Catching Air: 12-year-old Cameron Cuddy on his way to USEF Pony Finals in Lexington

Cameron Cuddy of Toronto, ON, and Temper of Tony
Photo Credit: Heather McCann-Cuddy

Qualification to the USEF Pony Finals is earned by being champion or reserve champion in your respective division at a USEF-rated national show. Aboard Tony, a 16-year-old Quarter Horse Cross owned by Krista Elford, Cuddy and Tony have the lead in their division with a whopping 5970 points!

Catching Air: 12-year-old Cameron Cuddy on his way to USEF Pony Finals in Lexington

Cuddy cuddles with Tony grazing
Photo Credit: Heather McCann-Cuddy

The Pony Finals follows the format of one over-fences class, an under-saddle, and an in-hand model class where ponies are judged on conformation. The event is considered the most prestigious and celebrated event of its kind in the United States and is designed as a stepping stone for junior riders who desire to move into the Grand Prix ring one day. The courses are long, and the jumps are impressive.

We connected with the 12-year-old from Toronto, ON to find out a little more about him, Tony as they prepare to represent the maple leaf in Kentucky in August.  

When did you first become involved with horses?

I first became involved with horses when I was 3 years old and have been doing it ever since. When I was three, I was just learning how to trot and walk over poles. I have come a long way since then. My family helps each other at shows so I’ve learned a lot like how to trailer Tony, groom and tack up while also looking after him and helping my parents with their horses.

How old were you when you went to your first competition? Did you start in the hunters?

I cannot remember how old I was when I went to my first competition since I showed leadline but when I was five, I competed in the crossrail division on my pony Sparky and did pretty well, even winning the championship twice. Although I showed in the odd hunter derby, I have always focused on riding jumper ponies. I started in the .6 and .8 divisions with my small and medium ponies. This is because I prefer the challenge of a more forward pace with tighter turns and higher fences. Also, all my role models in riding are all jumper riders like Sam Walker, Eric Lamaze, and my Dad!

Do you participate in other sports or activities? What grade are you going into in September?

In addition to riding, I do other sports like golf, sailing, skiing and rugby. It was really fun to be on my school ski and rugby teams along with concert band. I also like to code and create my own video games. I am 12 years old and going into eighth grade in September.

Catching Air: 12-year-old Cameron Cuddy on his way to USEF Pony Finals in Lexington

Tony and Cuddy in competition this year
Photo Credit: Laurel Jarvis Photography

Do you have a favourite pony that you have learned on/competed with?

I have been lucky to have had a few wonderful ponies so I can’t say I had a favorite because they were all good in their own way, over bigger or smaller jumps. Tony is extra special since we clicked right from the start. He loves jumping but has a really competitive spirit that gave me the confidence to jump metre high jumps last year and show at the Royal in front of so many people.

What barn are you currently at? How often are you training? Who is your coach?

Currently I am at the barn Foxwood Hill owned by John Rumble who won a Bronze medal in the 1956 Olympics. Lindsay Colbourne, our barn manager, takes such great care of Tony. I ride whenever I can, usually a few times a week and on weekends. When I was younger, my parents coached me but since I got Tony my coach is Sabrina Ivankovic who is a really good coach and has taught me so much about riding jumper courses. Sabrina helped me develop from riding on the Silvers to being the #1 ranked Pony Jumper in Canada.

Catching Air: 12-year-old Cameron Cuddy on his way to USEF Pony Finals in Lexington

Cameron and Tony at Champions 2023 at Angelstone with coach Sabrina Ivankovic
Photo Credit: Heather McCann-Cuddy

When did you start riding Temper of Tony? How would you describe him?

I started riding Tony a year and a half ago and we make a pretty great team. Tony is very competitive in the ring and brings his A game to every show. As soon as the bell rings, Tony picks up his canter and is focused and ready to go to the first jump. He also loves hacking in between shows. Tony prefers kids to adults since he worries that adults could be vets or farriers, so since I’ve had him, I’ve been the only person to ride Tony. He also loves cold bananas.

Are you excited about heading to the USEF Pony Finals? Have you been to or competed at the Kentucky Horse Park before?

Yes, I am very excited to go to Pony finals and compete in the USEF Pony Jumper Championships as an individual representing Canada. Firstly, it is a real honour to go and compete against the best in the US and to be the first Canadian to do so is really something special. I feel it is such an honour to represent Canada and will try to do my best for my country. This will be my first international competition. Secondly, I’ve never been to the Kentucky Horse Park before nor even been to Kentucky so it’s a first for me and Tony. I am excited to meet the other competitors and learn from competing against some of the best pony jumpers and riders in North America.

What are your future riding aspirations? Other goals?

I want to do more international competitions and hopefully compete in Europe. I would love to represent Canada at the Olympics however still balancing this with my academic goals.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I just want to say that it is a great honor to be able to represent Canada and I would really love to thank my parents for helping me get into riding and always supporting me. I would also like thank Tony’s owners, Jessie Elford-Coote and Krista Elford who have given me this great opportunity with Tony and for cheering us on at horse shows. Especially, I would like to thank my Grandpa and Grandma and my Nana who have always come to horseshows whenever they could and always given great support.

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