Ponies took over the Rolex Stadium on the final day of the Kentucky Summer Class with the prestigious USHJA Pony Hunter Derby East Coast Championship. A total of 98 horse-and-rider combinations navigated the course that featured a collection of obstacles simulating those reminiscent of the hunt field such as brush, logs and gates. After impressing the panel of four judges in both the Classic Hunter style course and the Handy Hunter course by earning a total score of 175, Kierstin Antoniadis and Pokerface rode away with the championship tricolor ribbon. Vivian Golden received the reserve championship honors on Renaud Farm LLC’s Hidden Springs Waltz with a total of 168.87 points.
In order to qualify for the championship, all ponies had to have competed in at least one USHJA Pony Hunter Derby at a licensed USEF competition within the qualifying period of Aug. 13, 2018 – June 2, 2019. Fence heights were adjusted based on the pony’s size (small – 2’3″, medium – 2’6″, and large 2’9″-3’0″). The championship title was not split based on fence height, though they did award high score ribbons to the top scoring athlete in each height. Antoniadis and Pokerface received the top score in the large ponies, Golden on Hidden Springs Waltz earned the medium pony high score and Shiloh Roseboom on Heavenly Patch of Blue won the small pony high score ribbon with a score of 162.5.
Following the first round of competition, the top 20 combinations were asked to jog for the judges before mounting again for the handy. The second round featured a wide open track that allowed riders to gallop and show off their ponies’ handiness with sweeping roll-backs that gave plenty of options for inside turns, as well as a trot fence. The course concluded with a two-stride line towards the ingate where riders walked directly out of the ring.
After her performance in the Classic Hunter phase, Antoniadis led the pack with an impressive score of 87.5 on Pokerface, an 11-year-old Dutch Riding Pony gelding owned by Winter Tietjen. Antoniadis started her second round with a big gallop to the first fence and opted to keep her turns tight, including one inside turn, which matched with Pokerface’s undeniable jumping style, was enough to keep them on top and clinch the title with a total of 175 points.
Pokerface is no stranger to the winner’s presentation. During the 2019 Winter Equestrian Festival [WEF], the flashy pony and rider Cecelia Perry took the top honors in the $5,000 USHJA Pony Derby. With Antoniadis in the irons, the pair have also earned top placings such as reserve championship in the Large Green Pony Hunters at the 2018 USEF Pony Finals and this year they racked up great scores in the Large Pony Hunter division at the HITS on the Hudson. The 17-year-old from New York is a working student with Andre Dignelli and Sunday’s national championship win is the highlight of her career so far aboard Pokerface. She’s been partnered with the gelding for a year and she is hoping to keep up the momentum heading into the USEF Pony Finals.
Earning the reserve championship cooler was Golden on Hidden Springs Waltz, a 12-year-old liver chestnut Welsh Pony Cross gelding owned by Renaud Farm LLC. She laid down two confident and smooth rounds for the judging panel, earning an 84.75 in the first course and an 84 in the second.
Rounding out the top three was Isabella David on Wellspring’s Roxstar, her 11-year-old bay Welsh Pony Cross gelding. She had received a score of 80.75 in the first round and moved up a few placings to finish the class in third after she laid down a solid performance of 84.37 in the handy. The duo earned a total of 165.87 from the judging panel.
Competition will return to the Kentucky Horse Park on Tuesday for the 2019 USEF Pony Finals, presented by Collecting Gaits Farm, and will run through Sunday. The following week will host the Bluegrass Festival Horse Show from August 13 through 18, where hunter competition will be highlighted with the USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championship and the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Kierstin Antoniadis – USHJA Pony Hunter Derby East Coast Champion
On winning the championship today:
“It feels pretty awesome. I’ve known this pony for over a year now and I feel like we’ve figured each other out between then. He’s a really special pony to me, so it was cool putting it all together and winning this today. This is, for sure, our biggest highlight so far. Last year was pretty big when he won the over fences at Pony Finals in the Large Green division, but this is a lot better!”
“I was riding him for Shannon [Cunneff] and Winter [Tietjen] and we started at HITS Saugerties and we took him to Pony Finals last year and that’s when it all started. We have a really good connection and we both have bonded with each other and ever since then, he’s been my favorite pony. He has a really strong presence when he goes in the ring. He’s unique looking, he jumps well, he really wants you to watch him. He is the sweetest show pony I have ever met. He licks all the time, he loves to snuggle, and he loves scratches. He’s a very easy pony to want to be around. We don’t work on much with him, he knows it all.”
On what’s next for Pokerface and Kiersten:
“Pony Finals is next! I hope we stay the exact same because he’s pretty perfect. I’ve done a National Derby and I definitely have my sights set on doing an International Hunter Derby, but that’s probably a long ways away from now, but it’s always cool to watch and want to do it.”
On her strategy going into the handy round:
“I definitely tried to shave off as much space as I could while still making it look smooth. I think what I’ve learned a lot from the equitation is when you come off a trot jump or a sharp turn and then you’re going to a long single, judges really want to see a change of pace and some type of ambition, so I think that really helped me with him today.”
On competing in the derbies:
“My favorite thing about competing in the derbies is that I like to be showy, especially in the handy rounds. I like looking at a course and thinking that if there’s something somebody else can’t do, I want to try to do it.”
On showing at the Kentucky Summer Classic:
“I think everything is so relaxing here at the Kentucky Horse Park. It’s really pretty everywhere, I have a lot of friends here. It’s a very laid back but competitive show!”
Shannon Cunneff – Pokerface’s trainer
On Kiersten and Pokerface:
“Kiersten is a really good rider. Everything comes very natural to her. She doesn’t train with me much, just at the horse shows when she rides Poker and she does a beautiful job on him. His owner, Winter Tietjen, was riding him for a while, but she grew about a foot and is taller than me now as a 12-year-old, so unfortunately we pulled her off of him. Fortunately, we found Kiersten and she was able to ride him at Pony Finals for us last year. I found this pony about three years ago and the first thing I said is ‘He’s going to win Pony Finals’ and he did and he continues to do so. He continues to win and excel and every judge seems to like him, there’s just something special about him.”
USHJA Pony Hunter Derby East Coast Championship
Horse / Rider / Owner / First Round Score / Second Round Score / Total
1. Pokerface / Kierstin Antoniadis / Winter Tietjen / 87.5 / 87.5 / 175
2. Hidden Springs Waltz / Vivian Golden / Renaud Farm LLC / 84.87 / 84 / 168.87
3. Wellspring’s Roxstar / Isabella David / Isabella David / 80.75 / 84.37 / 165.12
4. Half Moon Bay / Anna Marie Mayes / Heather Hornor / 83.250 / 80 / 163.25
5. Spot On / Sofia Moskowitz / Sofia Moskowitz / 80.75 / 81.75 / 162.50
6. Heavenly Patch of Blue / Shiloh Roseboom / Enchantment Farms LLC / 82.5 / 80 / 162.50
7. Bit of Laughter / Lauren Gee / Iwasaki & Reilly / 81.25 / 80 / 161.25
8. Misty / Carsyn Korotkin / Montoga Inc / 77.5 / 83 / 160.50
9. Tina Turner / Lauren Gee / Team Weston LLC / 80 / 79.50 / 159.50
10. Whatchusayin / Madison Moore / Madison Moore / 77.25 / 82.25 / 159.50
11. Al Schoponi / Grayson Hutchins / Grayson Hutchins / 77.25 / 79.75 / 157
12. Goldhills As You Like It / Vivian Golden / Vivian Golden / 83.75 / 72.50 / 156.25