Pony Mania Comes to USHJA

August 8, 2012

Lexington, KY - Nearly two hundred USEF Pony Finals competitors descended upon the Wheeler Museum at the United States Hunter Jumper Association headquarters for a Welcome Reception designed just for these wee warriors!

The Ponies through the Decades exhibit was open for all to enjoy a stroll through pony history via collected artifacts, photographs, and even vintage footage of the 1961 Pony Championships in England. USHJA’s lobby and patio were adorned with an array of temptations, including chocolate fondue stations with an assortment of dippable treats. Guest were greeted with a gift of their very own Wheeler Pony to remind them the fun of the pony exhibit didn’t stop once they left, each pony came with a special bookmark that provided information on how to join the virtual Ponies through the Decades online exhibit courtesy of site host Virtual Celebration.

As guests walked through pony history they had the opportunity to meet several of the pony riders featured in the exhibit- such as Nancy Baroody who owned and rode the great 12.3 hand mare Midget. This pair is one of the most successful teams on record, having won the American Horse Show Association’s (now USEF) most coveted Horse of the Year Award four consecutive years- 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969, and during this era were the highest scoring junior horse or pony in the history of the AHSA awards. Also on hand and providing impromptu history lessons was Cynthia Weiner, who owned and rode Chimney Sweep, hailed as one of the most talented large hunter ponies of his time. The pair won the AHSA Large Pony Hunter Championships for three consecutive years, 1968- 1970, which was a historical mark for the AHSA. The Chronicle of the Horse magazine featured this remarkable pony on the cover of their April 3, 1970 issue using Wallace Wilson Nall’s painting of Chimney Sweep standing in the All Around Farm courtyard. This cherished framed magazine cover is on display in the Wheeler Museum and Cynthia delighted the young guest with memories of riding this great pony champion.

“We’re excited to welcome so many young, talented and interested equestrians to the USHJA building for the Wheeler Museum exhibit, Ponies through the Decades and to be a part of hosting the USEF Pony National Championships. We wish everyone the best of luck this week!” Bill Moroney, President of USHJA said.

Also in attendance was Bill Rube of Merchantville, NJ, who has been instrumental in the success of the pony exhibit- he literally drove from one donor’s home to another to collect many of the artifacts featured and has promoted both the live and virtual event daily on several Facebook sites.

“The feeling of seeing generations of horsemen from children to grandparents revel in the history of the sport through the memories of the pony ring literally gave me goose bumps. It has been an honor and a privilege, to help coordinate this exhibit and we have already begun working on our next exhibit- Equitation: Foundation for Life.” Rube said.

This special party marked welcoming the youngest group of members to visit the USHJA building since its opening. They explored every inch of the museum, reveled in the artifacts and left with a greater respect for their smaller equine partners.

Competing in her first Pony Finals, 13 year-old Reagan Stringfellow of Crumb, TX said of the pony exhibit, “I like it. I think it’s cool that they have all that history in there.”

For birthday girl Melissa Schaefer of Niskayuna, NY, who turned 13 this day, the exhibit has a very personal connection, “I like it very much, it’s very organized- just makes all the pieces to the museum so much more valuable to those visiting. It’s also cool to see a few people that I know and my mom! Seeing pictures of her with her ponies jumping!” Melissa’s mom is Dana Reifler Schaefer, who in the 1970s and 1980s rode several of the famous Farnley and Shenandoah ponies throughout the east coast. As a child, Dana Schaefer rode such greats as Shenandoah Flintstone, Shenandoah Opal, Shenandoah Firestone, Shenandoah Gemstone and Shenandoah Moonstone. Today her pony hunter breeding program is based upon these wonderful ponies, with many descended from the very bloodlines. Melissa hopes to follow mom’s path and maybe one day even be remembered in the pony exhibit too, though her ideal memory to share is a bit different, “My pony drinks Gatorade! Preferably over shaved ice.”

Enjoying her fourth Pony Finals appearance, 14 year-old Isabel Coleman of New Orleans, LA added her insight of the pony exhibit, “It was so cool to see how old time shows were. I enjoyed getting to talk with Cynthia Weiner and hearing about her pony Chimney Sweep. If my ponies, King Midas and Footnote (barn name Woody), were put into a museum I’d want people to know this- Midas is so sweet and he actually shines when he’s well groomed. Woody- he moves really cutely has a great stride and is just so handsome.”
Shelby French, CEO of USHJA took great delight in welcoming the young visitors and observing their reactions to the pony exhibit.

“What struck me most about the party for the pony exhibitors were the connections made. It was fun to watch history become real as some of the riders featured in the exhibit met young pony riders and shared stories about their love for the animals and the sport. Watching the footage that Bernie Traurig was able to put together for the exhibit from Gordon Wright’s footage of the 1961 Pony Championships in England was fun for everyone and really shows how our sport has changed. It was another reminder how important it is to keep the history of our sport alive and make sure the riders of today have a strong connection with our past.” French said.

Pony lovers are invited to visit Ponies through the Decades at the Wheeler Museum and learn how many of equestrian sport’s most accomplished riders today started out as pony riders. Enjoy a look at how history has evolved with regard to ponies and their special place in our sport. Grandparents and parents alike, who are horsemen and horsewomen themselves, can both reminisce and share memories. Spectacular sterling silver goblets, gorgeous ribbon displays, specially created Breyer® horses, wardrobe items, and exquisite retired trophies from such prestigious shows as Devon, will be just a few of the items on display. The exhibit opened May 15th and will continue until September 23.

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