Samantha Schaefer and Sham’s Loganberry entered the coliseum of the Virginia Horse Center feeling confident in each other and in the job before them. After jumping a bold first fence, Schaefer and her chestnut partner flowed around the course. With the reins looped, he met each fence perfectly and cracked his back, especially through the final in-and-out.
After the whooping and cheering subsided, the scores went up. And they’d dazzled the judges: scores of 90, 87.5 and 95 from Scott Fitton, Kim Dorfman and Joe Darby vaulted them to the top of the overall medium pony standings. As an added bonus, they took the grand pony hunter championship at the 37th annual Wild Horsefeathers/USEF Pony Finals, Aug. 4-7 in Lexington, Va.
In addition to the grand and medium championships, Schae-fer, 10, went home to West-minster, Md., with the co-large pony reserve championship, the small green pony championship, the reserve medium green pony championship, and the grand green reserve championship.
Sham’s Loganberry had stood eighth after the model and under saddle phases, but because the over fences phase counts 50 percent, they accrued 545 points for a total of 1,056.5 points and had the best score of the 241 ponies in the finals.
Trainer Kim Stewart of Glenwillow Farm in Glenwood, Md., received the Emerson Burr Perpetual Trophy for training the overall pony hunter grand champion–her third grand championship in the past five years. This was also Schaefer’s second medium pony hunter championship–in 2002 she guided North-wind’s Onyx to the title.
Stewart said she knew after Schaefer nailed the first fence that Sham’s Loganberry would have a strong performance. “Sam was really nervous going into the ring, but she was really focused,” added Stewart. “We had a really good warm-up. She started out shaky, then ended up great. So she knew what she had to fix in the ring.”
Sham’s Loganberry also earned the Welsh Pony and Cob Society Perpetual Trophy for the highest-scoring half-Welsh pony in the regular pony hunter divisions.
Victoria Birdsall, who won the USEF Pony Medal on Thursday (see sidebar), had another elegant over fences round to clinch the overall medium pony reserve championship with Woodland’s Love N’ Happiness (1,040.5 points).
Schaefer’s banner day actually began a few hours earlier in the large pony section, which began at 7:30 a.m. Schaefer stood fourth in the standings with Who’s Kidding Who and guided the gray to a solid over fences performance with scores of 86, 82.75 and 85.75. They placed fifth in the phase and finished with 1,040.5 points, which tied Sunlight and Kaitlin Campbell for the reserve championship. Who’s Kidding Who and Woodland’s Love N’ Happiness also tied for the high-score Virginia-bred Pony Award.
But neither Schaefer nor Campbell could catch Jennifer Waxman and American Dreams in the large pony division. The pair led the way after second places in both the model and under saddle phases, and then Waxman rode a beautiful round on her flashy chestnut for scores of 85.5, 87 and 86. Their red ribbon over fences kept them well ahead of the pack for the overall title (1,053 points) and the reserve grand championship.
Waxman, 12, Chagrin Falls, Ohio, imported the Westphalian mare from Germany in June 2003 after watching her on a videotape. Trainers Heidi D’Angelo and Ken and Emily Smith helped Waxman work to retrain “Lucy” from a jumper to a hunter.
Waxman and Lucy began showing in the green division last summer, and this is their first season in the regular large division.
“We worked really hard all year–we practiced being smooth and trying to be calm around the courses and not like a jumper,” said Waxman.
D’Angelo said Waxman has done her homework with Lucy, really retraining her almost from scratch. “Lucy had a tough time adjusting to the hunters and the softer ride,” she said. “Jennifer has really done an amazing job at putting her talents together and allowing her to feel confident in the hunters and in America.”
Because of Lucy’s limited mileage, Waxman said she was just hoping for the best in the over fences phase in the coliseum. Course designers Glen Moody and Sandy Gerald had created straightforward courses, but some ponies weren’t used to the indoor venue and the fully decorated fences of the championship.
“I was really nervous because I had to go last,” added Waxman. “But when she didn’t spook at the first jump, it made me feel better. I knew if I could get her over the first fence, it would be OK.”
Schaefer was in contention for a tricolor in the small pony section aboard Rainbow Canyon–she had won the under saddle–but a mistake in the over fences class opened the door. And Schaefer’s friend, Devon Walther, who celebrated her 10th birthday on Aug. 5, took advantage of that opportunity and rode her Dreamboy to scores of 86, 82.75 and 84.75 for fourth place over fences and the overall small pony championship with 1,048.5 points.
After the awards ceremony, Walther’s trainer, Pam Freeley, reminded both riders of the important lesson ponies teach you–that of sportsmanship.
“What I always say is you always want yourself to win and, if not, then a friend,” said Freeley.
Schaefer responded, “I was there today, let me tell you. I leaned up the neck, my pony went left, and pop, chip, here we go.”
