Lexington, Ky. – Aug. 12, 2017 – One final pony hunter championship was awarded Saturday at the 2017 USEF Pony Finals at the Kentucky Horse Park to conclude hunter competition, with Augusta Iwasaki and News Flash riding away with the win in the Medium Regular Pony Hunters. During the USEF Pony Jumper Championship in the Alltech Arena down the hill, Tabitha Okitsu and her own Spoot De La Jourlais ultimately clinched victory as the only pair to ride clean over the three-phase competition ahead of 30 other competitors.
The largest class of the week with nearly 160 entries, the Medium Regular Pony Hunters took over the Walnut Ring for the large majority of the day, but it all came down to the last two riders to tackle Bobby Murphy’s hunter course. Sitting in second position after the model and hack portions of competition, Iwasaki and Tessa Downey’s News Flash were the second-to-last pair to enter the ring, and they delivered with a score of 256.15. Their performance proved strong enough to claim the win in the over fences class as well as propel them ahead of the original division leader, Caroline Signorino and Hannah Hoch’s Anisette.
With an overall score of 1025.63, Iwasaki and “Flash” not only earned the championship in the Medium Regular Pony Hunters, but also boasted the Overall Grand Champion Regular Hunter Pony honors as the highest-scoring pair of the three Regular Pony Hunter division champions throughout the week. Iwasaki was surely the most decorated hunter rider of the week, as she also claimed the Overall Reserve Champion Green Hunter Pony aboard Quartet Farm LLC’s gelding Butterscotch, coincidentally scoring a 1025.11, only tenths of a point different from their championship score. Iwasaki was the runner-up to Libbie Gordon and Small Wonder, owned by Elsa Batalden, who scored a total 1028.05. This is the fifth time Iwasaki has made the trip to Lexington for Pony Finals from her home in California, and not her first Grand Championship; the young 13-year-old rider, who rides as a 12-year-old, impressively won both Grand Regular and Grand Green titles in 2015, with Bit of Laughter and Kingston, respectively.
Raina Swani and Newhaven’s Magnum, owned by Shadowfax Equestrian LLC, garnered a score of 1008.70 from the judges panel, the only other pair to break 1000 points, to claim the Reserve Medium Regular Pony Hunter Championship behind Iwasaki. Third on the podium was Claire Campbell and Leon, owned by Maher Family LLC, with Brynn Kuhnell and Simply Ponies LLC’s Not So Secret just a few points behind in fourth place overall. Saylor Shea and MAgical Diamond, owned by Strawberry Hill LLC, rounded out the top five placings.
The 2017 USEF Pony Finals, presented by Collecting Gaits Farm, will continue through Sunday, Aug. 13, with the Pony Medal Finals, one of the week’s highlight events, concluding a week of pony action.
FROM THE WINNERS CIRCLE
Augusta Iwasaki – Champion of the Medium Regular Pony Hunters
On winning another Pony Finals Championship:
“It’s amazing. [My strategy] was to just be smooth and do my best. I’d like to thank Tessa Downey for letting me ride [Flash] and also thank Peter Pletcher for training me on the pony.”
On News Flash:
“This is only my second show on [Flash]. He is very smooth and jumps all the jumps the same. He tries very hard. He’s chill and is not spooky. He’s a very good boy.”
Place / Rider / Horse / Owner / Score
Medium Regular Pony Hunters Over Fences
1. Augusta Iwasaki / News Flash / Tessa Downey / 256.150
2. Raina Swani / Newhaven’s Magnum / Shadowfax Equestrian LLC / 254.900
3. Alexa Lignelli / Fox Creeks Curious George / Alexa Lignelli / 254.500
4. Brynn Kuhnell / Not So Secret / Simply Ponies, LLC / 252.500
5. Kyla Sullivan / Basically Bunny / Ellie Ferrigno / 252.000
6. Sofia Roberts / Rock Star / Roberts Stables, LLC / 251.750
7. Casey Oliver / Qualen’s Commence The Magic / Sofia Roberts, LLC / 251.400
8. Emily Clee / Clovermeade Bunny Side Up / Ellie Ferrigno / 251.000
9. Libbie Gordon / Astro Boy / Elle Gibbs / 250.600
10. Hannah Hoch / Havana / Hannah Hoch / 248.150
Tabitha Okitsu and Spoot De La Jourlais Claim Pony Jumper Championship
Headed into the third and final phase of the USEF Pony Jumper Championship, owner-rider Tabitha Okitsu and Spoot De La Jourlais had the upper hand, riding as the last-to-go with 0 faults accumulated over two prior days of competition, the only pair to keep all the cups in the rails. Okitsu and her pony aimed to stay atop the leaderboard ahead of the 11 other combinations that qualified for one last ride over Jasen Shelley’s track, and the pair delivered, once again riding the only clean and clear round to secure her spot with the gold medal atop the podium.
