By Jordan Cobb

The culmination of long hours at the barn, grueling horse shows, and emotions of every variety is the opportunity to travel to Lexington, Kentucky at the end of the summer. It is known as The United States Equestrian Federation Pony Finals. The week long event welcomes over 700 ponies annually to the Kentucky Horse Park to compete for a small set of ribbons and a large amount of glory. The week ends with around 200 riders heading down to the Alltech Arena to compete in the USEF Pony Medal Finals.

The Plaid Horse asked a variety of riders about their preparation and past experiences at USEF Pony Medal Finals revealing their state of mind at the time of competition.

 

What work have you been doing / did you do at home to prepare for Medal Finals?

Tate Allen, top 20 finisher in 2015:

Last year in order to get ready for the Medal Finals, I was lucky enough to have a clinic with Bill Schaub, where he helped me a lot by letting me do tight roll backs and very handy courses with my pony. I also had lots of lessons where we jumped spooky jumps and practiced hand galloping to jumps and halting afterwards. I think that prepared me a lot for last year and I knew what to expect.

Tessa Downey, top 5 leader in USEF Medal and Washington Pony Equitation:

My pony and I worked on rollback turns because sometimes the leads are an issue in those types of turns. We did a lot of trot jumps, and of course I worked on looking up. We did lots of flat work like leg yields, circles, and halting. I watched videos of medal courses from past years to prepare for the types of courses offered.

Bella Kay, first time competing in Pony Medal Finals:

At home, we have been working on position, transitions, and turns a lot on the flat. We then take those skills and apply and incorporate them into medal type courses.

Anna Robson, second for the year standings in Washington Pony Equitation:

At home, we’ve been working on quick turns and staying on one canter all the way around the course. We’ve been practicing the right corners and all the leads. We’ve also been working on halting in the lines, like the course has been the past couple years.

Hannah Hoch, multitude of top finals placings:

At home, Anisette and I always practice turns that are more difficult than they would be when we actually compete, so it’s much easier when we show.

 

Do you think continuing to compete in the USEF Medal after qualifying (has) helped you?

Tate Allen, top 20 finisher in 2015:

Yes, I definitely think continuing to show in the medal helps you because it keeps you practicing all the things you will be asked to do in the actual medal at Pony Finals. Last year doing the medal at the shows before Pony Finals was such great practice and experience and helped keep me thinking about all the things I needed to work on and improve before the medal in Kentucky.

Tessa Downey, top 5 leader in USEF Medal and Washington Pony Equitation:

Yes because the courses mimic the ones I will have to execute during the actual Medal Finals. It helped me practice the same type of challenge that will be presented to me. I also benefited from having rounds to work just on my equitation.

Bella Kay, first time competing in Pony Medal Finals:

I think that continuing to compete in the USEF Medal has helped me because it is more time in the show ring to practice the tougher courses similar to the one that will be presented at the actual medal finals.

Anna Robson, second for the year standings in Washington Pony Equitation:

I think that continually competing in the medals gave me lots of practice. It helped me stay a lot calmer and it helped me ride better overall. It will make doing the actual finals more normal.

Hannah Hoch, multitude of top finals placings:

When we are are showing we will usually not do the medal after qualifying. It will save her energy for the further classes, and we can practice medal-like courses at home.

 

What practice did you do once you get to KY leading up to Medal Finals?

Tate Allen, top 20 finisher in 2015:

Last year to continue prepping for the medal, all throughout  the week leading up to Sunday whenever we schooled, we would work on the things that we would have to do in the class, such as roll backs, bending lines, hand galloping, and trot jumps.I think all of those factors helped keep me focused the whole week and keep my pony thinking about those things too.  I also got to go in the Alltech Arena where the medal is held and practice in there and that was nice to be able to get in the ring.

Tessa Downey, top 5 leader in USEF Medal and Washington Pony Equitation:

I did the USEF Pony Medal and WIHS Medal to continue practicing in a show ring. We also practiced cantering straight from the gate a lot and maintaining the same canter.

Bella Kay, first time competing in Pony Medal Finals:

In Kentucky, I continued the same flat work that we did at home. l also showed in the USEF Pony Medal and WIHS Medal the two show weekends prior to Pony Finals to practice those courses in a show environment.

Anna Robson, second in 2016 standings in Washington Pony Equitation:

While in KY, we haven’t done a lot differently; I have just continually practiced staying the same and being smooth and accurate throughout every course that I walk into. Though, I definitely tried to put 110% into every medal course I go into because that’s what I will have to do at finals.

Hannah Hoch, multitude of top finals placings:

We will do the medal the week before the finals  and practice outside the show ring just for extra practice.

 

What is / was your mental preparation routine preparing for such a daunting final?

Tate Allen, top 20 finisher in 2015:

Although last year was not my first Pony Finals, it was my first year doing the medal there. I went 74th in the order, so I had some time to watch and think about my plan for the round. I was definitely a little nervous because it was my first time doing the class, but I trusted in my pony, who had won the final the previous year, and knew she wouldn’t do anything wrong. I watched a few rounds then left to get ready. When you are doing big classes like this one, you just have to breathe and tell yourself it’s just another class. That’s what I tried to make myself think as I was walking in the ring for the first round. It went very well, and I got called back for the second round and ended up in the top 20. It was an amazing experience and I hope to go back and do it again this year.   If this is your first year doing the medal, just remember to relax and breathe and know it will be ok. No matter how you do, just being there is great, and know that it is an amazing experience you will never forget.

Tessa Downey, top 5 leader in USEF Medal and Washington Pony Equitation:

I feel pretty prepared going in since my pony is very reliable, and we did lots of practice. I watched lots of courses online, so I don’t think the course will be too intimidating. I usually go over the course a lot when I’m really nervous. I recite Pi too.

Bella Kay, first time competing in Pony Medal Finals:

I think reminding myself that my medal mount has been there and done that before will help me, especially since I am used to riding my green. It has been very nice to focus on myself. To prepare myself mentally, I have to have a serious mindset, but must also remember that the real reason I am here is to have fun and do what I love: riding.

Anna Robson, second for the year standings in Washington Pony Equitation:

I really just try to remember all the practice I have done. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself because I know there are so many other amazing riders. All I can do is ride my best.

Hannah Hoch, multitude of top finals placings:

I will tell myself that there’s always going to be another chance, and to just try my hardest.

 

 

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