USEF Pony Medal Finals
With Tricia Booker on location
After almost nine hours and 200 pony medal rounds, Victoria Birdsall, 11, of Topsfield, Mass., stood at the top of the stand-by list after the first round. She absolutely nailed the course, looking as if she dictated every step her chestnut large pony took over the course. In addition, her natural feel and polished equitation exhibited a style reminiscent of the best “big-eq” riders.
Birdsall kept her composure in the second round and earned the championship aboard Sundance Kid, a Welsh cross she rides for owner Lydia Beresford. The USEF Pony Medal Finals were held Thursday, Aug. 5 at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Va. “I was really nervous,” confessed Birdsall. “But once I got in the ring I was OK. I was afraid he’d be a little spooky [in the coliseum], but he was really good.” The first-round course featured a rollback, bending line, a triple combination of two-stride to two-stride down the diagonal. Riders then halted between two small bushes before negotiating a trot fence to another bending line. They then finished up over an oxer.
“The winner was by far the leader in the first round,” said judge Karen Healey, who presided over the day with John Roper.
No one spot caused significant problems; however, there were a number of refusals and falls around the course. Course designers Glen Moody and Sandy Gerald hinted at their plan for today’s test during yesterday’s equitation warm-up class, which incorporated similar questions to those posed in the coliseum today. They included a bending line to a narrow fence as a precursor to today’s first line.
The judges invited 30 riders back for the second round (six small pony riders, eight medium pony riders and 16 large pony riders). The test included a hand gallop to fence 2, a halt between the bushes again, the triple combination backwards, and the end jump was negotiated in each direction. A bending line concluded the test.
Lindsey Sceats, 15, of Colorado Springs, Colo., had a beautiful second round to move up from fourth to claim the reserve championship. She trains with Tracy Powers. Small pony rider Reed Kessler, 13, of Bedford Corners, N.Y., was impressive in both rounds and placed third under trainer Patricia Griffith. Jessica Springsteen was one of the few riders to really gallop to fence 2 in the second round, and she moved up from 15th to place sixth. Calder Bilhardt, the only boy in the top 10, was fourth and Jennifer Waxman placed fifth. Birdsall trains with Patty Harnois of Holly Hill Farm in Marstons Mills, Mass. “She was really good under pressure today,” added Harnois smiling and giving her a hug.
While Gerry, Kathy and Katherine Newman hosted a pizza party for the pony riders this evening, the parents and trainers were treated to cocktails and a presentation titled “The View From The Judges’ Box.” United States Hunter Jumper Association President and USEF Pony Committee Co-Chairman Billy Moroney and judges Healey and Roper explained numerical scoring for hunters as well as the specific scoring attributes used by the judges at the Pony Finals.
Moroney noted that judging the model and under saddle classes, where the judges see groups of ponies and not the entire class in one ring, dictates that the judges score each pony against his or her particular standards for the ideal. Therefore, some ponies may have the same scores. In the over fences phase, however, the judges score the ponies against each other as they would in a typical hunter class, comparing round to round. About 50 adults attended the session.
For complete results of today’s action see www.horseshowsonline.com.