Taylorsville siblings help pony club win national gold in Kentucky

September 02, 1992|By Muphen Whitney | Muphen Whitney,Contributing Writer

Taylorsville's Kelly Conaway says that the toughest thing about being on the team that won the gold medal in the junior games competition at the 1992 United States Pony Club National Festival wasn't the long trip to Kentucky or riding in five competitive sessions in three days.

It wasn't having to be at the barn at 6 a.m., or spending hours each day vaulting onto ponies and racing around in various games at the Kentucky Horse Park.

The toughest thing, says this veteran games competitor, was having to listen to her brother.

"Chuck was the team captain," Kelly relates, "so I had to do what he said."

But doing what Chuck -- Charlie Conaway III -- said enabled the Howard County Pony Club to come home with the gold, besting six other teams from across the nation.

"On the final day our team started out one point ahead," Chuck recalled. "There were three games: ball and cone, two-flag, and five-flag. We didn't make the finals in the first game, but then we came back and won the second and third games.

"After the third game, we were tied overall with Elkridge-Harford. The tie was broken based on our scores in stable management. We had finished second in stable management and Elkridge-Harford was sixth, so we were first overall."

The Howard County Pony Club Junior Games Team consists of Kelly and Chuck, both of Taylorsville, and three Howard County members: Lisa McWhirter of Woodbine and Michael Brinkley and Joshua Hough of Mount Airy.

The five youngsters had to work their way around a foot injury that Chuck incurred while working in the fields without proper, safe foot wear.

In one of the games, Chuck, trying to keep weight off his sore foot, vaulted strongly off his good foot -- so strongly that he went right over his pony's back to the ground on the other side.

"That was the first day," Chuck said. "Then I re-injured my foot in the sock race. Fortunately, we were able to change the order of who rode in what on the last day and I was able to sit out the final game."

This team earned its berth at the national competition by qualifying at the regional level. Teams from all over the country competed in various Pony Club disciplines, including games. The games teams had the toughest job at the festival because they competed in preliminary heats and finals in 19 different games.

The region to which the Howard County Pony Club belongs professionally vanned the 28 ponies and horses that qualified in the various competitions from all over the region.

"We took a few days after the competition to really enjoy the Kentucky Horse Park and the farms in that area of the country," said Chuck's dad, Charlie Conaway Jr.. He coached the Howard County Pony Club Junior Games Team.

"Two mornings in a row, I got up early and went down and had coffee with John Henry [the legendary thoroughbred gelding that's retired at the Kentucky Horse Park]," said Charlie Jr.

Chuck and Kelly said they especially liked visiting the different stud farms and breeding operations, and seeing all the famous horses.

What did Chuck think was the toughest thing about the festival?

"Motivating the team and keeping the peace," he said with a grin. "Keeping the girls from fighting."

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