Lexington, Ky. - On Sunday, the Marshall & Sterling/USEF Pony Medal Final closed out a week of competition at the 2018 USEF Pony Finals presented by Collecting Gaits Farm (Pony Finals). With 184 riders vying for top honors in front of judges Jeffrey Ayers and William Ellis, Tessa Downey, trained by Peter Pletcher, claimed gold in the most coveted award of the championship.
Held in the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park, the Marshall & Sterling/USEF Pony Medal Final consists of two rounds. In round one, the riders were tested over Jasen Shelley’s technical, yet inviting course. For round two, 20 riders were called back to put their ponies over a more difficult track to further test their equitation skills. The course was the same for all ponies, however, the height and distance to the fences changed in relation to pony size. Eleven riders from the Medium Pony section, five from the Large Pony section, and four from the Small Pony section were selected to compete in round two.
Twelve-year-old Tessa Downey (New York, N.Y.) rode Hallelujah, Take 3 LLC’s 20-year-old Thoroughbred/Welsh cross gelding, to the win. Her fourth time riding in the Marshall & Sterling/USEF Pony Medal Final, this is her first time to make the top 10 and be called back for round two.
“Last year I was watching everyone, and during the final 10 countdown, and I was wishing I was in it, and this year I was,” said
Downey. “The suspense was really exciting. [Hallelujah] was just amazing! His canter is so comfortable; he is just the best [equitation] pony you could ever dream of.
Having just picked up the ride on “Louie” this past Wednesday, Downey came to Pony Finals not even knowing whether or not she would ride in the Medal. Her first time jumping three foot, Downey rode ninth in the order in the second round so she had to wait for the competitors in the second half of round two to complete their rounds before knowing the result of her efforts.
“[It was] super nerve wracking waiting to hear,” continued Downey. “But I want to thank my parents, ‘Louie,’ my pony, everyone who came to watch me, and all the grooms at Erin Stewart Stables.”
Twelve-year-old Reilly Gogul (Wilmington, Ohio) received the silver medal after great performances in two rounds aboard Rock Star, Roberts Stables, LLC’s 16-year-old Paint gelding. The bronze medal went to 10-year-old Alexa Lignelli (New York, N.Y.) and Fox Creek’s Curious George, the Lignelli family’s 12-year-old half-Welsh gelding.
The following riders rounded out the top 10 placings:
Fourth – Maddie Tosh (Milton, Ga.)
Fifth – Alexandra Miller (Richfield, Wisc.)
Sixth – Jessica Guginsky (Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y.)
Seventh – Calder Trotz (Memphis, Tenn.)
Eighth – Emily Clee (Bethel, Conn.)
Ninth – Leigh Ashby (Lincolnton, N.C.)
Tenth – Brynn Kuhnell (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Can’t get enough of the 2018 USEF Pony Finals presented by Collecting Gaits Farm? Watch all the on-demand content and daily wrap-up videos online on the USEF Network.
Find out more information about the 2018 USEF Pony Finals presented by Collecting Gaits Farm at www.ponyfinals.org.