BY TYLER BUI
Lilly Ward has had quite the year so far. In just six months, the seven-year-old went from showing in the Short Stirrup division to competing in the Small Ponies at the 2022 USEF Pony Finals.
Every aspect of Pony Finals brought a unique experience for Lilly and her family, who have been to many horse shows but have spent more time around international show jumpers than pony golf cart parades.
“From a riding perspective, it was very educational. To be surrounded by that many ponies, it’s a great opportunity to learn, grow, and see different things,” Lauren Ward, Lilly’s mother, tells The Plaid Horse. “The format with one jumping round really put an emphasis on focusing on each stage of the event and gave the kids a chance to execute their plan in one shot. From a social perspective, having that many kids all together, there’s a real feeling of camaraderie that is invaluable.”
In addition to the instruction of her parents McLain and Lauren, Charlie Moorcroft of Moorcroft, Inc., has been working with Lilly since she was just two and a half years old. He holds a special relationship with the Ward family, and Lauren says he brings out the absolute best in her daughter through his teaching skills.
“I love helping students who are talented, who want it, and are true competitors—and Lilly is all of those things,” says Moorcroft. “Lilly is just a natural rider and is someone that inspires me to do my best to figure out different ways to help her with her goals. She’s just a super kid.”
The young rider has been paired with veteran pony Pet Rock, or “Chico,” for exactly one year after purchasing him after Pony Finals 2021 from Dominique Damico.
“When we first got Chico, I told Dominique, ‘I think we’ll be doing the [Short Stirrup] for a while,’ and she replied with a chuckle that Lilly would be doing the Small Pony division in no time. Sure enough, she was right, because a few months later, we were doing Small Ponies,” says Lauren. “He’s a wonderful partner, and he’s given Lilly incredible confidence.”
“Pet Rock is truly a magnificent creature. He never has given me a moment’s worry,” Moorcroft continues. “He is a true teacher, a true gentleman, and has lots of experience. Pet Rock is exactly the type of pony that I would pick for someone’s first Pony Finals.”
After the week-long experience of learning, fun, and competition, Lauren is most proud of her daughter for her positive attitude and appreciation for her pony and trainer.
“I’m very impressed with her ability at seven years old to go in the ring and just have a presence of mind,” says Lauren. “She stayed composed, went into the ring, and executed the things that we discussed while we walked the course, and I am super proud of her for that.”