Kat Fuqua and Brighton (Photo courtesy of Shawn McMillan)
Lexington, Kentucky (August 31, 2018) – A new gold standard set by a golden pony and his rider: the 2018 USEF Pony Finals presented by Collecting Gaits Farm saw the birth of a new superstar partnership and a new era in Pony Hunter competition. Kat Fuqua and Brighton were a world apart: sweeping their division and leading the field by over 30 points was the beginning; being crowned Overall Grand Pony Hunter Champion for the entire Finals was the bridge. And to clinch their extraordinary effort, having just turned 11 years old, Fuqua may be the youngest and highest scoring USEF Pony Finals Champion in the event’s history.
Fuqua, who came to have the ride on Brighton just a few months ago, went into the USEF Pony Finals aboard the flaxen maned pony with an undefeated record. They were to quickly prove their mettle by sweeping all three classes, a rare achievement, and garnering an impressive 1063.65 points, the highest cumulative score for a USEF Pony Finals competitor. With over 30 points differentiation between Champion and Reserve, Fuqua galloped to Overall Grand Pony Hunter Champion and is one of the youngest, if not the youngest ever, Grand Pony Finals Champions. Her trainer, Michael Newman, was awarded the Emerson Burr Perpetual Trophy, which recognizes the trainer of the Overall Champion at USEF Pony Finals and their contribution to the advancement of youth riders.
“Michael doesn’t put a lot of pressure on me, and even when I’m nervous before a big show like USEF Pony Finals he always finds a way to make me laugh before I go in the arena,” said Fuqua. “It teaches me the importance of being relaxed in the saddle. Brighton is such an easy, happy pony; I think that is what has made us click so well even though I haven’t known him that long.” Channeling this happy attitude instilled by her trainer, Kat’s team, including her mom and a few friends, decided to have a dance off to Earth, Wind, and Fire’s classic “Let’s Groove,” while waiting for her ride. Despite some level of embarrassment, Kat admits that the positive, relaxed atmosphere has contributed to her high scores in the show ring.
With Brighton taking the blue in the 10 & Under Large Pony Hunter, the Owner/Rider Large Pony Hunter, the Large Pony Hunter Championship out of a field of 147 Large ponies, and Grand Pony Champion out of 417 ponies of all sizes, it would be fair to assume that Fuqua’s other ponies may have fallen by the wayside. That was not the case, however, as she piloted her medium gray pony mare, Sasha Fierce, to Reserve Champion Overall in the 10 & Under Medium Green Pony Hunter, 12th in the Model Medium Green Pony Hunter, and 17th Overall in the Medium Green Pony Hunter out of 72 entries. Her Medium pony, Finesse RF, a.k.a. Ladybug, was also well placed: 6th overall in the 10 & Under Medium Pony Hunter, 7th in the Under Saddle Medium Pony Hunter, and 25th in the Overall Medium Pony Hunter out of a field of 167.
Because the USEF Pony Finals restricts riders to only one pony per division, Fuqua passed the ride on her other large pony, Chic in Time, aka Spicey, to her friend and another prominent champion equestrian Caroline Passarelli. Spicey and Passarelli were 2nd in the Under Saddle Large Pony Hunter, 15th in the Model Large Pony Hunter, and 3rd in the Large Pony Hunter Combined Model & Under Saddle.
With the whirlwind of USEF Pony Finals behind her, Fuqua then stepped into the irons of her Junior Hunter, RS Levitation, a.k.a. Jett, to take home the Division Championship at the 2018 Atlanta Summerfest III, held August 16-19, 2018. The Junior Hunter division has been a natural next step for Fuqua as she expands her horizons beyond just ponies, and she states that her success in the show ring comes from the support of her family as well as the advice guidance of trainer Michael Newman.
She and Jett also placed 3rd in the country during July’s USEF National Junior Hunter Championships before setting her sights on USEF Pony Finals and the Atlanta Summerfest. Fuqua’s next outing will be September’s Brownland Fall Horse Show Series in preparation for indoors at Harrisburg and Washington Championship Shows in October.
Fuqua’s USHJA Zone 4 rankings, also as of August 27, 2018, currently sees Finesse RF as the #1 Medium Hunter Pony, Chic in Time as the #1 Large Hunter Pony, RS Levitation as the #1 Junior Hunter Small 15 & Under, and her other Junior Hunter mount, Calvaro, as the #3 Junior Hunter Small 15 & Under.
For more information on Kat Fuqua, visit her website at www.KatFuqua.com.