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Rebecca Walton
October 5, 2014
From the Experts: USET Finals Reviews
By Rebecca Walton
Sunday, October 5, 2014 :: Posted 09:02:29 PM EDT

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© Rebecca Walton: Geoffrey Hesslink presentationGeoffrey Hesslink wins 2014 Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals East

The 2014 Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals East have come to a close, and the new champion, Geoffrey Hesslink, has been crowned. The best young riders in the nation showcased their skills through four demanding rounds of competition. Following the event judges Jimmy Torano and Laura Kraut and leading trainer Andre Dignelli reflected on different aspects of this important championship. Find out what they had to say about how this year’s class played out.


Jimmy Torano: Although today was miraculously better, the footing still was not good. They are all riding different horses that they don’t know in not the greatest footing that we didn’t want them to go run around. We didn’t want that round to be about time in bad conditions on a horse you didn’t know. The horses are tired; they’ve done a lot. They’ve worked a little harder than normal with this footing, so we thought we would be a little more lenient than normal under these conditions.


Jimmy Torano: We weren’t hard on rails at all. When I am training a horse at home and he has a rail, I just hope he’s going to learn from it. We wanted the horses to learn from it and become better versus the riders stiffing the horses and having the horses be rigid and the horse not gaining from it. We weren’t hard on it at all.

© Rebecca Walton: Laura Kraut and Jimmy ToranoLaura Kraut and Jimmy Torano

Laura Kraut: Only a handful of kids caused rails. The rails that did come down, it was really obvious when it was the rider’s fault. I am pleased to say not many rails fell at all. I hate when it becomes about that. These horses have worked hard; they’ve been campaigning all year. We used deep cups a lot. We penalized riders when they turned in the air. We had a perfect visual of the liverpool, and we really penalized the riders that turned in the air and had a rub. We felt like that was an important thing to penalized.


© Rebecca Walton: Andre DignelliAndre Dignelli (left): This event was a very difficult event to qualify for this year. A lot of the local horse shows did not offer this class. We had to beg them to offer it. Often, I had to show up with the whole class of kids and bring the water jump. It was a huge commitment to coming here, and I think that is why a lot of other people opted not to try.

Jimmy Torano: I have mixed feelings about it. Harrisburg has close to 300 riders. Last time I judged this class I think there were 98 in it and today there were 55. Coming into this event, I was a little disappointed that the water jump kept so many people from coming here. Then, when I came here and actually judged the class, there was such good riding. The less experienced group was much smaller. There was so much at the top end of it. I have mixed feelings.

Laura Kraut: I thought that it was nice to see a really strong representation. There was some weak riding, but there wasn’t horrible riding. When you see 300 go at the medal finals, there are some really bad rounds of kids that you think, ‘Wow, there is no reason they should even be here.’ Apart from a couple, we hardly thought that. It was nice to see such solid riding.


Laura Kraut: The water jump – that’s a difficult fence for everyone, including myself. Most of these horses are not really ‘jumpers,’ and we put the water early in the course to really weed them out. I think you had to be a very good, very experienced, very strong rider, and our first line was sort of nice. You had a nice first line, and then you really had to get your horse in front of your leg and make a good ride. We didn’t want to see the ones that didn’t go into the water and have a disaster. It’s hard enough to find the horses that will go over it.

© Rebecca Walton: Geoffrey Hesslink and Canny Windsor Z over the waterGeoffrey Hesslink and Canny Windsor Z over the water

None of us want to see the horses going in the water anyway. It’s my thing too. I am not a big fan of the water. I like to encourage them to jump it well. It was very obvious the kids that rode it well and those that didn’t, and it separated a lot.

I don’t like it. For one, I think it’s very difficult on the horses to jump the water week in and week out. They either get casual about it or if something goes wrong they cant get scared by it. I don’t like it at all. I think if you need to qualify for this event you need to jump it three times. It’s just not fair to the horses.

Jimmy Torano: When we were here yesterday it was really muddy and really deep. It was hard to jump, and we worried when we were building it last night – lip, no lip. We were worried that the water leaking out of the water jump; we thought most importantly we want them to not land in the water. We thought lets have a rail high enough that they do get in the air, and we were the hardest on landing in the water.

Andre Dignelli: Caitlin didn’t have a horse to do all of the USETs during the year because of the water. It’s not that difficult for me to come up with a top horse for one day. It’s difficult for me to come up with a top horse week after week after week. And that was the controversy with the mandatory water. Caitlin is an example. She could win this class given the right vehicle, but it’s not always easy to have the right vehicle every single weekend. That was the dilemma having the water mandatory. It’s hard to come up with horses.

© Rebecca Walton: Caitlin Boyle and Zentina BCaitlin Boyle and Zentina B


Andre Dignelli: When we get here there is a lot of dialogue about it being a talent search, which is awesome, but it’s not judged as a talent search weekly. I feel that needs to be changed or fixed. I think you should be judged the same way that you qualify. Right now it is not the same. Week in and week out USETs are judged like regular equitation classes, and the Finals are judged differently. I would like to see all of the classes conform.

Jimmy Torano: I thought last year was overbuilt – that’s my personal opinion. I thought parts of last year were a blood bath. So I came here thinking it was supposed to be 1.20m but thinking I was going to use my 5cm leeway and go down 5cm. I realize it’s not an equitation class even though you are judged like that all year. There are a lot of equitation horses. Yes, some use their jumper horse, but I think coming in here there are probably 50/50 equitation and jumper horses. Generally, these equitation horses do a lot, and they are prepped a lot. They are not jumping 1.20m. I want a good class. We put deep cups in. You don’t want to see the jumps too big and the rails come down because they are on careful, shallow cups. We don’t want that to be what the class is about.

Editors Note: The 2015 Qualifications have already been modified to include 1*, 2* and 3* levels. At the 1* level, shows will only be required to have a liverpool, while 2* and 3* events will and riders must show at a 2* event during the year. Riders will earn points based on their placing and show’s rating.

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