Lexington, KY - The third day of competition got underway Thursday in the Walnut Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park during the 2010 United States Equestrian Federation Pony Finals National Championships. The event began with the model and under saddle phases for the Medium Pony Hunter division and was followed by the over fences phase for the Small Pony Hunter division to determine the Overall Small Pony Hunter Grand Champion. Later in the evening, the competition moved to the Covered Arena where Pony Jumper Individual competition began with Phase I.
The individual judges' scores decided the top three finishers in the Medium Pony Hunter model phase who all scored a total of 247 points today. The first-place ribbon was awarded to Sydney Shulman and Broadway Star, owned by Back Country Farm of Greenwich, CT, while the second-place prize went to Madeline Placey of Southport, CT, and Let's Play Two. Taking home the third-place honors was Kayla Steinmetz of Maitland, FL, and Helicon Highlights.
"I've had her since she was two and brought her along myself; this is our third year at Pony Finals together," noted Shulman. "She won the model her green year and was second in the model last year. This win is really special for me because it¹s my last year showing Mediums, and it's a great start to our last Pony Finals together!"
During today's Medium Pony Hunter under saddle phase there was a direct tie for the second-place prize with 256 points and each rider scoring an 86, 85 and 85. The tie was between Jaden Olson riding Northwind's Lost Boy, owned by Shelby Drazan of Woodside, CA, and Madison Goetzman of Westport, CT, with Sportster. Earning the top call and taking home the blue ribbon prize was Daisy Farish and Cleverist, owned by Scott Stewart of Wellington, FL.
"I just started showing Cleverist at Lake Placid," noted Farish. "He's really fun in the hack because he likes to show off! I am really excited for this afternoon's jumping in the smalls and the rest of Pony Finals!"
During the afternoon, it was the Small Pony Hunters taking center stage, where Meredith Darst and Elation, owned by Betsee Parker of Middleburg, VA, had a wire-to-wire victory. The pair was leading the division going to the final over fences phase, and with a beautiful round they scored a 250 to earn the first-place prize. Darst and Elation gained an overall score of 1027, holding their lead and winning the Small Pony Hunter Grand Championship title.
"I've been riding her since Capital Challenge last year and she's really fun," smiled Darst. "She's pretty slow, she's not lazy but she's not fast either. I was really nervous today and I never really get nervous. I guess I just wanted to do well and that's why I was nervous."
Twelve-year-old Darst continued, "I had one in every division, so I've been riding a lot. I've been coming to Pony Finals for five years, and my favorite part is seeing all of my friends! I have friends all over the country from showing, so it's fun to all be together."
The Small Pony Hunter Reserve Grand Championship went to Isabel Ryan, of Locust Valley, NY, and her Lands End Eros. The duo earned the third-place award during the over fences phase with a score of 245, for an overall total of 1,000. The overall third-place honors went to Hana Bieling and Carolina's Shenanigans, owned by Noel Fauntleroy of Manakin Sabot, VA, for their total score of 998.
Wrapping-up Thursday's events was the Pony Jumper Welcome Class in the Covered Arena where seven of the original 33 entries were able to complete the course without fault. Sydney Shulman rode Set Sail, owned by Back Country Farm, to the win in the class with a clear round in a time of 61.091 seconds. Earning the second-place award was Tayler Cobb aboard Kokanee, who also left all the rails in their cups and broke the beam at 66.893 seconds. Ceely Davis and Night Games, owned by Sara Kirby, also left all the fences standing to garner the third-place honors after stopping the clock at 68.410 seconds.
"The course was really fun tonight," smiled Shulman after her victory. "I've been doing the pony jumpers with him for the last six years, but he also does the pony hunters and equitation so he's really talented. The course was really hard but I did all the inside turns and tried to be as quick as possible!"
Friday, the competition will continue in the Medium Pony Hunter division as riders complete their over fences phase to determine the Grand Champion and Reserve Champion. The Large Pony Hunter division will get underway with the model and under saddle phase, while the Pony Jumpers compete in Phase 2 and the Team Competition.
For more information about the 2010 USEF Pony Finals please visit www.usef.org. To view video and photos from the event, visit www.clubequestrian.com/coverage/pony_finals_2010.aspx.
Photo Credit: Meredith "Maddy" Darst and Elation. Photo by Randi Muster.