Amanda Stearns and Her 24-Year-Old Champion Mare Pug Ma Hone

Dressage Champion’s Retirement Show is a Perfect Ten

Loxhatachee, Fl- When thirteen-year-old Amanda Stearns and her mare, Pug Ma Hone stepped forward to receive their championship neck ribbon at the recent Region 3 USDF/ABIG Dressage Championships, there wasn’t a dry eye in the stadium. Just hours before the big win, the Region 3 show committee hosted a retirement ceremony for the 24-year-old mare. So when she ended her career with a score of 72% and clinched the JYR Training Level Championship, the entire audience shared in the emotional victory.

It was a fitting finish to an illustrious show career. And ironically, Pug and Amanda received a perfect “10” score on their final halt. Over the past two decades, Pug has competed nationally and internationally in FEI level dressage. She spent the last four years teaching Stearns about dressage.

“I got Pug as a present for my tenth birthday”, explains Stearns, “I had no idea at the time how much she would teach me”. The Stearns family lived in New Jersey when they purchased Pug. “We were so fortunate to be guided to purchase a reliable schoolmaster like Pug for Amanda,” said Julie Stearns. Husband, Tom Stearns adds, “Amanda’s trainer, Lisa Wallace, told us Amanda could learn a lot about dressage from a schoolmaster and she was right.”

Two years ago the Stearns moved to Wellington, Florida and Amanda and Pug began training with John Zopatti. Under John’s tutelage the pair quickly became a formidable force. “Amanda is an excellent student and Pug is a seasoned pro”, said Zopatti. Last season, Amanda and Pug took the overall high score championship at two Florida dressage shows and went on to win the 2002 Regional Championship in the Dressage Seat Medal class and the Res. Championship in the JYR Training Level class.

But this year’s Region 3 Championship was Pug’s last major horse show. At the retirement ceremony the announcer explained that Pug was retiring and went on to say that Pug and Amanda were having a good show. They won the Res. Championship title in the Dressage Seat Medal class and Res. Championship in the JYR First Level class, but unbeknownst to them the best was yet to come. In their last class, at their last major show Amanda Stearns and Pug Ma Hone took down the house when they were announced as the 2003 Region 3 Champions in the JYR Training Level class. The perfect ending to their show ring partnership.

Now, Pug will bask in her glory at the family’s farm, while Amanda and John Zopatti get Amanda’s new horse, Reika ready for next show season. “Reika has some pretty big horse shoes to fill, now” said Amanda Stearns, smiling.