Riders hand in their cell phones before walking Winter Equestrian Festival Equitation Championship course

  • Luke Jensen, 18, of Denton, Texas, in his last junior year, took home the win in the WEF Equitation Championship, performing on center stage yesterday in the international ring at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF).

    “I’m so grateful to Stephex and North Run for the ride on Jamaica,” said Luke of the horse he started riding at the beginning of the season. “Jamaica really thrives in a big ring. Actually, Jamaica always thrives. I just wanted to build on what we have been working on through all of WEF.”

    Riders for Thursday evening’s championship class qualified by winning an equitation class during the 2022 WEF season, the 2021 Holiday and Horses Horse Show, or the 2021 Holiday Finale show. USA’s Andy Christiansen and Ken Krome designed the 12-fence first course that was taken on by 46 athletes.

    Added to the challenge was the rule that riders had to walk the course without assistance of trainer or staff – and to ensure that was the case, riders handed in their cell phones at the start and were only permitted help from one groom in the warm-up ring.

    “I was most nervous about the schooling, just because I didn’t want to jump too much since Taco is a quiet horse,” said Atlanta’s Ellie Aronson, who made the biggest jump up the leaderboard with Wolfstone Stables & Sales Inc.’s Conthacco, a 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding by Conthargos, going from eighth to fourth in round two, and ultimately finishing in second.

    As the final four completed the work-off in reverse order, Ellie, 16 and in her rookie year in the WEF Equitation Championship, was first to test.

    “I had my groom, Amber, helping me,” she said. “And she was amazing. I just tried to do as I felt like I needed to and tried not to stress about it too much.”

    The eldest rider of the top four was California’s Augusta Iwasaki, 18, who was competing for the fifth time in class, but on a mount recently transformed from a jumper to an equitation horse. Augusta was comfortable working on her own and landed third place.

    “I usually kind of do my own thing anyway. My trainers always get mad at me, because I’m kind of in my own world,” she said.

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