Harrisburg, PA - An action-packed junior weekend continued to wow the crowd at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show tonight, as Phase III of the Randolph College/USEF Individual Championships culminated in a triumph for junior jumper Meg O'Mara. Riding out of Romson, NJ, O'Mara and Sinatra IV had one of only two clear rounds of the evening, emerging victorious through a steady, controlled approach. Earning the silver medal tonight was Savannah Talcott of Wildwood, MO, who bested third place finisher Reed Kessler of Amrock, NY in a suspenseful jump-off.
O'Mara and Sinatra IV held a solid lead going into tonight's final event, with just a single fault to their name. The duo produced another brilliant performance over the difficult course designed by Steve Stephens of Palmetto, FL. They were one of only two horse and rider combinations to leave all fences intact, retaining their highly impressive one fault score. O'Mara and Sinatra's IV confidence and consistency prevailed, as they claimed the winning title to the lead final victory gallop.
After her flawless turn in the ring tonight, gold medal winner O'Mara remarked, "There was a little bit of pressure, but I knew that it could go perfectly with Sinatra. He's such a special horse that I knew he'd be able to do it. Sinatra is the best horse in the world; he's the sweetest thing ever, and my mom says she wants him to live in our backyard! We actually went through a little bit of a bumpy patch this spring, but we've come back to an amazing show."
She continued, "This is the perfect competition for him because he just knows when it's time to go. He knows when the ride is important and when it's not. There's not much of a difference between showing indoors and outdoors with him; outdoors he goes a little bit faster, but indoors he's just as great as when he's outside." Sinatra IV is owned by Walstib Stables LLC, and has been partnered with O'Mara for two years.
Seventeen-year-old O'Mara explained her different approaches to each night of competition so far, saying, "Considering this competition was a three-day format, having all the rounds count, and with the first night being a faults converted format, I just try to make the first night efficient and clean. Usually if you go fast, you'll have a rail and that is what will get you. With the Nation's Cup, I just tried really, really hard for my zone." O'Mara, who rode as part of last night's winning Zone 2 team, trains with Don Stewart and Megan Edrick.
After the great round produced by O'Mara and Sinatra IV, the competition concluded with a jump-off for the silver and bronze medal positions. This short but eventful silver showdown was between Reed Kessler aboard Ligist and Savannah Talcott riding Recover. Each pair had just four faults going into the class, and they each had a rail in the difficult oxer-oxer-vertical triple combination in their initial rounds. The pairs' knockdowns brought their totals to eight faults apiece, requiring them to show over a shortened course to determine the final medal position.
Kessler and Ligist, who won Thursday night's class, returned to the ring first. The talented duo had a difficult time early on, lowering the height of the second fence. The speedy pair quickly made their way over the remaining obstacles, though, producing a competitive time of 34.093 seconds with just four faults. Talcott knew that she just needed to leave all fences untouched with Recover, and that's exactly what they managed to do. The pair chose a slightly more conservative route in 37.256 seconds, but their clear round secured their silver medal honors, while Kessler and Ligist garnered the bronze medal prize.
While O'Mara, Talcott, and Kessler all had reason to smile after tonight's class, there were plenty of other first-rate rides amongst the junior jumpers. Katie Dinan of New York, New York rode Belle Dame D of Grant Road Partners LLC to a fourth place finish overall. Dinan was a key component in last night's Zone 2 victory, and repeated her skills tonight as she and her mount accumulated only 12 faults over the three nights of challenging jumper courses.
Together with Talcott, Kessler, and Dinan, Wilton Porter of Bartonville, TX was one of the few riders to bring only four faults into tonight's round. He and Phineas of Sleepy P Ranch knocked just two rails, barely going over the time allowed to finish sixth overall. Just ahead of Porter in the final leaderboard was Chase Boggio of Canton, GA riding his own Hennessy. This pair was the first as well as the fastest to go clear in tonight's class; they were rewarded with spirited applause for their agile speed in the ring. Nora Laue of Wilmette, IL was also rewarded for her hard work this week, receiving the William C. Steinkraus Style Award for their Prix de States performance.
The Pennsylvania National Horse Show continues tomorrow with the USEF/Pessoa Hunter Seat Equitation Medal Finals, presented by Randolph College. Monday's lineup includes the Hunt Night Championship, while the remainder of the week features a wide array of crowd-pleasing hunter and jumper action. For full results and live scoring please visit www.ryegate.com. For more information about the Pennsyvania National Horse Show, please visit www.panational.org.
For extensive coverage including free LIVE webcasting Sunday, October, 16, 2011, visit USEFNetwork.com's Pennsylvania National Horse Show page at http://www.usefnetwork.com/featured/2011PennsylvaniaNational.
Photos: Meg O'Mara and Sinatra IV. Photo: Phelps Media Group; Meg O'Mara (Gold), Savannah Talcott (Silver) and Reed Kessler (Bronze). Photo: Phelps Media Group.