Action in the Walnut Ring concluded Saturday at the 2019 USEF Pony Finals, presented by Collecting Gaits Farm, with Maddie Tosh and Dr. Betsee Parker’s Bit of Love adding to their trophy collection as they were honored as the Grand Regular Pony Hunter champions, the most coveted title of the weekly hunter competition. The award marks the second grand championship of the week for both Tosh and Dr. Parker following Friday’s Grand Green Pony Hunter title with Baroness of Locheil. With only one class left to conclude the Medium Regular Pony Hunters, the Kentucky Horse Park welcomed 154 entries for the final and largest division of the week. Maintaining their day one lead, Alexa Lignelli and EMC Entourage continued to rally over fences to clinch the division championship ahead of the massive field.
Demonstrating the highest level of skill and perfection across the three size-based Regular Pony Hunter divisions, 13-year-old Tosh and Bit of Love continued to accumulate special distinctions Sunday following the conclusion of the last Regular division. Boasting an impressive 1,063 points earned as the back-to-back champions of the Small Regular Pony Hunters earlier in the week, Tosh and Bit of Love accrued the most points of any of the three Regular divisions to be crowned the grand victors. Hailed as one of the winningest American ponies at 13 years old, Bit of Love capped his last USEF Pony Finals on a high note, as the flashy pony will soon enjoy his hard-earned retirement. Runner-up overall, Kat Fuqua and Prestige earned the Grand Reserve Green Pony Hunter recognition with 1,051.42 points.
In addition to Tosh’s division and grand victories with “Chester”, even more impressive is the fact that the young rider entered the horse park with the ride on two of Dr. Parker’s ponies – Bit of Love and Baroness of Locheil – and will be leaving with both grand championships tacked onto her name. With a composite score of 1,073.50, Tosh and “Baroness” topped the scorecard in the Medium Green Pony Hunters and earned the Grand Green Pony Hunter title on Friday.
With more than 150 pony-and-rider pairs tackling the track around the Walnut Ring, the Medium Regular Pony Hunters were in the limelight for the large part of the day, but ultimately it all came down to the final entry of the day, Lignelli and the Lignelli family’s EMC Entourage. As the final duo to take to the ring, Lignelli and the 10-year-old gelding needed to surpass the earlier efforts of Parker Peacock and her own C.E. Remarkable, who successfully jumped up from fourth place to the top spot thanks to a stellar over fences round that earned them a total score of 1,030.01. Not content to settle for anything less than victory, Lignelli piloted EMC Entourage to a standout performance over the course that garnered scores of 85.25, 86.25 and 86.78, propelling them to a composite score of 1,048.80 and the tricolor ribbon in the Medium Regular Pony Hunters, the first victory for Lignelli after a series of top finishes just shy of the prestigious title.
Peacock and C.E. Remarkable nabbed the reserve honors, followed by JJ Torano and Fuqua’s Finesse RF in third place with 1,020.30 points. Winning the over fences class, Shiloh Roseboom and Enchantment Farms LLC’s Beach Boy moved up from 24th position after Friday’s first two phases to secure fourth place with 1,019.90 points, and Logan Butzer rounded out the top five aboard Woodland’s Tallulah, owned by Ponies & Palms Show Stables LLC, with a total tally of 1,009.28.
The 2019 USEF Pony Finals, presented by Collecting Gaits Farm, will continue for one final day. With hunter and jumper action concluded, the spotlight event will become the Pony Medal Finals, beginning Sunday morning in the Alltech Arena.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Dr. Betsee Parker – Owner of grand champion ponies, Bit of Love and Baroness of Locheil
On owning both grand champion ponies:
“I believe this is a first. I don’t think any of the young riders that I have sponsored have ever simultaneously won grand championships. It’s always a thrill. It’s always a brand new set of circumstances and a new round. It’s just as thrilling as the first time. To do both is actually a humbling experience. I would rather people interpret it than I say very much about it because I think the rides spoke for themselves. I love to see the children go in, I really do. It means a lot to me to see the little ones coming along and doing it and getting excited. It’s fulfilling and gratifying to see others doing it. Hunt [Tosh] has done so much for me, and [Mandy Tosh] is the amazing glue that holds everything together as the mom. ”
On Tosh’s rides with the ponies:
“Maddie’s soft, loving, tender, gentle ride is everything, especially to high-spirited ponies like Chester. The Baroness of Locheil, she is a very different ride. She is so green that she has never seen flags before. This is really quite wonderful that she was able to manage this.”
