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."
Harrison feels that the tutelage of Karen Healey has helped her reach this point in her riding career. In addition to her success on the "A" circuit, she is also a varsity NCAA rider for Oklahoma State University.
"I've been with Karen a long time," she related. "We always do a lot of flatwork and work on the basics. She's so supportive every time I have a lesson or am at the in-gate. She knows that I can do better and she'll push me. I have had a lot of hard lessons with her and when I tough it out, it all comes together in the show ring."
Harrison also took the time to thank Karen and her staff and her family and friends for all of their support through the years.
Although Karen Healey has had many successful Talent Search Finals, a one-two-three finish is a first for her.
Olivia Champ of La Canada, CA, on Parrandero, owned by Katie Harris, placed second. She has been at Karen Healey Stables just over a year, and after her horse had colic surgery, they found Parrandero, who won last year with Demi Stiegler, for her to ride at these Finals. "Olivia suits him really well," Healey said. "He's a gem."
Champ adds this to her resume of wins at the PCHA Finals and CPHA Foundation Medal 14 & Under Finals.
Kilian McGrath of Thousand Oaks, CA, rode Salerno, owned by Rolling Oaks Ranch Inc. to third and Healey said she "rode pretty solid" throughout the competition. Savannah Jenkins of Virginia Beach, VA on Capilan 2, owned by George Maskrey-Segesman, finished fifth. "Savannah just missed the top four. It was really close. I'm really thrilled with all of them," Healey commented.
In addition to the great Finals, Karen Healey student Hannah Von Heidegger, whom she co-trains with Simpson Show Jumping, won the USEF Zones 8, 9, 10 Hunter Seat Medal Regional Finals.
What's next is a trip to East Coast where Karen Healey Stables riders will compete for more victories at the Capital Challenge Horse Show, Pennsylvania National Horse Show, Washington International Horse Show, and Alltech National Horse Show.
"All the girls were great. A solid preparation for what’s to come. We have our eyes on the indoor finals now," Healey said.
Dedicated to excellence at all levels, Karen Healey Stables provides an advanced program for the serious competitor. Since coming to California, her riders have won over 90 medal finals including the 1990 ASPCA Maclay National Finals and the USET Talent Search Finals in 1986, 1987, 1990, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2002, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012. Jumper clients have earned spots on numerous teams and won medals at the NAYRC and the Prix de States, including Double Gold Medalist Hannah Selleck, Team Gold / Individual Silver Medalist Samantha Harrison and individual Gold Medalist Killian McGrath. She has also trained numerous hunters and jumpers to tri-colors at indoors over the years.
Karen's methods of teaching the American riding system have produced a multitude of top riders, including European champion and three-time FEI World Cup champion Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, the only woman to be first in the world rankings. Along with Meredith, many of Karen's former students have gone on to be top professionals.
Karen Healey Stables is based at Whitethorne Ranch in Somis, CA. Please visit karenhealeystables.com for more information.