Karen Healey had not just one but six clients earn top spots in tough competition this past Sunday. In the 2012 Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals West, at the Los Angeles International Jumping Festival on September 19-23, first, second, third, and fifth places went to Karen Healey students Samantha Harrison, Olivia Champ, Kilian McGrath, and Savannah Jenkins. Hannah Von Heidegger took the USEF Zones 8,9,10 Hunter Seat Medal Regional Finals win.
After three challenging phases, flat, gymnastics, and jumping, over three days, the clincher in the USEF Talent Search is the work-off. Similar to the final at the World Equestrian Games Final Four, the top four scoring riders all switch and ride each other's horses, and all start with a clean slate zero score.
Samantha Harrison (20, La Canada, CA) and Santika, who also won the Best Horse Award, had a high score of 94 and were sitting on top going into the work-off. Harrison showed poise and confidence on all four horses. Her consistency and scores in the eighties as well as the nineties paid off with a victory. She finished with a final total score of 350.
Healey described, "She rode beautifully all the way through it. Her gymnastics ride was very good. Horses love her; she's very unassuming. In her own way, she's confident and gets it done when she wants. Every time she's ridden other horses, they get around beautifully. They're relaxed and soft. I was very proud of her."
Harrison is no stranger to the winner's circle. She and Santika have moved up from the six-year-old Young Jumpers to win individual silver and team gold medals at the FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Championships, and currently compete in the grand prix ring.
"The mare is a tough old bird," Healey laughed. "I thought she'd be the hardest of them all to ride, but she actually went beautifully for the other riders. Sam just adores the horse and the horse adores her. She took the time to build a relationship with her. We had ups and downs along the way, but they never gave up on each other. And it's paid off."
Harrison commented on her relationship with Santika, "In the past couple years, we've really grown to have a great connection. I know how she's going to act. We have this great bond and truly love each other. I know if I'm in the ring and I ask for a long distance, she's not going to be naughty. I feel like she's going to be there to help me."
While Harrison has shown in the Talent Search Finals for five years, this was her first ribbon in the class. "I am thrilled about winning," she said. "I'm really proud of my horse because she was so good for all of the phases. It was such a great experience, especially getting on the three different horses in the work-off. I'm so grateful that I got to experience that."