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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.