Entering the Alltech Arena for her final round, the 15-year-old Okitsu had a small safety net, as the only pony and rider pair without any faults to their name. Her close friend Avery Kim and Kim’s pony Jo-el had 4 faults and were hot on their heels. As it turned out, Okitsu didn’t need the buffer, as she and “Spoot” laid down yet another clear round, with the rider crediting her pony for the large majority of her win, while Kim claimed the reserve championship.
Three other pairs managed to ride a fault-free round over the 15-effort course, but with their total faults from the two previous phases, it wasn’t enough to overcome the class leaders. Isabella Durnell and her own Carlton Diva bested owner-rider Genevieve Munson and Bluebelle in a jump-off for the bronze medal with a clear trip compared to Munson’s 4-fault ride.
Both Okitsu and Kim were members of the winning Zone 10 team from California that clinched the team championship portion of the USEF Pony Jumper National Championships Friday evening, making Saturday’s results even more memorable. The close-knit girls will travel home to South Pasadena with a few more accolades to their names – both as Team Champions, Okitsu with an individual championship and Kim with a reserve championship.
Saturday evening’s final concludes jumper action during Pony Finals week, but a new crop of riders and ponies will return to the Alltech Arena next year for the 2018 USEF Pony Jumper Championships.
FROM THE WINNERS CIRCLE
Tabitha Okitsu – USEF Pony Jumper Champion
On her championship:
“I am shocked. It felt so good. I don’t know how to describe it, it’s like we were flying. [The course] was pretty hard. I think it was mostly my horse, Spoot. We had a lot of tough spots that he just carried me through.”
On Spoot De La Jourlais:
“I’ve been riding Spoot since December. I came last year with a different pony named Super Mario and we didn’t compete a single course. We brought in this new pony from France, and that did the trick. He is the best pony I could have asked for.”
On her future plans:
“I think I will keep doing the Pony Jumpers. I’m going to stick with ponies as long as I can.”
Avery Kim – USEF Pony Jumper Reserve Champion
On her relationship with Okitsu:
“We have known each other since sixth grade, and we are going to be sophomores in high school now. We have been riding together for a really long time, and we are also in school together in the same grade, sometimes even the same classes, so we coordinate really well.”
On her excitement for Okitsu’s win:
“She struggled a lot last year; her other pony was very, very tough. It’s just better that she did well this year because she struggled with her last pony and an improvement like that is just so drastic. I’m so happy for her, it’s really well deserved.”
Place / Rider / Horse / Owner / Total Faults
Individual Jumper Final
1. Tabitha Okitsu / Spoot De La Jourlais / Tabitha Okitsu / 0 / 0
2. Avery Kim / Jo-el / Avery Kim / 0 / 4
3. Isabella Durnell / Carlton Diva / Isabella Durnell / 4 / 8
4. Bluebelle / Genevieve Munson / Genevieve Munson / 0 / 8
5. Autumn Fiocca / Little Bunny Phoo Phoo / Jam Performance LLC / 4 / 12
5. Isabella Cheers / Park Avenue / Isabella Cheers / 8 / 12
5. Madison Kondracki / Magic Beans / Madison Kondracki 8 / 12
5. Kiley Ahn / Rootbeer Float / Kiley Ahn / 4 / 12
9. Katharine Dade / National Treasure / Katharine Dade / 0 / 16
10. Lydia Philbrick / Raisin A Ruckus / Lydia Philbrick / 4 / 20
11. Caroline Mawhinney / Silver Dream / Stal Minion / 8 / 25
12. Megan De Michele / Gracie Lou / Victoria Hutcheson-de Michele / 8 / 40
For more information on the 2017 USEF Pony Finals, please click here.