Participating in one’s dream never really seems real until you stop and realize that what you have been working towards has come to fruition. A lifetime of training, years of dreaming, months of competing and qualifying, weeks of preparing, days of traveling, hours of grooming and cleaning, and minutes of warm up all came together for a few seconds of riding 5 Show Jumping courses for two local Pony Clubbers.
Taylor Greene and Chloe Mercardante both of Mesa Meadows Pony Club in Nipomo, CA together with their horses, joined 1,100 Pony Clubbers from all over the US to compete at the US Pony Club National Championships, held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky July 14-18, 2014. The SLO County horses, the riders and their families traveled 2,300 miles to compete in the Show Jumping event. Other events being held at the same time were: Dressage, Eventing, Tetrathlon, Mounted Games, Polocrosse, and Quiz.
Holding a first place ribbon for both the Overall Team score and the Best Stable Management score and a sixth place ribbon in Equitation over fences is the crowning glory of much hard work and determination for Taylor and her horse “Kadenza”. Chloe riding her horse, “Lady Godiva”, who also worked very hard for her dream, brought home a blue ribbon for being one of only 7 riders to have 5 clean rounds in her division plus a 6th place team finish in Stable Management. Whoo Hoo!
Yes! Congratulations are in order for both girls as each one represented Camino Real Region (Southern California) quite well. Taylor was placed as a “scratch” rider on a team with 3 other riders and a Stable Manager from Maryland in the H-1 Division which had 7 total teams. Chloe was placed with another Camino Real rider and one other rider and a Stable Manager from Virginia forming a “scramble team” in the Developing Horse and Rider Division which had 10 total teams. A full team usually has 4 riders plus a Stable Manager so Chloe’s team, Camino Real/Old Dominion had what is considered a “ghost rider” which means no score is dropped when scoring. With 4 riders the lowest score is dropped then the three remaining scores are averaged for scoring each event.
All Pony Club Rallies have Formal Inspection to start with. Here each rider brings his or her tacked up horse to be inspected. The judge first evaluates the fit of tack and makes sure all is in top repair and safe to use. Cleanliness of horse, tack and rider are also judged. Taylor had a perfect Formal Inspection score which contributes to the overall Stable Management score for the team.
The Show Jumping Competitive Discipline of the Pony Club National Championships consisted of 5 different Show Jumping events that take place over 3 days. Most events are timed and the fastest time with no faults (overtime, run-outs, poles down or refusals) is the goal. Equitation has an optimum time and then the rider’s position over the fences and effectiveness of riding are judged. The five events were: Pick-Your-Own-Line, 2 timed courses, Equitation and then a Jump off Challenge is the final event.
In reference to their riding Taylor said, “Kadenza and I worked well together. We had a few mistakes, but improved as we went along.” Chloe said, “Godiva was amazing. I really learned to just trust her and go for it.”
Competing as a Team
“I was the outsider on my team,” expressed Taylor, “Even though the other girls were very welcoming, I had to prove that I knew what I was doing and that I came to win.” Taylor met her team the day she arrived at the show. The team had matching shirts, a banner and stable management charts all ready to go. That’s one of the best aspects of the competition, working as a team.
“We really worked well as a team,” explained Chloe. “We had one rider go off course so she was eliminated. This was hard because we already had a ‘ghost’ rider with no score. No one got upset. We were all supportive of each other through the last ride. I learned to not blame others. Overall it was a great experience to go and ride at such a famous place.”
On to the Festival
In addition to the competition US Pony Club holds a festival at the Kentucky Horse Park which has educational events for all Pony Club members, usually drawing in 4,000 participants and spectators. The Festival takes place after the competition. Taylor and Chloe took advantage of several workshops to try out new things. Taylor and her horse Kadenza enjoyed a “Spook Clinic” that focus on desensitizing the horse to various spooky things. Each rider rode his or her horse over mattresses, stepped up on a teeter-totter among other things. Chloe and her horse Godiva tried out Polocrosse (Polo that is played with LaCrosse sticks) and Mounted Games which were new and different for them. “My horse did really well with the Polocrosse!” exclaimed Chloe.
Big Thank Yous!
None of this could be accomplished without the help and support of family. Taylor’s whole family experienced Kentucky with her and Chloe’s Dad was able to come out and cheer on his daughter as Mom had to stay behind and take care of the animals at home.
So as the Pony Club National Competition and Festival 2014 dream fades to a memory each Pony Club member who worked so hard to qualify and then had the privilege to go to Kentucky to compete will treasure the memory forever. Each rider and participant will realize they are a better person from the experience. Keep dreaming girls!
Photo Credits: Marcus Green Outdoor Photography