Harrisburg, Pa.—Oct. 12
When asking JJ Torano about his good luck charms, his hands immediately go towards his show jacket pocket. After finding the zipper and shoving his hand in, he comes out with a folded piece of paper and a laminated photo.
The photo is a picture of the 9-year-old holding up a Winter Equestrian Festival (Florida) blue ribbon. And after unfolding the paper, it reveals a letter from judge John Roper.
“Enclosed you will find a small picture card that I made for you,” wrote Roper. “Possibly it will bring you good luck at indoors, so keep it in your riding coat pocket—and good luck!”
But picture doesn’t just depict any average blue ribbon at WEF. Last year, his mom Danielle Torano’s father passed away. JJ had showed earlier in the day before his grandfather’s wake, but couldn’t stick around for the jog to see how he did.
“When your granddad passed away, you wanted to win that day,” said JJ’s father, trainer Jimmy Torano.
JJ’s wish came true as he ended up winning a blue ribbon, which a friend of the Torano’s brought to the funeral.
“The day my grandfather’s funeral, I got [first],” said JJ. “And I buried it with him.”
“They left before the class was over and on the way to the [wake] everybody was texting us saying ‘JJ won, JJ won!’ ” said Jimmy. “And then they pull out the ribbon to us, and he buried his grandfather with his blue ribbon. Then John Roper wrote him a letter, and he had seen the picture. And he cut up the picture and sent him a letter.”
But instead of just putting the picture in his coat pocket, JJ paired it with the letter. And Roper’s magic came through for JJ as he guided H.G. Mud Puddles to the small pony championship. And his consistency in his first indoor experience also earned him the grand pony championship in addition to being awarded the PNHS Pony Rider Sportsmanship Award.
Asking him what it feels like to win his first time out, he says, “I don’t know because it’s my first year.” But for sure, without hesitation, his favorite part was winning.
“I think it’s probably more crazy to us. We really do know,” said Danielle. “I think [letter and picture] brought us good luck. Papa’s watching from heaven.”
Tosh Continues Her Winning Ways
Going into the final class of the medium pony division, Maddie Tosh just wanted to give the Baroness of Locheil a good experience. The 6-year-old Welsh Pony Cross (Maple Side Mr. Magic—Champlain’s Good As Gold) had only shown in her first indoor horse show the week before at Capital Challenge (Maryland), and she was definitely in need of an adjustment period. Though Tosh and “Twinkle” had won the under saddle, the jumping hadn’t quite ironed out.
“She was super nervous yesterday and today in the handy—just being her first time, and she was confused on what was happening,” said Tosh. “And we were like, ‘Maybe by the stake she’ll have calmed down.’ It was kind of rough until the stake, but I just went in and she was definitely more relaxed.”
“I know Maddie very well and that she remains cool and calm and she tries her very hardest no matter what happened,” said Parker. “I knew anything could happen because if anyone can turn a bad situation around she can. And she just simply had to have every detail right, and she really brought it.”
And bring it she did, as Tosh and Twinkle ended their Harrisburg experience with a score of 90.
“I knew I was going to get a high score because she was so good, and when she goes well she’s so pretty and such a good jumper,” said Tosh. “I was just so proud of her.”
That win in the stake plus the win in the under saddle was enough to bring Tosh and Twinkle to the medium pony championship title.
“It’s her first time in an indoor ring except at Capital Challenge where she barely got around,” said Parker. “She doesn’t know anything at all yet. We were thrilled she didn’t quit on us, let alone be champion. We absolutely are in shock.”
From never winning at Harrisburg to winning two championships and a reserve championships, we hope the Toshes left some space open in the trailer for all the tricolor loot.
“I didn’t have super high expectations just because Twinkle is so green, and it’s my first time doing the horses here,” said Tosh. “So it’s amazing to be this successful.”
A Harrisburg Pony Farewell
The alarm rang at 4:30 in the morning for Caroline Passarelli with no wiggle room to hit snooze. With the Dover Saddlery/USEF Medal Finals happening Sunday morning, she needed to get up and ride her equitation horse so that he would be prepared for his 10 minutes in the USEF Medal Equitation Training Session.
But while the morning started early, the day didn’t end early. At 8 o’clock at night large ponies were still taking their turn around the ring. But don’t worry, Passarelli still found room to nap in the perfect resting place.
“I fell asleep on the trunk for a little bit this morning on [Heritage ringmaster] Andre [Dignelli’s] trunk,” said Passarelli. “He couldn’t use his trunk because I was asleep on it.”
But with a little snooze squeezed in between preparing ponies for fellow Heritage riders and keeping up with her freshman year homework from Texas A&M, Passarelli was ready to compete Sprucedale Inc’s So Dapper in the large pony hunters. And with a 90 score in the final class, she ended her final pony career at Harrisburg with a champion.
“He was so good today—so good this whole weekend,” said Passarelli. “He’s a green pony, and this is his first year here. We went in just wanting really solid trips mostly. Obviously winning is the most fun, but you go in just hoping to give him a good experience possible for his first year, but he was amazing.
“I really can never get out of the ponies, obviously. My last junior year, I’m excited to finish out my last Medal Finals tomorrow, hopefully have a good day,” she continued. “As sad as I am to age out, I’m really looking forward to going to college. This is what I want to do with my life. I will come home for the summer and work for, hopefully, Heritage. And then eventually turn professional when I graduate.”