Lexington, Ky. – A week of competition at the 2017 USEF Pony Finals presented by Collecting Gaits Farm came to a close Sunday with the most coveted award of the championship. The Marshall & Sterling/USEF Pony Medal Final took place in the Alltech Arena with 162 riders vying for top honors in front of judges Rachel Kennedy and James Toon. Following excellent performances throughout the day, Ada Catherine Hays earned the Marshall & Sterling/USEF Pony Medal Final title.
In round one, the riders were tested over an inviting but solid course designed by Jasen Shelley. Twenty riders were called back for round two over a more difficult track to test their equitation skills. Four riders from the Small section, nine from the Medium section, and seven from the Large section competed in round two, and the judges did not require any further testing to pin the class.
Twelve-year-old Hays (Hillsborough, N.C.) was the last rider to enter the ring for round two and she rose to the challenge, displaying her lovely equitation while riding Center Field, trainer Robin Greenwood’s 2003 Welsh/Thoroughbred gelding, to receive the gold medal. View her round here. Her accomplishment was more impressive due to the fact that Pony Finals was her first major competition. Center Field teamed up with Lucy Deslauriers to win the gold medal in 2012.
“I’m really, really excited - a little overwhelmed but it is a good kind of overwhelmed,” Hays said of her win.
Hays kept a steady, forward canter rhythm that impressed the judges throughout the two rounds. She said, “[The trips] felt really good; I don’t think I have ever ridden this well. Robin always tells me about a cantering course, and that [course] really demonstrated a cantering course. The pace doesn’t really change, it is not a gallop or a trot-lope; it just flows nicely.”
Hays has been fox hunting from a young age and she thought the experience in the hunt field helped her earn the win by giving her a solid education on riding various paces and jumping from various distances. “Moving up to any distances or holding to make sure they are the right ones [is important], because in the hunt field, you don’t really know what is going to happen, and it just goes back and forth between fast and halted.”
Thirteen-year-old Hannah Hoch (Whitefish Bay, Wisc.) received the silver medal after great performances in the two rounds riding Havanna, her own 2003 Welsh Pony-cross mare. The bronze medal went to 16-year-old Jordan Toering (Waterford, Va.) for her smooth trips aboard Splendid, Agnes Hahn’s 2007 Welsh Pony gelding.
The following riders rounded out the top 10 placings:
Fourth – Grace Debney (Hampden, Mass.)
Fifth – Kat Fuqua (Atlanta, Ga.)
Sixth – Sofia Roberts (Wilmington, Ohio)
Seventh – Trinity Beitler (Coconut Creek, Fla.)
Eighth – Anna Tootle (Alpharetta, Ga.)
Ninth – Alexandra Lynn Willner (Boca Raton, Fla.)
10th – Emma Hechtman (Tampa, Fla.)
Find out more information about the 2017 USEF Pony Finals presented by Collecting Gaits Farm at www.ponyfinals.org.