Luke Jensen, 18, Denton, Texas, topped a field of 46 competitors Thursday, March 31, to win the Winter Equestrian Festival Equitation Championship (Florida), aboard Stephex Stables’ Jamaica. Jensen was one of three North Run students to make the final four in the class work-off.
“I’m so grateful to Stephex and North Run for the ride on Jamaica. Jamaica really thrives in a big ring. Actually, Jamaica always thrives!” Jensen said of the 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood (Zurich—Petit Fleur) he started riding at the beginning of the season. “I just wanted to build on what we have been working on through all of WEF.”
Riders qualified for the championship by winning an equitation class during the 2022 WEF season, the 2021 Holiday and Horses Horse Show, or the 2021 Holiday Finale Show. For the championship, riders had to hand in their cell phones at the start of the competition, then walk the course and come up with a plan without the assistance of a trainer or staff. They could only be assisted by one groom in the warm-up area, and assistant judges observed the warm-up for the first two rounds, awarding riders a score from -2 to +2 points, which was added to their overall score.
Andy Christiansen and Ken Krome designed the 12-fence first course, which all the junior competitors jumped before the top 12 were called back in reverse order for a second round. Riders proved up to the task: The competitive field produced an average score of 80 in the first round, with just over 7 points separating the top 12.
The close score differential meant it was anyone’s game going into Round 2, which had additional challenges woven into the course, including a simple change of lead between fences 6 and 7, and a halt after the final fence, fence 10.
From that group, four riders returned for further testing: Jensen, Ellie Aronson, Augusta Iwasaki and Zayna Rizvi.
Jensen, in his second WEF Equitation Championship appearance, sat in second place after Round 1. After a stylish performance with the by Zurich in Round 2, Jensen was 2.375 points ahead of Rizvi. He did just enough in the final phase to hold on to the lead and secure the overall win.
Click the photo below to watch Jensen’s high-scoring second round: