Jocelyn “Josie” Flannery, had only shown in one U.S. Equestrian Federation-rated competition when she won a Gochman Grant to attend USEF Pony Finals in Kentucky. From Barboursville, Virginia, Josie has focused on the associate level on the Virginia Horse Shows Association circuit due to financial limitations.
Josie’s mother, Jennifer Hay, is a nurse at Josie’s school. When Josie was in elementary school she would join her mom at lunch, and they would watch videos of USEF Pony Finals in her office, watching the replays over and over. But even before Pony Finals was canceled, Josie knew she’d have to wait another year, as winners of the Gochman Grant—a grant that offers financial assistance but also focuses on the experience of Pony Finals—were asked to postpone their plans for a year.
“I was really disappointed because I was so excited to be going to Pony Finals,” Josie said. “I have dreamed of going ever since I first learned about Pony Finals when I was 8 or 9. But then I realized how different it was going to be and that if we go next year I’ll be able to get the full experience and learn so much more!”
Josie, 13, shows a large pony Coming Up Gold (Wellen Gold Point—Coming Up Roses), but she also rides green ponies for various trainers to give them experience and helps prep ponies for younger, less experienced riders. She’s often the one behind the scenes helping to make things run smoothly.
Tell me about the ponies you ride? I’ve heard you have really stuck it out with riding and showing some difficult ponies.
I have a small gray pony named Kermit. He was one that no one wanted to ride because he bucked off and ran away with every kid. He had some really good shows but also some terrible ones! He is currently retired here at our barn because no one else wants him, and we love him. I have a medium pony named Matilda, who I’ve outgrown. [Kermit and Matilda] are just my best friends living out in fields. Matilda was nice and steady but didn’t have a lead change. We worked for two years and finally got the change just as I was outgrowing her. She is also going to live out her days with us. Both ponies taught me so much that they deserve to have a good home forever. And I have my large pony who I lease, Brownie, and his show name is Coming Up Gold. And also at our farm we have my mom’s horse Kato.
What division do you show in?
Large pony hunters.
What’s Brownie like?
He’s very personable; he’s an in-your-pocket type of pony. And he’s a lot of fun to ride. He’s very smooth. He very much likes for you to tell him what to do. He likes to have a plan of where he needs to go and support, but overall he’s a very cool pony with a great personality. Most of my ponies are such in-your-pocket ponies, and they just love attention; they love treats. I love how ponies are so cute but sometimes can be kind of ornery. And they just have a really likable quality about them.
How long have you been riding?
Pretty much my whole life. My mom taught me when I was a toddler; she rides as well.
That’s how it was with me too. My mom rides a little bit, she got me started, and we do everything together. I heard that you like to foxhunt, is that true?
I do like to foxhunt, yes.
I’ve always wanted to try that. What is it like?
I really like to go. It’s a lot of fun to go fast, and I love to ride in the fields. You never know where you’re going to go. It’s a really fun experience.
You currently work for your instructor doing barn chores and grooming in order to help pay for lessons. Who do you train with and how often do you lesson?
Drew Taylor at Venture Stables. I lesson twice a week.
How did you found out about the Gochman Grant?
My trainer told me about it. I’ve been riding with her for 2 1/2 years. I really love to ride with her because she pushes me, but it makes me really want to be a good rider. I know that she believes a lot in my riding even though sometimes I don’t.
How did you feel when you found out you got the grant?
I was very overwhelmed because I never really imagined that I would get it because I don’t have a lot of self-confidence when it comes to my riding. To know that I got it made me really happy. It boosted my confidence in my riding a lot. We’re very thankful and grateful for the opportunity.
What makes you perfect for this grant?
A lot of it would be hard for us to financially do. My mom was willing to make it all work for me, but I really like that she doesn’t have to go through that now for me to do this, and that we can just go and relax and enjoy it there and not have to worry about how we’re going to afford it.
Tell me a little bit about your animals.
