Lexington, Ky. – Aug. 11, 2018 – The third phase of individual USEF Pony Jumper competition took place Saturday evening inside the Alltech Arena, with the top 15 riders returning for their final trips around the 15-fence track. Proving to be the most careful pair of the weekend, Pony Finals newcomer Zacko Hardin and The Girl Next Door consistently mastered designer Jasen Shelley’s technical courses to come out atop the scorecard as the 2018 champions with no faults accrued over the course of three days of riding.
Beginning the individual final with the advantage, Hardin and Sydney Flashman, both members of Friday’s winning Zone 10 Team Championship squad, each returned to the Alltech Arena aboard their respective mounts for their last trips with no rails down over the course of competition. Of the initial 13 pony-and-rider partners to tackle the course, three managed to leave the course intact within the time allowed, but due to penalties incurred during the previous rounds, none would be in contention for the lead. With only two left in the order of go, Taylor Brinsfield and Kristy Fearis’ Sprite held the top spot with a cumulative 4 faults, giving Hardin and Flashman a window of opportunity to jump-off for gold if they could keep all the rails up.
After the three days of riding, it all boiled down to a head-to-head showdown between the final two pairs from the West Coast. Hardin and Patty Arnett’s The Girl Next Door, a 14.1-hand full Thoroughbred that was born as a twin, sliced and diced around the Alltech Arena to finish another clean and clear trip, putting the pressure on the last entry, Flashman and David Sterckx’s Focalize Dew Drop. Though Flashman and her mount managed to lay down a careful performance, they fell victim to the time allowed, accruing 2 time faults to negate a jump-off for the tricolor and secure Hardin and The Girl Next Door as the 2018 champions.
On his reaction to winning:
“I’m so overwhelmed and excited. I honestly thought I was going to cry. All my friends came from Utah to support me. It felt so good. I was ready to jump-off against Sydney because she is such a good rider. Everything just felt great. I didn’t have a doubt about a distance to any jump, anything at all. I felt like it was the best round I have ever had on her. This was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had.”
On competing at his first Pony Finals:
“I was feeling pressure because all of the other teams are really good and most of them have come back from previous years, so I was the new kid going in with a pony I have only been riding since February. That was pressure, but we had our first clean round the first day and all the pressure just went away. I knew she was going to do really well here.”
On her reaction to earning the reserve:
“It feels amazing, unreal. I have come here to do the jumpers for two years. The first year I stopped out in two of the four rounds, and last year I came hoping to get over the triple. This year it is an amazing feeling to have a pony that is so wonderful. I am so lucky and overwhelmed.”
RESULTS Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / R1 and 2 Faults / R3 Faults Individual Jumper Final
1. The Girl Next Door / Zacko Hardin / Patty Arnett / 0 / 0
2. Focalize Dew Drop / Sydney Flashman / David Sterckx / 0 / 2
3. Sprite / Taylor Brinsfield / Kristy Fearis / 4 / 0
4. Venice / Elizabeth Cram / Wendy Arndt/ 4 / 2
5. Spoot De La Jourlais / Tabitha Okitsu / Tabitha Okitsu / 4 / 4
5. Angel / Molly Koczon / Ponies Unlimited, LLC / 8 / 0
5. Sky Miles / Hallie Rush / Hallie Rush / 8 / 0
5. Raisin A Ruckus / Lydia Philbrick / Lydia Philbrick / 4 / 4
5. Magic Beans / Madison Kondracki / Madison Kondracki / 4 / 4