Road to the Finals: Wizarding Magic

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Ana DiGironimo & Anna Miriah C,
Turnersville, New Jersey (Region 8)

By Jennifer Keeler

After earning a wild card invitation to compete in the Third Level Open Freestyle Championship at the 2017 US Dressage Finals, the “small but mighty” pair of young professional Ana DiGironimo and her 14.2-hand Arabian pony Anna Miriah C could not have been more excited to take advantage of the opportunity to show the world their fabulous “Wizard of Oz”-themed performance.

November in Lexington can certainly be chilly, but after traveling 14 hours to the Kentucky Horse Park the DQ Performance Horses team arrived to unseasonably frigid temperatures. “I wasn’t sure how the weather might influence our performance, but ‘AM’ and I kept our sights set high and just bundled up!” said DiGironimo. Luckily, the pair’s championship class was scheduled in the heated Alltech Arena, where they first schooled on Wednesday. “We had a super session, and AM decided to show off a bit,” she laughed. “Our sound check went off without any issues, and the excitement was truly palpable everywhere. These Finals have such a truly magical vibe to them. Everyone is so happy to just be there, it’s almost as though the placings come secondary to everyone having a great time and feeling so proud to be there! I know for me, I felt like a champion just getting to go!”

But DiGironimo also wanted to take advantage of a warm-up class on Thursday, and despite below-freezing temperatures for their 8:18am ride time, the pair braved the elements. “I was so proud of her. We went to our warm up test in the Murphy arena and she gave me a solid performance,” DiGironimo said. “I couldn’t feel my hands or toes so I know she was also very cold, but she didn’t take one step wrong.” They ended up in second place in their warm-up class. “I was so impressed with the footing, which did not freeze! The competition staff and volunteers did their best to keep everyone warm – they even had a golf cart with coffee and tea!”

Saturday dawned as the pair’s big day, and DiGironimo had drawn what she felt was a “perfect” ride time. “But by now it was our fifth day there with no turnout and freezing weather, so our warmup was not quite as effortless as I had hoped for,” DiGironimo said. “AM was a bit tight from the get-go so we took our time and slowly got into our zone. I stayed focused on us, though we had some amazing horses and riders in our division. I knew with a clean and fun ride we could be competitive too!”

Ana and AM in the Alltech Arena.

All smiles, the pair trotted into the Alltech Arena. The bell rang, and DiGironimo took a moment to pat her pony before waving to the announcer – her cue for the music to begin. As the familiar soundtrack to “The Wizard of Oz” rang out across the arena, the charismatic petite pair danced down the yellow brick road until their final halt, with cheers from fans and supporters following them out of the arena. With happiness beaming from Ana’s face, their score of 67.022% flashed on the scoreboard – putting them in ninth place and securing a place in the Top Ten awards ceremony for their division.

“I came to Kentucky with the mindset that good things come in small packages,” DiGironimo explained. “We may not be ‘typical’, but I’ll take unique any day of the week! To say I am proud of Anna Miriah wouldn’t even begin to explain my gratitude I have for her. She makes me believe anything is possible. So here’s to ponies and non-warmbloods – you can do it! And last but not least, Finals were everything I could have imagined and more. A huge thank you goes out to the USDF, the sponsors, show management and volunteers, because without you none of this would be possible!”

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