August 1, 2011 -- As storm clouds cleared and the setting sun spotlighted freestyle dressage competitors on the final day of the Adequan/FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC) in Lexington, it was also the sunset of a brilliant horse's career.? Twenty-year-old Jonkara, beloved partner of Mackinzie Pooley from Coto de Caza, CA, confidently cantered into the Rolex Stadium for her final performance.? And fittingly, a gutsy test earned Pooley and her fiesty black Oldenburg mare the Young Rider Freestyle Bronze Medal with a score of 70.004%.
After an accomplished 2010 season, 18-year-old Pooley had made the difficult decision to retire Jonkara.? A decorated veteran of multiple CDIs and national and FEI championships including the NAJYRC and USEF Festival of Champions, Pooley believed that her mare didn't have anything else to prove.? But the spirited mare proved she wasn't ready for a life of leisure.? "After last fall's Regional Championships, I brought her home and gave her several months off.? We just hung out and went trail riding," explained Pooley.?? "In the middle of January I began riding her in dressage work again for fun and it was going really great, so I was like 'hmm'.? She loves to work and was so enthusiastic to be working again. If she didn't want to do it, she wouldn't."
Pooley and Jonkara resumed a rigorous competition schedule at CDIs on the West Coast, and after qualifying for the Region 7 team, flew to Lexington one last time. After a fourth-place finish in the Team Test and sixth in the Individual, Pooley admitted to feeling pressure to do well for Jonkara since a Young Rider NAJYRC medal has, until Saturday, eluded them.? "I thought a lot about it in the days leading up to this last ride.? But when it came right down to it, I knew we had done all we could to prepare," said Pooley.? "Normally she gets very excited when she hears the music, so the freestyle isn't always our best test, and I was a little nervous because I felt like she deserved this.? But we had nothing to lose - it was go big or go home.? I had my foot on the gas pedal, and in the middle of the test I realized that we were about five seconds ahead of our music, so I had to improvise our choreography.? But it ended up working out."
After five years and a wealth of shared experience, Pooley believes her special connection with Jonkara has given her an edge to succeed.? "I know her so well, I trust her, and most of the time she trusts me, so on Saturday it paid off in a huge way," Pooley noted.? "She's taught me everything, including to be patient, and also that we're not going to have a perfect ride every time we compete.? She may make it look easy, but she's made me such a better rider because she really makes me ride - I have to earn it.? She does not lack spirit, and has a lot of go - I think that's why she's still going strong at 20."
After returning home to California, Pooley realizes that Jonkara will not be happy relaxing in a pasture, and wanted her to be able to teach a member of the next generation of riders.? "I've thought a lot about it, and I've decided that since she taught me so much, I'm going to turn her over to a 13-year-old rider at my barn so she can now show her the ropes," said Pooley.? "It's hard for me to let her go, but I know she'll be taken care of and will be much happier than if she was just standing in the field.? This rider has been her groom before, and Jonkara likes her? - and she doesn't normally like a lot of people.? It was almost like she picked her."
Pooley admits to mixed emotions following her final appearance with Jonkara.? "I'm happy, sad, and so thankful," she said.? "This has totally been a surprise for me to be able to have another year with her, and this was my dream to make it to the NAJYRC with her one last time.? She was amazing and I couldn't have imagined a better way to end her career."
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July?26, 2011 -- Move-in day at the Adequan/FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC) is an exercise in semi-organized chaos.? Convoys of horse vans roll through the picturesque entrance to the Kentucky Horse Park, and license plates from around the United States and Canada adorn vehicles parked haphazardly in the horse stabling area.? Stable attendants direct trailers to appropriate horse barns, horses whinny with excitement and welcome, Junior and Young Rider competitors unload armload after armload of dressage and horse equipment, and the show offices hum with activity as final preparations are made for one of the continent's premier dressage championships.?| Read More
July 27, 2011 -- Dressage Juniors and Dressage Young Riders got their first experience today as to what it will feel like to compete in the jaw-dropping Rolex Stadium during this week's Adequan/FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC) in Lexington, KY.? Riders were understandably impressed by the expanse and atmosphere of the arena, including Region 7 Young Rider Kelli Newton, who couldn't help but smile after schooling her mount Luciano.? "I was here to watch the World Equestrian Games last year, and all I could think as we walked down the ramp into the stadium was that this was the same place that Steffen Peters and all the other amazing horses and riders from around the world competed last fall."?|Read More
July 28, 2011 -- Dressage riders struggled not only with first-day jitters but also crippling heat as Team competition got underway? Wednesday at the Adequan/FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC) in Lexington, KY.? In the Young Rider division, the U.S. Region 5 team persevered for gold, while the Canadian British Columbia/Quebec team earned the silver medal and U.S. Region 8 took bronze.? For Juniors, the U.S. Region 1 team topped all challengers, despite being at a disadvantage by having only three team members and therefore no drop score.? The silver medal went to U.S. Region 5, and the bronze was again claimed by U.S. Region 8.?|Read More
July 30, 2011 --?Another full day of intense dressage competition concluded Thursday as Juniors and Young Riders vied for Individual dressage medals at the Adequan/FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC) in Lexington, KY.? In the Young Rider division of dressage, Isabelle Leibler rode Watson 108?(Region 8 ) to the gold medal, as Brandi Roenick and Pretty Lady (Region 5) claimed silver and Chase Hickok with Palermo (Region 1) earned bronze.? For Juniors, Region 6's Sadie Lahey and Up To Date P earned gold, with the silver medal being awarded to Sarah Loewen with Ricardo (Canada-Manitoba) and Monica Houweling and Stentano (Canada-West) receiving bronze in dressage.?| Read More