The excitement in the air was as thick as the heat and humidity as 78 competitors from across the United States, Canada and Mexico prepared to canter down centerline at the Kentucky Horse Park for the USDF/Platinum Performance North American Junior and Young Rider Dressage Championships (NAJYRC), held July 14–19 as part of the 2015 Adequan/FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Championships presented by Gotham North. For generations of riders, these championships have served as the setting for the crowning achievements of their young careers, and once again the intensity at this memorable event did not disappoint.
Region 7 Wins Young Rider Team Gold
Coming into a major sporting event as the favorite is not always the most enviable position, and the Region 7 Young Rider team certainly felt the heat as competition got under way in the huge Rolex Stadium. With three of its four team members returning to Kentucky after winning team gold last year, expectations were high; but Lindsey Brewin (17, San Ramon, California) and Vaillant, Cassidy Gallman (20, Poway, California) with Grand Makana and Samantha Jenney (19, Gilroy, California) aboard Domino refused to succumb to the stifling heat or pressure as they put down three solid performances. But as the final rotation prepared for its rides, the top standings were impossibly tight and Region 7’s ultimate victory came down to anchor rider and three-time Young Rider gold medalist Catherine Chamberlain (20, Murrieta, California) with her new mount Avesto Van Weltevreden. Their score of 67.395 percent would prove to be just enough to earn gold with a team total of 199.658, less than three-tenths of a point ahead of Region 3’s silver-medal team, which consisted of Natalie Pai (18, Wellington, Florida) and Fritz San Tino, Mallory Kent (17, Birmingham, Alabama) and Okidokie, Lindsey Holleger (19, Tallahassee, Florida) with Friedensfurst and Rebecca Roman (20, Birmingham, Alabama) and Ultimo with a team total of 199.369.
Also stepping onto the podium was Canada’s combined Alberta/British Columbia team, which won the bronze medal on 198.105 without the benefit
of a drop score thanks to top rides by Hannah Beaulieu (19, Maple Ridge, British Columbia) and Cortison, Rakeya Moussa (18, Edmonton, Alberta) and Merlin Nemorensis, and Elexis Ortlieb (18, Leduc County, Alberta) and Diego.
“It was super close, so kudos to the silver-medal team for really giving us a run for it. It was exciting and nerve-racking,” said Chamberlain. “I was just grateful that we could pull it together. And even though maybe we didn’t have our best rides today, we really relied on each other, and I think that was special. I think being on a team allows you to discover new things about yourself and how you react to different situations under pressure because you always want to be there for your team and do your best test possible. I think it’s a wonderful experience and just a lot of fun—it’s great having these girls by your side.”
Canada Ontario Claims Junior Team Gold
Consistency was the name of the game for Canada’s Ontario team, and excellent results from Alexandra Meghji (17, Toronto, Ontario) and Iliado II, Vanessa Creech-Terauds (15, Caistor Centre, Ontario) aboard Denzel BC, Yanina Woywitka (15, Merrickville, Ontario) and Rheirattack and Georgia Wade (16, Fonthill, Ontario) with Beaumont earned them the top spot on the medal podium in the Junior Team Championship division with a total score of 200.92.
“We’re so lucky to be at this amazing championship at this amazing venue with all of these other girls from across North America who share the same passion for horses that we have,” said Meghji after the win. “For all of us, winning the gold medal today is just the icing on the cake of an amazing day.”
Teammate Creech-Terauds agreed. “I think we’re all extremely happy and proud of our rides today, especially because we’re such a close team,” she said. “I really hope that we can be an inspiration to others as well that you can win a gold medal.”
With a total score of 198.163, Region 7 took home its second medal of the day as the team of Veronica West (15, Marina del Ray, California) riding Nobleman, Shelby Rocereto (17, Livermore, California) and Chapeau, Brianna Relucio (16, San Ramon, California) and Wynsum and Mia Slaughter (16, Norco, California) with Harrington L earned silver just ahead of the Junior Team of Region 9 with 197.379 comprised of Madison Lacy (14, Waco, Texas) and Flintstone, Bronwyn Cordiak (17, Argyle, Texas) and Dschingis Blue, Allison Hopkins (17, Dallas, Texas) riding Windsor and Chloe Taylor (17, Wimberley, Texas) and Calecto V, the former Olympic and World Equestrian Games mount of Tina Konyot, the gelding was scheduled to retire following the NAJYRC competition.
