August 2019 - California Pony Power
Written by CRM
Wednesday, 31 July 2019 22:08
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Zone 10’s Pony Jumper Final team heads to Kentucky in title defense mode.

California’s top pony jumpers have a big task ahead: defending their twice-gold team past at the Pony Jumper Finals portion of the USEF National Pony Finals held Aug. 5-11 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY. The team is comprised of two veterans and two newcomers to this championship. All have high expectations for good performances and lots of fun.

Meet the team:

Tabitha Okitsu & Spoot de la Jourlais
Trainers: David & Caroline Sterckx

Tabitha heads to Kentucky for her third Pony Jumpers Final, with two gold medals already under her belt. The experience means there’ll be a lot less stress this time out. “It’s not as terrifying!” It’s her partner Spoot’s third Jumper Finals, too, and she expects the 14-year-old Connemara/Arabian cross to be his reliably willing self. “He really likes jumping and showing and is super willing to do whatever you ask.”

Now 17, Tabitha will likely stick with ponies until the end of her junior career. She has another pony with whom she participates in the Blue Shadows Drill Team’ Junior Advanced Team. “It’s a whole different realm than the hunter/jumper circuit,” she acknowledges.

Medal or no this year at Pony Finals, Tabitha is confident the experience will add positively to those of the past. “It’s given me a sense of accomplishment in my life. I’ve done things like this, so I know I can do more big things in the future.”

Hannah Attar & Joel
Trainers: David & Caroline Sterckx

 

 

 

 

Hannah is another defending Zone 10 team gold medalist from last year. “The showing is always super fun, even though the stress is overwhelming,” she says. “I feel like this year it’s going to be more enjoyable because we know what to expect. I’m looking forward to riding in the golf carts and getting snow cones.”

Zone 10’s track record may mean other areas would love to dethrone them, but Hannah remains confident. “We’ve done it before and we can do it again, for us and for the riders who come after us.”

Hannah will be riding Joel, a 14-year-old pony with ample experience. As for the Finals’ effect, “It taught me to really focus under stress and pull through. Riding another pony last year, she had success in some classes, but a misstep in the warm-up ring before the Championships frazzled her nerves. “That was a big wake up call for me,” she reflects. “I learned I need to work better under stress. That’s a lesson that I’ll take with me my whole life.”

Devi Ferreiri & Silver Charm
Trainer: Emily Esau

Fourteen-year-old Devi wants to be a jockey when she gets older, but for now is very excited to be heading to the Pony Jumper Finals with Silver Charm. She found “Grady” two years ago at the Pony Finals, where he was a winner with his previous owner Anna Spitzer. Devi has had her eye on these Jumper Finals ever since.

“It took a while,” she says. “When we first got him, he used to buck me off a lot, but the next year he stopped doing that.” The change to a lethargic mode led Devi, her small animal veterinarian mom and Silver Charm’s team to determine that he needed a low sugar diet. That’s all resolved now and they have enjoyed many successes and smiles on the San Diego show circuit. One of the Connemara/Welsh pony’s skills, in fact, is smiling on cue for Devi.  Whatever the outcome in Kentucky, Devi seems bound for a good life with horses. For her recent 14th birthday, her biggest wish was donations to Old Friends, a Thoroughbred retirement sanctuary.

Skylar Wireman & Blue
Trainer: Shayne Wireman of Chestnut Hills

For a 13-year-old, Skylar Wireman has competed in a remarkable number of divisions and championships, but this will be her first Pony Jumper Finals. “It’s been a goal of mine since I was little from watching it at the Pony Finals three years ago.” She needed the right pony, and that one came her way last fall in the form of the chestnut Paint with two blue eyes, called appropriately, Blue. An old injury and the fact that “she’s a little crazy” didn’t deter Skylar, who is increasingly being turned to for catch-riding on the A circuit.

“No one could ride her because she was so wild, but we figured out that she likes to go in a hackamore,” Skylar explains. She’s a careful jumper with ample go. “You just check her in the corners a little and go!”

Skylar is excited to be teammates with friends. She knows Tabitha from last year’s Emerging Athletes Program, Hannah from the SoCal circuit and Devi from the San Diego scene, on which Skylar’s mother Shayne Wireman is a well-known trainer.