Lexington, Ky. - The first championship titles of the USEF Pony Hunter National Championship were claimed Wednesday as the Large Regular Hunter Ponies presented by Triple Crown Feed and the Small Green Hunter Ponies completed their final phases of competition in the 2017 USEF Pony Finals presented by Collecting Gaits Farm at the Kentucky Horse Park. Libbie Gordon and Childs Play Hot Topic bested the field of 134, earning top overall honors in the Large Regular Hunter Pony Championship presented by Triple Crown Feed, while Evelyn Walker and Captain Crunch earned the Small Green Hunter Pony Championship title.
National titles are determined following three phases of competition, with Model and Under Saddle phases each counting towards 25% of the overall score and the remaining 50% determined by the Over Fences phase of the competition.
Large Regular Hunter Pony Championship presented by Triple Crown Feed
Gordon (Statesville, N.C.) and Mia Albelo’s 2006 Half-Welsh Pony mare Childs Play Hot Topic claimed the Large Regular Hunter Pony Championship presented by Triple Crown Feed after a beautiful round in the Over Fences phase to score 253.10 for third place in the phase. On Tuesday, the pair placed second in the Model phase with a score of 258.00 and a score of 254.54 put them in twenty-second in the Under Saddle phase. Their strong Over Fences performance allowed them to gain ground and catapulted them to the top of the leaderboard to win the championship ribbon with a final score of 1016.74.
Gordon is attending her fifth Pony Finals, with today’s win being her first overall victory at the championship. When asked about her accomplishment, Gordon said, “It feels really good. I could have done a couple of things better, but overall I was happy with [the ride]. It still hasn’t sunk in yet, but it feels awesome!”
Gordon and the eleven-year-old mare have been together since the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) presented by Adequan® at the beginning of the year. When asked about “Hottie,” Gordon said, “She is one of the sweetest ponies ever, and she has a great personality to ride. She wants to help you out and wants to win as much as anyone else.” Gordon will also ride a Large Green Pony, a Medium Green Pony, and a Medium Regular Pony this week. Watch her over fences round here.
The Reserve Champion title went to Baylee McKeever (Brewster, N.Y.) and Cecilia D’Amore’s Tantallon Co-Captain with a final score of 1007.41. She and the 14-year-old Half-Welsh Pony gelding scored 248.32 in the Over Fences phase in eighth place after earning 257.00 in the Model phase to sit in third place. The pair finished with a 253.77 in the Under Saddle phase, finishing in the seventeenth position in the phase.
Alliyah Antoniadis (Middletown, N.Y.) and Maggie Huffman’s Touch the Sun finished third in the Large Regular Hunter Pony Championship presented by Triple Crown Feed with a total score of 1003.97. She and the 2008 Dutch Warmblood gelding finished with scores of 251.00 for seventh place, 247.47 for the fortieth position, and 252.75 for the fourth place finish in the Model, Under Saddle, and Over Fences phases, respectively.
Small Green Hunter Pony Championship
Walker (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.) and her own Captain Crunch won the Small Green Hunter Pony Championship with a score of 988.40. She and the 2009 Welsh Pony gelding won the Model phase with a score of 260.40 and placed second with 259.00 in the Under Saddle phase on the first day of competition. They had a commanding lead at the top of the leaderboard after claiming fourth in the Over Fences phase with a score of 234.50.
After scoring so well in the Model and Under Saddle phases, Walker was last to enter the ring for the Over Fences phase. “I was definitely nervous,” said Walker. “But I kept my focus, and I went in there and he was great, and it went well. I just wanted it to go smoothly. He is a green, so I didn’t have super-high expectations. I just wanted to have fun.”
Like Gordon, Walker is a Pony Finals veteran, making her third appearance at the championship and winning her first overall title. When asked about her time at the championship, Walker said, “It is not worth getting overwhelmed, because it is just about having fun and doing your best.” Walker is also showing a Regular Small Pony this week and gave high praise to her groom, Jorge Huerta: “I want to give a special thanks to my groom Jorge, because he turns all of my ponies out so beautifully.”
Watch Walker’s over fences round here.
The Reserve Champion title went to Augusta Iwasaki (Calabasas, Calif.) and Bibby Hill’s Thinking Out Loud with a final score of 981.10. She and the five-year-old Welsh Pony gelding had solid scores of 256.10 for second place, 247.00 for seventh place, and 239.00 for second place in the Model, Under Saddle, and Over Fences phases, respectively.
Caroline Olsen (Sherborn, Mass.) and Lynne Dow’s Farmore Charismatic were third in the Small Green Hunter Pony Championship after scoring 971.90 overall. She and the 2012 Welsh mare received scores of 238.90 in the Model phase for fifteenth place, won the Under Saddle phase with a 259.00, and scored a 237.00 for third place in the Over Fences phase.
Competition continues Thursday with the Medium Green Hunter Ponies presented by Sallee Horse Vans and Large Green Hunter Ponies contesting the Model and Under Saddle phases in the Walnut Ring. Then, the Small Regular Hunter Ponies will complete the Over Fences to determine the champion. McKeever and Ava Berman’s 2005 German Riding Pony gelding Roll Call currently lead the standings with scores of 262.20 and 251.28 in the Model and Under Saddle phases, respectively, for an overall score of 513.48. Samantha Takacs (Oldwick, N.J.) and Erika Luter’s 2006 Welsh Pony-cross gelding Benjamin Buttons are sitting in second with an overall score of 512.07, while Maddie Tosh (Milton, G.A.) and Betsee Parker’s 2004 Welsh Pony mare Love Me Tender round out the top three with a score of 511.90.
Thursday evening in the Alltech Arena, the US Pony Jumper Championship will get underway with the Individual Phase I.
Find out more information about the USEF Pony Finals presented by Collecting Gaits Farm at www.ponyfinals.org.
The live stream is only available to US Equestrian members.