If you're a first-time rider, parent, or trainer this year at USEF Pony Finals presented by Honor Hill Farms, trainer Robin Greenwood has some good advice to help you make the most of the experience.
Greenwood, who operates GC Ponies in Southern Pines, N.C., has been coming to Pony Finals since the 1980s. Her first piece of advice: stay calm and stay organized. "I tell first-time Pony Finals kids, parents, and trainers that the biggest thing is being prepared," she said.
Here are Greenwood's top tips:
For the Rider
"Be prepared, Greenwood advises kids. "If you need an hour to get your pony ready for the model section, give yourself 90 minutes.
"A good thing to do is to have a list, have a specific show bag that you don't carry a lot of junk around in, and have everything in it that you need for a horse show. And
make sure everything is in it the night before, so you don't wake up 10 minutes late the next morning thinking, 'Oh, no, where are my spurs?!' Have everything on your list in that bag, and the night before you go anywhere, make sure everything on the list is there. That way, what you don't want to have to worry about the next day is already taken care of. Those are good organizational skills to have.
"Be sure to go watch the more experienced kids compete their ponies. Watch the model sections, if you can, and see how the kids handle their ponies. Watch the trainers. Watch the grooms. Watch the riders. And listen. Sit on the rail when people are teaching. Listen to what they have to say, and watch the kids' responses. Go down to the schooling ring.
And don't be afraid to introduce yourself to people and ask questions.
"Enjoy the ride," she added. "Have fun. It’s a very special experience, especially the first time you go."
For the Trainer
"Stay calm," said Greenwood. "If it's your first time going to Pony Finals, talk to another trainer or a friend who has gone about what to expect. The show moves really slowly—it crawls—until that moment, and then it goes at warp speed. Say you're in the 23rd section of the day to model. The models only take about eight minutes. You're required to be on the hill lined up to go in the model when the section before you is in the ring, and the barns are really far away. Be prepared; be early.”
For the Parent
"Understand what's happening as much as you can, try to speak with someone who’s been before, and do a little research about how things run," Greenwood said. "Stay calm and enjoy the adventure! Make a friend. And don't hover over your kid; let them make their choices, right or wrong. It's their moment."
"The rules for the competition are pretty simple, but one of the biggest is that there is no outside help—you cannot speak to a child once they're inside that ring or they can be eliminated," Greenwood cautioned. "The rules are online on the USEF website. Read the rules and know the rules."
Learn More About USEF Pony Finals Presented by Honor Hill Farms