By: Violet Forbes on Oct. 15th, 2017

Taylor St. Jacques,18, of Glen Allen, Va., captured the win in the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final, at the at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, presented by The Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund. The victory was emotional as this was her last year of eligibility as a junior and therefore the last chance to win the Medal Final.

"This is it. This is honestly a dream come true. I have always wanted to win a Final and hopefully we can win the rest and I can go out with a bang," said St. Jacques. "I thought the courses were great today. They tested enough without being too difficult. I thought from the moment my horse came out of the stall today he had his absolute "A" game on. He was ready to go out there and put his best foot forward and he did. He was absolutely incredible. I could not ask him to be better any part of any round."

The day began with an initial round of 257 riders. The top 25 were called back for the second round, which was narrowed down to an additional test for the top four. The final test required riders to complete a course of eight numbered obstacles (nine jumping efforts) without stirrups. In the second round and in the final test, the riders returned in reverse order of merit. St. Jacques was called back on top for both so she had to wait for all of the other riders to take the course, a daunting position.

"I was a little nervous coming back for the final test. I've come back on top a few times at some smaller shows and I think that really prepared me for this big class. I wasn't as nervous as I thought I would be," said St. Jacques. "I was really excited when they said no stirrups. I think that's a strong suit of mine. I thought that was pretty cool and funny. My mom called it down at the [Winter Equestrian Festival], that at the final there was going to be a test with no stirrups and it happened!"

Judges Tammy Provost and Jack Towell had not planned to test the riders. However, the scores were so close, they felt it necessary to see them again.

"Taylor never made a mistake," said Provost. "In the final test we were looking for who was strong without their stirrups and Taylor was really strong. We were thinking more Hunter Derby and Hunter Seat Equitation Finals, with a soft and light position."

Towell further explained the reasoning for their choice of a straight forward course instead of one with tricky turns and distances. 

"It's called hunter seat equitation finals and in our minds, one of these riders would win the hunter derby and become world champion hunter rider. That's what they are supposed to do. We wanted to keep the course nice, safe, comfortable, and let us judge it.  Let us decide who we thought was the best rider. We judged it more than the course. We judged the pace, the position, all of it and keeping in mind a hunter seat rider."

Cooper Dean of Fayette, Ala., was called back second to last for the test and kept his placing to finish as the runner-up. Dean was at a loss for words.

"All this is just surreal. I can't get the words out. It's just great," said Dean. "It's really nice to have a really nice horse and I can't thank Andre [Dignelli] enough. I've thanked him every day for the past seven or eight months since I've been with him, but words don't do it justice. I'm just really grateful that Andre took me under his wing."

Dignelli was also the trainer of St. Jacques, who claimed that having the two students was a dream. St. Jacques believed that his tutelage went far beyond the show ring.

"It's meant the absolute world to me," said St. Jacques. "He took me under his wing and he's really done wonders for me. I have a good feel for a horse, but he's improved my knowledge as a horsewoman and set me up for success in the future and I think that goes far beyond words. He's not just teaching me riding, he's teaching me how to be successful in life. Not every trainer can do that. He's been a great mentor and beyond amazing as a trainer. I'm very grateful for everything that he's done for me."

Sam Walker of Ontario, Canada, placed third in his first equitation Final. Walker was seventh following the second round and moved up to third place for the final test. 

"I first started showing in the States about three years ago. I saw all the other big equitation riders and I really thought that one day I wanted to do that and get to a National Final like this," said Walker.  "It's my horse's first time and it's also my first time doing the Final. I really thought for my very first experience this was amazing and I would like to thank everybody for help making it happen." 

Jordyn Rose Freedman of Longmeadow, Mass., placed fourth, moving up from eighth in the second round.

"In the second round I came back in eighth, so I was not very nervous. I was just trying to do everything I could to climb up to the test. I was just so happy because my horse was really great and I couldn't ask any more of him," said Freedman. "I was so surprised to make the test. It was definitely a surreal moment. I was really excited. My goal this year was to make the second round, so to make the test was really great for my last junior year. I couldn't be happier." 

Charisma, the mount for St. Jacques won the Doris H. Clark Memorial Perpetual Trophy as Best Equitation Horse.

Top Ten Results

1. Taylor St. Jacques

2. Cooper Dean

3. Sam Walker (CAN)

4. Jordyn Rose Freedman

5. Paige Matthies 

6. Madison Goetzmann

7. Sara McCloskey

8. Coco Fath

9. Ava Ellis

10. Abigail Brayman