San Juan Capistrano, Calif. – Competition got underway at the 2023 Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals – West with Phase I, the flat phase. The field of 21 youth athletes had their first chance to demonstrate their riding skills for judges Linda Hough and Lauren Hough. The flat phase allowed athletes to showcase their position and seat as well as correctness and effectiveness of the aids.
The athletes rode in the Pacific Field at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park during Blenheim International Jumping Festival for Phase I. The judges asked athletes to show halts, working walk, working trot rising and sitting, working canter, counter canter, and lengthening of stride at the trot and canter in both directions with and without stirrups. Athletes also demonstrated a simple change of lead through the walk directly in front of the judges. The solid test on the flat allowed the judges to determine the first set of scores for the Finals.
After Phase I, Madilynn Lo Porto holds the top spot on the leaderboard with an impressive score of 92. Lo Porto (Danville, Calif.) delivered a strong performance in the flat phase while riding Kentucky, Oakland Ventures LLC’s 2015 KWPN gelding, to take the early lead. Isabelle Ehman (Milton, Ga.) rode Gun Powder, Donald Stewart’s 2010 Belgian Warmblood stallion, to the second spot on the leaderboard with a score of 90. Maggie Nealon (Redmond, Wash.) and Quitello, her and Steve Macken’s 2012 Hanoverian gelding, sit in third place with a score of 87.
Competition continues Saturday at 2:00 p.m. PT with Phase II, the gymnastic phase which tests athletes over a series of gymnastic lines and has a score multiplier of 1.5. Competition concludes Sunday starting 8:00 a.m. PT 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.
In addition to the main awards presented on Sunday, the Hollow Brook Wealth Management Sportsmanship Award will be presented to an individual for their positive attitude and support of their fellow competitors. Nominations may be submitted by Finals athletes as well as their trainers and families and will be accepted through 2:00 p.m. PT on Saturday, September 23. Click here to submit a nomination.
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.