We have a lot of rescue animals. I have two mini donkeys, who are just a lot of fun to have around; they’re very cute and now live in luxury. I have a small potbellied pig named Petunia, who came from a bad situation and happens to like living with my chickens. Then I have four rescue dogs who I love very much. Some have come from high kill shelters; some were fosters that we ended up keeping. We are foster failures. And I also got a new puppy over the little corona break. We have a few cats as well. We just kind of collected them throughout the years. They just kind of find us.
What does a typical day look like for you?
When I start my day I come down to the barn, and I take care of my horses, feed them and do all the morning chores. And then I usually ride in the morning when it’s not super hot outside because nobody likes to ride in the super hot sun. And then on Wednesdays and Fridays I work at my trainer’s barn grooming ponies and riding some horses for her.
Did I hear right that you feed and clean your own stalls?
Yes. My mom’s very strict that everything is mucked out nicely, and everybody has full water and that everything is perfect. But really, it’s a lot of fun knowing that I can just come down to the barn any time I want and pet them and love on them. And I don’t have to make a special time to go and ride them. I can just ride whenever I want and see my ponies whenever I want, and I never have to miss them.
Who’s a rider you admire?
Definitely my riding instructor, because she’s done so much with her riding and breeding, and she’s dedicated her life to ponies and the sport, and I really like that.
I read that you ride side-saddle? Is that right?
My mom used to show side-saddle a lot, and I did leadline side-saddle when I was 3 or 4 at Upperville [Virginia]. Then I showed at Upperville side-saddle [alone]. And my mom and I did the family class together at Upperville side-saddle. It’s just something different and a lot of fun to do. It’s very proper. You have to have the right clothes, the right fit and stuff like that, and the right bridle. And it reminds me a lot of the hunters because it’s very traditional.
And dressage? I heard you went to a recognized dressage show on your medium pony, and you won both your classes on the loaned pony against big warmblood horses.
It was a very accurate test, and the pony was rock solid.
What part of going to Pony Finals are you most excited about?
I’m very excited to show there because that’s been a big dream of mine for a while, and a lot of the activities there sound like a lot of fun. I used to watch Pony Finals, the reruns of it, on the computer, ever since I was in first grade. At that time I just never really imagined going there because I didn’t really have the best pony to do that on. But I started really working on my riding, and I started really connecting with my ponies. Once I got Brownie, my plan was to take him to Pony Finals, and we have been doing really, really well, but we just never had the time to qualify for that because of the coronavirus and not being able to show. I’m looking forward to seeing what the different trainers do and the different grooms there do. And there’s so much to learn and see how everybody does things differently. This is a really big opportunity for me. I’m looking forward to so much, like the model clinics. I’m kind of open for anything. It sounds so fun, and I can’t wait to learn. Even the ice cream social sounds pretty fun.
Name one thing about Pony Finals that you were excited for more than anything else?
Seeing all of these super fancy ponies, because ponies are just the love of my life. And I like to see different ponies because, I don’t know, I just really love ponies. And meeting all the riders, other people that love ponies as much as I do.
How did you feel about postponing your participation until next year?
Nervous because my lease ends on my pony this year, and I’m getting very tall, so my pony showing days are limited.
In what ways will this change your plans for the next 12 months?
I’m going to be riding a horse mostly, but I’ll also be trying to ride ponies as often as possible to stay prepared and be on the lookout for another pony to lease for Pony Finals. Even though I’m not going to Pony Finals this year, I am looking forward to all they will offer in 2021.
Have you heard of the USHJA Horsemanship Quiz Challenge? I’d like to ask you a practice question. Name a symptom of colic.
They may paw, look at or bite their sides/belly, lay down, maybe roll and not have interest in food of water.
Ella Doerr, 16, from Avon, North Carolina, is a recipient of the USHJA Youth Leadership Award, the USHJA Sportsmanship Award and the USHJA Foundation Gochman Family Grant. She competes in the pony hunter division and the equitation, and she keeps her ponies at home.