Lexington, Ky – August 14, 2022 – The final day of the 2022 USEF Pony Finals, presented by Honor Hill Farms, showcased the highly anticipated Marshall and Sterling USEF Pony Medal. The nation’s top young pony athletes took to the famed Alltech Arena as they tried their hand at the 10-obstacle course, vying for the chance to make it to the second round, and take home the championship honors. Upon completion of two rounds and a flat work-off, it was Chandler Wilks and Orchard Hills Bougie who led the victory lap, followed by JJ Torano and Paris Charm in second, and Abby Morris and Silver Wishes in third.
During round one, course designer, Jasen Shelley (USA) tested riders’ abilities on course by asking them to demonstrate a halt after fence four, canter a long 5-stride line for fences five and six, and a trot jump at fence eight. Many riders found difficulty in the halt as their ponies did not anticipate stopping after the diagonal vertical heading towards the out-gate. After 214 pony and rider combinations made their way through round one, judges Keri Kampsen of Wellington, FL, and Timmy Kees of Newtown, CT welcomed back the top 25 riders with the highest scores in reverse order to compete over a second round.
Equally as inviting as the first, Shelley’s second round course included bending lines, a two stride, and many single jumps that allowed riders to show their skill and style through opportunities to take handy, inside turns. Shelley also included another test by asking riders to hand gallop fence number four, an oxer at the far end of the ring going away from the in-gate. Many riders, including Torano and Morris, cantered directly to fence one and took handy inside turns. Wilks, on the other hand, took a more conservative approach by entering the ring at a trot and completing a courtesy circle before picking up the canter and heading to the first jump. Wilks took her time showcasing her traditional riding style and Orchard Hills Bougie’s ride-ability, by taking a wider turn after fence three, giving herself more time to develop a strong hand gallop to the fourth fence.
Upon completion of an exciting second round, Kampsen and Kees welcomed Torano, Wilks, and Morris back into the Alltech arena for a final flat work-off without stirrups. The junior riders took on this task with ease as they demonstrated the walk, trot, canter, and a simple change of lead through the walk to reverse direction.
At the conclusion of the test, the top 10 riders entered the ring with their trainers to await the results. Not knowing what place they might be in, the anticipation built as the placings were announced in reverse order and the Alltech Arena fell silent for the first time all day as it came time to award the top three prizes in the Marshall and Sterling USEF Pony Medal Final. With a smile to match her tri-color ribbon, Wilks led the victory gallop around the Alltech arena to wrap up this year’s USEF Pony Finals, Presented by Honor Hill Farms.
Next year, the event will return to the Kentucky Horse Park and continue to showcase the most coveted ponies in the United States, with some of the best young hunter, jumper, and equitation athletes that their respective divisions have to offer. To see a complete list of results or to learn more about the 2022 Pony Finals event, please visit www.usef.org.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Chandler Wilks – Marshall and Sterling USEF Pony Medal Final Champion
On her first round:
“The first round, I came in and did a circle [jump] one to two was nice. Three to four was the bending and then I landed and halted and was like ‘that was so smooth, all I have to do is just take a deep breath, no quick decisions.’ Then I come around to the five [stride] and I had to get my canter because they set an oxer for the first jump. That was beautiful. Then bending to the other oxer and the trot jump was great. The last few jumps were amazing and I was like ‘oh my gosh that was so fun.”
On going into the second round:
“I went in and had a great first trip, and I’m pacing back and forth to see if I am on the standby. And then [the standby list] came out and I was in first and my friend and I were so surprised! It was so exciting!”
On what her trainer said before going in the ring:
“My trainer is my mom so she said ‘slow, calm mind and just be patient’ because every now and again I get ahead of myself.”
On her pony:
“We got her in 2020 and she had never done the greens before, so I brought her along. We came here for Pony Finals in 2020 and that got canceled and I was so bummed. Last year we still had her so I did her in the 2020 Greens and it went well. She was amazing. Then we sold her right after that to one of our close friends. I haven’t seen her since then. I’ve seen her in passing but haven’t ridden her until this week so it was really fun to get back with her. She’s such a great partner, she’s so willing and always happy to do whatever you ask!”
On how it felt to be reunited with her pony:
“It was so much fun! It was like she was my old best friend and she went away and got to make a new kid happy, and then I got back on and she was like ‘I remember you!’ and it was right back to where we left off!”
On future plans:
“I have some time off then I have a junior hunter so we are hopefully going to Harrisburg and The National so fingers crossed for that.”
On how it feels to win this final:
“It’s such a big honor! I’ve been competing in this class for a while and every time it’s just one [bad] thing that happens. Never anything big, but just one little thing. This class is so fun, being in the Alltech [Arena} just makes it so amazing.”
On the flat phase:
“I’ve been working on my sitting trot without stirrups a lot. It was fun, I really liked the flat phase. I enjoyed it. When we found out I was in the top three my mom was ecstatic!”
Place / Rider / Pony / Owner
1. Chandler Wilks / Orchard Hills Bougie/ Japonica Cruise
2. JJ Torano / Paris Charm / Megan D’Amico
3. Abby Morris / Silver Wishes / Abby Morris
4. Collin Sweetnam / On Your Mark / Sweet Oak Farm
5. Ella Tarumuianz / So Enchanted / Sprucedale Inc.
6. Susannah Morrell / Southern Rhapsody / Susannah Morrell
7. Agatha Lignelli / Rashinga / Serena Theodoracopulos
8. Ava Barnes / Prestige / Ava Barnes
9. Vivian Golden / Brixton / Betsee Parker
10 Lauren Padilla / Smallwood Mystic / Highland Farm, LLC