Lexington, Ky.—Aug. 10
As Aundrea Hillyard and Goldmark turned towards the last jump of the over fences class in the large pony hunter division at USEF Pony Finals, Goldmark’s trainer Sam Schaefer held her breath. The pair was laying down a phenomenal trip, and they just needed to nail the final fence.
“Today, that was goosebumps. I thought that was amazing,” Schaefer said. “He jumped amazing, but she rode it perfect. I was like, ‘Ah!’ She was coming home, and I was like, ‘Please, keep going. I want it for you, the pony, for everyone.’ It was so great. It was awesome. It’s always nice when good things happen to good people.”
The pair did just what they needed, earning scores of 90.16, 94 and 92 in the over fences for an overall score of 1069.3. A 12th-placed ribbon in the model and 22nd in the under saddle yesterday left them sitting ninth heading into the second day, so they had to wait out a few more trips to see how they’d land in the overall standings. And their competition was formidable, as the overnight leader, Brixton ridden by Vivian Golden, won the large green title here last year.
While Brixton’s scores of 83.44, 84.75 and 81.5 were good enough for second over fences, it wasn’t enough to retain the overall lead, and that pair finished reserve (1031.5).
“He was really jumping today,” said Hillyard. “He got a lot of height on the jumps. He was listening super well. He was really in it today.”
“You were so good about staying focused, focused on the day,” Schaefer told her. “I feel like everybody gets so wound up [about first day scores]. It’s not the battle; it’s the war here. Now you’ve got to be in there, and then jumping really counts.”
Goldmark, a 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood of unrecorded breeding, is owned by Schaefer’s mom Stacey Weiss and her stepdad Morris Weiss. Olivia Sweetnam showed him last season with championship honors at Capital Challenge (Maryland), Pennsylvania National and reserve at Washington International. This year the pair was reserve at Devon (Pennsylvania), but since Sweetnam had a conflict with the FEI North American Youth Championships (Michigan) this week, Schaefer started hunting for someone to take over the reins.
Hillyard, 17, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, typically rides with Evan Coluccio of Hidden Ridge International, and Schaefer thought Hillyard’s style would suit “Monty.” Hillyard took over the ride at Upperville (Virginia) where they were champion and showed twice at Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (Michigan) before heading to Pony Finals.
“He’s a lot of fun,” she said. “He’s got a lot of stride and scope, so once you get how to manage it, it’s the coolest feeling.”
This was Hillyard’s third Pony Finals, and she’s still got plenty of riding to do, with a small green, medium green and pony jumper to compete.
And her favorite part?
“Seeing all the people here, all the kids that worked really hard to get here. Everyone’s super happy to be here. It’s just fun,” she said.
The small green pony hunters were slated to also jump today. But due to lightning, the show was put on hold for an hour and a half, so that division was rescheduled for tomorrow. The medium green and large green model and under saddles will still begin the day at 7 a.m., followed by the small green over fences and the small pony over fences.
Useful links and information:
- All of the Chronicle’s Pony Finals online coverage, with behind-the-scenes stories, lovely photos and more!
- The complete schedule of classes
- Livestreaming from USEFNetwork
- The USEF Pony Finals official website
- Links to daily results
- Don’t forget to follow the Chronicle on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @Chronofhorse
- We will have full analysis of the competition in the Sept. 5 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine