Future stars made their presence known in the Platinum Performance USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals West, hosted as part of the L.A. International. This is the only national equitation championship held on the West Coast, and there was no shortage of talent in the 45 entry class. Taylor Ann Adams made the trip from Florida to ride in the West Coast version of the Finals. “My trainer, Don Stewart, always goes to Capital Challenge and that conflicted with the East Coast Finals, so we decided to come to California,” explained Taylor of her decision. She leased El Toro (Lindsay Anderson, owner) and Karen Healey stepped in to coach the talented rider. Basics and fundamentals were the traits judges Ralph Alfano and Ellen Raidt rewarded throughout the multiple phase competition.
Taylor sat tenth after the Flat Phase with a solid score of 76.50, and after a strong performance in the Gymnastics Phase she found herself in sixth going into the Show Jumping Phase. Her strong show jumping performance vaulted her to second and a position in the Final Four in her first time contesting the challenging Talent Search Finals. Jocelyn Neff (Karen Healey, trainer), Jennifer Parker (Benson Carroll, trainer), and Caroline Ingalls (Hap Hansen, trainer) all joined the final four where each rider competes on the each of the others’ horses over a shortened course.
Although the temperatures soared to unseasonably hot weather, the four girls kept their cool and rode proficient rounds on the different horses. Unlike previous years, no one horse stood out as an absolute favorite nor as the most difficult. Favorites were spread out, but in the end the judges deemed El Toro as the Best Horse with his rider Taylor Ann Adams as the overall champion.
“It was so exciting,” Taylor recounted. “It was a last minute thing – I decided to compete just three days before, so it was a little stressful with the last minute arrangements, travel, the time change and not knowing what horse I would ride. When I made the top four, it was already better than I expected to do, and all the riders were really good. However, I felt really comfortable changing horses because I’m a catch rider so I’m used to riding different horses. Karen Healey knew all of the horses in the top four, so she helped me a lot.”
Seventeen-year-old Taylor is a senior in high school, although she home schools so she can devote a large part of her day to riding. She looks forward to entering her last season as a junior rider next year. “I hope to keep riding in college. I’ll always have animals in my life,” she added.
Karen Healey was awarded Best Trainer with two riders, Taylor and Jocelyn (Neff), in the Final Four. Karen is one of the top equitation coaches in the country and has coached numerous riders to wins in the Talent Search Finals.
“It was amazing,” Taylor said of working with Karen. “Karen is very patient and understanding. She explains every step to every student in the way that’s best for them. She’s such a great rider and trainer, and working with her was the chance of a lifetime!”
Reprinted with permission from USEF Network.