First Time for Everything: Samantha Schaefer and Alexa Lignelli Take First in USHJA National Hunter Derby at Kentucky Summer Classic

Lexington, Ky. – Aug. 1, 2020 – Competition at the Kentucky Summer Classic got underway Saturday morning with top sport taking place in eight arenas at the Kentucky Horse Park. Hunter horses were the focus, however, in the Stonelea ring for the USHJA National Hunter Derby, a feature event of the week for hunter competitors. With a large field of 57 horse-and-rider combinations, the judges’ cards were split in two, creating a Pro and Non-Pro section. Topping the Pro card was Samantha Schaefer and Trademark, while Alexa Lignelli and High Society rose to the top of the Non-Pro section.

Samantha Schaefer and Trademark

Mimicking a traditional hunt course, the first round track featured beautifully built natural fences. With 10 total obstacles to be met in perfect stride, four would feature a high option that would offer the opportunity to claim additional points towards their first round score. In the Pro section, Schaefer and Trademark established themselves as the first round leaders on a score of 99, while Jordan Allen and Barbizon lead the Non-Pro pack on a score of 91.

Samantha Schaefer and Trademark

The two-round format would invite back the top 12 horses from both the Pro and Non-Pro cards. In the second round, horses were encouraged to show brilliance of pace and handiness through the winding track. The panel of judges rewarded riders and their mounts for inside turns and seamless transitions over the trot fence, something a number of partnerships struggled to execute.

Alexa Lignelli and High Society

Of the frontrunners, Lignelli was the first to try out the handy course, posting an impressive score of 96 on the scoreboard to bring her overall score 185 when coupled with her first round effort of 89. With Lignelli’s score sitting atop the leaderboard in the Non-Pro section, Allen laid it all on the line upon entering the ring for her second round. Allen and the 7-year-old Warmblood gelding executed another lovely track to score a 91, however, it was not enough to reclaim their lead as they slid into second place on a total of 182.

Alexa Lignelli and High Society

Lignelli was thrilled with the result on her new partner, High Society, only having purchased the 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood this week. As one of her first classes on the gelding and her first National Derby ever, Lignelli showed much gratitude for her partner. The 13-year-old rider is excited to continue her progress with High Society, reassured by her triumphant first derby attempt.

Samantha Schaefer and Trademark

Leading the way in the Pro section by eight points, Schaefer and Trademark were the final pair to ride the handy course. Cool, calm and collected, Trademark put every last effort into the remaining fences, taking the inside turns wherever possible and finishing with a brilliant hand gallop to the final oxer. Schaefer’s expert ride was rewarded with an incredible score of 98, which was only improved when her four high option fences were factored in to give her a groundbreaking score of 102 and a total score of 201.

Schaefer has had the ride on Trademark for nearly three years. The 9-year-old Hanoverian gelding was purchased by Take 3 LLC in 2017, immediately stepping into the Baby Green Hunters under the development of Schaefer. Trademark, who is well known for his distinct markings, has only continued his success since his early days in the hunter ring, most recently winning the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby at Week One of the Traverse City Spring Horse Show. Schaefer sang the gelding’s praises, sharing how his adjustable step gives them a competitive edge in the handy courses, something she has worked hard to develop with Trademark.

Alexa Lignelli and High Society


Samantha Schaefer – USHJA National Hunter Derby, Pro Section

On Trademark:
“He is a little insecure. It’s taken us four years, but we have finally come to a common understanding of what his job is and I feel like he is really becoming, knock on wood, consistent in the ring. Obviously the quality is amazing and every time he walks in the ring, he gives you this feeling that you can pretty much do anything as long as everything comes together. I think every show we go to, he starts to feel more and more experienced and made up. It’s finally all coming together for us. ”

On plans for the future with Trademark:
“He is a first-year horse this year, I opted to keep going in the Green 3’6” this year. He has done a few derbies. I haven’t really been to any shows with the international derbies yet, he did a couple in Wellington. My goal in two weeks is the 3’6” Green Incentive. I don’t think he’s quite ready for Derby Finals yet, and I have In the Know and I just let them each do what I think they will do best. Hopefully Indoors or outdoors or whatever we want to call it this year. Then he will be a second-year horse next year and jump 3’9” and 3’9” Green. If I have anything to do with it, I will continue to ride him, but I obviously understand that we do this as a business and eventually I know I will have to watch someone else ride him. My mom and my stepdad own him, so it’s been nice. They’ve let me really see it through. They always knew he had potential to do it, we’ve just been kind of putting it all together. He’s an awesome horse to have in the barn.’”

