If you are a new member of the amateur category this year and you’re wondering how you’ll fill your days now that your junior equitation career is in the past, listen up. Don’t mope; it’s not the end of the world! I’m here to fill you in on a little secret: the rumors are true – amateur life trumps being a junior (in different ways, of course).
Now, you might be thinking, “What does Kate Kosnoff know about leaving the equitation ring behind?” and you’d be correct because the handful of measly Taylor Harris Insurance Medal results on my U.S. Equestrian record are not that impressive, although they were extremely important to me at the time. Never fear, my newly dubbed amateur friends, Taylor St. Jacques is here.
Photo by Sportfot.
For those of you who don’t know, Taylor is living proof that there is fun to be had beyond your junior years. Though she has now turned her attention to the amateur owner jumpers and the grands prix, Taylor acknowledges that she couldn’t do it without the solid education she received in the equitation ring.
“I am very appreciative for what the equitation classes have provided me,” shares the Auburn University sophomore. “However, now that my equitation days are over, I am happy that I am able to center my focus on my career goals in the jumpers.”
Taylor is taking the lessons she learned as a junior and is applying them to her fast-paced career in the jumper ring – pun intended. “The most important things the equitation taught me are how to handle high-pressure situations, good position, how to successfully ride a track, and how to be efficient and still smooth,” Taylor says.
Sounds easy enough, right? Be thankful for these skills you’ve developed as a junior that will carry over to the next phase of your show career.
Photo by Tori Repole.
1. Impeccable Posture
Thanks to the dozens of ASPCA Maclay appearances, Washington International Horse Show medals, and USET classes she has competed in, Taylor developed a strong position (one that I am constantly in awe of and try to imitate) that continues to serve her well, though she is no longer judged on the overall picture she presents.
“Good position is important even past the equitation,” Taylor says. “Having a strong base, riding the center of the horse, and having control of your body are all essential when trying to ride a clear round – just ask McLain Ward!”
2. Staying Cool Under Pressure
As the winner of the 2017 Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final, the 2017 Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) Equitation Final Champion, the 2017 Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals – East Reserve Champion, and 2016 ASPCA Maclay Finals Reserve Champion, Taylor knows a thing or two about overcoming pressure and bringing your “A” game. Her show experience, and the attention she received as a successful junior, taught her to stay calm, cool, and collected on course.
“Before a big class, such as the Under 25 and NAYC [North American Youth Championships], for example, the equitation has prepared me to handle the pressure and nerves,” she says.
Photo by Sportfot.
3. Silky Smooth Course Work
Here’s the good news: “Equitation courses are very similar to jumper courses,” Taylor says. “You have to know how to properly adjust and set up your horse for every line or even just singles throughout the course without getting too deep or too long.”
Of course, jumper courses ride quite a bit faster than an equitation round, but that’s where Taylor’s experience in the WIHS Jumper Phase and the USET come in. “In these two classes, I had to learn how to carry a forward pace, make neat turns, and still have the round look smooth and effortless.”
Though aging out of the junior ranks can feel bittersweet, Taylor urges those going through this transition to look ahead. “Appreciate all the hard work you have put in as a junior and be proud of what you have done,” she advises. “Take that knowledge and move forward in the next phase of your riding. All of the rumors of amateur life being super fun are definitely true!”
Feature photo by Tori Repole.
Written by Kate Kosnoff
Kate Kosnoff is an equestrian journalist, blogger and photographer. When she isn’t working, Kate can usually be found sipping green tea, scrolling through Twitter, or petting her horses—sometimes a combination of the three. She is based in Indiana and can often be spotted in jumper rings across the Midwest and Florida aboard her strawberry roan, Waffle.