Lexington, Ky. – Aug. 11, 2017 – The 2017 USEF Pony Finals returned for the second-to-last day of hunter competition Friday, with Madeline Jordan and Shamrock hoisting the title of Medium Green Pony Hunter Champions, and Libbie Gordon, with her second championship of the week, aboard Small Wonder claiming the rosette in the Large Green Pony Hunters. It was undoubtedly a special day for both young riders and their families, but especially so for Jordan, as she returned to the saddle just over a year ago after a debilitating accident that led to a broken leg and brain injury, among other injuries.
Luck was in the air for Florida-based Jordan and her own Shamrock as the pair were awarded the title of Medium Green Pony Hunter Champions less than two years after she was hit by a car while trick-or-treating in her hometown on Halloween in 2015. Jordan took a year off of riding to recover after a 3-month hospital stay, but you wouldn’t know it watching her ride today. Entering the day in 13th position, she and “Louie” laid down a first-rate jumping trip to propel them to the top of the leaderboard. Jordan and her pony were forced to wait for 12 trips while fellow competitors took a shot at surpassing her 259.00 score, but none even came close, with the second-best score coming from owner-rider Alexa Lignelli and iApprove, who trailed the class leader with marks of 246.75. Jordan and her bay pony ultimately easily clinched the division title with a cumulative score of 1015.01, nearly 13 points ahead of the runner-up duo. Jordan and Lignelli were the only two to break the 1000-point mark.
Lignelli and iApprove rode to the reserve championship with total marks of 1002.30, followed by Libbie Gordon and Jessie Spade’s All Yours in third position. Madeline Rubin, in the irons aboard her own Exuberance, claimed fourth place, and Emma Jolly and Sunset’s Sparkle, owned by Sunset Farm, finished in fifth overall.
With the highest score of the 2017 USEF Pony Finals thus far, Gordon and Else Batalden’s Small Wonder navigated their way to a cumulative score of 1028.05 to claim the Large Green Pony Hunter championship, Gordon’s second title win of the week. Gordon and “Cooper” compounded their reasons to celebrate with a blue ribbon in the over fences class, their score of 261.00 besting a field of nearly 100 competitors. The rider-pony pair entered the day in 11th position, but eclipsed the 10 entries ahead of them thanks to their standout over fences trip. Especially impressive is the fact that Gordon has only been riding Cooper for three weeks, but the pair meshed quickly and the easy connection showed in the ring.
A familiar face in the winner’s circle, Augusta Iwasaki and Butterscotch, owned by Quartet Farm, LLC, earned the reserve position with a score of 1025.11, followed by Adam Edgar and Graciela Roberts’ D’Artagnan in the third position. Claire Campbell rode Maher Family, LLC’s Eastside to fourth place overall, and the top five was rounded out by Alexa Aureliano and Front Row, owned by CKE Horse Enterprises.
In the Medium Regular Pony Hunters, the last hunter division of the week, Caroline Signorino and Hannah Hoch’s Anisette impressed the judges to two top scores in the model and hack phases of competition to secure the early lead. The pair earned third place and a score of 257.23 in the model, less than one point behind the class leader, Iwasaki and Tessa Downey’s News Flash. The two pairs will be neck and neck entering Saturday’s final jumping portion, but Signorino and Anisette managed to just edge out their contenders with a four-point lead thanks to a first place finish and score of 260.43 in the under saddle.
The 2017 USEF Pony Finals, presented by Collecting Gaits Farm, will continue through Sunday, Aug. 13. The nation’s best young pony riders will be tested in one final hunter division in the Walnut Ring, and the two Grand Champion Hunters – both Regular and Green – will be announced at the conclusion of competition Friday afternoon. The Alltech Arena will play host to Pony Jumper competition through Saturday, and Sunday’s feature will be the Pony Medal Finals, one of the week’s highlight events.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Madeline Jordan – Champion of the Medium Green Pony Hunters
On her jumping round:
“I was a little nervous just because it’s Pony Finals, of course everybody’s nervous. So I was just thinking ‘I hope I don’t chip the first jump’ and then we went in and the first jump was good, and usually the first jump is my hardest part. Then I went to the middle option jump and thought ‘Ok this is pretty good.’ [Louie] got his lead change and then the rest of the course was really good, and then when we were going from the nine[-stride line] to the two[-stride] I was like ‘Go, Louie, go!’ and he was perfect. I kinda figured we had done well coming out of the ring.”
