Memories Of Newsworthy

May 17, 2007 - 10:00 PM

In 1995, Mindy Darst was watching a children’s pony class at Fieldstone Farm in Massachusetts when a skinny young gelding caught her eye. “At that point he didn’t even have a flying lead change,” remembered Darst. “But he had such an extraordinary canter and he jumped so high over the fences in such correct form with this tiny rider that I did something I don’t ever do. As the trainer was walking by I told her, ‘I’m not leaving here without that pony.’ ”

Little did Darst know when she first brought Newsworthy home for her daughter Jennifer, the Virginia-bred gelding would go on to win every major championship in the country. “Cheers,” named after the famous Boston bar, carried many children to top ribbons throughout the last 12 years. The 17-year-old gelding continues his success in the large ponies with Bretton Chad.

Newsworthy has touched each of his riders—Jennifer Darst, Andrew Ramsay, Julianne Befeler, Alexandra Skiffington, Christy Russo, Paris Sellon, Jessica Springsteen, Olivia Esse, and Bretton Chad. Here’s what they have to say about him.

Jennifer Darst (showed Newsworthy in 1996-1997)
“One of the first horse shows Cheers and I went to was at Turfway [Ky.]. The large green ponies went first, and I schooled and arrived at the ring a little before the 7:30 a.m. start. We were the first pony in, and as I picked up the canter, I looked around and thought to myself that the jumps looked a little big. 

Cheers cantered beautifully around the course and then the announcer called for me to hold on. It turns out that they had never re-set the jumps after the junior hunters the day before. Cheers had so much stride and scope that he galloped over the 3’6″ fences in the correct strides without a problem! The judge told me that I could either keep my 86 or go back when the jumps were re-set to the large green pony height. We kept the 86.”

Andrew Ramsay (1997-1999)
“Newsworthy was the only pony I ever competed with in the pony divisions, and I could have not asked for a better partner. He taught me many lessons, including how to model a pony. But more importantly, he taught me that hard work, persistence and a little give and take could result in a successful and winning partnership. Newsworthy has the heart of a horse and an amiable character. He really is a ‘one-in-a-million’ pony and I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to ride and compete with him.”

Julianne Befeler (2000-2002)
“We used to call Cheers the superstar. There’s Newsworthy, then there’s all the rest. He was always on—it was just a matter of whether I was too. He would win everywhere, and then we would go home and go on bareback trail rides. He really is the greatest pony out there.”

Alexandra Skiffington (2002)
“When I think about Cheers’ successes it’s almost unbelievable. I don’t think there is a show in the country that Cheers has not been champion at. What makes Cheers unique from the others is that his success never stopped as he passed through generations of junior riders. I feel very blessed that I was lucky enough to be a part of his life.

 “One of my favorite memories of Cheers was at the Devon Horse Show [Pa.]. The month leading up to Devon had been very hard on me because I had lost a very special pony, Foxlair Poker, weeks before Devon. It was going to be my first year at Devon showing in the junior hunters and my last year competing in the ponies.

“The week before Devon, a very special friend—Christy Russo—received Newsworthy as a surprise birthday gift and asked me if I could show Cheers for her at Devon.

“I was in shock: not only was I getting to show at Devon after losing Poker, but I was also getting to show a legend that I had only dreamed about riding. Walking into the Gold Ring at Devon was so nerve-wracking, but as soon as I picked up a canter it all went away. As I walked out of that ring that day I knew I had won—that’s what I loved so much about him. He knew his job and always seemed to rise above the rest.”

Paris Sellon (2003)
“Cheers was unbelievably reliable. He always knew exactly what he had to do. At [the Pennsylvania National], I knew that in order to win the grand championship I had to win the large pony stake. I was very nervous and I knew that he could tell, but Cheers knew exactly what he had to do and was perfect. We ended up winning the stake and the grand championship, but it was all from him, not me. He was absolutely the best pony I’ve ever ridden.”

Jessica Springsteen (2004)
“I love Newsworthy! Every time I would give him an apple he would eat it whole. He was champion at [the Pennsylvania National] and reserve at Devon with me. He is one of my favorite ponies and was so much fun to ride!”

Olivia Esse (2005)
“I started riding Newsworthy after indoors of 2004. After just a few times riding him, it felt like I had ridden him for-ever. He was different from any other pony I’d had.

“Cheers had a huge stride and a smooth, steady rhythm. He also had great scope. It seems anyone can ride him, whether it’s their first time in the ring or their millionth. He does anything you ask, right or wrong, which is why he is a teacher. His riders learn from experience. Truly a cham-pion from the start, Newsworthy will be teaching, caring and giving his all to riders for years to come.”

Bretton Chad (2006-2007)
“Newsworthy is a very special pony, and I am especially grateful that I have had the opportunity to experience him. We did a big tour of the East Coast in 2006. We attended Devon, Lake Placid [N.Y.], the Vermont Summer Festival, Wild Horsefeathers/USEF Pony Finals, Capital Challenge [Md.] and the Washington [D.C.] International.

“I was fortunate to have a pony like Cheers that had already done all these shows as I had only been in the pony ring for two years. He is an exceptional pony that I think any young rider would be thrilled to have. I am also lucky because when I move on from the large ponies, my younger sister Kara will ride him and he will continue to stay with us at Stone Ridge.

“After a circuit or a number of horse shows we always give Cheers some time off to chill and recover. When I ride him for the first time after his break his head weighs 3,000 pounds!
“When I arrive at the barn, I walk down the barn aisle and call out ‘Cheers!’ and he perks his ears straight up.”

Highlights From Newsworthy’s Career:
Reserve champion—Capital Chal-lenge (Md.)
Champion—Washington Intern-ational Horse Show (D.C.)

Reserve champion—Devon Horse Show (Pa.)
Reserve champion—Capital Chal-lenge

Champion large pony—Pruden-tial/AHSA Pony Finals (Conn.) 
Reserve champion—Devon Horse Show
Champion—Capital Challenge
Reserve champion—Washington International Horse Show

Circuit champion—HITS Ocala (Fla.)
Champion—Devon Horse Show
Champion—Capital Challenge

Champion—Devon Horse Show
Reserve champion—Washington International Horse Show

Grand champion pony—Pennsyl-vania National Horse Show
Reserve champion—Metropolitan National Horse Show (N.Y.)
Circuit champion—HITS Desert Circuit (Calif.)
Winner, large pony stakes—Washington International Horse Show

USEF national large pony champion
Reserve champion—Devon Horse Show
Grand champion pony—Pennsyl-vania National Horse Show

3rd overall USEF national large pony
Circuit champion—HITS Desert Circuit
Champion—Pennsylvania Natio-nal Horse Show
Reserve champion—Devon Horse Show

2nd, large pony hunter stakes—Devon Horse Show

Category: Juniors

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