Category Archives: USEF

Hamilton and Makari Design Defend Their Title at Southern Pines CDE

Photo: Nifty Hamilton and Makari Design (Picsofyou.com)

Raeford, N.C. – The USEF Advanced Single Horse Combined Driving National Championship came to a conclusion on Sunday with the cones phase at the Southern Pines Combined Driving Event (CDE). The athlete-and-horse combinations had to face Barry Hunter’s tough cones course to determine the ultimate winner. Jennifer “Nifty” Hamilton and Makari Design kept their cool in the final phase to win back-to-back national champion titles.

USEF Advanced Single Horse Combined Driving National Championship

Hamilton (Alva, Fla.) and Makari Design began the national championship by winning the dressage and marathon phases with scores of 48.09 penalties and 81.92 penalties, respectively. They drove a great cones round to add 2.96 time penalties to their score and win the final phase. Hamilton and the 10-year-old KWPN gelding she owns with Milton Hamilton claimed their second national champion title after finishing on an overall score of 132.97 penalties.

“The cones course drove very well, but it was pretty technical and tough to make the time on,” Hamilton explained. “It was great because it is the kind of course that will make you better.”

Commenting on how Makari Design performed throughout the competition, Hamilton said, “He is definitely more connected than he has ever been, which allows me to ask for more. With more work and work on getting him stronger, he is going to be even better in a few years.”

Jacob Arnold (Snow Camp, N.C.) and Uminco earned the reserve national champion title due to their strong performances. They were in third place after Friday’s dressage phase with a score of 52.89 penalties and then moved up to second place after tallying 82.53 penalties in Saturday’s marathon phase. Arnold piloted Leslie Berndl’s 17-year-old Royal Dutch Warmblood gelding around the cones course to have one ball down for 3.00 penalties. In their first year competing together, Arnold and Uminco garnered an impressive finish on an overall score of 138.42 penalties.

Barbara Chapman (Metamora, Mich.) and Meara Beval were third in the national championship with an overall score of 149.25 penalties.  Chapman and her 14-year-old American Warmblood mare scored 53.96 penalties in the dressage phase to sit in fourth before rising to third place following the marathon phase that added 88.34 penalties to their score. They closed out the national championship with two balls down and time penalties for 6.95 penalties in the cones phase.

Find more information on the Southern Pines CDE.

From the US Equestrian Communications Department

US Olympians Claim Longines FEI Awards for Best Jumping Rider and Best Horse

Left to right: FEI President Ingmar De Vos, McLain Ward (USA), Kent Farrington (USA) winner of the Longines FEI Best Rider Award, Claudia Mathy, François Mathy and Juan-Carlos Capelli, Vice President of Longines and Head of International Marketing (Longines/Pierre Costabadie)

Paris, France – World number one Kent Farrington (Wellington, Fla.) has claimed the award for the Longines FEI World’s Best Jumping Rider and HH Azur, the 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare owned by Double H Farm and François Mathy, was declared the Longines FEI World’s Best Jumping Horse at a special presentation in the Paris City Hall.

Olympic silver-medalist Farrington took over the number one slot in the Longines World Rankings in May 2017 and refused to allow anyone to break his winning streak, remaining at the top of the elite list for the rest of the year. The 37-year-old, who is well on the road to recovery after breaking his right leg in a fall in mid-February, received the award for the Longines FEI World’s Best Jumping Rider after finishing the year on 3,313 points.

HH Azur, whom McLain Ward rode to victory at last year’s Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Omaha (USA), added another major accolade to her collection when being named the Longines FEI World’s Best Jumping Horse. Affectionately known as “Annie,” the Olympic mare is owned by Double H Farms and Francois Mathy (BEL), who collected the award accompanied by his wife Claudia Mathy and McLain Ward.

“We are delighted to present the Longines FEI best rider and best horse here tonight in Paris in this beautiful setting of the Mairie de Paris, a fitting prelude to the FEI World Cup Finals,” FEI President Ingmar de Vos said.

“We are all inspired by how these athletes – both human and equine – ignite the passion in our sport and show us what it takes to succeed on the world stage. In addition, the successful partnership we have established with Longines, demonstrating the synergies between the brand and our sport, not only give extra recognition to our athletes, but the creation of these awards has given additional value to the Longines rankings and provides a further incentive to our athletes worldwide.”

“The Longines FEI World’s Best Jumping Horse and Rider Awards ceremony has enabled us to once again celebrate the common passion for equestrian sports we share with our Top Partner, the FEI,” Juan-Carlos Capelli, Vice President of Longines and Head of International Marketing, said. “As we have seen here tonight, through these awards, we are increasing the visibility of jumping and bringing together the heroes of the discipline on a global level. We are delighted to crown the 2017 best jumping athletes in the context of these prestigious FEI World Cup Finals.”

Farrington, and HH Azur’s co-owner François Mathy, were each presented with an elegant Longines watch from the Longines Saint-Imier Collection as well as a replica trophy of the magnificent crystal winged hourglass representing the brand’s emblem at the inaugural ceremony in Paris, alongside the FEI World Cup Finals 2018 draws for Jumping and Dressage.

To see more on the Longines FEI World’s Best Jumping Rider, click here.

To see more on the Longines FEI World’s Best Jumping Horse, click here.

Edited Press Release from the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI)

First Members of Discover Dressage USEF/USDF Emerging Athlete Program Declared

Lexington, Ky. – US Equestrian (USEF) and the United States Dressage Federation (USDF) are pleased to announce the first members of the Discover Dressage USEF/USDF Emerging Athlete Program. USEF Dressage Youth Coach George Williams and USEF Dressage Assistant Youth Coach Charlotte Bredahl-Baker selected the following eight athlete-and-horse combinations for membership based on their evaluation at the Robert Dover Horsemastership Clinic January 2-5, 2018, as well as their likelihood of developing into future team athletes.

Aleyna Dunn (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.) and Bivera, Dunn’s 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare

Benjamin Ebeling (Moorpark, Calif.) and Behlinger, Amy Ebeling, Elizabeth Meyer, and Ann Romney’s 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding

Isabel Linder (Kewadin, Mich.) and Elvis, Hai Wei’s 14-year-old Westphalian gelding

Tillie Jones (Lincoln, Neb.) and Apachi, Tillie and Tish Jones’ 13-year-old KWPN gelding

Rebekah Mingari (Depauw, Ind.) with Allure S, Kerrin Dunn’s 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare

Natalie Pai (Wellington, Fla.) and Unlimited, Melanie Pai’s 17-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding

Chase Shipka (Marshall, Va.) and Zigal, Chase, and Darcie Shipka’s 14-year-old KWPN gelding

Christian Simonson (Ventura, Calif.) and FRH Rassolini, Christina Morgan’s 15-year-old Hessen Warmblood stallion

“It is inspiring to see the up-and-coming young talent and exciting to think that through the [Discover Dressage USEF/USDF] Emerging Athlete Program we can help these athletes develop to their fullest potential, while at the same time incentivize others to continue to push to make their dreams a reality. On behalf of all of us involved, we are very grateful for the generous support of Discover Dressage, without which this would not be possible,” said Williams.

As participants in the Discover Dressage USEF/USDF Emerging Athlete Program, these combinations will receive access to resources such as score analysis, the USEF human sport science and medicine program, strategic planning meetings, possible financial assistance towards agreed-upon targets, opportunities to participate in USEF Training Sessions and clinics, as well as one-on-one coaching. Members are reviewed approximately every six months. In order to retain membership, athletes must meet their respective established targets within six months of their acceptance into the program unless the youth coaches grant an exception. In addition, athletes must continue to meet the minimum selection criteria of 68% through completion of three USEF Dressage National Championship/Adequan® FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships presented by Gotham North (NAJYRC) qualifying competitions and/or CDI or CDIO-Y/J/P/Ch events.

