The Show Goes On: Medlock Proves her Mettle and Wins the Platinum Performance/USEF Talent Search Finals West
RELEASE: September 26, 2007
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Joanie Morris
Burbank, CA - The first of the two Platinum Performance USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals provided top-class competition despite a nasty battle with Mother Nature which resulted in lots of cancelled classes and some creative competition management by the Los Angeles International Horse Show. Held in Griffith Park, the horse show was abbreviated by a powerful storm on Friday night which knocked out power to the show grounds and over 25,000 homes in the surrounding area. This warranted the cancellation of many of Saturday’s classes, but the Talent Search continued and Natalie Rae Medlock from Orange, California prevailed as the champion of the West.
A unique competition, the Talent Search Finals West is made up of four phases over three days: flatwork, gymnastics, jumping and a ride-off. The ride-off is based on the format used in the show jumping World Championships where the top four riders come back and each rides their own and the other three horses over the same course.
The talented pool of 41 riders, judged by George Morris and Jeffrey Welles, put forth a great exhibition of riding. The courses designed by Morris and Welles were challenging but fair, allowing for a close competition between the top riders. Morris, a traditionalist, loved the added variables of the different arenas and the weather.
“Griffith Park is a great venue for such a thing,” said Morris. “With the indoor and the lighting, that always adds an element of difficulty, then there is the outdoor with natural fences and then luckily for me there was a realistic rainstorm, which is very European.”
The Flat and Gymnastics phases were held in the Equidome, while Jumping and the Ride-Off were held in the grass outdoor arena, which includes such natural obstacles as a bank, ditches, and an open water.
Running the timer and the loudspeaker off of a generator on the final day, the Talent Search continued despite the elements. The courses, were strategically designed by Morris and Welles to provide a learning experience to all the competitors but to allow the best riders truly shine.
“I think that we got the courses just about right,” said Morris. “You don’t cater down to the lowest denominator, those people are there to learn. You cater up. I was very happy with the course. Always in these things you have the top 25% that are really excellent, a middle 50% that are weaker but quite decent and the bottom 25% that are elementary and in over their heads, but they qualified and for them it is a learning experience for next year. That is always the way it goes.”
Medlock, 20, put forth a very professional performance all weekend and Morris was impressed with her maturity and skill. She had contested her first grand prix earlier in the summer.
“The final four always sorts itself out,” said Morris. “The girl that won, she won by quite a margin. She really was the winner. The girl (Tina DiLandri, 16 from La Jolla, California) that was second was second by quite a margin, she made some subtle mistakes, nothing blatant, but it was a few subtle mistakes that separated her from the winner.”
Medlock, a student of Hap Hansen and Leslie Steele, rode Hansen’s Y2K to the win. Y2K was honored as the best horse of the competition, winning the Gulliver Trophy, donated by Karen Healey.
“George told us in the riders’ meeting not to be perfect and get caught up in the picture. He reminded us to ride,” said Medlock.
Medlock followed his instructions and added her name to a list of previous winners including the likes of US Team members McLain Ward, Lauren Hough, and Richard Spooner, as well as current European Champion Meredith Michaels Beerbaum.
Results of the 2007 Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals West
1. Natalie Rae Medlock (Orange, CA)
2. Tina DiLandri (La Jolla, CA)
3. Allison LaJoie (Coto de Caza, CA)
4. Michelle Morris (La Canada, CA)
5. Carly Anthony (Redmond, WA)
6. Sophie Benjamin (Rancho Santa Fe, CA)
7. Saer Coulter (San Francisco, CA)
8. Shelby Wakeman (Westlake Village, CA)
9. Zoe Kornberg (Portola Valley, CA)
10. Rebecca Sexton (Woodinville, WA)
The Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Search Finals East will take place in Gladstone, New Jersey October 6-7.