The USEF has made a huge push to see the U25 program thrive, and that includes the massive $100,000 pot for the U25 National Championship at the CP National Horse Show in Lexington, Kentucky. This year, the win was claimed by rising star Jennifer Gates aboard her talented mount, Alex. Over three classes and four rounds of jumping, the combination had just a single rail to take the top prize.
“The U25 classes have added a lot of depth to my learning. It’s an incredible format,” said Jennifer after her win. “It gives us young riders the opportunity to jump really hard tracks and put us under a little pressure in similar formats to World Cup classes. It’s been a priority of mine to try and compete in as many U25 events as possible. Winning this here is a huge honor and I can’t thank USEF enough for sponsoring such an amazing championship for us.”
Following the same format as the FEI World Cup, penalties are accrued over the several classes, and Jennifer and Alex won outright as the only pair to have just a single rail. The pair were clean in the first two classes, was clean in round one of the final day, and had a rail in the very last class, but it was still sufficient to fend off her competitors.
Jennifer Gates and Alex are your 2017 US Equestrian U25 National Champions!
Posted by EQSportsNet on Sunday, November 5, 2017
Previously ridden by fellow U25 rider Audrey Coulter, Jennifer took the ride over on the 13-year-old Westphalian earlier this year, and the two already won a U25 class together at Central Park.
“My trainer, Hardin [Towell], had seen Alex four years ago when I was jumping the 1.20m,” said Jennifer of the blossoming partnership. “He liked him, but I wasn’t ready for a horse of that caliber yet. I have watched him with Audrey [Coulter] and this summer she was kind enough to let me try him. I am grateful for the opportunity to have him.”
Second place went to the newly crowned Maclay Finals winner Madison Goetzmann, who officially had the best week ever in Lexington, and she happily accepted reserve honors aboard her own Prestigious. The pair also won Thursday’s $15,000 speed class.
“I really have my trainers, John and Beezie Madden, to thank for [preparing me today]. They’re always telling me to slow things down, take a second to breathe and think about smoothness around the courses. When I woke up this morning, my main focus was the U25 and I wanted to successfully complete those courses before switching my focus to the Maclay. It really hasn’t been too stressful. My trainers have helped me a lot through that.”
Yellow ribbon honors went to Abigail McArdle and the lovable Chuck Berry 8, who also took third in the championships last year.
“I absolutely love [this championship]. I can’t say enough good things about it,” said Abigail. “It’s a great in-between division – between not being a junior or an amateur but trying to step up to being a professional. It’s a great division. I think it’s super competitive and I’m just happy to be here.”
U25 National Championship Final Top Ten: