Off the heels of her championship win at the USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals and an already spectacular indoor season, Augusta Iwasaki continued her hot streak in her last hurrah as a junior rider, coming away with the WIHS Equitation Finals victory with Attendu de Lannois Z.
A field of 40 horse-and-rider combinations competed in the coveted year-end final, for which riders qualify by competing in WIHS classes throughout the year. On Friday, riders rode in the hunter phase, and the jumper phase followed on Saturday afternoon. The top 10 riders then returned for the work-off, where they switched onto a competitor’s mount. Riders were awarded an average mark from the scores of two panels of judges including Linda Andrisani with Peter Lombardo and Heather Caristo-Williams with Hardin Towell.
“The course was fantastic today,” remarked Towell, who won this class in 2006 and has gone on to compete at the CSI5* level. “I thought [course designer] Bernardo [Cabral] did a great job. He made our job a lot easier because he really called the riders out, and they really rose to the top. The course really did the trick today. The hunter phase is difficult because everybody can be so close, but today, this is riding. That’s a step towards jumping in the President’s Cup and moving on.”
Three past winners of the WIHS Equitation Finals – McLain Ward, Kent Farrington, and Hunter Holloway – were on the start list for the evening’s featured grand prix, giving further meaning to Towell’s comments for this year’s top three finishers.
Iwasaki, who was third in this class last year with the same mount, topped the hunter phase to get out to an early lead.
“The hunter phase is honestly probably our best equitation class,” noted Iwasaki of her partner, the nine-year-old Zangersheide gelding by Arko III owned by Ashland Farms. “I just wanted to be as smooth as possible and make everything look as seamless as possible. He’s been amazing. I’m just so happy with him.”
In the jumper phase, Skylar Wireman, of Bonsall, California, and Famous, a 12-year-old KWPN gelding by Zacharov owned by MKT Investments LLC, came out on top with a 90 to move into the overall pole position.
“My horse used to be a jumper, so the jumper phase is our strong suit. Let’s just say that,” she smiled. “The hunter phase we were just looking for a nice round, and he was really good. I was not on top coming into the jumper phase, but I knew that’s where we can show off and shine a little bit. We really went out there and laid it down.”
Jordan Gibbs, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, rode her brother Dominic’s former mount Cent 15, who was victorious last year, and then switched onto Ellie Aronson’s mount Conthacco for the work-off. With “Cent,” she scored 84.5 in the hunter phase and 83.75 in the jumper phase, sitting in eighth overall. She then scored an 89 in the work-off, which shot her up the leaderboard to a third-place finish.
“I was very excited to start with Cent,” said Gibbs of the 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding by Carenzo. “He’s been a great partner and a great teacher for me. I have had a pretty solid season with him, and this is my first year of 3’6” finals, so I’m just thrilled to be able to come to such a prestigious show and finish so well.
“Ellie [Aronson] was very nice and was telling me how she rides Conthacco and to just get up to pace and go from there,” she continued. “They said he’s a little cold, and I was like, ‘That’s what I’m used to.’ It ended up working well, and I’m really happy with how it ended.”
As the two frontrunners, Iwasaki and Wireman switched horses to duke it out for the win in the final work-off. Both ladies are experienced catch riders and relied on that to help them put in a strong round. Gibbs, however, has done less catch riding, so she explained she watched videos of Conthacco before swinging a leg over Wolfstone Stables and Sales Inc.’s 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding by Conthargos. As Towell listened to the young riders detail their strategies he felt compelled to interject.
“I feel old,” he laughed. “I won this final 16 years ago, and I couldn’t just pull up my phone and watch videos.”
“I judged that final also,” added Andrisani, also laughing.
In the end, it was Iwasaki’s impressive score of 91.5 in the work-off that sealed the deal, marking her second major equitation finals win this season. For her incredible victory, Iwasaki was presented with the WIHS Equitation Classic Perpetual Trophy.
Alexander Alston, of Gahanna, Ohio, won the Hollow Brook Wealth Management Sportsmanship Award and was presented with the trophy by Hollow Brook.
Final Results: 2022 WIHS Equitation Finals
1 Augusta Iwasaki/Attendu de Lannois Z
2 Skylar Wireman/ Famous
3 Jordan Gibbs/Cent 15
4 Ellie Aronson/Conthacco
5 Avery Glynn/Waldo
6 Zayna Rizvi/Acer K
7 Alexander Alston/Ferry van den Hoogeweg
8 Baylee McKeever/Salvatore
9 Amira Kettaneh/Vantastico
10 Nicole McMillion/Copenhagen