Lexington, Ky.—Aug. 9
As the last class and biggest class of the hunter divisions at the U.S. Equestrian Federation Pony Finals began on Saturday, the skies opened up and riders were straining to find their distances through the driving rain. But less-than-ideal weather couldn’t stop popular catch-rider Taylor St. Jacques from putting in a smooth, consistent round atop Finders-Keepers to claim the top spot in the medium pony championships.
For 15-year-old St. Jacques, this win is a special one. This is the last year she’s able to compete in the medium pony division, so she was determined to make it count, especially after just missing the championship title aboard Elegance last year.
“Last year I was reserve, so this year I kind of wanted to beat that. It meant a lot that I could come back and top last year’s result, and I’m glad I could do it with ‘Keepers,’ ” said St. Jacques.
St. Jacques, of Glen Allen, Va., got the ride on Keepers, owned by R.H.F. Enterprises, Inc., the last week of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.) this year when her trainer, Bill Schaub, suggested she take up the gelding’s reins and try her hand competing him in the regular hunters.
“He’s really fun to ride; you kind of just have to leave his face alone and just tell him to keep going, and no matter what distance you give him, he always jumps well,” said St. Jacques. “He’s very brave; not nervous at all. This is his first year in the regulars out of the greens, and he was so, so good.”
Keepers performed so well, in fact, that he and St. Jacques claimed the overall medium pony championship, presented in the Pony Finals awards ceremonies later that night. With a total score of 995.66, the 10-year-old Welsh pony (Flying Diamond the Bailef—NR Burgundy Lace), bred by Ranae Smith, also claimed the highest scoring pure-bred Welsh pony award.
On her third trip to Pony Finals, St. Jacques has earned an impressive collection of accolades. In addition to her successes aboard Keepers, she piloted Empire’s Victory to the large green pony overall reserve championship. The judges also recognized her natural talent and promise by awarding her with the Mindy Darst Perpetual Trophy, given to the rider most likely to become a professional rider based on his or her performance, enthusiasm and drive.
“I didn’t have any question in my mind that she would be so dedicated to this sport,” said St. Jacques’ mother, Sandra. “It’s a passion of hers; it’s what she wants to do as an adult and through college, so I’m just trying to encourage it and support her as much as possible. It’s her thing!”
More awards include:
- Blueberry Hill, a small pony ridden by Natalie Jayne, was named grand pony hunter champion, while Jayne’s trainers, mother Lynn Jayne and Patricia Griffith, picked up the Emerson Burr Perpetual Trophy.
- Devin Seek’s mount, Hudson, earned the title of overall reserve hunter pony champion after winning the large division.
- Team 15, a small pony team, collected the highest number of points to claim the team championship and took home the International Challenge Trophy. The team consisted of Natalie Jayne on Blueberry Hill, Isabelle di Benedetto on Goldfish, Taylor Kraft on True Sport, and Ava Ellis on Money Tree.
- The Buttons N’ Bows Sportsmanship Trophy went to Gianna Longo, who rode Blue Stetson in the small greens.