Membership to the Discover Dressage USEF/USDF Emerging Athlete Program is on a rolling basis following each Training and Evaluation session. Athletes in the U25 division who are not qualified for the USEF Dressage Development Program are also eligible for support and membership to the Discover Dressage USEF/USDF Emerging Athlete Program, as well as Children and Pony riders looking for educational opportunities. The next training and evaluation session will be at Hampton Green Farm in Wellington, Fla., March 6-7, 2018. The application deadline is February 21.

In order to participate in the Training and Evaluation sessions, athletes must submit an application and have competed at a minimum of three qualifying competitions for the USEF Dressage National Championships and NAJYRC and/or CDI or CDIO-Y/J/P/Ch events over the course of six months. Wild card invitations will also be considered. Athletes are welcome to reapply for Training and Evaluation sessions if not selected for a session or membership into the program.

Find out more about the Discover Dressage USEF/USDF Emerging Athlete Program online or contact Hannah Niebielski, Director of Dressage, National Programs at hniebielski@usef.org.

From the US Equestrian Communications Department

US Equestrian Announces US Show Jumping Team for FEI Nations Cup CSIO5* Ocala

Lexington, Ky. – US Equestrian (USEF) has named the following athletes to the U.S. Show Jumping Team for the Longines FEI Nations Cup CSIO5* Ocala. As part of the new 2018 FEI Nations Cup series format, the competition will occur on Sunday, February 18, taking the place of the Grand Prix, which will move to Friday, February 16. The Longines FEI Nations Cup CSIO5* Ocala is the exciting finale to the Ocala Winter Festival running February 13-18.

Lauren Hough (Wellington, Fla.)
Laura Kraut (Royal Palm Beach, Fla.)
Beezie Madden (Cazenovia, N.Y.)
Devin Ryan (Long Valley, N.J.)
McLain Ward (Brewster, N.Y.)

Robert Ridland will serve as the Chef d’Equipe.

From the US Equestrian Communications Department

HH Azur and Cuba Win 2017 Horse of the Year Titles

HH Azur (Shannon Brinkman Photo)

Lexington, Ky. – On a night dedicated to celebrating the horse, US Equestrian is pleased to share that HH Azur, owned by Double H Farm and François Mathy, has been voted the 2017 International Horse of the Year and Cuba, owned by John and Stephanie Ingram, LLC, has been voted the 2017 National Horse of the Year.

International Horse of the Year

HH Azur (Thunder van de Zuuthoeve x Sion van de Zuuthoeve/Sir Lui)
2006 Belgian Warmblood mare
Owners: Double H Farm and François Mathy

HH Azur’s raw athleticism and keen instinct for the sport was evident from the moment her hooves stepped into the show ring with her superstar rider McLain Ward at the reins. Known as “Annie” in the barn, her storybook year began with a win in the $380,000 Suncast Grand Prix CSI5* at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in February. Continuing to demonstrate her dependability and undeniable talent in a major championship, HH Azur delivered three perfect rounds to guide Ward to his first Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final title in April. Following the World Cup Finals, HH Azur returned to competition at Spruce Meadows in the prestigious $400,000 Queen Elizabeth II Cup CSI5*. From there, she and Ward anchored the U.S. team to a silver-medal tie in the Mercedes-Benz Nations Cup™ at CHIO Aachen in July and a silver-medal finish in the FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final in September. It should be noted that HH Azur has not had a single fault in team competition in 2017.