On her plan going into the handy round:
“For the handy, he has a huge stride and luckily for me, we couldn’t know each other much better than we already do. I think he trusts me totally, so as long as he stays relaxed, he is so rangey in his scope and his stride, that he can make a lot of distances work. If it comes up a little quiet, he can make it really soft and make a beautiful jump or if I have to call on him to open up his stride, he does that really well too. I am really fortunate in that. He has such a big stride, range-wise, that I never really feel like I am in a hurry. It’s always easier to make those kinds of turns and be as efficient as you can be when you have a little extra in the tank, a little extra stride and ability. With him in particular, I just have to watch that I don’t overdo it. I just have to do what I think I can do well and let his jump and let everything else keep the look sharp. I knew what I had to do. I also felt like he is getting to the point where I have to keep pushing him and asking him for more, so I wanted to stick to the plan.”

On competing at the Kentucky Summer Classic:
“We love it here! It’s a great venue. Obviously things are a little bit different right now. I think they’re doing a great job. I think all-in-all, everyone is doing what they can to try and make this still really enjoyable, but at the same time keeping it as safe as possible during this time. It’s nice we are all outdoors and there is plenty of space to ride and to do everything with the horses. I love it here!”

Alexa Lignell – USHJA National Hunter Derby, Non-Pro Section

On High Society:
“I actually just got him this weekend and this was my first derby on him. He is amazing! He makes any distance work, which is really helpful in the ring because sometimes they just don’t come up right but he always makes it work. He is the kindest soul and I love how he has kept me safe. This was my first derby so I definitely wanted a trusty stead in the ring. I did the Large Junior Hunters this weekend with him and although I probably won’t make it to Indoors, I will do Capital Challenge on him. He will go through my family because he is so amazing.”

On her plan going into the handy round:
“We knew that the course was pretty much perfect or him. We practiced some certain turns in the schooling ring so that we could stay on pace going through the tight turns. I love starting the course with a line because it gets you forward and you know where you are during the ride. Even though he is slow, everything matches when he goes to the jumps because he has such a big stride.”

On winning:
“It means more to me to win the derby with my horse. It doesn’t matter if it is a money class or if the class has a lot of value against other competitors, it is about competing with my horse for me. It is so amazing to win my first derby, especially here, where USHJA International Derby Finals take place.”


$5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby Open Section:
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / R1 Score / R2 Score / Total Score
1. Trademark / Samantha Schaefer / Take 3 LLC / 99 / 102 / 201
2. Screenshot / Sophia Ahearn / Esperanza Imports LLC / 90 / 89 / 179
3. Spencer / Tim Maddrix / John Yozell / 82.25 / 90 / 175.25
4. As You Wish / Tim Maddrix / Larry Antonini / 86 / 87.5 / 173.5
5. Boccaccio / Savannah Sugar / Savannah Sugar / 91 / 80 / 171
6. Xzplendor / Jesse Fortier / Linda Langmeier / 79 / 90 / 169
7. Gryffindor / Samantha Schaefer / Stephanie Fabiano / 89 / 79.5 / 168.5
8. Canabis I / Larry Antonini / Larry Antonini / 82 / 86 / 168
9. Chemistry / Stefanie Portman / Amanda Boggs / 79.5 / 88 / 167.5
10. Astra Road / Michaella Gerlacher / Frances Conti / 80 / 84 / 164
11. Mahoney / Hannah Hilal / Hannah Hilal / 89.5 / 35 / 124.5
12. iCloud / Timothy Maddrix / Delaware Crossing LLC / 79 / 35 / 114

$5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby Junior/Amateur Section:
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / R1 Score / R2 Score / Total Score
1. High Society / Alexa Elle Lignelli / Alexa Elle Lignelli / 89 / 96 / 185
2. Barbizon / Jordan Allen / Jordan Allenn / 91 / 91 / 182
3. Casillas CH / Janet Hedges / Janet Hedges / 88.5 / 88 / 176.5
4. Catori / Bella Clemente / Bella Clemente / 86 / 90 / 176
5. Ucatoni / Libbie Gordon / Ashland Farms / 85 / 89 / 174
6. Perseus YC / Jordan Gibbs / Mountain King Ranch LLC / 88.75 / 82 / 170.75
7. Clever / Blythe Goguen / Belhaven Stables LLC / 86 / 81.5 / 167.5
8. Sunman / Olivia Sweetnam / Sweet Oak Farm / 82 / 85 / 167
9. MTM Magnum / Olivia Rubin / Olivia Rubin / 81 / 85 / 166
10. Decision Made / Emma Vandenhouten / Emma Vandenhouten / 78 / 87 / 165
11. Crossbow / Rylynn Conway / Redfield Farm / 89.5 / 72.5 / 162
12. Faldo II / Alexandra Pielet / Pauline Esdale / 83.5 / 78 / 161.5


Subscribe & Join

Phelps Media Group

Founded in 2002 by Olympian Mason Phelps, Jr., PMG specializes in sports branding, public relations, event coverage, media strategy, web design and social media.

All photography may only be used in conjunction with a related press release. We do not sell our email lists or share our lists with other companies or individuals.