In 1998 what began as some e-mails home to my mom telling her about my adventures at the NAJYRC has turned into annual stories sent to the entire LEG Up News readership. Post Cards From Young Riders chronicles my experiences in the myriad roles I have been fortunate to have at the only FEI championship in North America, along with the fortunes of the Zone 10 teams competing.
For me, the journey to this year’s NAJYRC has involved a very busy summer schedule. I spent three weeks going back and forth between Woodside (where I showed) and Burbank (home and office), then it was off to Seattle (WA) to judge, and then home for Ian’s 16th birthday. I moved some papers around on my desk, left lots of notes for the kids doing some office work for me, did some much needed laundry, and then packed for two weeks on the road.
The first stop was Parker, Colorado for the final show of the four week Colorado Summer Circuit. I lucked into great weather and enjoyed both the USHJA Hunter Derby and the $50,000 Grand Prix of Colorado. Early Monday morning Larry and I headed to Lexington, Kentucky.
While Kentucky is not the geographic center of the country, there is no doubt that the Kentucky Horse Park has positioned itself as the nerve center of horse sports. Racing, breeding, the USEF, a number of breed and discipline headquarters, US Pony Club, headquarters for farriers and veterinarians, and many educational and tourist activities all reside at the Kentucky Horse Park, in addition to the upcoming 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
Although the NAJYRC occurred once before at the Kentucky Horse Park, it was only when the championship was for eventing. This is the first time all the disciplines of the NAJYRC have congregated at the Kentucky Horse Park and what a time they are going to have!
Larry and I got up and headed out to the facility to check in. I always love arriving as things are getting underway. There is an air of excitement, hope, and everything seems possible. I enjoy meeting up with friends and peers, many of whom we only see at select FEI events. We wandered over to the FEI stabling and found the Zone 10 team settling in. The team is comprised of several veterans, like Karl Cook and Saer Coulter, and some rookies, like Adrienne Dixon and Samantha Harrison. However, all the kids proved their mettle through Zone 10's rigorous selection trials.
We ended our day by attending the official’s reception at the USEF. It was fun to relax and catch up with the officials from the other disciplines.
Here we go! Show jumpers jogged at 9:00 a.m. and all the horses looked really good. I stood with Dr. Mike Tomlinson throughout the jog learning the finer points of evaluating soundness as it pertains to competition purposes versus determining an injury. We spent a lot of time noting conformation and the observing the resultant movement.
In the middle of the jog the rain started and it didn’t stop until late into the night. However, the Zone 10 horses sailed through. Sailing, and other water sports, became the order of the day as the rain continued. Riders donned their rain gear in the afternoon for the schooling session, where they had 90 seconds to spend in the ring jumping, hacking, or otherwise acclimating themselves and their horses to the brand new (spectacular) stadium. The footing in the stadium held up really well and the horses jumped great. Once again, the Zone 10 gang had no problems and all looked fit and ready for competition.
As we are sharing the stadium with dressage, the bulk of our competitions are held in the afternoon and into the evening. Today is the first individual qualifier. For the Juniors the class is scored on both faults and time. The class results are based on both, but for the overall individual standings only the faults are carried forward.
The Zone 10 Juniors were amazing. Samantha Harrison led the way for the riders from California. She and Santika made the course look easy as they loped around. Clearly she was not trying to win the class and she opted out of several inside turns, and instead had her sight set on the overall championship. Harrison was clean and just under the time allowed. Annie Laurie Cook on the other hand was out to win. She and Gina blazed around the course and no one came within three seconds of her time. She led the victory gallop for the class, and her fellow team mates all finished in the top ten. Richard Neal (Luke Skywalker S) finished fourth, Taylor Siebel (Thunder-Ball) was on his heels in fifth, Alec Lawler (Live Fire) was sixth, and Harrison rounded out the foursome in seventh. If they keep up the consistent riding they are serious contenders in the team competition tomorrow night. There is no doubt they’d like to defend their gold medal from 2008.
With eight clear rounds and three more with just one time fault, the Junior riders did not have an overly difficult time with Olaf Petersen, Jr.’s course. However, the Young Rider course proved much more difficult and clear rounds did not come easy. The Young Riders had to ride fast and clear as both faults and time are critical factors in the scoring. The best placed rider in the class receives zero and the other riders receive a score reflecting the difference in their final score in relation to the leader’s score. Complete scores are posted at: http://langershows.com/laec_show_details.php?show_id=131 and www.youngriders.org.
