LEXINGTON, KY — Riders from New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania ventured to Kentucky for the 2018 USEF Pony Finals presented by Collecting Gaits Farm, a.k.a. "Pony Finals."

Samantha Takacs, 13, of Oldwick, N.J. and Galianna, Kim Wolf’s nine-year-old German Riding Pony mare earned the title of Overall Grand Green Hunter Champions for their performance throughout the week at the 2018 Pony Finals. Earlier in the event they were crowned national champions in the Medium Green Hunter Pony Championship presented by Sallee Horse Vans.

“I’m really excited,” exclaimed Takacs. “This is my first time winning here [at Pony Finals]!”

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With a third in the Model phase and a win in the Under Saddle phase under their belt, Takacs and Galianna entered the Over Fences phase with a composite score of 528.02. With a combination of a brave pony and smart decisions made by Takacs, the duo won the Over Fences phase with a score of 256.00, bringing their new total score to 1040.02 and crowning them national champions after just a little over a week of riding together.

“She’s just such a good girl,” continued Takacs. “She’ll do whatever you ask her to do, and she’s just really fun to ride. [On course] she did everything I told her to do and was so willing. I went in trying my best and wanted to have fun. I’ve been riding her since last week. I just want to thank [the owners] for letting me ride her.”

Galianna, affectionately known as “Adele” or “Deli Sandwich,” was supposed to show with another rider. When California-based Gabrielle Sokolow was not able to attend the 2018 USEF Pony Finals with trainer Corinne Bevins, Takacs stepped in to take over the ride. Though their time together was scant, the combined talent of the rider and pony proved to be the perfect match, earning top marks in all three phases.

This is Tackas’s fourth year at Pony Finals “[Galianna] was really good,” said Takacs. “She hasn’t done many Models but she was really good. [In the Under Saddle phase,] she just went right in there and was perfect. She is really forward and comfortable at the canter.”

“I train the pony. She lives with us in California and Gabrielle [Sokolow] has been riding her and, unfortunately, she wasn’t able to come — she had some other horse shows, so Samantha’s mom and I got connected through a mutual friend. We were talking about ponies and we needed a jockey and she had one. Clearly it was a good choice!,” said Bevins. “I’m not going to lie, I got a little bit emotional. It was pretty exciting to watch her go out there, especially because she doesn’t know the pony that well. I knew the pony was very brave and she would do whatever you asked her to do, but not having a long history with the pony, you don’t always know what’s best. Samantha made really, really smart decisions. She did such a good job and I couldn’t have asked for her to do anything any different.”

Takacs added another top placing to her repertoire with fifth position aboard Rendezvous Farm’s Small Romance in the large green hunter ponies.

The Marshall & Sterling/USEF Pony Medal Final closed out a week of competition on Aug. 12.

Held in the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park, the Marshall & Sterling/USEF Pony Medal Final consisted of two rounds with 184 riders vying for top honors in front of judges Jeffrey Ayers and William Ellis.

In round one, the riders were tested over Jasen Shelley’s technical, yet inviting course. For round two, 20 riders were called back to put their ponies over a more difficult track to further test their equitation skills. The course was the same for all ponies, however, the height and distance to the fences changed in relation to pony size. Eleven riders from the Medium Pony section, five from the Large Pony section, and four from the Small Pony section were selected to compete in round two.

When the dust settled, the bronze medal went to 10-year-old Alexa Lignelli of New York, N.Y. and Fox Creek’s Curious George, the Lignelli family’s 12-year-old half-Welsh gelding. Jessica Guginsky of Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y. was sixth.

In the 2018 USEF National Pony Jumper Championships Wishlea Star Dasher (Glencoe Nimbus-Acknowledge Me), owned and ridden by Alice Nolen-Walston, 14, of Landenberg, Pa., earned the High-Score Welsh Award.

In the Medium Regular Hunter Pony Championship presented by Sallee Horse Vans, Ava Berman, of New Freedom, Pa. and Toblerone, Sofia Baiker’s 15-year-old Sport Horse mare held the lead after the first two phases.  

After the Model and Under Saddle phases, the combination received an overall score of 519.55, placing second in the Model phase with a 259.12 and ninth in the Under Saddle phase with a 260.43.

This is 10-year-old Berman’s third year attending Pony Finals. “She is a very good pony to model because she puts her ears forward,” said Berman. “She is a very slow pony, but I love her canter and how it feels when she moves. After the over fences class the pair finished 21st overall.

Clara Propp, New York, N.Y. and Aquitaine Equine’s 9-year-old Welsh Pony mare, With Love took the early  lead in the Small Green Hunter Pony division. They finished fifth overall. “This is my first time [at Pony Finals] with ‘Fifi,’” said Propp. “She was really good in Model [phase], but our hack wasn’t the best. I love riding her; she is just so sweet. When you’re trotting her she just goes, she doesn’t hesitate or anything.”

Propp and With Love claimed the top position in the Model phase with a score of 265.98 and were third in the Under Saddle phase with a score of 254.50. They finished 12th in the over fences class.

For more information on the Pony Finals see www.usef.org/compete/disciplines/hunter/usef-pony-finals

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