Lexington, KY. - The Team Championship of the US Pony Jumper National Championships took place Friday evening in the Alltech Arena as teams competed in the two-round Nations Cup format.
Following the first round, the top teams came back to jump the same Jasen Shelley-designed course in round two, with a total of 32 combinations jumping for individual classification. For the 2016 US Pony Finals presented by Collecting Gaits Farm, the Zones 5/6 team stood atop the podium.
The team, comprised of Natalie Hinz and Rumor Has It, Anna Spitzer and Silver Charm, Isaiah Wiseman and Midnight Heart, and Maya Lovdal and Miracles Happen, finished with a total of 20 faults to claim the Team Gold medal.
The first round for the Zones 5/6 team began with Hinz (Crystal Lake, Ill.) and her and Kathy Hinz's 10-year-old Quarter Horse mare having an eight-fault round with rails at five and 6B of the triple combination, followed by a clear round from Spitzer (Edwards, Ill.) and her own 11-year-old Welsh Pony Cross gelding. The two remaining combinations, Wiseman (Fort Wayne, Ind.) and Taylor Cox's 11-year-old Welsh Cross gelding and Lovdal (Saint Germain, Wisc.) and her own 11-year-old Welsh Pony gelding, had four-fault rounds with rails at nine and 12A, respectively. The team led after round one on a score of eight.
They had another solid performance in the second round. Hinz and Rumor Has It had a 20-fault round, but were followed up by a four-fault round from Spitzer and Silver Charm with a single rail at 6B. Wiseman and Midnight Heart collected eight faults with rails at five and 11, and Lovdal and Miracles Happen delivered a clear round for the team to finish on 20 faults.
"It was set up pretty well. There were a couple of tricky fences like the combinations and the liverpool, and remembering to go right instead of left [after seven]," Lovdal said of the tough course.
Spitzer is attending her first "Pony Finals" and explained, "I was super nervous the first day, especially for the warm-up [class], but 'Grady' loves the arena. He has been so good and so willing that I haven't been as near as nervous, and it just made it really fun."
A jump-off was required to determine the Silver medal with both the Zones 4/9 and Zone 1 combined teams finishing on 32 faults. Zones 4/9's Isabella Durnell and Carlton Diva went first, having a rail at four, but Zone 1's Elise Albertini and Suspicious Minds had two unlucky rails.
The Zones 4/9 team of Nadia Rosenbaum and Broadway's Puzzle Piece, Kayla Long and Khall Me Luna, Durnall and Carlton Diva, and Rachel Long and Zumba earned the Silver medal, while the Zone 1 combined team of Sydney Berube and National Treasure, Bobby Bolger and Coral Misty Ciara, Riley Kram and Picasso, and Albertini and Suspicious Minds received Bronze.
Four combinations move forward to Saturday's Individual Final tied on four faults: Bailey Doloff and Wishlea Star Dasher, Durnell and Carlton Diva, Long and Zumba, and Lovdal and Miracles Happen.
The live stream on the USEF Network is presented by the USHJA Foundation and will cover Saturday's Individual Final in the Alltech Arena. Check out the USEF Network for a complete schedule.
For live scoring, results, schedule, and competitor and hospitality information go to www.usefconnect.com/ponyfinals.
Find out more information about the US Pony Finals presented by Collecting Gaits Farm at www.ponyfinals.org.