On her preparation for Pony Finals each year:
“I don’t think we really set for any goals. We attempt to every time focus back as best we can, and we try to treat it like an intellectual subject, which it really is. It’s more about thinking it than it is about anything physical. It’s sort of an organic way of going forward. The rewards will happen if the ride and the animal go together and become one. If not, we have given it our best try. That’s all we ever do. I never have any idea how my ponies are going to do. We just prepare the best we can.”
On Bit of Love’s future:
“He is retiring at the end of this year so this was his last Pony Finals. He is the winningest small pony in American history. He doesn’t have anything more to prove. He is only 13 years old, so we are going to retire him while he is still nice and strong.”
Alexa Lignelli – Medium Regular Pony Hunter champion
On her reaction to winning:
“I’ve never really won and it’s so amazing to have the feeling of winning. It’s been my goal for a good amount of time because I have always been reserve, so two times. It was really nice to do it with EMC Entourage because he is a great pony. ‘Louie’ is so special to my heart. Even with Rollingwoods Knee Deep, he was really special but it was my first Pony Finals so we just wanted to have fun, and this one I really was trying to win here. I think in a way it was meant to be. It was kind of like we had a partnership and we connected. He knew I wanted to win and he wanted to win himself, and it just worked out really well.”
On EMC Entourage:
“We have had him for about a year and a half or two years. He was started as a breeding stallion, and then we got him, gelded him and I started riding him. It was developing a developing career, but he definitely turned out to be amazing. Allyson Coluccio was taking care of him, and he was her son pretty much because he was so close to her. He just goes in the fields with alpacas, sheep and baby cows because he is so friendly and used to having fun and enjoying himself. It’s so fun to develop a pony. That’s one of the most fun things I think of my career is to see a pony from the start and then finish it and make it so amazing. It’s just been so much fun.”
On jumping last:
“I try not to get nervous, and I usually don’t at all, but I think this time I’ve never gone in first before so I was like, ‘OK, how do I handle this?’ I was a little bit excitedly nervous in a way, and then when I went in [I knew] I can’t be nervous anymore.”
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / Score
Medium Regular Pony Hunters Overall
1. EMC Entourage / Alexa Lignelli / The Lignelli Family / 1048.89
2. C.E. Remarkable / Parker Peacock / Parker Peacock / 1030.01
3. Finesse RF / JJ Torano / Kat Fuqua / 1020.30
4. Beach Boy / Shiloh Roseboom / Enchantment Farms LLC / 1019.90
5. Woodland’s Tallulah / Logan Butzer / Ponies & Palms Show Stables LLC / 1009.28
6. Sugarbrook Adorabelle / Caroline Olsen / Jennifer Olsen / 1008.44
7. Blue Chip / Emilia Richard / Heritage Farm, Inc. / 1000.26
8. Tuxedo Park / Mckayla Brombach / Marci Mosconi / 985.62
9. Bada Bing Bada Blue / Ava Berman / Ava Picard / 981.51
10. Hopscotch / Riley Mckesson / Riley Mckesson / 980.68
Medium Regular Pony Hunters Over Fences
1. Beach Boy / Shiloh Roseboom / Enchantment Farms LLC / 260.41
2. Finesse RF / JJ Torano / Kat Fuqua / 260.03
3. EMC Entourage / Alexa Lignelli / The Lignelli Family / 258.28
4. C.E. Remarkable / Parker Peacock / Parker Peacock / 256.18
5. Jack In The Box / Kali Wright Ryan / Kali Wright Ryan / 253.57
6. Simply Untouchable / Cate Meyer / Jessie Spade / 252.67
7. Blue Chip / Emilia Richard / Heritage Farm, Inc. / 252.27
8. Woodland’s Tallulah / Logan Butzer / Ponies & Palms Show Stables LLC / 251.92
9. Sugarbrook Adorabelle / Caroline Olsen / Jennifer Olsen / 249.21
10. On Your Mark / Olivia Sweetnam / Sweet Oak Farm / 248.82