Lexington, Ky—Aug. 10
At USEF Pony Finals , the in-gate staff don’t let the ring sit empty for a second. So when Emma Kurtz trotted into the ring for the large pony hunter over-fences class on Westside, the previous pony’s score hadn’t been announced. As Kurtz struck a canter, the crowd erupted into hooting and hollering as the marks for Aleece Jarman and Valentino—87.2, 83.5 and 84.5—were announced.
“That made me a little nervous,” Kurtz admitted.
But she held it together to lay down a strong trip on Westside to take third in the class, and claimed the overall large pony hunter championship and the reserve grand pony hunter championship. Valentino—grand green champion here last year with Jarman—took the reserve division title.
Kurtz hasn’t had an awful lot of practice on the warmblood (Rosso di Serra—Brauhof Filippa). She showed him a few times in December, then handed the reins over to Lili Hymowitz. Kurtz and “Foxy” squeezed in a few schooling sessions with trainer Scott Stewart  earlier in the week to make sure she felt prepared.
“He was really good,” said Kurtz, Hudson, Ohio. “He’s really fun, and he’s lazy. He’s pretty easy, and his jump is so smooth.”
This marks Kurtz’ third championship ribbon of the show. She was honored with the Mindy Darst Perpetual Trophy, an award given to the rider the judges believe will most likely become a top professional rider.
Owner Betsee Parker, who bought Foxy this week, was ecstatic, but emphasized that this wasn’t the point. Sure, last time he was here he was overall third in the division, but she purchased the pony as an equitation mount for Kurtz and Taylor St. Jacques, another rider who campaigns her mounts. Foxy came into the jumping phase behind another Parker entry, Enjoy The Laughter. That pony and jockey St. Jacques started out a bit under pace to drop out of the running.
“Taylor’s very good at analyzing what she did wrong,” said Parker. “Scott and I love working with [young riders] to get them to the highest level. I love supporting young people in this—I think I have more fun than they do!”
Other Big Winners
•Medium pony Sassafras Creek  finished as the grand pony hunter champion. That mare, owned by Redfield Farm and ridden by Daisy Farish, topped the over fences on her way to the grand title. Trainer Patricia Griffith earned the Emerson Burr trainer award as the coach of the grand pony hunter champion.
•Enjoy The Laughter scored his second consecutive champion under-saddle blue with St. Jacques aboard. This year there was no Top Model class (Enjoy The Laughter won that last year as well.)
•Hagen Hall, 8, earned the Buttons N’ Bows Sportsmanship Trophy. Hall trains with his mother, Stephanie Hall, in Thompson's Station, Tenn., and rode Fancy Feet in the small pony hunter division.
•Many young riders took a break from ice cream socials and riding to participate in the two-phase Emerson Burr Horsemanship competition. The winners were: 8 and under—Hallie Rush; 9-11—Alex Trubey; 12-14—Rachel Tanio; 15-17—Katherine Wiedmann.
•Woodland’s Misty Rain owner and rider Isabel Ryan took home a new saddle as the highest scoring regular hunter pony auction graduate. The Pony Finals Auction kicks off this evening.
Pony action wraps up indoors tomorrow as riders head into the Alltech Arena for the USEF Pony Medal Final.
Find full results on equestrianlive.com .
Can’t get enough pony news? Check out the jumps  Patricia Griffith had made just for her students headed to Pony Finals, and catch up with Stone McCormick , a hardworking pony rider with a great attitude.