Nearly 50 ponies converged on the Los Angeles Equestrian Center for the West Coast Pony Finals at National Preview (Nov 9-13), where they had the chance to face a lot of competition and put to the test all the hard work they've put in this year. The hunter division was particularly strong with 41 entries, and eleven-year-old Grady Lyman (Alicia Saxton, trainer) topped them all to win not only her Large Pony section on her A Hoof And A Prayer, but the overall grand champion title as well.
"We were very excited," Grady's trainer Alicia shared. "All my kids love winning sashes, so for her that was the best part. This was her third year doing the West Coast Pony Finals, and last year she was reserve champion in the Large Pony section. This has been a goal of hers since she got her ponies two and a half years ago." Grady, a sixth grader at Diegueno Country School, has been riding since she was five years old, and she's been with Alicia for much of that time. "She's a very hard worker, a good sportsman, she has a great attitude and is a natural rider. Everything she sits on likes her."
Alicia went to Georgia to pick out ponies for Grady and came back with both A Hoof and a Prayer, Grady's grand champion mount, and Blue Print, a medium on which Grady placed sixth in the Medium Pony section. "I knew he would be a great match for Grady as soon as I saw him," Alicia said of A Hoof And A Prayer. "He's a great pony. He has been there and done that, and he has really shown her the way. He's very easy to be around and very cute, and it's been a match right from the start."
As for the West Coast Pony Finals, Alicia added, "I think it's great for the kids who don't have the time, ability, or money to go to Kentucky. It's a great opportunity to get a little more competition than the typical class, and the way LEG puts it on, they make it a big deal for the kids. They bring the trainers in the ring for the awards, which is really fun, and overall the whole event has a very nice feel about it."
The reserve grand championship went to Jillian Wolf (Michael Edrick, trainer), who also won the Small Pony section on Yet Another Karacter (Paul Wolf Farms LLC, owner). Jillian also earned several other ribbons of all colors throughout the week in Small Pony Hunters and Small Pony Equitation.
In the West Coast Pony Jumper Finals, Emily Hoham (Judy Nielson, trainer) and Fly Girl flew to the top of the class to clinch the title, with Stephanie Don (David Sterckx, trainer) piloting her Bentley to the second place ribbon. "Emily was very excited and determined to win," Judy commented. "She was determined to be double clean, and this was her last show of the year, so that was a good way to end the year."
Judy and her students came all the way from Las Vegas to show. "We only show in Southern California," she explained. "We were working toward children's jumper points, so National Preview was convenient for us. We like that the accommodations are close to the facility, and LEG always has nice parties, prizes, and incentives for the trainers and exhibitors, which is nice and refreshing to have."
Judy was also very happy with her student Alexandra Worthington, who won the ASPCA Horsemanship Class (Maclay) out of 24 kids. "She's not your typical eleven-year-old," Judy remarked. "She's such a driven, intelligent, motivated child. She just started doing the higher level medals this fall, and this was her second time ever doing the Maclay. She'll be doing the Onondarka at LA National, and obviously we're hoping for a win there."
During the week, Judy's students had the opportunity to try the new Olympic Mix footing in LAEC's indoor arena, installed by Rudy Leone just in time for the show. "I love the new footing," Judy said. "It was fantastic. The horses jumped on it with a lot of confidence."
In the Medium Pony section, Emma Hansen won the top prize aboard her My Little Romeo, while Dorothy Rose Kauffman-Skloff was second with Truly Noble (Pegasus Show Stable, Inc., owner).
While the West Coast Pony Finals presented some tough competition, National Preview also offered classes for the beginning jumper riders, holding jumper classes in the Green Rider and Short Stirrup sections. Riders were to aim for optimum time rather than trying to be the fastest, encouraging a safe and fun experience. David Sterckx of San Pascual Stables brought riders to participate in these classes since their program focuses on the jumper ring, and each brought home several ribbons. Haley Hartfield on Jasmine (David Sterckx, owner) and Victoria Holdsworth with Sosha (Jessica Pyfer, owner) each won a blue in Green Riders, while Lara Sachdeva won in Short Stirrup. Julia Otter had wins in Pony Jumpers .95M and 1.00M on her Ace Of Hearts, and Sarah Camp rode Tinkerbell (David Sterckx, owner) to wins in Walk-Trot Opportunity Over Poles.
Diane St. Clair and her daughter Sophie watched the Green Rider and Short Stirrup Jumper classes in support of their barn mates at San Pascual Stables. "Everyone understood their job and understood their success or need for improvement based on their objective performance," Diane remarked. "The decision to make the classes 'optimum time' was a stroke of genius! All of the girls had safe rides on the course but it gave them the experience of walking the course, counting strides, remembering longer more complex courses, a sense of familiarity and most importantly total confidence. Most of the competitors in these classes were ponies, and by encouraging the younger pony jumpers we stand to increase the numbers of competitors in the pony jumper classes. Longer pony riding careers and more competitors means a greater base to draw from to field a Zone 10 National Pony Finals team. Fantastic decision and execution, LEG!"
Elsewhere in the junior ranks, Emma Benjamin (Annette Spinetti, trainer) had a great ride in the $1,000 Children's Jumper Classic and emerged victorious riding her own entry, Vivaldi. Raleigh Bacharach was second with Athos (Jane Bacharach, owner). "She's an amazing student to teach," reported Annette of 17-year-old Emma. She absorbs things like a sponge. She's a little hard on herself, but very driven and motivated with a really good work ethic."
Theo Boris has proven himself over and over again as a rider to watch, and he did it again in the $1,000 Modified Junior-Amateur Jumper Classic. He won the class aboard Normandee (Ryan Wilkinson, owner). "It was a catch ride from Erin Duffy," Theo explained. "I rode her for the first time at the show, and it was nice of Erin to give me the ride on her. She was really fun and a nice ride. I went as fast as I could in the jump off, and she jumped around really nicely. Our turns were more efficient than the other riders; I didn't lose any time anywhere but got right to the jumps and that's what helped us win." Alison Locke was second aboard her Dublin Street.
The National Preview was a great warm-up for LA National, but it also provided great competition for all levels of riders and the best ponies on the West Coast.
For more information on the National Preview, including complete results, visit http://langershows.com/laec/show_details.php?show_id=192.
The LA National will be an exciting conclusion to the show season, featuring the Celebrate Jumpers! banquet, Onondarka Medal Finals, WCE Junior-Amateur Medal Finals, and the $50,000 Grand Prix of Los Angeles (a World Cup Qualifier), run on the new Olympic Mix footing. Watch a FREE live broadcast of the grand prix at http://www.todocast.tv/sjutv/lanational/!
Did you enjoy National Preview? Nominate LEG for a USHJA Member's Choice Award.
Photos: Grady Lyman triumphs in West Coast Pony Finals with A Hoof And A Prayer; Jillian Wolf is reserve grand champion after winning the Small Pony section aboard Yet Another Karacter; Emily Hoham tops the West Coast Pony Jumper Final with Fly Girl; Emma Hansen and My Little Romeo clinche the title in the Medium Pony section Photo Credit: Flying Horse Photography