Lexington, Kentucky—August 12
More than 150 ponies contested the regular medium division at USEF Pony Finals, but one of those 150 riders is not like the others. Augusta Iwasaki has been riding (and winning) at Pony Finals for the past five years, and she added another division championship win and a grand overall title to her credit aboard News Flash.
“It’s amazing,” Iwasaki said. She only just got the ride on “Flash” two weeks ago, but catch riding is old hat for this 13-year-old rider. Flash was a little too much pony for his owner, Tessa Downey, so Downey’s trainer Peter Pletcher had Iwasaki step into the irons for the finals.
“She’s just a little too passive and small right now for him, so in the end we thought, ‘You know what? Maybe we’ll have someone a little stronger ride him,’ ” Pletcher said. “We asked Gussy, and she said, ‘Yeah that would be super fun!’ ”
It’s hard to remember Calabasas, Calif.-based Iwasaki is just 13, as she rattles off answers to media questions like a seasoned pro. She acts and looks the part—no braids, bows and jodhpur straps here. Iwasaki is the picture of calm and collected in her tall boots, hair up, as she dutifully thanks the pony’s owner and thanks Pletcher for training her on him before taking the pony back to the barn.
“She’s one in a million,” said Pletcher of Iwasaki. “She’s unbelievably talented, and she is a hard, hard worker, and it’s just nice to see. She could be so the other end of it being as good as she is, but she actually acts like she’s just the same as every other child.
“She’s excellent to teach, and she listens, and she can do whatever you say,” Pletcher continued. “She’s in a class of her own for sure.”
Downey was on hand to witness her pony’s top notch performance.
“It was exciting,” Downey said. “And nerve wracking!”
Pletcher plans to have Downey take over the ride on Flash for next year unless the pony is sold before then.
“It’s an exciting thing to win, and it’s great to be grand overall,” Pletcher said. “It was just sort of a dream come true for everybody.”