Jacob was also one of 250 young riders across the country to be accepted last year into the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association Emerging Athletes Program.

EAP founder and U.S. Olympic gold medalist Melanie Smith Taylor said the program was developed "to identify and nurture potential riders that wanted to be good horsemen as well as riders."

After showing his skills in local and regional EAP training sessions, Jacob was chosen as one of 12 finalists to compete in the national session, held Nov. 17 through Nov. 20 in Mundelein, Ill., a competition he wound up winning.

Throughout the four-day training session, Jacob and the 11 other EAP finalists were judged on their riding skills, horsemanship, stable management and general knowledge of horses.

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"The EAP is not all about riding; it's about the care for your horses," Jacob said.

He said having horses to take care of at home really helped him excel in the competition.

Taylor said Jacob "showed a lot of quality and consistency" in all areas of the competition.

"I think he has tremendous potential to be a player in the future of this sport," she said.

Jennifer Alfano, the EAP clinician who judged stable management, said Jacob is "well-rounded, not just great with riding.

"He's got a true love of the horses," she said.

Winning the EAP competition allowed Jacob to attend the prestigious George Morris Horse Mastership Training Session in Florida from Jan. 2 to 7. He was also given a $3,000 grant to use toward future training and a $1,500 gift certificate for riding clothes and equipment.

Jacob, a junior in high school, is already looking at colleges — ones with good riding programs. Unfortunately, he'll likely have to ride on a club team because NCAA riding, limited by Title IX restrictions, is currently only offered as a women's sport.

Though Jacob said he plans to get a "normal degree" in college, he still dreams of a future in riding.

"I'd love to go to the Olympics," he said. "But really my goal would be to have a business where I have high-level horses, high-level riders … getting paid to ride all these horses."