Sequim youth raising money to attend USPC national championships

Jessica DeFilippo has been “horse-crazy” ever since she can remember.

At 3 years old, she started saving her money to buy a pony. “Everybody told me I would grow out of it, that it was a phase, but 11 years later I still haven’t,” Jessica said.

After saving every penny from birthdays, allowances, the tooth fairy, mowing the lawn and other household chores, Jessica bought her own horse when she was 10 years old for $6,000. Now, at age 14, Jessica has qualified to travel to Lexington, Va., and compete in the United States Pony Club national championships July 24-27. But since she depleted her piggy bank to buy Paco, a 12-year-old appaloosa registered with the Pony of the Americas organization, the Ranahan Pony Club member and soon-to-be Sequim High School student is asking the community to help pay her way.

She has saved $325 and needs a total of $3,500 to make the trip. She will go to Virginia no matter what, said her mother, Mary DeFilippo, but it would hurt the family’s pocketbook to pay for the trip without help. Jessica will continue seeking aid through July 31.

Once in Virginia, Jessica will meet her teammates, Pony Clubbers much like herself from Enumclaw and Bellevue, and prepare for the three phases of the “quiz” competition.

The “barn” portion tests each team’s hands-on ability to identify horse-related illnesses, put a bridle together and perform other tasks as a group; the “classroom” phase requires teams to answer questions aloud; and the “media” category puts individuals on the spot, requiring each student to answer horse-related questions on paper without help from teammates.

For Jessica, the school-like competition is fun. “I really like horsemanship knowledge and learning how to care for horses,” she said.

According to her mother, Paco’s veterinarian and farrier often quiz Jessica on equine trivia. And to their surprise, her mother said proudly, they rarely are able to stump the ambitious youngster.

Horses are more than just a hobby, Jessica vowed. She wants to become an eventing instructor and also a certified USPC examiner, traveling all over the world to train and test horseback-riders. To do so, Jessica must achieve her A rating in pony club — the highest achievement. The rating system is like a stepladder that starts at D1, D2 and D3, advances to C1, C2, C3, B, H, H-A and then A. Pony club members who achieve their A rating meet standards of competence recognized worldwide.

Jessica has until she is 25 to earn her A rating. This fall, she plans to test for her C2, which means she must be able to jump 3-foot high with Paco, list annual immunizations and health requirements appropriate to the area, assist less experienced horseback riders in simple, unmounted instructional programs, and more.

Her mother is Jessica’s biggest supporter. She encourages Jessica to practice daily, drives her to the barn where Paco is boarded, pays for lessons and volunteers as chef at weeklong camps.

“Being in pony club only a year and a half and competing in quiz only once before qualifying for the national championship … I am really proud of her,” she bragged while watching her daughter groom Paco.

Even though the national championships is an unmounted event — that means competitors won’t be riding horses — Jessica continues to ride Paco four to five times a week. She alternates between practicing flatwork, jumping and exercising the pony.

The day after she returns from the quiz competition, Jessica and Paco will attend a five-day riding camp at Serenity Farms in Sequim.

For more information about her trip to Virginia or to make a donation, call 683-2451.

‘Friendship, education, horses and a lifetime of memories’

Pony Club is one of the leading junior equestrian organizations in the world, represented throughout 30 countries. It’s not necessary for a child to own a horse or pony but they must have access to one when required. Programs are offered in dressage, eventing, show jumping, mounted games, tetrathlon, quiz, vaulting, foxhunting and polocrosse. Unmounted meetings educate members about feeding, shoeing, veterinary care and other aspects of horse management. For more information about the national organization, go online to To join Ranahan Pony Club, a Port Angeles-based group, contact Karen Dybedal, joint district commissioner, at 452-9172 or

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