Friday, May. 24, 2024

Good Old-Fashioned Horsemanship Puts Delmarva Ahead At USPC Championships

Horse management scores clinch the win for this Pony Club team.

In true Pony Club fashion, the training level eventing results came down to horse management at the U.S. Pony Club Championships, held July 24-27 in Lexington, Va.

The team from Delmarva region captured the win on the combined strength of their riding and strong stable skills.


Horse management scores clinch the win for this Pony Club team.

In true Pony Club fashion, the training level eventing results came down to horse management at the U.S. Pony Club Championships, held July 24-27 in Lexington, Va.

The team from Delmarva region captured the win on the combined strength of their riding and strong stable skills.

“We knew we were in first after dressage,” said Annelise Gress, a 15-year-old HB from Lancaster, Pa. “We told ourselves, ‘There’s no reason we can’t go clean cross-country—we’ve done it before.’ Then Chase and I both had two poles in show jumping.”

Chase Beach is a 13-year-old C-2 from Lewis, Del., and the only boy on the team.

But they had no time faults in show jumping, and in the end, the team’s horse management score put them over the top.

“I was freaking out after formals when we got 3 points off,” said Georgina Waldman, a 16-year-old C-3, also from Lancaster, who was the team’s stable manager. Fortunately, the team lost no more horse management points after that and finished with the second-best score in their division.

The other team members were the captain, Cordielyn Goodrich, a 15-year-old C-2 also from Lewis, and Bethany Myers, a 16-year-old C-2 from Laurel, Del. The team members joked about doing things in matched pairs, with two gray mares and two bay geldings, and the “two brunettes riding the mares,” said Gress.

This was Myers’ first year riding at Championships; she’d been to the competition for the past three years, but for quiz, which doesn’t have a riding component. She and her horse, A Midday Star, only started competing at training level this year.

“My horse has probably jumped [for] two or three years,” she said. “She’s a lot greener than we thought she was—we’ve been learning as we go.”

Gress and her mount, Toro Toro Taxi, went to six training level events this year, starting in Aiken, S.C., in February. “I got hardcore this year,” she said. This show also featured the pair’s best dressage score yet.
Her horse was the most experienced of the team’s mounts, having evented at intermediate level, but the 12-year-old has restricted airways and must be carefully managed. “He’ll come off cross-country kind of huffing and puffing,” she said, but he recovers quickly.

The other horses on the team were new at training level. Beach’s mount, Lucky Bucky, is an ex-race horse. And Goodrich said her mother took her mare, English Mist, up to unrecognized novice before she took over the ride.

A Mixed Bag

The novice level eventing winners, the Eastern Pennsylvania team, made the most of their differences, with ages ranging from 13 to 18, and the “biggest horse height range,” said captain Shannon Pitt, a C-3 from Brandywine Hounds Pony Club. The win “was really a team effort,” she said.

USPC Championships Tidbits

•    The preliminary level eventing division had only two teams. Kristen Eggleston, an HA from the Red River region, took the top individual honors on Jordan, while the Capital/Maryland team of Katherine Sunderland, Derek Alvey and Valerie Kubit took the top team honors.

•    Sara Loupot won the senior girls tetrathlon competition. A 16-year-old C-3 from the Brazos Pony Club (Texas), she’s also a member of Pony Club’s International Exchange team, and in early August traveled to compete against other Pony Clubbers in England and Ireland. Piper Torsilieri, a 13-year-old C-2 from Hunterdon Hills Pony Club (N.J.), took the junior girls division on Chance, a horse shared with teammate Katie Thompson. In the intermediate division, the girls champion was Alaska Akbar; Graham Barnett won the boys championship. Akbar, riding Pony In My Pocket, was also a member of the winning team, from the Capital and Central New England regions. Jessica Morrow, a D-3, took the novice girls division.

•    In polocrosse, a combination of lacrosse and traditional polo, each team of three riders played 10 rounds in a round-robin format. The Hail Storm team won the intermediate division, led by Kayla Pavick, a C-1 from the Midsouth region. The other riders were Nichole Vandenbossch and Nicholas Balogh; their stable manager was Emily Balough. The Banshees, from Pony Club’s Eastern Pennsylvania region, took the novice division. Their captain was Heidi Stroh; Halee Stroh and Kevin McPeek also rode, and Tabitha Marschall stable managed.

•    Three teams contested the quadrille division of the dressage rally, and the riders from the Eastern Pennsylvania Region came home with the blue. The team of C-1s included Margaret Davis, Jordan Karch, Jennifer Neely and Lailani Beck-Nelson. Paige Nardozzo was the stable manager.

•    The team from the Maryland Region won the first level and up dressage division. C-1 Logan Elliot led the team with consistent scores in the mid-60s aboard Eternaluma. Katie Miller, Michaela Coplan and Jaclyn Sink all contributed, with Sara Miller as the stable manager.

