The $100,000 USEF U25 Show Jumping National Championship at the Holiday & Horses Show came to an exciting conclusion on Sunday, Dec. 2. The U25 athletes competed in the $25,000 two-round competition over Anthony D’Ambrosio’s two challenging tracks in the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center’s International Arena as the final leg of the national championship. Abigail McArdle and Victorio 5 claimed top honors after three days of competition against talented combinations.
Twenty-four-year-old McArdle, of Barrington, Illinois, and Victorio 5 placed second in Thursday’s $10,000 faults-converted competition and third in Friday’s $15,000 jump-off competition. They led the national championship following the first two competitions, thus putting them on zero penalties heading into Sunday. McArdle piloted Victorio Equine Group, LLC’s 12-year-old Hanoverian stallion to a double-clear performance to clinch the national championship title. After earning the bronze medal in 2016 and 2017, victory was sweet for McArdle in 2018.
“This is actually my third time doing [the championship]. It felt like it was just my time; I was ready to win it,” McArdle said. “I have a lot of belief in this horse right now. I sort of walked into this week knowing I was going to win, and I was able to see that through.”
McArdle was quick to praise her mount. “I am just really happy this horse won; he really deserved it. He is a great horse, and it was a good field of competitors.”
Twenty-four-year-old Mattias Tromp and Eyecatcher finished as the reserve national champions with 5 penalties after being hot on the winners’ heels throughout the three days. Tromp, of North Salem, New York and Beyaert Farm Inc’s 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare were third on Thursday and fifth on Friday. On Sunday, they had a rail in the first round but kept the pressure on by going clear in the second round.
“I think this division gives the opportunity to younger riders to compete in a championship format, and I think later on in our careers it is going to be very important if you go somewhere like the World Cup Finals or other championships,” Tromp said. “I also think it is a great place for us to develop as riders, and some younger grand prix horses often fit very nicely into this division. It is also nice to not go up against McLain [Ward] and Margie [Engle] and Kent [Farrington] every time you go into the ring.”
Seventeen-year-old Samantha Cohen and Carmen clinched third place on five penalties with a slower time than Tromp and Eyecatcher. Cohen, who hails from New York City, and her 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare had an impressive showing in their first U25 national championship. They won Thursday’s competition, then tied for seventh place on Friday. They went clear in Sunday’s first round but had an unlucky four faults in the second round.
“I did a lot of equitation earlier on in my junior career that has certainly helped me in terms of finals,” Cohen said. “Sometimes pressure helps me actually, sometimes I think it helps me ride better. I try to block everything out and just focus on me and my horse. When I am on a horse like [Carmen], pressure never seems to be bad.”