Saturday, May. 27, 2023

Yasmin Rizvi Pinch-Hits And Wins At Pennsylvania National Ponies

Yasmin Rizvi makes a clean sweep of the small ponies, Emma Kurtz gets her name known, and For The Laughter adds the one honor he's been missing.


Overnight, Yasmin Rizvi got another ride added to her schedule.

Yasmin’s younger sister, Farah, was injured in a fall on the first day of the pony hunters at the Pennsylvania National, and she asked Yasmin to take over the reins on First Edition for the second day. Yasmin complied happily and rode First Edition to the small pony reserve championship. She added that tricolor to the small pony championship she collected riding her own Q2 to make a clean sweep of the division. She also captured the Best Child Rider on a Pony title.

“Yesterday Farah was in the schooling area on her medium pony, and the fire extinguisher hit her knee. Her pants got caught on it, so it pulled her off her pony,” Yasmin said. Farah suffered a stress fracture that would keep her out of the saddle for the second day of showing. “She was upset about not riding. She wanted me to ride First Edition,” Yasmin, 11, said.

Farah, 9, had set the stage for Yasmin’s success by winning the small pony conformation hunter class with First Edition on the first day. Yasmin’s second place with the gray mare in the stake class clinched the reserve championship.

She was even better on her own Q2, winning the stake class. That result, added to Q2’s win in the handy round and a third place in the under saddle, brought her and Q2 the tricolor. “He’s really sweet even when you’re not riding him. He gives good kisses,” Yasmin said of Q2, who she’s been riding since January.

Yasmin, Farah, and their younger sister, Zayna, all ride with Heritage Farm. The girls started riding because their mother, P.J. Rizvi, is an avid dressage rider. P.J. owns Breaking Dawn, the horse who competed for Canada at the London Olympic Games under Ashley Holzer, but the girls decided jumping is more their style.

Making A Splash


Emma Kurtz hadn’t ever been to the Pennsylvania National before. In fact, she doesn’t even own a pony. But she didn’t let that stop her from claiming the medium pony championship on Grand All Over. A win in the stake class clinched the title for the 12-year-old from Hudson, Ohio. “I definitely didn’t think I’d be champion. I was really surprised!” Kurtz said.

She topped it all off by winning the Pony Hunters Winner’s Stake with the high score of the day, a 90, with Grand All Over.

This is the first year that Kurtz has shown beyond the local Ohio circuit. “She went to Florida for the first time this year,” said Amanda Lyerly, who trains Kurtz alongside her fiancé, Mike Rheinheimer. The week before, Kurtz had ridden a large pony, Aladdin, to a championship at the Capital Challenge.

“She’s had so much success that we kind of forget she hasn’t done it much. But she’s always the same kid. She doesn’t get a big head from any of it,” said Lyerly.

Kurtz’s success in the pony divisions comes despite the fact that she doesn’t have a pony of her own. Grand All Over belongs to the Gochman family, who have numerous ponies for their daughters, Sophie and Mimi. “They just gave him to her to ride until their kids get a little bit bigger. They’re very generous and have been very good to her this year, giving her lots of rides. It’s been very nice,” Lyerly said. Kurtz does have a green horse of her own, and plans to concentrate on him next year.

“She’s just a pleasure to teach. She works hard, and she works in the barn. She’s very focused. For her age, she’s so dedicated. She’s all business,” Lyerly continued about Kurtz, who just turned 12.

No Longer Missing 


Maddy Darst knows a bit about a generous owner. She’s had the ride on the famous For The Laughter for owner Betsee Parker for the last two years. This year she added the one honor that’s been missing on For The Laughter’s resume—the grand and large pony hunter titles from the Pennsylvania National.

“He’s been here several years; two of the years he lost to my other pony, Vanity Fair,” Parker said. “He lost one year to one of Don Stewart’s ponies, and last year he couldn’t come here. So, it’s a big win for him to win this today. He had all of the other feathers in his cap—the Devons and the Pony Finals and the Washingtons, but he didn’t have this one. I don’t tear up often, but today I did because it was a big win for him to do this today. Maddy is such a lovely rider, and they’re a beautiful combination together. They’re so smooth and soft it’s like ballet.”

In August, Darst rode For The Laughter to his fourth Pony Finals title, and she was glad to be the first to win at the Pennsylvania National on him.

Darst and “Bubbles” claimed blue ribbons in the conformation and stake classes

“He’s so amazing,” Darst said. “He’s always there for you; if you need to slow down or move up, he’s willing to do whatever you want.”

See all of the Chronicle’s coverage of the Pennsylvania National here. Tonight brings all the junior jumper action, and tomorrow is the all-day affair of the Pessoa/USEF Medal Final.

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