The US Hunter Pony Championships presented by Sallee Horse Vans came to a close on Saturday at the Kentucky Horse Park. Medium Regular Hunter Ponies went to task in the Walnut Arena in their Over Fences phase to determine the 2015 Champion. Alexa Aureliano and Woodlands Stevie Ray emerged victorious on Saturday afternoon, but it was Thursday's champion, Bit of Laughter, that proved unbeatable as he was named the 2015 Grand Champion Hunter Pony.
National titles are determined in the hunter championship following three phases of competition, with Model and Under Saddle phases each counting towards 25% of the overall score, and the remaining 50% being determined by the Over Fences phase.
Augusta Iwasaki (Calabasas, Calif.) and Chris Iwasaki, Elizabeth Reilly, and her own Bit of Laughter, earned an impressive score of 1033.29 to win the Small Regular Hunter Pony Championship on Thursday. As the highest scoring Regular Hunter pony, she and the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding claimed the Grand Champion Hunter Pony title. This marked Iwasaki's second Grand Champion title after winning Grand Champion Green Hunter Pony honors with Kingston on Saturday.
Taylor St. Jacques (Glen Allen, Va.) and Glynhafan Red Kestral, Peacock Ridge LLC's 10-year-old Half Welsh gelding, received a score of the 1025.39 to claim top honors in the Large Regular Hunter Pony Championship, thus earning them the Reserve Grand Champion Hunter Pony title.
Medium Regular Hunter Pony Championship
Aureliano (Old Brookville, N.Y.) and Hannah Bernstein's Woodlands Stevie Ray scored the National title with an overall score of 1000.34. After earning 238.32 in the Model phase and 255.78 in the Under Saddle phase, she and the 11-year-old Welsh Pony Cross gelding climbed from 10th place to the top of the leaderboard with a score of 253.12 in the Over Fences phase.
"It feels amazing," Aureliano said of winning the Championship, her first title in the four years she has been attending the US Pony Finals. After fine tuning their partnership through the summer, the pair peaked at the right time. Commenting on today's course, Aureliano explained that, "it was really, really fun. It's really nice and smooth, it's just right out of stride."
The Reserve Champion title went to Devin Seek (Ocala, Fla.) and Heaven's Sake with an overall score of 992.07. She and Bibby Hill's 12-year-old Warmblood gelding received scores of 252.48 and 253.19 in the Model and Under Saddle phases, respectively. The pair's Over Fences phase garnered a score of 243.20 on Saturday.
Mia Wayne (Clarkston, Mich.) and her own Oliver Twist finished third in the Medium Regular Hunter Pony Championship with an overall score of 987.95. On Friday, she and the eight-year-old German Riding Pony gelding scored 241.89 in the Model phase and 235.54 in the Under Saddle phase. The pair climbed an impressive 50 places on the strength of their Over Fences performance, which scored 255.26 and earned them first place in the phase. The pair also claimed the Champion Owner/Rider title for the division.
The Best Turned Out Pony in the Medium Regular section was Vermont Ruby Fox, ridden by Jenna Drago. The Best Presented Model Pony was awarded to Woodlands Love Story, ridden by Brittany Bardwell.
The US Pony Finals will conclude Sunday with the Marshall & Sterling/US Pony Medal Finals on Sunday at 7:00 a.m. ET in Alltech Arena. The USEF Network presented by SmartPak will live stream the coveted championship, courtesy of the USHJA Foundation.
For live scoring, results, schedule, and competitor and hospitality information, go to www.usefconnect.com.
Find out more information about the US Pony Finals.