NORTH SALEM, N.Y. — Sophie and Mimi Gochman made their first appearance at the Adequan FEI North American Youth Championships (NAYC) a truly memorable one as the sisters each claimed an individual gold medal in the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) North American Show Jumping Individual Championship. Sophie captured the title in the Young Rider division, while Mimi emerged victorious in the Junior division as the NAYC wrapped up at Old Salem Farm in North Salem, N.Y., on Aug. 4.
“It was a great week for the Gochman family!” said Sophie. “I think we’re both just really grateful for our parents, who supported us, our trainer Ken Berkley, everyone at our Baxter Hill Farm, and [Zone 2 Chef d’Equipe] Ralph Caristo. I don’t think many sister pairs have won gold medals at NAYC, so it’s pretty cool that we got to do that.” In fact, only one other sibling pair has won NAYC show jumping individual golds together — in 2014, Wilton and Lucas Porter collected Young Rider and Junior gold medals.
Sophie, 16, and from New York City, N.Y., came into the last of five rounds in second place behind Canada’s Sam Walker, but turned in a crucial clean round with Gochman Sport Horses LLC’s Carola BH, a 12-year-old KWPN mare. When Walker picked up eight faults in his round, Sophie took over the gold-medal spot. “This week was bit of nail-biter for me because it was so close between me and Sam,” Sophie said. “But [Carola BH] is the best horse in the world, and she kept getting better and better. It was great for it to all come together. To win at NAYC and get to do that victory gallop is such an honor.”
Sophie has ridden Carola BH for two and a half years and has had success at the Under 25 grand prix level with her. “I’m just so thankful for her,” Sophie said. “We’ve created such a bond at this point that I just think it and she does it for me. She puts her heart into every single round.”
The Gochman sisters decided last summer to make NAYC a goal for their 2019 season and they both jumped on the USHJA Zone 2 team for their respective divisions. Sophie helped her Zone 2 Young Rider team take bronze, while Mimi helped the Zone 2 Junior team earn silver. “We decided that it’s an important competition and we wanted to go for it. We’re sometimes a little competitive, but we’re also really supportive of each other,” Sophie said. “This week was nice because we weren’t in the same division. We were really cheering each other on this week and it’s so great that we both got [individual] gold.”
Walker, 17, from Caledon, Ontario, ended up with the individual Young Rider silver with MarBill Hill Farm’s Coralissa, a nine-year-old Holsteiner mare. Earlier in the week, he’d helped his Canadian Young Rider team win the gold medal.
Natalie Dean, 20, of Palo Alto, Calif., rode Marigold Sporthorses LLC and her own Don’s Diamant, an 11-year-old KWPN stallion, to the individual bronze, adding that to the team silver she’d helped her USHJA Zone 10 capture.
Sophie also was awarded the United States Equestrian Team Foundation Maxine Beard Show Jumping Developing Rider Award, which includes a trip to an FEI Nations Cup competition. Sophie will be able to observe what goes on in the stabling, veterinary inspections, schooling, and show office, as well as being able to walk the courses with U.S. team riders and the chef d’equipe.
In addition, the top two U.S. competitors in the Young Rider division on the podium — Sophie Gochman and Natalie Dean — will be considered for the opportunity to qualify for selection for the U.S. Jumping Youth Team for the FEI Youth Nations Cup Final.
Mimi Mines Gold in Junior Division
Mimi, 14, from New York City, N.Y., turned in two clean rounds in the individual final aboard Gochman Sport Horse LLC’s Street Hassle BH, a 13-year-old Selle Francais gelding, to clinch gold in the USHJA North American Junior Show Jumping Individual Championship.
“I’m so honored to be here and to have won gold. It’s an amazing experience,” said Mimi. “My goal was just to stay consistent throughout the week and have nice clear rounds. It feels great to have five clear rounds. My horse jumped his heart out for me.”
Street Hassle BH joined the Gochman family two years ago. “He’s the most quirky, amazing horse in the barn,” Mimi said. “He has a dent in his face, which makes him unique. He loves to eat, and he loves treats. He always jumps his heart out; he’s very competitive.”
Mimi was the only Junior competitor to jump clean over all five rounds at NAYC. She noted that her trainer, Berkley, had advised her to “Measure, look, and don’t go too quick,” said Mimi. “He told me not to go too fast or too slow, but to stay consistent and try my best.” Mimi had prepared for the championship by riding in Europe, competing at the CSI2* level at shows in England, Switzerland, Belgium, and France.
Mimi has many hunter accolades to her name, but in recent years has started adding jumper victories as well. “I started off in the hunters and I’ll always love doing hunters, but the jumpers is a totally different feeling. My goal is to do NAYC again next year and hopefully be as consistent and successful in the Young Rider division,” Mimi said.
The Junior individual silver medal went back to Mexico with Maya Ines Denis Chambon, 15, from Valle de Bravo, Mexico, and Carine Chambon’s Flying Dutchman, a nine-year-old KWPN stallion. Earlier in the week, Denis had earned team gold with the Mexican team.
Virginia Bonnie, 15, from Upperville, Va., and Kimberly Prince’s Corneel, a 12-year-old KWPN gelding, claimed the bronze. Bonnie, who was making her NAYC debut, had jumped on USHJA Zone 3 team.
In the USHJA North American Children’s Show Jumping Individual Championship, Ella Bikoff, 14, of New York City, N.Y., rode Bikoff Equestrian LLC’s Basimodo, a 13-year-old KWPN gelding, to a five-fault total to earn individual bronze. They’d helped the USHJA Zone 2 team claim silver earlier in the week.
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