“It’s called humility,” added Freeley. “Someone told me that a long time ago. It means that you’re up here one minute and you’re down there the next. And if you get in a bundle about it, you stay down. You have to be able to go right back up. No one is going to win every class, every show, every time. You’ve got to be able to step back.”
“And share,” added Walther, with a smile.
Walther, Warrenton, Va., said Dreamboy, or “D.J.”, did just about everything she asked of him in the over fences class. “I thought he was really good today,” she said with a shy smile. After her round, Walther said she was “pretty confident” that her score would be strong. And it was.
For those impressive scores, Dreamboy earned the Welsh Pony and Cob Society Perpetual Trophy for the highest-scoring Welsh pony in the regular pony hunter divisions. Dreamboy has now earned a Pony Finals tricolor for two consecutive years, as he was last year’s small green pony champion with rider Alexandra Arute.
Greens Earn Blues
Kaitlin Campbell and Absolut Snap were absolutely brilliant, topping 151 other green ponies in the three sections. Campbell, 12, of Doylestown, Pa., rode Kristen Lutz’s chestnut gelding to victories in the medium green pony under saddle and over fences classes to take the title and grand green pony championship with 1,022.5 points.
She started riding “Rocky,” 6, earlier this year for his 9-year-old owner, and the two have shared tricolors from the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit (Fla.) to the Garden State (N.J.) Horse Show, where they also won the pony hunter classic. But Campbell did experience a slight setback just before Pony Finals.
“For three or four shows, she had the hardest time finding the rhythm,” said Kaitlin’s mother Pat Campbell. “She kept saying, ‘I can’t do it.’ “
In Vermont the Saturday prior to the Pony Finals, Kaitlin and her friend Lindsey Ward were having dinner, both talking about the bad day they’d each just had on their ponies. So, rather than dwell on it, they decided to change tactics. Because they had nothing to lose, trainer Patty Miller suggested they switch ponies for Sunday’s classes. Kaitlin rode Ward’s small green pony Snow Day, and Ward rode Absolut Snap.
“It was the best training tool,” said Pat. “The ability to see what the other was doing was great.”
Ward and Absolut Snap were first and fifth over fences, while Kaitlin and Snow Day were second and fourth.
Both riders returned to their own ponies at the Pony Finals with improved results. Snow Day and Ward earned the small green pony reserve championship (957 points). And Kaitlin’s performance over fences clinched her the victory.
“I knew he’d be good in the model and hack and over jumps, but, it being Pony Finals, you never know how it will turn out,” said Kaitlin. “He was really good today. He didn’t look at anything, and a lot of other ponies were spooky.”
Kaitlin and Ward each train with Miller and Linda Crothers. Kaitlin began riding at age 6 and has been training with Miller the duration of her career. Last year she also earned the medium green pony and reserve grand green titles with Crack Of Dawn. “It’s very exciting to win here, but I’m more grateful that they let me ride him this year. He’s a really sweet pony who’s easy and fun to ride,” she said.
Schaefer and Skippin’ School finished just behind Campbell and Rocky as grand green reserve champions and reserve medium green pony champions with 1,016 points. Schaefer placed second over fences and third in both the model and under saddle phases with the attractive gray owned by William Sullivan. Skippin’ School was also awarded the high-score Welsh pony award (his registered name is Clovercroft’s As Good As It Gets).
Schaefer also topped the small green pony section with Confetti, a multi-colored pony who started his competitive life wearing a Western saddle. But Confetti never looked back once he began jumping. They won the over fences phase and tied for first in the under saddle for the overall championship with 984 points.
In the large green pony section, Bon Voyage and Rachel Koggan had an excellent over fences round that placed second and clinched them the overall title with 977 points.
Jessica Van Brocklin, who sang the National Anthem to start the Pony Finals, rode Junior Mint to 14th in the large pony section and received the Buttons N Bows Sports-
New York (Sunlight/Campbell, Elite Storm Front/Lia Poin, Clovercroft’s My Kinda Guy/Sarah Garnett, Helicon Take Notice/Reed Kessler) won the USEF state award. And Chloe Reid, Rebecca Hunter, Amanda Hall and Sarah Stevens won sections of the Emerson Burr Horsemanship Final.
Ferguson And Krome Shine In Pony Jumper Championship
No one could catch Krome and Kevin Ferguson in the USEF Pony Jumper Individual Championship, Aug. 6, at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Va. The pair had the only double-clear performance of the evening (0-0/31.92) to take the gold medal over Stephanie Fialco, riding Hot Fudge (0-4/33.44), and Jennifer Waxman, aboard her Just Have Fun (0-4/34.13).
The phase III individual final competition featured 34 starters, who took course designer Anthony D’Ambrosio’s level-3 challenge, with most fences set at 3’6″. The three-phase competition also included a welcome class and the two-round team competition. After the faults were tallied for the three phases, three competitors had finished with perfect scores to qualify for the jump-off.
