By US Equestrian Communications Department
Competition at the Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals – East concluded on Sunday at the USET Foundation Headquarters with a 2023 champion after Phases III and IV. Athletes rode a jumper-style course for judges Anne Kursinski and Ronnie Beard during Phase III, the jumping phase, which had a multiplier of two for the overall weighted scores of the competition. After calculating the scores, Luke Jensen, Carlee McCutcheon, Joe Craver, and Amira Kettaneh returned for Phase IV, the ride-off.
Luke Jensen and Calina M. By Avery Wallace/US Equestrian
The four athletes started on a score of zero for phase IV and rode a shortened course on their horse before swapping and riding the course on each of the other top horses throughout four rounds to determine the final placings. When Phase IV concluded, Jensen was announced as the Champion.
“It’s always a special weekend here,” Jensen began. “It’s one of my favorites of the year. This is my third year doing this class, and a weekend that I will remember for a long time.”
Jensen, who trains at North Run, explained that much of his preparation at home resembles the first few phases of the weekend’s competition. “At home, we prepare with a format set up like the first two days here at this competition,” he explained. “We work on our flat work and technical rideability through the course. To be at home with John [Brennan] and Missy [Clark] and Maggie [Gamfer] and a team like that is an advantage, and I’m grateful for that.”
Jensen (Denton, Texas) rode Morgan Wilsberg’s 2016 Oldenburg mare Calina M (Cador x La Luna M) through the first three phases of the competition, holding his own from start to finish to end Phase III with a 413.0. In the fourth and final Phase, he came out on top with a 375.0 to earn the French Leave Trophy. Jensen’s trainer Missy Clark earned the Leading Trainer Award.
“The horse swap,” Jensen noted, “is the most difficult part of the week. To ride a horse for two minutes and then prepare to jump a course is always tricky, but that challenge makes it my favorite part of the week. Additionally, I love coming to this facility. I have a great affinity for the sport’s history, and I enjoy watching and learning from what people have done before me, so coming here to such a historic venue is also very special.”
Jensen continued, “To be at the top of the level among your peers and to compete in a high-pressure situation is a great way to prepare yourself for future situations. As you come through as a junior and experience this fall season, it gives you the tools you need to begin dealing with pressure, which is very important because this sport is very mental. To be able to do this and continue to learn to deal with the pressure and the mindset has been super important. It’s very special to be successful here and something I’ll never forget.”
Reserve champion of the 2023 Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals – East went to Carlee McCutcheon (Aubrey, Texas), who rode Chacco Star, a 2008 Oldenburg gelding (Chacco-Blue x Carieny Z) owned by Kennedy McCaulley throughout the weekend, concluding her Final on a 372.0. Joe Craver (Shelby, N.C.) earned third after piloting his own 2012 Holsteiner gelding Franco (Corsy Z x Frangelico) respectably through the first three phases, while Amira Kettaneh (Hollis N.H.) and her own 2011 KWPN mare Gossip SA (Vingino x W. Amelusina 11) took home fourth.
The Hollow Brook Wealth Management Sportsmanship Award went to Callista Smith. The award recognizes a junior rider who best personifies the highest standards of integrity, sportsmanship, honor, kindness, and generosity during the 2023 Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals – East.
Additional prizes from LeMieux and YETI® were awarded to each of the top finishers.