Emma, myself and Tilly got home on Monday from Pony Finals, hosted as always at Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
I love Pony Finals, and I mean LOVE it. You haven't seen cute until you've seen a seven year old, in bows, with no front teeth sitting on the back of her small pony, at the top of the chute getting ready to walk into the Walnut Ring.
But aside from the cute factor, it provides kids with their first taste of what all of their hard work has accomplished and created and therefore feeds their fire and work ethic for the future. I think it is an important competition which helps to keep both parents and kids engaged and driven through the ups and downs of horse showing.
Although ponies started showing on Tuesday, the Regular Mediums didn't start until Friday morning when they started with the model, followed by the undersaddle. Every day there are ticketed warm ups set up in different rings so there is plenty of time and room to practice.
Tilly both modeled and hacked great, putting her about mid way in the pack going into the overfences on Friday.
Lining up after the undersaddle
The course stayed the same for all of the Regular ponies, so we had the advantage of watching the Smalls and the Larges jump around the same track before us. Always at these big events, the judges are not going to reward you with large scores unless you ride forward. In a big ring, I believe that they want to see less strides in an unrelated distance line, and not more. As always, accuracy is paramount but track and pace are right there too and the more direct and forward the better.
Because the ring is so big, there are usually very few related distances set at Pony Finals. This year, the only two were a 5 stride and a 2 stride. however, we walked all of the unrelated lines, and had a plan of a number, but with a plan also of not getting "married" to that number, and letting our eye have a say in the line too. In those long lines so many things can change in the space of 11 0r 12 strides that its one of the few instances that its ok to change your plan, I think. In the event, everything that we walked ended up right, and those were the numbers we did, for example, down the last line, we had planned to do 12 strides by riding forward for the first 7 or 8 and then settling, assessing where we were and letting our eye help to gauge the rest of the line and it worked out perfect!
I was thrilled with Emma and Tilly. Emma rode smart and focused and Tilly really turned on her star appeal and fought for good scores! We finished 32 out of 164 ponies over fences, and it was well deserved
You can watch the round below
Sunday was the Marshal and Sterling Medal Finals, held in the Alltech Arena. Being indoors, room was a little tighter but we still focused on forward options. This paid off as the judges seemed to really reward Emma's accuracy and assertiveness.
The course required riders to halt after fence 5 and then canter on to fence 6, finishing the course at fence 11 with a trot jump. A little blip in the halt transition, where Tilly became a little distracted by somebody in the crowd coming down the stairs directly at her, didn't stop Emma from making the first standby list which was put out after the first 75 ponies had gone. After the first 140 ponies went, Emma was still on the standby list of top 20 riders. She ended up finishing in the top 25, out of 174 riders.
Quite an achievement and making us all very proud! We have worked towards this all year, always with both a long term and short term plan and it was great to see Emma's hard work rewarded in the results.
Again you can watch the round below!