Saturday, Sep. 23, 2023

A Last-Minute Ride Gets Smith Blue In USEF Pony Medal Final



Lexington, Ky.—Aug. 13

Most riders who head to USEF Pony Finals have everything planned out to a T, practicing on their ponies for months in preparation for the championship. But not Samantha Smith.

She came to the Kentucky Horse Park with no pony, just a plan to find one to borrow for the Marshall & Sterling USEF Pony Medal Final. So her trainers, Randi and Shelby Cashman, chatted with Emil Spadone and Luke Olsen of Redfield Farm and Jimmy Torano, who suggested she throw a leg over large pony Sports Illustrated. So yesterday, Smith got a leg up onto the pony, owned by Redfield Farm but in Torano’s care, for a single school the day before before she headed into the championship.

That’s all it took for Smith and Sports Illustrated to gel, and then Smith laid down two strong rides and a no-stirrups flat phase to ride away with the title over Kaitlyn Linck and third place Emi Richard.

Twenty-four hours after she first rode him, Samantha Smith tacked up Sports Illustrated to win the Marshall & Sterling USEF Pony Medal Final at USEF Pony Finals. Mollie Bailey Photos

“He’s pretty straightforward and amazing,” she said of Sports Illustrated. “He’s really easy to find the jumps on and he just canters right up to [them.]”

The first round integrated several rollback turns, a halt and a trot fence. Smith came back in second place after that round.

“The hardest part was mostly the turns and getting down the lines a little bit,” said Smith, 14, of the courses designed Jasen Shelley, adding that the tracks were harder than what she sees week-to-week in competition.

Samantha Smith sealed her victory with a strong flat phase.

After the second round judges Ginny Edwards and Mary Lisa Leffler asked Richard, Smith and Linck to take off their stirrups and come back for a short flat phase. The riders demonstrated lengthening of stride at the trot and canter.


Watch Smith’s second round, courtesy of USEF Network.

Smith, Montvale, New Jersey, has been riding with Randi and Shelby since she was 3.

“We mostly work on forward things,” said Smith. “I do the equitation mostly so we focus on turning and keeping it nice and smooth.”

Samantha Smith moved up from second to win the class.

At home Smith focuses on her two ponies and a 5-year-old green pony, but she’s happy to ride anything and everything.

“She’s a really talented rider,” said Randi. “She schools a lot of ponies for us for the other kids in the barn. She has really good natural feel and the horses love her.”

Kaitlyn Linck jumped to second in the class.
Emi Richard claimed third.

Find full results here.

Follow along with all the Chronicle’s coverage from Pony Finals here. Be sure you’re following the Chronicle on Facebook and Instagram @chronofhorse for more. Check out the Sept. 4 issue of the magazine for more from the competition.



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