Lexington, Ky.—Aug. 11
Maddie Darst found the perfect way to wrap up her USEF Pony Finals  career: winning the large pony hunter title on Betsee Parker’s For The Laughter.
This marks the fourth year in a row that For The Laughter earned the championship, and the second time that Darst has had the ride.
At this point in the Welsh Cross’s career, he needs very little preparation, and he hadn’t set foot on a show grounds since Devon (Pa.) back in May. Scott Stewart and Tim Boulton trained Darst and For The Laughter to the win.
“He’s less green and he’s getting more used to the whole show process. By now he knows what his job is,” said Darst. She and “Bubbles” came into today’s over fences class on top after winning the large pony hunter model. They topped the jumping portion, which counts for 50%, to take the title.
Darst, 15, has been a Pony Finals regular for nine years, and the judges selected her to accept the inaugural Mindy Darst Perpetual Trophy. That award honors the rider that the judges decide is most likely to become a top professional rider. While she waited around all day for her turn in the ring, she gave a few quiet pep talks to younger riders.
“I tell them that it’s for fun,” said Darst, Lebanon, Ohio. “And I tell them to breathe! Some kids don’t breathe.”
One of those kids who felt the pressure was Ali Tritschler. She’d already had a fantastic trip to Pony Finals, heading into the over fences in two earlier divisions toward the bottom of the standings, catapaulting up the leaderboard after great trips. With her large pony, Dreamland, it was different. They headed into the over fences lying second, but a great trip there guaranteed the reserve title.
“I reminded myself to breathe,” said Tritschler, Southport, Conn. ”I focused on trying to make the next jump really pretty, and making sure he was with me. He’ll wander a little bit. As long as you tell him something he’ll listen.”
Dreamland is owned and bred by Linda Evans.
“He’ll jump from anywhere—he’s not spooky at all,” said Tritschler. “I didn’t even ride him in the Walnut Ring until today.”
Full results are available at shownet.biz. 
Around The Showgrounds
-For The Laughter earned an impressive overall total of 1034 points, but that wasn’t enough for an overall title. Both those winners came from the small division: Hi Lite and Madeline Schaefer won the grand championship, and Rafael and Lili Hymowitz won the reserve grand title. Patricia Griffith earned the Emerson Burr Perpetual Trophy as the trainer of the grand pony hunter champion.
-Four young riders were honored as the winners of the Emerson Burr Horsemanship Grant after written and hands-on tests: 8 and under—Madeline Libby; 9-11—Rachel Tanio; 12-14—Charlotte Ruff; 15-17—Courtney Barry.
-Two other championship classes ran today: the championship under saddle class and the championship model. Large green pony Enjoy The Laughter won both classes. The German Riding Pony of unknown breeding is owned by Lili Hymowitz. He finished second in the large green pony under saddle, but today he edged out that class’s winner, Valentino, who won the grand green title with Aleece Jarman.
-A very surprised David Wright accepted the USEF Pony Finals volunteer of the year award. Wright co-chairs the USHJA Pony Hunter Task Force.
-Pony Finals wraps up tomorrow with the Equisport Insurance/USEF Pony Medal Final, held for the first time in the Alltech Arena.