Two equitation finals in the bag for 2016. Two victories on the books for New Jersey’s T.J. O’Mara.
Two Sundays ago, the 17-year-old Rumson resident captured the 2016 Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals East in Gladstone, N.J. In doing so, he added his name to the Adrian Van Sinderen Memorial Perpetual Trophy won four years earlier by his sister Meg.
This past weekend, O’Mara added the coveted Pessoa/US Hunter Seat Medal Final at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show to his win list, moving up from fifth to first over three rounds of competition.
“I just can’t believe it. Two years ago I got my first ribbon here and it meant the world to me,” said O’Mara. “I am in shock right now. I never expected this to happen. My goal was just to be in the test, I would have been happy with a top four ribbon. I just can’t believe it right now.”
The class started with 276 riders, with the top 25 being called back for the second round. Of those, the field was whittled down to the four. Riding in reverse order Annabel Revers, Taylor St. Jacques, O’Mara, and McKayla Langmeier contested a final test of six jumps, including a roll back from the second fence, counter canters at the third and fourth fences and a hand gallop to the final fence.
The counter canters proved to be the deciding factor. O’Mara flawless flying changes on Kaskade cemented their win.
“My mare is just incredible at doing flying changes,” said O’Mara. “I was expecting her to land right at the first counter canter but when that didn’t happen I had to switch gears and do the changes, focus on the next part of the test and completing the test.”
Langmeier, the class leader going into the ride off, ran into trouble with her second change. According to Judges Jimmy Torano and Marylisa Leffler, it cost her the championship.
“McKayla came in on top and even when she did the first simple change, she played it safe, which was a smart thing to do because she was winning the class,” said Torano. “Then for one second she maybe let up and it cost her, but she still rode great.”
With the ASPCA Maclay Medal and Washington International Equitation Classic Finals to come, can O’Mara keep his equitation streak alive? Did we just add a new, enormous layer of pressure to the budding star? IS HE THE NEXT MCLAIN WARD?
Whatever the case, expect good things from T.J.