Roscoe, Ill. – The first of three USEF/NCEA Junior Hunter Seat Medal Finals of 2022 took place on September 10 at Showplace Fall Classic, welcoming a field of junior equestrians to compete in a unique three-phase final. The top 50 ranked athletes from each of three regions who have applied for the USEF/NCEA Medal are invited to compete in the finals each year.
Jackie Stary (Oswego, Ill.) earned the win in this year’s USEF/NCEA Junior Hunter Seat Medal Final for the Midwest region, riding her own Conenzo, a 2009 Holsteiner gelding. Stary and “Enzo” have a relatively new partnership, but their success as a pair came quickly.
“We bought Conenzo a little over seven months ago, so I haven’t had him that long,” said Stary. “Although we haven’t had much experience together, we have really clicked and gotten along really well. Before I had him, he was a grand prix jumper, so watching him transform and settle in has been really fun! He’s one of the smartest, most honest, and fastest-learning horses I have ever worked with.”
All competitors in the finals compete in an initial jumping round with fences set at 3’3”, and from there, the top ten or top 20%—whichever is greater—move on to the flat phase, which includes performing two of the three following basic dressage movements: shoulder-in, haunches-in, and leg yield. The final phase brings back the top four competitors to ride a course of at least eight fences on an unfamiliar horse, testing their horsemanship in a format similar to NCEA intercollegiate competition.
“One of the reasons I decided to do this medal final was because I want to ride D1 at a collegiate level, and I really wanted to prove to myself that I am able to compete at that level,” said Stary. “One of my favorite parts of the final was when I came out of the final bracket round and I knew I had it. My trainer, Lori Scott-Hollands, was screaming and crying on the sidelines and my other trainer, Tina Judge Boyle, gave me a hug. Another highlight was when they announced my score on Blurred Lines as a 90. This score was a personal best for me, and I was truly taken aback by it, especially as I was on a horse that I wasn’t used to.”
Stary said that riding new horses in the bracket phase was a fun part of the final, and that she felt prepared for that experience.
“I think it’s a nice way to be able to set yourself apart from the rest,” she said. “I am also very fortunate and thankful to be able to ride many different types of horses at home, which prepared me well for this class.”
Stary sees the USEF/NCEA Medal as a positive experience for participants and encourages riders to enjoy it.
“No matter how you do, go out there and just ride your best and have fun,” she said. “Each bracket is a new bracket, so reset and try to figure out the new horse you’re on and ride your best.”
The 2022 USEF/NCEA Junior Hunter Seat Medal Final East will take place at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg, Pa., on Oct. 22, and the West Final will be held at National Sunshine Series II in Thermal, Calif., on Nov. 12. Both will be broadcast live on USEF Network.