The 2019 USEF Pony Finals presented by Collecting Gaits Farm may be winding down, but it is never too early to start thinking about next year. The Model phase of the hunter pony divisions is something that can be foreign to young competitors, but 12-year-old Susannah Morrell (Lakeland, Fla.) has a few tips for anyone looking ahead to next year.
Susannah is two-for-two in terms of winning a Best Presented Model Pony Award in each of her two appearances at Pony Finals. In 2019, she and Southern Rhapsody, her 21-year-old Quarter Horse gelding, won the Best Presented Model Pony Award presented by Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation for the Large Green Hunter Pony section. In 2018, Susannah and Cyr Point Pulitzer Prize, Cyr Point Stable’s six-year-old Welsh pony mare, won the Best Presented Model Pony Award for the Small Green Hunter Pony section.
In addition to practicing at home, Susannah is an active 4-H participant, which helped prepare her for the Model phase. “Every year, there is this show for 4-H and it is basically showmanship and how to show your pony off, present them, and handle them on the ground,” explained Susannah.
Susannah also participated in the USHJA Model Clinic with Bill Schaub during the 2018 and 2019 Pony Finals, which helped give her an extra edge according to her mom Shannon Morrell, owner and trainer of English Oaks Equestrian Center in Lakeland, Fla.
“4-H has to do showmanship and that really helped her,” noted Shannon. “She also did audit Bill [Schaub’s USHJA Model Clinic] last year and participated this year. Both years she has gotten tips from his clinics.”
Susannah’s top tip is keeping an eye on the judges during the Model phase. “I’d say the one thing that helps me get the award is always focus on the judges and go around the pony regarding where they are,” said Susannah.
Susannah plans to come back next year, so in addition to employing some of her tips, Pony Finals attendees can watch her in action. Demonstrations of horsemanship and a good work ethic get equestrians noticed in and out of the ring.
“This little girl is across the aisle from us, and we saw her do all the work all week and we were all really impressed,” chimed in Brooke Brown of Brownstone Farm in Oxford, Pa. “She did everything; cleaning the tack, cleaning the stall, feeding the horse, everything. She did a lot of work.”