Lexington, Ky.—Aug. 9
Sophie Gochman couldn’t contain her excitement.
Throughout her interview following her win the Marshall & Sterling/USEF Pony Medal, it was emanating from her, and she continually bounced on her heels as she grinned widely.
“I came in here thinking that it would be great to be in the top 10, because last year we were in the top 25,” said Gochman, 12. “So my goal was to be in the top 10. I never expected to win, and I did. And I was so excited. I’m so pumped!”
Gochman bested 174 other riders to be called back as part of the top 25 who jumped an additional handier course. The top five then returned for a brief flat phase. Natalie Jayne finished in second, and Grace Debney took third.
Awards are given in reverse order, so Gochman had to nervously wait to see if she’d land in the top spot. And when it came to the final two, she could hardly contain her excited nerves.
“I’m thinking, first would be amazing. Second, I would still be reserve and that would also be amazing. I was so tense,” she said. “My heart was in my stomach, and I was shaking, but I thought no matter what I would still be doing really well. Even in the top three or five I would still feel like I made my goals.”
Many riders ran into some difficulty, many spooking at the brush and flowers at the base of the out jump of a long four stride or a pink potted flower decoration against the arena kickboards. Several also neglected to complete the halt following a 9-stride option line before continuing on.
“I thought that [the courses] were challenging, especially the long four and several of the rollbacks,” Gochman said. “I found the second course had a lot of rollbacks, and you had to be very careful about landing leads and getting lead changes. I found that a bit challenging, but Rico’s very good at landing leads and lead changes which made it a bit easier.”
Though she had several options for mounts, Gochman chose to tack up Rico Suavé, owned by Ponies and Palms Show Stables in Boca Raton, Fla.
“He’s so comfortable,” said Gochman, New York City. “He’s very brave, and the jumps are a bit spooky. I tried to pick out what are the most challenging things in the equitation, and Rico is good at all of them.”
The top placing came at a fitting time, since Gochman had a tough time in the pony hunters throughout the week, finishing outside of the top ribbons.
“This is definitely the highlight of my week,” she said.
Gochman might have put in the winning rounds, but she was quick to thank her groom, Gustavo, her trainers, Amanda Derbyshire, Scott Stewart and Ken Berkley; and her parents for getting her to this point.
“She’s excited,” Stewart said. “I had to tell her to be calm because she was a little too excited. But it was fun. She rode nice and the pony was perfect. The pony was awesome.”
Want more Pony Finals action? Hunter championships were awarded Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Read about the mustang competing in the large greens, the rescue pony found in a ditch, a former circus pony, a troublesome pony aptly named Al Capony and about four first time competitors.