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Drummond and AM Rising Star Take a Leap From Arabian Horse Show Circuit to Pony Finals

by Kathleen Landwehr, US Equestrian Communications Department | Aug 13, 2023, 11:06 AM

Seventeen-year-old Josie Drummond of Wellington, Fla., and AM Rising Star are regular competitors on the Arabian horse show circuit, and they were looking for a new competitive challenge. Drummond and her trainers Lori Cooper and Gina Pengue decided to aim “Gus” for the 2023 USEF Pony Finals presented by Honor Hill Farms. In their first appearance at the event, Drummond and Gus took the experience in stride and earned solid results.

Josie Drummond and AM Rising Star, Lori Cooper's Arabian pony gelding
(Avery Wallace/US Equestrian)

Drummond’s early riding lessons lead her to the Arabian horse, and she has stuck with the breed ever since.

“Most of our lesson horses were Arabian horses and I fell in love with them and I was like, ‘This is what I want to do forever. I love them,’” said Drummond.

In time, Drummond began competing on the Arabian horse show circuit. She started riding and showing Gus, a 2008 Arabian gelding owned by Cooper, four-and-a-half years ago and appreciates his personality.

“I think if he was another animal, he would be a lap dog,” said Drummond. “He loves to cuddle, and he loves to give kisses—that’s his favorite thing.”

The duo has earned numerous top placings together, mainly in dressage and hunter jumper classes at Arabian horse shows. While Gus is a nice mover, he enjoys competing over fences the most.

“He absolutely loves to jump,” said Drummond. “It’s his favorite thing. He gets very excited when it is time to jump.”

Drummond was searching for another way to test her partnership with Gus and began looking into competing at Pony Finals. It was the last year that Drummond could compete at Pony Finals due to her age, so she went for the chance to compete at the major event.

“We just wanted to try it,” said Drummond. “We just wanted to do something new. So we thought, ‘Oh let’s try this.’”

Cooper said it was a learning curve figuring out how to qualify and obtaining a hunter/jumper measurement card for Gus was the first step.

“We got qualified twice to come because we needed a hunter/jumper measurement card. Different rules and different things like that,” said Cooper. “I keep walking up to everyone saying, ‘Hey! We’re new. It’s our first time here. Please help us out.’ And everybody has been so helpful and had big smiles.”

Drummond enjoyed the experience of competing at Pony Finals.

“It is so fun. It is still surreal,” said Drummond. “It doesn’t feel real that I am here. It’s crazy.”

While Pony Finals is a different type of show for Drummond and Gus, the buzz and excitement of competing felt familiar to Drummond.

“It is pretty similar with the size,” said Drummond. “We are used to having big shows like this, but it is definitely a lot stricter. The Arabian circuit is a little more relaxed.”

Drummond does all the care for Gus at shows, including grooming, braiding, and tacking up. With Gus looking his best, Drummond thinks this show experience seems like any other horse show to Gus.

“He is pretty much the same that he always is,” said Drummond. “He loves to stare at ponies because the Arabian circuit doesn’t have a lot of ponies. He likes to watch them go by.”

Drummond and Gus proved their mettle this week at the 2023 USEF Pony Finals presented by Honor Hill Farms. They had a respectable start to the competition in the USEF Large Green Pony Hunter National Championship with the model and under saddle phases. The pair rocketed up the leaderboard on the strength of their jumping round, finishing 10th in the over fences phase and 20th overall out of 82 combinations.

Taking a chance on competing in a show ring that was out of the ordinary for Drummond and Gus paid off. Drummond was thrilled to be able to achieve the result on the breed that she has grown to love—the Arabian horse.

“They are so willing to work for you. If you find the right horse, they are great. They’ll do anything,” said Drummond. “Like Gus, he’ll do anything I ask him. He is just so determined. You ask him, and he’s like, ‘I’m going to do it.’ He’s very set on what you ask him. And I have found that with most of the Arabians that I ride. If you are set on something, they want to reach it with you. They want to be your partner in it.”