Early in the class Nicholas Dello Joio (Zone 4) took a commanding lead with a time of 83.90 despite a rail. Midway through the class only three riders managed clear rounds. Lucy Davis (True Love) and Adrienne Dixon (Pom Pom) were the first two of the Zone 10 riders to compete and they went in the first half of the class. Davis had a foot in the water and Dixon had a rail at the first fence, and both rode solidly and with confidence.
After the water and drag, the other three Zone 10 riders had their turn. Karl Cook, the individual gold medalist in 2007 and the individual silver medalist in 2008 blazed around the course, but Notories Utopia dropped three rails. Saer Coulter started out fast with Chalon, but three rails in the latter part of the course dropped her from top individual contention as well. With only ten horses left in the class, Paris Sellon revived the spirits of the Zone 10 riders by posting one of the few clear rounds of the entire 47 horse class. She and Troyes almost made the course look easy, and undoubtedly Paris’ time spent riding in grand prix events at the Memorial Day Classic and in Blainville (Quebec) helped her gain valuable experience prior to her first trip to the NAJYRC.
Heading into the team competition, run in a Nations Cup format, Zone 4 looks competitive. The Zone 10 Young Riders will need to re-group and focus in order to defend their team gold medal earned in 2008. There is no doubt that both Mexico teams, North and South, will rally for their sense of team is strong and they hunger for a gold medal. Alberto Balas (Sylvana) of Mexico South proved what fierce competitors the Mexican riders are as he rode an aggressive round at the end of the class to finish second. Although he left all the rails up and made the inside turns, he still couldn’t beat Dello Joio.
If I had to make a singular observation about today’s competition and riding, more than half the riders had faults at the open water. Dave Ballard (T.D.) lamented that too many riders do not have the requisite skills and experience when riding over open water. Today’s statistics of 27 riders out of 47 had four at the water.
(For breaking news check out the LEG website – www.langershows.com – where we will post news as it happens, photos of the Zone 10 riders, and current results.)
Team Day! Team day is always exciting and really stressful. I am sure the two round competitions for both the Junior and Young Rider competitors is stressful for the riders, the coaches, the Chefs (team captains) and the parents. Team day is also stressful for the officials.
Because we are sharing the brand new stadium with both dressage and eventing, our competitions start in the afternoon. Yesterday we finished at about 8:00 p.m. and then eventing took to the stadium to begin their dressage tests. Today we started with the Junior teams at 3:00 and we won’t finish the Young Rider team competition until about midnight.
The Zone 10 Juniors rode the first round like they wanted to win. Zone 10 led off the entire team competition, and Samantha Harrison was first to go for her team and gave them confidence by once again easily cantering around the course with no faults. Taylor Siebel went in the second rotation and she also posted a zero score for Zone 10. Alec Lawler rode in the third rotation and he gathered eight faults which became the team’s drop score for the first round. Richard Neal rode anchor, and like Lucy Davis did last year he rode with ice in his veins. Neal was smooth and efficient and made the course look easy while leaving all the rails in the cups. Zone 10 headed into the second round in the lead carrying zero, but Zone 2 was right behind them with 12 faults. While that may seem like a huge lead, fortunes can change quickly in a Nation’s Cup competition. Both Chefs d’Equipe, Ralph Caristo (Zone 2) and Butch Thomas (Zone 10) knew they had to rally their teams. Thomas couldn’t let his riders get overly confident and Caristo needed his riders to rally and put the pressure on Zone 10. With 29 faults Ontario (Canada) was in third and Mexico rounded out the top four with 40 faults. While the majority of the Junior riders did not have significant difficulties with yesterday’s course, today was just the opposite. Out of two rounds of almost 40 riders each, there were only 15 clear rounds and another 14 were eliminated during the two round competition.
The second round saw a change of fortune. Of the nine teams that started the competition, only four finished. Again, Samantha Harris showed why Butch Thomas put her in the lead off position. She logged another clear round for her team. Unfortunately both Siebel and Lawler had twelve faults, one of which served as the drop score.
In the meantime, Ralph Caristo’s Zone 2 team showed why they should never be underestimated. Kate Dinan and Jacqueline Lubrano both added nothing to Zone 2's score, and their third rider, Jazz Mace become the drop score after incurring 20 faults. With only rider left for each team, suddenly it was mathematically possible for the two zones to tie for the gold. Ricky "Ice" Neal posted a solid, clear performance and Zone 10 finished on its score of 12. The pressure was on. In order to stay in contention for the gold medal, Kaitlin Campbell had to be clean and she was. The jump off was on.
