SBS Farms, Inc. announced on August 9 that their legendary Hunter Derby champion and Performance Hunter, Jersey Boy, was officially retiring at the 2017 USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship on Saturday, August 19. SBS Farms owner Susan Schoellkopf and rider and trainer Jennifer Alfano made the decision to conclude 15-year-old Jersey Boy's competitive career with heavy hearts due to a recently diagnosed tendon injury.
"I'm sad, obviously," said Alfano after Saturday's retirement ceremony. "This was a great place to do this for him - it was very fitting. He has been a big part of my life for a long time. [Our career together] meant everything. He's a horse of a lifetime. He will do things that no other horse will ever do for me. Our lives will not be the same without him."
"I don't think there is ever going to be another pair like [Jennifer and Jersey Boy]," said Schoellkopf. "To me, they've really created the derbies. They were always a pair to be reckoned with no matter where they were. The harder it was, the better they were."
The once-in-a-lifetime horse for Schoellkopf and Alfano in the form of a chestnut Hanoverian gelding by White Star is fondly known around the barn as "Lewis."
Jersey Boy, who's been described as the "quintessential derby horse," and Alfano collected innumerable victories in the show ring together, the largest of those winning the $100,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship in 2012. The famous pair also claimed the reserve championship in the prestigious competition in 2009 and 2014. In addition, the hunter derby superstar still firmly stands atop the USHJA lifetime money-won leaderboard and has won the George H. Morris Perpetual Trophy four times as the highest money earner.
We bought [Jersey Boy] as a 4-year-old," said Schoellkopf. "We tried him at Saugerties for the first time, and I said to Jennifer, 'He looks like a cute horse; he'll probably make somebody a nice horse.' We had no idea that he would become the athlete he is today. Jennifer created him. We showed him in the jumpers for a while and then decided to do the hunters and the rest is history.
"He's such a powerful jumper and could do all of the turns faster and harder than anybody," continued Schoellkopf. "He's a very quirky horse, and with somebody else, he wouldn't be the horse that he is now. When he would be quirky, Jennifer would just ignore it. Not many riders would have done that. When Jennifer took chances, they would win. It didn't matter how big the course was or how hard it was. They always rose to the occasion. I don't think we will see a connection like theirs again for a long time."
Jersey Boy turned out to be the unlikely "golden boy" in the hunter arena, racking up tricolor ribbons in the Performance Hunter divisions as well as in the derbies. Bringing Alfano along for the ride of a lifetime, Jersey Boy first started his derby winning streak in 2008, where he won the International Hunter Derby at the Chagrin Valley Hunter Jumper Classic Horse Show.
The gelding has a total of 31 class wins under his belt, as well as other high honors including being named USEF High Performance Horse of the Year in 2012 and 2013 and Hunter Horse of the Year in 2012 by the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame. In addition, he was named the 2012 US Equestrian's National Horse of the Year and was selected to showcase the power and beauty of Hunters at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky with Alfano.
Jersey Boy's abundantly successful career has taken him and the SBS Farms team to numerous prestigious horse shows across the country, earning countless championships and derby victories at the Devon Horse Show, the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, the Washington International Horse Show, the National Horse Show and the Capital Challenge, to name a few. Before his injury, Jersey Boy and Alfano were qualified to compete in this year's championship for the eighth time.
Prior to Saturday's Handy round of the 2017 USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship, Jersey Boy was honored and recognized for his incredible athleticism, talent and success as one of the best International Hunter Derby horses in a special retirement ceremony held during the opening ceremonies at the Kentucky Horse Park.
Next, Jersey Boy will enjoy his well-deserved retirement at Stacy Sandbothe's farm in Prospect, Tennessee.
"Jennifer and I would like to thank Lewis for taking us on this amazing journey and for giving us both a horse of a lifetime," said Schoellkopf. "Without Jennifer, he would not have had the fantastic career he has had with so many wins that are too numerous to list. They were a team that will go down in hunter and derby history. He is a character that his caregivers will never forget! Life without Lewis will be very hard but the memories will last forever."
Special thanks to Phelps Media Group, Inc., for the press release.