|So Enchanted and Caroline Passarelli Earn Small Green Pony Championship|
|Written by Lauren Baker|
|Friday, 12 August 2016 01:04|
For Caroline Passarelli, her sixth time at the U.S. Pony Finals proved to be the charm, as the young rider earned her first championship aboard So Enchanted in the Small Green Pony division with a total score of 1052.4 points.
“So Enchanted was an incredible pony to win my first championship on,” Passarelli said, beaming. “I knew the pony was capable, I just didn’t want to let myself get in my head. She’s really, truly impeccable, and I think it’s rare to find one that excels so well in the model, hack and over fences. She’s wonderful.”
So Enchanted, or “Lex” as she’s known in the barn, has entered the show ring a mere seven times before Pony Finals, making her clean sweep of the Small Greens even more impressive.
“We got her in the beginning of June, and she was extremely green,” Passarelli explained. “We started going back to the basics of flatwork and just getting her to really accept the bit and relax. Soon, she just started to get it. Every lesson you would see her getting better and better. She’s gotten so brave and trusting and relaxed, which is great.”
Patricia Griffith, who trains Passarelli out of Heritage Farm, said that she had a lot of confidence in the small chestnut mare’s ability to succeed. Lex’s owners, Jessica and Michaila Zandri, approached Griffith all the way from Canada about training the mare, and said that they wanted Passarelli to have the ride. The Zandri sisters had one goal in mind: to prove their pony could win at Pony Finals.
Instead of backing down from the challenge, Griffith saw the quality of the pony and placed her faith in the abilities of the mare with Passarelli as the rider. The duo worked with the pony, fine tuning her skillset and showing only twice before their big debut at Pony Finals.
“Everybody at the show roots for Caroline,” Griffith said. “She’s just a lovely child with a work ethic like no other, and she has put a lot of work and time into this. The pony is obviously really top-quality.”
Going into her round today, Passarelli said she was focusing on keeping her ride smooth and giving the mare the confident ride she deserved. The owners watched safely from afar, too nervous to come any closer or jinx the duo.
“Down the last line, I was thinking that she was nailing it and all I had to do was let her do her job, and she was so brave,” Passarelli said. “She went in there so willing to do her job, and she really knew that she was on top and she wanted to come out on top, too. To win like this is incredible, I can’t thank the Zandris enough for letting me show her for these past couple of months, and to Patricia and Dottie and the whole team at Heritage.”
Bringing home the reserve champion honors with a score of 995.98 points was Patti Foster’s Picturesque Bow Tie, shown by Casey Oliver. The duo finished impressively in second place over fences, sixth in the under saddle and eighth in the model.
Mimi Gochman Earns Large Pony Hunter Championship with Storyteller
The U.S. Pony Finals, a prestigious event that many young riders eagerly try to qualify for during their careers, is well underway at the scenic Kentucky Horse Park. Between the rolling green hills and the sprawling pastures, this show set in horse country is anything but ordinary.
These attributes make it the ideal environment for young equestrians to chase their dreams. Mimi Gochman, of West Palm Beach, Florida, has been coming to U.S. Pony Finals for five years. Gochman wrapped up the Large Pony Hunter division on the second day by winning the over-fences to make her grand overall total 1080.4 points. Her pony, Storyteller, won the model and came in third in the under saddle phase yesterday.
Gochman and Storyteller, who is owned by Fair Play Farm, joined forces about a year and a half ago. She currently trains with the teams at River’s Edge and Baxter Hill. When she and her sister, Sophie, walked the course with their trainer, Scott Stewart, he advised them to jump the inside option fence in the last bending line coming home. This advice ensured Gochman’s round over the Bobby Murphy-designed course ended smoothly and flowing.
“I think that was a better idea than having to run up for the ten or running on the inside in nine [strides],” she explained. “The ten was just a nice canter down the line and he jumped it better than the flatter jumps.”
The pair topped the over-fences class out of a whopping 136 entries. “Story,” a 13-year-old German Sport Pony, is quite popular in the barn with his grooms as well, due to his quiet and sweet demeanor, Gochman explained.
“The grooms all love him. He’s very easy and not complicated. He doesn’t need too much lunging. He’s a pretty easy, all-around subtle pony that doesn’t need too much work.”
Sophie also enjoys getting the ride on the chestnut gelding from time to time.
“Every once in awhile she’ll show him and she really likes him,” Gochman said. “We all love him so much. He’s a sharing pony – everyone can ride him.”
“He’s very sweet. You can always go in his stall and cuddle. He loves treats so you should probably go in there with candy or something,” she said with a laugh.
Although Gochman has had her fair share of experiences competing at U.S. Pony Finals, this year marked her first time capturing the championship prize. Last year, she just missed the title, coming in reserve.
“It’s a great honor to be champion, especially with such a great pony. He’s always there and he always helps me out,” she smiled.
Coming in reserve was Devin Seek, of Ocala, Florida and Ashley Aycox’s Garavani. Seek rides for Don Stewart and Bibby Hill, as well as Michael Newman. Just like Gochman, Seek is not new to U.S. Pony Finals. This is her ninth year showing at the annual event. She came in eighth place over-fences, which made her overall score 246.700.
Odds were stacked against the 15-year-old rider. She had just come down with strep throat only three days ago, and she and Garavani only showed together twice this year – once in Tryon, North Carolina, to qualify for Pony Finals, and last week during the Kentucky Summer Classic.
Seek showed with Garavani last year at U.S. Pony Finals, but she made it her goal to come back and perfect her rounds. Her dedication throughout the year paid off, and the judges took notice.
“We got the “Most Improved” award! He jumped around the first time. I’m so proud of him…” she said. “He’s still like a green pony in his own little heart.”
She continued, “He was really good last year, but one jump caught him by surprise and he scared himself. So Michael was like, ‘Next year, he needs the same type of ride,’ so we planned on this. It wasn’t a last minute thing. We knew we were going to do this.”
Garavani likes his rider to be focused and confident in the saddle, so he feels his best in the ring.
“You have to keep him confident because he’s looking to you for that. After the first jump, he was like, ‘Oh I got this!’ That’s all he is looking for – confidence.”
Seek hopes to continue her winning ways this week as she is entered to show a Large Green pony, Phillippe, named after the luxury watch brand.
When asked why she keeps coming back year after year to this event, Seek explained that it gives riders the chance to compete at such an elite horse show held at an incredible venue.
“My favorite part is the fact that they give everyone a chance to shine. They give plenty of ribbons; anyone can come here and have a chance. And they make the course appealing to everyone.”
Tantallon Co-captain, owned by MDHT Equestrian LLC, was ridden by Dakota Champey and together the duo rounded out the top three overall winners in the Regular Large Pony Hunter division.
Competition at the 2016 U.S. Pony Finals will resume Thursday morning in the Walnut Arena starting with the Medium Green and Large Green models and under saddle classes.