Hillary Johnson and Suede Take Top Prize in $5,000 USHJA Traverse City Derby, presented by Perfect Products, to Close Out Week I of Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors

Traverse City, Mich. – July 11, 2021 – On the final day of exciting hunter competition during Week I of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF), presented by CaptiveOne Advisors, top riders returned with their mounts to the Polk Family Hunter Ring to close out the week. The featured hunter class, the $5,000 USHJA Traverse City Derby, presented by Perfect Products, kicked off bright and early, seeing a field of 36 talented combinations tackle the derby course. At the conclusion of the class’ competitive two rounds, it was Hillary Johnson aboard Suede who rode away with the top prize.

Suede and Hillary Johnson. Photo courtesy of Andrew Ryback Photography.

The 11-obstacle first-round course designed by Tom Carlson featured a long fence jump with multiple options going both directions, making a total of four high options in the first round to give riders the opportunity to impress the panel of judges with their horses’ scope, ease of going, and adjustability around the track. Kelsey Epperson piloted Tulio, a seven-year-old Zangersheide gelding owned by LTJ & Company LLC around the course to top the first round effortlessly, taking all of the available high options and showcasing technical finesse around the ring to earn a total score of 92. 

Suede and Hillary Johnson. Photo courtesy of Andrew Ryback Photography.

Hillary Johnson and Suede, a 7-year-old Westphalian gelding owned by Copper Fox LLC, entered the ring in the latter part of the first round to also complete an impressive round that, with all high options taken, earned them a total score of 90.5 to sit in second place at the conclusion of the first round. Jef Lauwers and She’s All That, a six-year-old Westphalian mare owned by Linda Yarborough, were hot on Epperson’s and Johnson’s heels in the first round with all high options taken and a total score awarded of 90 at the end of the first round to claim the third place position. Kelly Soleau-Millar on Abel Crawford, an 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Millar Equine Sales LLC, closely followed in the fourth position with a total score of 88.5.

Tulio and Kelsey Epperson. Photo courtesy of Andrew Ryback Photography.

Returning for the handy round, Johnson was the first of 12 to tackle the eight-obstacle track and make one final impression on the judges with a different mount, Moonwalk, a 14-year-old KWPN gelding owned by Copper Fox LLC. A tight roll back, trot fence, and long bending lines invited riders to gallop forward to the fences, challenging the combinations to showcase their handiness. Tiffany Morrissey and Bon Ami, a 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding owned by AM Sporthorses South Inc., completed their handy effort with a score of 95, taking an early lead in the second phase of the class with a total score of 181.5 following their first round score of 86.5.

Bon Ami and Tiffany Morrissey. Photo courtesy of Andrew Ryback Photography.

With stiff competition still to enter the ring, Morrissey held the lead position until Johnson and Suede laid down another picture-perfect round for the handy, taking all of the available high options for a total second round score of 94.5. Combined with their first round score, the pair earned a combined score of 185 to take over the lead and clinch the top prize of the day. Epperson and Tulio’s solid handy round effort earned them a score of 92.5, giving a total combined score of 184.5 to finish just behind Johnson in second place. Morrissey and Bon Ami settled into third place and took home the yellow ribbon at the conclusion of the class. Putting the cherry on top of her win, Johnson was also thrilled that Suede was named the Platinum Performance Hunter Horse of the Week for his outstanding results throughout the opening week of GLEF.

Suede also took home Platinum Performance Hunter Horse of the Week honors. Photo courtesy of Andrew Ryback Photography.

Week II of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival will kick-off Tuesday, July 13, highlighting the equitation divisions. Hunter competition will resume Wednesday, July 14, with the start of the professional hunter divisions showcased in the Polk Family Hunter Ring.


$5,000 USHJA Traverse City Derby, presented by Perfect Products

Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / R1 Score / R2 Score | Total
1. Suede / Hillary Johnson / Copper Fox LCC / 90.5 / 94.5 | 185
2. Tulio / Kelsey Epperson / LTJ & Company LLC / 92 / 92.5 | 184.5
3. Bon Ami / Tiffany Morrissey / AM Sporthorses South Inc. / 86.5 / 95 | 181.5
4. Copernicus K / Tiffany Morrissey / Kathryn Withers / 85.5 / 94 | 179.5
5. RF Krossfire / Tiffany Morrissey / Jane Musselman / 88.75 / 90.5 | 179.25
6. She’s All That / Jef Lauwers / Linda Yarborough / 90 / 88 | 178
7. Abel Crawford / Kelly Soleau-Millar / Millar Equine Sales LLC / 88.5 / 89 | 177.5
8. Lonesome Dove / Hillary Johnson / Copper Fox LLC / 84 / 90 | 174
9. Inferno / Taylor Landstrom / Taylor Landstrom / 86 / 87 | 173
10. Moonwalk / Hillary Johnson / Copper Fox LLC / 88 / 78 | 166
11. Proud to Be VH / Michael Dennehy / Sheryl Scolnick / 88.25 / 60 / 148.25
12. Georgian Bay / Michael Dennehy / Sheryl Scolnick / 87 / 43 / 130


Hillary Johnson – $5,000 USHJA Traverse City Derby, presented by Perfect Products Winner

On her success this week:
“Our week started out great on Tuesday. It was warm and nice, and the horses schooled great. Then it was freezing and raining on Thursday and Friday, but the horse that won today [Suede] actually scratched once during the week, then he did the [USHJA Hunter 2’9’’] on Thursday with his owner. It was a good week for him to step up and do the derby, it is a little bit of prep for the [USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championships]. It’s good for him to practice with these once in a while.”

On Suede:
“He’s a little bit of a greener horse, he’s only seven years old. He’s got a really nice jump and he’s very brave. He has a beautiful way of going, so mostly right now it’s just about getting him a little more broke between the jumps. It’s nice to practice these courses with the bending lines and get him just a little bit more rideable and used to different tracks. Everything [is special about this horse]. He’s the best minded, he’s very quiet and I don’t think he’s ever lost an under saddle class. He’s a great mover, has a very nice jump and a great expression—an all around great horse and we’re very lucky to have him.”

On the handy round:
“I was very happy with him in general throughout the handy, he’s probably only done a handful of handys in his life. When he shows in the Pre-Green Hunter division, we don’t have to, so the slice to jump one I thought he was great there. He played a little bit on the landing, but for a seven-year-old you can’t blame him for that. Then I thought he stepped up great bending to the two-stride and turned really well afterwards. The trot jump was the same thing, he hasn’t had to do a lot of those so I was happy with him there. The gallop down to the last jump felt great!”

On showing at Traverse City Horse Shows:
“We live just two and a half hours south of here, so we like to spend as much of our summer here as we can. Now that the show has extended even further we are very happy. We were here in June, then back here for the month of July. We’re planning to come back in September for all three weeks [of the Traverse City Tournament of Champions].”