On her accident and recovery:
“I got hit by a car and I broke my left leg, I broke my femur. I was in the hospital for three months and I had a brain injury and I tore my meniscus. My small pony, Playtime, I had him at the time and he was perfect. I would be in my wheelchair and I would pet him and he was so sweet. I kind of skipped a year of riding and then my first show back was at HITS and [Playtime] won the model and got fourth in the under saddle. Then we got Louie and he just took care of me. I had another surgery to get the rod out of my leg in August 2016 and then the next week I rode Louie and he was perfect.”
Libbie Gordon – Champion of the Large Green Pony Hunters
On winning her second Pony Finals championship:
“I’m so excited about it and I just love doing it. It’s awesome when you’ve worked so hard and so long for something and it pays off twice.”
On Small Wonder:
“He tries his best every single time we go in the ring so that helps us a lot. I’ve only been riding him about three weeks, but we clicked quickly.”
On competing with her friends:
“[Winning with my friends] was the most exciting part about it because it’s always exciting when you share something like this with people you really like. I really like competing, so that’s fun to do, but you’re also really excited for them because they did really well, too.”
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / Score
Medium Regular Pony Hunters Model
1. Augusta Iwasaki / News Flash / Tessa Downey / 258.160
2. Claire Campbell / Leon / Maher Family LLC / 257.660
3. Caroline Signorino / Anisette / Hannah Hoch / 257.230
4. Grace Debney / Sterling / Madeline Schaefer / 254.300
5. Juliette Propp / Heart To Forget / Aquitaine Equine / 252.980
6. Savonna Adell / Sportin Around / AKA Showstoppers LLC / 252.150
7. Maddie Tosh / Cozy Up / Maddie Tosh / 250.140
8. Emma Vandenhouten / Super Cool / Augusta Iwasaki / 250.130
9. Isabella Cukrowski / Find The Love / Vanessa Mazzoli / 249.790
10. Linen Owens / Pitch Perfect / Linen Owens / 249.660
Medium Regular Pony Hunters Under Saddle
1. Caroline Signorino / Anisette / Hannah Hoch / 260.430
2. Raina Swani / Newhaven’s Magnum / Shadowfax Equestrian LLC / 259.400
3. Lauren Gee / Vienna / Madison Hill / 256.550
4. Augusta Iwasaki / News Flash / Tessa Downey / 255.170
5. Baylee McKeever / Greystone’s Star Bright / Lee McKeever / 254.590
6. Mia Green / Unforgettable / Forget Me Not Farm / 254.580
7. Lourdes Low / Overcast / Lourdes Low / 254.580
8. Isabel Liceaga / Wynnbrook Arctic Fox / Kristina Morris / 254.300
9. Ellie Aronson / Sham’s Razzle Dazzle / Ellie Aronson / 253.660
10. Saylor Shea / Magical Diamond / Strawberry Hill LLC / 253.000
Medium Green Pony Hunters Over Fences
1. Madeline Jordan / Shamrock / Madeline Jordan / 259.000
2. Alexa Lignelli / iApprove / Alexa Lignelli / 246.750 3. Justice Delhagen / Twitter WH / Monarch Stables / 243.500
4. Madeline Rubin / Exuberance / Madeline Rubin / 243.150
5. Emma Jolly / Sunset’s Sparkle / Sunset Farm / 240.100
6. Libbie Gordon / All Yours / Jessie Spade / 240.050 7. Caroline Nadalin / Hot Wheels / Sarah Guidice / 237.000
8. Camden Kitchens / Helicon Stowaway / Raeann Jones / 234.000
9. Madeline Boughner / Point And Shoot / Jaimee Peace / 234.000
10. Catherine Souza / Sugarbrook Blue Ayre / Catherine Souza / 229.000
Large Green Pony Hunters Over Fences
1. Libbie Gordon / Small Wonder / Elsa Batalden / 261.000
2. Augusta Iwasaki / Butterscotch / Quartet Farm LLC / 257.500
3. Sadie Rutkowski / Mapleside Voila / Salmon Creek Equine LLC / 253.000
4. Alexa Aureliano / Front Row / CKE Horse Enterprises / 250.250
5. Claire Campbell / Eastside / Maher Family LLC / 249.750
6. Adam Edgar / D’Artagnan / Graciela Robert / 249.250
7. Savannah Gregson / Take Note / Savannah Gregson / 247.000
8. Lauren Reid / Good Reason / Capstone Farm, LLC / 241.500
9. Elle Gibbs / Nominee / Elle Gibbs / 239.500
10. Devyn Borden / My Sweet Sadie / Devyn Borden / 236.000
West Coast Wins USEF Pony Jumper Team Championship
The USEF Pony Jumper Championships kicked into high-gear as the Alltech Arena showcased the second individual jumpers phase and the team championship competitions. Four California-based riders stood atop the podium to receive the gold medal for Zone 10. Tabitha Okitsu, Caroline Mawhinney, Avery Kim and Sydney Flashman traveled all the way to Kentucky to represent the West Coast as the “best coast.”
