Lexington, KY - A mist of Show Sheen, check. A dab of hoof polish, check. A last pat for good luck, check. On Sunday, the clock began to wind down on the six-day hullabaloo that was the 2010 USEF Pony Finals National Championships. Still, as riders gathered for the final contest, The Equisport Insurance/USEF Pony Medal, attention to detail was not lost.
Over 190 riders made their way to the Kentucky Horse Park's Covered Arena for their last shot at "pony immortality" this morning, but only one left with the gold and the title of Medal Champion
Isabelle Caccamise, 14, of Westport, CT, and her medium pony, Better Than Good, emerged victorious, capturing the top prize in the Medal Finals.
"I feel great, really confident," said Caccamise as her entourage followed her with medals, ribbons and trophies. "He is an amazing pony," added Caccamise of her 10-year-old partner of four years. "He's always been great, he listens to the rider, and he tries his best."
Caccamise was one of 21 riders to be called back by the judges after the tough first round. She then went equine-to-equine in a final test with second-place finisher Victoria Colvin and her ride, Party Til Dawn, before securing the top spot. "I was so excited when I was called back. I didn't know what to expect, but I knew that I had done well," said Caccamise.
"The course," she noted, "was a good fit for me and my pony. There were a few inside turns that were good and a few that didn't work out as well, but in general it was a nice course."
Earlier in the week, Caccamise and Better Than Good also earned Reserve Champion honors in the Medium Pony Hunters.
Caccamise has only been with her trainer, Patricia Griffith and Heritage Farms, for four months, but Griffith said they were just thrilled with the week's achievements. "Isabelle was local, so I knew her pony and her riding a bit from the shows. She has always been a good rider," Griffith added, "so our goal was just to step up the training and perfect certain things, and it's been going really well."
Colvin, meanwhile, may have been second best today, but she was without a doubt the week's star.
The Florida-based rider who trains with Scott Stewart, began her banner week with Champion honors in the Large Green Pony Hunters riding the Betsee Parker-owned Seven Steps. The team was then named Overall Green Pony Hunter Grand Champions.
On Saturday, Colvin and For The Laughter, also owned by Parker, captured the Large Pony Hunter Grand Championship, and with their incredible high score of 1032, the pair won the Grand Hunter Pony Champion title for the second consecutive year.
"It's been amazing the whole ride, the whole year," said Colvin's Mom Bridget following the Medal Class ribbon ceremony. "She's always been confident and has had good rides, but this year has been just great."
Meredith Darst, 12, of Lebanon, OH, was also a force to be reckoned with this week, duplicating her dual championship titles of 2009 and then some.
Darst was overall Champion in both the Small Pony Hunters-aboard Elation-and in the Medium Pony Hunters-with Highlands Make Believe, owned by Elizabeth Wenner.
Darst and Elation's high score of 1027 also earned them Reserve Grand Hunter Pony Champion behind Colvin.
Rounding out the week were top performances in the jumper ring, including Sydney Shulman and Set Sail, who lead the victory gallop in the Pony Jumper Individual Finals on Saturday. Shulman was also a member of the four-person Gold-medal winning jumper team from Region 1,5 and 9, that also included Tayler Cobb, Dagney Mactaggart and Andre Mershad.
But whether or not they earned a ribbon, all of the young riders that qualified and showed at Pony Finals are considered winners. And for future competitors, veteran Caccamise gave this last bit of advice: "Think positively. And go in there acting like you're going to win it-know that you can win it. But don't be too disappointed if something goes wrong, because you still probably have more opportunities to come, and you learn from every single time you are here."
Until next year.
For more information about the 2010 USEF Pony Finals please visit www.usef.org. To view video and photos from the event, visit www.clubequestrian.com/coverage/pony_finals_2010.aspx.
Photo: Isabelle Caccamise and Better Than Good. Photo by Randi Muster.