Maddie Tosh and Bit of Love Reprise Championship Title at 2019 USEF Pony Finals
It was déjà vu for Maddie Tosh and Bit of Love at the 2019 USEF Pony Finals, presented by Collecting Gaits Farm, on Thursday as the talented partnership defended their title in the Small Regular Pony Hunters ahead of a large field of challengers. The 2018 victors once again proved why they belong at the top of the scorecard, riding to the highest score over fences and in the cumulative standings to emerge victorious for the second time. Tosh had double the reasons to celebrate Thursday as she also led teammate Baroness of Locheil to the initial lead in the Medium Green Pony Hunters with two phases of competition completed. In the Large Green Pony Hunters, Tessa Downey and Sandcastle lead the way prior to the final over fences round to determine the division champion.
Returning as the day one leaders and reigning champions, Tosh and Bit of Love had a target on their backs as the pair to beat in the Small Regular Pony Hunters, which featured 127 entries. The 13-year-old Tosh and Dr. Betsee Parker’s 13-year-old Welsh Pony Cross, Bit of Love, concluded the first two phases of the divisional contest ahead of the closest duo by a slim margin of only six points, meaning they still needed to demonstrate a textbook trip over the course to top the pack and secure overall victory. Not giving in to the pressure, the skilled combination performed perfectly as the final contenders to ride, earning scores of 87.50, 89 and 89 for total over fences marks of 265.5, pushing them to the top of the jumping leaderboard and a composite score of 1,063 to clinch the championship for the second year.
Tosh and Bit of Love are no strangers to USEF Pony Finals, both having competed at the event multiple times. With three appearances under her belt, Tosh has already accrued two major divisional victories two years in a row, adding to her growing list of accolades that includes wins in the Children’s Hunters, Junior Hunters and equitation. Coming from an equestrian family, Tosh is trained by her father, acclaimed rider and trainer Hunt Tosh, out of Alpharetta, Georgia, and has been riding “Chester” for three years.
Runner-up overall, Allison Coleman and her own Smoke Tree Starlet earned the reserve championship with 1,049.01 points, followed by Kat Fuqua aboard Xia Tabanou’s Quicksilver Bells with a score of 1,025.10 for third place. Heavenly Patch of Blue, ridden by Shiloh Roseboom and owned by Enchantment Farms LLC, was awarded fourth in the standings with a final tally of 1,024.75 points, and Ava Barnes with Ponies & Palms Show Stables LLC’s Rico Suave rounded out the top five placings with a total score of 1,018.78.
Earlier in the day, 88 entries vied for the early lead in the model and under saddle sections of the Medium Green Pony Hunters. Tosh and Dr. Parker’s Baroness of Locheil navigated to a commanding lead after the first two phases, finishing in first place ahead of the pack in both classes to earn a 17-point lead ahead of the next-closest team. Tosh and Baroness of Locheil garnered 267.11 points in the model to begin the day on a high note, and finished strong with a score of 272.22 in the under saddle to extend their lead to a cumulative 539.33 points. The pair will try to retain their status Friday by fending off the current second-place sitting pony-and-rider duo, Taylor Cawley and GC Ponies LLC’s By4now, who boast 522.25 points.
Following two standout showings, partners Tessa Downey and Noelle Wolf Stables LLC’s Sandcastle will serve as the early frontrunners in the Large Green Pony Hunters headed into Friday’s over fences class to conclude the division. Starting with the model, the duo caught the judges’ eyes to earn a score of 253.64 and second place out of 93 exhibitors, and later returned to the Walnut Ring to improve upon their performance, awarded first place in the hack thanks to a high score of 265.75. The combination will jump last in the final portion of competition as the leaders with 519.39 points, with Nicole Boyle and Affari Equestrian LLC’s Be Mine sitting just under seven points behind in the current reserve spot with a total score of 512.55.