After three years and three appearances with steadily improving placings in the final four, Luke Jensen finally got his win in the Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals—East.
Jensen, Denton, Texas, who finished fourth in 2021 and second in 2022, delivered a performance in the final-four ride-off that lifted him to the championship Sunday at the USET Foundation Headquarters in Gladstone, New Jersey.
“It’s always a special weekend here,” said Jensen, noting that as a history buff, he finds it inspirational to compete at Gladstone. “It’s one of my favorites of the year. This is my third year doing this class, and a weekend that I will remember for a long time.”
Riding Morgan Wilsberg’s 7-year-old Oldenburg mare Calina M (Cador—La Luna M), Jensen put himself firmly in contention from the outset of the competition, sitting in second place to Joe Craver (Shelby, North Carolina) after the Phase I flat work and third after Phase II’s gymnastics on Saturday.
On Sunday, the Texan took control. In the influential Phase III, where scores were weighted doubly, athletes rode a jumper-style course for judges Anne Kursinski and Ronnie Beard. After calculating the scores, Jensen, Carlee McCutcheon, Craver, and Amira Kettaneh returned for Phase IV, the ride-off.
Jensen, who trains with Missy Clark and John Brennan at North Run, said much of his preparation at home resembles the first few phases of the weekend’s competition.
“At home, we prepare with a format set up like the first two days here at this competition,” he said. “We work on our flat work and technical rideability through the course. To be at home with John and Missy and Maggie [Gampfer] and a team like that is an advantage, and I’m grateful for that.”
In the final phase, the athletes started on a score of 0 and rode a shortened course on their own horses before swapping and riding the course on each of the other top horses throughout four rounds to determine the final placings. Jensen earned a score of 375 in the final phase to win the championship.
Watch his influential third-round performance on Calina M, courtesy of USEF Network and ClipMyHorse.TV:
“The horse swap is the most difficult part of the week,” Jensen said. “To ride a horse for two minutes and then prepare to jump a course is always tricky, but that challenge makes it my favorite part of the week.”
“To be at the top of the level among your peers and to compete in a high-pressure situation is a great way to prepare yourself for future situations,” he added. “As you come through as a junior and experience this fall season, it gives you the tools you need to begin dealing with pressure, which is very important because this sport is very mental. To be able to do this and continue to learn to deal with the pressure and the mindset has been super important. It’s very special to be successful here and something I’ll never forget.”
Jensen’s trainer Missy Clark earned the leading trainer award.
Reserve champion of the 2023 Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals—East went to fellow Texan Carlee McCutcheon (Aubrey, Texas), who rode Chacco Star, a 15-year-old Oldenburg gelding owned by Kennedy McCaulley, throughout the weekend. McCutcheon made an impressive climb from 14th after the flat phase to qualify for the ride-off, where her final score of 372 earned her second place. Craver, who lead both of the first two phases of the competition, earned third on his own 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding Franco, while Kettaneh (Hollis, New Hampshire) and her own 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare Gossip SA took home fourth.
The Hollow Brook Wealth Management Sportsmanship Award went to Callista Smith. The award recognizes a junior rider who best personifies the highest standards of integrity, sportsmanship, honor, kindness and generosity during the competition.
See complete results here.