Junior and Young Rider Individual Championships
In equestrian sport a dark-horse competitor will often come from behind to win, and this certainly was the case in the Junior Individual Championship as Helen Claire McNulty of Holland, Michigan, surprised many—and perhaps even herself—by winning the gold medal.
After finishing a disappointing 14th in the team test for Region 2, McNulty realized she had to make some changes if she and her mount, Checkmate, were to turn things around.
“He’s a very hot horse, and we lack communication sometimes. We’ve had some rough shows,” she laughed. “I was getting really frustrated because I wasn’t doing as well as I could be doing, so I said to myself after the team test, If you want to do well, you have to start pushing a little bit more and asking a little bit more because he can give it to you. I just did that today, and it paid off.”
Even with McNulty’s gutsy performance, other competitors didn’t make it an easy win. Completing her test before the lunch break, McNulty had to wait for two hours and 10 more rides to see if her score of 70.816 percent would be enough to hold on to the gold medal. Ultimately finishing achingly close was the very last ride of the day from Camille Carier Bergeron (15, Mascouche, Quebec) and Delfiano, representing the combined British Columbia/Quebec Team with a score of 70.079 percent for silver. Region 9’s Taylor riding Calecto V earned the bronze medal with a score of 70.053 percent.
In the Young Rider division, Pai rode Fritz San Tino to victory with a winning score of 69.132 percent. The stunning pair had also topped the field in Wednesday’s team test as the anchor combination for Region 3, but even following that performance, Pai refused to let any big expectations rattle herself or her mount.
“I felt a lot of pressure, but honestly I just came here to have a lot of fun,” said Pai. “I’m so thrilled with how it turned out. He was such a good boy, and I’m so happy with him.”
In her final year of eligibility for NAJYRC competition, Region 7’s Chamberlain claimed her second medal of the week with Avesto Van Weltevreden, earning a score of 68.711 percent and the silver medal just ahead of Canada’s Naima Moreira Laliberte (18, Montreal, Quebec) on Belafonte, who won bronze with a score of 68.447 percent.
Junior and Young Rider Freestyle Championships
As 17-year-old Barbara “Bebe” Davis, of Wellington, Florida (Region 3), will be aging out of the Junior division this year, she knew her freestyle ride with Rotano would be her last chance to earn a Junior gold medal. So she embraced the challenge. “I have a very difficult pattern in my canter tour: I have a half pass to the left and four changes on a 20-meter circle every seven strides. Then I have to half pass back to the right to the centerline,” Davis explained. “It went absolutely perfect, so after that movement I was completely over the moon.”
The judges were also impressed and rewarded her performance with a top score of 71.825 percent for gold. After the awards presentation Davis was candid about her feeling of accomplishment. “It’s been a long journey,” she said. “I’ve been working toward this moment for a very long time and it’s amazing to see that my hard work has finally paid off. All of the hours and all of the long days and early mornings have led to this. I’m extremely happy.”
Region 2’s McNulty aboard Checkmate and Bergeron of British Columbia-Quebec with her mount Delfiano both earned their second medals in as many days by claiming silver and bronze with scores of 71.725 percent and 71.375 percent, respectively.
Later that evening, the top 18 Young Riders performed their freestyles under the lights to close out the NAJYRC dressage competition. Despite having only completely ridden through their freestyle routine once before, Friday’s individual bronze medalist Laliberte and her flamboyant mount, Belafonte, returned to the Rolex Stadium to confidently claim freestyle gold for Canada with 71.825 percent. “I won’t lie—I only rode it once and qualified,” Laliberte laughed. “I just know the music and know the patterns. That’s kind of my style—just feel the groove, practice a little piece every day and build up. It’s much easier when you put the music together yourself because you know when you make the cues and the timing. You know your music.”
A solid ride by Region 1’s Hannah Bauer (16, Purcellville, Virginia) and Trustful earned the pair the silver medal with 70.000 percent, while the bronze medal went to NAJYRC rookie Kerrigan Gluch (18, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, Region 2) who was thrilled with her score of 69.050 percent on Vacquero HGF. “It was nice to be able to go in the show ring and feel like everything I’d worked on and talked about over the past week came together as much as it could have,” said Gluch.
Next year, the NAJYRC moves west to the Colorado Horse Park in Parker, which last played host to the championships in 2008. For complete results from the 2015 Adequan/FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Championships presented by Gotham North, visit youngriders.org.