It was a Devon to remember for 13-year-old Meredith Darst. She swept the Medium Pony Hunter division with Champion Swingtown and Reserve Champion Enchanted Forest, and was Champion in the Large Pony Hunter division and Devon Grand Pony Hunter Champion on For The Laughter AND was named The Best Child Rider on a Pony.
The daughter of professional Mindy Darst is at the top of every trainer's list as the top pony catch rider. Case in point, she had only ridden Swingtown for the first time a few days before Devon. "He jumps really well and he's a lot of fun. He has a big stride, easy lead changes and he's really slow and quiet," says Darst. Does she ever get attached to any of her catch rides? "There are definitely some that I wish I could ride a lot." Believe it or not, this quiet little person's nickname is "Mad Dog" because she is always so focused on the task at hand. When last seen she was running off to change into her Pony Hunt Team costume.
Speaking of costumes, Madeline Schaefer arrived for her interview in a pirate's costume, having done a quick change after winning the Small Pony Hunter Championship on Hi Lite. The younger sister of top Junior Samantha Schaefer, or the other way around as Madeline tells it, she is no stranger to the winner's circle at Devon.
At the ripe old age of 10 she is already in training with well-known trainer Patricia Griffith of Heritage Farm in New York. One of the keys to her success is the frequent and abundant distribution of peppermints. Particularly to her own pony Flashback, who in addition to treats Madeline's pony loves her miniature donkey. "Today I'm doing "Flash" in the Hunt Teams!" says Schaeffer. She has the system down pat "We're bribing the judges with rum, candy and Pirate's Booty Popcorn AND we've got eye patches! Hunt Teams is the most exciting part about Devon!" she says with a laugh as she reaches into her pocket to show us her good luck charm. "This is in the shape of my miniature donkey's hoof. It always stays in my pocket and it's my good luck charm."
Photos: Meredith Darst with Medium Pony Hunter Champion Swingtown and Reserve Champion Enchanted Forest and Owner, Dr. Betsee Parker; Madeline Schaefer & Small Pony Hunter Champion Hi Lite