Pony Finals!! The suspense is killing me

It has been a fun adventure this year for one of my students and her darling Small Pony Hunter, “Lovey”
Lovey cropped

Lovey is a barn favorite, a small pony with quite a large personality. He loves to be fawned over, brushed, bathed, and generally expects to be pampered at all times. He is a Star with a celebrities ego and he LOVES to perform for the world. Lucky for us, Lovey actually seems to always know what a good performance should entail and puts his best hoof forward, always thrilling the judges.

Lovey and his child have spent the last year climbing the ranks. He has been an amazing teacher for her and she has worked hard to compliment his natural Hunter jumping ability. When the parents announced to me “We would like to qualify for National Pony Finals this year” I had mixed emotions for sure. I was thrilled at the prospect of well deserved fame for Lovey and his girl but intimidated by the process and expectations that lie ahead of us. I also realized that while trying to help them achieve their goals I would be balancing a whole barn full of other students and horses, my family and home life, and all while homeschooling my 11 year old son. Seemed a bit daunting at the time.

Ultimately, my staff and I agreed and we set out on an incredible journey together.

Having never had the chance to attend Pony Finals before we were coming into the scene as a nobody, the under dog, and we all had a steep learning curve ahead of us.

First there was the intense training for both rider and pony, the goal being to eventually achieve a flawless course of Hunter fences. This part can be hard for some but this is what I do best on a daily basis. If there is one thing I know, it is how to bring out the best in a pony and a child.

Next, there was the ever tweaking and polishing up of those skills. As the chances to qualify grew closer we studied our competition, even right down to the trending apparel for riders in the Pony Hunt classes of 2014.
We left no detail to chance.

Second we set forth an aggressive tentative show schedule of top rated shows all over Southern California for chances to qualify in the Small Pony Hunter division. To our pleasant surprise, Lovey and his little girl nailed it at a competition in Thermal, CA and qualified right out the gate.

There were whispers in the wind that day…. Who is that pony? Who is the kid? Where did they come from? Even, Who is the trainer?
And within hours we had offers to buy our precious Lovey right out from underneath us. Everybody just HAD to have that pony!
Politely rejecting, “I’m sorry, this pony is not for sale” Yet, the offers grew in value for this pony that seem to come out of nowhere and pretty soon there were extra digits tacked on to the price tag being offered.
Yet still we rejected. For the family, this was all about the journey and they were determined to see it through to the end. I was relieved that Lovey would be staying on with us.
So we pushed forward.
Cleaning up every little detail while balancing this daily competitive routine with plenty of fun for both pony and rider.

After many months, many shows, and too many ribbons to count the day to fly out to Pony finals in Kentucky had finally arrived. The excitement around the barn was palpable and all the kids and staff gave their Good Luck wishes. Regardless of the ending outcome of Pony Finals, such a huge accomplishment was just about to take place. Our Goal was simple: To attend and represent well.

My assistant travelled with Lovey to the airport and they both endured a very chilling 4 hour flight on a jet that transports Equines. They arrived in Kentucky one week early than Pony Finals in order to properly settle in and get the lay of the land. Lovey’s little 11yr old partner was not far behind.

The first day of competition was the “Pony Model”. This would count towards 25% of our overall score.

As the title implies it is a class about modeling the pony in front of a panel of judges. Since my barn is generally more action oriented this was the class that we knew the least about. But feeling confident in Lovey, our research, and all our hard practice we approached it with our best efforts.

Lovey SHINED!! And when I say “shined” I do mean literally 🙂 after all the hours of grooming and primping and posing he also ended up,the only pony of his 12 pony group, to land a spot in which the sun beamed brightly down upon him. Almost as though he was chosen to be spotlighted by a higher power.

Lovey model

Lovey is pictured modeling in front on the far left. The only one in the sun.

He WON the Model class of his divided 12 pony section. And for the Grand Overall of 103 of the best ponies in the Untied States he scored 8th!!!!
8th of 103 in the Model, not a bad start for the unknown “under dog”

News spread fast and pretty soon everyone back at home was sharing the cheers and success of Lovey and his girl.

On the second day they have the next competition called the “Under Saddle”.
This class also counts for 25% of the overall score.

