Category Archives: Pony

Sophie Gochman Leads Victory Gallop in Pony Medal at U.S. Pony Finals

Sophie Gochman.

Lexington, KY – August 9, 2015 – Beginning early Sunday morning, 174 young riders and their ponies took their turns around the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park Friday, with each hoping to claim the coveted honor of Marshall & Sterling/USEF Pony Medal Champion by day’s end. Ultimately, it was Sophie Gochman aboard Rico Suave who outshone the rest to take the top prize following two seamless over fences trips and a stand-out performance in the additional flat testing.

“I’m so excited. I came in here thinking that it would be great if I was in the top 10 because last year I was in the top 25. My goal was to just be top 10, but I never expected to win. I’m so excited, I’m so pumped,” Gochman said. “My heart was in my stomach. I was shaking. Just making the top 10, I achieved my goal.”

After the first phase course, 25 riders and their mounts returned to the limelight for one more trip around the natural track. Having whittled down the field to the top contenders, it was only fitting that the equitation course increased in both options and difficulty level. After starting with a diagonal four-stride line, the riders were already faced with an inside or outside fence option at the third effort, which then affected the long approach to the ivy-covered oxer headed towards the gate. A left-hand rollback gave way to another sharp turn in the opposite direction to a two-stride oxer-to-vertical combination, followed by a turn option to the subsequent vertical. The final fence once again presented riders with a jump option. Gochman opted for all of the reasonable inside tracks, undoubtedly showing off her equitation ability and the pony’s handiness.

“The courses were challenging, especially the long four-stride line and several of the rollbacks. The second course had a lot of rollbacks, and you had to be very careful to land on the correct lead or to get the change quickly. Luckily, Rico is very good at getting his lead changes, which made it a bit easier,” Gochman stated.

The 12-year-old from New York City may have believed the course to have its fair share of challenges, but she hid it well, conquering the tough track and consistently impressing judges Frank Madden and Ken Smith.

“What we found out in the second round is that the cream just wasn’t rising to the top, but Sophie was solid all day,” Madden commented. “When we flatted the top five, they were all within two-and-a-half points of each other, so that had a lot to do with the outcome. Sophie was leading headed into the test and stayed on top.”

“She had two of the most consistent rounds of the day, and she was quite good on the flat, so all of that combined put her at the top for us,” echoed Smith.

The young Gochman was quick to note that it was a team effort that contributed to her win, sharing thank yous by the handful just outside the ring, still dressed in the traditional champion garb with a blue sash hanging off her shoulder.

“I really, really want to thank Amanda [Derbyshire], Scott [Stewart], and Ken [Berkley] for training me, my parents for supporting me with my riding, Gustavo, Rico’s groom, and Dr. Betsee Parker. Although she doesn’t own Rico, but she has given me lots of great rides,” Gochman graciously expressed. “And of course, Rico. I gave him a kiss and made sure that he got a candy.”

Gochman had a repertoire of ponies to choose from but felt that Rico Suave, ‘Rico’ for short, was her best bet at a top placing in the Medal class. Owned by Ponies & Palms Show Stables out of Boca Raton, Florida, the small pony had been one of the 12-year-old’s trusty mounts for two years, and on Sunday, it looked like her choice paid off.

“Rico is so comfortable and brave, even when the jumps are a bit spooky. He has a good stride and a nice lead change, so I think that he was the best-qualified pony of ours. Thinking about all the challenging things in the equitation, he was the best at all of them,” Gochman said. “Plus, he is just so cute.”

Another vital member of Gochman’s support team, trainer Scott Stewart, was right by her side throughout both rounds of competition and the flatwork test, offering useful help to keep the young talent riding her best.

“In round two, it seemed that she was a little more relaxed and was able to have fun since she was so excited about making it to the top 25. I had to tell her to be calm because she was almost a little bit too excited,” Stewart laughed. “She has a naturally nice position and is always working on something. It’s exciting to watch her grow as a rider. She rides a lot and tries to get better. It was great for the week to end this way.”

Gochman plans to revel in her win a bit longer, but soon the young talent will turn her eyes to the next competition on the horizon. She hopes to qualify for the pony classes at the Washington International Horse Show during the Indoor season and eventually move on to the open equitation classes when she “gets a bit bigger.” With many more junior years ahead of her, Gochman is certainly one to keep on the radar.

Boasting another strong performance, Natalie Jayne of Elgin, Illinois earned the title of reserve champion. Third place went to Grace Debney of Hamden, Massachusetts, followed by Ellia Giuliani of Middleburg, Virginia in the fourth spot. Jenna Drago of Aurora, Ohio and Jennifer Staniloff of Setauket, New York rounded out the final two top six spots.

The USEF Pony Finals fun came to an end on Sunday, but competition will continue this week at the Kentucky Horse Park with the Bluegrass Festival Horse Show beginning on Tuesday, August 11.

To learn more about the USEF Pony Finals, please visit www.ponyfinals.org, and to find out more about all of the Kentucky Summer Horse Shows, go to www.kentuckyhorseshows.com.

Rebecca Walton for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International

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Gochman Claims Gold Medal in M&S/US Pony Medal Finals to Complete 2015 US Pony Finals

Sophie Gochman (Shawn McMillen Photography)

Lexington, Ky. – A week of competition at the 2015 US Pony Finals came to a close Sunday with the most coveted award of the championship. The Marshall & Sterling/US Pony Medal Finals took place in the Alltech Arena with 165 riders vying for top honors in front of judges Frank Madden and Ken Smith. After an especially beautiful first round, Sophie Gochman earned the Marshall & Sterling/US Pony Medal Finals Championship title.

In round one the riders were tested over a demanding course designed by Marc Donovan and Bobby Murphy. Twenty-five riders were called back for round two over a more difficult track to test their equitation skills. After round two, five riders, two from the Small section and three from the Medium section, returned to the ring to be tested on the flat. Gochman, Grace Debney, Jenna Drago, Ellia Giuliani, and Natalie Jayne entered the Alltech Arena to determine the top placings of the Marshall & Sterling/US Pony Medal Finals. In the test, riders were first asked to show walk, posting trot, sitting trot, and canter before reversing direction.

Twelve-year-old Gochman (New York, N.Y.) displayed her proficient equitation to be named the winner and receive the Gold medal in the 2015 Marshall & Sterling/US Pony Medal Finals.

“I’m so excited,” said Gochman. “I came in here thinking it would be great if I was in the Top 10, because last year I was in the Top 25. So my goal this year was to be in the Top 10. I never expected to win and I did. I’m so pumped!”

Gochman noted that the courses were well-designed and brought out the best in her riding.

“I thought that they were challenging, especially the long four and several of the rollbacks. The second course had a lot of rollbacks, so we had to be very careful landing leads and getting lead changes. I found that a bit challenging.”

