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News & Press: Press Releases

2011 Pony Club Academy of Achievement

Friday, February 11, 2011   (0 Comments)
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News Release

Contact: Mary Robertson Pierson



The United States Pony Clubs, Inc.

2011 Academy of Achievement Inductees

LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY: At the Annual Meeting and Convention of The United States Pony Clubs, Inc., in Nashville, Tennessee, January 27-30, 2011, five individuals were inducted into the USPC Academy of Achievement. The Academy of Achievement was created to honor annually up to 10 USPC alumni who have attained outstanding achievements in their chosen fields after leaving Pony Club. The honorees this year were selected from a distinguished group of nominees. They bring a wide variety of skills and experiences as they participate in the activities of the National Youth Congress. The following recipients were recognized at the January 23rd, 2011, Honors Banquet:

Lola Blackwell Chambless was born in Birmingham, AL but spent most of her childhood living outside Nashville, TN. She is a graduate A from the Middle Tennessee Pony Club who Lola began riding as a toddler. She rode her first training level test at the age of 5 on a Shetland pony named Foggy Dew. She joined Pony Club when she was 11 years old. Lola has competed in dressage, eventing, equitation, jumpers, and point-to-point, riding anything she could get her hands on! Following High School, she was long-listed for the US Equestrian Team for the World Equestrian Games, although a paddock injury forced the retirement of her horse.

Lola attended college at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA, double-majoring in Biology and International Relations. She originally planned to pursue a research career in cancer biology, but changed her focus to medicine. Lola graduated from Vanderbilt Medical School in 2005, and a month later started her residency in Neurosurgery at Vanderbilt. Currently, she is completing the 6th year of the 7 year program. Her specialty is Neurosurgical Oncology, and her favorite cases involve complex brain tumors. She has published numerous manuscripts and presents frequently on the subject. She has been accepted into a prestigious 6 month fellowship in minimally invasive intracranial surgery at Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, Australia, and hopes to return to the U.S. to a position of assistant professor of Neurosurgery at an academic hospital after completing the fellowship.

L. Janell Hoffman, RN BSN, graduated from the Loudoun Hunt Pony Club with her A rating in August of 1980. She then spent the next seven years under the instruction of Bruce Davidson at Chesterland Farm in Unionville PA. One of the most important things that Bruce Davidson taught her is a solid work ethic. No matter what the job is, do your best and work hard. Janell went on to compete at Intermediate level and was ready to move up to the Advanced divisions, when life dealt her a difficult decision. Her father died and she decided to go back to college to pursue a nursing career.

Janell graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Shenandoah University in Winchester Virginia, in spring 1991. She is currently a practicing critical care nurse who that has dedicated significant time and energy to advancing the care giving skills of clinical staff in order to improve the quality of care, reduce length of hospital stays, and lower the risk of secondary health conditions. She is currently the Chairman of the Board for the Loudoun Healthcare Foundation. She sits on the Inova Healthcare Systems Foundation Board of Trustees and the board of directors for the Inova Loudoun Hospital.

Janell has served as the Director of Patient Center Care at Inova Loudoun Hospital and managed eight teams to implement a Patient Center Care Work Flow operations plan, to move into a new hospital at the Lansdowne Campus. One of Janell’s dreams is to create a Clinical Education Endowment Fund to support continuing education programs for all clinical staff. Her belief is "The higher the clinical skill level at the bedside, the higher the quality of care delivered to the patient population and the lower the mortality rates and length of stays”. Janell’s passion for education also led her to join the Board of Trustees at Shenandoah University where she serves on the Planning and Development committee.

Sondra Russman Marshall, Ph.D., is a licensed pediatric neuropsychologist specializing in assessments to detect developmental and learning disabilities including attention deficit disorders, autism spectrum disorders, head injuries, epilepsy and other neurobiological problems. She also develops and implements intervention strategies. Since her beginnings as a school psychologist in Salt Lake City, UT, Sondra has since developed a private practice in Bend, OR that offers a range of psychological services to children, adolescents, and adults. She currently practices as part of St. Charles Medical Center where she is developing specialized psychological assessment and treatment clinics including one for children who were prematurely born. In collaboration with a local neurosurgery center, Sondra is also designing and implementing a "best practices” model for managing concussions, and assisting patients in their return to athletics, work, and school. In this capacity, she oversees 1500 athletes in a community based concussion program, and works at the state level developing policy. On the side, Sondra has held several adjunct professor positions through which she taught college courses and developed curriculum for graduate programs. She has given numerous presentations for medical centers, school districts, and at national conferences, she has published articles in peer-reviewed journals, and has received competitive grants to support her work.

