Lexington, KY- August 11, 2013 – Today’s 2013 United States Equestrian Federation Pony Medal Final was the perfect conclusion to a close to perfect week at the 2013 USEF Pony Finals for best friends Emma Kurtz and Olivia Woodson. Kurtz was extremely successful in the hunter divisions throughout the week, and today Woodson bested a field of nearly 190 riders to win the 2013 USEF Pony Medal Finals, while Kurtz finished in a close second. The equitation class, held in the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park, marked the final event at this year’s USEF Pony Finals.
Bobby Murphy designed the first round course for the class, testing riders and ponies over a track that included a trot fence, bending lines and rollbacks and a halt directly in the middle of a line. Following the completion of the opening round, the top 25 riders returned for a second round of testing over fences. Three small ponies, 16 medium ponies and six large ponies were called back, with Woodson sitting in the eighth place position aboard the medium pony Butterfly Kisses.
One by one the small, then large and finally medium ponies returned to be tested over the second round course which required riders to jump 10 obstacles, including an in-and-out and a trot fence, and demonstrate a simple change of lead. Woodson, of Wellington, FL, and Butterfly Kisses, owned by Erika Luter, executed the course nearly flawlessly, electing to avoid tight inside turns and instead make smooth, flowing turns. Two trips later, Kurtz, of Hudson, OH, returned in the sixth place position aboard Trademark owned by David Gochman, and she too delivered an excellent test with a well executed simple change of leads. Also turning in a ride that would shoot her to the top of the pack was Charlise Casas of Kenilworth, IL. She returned for the second round in the 11th place position, but her well-executed test and other riders’ errors moved her up solidly into the top four. Many of the riders called back on top were shaken down from the top by minor errors during their tests, but one who held her ground was Emma Lemke of Franklin, TN. She returned in the third place position and would hold that spot through to the end.
With two rounds of jumping already complete, Lemke, Kurtz, Casas and Woodson were then announced as the top four riders, in no particular order, and called back for additional testing on the flat. The judges put the top young riders through their paces and asked for sitting trot, a hand gallop, and what proved to be a potentially telling turn on the haunches.
“That’s Geoff [Teall]’s favorite way to reverse, so we do like eight turn on the haunches every single lesson,” said Woodson.
While others struggled slightly, she executed the turn perfectly, putting the final exclamation point on her three rounds of blue ribbon worthy riding.
As they were called back for awards, Casas rode away with the fourth place ribbon, Lemke finished in third, Kurtz took second and Woodson led the victory gallop for the first place honor.
While Woodson had a catch ride earlier in the week, the USEF Medal Final was her real focus this year, at what will be her last Pony Finals. “Next year I’m going to be moving up to the big equitation, so I was really glad I did well today. It still doesn’t feel real that I just won this,” said Woodson immediately following the class.
Woodson, her parents and her three brothers picked up and relocated from Illinois to Wellington, FL, to allow Woodson to train full-time with Charles Moorcroft and Geoff Teall, which has proved to be a winning move.
“She’s the nicest kid, and they are the nicest family,” Teall said. “They have just stuck with it, and to win that class – that’s what it’s supposed to be about.”
Woodson’s whole family was in attendance to share in the victory, and sharing the top two spots with her best friend also made the moment extra special for 13-year-old Woodson.
“We’re best friends,” said Woodson of her and Kurtz’s friendship. “She’s really good, so I didn’t think I would beat her. We both support each other when we do well. I remember when I was walking out from my first trip, I looked up at Emma and her mom, and they both gave me grins and thumbs up. I thought, okay, I must have done well if Emma thinks it’s good.”
Today marked the conclusion of 2013 USEF Pony Finals. Next week’s competition will begin on Tuesday, August 13 at the Kentucky Horse Park for the Bluegrass Festival Horse Show. This exciting event will feature the $100,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship, the $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic and the $40,000 Bluegrass Festival Grand Prix.
For more information about the Kentucky Summer Horse Shows please visit www.kentuckyhorseshows.com.
For more information about the 2011 USEF Pony Finals please visit www.usef.org.