James Iarusso of East Haddam saw something he wanted and went after it. His vigor, dedication and hard work paid off and now this Nathan Hale-Ray High School sophomore will be part of the 2013 United States Pony Club International Games Team.
The Mounted Games Exchange will take place in Ontario, Canada August 9 through 25, hosted by the Canadian Pony Club. The competition will be between the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Australia. Each team will have five members.
Iarusso, who has been riding since he was five, has been part of the Connecticut Valley Pony Club for the past five years competing in mounted games. For the past year, he has partnered with his grey pony, Fannie Mae, owned by Melinda Hamilton.
For the International Games, however, Iarusso won’t be riding his trusty stead. Instead the mounts are provided for the riders, who get a very short amount of time to bond with them before competing. This is one aspect of this amazing summer experience that makes Iarusso a little nervous, he admits.
“I am very excited about making the International team, I can’t wait for the summer,” he says, explaining that since finding out this fantastic news he has stepped up his riding workout to five or six days a week, riding both Fannie and his 16 hand eventing horse Baxter.
“Jim told me in the summer of 2011 that he wanted to try out for the USPC International Games Team, when he watched the 2011 team compete at the USPC Championships,” explain his mother, Ann Guptill.
Guptill is the owner of Fox Ledge Farm in East Haddam, Dressage Federation Certified Instructor and seasoned rider with a past and present full of her own proud accomplishments, one of which includes placing fifth individually at the 1987 Pan American Games and helping to secure the Team Silver Medal.
She adds, “Jim set his mind to it, accomplished the ratings and certifications he needed to be eligible and then completed the application process. We are very proud of his achievements.”
To be selected as part of the team Iarusso had to send in an unedited video of him participating as part of the Pony Club games. Along with the video, he submitted an essay explaining why he would make a great member of the team and three letters of recommendation.
“I can’t wait to go to Canada and be part of this experience, it’s very exciting and I am extremely happy to be part of the United States team,” said Iarusso.
“I really enjoy being part of the Pony Club because there is such a sense of family on the team and at the meetings. Pony Club gives young riders more team opportunities on horseback, plus it is beneficial to families who join. It’s a great way to meet new friends and create lasting relationships.”
The Connecticut Valley Pony Club meets monthly for practice at Fox Ledge Farm where Guptill helps coach, along with Elizabeth Brown. The team, which is affectionately named “The Wild Things”, has uniform colors of neon green zebra stripes, adding a lot of personality to their presence.
With the universal mission of creating well rounded horsemen and women, Pony Clubs across America try to emphasize all aspects of equestrian knowledge with an intense emphasis on horse management. Team members are encouraged to set personal goals and learn about proper feeding, shoeing, vet visits, tack, safety issues and more. There are certificate levels to be achieved and each team, “… competes in rallies to demonstrate proficiency in an atmosphere of cooperation, fun and team work,” according to the United States Pony Club website.
There are mentoring programs within the clubs, which foster peer to peer teaching and help the team members work on cooperation, confidence and leadership. Each club is a little different based on the individual coaches and barns, but all are driven by parents and volunteers.
Although being part of the Pony Club is a fun, exciting part of Iarusso’s equine world, he admits his first love is eventing, because of the exhilaration of jumping, which both he and his horse Baxter enjoy immensely and currently compete in, at a Novice level.
“We are so proud of everything Jim has accomplished and we can’t wait to see him ride for the U.S. this summer,” says Guptill positively.
For more information about the Connecticut Valley Pony Club, go to firstname.lastname@example.org.