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Wellington, Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, Wellington, Florida


T.J. O’Mara Executes Style and Control in Show Jumping Talent Search



Jenna Sudol

Reporting from Wellington, Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, Wellington, Florida
Friday, March 18, 2016 :: Posted 12:14:50 PM EDT


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T.J. O'Mara won over the judges for the USEF Show Jumping Talent Search victory on Friday.

Wellington, Fla. – March 3, 2016 – Less than a week remains until the highly anticipated Ninth Annual George Morris Excellence in Equitation class at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). Qualified riders are cramming in their last no-stirrup lessons, gymnastic combinations and equitation trips at WEF in preparation for this exciting event. T.J. O’Mara is feeling confident in his chances in the George Morris class after taking home top honors in the Platinum Performance USEF Show Jumping Talent Search 2* class on Friday.

Friday’s course challenged the riders without being unfair. Judge Russell Frey of Batavia, Illinois said, “Nothing was too tricky about today's course, but it was set up so that they had to be an active rider. The course wasn’t by any means too hard; it allowed the riders to demonstrate style and control of their horse. It gave us as judges a fair chance to judge the riders on their individual skill and not just the nicest horse. Riders had to prove they were more than passengers.”

O’Mara was 14th in the jump order, allowing him to observe 13 trips before entering ring six. He was able to learn from the mistakes of other horse-and-rider teams and alter his plan for the course accordingly. He said, “Today I executed our plan which was really focusing on the time allowed. We saw at the beginning that a lot of people were having one or two time faults and we sort of saw their courses falling apart at the end, so we just concentrated on going with the pace but also taking our time through the turns. The water jump we really emphasized not turning too tight to it because it was such a weird angle and we didn’t want the horses to not know where they were going and spook at it.”

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T.J. O'Mara and Kaskade

After piloting a beautiful course aboard familiar mount, Kaskade, in the first phase co-judges Frey and Jimmy Lee of Keswick, Virginia placed him second on their cards. O’Mara needed to step it up in the flat to take home the blue, luckily, alongside Stacia Madden of Beacon Hill Show Stables, he has been working tirelessly to strengthen his position on the flat.

O’Mara said, “I went into the flat in second so I was really trying to move up and get my win. I’ve been really working on my position over the duration of WEF. I’ve been doing lots of no stirrup work in particular. During the first few weeks I was here, I noticed in my videos that my leg was really loose. I wasn’t really riding at the level I should have been, so I have made it a priority to tighten up. I’m also getting to be softer with my horse. I have such a tall upper body that I tend to over-muscle my horse so I’ve just really been working on being softer with Kaskade.”

Following an extensive hack, the announcer called out the final results. All of O’Mara’s hard work paid off in the form of a big win in Friday’s class. O’Mara exited the ring patting his reliable mount with a ribbon in hand and a grin on his face.

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T.J. O'Mara and Kaskade

Judge Frey commended O’Mara on his excellent connection and posture. “He has beautiful position and a solid connection with his horse’s mouth. He was able to release his horse and get it back. Those type of skills impress me, but his flat work, his beautiful arm and connection with his horse’s mouth allowed his horse to carry the same shape through all the different gates, that connection was spot-on.”

In regards to the lengthy hack class made up of 12 high-profile equitation riders, Frey joked, “Well we’re old; it took us awhile to sort them all out.” But continued, “It’s apparent that the level of these equitation kids has exponentially advanced. Jimmy and I were reflecting on the fact that at the counter canter, it used to be a big ordeal because so many horses would come off their lead. Now we typically don’t see any swaps, but to watch them on the flat and really be able to sort them out, you do have to watch. You have to let them work which often lends a longer class.”

He continued, “There wasn’t one clear-cut winner today. We had a lot of very good rounds. In the end, T.J. was the strongest on the flat and over fences but they were all grouped together at the top. It was enjoyable to watch and see the kid’s level of education. Riding has come a long way.”

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Victoria Press and Cicero

Other horse-and-rider teams that impressed judges Frey and Lee were both Victoria Press and Cicero, and Francesca Dildabanian and Checkland, placing second and third in Friday’s competition, respectively.

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Francesca Dildabanian and Checkland

WEF Horseware Ireland Week 10 coverage will continue on Saturday with the $130,000 Horseware Ireland CSI 3* Grand Prix rescheduled for 11am in the International ring due to predicted thunder storms on Saturday evening. Stay tuned to PhelpsSports.com for the latest and greatest in WEF coverage!

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Francesca Dildabanian and Checkland

Other articles of interest
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Tori Colvin Cruises to First and Third Place in $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby
Kat Fuqua Pilots Somekindawonderful to $5,000 USHJA Pony Hunter Derby Championship
Scott Stewart and Kelley Farmer Claim Championship Titles in Professional Hunter Divisions During WE

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