Jackie Paxton Makes The Move From Young Riders To Open Competition
At 21, Jacqueline Paxton, the 2002 NAYRC double Gold Medallist, is competing in her first year out of Young Riders. She kicked off her competition season as an open rider on the Florida winter circuit in Wellington and Loxahatchee, setting the USET Intermediaire I Championships as her goal, with the Pan Am Games as the carrot. At only her second CDI, the Zada Enterprises LLC WEF Dressage Classic, March 13-16, at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club, Jackie and her mare Sangmelima, her partner for the NAYRC championship medals, topped the first day of competition in the Prix St. Georges Pan Am Selection Trial qualifier, but with 30 entries, the rides continued into the next day and Yvonne Losos de Muniz won the class with 68.550% – however, Jackie’s 67.550% held up to clinch second place.
“It would be great to go to the Pan Ams – that would be so cool. I’m very excited,” Jackie said, noting that she is looking forward to competing at Gladstone for the first time if she qualifies for the Selection Trial. “I think it would be great to go. It would definitely be a big step for me. I think it would be really fun. I know a lot of really great riders go, so I would be really excited if I got to ride with them. I’d be just like, ‘Wow!’”
Jackie is riding two horses in the Pan Am Selection Trial qualifiers – her mare Sangmelima and Le Roc – a gelding she normally keeps at trainer Reinhart Nielson’s barn in Germany. She is quite attached to the mare. “I love her. I really like mares, especially her. She’s very personable and once she likes a person she’s really sweet. She really tries for you, puts her heart into it. At this show I felt like we’re really on and connecting – better than the other shows we’ve done this season, so I was really pleased with the way she went. She’s really listening, so I was really happy with that. That was great.”
The best parts of her test were the tempis, the trot extensions and the extended canter, Jackie said. “Those were definitely my points where I was like, ‘Alright!” She also noted that her last pirouette started a little sticky, but finished nicely, which was another highlight for her. “My pirouettes used to be my weak spot but now I’m getting better, especially with her – she’s really helped me out.” She called the few trot steps at the halt “rider error.”
“I was really happy overall with the test.”
Sangmelima and Le Roc, Partners in Crime
Coaching Jackie was Wolfgang Schierloh who flew in from Germany for the CDI. “I bought the mare from him,” explained Jackie. “He trained her from the start so he really knows her, which is great. He’s helped me now for two years.” Wolfgang lives near Reinhart Nielson, with whom Jackie trains during the fall, and while in Germany, Jackie is able to regularly visit Wolfgang as well. Reinhart also flies in to the States to coach Jackie at shows.
Following Jackie’s stellar performance in the Prix St. Georges, Wolfgang was positive in his assessment of the mare. “She’s very good now. I am happy that Jackie got the mare and she loves the mare. They both together did a good job. It goes better all the time but today it can’t be so much better. It was really good.” Wolfgang purchased Sangmelima, who is by Sacramento Song out of Pik Bubes Lady H, as a three-year-old and trained her to Prix St. Georges/I-I before he sold her to Jackie 18 months ago.
While 12-year-old, 16.3-hand Sangmelima was in the limelight, Jackie’s other mount, Le Roc, a nine-year, old 18-hand gelding (Larso x Brassika I), was holding his own at the CDI, earning 64.80% for 15th place in the St. Georges. “He’s my back-up guy. He’s a steady eddy, so I just threw him in there because I have him here,” said Jackie. “Last weekend he got a 68. It’s really good to have another horse to go in and get to know the ropes more and get the judges to see me more.” After his recent performances, Jackie is giving the gelding a second look as a Pan Am prospect but she admits her heart is set on Sangmelima. “She’s a little lighter for me and with Roc – he’s 18 hands and he’s really light and easy to ride, but the mare and I connect that little extra spark that pushes it over the top.”
Horses, Paxton's Career Choice
To prepare for Gladstone and the Pan Ams, Jackie said her plan is to, “Just keep training. Keep going at it. Every test that I go in I just keep thinking I’ll give it my best and we’ll see how it goes.”
Jackie also competed both horses in the Intermediaire I Pan Am Selection Trial qualifier at the Zada/WEF CDI and placed fifth with Sangmelima (67.100%) and eighth with Le Roc (65.65%).
After her last show in Florida this year – Dressage At Equestrian Estates in Loxahatchee, March 28-30 – Jackie will decide what her next move will be, whether she will return home to Batavia, Ohio, where her family’s farm is located or go back to Germany to continue training. Not having Young Riders this year has left a bit of uncertainty in her normal schedule – she usually spends three months in Germany in the fall, then competes all winter in Florida, and returns to Ohio in the spring because of the North American Young Riders Championships. But perhaps this year, she will have the mid-June Festival of Champions in New Jersey to consider.
Wherever Jackie chooses to spend her spring and summer, she knows for sure that horses will be her career. She briefly attended college in Ohio after high school, and plans to return to pursue sciences and biology someday, but for now, “horses are definitely my number one career choice. I really like it. It’s just my life, pretty much.”
Mary Hilton for DressageDaily.com