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Guest Columnist
October 10, 2016
Talent Search Finals East Review
By Elaine Wessel
Monday, October 10, 2016 :: Posted 08:16:41 PM EDT

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© Elaine Wessel: TJ O'Mara AwardTJ O'Mara, aboard Kaskade, Wins the 2016 Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals East

The 2016 Platinum Performance/USET Show Jumping Talent Search Finals East have concluded, with TJ O’Mara the newly crowned champion. Some of the best young riders in the nation having showcased their abilities, tackling four demanding phases of competition. Following the event, judges Karen Healey and Kirsten Coe, trainers Andre Dignelli and Max Amaya, as well as USEF Chef d’Equipe of the Developing Riders Program Diane Langer weighed in on different aspects of the important championship. Find out what they said to say about how this year’s class played out. 

Gymnastics Phase

Andre Dignelli: I like the changes to the gymnastics. I thought it was much easier to prepare for the event. I never enjoyed being judged over trot rails and things like that, so I think it’s made the event a little more streamlined.

© Rebecca Walton: Andre Dignelli

Kirsten Coe: It was nice this year with the change to the gymnastics phase. For us, it was important that the courses were jumpable. There didn’t need to be tricks, and I think as a whole, you saw everyone complete the course. The beginner riders did well, and the more really good riders excelled at it. We were able to judge the class instead of the course judging it. No matter what I think everyone left with some form of a good experience.

Water Jump

Andre Dignelli: I think it was the first time that the water jump has ever had a rail over it, which we appreciated. Or I did anyway.

Karen Healey: We went out there on the first day, and that’s the problem with constructing those waters in these rings is to make them correctly. I will say that it altered the way I thought it was going to ride after the water, because I think the rail held them up in the air a little bit more. With an open water they tend to jump flatter across it, and we anticipated that riding steady, but what happened to them was it got away from them. I think it is because they jumped higher and landed a little shallower.

Andre Dignelli: I didn't think the water was going to pose any problems this year. I mean, a few horses didn’t jump it, but it was presented as nicely and as friendly as it could be. It was basically in the same spot, just jumped the other direction, during the warm-up. I don’t think they could have really given it to you any other way. I think the rail is a great direction, because it is really hard with the equitation horses to have them sharp enough to clear the water. I would like to see that wave continuing, with more rails over the water.

© Kenneth Kraus/ Kirsten Coe - press conference   3-24-13

Max Amaya: There was for sure less problems with that jump this year.I think because the water was so friendly, like Andre said, there were a few horses that didn’t jump it but there were not people falling off or horses stumbling.

Clear Rounds and Jumping Faults

Kirsten Coe: I don’t think a class like this needs to be judged on whether you put a foot in the tape, or the water, you know. I think having a rail over it is appropriate. Whether you are in a Grand Prix or the USEF class, it is hard to jump an open water with no rail. To lose something, or to be judged by a heel on the tap is annoying. I think jumping the water in a class like this is fine, but it needs the rail over it, like Andre said.

Kirsten Coe: The shape of the jump, and quality of the jump is important. It is very easy to have a rail, no matter what you’re doing, and you have to use good judgement when you judge a rail. Obviously you still have to judge style and the rest of it, but you have to use your judgement as a judge as to why it fell.

© Jennifer Wood: Karen Healey

DiAnn Langer: I would like to add that it is very important to ride a clear round, however it is just as important to get the other riders’ horses to jump clear, as well, because it tells you about the rapport that a rider has with other horses besides his or her own.Karen Healey: I wrote the rule about the deductions for rails in the equitation, but I think it’s all to do with the riding and it is not any different between equitation or the jumpers. I’s good riding. You shouldn’t be eliminated if your horse toes a jump. We said during the gymnastics that we were going to be a bit more lenient about a rail than we were during the jumping phase. It was very important to jump clean on the last day.

Rider Development

Karen Healey: I think that any one of those kids in the top ten, maybe even in the top twelve or fifteen, could easily be in the top four in this class on a given day. They were all so good.I think this was the best I’ve seen in terms of the quality of riders.

© Kenneth Kraus: DiAnn Langer, U.S. Show Jumping Young Rider Chef d'Equipe - Technical Advisor

DiAnn Langer: We look at this competition for what our future is going to look like. It is a very important class to me. I love the fact that they have to connect the dots from the flatwork to the gymnastics, and then use both to accomplish what they need to do on the course in the final day. Seeing the top four riders, and like Karen said, even down to the top twelve and a few that had small errors early on, it is a strong group. I really feel that we can look directly at our professionals for outstanding training, follow-through, selection, and management, and that’s what it takes to build a top team. It’s not like this is 2020 here, but this is 2024 or 2028. This is our future that we are looking at right now, and helping to find the pathway for them is important, to get the most experience possible. This is an outstanding start right here. The competition and the pressure that they have here-this is a very sought-after goal, and winning this particular competition looks really super. If you go back through history you can look at who turned out to be the very best High Performance, Olympics, World Equestrian Games, World Cup, major Grand Prix riders. You’ll find them all. But you’ll find also that not just the winner, but the top four are there too. The winner’s name is on the board, but the riders that they had to beat are equal. They are all phenomenal, and it’s been like that for years. 


For the results of the 2016 Talent Search Finals East, click here.

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