Despite the hot sun and then some rain and hail, 65 horses whinnied, galloped and jumped their way over a series of fences in an attempt to be the best — and the fastest — at a derby in Bozeman Saturday.

“It’s really growing,” said Allison Heidmann, show organizer for Big Sky Classic. “We’re seeing good support every year.”

Big Sky Classic held its annual Jump Into Summer horse show featuring both hunter and jumper derbies at Tri-H stables. With people from Idaho, Wyoming and Montana competing, Heidmann said interest in Montana events has grown, as most of the other shows in the area are in places like Denver and Calgary.

She said she’s seen the quality of shows get better, as those of all ages, from amateurs to professionals, have come to compete. It’s also more affordable, said Korin Ziegler, who competed in the hunter derby with her 11-year-old “diva” Hanoverian horse, Simplicity.

Ziegler has ridden horses for 22 years, just coming back to sport jumping after taking a five-year break for law school. As a county prosecutor, she said she has a stressful job and riding has helped her manage her stress. She’s also a bit of a perfectionist, and it’s satisfying getting a jump right.

“When you’re riding, it’s all you think about,” she said. “And the partnership with the horse is pretty rad.”

It’s also a fun challenge, she said. There’s a misconception that riding horses isn’t athletic and all riders do is sit in a saddle, but Ziegler said it’s a good workout that leaves her legs burning.

The hard work is worth it, though, 12-year-old rider Emme Gieck said. She’s been riding horses for eight years and has had her horse, Carrots, for nine or 10 months. Gieck came from Wyoming for Saturday’s event.

“When I ride, I feel free,” she said. “It’s an amazing sensation — the adrenaline, and it’s also happiness and knowing you have such an amazing partnership with the horse.”

Results from the Jump Into Summer event can be viewed at horseshowing.com or on Big Sky Classic’s Facebook page. The organization will also host its last derby this year at Heart K Arena in Livingston from Oct. 12 to 13.

Abby Lynes can be reached at alynes@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2651. Follow her on Twitter @Abby_Lynes.

Abby Lynes covers business and the economy for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

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