Lexington, Ky.—Aug. 9
When Genevieve Munson learned that the youngest person to have won the U.S. Pony Jumper Individual Championship was 12 years old, she took that as a personal challenge to set a new record. And the 10-year-old followed through on that goal with the blue roan mare Bluebelle at the U.S. Equestrian Federation Pony Finals, Aug. 4-10, competition.
Munson, Rogers, Ark., was the only member of her U.S. Pony Club gold medal-winning team to go clean and clear the day before, and she continued her fault-free streak to place at the top of the 19-entry division, which saw three competitors advance to the jump-off.
Cecily Coors on and Monstarz Superfly and Carson Ruff on Jet Pilot took home silver and bronze, respectively.
"For awhile I tried to do the pony hunters," said Munson, who met Carlie Beisel, current trainer and owner of Bluebelle, at a Pony Club function two years ago. "So we got to try [Bluebelle] out and after that, that was pretty much our schedule: two years. Spring came around and Carlie said, 'Let's give this a run.' "
Munson's family farm, Rogers Equestrian Center (Ark.), is where she keeps "Blue" and exercises boarders' horses around her soon-to-be sixth grade schedule.
"I think Genevieve is a horse!" joked her father, Mike Munson, who's involved in the family horse business and accompanies Genevieve to horse shows. "Literally, we came out of the hotel and she was cantering to the elevator! We're elated [about the win]. Carlie helped make that all possible."
Another influential figure in Genevieve's riding has been Martien Van Der Hoeven, whom she met while showing in Tyler, Texas, last year. She claims that his tutelage has made all the difference in her training leading up to her big win at Pony Finals, as well.
"Every jump is just a jump; you shouldn't jump it any differently," Genevieve said of the strategy she's developed in the jumper ring under Van Der Hoeven's guidance. "Whether it's an oxer, vertical, triple, whatever it is, you jump it the same. Today I just wanted to go ride my pony and do the best that I could.
"It was definitely one of Richard Jeffery's courses!" she continued of the tough, distinct track. "He makes it technical; he won't let you run around out there. You've got to really think about what you're doing. But it was a good course and it was great for us."
Blue is a 14-year-old mare of unrecorded breeding. "She won't refuse a jump," said Genevieve. "Jumping is her life and she couldn't have it any other way. In the barn she's a little baby doll, but when she gets in the ring, as you've seen, she turns into a little beasty!"
While the win was very much a personal victory, Genevieve was also proud of her fellow Pony Clubbers for putting themselves on the Pony Finals map this year.
"I think people are really starting to see that Pony Club's something real, not just some other people," she said. "We've really stepped up to the plate and shown them who we are."