Washington D.C.—Oct. 22
A year ago, Taegan Long never would’ve thought she’d be leading the victory gallop at the Washington International Horse Show. Back then she’d just paired up with Pocohontas, her first jumper, and she wasn’t sure where it would go. She was so new that she didn’t even bother registering to earn points toward Washington until mid-year. But a great partnership between Long and Pocohontas meant they excelled in the division all season, culminating in a win in the $10,000 WIHS Children’s Jumper Championship.
“I just wanted to make it to one final,” said Long, 15. “Just getting here was a great opportunity. She will do anything for me—she helps me out a lot.
“She’s become a really great addition to my family,” she continued. “When we first got her she wasn’t used to being loved and taken as part of the family. But she’s really adjusted, and now she’s a puppy dog.”
That’s in large part because Long does much of the work with Pocohontas herself. She feeds and helps with chores at her family’s Longview Stables in Shamong, N.J., and grooms, bathes and tacks up the mare both at home and at shows.
“I think you gain more of a bond just being around them,” said Long. “They gain more respect for you. She’s done some things for me that I don’t think we would do if we didn’t have a bond.”
Long and Pocohontas flew through the first round of competition, becoming one of five pairs to advance to the jump-off. Long also snagged another spot in the second round aboard her gelding, Pollux de Shalimar.
“Going in again, I had to make sure I was in the right spot so [Pocohontas] would be in the right spot too,” she said. “I just knew I couldn’t knock rails with her. She’s more of an accurate ride; Pollux is more forgiving.”
Long only purchased the 11-year-old Dutch Warmbood by Namelus R, after her trainer, Carolyn Desfor, and mother, Maria Long, persuaded her to take a chance on her first mare.
“Pocahontas is actually the first mare I’ve ever gotten along with,” said Taegan. “When I was little I’d say, ‘Oh it’s a mare, I don’t want to go anywhere near her!’ So I didn’t want to ride her at first, but my trainer got her, and she made me ride her, and I’m so happy that she did.”
Belladonna Speeds To The Top
Katherine Pontone and Belladonna have come a long way in less than two years together. When Pontone, 20, began training with “Bella,” the spunky mare could barely get over a liverpool, and tonight they jumped to an exciting victory in the $10,000 WIHS Adult Amateur Jumper Classic. They edged out Skys Burnin Blue (Phoenix Cooke) and Thunder-Ball (Aleesha Melwani) for the win.
“[My trainer, Kali Jerman and I] have been working on getting her fitter,” said Pontone. “We also went bitless a few months ago, and we’ve come a long way with that change.”
When the pair cantered into the ring for the jump-off after putting in a clear first round, Pontone had a plan specifically tailored for the petite mare.
“She’s a little bit of a smaller horse, so we planned on doing all the strides except that tricky bending line across the diagonal,” said Pontone. “We added one in the first line to keep her straight because she falls right. She’s careful and quick with her legs, and it worked out great.”
The pair impressed the crowd in the Verizon Center as they zipped around the shortened second course, putting in the fastest clear jump-off round to win the class.
“I was really happy with [Bella],” she added. “She’s fast in the turns and in the air, which helps a lot. To be fast on the ground is one thing, but to get stuck in the air loses time. She’s quick across the ground and in the air, and spins like it’s nothing.
“In the schooling ring my trainer’s like, ‘Get her going!’ ” she continued. “We can hunt her around, and I’m kicking, and she won’t go anywhere. But the second she steps in the show ring she turns on and is ready to win. The atmosphere in the ring helped me because it keeps her attention, and it’s a fun ring to show in—it’s amazing.”
Follow along with the Chronicle as we bring you all the news from Washington here. Full results from the competition are available here and you can watch a livestream of the entire competition for free here.
For a full report from the Washington International Horse Show, check out the Nov. 10 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine.