Olivia Sweetnam and Coppertone Claim $10,000 Traverse City Hunter Derby Victory to Close Out Traverse City Tournament of Champions I.

Traverse City, Mich. – Sept. 5, 2021 – The Polk Family Hunter Ring kicked off Sunday morning with the $10,000 Traverse City Hunter Derby, wrapping up the final day of competition at Week I Traverse City Tournament of Champions. A total of 26 junior, amateur and professional athletes took center stage to showcase their skills in the decorated derby ring. Olivia Sweetnam riding Coppertone emerged victorious to take home the win, followed by Kelsey Epperson and Didgereedoo VDL earning the red ribbon. Rounding out the top three was Hillary Johnson aboard Suede.

Olivia Sweetnam and Coppertone, Photo courtesy of Andrew Ryback Photography

Tom Carlson was tasked with designing the courses for the two phases, including a classic round that served as an initial test to whittle the start list down to just 12 competitors for round two. Going into round one, Johnson had the apparent advantage with four entries to her name. Sweetnam, Tiffany Morrissey, Ilana Halpern and Noa Diener also benefited from multiple opportunities in the ring with more than one entry each, while the remaining competitors in the order relied on their single entry.

Olivia Sweetnam and Coppertone, Photo courtesy of Andrew Ryback Photography

After two impressive rounds of stiff competition, Sweetnam rode Coppertone, an 8-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Sweet Oak Farm, to a score of 87 in the first round, impressing the judges with their textbook form and fluidity they demonstrated throughout the entirety of the round. Sweetnam’s score would remain atop the leaderboard while multiple competitors took their shot at the first round. Piloting her way around the handy course with ease, Sweetnam walked out of the ring, having earned a score of 94 from the judges. The pair’s consistency paid off, combining the handy score with her first score for a total of 181. Sweetnam and Coppertone finished with the highest score to take home the victory.

Kelsey Epperson and Didgereedoo VDL, Photo courtesy of Andrew Ryback Photography

Epperson and Didgereedoo VDL, a 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Lashier Properties LLC, took home the second place ribbon at the conclusion of the $10,000 Traverse City Hunter Derby’s handy round. Although the pair started off with a firm handle on the lead, their handy round, earning them a score of 90.5, dropping them into the second place position on the podium. Epperson and Didgereedoo VDL ended the class with a total combined score of 180.5.

Hillary Johnson and Suede, Photo courtesy of Andrew Ryback Photography

Johnson and Suede, a 7-year-old Westphalian gelding owned by Copper Fox LLC, rounded out the top three with a total combined score of 177. The duo earned a base score of 88 on their first trip, keeping them in contention among other leaders. Returning for their handy round, Johnson and Suede improved upon their first effort, taking home a handy score of 89 to move up the leaderboard and settle into third place.

The inaugural Traverse City Hunter and Derby Finals are quickly approaching, taking place during Week III of the Tournament of Champions and running concurrently with the 51st Anniversary of the American Gold Cup. Unique to Traverse City Horse Shows, hunter athletes will look forward to over $275k in additional prize money during the finals. Over the course of the show series, exhibitors have had the opportunity to enroll in the incentive program and compete for add-back prize money, with 70% of the enrollment fees added to the prize money pot. Horses not enrolled in the program are still eligible to compete in the upcoming finals as long as they have competed during at least three weeks of the Traverse City Horse Shows series.

Competition will resume for week two Wednesday, September 8, featuring the Silver Oak Jumper Tournament, presented by the Davis McCullough Foundation and the USHJA Young Jumper Championships.


Olivia Sweetnam – Winner of $10,000 Traverse City Hunter Derby 

On Coppertone:
“We’ve had him for about eight months now. He’s 8 years old and his name is Coppertone and Copper in the barn. He’s perfect and we all love him so much. The first ride we ever had on him, we knew that he was the one. He’s taken me a really long way from 2’6” to now this, and I’m very proud of him.”

On plan going into her round:
“My plan was to have just a smooth and consistent round. We weren’t coming in on top, we were coming in sitting in fifth place, so we weren’t determined to win and to just have fun. We’re here to get experience and miles and to just get a nice and smooth round.”

On Traverse City Fall:
“I love it here! The weather is really nice here compared to Florida and all those hot places. The venue is great and I just really love the whole show.”

On plans for the year:
“We’re going to go to indoors and we’re just planning to have some nice, simple and fun rounds; maybe get a few ribbons along the way. I also wanted to say a quick thank you to the grooms for everything they do. I would also like to thank my trainers. They are a big factor in this and without them it wouldn’t be possible whatsoever so I am very thankful.”


Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / R1 Score / R2 Score | Total
1. Coppertone / Olivia Sweetnam / Sweet Oak Farm / 87 / 94 |181
2. Didgereedoo VDL / Kelsey Epperson / Lashier Properties LLC / 90 / 90.5 | 180.5
3. Suede / Hillary Johnson / Copper Fox LLC / 88 / 89 |177
4. Copernicus K / Tiffany Morrissey / Kathryn Withers / 83.25 / 92 |175.25
5. La Vida Loca / Brooke Kemper / Emily Cryway / 85 / 90 | 175
6. Long Game / Ilana Halpern / Peggy Towers / 86 / 88 | 174
7. On Your Mark / Tiffany Morrissey / Lisa Berger / 84 / 88 | 172
8. Prosecco / Ilana Halpern / Devin Lanzone / 88.5 / 83 | 171.5
9. E.S. Diathago 2 / Tiffany Morrissey / Doris Neyra / 83 / 85 | 168
10. Mercy Me / Riley Hogan / Donald Stewart / 91 / 50 | 141
11. Blue Monday / Hillary Johnson / Stephanie Battershall / 82 / 52 | 134