Harrisburg, Pa.—Oct. 11
As they lined up in front of the judges one last time, Caroline Passarelli and Emma Kurtz smiled at each other and patted their ponies, waiting for the verdict.
Remarkably, all three pony champions at the Pennsylvania National finished with 24 points. Because Passarelli, on Little Black Pearl, and Kurtz, on Dreamland, had both collected all those point in over-fences classes, they had to hack off for the grand pony championship. In the end, Dreamland, the large pony champion, prevailed. Passarelli clapped wistfully as Kurtz stepped forward to receive that one last tricolor.
Sophie Gochman, fresh off a stellar showing at the Capital Challenge with Truly Noble, followed that up with the medium pony hunter championship and the blue in the pony hunter winner’s stake at the Pennsylvania National.
When Kurtz hops onto Dreamland, she knows she’ll need to inspire him. The 9-year-old Welsh-Thoroughbred cross is notoriously lazy and his owner and breeder Linda Evans remarked that they try to conserve his energy. That lazy factor is precisely why Kurtz loves riding him so much; she’s always preferred a kick ride over a whoa ride.
A popular catch rider, Kurtz has shown “Cinco” off and on for the past three years, but this is her first trip to indoors with him. Their win in the large pony hunter division at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show marked a milestone at a venue Evans called his nemesis. “It’s unbelievable,” she said. “I’m still a little in shock. It’s the biggest win we’ve ever had and we’ve been coming for a couple of years and we’ve been close but not quite there.”
Though Kurtz has been champion in the pony divisions at Harrisburg before, this is the first time she’s ever won the grand pony championship and the Best Child Rider on a Pony title. She also claimed the medium pony reserve championship on Lovesome Dove’s Good Hearted Woman.
“They were so kind to let me show [Dreamland],” she said. “He was perfect. He just felt really good especially in the bigger ring [with] the really impressive jumps.”
Winning an indoor championship wasn’t something Passarelli expected from Little Black Pearl. The 21-year-old mare has been her first pony to show, and Passarelli’s performances on her earned her enough attention to get high-profile catch rides, such as for Betsee Parker. But winning on “Pearl” is something special for Passarelli. “We got her never knowing something like this would happen. She was just my first pony,” she said.
“This is definitely extra-special. Pearl is my best friend. I can’t thank [trainer Robin Greenwood] enough, and [Greenwood’s barn manager] Siobhan Latchford for her impeccable care,” Passarelli said.
Pearl splits her time between Greenwood’s Grand Central in Southern Pines, N.C., and Passarelli’s home in High Falls, N.Y. When Pearl’s in New York, Passarelli cares for her every day. “We go to horse shows together with just the two of us and she does it all. The pony lived with Caroline from July until two weeks ago, and she came back looked like a million bucks. She does a great job,” Greenwood said.
Passarelli, 13, has ridden Pearl for four years. It was buying Pearl that inspired Passarelli to train with Greenwood; she had been training with her older sister, LucyAnn. And while Pearl wasn’t young when Passarelli got her, she also wasn’t easy. “She’s got her quirks, and she definitely doesn’t act like she’s 21 years old! She has a mind of her own,” Passarelli said. “She can be frisky no matter what the conditions are. You never know with Pearl just how she’s going to be until you go into the ring. But she always wants to win.”
Showing The Love
Sophie Gochman couldn’t stop kissing Truly Noble during the awards presentation for their medium pony hunter championship and it was obvious the pony loved the attention. While he might not love other ponies, the Welsh pony loves people. “When he’s standing, he’ll put his face right up to your face and he’ll give you kisses,” she said.
Fresh off a win in the WCHR Pony Challenge at Capital Challenge (Md.), “Noble” and Gochman brought their A-game to Harrisburg, earning the EMO Agency Pony Hunter High Five Award for their high score of the day—a 90 earned in the final over-fences class.
In the pony hunter winners stake that followed, Gochman surprised herself by scoring a 92, her highest score to date, to take the blue.
“I just feel amazing,” she said. “It’s a really big accomplishment, especially [at] Harrisburg which is such a hard show with so many great competitors.”
It’s the challenge and the competitive field that keeps Gochman motivated to ride her best and she hope that her winning streak with Noble will continue at their final indoor of the season the Washington International Horse Show (D.C.).
After she walked out of the ring in Harrisburg as the gold medalist in the Randolph College/USEF Individual Junior Jumper Championship, the first one Chloe Reid thanked was her horse Athena.
She’s had the mare for almost a year to date and has always loved the mare’s firey personality. “Right from the beginning we’ve had an amazing relationship and I’ve loved being able to ride her,” Reid said. “Honestly, this weekend was all her. She jumped amazing clean rounds the whole week. I’m so happy.”
Reid felt that course designer Michel Vaillancourt saved his toughest course for the final round with several jumps sitting right out of a corner. “The course designer really pushed all our limits today and I think it was a good course for that,” she said. “He also made the time allowed a bit snug which caught a lot of riders.”
Though she’s had plenty of experience in high-pressure situations, Reid admitted to being nervous on the first day of competition because it was her first show since she started training with Markus Beerbaum. “So far it’s been amazing partnership and my horses feel amazing,” she said.
Reid’s longtime friend Lucy Deslauriers took individual silver aboard her Hester after winning a jump-off with bronze medalist, Tori Colvin on Don Juan.
“It’s really incredible,” Deslauriers said. “We work all year for things like this and to come in second especially to one of my good friends, it feels amazing.”
To read more about the winners at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, check out the October 27 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse print magazine.