National Horse of the Year

Cuba (Namelus R x Ups-A-Daisy/Mermus R)
2007 KWPN gelding
Owners: John and Stephanie Ingram, LLC

Cuba, John and Stephanie Ingram, LLC’s 10-year-old KWPN gelding, had an impressive year in 2017. Having proven himself a successful hunter, Cuba started his campaign as a Derby horse just one year ago. With rider Victoria Colvin, the pair stood out at the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) International Hunter Derby Championship in August, placing third in the Classic Round, winning the Handy Hunter Round, and finishing as the overall champion by a significant margin of 9.75 points. Cuba closed the competition year as the USHJA International Derby horse with most money won. Over the course of only five competitions, Cuba earned $55,853.

by US Equestrian Communications Department

US Equestrian Recognizes Janie Salisbury and Isabelle Parker with 2017 Vaulting Honors

Photo: Janie Salisbury (background) with Bridget Kiernan, pas de deux bronze medalists at the 2017 FEI World Vaulting Championships for Juniors (© Barny Thierolf).

Lexington, Ky. – US Equestrian (USEF) is pleased to recognize Janie Salisbury as the 2017 USEF Vaulter of the Year and Salisbury’s coach Isabelle Parker as the 2017 USEF Vaulting Coach of the Year. Salisbury, a two-time FEI World Vaulting Champion for Juniors Pas de Deux bronze medalist, stood out among the seven applicants for her competition success and extracurricular activity.

Salisbury (Atherton, Calif.) began vaulting when she was seven years old as a member of the Woodside Vaulters out of Redwood City, Calif., and amassed several top results with Parker’s coaching and training. In addition to her FEI World Vaulting Championships for Juniors bronze medals in 2015 and 2017, she was the 2012 USEF/American Vaulting Association (AVA) National Vaulting Champion, 2013 Region 2 Champion, and 2015 USEF/AVA Reserve National Champion, among others.

Outside of vaulting, Salisbury has been active in her community. In high school, she led the Baking for Charity Club, where she helped organize bake sales with proceeds going to Pencils of Promise, a charity supporting children’s education in the developing world. She also volunteered for fundraising benefits and worked in the barns at the National Center for Equine Facilitated Therapy, a therapeutic riding facility that helps children and adults with neurophysiological, cognitive, sensory processing, and psychosocial challenges. Currently, Salisbury attends the University of Southern California where she intends to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and a minor in dance.

Other candidates for the 2017 USEF Vaulter of the Year award included Tessa Belardi (Aptos, Calif.), Audrey Kiernan (San Mateo, Calif.), Elizabeth Osborn (Menlo Park, Calif.), Luke Overton (Stanwood, Wash.), Ana Schult (Longmont, Colo.), and Haley Smith (Parker, Colo.).

Parker (Redwood City, Calif.), co-founder and coach of the Woodside Vaulters, represented the U.S. in international competition for five years and earned her AVA Gold Medal in 1992. Parker has coached four National Champion A Teams and the U.S. team that won the bronze medal at the 1998 FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Rome, Italy. She is a two-time United States Equestrian Team (USET) Foundation Trainer of the Year, the 2013 AVA Mentor of the Year, an AVA judge and Technical Committee member, an FEI steward, and a member of multiple USEF vaulting committees. She is the current Chief Financial Officer of Summit Public Schools. This is Parker’s second time receiving the USEF Vaulting Coach of the Year Award.

From the US Equestrian Communications Department

US Dressage Festival of Champions to Host 14 USEF Dressage National Championship Titles

US Dressage Festival of Champions to Host 14 USEF Dressage Lexington, Ky. – The U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions has been named as the home for all 14 USEF Dressage National Championships in 2018. Hosted at the Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, Ill. from August 21 through 26, the Markel/USEF Young and Developing Horse Dressage National Championships as well as the USEF Young Adult ‘Brentina Cup’ Dressage National Championship presented by Dressage Today will be hosted in conjunction with the other dressage divisions.

