Stormy skies did nothing to dampen the spirits of pony enthusiasts as intense championship competition got underway Friday at the popular National Dressage Pony Cup, being held July 8-10, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Competitors representing 23 different states from Maine to Texas competed in the first of two rounds of classes in pursuit of a stunning array of NDPC awards in Open, Adult Amateur, and Junior/Young Rider divisions, and showed off their pony power at all levels of competition from walk/trot at Intro to piaffe/passage at the Grand Prix level.
Starting out at the Intro Level, Nancy Wentz of Galena, Ohio earned a comfortable win in the Adult Amateur division with her black Morgan gelding Kells Xtra Kash on a score of 69.375%, while Andrea Eppley (Westfield, Ind.) took home the red ribbon today with her Fjord stallion CH Felles with 65.625%. Also earning a nice score of 69.688% for the win was Jill McNicol’s six-year-old Connemara gelding Cool Springs McArthur, ridden by Danielle Hebler of Geneva, Ohio to top the Open division ahead of last year’s division champions Ellen Murphy of Georgetown, Ky. with her pinto gelding Crunch N Munch (67.500%). Mackenzie Pearl traveled all the way from Atkinson, Maine and was rewarded with a win on 70.000% in the Junior/Young Rider Intro Test B aboard Gabrian McPhail’s Welsh Cob gelding Waterford Baccalaureate, with Skye Marvin of nearby Paris, Ky. placing second aboard American Warmblood gelding Liddle Lord Pippin (68.438%).
Kalie Beckers has been to the picturesque Kentucky Horse Park multiple times to compete in the FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC), but this was the first time she made the 12-hour trek from Independence, La. to attend the Pony Cup. Her long drive proved worthwhile as she easily topped a large field of Juniors and Young Riders at Training Level with a big score of 71.154% aboard Gerlinde Beckers’ eight-year-old Welsh Cob mare Madoc Mari, a ride she unexpectedly inherited from family members. She earned the win over another Welsh Cob, Here-Be Seren Gwyn (owned by Martha Stover) with rider Ella Angelo of Kalamazoo, Mich. (65.192%). “[Madoc Mari] is my mother’s pony, but my sister stopped riding and so she needed a job,” Beckers explained. “I’ve only been riding her since January, and I was going to jump her. But then when the dressage shows in our region became NDPC Partner Shows, we found out about this opportunity to come to the championship show in Kentucky and decided to go for it. It’s certainly much less stressful than the NAJYRC and a lot more fun! Our test today was very steady and harmonious the whole time, and the sloppy conditions didn’t faze her at all.” Beckers and Madoc Mari also topped a competitive field in the First Level Junior/Young Rider division with a winning score of 71.094% over second-place finishers Caitlyn Massey (Arlington, Tenn.) and Zassafrass with 70.312%.
Also earning a dominating victory was Kathryn Barry (Freeport, Ill.) riding Klaus Biesenthal’s North American Sport Pony stallion Magnum by winning the Open Training Level division with an impressive mark of 73.654%, good enough for a five-point lead going into the final day over Jessie Hayes of New Jersey aboard Lauren Chumley’s Fjord mare FMF Liesl (68.654%). Later in the day, Barry and Magnum would also earn reserve honors at First Level Open with 68.906%. In the Adult Amateur Training Level division, a fight to the finish is set for Saturday’s final round of competition as Linda Spraggs of nearby Danville, Ky, narrowly tops the leaderboard with Paint By Nimble (65.577%) just ahead of Jody Morse of Stokesdale, N.C. with her Fjord mare Mai on 65.192%. Spraggs and her Paint gelding also earned reserve honors in the Adult Amateur Musical Freestyle class with 67.833% for their Training Level performance.
At First Level, Adult Amateur rider Anna Jaffe of Lincoln, Mass. leads her division with Lauren Slater’s Welsh gelding Wynshire’s Aristocrat on 67.188%, with Lori Lamattina of Dayton, Ohio earning 65.000% to finish second with her Fjord gelding WW Rudig. Jaffe and her mount also claimed the afternoon’s Adult Amateur Musical Freestyle class, earning 69.167% for their lovely Cirque du Soleil-themed First Level Freestyle performance. With their own First Level Freestyle, Morgan Walsh of Pataskala, Ohio and the Arabian mare Serene’s Second Chance won a tiebreak at 63.833% to take the blue ribbon in the Junior/Young Rider Musical Freestyle, edging out Faith Green of Caryville, Tenn. aboard Mary Sivley’s Quarter Horse gelding Duster’s Legacy.
