August 11, 2014–A week of competition at the 2014 US Pony Finals came to a close Sunday with the most coveted award of the championship US Pony Finals championships. The Marshall & Sterling/US Pony Medal Finals took place in the Alltech Arena with 159 riders vying for top honors in front of judges Karen Healey and Stacia Madden. After riding Finders-Keepers to the Regular Medium Hunter Pony Championship title the day before, Taylor St. Jacques earned a Championship title of her own on Sunday.
In round one the riders were tested over a demanding course designed by Richard Jeffery and Bobby Murphy, including a bending line, a line where riders had to trot and pick up the counter lead between fences and a two-stride combination. Twenty riders were called back for round two over a more difficult track to test their equitation skills. Fences taken at the hand gallop and trot as well as a one-stride in and out were part of round two course. After round two, four riders, two from the Small section and two from the Medium section, returned to the ring to be tested on the flat. St. Jacques, Alexandra Pielet, Ericka Koscinski, and Camryn Halley entered the Alltech Arena to determine the top placings of the Marshall & Sterling/US Pony Medal Finals.
In the test, riders were first asked to show walk, posting trot, sitting trot, and canter before reversing direction. Without their stirrups, the field of four then demonstrated canter, posting trot, and a halt followed by four steps of reinback to complete the test on the flat.
In her second appearance in the Pony Medal championship, 15-year-old St. Jacques (Glen Allen, Va.) displayed her proficient equitation to be named the winner and receive the Gold medal in the 2014 Marshall & Sterling/US Pony Medal Finals.
“I’m really happy and excited,” St, Jacques said. “This is my second year doing the Pony Medal Finals and it means a lot to me.”
St. Jacques noted that riding without stirrups frequently helped her in the final test. She also expressed thanks to Lily Ezrow, who lent her Happy Feet to be her mount in the Finals, and her trainers Bill Schaub and Molly Sewell for their guidance.
“We really emphasize keeping the basics strong and working on exercises and it all makes everything kind of fit together,” Schaub explained of coaching St. Jacques, his first rider to win the Gold medal. “Pony Finals isn’t really something you can practice for. You have got to learn all your skills so when you are thrown out there you can do whatever task they ask of you.”
Though she felt confident throughout the competition, St. Jacques admits that she does get nervous. Even though she had the added pressure of being at the top of the judges’ leaderboard heading into round two, St. Jacques tried to not overthink things and keep it all in perspective.
“There are a few minutes of when I get really nervous because it is just like kind of a lot going on at once, but then after I realize it is just another trip at another show then I’m like ‘Okay, I’m fine,’” St. Jacques explained.
Thirteen-year-old Pielet (Highland Park, Ill.) came in second place, improving from her sixth-place finish in 2013, to receive the Silver medal. Earlier in the week, she also showed her adept riding abilities, riding Love and Logic to the win in the Large Regular Pony Hunter Under Saddle phase. The Bronze medal went to 15-year-old Koscinski (Center Morchies, N.Y.), who finished sixth in the Medium Regular Pony Hunter Championship with Dream Girl on Saturday. Twelve-year-old Halley (Oviedo, Fla.), the youngest rider in the final field of four, earned fourth place.
The following riders rounded out the top 10 placings:
Fifth – Annalise Reed
Sixth – Vanessa Mazzoli
Seventh – Sophia Calamari
Eighth – Chloe White
Ninth – Devin Seek
10th – Bianca Jenkins
On-demand video highlights as well as competition recaps are available at www.usefnetwork.com.
To learn more about the 2014 US Pony Finals, visit www.ponyfinals.org.
For results and more, visit http://usefconnect.com/ponyfinals/.