Maddie Darst found the perfect way to follow up her small pony title at USEF Pony Finals: another championship.
Darst, 13, rode Elizabeth’s Wenner's Highland’s Make Believe to the top of the medium pony division today, after topping the medium pony over fences class. The reserve rosette went to Isabelle Caccamise and Better Than Good.
Maddie Darst and Elation finished out the day at USEF Pony Finals the way they started it: at the head of the small pony division.
Betsee Parker’s gray clinched victory with a winning over fences trip when the pressure was on. Last to go, Darst kept her cool to win the small pony championship over Lands End Eros, ridden by Pony Finals first-timer Isabel Ryan.
“I was really, really nervous!” said Darst, 13. “I’m not sure why—I never really get nervous.”
Ali Tritschler didn’t always want to ride. Her first riding lesson was at age 5, and she didn’t like it. But when Tritschler told her mom that she didn’t want to ride again, she went against a generation of family equestrians and decades of USEF Pony Finals dominance.
“We were the McKinney girls,” Ali’s mom, Libby McKinney Tritschler said. “From 1967 to 1975 we were pretty competitive in the pony ring. We were fortunate enough to win, and we were just really lucky girls.”
At the tender age of 9, Jordan Coyle is already a USEF Pony Finals veteran. Coyle was one of the youngest competitors at the 2007 competition, when her show age was 5.
Starting early has always been the Coyle family’s operating strategy, though.
“We started her riding when she was 2 years old, and we could finally get out the door without packing the house, without the whole car seat and kit and caboodle,” said her mother, Jana Coyle. “We thought we could do it as something fun and exciting. Seven years later, this is basically a full-time job for us!”
Last year’s trip to the USEF Pony Finals (Ky.) felt bittersweet to Parker Wright. He piloted Sir Dragon to fourth place in the small green pony division, then watched as his mount—whom he’d trained from the ground up—went home on someone else’s trailer after the American Hunter Pony Classic Auction.
But his partnership with the Welsh will come full circle at this year’s competition, as his owner, Hailey Livingston, has asked Wright to take over the reins for the weekend.