In 2015, Lauren Chumley of New Jersey and Nikolas (six-year-old German Riding Pony gelding owned by Melissa Dowling) were stars of the NDPC Championship Show at Training and First Levels. Returning to the Kentucky Horse Park a year later, the eye-catching pair once again prove to be the ones to beat as they topped today’s hotly-contested First Level Open class on the strength of their score of 71.250%. They also made the move up to Second Level look easy as they topped the Open division with a score of 68.205%. In addition, Chumley took second-place honors with 67.692% aboard Liam Rowe’s Welsh Cob mare Sham’s Chinaberry. During the morning session, Mandy Robertson (Arlington, Va.) rode Caroline Hardie’s Connemara mare Destiny’s Persuit to take the lead in the Adult Amateur Second Level division with 65.897% over Pennsylvania’s Kelly Ann Soldavin aboard her Welsh/Thoroughbred cross pony Ketadog Admiral (64.487%). Bryn Varvel of Bloomington, Ind. rode her Morgan gelding V Back in Black to win the Second Level Test 2 Junior/Young Rider class with 66.795%, just ahead of second-place finisher Beatrix Leffingwell (Lake Vila, Ill.) with her American Sport Pony mare Mariska on 66.154%.
Marsha Montgomery’s Oldenburg mare Hakuna Matata is also a Pony Cup veteran, and this year she returned to the Kentucky Horse Park with Alayna Borden of Lambertville, N.J. where they are on track to defend their Third Level Junior/Young Rider division title with a top first round score of 64.103%, ahead of Bryn Varvel with V Back in Black (61.667%). Hakuna Matata then returned to the ring with Karen Borden to also take a narrow overnight lead in the Third Level Adult Amateur division with 64.872%, just ahead of Second Level AA division leaders Mandy Robertson and Destiny’s Persuit (64.359%). In the Third Level Open division, Karyn Becerra of Zebulon, N.C. took the lead with 63.333% aboard her American Sport Pony Twinkletoes Tiara, with Lauren Chumley and Sham’s Chinaberry holding second with 62.821%. Becerra and Twinkletoes Tiara also earned their second win of the day with their Third Level Freestyle, earning 61.667% to win the Open Musical Freestyle class just ahead of Elaine Hayes of Mooresville, N.C. with Ruth Shaw’s Morgan gelding Quietude Seneca Rocks (61.167%).
Only Adult Amateurs are contending for Fourth Level Championship honors this year, and Bonnie Womack of Zephyrhills, Fla. is off to a good start on claiming the title with a score of 63.333% aboard her Arabian mare Noblique +/, with Kelly Martinez (San Antonio, Texas) and her Welsh cross Fierro L’Oasis in second with 61.528%. Meanwhile in the main arena, FEI-level tests were the highlight of the morning session in front of FEI 5* judge Lilo Fore. After winning last year’s Training Level Junior/Young Rider championship, Katelyn Mosle of Springboro, Ohio and the six-year-old bay pinto Oldenburg Benno’s Watermark returned to Kentucky, this time to claim the FEI Pony Team Test with a score of 60.769%. Finishing in second was Michigan junior Grace Sacoman, earning 58.718% aboard her Welsh gelding Jordy.
In the FEI Test of Choice classes, 18-year-old Jamie Sawyer of Odessa, Fla. and her German Riding Pony Charly Brown impressed the judges for a score of 62.895% at Intermediate I to win the Junior/Young Rider division. For Adult Amateurs, Billy Jackson of Georgia also found success with the Intermediate I test, earning 63.158% aboard Janie Pride’s Dutch gelding Ilja. Standing in second after the first round of competition is Kerry Ann Johnson-Miljan (Palmyra, Wis.) with her North American Sport Pony Red Fish Blue Fish with 60.000% for their Prix St. Georges test. Lauren Chumley wrapped up her busy day with another victory, this time aboard longtime partner Avatar’s Jazzman (Morgan gelding owned by Melissa Dowling) as they claimed the FEI Test of Choice Open Division win with 58.500% at Grand Prix over Debra Mgonigle of Illinois, who earned 56.974% at Intermediate I with her Morgan stallion Forsite Renoir.
“I think it’s just amazing to see everyone here from juniors to older adults and seasoned professionals, all having fun and enjoying competing their ponies at the Pony Cup,” said NDPC founder Jenny Carol. “In addition, with the help of the livestreaming on the USEF Network, these ponies are showing the world how talented they are at all levels of dressage, from introducing new riders to the sport at the Intro level to earning solid marks from top FEI judges at Grand Prix. The atmosphere and camaraderie here is incredible and I’m so thankful to everyone for their support.”
To watch the National Dressage Pony Cup LIVE, visit the USEF Network at http://www.usefnetwork.com/featured/2016NDPC/ – coverage resumes Saturday, July 9th at 7:30am ET. Complete results from the first day of competition is available at http://www.showsecretary.com/rs.asp?show_ID=594. To find out more information about the National Dressage Pony Cup programs, visit the NDPC website at www.dressageponycup.com and visit their Facebook page. To view National Dressage Pony Cup championship show information including prize list, classes and ride times, visit www.showsecretary.com.