Eleven-year-old Jayne (Elgin, Ill.) received the Silver medal. The Bronze medal went to 11-year-old Debney (Hampden, Ma.). Thirteen-year-old Giuliani (Middleburg, Va.), the oldest rider in the final field of five, earned fourth place, while 12-year-old Janna Drago (Aurora, Ohio) came in fifth.

The following riders rounded out the top 10 placings:
Sixth – Jennifer Staniloff
Seventh – Augusta Iwasaki
Eighth – Courtney Morton
Ninth – Vanessa Mazzoli
10th – Madeline Flocks

On-demand video highlights, as well as competition recaps, are available at www.usefnetwork.com.

For results and more, visit www.usefconnect.com..

Find out more information about the US Pony Finals.

By Eileen Schnettler

McDougald Earns 2015 Individual Championship at US National Pony Jumper Championships

Stephanie Don, Elizabeth McDougald, and Sarah Davis (l to r) (Shawn McMillen Photography)

Lexington, Ky. – The 2015 US National Pony Jumper Championship, held as part of the US Pony Finals, came to an exciting conclusion on Saturday night with Individual titles up for grabs. Fifteen competitors came back to jump a fourth round over Marc Donovan’s challenging course, with combinations producing their best performances of the week.

Stephanie Don and Elizabeth McDougald entered the Alltech Arena on Saturday tied with zero faults coming forward into the final phase of competition. They both finished with four faults, resulting in a jump-off. McDougald (Lawton, Okla.) of Zone 7/8, riding her own 10-year-old Pony of the Americas gelding, Knock My Sox Off, produced a beautiful clear round in 49.627 seconds, making easy work of the track. The effort earned her the Gold medal as Don finished the jump-off with four faults.

“That was amazing. I was not expecting to go in there and do that well. It made my day,” 18-year-old McDougald said. “This is my third year (at the US Pony Finals) and this is my best result. It’s always been on him, and we’ve never done that well, so it’s amazing.”

Don (San Marino, Calif.) of Zone 9/10, riding Avery Kim’s German Riding Pony gelding, Joel, completed the jump-off with one rail down in 41.267 seconds, putting her in the Silver medal position.

A jump-off for Bronze saw four competitors come back who ended the third round on an overall total of four faults.

The second rider in the jump-off, Sarah Davis (Union, Ky.) of Zone 5, and her own National Treasure, a Welsh Pony Cross mare, was the only pair to finish with zero faults and posted the fastest time of 41.827 seconds to clinch the Individual Bronze medal.

The evening concluded with Charles Smith (Mount Pleasant, S.C.) of Zone 4 being awarded the US Pony Jumper Style Award as the competitor that the judges believed to display the best jumping style of riding throughout the week.

Earlier in the day, Catherine Wilson (Hampton, N.J.) of Zone 2, riding Ponies Unlimited, LLC’s EZ to Spot, a 14-year-old Pony of the Americas gelding, came out on top in the farewell competition.

The US Pony Finals will conclude Sunday with the Marshall & Sterling/US Pony Medal Finals on Sunday at 7:00 a.m. ET in Alltech Arena. The USEF Network will live stream the coveted championship, courtesy of the USHJA Foundation.

For live scoring, results, schedule, and competitor and hospitality information, go to www.usefconnect.com.

To learn more about the 2014 US Pony Finals, visit www.ponyfinals.org.

By Eileen Schnettler

Bit of Laughter Named Grand Champion at 2015 US Hunter Pony Championship

Augusta Iwasaki and Bit of Laughter (Shawn McMillen Photography)

Woodlands Stevie Ray Collects Medium Regular Hunter Pony Champion Honors

Lexington, Ky. – The US Hunter Pony Championships presented by Sallee Horse Vans came to a close on Saturday at the Kentucky Horse Park. Medium Regular Hunter Ponies went to task in the Walnut Arena in their Over Fences phase to determine the 2015 Champion. Alexa Aureliano and Woodlands Stevie Ray emerged victorious on Saturday afternoon, but it was Thursday’s champion, Bit of Laughter, that proved unbeatable as he was named the 2015 Grand Champion Hunter Pony.

National titles are determined in the hunter championship following three phases of competition, with Model and Under Saddle phases each counting towards 25% of the overall score, and the remaining 50% being determined by the Over Fences phase.

Augusta Iwasaki (Calabasas, Calif.) and Chris Iwasaki, Elizabeth Reilly, and her own Bit of Laughter, earned an impressive score of 1033.29 to win the Small Regular Hunter Pony Championship on Thursday. As the highest scoring Regular Hunter pony, she and the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding claimed the Grand Champion Hunter Pony title. This marked Iwasaki’s second Grand Champion title after winning Grand Champion Green Hunter Pony honors with Kingston on Saturday.

Taylor St. Jacques (Glen Allen, Va.) and Glynhafan Red Kestral, Peacock Ridge LLC’s 10-year-old Half Welsh gelding, received a score of the 1025.39 to claim top honors in the Large Regular Hunter Pony Championship, thus earning them the Reserve Grand Champion Hunter Pony title.

Medium Regular Hunter Pony Championship

Aureliano (Old Brookville, N.Y.) and Hannah Bernstein’s Woodlands Stevie Ray scored the National title with an overall score of 1000.34. After earning 238.32 in the Model phase and 255.78 in the Under Saddle phase, she and the 11-year-old Welsh Pony Cross gelding climbed from 10th place to the top of the leaderboard with a score of 253.12 in the Over Fences phase.

Alexa Aureliano and Woodlands Stevie Ray (Shawn McMillen Photography)
Alexa Aureliano and Woodlands Stevie Ray (Shawn McMillen Photography)

“It feels amazing,” Aureliano said of winning the Championship, her first title in the four years she has been attending the US Pony Finals. After fine tuning their partnership through the summer, the pair peaked at the right time. Commenting on today’s course, Aureliano explained that “it was really, really fun. It’s really nice and smooth; it’s just right out of stride.”

The Reserve Champion title went to Devin Seek (Ocala, Fla.) and Heaven’s Sake with an overall score of 992.07. She and Bibby Hill’s 12-year-old Warmblood gelding received scores of 252.48 and 253.19 in the Model and Under Saddle phases, respectively. The pair’s Over Fences phase garnered a score of 243.20 on Saturday.

Mia Wayne (Clarkston, Mich.) and her own Oliver Twist finished third in the Medium Regular Hunter Pony Championship with an overall score of 987.95. On Friday, she and the eight-year-old German Riding Pony gelding scored 241.89 in the Model phase and 235.54 in the Under Saddle phase. The pair climbed an impressive 50 places on the strength of their Over Fences performance, which scored 255.26 and earned them first place in the phase. The pair also claimed the Champion Owner/Rider title for the division.

The Best Turned Out Pony in the Medium Regular section was Vermont Ruby Fox, ridden by Jenna Drago. The Best Presented Model Pony was awarded to Woodlands Love Story, ridden by Brittany Bardwell.

