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Kentucky Horse Shows, Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington

Caroline Passarelli Captures U.S. Pony Medal Finals Championship Title

Caroline Nickolaus

Reporting from Kentucky Horse Shows, Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington
Sunday, August 14, 2016 :: Posted 11:28:44 PM EDT

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© Caroline Nickolaus: Augusta Iwasaki and Caroline PassarelliAugusta Iwasaki and Caroline Passarelli, reserve and grand champions in the Pony Medal.

Lexington, Ky. – August 14, 2016 – The top equitation riders did not become the talented athletes that they are overnight. It is a big commitment during one’s junior years, both financially and socially. Riding at the top level, especially in the equitation ranks, takes a team of skilled horses, hard work, lots of practice, and a good support system of family, trainers, grooms, and other barn staff.

For Caroline Passarelli, of High Falls, New York, all of the ingredients for a prosperous career are already there. Passarelli is currently a working student at Heritage Farm, training under the expertise of Patricia Griffith and Dottie Barnwell-Areson. At 14-years old, not only is she well-spoken, mature and sweet, she is also not afraid of hard work.

On the final day of U.S. Pony Finals, Passarelli swept the U.S. Pony Medal Finals aboard Annabelle Sanchez's News Flash, against other top-notch pony riders. Passarelli was originally supposed to show a pony who she knows well, Heritage Farm’s Blue Chip, but was unable to when he was not feeling himself.

© Caroline Nickolaus: Caroline Passarelli and News FlashCaroline Passarelli and News Flash

Being the humble young rider she is, she went with the flow and trusted Patricia Griffith when she said she knew of a possible pony to borrow. It was a wise decision, and Griffith knew that they would make a good match.

“We want to thank both the Gandamorts and the trainer, the Champees, and the owner of the pony, Annabelle Sanchez, because they all really came to the rescue,” Griffith said.

“We knew Blue Chip wasn’t looking good two days ago and I reached out to Eleanor Kunsman, who also trains the Champees,” Griffith continued. “They just stepped right up and were like, 'We’re here for you and if you need us let us know.' It was unbelievable, the generosity on their part, to just step right in, as well as the Champee family and Alex Inganamort. It was so nice, it moved me.”

Passarelli said she felt at ease aboard News Flash as soon as she took the reins this morning.

© Lauren Baker: Caroline Passarelli and News FlashCaroline Passarelli and News Flash

“I could tell when I got on he was a good match, and he was really willing and brave, and had a great change. He was everything you would want in a medal pony, especially at the last minute,” Passarelli noted. “I was just thinking I want to give him the best ride I possibly could with the limited experience I had with him and just go in and try to lay it down.”

Griffith said that it was imperative that she find her deserving student a solid mount for this class.

“It’s very important to me since I was a working student myself,” Griffith said. “She really tries hard and she’s one of those kids that the whole show really wants to be behind. I wanted to really give her every opportunity because she really makes the most out of them all.”

In addition to riding and showing ponies, Passarelli also shows in the THIS Medal and 3’3” Junior Hunters. She is aspiring to show in the 3’6” divisions by next year, and hopefully qualify for the Pessoa/US Hunter Seat Equitation Medal Finals.

© Lauren Baker: Caroline Passarelli and News FlashCaroline Passarelli and News Flash

This was a great way to make a comeback from last year’s U.S. Pony Medal Finals, in which Passarelli had a rail down, and therefore did not get called back to the top twenty.

Even more impressive is the fact that Passarelli went in cold without doing the ticketed warm-up, and still laid down two solid rounds. Passarelli was called back a third time to have a work-off on the flat against Augusta Iwasaki. In the end, judges awarded the championship to Passarelli.

Finishing as the reserve champion was Augusta Iwasaki and Kingston, and in third place was Christina Rogalny with Birtley's Crowned Jewel.

© : Augusta Iwasaki and Kingston

© Lauren Baker: Christina Rogalny
Christina Rogalny and Birtley's Crowned Jewel

The young superstar in the making proves that determination and perseverance will pay off in the end. There is no doubt that Passarelli will continue to make the team at Heritage Farm extremely proud.

“I have to start by thanking the Champee family so much for lending him to me at the very last minute, because without them it would not be possible,” Passarelli said, elated. “Also, I can’t thank Patricia and Dottie enough.”

Passarelli’s victory in the U.S. Pony Medal Finals marked the conclusion of the U.S. Pony Finals, but competition will continue at the Kentucky Horse Park beginning on Tuesday with the Pre-Green Incentive Championship, followed by the 2016 USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals on Friday and Saturday. For more information please visit

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