Lexington, Ky.—Aug. 12
When Tabitha Okitsu cleared the final fence on course in the USEF Pony Jumper Championship on her pony, Spoot De La Jourlais, she couldn’t contain her excitement over what they had just accomplished. In three rounds of competition, “Spoot” didn’t produce a single fault for Okitsu, and when all was said and done they claimed a team and individual gold medal from the championship.
“I’m shocked,” Okitsu, 15, said with a smile, wiping a tear from her eye. “It felt so good out there I don’t even know how to describe it. It was like we were flying.”
Two gold medals is a very different haul compared to last year’s final for Okitsu.
“I came last year with a different pony, and we didn’t complete a single course,” she said with a laugh.
“She fell off multiple times last year, and I asked her on the final day, I said, ‘Do you really want to do this?’ ” Okitsu’s trainer, Caroline Sterckx, said. “And she said, ‘Yes, I want to do it.’ ”
Sterckx helped Okitsu regroup in the year between finals at her South Pasadena, Calif., San Pascual Stables and paired her up with Spoot De La Jourlais in December.
“He’s the best pony I could have asked for,” Okitsu said. “The course out there [tonight] was pretty hard. I think it was mostly my pony. We got a lot of tough spots that he just carried me through.”
Okitsu’s barn mate, Avery Kim, took the silver medal riding Jo-El. The girls have been going to school and riding together since the sixth grade. When Okitsu came out of the ring realizing she’d just won, and Kim was right behind her, the girls burst into joyful tears as they hugged each other from their ponies.
After the exchange, Kim was so overjoyed she couldn’t remember what they said to each other.
“It was just tears and congratulating,” Kim said with a laugh. “But she struggled a lot last year; her last pony was very, very tough, so it’s great she did well this year. She struggled a lot with the last pony, and improvement like that is so drastic, I’m so happy that she won; it’s really well deserved.”
Isabella Durnell and Carlton Diva came out on top in a jump-off for third against Genevieve Munson and Bluebelle. Click here for full results.