The US Pony Finals will conclude Sunday with the Marshall & Sterling/US Pony Medal Finals on Sunday at 7:00 a.m. ET in Alltech Arena. The USEF Network will live stream the coveted championship, courtesy of the USHJA Foundation.

For live scoring, results, schedule, and competitor and hospitality information, go to www.usefconnect.com.

To learn more about the 2014 US Pony Finals, visit www.ponyfinals.org.

CORRECTION: Augusta Iwasaki and Kingston had an overall score of 1046.80 in Friday’s Large Green Hunter Pony Championship. Iwasaki and Small Suggestion had an overall score of 1017.79 in the Medium Green Hunter Pony Championship.

By Kathleen Landwehr

Zone 4 Is Golden in 2015 US National Pony Jumper Team Championship

Team Gold medalists from Zone 4 (Shawn McMillen Photography)

Lexington, Ky. – The Team Championship of the US National Pony Jumper Championships took place Friday evening in the Alltech Arena as teams competed in the two-round Nations Cup format. Following the first round, the top teams came back to jump the same Marc Donovan-designed course in round two, with a total of 31 combinations jumping for individual classification. Zone 4 won the Team Championship for fifth time since the championship became part of the US Pony Finals in 2001. The team, comprised of Charles Smith and Venice, Chloe Farnham and Cookies & Cream, Hallie Rush and Sky Miles, and Anna Reising and Blue Me Away, finished with a total of 20 faults to claim the Team Gold medal.

The first round for Zone 4 began with Smith (Mount Pleasant, S.C.) and Wendy Arndt’s seven-year-old Welsh Pony Cross mare having an eight-fault round with rails at 8B and nine, followed by an unfortunate elimination for Farnham (Atlanta, Ga.) and Wendy Ritter Peralta’s 13-year-old Paint mare. Rush (Eads, Tenn.) and her own 16-year-old Connemara mare laid down the team’s first clear round. Reising (Fort Mill, S.C.) and Carolina Country Acres 11-year-old Welsh/Warmblood Cross gelding tallied 12 faults, totaling 20 faults for the team’s first round.

The team came back strong in round two, starting off with Smith and Venice have a clear round. Farnham and Cookies & Cream came back from their first round to have a masterful clear. Rush and Sky Miles knocked a rail at six for four faults, followed by Reising and Blue Me Away finishing with a fault-free round. Zone 4 jumped to the top of the leaderboard by adding nothing to their round one score to earn the Gold medal.

“What a big opportunity to do this and have an awesome team to go through this with, and it’s just really amazing,” Rush said.

Reising added, “It’s a team thing so it’s even harder because all four of us have to put in the ride instead of just one, so that makes it a lot more special.”

The team had high praise for the Zone 4 Chef d’Equipe Katie Maxwell, who provided them with guidance and encouragement throughout the week. She returned the praise, saying, “Every single one of them participated equally to this championship and I watch them grow as riders from each round. It was just phenomenal to watch them learn, explore the process, and achieve what they did.”

A jump-off was required to determine the Silver medal with both the Zone 9/10 and Zone 2 teams finishing on 28 faults. Zone 2’s Claire Zone and Proven Theory went first, having an unlucky rail at fence five, while Stephanie Don and Joel from the Zone 9/10 jumped clear to clinch the Team Silver medal for teammates Kayla Long and Khall Me Luna and Rachel Long and Payette. The Bronze medal went to the Zone 2 team consisting of Melinda Hartman and Happy Feet, Jones and Proven Theory, Cameron Tague and My Sundae Best, and Catherine Wilson and Ez to Spot.

Only two combinations, Don and Joel from the Zone 9/10 and Elizabeth McDougald and Knock My Sox Off from Zone 7/8, were double-clear in the Team Championship and they go forward to Saturday’s Individual Final tied for the top spot with zero faults.

Competition continues tomorrow with the Individual Final at 6:30 p.m. ET. The USEF Network will live stream the Individual Final, courtesy of the USHJA Foundation.

For live scoring, results, schedule, and competitor and hospitality information, go to www.usefconnect.com.

To learn more about the 2014 US Pony Finals, visit www.ponyfinals.org.

By Kathleen Landwehr

Kingston and Truly Yours Awarded Overall Grand and Reserve Green Hunter Pony Titles

Emma Kurtz and Truly Yours (Shawn McMillen Photography)

Lexington, Ky. – Another day of competition at the US Hunter Pony Championship presented by Sallee Horse Vans saw two more championship titles decided on Friday. Emma Kurtz and Truly Yours collected Medium Green Hunter Pony honors, while Augusta Iwasaki and Kingston were named the Large Green Hunter Pony Champions. Both championship divisions completed the Over Fences phase on Friday, earning the final 50% for their overall score, after receiving 25% from both the Model and Under Saddle phases on Thursday. Following the completion of the Green Pony divisions, Kingston was named Overall Green Hunter Pony Grand Champion, while Truly Yours was the Reserve Grand Champion.

Medium Green Hunter Pony Championship

Kurtz (Hudson, Ohio) and Truly Yours, an eight-year-old Welsh Pony mare owned by Dr. Betsee Parker, were in third place heading into the final phase after earning 249.20 in the Model phase and 253.20 in the Under Saddle phase. A strong performance in the Over Fences phase gave the pair a score of 263.00 to finish the phase in first place and propelled them to the Medium Green Hunter Pony Champion title with an overall score of 1028.40.

“It was a nice course because it was set in-stride,” Kurtz, a US Pony Finals veteran, said of the Over Fences course. “She peeked down a little bit at the one jump, but the rest was perfect. She was so brave.”

Dr. Parker was extremely complimentary of Kurtz. “It’s a pleasure to support youth like Emma,” she said. “Emma tries so hard; she rides all the time. She rides many horses and is a very serious student.”

Augusta Iwasaki (Calabasas, Calif.) rode Small Suggestion to Reserve Champion honors with an overall score of 1046.80. She and the seven-year-old gelding of unknown breeding owned by Iwasaki and Elizabeth Reilly scored 247.27, 248.52, and 261.00 in the Model, Under Saddle, and Over Fences phases, respectively, to come in second in the championship division. The pair also added the Champion Owner/Rider title to their accolades.

The third-place ribbon in the Medium Green Hunter Pony Championship went to Samantha Palermo (Merritt Island, Fla.) and Vienna. She and her own eight-year-Welsh Pony mare received 236.60 in the Model phase, 260.46 in the Under Saddle phase, and 258.50 in the Over Fences phase for a final total of 1014.06.

The Best Turned Out Pony in the Medium Green section was Serafina’s Millenium, ridden by Hana Bieling. The Best Presented Model Pony was awarded to Two for the Bunny, ridden by Alexis Bauman.

