When Meg O’Mara watched the first few horses jump off in the $10,000 WIHS Children’s Jumper Championship at the Washington International Horse Show, she realized she had her work cut out for her if she wanted a piece of the prize money. When the first two horses posted quick times and chose a tight inside turn she had initially dismissed as too tight, O’Mara decided to change her plan and go for broke. Her change of heart paid off when she and Raya De La Cour found the tightest track of the day to take the blue today, Oct. 22., stopping the clock almost a second faster than runner-up Zoe Glassman aboard Nobilis.
“I usually get really nervous and I start pulling a lot,” said O’Mara, Rumson, N.J. “But I just told myself, ‘you know what, I’m just going to ride well and get over the jumps,’ and that’s what I did.”
14-year-old O’Mara followed in the footsteps of her three older sisters, all of whom compete in the jumper ring. She and “Raya” paired up a year ago, after Yvonne Bryant called O’Mara’s trainer Mary Babbick to describe what she thought would be a perfect partner for student.
“She found us to ride her, we weren’t even looking at the time,” said O’Mara. “We tried her and it was a perfect match.”
The pair moved from the low to the high children’s division after a few shows, winning big classes all season. O’Mara is most proud of qualifying for the FEI Children’s International Jumping Final at the American Gold Cup (Ohio), though she hasn’t decided if she will make the trip to the championship, held in Bogotá, Colombia, this December.
“It’s such an honor to train all the O’Maras,” said Babbick. “We’ve done a lot together. Meg has come up with me from short stirrup and she’s such a great learner. This is my hometown show, because I grew up in D.C., so to have someone win here is a very big deal for me.”
Watching the children’s jumpers compete over an identical course gave Kenzie Donovan the knowledge she needed to win the $10,000 WIHS Adult Amateur Jumper title aboard Max.
“I knew I wanted that inside turn to jump eight, and my plan was to just have a medium pace to jump one and then shave every turn as tightly as I could and gallop around to the last line,” she said.
Donovan’s turns won her the class, and she was almost a full second faster than the second place winner, Atman and Olivia Fry Weeks.
Donovan has only been competing in the jumpers since the beginning of the year, having bought Max from Eric Lamaze this winter. Then, after only a few months together, Donovan broke her leg and had to spent most of the summer out of the tack.
“I never dreamed of even coming here my first year,” said Donavan after picking up her awards. “This is just amazing. Max is such a great little horse and he’s taught me to much. He brought me a long way this year.”
Donavan describes the 15.1-hand Max as a little horse with a big heart. “He’s just the sweetest thing. He’s the type that would come out here [to the Washington schooling area] and not glance at the thing,” she said. “Then when he goes in the ring he fires right up. He knows when it’s time to work. We joke that he’s got a jet pack because he’s so little and can go from nothing to a huge stride in a second.”
The 19-year-old is a sophomore at Georgetown University, where she studies healthcare management and policy at the nursing school. She takes time out of her busy schedule during the winter to fly down to Wellington, Fla., every other weekend, where she meets up with trainers Cody and Emily Williams.