By Taryn Young
The National Dressage Pony Cup (NDPC) and Small Horse Championship took place over the weekend at Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, IL. Lamplight Equestrian Center is one of the most beautiful equestrian show venues in the United States, nestled within the Chicago suburbs, drawing equestrian competitors from all over the world. The National Dressage Pony Cup marked its 12th Anniversary on July 19-21, 2019 and Founder and President, Jenny Carol, couldn’t have been happier with the outcome.
It was a hot weekend with temperatures exceeding 95 degrees each day, but competitors in both the National Dressage Pony Cup and Small Horse Championship didn’t back down from the heat. With over 225 entries, from across the country, representing 26 different breeds – gorgeous ribbons, dynamic freestyles, generous prizes, and a Celebration Dinner were enjoyed by all.
The NDPC and Small Horse Partner Shows give ponies and small horses a place to perform and shine in the dressage arena. Scores are averaged between both days for horse and rider duos, and range from Intro Level to Grand Prix across Open, Adult Amateur, and JR/YR divisions. As designated by the National Dressage Pony Cup, any breed of horse or pony is welcome to compete, if they measure under 16hh for the Small Horse Division and 14.2hh and under for the Pony Division.
“The National Dressage Pony Cup started in 2007 after I had gone to a show up on the East Coast named the East Coast Pony Championships,” said Jenny Carol. “I came home and thought, ‘I wonder if we could do this in Ohio and make it bigger, better, and stronger.’ I had ponies at the time, and I always felt there was an inequity to ponies in the dressage ring. I wanted to create a situation where ponies could compete among other ponies and create a sense of fairness in competition. I know others were looking for the same kind of thing… where ponies could be awarded, and we could feel appreciated.”
With the completion of the 12th Annual NDPC, I know many Pony and Small Horse competitors felt that Jenny shaped the exact competition she sought out to create.
Pony Division competitors Ruth Lemna and her Fjord mare, Marit, are both 19 years of age. Ruth and Marit competed at the Pony Cup for the first time this year. I caught up with Ruth and asked her what the NDPC meant to her and what she was most excited for.
“One year ago, I was a spectator at the Pony Cup and Marit was out of shape. Competing in the Pony Cup was not something I thought Marit and I could do. I was leaving for college, and I thought that ship had sailed. However, with the help of wonderful trainers, like Agata Rekucka, and a supportive barn, Marit and I are ready to trot down the centerline. I hope that we make the small breed proud. Fjords always catch peoples’ attention, but I want them to know that Fjords are so much more. They are hard workers who aim to please. Riding in the Pony Cup allows Marit and I to demonstrate that Fjords are more than just a cute face. I am looking forward to seeing Fjords and other dressage ponies compete. This discipline is dominated by Warmbloods and it’s easy to feel insecure when Marit’s poll is the height of most horses’ withers.”
For Kelly Smaltz and her horse, High Five owned by Agata Rekucka, in the Small Horse Division, it meant the same thing:
“The Small Horse Championships are such a great opportunity for those of us who don’t ride 17.2hh horses! Even when my horse is correct, his half passes can’t look as impressive as the big guys because his legs just aren’t long enough! I think this is a great way to encourage people who have non-traditional breeds to compete in dressage shows. It’s a great thing for our sport. For this show in particular, I’m looking forward to putting together two good Fourth Level tests, and hopefully getting to the awards ceremony!” Kelly Smaltz and her Small Horse High Five won Fourth Level Adult Amateur Champion.
“The most fun part of the National Dressage Pony Championships for me is meeting people from all over the US and Canada, who come to compete. And the fact that I get to see breeds of ponies that I never even considered competing in dressage come together,” Jenny Carol stated. As I browsed through the Pony Cup merchandise, I found a shirt with the saying, “Height Doesn’t Measure Heart” and that’s one statement I can support after observing the most talented dressage ponies in the nation.
The next National Dressage Pony Cup and Small Horse Championships will take place on July 17-19, 2020 in Lake St. Louis, MO. For more information about the National Dressage Pony Cup programs, visit https://www.dressageponycup.com
About the Writer: Taryn Young is an advertising executive by day and an avid equestrian by nights and weekends. She is the founder of the equestrian lifestyle account – @WarmbloodsandWine – and resides in St. Charles, IL. She’s a USDF Bronze Medalist who competes regularly in recognized dressage shows with her gelding, Rayne Dance, and enjoys family, fitness, and her corgi Derby. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at @WarmbloodsandWine on Instagram.