Addison Slye and Our Song: How This Small Pony Has ‘Given Her Wings’

BY PIPER KLEMM

Originally published in the August, 2020 print issue.

The best part about Addison Slye is her mindset in regards to her ponies—she is a prime example of how well that mindset will carry you forward in the sport,” says Caitlin Venezia of Holly Hill Farm. (Did we ever think our sport would evolve enough that we would be talking about the mindset of a 9-year-old? Honestly, no. But we’re impressed.)

Slye is a standout student and does not miss any of her brick and mortar school in Andover, Massachusetts, for riding. At the barn, she continues her equestrian education, reading everything she can about the sport and focusing intensely in lessons. Always active, she is an exceptionally strong 9-year-old from riding so many ponies and from her favorite class at school—physical education. She spent her quarantine at her grandparents’ house in Fort Lauderdale where she could be driven up to Wellington every day to ride. “Because school was canceled and went online, I was able to stay. I had to get up and get all my work done before I was able to go to the barn. Some days if I needed help with Spanish or something, the older girls would help me. I am very lucky to have such a great barn! I just finished 3rd grade and will be going into 4th grade in September,” said Slye. “When we are home, I usually ride four days a week around keeping up at school—Wednesday and Friday after school and then the weekend.”

Slye also loves studying top riders and said of Venezia, “She is such an amazing rider and can get on any horse and clicks with them right away.”

The Perfect Match

Slye was successfully showing in the Short Stirrup Hunter and Equitation divisions when it was time to find a partner to move up. Enter Our Song, or “Snowy” to his friends, who is known for choosing his riders. Snowy clicked instantly with Slye… in the saddle, at least. (He can be a grumpy old man on the ground.) Snowy’s 18-year veteran status paired perfectly with Slye stepping into the Small Pony Hunters for the first time, and he has even warmed up to her in the barn as well.

“Snowy can still be grumpy at times, but when he hears me come into the barn he starts nickering at me and buries his head in my arms for his scratches and kisses. He makes me smile every day,” Slye said.

“When Addison started with Snowy, she was fresh out of Short Stirrup. He adores her and gives her such confidence,” said Venezia. “He gave her wings.”

Snowy was finishing up with his owners, the Bozzuto family, when they met, as Annabella Bozzuto had outgrown him and was moving on to larger ponies and horses. “Snowy is truly a once in a lifetime pony. He taught Annabella how to ride and always, no matter what, took care of her. We couldn’t be happier that he found such an amazing new partner in sweet Addison. I’m fairly sure he’s never going to want to come home,” said Robin Bozzuto, Annabella’s mother. 

Annabella agrees about the pony who also brought her to her first indoors and many memorable wins, including the Pony Classic at the Central Park Horse Show in Manhattan. “Snowy has heart. He was always willing to give it his all for me no matter the circumstances. Snowy taught me to keep trying even when it’s tough and to never ever give up.”

Bozzuto’s last show with Snowy was Devon 2019 and then in short order, Snowy and Slye took on some of the nation’s largest shows, including Pony Finals and then Indoors 2019.

“Showing at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show for the first time is one of my favorite show memories. Snowy was 5th over fences and 6th on the flat. It was so fun showing in the indoor for the first time! Liz from SunnyBows (the show bow company I represent) made Irish pins for me to give to all the pony kids to wear in support of Kevin Babington. It was such a good feeling to be able to do something special and to be able to send a donation to the GoFundMe set up for Kevin and his family. It shows that the equestrian world is always supporting each other. It was even more special when Ellie Ferrigno asked for one to give to Kevin’s daughter Gwyneth!” Slye explains.

Photos: Shawn McMillen Photography, Anne Gittens Photography,  Gianna Terranova Photography, SEL Photography.

The Challenge  of Pony Finals

Snowy has also taught Slye that even the best ponies have plenty of personality and feelings. The then-17-year-old and decade-long Pony Finals veteran decided that he wasn’t feeling the Model last year. “It was actually my first ever model and Snowy does not like people messing with him and staring at him. He started getting antsy and I dropped him and we were excused from the ring,” Slye remembers. “Then my head was in a fog in the under saddle and I didn’t show him off as well as I could have. I was so embarrassed after the model and after I wiped my tears and got through the under saddle, we went for a hand graze. I told him he was perfect and how much I love him.”

