All Smiles on First Day of Record-Setting National Dressage Pony Cup Championship Show

Posted by By at 8 July, at 15 : 09 PM Print

In its first day, the 10th Anniversary of the National Dressage Pony Cup Championship Show is already one for the record books. An astounding 114 ponies representing 26 states from literally coast to coast have converged upon the Kentucky Horse Park for this annual showcase of pony power, being held July 7-9, 2017 in conjunction with the Kentucky Dressage Association (KDA) Summer Classic I & II. A somewhat soggy start thanks to the previous day’s deluge surrendered to glorious blue skies within the first hour, and exhibitors’ excitement shone just as brightly as the sun as they contested the first of two rounds of championship competition ranging from Intro to Grand Prix. And thanks to livestreaming on the USEF Network, pony enthusiasts around the world were able to follow the action with expert commentary by FEI 5* (ret) judge Axel Steiner.


After winning the Junior/Young Rider First Level title last year, 13-year-old Caitlyn Massey is back for her third Pony Cup in pursuit of even more awards. Having no trouble moving up to Second Level with her Welsh cross mare Zassafrass, Massey took a commanding lead in the 16 & under division with a 67.564%. “I was really pleased with our ride. My pony loves showing here, and for me, it’s such a great atmosphere – everyone’s so friendly, and I like being around that kind of energy,” said Massey, who also competes successfully in NDPC Partner Shows near her home in Arlington, Tenn. Despite her success, she’s not one to rest on her laurels as she prepares for the second round of competition on Saturday. “I’m going to go back and read over the judge’s comments on the test and work to get an even better score tomorrow!”



Emily Lasher and The Hot Topic of Spring Song

All day, competition was fierce across three rings of non-stop Pony Cup competition which is part of the largest KDA July show to date, the demand for which necessitated the last-minute addition of a sixth dressage ring and the hiring of two additional judges. Just such a battle is already shaping up in the First Level Amateur division as the top two finishers wound up in a scoring tie which proved impossible to break. For now, Tara Astacio of Hackettstown, N.J. with her German Riding Pony gelding Money To Burn and Susan Faulkner of Greer, S.C. with Princeton will have to share the overnight lead, each with a score of 67.188%.


After winning a multitude of awards in the Junior/Young Rider divisions last year as well as earning a Master’s degree in microbiology, Kalie Beckers of Independence, La. is back at the Pony Cup with a vengeance, this time graduating to the Open division ranks to top a field of 14 at First Level. Once again aboard her Welsh Cob mare Madoc Mari, the pair earned 68.594% to take a two-point lead going into Saturday’s final round of competition.


For the 16 & under group, 11-year-old Olivia Brown of Charlotte, N.C. took command of her First Level division with a whopping score of 74.531% earned from judge Hilda Gurney aboard Balthazar, a Belgian Riding Pony gelding that Brown describes as a “hunter reject” but who clearly enjoys his new career path. And in the First Level 17-21 division, Gillian Kingsbury of Raleigh, N.C. rode her half-Arabian mare Halle Berry MC to claim the first of two days-worth of competition with 63.906%. This elegant pair returned during the afternoon session to also claim the lead at Second Level for riders 17-21 with 64.359%.


Another young star returning to the National Dressage Pony Cup Championship Show this year is Magnum. Klaus Biesenthal’s striking gray six-year-old North American Sport Pony stallion is not only a head turner for spectators, but he also knows how to impress the judges. Ridden by Kathryn Barry of Freeport, Ill., Magnum followed up on his 2016 Training Level Open title by easily moving up to Second Level and taking an impressive lead in the Open division with 74.872%. Meanwhile, symphony musician Lori Lamattina of Dayton, Ohio proved that her Fjord gelding WW Rudig has overcome his formerly-spooky ways as they earned 70.897% to easily claim victory in the Second Level Amateur division.



Katie Hall and VA Vouvray


Ana DiGironimo and Ana Mariah C


Caitlyn Massey and Zassafrass

Lauren Chumley has made the annual pilgrimage to the Pony Cup since 2010 with a well-established tradition of returning home to New Jersey with a multitude of championship titles. Her trip this year got off on the right foot aboard Melissa Dowling’s German Riding Pony gelding Nikolas as the only pair to break the 70% mark in the Third Level Open division with 70.256%. The pair then returned to the ring for Fourth Level and once again topped the leaderboard, earning 66.806% for their efforts.


Meanwhile in the Third Level Amateur class, Katie Hall of Gainesville, Fla. and Mackenzie Krizek’s Arabian gelding VA Vouvray took the early lead with 59.231%. And for young riders age 17-21, Brynne Varvel of Bloomington, Ind. earned a top score of 58.590% with her Morgan gelding Big Indian Creek, who was born as a twin foal and discovered by Varvel on Facebook as a lightly-started five-year-old.


