Strong performances in Sunday’s final day of competition at the 2023 Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals-West lifted 16-year-old Camilla Jerng to a win over 20 of the West Coast’s best young riders.
The competition, which started Friday, Sept. 22, with a flat phase, followed by gymnastics on Saturday, concluded Sunday with a jumper-style course weighted heavily in the final scores and a final ride-off among the top four riders. Those top four were Jerng, Paige Walkenbach, Zadie Stack and Sabine Close, and when the final horse swap was complete it was Jerng, of Woodside, California, who came out on top, climbing all the way from eighth place after a weaker performance in the gymnastics phase.
“It was really unexpected to be honest, especially starting in eighth for the third phase,” Jerng said, “but we just kind of worked our way up and tried to keep it going from there.”
Jerng rode Nopik Van De Munte, her own 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Rock N’ Roll Semilly—Opikarte Van De Steenberg), but said that was not her original plan.
The pair were fifth after the opening flat phase, but the gymnastics were a challenge.
“The second phase was not the round we were hoping for, but we were expecting it, especially because we weren’t planning on using him for the class,” she said. “He was a little inexperienced at the gymnastics, but I thought he was really good about adapting to everything. He got quieter throughout the weekend, so the third phase was nice. It was a little bit more relaxed, and there wasn’t a lot of pressure.”
After the third-round scores were calculated, Jerng had moved up from eighth place to fourth, earning her the final spot in the work-off.
Each of the top four athletes started on a clean slate for the final, without scores carrying over from the previous phases. They rode a shortened course on their own horse before swapping horses, having a brief warm-up period, and riding the same course on each of the other top four horses to determine the final placings.
The phase allowed them to show the adaptability of their riding skills on unfamiliar horses. The tight time allowed for the shortened course required athletes to be mindful of their track around the course despite the added task of riding unfamiliar horses.
Smooth rounds on Nopik Van De Munte and the other top four horses helped Jerng clinch the champion title with a final score of 304 points. Her trainer, Susie Schroer, received the Leading Trainer Award.
Watch the Phase IV performance that lifted Jerng to the win, courtesy of USEF Network and ClipMyHorse.TV:
“I thought the ride-off was really fun, especially getting to ride horses that I have watched go around so many times [at shows],” she said. “It was all very fast, but I thought it was really fun.”
In terms of words of wisdom for other competitors who are aiming to compete in the finals, Jerng said that athletes should persevere through the end of the competition.
“You shouldn’t dwell on your scores from each phase,” she said. “You can’t give up until the entire thing is over, especially with the third phase, which is the most important one. A lot of changes can happen throughout the three days, so you should stay positive and keep on trying to improve throughout the Finals.”
Close (San Carlos, Calif.) showcased her solid riding skills with Off To Neverland, her own 8-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Diabeau Van De Heffinck—Capisce L), to take the lead after the gymnastics phase and, ultimately, earn the reserve champion title with a score of 301.
Watch the gymnastics round that gave Close the lead after Phase II, courtesy of USEF Network and ClipMyHorse.TV:
See complete results here.