This week at Thunderbird Show Park’s MLSJ Canadian Premier, the CSI5* start-list is packed with fresh American faces.
How fresh? Nearly half of the 16 Big Tour riders from the U.S.A.—eight in total—are 30 years old or younger. In other words, too young to get the Bowie reference in the title.
Some of the names are familiar, of course. (Think: Lillie Keenan of the recently victorious Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ squad at San Juan Capistrano, California). Others, however, are relatively new to the ranks of top-level show jumping.
Get to know the Young Americans competing at tbird’s Canadian Premier.
Horses: Jeffrey Jarden; Vaillant De Belle Vue
Tali DeJong came up the junior ranks after notching a USHJA International Hunter Derby win at the Colorado Horse Park, and a top finish in the Ronnie Mutch Equitation Championship at HITS Coachella. She went on to ride at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas and spent a season in 2021 competing in Europe, highlighted by a first place finish in CSIY-A 1.50m class and third in the CSIU25-A at Valkenswaard, NED on Heavenly Star.
With her top horse, the 14-year-old Anglo Arab, Vaillent de Belle Vue, Dejong posts clear rounds nearly one-third of the time across all heights, according to Jumpr App.
Horses: Calacas D Aubigny; Indigo Van De Muggenhoek
Blue Gate Stables’ Zume Gallaher received a degree in interior design and trains with Reyhan and Nicole Haunert out of Tristar Farms in San Diego, California. In 2021, she earned a 1.50m CSI3* win at Desert International Horse Park with the 14-year-old KWPN mare, Edita.
At the 1.45m level with the speedy 11-year-old Selle Français, Calacas D Aubigny, Gallaher is more than solid; the pair have an impressive clear-round average of 71%, finishing in the top-10 86% of the time.
Horses: Damzelle Ste Hermelle; Karlin Van ‘t Vennehof
Lacey Gilbertson and Karlin Van ‘t Vennehof, a former ride of her trainer, Shane Sweetnam (IRL), are no stranger to the winner’s circle. In 2022, Gilbertson and the 13-year-old Belgian mare racked up top placings in Major League Show Jumping (MLSJ) competition from San Miguel de Allende and Monterrey, Mexico to Ottawa, Ontario. This year, they kicked off the season with a 1.55m CSI4* win at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida.
According to Jumpr App, Gilbertson and Karlin have finished on 12 podiums, earning more than 269,000 EUR in prize money over the last two years. At 1.50m, where they’ve completed a majority 24 rounds, they sport a 61% top-10 finish average.
Horses: Edocenta; Rincoola Milsean
North Star’s Charlotte Jacobs developed her five-star string from the ground up. After a brief hiatus during her mid-20s, Jacobs jumped back into the spotlight with a clear round at her first CSI5* performance at the Longines Royal International Horse Show at Hickstead, UK aboard Rincoola Milsean, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding.
The majority of classes Jacobs and Rincoola Milsean have competed together have been at the 1.45m and 1.50 heights, where they jump clear a consistent 61 and 62% of the time, respectively. But they’re also competitive, averaging a nearly 60% top-10 finish average.
Horses: Agana Van Het Gerendal Z; Cadeauminka; Fasther
Lillie Keenan is no stranger to the top level, or winning at it. The current world no. 35-ranked rider won the CSIO5* San Juan Capistrano 1.50m Speed Welcome earlier this month with Agana Van Het Gerendal Z, before becoming part of that aforementioned FEI Nations Cup-winning American squad (they jumped 4 and 4). Last fall, the pair racked up similar wins in Las Vegas, while Keenan took home a big career CSI5* victory with Queensland E at MLSJ Monterrey.
Finishing on 19 podiums together since 2018, Keenan and Agana Van Het Gerendal Z have built their partnership slowly and lucratively, earning more than 316,000 EUR in prize money. Though the bulk of their 147 rounds have been at 1.50m height (where they post clears and finish in the top-10 nearly 40% of the time), their top-10 average improves to 44% in the 33 rounds they’ve competed at 1.55m and above.
Horses: Bacara D’archonfosse; Calisto Blue
Though she may be the youngest American on the CSI5* start-list at just 18, Caroline Mawhinney has been jumping sizeable tracks for years. A regular on the U25 circuit, the rider for Triple M Farms is a two-time medal-winner at Young Riders, won the HITS Saugerties national-level grand prix, and went on to ride for Team USA at the 2022 FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Youth Final in Kronenberg, the Netherlands.
Though she’s been paired with the 16-year-old Calisto Blue—a former Daniel Deusser (GER) ride—for only a few months, Mawhinney and Bacara D’archonfosse, also 16, are more established. The pair logged top placings this winter in CSI2* classes at the Winter Equestrian Festival, and currently post a 67% clear round average at 1.45m.
Horses: Calciet Eb Z
Based in San Diego, California and Wellington, Florida, Alexis Sokolov is the rider for her own Hot Horses LLC. In 2022, she earned a top 1.50m finish with Fasole Du Seigneur at MLSJ Monterrey; she also finished fifth (with just one time fault) in the 1.55m CSI5* MLSJ La Quinta with her tbird mount, Calciet Eb Z, in December 2022.
Of their 42 rounds together, Sokolov and the 10-year-old Zangersheide mare—formerly campaigned by Colin Swail (IRL)—have a 29% clear round average at 1.45m. At 1.40m, that average jumps to 44%, finishing in the top-10 22% of the time.
Horses: Bellissimo Z; Madiba AG Z
Under the guidance of Sweet Oak Farm trainers Shane and Ali Sweetnam, recent University of Miami grad Ashley Vogel has been a rising star on the U25 circuit in Wellington, Florida. In 2021, Vogel and tbird mount Bellissimo Z helped lead Zone 4 to gold at the Young Rider Team Final at the North American Youth Championships (NAYC) in Traverse City, Michigan. On Thursday, they logged their first 5* win—in their 5* debut—at tbird with the MLSJ Welcome 1.40m.
Paired together for three years, Vogel and the 14-year-old Zangersheide mare are impressive at 1.45m. According to Jumpr App, they average 64% clear rounds at that height, finishing in the top-10 59% of the time. Vogel is also gaining experience at 1.60m with the 11-year-old Madiba Ag Z, earning two CSI4* top-10 finishes since 2022.