A New Crop of Champions Crowned at National Dressage Pony Cup in Kentucky

Competitors like Faith Green and her Quarter Horse Dusters Legacy were awash with ribbons at the 2016 National Dressage Pony Cup. Photo by John Borys.

Lexington, Ky. – July 10, 2016 – “I’m so happy we decided to make the trip, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with my pony. This has been so much fun!”

These words were heard from juniors to elder adults ranging in experience from dressage newcomers to hardworking amateurs and international High Performance professionals who gathered at the National Dressage Pony Cup, held this year  July 8-10 in Lexington, Kentucky. On Saturday evening in front of hundreds of dinner guests, the 2016 class of NDPC champions celebrated their success across 23 divisions from Intro to FEI and representing 16 different breeds and registries. Many more fans from as far away as Australia tuned in to watch the action live on the USEF Network with popular commentary by FEI 5* Judge Axel Steiner.

As shown in the FEI Test of Choice classes, riders like Debra Mgonigle of Woodstock, Illinois, never had any doubt that ponies like her Morgan stallion Forsite Renoir can compete at the highest levels of the sport just like the “big boys”. She bred, raised and trained her mount, and he rewarded her with the Open FEI Championship after solid performances in their Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire I tests.

“I’ve been doing this for 40 years, and he is the third generation of our breeding program,” said Mgonigle of her mount. “We breed sport pony Morgans for disposition and to be all-around willing partners. His grandsire was a gaited Park horse and everyone thought it was a mistake for me to buy because he was ‘ruined’, but I retrained him to compete in Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire I dressage, then rode his son and now his grandson. I feel very blessed.”

Another accomplished Morgan which has been the recipient of a multitude of Pony Cup championships over the years is Melissa Dowling’s charismatic gelding Avatar’s Jazzman, who returned to Lexington this year with Lauren Chumley of Pittstown, New Jersey, to ride Grand Prix and earn Reserve Championship honors in the FEI Open division.

Morgan stallion Forsite Renoir and owner/rider Debra Mgonigle won the FEI Open Championship. Photo by Jennifer M. Keeler.

Billy Jackson of Midland, Georgia, swept both Intemediaire I tests in the Adult Amateur division to claim the top prize with Janie Pride’s Ilja (62.237 percent), which also earned the gelding the Dutch breed award as well as the Musical Freestyle Adult Amateur Reserve Championship. Jamie Sawyer’s trip to the Pony Cup from Odessa, Florida, with her German Riding Pony Charly Brown was rewarded with two wins at the Intermediaire I level to claim the Junior/Young Rider FEI division title (62.632 percent) as well as the German Riding Pony breed award.

And in the FEI Pony Tests, Katelyn Mosle of Springboro, Ohio and the 6-year-old bay pinto Oldenburg Benno’s Watermark held onto their first-day lead to win the overall division, with Grace Sacoman of Rochester, Michigan, taking Reserve honors aboard her Welsh gelding Jordy.

At the national levels, Mackenzie Pearl will now return to Maine as the Junior/Young Rider Intro Champion as she swept both Intro Test B and C for a winning overall average of 69.5 percent with Gabrian McPhail’s Welsh Cob gelding Waterford Baccalaureate. Hometown favorite Skye Marvin of Paris, Kentucky, also put in a strong performance to hold onto Reserve and the AWS breed award with the American Warmblood gelding Liddle Lord Pippin (67.344 percent).

Placings also remained unchanged from the first day of competition in the Open Intro division, giving Danielle Hebler of Geneva, Ohio an impressive average of 71.25 percent and the victory with Jill McNicol’s 6-year-old Connemara gelding Cool Springs McArthur ahead of Ellen Murphy of Georgetown, Kentucky, with her pinto gelding Crunch N Munch.

For Adult Amateurs, Andrea Eppley (Westfield, Indiana) and her Fjord stallion CH Felles narrowly won the second round of competition, but their score wasn’t quite enough to overtake the first day’s leader in the championship standing, giving Nancy Wentz of Galena, Ohio, and her Morgan gelding Kells Xtra Kash the overall victory with an average of 67.188 percent.

“Last year I earned reserve, and I wanted to come back this year and win – and I did!” Wentz said. “Here at the Pony Cup they give the best ribbons ever – they’re huge! And everyone is so accommodating and wonderful – I just love it.”

