Lexington, KY - It was a sunny and warm at the Kentucky Horse Park for the third day of the 2011 United States Equestrian Federation Pony Finals. The day began in the Walnut Ring with the Small Pony Hunter Model and Under Saddle phases. The Medium Pony Hunter Over Fences were up next, and after three days of competition the Overall Medium Pony Hunter Grand Championship was awarded to Meredith Darst for her ride aboard Enchanted Forrest. The final event of the day was the Pony Jumper Welcome Class and first qualifier for the Individual medals, which was held in the Covered Arena this evening.
Meredith Darst and Enchanted Forrest, owned by Dr. Betsee Parker of Middleburg, VA, have had a fantastic week in the Medium Pony Hunter division. They held the lead going into the final phase, and with scores of 86.9, 87 and 87, the duo garnered the top call over fences. Darst and Enchanted Forrest's efforts eventually earned them the Overall Medium Pony Hunter Grand Championship and the Beagle Brook Farm Perpetual Trophy, donated by Jennifer Miller and Beagle Brook Farm in honor of "Special Effects." All of this week's USEF National Hunter Pony Championships are presented by Sallee Horse Vans.
"I began riding Enchanted Forrest at the beginning of WEF, and I really like the under saddle and over fences phases with him," noted Darst. "He is really quiet and has a really big stride, so you can go pretty slow, but you need to have impulsion and keep him in front of your leg. He moves really well and jumps over fences smoothly."
Darst added, "It's great to do well at Pony Finals because it validates all of our hard work during the year. It is one of my favorite competitions, and I like that it is on different days, so I do not have to run around as much; I like the separation of the classes."
The Medium Pony Hunter Reserve Grand Championship title was presented to Bergen Sanderford of Santa Rosa Beach, FL, and Swingtown, who were ranked third going into today's final event and placed sixth over fences. The second-place finisher over fences was Devin Ashley Seek and Toblerone, owned by Jodie Camberg of Calabasas, CA, who earned scores of 87, 86, and 86. Samantha Cohen and Kodak, owned by Kate Considine of Sherman Oaks, CA, took home the third-place prize after receiving scores of 81, 88, and 85.
Earlier in the day, the Small Pony Hunter Model was held in the Walnut Ring, and the winning prize was presented to Hana Bieling and Anakin, owned by Richard Cunkle of Wellington, FL. Emma Ubriaco of Blue Ridge Summit, PA, and Picante took home the second-place honors, while Lilli Hymowitz and Rafael, owned by Bridlebourne Stables LLC of Elkton, FL, scored the third-place award.
"It feels great to win the model, Anakin is very pretty," commented 10-year-old Bieling. "He's a catch ride and I only started showing him about two months ago. I am only showing Anakin at Pony Finals this year, but I really like coming here. Anakin just needs a soft and sweet ride."
The Small Pony Hunter Under Saddle was next, and it was Madeline Schaefer of Westminster, MD, aboard Flashback who received the day's top call and blue ribbon. Lucy Deslauriers showed Carolina's Shenanigans, owned by RHR Partnership of Wellington, FL, to the second-place award, while Hymowitz and Rafael once again placed third.
"Flashback was really good in the under saddle today so I am very excited," smiled Schaefer. "He needs a loose and forward ride, and I like his jump the best. I have had him for over two years, and he is always on you looking for cookies, but he will never bite you. Our miniature donkey is his best friend; he goes out with him every day!"
The final event during today's competition was the Pony Jumpers Welcome Class in the Covered Arena. Seventeen-year-old Nicole Kehrli of Glenmore, PA, managed to conquer the competition with the fastest clear round aboard her pony Northwind's Opus. The duo stopped the clock in 68.603 seconds and led the final victory gallop. Claire Salopek of Lafayette, LA, and Sir Lance-A-Lot took home the second-place honors finishing just a quarter of a second behind Kehrli. Brooke Gunther of Chester Springs, PA, earned the third-place ribbon aboard Fire Van Battenbroek with a fault free round, breaking the beam at 70.756 seconds.
"I have had Northwind's Opus for almost seven years, and he is 10 years old. I wasn't actually riding for time today because it counts for the whole overall score, so I just wanted to be clear," noted Kehrli. "I took my turns carefully, and he was listening so well. He just loves to go fast and he loves his job, he is always excited to get in the ring. This is my third year at Pony Finals, and I always look forward to the team night because it is something different and gives you a chance to work together."
The 2011 USEF Pony Finals will continue tomorrow with the Large Pony Hunter Model and Under Saddle. Later in the day, the Small Pony Hunters will complete their over fences phase and the Overall Small Pony Hunter Grand Champion will be named. The final event will be the second phase of the Pony Jumper Individual Championship, combined with the Pony Jumper Team Championship, in the Covered Arena.
For more information about the 2011 USEF Pony Finals, visit http://www.usefnetwork.com/featured/2011PonyFinals/.
Photos: Meredith Darst and Enchanted and Forrest. Photo by Shawn McMillen; Madeline Schaefer and Flashback. Photo by Shawn McMillen; Nicole Kehrli and Northwind's Opus. Photo by Rebecca Walton/Phelps Media Group.