Lexington, KY - August 9, 2011 - It was beautiful and sunny for the first day of the 2011 United States Equestrian Federation Pony Finals National Championship at the Kentucky Horse Park. Today, the top ponies and riders from across the nation gathered at the Walnut Ring for the Green Pony Hunters Model and Under Saddle, as well as the Regular Medium Pony Hunter Model. Throughout the year riders have worked diligently to qualify for this prestigious event and compete for the winning honors.
The USEF Pony Finals offers three-phases of competition, and the ponies are scored on conformation, way of moving under saddle and jumping ability. The young 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, presented by Sallee Horse Vans.
The first event of the day was Small Green Pony Model, where Isabel Ryan of Locust Valley, NY, claimed the blue ribbon prize with Roll Call. The second place honors went to Parker Wright and Shenandoah Sirocco, owned by Sarah Berkowitz of Nottingham, PA. Lindsay Levine and Bit of Laughter, owned by Scott Stewart of Wellington, FL, rounded out today's top three.
"I was really happy because modeling is not always my strongest area," smiled Ryan. This is my first big ribbon in the model at Pony Finals, so I am really excited. Roll Call is really sweet and he loves patty cakes. I'm very excited to be at Pony Finals because I get to see all of my friends and spend time with them."
The Small Green Pony Under Saddle class was next, and this time the top call went to Lauren Ginsburg and China, owned by John Skinner of Westminster, MD. Levine and Bit of Laughter were the second place finishers, while Ryan and Roll Call earned the third place award.
"It feels awesome to have won the under saddle, I'm really excited," commented Ginsburg. "China was so perfect. She needs you to trot forward and feel her mouth. I have been riding her for almost a year, and she's very sweet. This is my first time at Pony Finals and I'm loving the experience with all of my friends."
The Walnut Ring welcomed the Medium Green Ponies to the ring next for their model and under saddle portions. The model victory went to Alexandra Crown and Find the Love, owned by Scott Stewart of Wellington, FL. Taking home the second place honors was Lucy Nyland of New Hope, PA and The Batchelor, while Emma Mandarino and Crystal Acres Spotlight, owned by Kelly Ward-Creagh of Pine Bush, NY, picked up the third place award.
"I just started leasing Find a Love a little over a month ago and I've only shown him four times, so this is really exciting," noted Crown. "He is the sweetest pony you could ask for; he's always in your pocket and giving you kisses. He loves being around people and getting attention."
Barbara Ann Merryman scored her first blue ribbon at the USEF Pony Finals today aboard Aerosmith, owned by Peter Pletcher of Magnolia, TX, during the Medium Green Pony Hunter Under Saddle. The second place prize was presented to Meredith Darst and Easter Monday, owned by Carol Dornish of Delaware, OH. Picking up the third place honors was Kirklen Petersen riding Magical Diamond, owned by Elizabeth Foster of Dover, MA.
"This is my fifth year at Pony Finals, so I am very happy to have won a class," said Merryman. "I have only shown him once, so this is really exciting. He's pretty easy in the under saddle, you just need to stay moving forward. I love Pony Finals because the people are so great and I get to see all of my friends."
The Large Green Pony Hunters were next in the ring, where Victoria Press of New York, NY, handled Chatsworth to garner the winning title. Darst took home another second place ribbon, this time with Faunti, owned by Meredith Maroonie of Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The third place award was presented to Alexandra Crown of New York, NY, and For The Love.
"He's so amazing; I was really hoping that he would win the model and he has been really good," smiled Press. "I tried him after Indoors last year and we weren't sure at first because he is not the best mover, but we took him home because he is so fun to ride. He's really sweet and loves people; if he could he would come home with me."
During the Large Green Pony Hunter Under Saddle, Crown and For The Love stepped up to the first place position and won the blue ribbon prize. Once again, Darst was presented with the second place honors for her ride aboard Faunti, while Quinn Larimer and Samaritan, owned by Nestledown Equine of Smyma, GA, received the third place award.
"We bought For The Love this winter in Florida and he is such a good boy," noted Crown. "He feels like he is floating when you are cantering on him. During the under saddle, he likes to be left alone; he goes straightforward and points his toes. I know that tomorrow if I am confident and good, then he will be good, too."
The final event in the Walnut Ring was the Regular Medium Pony Hunter Model. Out of 12 sections, it was Emmalee Funk and Lakeview Pick Pocket, owned by Daryl Stout of Front Royal, VA, which was today's winning combination. Picking up the second place award was Lucy Nyland of New Hope, PA, and Salvandi Coronet, while Daisy Farish and Cleverist, owned by Lanes End Farm of Versailles, KY, took home the third place prize.
Funk only began riding Lakeview Pick Pocket this week for trainer Mindy Darst. "It's great, I didn't realize what a great mount I had until I was on the ramp," she explained. "I didn't have a pony and Mindy was nice enough to give me this wonderful opportunity. It's a great pony and I am looking forward to the next two days."
This afternoon in the Covered Arena, Professional Auction Services hosted the American Hunter Pony Classic auction. The event was a huge success, with many owners and trainers turning out to bid on some of the countries most talented ponies.
Competition will continue tomorrow for the USEF Pony Finals as the Green Pony Hunters compete over fences and the Medium Pony Hunters complete their under saddle phase.
For more information about the 2011 USEF Pony Finals please visit www.usef.org.
Photo Credit: The 2011 USEF Pony Finals began today in the Walnut Ring. Photo By: Kendall Bierer/PMG.