San Juan Capistrano, Calif. - After three challenging Phases of competition, Ransome Rombauer found herself in the ride-off on Saturday against three strong competitors in the 2015 Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals - West. She edged out Savannah Jenkins by one point to win this year's championship with a score of 351 to Jenkins's 350. Eve Jobs finished in third place with a score of 331. Rounding out the ride-off was Mitchell Endicott who finished with 326.
"It feels great to win the championship. I competed in the finals last year with the same horse and won the flat, but missed an inside turn in the gymnastics phase so I didn't get a score. I was just under a lot of pressure. I love the new format because a lot of different riders can do it, and it helps riders move up the levels," said Rombauer.
The competition began on Friday with Phase I where judges Alex Jayne and Debbie Stephens put the riders through a nine-movement individual test on the flat. Jenkins (Virginia Beach, Va.) and Cristobal Collado's Vandor took the lead early with a score of 76. Megan Hilton (Seattle, Wash.) and her own Cantoblanco were close behind with a 74.5 and Miela Gross (Del Mar, Calif.) and her own Zoe finished in third place with a score of 72. Rombaurer (Saint Helena, Calif.) and Alexis Graves's Lalonde ended the flat phase in fourth place with a score of 71.5.
Following the flat phase, the riders moved on to the Phase II, where they tackled a gymnastics course including a trot fence, bounce, and several combinations. Jenkins maintained her lead after scoring an 84 in the gymnastics phase for a total score of 202. Jobs (Palo Alto, Calif.) and her own Esprit 373 had a great gymnastics test for a score of 87, which moved her to second place overall with a score of 196.5. Rombaurer tied with Hilton for third place overall with a score of 194.5. The top score in the gymnastics phase went to Michael Williamson (Loomis, Calif.), who put in a brilliant performance for a score of 90 moving him into sixth place at the end of Phase II.
Competition concluded on Saturday with the Phases III and IV. Rombauer edged Jenkins out for the lead in Phase III with the top score of 90 over the 13-element jumper course. Her clean round through the course moved her to first place overall with a score of 374.5 while Jenkins scored an 86 for a total score 374.0, narrowly moving her to second place. Jobs finished Phase III with a three-round total of 364.5 after scoring an 84 in the jumping phase and Endicott (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.) earned a jumping score of 83 for an overall score of 357.5.
"The jumping course was long and challenging, but I nailed it. I wasn't that nervous. There wasn't time to get anxious," added Rombauer.
The top four finishers at the end of Phase III, Rombauer, Jenkins, Jobs, and Endicott returned to the Grand Prix field to compete in Phase IV. Each rider jumped a shortened course on their own horse before completing the course on each of the other three horses. After the first three rounds of the ride-off, Rombauer and Jenkins were tied with cumulative scores of 265. In the final round, Rombauer narrowly secured the victory with an effective ride on Endicott's El Paso to give her a one-point lead over Jenkins.
"I was super pleased with the results. The courses were fair. The flat test was great, and the top group stayed the same through the entire competition, which doesn't always happen. With the flat test, we got to see the strength and weakness of each rider. I was pleased with the gymnastics course as it prepared the horse and rider for the final day. It came down to the wire with the finalists, and the horses jumped great. It was just a super group of riders," said judge Jayne.
Rombauer was awarded the Denali Trophy, donated by Maya Hamburger, in addition to a Der Dau certificate provided by Blenheim EquiSport and a new iPad given by Platinum Performance. Karen Healey and Daniel Ighani, who trained Rombauer, were awarded the Leading Trainer Award. The Gulliver Trophy, donated by Karen Healey, was awarded to Alexis Graves's Lalonde, ridden by Rombauer, who the judges chose as the best horse of the competition.