Tag Archives: Sophia Calamari

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

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Sophia Calamari Captures Small Green Pony Championship with Smitten at 2014 USEF Pony Finals

Sophia Calamari and Smitten.

Lexington, KY – August 6, 2014 – Competing at USEF Pony Finals takes a team – a team that sometimes includes a host of people responsible for feeding, braiding and bathing the pony until it is ready to arrive ringside.

For this year’s USEF Pony Finals Small Green Pony champion, Smitten, however that team is a bit different than some. The first person Smitten see’s in the morning is his rider and owner, Sophia Calamari.

“Our ponies live at home, so they take care of their own ponies,” explained Laurie Scott, Calamari’s mother. “They clip legs and ears and bathe. We don’t have grooms at home, so we do everything ourselves.”

Hailing from New Milford, Pa., Calamari heads south for the winter with her mother and sister, Francesca, to ride their ponies and mounts for Ponies & Palms Show Stables LLC in Boca Raton, FL. She may be just 13 years old, but Ponies & Palms Show Stables LLC owner Leslie Butzer says both Calamari girls ride with talent far beyond their years.

“They actually help train my animals,” Butzer said of Sophia and her sister. “And Laurie, their mom, is dedicated to their success. She doesn’t just drop them off at a trainer’s every day. She hauls; she grooms; she braids. It’s really refreshing to see. No one deserves this more.”

Calamari says working with her pony outside of the ring gives her a leg up against the competition.

“I know his personality,” Calamari explained. “I know what he likes, and what will scare him.”

Smitten, known affectionately as “Smitty” back in the barn, was not always the calm and collected show stopper he proved himself to be at this year’s Pony Finals.

“When I bought him he was a little tough, so I was nervous,” Calamari said. “He was just always a little nervous, a little reactive, but now he’s very calm.”

There were no quick fixes or magic tricks; just time and patience have helped get Smitty to where he is today.

“When we first bought him, we bought him as a 4-year-old, and we brought him home. He was just not as broke as we had thought,” Scott explained. “So I just took him back to stage one and brought him along very slowly, so by the time she got back on him, he was great.”

The now 6-year-old pony is as quiet as they come in the show ring. Smitty’s laid back nature wins him big ribbons, but keeping cool whilst wearing them is a different story.

“He doesn’t want you to put a ribbon on his head, and that was our fault,” Scott explained. The first time he won champion we put it on. Then someone threw a cooler over him while Sophia wasn’t looking, and he got loose, so then he was running with the ribbon and the cooler stuck on him!” Scott said with a laugh, shaking her head at the memory. “So he probably would have been fine before. He’s just very sweet.”

This year’s victory in the Small Green Pony Hunters came at a perfect time for Calamari-she is aging out of the small division.

“I just hope he goes to a very nice person,” Calamari said with a small smile, running a hand over Smitty’s nose as he stood waiting for her to finish the interview.

“We’ll miss you terribly!” Scott said to the pony, scratching his neck. Smitty spent most of the interview snuffling inquisitively at the phones and recorders capturing his owner’s quotes, throwing in a few knickers of his own. He may be short in stature, but that pony lacks nothing in personality.

Taking the reserve champion honors behind Calamari and Smitten was Ashley Watt’s pony Rollingwood’s Tuxedo, ridden by Madeline Schaefer.

Taking home the tri-color in the Large Pony Hunter division was Hudson, ridden to victory by Devin Seek. Having only ridden Hudson a handful of times before Pony Finals, Seek had to acclimate to both the gelding and his size in a very short time.

“I was nervous, because it was only my second time riding a large, especially here,” Seek explained. “It’s hard because there are so many people watching, and it’s Pony Finals! Just saying the name ‘Pony Finals’ makes you have more pressure and nerves.”

Seek enjoys the new experiences afforded to riders at Pony Finals.

“You get the opportunity to do something different. It’s one time in the big ring,” Seek said, referring to the Walnut ring at the Kentucky Horse Park where all of the Pony Finals hunter classes are run. “You don’t get that at every horse show.”

Reserve champion in the Large Pony Hunter was Dr. Betsee Parker’s entry Enjoy The Laughter, ridden by Ali Tritschler.

The Regular Small Pony division got underway Wednesday, and leading the Regular Small Pony standings going into Thursday’s over fences rounds is Dr. Betsee Parker’s pony Bit Of Love.

Known as Chester back in the barn, the chestnut gelding won the small pony model and took third in the hack, and he’s no stranger to the top of the pony pack. Chester was the top ranked small pony going into the over fences rounds at last year’s Pony Finals, placing fourth in the Small Regular Pony Hunter.

“I’m hoping and that he can do a real nice, quiet, mannerly round for Caroline tomorrow,” Parker said. “But you just never know. We’re really delighted today, and you’ve got a level playing field tomorrow.”

Chester can have what Parker calls some “firm small pony opinions”, and it’s up to his rider Caroline Passarelli to keep him happy in the ring.

“He either likes a child or he doesn’t, and he likes Caroline,” Parker said. “He’s kind of high spirited, and if the children give him any reason to demonstrate his gingery-ness he will demonstrate being a gingery pony!”

Some small ponies have quite a naturally plump build, but not Chester. The model winner’s slender build is something Parker finds particularly appealing about his conformation.