Intro Adult Amateur Champions Nancy Wentz and Kells Xtra Kash. Photo by Jennifer M. Keeler.

Killians Red may have been the oldest pony at this year’s National Dressage Pony Cup at age 22, but the Welsh Cob gelding shows no signs of slowing down. With owner/rider Ginger Gilmore-Childress of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, he rebounded from a third place finish in the first round to win the second day’s Training Level Test 3 and claim the overall Adult Amateur Training Level Championship with 65.105 percent, just edging out Jody Morse of Stokesdale, North Carolina, with her Fjord mare NW Mai Regn (64.983 percent).

In the Junior/Young Rider division, Kalie Beckers of Independence, Louisiana, coasted to victory as well as the overall Welsh breed award and the JR/YR high point award with Gerlinde Beckers’ 8-year-old Welsh Cob mare Madoc Mari on the strength of an overall average of 73.645 percent, earned thanks to the highest individual test scores of any pony at this year’s show. The Reserve Championship went to Alayna Stephens of Madison, Ohio, with her gelding Gunsmoke (67.264 percent), who also earned the Gypsy Vanner breed award as well as JR/YR reserve high point honors.

Kathryn Barry and North American Sport Pony Magnum dominated the Training Level Open division. Photo by Jennifer M. Keeler.

All weekend, people stopped to stare every time Klaus Biesenthal’s stunning gray North American Sport Pony stallion Magnum entered the ring, and rider Kathryn Barry of Freeport, Illinois, couldn’t have been prouder as they easily claimed the Training Level Open Championship and the NASPR breed award with a dominating average score of 72.623 percent.

“This is my first Pony Cup and I can’t wait to come back, hopefully with more ponies!” Barry said. “With the date moving to July this year it actually worked out great for me, and it was a long way but I’m so happy we decided to make the trip. I couldn’t be more thrilled with Magnum – he’s my best friend, and we do everything together. He’s only been to small local shows, so this is the biggest environment he’s ever been in and he’s handled everything wonderfully – I’m just over the moon!”

Finishing with Reserve honors was Jessie Hayes of Pittstown, New Jersey, aboard Lauren Chumley’s five-year-old Fjord mare FMF Liesl (67.509 percent), which also earned them the Neil Sorum Memorial Award for the highest single score earned by a Fjord.

Anna Jaffe and Wynshire’s Aristocrat won multiple titles at this year’s Pony Cup. Photo by Julie Martin Maringer.

Barry and Magnum also did well in the First Level Open division but had to settle for second behind another young superstar in Melissa Dowling’s German Riding Pony gelding Nikolas, ridden by Pony Cup veteran Lauren Chumley of Pittstown, New Jersey. The elegant pair swept both First Level Tests 2 and 3 to win the championship with an overall average of 70.625 percent.

Caitlyn Massey of Arlington, Tennessee, and Zassafrass scored a come-from-behind victory in the hard-fought First Level Junior/Young Rider division over Kalie Beckers and Madoc Mari – a win which also earned Zassafrass the coveted Pugsley Award for highest-scoring grade pony (68.759 percent).

For Adult Amateurs, Anna Jaffe’s 17-hour drive home from Lincoln, Massachusetts, will seem more enjoyable with two championship titles in hand for First Level (69.991 percent) as well as Musical Freestyle, the Amateur Welsh breed award, and Amateur high point honors with Lauren Slater’s Welsh gelding Wynshire’s Aristocrat.

“I came to the Kentucky Horse Park last November for the US Dressage Finals with another horse and had such a wonderful time that I decided to come back to Lexington to try the Pony Cup too!” Jaffe laughed. “As for this pony, we’ve only been together a short time and I’m still getting to know him. He’s an unusual pony in that he’s very sensitive but also very calm and attentive to me, so that makes him very easy to train. It’s been amazing here, especially to see so many different breeds represented as well to have the chance to network with other enthusiasts and see some really spectacular ponies. Also, I have to say I wasn’t really expecting the judging to be of this caliber, and it was really terrific to ride in front of top judges like Lilo Fore.”

Reserve Champion for First Level Adult Amateurs and Fjord breed award recipient was Lori Lamattina of Dayton, Ohio, with her 9-year-old gelding WW Rudig (65.809 percent).

