with Carlson’s owner, Archibald Cox, Williams was a trusted choice for the eight-year-old Hanoverian gelding’s saddle. “He trusts me a lot,” said Williams. “When we go over the plan, I tell him my thoughts and they’re usually the same as his. If there’s any discussion, we always come to what seems like the right decision.” 

Sunday’s plan between Williams and Cox was clearly the right one, as Carlson moved from the second position to first after the Handy round. 

“He moved so well through the first inside turn that I decided to go for the second inside turn as I was in the air over the next oxer,” said Williams. “I wasn’t winning coming into it so I had to put the pressure on. I was like, ‘you know I’d have nothing to lose so I’m gonna do it’ and he did it beautifully.” 

In addition to winning the derby, Carlson was also named the Platinum Performance Hunter Horse of the Week.  

Sunday’s derby action continued with the Traverse City 2’6” Hunter Derby. Also held in classic derby format, riders were tested over a classic and handy round. Taking the win with true pony power was Ella Jane Howard of Temperance, MI, and Undeniable, owned by Fox Meadow Farm. Finishing in second was Sarah Hubbard of Okemos, MI, and her own Casimar. Closing out the podium was Whitney Williams of Grand Rapids, MI, and Baltic Soleil, owned by Madeline Baer. 

For full results of the USHJA National Hunter Derby, click here.