Sarah Van Der Walde of Ann Arbor, MI won the $10,000 North American League Children’s Jumper Finals at the 66th annual Pennsylvania National Horse Show. Riding Vigo, owned by Thinkslikeahorse, the 15-year-old rider edged out Madison Lawton and Juliette by a fraction of a second for the victory.
“It was such a surreal moment,” said Van Der Walde of her win. “I never even wanted to ride jumpers and then when I learned I thought that it was so much fun.”
The field of 30 qualifiers yielded nine for the jump-off and three double clear rounds. Kimberly Saul of Brookeville, MD rode Mio W, owned by Rolling Acre Farms, to the first clear round in a time of 32.932 seconds. Then Van Der Walde shaved off nearly two seconds stopping the timers in a clear round time of 31.114. Lawton, 16, of Traverse City, MI tried hard to take the lead with Juliette, but fell short going clear in 31.137 seconds. Van Der Walde had to wait for five riders to jump before being declared the winner and she said it was agonizing.
“I watched everybody else go and it made me so nervous every time someone else came in,” said Van Der Walde. “[Madison] was going really, really, quick and my heart was beating so fast when she was going.”
Vigo is owned by her trainer Aaron Vale, but Van Der Walde is grateful for the opportunity to ride him. “I started riding Vigo this spring and I have been having so much fun with him. He’s not mine, but I really, really love him. He’s so great. He knows when it’s time to go fast and get the job done. When he hears the buzzer he’s ready to go.”