May 26—Devon, Pa.
Winning a championship at Devon is tough to top the next year, so Meredith “Maddy” Darst went ahead and did the same thing a second time. She rode For The Laughter to his second consecutive grand pony championship at Devon for Betsee Parker. It’s that pony’s third large pony hunter title in a row at Devon, Pa., winning the 2010 edition with Tori Colvin up.
The judges awarded the Lebanon, Ohio, rider third place in the Best Child Rider on a Pony competition for her efforts.
For The Laughter (Brilliant—Mon Cherie) topped two over fences classes and the model on his way to the large pony and grand pony hunter titles.
“He was really good,” said Darst, who celebrated her 15th birthday last week. “I haven’t shown him since [the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.)], but he was good. He used to be spooky, but not as much now. He just needs a confident ride. He’s grown up a lot.”
Scott Stewart and Tim Boulton trained Darst to the large title on the Welsh cross. Outside of Devon he’s racked up plenty of titles, including three consecutive large pony hunter championships at USEF Pony Finals (Ky.).
An elated Emma Kurtz picked up the reserve ribbon after nailing the stakes class on Mapleside Denzel and earning blue on a mark of 88.
Visions Of 2010
Darst wasn’t the only one repeating herself at Devon. In 2010, Daisy Farish won the small pony hunter championship and reserve titles and the Best Child Rider on a Pony honors to boot. Two years later the Versailles, Ky., rider repeated that feat on partners a hand higher, winning the medium pony hunter championship on John and Stephanie Ingram’s Laugh Out Loud, and the reserve title on her own Cleverest.
“It’s a dream come true—every kid wants this to happen,” said trainer Patricia Griffith. “Daisy’s a horseperson; she lives with them at home. She knows the different types, and she’s able to adjust to different animals. She can ride a small well and then be champion on a large. As a rider there’s a lot of pressure, but she kept it together. She made a few mistakes, and it’s easy to get rattled, but she stayed focused.”
Peaking At The Right Time
Farish’s good friend Madeline “Maddie” Schaefer also had a repeat win. She and Hi Lite followed up last year's small pony title with another one, as well as reserve Best Child Rider honors.
“He’s really fun,” said Schaefer, 11. “He’s slow and relaxed. He’s pretty easy. He’s gotten easier since I know him more. We practice not trotting off the right lead when it’s too deep.”
The 14-year-old German-bred pony topped both of today’s over fences classes to claim the tricolor.
“Hi Lite’s one of my favorite ponies, and I basically forced the Schaefers to get him, but they thank me every day,” said Griffith, who also trains Schaefer. “He’s a championship pony, so they don’t use him for all the little shows. That keeps it special, and he doesn’t look like he’s aged at all. It’s great when they peak at the right moment.”
Hi Lite edged out his barnmate Made For Me, ridden by Francesca “Frankie” Dildabanian, who took home the small pony reserve ribbon. Dildabanian also earned the fourth award in the Best Child Rider on a Pony contest.
The Right Attitude
Sara Boston took a tumble midcourse off Blackberry, landing on her feet when that pony dug in his heels to a fence. She gave him a pat, ran up her stirrups and walked out of the ring looking more like a seasoned professional after an unlucky go rather than a small pony rider on one of her first trips to Devon. Judges Joe Darby and Tucker Ericson acknowledged her grace by awarding her the Pony Sportsmanship award.