USPC Championships and Festival

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By Meredith Tipton

Every three years the United States Pony Club hosts a National Championship and educational event known as Festival at the beautiful Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. This year Festival 2021 ran from July 19-26. The first half of the week saw National Championships in eight disciplines: Eventing, Dressage, Show Jumping, Mounted Games, Polocrosse, Quiz, Tetrathlon, and Western Dressage. Of the 650 members who competed in Championships, ten came from the Southern Run Pony Club, located in Hernando, MS. These girls spent the better part of the past year and a half getting qualified and preparing to travel to the park and compete for the Deep South Region.

The Jr. Modified Show Jumping Introduction team, comprised of Grace Brown, Henley McCutchen, Ann Parker Meyers, and Stable Manager Delanie Ward, finished the competition in 9th out of 13 teams in both the team and Horse Management competitions. Eleven-year-old Henley McCutchen beat out over 48 riders to win the equitation round aboard her pony, When in Roan.

Alli Gill, Skylar Thornton, and stable manager Myca Williams joined Pony Clubbers from New Jersey to make up a Jr. Beginner Novice eventing scramble team. They finished 8th in the team competition and 12th in Horse Management. Twelve-year-old Skylar Thornton and her flashy paint, Ace of Spades, finished the week on their dressage score of 31.5, which earned them 6th place in the Open Beginner Novice 2 division. Of the 67 junior beginner novice competitors, they finished 10th overall.

At the Novice level, Emma Claire Haley, Sarah Bomar, and stable manager Olivia McNatt were joined by a Pony Clubber from New Jersey to form a scramble team that finished 9th in the team competition and 5th in Horse Management. Seventeen-year-old Emma Claire Haley and her horse Topnotch Tux N Tails ended the week on their dressage score of a 35.2 to finish 3rd amongst all 43 Novice competitors.

Following the Championship competitions, there were three days of educational clinics. Riders could participate in mounted sessions in dressage, cross country, show jumping, mounted games, polocrosse, and distance riding. Clinicians ranged from Pony Club National Examiners and former Olympic rider Lendon Gray to current 5* event rider Colleen Rutledge. Over 400 members participated in this year’s Festival. After having to postpone last year’s event due to COVID, it was wonderful to see the nearly 3,000 members, family members, coaches, and Pony Club staff able to join together to celebrate the wonderful accomplishments of so many talented young riders. This year a team from Hawaii flew in and borrowed horses for the week. It was an inclusive National Championship that drew kids from all over our wonderful country.

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