Aug. 14—Lexington, Ky.
Madison Goetzmann had just one word for the final day of USEF Pony Medal Finals: awesome.
That sentiment summed up her win in the Equisport Insurance/USEF Pony Medal Final. Goetzmann grabbed the lead with a perfect first round aboard Denmark, then repeated her performance in Round 2. Judges Kip Rosenthal and Bill Ellis were so impressed they opted to pin the class without testing.
Katherine Strauss, trained by Frank Madden of Old Salem Farm, galloped up the standings to second aboard Sumerland. Lucy Deslauriers rode Macy Grey to third and Kriss Eisaman took fourth aboard Losander’s Camelot.
Trainer Patricia Griffith of Heritage Farm has been waiting for Denmark to carry a rider to this award, and he’s come close before.
“I tell her, when you’re watching everyone struggle, that can’t get up the strides, remember: You’re on Teddy,” said Griffith. “There’s no course he cannot do, and he never lets you down.”
Richard Jefferies designed the day’s courses, which Griffith described as looking a bit easier than they rode. The first course included options to show off with tighter turns, a forward line, rollback turns and fences with no ground lines. Riders also had to halt between two bushes, then trot a fence just a few strides later. That halt decided the course for many riders, who couldn’t get the test completed smoothly or in time.
Thirty-eighth of the 181 entries, Goetzmann laid down a picture perfect round and sat on top of the standby from the get go.
“I was thinking that the two-stride would be harder because of the turn,” said Goetzmann, 11. “I think last year’s course was maybe harder, but there were some lines to get up. I knew I’d done a good job after I finished. When I walked out of the ring I was just thinking ‘Oh my god!’ ”
The second round shuffled the standings, as riders faced a few tougher turns. There were few major problems, aside from heartbreak for Jessica Hertzog who took a tumble. But when Goetzmann walked out of the ring she knew she was in good shape.
The judges invited the top 10 riders back to the ring without placing them, then read the results in reverse order. By the time it came down to the final two Goetzmann was feeling the pressure.
“I was so nervous when it was me and Katherine,” she said. “We kept saying to each other ‘You’re going to win,’ ‘No, you’re going to win.’ ”
Strauss couldn’t have been too disappointed when she hear she earned the reserve championship. She just paired out with her mount in the class yesterday.
Goetzmann prepared for the class by spending some extra time at Heritage Farm in Katonah, N.Y. That’s no small feat, as she recently moved from nearby Westport, Conn., to Skaneateles, N.Y., five hours away. Griffith set tough course after tough course, and Goetzmann spent some quality time without her stirrups.
“At home we have a very difficult course set in the indoor,” said Goetzmann. “We’ve been doing a lot of equitation, and practicing in our equitation bridle. Patricia never lets me go to the show unprepared.”
This marks Griffith’s fourth time coaching a rider to the medal title, and she also coached last year’s winner Isabelle Caccamise. That success is thanks to a lot of hard work from the students, and the trainers.
“The biggest thing at Heritage is we try to have no stone left unturned when we prepare,” said Griffith. “We like to teach them to think for themselves. Obviously she prepared all the ponies herself this week, and she knows how to get them ready on the flat. That carries over well for the kids. They learn that if they’re going to be good riders they have to be able to feel and react in the ring.”