October 4, 2015 -- Victoria (Tori) Colvin of Loxahatchee, Fla. lead the 2015 Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals East from start to finish. With her signature grace under pressure, the young superstar revealed the innate equestrian intuition for which she is famous, besting the field of 61 to win the French Leave Memorial Perpetual Trophy. Earning the highest score in each of the four phases of competition, Colvin was crowned champion aboard Betsee Parker's Avalanche on a total score of 434.
Finishing tenth in her debut at these finals last year, Colvin appreciated the significance of the win. "It means a lot to win this class. This competition is more of a jumper-style test; it was an amazing experience as I move forward." Dominating all four phases was the result of raw talent and extensive preparation. "The flat class is not usually my strongest, but my horse performed well and was really elegant. The gymnastics phase we had practiced a lot with [trainer] Andre [Dignelli] to get ready over the last month, so I went in there feeling confident and the exercises went smooth. This morning's phase was my best round, it went so smooth and my horse was great."
The Reserve Champion title was earned by McKayla Langmeier (East Granby, Conn.) aboard Linda Langmeier's Skyfall. Skyfall was also awarded the Grappa Trophy for best horse at the finals. Langmeier entered the Phase IV ride-off in fourth-place where she showcased her catch riding talents to ascend to second-place honors. Third-place accolades went to Hunter Holloway (Topeka, Kan.) aboard Hays Investment Corp.'s Any Given Sunday. Rounding out the top four placings was T.J. O'Mara (Rumson, N.J.) on Walstrib Stables LLC's Kaskade.
Saturday's competition began with the Phase I flat portion of the event, where the judges watched a demanding array of exercises in cold and rainy conditions. Colvin received the high score of 96, while Langmeier had the fifth highest score of the phase with an 89, closely followed by O'Mara with a score of 88 and Holloway with an 81. Phase II was the gymnastics course, where Colvin duplicated her high score of 96. Following in close second place was O'Mara with a 95 and Langmeier with a 94 to sit in third. Holloway was in fourth place at the conclusion of Saturday.
Sunday's competition began under beautiful fall skies at the United States Equestrian Team Foundation Headquarters with Phases III and IV. Judges Chrystine Tauber and Candice King endeavored to design a challenging Phase III course for the 61 competitors and enlisted the aid of famed Olympian and course designer, Conrad Homfeld. Said Tauber, "We thought it would be nice to have a course that was designed by one of America's top course designers, and asked (Homfeld) to consider adapting one of his 5* courses. (He) agreed and adapted the first round Nations Cup course from the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games." The judges were pleased with the track as it tested balance, straightness, and striding.
Riding with ease and accuracy, Colvin answered all of the questions asked by the course and received a competition high score of 97. Holloway earned the second highest Phase III score of 94, with O'Mara receiving a 90, and Langmeier an 84.
In Phase IV, each rider rode a shortened course on his or her own horse, and then rode the same course on the other rider's mounts. Colvin performed smooth, accurate rounds time after time, cementing her championship berth. The order of finish changed for the other three riders as Langmeier moved up to earn Reserve Champion honors, followed by Holloway in third and O'Mara in fourth. Tauber attributed Langmeier's ascension in placings in the final round on her own entry, Linda Langmeier's Skyfall, which she rode as a "forward, galloping course - it was just like you would see in a Table A against the clock. The other riders had to ride to that bar she set right from the beginning." Skyfall continued to impress with each of the other finalists in Phase IV to earn the Grappa Trophy, which is best horse of the competition.
Colvin is trained by Andre Dignelli at Heritage Farm in Katonah, N.Y. Dignelli, himself a winner of the class in 1980, has trained an impressive nine winners of this final. He described Colvin as possessing "the incredible ability to be soft and at the same time effective. She is soft, but not weak. She brings out the best in horses, and they respond to her." Colvin was foot perfect from day one, lead every phase of the competition, and never faltered under the pressure of being in the lead. As Dignelli states, "she lays it on the line," praising her focus, organization, and discipline. He notes that the attribute setting Colvin apart is her "professionalism. She has basically been a professional rider for many years and she brings that perspective to the ring. If things don't go perfectly in the schooling ring, she can leave it behind, walk in, and deliver." Of her mount, Avalanche, Dignelli explained that he had never done this type of final before, and "the horse was breathtaking."
The USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals format is designed to develop young talent for a future on the world stage of show jumping. The exceptional group that competed on the hallowed grounds of the United States Equestrian Team Headquarters in Gladstone, N.J. portends great success for the future of international show jumping for the United States.
On demand coverage of all phases of competition will be available on USEF Network.