As the title implies, this class is judged on everything under the saddle. That would be the Pony themselves. But unlike the stand-still Model, this class is conducted with the pony ridden at the walk, trot, and canter. The judge is looking for the most classic “Hunter” with the best natural flowing Hunter type movement. (To go into more detail would take an entire post in and of itself, but you get the general idea)
Lovey is disciplined, fancy, classy and has beautiful classic Hunter form over jumps but falls into a more “average” category when judged in the Under Saddle class. Knowing this was our weakest class we were still crossing our fingers and urging Lovey and his little girl to simply do their best. Assuring them we would be proud either way.
Not surprising, Lovey scored in the middle of the pack. 69th of 103. Still proud, everyone congratulated each other and Lovey went back to his stall for plenty of well deserved Cookies, Carrots, and pampering love.

By the Third day of Pony finals the suspense was really building. Much like watching the last few minutes of a tied sports game, everyone at our home barn was on the edge of their seats. Excitedly waiting to hear any new news or updates from the show team in Kentucky.

The Third and final competition would be worth 50% of their overall score. The hardest of all 3 classes. It was the Hunter over fences. (The jumping course)
Being an action based barn, this was the moment we were waiting for. It was time for Lovey and his pilot to truly show what they were made of. They would be expected to memorize a course of 8-10 jumping fences and would then have only one chance to step into the arena and show everyone what this mystery duo was really made of. A whole year of blood, sweat, and tears coming down to these 3 minutes. The pressure was immense for the little girl. Every thing she had revolved her life around in this past 52 weeks came down to this one final moment. Hundreds of eyes on her, peers, her trainers, other trainers, her family and friends that had all flown in to Kentucky for this special event. Even her pony had prepared so very hard for this moment to have her pilot him correctly and he was dancing with excitement.

Stepping in to the show arena a calm and peace settled over her. She immediately focused on her job and solid as a rock, this young 11 year old piloted her pony flawlessly thru the challenging course of jumps. Once again Lovey SHINED!
Stepping out of the show arena everyone was silent, waiting for the 3 judges scores to be announced and averaged. The score that would soon become the last 50% of the overall for National Pony Finals.
First the voice announced… 80.15
(She clenched her fist in excitement)
Next…… 82.57
(Now she looked like she was going to faint)
And lastly ….. 83.99
(Starting to sway, my sister had to grab her and remind her to breath)
Everyone was ecstatic!! These were exceptional scores and she was now sitting in 2nd place with just 40 ponies left to see.

The score board with Loveys jumping scores.

With all their showing done and the hard part behind them, Lovey’s fan group hunkered down in the stands to watch the rounds and anxiously await the remaining scores.
Meanwhile, back at the barn everyone was hovered around their phones much like you would see many years ago, baseball fans all gathered around a radio that was announcing the current baseball game. We were receiving minute to minute update texts and pictures with running commentary.

The suspense was killing us!!!

Each round that would go by….. 79.10, 78.55, 76.01
Then …. 60.2, 60.3, 61.25
One after another. 17 Ponies left to see and Lovey was still in 2nd of 103 ponies for the Jumping phase.
Finally the end was nearing and, believe it or not, Lovey’s score only got bumped ONCE. Lovey and his girl ended in 3rd place out of 103 Top United States Small Ponies, for the jumping phase!!!!
Woohoo!! – the crowd goes wild –
There was so much excitement, both from Kentucky and from the fan club at home in San Diego.

Again, the precious girl looked like she was going to faint. Then with bewilderment and surprise quickly followed by joy and excitement she said “We did it!!”
“I just went in their and I pushed out any thoughts of other riders, other ponies, and scores. I pushed that completely out of my mind. The only thing I focused on was the job I had to do and I did it!!!”

Averaging all 3 scores together, Lovey ended the United States Pony Finals in 8th place of 103!!!
He is the 8th best Small Pony Hunter in the whole Nation!!

We are all so incredibly proud!!!

** Additional announcement. After many inquiries and offers to purchase Lovey; Mom, Dad, and child have decided that Lovey will remain a part of their family and will be returning home to San Diego soon. I can’t wait to give him a great big hug and a bowl of his favorite vegetables and fruits!!


Here is a picture of Lovey receiving a well deserved pat from his rider.




2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. accidentalponymum
    Aug 07, 2014 @ 20:06:29

    What a great story!



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