Lexington, Ky.—Aug. 11
By design, U.S. Pony Finals is the perfect pressure cooker environment. Ponies model and hack on the first day, are then ranked by scores and then have to wait another 24 hours before they have the opportunity to jump in reverse order.
That gives the riders plenty of time to start overthinking—especially if you’re near the top. Just enough time to watch other riders make mistakes and convince you to start rethinking your original plan.
But if you ask Claire Campbell, there’s one surefire way to help combat those butterflies. Take a nap.
“I showed my medium green and then went back to the hotel and I took a little nap,” said Campbell, 13. “I thought I was going to be way more nervous than I was. And at the end of the round I wasn’t.”
The lack of nerves paid off when she jumped to the top of the small pony hunters with Roll Call. She came into the over fences round sitting second behind Evelyn Walker and Royal Moment, but when that pair missed a lead change, the championship went to Campbell.
“I don’t think it’s sunken in yet,” said Campbell. “It’s amazing. He’s such a good boy.”
|Claire Campbell grinned after winning her first Pony Finals championship with Roll Call.|
Campbell and her younger sister Rose ride with Stacey Schaefer at Shadow Ridge Farm in Westminster, Md., and Ocala, Fla. While the sisters winter in Florida, during the rest of the season, they travel two hours from Cochranville, Pa., to train with Schaefer.
“The family has put a lot of time and effort into it,” said Schaefer. “It’s not about buying nice ponies, it’s about the time. They live 2 hours away and they see me me a lot. We’re a unit for sure. We’re really close. We’ve been together a long time and the customers all get along.”
The Campbells bought “Pleasure” from a former Schaefer client Isabel Ryan in 2012. However shortly into their partnership he sustained a suspensory injury and they weren’t sure he’d come back. But after a year off Pleasure came back better than ever.
He was leased out, but he returned this winter in time for Claire to rebuild their partnership in just enough time to win her first Pony Finals championship.
“He’s great,” said Claire. “He’s so sweet. He loves his treats, He always nickers at everyone when they walk by. Always, quiet. Never spooks, is never bad. I don’t think I’ve ever fallen off of him, knock on wood. He has a big huge stride, good mover, very pretty.”
Kyla Sullivan took the reserve with A Dream Come True. Olivia Sweetnam, daughter of grand prix show jumper Shane Sweetnam, won the crowd’s affection after a stellar round over fences with Love Bug to take home the blue in that class.
|Kyla Sullivan and A Dream Come True.|
Find more photos from the small pony hunters here.
See full results here.
Want more Pony Finals? Yesterday Mimi Gochman was crowned the champion of the large pony hunters and Caroline Passarelli took the small green championship or read about Riley Hogan who made her way to Kentucky via the hunt field.
Check back with the Chronicle for more Pony Finals coverage!