USHJA Welcomes Steve Stephens as Course Designer for the 2012 Hunter Derby Finals

Presented by Dietrich Equine Insurance

August 14, 2012

Based in Palmetto, FL, Steve Stephens is making his first appearance as course designer for the USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals. Stephens has a resume that reads like a chapter from Who’s Who -a USEF R licensed hunter course designer; 4* FEI course designer; R jumper course designer and judge. Stephens has pretty much done it all, including tenure as the show jumping course designer for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Though perhaps best known for his jumper stats it was actually a pair of hunters that helped Stephens launch his illustrious career. In the late 70’s he was asked to work for the late Gene Mische, who saw something special in Stephens and wanted to provide him the opportunity to flourish. A couple of hunters, owned by Mische, aided in drawing attention to Stephens’ talent. With Stephens in the saddle Horse of the Year Touch the Sun, a champion in the Green and Regular Working Hunters amassed an unbelievable 101 consecutive victories, beating on average 50 to 60 entries in each class. Let’s Dance, another incredible ride for Stephens, won Horse of the Year titles in both the Green and Regular Working Hunters divisions in the same year, along with numerous other national awards. Despite later joining the United States Equestrian Team and enjoying a successful career as an International Grand Prix rider, Steve’s always dabbled in the Hunter world. In 2011, Stephens was awarded the USHJA World Championship Hunter Rider Course Designer Perpetual trophy by USHJA as designer of the year, making him the fourth individual to ever receive the accolade.

“I really do feel qualified to build the Derby Finals, because I did a lot of hunter riding myself. Touch of Sun probably still holds the record for most consecutive wins and he’s in the Hall of Fame. Such a great horse, he was champion with other riders after me- professional and down to even the amateur owner and junior divisions. I was honored to have the opportunity to ride such a horse.” Stephens said.

Stephens’ other passion lies in creating and building show jumps. With his artistic talents, drive and insatiable appetite for producing the unusual, it was an easy transition into course designing. He believed building his career on a solid foundation was the key to reaching his goal of becoming a World Class designer. Early in his career he studied with and assisted such renowned designers as Dr. Arno Gego and Bertalan de Nemethy at World Cup Finals and the Olympic Games. Stephens is also certified by the Aachen School of Course Design of Germany.

Regarding his debut at this year’s International Hunter Derby Finals Stephens said, “I was really honored to get the phone call from Bill to ask me would I design the Finals and to be chosen by the committee- I do appreciate it. To put it into perspective, the Hunter Derby Finals is the Hunter Olympics. At least I feel this is what it needs to be. The ultimate course-the ultimate test-the ultimate reward to the horse that wins the finals of the derby should be the best honor. Whatever combination wins it, it’s a super honor to keep that title for a year.”

Calling upon his experience as a competitor provides Steve a deep understanding and an appreciation for what both riders and horses endure on a course. Since the inception of the USHJA International Hunter Derbies, Steve has been drawn back into the Hunter world creating some of the most intriguing and visually beautiful natural courses for Derbies at venues such as Winter Equestrian Festival, Lake Placid, Traders Point Hunt Charity Horse Show and this year’s International Hunter Derby Finals.

Without giving away too much of his vision for this year’s course, Stephens did share some of the thoughts behind the layouts.

“Bobby [Murphy- course designer] has done a great job getting the program off the ground. He’s done wonderful work, he’s done a lot of theme work and I might say that mine won’t be as much a theme as what we’ve had over the past years. I’d like to go out and concentrate on getting a wonderful course and get some good high scores out of the quality of horses- let them perform and let the judges judge it. We’ve got some wonderful horses that participate in these events and some great hunter riders. I’m excited to get started and already counting the days down!” Stephens said.

USHJA is delighted and honored to have Steve Stephens as the course designer for this year’s International Hunter Derby Finals. Visit the Derby Finals page to learn more.

Photo Credit: Steve Stephens ©Flashpoint Photography
*Photo may only be used in relation to this press release

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