“Her dream was to do a victory lap, and you just made that dream come true.” This heartfelt statement was one of many joyous exclamations overheard on the final day of ridden competition at the 10th Anniversary National Dressage Pony Cup Championship Show, being held July 7-9, 2017 in Lexington, Ky.
One of those celebrating during evening awards ceremonies was Emily Lasher of Poway, Calif. Three 12-hour days spent hauling her pony across the country in 100+ degree heat wasn’t going to stop Lasher from getting to the Kentucky Horse Park with her 13.2-hand Welsh cross gelding The Hot Topic of Spring Song, and her efforts ultimately proved worthwhile. She and “Dolce” looked no worse for wear after the long journey, powering to victory in the FEI Test of Choice Open division with an average two-day score of 66.908% for their Intermediate I performances, as well as capturing the Open Musical Freestyle championship title for good measure.
“I would absolutely make the trip again, and am already looking forward to coming all the way back next year,” said Lasher. “It’s been such a wonderful experience. Everyone is so incredibly helpful with every aspect of the show, even long before we arrived. I was impressed with the size of the show and the number of rings going on, and it was great to see so many amateurs – it created a really nice atmosphere.”
Despite overnight storms creating wet conditions in the main arena (which was an unusual sight for Lasher and Dolce) the pair happily splashed their way to the top of the leaderboard. “I could feel he was a little unsure, because in Southern California we’re not used to rain – if the arenas are wet there, usually you don’t ride!” she laughed. “But the footing held up and he was so willing and enthusiastic, so I couldn’t be more happy with him. It goes to show if you put in the time and effort and train them the right way, they can be super successful regardless of size.”
Lasher and Dolce had quite a cheering section on site as well as watching via livestream on the USEF Network. “My friends in California have been so supportive – they got up at the crack of dawn to watch and were all over Facebook,” Lasher laughed. “My aunt in Canada, my dad in Maryland, my friends in Connecticut – everyone got to watch. It was so cool that they could share in the experience that way.”
Adult amateurs also competed in FEI Test of Choice and Musical Freestyle divisions, where German Riding Pony gelding Charly Brown carried owner/rider Jennifer Carr of Columbus, Ohio to her very first Pony Cup championship in the FEI Test of Choice Amateur ranks by sweeping both rounds with an average score of 61.053% for their Prix St. Georges performances. For Amateur Musical Freestyle, Susan Faulkner of Greer, S.C. and her mount Princeton claimed the title with their top score of 67.000% earned for their First Level Freestyle.
Haflingers ruled the roost at the Intro Level this year as a pair of lovely mares topped both the Open and Amateur divisions. Julie Blair’s mare Loyal Lisa DCH and rider Shannon Cessna of Lodi, Ohio won the Open championship with an overall two-test average of 68.563%, while a strong first-day performance and consistent second round test gave Deborah Stevenson of Clarks Hill, Ind. the overall Intro Level Amateur Championship with her Haflinger Belle of the Ball on 68.500%.
In the Training Level Amateur division, 20 exhibitors representing 13 different states vied for top honors, and it was consistency across both rounds of competition that paid off for Quarter pony Heavens Lil Dually, who carried owner/rider Nancy Foglia of Dallas to the championship win with an average score of 67.614%. “’Lucy’ came to our barn to be a potential children’s lesson pony,” said Foglia. “But my Oldenburg gelding was too big for me, so when offered the chance to ride Lucy, I did and fell in love! I adore her spunky personality, and want to continue to develop our partnership and let it take us as far as we can go together.” Meanwhile, in a tough field of Training Level Open competitors, Jessie Hayes of Baptistown, N.J. rode Lauren Chumley’s Fjord mare FMF Liesl to the best two-day average score of 67.798% to claim overall Pony Cup championship honors.
