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What started out with riding welsh ponies in the back yard as a three year old, is today reaching the Pony finals! Emma Lemke has just turned 9 and has qualified to go to the pony finals within her first 6 months of competing at A-shows like Ocala, Florida, and Lexington, Kentucky. In fact, she and her pony, Rosmel’s Cotillion Belle, were Champion Small/Medium Green their very first time out in that division, last December in Tunica, Mississippi. Will she be the next upcoming Hunter Star? It started before Emma and her sisters (Carrie 12 and Charlotte 7) were born, when mom Eliabeth and dad, David, both still practiced law. The two bought a farm in the community of Leiper’s Fork, outside of Nashville, where they then found and bought some Welsh ponies for Elizabeth to Compete in Driving.
Emma was around 3 years old when she first started riding these same ponies. The Lemke girls began competing at shows sanctioned by the Welsh Pony & Cob Society of America, and their mom would drive the ponies at those same shows. The whole family loves the atmosphere of the Welsh shows and eventually, the not so “horse-crazy” dad and their mom would drive the girls 14 hours to Maryland, or 11 hours to Oklahoma for the big ‘reunions’ at welsh shows.
“The Welsh shows are so much fun” says Emma, “Everyone is so friendly and helpful. Everyone watches the classes and knows the different ponies. It is fun seeing our friends and the new ponies that come out at the beginning of the show season.”
“It is really a community that is drawn together by the love of the Welsh pony, and the competition becomes secondary to the show,” (mom) Elizabeth fills in. “It is a reunion every time we get to a Welsh show,” she continues. “These shows will always be some of our best family memories.” The Lemkes continue to take their young ponies to the Welsh shows to give the ponies mileage and to visit with their “Welsh friends.”
These days, Emma trains with Robyn Schmidt (Timbercreek Farm near Waco, Texas) who comes to the A shows to help the three sisters. They also get a lot of help at the Welsh shows from Sally Ross Davis who lives in Mississippi and at home from Jamee Kerrigan-Pardue in Franklin, TN, as she helps them keep their ponies focused on their jobs in between shows.
Emma and her sisters have had success at the Welsh shows, with all three girls ending up in the top four in the nation in their divisions last year, including Emma’s first in the nation in Short Stirrup Equitation. In addition, Emma had a surprisingly great debut at the A-circuit earlier this year in Ocala, FL, including winning her first Small Green Pony Hunter Model class, and the results keep coming...
She was Reserve Pre-Green Pony Champion at Brownland Farm in May with her Palomino Welsh mare ‘Rollingwoods L If I Know’, who she hopes to ride in the Small Green Pony Division next year, and she was Champion Small Green Pony with Rosmel’s Cotillion Belle a couple of weeks later at Brownland. Emma also got ribbons at the Spring Kentucky show with these two ponies.
When Emma is not at a horse show, she and her sisters are all working together with one of the many young ponies they have at their farm in Franklin, or she and Carrie are helping little sister Charlotte, who is just starting to jump small courses.
If you don’t find Emma on a horseback or in the barn, then she is probably out playing with her sisters, friends and the family’s five dogs.
Next year will be fun and exciting for the Lemkes since one of their Welsh mares is having a foal. The whole family is very excited to have a “baby” to raise! But first, Emma must focus on the Pony Finals in August. To help prevent being so nervous she will wear her Tailored Sportsman “lucky breeches” and the tall boots her grandparents gave her for Christmas.