As Blueberry Hill tucked his knees over the final oxer in the Kentucky Horse Park’s Walnut Ring, it was immediately clear it was a game Jayne and Blueberry Hill were very much prepared to win. The duo’s over fences scores would hold up to be the highest of the day, taking home the blue ribbon and clinching the title of 2014 Small Pony Hunter champions.
Winning the division championship in just her second year competing at the USEF Pony Finals was an honor that had not totally sunk in and was hard to put into words for the talented 10-year-old Jayne immediately following her victory. Instead, she hopped off her pony and quickly turned her attention to the next matter at hand: preparing to school Scott Stewart’s medium pony, Show Me Love (and chatting with her close friends and fellow young pony riders).
“It really hasn’t sunk in for her yet,” said Natalie’s mother and lifelong trainer, Lynn Jayne. “I can’t even put it into words; it’s so exciting. I’m very proud of her. I think she rode great and handled it great.”
Lynn continued, “I was kind of surprised that she could hold her nerves. I think coming back in 15th was a good place to be; I don’t think she felt the pressure as much. She doesn’t really know the format of Pony Finals that well, so she didn’t really realize that if she had a great round she could still win the whole thing. It wasn’t like being on top where you’re feeling a lot of pressure.”
Perhaps helping to alleviate pressure too is the fact that riding is already old hat for young Natalie, who started riding as early as 1-year-old. While the Jayne family and their Our Day Farm is one well-known in the horse show world, riding has never been something that was pushed upon Natalie. Instead, she has enjoyed it on her own since day one.
“She’s always liked riding,” Lynn said. “I had a couple of awesome horses, and she would actually stand on the pommel in front of me and canter around with a little hard hat on.”
Lynn has been a constant trainer to Natalie, but she is also quick to credit others along the way.
“Mindy Darst, who is very special in our hearts, started her and did an awesome job with that,” Lynn said. “She used to help Natalie at [the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival] when she was quite young.”
Now, in addition to riding with her mom, Natalie trains at shows with Patricia Griffith of Heritage Farm, and it is Griffith that helped the Jayne’s acquire Blueberry Hill, a 13-year-old Welsh Pony Cross mare of unrecorded breeding.
“We’ve been really fortunate to have this pony. Patricia last year really helped us to get her,” Lynn said. “I was glad that Patricia was training [Natalie] today because normally that’s my job. Here I was nervous for her and really wanting it for her.”
While this year is Natalie’s first year competing Blueberry Hill in the Small Pony Hunters at USEF Pony Finals, this is the mare’s second year; she finished fifth in the division last year with Hannah Bernstein in the irons.
Finishing in reserve in the Small Pony Hunter division were Madeline Schaefer and her own Armani.
Prior to the conclusion of the Small Pony Hunters and the awarding of the division championships, the Medium Green Pony and Large Green Pony Hunter divisions kicked off with their model and under saddle classes.
Presently leading the way going into Friday’s over fences round in the Large Green Pony Hunters are Taylor St Jacques and Empire’s Victory, owned by Kelly Tellier, and topping the division after day one in the Medium Green Pony Hunters are Daisy Farish and River Run Farm LLC and Phoebe Weseley’s Brighton Heartbreaker.
The Large Green Pony and Medium Green Pony Hunters conclude Friday with both divisions going over fences in the Walnut Ring in the afternoon. Morning competition kicks off with the Medium Pony Model going in the ring at 7 a.m.
Jayne owns and manages Our Day Farm on Nestler Road in Elgin, IL and gives back to the industry by supporting and serving on some of the organizing boards. She is President of the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) Foundation, which provides aid for equestrians in need, and is also a founding member of Chicago Equestrians for a Cause.
In addition, Jayne also serves on the Board of Directors of the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) and is a part of the National Hunter Committee.
Article and photos by Emily Riden/Phelps Media. Photos may only be used in relation to this release.