Harrisburg, Pa. - Leading through all three rounds of the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Finals, 18-year-old Taylor St. Jacques (Glen Allen, Va.) proved herself to be just what judges Tamara Provost (Westfield, Ind.) and Jack Towell (Camden, S.C.) were looking for as they awarded her first place and the gold medal for her performance.
A total of 257 of the country’s best and brightest rising stars came to the Pennsylvania National Horse Show presented by The Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund to test their skill and horsemanship for one of the most coveted equitation prizes. Since 1937, this equitation final has been won by some of the greatest riders in U.S. history, and now St. Jacques can add her name to the list.
St. Jacques started the day with a lovely, flowing round on her mount Charisma that placed her at the top of the 25 riders called back for Round 2. The order of go for the second round was in reverse order of merit, with the following riders returning: Chloe Wilkenfeld, Chloe White, Laila Klinsmann, Emma Fletcher, Ava Ellis, Sophia Pilla, Emma Wujek, Abigail Brayman, Grace Boston, Alexandra Worthington, Annabel Revers, Trinity Hammerschmidt, Coco Fath, Sophie Gochman, Elli Yeager, Alexa Schwartz, Lolly McLellan, Jordyn Rose Freedman, Sam Walker, Emma Kurtz, Sara McCloskey, Cooper Dean, Paige Matthies, Madison Goetzmann, and St. Jacques.
When the round ended, four riders – Jordyn Rose Freeman (Longmeadow, Mass.), Sam Walker (Nobleton, Ont., Canada), Cooper Dean (Fayette, Ala.), and St. Jacques – were called back yet again, this time without stirrups over a shortened course.
The third and final round placed St. Jacques solidly in first place, according to the judges. Watch St. Jacques’s work-off round. Dean was awarded the silver medal for second place, and the bronze medal for third place was given to Walker.
“She just never made a mistake,” judges Towell and Provost said of St. Jacques. “A third round wasn’t really something we were thinking, but it was so tight between the four that we did one. We were thinking that this is hunter seat equitation, so the courses were fitting. We wanted to keep the courses nice, safe, comfortable, and let us judge it and let everyone leave happy. We have to thank Steve Stephens; this wouldn’t have been anything without him. We knew what we wanted, and Steve made it happen. It was a nice class to judge.”
“I thought the courses were great today,” said St. Jacques. “It tested enough without being too difficult. I thought that from the moment Charisma came out of his stall today he had his absolute A-game on, and he was ready to go out there and put his best foot forward, and that he did, plus more. He was absolutely incredible today. I could have not asked him to be any better. I was a little nervous going into the third round, but I have come back on top a few times at smaller shows, and I think that it has prepared me for this big class. I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be, honestly. And I was excited when they said no stirrups, because that is a strong suit of mine. My mom called it; down in WEF [the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Fla.,] she said that there would be a test with no stirrups at the Final. And it happened.
“I also want to thank Dover [Saddlery] for their sponsorship of the Final,” continued St. Jacques. “I love that store, I go there all the time, and I think it is really great to win this Final under their sponsorship. So a big thank you to them.”
“I thought the courses were great,” agreed second-placed Dean. “The first round had some questions in there that separated the men from the boys, so to speak. The second round was a bit longer and more technical. The no-stirrup thing we practice every day at home.”
“I would like to thank the course designers for making such amazing courses,” said third-placed Walker. “I thought that all three courses were challenging. But all four of us got through them with success. I thought my horse jumped great for his first time doing a big final. It is my first time doing a final as well. I really thought for my very first experience that this was amazing, and I would like to thank everybody who helped make it happen.”
The Trainers Award went to Andre Dignelli and the training staff from Heritage Farm, who trained not only St. Jacques but also Dean. Both St. Jacques and Dean are working students for Dignelli and have nothing but praise for their trainer. “Andre took me under his wing,” said St. Jacques. “He has really done wonders for me. I can’t thank him enough. He is setting me up for success in the future. He is teaching me not only riding, but how to be successful in life, and not every trainer can do that. He has been an amazing mentor, and I am very grateful for everything he has done.”
The judges also awarded the Best Equitation Horse Award, the Doris H. Clark Memorial Perpetual Trophy donated by Missy Clark, to St. Jacques’s mount Charisma.