Pennsylvanians were among the top ponies and riders who gathered at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY August 9 – 14 for the 2011 United States Equestrian Federation Pony Finals National Championship. Competitors worked throughout the year to qualify for the prestigious event.
Nicole Kehrli, 17, of Glenmoore, PA, and her 10 year old pony jumper Northwind’s Opus won the first class of the USEF Pony Jumper Finals. She had the fastest clear round at 68.603 seconds in the Welcome class. Brooke Gunther of Chester Springs, PA, a member of the Region 2 team, earned the third-place ribbon aboard Fire Van Battenbroek with a fault free round, and a time of 70.756 seconds.
Pony Finals features both team and individual competition, and Kehrli was a member of the Pony Club team, guided by Coach Linda Allen and Chef de Equip Richard Lamb. The Pony Club team consisted of Kehrli (C-3), Lauren Attanasio (C-2), and Alyssa Kurtz (C-2), all from Pickering Hunt Pony Club in Chester County, PA, and Merrill Harvey (D-3) from Meadow Brook Hounds Pony Club in NY.
"I have had Northwind's Opus for almost seven years, and he is 10 years old. I wasn't actually riding for time today because it counts for the whole overall score, so I just wanted to be clear," noted Kehrli. "I took my turns carefully, and he was listening so well. He just loves to go fast and he loves his job, he is always excited to get in the ring. This is my third year at Pony Finals, and I always look forward to the team night because it is something different and gives you a chance to work together."
The pair had clear rounds and the best time in the first two phases, and led going into the final round of the Individual Competition. Mother Nature intervened to give Julia Curtis of Villa Rica, GA, the title with three clear rounds aboard The Waterboy.
Kehrli and Northwind’s Opus finished in sixth after severe thunderstorms raged during their round, sending high winds, horizontal rain and thunder claps through the Horse Park’s covered arena. As trees fell outside, Nicole had two rails down on course, which dropped her back to sixth place.
The USEF National Pony Jumper Team Championship was the final event on August 12. The team from Region 7 claimed the Gold Medal and the USEF National Pony Jumper Team Championship. The Silver Medal went to the team from Region 2, who also had a total of 12 faults, but a slower time. The Region 2 team consisted of Elizabeth Shaffer of Layton, NJ, aboard Styled With Perfection; Noah Buehler of Wall, NJ, with Porsche; Amanda Shaffer also from Layton, NJ, riding Little Miss Sunshine; and Brooke Gunther of Chester Springs, PA, aboard Fire Van Battenbroek.
Kehrli was one of three returning members on the four person Pony Club team who helped lead the team to a fifth place finish in the Team Competition.
The show started with a second place finish in Small Green Pony Model for Parker Wright and Shenandoah Sirocco, owned by Sarah Berkowitz of Nottingham, PA. In the Medium Green Ponies, second-place honors in the model class went to Lucy Nyland of New Hope, PA and The Batchelor. Second place in the Regular Medium Pony Hunter Model was awarded to Lucy Nyland of New Hope, PA, and Salvandi Coronet.
Sierra Lesny of New Cumberland, PA, and Gidget picked up the third-place honor in the over fences section of the Overall Medium Green Pony Hunter division with scores of 82, 83, and 84. Emma Ubriaco of Blue Ridge Summit, PA, and Picante accepted reserve champion honors in the Small Pony Hunter Model.