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Madeline and Shamrock Award.jpg

The 2017 USEF Pony Finals returned for the second-to-last day of hunter competition Friday, with Madeline Jordan and Shamrock hoisting the title of Medium Green Pony Hunter Champions, and Libbie Gordon, with her second championship of the week, aboard Small Wonder claiming the rosette in the Large Green Pony Hunters. It was undoubtedly a special day for both young riders and their families, but especially so for Jordan, as she returned to the saddle just over a year ago after a debilitating accident that led to a broken leg and brain injury, among other injuries.

Luck was in the air for Florida-based Jordan and her own Shamrock as the pair were awarded the title of Medium Green Pony Hunter Champions less than two years after she was hit by a car while trick-or-treating in her hometown on Halloween in 2015. Jordan took a year off of riding to recover after a 3-month hospital stay, but you wouldn't know it watching her ride today. Entering the day in 13th position, she and "Louie" laid down a first-rate jumping trip to propel them to the top of the leaderboard. Jordan and her pony were forced to wait for 12 trips while fellow competitors took a shot at surpassing her 259.00 score, but none even came close, with the second-best score coming from owner-rider Alexa Lignelli and iApprove, who trailed the class leader with marks of 246.75. Jordan and her bay pony ultimately easily clinched the division title with a cumulative score of 1015.01, nearly 13 points ahead of the runner-up duo. Jordan and Lignelli were the only two to break the 1000-point mark.

Lignelli and iApprove rode to the reserve championship with total marks of 1002.30, followed by Libbie Gordon and Jessie Spade's All Yours in third position. Madeline Rubin, in the irons aboard her own Exuberance, claimed fourth place, and Emma Jolly and Sunset's Sparkle, owned by Sunset Farm, finished in fifth overall.

With the highest score of the 2017 USEF Pony Finals thus far, Gordon and Else Batalden's Small Wonder navigated their way to a cumulative score of 1028.05 to claim the Large Green Pony Hunter championship, Gordon's second title win of the week. Gordon and "Cooper" compounded their reasons to celebrate with a blue ribbon in the over fences class, their score of 261.00 besting a field of nearly 100 competitors. The rider-pony pair entered the day in 11th position, but eclipsed the 10 entries ahead of them thanks to their standout over fences trip. Especially impressive is the fact that Gordon has only been riding Cooper for three weeks, but the pair meshed quickly and the easy connection showed in the ring.

A familiar face in the winner's circle, Augusta Iwasaki and Butterscotch, owned by Quartet Farm, LLC, earned the reserve position with a score of 1025.11, followed by Adam Edgar and Graciela Roberts' D'Artagnan in the third position. Claire Campbell rode Maher Family, LLC's Eastside to fourth place overall, and the top five was rounded out by Alexa Aureliano and Front Row, owned by CKE Horse Enterprises.

In the Medium Regular Pony Hunters, the last hunter division of the week, Caroline Signorino and Hannah Hoch's Anisette impressed the judges to two top scores in the model and hack phases of competition to secure the early lead. The pair earned third place and a score of 257.23 in the model, less than one point behind the class leader, Iwasaki and Tessa Downey's News Flash. The two pairs will be neck and neck entering Saturday's final jumping portion, but Signorino and Anisette managed to just edge out their contenders with a four-point lead thanks to a first place finish and score of 260.43 in the under saddle.

The 2017 USEF Pony Finals, presented by Collecting Gaits Farm, will continue through Sunday, Aug. 13. The nation's best young pony riders will be tested in one final hunter division in the Walnut Ring, and the two Grand Champion Hunters - both Regular and Green - will be announced at the conclusion of competition Friday afternoon. The Alltech Arena will play host to Pony Jumper competition through Saturday, and Sunday's feature will be the Pony Medal Finals, one of the week's highlight events.