Large Green Hunter Pony Championship

Iwasaki rode Ava Peck’s Kingston to top honors in the Large Green Hunter Pony Championship, finishing on a score of 992.77. She and the 12-year-old German Riding Pony gelding garnered scores of 251.65 in the Model phase and 261.67 in the Under Saddle phase on Thursday. The pair sealed the deal Friday evening by earning 266.74 in the Over Fences phase, winning the title by an impressive margin of over 34 points. To top off their performance, Kingston was also named Overall Green Hunter Pony Grand Champion.

“I’m very excited and very lucky to get to ride him,” Iwasaki said. “He is always very sweet; he’s just perfect always; he never takes a foot out of line.”

Ellia Giuliani (Middleburg, Va.) and Brighton Decidedly received the Reserve Champion Large Green Hunter Pony title with a score of 1012.45. She and Kelly Tellier’s seven-year-old Welsh/Thoroughbred gelding had scores of 237.30, 250.03, and 262.56 in the Model, Under Saddle, and Over Fences phases, respectively.

Emma Seving (Newtown Square, Pa.) and her own Captivating came in third in the Large Green Hunter Pony Championship with an overall score of 998.96. Seving and the seven-year-old Welsh Pony Cross gelding scored 248.70, 250.00, and 250.13 in the Model, Under Saddle, and Over Fences phases, respectively. The pair also claimed the Champion Owner/Rider title for the division.

The Best Turned Out Pony in the Large Green section was O’Henry, ridden by Darian Topolski. The Best Presented Model Pony was awarded to Miss Penny Lane, ridden by Sydney Flashman.

Vanessa Mazzoli and Find the Love (Shawn McMillen Photography)
Vanessa Mazzoli and Find the Love (Shawn McMillen Photography)

Medium Regular Hunter Pony Championship

After two phases of competition, Vanessa Mazzoli and Find the Love have taken the lead in the Medium Regular Hunter Pony Championship. Mazzoli (Rockford, Mich.) and her own 11-year-old German Riding Pony gelding captured first place with a score of 257.88 in the Model phase and 254.91 in the Under Saddle Phase for a total of 512.79. Claire Campbell (Cochranville, Pa.) and Madeline Schaefer’s Leon, a nine-year-old Welsh Pony gelding, sit in second with a total of 505.91, while Devin Seek (Ocala, Fla.) and Heaven’s Sake, a 12-year-old Warmblood gelding owned by Bibby Hill, are in third with 505.67.

The US Hunter Pony Championships presented by Sallee Horse Vans continue Saturday with ponies in the Medium Regular Hunter Pony Championship completing their Over Fences phase to determine who will receive the National title.

The USEF Network presented by SmartPak will live stream competition from the Walnut and Alltech Arenas, courtesy of the USHJA Foundation. Tune in to the USEF Network for a complete schedule.

For live scoring, results, schedule, and competitor and hospitality information, go to www.usefconnect.com.

To learn more about the 2014 US Pony Finals, visit www.ponyfinals.org.

From the USEF Communications Department

Iwasaki Sweeps Large Green Pony Hunters, Claims Grand Green Pony Hunter Championship

Augusta Iwasaki and Kingston.

Lexington, KY – August 7, 2015 – Entering the final phase of competition with two blue ribbons already under her belt, Augusta Iwasaki, aboard her trusty mount Kingston, had a target on her back as the one to beat in the Large Green Pony Hunters. Already a weekly champion in Thursday’s Small Regular Pony Hunter division, Iwasaki was hoping to add another 2015 U.S. Pony Finals win to her list of accolades.

As the last to go, she and the chestnut Kingston were faced with the task of surpassing the 1,012.450 score set by competitor Ellia Giuliani and Brighton Decidedly, which the pair easily crushed with their cumulative score of 1,046.8 to sweep all three classes of the division and claim the lead spot in the victory gallop.

Called “Prince” in the barn, Kingston will surely be treated as royalty tonight, as he not only carried Iwasaki to her second champion tricolor of the week, but also the title of Grand Green Champion. Their overall score was the highest of the 208 Green ponies in the hunt for the Small, Medium, and Large size-based divisions throughout the Finals.

“He is never wild; he is always very sweet. He’s just perfect, always. He never puts a foot out of line,” Iwasaki sung the pony’s praises. “I’m very excited and very lucky to get to ride him. I want to thank Ava Peck for letting me ride this pony. He’s so perfect.”

The 11-year-old rider from Calabasas, California, opted to ride Kingston, owned by Peck of Topanga, California, instead of one of her own family’s horses, which ultimately proved to be a smart move. The pair has been together since January.

“This is definitely my favorite part of the week so far. I’m excited to hang up my ribbons and put up my trophies in my room when I go home. This was for sure worth the trip,” the young champion smiled. “The competition is one of my favorite things here; it’s much more competitive than at home. I think that the better competition makes me ride better.”

With one more pony still to ride this week, Iwasaki will try her hand at one more division, hoping to earn herself a third reason to celebrate in the Medium Regular Pony Hunters with Somekindawonderful.

Giuliani and Brighton Decidedly, owned by Morgan Munz out of Califon, New Jersey, maintained their reserve spot in the Large Green Pony Hunters as the only other pair to break the 1,000 point mark. Rider-owner Emma Seving and Captivating captured the third position, followed by Christina Judy’s Recess from Chesterland, Ohio, ridden by Camryn Halley, in the fourth spot. Rounding out the top six were Top That, owned by Emily Elik-Burtard of Ixonia, Wisconsin, and ridden by Giavanna Rinaldi, and San Francisco-based Pretty Penny Farm’s Splendid, with Ava Leraris in the saddle.

Emma Kurtz and Truly Yours
Emma Kurtz and Truly Yours

As the over fences portion of the Medium Green Hunter Pony division commenced, Emma Kurtz knew that she would have to navigate Truly Yours to a high-scoring ride to overcome her 21-point deficit behind Sophia Calamari and Unforgettable, the leaders after the model and hack portions of competition, and to jump from third position to the champion spot. Kurtz and Truly Yours ultimately did just that, impressing the judges to earning a 263-point score, the highest score of the over fences class, to secure the championship honors more than 10 points ahead of the next-closest finisher with 1,028.4 points.

“It is always such an amazing opportunity to get to ride the ponies I do. It is just so much fun. I love how family-friendly Pony Finals is – they make it really fun for everyone,” Kurtz commented.

Dr. Betsee Parker, out of Middleburg, Virginia, owns Truly Yours and has owned many ponies and supported numerous riders throughout the past years, but was quick to note Kurtz’s special place in her heart. Kurtz’s win marks a new milestone for Parker: her eighth consecutive year winning a division championship, an accomplishment no other owner has achieved.

“I have been very blessed to have Emma,” Dr. Parker said of the young talent. “She has had several champions with me. I feel very fortunate to have her and her mom. We brought her out to the George Morris clinic, and George really liked Emma. The first person who is going to hear about this win is George Morris.”

