The 2019 USEF Pony Finals, presented by Collecting Gaits Farm, drew to a close Sunday, with Kat Fuqua claiming the top honors in what is hailed as the capstone class of the week, the Marshall & Sterling/USEF Pony Medal Finals, to conclude her trip to the Kentucky Horse Park on a high note. Fuqua bested a field of nearly 200 riders aboard small, medium and large ponies over two rounds of competition to emerge victorious with the ride on Prestige. The win marks Fuqua’s second of the week, after she piloted her own Prestige to the championship in the Large Regular Pony Hunters.
Designer Jasen Shelley’s winding first round course offered exhibitors a number of chances to display their skills, with a handful of inside turn options in addition to a trot fence and a required halt as part of the test. Following the first round of riding, 20 duos had set themselves apart from the pack, led by Fuqua, Aedan Mooney, Vivian Golden, Maddie Tosh and Jocelyn Rhyno. Headed into callbacks, the medium ponies were best represented with 10 returning entries, followed by six larges and four smalls.
With the field whittled down to the best-performing pairs, the second portion of the 2019 Marshall & Sterling/USEF Pony Medal Finals invited back the top horse-and-pony combinations for another trip around the Alltech Arena. Riders aboard small ponies tried their hands around the abridged pattern first, followed by the mediums and finally the large ponies. A handier track than the first, the course was well-suited to present contenders with opportunities to showcase their abilities and equitation. Already holding the leading position as last to go in the second round, Fuqua effortlessly navigated the 8-year-old Belgian Riding Pony to a seamless round, which included a prompt halt and a smooth trot jump. Ultimately, she outshone the massive field thanks to two textbook trips to secure the coveted victory in the 2019 Marshall & Sterling/USEF Pony Medal Finals.
Fuqua, who has already experienced great success during the 2019 USEF Pony Finals with Wednesday’s title of Large Regular Pony Hunter champion, was 101st in the order of go. Not to succumb to the pressure of the notoriously long day, Fuqua managed her nerves by wearing her lucky wristband and listening to the advice of trainer Jimmy Torano. Partnered with Prestige for a year, Fuqua showcased his large stride to help nab the final championship title at the 2019 USEF Pony Finals. Up next, Fuqua will aim towards medal finals during the indoor circuit.
Though a work-off of the top challengers was an option should the judges panel ask for it, judges Ken Smith and Tom Brennan opted to forego a final test as the award winners were clearly distinguishable. Capturing the reserve champion title was Maddie Tosh and Dr. Betsee Parker’s Bit Of Love to close out Tosh’s long list of accomplishments throughout the week. Third place was claimed by California-native Shiloh Roseboom and Buzzworthy, after jumping up from the 13th position heading into the final round. Jocelyn Rhyno and Bold Dream claimed fourth place, while Olivia Sweetnam and On Your Mark ultimately settled in fifth.
The 2019 Marshall & Sterling/USEF Pony Medal Finals wraps up the 52nd year of the USEF Pony Finals. A new crop of riders will return to the Kentucky Horse Park next year for the anticipated 2019 competition.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Kat Fuqua – 2019 Marshall & Sterling/USEF Pony Medal Finals champion
On her reaction to winning:
“I was really shocked and really, really happy. It was a big relief. It feels amazing, especially with ‘Prince.’ He is a green pony but we did him in the Large Regular division. We knew that he was a green pony but he didn’t act green at all so we wanted to try to go for the Larges to see what we could do.”
On preparing for the class:
“We schooled in the Alltech Arena and we practiced courses that we thought would be similar to the ones that we might see in the show ring. We tried to prepare Prestige so he knows. Jimmy gave me great advice on the course and how to ride it.”
On her nerves:
“The first round I wasn’t too nervous. I was relaxed because I had already been champion this week, so I was just going in to have fun. The second round I was definitely a lot more nervous. I trusted Prestige and talked to him to try to relax.”
On why she thinks she improved in the class to win this year:
“I just started doing the big [equitation] on the horses, so it made it a lot easier to prepare for the ponies. The jumps are bigger with the horses, so I have to keep my body very controlled and still over the bigger jumps. That made it easier in the pony classes. I have a wristband from Lake Placid Horse Shows that I always keep on [as a good luck charm]. I’ve had it for two months. I had a really good show there.”
Jimmy Torano – trainer to Kat Fuqua
On his opinion of Fuqua’s rounds:
“The first round was nice; there wear a lot of options and some bending lines, which really suited this pony. He lands both leads easily and we really practice that in the schooling area. I thought Kat did a great job in the first round, and in the second round there were some options so I told her that all we needed to do was hold onto our lead. We came in on top. Our plan worked.”
On Fuqua as a student:
“She is a talented kid and has had a lot of trainers through the years. This isn’t about me, this has been a real group effort from Mindy Darst, Charlie Moorcroft, Liz Reilly and most recently Michael Newman. He picked out some great ponies for Kat and he has done a great job with her. I maybe added some finishing touches but this isn’t about me. She is a real talent. She is a sponge. You can tell her things and she can really go out there and execute what you tell her to do. It really makes my job easy.”
On waiting for the results:
“I was very excited. I have to say, standing in the line-up as trainers we are all very nervous, but I was pretty calm and confident that she had won. She won the first round and she nailed the second round. There was one spot where there was a possible inside turn and we went around. In my opinion, all we had to do was hold onto our lead. The round was so beautifully ridden and executed, I was pretty confident that she had won the class.”
Place / Horse / Rider
2019 Marshall & Sterling/USEF Pony Medal Finals
1. Prestige / Kat Fuqua
2. Bit Of Love / Maddie Tosh
3. Buzzworthy / Shiloh Roseboom
4. Bold Dream / Jocelyn Rhyno
5. On Your Mark / Olivia Sweetnam
6. Clovermeade Bunny Side Up / Helena Timpany
7. Rock Lobster / Aiva Gamelin
8. Winsome Court Jester / Camille Borres
9. Best of the Best / Clayton Farrell
10. Goldrush / Kippen McWhirter