Lexington, KY – Aug 7, 2012– The Walnut Ring was alive with families and friends supporting young competitors and their pony mounts, as the 2012 US Pony Finals and the US Hunter Pony Championships presented by Sallee Horse Vans got underway with its first day at the Kentucky Horse Park. Today, the top ponies and riders from across the nation amassed for the Green Pony Hunter Model and Under Saddle, as well as the Regular Medium Pony Hunter Model. Throughout the year, riders have worked persistently to qualify for this prominent event and vie for the winning honors.
The US Pony Finals offer three phases of competition for utilizing scores in conformation, movement under saddle, and jumping ability. The riders, clad in their best dress, are subject to scoring based on equitation and their skill upon navigating their talented mounts. Winners are declared in each division: small, small green, medium, medium green, large and large green pony hunters. Each year the points are calculated to declare the US Grand Hunter Pony Champion, as well as the USEF Regular Pony Hunter Champion.
The bows were bright and the sun was hot as ponies and their counterparts began the first event of the day, the Small Green Pony Model. Lindsey Ayres of Knoxville, TN, and her own In A Dream earned the top call in the model, claiming the blue ribbon. Julia Zug, of Elkton, MD, and Lorimars Signature were awarded the second place ribbon. Rounding out the top three was Sophie Gochman and Secret Love, owned by David Gochman of New York, NY.
Ayres pony is a 5-year-old mare, and this summer will be the one-year anniversary of their coming together. The duo became a match last year during the Pony Auction, and has been climbing the ranks ever since. “She is completely perfect, and she never does anything wrong, we love her. Not only is she beautiful, but she is so sweet, too. She gets very excited to see me when I come into the barn and other than that she is cool, calm and collected. I couldn’t have asked for a better pony,” Ayres stated.
Next in the scheduled order was the Small Green Pony Hunter Under Saddle. It was Lili Hymowitz and Bit of Love, owned by Scott Stewart of Wellington, FL, who nabbed the first place ribbon. Mimi Gochman and Love Me Tender, owned by David Gochman, rode to the second place honors. Daisy Farish and Helicon Penny Lane, owned by Linda Langmeier of East Granby, CT, were presented with the third place.
“He is pretty much perfect,” Hymowitz smiled. “He is always good, and he is not very green. He is kind of like a horse to ride, you feel like you are on a horse because of his stride. It works out great for me, because I am a little bigger. He pretty much always listens to you, it is about being alert. It’s fun to be back at Pony Finals, but I think this is my last year doing the small section.”
As the morning progressed, the Medium Green Ponies were welcomed to the ring for their chance to partake in the model and under saddle phases. The model victory was awarded to Madeline Schaefer of Westminster, MD, and Frosted. Taking home the second place ribbon was Lauren Curry and Prada, owned by David P. Scheffenacker of Lutherville, MD. Clovermeade Not Just Any Bunny, owned by Ellie Ferrigno of Newtown, CT, wore the third place ribbon with pride as rider Ali Trilschler guided her to the presentation.
“I love his personality, he never does anything bad, and has such a personality,” Schaefer explained. “I think that it was his personality that made him stand out. He loves the attention. He was really good today, and I think tomorrow is going to be great, too. He is so wonderful, and it is great to be back her and competing in Pony Finals again.”
The under saddle was filled with talented riders guiding their mounts around the Walnut Ring; however, it was Francesca Dildabanian and Real Steel, owned by Brass Ring Farm Sales of Wellington, FL, who rode to the top of the leaderboard. Parker Wright and Anisette, owned by Lionshare Farm of Greenwich, CT, took the second place award, while Catherine Droogmans of Palmetto, GA, and Hermione were awarded the third place.
“It feels great to have won the under saddle for my first year,” Dildabanian described. “I still can’t believe this happened. My pony is still so young; he is such a good mover though. I have to give him a strong ride because he can be a little lazy here and there. You also have to make sure that he has shape so he keeps his head held nicely. I am loving Pony Finals, and especially having my friends here.”
Lili Hymowitz rode to her second blue ribbon of the day aboard Enjoy the Laughter, owned by Rose Hill Farm of Bridgehampton, NY. The duo was awarded the first place in the Large Green Hunter Pony Model, as well as the second place in the under saddle. Aleece Jarman of Pace, FL, and Valentino, were awarded the second place for the model, but took the first position in the under saddle. The third place in the model was awarded to Katherine Weisenmiller of Lutz, FL, and Blind Date. It was Emma Kurtz aboard David Gochman’s For the Laughter who snatched up the third place honors in the under saddle phase.
“When I first got him, he was really green, and it was really hard to ride him, but everything has been going great and we are getting better together,” Hymowitz remarked. “I think the judges really enjoyed my favorite part of him-he looks a lot like a horse. He is built big, muscular and his coat is a beautiful white. It feels fantastic to get a head start going into the over fences tomorrow. This is his first Pony Finals, and he has already done so well.”
Jarman who also went 1-2 in the under saddle and model, respectively, spoke fondly of the 4-year-old Valentino. They have only been paired with one another for a little over a year, having imported him from Europe when he was three. “He has been coming along really well, he is extremely easy to train. He can be a little bit obnoxious, he loves to try to eat everything, but he is so sweet and will do anything you ask of him. Once you get him into the ring he needs a lot of leg and a quiet hand, if you start messing with him, he won’t be happy. You just have to have a quiet ride and push him forward,” Jarman explained.”
Jarman continued, “I am a little nervous going into tomorrow, but at least I will be able to see a few of the other riders on the course. He has a great jump, and I think we will do really well, I just have to stay calm. We have such a good relationship together, and I know he is willing to do anything.”
The last event to take place was the Medium Pony Hunter Model. Alexandra Pielet and Let’s Play Two, owned by Jill Shulman of Greenwich, CT, took the final blue ribbon of the day. Lindsey Ayres of Knoxville, TN, and Woodlands Pick Pocket earned the second place honors. Charlotte Curry and Bikini Beach, owned by Reid Patton of Nashville, TN, took home the third place award.
“He is really fun and easy, and he is such a great pony to ride. I have only been riding him for a week,” 11-year-old Pielet explained. “Back Country Farm allowed me to ride him through Pony Finals. He is amazing, and I even have the blue bows in my hair with the hope of winning. I can’t believe it happened. I am looking forward to Thursday when I can show him over the course, I love his lead change, it is so smooth and fun. He’s great.”
The 2012 US Pony Finals and the US Hunter Pony Championships presented by Sallee Horse Vans competition will pick up again tomorrow morning when the Green Pony Hunters complete their over fences. The Medium Pony Hunters will return in the afternoon to complete their under saddle sections. Tomorrow night will also see the top pony jumpers compete in the Alltech Arena in the first phase, the individual phase, of the National Pony Jumper Championships.
For more information on the 2012 USEF Pony Finals please visit www.usef.org.