Lexington, KY - Aug 8, 2012 - Riders have trained all year to prove their ponies possess the honed skill to jump in the US National Pony Jumper Championships at the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park. With stadium seating and a lively audience, 31 competitors from around the country attempted a faultless finish and to set an unrivaled time to beat. Putting on an unparalleled performance, rider Taylor Cox and steed Midnight Heart secured the win. Coming in a brisk second, Ellyn Fritz and Sailor Moon cleared the course while making noteworthy time.
Designed by Marc Donovan, the course consisted of 13 obstacles to challenge both horse and rider alike. It began over an oxer set at the far end of the ring. In a bending line riders then took a vertical, and with a hard right rollback continued over a six-stride oxer-liver pool line. Next riders where challenged with an oxer leading into a vertical-vertical combination. With a left turn riders then took a stand alone over headed to the far end of the ring where they took a vertical heading into an oxer-vertical outside line and over a skinny vertical. A sharp right turn took riders to the penultimate oxer and then over the final vertical to trip the timer.
There were 11 riders to ride the course clear by the time the twenty-fourth to go, Taylor Cox and Midnight Heart, took to the course. Cassie Gaasch and Angel came out of the gate early, setting the intimidating score of 662.081 but it was the starry Cox and Midnight, owned by Jodi Cox of Stockton, NJ who burned bright, impressing the crowd. Leaving all polls in their cups, the duo whipped Gaasch and Angel's time with no faults and a time of only 58.936 seconds to earn the blue ribbon.
"His biggest quirk is the gate, but he went in really nicely tonight," Cox smiled as she looked back at her pony. "He is usually much crazier. He was a different pony tonight. I have been riding him for a while and I know how to keep the upper hand and how to guide him around the ring to the best of his abilities."
"I am really pleased with how we did. I reached my goal tonight, and I am happy. I hope I can do my best to help the team in the next round," Cox concluded as excited friends and family celebrated her win.
Another star to burst out of the sky, Sailor Moon and rider Ellyn Fritz of Back Country Farm, Greenwich, CT, placed second with their stellar performance. The duo aimed their hopes high, shooting for the same faultless round and to best the score of Midnight and Cox. Fritz and Sailor Moon blazed through the jump course at an inspiring pace yet fell short with a score of 60.131.
"Well I did the Kentucky Summer Classic and I did well, but I didn't feel at the top of my game," Fritz began to share. "But, when I got here she just jumped huge over the jumps. She was just amazing, she turned it on and she knows when she needs to come through for you. She is a firecracker, she doesn't turn on until you need her to."
Fifteen pony and rider combinations rode without time penalty or fault including Keely Laughlin upon Larger than Life owned by Pam Poulsen of Fresno, CA, who rode to a third place finish with a score of 60.574. Caroline Zaunbrecher and horse Fire Van Battenbroek of Layfayette, LA, received the fourth place for their strong efforts, followed by Emily Schnebel and mount Blue Suede Shoes of Goffstown, NH, for the difference of a fraction of a second, awarded fifth. Hayley Anderson and Trading Spaces of New Boston, NH, also left all fences intact and stopped the clock in respectable timing to receive a sixth place rank.
Tomorrow will be the continuation of the 2012 US Pony Jumper Finals. The Individual Phase II will take place as well as the start of the Team Championship in the Alltech Arena beginning at 5:30pm with the course walk.
For more information on the 2012 USEF Pony Finals please visit www.usef.org.
Photo Credit: Taylor Cox and Midnight Heart taking first place at Pony Jumper Championship at the 2012 US Pony Finals. Photo By: Ashley N. Williams.