Lexington, KY – August 10, 2012 – There was a sense of electricity as the wrap up of the US National Pony Jumper Championship got underway at the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park with the Individual Competition Finals. Riders from around the country spent the year training and qualifying for today, but the intensity surrounded two young girls as they went head to head in the jump off. It was Keely Laughlin and Larger Than Life who emerged as 2012 Individual Jumper Champion.
The original course design, constructed by Marc Donovan, consisted of 13 strategically placed obstacles and combinations to challenge the determined pony riders. The course commenced on the near the in gate with a standalone vertical. The rider then continued diagonally, heading across the course to an oxer where they landed into an immediate right turn to an oxer-vertical-vertical triple combination. Upon coming out of the triple, riders jumped a liverpool near the corner of the ring, rode left to a brick oxer and then continued forward to a grey stone vertical. With a slight bend to an oxer, the line curved around the far end to a red brick vertical and an oxer along the wall. A tight right loop and red offset vertical sent riders back tracking the line with a left turn at the far end to take the oxer leading into a vertical-vertical combination to the closing fence, a standalone to trip the timer.
Mastering the course and proving of top-notch skill, the jump off came down to two young riders. Keely Laughlin and Ellyn Fritz, both 12 years old, came into tonight’s event with zero faults from phase I and II, and rode clear in phase III, advancing them into the short course. Both girls rode to double-clear efforts; however, it was Laughlin aboard Larger Than Life of Fresno, CA, who achieved the better score of 31.227 seconds, and gained the gold medal and highly contended title championship.
“I knew he could do it,” Laughlin smiled sweetly. “I was extremely nervous, I was like ‘oh my gosh, I am in second right now’ and knew I needed to move up. I just wanted to go clean. The first day I almost went off course, and today I was knew I wasn’t going to let that happen. My trainer told me to go fast, I knew he could do it; he can make the tightest turns.”
Laughlin got Larger Than Life two years ago. Their relationship got off to a rough start with Laughlin unsure to whether she and the pony were the right match for one another. Inspired by her sister, who competed at the 2010 National Pony Jumper Championship, Laughlin gave Larger Than Life another go.
“I don’t think he is crazy anymore, he is so normal,” she shared.
Fritz, of Bridgewater, CT, who rode Sailor Moon, owned by Back Country Farm of Greenwich, CT, cleared the course and stopped the clock at 31.634 seconds. Their fierce competitive efforts earned the pair a second place rank, the silver medal and the honor of reserve champion at the presentation ceremony.
“I am really, really happy-amazed actually,” Fritz exclaimed while patting her mount. “I came in here just hoping I could do well. The first time I just had to go clear, so I didn’t do most of the inside turns that everyone else did. He jumps so carefully that I didn’t have an issue during the jump-off.”
“She was amazing today; I think she knew that today was the day she had to turn it on. Abbi Ferrigno of Rabbit Hill Farm helped us prepare tremendously. When Pony Finals started I was able to have a lesson with her and everything went really well after it,” Fritz stated while surrounded by celebrating family and friends.
Taking the bronze medal was Kady Abrahamson, of Loveland, OH, aboard Salsa. The pair had four faults and a time of 32.864 seconds. Elizabeth McDougald of Lawton, OK, and Knock My Sox Off also earned four faults, and a time of 33.632 placing the duo in fourth place. Amanda Pennington of Mequon, MI, and Res Q Me took fifth, followed by Breanna Holmes of Gunthersville, AL, and American Hero in sixth place.
The 2012 US Pony Finals and US National Pony Hunter Championships presented by Sallee Horse Vans will continue tomorrow with the Large Pony Hunter Over Fences, where the 2012 Overall Large Pony Hunter Champion, as well as the 2012 Overall Grand Pony Hunter Champion will be named. Tomorrow will also host the 2012 US Pony Finals Award Ceremony at 3:30 pm in the Alltech Arena, and will be followed by the much-anticipated Pony Auction. On Sunday, riders will have the opportunity to compete in the Equisport Insurance/US Pony Medal Finals beginning at 7am in the Alltech Arena.
For more information on the 2012 US Pony Finals please visit www.usef.org.