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Thursday Night Highlights at the Royal

It’s Thursday night at the Royal, which means first-class equitation and gifted young horses and ponies.


Kicking off the evening, and helping all in the audience gain a different perspective on their own everyday challenges, nine riders competed in the final round of the UPHA Exceptional Challenge Cup Championship. Amber Grant, riding Savenac’s Dixianna (aka Dixie), took the national championship home to Ocala, Fla. with proud instructor, Tom Johnson at her side. Grant qualified for this event last year but was unable to attend due to financial constraints. Earlier this year, she wrote a moving Letter to the Editor to this publication citing her desire to attend the Finals this year. A commitment had already been secured to pay for her [borrowed] horse’s transportation. It was gratifying indeed to see her efforts rewarded. Earning the reserve national title was Megan Cyr, also from the state of Florida. Betty Gray is her instructor.    


After the poignant UPHA Exceptional Challenge Cup competition, the UPHA Fine Harness Classic Championship set the stage for a night of exciting young talent. Seven filled the class with great promise of what is to come in the next few years. Tiffany Wheeler masterfully handled the striking Voulez-Vous. What a thrill it must have been for breeders/owners Jean and Chris Nalley to see one of their own come to fruition. 


Thirteen riders returned for the final phase of the UPHA Senior Challenge Cup Championship. They all worked hard throughout the year but only one could be crowned the champion. Brittany McGinnis couldn’t hide her smile and surprise when her number was called out as the national champion. Lillian Shively and Todd Miles both came into the winner’s circle to congratulate her. After a tough year of mishaps, Emily Abbott turned in a flawless performance to be named as the reserve national champion. The other top 10 riders included Eleanor Watkins, Ali Judah, Emma Nichols, Ellen Medley Wright, Sarah Jane Smith, Emily Scharpf, Jessica Moctezuma and Lindsey Haupt.


Brittany Ann McGinnis and Emily Abbott


One of the mysteries of the show world is where are the Hackneys? With the exception of the Road Pony Classic with ten entries, the other Hackney Classics were woefully lacking in numbers, as has been the case in recent years, even though Hackney classes at many shows this year have shown healthy increases. On a brighter note, quality did a lot to make up for lack of quantity. The four-entry Hackney Pony Pleasure Driving Classic Grand Championship went to a driver/owner/breeder Anna Marie Knipp and I'm In Heaven, a picture-perfect pleasure presentation.


I'm In Heaven and Anna Marie Knipp

with caretaker, Carmella Morga


A popular division that keeps growing with every year is park pleasure. Twenty-two marched into the ring to vie for the tricolor and prize money. After the horses were stripped for conformation evaluation, the judges selected ten to return to the rail for additional work. When the second round was completed the panel selected Smith Lilly and Cape Grace to send to the winner’s circle for Roger and Stephanie McMahan. Bouffant, with Todd Miles in the saddle, collected the reserve ribbon for Fish Creek Stables.


Cape Grace and Smith Lilly

- winner of the largest class of the show -


Larry Bacon captured the UPHA Hackney Pony Classic Grand Championship for the second year in a row with Lord Ovation. Arthur and Gaye Birtcher are the proud owners of the two-time champion sired by WGC Nabucco.


Majestic Oaks had a double hitter in the ten-entry UPHA Roadster Pony Classic Grand Championship. It came down to a contest between two reigning world champions - a three year old and a junior pony. The younger pony prevailed. Holli McDowell was on the lines of three-year-old Heartland Curtain Call, to earn the win for Darrel and Sandra Kolkman. Maureen Lydon picked up the reserve streamers with Mr. Lucky Man for Gene Gallmeier.


Maureen Lydon and Holli McDowell



The UPHA Five-Gaited Classic Grand Championship was packed full of excitement. Thirteen promising entries worked through their gaits. The snappy bay Ylang Ylang added the blue to the Fairview Stables banner for B&T Vonderschmitt. Billy Jarrell earned a good portion of the crowd’s approval when he rode Callaway’s Carnival In Rio to the reserve tricolor.  


(back row) Bob Brison, Valery Kron, Kent Swalla,

(front row)Theresa Vonderschmitt and Morgan and
Tonya Brison gathered after Bob Brison captured
the UPHA Five-Gaited Classic Grand Championship

with Vonderschmitt’s Ylang Ylang.









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