Kat Fuqua & Caroline Passarelli Reign Supreme as First Two Champions at 2019 USEF Pony Finals

Day two of the 2019 USEF Pony Finals, presented by Collecting Gaits Farm, continued in the Walnut Ring at the Kentucky Horse Park with the leaders of the Large Regular and Small Green Pony Hunter divisions looking to hold on to their top placings. After both divisions tried their hand in the over fences portion of competition, it was Kat Fuqua aboard Prestige who claimed championship honors in the Large Regular Pony Hunters and Caroline Passarelli riding So Charming who led the pack to claim victory in the Small Green Pony Hunters.

Kat Fuqua and Prestige. Photo by Phelps Sports

Fuqua and Prestige, an 8-year old Belgian Riding Pony, have been partnered together for a year, first showing in the Large Green Pony Hunters before stepping up to the Large Regular Pony Hunter division. Heading into Wednesday’s competition, the pair sat in third position after placing in fourth in the model with a score of 261.32 and seventh in the under saddle with 265.20 points. Entering the ring for their test over fences, owner-rider Fuqua and Prestige performed effortlessly to jump to the lead with a score of 262.45, left to wait during the most tense portion of competition as the last two competitors tried to usurp them. Thanks to their high over fences score, the duo was propelled to the top of the overall scorecard with 1,051.42 points to ultimately claim the Large Regular Pony Hunter championship.

Fuqua was also last year’s Large Regular Pony Hunter and Grand Regular Pony Hunter champion aboard a different mount, Brighton, and she has attended USEF Pony Finals for six years. With a family heavily involved in the equestrian world, Fuqua can frequently be seen in the winner’s circle of the hunters, jumpers and equitation rings. Recently, the 12 year-old captured the blue ribbon in the $4,000 Small Junior Hunter 15&U Classic at the USEF Junior Hunter Championship – East Coast with Calvaro.

Kat Fuqua and Prestige. Photo by Phelps Sports

Earning reserve champion honors in the Large Regular Pony Hunters were the day one leaders, Samantha Takacs and Ellie Sadrian’s Brighton with a total of 1,046.65 points, followed by Passarelli and Jessica Zandri’s So Dapper in third place with 1,027.12 points. Fourth place honors were sealed by Eleanor Rudnicki and Paige Walkenbach’s Front Row thanks to a score of 1,025.82, and Sterling Malnik rode her own Casino De Luxe to round out the top five with a composite score of 1,025.82 points.

With another championship up for grabs in the Small Green Pony Hunter division, 18-year-old Passarelli and Zandri’s So Charming, a 7-year-old Welsh Pony Cross, took advantage of their final opportunity to shine in front of the judges by laying down an exemplary over fences trip to help them secure the division’s rosette. Beginning the day in seventh place after the model and under saddle phases, the duo made up the difference with a score of 256.23 over fences to claim the top spot with six of the division’s early frontrunners still left to ride. Though the remaining contenders tried to chase them down, none were able to match Passarelli and So Charming’s efforts over fences or on the cumulative scorecard, solidifying them as double victors for the day. The partnership concluded the Small Green Pony Hunters as the champions with 1,007 points to their names, more than 30 points ahead of the next-closest finishers.

Caroline Passarelli and So Charming. Photo by Phelps Sports

Passarelli is very familiar with the USEF Pony Finals stage, having now competed at the event nine times. In 2016, she piloted News Flash to the top spot in the prestigious Marshall & Sterling/US Pony Medal Finals, adding to her success that week as the champion in the Small Green Pony Hunters with So Enchanted. Just a few short weeks ago in July, Passarelli rode Lalique to the 3’3’’ Overall Grand Champion title and the Small Junior Hunter 16-17 3’3’’ section at the USEF Junior Hunter National Championships. Wednesday’s winner will finish her final year of junior eligibility this fall in the series of notable equitation finals while she balances her freshman year at Texas A&M University.

“It’s been nine years and this was my last round at Pony Finals,” shared Passarelli. “He has been an amazing pony. Heritage Farm and the Zandris, who own him, are family and they have done so much for me. It was really special being able to win my last time and it meant a lot to have them all here with me. Another person who I owe a lot of thanks to is Emi Richards, who is an 8-year-old who did him all winter and she did a really good job. She won this as much as I did. It’s been so long. I started at Pony Finals when I was really little with my first pony, so it’s been a journey from the bottom to the top. I will definitely miss it. [I’ll miss] the ponies. They have been so amazing to me. It’s just been incredible. I have a lot to be thankful for over the years.”

Caroline Passarelli and So Charming. Photo by Phelps Sports

With 974.30 points, day one leaders Annabelle Brown and Alina Golver’s Sunshine Kid were awarded the reserve championship in the Small Green Pony Hunters, followed by Olivia Sweetnam and Clovermeade Pop Secret, owned by Jill Shulman and Sweet Oak Farm, in third position with a total score of 966.39. Carlysle Drosos and her own Snoop Dogg earned fourth place with their score of 950.53, and Madeline Rubin and Briar Field Farm LLC’s Just Enuff finished in fifth position with 940 points.

Earlier in the day, the Small Regular Pony Hunters began their road to the championship, with the model and under saddle phases taking place. With a cumulative score of 532.06 points, Maddie Tosh and Dr. Betsee Parker’s Bit of Love maneuvered their way to the early lead during Wednesday’s competition. The Small Regular Pony Hunters will return to the ring on Thursday to compete in the over fences portion of competition, with Cady Ryan and Town Line Equestrian LLC’s Smitten following Tosh and Bit of Love’s lead closely with a score of 526.18 points. Claiming the third spot overall heading into the over fences is Allison Coleman and her own Smoke Tree Starlet with 521.99 points.