Jenna Lee Gottschlich turned revelation into results at Thunderbird Show Park’s Harvest Welcome on Friday, Oct. 16, coming away with a milestone victory in the $5,000 Trademark Stables & Friends U25 1.40m at the Langley arena.
The Harvest Welcome is the first FEI (Fédération Equestre Internationale – or International Federation for Equestrian Sports) competition in Canada since the COVID-19 pandemic brought global competition to a temporary halt this spring. The event features more than $180,000 in prize money, including a $20,000 U25 division, and is highlighted by Saturday night’s $37,000 Volvo Canada CSI2* and the $73,000 ATCO Cup CSI2* Sunday afternoon.
The U25 division concludes with the $10,000 U25 1.40m, also on Sunday, with the division’s overall champion receiving a $1,000 bonus.
Gottschlich and her own Evita P bested a compact and competitive jump-off field of five to claim top honours, masterfully navigating Joey Rycroft’s shortened track, which tested a rider’s decision-making. Their winning time was 36.04 seconds. Kassidy Keith and Havana finished second and Sara Tindale and Candar Mail completed an all-Canadian podium (38.92) as the only other double-clear performers on the day.
“[In yesterday’s $5,000 Canoe Financial U25 1.35m], Evita P went forward, and I found a completely new gear in her canter when going fast. I didn’t know she could go that fast. I’d never gone that fast before,” Gottschlich reflected.
“I was told by my coach [Lisa Carlsen] to leave a stride out in the first line [of the jump-off], and we galloped down [the line] and got it done. That’s where I made up a lot of time. I kept cantering to the third jump, and everything just showed up, and [Evita P] kept trying harder and harder. She digs so deep. She’s my horse of a lifetime, for sure.”
When Gottschlich entered the ring for the jump-off, only Keith had managed to put forth a double-clear performance. Stride and strategy produced her ultimate victory. After leaving out a stride down the first line, she elected to bypass an inside turn for a gallop lane and make up additional time later on course.
“In the jump-off, Joey really asked us to do some inside turns. He gave us questions,” she explained. “Will you do the leave-out here and pay for it here, or go for it all? Instead of doing the double-inside turn to the third fence, I decided I would much rather cover the ground and get a big canter [by going around] and do the two inside turns from the oxer to the combination [later on course].”
Gottschlich, who recently began pursuing engineering in her university studies at the University of Alberta, showed no rust in the ring despite having just gotten back in the saddle a week ago after five weeks off to focus on school. She credited her strong riding to an even-stronger partnership with her horse, whom she has grown with over the course of the past five years.
“I got her when she was six, turning seven. We had a rocky start. I was a junior rider, and she was a horse that could jump everything,” Gottschlich recalled. “We have grown together and have absolutely gotten in sync. It’s really awesome.
“Once I get in a rhythm, she relaxes into that gallop and will jump out of anything. She tries harder and jumps even better,” she continued. “When I can get a loose, big gallop with no pressure, she will jump the moon. She’s also my relaxation horse. It’s taken a long time for me to relax into that canter.”
Gottschlich will head into Sunday’s U25 finale as a bonafide contender for the division’s overall championship and leading rider bonus before again turning her focus toward her studies. A regular competitor at Thunderbird Show Park, the 18-year-old expressed her excitement at having an FEI U25 division at the venue.
“tbird is by far my top horse show in Canada,” Gottschlich said. “Every single time I come here, I have the best time of the year.”
$5,000 Trademark Stables & Friends U25 1.40m
Place / Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time
1. Evita P / Jenna Lee Gottschlich / CAN / Jenna Lee Gottschlich / 0/0 36.04
2. Havana / Kassidy Keith / CAN / Cheryl Keith / 0/0 37.95
3. Candar Mail / Sara Tindale / CAN / Tindale Farms / 0/0 38.92
4. VIP des Majuros / Carly Stevens / CAN / Grant & Susie Stevens / 0/4 35.98
5. Cohinoor 4 / Mackayla Barta / CAN / Makayla Barta / 0/4 37.04
6. Evita / Emily Ward / GBR / Kent Farrington / 1 72.98
7. Djibab van de Linthorst / Sara Tindale / CAN / Tindale Farms / 1 73.92
8. Lestat OLD / Ashley Arnoldt / CAN / Jennifer Arnoldt / 1 74.03
9. Beneficial / Alicia Gadban-Lewis / CAN / Alicia Gadban-Lewis / 4 68.00
10. Crown Royal / Hayley Mercer / CAN / Hayley Mercer / 4 68.93
Show jumping continues at Thunderbird Show Park through Sunday, Oct. 18, at the Harvest Welcome, which features four days of international competition and over $180,000 in prize money.