Dr. Parker added, “She is a very serious student. She tries so hard, and rides so many ponies and horses. I think she has a very bright future ahead of her. It has been really fun to see the children grow up.”

Regarding her future, at least for the next few years, the 15-year-old plans to continue working with green ponies and horses, hopefully racking up more accomplishments in the process.

“It is really fun to bring them along, see them excel and see them become the ponies they are today,” Kurtz said.

Clinching the reserve position was Iwasaki aboard her family’s Small Suggestion. Third place went to Vienna, piloted and owned by Samantha Palermo out of Merritt Island, Florida, followed by Calamari and Unforgettable, owned by Forget Me Not Farm in Wellington, Florida, in fourth position. Olivia Ferro in the irons aboard Anderin’s Momento for Linda Evans of South Hadley, Massachusetts, and Taylor St. Jacques with the ride for Danielle Roskens of South Lyon, Michigan, on Motown Mini swept the last two top six spots.

The Medium Pony Hunters kicked off their first day of competition Friday morning with over 150 ponies parading into the Walnut Ring for the model and under saddle classes. Vanessa Mazzoli of Rockford, Michigan, and her own Find the Love took the lead in the division with two top placings, concluding the opening day of competition with 512.79 points. She clinched the first place in the model, as well as the second place in the under saddle for a strong lead. Claire Campbell and Leon, owned by Madeline Schaefer of Westminster, Maryland, follow in the second place with 505.91 points, while Devin Seek and Heaven’s Sake, owned by Bibby Hill of Reddick, Florida, are only a hair shy with 505.67 points.

Zone 4 Pony Jumper Team Captures the Gold in Team Competition

Down the road in the Alltech Arena, 34 Pony Jumper riders took center stage, with nine teams facing off in the Pony Jumper Team Championship. Riding in championship format, competing over two rounds of courses, it was Zone 4 that came away with the 2015 Team Gold. Riders Charles Smith, Chloe Farmham, Hallie Rush and Anna Reisling left nothing to chance as they overtook the competition to end the two rounds of competition with only 20 faults to their team name.

“Every single one of these riders contributed to this championship equally,” said Katie Maxwell, Chef d’Equipe of Zone 4. “I watched them grow as riders from each round. It was just phenomenal to watch them learn and explore the process and achieve what they did.”

Zone 4 didn’t kick off the competition with a strong lead, earning a team total of 20 for the first round total, but they returned for round two with their eyes set firmly on the top finish.

Charles Smith, 17, and Venice rode to a faultless second round score to set a trend for his fellow teammates. Chloe Farnham, 15, and Cookies & Cream duplicated his effort, while the youngest rider of the team, Hallie Rush, 12, rode to a four-fault score. It was 17-year-old Anna Reisling’s clear effort that confirmed their winning point total as she laid down the third clean round aboard Blue Me Away.

“It’s a rush for sure; you feel it out there, and then when [your team members] go in, you feel it,” Smith said. “I think that competing as a team is more difficult than the individual competition. When you are on a team, you are rooting for everybody; you want to see every person do well. We each have to put in the rounds in order to win, and it makes it that much more exciting.”

As the second round came to a close, a hush fell over the Alltech Arena as it was announced that there would be a jump-off. Maxwell admitted that she had lost count of the points by that time, but when the announcer said that it was for the two 28-fault teams, the cheers erupted from the riders, trainers and parents as it dawned on them that Zone 4 won its third Team Gold in four years.

“What a big opportunity this is, and having such an amazing team to go through this with, it has been such a wonderful time and experience,” Rush smiled as she held her trophy.

2015 marks Rush’s second time competing in the Pony Jumpers; however, the young talent is going into the Individual Championship on Saturday as the top ranked rider of the team, with only four faults.

For teammate Farnham, the pony jumpers were a change of scenery from competing in the pony hunters at the USEF Pony Finals. After feeling the surge of adrenaline and the taste of victory, Farnham admitted that she is never looking back. With rescue pony Cookies & Cream, Farnham plans to compete in many more events in the future.

The gold medal proved extra special for one rider on the team, 17-year-old Reisling. With her birthday approaching in November, her days as a junior are limited; however, it was on her bucket list to make it to the Pony Finals and compete for Zone 4 before aging out of the division.

“I didn’t get to do the championship when I was 13, but now, in my last junior year, my trainer asked me what I wanted to do, and I had my heart set on making it to the championships,” Reisling explained. “It is so exciting going out there, and there is so much energy packed into a little body.”

She continued, “It is so different than showing in the hunters. You have pressure lifted off of your shoulders. It isn’t about how the pony looks, but rather the athleticism. You have to focus on lifting your pony off the ground.”

It worked out to be the perfect situation for Reisling and Blue Me Away, the spunky gelding whose trademark move is starting out the course with a few strong bucks and cow kicks. His antics do not bother Reisling, who refers to his quirks as “personality.”

Blue just recovered from colic surgery after being found only a few months prior in a field with no pulse. Thanks to an insurance policy, he was rushed into emergency colic surgery where he pulled off a remarkable recovery.

“They removed 10 feet of intestine and he just popped right off the table,” Reisling laughed. “A few months later we were jumping him around, and now he is here.”

Although Zone 4 rode cloud nine after the announcement of their gold medal win, the silver medal was tied between Zone 2 and the combined Zone 9/10, both with 28 points.

Zone 2 chose to send in Claire Jones and Proven Therapy, but four faults at the fifth obstacle would leave the door open. Stephanie Don and Joel followed consecutively, putting in their fourth clear ride of the competition, and earning Zone 9/10 the silver medal, while Zone 2 took the bronze.

Don is currently tied with Elizabeth McDougald and Knock My Sox Off going into Saturday’s Individual Championship, each with zero faults.

The 2015 USEF Pony Finals competition continues Saturday with the Medium Pony Hunter over fences classes beginning at 9 a.m. in the Walnut Ring at the Kentucky Horse Park. The Pony Jumpers will conclude Saturday evening in the Alltech Arena with the individual final round and the farewell class.

To learn more about the USEF Pony Finals, please visit www.ponyfinals.org. For live results, please visit www.shownet.biz.

Rebecca Walton for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International

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Phelps Media Group, Inc.
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Augusta Iwasaki and Bit of Laughter Small Pony Hunter Champions at 2015 USEF Pony Finals

Augusta Iwasaki and Bit of Laughter.

Lexington, KY – August 6, 2015 – As the over fences phase of the Small Pony Hunters got underway Thursday, all eyes turned to Augusta Iwasaki and Bit of Laughter. They ousted the top competitors to move up the ranks and capture the championship with an outstanding over fences effort, earning the high scoring round to move from the 11th position to the pinnacle of the leader board.

