Jasmine Rankovich is jumping for joy. The 14-year-old from Lehighton carried home a basketful of ribbons, including a Reserve Champion ribbon for the second highest overall, a near-miss for a second Reserve Champion ribbon, had a stellar performance jumping over a three-foot fence in her first professional competition.
Rankovich, riding Leon Dax - a seven-year-old imported Argentine warm blood owned by her trainer Delia Apollo Alvarez of Apollo Farms Ltd. Of Palmerton, competed at the Hits on the Hudson Horse Show in Saugerties, New York on September 8.
It was Rankovich's first competition outside Pennsylvania. In this nationally ranked equestrian show, she competed in Hunter and Jumper classes at both the Maiden level where no previous ribbon had been won, and the Novice level where less than three ribbons had been won.
In each series, Maiden level and Novice level, Rankovich was required to perform in four classes: an Equitation Flat and three Equitation Fence Jumping classes (each competition is called a class). In the Hunter classes, the horse and rider are judged on precision, pace and stride. In the Jumper classes, the horse and rider are judged on speed and accuracy.
Rankovich on Leon Dax, competing against three other riders, took second place in the Novice Equitation Flat, and took second place, first Place, and second-place in the three Novice Equitation Fence Jumping classes. This earned her a Reserve Champion ribbon for the second highest overall in the Novice competition.
In the Maiden competition, Rankovich and Leon Dax placed third in the Flat, and in the Equitation Fence Jumping placed fifth, second and third - falling just one point short of qualifying for a second Reserve Champion ribbon.
As the Maiden and Novice competitions were at a beginner-to-intermediate level and were considered nonprofessional, the heights for the jumps were set at two foot-three inches. As Jasmine and Leon Dax easily cleared that height as well as met the requirements for following the routing and pacing of the jumps, she and her trainer opted for her to try competing on a professional level.
With the bar set at 3 feet, Jasmine and Leon Dax easily made each of the eight jumps in the class, and although successful, she did not place against the professional competition.
"Jasmine, beat all the odds," said trainer Delia Apollo Alvarez. "When I first started working with her six months ago, she could barely canter a circle with her horse."
"But Jasmine was incessant on beating the odds," Alvarez continued. "With lots of hard work and sheer determination, she succeeded, riding against others who have been training for years on the same horse." Jasmine has her own horse, June an 11-year-old thoroughbred, who she has been riding since she was six years old.
But since June had not been trained for this level of competition, Alvarez began to train Jasmine on her own experienced competition horse, Leon Dax - well-trained, but at only seven years old, not a seasoned show veteran. Now that Jasmine has had a success competing with Leon Dax, she and Alvarez will begin training June for a future competition.
"I was determined," Jasmine said. "I gave up playing soccer and basketball to concentrate on riding. I always loved horses. So, that came first."
"Jasmine came out of the ring teary-eyed that she had won," Alvarez said. "She worked hard for her victory and our farm could not have been any prouder. Her victory will carry over into her personal life as well-if you work hard enough anything is possible."
To see Jasmine in competition, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgp0eW_z_Ag&feature=em  (Note: The announcer incorrectly calls Rankovich by the name of her trainer, Alverez.)