The USEF Pony Finals presented by Collecting Gaits Farm enthusiastically welcomes a new group of riders and ponies every year. This year, Ann Frances Truluck (Columbia, S.C.) came to Pony Finals for the first time to compete one pony in the largest section of the hunter championships, the Medium Regular Hunter Pony National Championship presented by Sallee Horse Vans. Truluck rode Jessie Spade’s 13-year-old Warmblood gelding All Yours, and this relatively new partnership has been laser-focused on qualifying for Pony Finals since they first joined forces in late December 2018.
Truluck and the striking black pony, known as “Milo” in the barn, faced off against 159 other pairs, many of whom have more experience than them. But Truluck stayed in the moment, taking everything in the ring and behind the scenes in stride.
“I’ve been waiting a long time to [be here]. It’s been really fun! It’s endless amounts of riding and doing what you love, and being with friends and making new friends,” said Truluck. “I like that everyone is here for the same reason; they are all someone you can connect to and understand. And we’re with our ponies, so it’s really special.”
These first-timers made quite an impact in the Model and then, to the delight of her sizable entourage of family and friends in the audience, won the Under Saddle class on Friday. This resulted in a combined score of 524.80 to hold second place overall heading into Saturday’s Over Fences phase. Eleven-year-old Truluck gracefully handled the pressure of jumping second to last and successfully piloted All Yours around the course. While it may not have been perfect, Truluck was proud of her pony and their round, leaving the ring with a big smile on her face.
“Sometimes [All Yours] can be a bit naughty,” she said, laughing along with her trainer, Rebecca Effron, and her mom, Courtney Truluck. “But he was so good. It’s amazing how he’s been doing here and seeing how far he’s come. It’s amazing being able to ride such a special pony.”
Effron continued, “I love the pony. For as fancy and nice as [All Yours] is, he really is your hangout with, go ride around the countryside bareback, go snuggle with in the stall type of pony. He’s the whole package and I love having him in the barn. And Ann Frances can’t get enough of him, she can be gone for two days and already miss her pony!”
Ann Frances has totally dedicated herself to working with Milo, particularly over fences. “[Our biggest success] is the two-stride! He used to decide that three strides fit much better and that’s what we had a lot of trouble with from the start. But we worked on it and it keeps getting easier,” she explained. “Over Fences [was my favorite phase] at Pony Finals! It was a big accomplishment compared to our previous horse shows. He’s just come so far and it was exciting to get around a whole course and around such a big ring.”
“[Ann Frances] doesn’t have a whole lot of experience doing the pony hunters. And then to get here, and go through some of the challenges with not the most straightforward ride over fences, but come in, canter around, and get over everything? She’s going to be pretty hard to beat later when she gets some miles under her belt,” praised Effron.
Ann Frances and All Yours finished in the top 60 overall and were awarded Best Turned-Out Pony for the Medium Regular Hunter section. But for the Trulucks, it’s all about the bond with Milo and being together as a family. “I feel when he’s upset and he can feel when I’m upset, so we can just relate,” said Ann Frances.
“It has been such a joy to watch [Ann Frances] get here, watch her get better with every lesson, and every time she has been with this pony,” said Courtney. “We accomplished so much more than we could have ever thought or hoped. I could not be more proud of my sweet girl. It was a magical week.”