In a championship all four riders of each team had to jump off, just like in the Olympics. Dinan was first for Zone 2 and she had four faults. Harrison returned and jumped another clear round. Then eight more faults accrued to Zone 2 by Lubrano. Siebel added just four to Zone 10's jump off score, and when Mace added another eight to Zone 2's jump off total, Alec Lawler could make it or break it for Zone 10. As long as he stayed under eight faults he could assure the team of a gold medal and spare Neal the need to jump another round. Will Simpson was in a similar position at the 2008 Olympics. He had been the drop score over the two rounds, but when the USA jumped off for the gold Simpson had the chance to end the jump off with his round and he did just that. Perhaps inspired by his fellow Californian, Lawler dug deep and only dropped one rail and ended the jump off while securing the gold medal for Zone 10.
Annie Laurie Cook is riding as the alternate for the Zone 10 Junior team, and she posted two more clear rounds today. Three Zone 10 riders, Cook, Harrison, and Neal are all tied for first in the Junior Overall Individual Standings with two rounds to go on Sunday. Kaitlin Campbell (Zone 2) is the fourth rider tied for first. Lawler and Siebel are tied for 10th with twelve faults.
After the awards, victory gallop, and then the course walk, the Young Riders took to the course. Riders who listed experience at 1.35 and 1.40 meters (High Junior and Amateur Owner Jumpers) really struggled. To successfully negotiate the Young Rider courses riders need to be proficient in medium level grand prix events. Clear rounds were hard to come by. Heck, four fault rounds were hard to come by.
Out of 11 teams, Zone 10 had an enviable draw of eighth in the order. Saer Coulter led off and posted 13 faults. Early in the class this seemed like a high total, but it turned out to be a very credible score. The Mexico North team, usually competitive for a medal started to fall apart when their first rider was eliminated. However, Zone 2 was not the least bit rattled and Carolyn Curcio posted a five fault score. Adrienne Dixon was next for Zone and she got off to a good start, but started to unravel toward the end of the course and finished with 29 faults (the drop score). Zone 2 countered with one of the night’s few clear rounds (Chelsea Moss).
In the third rotation Paris Sellon only dropped two rails, but it was too little too late. Zone 2's Alexandra Thornton only had one rail, and then it was time for the final rotation. Karl Cook was Zone 10's hope for staying in medal contention, but 20 dropped Zone 10 into fifth overall. Zone 2 continued its march of dominance when Jessica Springsteen accrued just one time fault, and Zone 2 finished in first carrying a score of five. In second after the first round was Zone 5 (25), Zone 4 (37) in third, Mexico South (39) in fourth, and Zone 10 (41) in fifth.
Riding as the alternate, Lucy Davis posted a beautiful four fault round after only dipping a toe in the tub (water jump).
Although Zone 10's hopes for a medal looked grim, things can change in a team competition. The individuals led off, and Davis only had a rail for four faults. This puts her in good stead for the Overall Young Rider Individual standings and easily qualified her for Sunday’s competition. As the teams got underway, Zone 10 got off to a good start when Coulter only had a rail and a time fault (5 total), but Zone 2 looked shaky as Curcio was eliminated. However, since a team’s three best scores count it was not the end of the world for Zone 2. In the second rotation, fortunes flip-flopped for the two teams.
Zone 2 posted a 12 fault score with Moss and Dixon had trouble getting around. In the meantime, Zone 5 had been putting in some solid rounds and were in medal contention. Zone 2 looked solid for the gold and Zone 10 was hoping to get a medal. When Jennifer Waxman (Zone 5) posted her second clear round and was the only rider to do so all night, Zone 5 was assured of a medal. Sellon’s strong four fault performance edged Zone 10 into the medal range. In the end, Zone 2 could not be dislodged and convincingly captured the gold (34 points), Zone 5 was silver (48 points) and Zone 10 was bronze (67 points).
In the individual standings, class leader Nicholas Dello Joio withdrew when his horse wasn’t quite right, and Jennifer Waxman’s solid riding put her into the lead. However, less than four points behind her is Lucy Davis (Zone 10), followed by Paris Sellon (Zone 10), and Joelle Froese (British Columbia) rounds out the top four. The two other Zone 10 riders, Saer Coulter and Karl Cook are in 11th and 23rd respectively. Of note, is that if Davis had been on the team then Zone 10 would have finished one rail behind Zone 2. However, hind sight is always 20/20.
Tomorrow are the Farewell classes for the riders who did not qualify for the Individual Championships and then on Sunday Zone 10 has more chance at medals with our individual riders.
Check out the complete results at Langer Equestrian Group, Inc.