Lexington, Ky.—Nov. 6
Before this season, Augusta Iwasaki had never won a major equitation final. She’d had plenty of top-10 placings, but she’d never finished higher than third. At age 18, 2022 was her last chance to make a bid for one of the coveted championships, and she made good use of it.
The rider from Calabasas, California, started the fall season with a win in the Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Final—East (New Jersey) and followed it by winning last week’s Washington International Horse Show Equitation Classic (Maryland). But she wasn’t done yet.
She capped off her junior career Sunday night by winning the ASPCA Maclay Championship at the National Horse Show, climbing from 18th place after the first round of the day.
“I obviously am so shocked,” she said. “I can’t really believe this happened. I obviously went very early this morning, and I thought put in a pretty solid round, but definitely not the best round we’ve ever had. I just kept fighting all day long and was just hoping to do as best I could. This has been so special.”
From 18th at the end of the first round, she moved into 17th following the flat phase. But it was a phenomenal second round that impressed judges Michael Tokaruk and Robin Rost Brown enough to move Iwasaki into fourth. The top five riders (Tessa Downey, Carlee McCutcheon, Luke Jensen, Iwasaki and Isabelle David) then were asked to perform a test which included a hand gallop fence, a transition to walk, a turn-on-the-haunches and a counter-canter fence. That’s where Iwasaki moved to the top of their cards.
“We loved her second round,” Tokaruk said. “We thought she did a beautiful job. She was solid on the flat. She just kept fighting, and this is a long day with a lot of phases, and the sum total of her body of work added up to the win.”
With the five riders tightly bunched, the judges were very clear on what they hoped to see: brilliance and correctness.
“The hand gallop to the first jump was key for me,” said Brown. “I didn’t want any trick riding. I didn’t want them to try to land the counter lead, so that’s why we put the turn-on-the-haunch in there to prepare for the counter lead, so it was equal footing for everybody. Some chose the inside option, and that was very impressive, but then some had lead problems afterwards, so I think the hand gallop and then the procedure to the counter-canter was really important for me.”
Iwasaki is known for her skill at riding multiple horses, and her previous equitation final wins involved horse swaps, so it’s fitting that she tacked up a different horse than she’d ridden at the others. This time she chose Izar, a 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood owned by Ashland Farms. It was the gelding’s first final, but she felt confident in him.
“I’ve done Izar in a bunch of more high pressure situations, so I knew that I could trust him in this situation,” she said.
Jensen, Denton, Texas, took the reserve honors with Jamaica. With a win in the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final (Pennsylvania), he was awarded the Wilson Dennehy Equitation Trophy as the rider with the best performance across the two championships.
“From the beginning it’s been so special to work with him and take care of him and compete with him throughout the year,” said Jensen. “We’ve gotten to show this fall season with him, and it’s been super successful, and I’m so blessed. I’m super grateful to Missy [Clark] and John [Brennan] and North Run for that opportunity.”
Downey rode HH Moonshine to third. It was her best finish in a equitation final—her only other top 10 placing was in the 2021 WIHS Equitation Classic, where she was fourth.
She said the jump design, which featured many wingless fences, required her to be dialed in to her track the whole way around.
“The biggest part of my personal plan that my trainers and I made was that we noticed that there weren’t many standards on the jumps in the first round,” she said. “We know my horse has a right shift, so the most important thing for me was stay in the middle.”
Miss any of the action? You can read more about individual rounds for all riders here.
The Chronicle is on site at the National all week to bring you photos, stories and more. You can find full results from the show here, and don’t forget to read full analysis and coverage from the horse show in the Nov. 21 issue of the magazine.