The Team Championship of the USEF Pony Jumper National Championships took place Friday evening in the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park as teams competed in the two-round Nations Cup format. Following the first round, the top teams came back to jump the same Jasen Shelley-designed course in round two, with a total of 23 combinations jumping for individual classification. For the 2017 USEF Pony Finals presented by Collecting Gaits Farm, the Zone 10 team stood atop the podium. The team—comprised of Sydney Flashman and Karamel, Avery Kim and Joel, Tabitha Okitsu and Spoot de la Jourlais, and Caroline Mawhinney and Silver Dream—finished with 17 faults to claim the team gold medal.
The first round for the Zone 10 team began with Okitsu (South Pasadena, Calif.) and her own 2006 Connemara/Arabian mare going clear. Flashman (Pasadena, Calif.) and her own 2006 Belgian Sport Pony mare had an unfortunate elimination, but Mawhinney (Woodside, Calif.) and Stal Minion’s 1994 Irish Sport Horse mare had a clear round to put the team back on track. Kim (South Pasadena, Calif.) and her own 2006 German Riding Pony scored another clear round, allowing the team to drop Flashman’s score to lead after the first round on zero faults.
The team delivered solid performances again in the second round. Okitsu and Spoot de la Jourlais had their second clear round of the night to go double-clear. Flashman and Karamel showed improvement but were unable to complete the course. Mawhinney and Silver Dream had a rocky start to their round but determinedly finished on 17 faults. Kim and Joel remained calm under pressure as the last combination to go in the order, jumping clear to finish double-clear and clinch the team gold medal.
The Zone 10 team were happy with their accomplishment and enjoyed the atmosphere of the event. “Thank you for having us and thank you to all the other teams for being so nice and welcoming,” Kim said. “Everyone was cheering each other on and saying, ‘Good luck’ and ‘Good job’, and it felt super-welcoming.”
“And I feel what else is the most important is we wouldn’t be here without the support that we got from home, from our families and our parents and trainers,” Okitsu added. “It’s very important and it’s good to remember that as riders, it’s what brings us far in this sport.”
The team silver medal went to the Zones 1 & 3 team with a score of 24 faults. Isabella Cheers (Shallotte, N.C.) and her own Park Avenue, a 2003 Welsh Pony-cross mare, led the team with a clear and a four-fault round, followed by Kiley Ahn (Johnston, R.I.) and Rootbeer Float, her own 2000 Thoroughbred/Welsh gelding, with two four-fault rounds. Katharine Dade (Gilmanton Iron Works, N.H.) and National Treasure, her own 2011 Welsh Pony Cross mare, started off with an eight-fault round but improved to only have one rail down in the second round for four faults. Lydia Philbrick (Henniker, N. H.) and Raisin a Ruckus, her own 2005 Selle Français/Welsh gelding, had two eight-fault rounds.
Okitsu and Spoot de la Jourlais (Zone 10) lead the field heading into Saturday’s Individual Championship. Four combinations are tied for second place on four faults: Cheers and Park Avenue; Isabella Durnell (Suwanee, Ga.) and her own Carlton Diva, a 2004 Connemara mare; Kim and Joel; and Madison Kondracki (New Smyrna, Fla.) and her own Magic Beans, a 2010 Cross gelding.