San Juan Capistrano, Calif. – Youth athletes will vie for top honors in the 2023 Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals – West this week during the Blenheim International Jumping Festival at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park. The athletes will compete in four phases over three days of competition demonstrating their skills on the flat and over fences to determine the winner of the Finals.
The Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search program follows the principle that form follows function, and that it is important for a rider to have fundamental horsemanship skills and a solid jumper seat position in order to become an effective jumper rider. Talent Search classes test a rider's ability to ride a jumper-style course effectively while maintaining the classic American forward style of riding.
Competition begins Friday with Phase I, the flat phase where athletes will demonstrate flatwork movements while being judged on their position and seat as well as correctness and effectiveness of the aids. On Saturday, the athletes will complete Phase II, the gymnastic phase which tests competitors over a series of gymnastic lines and has a score multiplier of 1.5. Competition concludes Sunday with the athletes returning for Phase III, the jumping phase with a jumper-style course a score multiplier of 2. The total of the scores from the first three phases is used to determine the top four, who will return for Phase IV, the ride-off in which they will swap horses and ride the same course on each of the final four horses to determine the final placings.
This year’s R judge for the Finals is Linda Hough and her daughter Lauren Hough serves as the guest judge. Lauren, winner of the 1994 Talent Search Finals, is on a prestigious list of Talent Search program alumni who have gone on to success on the international show jumping stage, which includes Olympic and World Championship athletes Greg Best, Chris Kappler, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Katie Monahan Prudent, and McLain Ward.
Several awards will be presented at the conclusion of the Finals. The Denali Perpetual Trophy is awarded to the winner of the Finals, while the athlete’s trainer receives the Leading Trainer Award. The Gulliver Trophy goes to the best horse selected by the judges following Phase IV. Additionally, the Hollow Brook Wealth Management Sportsmanship Award is presented to an individual for their positive attitude and support of their fellow competitors after nominations are submitted by Finals athletes as well as their trainers and families. Additional prizes from LeMieux and YETI® will be awarded to top finishers.
The USEF International High Performance Programs and the USEF High Performance Pathway Programs are generously supported by the USET Foundation, the philanthropic partner to USEF. High Performance Program support is also provided by the USOPC and USEF sponsors and members.