The modified Nations Cup format saw each team compete in the first round, with eligible teams returning for the second round. Scores were determined by adding the total faults incurred by the three best competitors of each team in each round.
First to go for Zone 10, Okitsu delivered a clear round aboard her own Spoot De La Jourlais. The youngest team rider, Mawhinney, 11, followed suit with Stal Minion’s “very awake” 23-year-old, Silver Dream at her first Pony Finals. Kim and her own Jo-el also finished fault-free, allowing the team to drop Flashman’s score and enter the second round with 0 total faults.
Returning for round two, Okitsu and Kim produced double-clear rounds. Mawhinney had more trouble, acquiring 17 faults, to give the team a two round total of 17 faults and the team championship win.
Okitsu, Kim and Flashman, all 15 years old, train at the same barn and met with Mawhimmey just before the qualifying round. The girls all felt very welcomed and were thankful for the good sportsmanship of the other teams.
The silver medal was awarded to the combined team of riders from Zone 1 and 3, consisting of Katherine Dade and National Treasure, Isabella Cheers and Park Avenue, Kiley Ahn and Root Beer Float and Lydia Philbrick and Raisin A Ruckus.
Saturday, Aug. 12, will showcase the final round of the Individual Pony Jumper Championship and the conclusion of the pony jumper competition at 6:30 p.m. in the Alltech Arena. Six riders are tied for the top position on the podium with 0 faults as they head into Saturday.
FROM THE WINNERS CIRCLE
Caroline Mawhimmey – Member of winning USEF Pony Jumper Championship team
On Silver Dream:
“She’s amazing. She takes care of me. When I mess up, she’ll help me out. I’ve had her for over two years. She feels very awake for 23. This is her first time here.”
Avery Kim – Member of winning USEF Pony Jumper Championship team
“He’s really sweet. I’ve had him for about two years now. We’ve been jumping really well. He took me from around 3’ to 1.30m — that’s the highest we’ve jumped, but we’ve been successful so far and I’m really thankful for that.”
On her training:
“We’ve had a lot of European training on top of training with Caroline and David [Sterckx]. They invite trainers from Europe. Jean Christophe comes over a lot, who’s also a really good trainer, and we had a clinic with Rodrigo Pessoa.”
Individual Phase 2, Round 2
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / Total Faults
1. Spoot De La Jourlais / Tabitha Okitsu / Tabitha Okitsu / 0
2. Park Avenue / Isabella Cheers / Isabella Cheers / 0
3. Silver Dream / Caroline Mawhinney / 0
4. Jo-el / Avery Kim / Avery Kim / 0
5. Rootbeer Float / Kiley Ahn / Kiley Ahn / 4
6. Wishlea Star Dasher / Alice Nolen-walston / Bridgid Mc Murtrie / 4
7. Bluebelle / Genevieve Munson / Genevieve Munson / 4
8. Magic Beans / Madison Kondracki / Madison Kondracki / 4
9. Carlton Diva / Isabella Durnell / Isabella Durnell / 4 / 0 / 4
10. Little Bunny Phoo Phoo / Autumn Fiocca / Jam Pereformance LLC / 4
11. National Treasure / Katharine Dade / Katharine Dade / 8
12. Raisin A Ruckus / Lydia Philbrick / Lydia Philbrick / 8
For more information on the 2017 USEF Pony Finals, please click here.