Katherine Schmidt is Victorious in Platinum Performance USEF Show Jumping Talent Search

Wellington, FL - It was a busy day for equitation riders today at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), who competed in the Platinum Performance USEF Show Jumping Talent Search, as well as both the Hunter and Jumper phases of the WIHS Equitation class.

Boldness paid off for Katherine Schmidt, of Ridgefield, CT, who garnered the coveted blue ribbon today in Section A of the Platinum Performance USEF Show Jumping Talent Search.  "My strategy was to be as bold as possible," Schmidt said of her performance today.  

Schmidt is currently a 17-year-old senior at Ridgefield High School, and must fly back and forth from Connecticut on weekends to compete at the FTI WEF. "It's a little hectic with school and all, but it seems to be working pretty well," Schmidt said with a smile.  Her strategy proved to be working when she topped a field of 28 other riders today.

Schmidt trains with Andre Dignelli, Heritage Farm, and Darren Graziano, and was very thankful to Heritage Farm for letting her ride their horse, Nimmerot, in the equitation today.  "He's just a really good boy. He's very honest and he'll jump anything. I'd like to thank Heritage Farm for letting me ride him," Schmidt said.  

Nimmerot, aka "Rodney," is a jumper, but "he plays equitation sometimes," Schmidt noted. "He's a little uphill, so we try to keep him in a frame," she explained.  Schmidt mainly competes in the equitation ring, but also shows a little bit in the jumpers, where she trains with Darren Graziano.  "I have a horse back home, but he's also an equitation horse. I mainly just do equitation."

Today's course was comprised of several tests, including three double combinations, a liverpool vertical, and a bending "S" line through the middle of the ring, with an option at the middle element. The first challenge came right away when riders had to ride up in a forward four-stride line to a double-vertical combination towards the in-gate. "I thought the course was good. There were a lot of options, and some people were adding (strides), and I left out (strides) where I could," Schmidt acknowledged.

After competing over fences, Schmidt was called back in the top spot for the flat phase. Schmidt held her lead throughout the flat phase to emerge victorious. The flat phase consisted of tests such as a working trot sitting, a working trot rising with a lengthening of stride, a working canter with a lengthening of stride, and a counter-canter both directions.  

Finishing in second place was Quincy Hayes, and the third and fourth places were awarded to Victoria Birdsall, and Ryan Sassmannshausen, respectively.

Schmidt hopes to continue her successes in the equitation for the rest of the FTI WEF, and said "I would like to finish out my last junior year and have a successful finals (season)."

Equitation classes continue tomorrow with classes like the THIS Children's Medal and there is also a variety of hunter divisions competing in six other show rings at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival.

For full results please visit www.shownet.biz or www.equestriansport.com.  

The 2010 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival has 12 weeks of top competition running from January 13 through April 4. WEF is run by Equestrian Sport Productions, LLC, and Wellington Equestrian Partners and held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. All 12 shows are "AA" rated and Jumper Rated 6, and more than $5.5 million in prize money will be awarded.

Photo Credit: Katherine Schmidt was victorious in the USEF Show Jumping Talent Search during week seven of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. © 2010 Randi Muster/Mustphoto, Inc., www.mustphoto.com. Official Sport Photographer of the 2010 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival.