Samantha Schaefer Scores Vermont Hunter Derby Victory

Samantha Schaefer guided Per Se to victory in the $5,000 NEHJA Hunter Derby. Photo by David Mullinix Photography.

East Dorset, Vermont — Samantha Schaefer of Westminster, Maryland, celebrated the Fourth of July by winning the first $5,000 NEHJA Hunter Derby of the six-week Vermont Summer Festival in East Dorset, VT.  Offering over $750,000 in prize money, the Vermont Summer Festival runs July 2 through August 11 at Harold Beebe Farm.

The first time proved to be the charm as the Vermont Summer Festival marked Schaefer’s first competition riding Per Se, owned by Iron Horse Farm of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.  In the opening week of competition at the Vermont Summer Festival, Schaefer and Per Se claimed the Pre-Green 3’3” Championship title, having won four out of five classes in the division.  Based on their success, Schaefer decided to enter Per Se in the $5,000 NEHJA Hunter Derby.  The event is a qualifier for the $15,000 NEHJA Hunter Derby Final to be held at Fieldstone Show Park in Halifax, MA, on August 22.

A total of 31 entries contested the first $5,000 NEHJA Hunter Derby of the six-week Vermont Summer Festival.  Schaefer and Per Se received the highest score from the judges in the opening round, an 85, and therefore were the last to go of the 12 competitors that qualified to return for the handy round.  A score of 84 added to her first round score gave Schaefer a two-round total of 169 for the win.

“The course was nice, I thought it flowed really well, and I liked the handy, too,” said Schaefer of the course designed by Doug Russell, which spanned two rings.  “There were definitely lots of places to be handy.  I think the derbies here are really fun, and you get a different group of horses.  They make it special.  The natural jumps are beautiful.”

Although it was only Schaefer’s first competition with Per Se, she could not have been happier with the horse’s performance.

“He was brave and jumped around like he had been jumping those jumps his whole life,” said Schaefer, handling the ride for Kate Conover who is away in Europe.  “I could ride him right up to the naturals and he made a really beautiful jump out of it.  He understands the game.  You have horses with a lot of talent, but they struggle because they don’t know how to win.  They have to want to fight for you and be on your side.  This one always wants to please you.  You really appreciate a horse with that type of character.

“He is one of the easiest horses I’ve ever had to ride,” continued Schafer.  “We don’t lunge – he is literally stall to the ring.  He really wants to be good.  He goes in a plain snaffle without a martingale, which says a lot about a horse’s character.”

In addition to her success during opening week with Per Se, Schaefer also showed Kaskade to the reserve championship title in the 3’ Pre-Green division.

A successful junior competitor, Schaefer won the WIHS in 2009 and the USET in 2011.  She currently attends Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where she is entering her junior year and rides on the NCAA team.

“I like that the NCAA program gives you the opportunity to go to school on a scholarship, and it’s neat to bring the sport to that level,” said Schaefer, 20.

When not at school, Schaefer is based at her family’s Shadow Ridge Farm in Westminster, MD, training alongside her mother, Stacey Schaefer, and her 12-year-old sister, Madeline.  They are competing during the first three weeks of the Vermont Summer Festival.

“It’s exciting to be able to show together,” said Schaefer, who is also contesting the High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper division with Sugar Ray.  “Now we shift and it’s Maddy’s turn for the weekend!  She’ll be competing in the small and medium pony hunter divisions.”

The featured event of the weekend is the $30,000 Vermont Summer Special Grand Prix held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 6.  The gates open at 8 a.m. and admission prices on Saturday are $7 for adults, $5 for children.  100% of the gate receipts benefit the Manchester area non-profit organizations Mark Skinner Library, Friends Foundation for MEMS, Community Food Cupboard, and Community Sharing Project.

The Vermont Summer Festival, celebrating its 20th anniversary in its current Manchester location, offers more than $750,000 in prize money, making it the richest sporting event based on purse in the state of Vermont.

The first five Saturdays of the Vermont Summer Festival feature a $30,000 Grand Prix.  The $50,000 Vermont Summer Celebration Grand Prix will be held during the sixth and final week on Saturday, August 10.  The weekly $10,000 Open Welcome Stake, Presented by Manchester Designer Outlets, is held each Thursday.  The hugely popular $5,000 3’3” Hunter Derby is also held each Thursday for the first five weeks, with week six featuring the $15,000 Hunter Derby.

The Vermont Summer Festival is a proud member event of the Show Jumping Hall of Fame, the Marshall & Sterling League, and the North American League (NAL).  For more information about the Vermont Summer Festival, please e-mail or visit

Contact:  Jennifer Ward
Starting Gate Communications
Cell: (613) 292-5439

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