Lexington, KY - It was another hot day at the Kentucky Horse Park but that did not slow down the exciting competition at the 2010 United States Equestrian Federation Pony Finals National Championships. The top ponies and riders gathered at the Walnut Ring to showcase their talent.
The pony action began with the Large Pony Hunter model and under saddle phases, and was followed soon after by Medium Pony Hunter over fences phase to determine the grand championship and reserve grand championship titles. The day rounded out with the second phase of the Individual Jumping, which included the Team Competition.
Meredith Darst and Highlands Make Believe, owned by Elizabeth Wenner of Garden City, NY, had an incredible round during the Medium Pony Hunter over fences phase that earned them a total of 259 points. Their excellent score helped them win the over fences phase and also moved them from 14th in the overall standings to first place overall. Their advancement in the standings with a 1006.25 total score garnered them the Medium Pony Hunter Grand Championship.
"This is my fifth horse show on him," smiled Darst. "He's really fun to ride, he has a big stride and he moves really well. I do have to make the lead change happen, but they aren't hard, they just aren't automatic. My mom [Mindy Darst] helps me when I ride him and she just said, 'Try your hardest I know you can do this.' I wasn't nervous today, but I think yesterday I was nervous because I didn't have a good week in the Greens, so I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well."
Darst added, "Riding is great because it helps me focus. I have learned to block things out and it brings focus to my life. I am really thankful for all of the opportunities that I get. "
Taking home the Medium Pony Hunter Reserve Grand Championship award was Isabelle Caccamise of Westport, CT and Better Than Good. The pair placed third over fences with a score of 253, which brought their total to 998 for the second place finish overall. Sydney Shulman and Broadway Star, owned by Back Country Farm of Greenwich, CT, place sixth over fences with a score of 246.85 and earned the third place honors overall with a total of 991.7 points.
Earlier in the day, Victoria Colvin and For The Laughter, owned by Dr. Betsee Parker of Middleburg, VA, dominated the Large Pony Hunter model phase, scoring a 255 for the first place prize. The individual judges scores determined the second and third place ribbons, with each pony earning at 246 total. Isabelle Caccamise of Westport, CT, and Losander's Camelot were awarded the second place prize, while Kendell Adelberger and Midnight Swing, owned by Zoe Beckerman, took home the third place honors.
"I am glad we won the model and hope he will be good tomorrow over fences," said Colvin, who admitted that the pony can sometimes be finicky. "When he was younger he got a fake flower stuck in his mouth and got really scared so he doesn't like ribbons or coolers if they are flying and loose! "
The placings for the Large Pony Hunter under saddle phase were determined next, where Caccamise and Losander's Camelot earned another top prize with a score of 253 for the third place ribbon. Two riders had a direct tie for the first place award, with each pony scoring an 84, 85, and 85, for a total of 254 points. Victoria Press and Midnight Hour, owned by Porter Allen of Boerne, TX, received a winning rosette, while fellow rider Elizabeth Newmeyer, of and Gracewood's Crush Worthy also took home a blue ribbon prize.
"I am very excited, this is a crazy feeling," expressed Newmeyer. "I've competed twice before at Pony Finals and I did the Large Greens on him at Pony Finals last year. I've been riding him for the last three years and I just love him!"
Press added, "It's really exciting to win today because I've never done this well at Pony Finals before. I wasn't really expecting much so this is a great surprise. I really enjoy Midnight and I'm excited for the over fences phase tomorrow!"
The final event of the day was the Pony Jumper Individual Phase II and the Pony Jumper Team Competition in the Covered Arena. At the end of the night, it was the team from Region 1, 5, & 9 that claimed the Gold Medal award. The group included Tayler Cobb and Kokanee, Dagny Mactaggart and Spiderman, owned by Erica McKeever, Andre Mershad and Little Freebie, and Sydney Shulman and Set Sail, owned by Back Country Farm. With Mershad and Shulman each registering double clear rounds the team had a 13 fault score to catch their victory.
"I was really excited; I went really fast and I had a lot of fun," exclaimed Mershad after the victory gallop. "My brothers and my sister all rode Little Freebie before me, but I just started doing the pony jumpers at the end of last WEF. I had so much fun tonight. This was my first big team competition so it's awesome to go double clear and win with my team!"
The Silver Medal went to the team from Regions 7 and 10 who had a total of 16-faults. The team featured Kaitlin Miller-Roberts and Game On, owned by Tracey Bradley, Alexis Bowen and Kelly, Stephanie Don and Bentley, and Sarah Walker and La-Ti-Da. With a 24-fault total, the Bronze Medal was awarded to the team from Region 2. The riders included Brittany Carter and Surprisingly Dotty, Jessica Grey and Rootbeer Float, Jessica Karsin Landis and Oliver Twist, owned by Hillary Watkins, and Ashley Foster and Only Option, owned by Will Kennedy.
Sydney Schulman and Set Sail currently hold the lead in the Individual Competition after completing two clear rounds. Ceely Davis is close on her heels after completing two fault-free efforts aboard Night Games, owned by Sara Kirby. The Gold Medal winner will be determined tomorrow evening during the Individual Jumper Final.
Tomorrow morning, the Large Pony Hunters will complete their over fences phase to determine the championship and reserve championship honors. The Overall Regular Pony Hunter Grand Champion will also be determined by calculating top scores in each of the Small, Medium, and Large divisions, and the winner will receive a $500 gift certificate from Oakcroft.
The ponies that received the top scores throughout the week in the model classes will have the opportunity to show in the Pony Finals Top Model tomorrow afternoon. After this event, the riders that earned the best scores over fences will participate in the Top Ten Stake, sponsored by Dr. Betsee Parker.
For more information about the 2010 USEF Pony Finals please visit www.usef.org
Photo Credit: Meredith Darst and Highlands Make Believe earned the Medium Pony Hunter Grand Championship at the 2010 USEF Pony Finals. Photo By: Randi Muster.