She may be entering vet school in the fall, but first Kalie Beckers of Independence, La. returned to the Pony Cup one more time and proved to be unbeatable in the Open First Level division, sweeping both rounds of competition to cruise to victory with an overall average of 70.327% aboard her Welsh Cob mare Madoc Mari. The strength of a huge first-round score carried Kathryn Barry of Freeport, Ill. and Klaus Biesenthal’s North American Sport Pony stallion Magnum to the overall championship victory in the Second Level Open division with 68.351%, but it was a Fjord who stole the show in the Amateur divisions of First and Second Levels as Lori Lamattina of Dayton, Ohio and WW Rudig earned top championship honors in both divisions with two-day average scores of 67.923% and 65.632%, respectively. Meanwhile in the Third Level Amateur class, Katie Hall of Gainesville, Fla. and Mackenzie Krizek’s Arabian gelding VA Vouvray topped both tests in their division to earn overall honors with 61.282%.
Last year’s First and Second Level Open champions Lauren Chumley of Pittstown, N.J. and Melissa Dowling’s Germany Riding Pony gelding Nikolas took a short break from eventing to come back to Lexington for the Pony Cup where the accomplished pair went two-for-two yet again, earning the tricolor honors in both the Third Level Open division (69.423%) and the Fourth Level Open division (67.403%). “We haven’t shown him in dressage since Florida, but instead got him qualified for this year’s American Eventing Championships (AECs) at the Novice level. He’s quite the scopey jumper,” said Chumley of her mount. “This was the first time he’s done a Fourth Level test, but he’s just so naturally talented and rideable that it comes easily for him. That Fourth 3 test is pretty challenging, but he went in there and gave me what was perhaps the best Fourth Level test I’ve ever had. He’s just such a cool pony who just rolls with whatever we throw at him.”
A plethora of awards were also presented to juniors and young riders who excelled from Intro to FEI with their talented ponies. Savana Garvey’s long trip from Dallas will seem a lot shorter on return trip as she takes home the Training Level 16 & Under division championship, earned with a two-test average score of 70.175% aboard her palomino Welsh gelding Madoc Golden Graham, while Laynie Rich of Henderson, Ky. rode her palomino Paint pony Chip to the overall victory in the Intro 16 & Under division with an average score of 63.656%.
Keara Sonntag of Cincinnati rode her grade pony Storm to top the 17-21 age division for both Intro and Training Level with average scores of 63.157% and 58.663%, respectively. The pair first met during a dressage summer camp at Sonntag’s barn. “My instructor was the first person to decide that I should ride Storm, but I was afraid of him because he bit and kicked and even bucked off his old owner!” said Sonntag. “But he’s ‘thrown off’ these bad habits and I grew to love him. He’s so smart and he’s made me a better and more patient rider.”
At just 11 years old, Olivia Brown of Charlotte, N.C. rode with composure well beyond her years as she and her Belgian Riding Pony and former hunter Balthazar earned the highest overall average of 68.810% in the First Level 16 & Under championship. In the 17-21 age group, Gillian Kingsbury of Raleigh, N.C. rode her half-Arabian mare Halle Berry MC to claim not only the First Level title, but also the championship for Second Level with average scores of 62.909% and 61.143%, respectively. Meanwhile, Caitlyn Massey of Arlington, Tenn. proved to be unbeatable in the Second Level 16 & Under ranks with her Welsh cross mare Zassafrass, earning a two-day average score of 66.709%.
Pony Cup veteran Brynne Varvel of Bloomington, Ind. and her Morgan gelding Big Indian Creek proved to be the victors in the Third Level 17-21 division with their average score of 60.513%. Suzannah Rogers’ saving money from odd jobs and working on her family’s farm in order to come to the Pony Cup all paid off as she takes the FEI Pony championship home to Nesmith, S.C. thanks to an average score of 61.235% earned aboard her Haflinger gelding Adrenaline Rush SBF. One of the most decorated junior/young riders of the weekend was Hannah Irons of Queenstown, Md. who rode her draft cross gelding My Lucky Charm to earn two championship titles, first in the FEI Test of Choice Junior/Young Rider division with an average score of 61.579% for two Prix St. Georges rides, as well as in the Musical Freestyle Junior/Young Rider ranks.
To see a complete list of champions from this year’s competition, click HERE. For more information about the National Dressage Pony Cup programs, visit the NDPC website at www.dressageponycup.com and visit their Facebook page. To view National Dressage Pony Cup championship show information including individual class results, visit http://www.showsecretary.com/2017kda_july.asp.
By Yellow Horse Marketing for the National Dressage Pony Cup