Jennifer Gates & Alex. ph: Shawn McMillen Photography.
The $100,000 USEF U25 Show Jumping National Championship came to an exciting conclusion on the morning of Sunday, November 5, 2017, at the CP National Horse Show in Lexington, Kentucky.
The $30,000 two-round competition, which took place over the span of three days, served as the final leg of the championship and determined the overall standings. The overall victory went to Jennifer Gates of the United States and the 13-year-old Westphalian gelding Alex (Westf x Arpeggio), who delivered under pressure to clinch the National title with a score of four.
The championship began on Thursday, with 17-year-old Madison Goetzmann of the United States and the ten-year-old Westphalian gelding Prestigious winning the $15,000 faults-converted competition.
Gates and Alex won Friday’s $20,000 jump-off competition to move into the lead in the overall standings.
In Sunday’s $30,000 two round competition, 18 combinations entered the Alltech Arena for round one. Twenty-one-year-old Gates and Evergate Stables LLC’s Alex stayed cool and had a clear round to remain on their overall score of zero.
A new course was set for round two and 11 combinations returned in hopes of one last shot at a top placing. The new track proved difficult with no combinations going clear. Gates and Alex had some breathing room when their closest competitors, Goetzmann and Prestigious, had a rail down at fence six to finish in the overall standings on six faults. However, the pressure was truly on when Gates and Alex had a rail at fence 5.
To secure the win, they would need to finish with no more than one time fault. The duo did not disappoint, incurring no more faults in the remainder of their round to finish the championship on four faults.
“The U25 classes have added a lot of depth to my learning, and I think the riders next to me would agree,” Gates said of the U25 program. “It’s an incredible format. It gives us young riders opportunities to jump really hard tracks and puts us under a little bit of pressure in similar formats to World Cups, so it has been a priority of mine to hit as many [U25 classes] as possible. And especially coming here to win is a huge honor and I can’t thank USEF enough for sponsoring such an amazing championship for us.”
Gates took over the ride on Alex this summer. He had previously campaigned with Audrey Coulter, and he and Gates are quickly forming a partnership. “He is super sweet, down-to-earth, easy-going, but you can also go fast and have a lot of confidence, so I am really excited about him.”
Goetzmann and Prestigious earned 2nd place for their determined effort with a final score of six faults.
Twenty-three-year-old Abigail McArdle of the United States was once again the 3rd place finisher in the championship, having also placed third in 2016. This year, she piloted Chuck Berry 8, Plain Bay Sales’ ten-year-old Hanoverian gelding, to the final podium spot by finishing on nine faults.
U.S. Show Jumping Youth Chef d’Equipe DiAnn Langer summed up the weekend nicely, saying, “I have three incredible athletes [sitting next to me]. I met all three of them four years ago as young girls, and now you see them as young women who are so fantastic, talented at what they do, courageous, committed, and it has just been an incredible journey to watch their careers. They have all been on a team or in educational programs that we have given to help enhance their experience and I could not be more proud of what they showed us today. A big congratulations to the trainers who have done a fantastic job developing these talented athletes.”
U.S. Show Jumping Assistant Chef d’Equipe Anne Kursinski added, “I think the U25 [national championship] is a marvelous invention … it is great to have that level of pressure over the four days. It is the management of the horses, the management of your nerves, and these girls, to see that under pressure is what we look for and what you have to develop. It is great doing it now, then they are going to be ready by the time they are going to the World Cup Finals or the World Equestrian Games.”
With the $30,000 two round competition format not requiring a jump-off to determine a winner, six combinations shared the top placing after finishing on four faults: Gates and Alex, Goetzmann and Prestigious, McArdle and Chuck Berry 8, 17-year-old Daisy Farish (Versailles, Ky.) and her nine-year-old Holsteiner gelding Great White, 17-year-old Coco Fath (Fairfield, Conn.) and Hillside Farm LLC’s 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Huckleberry, and 24-year-old Haley Gassel (Lenoir City, Tenn.) and Westwind Equine Training Center’s 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding Quite Dark 2.
The full results can be viewed here.