Lexington, KY - The 2010 United States Equestrian Federation Pony Finals National Championships got underway today with the Green Pony model and under saddle for each section of Large, Medium and Small Green ponies. With the large number of entries that qualified over the last year of competition turning out, each pony size was divided into multiple sections. The heat index was over 100 degrees for much of the day, but the top pony riders kept their cool and took center stage in the Walnut Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park to showcase their award-winning mounts.
The USEF Pony Finals offer three phases of competition where the ponies are scored on conformation, way of moving under saddle and jumping ability. The riders are subject to scoring based on equitation and skill at piloting their pony over fences. Winners are declared in all six divisions: Small, Small Green, Medium, Medium Green, Large and Large Green Pony, and each year the points are tabulated to declare a USEF Green Hunter Pony Champion and USEF Regular Pony Hunter Champion.
Audrey Trimble from Westlake, TX, with her pony, Nite Lite, took the top prize in the Large Green Pony Model. In second place was Meredith Darst handling Step Aside owned by Kiersten Glynn from Allenhurst, NJ. Victoria Colvin with Seven Steps, owned by Dr. Betsee Parker from Middleburg, VA, took home third.
"I'm from West Lake, TX, so it took 17 hours for the ponies to get here," noted Trimble. "This is only my second time at Pony Finals. This win is really special because this time it's on my own pony, and I've worked really hard over the last three years to get to this point."
The winner for the Large Green Pony Under Saddle was model third-place finisher Victoria Colvin and Seven Steps. Meredith Darst and Step Aside took home another second-place award, while Janie French from Atlanta, GA, on Dark Knight placed third.
"This is only this pony's seventh horse show, and he's great," said Colvin. "He doesn't spook at the jumps at all, but he's a little wiggy to ride. He's really fun though."
Sydney Shulman and Georgia, owned by Montoga, Inc., located in Wellington, FL, won the Medium Green Pony model. Alexandra Anderson and Mr. Australia, owned by Kristen Crawford from Elgin, IL, were awarded the second-place ribbon. Lindsay Levine received third place with Robin's Hill Snapshot, owned by Redfield Farm from Califon, NJ. Shulman commented, "Georgia's a lot of fun, and I really like to jump her. I'm excited to be here for Pony Finals."
Next, it was Meredith Darst and Woodlands Tallulah, owned by Camila Conesa, to win the Medium Green Pony Under Saddle class. Second-place honors went to Emily Flynn and Home Sweet Home, owned by Donald Cheska from Waukesha, WI, while Peyton Smith and Smallwood's Lickity Split, owned by Show Place Farm located in Gloucester, VA, took home the third-place ribbon.
"It was really hot today, but it was fun and competitive division," said Darst. "I've been riding Tallulah off-and-on since WEF. We've had her for about six months, and she's really fun. We've been doing the regular division with her, and she's been so good. I'm excited for the rest of Pony Finals because all of my friends are here, and I have a pony in every division so I'm going to be busy!"
Last of the day was the Small Green Pony division completing their model and under saddle phases. The model winner was Ashton Alexander with Rafael owned by Bridlebourne Stables, LLC, located in Elkton, FL. Winning second place was Parker Wright with her pony Grand Jete' from Cooper Canyon, TX, and third place was awarded to Mackenzie Graves with her pony Salvandi Kool Kat from Wellington, FL.
Alexander said, "We got this pony in December and I've been showing him since Ocala. He's totally my ride and canters great. He needs a little connection, but he's smart and a lot of fun. We've been showing him in the regular division and the greens. I am showing one in every division, so this is a great start to Pony Finals. I really love coming to Kentucky, and it's so fun to be with my friends."
Parker Wright with Grand Jete' earned another top placing when they won the Small Green Pony Under Saddle phase. Second place went to Ashton Alexander and Rafael, and third place was awarded to Carly Adler on Love Bug owned by J. Blake Alder from Germantown, TN.
"I am very excited about winning the under saddle," smiled Wright. "This is my third year showing at Pony Finals, but I just started riding this pony last week and he's so fun. He's really brave for being a green pony and not spooky at all. He just goes right around!"
Also taking place at today's Pony Finals was the Welcome Supper held at the Walnut Arena. All the riders, trainers and parents were invited to participate in this special event. Before the Welcome Supper got underway, the annual Pony Auction was held in the Covered Arena. The event is produced by American Hunter Pony Classic in conjunction with Professional Auction Services, Inc., and offers an excellent opportunity to view and bid on some of the nation's top ponies.
Competition will continue Wednesday for the USEF Pony Finals as the Green Pony Hunters compete over fences and the Small Pony Hunters complete their model and under saddle phases.
For more information about the 2010 USEF Pony Finals, visit www.usef.org. To view video and photos from the event, visit www.clubequestrian.com/coverage/pony_finals_2010.aspx.
Photo Credit: The 2010 USEF Pony Finals begins at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY. Photo by Randi Muster.