Succeeding at the USEF Pony Finals takes practice, planning and luck, but also tremendous mental preparation. Most young riders who traveled to Kentucky for this year’s renewal had grown comfortable picking up ribbons, but this show always shakes things up.
Before Ailish Cunniffe and Madelyn Keck headed to the USEF Pony Finals in Lexington, Ky., the two best friends had dreamed about being first and second in the USEF Pony Medal Final on Aug. 9.
So when the announcer called back only Cunniffe, South Salem, N.Y., and Keck, Allamuchy, N.J., to work off after two rounds over fences, they turned to each other with grins on their faces and agreed that they didn’t care who won, they were both just thrilled to be the top two.
Bonnie Cunniffe has a problem. When her daughter Ailish missed a lead change in the medium pony over fences class yesterday, she promised the 12-year-old that if she shaped up and won today’s USEF Pony Medal Final she would get her a new puppy.
So after Ailish put in a pair of stellar rounds to beat out 217 riders today, Sunday Aug. 9, Bonnie will have to explain to her husband, Frank, why she defied his objections and brought home a new Corgi from Lexington, Ky.
It’s not easy being the last pony on course at the USEF Pony Finals. That rider has to wait around at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington all day, reevaluating her plan for the toughest pony hunter course of the season.
But the extra pressure didn’t stop Victoria Colvin from earning the highest scores of the week—a pair of 90s and a 93—aboard For The Laughter to claim the large pony hunter and grand pony hunter titles today, Aug. 8.
She and her partner in the USEF Pony Finals lay that far down in the small pony hunter standings following yesterday’s model and under saddle—almost out of tricolor contention. But today, Friday, Aug. 7, Reinsel put in the trip of her young career in Lexington, Ky., to win the single small pony over fences class, which counts for 50% of the championship, and claim the overall small pony title.
Meredith Darst knows a little something about USEF Pony Finals. After all, as the daughter of pony hunter guru Mindy Darst she’s been coming to this competition for as long as she can remember.
But today, Thursday, Aug. 6, proved her best day yet, when she rode Kimberden’s Brownland’s Mr. Mack and All Seasons Farm’s Rock The Boat to the small green and medium green pony hunter championships in Lexington, Ky., as well as the grand green and reserve grand green titles.
Pan American Games individual and team gold medalist Mike Huber has made a career of improving the sport of eventing. When he returned to the United States after a two-year stint in Great Britain, Huber considered settling in an East Coast eventing Mecca, but instead opted to carve out a business nearer to his childhood roots in Oklahoma.