Lauren Chumley and Nikolas powered to victory in both the First and Second Level Open divisions. Photo by Jennifer M. Keeler.

On the heels of their First Level Open Championship, Lauren Chumley and Nikolas made it two-for-two as they also claimed the Second Level Open title with an average score of 67.456 percent, just barely ahead of Chumley’s second mount: Liam Rowe’s Welsh Cob mare Sham’s Chinaberry (67.444 percent), who also claimed the Open Welsh breed award.

“The jump up to Second is tough, and these were [Nikolas’] first tests at this level in a competition environment because we haven’t been showing him a lot in dressage – we actually took him to a horse trial last weekend, and he’s quite the jumper,” Chumley said. “So we entered Second Level here at the Pony Cup on a bit of a whim. But by nature he’s very balanced and this ended up being an easy move for him. He’s an incredibly gifted student and he just gets better and better.”

For Adult Amateurs, Mandy Robertson of Arlington, Virginia, rode Caroline Hardie’s Connemara mare Destiny’s Persuit to win their Adult Amateur Second Level division with a two-day average of 63.437 percent ahead of First Level champions Anna Jaffe and Wynshire’s Aristocrat (62.941 percent).

A strong second day’s performance in Second Level Test 3 pushed Beatrix Leffingwell of Lake Vila, Illinois, and her American Sport Pony mare Mariska to an overall winning average of 65.699 percent in the Junior/Young Rider division, overtaking Bryn Varvel of Bloomington, Ind. with her Morgan gelding V Back in Black (65.166 percent) who still went home with the Morgan breed award for highest score.

Oldenburg mare Hakuna Matata carried mother/daughter team of Karen and Alayna Borden to wins at Third Level. Photo by Jennifer M. Keeler.

Having a mother and daughter share the same horse at a prestigious competition could be a recipe for disaster, but for 17-year-old Alayna Borden of Lambertville, New Jersey, and her mother Karen, it was “no worries” when they paired up to ride Marsha Montgomery’s Hakuna Matata. First Alayna scored the Third Level Junior/Young Rider division title with a two-day average of 63.398 percent over Bryn Varvel with V Back in Black (61.026 percent).

Then the Oldenburg mare returned to the ring with Karen to hang on to the Third Level Adult Amateur division Championship with 64.872 percent, edging out Adult Amateur Second Level Champions Mandy Robertson and Destiny’s Persuit (64.616 percent). In the process, Hakuna Matata also claimed the Oldenburg breed award for the weekend.

“We love her name because we’re huge Disney gurus,” Alayna explained. “We came to the Pony Cup for the first time last year and returned because we just love it. We compete in other recognized shows in our area but have to compete against big horses all the time, and sometimes it’s really tough to do with a small pony. Here it feels like we’re on a more level playing field, plus the atmosphere is relaxed and fun, and it’s a refreshing change for us as competitors. We take turns riding her, and she does so well at Third Level because she’s excellent with her lateral work, and we call her the ‘flying change master’. We’re both working on Fourth Level movements with her now so we hope to be back again next year.”

In the Third Level Open division, Karyn Becerra of Zebulon, North Carolina, earned her first Pony Cup Championship title by winning both rounds of competition for an average score of 63.462 percent with her home-bred American Sport Pony Twinkletoes Tiara, holding off Lauren Chumley and Sham’s Chinaberry (61.924 percent).

At Fourth Level, Adult Amateur Bonnie Womack of Zephyrhills, Florida, earned her division title and the Arabian breed award with her 10-year-old mare Noblique +/ with an overall score of 61.333 percent, with Kelly Martinez of San Antonio, Texas, and her Welsh cross Fierro L’Oasis claiming Reserve honors. Several additional freestyle championships were also awarded, including for the Junior/Young Rider division to Morgan Walsh of Pataskala, Ohio, and the Arabian mare Serene’s Second Chance (63.833 percent) over Faith Green of Caryville, Tennessee, aboard Mary Sivley’s Quarter Horse gelding Duster’s Legacy (61.192 percent), who also claimed the Quarter Horse breed award. In the Open Musical Freestyle division, Becerra and Twinkletoes Tiara also earned their second Pony Cup Championship, this time for their Third Level Freestyle (69.667 percent) over Elaine Hayes of Mooresville, North Carolina, with Ruth Shaw’s Morgan gelding Quietude Seneca Rocks (67.167 percent).

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