Devon, Pa.—May 24
Bernadette Chungunco came to the Devon Horse Show with exactly one goal in mind: to do better than last year. Well she did that, and then some. Chungunco won the large pony hunter championship and the grand pony hunter title on her own Spellbound, and the judges selected her as the Best Child Rider on a pony to boot.
“I just wanted a better outcome than last year when we were reserve, this is as good as it gets,” said Chungunco. “I’m really proud of him.”
Spellbound won the large pony stakes on a score of 89 from judges Mike Rosser and Bill Ellis. She also topped yesterday’s two over-fences classes, and added a white ribbon in the hack to earn 32 points on her way to the grand title.
Chungunco started riding “Dori” since the end of 2012. Last year they picked up armloads of ribbons, and the USEF National title.
“He certainly wasn’t green when I started on him, but he had a few areas that needed a little work,” she said. “We practiced opening up his canter and making sure he was straight all the time. He’s gotten so much better. He’s come so far.”
Chungunco has too. This year she returned to training with Kim Stewart, whose Jefferson, Md., farm is just an hour and a half from her home in Fairfax, Va. She originally started showing with Stewart five years ago, but admitted that she wasn’t ready for that partnership. But now she appreciates Stewart’s direct style.
“She’ll say during a lesson, your pony might spook at that or stop at that,” said Chungunco. “When she says it outright you know it’s true and you don’t need to worry about it. And when she says you're going to be fine, you know that you’re going to be fine. But I’ve come a long way since I was 10; I’m much more independent. I can do more without her having to tell me every single thing every step of the way.”
The championship is especially meaningful to Chungunco as this marks her last time showing in the ponies at Devon. She’s already started showing in the junior hunters, showing Kim Stewart’s Lost Love to third in the small junior, 15 and under, stakes class today.
Second Time’s A Charm For Zayna Rizvi
Most riders need plenty of practice at a show like Devon, before they start rising to the occasion. But Zayna Rizvi rode Rollingwood’s Knee Deep to the top of the small pony hunter division even though it’s just her second time here.
“I watched when my sister [Farah] rode him,” said Rizvi, 8. “He looked really fun. He feels great when he’s in the air. I practice not looking down and keeping him straight. He’s pretty easy, and my sister warned me that he likes to drift right.”
The chestnut with plenty of white stands out in a field of gray small ponies, which is one of the things Rizvi likes about him.
When Rizvi’s at home in Greenwich, Conn., she practices with Christine Trigger, and meets up with Patricia Griffith and Heritage Farm at shows.
“His program at home is very light,” said Trigger. “We take him on trail rides, and play around with him bareback in the ring.” The Rizvis trailer to Heritage Farm in nearby Katonah, N.Y., for weekly lessons.
“He doesn’t let you down—ever,” said Griffith. “He’s a great combination of fancy and easy. He’s a very good teacher, but he’s also a championship pony.”
From Leadline Blue To Medium Pony Title
Devin Seek isn’t exactly a newcomer to Devon glory. Ten years ago she rode Silver Steps to the top of the leadline, 4-6, class at Devon.
For the last five years Seek’s tried to make it back to Devon. But every year her mount was either sold or lame or wasn’t qualified.
It’s taken a decade, but she’s back in the headlines this year, riding Sassafras Creek to that mare’s second consecutive medium pony hunter title for Redfield Farm.
Seek, who rides with Bibby Farmer Hill, only showed “Sassy” a handful of times before Devon, but she’d ridden her at home in Florida since last winter. Hill asked Seek to show the pony at Devon at the last minute, and she was happy to hop on.
“She’s a great pony, just really awesome,” said Seek, 14. “I watched her go a lot when Daisy [Farish] and Ashton [Alexander] and I always knew she was special.”
At Devon Seek and “Sassy” won two over fences classes and took third in the conformation hunter over fences class en route to the tricolor.