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Sophia Calamari and Smitten

Sophia Calamari and Smitten with mom Laurie Scott

Devin Seek and Hudson

Caroline Passarelli and Bit of Love

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Sophia Calamari Captures Small Green Pony Championship with Smitten at 2014 USEF Pony Finals

Written by: Ann Glavan
Client: Kentucky Horse Shows LLC
Release Date: 2014-08-06

Lexington, KY – August 6, 2014 – Competing at USEF Pony Finals takes a team, a team that sometimes includes a host of people responsible for feeding, braiding and bathing the pony until it is ready to arrive ringside.

For this year’s USEF Pony Finals Small Green Pony champion, Smitten, however that team is a bit different than some. The first person Smitten see’s in the morning is his rider and owner, Sophia Calamari.

 “Our ponies live at home, so they take care of their own ponies,” explained Laurie Scott, Calamari’s mother. “They clip legs and ears and bathe. We don’t have grooms at home, so we do everything ourselves.”

Hailing from New Milford, Pa., Calamari heads south for the winter with her mother and sister, Francesca, to ride their ponies and mounts for Ponies & Palms Show Stables LLC in Boca Raton, F.L.. She may be just 13 years old, but Ponies & Palms Show Stables LLC owner Leslie Butzer says both Calamari girls ride with talent far beyond their years.  

“They actually help train my animals,” Butzer said of Sophia and her sister. “And Laurie, their mom, is dedicated to their success. She doesn’t just drop them off at a trainer’s every day. She hauls; she grooms; she braids. It’s really refreshing to see. No one deserves this more.”

Calamari says working with her pony outside of the ring gives her a leg up against the competition.

“I know his personality,” Calamari explained. “I know what he likes, and what will scare him.”

Smitten, known affectionately as “Smitty” back in the barn, was not always the calm and collected show stopper he proved himself to be at this year’s Pony Finals. 

“When I bought him he was a little tough, so I was nervous.” Calamari said. “He was just always a little nervous, a little reactive, but now he’s very calm.”

There were no quick fixes or magic tricks; just time and patience have helped get Smitty to where he is today.

“When we first bought him, we bought him as a 4-year-old, and we brought him home. He was just not as broke as we had thought,” Scott explained. “So I just took him back to stage one and brought him along very slowly, so by the time she got back on him, he was great.”

The now 6-year-old pony is as quiet as they come in the show ring. Smitty’s laid back nature wins him big ribbons, but keeping cool whilst wearing them is a different story.

“He doesn’t want you to put a ribbon on his head, and that was our fault,” Scott explained. The first time he won champion we put it on. Then someone threw a cooler over him while Sophia wasn’t looking, and he got loose, so then he was running with the ribbon and the cooler stuck on him!” Scott said with a laugh, shaking her head at the memory. “So he probably would have been fine before. He’s just very sweet.”

This year’s victory in the Small Green Pony Hunters came at a perfect time for Calamari—she is aging out of the small division. 

“I just hope he goes to a very nice person,” Calamari said with a small smile, running a hand over Smitty’s nose as he stood waiting for her to finish the interview.

“We’ll miss you terribly!” Scott said to the pony, scratching his neck. Smitty spent most of the interview snuffling inquisitively at the phones and recorders capturing his owner’s quotes, throwing in a few knickers of his own. He may be short in stature, but that pony lacks nothing in personality.

Taking the reserve champion honors behind Calamari and Smitten was Ashley Watt’s pony Rollingwood’s Tuxedo, ridden by Madeline Schaefer. 

Taking home the tri-color in the Large Pony Hunter division was Hudson, ridden to victory by Devin Seek. Having only ridden Hudson a handful of times before Pony Finals, Seek had to acclimate to both the gelding and his size in a very short time.

“I was nervous, because it was only my second time riding a large, especially here,” Seek explained. “It’s hard because there are so many people watching, and it's Pony Finals! Just saying the name ‘Pony Finals’ makes you have more pressure and nerves.”

Seek enjoys the new experiences afforded to riders at Pony Finals.

“You get the opportunity to do something different. It's one time in the big ring,” Seek said, referring to the Walnut ring at the Kentucky Horse Park where all of the Pony Finals hunter classes are run. “You don't get that at every horse show.”

Reserve champion in the Large Pony Hunter was Dr. Betsee Parker’s entry Enjoy The Laughter, ridden by Ali Tritschler.

The Regular Small Pony division got underway Wednesday, and leading the Regular Small Pony standings going into Thursday’s over fences rounds is Dr. Betsee Parker’s pony Bit Of Love.

Known as Chester back in the barn, the chestnut gelding won the small pony model and took third in the hack, and he’s no stranger to the top of the pony pack. Chester was the top ranked small pony going into the over fences rounds at last year’s Pony Finals, placing fourth in the Small Regular Pony Hunter.

“I’m hoping and that he can do a real nice, quiet, mannerly round for Caroline tomorrow,” Parker said. “But you just never know. We’re really delighted today, and you’ve got a level playing field tomorrow.”

Chester can have what Parker calls some “firm small pony opinions”, and it’s up to his rider Caroline Passarelli to keep him happy in the ring. 

“He either likes a child or he doesn’t, and he likes Caroline,” Parker said. “He’s kind of high spirited, and if the children give him any reason to demonstrate his gingery-ness he will demonstrate being a gingery pony!”

Some small ponies have quite a naturally plump build, but not Chester. The model winner’s slender build is something Parker finds particularly appealing about his conformation.  

“I think with Chester his body is especially sleek looking,” Parker explained. “A lot of times we like to see these big, kind of sofa-esque ponies, and they are all as large as they can be for the division, but Chester isn’t one of those. He’s not a sofa pony—he’s refinement right done to his hoofs.” 


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