Articles: Press Release
New Yorks Ailish Cunniffe Captures the
Equisport Insurance/USEF Pony Medal Championship Final
Ailish Cunniffe captures the Equisport Insurance/USEF Pony Medal
Championship Final. Photo credit: USEF Archive/Randi Muster.
United States Equestrian Federation, Inc.
4047 Iron Works Parkway
Lexington, KY 40511-8483
Tel: (859) 258-2472
Fax (859) 231-6662
Web site: www.usef.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 9, 2009
Lexington, KY -- By midday Sunday, the Kentucky Horse Park began to look
vacant. Ponies were unbraided and cooled, loaded trailers rumbled toward
home and the usually lively vendor row was filled with merchants striking
their tents and packing their wares.
After four days of fierce competition in the Pony Hunters and Jumpers, the
whirlwind that is the 2009 USEF Pony Finals was spiraling to a calm. Still,
the day was not done and all eyes were focused on the one remaining prize:
The Equisport Insurance/USEF Pony Medal Championship Final.
Over 200 starters in the three size divisions (small, medium and large)all
of which had to earn 30 points during a designated period to qualify for the
classgathered in the parks covered arena to vie for the ultimate equitation
challenge, which concluded a marathon 11 hours later.
In the end, it was Ailish Cunniffe, 12, of South Salem, NY, astride her
medium pony Major League, who found herself draped in the winning honor.
Round one consisted of 10 fences and 12 obstacles. Riders were required to
make a handy halt after the 8a-b combination and then trot to fence 9. The
courses clear trouble spot was the combination at 5a-b, a natural obstacle
set along the arenas spooky outside wall that caused numerous refusals.
By late afternoon, the first round had finished and the top 25 ridersone
small, 10 larges and 14 mediumswere called back for a second
challenge. Cunniffe and second place finisher Madelyn Keck ended the round
neck and neck, and so the judges put forth a last test to see just who had
enough mettle for the medal.
Im so very excited, said a teary Cunniffe after finishing her victory gallop
and fielding cell phone calls from well-wishers. Ive been to Pony Finals
many times since my mom and dad are both trainers, but I have never actually
shown. This is my first time competing.
Major League, on the other hand is a medal veteran, according to trainer
(and Mom) Bonnie Cunniffe and co-trainer Cullen Latimer. The 14-year-old
Welsh pony has won numerous ribbons and medals. We own him, but I lease him
out, added Bonnie. Ailish really never gets to practice on him. But my deal
with leasing him was that she could use him for this week at Pony Finals.
Ailish had no trouble navigating the courses, which she described as a
little challenging, and she had no qualms heading into the troublesome
5a-b. Hes not spooky at all, she said confidently. I wasnt worried. He was
the best boy today.
Earning second place and reserve champion honors was Madelyn Keck, 11, of
Allamuchy, NJ, who piloted her medium Connemara/Welsh cross Tango, and third
place went to Victoria Colvin of Loxahatchee, FL, and her medium pony
Congratulations to all.
For more information about Pony Finals, please contact Marion Maybank, USEFs
Director of Hunter Disciplines at (859) 225-2033 or via e-mail at
To learn more about the USEF Pony Finals, visit
The vision of the United States Equestrian Federation is to provide
for equestrian sport in the United States of America by promoting the
of excellence from the grassroots to the Olympic Games, based on a
foundation of fair, safe competition and the welfare
of its human and equine athletes.