Fialco, 17, Old Lyme, Conn., went first in the tiebreaker and lowered a rail at 11B, the second-to-last fence on course in a speedy ride.
Ferguson, 13, of Jupiter, Fla., took every inside turn in the eight-effort jump-off, and his turns were so efficient that his right leg rubbed the standard as he turned down the final line. He took over the lead with a ride that was exactly to plan.
Waxman, 12, Chagrin Falls, Ohio, began the jump-off with a strong pace, but she lowered a rail at the third fence, a liverpool oxer, that left her to gallop the remaining fences for the silver. She fell just short.
But Waxman’s ability was evident over the course of the competition–as the anchor rider she’d earned the team gold medal for Zone 5 the previous evening by going clear in a nail-biting finish–and she was presented the jumper rider style award.
“It was a blast,” said Ferguson, who also rode on the silver-medal Zone 4 team. “The whole team experience was just great, and you don’t experience that at many other shows.”
Ferguson rode Krome, an 11-year-old, Colombian-bred gelding by Kung Fu, his partner of two years. “He’s really careful and really slick,” said Ferguson.
Added trainer Alan Korotkin, “And he’s smart and brave. He’s got everything. He doesn’t look like much, but he just figures it out. He’s a very consistent pony.”
Ferguson prepared for the Pony Finals by practicing diligently, both at home and in the ring. “We did children’s classes, and my pony handles [the level 3 heights] just fine. And I was glad it was bigger tonight,” he added. “[The jump-off] felt great, and my pony handled the inside turns really well.”
Ferguson noted that this was his final show with Krome, as the pony’s been sold to a new rider so he can move on to horses. “This was a good way to finish up,” he noted with a smile.
Zone 5 (Liseter Fun N Stuff/Alison Terry, Country Girl/Taylor McMurtry, Super Sonic/Lina Kavaliunas, Just Have Fun/Waxman) took the team championship over Zone 4 (Indigo/Juliana Fischer, Longacre Lavender/Caroline Woods, Krome/Ferguson, Tisho-mingo/Ann Marie Tucker) and the U.S. Pony Club team (He Likes It/Emily Smith, Prince Charming/Alexa
Bessette, Exhilaration/Wilhelmina Horzepa, Indiana Jones/Kristi Edwards).
Birdsall Is Best In The Medal
After almost eight hours and 199 pony medal rounds, Victoria Birdsall, 11, of Topsfield, Mass., stood at the top of the stand-by list after the first round. She’d absolutely nailed the first course, looking as if she dictated every step her chestnut large pony took. In addition, her natural feel and polished equitation was a style any “big-eq” rider would like to emulate.
Birdsall then kept her composure in the second round, where the top 30 riders were invited back, and earned the championship aboard Sundance Kid, a Welsh-cross she rides for owner Lydia Beresford. The USEF Pony Medal Finals were held Thursday, Aug. 5, at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Va.
“I was really nervous,” confessed Birdsall. “But once I got in the ring I was OK. I was afraid he’d be a little spooky [in the coliseum], but he was really good.”
The first-round course featured a rollback, a bending line, and a triple combination of two strides to two strides down the diagonal. Riders then halted between two small bushes before negotiating a trot fence to another bending line. They then finished up over an oxer.
“The winner was by far the leader in the first round,” said judge Karen Healey, who presided over the day with John Roper.
No single jump caused significant problems; but there were a number of refusals and falls around the course. Course designers Glen Moody and Sandy Gerald hinted at their plan for the final during the previous day’s equitation warm-up class, which incorporated similar questions. They included a bending line to a narrow fence as a precursor to the final’s first line.
Six small pony riders, eight medium pony riders and 16 large pony riders returned for the second round. The test included a hand gallop to fence 2, a halt between the bushes again, jumping the triple combination backward, and the jump at the end of the ring was negotiated in each direction. A bending line concluded the test.
Birdsall trains with Patty Harnois of Holly Hill Farm in Marstons Mills, Mass. “She was really good under pressure today,” added Harnois, smiling and giving her a hug.
Lindsey Sceats, 15, of Colorado Springs, Colo., had a beautiful second round to move up from fourth to claim the reserve championship. She trains with Tracy Powers.
“In the second round [Birdsall] was a little weak in a couple of places, but she has such a beautiful style,” said Healey. “And even when she was a little weak, she knew exactly where she was. If the girl from Colorado had galloped more [to jump 2], we would have worked them off. But it was very close.”
Healey and Roper were each disappointed that more riders didn’t truly hand gallop to fence 2, as the test dictated. Those who did get up out of their saddles received bonus points, including small pony rider Reed Kessler, 13, of Bedford Corners, N.Y. She was impressive in both rounds and placed third under trainer Patricia Griffith.
Jessica Springsteen, 11, Colts Neck, N.J., was one of the few riders to really gallop to fence 2 in the second round, and she moved up from 15th to place sixth.