When Jonathan Phillips rode Prins to win the $2,500 USET Junior Show Jumping Talent Derby Welcome Class on June 22 at the Bayer/Festival of Champions, he was proud.
The 18-year-old who has his black belt in karate was happy because he knew he had achieved this victory against some very talented junior riders, even though there were only ten horses competing in the class. "There were some very good riders in this class: Georgina Bloomberg, Michael Morrissey…," he commented.
Phillips who started karate when he was four, now believes the balance required in that discipline has helped his riding. "In karate you have to work on good balance and that transfers over to keeping your balance in the air and on the horse."
Prins, who "likes to suck on his tongue and sometimes sticks it out," explained Phillips, also likes peppermints. "We couldn't find any carrots so we are glad he likes peppermints."
Phillips praised his mount noting, "He is really easy to ride. He is very light in the mouth and floats over the jumps and he likes to jump. He really liked it here, but then again he likes it most places."
Phillips, who trains with Ginny Edwards, especially liked the calm pace of the Festival of Champions. "It's a great experience and with only one ring (for the jumpers) when we are done we can watch the pros. In Florida there are so many rings going at once you simply can't do that."
Phillips just started riding Prins (who Phillips thinks is either nine or ten years old) in January and he's looking forward to some good things ahead. So far everything's gone beautifully. "He has always jumped for me. Whenever there's a problem it's usually because I got him too deep to the fence or didn't get him across the jump."
Despite some rider errors, the pair has had smooth sailing, which is pretty much the way things have been throughout Phillips's riding career other than a few bad falls. The worst was a fall he took on a horse while schooling at another horse show. "I'm not sure what happened. I was thrown forward and hit my head. I never went to the hospital but I think I had a concussion and I was pretty sore and couldn't turn my head. I took the rest of the day off because it wouldn't have been good in a jump-off not being able to turn my head. But other than that, I've never broken anything."
The future is looking bright for Phillips who will continue to ride in between starting Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia in the fall. Ultimately, he'll probably continue to ride but choose a different career to support his riding. He's learning early to keep riding as his passion rather than his career.