Harrisburg, PA - Pony Hunters of all sizes took over the ring at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show presented by the Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Trust. The ponies and their pint-sized jockeys contested two over fences classes on Friday, and on Saturday saw the culmination of their efforts, with a class on the flat and one final round over fences to determine championship honors.
Alexa Elle Lignelli, a 9-year-old fourth grader from New York, NY, and her 9-year-old pony IParty, were named Small Pony Hunter Champion, placing first or second in all the classes in the division for a point total of 32. Sophie Gochman and Bit of Love, owned by Dr. Betsee Parker took the Reserve with 26 points.
"I started riding her after Washington last year. She is very huntery. If you don't know her pace you won't find the distances. You don't want to go forward galloping or you will pop or chip. You want to have a normal pace, not like a real hunter, not that slow but like pretty medium," explained the adorable Lignelli.
When asked what she likes about horse shows, Lignelli was very clear. "I like the competition. I just love the sport. It is so fun."
Trainer Bill Schaub added "Two weeks before pony finals I got a phone call and she came to me. They started off with a bang. They were Champion Section A in Kentucky the week before Pony Finals. We had some bad luck at Pony Finals but we have been inching our way up."
"She has nerves of steel," continued Schaub. "She doesn't get nervous. She is always telling me to calm down. She loves the competition and that is unusual, if she has a bad round she comes out smiling and we discuss it and learn from it and it is over. They have really come together."
Rock Star, an entry of Roberts Sales LLC, and rider Sophia Roberts, a 12-year-old from Wilmington, OH, were the Medium Pony Hunter Champions with 24 points. Trillville, owned by Stella Wasserman and Augusta Iwasaki were the Reserve Champions with 16 points.
"I am so happy," said Gochman. "He is such a good boy. I wasn't really thinking about the championship. I was just trying to do my best. He has a great rhythm, a nice smoot jump and is so comfortable, and he tries really hard all the time. I love riding him. Sadly, this is my last year on ponies so this is a good way to go out."
Grand Pony Hunter Champion was awarded to IParty and Alexa Elle Lignelli, making it an even better day for the pair. IParty's caretaker, Amato Ramos took home the Groom Award for his efforts.
The EMO Agency Pony Hunter High Five award was given to Sophie Gochman and The Pony Hunter Sportsmanship Award went to Adam Edgar.
Final awards for the Junior Hunters were also handed out. Evermore and Emma Kurtz were named High Point Small Junior Hunter, winning the Huntland Derby Perpetual Cup. Brett Burlington's Due West and was the High Point Large Junior Hunter. Due West was also named Grand Junior Hunter, Perpetual Trophy, with his groom, Milton Portillo, taking the Groom Award and Michael Delphiandra winning the Trainer Award. Best Junior Rider on a Horse, the Maxine Best Memorial Perpetual Trophy, was presented to Emma Kurtz and the Sportsmanship Award was given to Christopher Coberley.
A Tackroom Award is given out for the best decorated, most functional tackroom for Junior Weekend. This year North Run placed first. The display from Beacon Hill was second, third went to Heritage Farm and fourth was Boggs Hill.
The draw for order of go in the Pessoa/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final took place at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show. With 276 riders, parents and trainers present, all anxiously waiting to hear the starting positions in the prestigious class. Show Manager Peter Doubleday did the honors, drawing Caroline Ellis as the first in the ring. For the distinction of being the first, Caroline was awarded a jacket to keep her warm in the wee hour's tomorrow morning as she warms up for her round.
"I want to congratulate all the riders for their hard work and dedication," said Doubleday. "I especially want to thank all the parents for their sacrifices in getting you to this level. And I want to thank all the caretakers of these horses, who put in so much effort to make this possible. I wish you all good luck."
For more information, updates, promotions, and more, visit www.PANational.org