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