The U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions will host the following championships and divisions:

  • USEF Grand Prix Dressage National Championship
  • USEF Intermediaire I Dressage National Championship
  • USEF Young Adult ‘Brentina Cup’ Dressage National Championships presented by Dressage Today
  • USEF Young Rider Dressage National Championship
  • USEF Junior Dressage National Championship
  • USEF Pony Rider Dressage National Championship
  • USEF Children Dressage National Championship
  • Markel/USEF Young and Developing Horse Dressage National Championships for four-, five-, and six-year-olds, as well as Developing Grand Prix and Developing Prix St. Georges
  • USEF Dressage Seat Medal Finals for the 13 & Under, and 14-18 divisions

Previous years have seen the championships held at two separate locations. 2018 will be the first time that all 14 USEF Dressage National Championships are held under the same roof, at the same event, under the banner of the 2018 U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions.

“Previously, our USEF Dressage National Championships have felt splintered by having two different events, in different locations,” says Hallye Griffin, Managing Director of Dressage. “Holding the full spectrum of the championships in one location, over a weeklong period, will give us the opportunity to showcase the talented athlete/horse combinations across the full spectrum of the divisions. We hope that this will also prove to be an exciting event for spectators, sponsors, vendors, and supporters as we look to grow the event into something very special, while continuing to highlight our dressage competition pathways and programs in an effort to deliver continued sustainable success in our sport.”

Find out more information on the 2018 U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions or contact Kristen Brett, Director, Dressage Programs at kbrett@usef.org.

From the US Equestrian Communications Department

US Equestrian Saddened by Loss of E. Hunter Harrison

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Wood Media.

Lexington, Ky. – US Equestrian mourns the loss of E. Hunter Harrison, owner of Double H Farm and a beloved leader, supporter, and friend of equestrian sport. Harrison passed away on December 16 at the age of 73, leaving behind a legacy in the horses he bred, the athletes he supported, and the sport that he helped to grow.

“Today we lost one of equestrian sport’s greats,” says US Equestrian President, Murray Kessler. “An iconic and beloved horse owner and patron of the sport, Hunter Harrison will be greatly missed for his enthusiasm, generosity, and dedication to his horses, equestrian sport, and most importantly, his family. Our deepest sympathy goes out to his family, the team at Double H Farm and all who had the chance to know him.”

Harrison gave the industry a chance to share in his passion by bringing great horses and athletes together, including McLain Ward and two-time Olympic team gold medal winning mare, Sapphire, and 2017 World Cup Final champion, HH Azur. US Equestrian is grateful for everything he gave to all who called him family and friend.

“My family and I are very sad that we have lost a huge presence in our lives,” says Ward. “Hunter was not only a wonderful supporter of my career, but also a guiding force in everything we did. I will miss him dearly, and my thoughts are with his family in this difficult time.”

Read more about the legacy of E. Hunter Harrison here.

Rutledge Gallops to CCI3* Lead at Fair Hill International Three-Day Event

Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights (Shannon Brinkman Photo)

Smith’s Control of CCI2* Continues

Fair Hill, Md. – Spectators and competitors enjoyed a thrilling day of cross-country at The Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International Three-Day Event, where international pairs proved their mettle over Derek di Grazia’s challenging track. Colleen Rutledge held on to her lead in The Dutta Corp./USEF CCI3* Eventing National Championship with Covert Rights, and Tamra Smith and Sunsprite Syrius kept their lead in the The Dutta Corp./USEF CCI2* Eventing National Championship.

A fast cross-country round gave Maryland native Rutledge (Frederick, Md.) and her own Covert Rights the top position in the CCI3* division. The 11-year-old Thoroughbred cross gelding remains on his dressage score (39.8) after a fault-free performance.

“He gets every gold star I could possibly give him. He saved my butt when I got us into trouble, and he was foot-perfect at 90% of the course,” Rutledge commented, noting that she had experience on her side with four-star partner Covert Rights. “Luckily, I know that he’s got the experience behind him. He’s already done two four-stars. He reads the fences. He’s so much more mature now, and he’s so much more experienced now, where I could just gallop down and see the stride from six strides away and attack the fences. That was probably one of the most fun cross-countries that I’ve had in a long time.”