Sondra received her Bachelor’s degree in French and Education, with a minor Psychology from the University of Vermont. After receiving her Master of Science in Counseling, she attended graduate school at the University of Utah to earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology.

Sondra grew up in Glastonbury, Connecticut. She was a member of the Glastonbury Pony Club. Prior to this her family moved around a bit, and at one point found themselves in Mountain Home Idaho where she was introduced to horses. Since then, horses have been Sondra’s guide. As an undergraduate at UVM she helped to start the school’s equestrian team. After graduation she taught French at a local school, served as the riding director at a camp in Vermont, and achieved her A rating.

H. Jerry Schurink grew up on Doornhof Farm in Shaftsbury, Vermont. Jerry’s parents founded the Bennington Pony Club (BPC) in 1968 and his father Henry was the acting DC for 40 years. BPC is currently led by Jerry’s sister, Renee VanderWerken. Jerry graduated from high school, and then worked at Klosterhof in Medingen, Germany, an auction facility and stallion training center where Berieter candidates worked to develop their skills and knowledge before taking their national exams.

As a young rider, Jerry was a member of the 1979 Three Day Event Gold Medal Team for Area I and in 1980 was the USDF Young Rider of the Year. While pursuing degrees in Pre-Veterinary Medicine and Resource Economics at the University of New Hampshire, Jerry attended three developing rider training sessions at the USET Eventing Headquarters in Hamilton Massachusetts under Jack LeGoff.

Jerry is currently the Director of Riding Studies in the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences at the University of Massachusetts. He teaches riding and didactic courses in both the associates and bachelors degree programs, and is the Head Coach of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Equitation team. Jerry has trained, ridden and coached through the advanced level in eventing, and is a United States Eventing Association Instructor Certification Program Level 3 Instructor, Faculty, and National Committee member. Jerry has developed two advanced level event horses, two grand prix jumpers, and is currently working on finishing his first grand prix dressage horse.

Melanie Smith Taylor lives in Memphis, Tennessee. She and her late husband, Lee, raised and trained thoroughbreds for polo, hunter/jumpers and pleasure on their Wildwood Farm in nearby Germantown. Melanie’s show jumping achievements are well known. From an early childhood on a farm in her home state of Tennessee, she went on to gain international recognition as both a competitor and a trainer. She is a Pony Club graduate B from Blackberry Hill Pony Club.

While training with George Morris in the early 1970s, Melanie was successful in amateur/owner jumper classes before graduating to the Grand Prix level. In 1978, she earned the American Grandprix Association’s Lady Rider of the Year title, and she was also named the AGA’s overall Rider of the Year. To cap off her year, Melanie’s mount Val de Loire was named AGA Horse of the Year.

Melanie became one of only two riders ever to win the "Triple Crown of Show Jumping” by winning the American Invitational, the Inter-national Jumping Derby and the American Gold Cup. Melanie was part of the USET’s Gold Medal team at the 1979 Pan American Games in Puerto Rico. At the "Alternate Olympics” in 1980, Melanie won the individual Bronze Medal aboard her beloved horse Calypso. She also placed second that same year in the World Cup Final. She was named the United States Olympic Committee Sportswoman of the Year after winning the World Cup Final in 1982. She was also inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame that same year. Riding Calypso, she capped her show jumping career with a team Gold Medal in the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984, a year in which she was a finalist for the Sullivan Award which is given to the nation’s top amateur athlete.

Melanie retired from active competition in 1987 and continued to serve the horse world as a television broadcaster for events including the Olympic Games and World Championships. She is a recognized judge for hunter/jumpers, hunt seat equitation and hunter breeding, designs jumper courses and teaches clinics around the country. In 2006 and 2007, Melanie coached the Developing Rider Tours that won numerous competitions and Nations Cups throughout Europe. In 2009 she developed the Emerging Athlete Program with the US Hunter Jumper Association. She now travels the country year round identifying and training talented young riders through the EAP clinics. Melanie is currently writing a book documenting her lifelong experiences with horses.


The United States Pony Clubs, Inc. (USPC) was founded in 1954 as a nonprofit national youth organization to teach riding and horsemanship through a formal educational program. Many of the nation’s top equestrians, including our Olympic team members, have Pony Club roots. Members range in age from as young as 4 through age 25. Activities are English-riding based, and members ride both horses and ponies, depending on the size of the rider and the discipline in which s/he is competing. Pony Club competition is team competition, much like the Olympic games, where members learn the importance of cooperation and teamwork. There are approximately 11,000 members in 600 clubs in 43 regions throughout the country.


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