Although Iwasaki and Bit of Laughter, owned by Iwasaki & Reilly of California, kicked off the competition with 10 contenders ahead of them, with 50 percent of the overall scores tabulated from the over fences class, the tricolor was in the air with the young competitors vying for the coveted honor.

Bit of Laughter donned the championship ribbon in 2011 with rider Lindsey Levine in the saddle for the Small Green Pony Hunters; however, this was Iwasaki’s first time showing the talented pony at the 2015 USEF Pony Finals. The young talent, hailing from Calabasas, Calif., has worked to form a partnership with ‘Ceto’ for two years, and it all culminated with their exemplary performance over fences.

“I’m very excited about this win,” Iwasaki expressed. “My favorite part of today was our jumping trip, and it was probably one of my best rounds with this pony.”

Iwasaki admitted that the chestnut can allude to a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality, but he was on his best behavior Thursday.

“He has two sides; he is either really nice or really grumpy, but he’s been really good lately,” Iwasaki laughed. “He doesn’t really like other ponies, but he likes me when I give him treats. I think he likes being at the horse show much more than he likes being at home.”

The 11-year-old rider made the trek east all the way from Calabasas, Calif. for her third consecutive U.S. Pony Finals, and she seems to always enjoy her time in Kentucky. While the majority of the riders and spectators were averse to the constant rain that plagued the day, Iwasaki contrarily welcomed the change to her usual climate. Taking home a few top honors certainly can’t hurt the experience, either.

“I live in California, but I like Kentucky a lot. It is a lot more green and wet,” the young winner laughed.

Iwasaki closed out the competition with 1033.29 points after earning the high scores of 90, 86.5 and 92 from the judging panel. Mimi Gochman followed 10 points behind, making a nostalgic run for the reserve championship with Love Me Tender, owned by Dr. Betsee Parker of Middleburg, Virginia.

Love Me Tender has been a part of the Gochman family for nearly five years, and 10-year-old Mimi was the first to have the ride out of the sisters.

Mimi Gochman and Love Me Tender
Mimi Gochman and Love Me Tender

“When she was a baby, she jumped really hard and really high,” Mimi elaborated. “In the beginning, she was green, and throughout the years she has become better and better. By the time Betsee bought her, my sister Sophie was riding her. This year, Sophie wanted to ride Chester [Bit of Love] at Pony Finals, so Betsee asked me if I would ride her. I was thrilled! I knew it would be nice memories for when I used to ride her.”

What Mimi did not expect was that she would earn her first rosette at Pony Finals with one of the first ponies she ever showed.

“She was really great, and I think I know her better now than I did in the past,” Mimi patted ‘Princess,’ as she is known in the barn. “She has a big stride, a low head and a good jump, all in all it is the perfect combination, and it was so much fun to ride her. It is awesome to win the reserve championship; I have never had a tricolor at Pony Finals.”

Iwasaki did not stop at besting a field of 120 small ponies. Earlier in the day, Iwasaki took the early lead in the Large Green Pony Hunters with Kingston, owned by Ava Peck of Topanga, Calif., outshining 86 entrants to earn the top spot in both the model and under saddle portions during the first day of divisional competition. Their overall score of 513.320 points swept them into first position, securing the pair as the last to ride Friday during the over fences phase, the final fraction of competition.

“I am very excited. I really wanted to win this for Ava, his owner, I want to thank her because she is so sweet for letting me ride him; I love him. He is very quiet and sweet and calm,” Iwasaki said.

Although Iwasaki will have a slight advantage as the leader headed into Friday’s class, she has some stiff competition still in the hunt for the top prize. The second through sixth positions are all within a few points of each other, with sixth position less than 13 points behind Iwasaki and Kingston. Garavani, ridden by Devin Seek and owned by Ashley Vail Aycox of Jones Creek, Georgia, sits in second, while Emma Kurtz in the irons aboard Oliver Twist, owned by Sharrone Peters of Dearborn, Michigan, clinched the temporary third. Ava Leraris and Splendid, owned by San Francisco-based Pretty Penny Farm, hold the fourth spot, followed by owner-rider Michelle Haskins aboard Until Tomorrow, and New York City-based Juliette Mark’s Lead Story, ridden by Lizzy McCrady, taking the final two top six spots.

Iwasaki and Kingston were not the only double blue winners Thursday, as Unforgettable, modeled and hacked by Sophia Calamari and owned by Forget Me Not Farm in Wellington, Florida, also impressed the judges during both phases of competition to earn consecutive blue ribbons in the Medium Green Pony Hunters. The pair took a commanding lead with their cumulative score of 523.560 points, nearly 20 points ahead of the next-closest competitor, with the over fences portion still to take place Friday.

Currently sitting in second position is Jenna Field and Apricot Brandy, owned by Victoria Redman of Ocala, Fla., trailed by Emma Kurtz and Truly Yours, owned by Dr. Betsee Parker, in third place. Samantha Palermo and her own Vienna, Iwasaki and her family’s Small Suggestion, and Devin Seek and Dance with Me, owned by Bibby Hill of Reddick, Fla., hold the current fourth through sixth spots, respectively.

The Regular Pony Hunters continue Friday, with the Medium Regular Pony Model beginning at 7 a.m., followed by the under saddle. The Medium Green and Large Green Pony Hunters will commence their over fences as they compete for the division championships. The Pony Jumpers will conclude the day with the Individual Phase II and Team Championships getting underway in the Alltech Arena beginning at 4:30 p.m.

To learn more about the USEF Pony Finals, please visit www.ponyfinals.org. For live results, please visit www.shownet.biz.

Rebecca Walton for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International

MEDIA CONTACT:
Phelps Media Group, Inc.
12012 South Shore Blvd #105
Wellington, FL 33414
561-753-3389 (phone)
561-753-3386 (fax)
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Taylor St. Jacques & Glynhafan Red Kestral Take Large Regular Pony Hunter Tricolor

Taylor St. Jacques and Glynhafan Red Kestral.

Lexington, KY – August 6, 2014 – For 16-year-old Taylor St. Jacques, competing at the 2015 USEF Pony Finals is bittersweet. After four years of showing in the prestigious event, St. Jacques has decided to turn the reins over to a new team of riders, but first she closed out the competition with a strong finish in the Large Regular Pony Hunters, standing poised in the winner’s circle to accept the division’s championship with the Welsh gelding Glynhafan Red Kestral, owned by Peacock Ridge.

“I am so excited!” St. Jacques smiled. “We all teamed up with this pony at the beginning of Wellington this year and kept saying that he has such great potential, and we kept working with him and figuring him out. Every time we went in the ring it got better and better and better. He is really a special pony.”

St. Jacques worked with the Rizvi family during her winter-stay in Wellington, Florida, riding the pony, affectionately referred to as ‘KP,’ every week. Since the end of the winter circuit, she has only had the opportunity to ride him twice, since he is stabled in Connecticut and St. Jacques lives in Virginia.