Overnight leaders Selena O’Hanlon (Ontario, Canada) and Foxwood High finished four seconds over optimum time to drop them into second place. John and Judy Rumble’s 14-year-old Canadian Sport Horse gelding picked up 1.6 time penalties to sit on a two-phase result of 41.

Will Coleman (Charlottesville, Va.) and The Conair Syndicate’s Tight Lines leapt from 13th to third after an incredible cross-country effort. The 10-year-old Thoroughbred gelding continues on a score of 46.3.

“He never lacks run or gallop. He’s just an animal out there. It was a hard course, but I thought it was a proper test. I think it’s a testament for the cross-country riding in this country,” Coleman commented. “It was a difficult three-star, and I’ve ridden a lot of three-stars around the world, and I would put Fair Hill at the very top, in terms of difficulty.”

Smith (Murrietta, Calif.) and Sunsprite Warmbloods’ Sunsprite Syrius were the first combination to come home clear within the time on Saturday’s cross-country. The nine-year-old Trakehner gelding made quick work of di Grazia’s course to remain on his dressage score (40.9) going into Sunday’s show jumping finale.

“I didn’t know what to expect. He hasn’t been in an environment like this before. He was super. He didn’t question one thing. He was spot on. You bring them here to the two-star at Fair Hill and know if you definitely have a three-star horse and beyond, and I definitely feel that,” Smith said of the young horse’s promise.

Following Smith’s lead, Cornelia Dorr (Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass.) also remained in second place with her own Louis M, a 12-year-old Rheinlander gelding. Dorr piloted both Louis M and her own fifth-placed Sir Patico MH, an 11-year-old Zweibrucker gelding, to double-clear cross-country results.

“My first one, ‘Hugo,’ was amazing. He and I have a wonderful relationship. I felt super-confident with him. It was nice to go out and do all that with him, then be able to make tighter lines on Louis. They were both great and super-fit. I’m happy with them,” Dorr smiled.

Again in the CCI2*, Coleman climbed the leaderboard, this time with Off The Record, an eight-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by the Off The Record Syndicate. The duo completed the course penalty-free to move into third place on a score of 49.8.

“I was proud of him. He’s an eight-year-old horse, and he was second in [The Pedigree Bromont CCI2*] this year, and the last four to five times out he’s been in the top five. So he’s been consistent. That’s what we are going for, for all the horses this year, trying to build consistent performances throughout all three phases,” Coleman remarked. “I think it was a proper test with a pretty good group of horses here. [The Dutta Corp./Fair Hill International Three-Day Event] gets billed as a two-and-a-half-star, and I think people have a lot of respect for it and come ready.”

For further information on The Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International, visit www.fairhillinternational.com.

From the US Equestrian Communications Department/Classic Communications

Halie Robinson Wins USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals – West

Halie Robinson and Caracas 89 (McCool)

September 24, 2017 – San Juan Capistrano, Calif. – The third time in the top 10 of the Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals – West was the charm for Halie Robinson. Having placed second and fifth in years past, Robinson rode with precision, consistency and previous experience that earned her the top call in this year’s challenging four-phase competition.

USEF Talent Search judges, Andre Dignelli of Katonah, NY and Patricia Griffith of New York City, designed the courses with Anthony D’Ambrosio serving as Technical Delegate. Well-suited for their roles, Dignelli won the prestigious class in 1986, and has since taken countless riders to success at this level; Griffith was second under Dignelli’s tutelage in 1998 and has been a part of Dignelli’s Heritage Farm since 1997. D’Ambrosio has been a technical delegate as well as a course designer at venues all over the world.