Nicholas Hansen, a 13-year-old C-2 from Keystone Pony Club, rode one of the smaller horses, but Sterling Lad, a 14.1-hand Connemara, has preliminary experience. Mackenzie Kurtz, a 14-year-old C-2 from Mountain Laurel Pony Club, also had a small mount. She and Harry Houdini competed in FEI Pony dressage classes this year.

The team’s fourth rider was Danielle Bennicoff, an 18-year-old C-2 from Huntington Valley Hunt Pony Club. She rode Luck Be A Lady, who is relatively new to eventing. “She’s only been ridden English since three summers ago,” she said. This is only the mare’s second year of jumping.

The team praised their stable manager, Emily Walkup, an 18-year-old C-2 from Brandywine Hounds Pony Club, as “the best one ever.” 

They also thanked their coach, Erika Nesler. “Erika was a big help,” Pitt said. “She walked all the courses with us and kept us sane.”

While the team was thrilled with their first-placed finish, they still have many goals to achieve this year. Hansen and Kurtz are aiming for the American Eventing Championships in Illinois, and Pitt plans to move up to training level.

From Start To Finish

The winning beginner novice eventing team from Virginia had a pleasant surprise when they looked at the scoreboard. “We were actually leading all along,” said team captain Hannah Aloumouati. “It took us a while to figure it out, though.” Aloumouati is a 13-year-old C-2 from Middleburg Orange County Pony Club.


The team only had one rail down in show jumping and was third in horse management—enough to give them the win. Aloumouati credited the team’s stable manager, C-2 Brandi Robertson. “If we didn’t have Brandi, we wouldn’t have won,” she said.

The other team members were William Baker, a 17-year-old C-2 riding Clover Clan, Anne Page, a 12-year-old C-1 riding Fred, and Heather Robertson, a C-2, riding ABS Rimington.

“This was our whole team’s first year riding at Championships,” said Aloumouati. Robertson and Page had never been to the show before; the others came previously for quiz or as stable manager.

“We’d never met before,” Aloumouati said. “We’d seen each other, but just never knew each others’ names.” They’d bonded by the end of the show, though. “We were all kind of a mini-family,” she said. “They were a lot of fun.”

The horses had some experience, even if the riders didn’t. “Anne’s horse has gone prelim, mine has gone novice,” Aloumouati said. Her mount, a purebred Connemara named Glenmary Champagne, is actually her grandmother’s pony; the family has had the 7-year-old since she was a foal.

She started as a western horse, but then, “I taught her how to jump and do dressage,” said Aloumouati.

Riding Through Pain

In the show jumping, the mixed team from Western New York/Virginia/Maryland/New Jersey led throughout the competition.

“We were winning from Round 1,” said Courtney Sendak, a 19-year-old B from Baltimore. “[But then] the pressure was on for each round to keep it.”

She rode Will Ya Love Me at the Horse III level and put in five clear rounds, riding on Sunday with a sprained ankle. “I was just walking my horse and took a bad step,” she said. Her ankle swelled dramatically that night, and she had to force herself to ride.

“It hurt, [but] I had to block it out,” said Sendak. “I owed him, I owed the team, and we’re eventers.” Stable manager Heidi Lemke, a 19-year-old C-3 from Avon, N.Y., had to jog Sendak’s horse for her before the final rounds. Sendak was the only one in the regular division to go clear in every round.

The team needed the clear rounds, since Brittnie Chidsey’s horse, Champagne Dreams, colicked Saturday night and didn’t jump on Sunday. Chidsey, the team’s captain, is an 18-year-old C-3 from Genoa, N.Y., who rode at the Horse II level. “It was just dehydration,” she said, and the horse recovered quickly.

The team’s other riders were Christina McKitrick, a 16-year-old B from Leesburg, Va., and Nicole Pirozzi, a 15-year-old C-2 from Robinsville, N.J.

With much e-mailing and Facebooking, the scramble team coalesced quickly.

“I wanted to be on a scramble team—I love scramble teams,” said stable manager Lemke. “Since we like each other so much, we want to be on a team [together] next year.”

The other team members praised Lemke as the best stable manager ever. “She took care of us,” Sendak said.
Pirozzi agreed, saying,  “Every time she yelled at us, it was in a nice way.”

Most members of the team were actually eventers. McKitrick rides preliminary, while Sendak goes intermediate on her 14.1-hand, Thoroughbred-Connemara pony. She’s had the 11-year-old gelding for nine years. “He was a crazy horse,” she said. Now her palomino is “the best partner, he does everything. He’s awesome, an all-around super horse.”

Sendak has plans for more. “I hope to run a two-star next spring or this fall—but I’m at school so that makes it difficult,” she said. She juggles college at Wake Forest University (N.C.) with a training business and Pony Club. “I’ll be in Pony Club until I get my A,” she said.

An all-Virginia team took the modified division in the show jumping competition. The team captain was Colleen McKitrick, an HB; the other riders were Jamie Farah, Matthew Kelly and Erin Kelly, all C-1s. Their stable manager was Ann Bellinger, a C-2.

