Thursday night the determined mounted their ponies to take on the indoor jump course at the Alltech Arena for the 2012 US Pony Finals at the beautiful Kentucky Horse Park. Riders from all over the nation participated in the US National Pony Jumper Team Championship and also competed at the individual level in phase II, a continuation from Wednesday. By the end of the night, team four united over an outstanding unit score to win the US National Pony Jumper Team Championship. In the second phase of the individual jumper, with a score of 63.511, Caroline Zaunbrecher and Fire Van Battenbroek were ranked in first place.
Designed by Marc Donovan, the freshly constructed jump course was made up of 13 classic jump obstacles. The rider's opening fence was a double oxer, creating a wide left along the gate side of the ring leading into a diagonal line of a vertical to double oxer. Taking the far side curve to the right, the rider was then challenged to an outside line of verticals separated by four strides and then to a double oxer. A tight right and a maneuver through fences introduced a single double oxer and a lead change to the far end of the course for a series of tight turns and few stride jumps. The last line of the course led jumpers to a double oxer-vertical-vertical combination to double oxer to stop the clock.
Eight teams of three or four pony riders vied for the top score with the least amount of faults and most efficient time. Four participant teams dropped the least beneficial contribution at the end of the round. In the end it was team four, 15-year old Lindsey Toothman and Jean Claude of Carrollton, GA, 13-year-old Julia Curtis and The Waterboy of Carrollton, GA, 14-year-old Breanna Holmes and American Hero of Guntersville, AL and 16-year-old, Barclay Powell and Cookies and Cream of Gainesville, FL who claimed the gold medal awards and the US National Pony Jumper Team Championship.
"I felt very confident in the second round." Toothman shared while surrounded by her teammates. "In the first round I was off. I was rushed and I'm not used to that. I'm used to coming in and relaxing as I study the course and how others ride it but when I came in a second time I knew exactly what I had to fix and I went in and did it."
"It was amazing out here tonight," Holmes beamed. "Yesterday I let the venue and the crowd consume me but today I went out there and I owned it and laid it down and fixed my mistakes from the first round and that's how I believe we got gold and came to a solid victory tonight."
By Curtis and Holmes clearing their second rounds, team seven needed their last rider to ride clear for best time to be the determining factor. Mattie Hatcher and Erin Meadows Silk Stockings of Milwaukee, WI, having zero faults, and Claire Salopek and Sir Lance-A-Lot of Lafayette, LA, and Elizabeth McDougald and Knock My Sox Off of Lawton, OK, each having four faults, team seven needed their last rider to deliver a faultless ride. Caroline Zaunbrecher and Fire Van Battenbroek of Lafayette, LA, dropped a pole, taking a four fault score and giving team four the automatic victory.
"Tonight the course was a real jumper's course and my pony felt like a grand prix horse," the elated Curtis smiled. "He was jumping amazing and very smooth considering how tight the turns were out there. He is a great pony and I'm very fortunate."
"This is my first year and it's an awesome experience," Powell added. "I've never been to pony finals, not even to watch. It's been fun to be here; to compete and to get gold the first time I come here is really exciting."
Team four was awarded medals and the Willow Grove Farm Perpetual Trophy, donated by William J. Moroney in honor of his parents, Edward and Lorraine Moroney.
Caroline Zaunbrecher and Fire Van Battenbroek asserted the lead in the individual competition after completing Wednesday and Thursday's clear rounds. Elizabeth McDougald and was close on her heels after completing two fault-free efforts aboard Knock My Sox Off. Keely Laughlin and her mount Larger Than Life of Fresno, CA, earned the third place position also ending with two fault-free rounds. The Gold Medal winner will be determined tomorrow evening during Phase III of the Individual Pony Jumper Finals at the Alltech Arena.
USEF Network will post results and videos from the US Pony Finals daily at http://usefnetwork.com/featured/2012USEFPonyFinals/
Find out more about the Pony Finals at www.usef.org.
Photo: Zone 4, the US National Pony Jumper Team Champions (Ashley N. Williams/PMG)