Venezia highlighted how much Slye’s mindset comes into play in situations like this. “She had a bad day, she took her pony out for grass, loved on him (which isn’t easy because he’s a complete curmudgeon) and moved on. We made a plan during the course walk and being the terrific student she is she followed it to T.”

Slye came back the next morning first in the ring and laid down a beautiful trip to score a remarkable 21st place out of 130 in the over fences. “He came back the next day and couldn’t have been more perfect! I knew going over my last jump that I was going to get the ‘woop’ from my Holly Hill trainers that we all love to hear after a trip well-ridden.”

Glad for her experience last year, Slye said, “Going into this year’s Pony Finals and knowing what to expect (even though this year is a little different) will make me less nervous and now we have had many successful models since last year under our belt.”

Venezia echoed the success versus results mentality. “My hopes for Pony Finals are simple. Pony Finals isn’t about the ribbons (which admittedly are great), they’re about being the best you can be at a huge event. Going with the confidence to build on last year and open the door to new challenges next year. To watch and support the other kids while also trying to achieve being at your best. It’s a great mix. If you do it right it helps build pony kids into real riders,” she said.

Although this year will be a little different, Slye loved her first Pony Finals experience last year. “Last year was my very first time at Pony Finals. I was 8 years old. I had no idea what to expect but once we got there it instantly became one of my favorite shows! I loved seeing all the ‘famous pony riders on their famous ponies.’ I started recognizing them from different horse shows like Lake Placid, Old Salem, and Wellington. I loved seeing everyone at the horse park every day and then going back to the hotel and jumping the foot jumps in the lobby was so much  fun!  I know being able to go to Pony Finals is a privilege and I am very grateful to my family for letting us go,” she said. 

Looking Ahead

Slye has started pursuing Pony Derbies and open derbies since her debut in September at Old Salem Farm. “The pony derbies are my absolute favorite! The Derby at Wellington was so amazing! The course was huge and the jumps were big! Seeing all of the judges in the middle of the field was cool, too. When I trotted in to give Snowy the tour of the field I saw myself on the huge TV and couldn’t believe that was me out there! We had an amazing trip but an unfortunate cross canter step in the back corner, but that was okay! I was there with my favorite pony in a beautiful town and I loved on him as if we had just won the derby. He deserves all the love, he gives me his all every day.”

Looking to the future, Slye adds, “I love riding in the hunters, the horses are always so beautiful. Down the road I would love to show my mom’s horse Conrido and then maybe do some equitation. I know my mom says no jumpers, but we will see! For now I have plenty of pony years ahead of me.”

———-

 “Recently we did a Derby in Horseheads, NY, they had fences from 2′ to 3’3″. Snowy and I went in first and got a score of 87! We held the lead the whole time and got a second round handy score of 86.5 to secure the blue ribbon. I think a lot of the older people were surprised a small pony won the derby and Snowy  was so proud of himself.”

“Our first derby together was at the Old Salem Farm Horse Show in September 2019. Hand walking in the grass that morning was so fun seeing everyone else out there showing their ponies the jumps. I love to go first in the ring instead of waiting and watching, Snowy likes this too! We got a first round score of 82 and then a second round handy score of 87 securing the 2nd place ribbon!”

Results Highlights

  • Addison Slye & Our Song,  Winner, USHJA Hunter Derby, Mark Twain Festival, 2020
  • Addison Slye & Our Song, Winner,  $500 Pony Hunter Classic,  ESP Year-End, 2019
  • Addison Slye & Our Song, 2nd,  USHJA Pony Hunter Derby,  Old Salem Farm, 2019
  • Addison Slye & Our Song,  Winner, USEF Pony Medal,  Lake Placid 2019
  • Addison Slye & Our Song, Winner, Pony Hunter Classic, Fieldstone Summer Showcase, 2019
  • Addison Slye & In the Game,  Winner, M&S Children’s  Pony Classic, Westbrook, 2019
  • Addison Slye & Alexandria’s  Young Prince, Reserve Champion,  Eq 11&U, WEF 11, 2019
  • Addison Slye & In the Game, Champion, Equitation 11&U, Plymouth Rock, 2019

About the Author: Piper began her tenure as the Publisher of The Plaid Horse Magazine in 2014. She received her B.S. with Honors in Chemistry from Trinity College [Hartford, CT] in 2009 and her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 2012. She is an active member of the hunter/jumper community, owning a fleet of lease ponies and showing in adult hunter divisions.
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