Lexington, Ky.—Aug. 10
Maddie Schaefer has been a Pony Finals regular for as long as she can remember. Even though she’s only 11, this marked her fifth year competing at the event. This year, found the perfect way to commemorate the occasion: by winning the medium pony hunter championship aboard Hi Lite. Model winner Rafael, shown by Lili Hymowitz, earned the reserve title.
Schaefer rode Hi Lite to the top of the over fences class today to beat out 104 other ponies and earn the championship.
"My favorite part of Pony Finals is riding in this big ring—it's really fun," said Schaefer. "There's plenty of other fun things about Pony Finals too, but this is the best part."
“He’s really fun,” said Schaefer, Westminster, Md. “He’s never going to be one to disappoint you and he always comes through.”
Schaefer meets up with trainer Patricia Griffith at shows, but at this point the 14-year-old chestnut doesn’t need an awful lot of practice. The two paired up a little under two years ago, and since then they’ve racked up two championships at Devon (Pa.) and another at Washington (D.C.) International.
“He’s a real championship pony,” said Griffith, White Plains, N.Y. “He’s a good fit with Maddie because she loves to ride with no reins and he loves that.”
The German pony of unknown breeding found his way stateside years ago thanks to Emil Spadone. He sat out last year’s championship so Scahefer could compete aboard Flaschback, as the rules limit riders to one mount per division.
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Around the showgrounds
Competition kicks off again tomorrow as 83 large pony hunters compete over fences starting at 8 a.m., and Maddy Darst leads the way on For The Laughter. That pony has won here the last two years. The top model contenders from each division will also go head-to-head in the Top Model competition, and the top finishers in each under saddle division will compete against one another as well in the Top 10 under saddle. Anyone with extra room on their trailer can stop by the Pony Finals auction where veterans and prospects—including several ponies with top hunter breeding awards to their credit—will be up for sale.