Gladstone, N.J.—Oct. 8
After today’s work-off in the Platinum Performance USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Medal Finals—East, the top four riders entered the ring, not knowing their placings. And no one was more surprised that McKayla Langmeier to hear her name announced as the champion.
Her jaw dropped as she realized that she had accomplished this, the second major equitation finals win of her junior career.
“I was surprised,” said Langmeier, 17. “I really didn’t know where I’d end up.” The talented young rider won the 2015 ASPCA Maclay Final (Ky.) when she was just 15.
Langmeier lay fourth after yesterday’s flat and gymnastic phases, then laid down a textbook jumping round to score the highest mark of the day—a 92—to guarantee an invite to the coveted, clean-slate work-off, where the four top riders each ride their own, then each other’s, horses over an identical track.
Taylor St. Jacques, who had amassed a serious lead after Day 1, came into the final work-off with hopes of blue, but a mistake early on course with her first horse knocked her down a bit. None of the four riders in the final four had faultless work-off rides, but Langmeier stayed the most consistent to relegate St. Jacques to second. Taylor Griffiths, 15, finished third aboard Caracas 89, a horse who just won the West Coast version of the class with Halie Robinson, then came east for finals. Though another rider is leasing the Caracas 89 for the other equitation finals, Griffiths got to borrow him for the class, riding him for the first time on Tuesday. Abigail Brayman rounded out the top four aboard a big jumping jumper she just paired up with, Corleone.
Langmeier, who finished second last year, tacked up with Skyfall, her longtime mount who partnered with her for her ASPCA Maclay Finals (Ky.) win in 2015.
“I’ve had my horse for five years,” said Langmeier, East Granby, Conn. “My mom found him in Europe, and he’s very special to both of us. Whenever I’ve called on him at a final he’s always there for me. He’s an extraordinary animal.”
She was also thrilled to take a turn on her competitors’ horses, each of which required a different ride.
“Taylor [St. Jacques’] horse [Charisma] is unbelievable,” she said. “Taylor [Griffith’s] horse is new to her, and he looked pretty straightforward. Abigail’s horse was obviously really scopey.”
Judges Jimmy Torano and McLain Ward pointed out that the top riders were just 5 points apart in the work-off. They also designed the courses, along with input from Anthony D’Ambrosio. Ward took the lead in that process, drawing inspiration from last week’s Longines FEI Nations Cup Final (Spain), where his three clear rounds helped Team USA finish in silver medal position. He combined several tricky lines from those courses to make today’s track.
“This was a modern course,” said Ward. “We have to present the challenges that these riders are going to see in the show jumping arena. We’re not preparing kids to go hunting; we’re preparing them for Nations Cup finals.”
Missy Clark, who trains Langmeier along with John Brennan and the rest of the North Run team, plus Langmeier’s parents Kenny and Linda Langmeier, pointed out that McKayla has all the skills to take her riding to the top.
“Her work ethic, talent and interest level are amazing,” said Clark. “She’s worked so hard for so many years, and she’s always so respectful and polite and appreciative. I can’t say enough great things. She’s a good one.”
Follow along with all our coverage of the Platinum Performance USEF Talent Search Finals—East