Friday morning’s flat phase asked riders to demonstrate knowledge of the elementary principles of dressage training as they affect a show jumper’s performance. Divided into three groups, riders were tested with half-pass, counter-canter, flying lead changes and other exercises. The gymnastics phase asked riders to apply mastery of that flat work to jumping patterns, including the skills of shortening and lengthening the horse’s stride while riding the track, which proved challenging for many.

Aboard Caracas 89, owned by Elvenstar, Robinson earned high scores in the competition’s first two phases, the flat phase and the gymnastics phase. With her cumulative 217.5 score going into the jumping phase, she had 16-point lead, which helped her maintain a top position. However once the top four were named, they each started the Final Phase with a score of zero.

Jayme Omand, Emma Catherine Reichow and Natalie Dean joined Robinson in a work-off patterned like that used in the World Equestrian Games. The final four rode a shortened course on their own horse, then on each other’s horses. After the 16 rounds were complete, all handled the questions asked on the different mounts without major fault. To all who watched, including the judges, Robinson dominated this phase.

“It’s always nice when the winner is so obvious, even to the crowd,” commented Griffith. Dignelli concurred: “Our winner was clear and away the winner. She rode beautifully throughout all phases: accurate and she has a beautiful style.” An elated Robinson promised she’d be working on her pace. Currently studying abroad in Europe, she had flown home specifically for the Talent Search. She called Caracas 89 “the sweetest horse I’ve ever met and he tries his heart out no matter what.” He’s also a miracle. This was his third show back after having a 27-pound “artifact” tumor removed in February.

For her prestigious win, Robinson received the Denali Memorial Perpetual Trophy, donated by Mrs. Maya Z Hamburger. Caracas 89 earned the Gulliver Perpetual Trophy, donated by Karen Healey, as the best horse per the judges. Jim Hagman received the Leading Trainer Award, donated by Mr. Hugh J. B. Cassiday III. Hagman also credits all those who work at Elvenstar, including those not pictured in the presentation photo below, Kay Altheuser and Rachel Mahowald.

Reserve champion Jayme Omand topped the flat phase and recovered from challenges with the gymnastics exercises to finish in the top four. The 21-year-old credited her lifelong trainer Kelly Van Vleck for preparing her and her relatively inexperienced jumper, Zador, specifically for the USEF Talent Search. Schooling courses with S-tracks and striding options were the substance of their summer and it paid off. Regularly riding unfamiliar horses as a member of the Texas Christian University NCAA Equestrian Team was a big help in the horse-swapping final round.

The youngest of the final four riders by several years, 15-year-old Emma Catherine Reichow had never competed in this final and came into the competition with no expectations. She felt her spot as an alternate for the Zone 10 North American Junior Young Rider Championships and its difficult courses helped prepare her for this event. A student of Harley and Olivia Brown, Reichow likened the USEF Talent Search to the NAJYRC Championships because “you need to be consistent and get the job done.”

Both Reichow and fourth-place finisher Natalie Dean have aspirations to represent the United States in international jumping. Dean trains with Butch, Lu and Guy Thomas of Willow Tree.

U.S. Show Jumping Youth Chef d’Equipe DiAnn Langer commented that riders ought to target the USEF Talent Search early in the year and tailor their practice and show schedule to prepare for its unique tests. She emphasized that the program is a prestigious step in the pathway of the sport’s young athlete development program.

The format of the Talent Search has evolved considerably since it originated in the 1950s, but it has always been a method for identifying and helping prepare young riders aspiring to represent the U.S. in international jumping competition. McLain Ward (1990), Lauren Hough (1994) and California-born German rider Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (1986) are among the Talent Search winners who went on to become show jumping Olympians. Several winners of the West Finals are major players on the Grand Prix circuit, Joie Gatlin (1982), Richard Spooner (1988), Kirsten Coe (1996) and Kasey Ament (2004) among them.

“It really gave me a leg up in my career,” said Dignelli, as it put him on a track to his current role as one of the country’s top hunter/jumper trainers.

From Blenheim EquiSports