Sunday, May. 19, 2024

Green Graduates To A Win In NAPPA Horse Championship


Just a year ago, Sarah Green was running a gallant Stuart Little to a win in the small pony division of the North American Point-to-Point Association Junior Field Master’s Chase Championships, but the last
12 months have catapulted the now 13-year-old rider to success at the next level.

Green, of Arvonia, Va., piloted Sing And Hoist to victory in the junior horse division at this year’s Championships, May 6 at Shawan Downs in Cockeysville, Md.
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Just a year ago, Sarah Green was running a gallant Stuart Little to a win in the small pony division of the North American Point-to-Point Association Junior Field Master’s Chase Championships, but the last
12 months have catapulted the now 13-year-old rider to success at the next level.

Green, of Arvonia, Va., piloted Sing And Hoist to victory in the junior horse division at this year’s Championships, May 6 at Shawan Downs in Cockeysville, Md.

The NAPPA field masters chase races are designed to teach young riders etiquette and safety when riding in groups over fences, as the field follows a Field Master over various fences in open territory. After being released by the Field Master after the last fence, riders are free to race on the flat to the finish, an ever-exciting prospect for riders under the age of 16 who feel a need for speed.

“I felt confident that he would take me to the finish,” an elated Green said after her win in the division of eight horses. “He’s a lot of fun to ride.”

Green’s skills as a rider have been fostered by her membership in Wintergreen Pony Club (Va.) and her experience hunting with the Oak Ridge Hunt in Afton, Va., for which she was recently invited to become a junior whipper-in. In addition, she also received a call from the hunt’s Master, author Rita Mae Brown, congratulating her on her successful ’chasing season aboard Sing And Hoist.

An off-the-track Thoroughbred may not be what most young girls describe as “fun to ride,” but Green has a special touch with the horse, who was originally intended as a mount for her father. “He seems to go the best for Sarah,” said her mother, Jan Green.

Bred by Dr. Mary O’Brien, a whipper-in for Oak Ridge, the chestnut son of Hismajestyscolors and Uptown Miss came from the track to the Greens a year and a half ago. During that time he endured two separate operations to be gelded, in addition to lay-up time to recover from an injury sustained from a wire fence.

Despite these hardships, Sarah has been able to hunt him and compete at some jumper shows this year, and the weekend before the NAPPA Championships, they finished second by a neck in the Maryland Junior Hunt Cup, another title she had already won last year with her small pony.

“I planned to stay in front,” she said of her NAPPA Championships strategy, which this time ended with a nose in her favor. After being released by the Field Master, the tightly spaced pack sped off down the hill to the finish, and Sing And Hoist was able to pass and subsequently hold off frontrunners Willy (Scarlett Lovett) and The Knife Speaks (McLane Hendriks).

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At home, Sarah said her horse—who the family refers to as “Ballet Boy” because of his flexibility and friskiness—can be a bit of a worrier, but is generally quiet for a racehorse. He does show a propensity towards dog-like behavior, however, as he enjoys playing fetch with sticks in the pasture in his free time. “We have it on video,” said Jan. “We’re thinking about sending it in to America’s Funniest Home Videos. ”

When it comes to ’chasing though, Sarah said her horse is all business. She plans to continue racing Sing And Hoist in the junior division until she turns 16, but after that, it’s look out, world.

“My dream is to ride him in the Maryland Hunt Cup one day,” she said with a smile.

Ponies were plentiful in many of the other NAPPA contests at Shawan Downs, particu-larly in the annual leadline races, which offered railbird parents a chance to stretch their legs for a brief 50 yards.

But it was the junior field masters chase for ponies that drew some of the loudest cheers from the crowd, as the medium and large varieties battled it out in the same race.

Large contenders Black Pearl, owned and ridden by Augie Morris, and Frank A. Bonsal Jr.’s Scooby Doo (Connor Hankin) ran neck and neck between fences for the majority of the course, keeping close on the heels of the Field Master.

Upon the release of the herd, the two ponies held off a push by Emily Durham’s Marty (Robert Leaf III) in the run down to the wire, and in the end it was Black Pearl by a nose.

“I thought it would be Connor or Mary [Collins, aboard D’Artagnan],” said 13-year-old Morris after his winning finish line sprint. The Upperco, Md., rider has had the mare for about five years, hunting almost every weekend until this year, when his riding hasn’t been quite so regular.

Although the pair won the division race at the Grand National (Md.) on April 22, a last-placed finish at the next weekend’s Maryland Junior Hunt Cup warranted avenging with the NAPPA Championship.

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Anna Goodwin, 15, of Monkton, Md., emerged the winner amongst the medium ponies with Melanie Wolff’s A Grand Little Fellow. Goodwin kept the skewbald paint near the back of the pack through the hurdle phase of the race, only making her move after the master’s release. She said it was the first win for the gelding of unknown breeding.

“He’s 19, and this is my last year doing this,” Goodwin explained of the junior pony division, so the win was especially nice. She will soon be graduating to her small horse, Stirring It Up, who has taken some time off for an injured stifle but will soon be back in action. With experience in polo, hunting and hunter/jumper, Stirring It Up will also become Goodwin’s partner in another discipline: barrel racing.

Sunderland’s Sunday Meant Double Duty

Speed was the name of the game for 14-year-old Katherine Sunderland at Shawan Downs, whether on horseback or on foot.

Riding in the NAPPA junior field masters chase for horses was a breeze for the Dunkirk, Md., resident after she had successfully tackled the preliminary cross-country course at the MCTA Horse Trials earlier that morning.

Because both NAPPA and MCTA were held at Shawan Downs over the weekend, Sunderland was able to compete two of her horses, Silver Notebook and Southern Tango, respectively.

“It wasn’t too bad, really,” she said. “I had time to untack my mare and Donna [Bottner, owner of Silver Notebook] came down and helped me carry my tack up.”

This was Sunderland’s first year at the NAPPA Championships, and she finished in the middle of the pack within her race after holding an eager “Silly” back for the majority of the race.

“He always wants to pass,” she said of the gray Thoroughbred gelding, who also events at the lower levels with his owner. “It’s hard holding him. Sometimes he wears himself out.”

Although Sunderland’s parents have some experience with horses, she is the only member of the family who pursues riding. She began taking lessons at the age of 5 and came on the racing scene last year when a Pony Club friend convinced her to give it a try.

“I like to go fast!” she said simply. She ran her Pony Club games pony on the flat last year until she outgrew the mare and was then offered the ride on Silly by Bottner.

Sunderland’s own Southern Tango finished seventh in their division of junior/young rider preliminary, and she hopes to take the mare to her first one-star this fall at Morven Park (Va.). In addition, she will also be going for her Pony Club B-rating.

Kat Netzler

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