Harrisburg, Pa. – The first rides of this year’s Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final took place before the sun had even risen over the Pennsylvania National Horse Show. With 231 of the country’s best hunter seat equitation competitors to go in the first round, there was plenty to get through during the day.
After the vast first round followed by the top 25 entries returning for the second round, the judges selected the top four to come back for final testing. In the end, it was Luke Jensen (Denton, Texas) riding Missy Clark’s Jamaica, a 2009 Belgian Warmblood gelding, who took the gold medal.
Skylar Wireman (Bonsall, Calif.) was a close second place, taking home the reserve champion honors with Famous, a 2010 KWPN gelding owned by MKT Investments, LLC. Kate Egan (Glen Gardner, N.J.) rode Ypaja Kashmir, Redfield Farm’s 2013 Warmblood gelding, to the bronze medal. Isabella David (Holmdel, N.J.) riding Castlefield Sparticus, a 2014 Oldenburg gelding owned by West Hill, was the fourth rider to make the final round.
“I thought [the first-round course] was technical, and it should be—it’s the highest level of the discipline,” said Jensen. “I thought it was a fair level of technical and also asking the right questions and preparing us for future riding endeavors. I felt very prepared, coming from the North Run team. I think that we prepared very well and I was able to confidently answer those questions.”
Jensen said that one of the biggest challenges for this Final is showing consistency across three rounds in the one-day competition. His solid relationship with Jamaica helped him do just that.
“What makes the second and third rounds more challenging is that you kind of show that you can be consistent as a rider with your horse and do it three times,” he said. “I had the opportunity to start riding [Jamaica] at the beginning of the winter season. I was very lucky to get to compete him last week at [Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals – East] and do the final four there. I think that over time, we’ve gotten to build a great bond and I take care of him myself, so we’ve developed a very important relationship that I think carries over and makes the moment even more special.”
Silver medalist Wireman is also a hands-on caretaker for her mount, Famous, and agrees that being involved in his daily care translates to a successful partnership in the show ring.
“I started riding him just over a year ago,” she said. “He came to me as a 1.30 jumper and we converted him into an equitation horse. I do all his care at home, and I think that we have a special bond because he knows me. I ride him every day and I treat him like he’s my own. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner to do this Final with."
Egan also felt that the courses were a strong test for the competitors at this year’s Final.
“This course was definitely not easy,” she said. “It asked so many questions from all of these amazing riders. It was a very technical course, and I’m just very honored to be sitting with these people and competing with all these people here. And to be so well prepared by everybody at Redfield Farm and be able to ride my amazing horse. I think that this course was not just about who has the best horse, it’s also about who was able to perform the best.”
Judge Karen Healey intended for the first-round course to be a challenging one, and she saw it as a success.
“I wanted it to be a championship course,” she said. “I didn’t want it to be a run-of-the-mill test, what we see week in and week out. I wanted to ask tough questions, but I thought that if you knew where your horse was, if you were aware of where you landed or what you had to do to come out, come in, and make it all fit, that you could make everything work riding the right track.”
Each year, the judges at the Final select one horse from the final four to be named Best Horse. This year, it was Castlefield Sparticus, ridden by Isabella Davis, who won the honor.
US Equestrian members and subscribers can watch the 2022 Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final on-demand on USEF Network. Not a member? Join today!
Keep up with US Equestrian on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.