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!”
Jana said she believes that riding ponies allows her children to learn early on about different life lessons.
“I like the fact that my kids are back to nature and learning respect and re-sponsibility when they’re with the horses,” she said. “Pony Finals, especially, is just a great gathering of people who love their ponies.”
Jana and her husband, Mike Coyle, now own multiple horses and ponies, both in partnership with trainer Debbie DiVecchia and on their own. The Coyles began working with DiVecchia at her Windswept Farm in Argyle, Texas, in 2005, when their previous trainer relocated out of state.
“They came to me with three or four horses,” DiVecchia said. “Jordan was tiny and not really riding. Now she’s the focus of the whole Coyle team.”
The family also relocated from Dallas to Argyle so that Jordan and her 10-year-old brother, Preston, could have more time to ride. Preston hopes to compete in the pony jumpers later this year.
“We were driving an hour each way, five days a week,” said Jana. “Now we’re 12 minutes from the barn.”
Familial support such as this has ulti-mately led to Jordan’s past successes in the pony ring. Dedicated homeschooling also allows Jordan and Preston more saddle time and a greater opportunity to travel to shows.
Jordan, who had her first outing at Pony Finals three years ago aboard the small pony Heavenly Zechariah, considers Pony Finals one of her favorite shows.
“I’ve had some pretty good times here; I love it so much,” she said. “I love seeing all of the beautiful ponies, and it’s such a beautiful area.”
From a trainer’s point of view, DiVec-chia said Pony Finals is an important show because for many young riders it’s their first experience at a national championship competition and provides the extra challenge in balance with fun act-ivities tailored to their age groups.
“It really feels like a big deal to the kids,” she said, “especially when it’s their first time. They really feel like they’re somewhere important. It’s exciting for them.”
When she’s not showing, Jordan also enjoys exploring the Kentucky Horse Park. She often visits the International Museum of the Horse and rides her bike around the showgrounds. She also spends time with her friends at the Horse Park campgrounds and pool where she and her family stay during the shows.
This year, Jordan will have two ponies at Pony Finals—her small Pash-mina and a small green named Grand Jête. She’ll only be showing Pashmina, however.
“We feel like she has a good shot with ‘Pashy,’ so she’s dedicating all her efforts to her,” said Jana.
Coyle showed Pashmina at last year’s Pony Finals but suffered an unfortunate tumble at the last fence.
“I almost had a perfect round!” said Jordan. “This year, I want to work even harder so I can be better for next year. I’m ready for anything that comes my way.”
DiVecchia described Jordan as hav-ing a natural ability and love for her ponies.
“The ponies love her because she’s not too intense,” DiVecchia said. “She likes to have fun on the pony, and I think the ponies feel that. She’s on their wavelength, and I think that’s kind of unusual.”
Since last year’s disappointment at Pony Finals, Jordan and Pashmina have added numerous championships and re-serves to their résumé, small and grand pony hunter championships at the Dallas Harvest (Texas) and reserve champion at the Gulf Coast Magnolia Classic IV (Miss.). One highlight of 2010 was a seventh-placed ribbon in the small pony conformation hunter class at this year’s Devon (Pa.) Horse Show.
“We just wanted to go for the ex-perience there, for her first time,” said Jana, “but she ended up having a great round.”
Pashmina, a 13-year-old Welsh pony, was purchased for Jordan from Waverly Ernst’s Roulette Jumpers Inc., of Ocala, Fla., in 2008. Junior rider Kayla Briel, a family friend, initially found the pony on the Internet.
Fortunately, they stumbled upon Pashmina fairly early in their pony search, as Jordan had tried just five ponies before they found the blue roan mare. Right away, Jordan knew that she was on the right pony.
“I just felt it in my gut,” said Jordan. “When I tried her, she was perfect. She was just the best. You can put a 4-year-old on her and she’ll go perfectly. She’s perfect for anybody. You can jump almost anything on her. Just point her at it, and she’ll jump it—or she’ll try!”
Pashmina is more than just a show pony for Jordan, though. Like so many ponies, she’s also a friend.
“You can really bond with her,” Jordan said. “She doesn’t even mind if you sleep with her. If she’s lying down, she’ll put her head in your lap. She’s the best pony anyone could have.”
Jana agreed, “She was just one of those fantastic ponies that had been there and done that, and we were fortunate enough to find her. Now she’s a member of the family and will never, ever, ever, ever be sold.”