Washington, DC - October 26, 2008 - At Verizon Center in Washington, DC, today was the conclusion of the 2008 Washington International Horse Show (WIHS). It wrapped up with the pony hunters and local hunter finals.
Taking home the Grand Pony Hunter Championship was Meredith Darst and pony All About Me, who is owned by Megan Davis. Darst also won the Medium Pony Hunter Championship with two firsts, a second and fourth-place ribbons. Katie Dinan's Light Up the Year and rider Lillie Keenan came away with reserve champion honors.
"He is really fun, really smooth, and he jumps really well. My plan today was to be smooth and to have fun. I have been riding him for two years," said Darst. "I like that he is easy, but a little bit of a challenge. He is kind of slow, and I don't like to wear spurs on him, and sometimes he likes to find the long distance."
Darst has been champion at this horse show three years in a row; the past two years have been with this particular pony.
"She has not shown him since Devon, so we came with absolutely no expectations," said Mindy Darst, Meredith's mother. "He got to come because of winning a championship last year. He literally came out of the field and had shoes put on. It was beyond our wildest expectations to win. He and Maddy have been a match from day one, and it has been a great success story. The venue doesn't matter; there is just a very special bond that those two have. They have just picked up right where they left off."
Darst is a big fan of WIHS as well. "This is my absolute favorite horse show of the year. We look forward to it so much every year. When we thought we couldn't come this year, it was almost like missing Christmas for us, so this has just been a huge bonus," said Darst. "It is an amazing venue, and they do an incredible job. I love having the opportunity to be in the city and it is great from the exhibitor level to the spectator level; it is just off the charts."
Darst also had something to say about the fact that the pony did so well because they do not go to every horse show.
"Maybe something that should be considered is how well he performed after having a rest," said Darst. "He jumped high, he jumped fresh, he was correct, he was happy, and his expression was beautiful. So maybe not having to go to too many horse shows to get here resulted in a really happy pony that was ready to win."
In the Large Pony Hunter division, Shawn Casady and A Day at the Beach, owned by Katie Dawson, were champions. Casady rode to first, second, and sixth-place ribbons. Taking home reserve champion honors were Lillie Keenan and Beau Rivage, owned by Casey Green.
"A Day at the Beach is a Warmblood pony that I have been riding since June. He is for sale, and this is his first time doing the indoors. He was second at Capital Challenge in a class with two 90's, and then acted a little green at Harrisburg," said Casady.
Casady and trainer Bill Schaub thought the course rode well and that the pony was in top form today.
"He is really big-strided and easy to see a distance on. You can get on him and gallop along, and something always comes up" said Casady. "He makes it work. He is not very big, but he tries his hardest. He has a big heart, and he is really confident. He went right to the jumps and walked the lines. He jumped really well and didn't hit many."
Rolling Stone and Sophie Michaels came away with the championship award in the Small Pony Hunters. Ten-year-old Michaels, who resides in New York, NY, piloted her pony Rolling Stone to first, second and seventh-place ribbons. Reserve champion was Aleece Jarman and her pony Rico Suave.
"I have only have had him for a few months. He is really smooth. Sometimes he swaps left to right so I have to make sure that does not happen," said Michaels. "I have to be careful of my hands because when I put them forward he will leave from anywhere. I just have to make sure I put my hands forward when I want him to leave. If not, I might not leave from the right place."
This was Michaels first time at WIHS. Her favorite part is doing the model with her pony because he does it so well. "He is really nice. I can hug him and kiss him and everything," said Michaels.
The local horse and pony hunters competed today as well. Taking home championship top honors in the Local Pony Hunters was 15-year-old Lindsay Wolf and Otteridge Black Hawk, owned by Amanda Groher. Behind Wolf in the reserve champion position was Silver Rain and Madeline Schaefer, who won today's final class.
"We call him Hawkers around the barn. I was actually here for local weekend and qualified to be here today," said Wolf. "He has a very good personality. He is very fun and just all around a really good boy."
Wolf said this has been the biggest horse show she has ever attended. She thought this show was going to be much more intimidating, but she found it fun. Her horse helped because he is not scared of anything and that helped to calm her nerves.
In the Local Hunter Horse division, Keri Guanciale and Westport were named champions. Taking home reserve championship was Jessica Chappell and Gran Cru.
"I got him last year. He is a Dutch Warmblood. I am in school now so I am just doing the three foot (division) and then hopefully we will move up to the 3'6" divisions," said Guanciale. "The course was really good, and he was well prepared. He likes a soft hand and you just keep cantering. His personality is like a little puppy dog; he will follow you around, and he is really sweet."
This marks the end of the 2008 Washington International Horse Show, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. In a week full of great competition, it will be remembered and honored as one of the best horse shows in America.
For more information and full results, please visit http://www.wihs.org
Photo Credit: Meredith Darst and All About Me, winners of the Grand Pony Hunter Championship. Photo (C) 2008 Jennifer Wood/PMG. This photo may be used free of charge only in relation to this press release.
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<a href="http://www.equestrianmag.com/article/meredith-darst-pony-hunter-washington-horse-10-08.html">Meredith Darst Captures Grand Pony Hunter Championship at 2008 Washington International Horse Show</a> ~ EquestrianMag.com