The team had a perfect riding score going into Sunday’s jumping rounds, but two rails down and their horse management score considerably narrowed their lead.

A Family Effort

Unlike most other sports at Championships, games competitors must qualify as a team. That paid off this year for the senior division games winners, Eastern Pennsylvania’s Luck Of The Irish.

“Our team has stayed consistent for four years,” said captain Alicia Royer, a 16-year-old C-2. The other members were Alicia’s younger brother Tyler, Heather Klingerman and brothers Joe and Jon Naji. All ride for Perkiomen Creek Pony Club. Since they live close together, they practice three or four times a week.

“On the first day we were in second by 2 points,” said Alicia, so the team members knew they had no breathing room.

On the final day they got “two firsts, a second, a third—we won by three-quarters of a point,” she said. “Everyone was so nervous.”

They didn’t want a repeat of last year’s Championships, when they were leading until “we just fell apart the last day,” she said.

Having two sibling pairs on a team is unusual, as is having three boys. Alicia started in games when she was young, and then “my brother kind of liked it and got into it,” she said. “It’s a very boy-oriented sport.


“Tyler does beginner novice [eventing] on his games pony,” she continued, although going from games action to dressage is a challenge. She and Klingerman also event at the training and novice levels, but not on their games ponies.

The team isn’t really Irish, though. “We decided to be Luck Of The Irish because we had green saddle pads one time [at a Pony Club rally],” Alicia said. “It just stuck.”

Perkiomen Creek Pony Club is serious about games, and the junior team, Risky Business, captured the win in the younger division to make a clean sweep of the games competition for the Eastern Pennsylvania region.

Caroline Neuman and Krista Godshall are cousins with the Royers on the senior winning team, but the other team members, Emma Bartnick, Adrianna Mayo and Jillian Horton, all live in New York.

“We just got together in March,” Neuman said. “This year Krista and I were looking for three other members,” and the others were looking for a team too. Now they do a lot of driving. “We get to practice [together] once or twice a month,” she said.

On the first day of competition, the team placed first and second consistently in all the games.

“The second day we kept our motto—slow and steady—and stayed in first place,” said Neuman. “The third day we stayed accurate, kept being consistent.”

“My pony isn’t the fastest one out there,” said Neuman. “I like a slow and steady game where I can be really consistent.”

Most of the team also events, but not on their games ponies. However, they’re planning to stay in games for now. The D-2s and D-3s range from 11 to 13 years old.

“Krista and I are going to try one more year of juniors and then try to get our C-2s so we can be a team again [when they age into the senior division],” said Neuman.

Overcoming Many Challenges

While the games teams competed in the Virginia Horse Center’s Anderson Coliseum, the dressage riders had to brave the elements and ride on top of the hill with a bird’s eye view of all the other sports going on below.

Lizzie Loveland, who rode for the winning training level team from the Carolina and Delmarva regions, had a difficult time getting her horse into the ring, and he bolted down the hill before her ride, but despite the hardship, she had one of her best tests ever.

Loveland, a 16-year-old C-1 from Aiken, S.C., wasn’t the only teammate to struggle through adversity. Cory Schuver, an 18-year-old C-3 from Charlotte, N.C., had her music stop in the middle of her freestyle ride with WH Sterling. 

“I stood in the middle of the arena for a while. When they finally restarted the music, I had to stand there and wait until we got back to the spot where the music broke,” said Schuver. Despite the problem, Schuver said her freestyle was her favorite ride of the weekend.

Schuver encountered other difficulties as well on her way to Championships.

She borrowed her mount, but the 19-year-old Hanoverian gelding tied up badly between the qualifying rally and Championships.

“It was only a couple of weeks out before I could start walking and trotting him,” said Schuver. “It was one week before Championships when I could start practicing my tests again.”

Catherine Monk, an 18-year-old C-2 from Delaware couldn’t ride her horse, Aristros, on the first day because he was lame. She soaked his foot all day, and by the next day he was sound, so she did get to compete.

Yet all these difficulties only made their victory sweeter.

“The first day we didn’t get our scores until really late. We didn’t know how we were doing for a long time. But we were in the lead from the beginning, and we were very excited. We had no expectations because we didn’t know each other very well,” said Schuver.

Some of the girls had met before the competition started. Jennifer Cessna, a 22-year-old from Linden, N.C., qualified with Loveland, while Schuver convinced 13-year-old Allie Billings, a D-3 from North Carolina, to come stable manage after she did so well at the regional rally.

“She was so great there, so we recruited her to go to Championships. She basically did everything for us,” said Schuver.

Cessna rode her 18-year-old Thoroughbred, Brassy, for the second year in dressage.

Although Cessna is 22 and a double geology and math major at North Carolina State University, she plans to stay in Pony Club as long as possible because she loves to rally.

“In regular shows, you don’t really have the interaction between the other competitors like you do in Pony Club,” she explained. “You’re all trying to do your best and work together toward a common goal.” 

Lois Mermelstein




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