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Press Release

ATTACHED PHOTOS

Alexa Aureliano and Woodlands Stevie Ray

Medium Pony Hunter Champion Alexa Aureliano and Woodlands Stevie Ray

Devin Seek and Heaven's Sake

Augusta Iwasaki and Bit of Laughter captured the Grand Regular Pony Hunter Championship.

Mia Wayne and Oliver Twist Medium Pony Hunter Over Fences Winner

Taylor St. Jacques and Glynhafan Red Kestral were awarded the Reserve Grand Pony Hunter Championship.

Augusta Iwasaki and Bit of Laughter

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Augusta Iwasaki and Bit of Laughter Best the Rest at 2015 U.S. Pony Finals

Written by: Elaine Wessel
Client: Kentucky Horse Shows LLC http://www.kentuckyhorseshows.com
Release Date: 2015-08-08

Lexington, KY – August 8, 2015 – Adding yet another impressive accolade to her now-growing collection, Augusta Iwasaki of Calabasas, California and her family-owned pony Bit of Laughter earned an additional reason to celebrate Saturday afternoon at U.S. Pony Finals, contributing more excitement to an already exceptionally successful week. With their score of 1,033.290 points, the pair grossed the highest marks of any Regular pony between the three size-based divisions to clinch the title of Grand Regular Hunter Pony Champion.

Iwasaki had perhaps the best week of any pony rider in Lexington, accruing three divisional championships –  Small Regular Pony Hunter Champion aboard Bit of Laughter, Large Green Pony Hunter Champion with Kingston and Medium Green Pony Hunter Reserve Champion aboard Small Suggestion—as well as both Overall Grand awards—Grand Green Hunter Pony Champion with Kingston and Saturday’s honors with Bit of Laughter.

“I am very excited. It is like a dream. It is nothing that I could ever imagine. This is the first time that I have been Grand in the Greens and the Regulars, I don't think I would be able to duplicate this,” Iwasaki said excitedly.

Bit of Laughter, called ‘Ceto’ or ‘Texas’ outside the show ring, wasn’t always the textbook example of the hunter he is today; he challenged the young rider at the onset of their career together. The champion team has been paired up since last year’s Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) after Bit of Laughter was sent to the family by Peter Pletcher, the renowned hunter rider out of PJP Farm in Magnolia, Texas.

“In the beginning he was really difficult, but now he is just the image of perfection. He didn't want to participate in the beginning, but then he realized that he could participate and could have fun,” Iwasaki reflected. “I think it is his personality, on the ground and over fences, that makes him stand out. On the ground he can be a little funky. Over the jumps it feels like he is always having fun.”

Iwasaki has grown up with both horses and her family by her side. Still a family affair, her parents, Chris Iwasaki and Elizabeth Reilly, own many of the ponies with which she competes.

 “I was 4 years old [when I started riding], and my mom was riding and teaching. She took me to a barn, and I rode for a little while and really liked it. One day I decided that I didn't want to ride anymore, but then a week later I was like, ‘Mom why aren't you taking me to riding?’” Iwasaki commented. “I tried dance once. It was a no, a big no [laughs].”

At only 11 years old, the small rider, who has been in the saddle for nearly seven years now, has already proven to have supersized talent and perhaps even greater ambition. With no plans of slowing down, Iwasaki hopes to soon move up the ranks into the realm of horse competition, adding a bit of height to both the jumps and the animals beneath her. She currently has two horses in her repertoire, which she competes in the Junior 3’3” Hunters, although she has hopes of potentially competing in 3’6” hunter derbies next year.

In the second position behind Iwasaki and Bit of Laughter, Taylor St. Jacques and Glenhafan Red Kestral, owned by Peacock Ridge LLC out of Greenwich, Connecticut, garnered the Grand Regular Hunter Pony Reserve Championship with their score of 1,025.390 points, only a few points behind the winning pair.

Topping 154 other ponies in Friday’s under saddle portion of the Medium Regular Hunter Pony division, Alexa Aureliano and Woodlands Stevie Ray had secured a solid position for themselves headed into the second day of competition, which would test them over fences. Sitting 10th in the standings, the pair still had to make up ground, though, to have a shot at the championship, which they successfully did with their over fences marks of 253.120 points, pushing them into the lead spot. Still with nine trips to go, Aureliano and her pony played the waiting game, but their overall score of 1,000.340 points proved unbeatable, capturing the champion tricolor as the only entrant to break the 1,000-point threshold in the largest division of the week.

“This is my fourth year at Pony Finals, and this is my first champion ribbon. It feels amazing. It really does,” Aureliano smiled.

‘Stevie,’ as the pony is called in the barn, is owned by Hannah Bernstein of New York but has been ridden by Aureliano for nearly two years. Although the duo showcased their winning ways in the ring Saturday, it wasn’t always that way.

“We have really grown with our bond. During the winter we had some problems getting to know each other, but then we definitely got over them in the summer,” the 13-year-old first-time champion from Long Island, New York, reflected. “His personality is amazing, he loves to be around people and loves to have attention. He’s just like a teddy bear.”

Reserve honors went to Devin Seek aboard Heaven’s Sake, owned by Bibby Hill of Reddick, Florida. The pair rode to a total of 992.070 points to secure the next-best spot behind Aureliano and Woodlands Stevie Ray, but the true comeback story came in the version of the third place winner, Mia Wayne and her own pony Oliver Twist. As the 103rd entry to take their turn around the ring, the pair laid down a stellar round to the tune of 255.260 points from the judges, the highest marks of the day with 52 entries still to ride. The score would stand for the remainder of the class, earning them the blue ribbon in the over fences portion of the division and bumping them from 53rd to third place overall. Wayne was also awarded the High Point Owner and Rider Award for her performance.

While Saturday marked the conclusion of the Pony Hunter and Pony Jumpers, USEF Pony Finals competition continues with the Pony Medal Finals tomorrow beginning at 7 a.m. in the Alltech Arena.

To learn more about the USEF Pony Finals please visit www.ponyfinals.org. For live results, please visit www.shownet.biz.

 

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