Large fields contested the Training Level divisions across two rings Friday afternoon, but the Amateur division went to Tracy Disabato-Aust of Sunbury, Ohio as she bested 18 other competitors to take the lead with her Haflinger gelding Wiz Bang LMP (68.077%). Disabato-Aust, a best-selling author, professional speaker, and garden designer as well as a breast cancer survivor, has only partnered with “Wiz” since November but the pair appear to have hit their stride here at the Pony Cup. Another lovely Haflinger also earned top marks in the Open division as Julie Blair’s mare Loyal Lisa DCH won on the strength of a score of 71.346% with Shannon Cessna of Lodi, Ohio at the reins.


Fourteen-year-old Grace Baierl of Bradford Woods, Pa. saves all of her babysitting and holiday gift money to support her “pony habit”, and her efforts paid off as she and her trick-trained Connemara mare Catskill Nola earned a big score of 72.500% to top a large field of juniors in the 16 & under Training Level division, while former eventer Keara Sonntag of Cincinnati rode her grade pony Storm to top the 17-21 age division with 58.462%.


The National Dressage Pony Cup Championship Show once again showcased how dressage ponies have no limitations in successfully competing all the way through the Grand Prix Level. Emily Lasher’s 33-hour drive across the country from Poway, Calif. is proving worthwhile as she took the overnight lead in the FEI Test of Choice Open division with 66.053% earned at Intermediate I aboard her Welsh cross gelding The Hot Topic of Spring Song.


In the Amateur FEI Test of Choice ranks, Jennifer Carr of Columbus, Ohio also earned a first round victory with her German Riding Pony gelding Charly Brown at Prix St. Georges (61.842%), while the Junior/Young Rider division went to Hannah Irons of Queenstown, Md. who rode her draft cross gelding My Lucky Charm to earn 61.447% for their Prix St. Georges performance. Suzannah Rogers of Nesmith, S.C. has hopes of qualifying for the USEF Pony Rider National Championship next month at Lamplight, and she looked well on her way by winning today’s FEI Pony Team Test with 62.115% aboard her Haflinger gelding Adrenaline Rush SBF.

Music rang out across the Kentucky Horse Park’s dressage complex during the afternoon as freestyles were highlighted in the main arena. Hannah Irons and My Lucky Charm earned their second win of the day with 64.333% for the pair’s Fourth Level Freestyle in the Junior/Young Rider Musical Freestyle division, while Susan Faulkner and Princeton didn’t have to settle for sharing another blue ribbon as they cruised to victory in the Amateur division with 67.000% earned for their First Level Freestyle.


In the Open Musical Freestyle ranks, Ana DiGironimo’s faith in her Arabian mare Ana Mariah C paid off with a win for their The Wizard of Oz-themed Third Level freestyle (66.833%). “When I first saw ‘AM’ in a field, I could see that she was beautiful but was told that she was so bad that no one could ride her,” explained DiGironimo, who owns DQ Performance Horses in Turnersville, N.J. “I said, ‘I’ll ride her!’ They were right – she was really naughty – but we had a connection from the start, and so it began. I think there are many exciting things ahead for us.”


Wrapping up an incredible first day was competition in the Intro Level divisions, where for amateurs, Deborah Stevenson of Clarks Hill, Ind. took a comfortable lead with 72.500% earned with her Haflinger mare Bell of the Ball. Not to be outdone, Shannon Cessna and Loyal Lisa DCH earned their second victory of the day, this time in the Open Intro division with 71.875%.


For juniors age 16 and under at Intro Level, Grace Lipuma of Dayton, Ohio climbed to the top of the leaderboard with her Welsh gelding I Will 4 U with 67.188%, while Keara Sonntag and Storm found the winner’s circle for the second time today by claiming the 17-21 age group with 62.813%.


To watch the National Dressage Pony Cup LIVE, visit the USEF Network at – coverage resumes Saturday, July 8th at 7:30am ET. Complete results from the first day of competition is available at To find out more information about the National Dressage Pony Cup programs, visit the NDPC website at and visit their Facebook page. To view National Dressage Pony Cup championship show information including prize list, exhibitors, classes and ride times, visit


CAITLYN MASSEY JPG: Caitlyn Massey was all smiles as she rode Zassafrass to take the lead in the Second Level 16 & under division on the first day of the National Dressage Pony Cup Championship Show.  Photo by Jennifer M. Keeler.


KATIE HALL JPG: Katie Hall and VA Vouvray trotted to victory in Round 1 of the Third Level Amateur division on the first day of the National Dressage Pony Cup Championship Show.  Photo by Jennifer M. Keeler.


EMILY LASHER JPG: California’s Emily Lasher and The Hot Topic of Spring Song took command of the Open FEI Test of Choice division on Friday at the National Dressage Pony Cup Championship Show.  Photo by Jennifer M. Keeler.


ANA DIGIRONIMO JPG: Ana DiGironimo’s faith in her mount paid off with a victory in the first round of the Musical Freestyle Open division on the first day of the National Dressage Pony Cup Championship Show.  Photo by Jennifer M. Keeler.


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