“When you get here, you have to go all out,” Lucy Davis said simply.
And go all out she did.
Davis, the lead-off rider for the Zone 10 team in the USEF Prix Des States Team Junior Jumper Championship, conquered in a nerve-wracking jump-off to clinch the gold medal for her fellow Californians—Karl Cook, Paris Sellon and Saer Coulter.
Davis’ jump-off round nearly ended as quickly as it began. After she and True Love jumped the first oxer, the game little chestnut stumbled badly, almost going to his knees.
“I landed off the first fence and went to turn, and then we were stumbling around,” Davis said. “I heard people yelling, ‘Come on!’ And I said, ‘Come on Lovey, let’s go.’ I just tried to keep going.”
Davis and True Love zipped around the rest of the course and stopped the timers clean in 33.40 seconds. She was fast, but did her stumble leave the door open for Victoria Birdsall, who was jumping off for the mixed team of Zones 1 and 8?
No, the door was firmly closed.
Birdsall gave it her all on her feisty little chestnut gelding, Jerremy, but even as the top plank of the last jump fell to the ground, the clock flashed the time of 37.00 seconds. Davis had been cleaner and faster.
Zones 10 and 2 have a time-honored tradition of battling for the Prix Des States title, but this year it was a combined team from Zones 1 and 8 that gave the West Coasters a run for their money. Northeasteners Zachary Libes, Wilton, Conn., and Birdsall, Topsfield, Mass., joined forces with Kelsey Thatcher, South Jordan, Utah, and Navona Gallegos, Santa Fe, N.M.
The Zones 1⁄8 team actually led the way after Round 1, with 4 faults to their name after Thatcher and Birdsall posted clear rounds. Zone 10 stalked them in second, with 8 faults. Libes led off the Zone 1/8 Round 2 effort with an inspired clear round on the 18-year-old Landdame, much improving his ride from his eight-fault Round 1.
When Birdsall and Jerremy stood at the in-gate as the anchor rider for the Zone 1⁄8 team, a clear round would tie the class and force a jump-off. And Birdsall jumped her second clear round of the evening—turning in the only double-clear performance. But in the jump-off, Birdsall and Jerremy couldn’t duplicate their earlier efforts, giving Zone 10 the gold.
Reed Kessler, Armonk, N.Y., started the week winning, topping the speed leg of the USEF National Junior Jumper Individual Championship. That result, combined with her clear and four-fault rounds in the Prix Des States team competition, gave her the lead going into the last round. Rider after rider jumped clear rounds, so Kessler had a two-fault cushion over Davis.
“I was pretty nervous. Normally, I don’t get nervous, but as soon as Lucy went clean, I felt the pressure,” Kessler said.
She kept her cool on Ice D’Ancoeur and turned in a clean round of her own to clinch the individual gold medal.
“It feels great. I feel like I’ve done everything I came here to do. My horse went beautifully. Yesterday, in the first round of the Nations Cup, I didn’t give her a very strong, accurate ride, and she was awesome. It’s a long weekend for the horses—four rounds—and she was just as good today as she was the first day,” Kessler said.
Kessler was on the Zone 2 team, which took bronze the night before in the Prix Des States competition.
“Bronze was great, but we were a little bit down. To bring it home today was awesome,” she said.
Tuscany Is Hot Property
Four years ago, Tuscany won the grand pony and medium pony tricolors at the Pennsylvania National with Jennifer Waxman. This year, Meredith Darst hopped on the elegant bay pony to repeat the performance.
“He’s perfect. I like his jump. He’s very soft and fun,” Darst, 12, said of Tuscany (Pendock Masterpiece—Song And Dance). The pair won the medium pony conformation class, then were fourth in the handy class. A win in the last over fences class clinched the championships, with 22 points.
In the intervening years, Tuscany had traveled to California and shown extensively on the West Coast with Grace Morton, who bought him after Waxman’s triumphs. But since Morton outgrew Tuscany, he was sent back to Ken and Emily Smith’s Ashland Farm to be sold this spring.
“Maddie rode him for us this summer. I think she’s a superior rider, and her mother [trainer Mindy Darst] is a good friend of ours. She has a great bond with the pony—Jennifer Wax-man had that same connection with him,” Emily said.
Trainer Tom Wright helps Darst, Lebanon, Ohio, and was thrilled to see her pick up the tricolor honors. “Maddie works so hard and rides so many different ponies. She has a lot of experience, but to be grand champion at Harrisburg is really the top. For her to experience this is very special,” he said.
Vanity Fair added his name to the large pony hunter championship trophy for the third consecutive year. Former owner Lillie Keenan rode him to the title in 2007 and ’08, but this year Victoria Colvin took over the reins for new owner Betsee Parker.
“It’s fun because he’s so easy,” Colvin said of Vanity Fair. “He jumps really high in the ring, and he loves indoors. I love that you can just loop the reins and go on him.”
Vanity Fair lives with Parker’s other ponies at her Middleburg, Va., farm, so Colvin only meets them at shows.
“I think that Tori is a very serious, exceptional athlete,” Parker said. “She has the ability to work with her emotions and stay as calm as possible no matter what the situation is, and more times than not, that really brings her into the lead. I thought that her style of riding was correct for Vanity Fair because after Lillie Keenan had such a brilliant career with him, Tori has a very similar way of working with him. The match worked very well.”
Colvin’s winning didn’t stop there—she rode Parker’s For The Laughter to the large pony hunter reserve championship and claimed best child rider on a pony honors.
One of Colvin’s former rides, the small pony Ballou, carried on winning without her. Daisy Farish guided the flashy chestnut to the small pony championship.
“It feels like a real accomplishment,” said Farish, 8.
She’s had the ride on Ballou, whom she’s leasing from Colvin, since the beginning of the year. “I can really trust him, and he’s sweet to me. He always wants to win with you.”
Farish, Versailles, Ky., rides with the Heritage Farm team in Katonah, N.Y., where Ballou lives. And while winning the final class to clinch the tricolor brought a beaming smile to Farish’s face, she said, “It’s more about having fun than winning.”