Knowing the pressure that rested on her shoulders, ranked as the sixth rider overall prior to the over fences, St. Jacques knew she had to stay unruffled in order to earn the top call.

“The thing that I keep in my head during Pony Finals is that the over fences part is the most important, so you still have a great chance if you’re in the top 20,” she explained. “Going in I was thinking to myself, ‘OK, I know how to ride this pony, and we are a great team. We can figure this out. As long as I stay smooth, we got this.'”

And so they did. The pair took the top award in the over fences phase to take the lead with 260.61 points. Their cumulative score of 1,025.39 points put them 2.76 points ahead of first-day leader, Morgan Ward with Dr. Betsee Parker’s Enjoy the Laughter. The grey gelding placed as the bridesmaid for the second consecutive year, falling just shy of the championship that seems just out of reach. Third place overall was awarded to Abigail Brayman and Dreamland, for their over fences score of 253.10 points to boost them from the 11th position with a final cumulative score of 999.93 points.

St. Jacques laughed about Glynhafan Red Kestral’s disposition. “He likes to over-exaggerate and be like ‘Look at me; look how great I am!’ He tries his hardest over the jumps. He has such an incredible personality, and he is so beautiful overall. He always wants to be told how great he is. If you tell him he’s bad, he gets mad at you.”

Glynhafan Red Kestral will now pass to Farrah Rizvi, the daughter of Peacock Ridge’s PJ Rizvi.

“I think they have everything it takes,” St. Jacques said. “He is a great pony and she is a wonderful rider-they have all the makings to be the next pony superstars.”

Although Pony Finals are over after this year for the 16-year-old, St. Jacques plans to continue competing in the big equitation classes, as well as the jumpers, which she has recently become involved with. She was nothing but one large smile and two dimples as she patted KP and posed with the array of ribbons.

“I just love it here, being around all the horses and ponies and the people. Everyone is so kind in the horse world,” she concluded.

Devin Seek and Woodlands Polar Bear
Devin Seek and Woodlands Polar Bear

Taking home the rosette in the Small Green Pony Hunter division was Bibby Hill’s Woodlands Polar Bear, ridden to victory by Devin Seek of Ocala, Florida. Seek and the little grey gelding began the day in sixth position, but they put up the strongest over fences scores of the division to overtake the early leaders and claim the championship title with their cumulative marks of 990.550 points.

Champion last year in the Large Regular Pony Hunter division with Hudson, Seek was visibly excited to have repeated her efforts to the tune of another tricolor.

“Coming back after a win last year with Hudson, I knew that it helped my chances. Bibby [Hill] has helped me a lot and has awesome ponies for me to be able to ride, so I knew that if I did what I did last year and had a good ride, that I would have a good chance. It all worked out,” Seek commented.

The 15-year-old was quick to praise ‘Polar Bear’ and attributed his cool, calm and collected nature as a notable factor contributing to their place atop the leader board.

“He is the barn favorite. All the little kids love him because he is so social and couldn’t care less. He’ll do anything. The short stirrup kids ride him, and he will walk through the water in the cross country course,” Seek said. “He is so simple-minded, especially for a green pony. He’s only 7 or 8 years old. All he cares about is doing his job.”

Reserve champion in the Small Green Pony Hunter was Jessie Spade’s entry With Applause, with Sophia Calamari in the irons. The runner-up pair put up a good fight and finished less than a point behind the leader with a score of 989.660 points.

The Regular Small Pony division got underway Wednesday, and leading the standings going into Thursday’s over fences rounds is Maple Leaf Opulence, ridden by Hunter Champey and owned by MDHT Equestrian LLC out of Far Hills, New Jersey. The leading pair finished the day with two top placings under their belt, having earned the second place ribbon in the model, followed by the sixth place in the under saddle, to accumulate a total of 510.03 points.

Less than half a point behind with a score of 509.70 points in the current reserve rank is New York City-based Mimi Gochman with Love Me Tender, owned by Dr. Betsee Parker of Middleburg, Virginia.

It was Ashley Schneider and Falling Moon Huckleberry that captured the blue ribbon in the model. It was an emotional win for the 10-year-old as she stroked her pony’s blaze. Tears came to her eyes as she smiled and spoke of the chestnut, and their first experience competing at the U.S. Pony Finals.

“I have been riding him since last April, and we have gotten to know each other pretty well,” Schneider said. “I think it is his markings that really make him stand out. He also has such a strong personality; he is very playful.

“Winning a ribbon at my first Pony Finals means so much, and I never expected it. I am in shock right now. This pony means so much to me; to be here with him and win, it’s so exciting.”

Chicago’s Olivia Markman and Benlea Mizzou or ‘Mazzy’ took the top call in the Small Regular Pony Under Saddle, finishing just ahead of Gochman and Love Me Tender. Markman received Benlea Mizzou as a birthday present last November, and the 10-year-old could not stop smiling as she talked about his standout qualities.

Mazzy is known for nuzzling Markman, as well as drinking the occasional Gatorade in the barn. His mischievous personality stems from his love for his rider, even whinnying for her the moment she walks through the barn door.

“I know he’s really cute, and he is a really good jumper, so we are looking forward to tomorrow,” Markman said. “This is my first year competing, and it is really exciting to do so well. I qualified and thought that I would go; I had no idea how I would do. It would be crazy to get a championship, but we are having fun!”

The Small Pony Hunters kick off Thursday, with the Medium Green Pony Model beginning at 7 a.m., followed by the Large Green Pony Model. The under saddle classes for each division are slated to run from 8 a.m. until shortly after noon, when the Small Regular Pony Hunters will commence their over fences.

To learn more about the USEF Pony Finals, please visit www.ponyfinals.org. For live results, please visit www.shownet.biz.

Rebecca Walton for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International

MEDIA CONTACT:
Phelps Media Group, Inc.
12012 South Shore Blvd #105
Wellington, FL 33414
561-753-3389 (phone)
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Enjoy the Laughter and With Applause Kick Off Opening Day of 2015 USEF Pony Finals

Morgan Ward and Enjoy the Laughter took the first day lead in Large Pony division at the 2015 USEF Pony Finals.

Lexington, KY – August 4, 2015 – Morgan Ward is no newcomer to the USEF Pony Finals, and although she had not planned to attend the 2015 edition of the competition, she was recently presented with an offer she could not refuse. Dr. Betsee Parker asked Ward to ride Enjoy the Laughter, and on the opening day of the competition, the duo did not disappoint, winning first place in the Large Pony Model, and racking up enough points to lead the way on opening day.

“I just started riding him a couple of times at home, and shortly after they asked me to show him,” Ward explained. “I was told that he always wins the model, so it was my good point. He is a beautiful pony overall.”

