Tessa Downey and Kat Fuqua Steal the Show at 2018 USEF Pony Finals

Lexington, Ky. – Aug. 11, 2018 – The final and largest division of the week concluded with the over fences phase Saturday at the Kentucky Horse Park, closing out 2018 USEF Pony Finals competition in the hunter ring. Tessa Downey and Anisette were awarded the championship in the Medium Regular Pony Hunters ahead of a massive field of 163 other contenders, moving up from third position to earn the coveted tricolor. Boasting the highest cumulative score of the six divisions, Kat Fuqua and Brighton reigned supreme to capture the Grand Regular Pony Hunter championship title, while Downey and Anisette rode to the Grand Reserve Regular Pony Hunter honors, in addition to the Best Turned Out Award.

Kat Fuqua and Brighton captured the Grand Regular Pony Hunter championship title.

Beginning bright and early in the Walnut Ring, the expansive collection of entries in the Medium Regular Pony Hunters were in the spotlight for the majority of the day, but ultimately it all came do the final few pairs to tackle the course. With one championship already under her belt for the week, Maddie Tosh aimed to add another to her list with the reins aboard Peacock Ridge, LLC’s Smallwood Mystic, navigating the pony to a top score of 264 over fences and 1,019.52 overall, bumping them from 20th position to the top of the leaderboard. Tosh would retain her position until Downey and her own Anisette entered the ring as the third-to-last duo to take their turn over the fences. The pony-and-rider partners executed a textbook performance to the tune of 87, 88 and 89 for a total score of 264 over fences and 1,045.14 from the judges, overthrowing the sitting leaders. The final two pairs to ride, Caroline Signorino aboard Newhaven’s Magnum and Ava Berman with Toblerone, tried their best to match the efforts of their peers, but were unable to surpass the lofty scores earned by Downey and Anisette.

Tessa Downey and Anisette

Proving that everything is bigger in Texas, Houston-based Downey fittingly nabbed the win ahead of the largest division of the week and was accompanied by a horde of supporters including family, friends and the team at PJP Farm. Trained by Peter Pletcher, the 13-year-old rider is attending her fourth USEF Pony Finals, but the 2018 event marks her first time in the winner’s circle. The Downey family had reason to celebrate last year as the owner’s of News Flash, the pony that won this same division and the Grand Regular Pony Hunter title in 2017 with Augusta Iwasaki in the saddle, but this year the division win is even sweeter as Downey both owns and rode Anisette.

Tesssa Downey and Anisette won the Medium Regular Pony Hunter championship.

Tosh and Smallwood Mystic earned the reserve spot in the Medium Regular Pony Hunters, followed by Skye Kania and Sammy Kania’s Falling Moon Front Page in third position, up from their 12th place spot after the first two phases of competition. Baylee McKeever and Heritage Farm, Inc.’s Dream Come Blue nabbed the fourth position, and owner-rider Calder Trotz navigated Not So Secret to fifth overall.

Kat Fuqua celebrates with trainer, Michael Newman.

Exemplifying the highest level of talent and ability across the three size-based Regular Pony Hunter divisions, Fuqua and Brighton added another accolade to their names as the winners of the Grand Regular Pony Hunter title. The first divisional champions of the week, Fuqua and her own Brighton modeled, hacked and jumped their way to a two-day total score of 1,063.65 in the Large Regular Pony Hunters, impressively putting them in a league all their own more than 30 points ahead of the next-closest competitor in their respective division. Downey and Anisette had double the reasons to celebrate Saturday as the Grand Reserve Regular Pony Hunter winners.

The 2018 USEF Pony Finals, presented by Collecting Gaits Farm, will continue for one final day. With hunter and jumper action concluded, the spotlight event will become the Pony Medal Finals, beginning Sunday morning in the Alltech Arena.


Tessa Downey – Medium Regular Pony Hunter champion

On her reaction to winning:
“I was really really nervous going in because I have been here for the last four years, and I was going around thinking ‘I can do this, I’m good, calm down,’ but I was so nervous. I was going to the last line and over the last jump I thought ‘oh thank God!’ There was so much preparation, but it was all worth it. It was always my goal to be in the top three at Pony Finals, but I never thought I was going to. When I heard [my score] it was like a sigh of relief, we did it.”

On Anisette:
“She is kind of sassy, and she doesn’t like the girth, but she means well. She loves her job and she wants to win, she wants to do the best she can. She kind of likes to go a little, so [her rubber bit] helps keep her calm.”

Peter Pletcher – Trainer to Tessa Downey

On Tessa winning:
“This year is really special because Tessa has worked really hard for four years to get to here. We’ve had some ups and downs, and it’s just nice when it all plays out. She is super focused and really, really works hard at riding. It’s her love and her parents are so supportive of it, shes a great kid. The parents give up a lot for these kids to do this, and a lot of this win goes to them.”


Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / Score

Medium Regular Pony Hunters Over Fences
1. Anisette / Tessa Downey / Tessa Downey / 264.00
2. Smallwood Mystic / Maddie Tosh / Peacock Ridge LLC / 261.50
3. Falling Moon Front Page / Skye Kania / Sammy Kania / 257.19
4. Dream Come Blue / Baylee Mckeever / Heritage Farm, Inc. / 253.00
5. Not So Secret / Calder Trotz / Calder Trotz / 251.00
6. Greystone’s Star Bright / Alexandra Sica / Alexandra Sica / 250.50
7. Paris / Lola Head / Lola Head / 248.50
8. Crystal Acres Chocolatier / Olivia Sweetnam / Sweet Oak Farm / 246.50
9. Leon Claire Campbell / Maher Family Llc / 245.19
10. Darling Clementine / Kelly Poon / Ally Dickson / 243.20

For more information on the 2018 USEF Pony Finals, please click here.


Subscribe & Join

Phelps Media Group

Founded in 2002 by Olympian Mason Phelps, Jr., PMG specializes in sports branding, public relations, event coverage, media strategy, web design and social media.

All photography may only be used in conjunction with a related press release. We do not sell our email lists or share our lists with other companies or individuals.