“I think with Chester his body is especially sleek looking,” Parker explained. “A lot of times we like to see these big, kind of sofa-esque ponies, and they are all as large as they can be for the division, but Chester isn’t one of those. He’s not a sofa pony-he’s refinement right done to his hoofs.”

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

Kentucky Summer Series Fast Facts

Kentucky Summer Horse Shows, USEF National Pony Finals, Bluegrass Festival Horse Show and KHJA Horse Show, and the 2014 USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals.

The Kentucky Horse Show LLC’s 2014 series includes five weeks of top competition throughout the summer. These premier hunter/jumper competitions host the Hagyard Challenge Series with seven grand prix competitions that culminate with a Leading Rider Award, as well as the Hallway Feeds National Derby Series.

Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington, KY, site of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™. Home to the United States Equestrian Federation.


$25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic
$50,000 Rood & Riddle Kentucky Grand Prix
$5,000 Hallway Feeds USHJA National Hunter Derby

KENTUCKY SUMMER CLASSIC – July 29 – August 3, 2014
$25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic
$50,000 Kentucky Summer Grand Prix sponsored by GGT Footings
$5,000 Hallway Feeds USHJA National Hunter Derby

2014 USEF PONY FINALS – August 5-10, 2014
USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals
USHJA Pre-Green Incentive Championship
$25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic
$40,000 Bluegrass Festival Grand Prix
$5,000 Hallway Feeds USHJA National Hunter Derby
WCHR Member Event

KHJA HORSE SHOW – August 20-24, 2014
$10,000 Hagyard Welcome Stake
$30,000 KHJA Grand Prix
$5,000 Hallway Feeds USHJA National Hunter Derby

A special thanks to the generous sponsors of the Kentucky Summer Horse Shows: Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, Hallway Feeds, Audi of Lexington, GGT Footing, Equestrian Services International, Johnson Horse Transportation, Farm Vet, Dietrich Insurance, Take2 Thoroughbred Program, Sleepy P Ranch, and the Official Hotel The Clarion

8am – 5pm daily

Horse Show Exhibitors may purchase a weekly parking pass at the main Horse Park entrance for $15.00. Dogs are permitted at the Kentucky Horse Park on a leash.

The Kentucky Horse Park is located 8 miles northeast of Lexington, Kentucky at Exit 120 on Interstate 75.

Before Show – (859) 233-0492, Email: hakshows@earthlink.net
During Show – Telephone: (859) 254-3343, Fax: (859) 231-6097
Stabling – Email Tom Blankenship at tomblank@bellsouth.net
Stable office – Before Show: (843) 269-4737, During Show: (859) 255-0605
Prize List Advertising – Email Cindy Bozan at cindy@kentuckyhorseshows.com or call (859) 608-3709
Vendors – Email Cindy Bozan at cindy@kentuckyhorseshows.com or call (859) 608-3709

Shownet – www.shownet.biz

Website: www.kentuckyhorseshows.com

Ring Dimensions/Specs:

The Stonelea Ring, Murphy Ring, Walnut Ring, Stonelea/Murphy Schooling Ring, the Alltech Arena and the Rolex Stadium have Otto Sport footing consisting of fine sand and synthetic fiber on pvc mats. The Claiborne, Annex, and Covered Arena (old) rings’ footing consists of a sand cushion on limestone base. The dimensions of the competition areas are as follows:

Stonelea: 140′x 280′, Murphy: 135′x 280′, Stonelea and Murphy Schooling: 110′x 400′
Walnut: 300′x 370′, Claiborne: 140′x 270′, Annex 130′x 250′, Covered Arena (old): 145′x 285′ Rolex Stadium: 360′ x 384′, Alltech Arena: 132′ x 265′

Vendors offering equestrian equipment, apparel, jewelry and home furnishings are located adjacent to the Stonelea Ring.


CLARION HOTEL (Formerly Holiday Inn North) – 859-233-0512 – Approximately 4 miles (OFFICIAL HOTEL)
Discover the place where elegant comfort in an ideal location meets excellent service and affordability. At the Clarion Hotel Lexington, you’ll find well-appointed accommodations with options of double/doubles, double queens, king rooms or suites, exceptional amenities such as our free hot breakfast buffet, and Southern hospitality at its finest. The best hotel for Keeneland – located in the heart of Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region – home of the Kentucky Horse Park, the Lexington Convention Center, University of Kentucky, and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail – our Lexington hotel is on Newtown Pike at Exit 115 on I-75, close to all the big attractions, and is the perfect place to stay whether you’re here to get down to business or have some fun. Best of all, bring your furry friends for any trip because the Clarion Hotel in Lexington is also pet-friendly.

Reservations may not be made through the Horse Show office. To reserve a campsite at the Kentucky Horse Park for any of the horse shows, please call the Campground store at (800) 370-6416 or 859-259-4157 or email Sherry Logan at sherryd.logan@ky.gov. Be specific as to the show name and the dates you wish to stay. Check-in time is 2:00 p.m. and check-out is 12:00 noon. You must make arrangements with the Campground store if you plan to arrive earlier than 2:00 p.m. or stay later than 12:00 noon. Vehicles that are not removed from a campsite by check-out time will be towed.

Kentucky Horse Shows, LLC
P. O. Box 11428
Lexington, KY 40575-1428
859-233-0492 (phone)
859-233-0495 (fax)
email: hakshows@earthlink.net
website: www.kentuckyhorseshows.com

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