Ward continued, “There were a lot of ponies out there, so it felt great to be able to win. I was a little bit nervous because Dr. Parker has a lot of ponies on hand, and having her ask me is a great opportunity. I had a good feeling going in. Hopefully we keep it up for the over fences phase.”

At 17 years old, Ward is bittersweet about her eighteenth birthday next week, knowing that she will be closing a successful chapter in her life to begin her career as a professional rider.

“It’s sad in a way because I have so many junior rides, but I am going professional next year and I cannot wait to start that life,” Ward elaborated. “I was not going to come at all this year, but then Scott [Stewart] asked me to show for Dr. Parker and my sister [Lindsey Ward] asked me because she has a Large Green Pony. It is still a good time being here.”

Ward currently sits atop the leader board in the first position, just ahead of Emma Kurtz and All My Love, also owned by Dr. Betsee Parker. Ward leads with 519.35 points, with Kurtz hot on her heels with 513.36 points. The final division standings for the large ponies boils down to tomorrow’s over fences classes, which kick off beginning at 11 a.m. in the Walnut Ring at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Ward explained, “I feel confident going into the over fences because he rides a lot like my junior hunters. He goes slow, has a big step, jumps great and has expression, so now it is on me.”

Kurtz captured the third place in the Large Pony Model, as well as the eighth place in the under saddle to earn enough points to return as the penultimate rider tomorrow afternoon.

It was first-time U.S. Pony Finals competitor Katherine Kemps, of Austin, Texas, who captured the blue ribbon during the under saddle with Occhio. Kemps is making her first appearance as an exhibitor, and she exuded confidence as she gushed over Occhio, the bay pony who clinched the first place during the Large Pony Under Saddle.

“He is probably my favorite pony that I have every ridden,” Kemps said. “He is super sweet and is probably one of the most loving animals I have ever met. He hugs my groom, Manny, every morning.”

Kemps continued, “I am really excited right now. It hasn’t set in yet; to win at Pony Finals is very exciting. It has been a year and a half now of working with Occhio, but he really stands out. I think he just has his own way of moving. He is so calm every time I am on him. He is so well put together.”

Currently, Katie Ray and Rockaway, owned by Ramble On Farm of Malvern, Pennsylvania, sit in the third position going into Wednesday’s over fences and division championship, while New York’s Lily Ezrow and Empire’s Victory are fourth. Whitney McKinley of Macon, Georgia, and Just My Style sit in the fifth place, and Taylor St. Jacques with Glynhafan Re Kestral, owned by Peacock Ridge LLC of Greenwich, Connecticut, round out the top six.

Sophia Calamari Duplicates Efforts to Return to Winner’s Circle in Small Green Pony Hunters

In the Small Green Pony division, Sophia Calamari, no stranger to the U.S. Pony Finals winner’s circle, rode With Applause, owned by Jessie Spade of Terrell, North Carolina, to two high-ranking finishes in the model and hack portions of the division. The pair earned the first place in the under saddle and the red ribbon in the model to secure the spot at the top of the leader board headed into the second day of competition, a situation with which Calamari is all too familiar.

Sophia Calamari and With Applause
Sophia Calamari and With Applause

Last year, 14-year-old Calamari, of New Milford, Pennsylvania, rode her own pony, Smitten, to near identical placings in the Small Green Pony classes, and eventually took the overall prize. Now, her seventh trip to Lexington for the Finals, the young rider has picked up a new ride in With Applause, but as of yesterday, that was not the case.

‘Colby,’ as he is known in the barn, was pegged to be ridden by his owner in the Finals this year, but an unfortunate injury prior to the start of competition led to the need for a replacement rider, and luckily Calamari was available. Although she picked up the ride last minute, Calamari had seen the pony go before and came into the day with some knowledge on his way of going.

“I met him in Florida this year, and watched him go a lot in the Greens. He seemed like a really, really sweet pony. I was attracted to his movement and the easy way he goes around, he just looks happy all the time,” Calamari commented.

Regardless of the rider, it is clear that Colby is a once-in-a-lifetime pony, and his owner does not take that for granted.

Spade said, “He is such a good pony, and if you ever get the chance to own him, keep him for as long as you can. I can always count on him. Even though I’m not riding, it’s great to see him win with someone else. My parents are hilarious; they fight over him all the time, saying ‘I wanted him’ and ‘No, I wanted him first.’ It’s so funny.”

As Small Green Pony Champion last year, Calamari was visibly excited to have another shot at the tricolors for the second year in a row.

“It feels amazing, and I hope we can duplicate our results again. I’m definitely feeling confident and excited, and am so glad to have the opportunity to ride this pony here – it means a lot to me,” Calamari said.

Taking the blue ribbon ahead of Calamari and With Applause in the model phase was Caroline Passarelli, of High Falls, New York, in the irons aboard Morgan Ward’s Cabana Boy. The 14-year-old Passarelli rode to a top six finish last year in the Smalls, and is hoping to improve upon her performance this year with her new mount.

“I’ve only ever ridden him one other time, last week at HITS Saugerties, so I’m new to him, but he is really fun and tries his hardest. He is amazing, thinks very highly of himself, and knows that when the judge comes by that he needs to stand and look pretty,” Passarelli said of the pony.

Passarelli was asked just a few short weeks ago by the Ward family, who had a winner of their own earlier in the day, to ride the pony, and she eagerly said yes. Only 5 years old, the small pony certainly acts his age outside the ring, according to Passarelli, but turns on his game once inside the ring.

“It is like playing with a little kid – he licks your face, he bites the reins, bites me, in a playful way! He is so fun and has a huge personality,” the young champion noted, “but once we are in the ring he is very excited and brave, especially for just turning 5.”

Currently sitting in first and fifth overall, respectively, Calamari and Passarelli will ride their ponies against more than 40 other competitors in the over fences section of the Small Green Pony division Wednesday to try and claim the top honor. Libbie Gordon and Glenhaven Astoria, owned by Parker Peacock of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, currently sit in second place, followed by Augusta Iwasaki and Calabasas, owned by California-based Iwasaki & Reilly’s Small Addition, in third position. Maddie Stiles and her own Royal Moment earned enough points to put them in fourth ahead of Passarelli, with Devin Seek aboard Woodlands Polar Bear, owned by Bibby Hill of Reddick, Florida, finishing in the top six. The class is scheduled to take place at approximately 4:45 in the afternoon, following the conclusion of the Large Regular Pony division.

The Small Pony Hunters kick off tomorrow, with the Small Pony Model beginning at 7 a.m., followed by the under saddle portion around 8 a.m.

To learn more about the USEF Pony Finals, please visit www.ponyfinals.org.

Rebecca Walton for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International

MEDIA CONTACT:
Phelps Media Group, Inc.
12012 South Shore Blvd #105
Wellington, FL 33414
561-753-3389 (phone)
561-753-3386 (fax)
pmginfo@phelpsmediagroup.com
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