Lexington, Ky.- August 12, 2018 -USHJA Zone 10 riders came to the 2018 USEF National Pony Jumper Championships hoping to return West with gold medal titles for the second year in a row, and after strong performances in both the team and individual competition, they got their wish.
New to the championships, Zacko Hardin, 12, of New Cuyama, California, rode Patty Arnett’s The Girl Next Door to a gold medal finish with no faults over the three days of competition. “Dinky” (A P Jet—–Brookserendade) as she’s known at the barn was born as a twin and is a 14.1-hand Thoroughbred registered with the Jockey Club.
“I’m so overwhelmed and excited. I honestly thought I was going to cry,” said Hardin after the win on Saturday evening. “All my friends came from Utah to support me… Everything just felt great. I didn’t have a doubt about a distance to any jump, anything at all. I felt like it was the best round I have ever had on her. This was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had.”
Zone 10 teammate Sydney Flashman, 16, of Pasadena, California, earned silver with just two time faults in the final round aboard Focalize Dew Drop, owned by Finley Hamilton.
“It feels amazing, unreal,” said Flashman of her silver medal finish. “I have come here to do the jumpers for two years. The first year I stopped out in two of the four rounds, and last year I came hoping to get over the triple. This year it is an amazing feeling to have a pony that is so wonderful. I am just so lucky and overwhelmed.”
In bronze, Taylor Brinsfield, 14, of White Hall, Maryland, rode Kathleen Anderson’s Sprite to a four-fault finish. Brinsfield began riding Sprite earlier this year, and competed at the 2018 USHJA Zones 3 and 4 Jumper Team Championships in Tryon in July. She was thrilled with her finish in the Pony Jumper Championships, noting that the prior year was not as successful with a fall and elimination.
“It was just a wild experience compared to last year’s,” said Brinsfield. “I’m super excited.”
She enjoyed the competition so much, she encouraged others to get involved with the sport. “If there are kids who are interested in riding, they should definitely come join,” she said.
Elizabeth Cram, 13, of Aiken, South Carolina, was just out of the medals with six faults, earning fourth place and was recognized with the Style Award riding Venice, Wendy Arndt’s Welsh cross mare. Wishlea Star Dasher (Glencoe Nimbus—–Acknowledge Me), owned and ridden by Alice Nolen-Walston, 14, of Landenberg, Pennsylvania, earned the High-Score Welsh Award.
The team Championships on Friday night brought great team camaraderie and competition. With two returning team gold medalists and two new recruits, the USHJA Zone 10 team of Hannah Attar, Zacko Hardin, Sydney Flashman and Tabitha Okitsu, led by Chef d’Equipe Caroline Sterckx, overcame the tension and excitement of the USEF National Pony Jumper Championships to defend their title and earn the team gold for the second year in a row.
Tabitha Okitsu and Sydney Flashman participated on the gold medal team in 2017, and Okitsu went on to earn the gold individual as well. Okitsu recently participated in a Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund/USHJA Emerging Athletes Program Regional Training Session at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center with lead clinician Kip Rosenthal, which she felt helped prepare her for the Championships. Flashman noted that the Zone 10 team had chemistry right from the beginning.
“We all became friends really quickly. We all met at a show previously about a month ago, and we got along really well there,” said Flashman. “We all met again at the rider’s meeting, and we just really get along well together. We were all wishing each other good luck and congratulating each other. There’s definitely a really big bond between us and so that made winning really cool.”
Both Hannah Attar and Zacko Hardin were new to the Championships but really enjoyed the experience.
“It feels great. It was really fun!” said Attar. “I’m really happy for the experience.”
The USHJA Zone 4 team of Trinity Beitler, Elizabeth Cram, Madison Kondracki and Hallie Rush were led by Chef d’Equipe Katie Brown-Maxwell to a silver medal finish. The combined USHJA Zones 1 and 9 Team earned bronze and included Kiley Ahn, Katharine Dade, Lydia Philbrick, Gigi Olsen, led by Chef d’Equipe Gretchen Anderson.
The Championships courses were designed by Jasen Shelley. USEF Youth Chef d’Equipe and USHJA Show Jumping Technical Adviser DiAnn Langer presented awards throughout the championships and provided guidance to the riders on the new Show Jumping Athlete Pathway, a joint USHJA-US Equestrian effort that identifies and nurtures Jumping athletes as they advance through the sport to enhance future success for Olympic and international teams representing the United States. USHJA extends special thanks to the chefs d’equipe for all the teams.
For more information about the USEF National Pony Jumper Championships, click here.