There was plenty of cuteness to go around as over 50 ponies from California, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, and Washington converged on the Los Angeles Equestrian Center for Pony Palooza, a new three week pony extravaganza for the final three shows of the season at LAEC. The National Preview (Oct 30-Nov 3) was host to the 13th Annual $3,500 West Coast Pony Hunter Finals, LAHJA Pony Medal Finals, and the $1,000 West Coast Pony Jumper Finals, and additional special pony activities and classes will be offered throughout the LA National (Nov 6-10) and the LA Finale (Nov 14-17).
The competition was as tough as it could be in the $3,500 West Coast Pony Hunter Finals with 51 pony and rider combinations. Grace Tuton (Sherry Templin, trainer) and her ponies, Shine On and Woodland’s Huck Finn, proved they were the best in the west when they won the West Coast Pony Hunter Finals Overall Champion and Reserve Champion, respectively. Grace will have several championship ribbons to take back to Arizona as Shine On won Medium Pony Champion and Woodland’s Huck Finn, AKA Huck, won Large Pony Champion.
“I didn’t expect to be champion in both sections, let alone overall champion and reserve champion!” Grace exclaimed. “It’s really exciting and particularly rewarding since we’ve put so much hard work into both of these ponies over the past year. I competed with them in last year’s West Coast Pony Hunter Final, but we had just gotten both ponies about two weeks before so we were still just getting to know each other. We got Huck last year at the U.S. Pony Finals. We tried a lot of ponies there, but Huck was just so adorable and we fell in love with him. We got Shine On at the 2012 Pony Finals Auction just for fun, and we didn’t know anything about him when we bought him. It’s been a lot of fun bringing him along.”
Grace attends online school so she can go to the barn and ride every day. Her hard work and strong relationship with her ponies showed in both hunter rounds. She managed to improve upon both first round scores—79 and 82—and earned an 85 on each pony in the second round. “In the beginning of the week we had a few nice rounds, but I wasn’t as in sync with my ponies as I wanted to be,” Grace elaborated. “So when it came to the finals, I just wanted to go in there and have fun because I knew I still hava a few years to come back if it didn’t work out.”
The 14-year-old shows as 13 and has had a successful show year. She and Huck were Reserve Champion Large Pony Hunter at the Oaks and 2013 Reserve Circuit Champion Large Pony Hunter at Thermal, where Grace was also named Best Pony Rider.
At National Preview, Grace also earned some ribbons on the grass field with her jumper mare, Crystalized. The pair earned a reserve championship in the Low Child-Adult Amateur Jumpers. “I’m really happy and it’s just been a great show overall,” Grace said. “I’m looking forward to next year. I’ll probably keep showing my ponies and hopefully do the Junior Hunters and Children’s Jumpers.”
Also taking on the grass field were the pony jumpers who came to compete in the $1,000 West Coast Pony Jumper Finals. Trent McGee (Tommi Clark, trainer) and his Super Mario added another championship to their impressive list of accomplishments this year. “My family and my trainer support me so much and I’m grateful to them and everyone else who has helped make this year so successful. It means a lot to come out and win the finals, especially since it was my first time on the grass field,” Trent commented. “It took a little bit to adjust to, but my pony and I got it figured out.” In fact, the fearless eleven-year-old and Super Mario excelled on the grass field and edged out Faith Cunningham (Team McAllister, trainers), winner of last year’s pony jumper finals, for the win. Faith and her Barahute earned the reserve championship.
Though Trent is on the jumper path now, he originally envisioned a different riding career. “My dad took me to watch horse racing and I just loved the horses. I started out wanting to be a jockey, but my dad finally told me that I was going to be too tall,” Trent recalled with a laugh. “So he bought me riding lessons at Traditional Equitation School. When he took me to my first grand prix, I said, ‘That’s what I want to do.’”
Trent is on his way to his goal as he and Super Mario have made short work of most of the jumper courses they have taken on. “Next year I think we’re going to try to get some experience in the 1.10M Jumpers and see where that takes us,” Trent mentioned. “And hopefully we can get to the U.S. Pony Jumper Championships again.”
On the other side of the show in the equitation ring, riders showed off their ponies in the LAHJA Pony Medal Finals. Eleven-year-old Bianca Jenkins (Devon Gibson and Christy Arbuckle, trainers) led the final from start to finish aboard her Fine Art. “It feels really good to do well in equitation and it was a lot of fun,” Bianca said. “I’ve been riding Fine Art for a little over a year and I love doing the equitation with her because she’s such a fantastic pony.”
Bianca had two beautiful rounds and finished off the class with a well executed work off that included a trot fence, rollback, and halt. “I was a little nervous, but I felt prepared for the work off because we’ve practiced tests for the last month,” Bianca noted. “I worked through the nerves and I was proud of all my rounds.”
Mara Chemerinsky, catch riding Kapalua (Karen Perlow, owner), moved up to second place after a beautiful work off. Tali Dejong on Brewster (Brooke Buchanan, owner) placed third and Kaitlyn Lovingfoss placed fourth aboard her Salt Water Taffy.
Bianca plans to continue with the ponies for a while. “My goal for next year is to go to the Washington International Horse show with my pony and do well there,” Bianca shared. “I want to keep getting better and moving up in the equitation as well.”
Though the National Preview is over, Pony Palooza is just getting started! LA National (Nov 6-10) will host a Pony Hunter Derby, Pony Grand Prix, and Pony Equitation Championship, and the LA Season Finale (Nov 14-17) will host the LEGIS League Children’s Pony Hunter Final. Pony riders will also have the chance to do fun activities like t-shirt tie dying, henna tattoos, hair braiding, and more.
For more information about the National Preview Horse show, including complete results, please visit the LEG website.