Lexington, Ky – Aug. 15, 2021 – The final day of the 2021 USEF Pony Finals, presented by Honor Hill Farm, showcased the highly anticipated Marshall and Sterling USEF Pony Medal. The nation’s top young pony athletes took center stage in the Rolex Ring as they tried their hand at the ten obstacle course, hoping for the chance to make it to the final round. 40 of the top contestants came back for the final test, vying for top honors, as they maneuvered around the second round, testing their handiness while keeping perfect form throughout the course. In the end, Olivia Sweetnam and On Your Mark came out on top as they laid down two seamlessly flawless rounds. McKayla Brombach and California Dreamin’ took home second place, while Maddie Tosh and Storyteller rounded out the top three.
During round one, course designer Jason Shelley tested the riders on their ability to navigate through a winding and flowing course that included a trot fence after fence five and a short halt after fence eight. Many riders found difficulty during round one, with several of the jumps coming up short off the corner and having to adjust their strides throughout the long bending lines. After 185 horse and rider combinations jumped around, 20 athletes were invited back to test over the 9-obstacle track for round two. The test consisted of cantering directly to fence one out of the gate, several short rollbacks, a halt after fence four, and then a short turn to trot fence seven bending to eight. The riders that were able to return for the second round did so in reverse order and were further grouped by size. The Small Ponies kicked off the second round with four riders, next in the ring were five (5) Large Pony riders, followed by the Medium Pony section, which consisted of a larger group compared to the small and large sections, with 11-rider and pony combinations.
Olivia Sweetnam has had an incredibly successful showing at this year’s Pony Finals, even though the win in today’s medal class was the first time that the tricolor honors were the color blue. Sweetnam earned four reserve champion honors in the Large, Medium, and Small Green Hunters, and the Large Pony Hunter division. Today, Sweetnam seemed cool and calculated as she entered the Rolex Stadium as part of the Medium Pony section of the class. As the 52nd combination, Sweetnam executed a nearly flawless round and was placed at the top of the call-back list. The medium pony section of the class was by far the most competitive and sent back the most competitors, with 11 of the 20 returning to take their shot at their respective height. Sweetnam and On Your Mark, a pony with whom she has been working with for three years proved that they had a connection when they returned for the second round of competition. Sweetnam took all of the most technical options available and performed the turns, transitions, and change in pace with ease.
McKayla Brombach was 119 in the order of go for round one as she navigated her way through the challenging ten obstacle course set forth aboard California Dreamin’. After laying down a seamlessly flawless first round, the pair held their second-place standing throughout each stand-by list. As 20 of the top horse and rider combinations came back for the second round, Brombach came back right behind Sweetnam, once again demonstrating a beautiful and flowing round, impressing the judges with her form and composure throughout both rounds. In the end, the dynamic pair held their second-place standing and would be crowned the red ribbon, after nearly dominating an entire field of 186 competitors.
Maddie Tosh rounded out the top three competitors with Dr. Betsee Parker’s medium pony, Storyteller. After starting in the 124th spot on the roster, Tosh lived up to the reputation that she had established earlier in the week by producing a smooth and consistent first round. Having already started her transition into the equitation division, Tosh seemed intent on making short work of Jason Shelley’s technical course. After two rounds of callbacks, Tosh was able to remain third in the order for the second round. Again, Storyteller was consistent and dependable in responding to Tosh’s commands. In the end, the pair we only marginally placed behind Sweetnam and Brombach.
The Pony Medal Finals concluded the 2021 USEF Pony Finals, presented by Honor Hill Farms. Next year, the event will return to the Kentucky Horse Park and continue to showcase the most coveted ponies in the United States, with some of the best young hunter, jumper, and equitation athletes that their respective divisions have to offer. To see a complete list of results or to learn more about the 2022 Pony Finals event, please visit www.usef.org.
FROM THE WINNERS CIRCLE
Olivia Sweetnam – 2021 USEF Pony Medal presented by Marshall and Sterling Insurance
On her plan for the first and second rounds:
“We were hoping for a smooth and consistent round, considering that yesterday went really well. We were hoping for the smae outcome today. In round two, we planned all of our turns and strategy beforehand and we practiced them in the schooling area so it was easier in the ring. We had a plan set out from when we saw this course this morning at 6:00am.”
On her trainers:
“My trainers are awesome and really supportive.They always believe in me and my pony’s and they bring out the best in both of us.”
On On Your Mark:
“We have had him for three years now, his name is On Your Mark. He is a perfect Welsh pony, I love him so much. I can always put pressure on him and know that he will not do anything wrong. If I ever need to pull out something big, he is the one I pull out because I know he has me covered.”
On Winning mostly reserve champion honors until this class:
“I got four tricolors and all of them were Reserve (Champion) until now. I was so happy because if anyone had told me that I was going to Pony Finals to have four tricolor ribbons, I would have cried and I was not expecting this at all.”
On what she focuses on during training at home:
“We work on flatwork because that is one of my weaknesses, and then we work on smaller things, because those lead to bigger things, and they help produce the overall product. I have to try hard on my position and not leaning my body forward or twisting it, especially over the jumps.”
On transitioning to horses:
“I got my first horse a year ago. We are heading to Taylor Harris Finals soon enough and I have two jumpers who are doing the children’s jumpers. I also just started doing the Big Eq on a horse that I got at the end of the winter circuit.”
On riding with her whole family:
“It makes it a lot more fun that we do it together as a family. If one of us takes a big step forward it’s always done together and it makes it a lot more fun.”
Danny Arendt – Olivia Sweetnam Trainer
On Training Olivia:
“I have been working with Liv (Olivia) for five years and she is the greatest kid. She is so receptive. We are all family and have all worked so hard, so wins like this mean a lot. I own this pony with her mother so it also means a lot to me because we have put a lot of work into him over the past three years.”
On helping Olivia transition to horses from ponies:
“It’s been hard because I have been working for the Sweetnam’s for eight years, so I have known Liv for a very long time and to see her coming up and becoming who she is is special. I am so happy for her future in the Big Eq, but I don’t want her to stop this (riding pony’s) but we are ready and we are having a smooth transition and we haven’t rushed into anything. Our motto is to keep things simple and everything is happening as it should.”
RESULTS – 2021 USEF Pony Medal
Rider / Horse / Owner
1. Olivia Sweetnam / On the Mark / Sweet Oak Farm
2. California Dreamin’ / McKayla Brombach / Millennium Farm Inc.
3. Storyteller / Maddie Tosh / Betsee Parker
4. Home Run Bound / Marion Gefaell / Karen Bruce
5. Clovermeade Bunnymoon / Reilly Robertson / Rabbit Hill Farm
6. Silver Wishes / Emma Brody / Lilyana Spafford
7. Ainisette / Eva Mackenzie / Eva Mackenzie
8. Daventry’s DaVinci / Ellie Sadrien / Ellie Sadrien
9. Goldhill’s As You Like It / Vivian Golden / Vivian Golden
10. Child’s Play Hot Topic / Emme Tagen / Emme Tagen
11. Gold Rush / Evana Somareddy / Daniel Geitner