Ayden Uhlir (Kirkland, Wash.) stormed into the top spot of the Dutta Corp/USEF Festival of Champion's Young Rider Championship with Sjapoer, scoring 68.237% in the FEI Young Rider Team Test. She rode her own 14-year-old KWPN gelding to a 2.763-point lead heading into Friday's FEI Young Rider Individual Test. "Today, since it's our first day of competition, I was trying to be more reserved in my riding," Uhlir said. "I didn't want to push him too hard. I was testing some of his buttons in the warm-up to see if he was listening to my aids and he seemed to be listening quite well. My test was very nice. I think I messed up on one of my tempis, but I recovered and I got the rest of them, so it wasn't too big of a deal. Overall, it was a pretty solid test for the first day. I'm really excited for tomorrow." Uhlir won the USEF Junior Dressage National Championship last year. She and her trainer, Jeremy Steinberg, have been working on some specific details since winning the FEI North American Young Rider Individual and Freestyle Championships at the Adequan/FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Championships presented by Gotham North (NAJYRC).
"We've been working on getting some passage steps and he seems to be clicking into them more. We're just fully building him up to the next level. I would love to do "Brentina Cup" on him."
Standing second in the division are Rachel Chowanec and Embrujado XI. Chowanec (Columbia, Conn.) utilized the 15-year-old PRE gelding's impressive gaits to score 65.474%.
"Overall he felt pretty solid and we went for it with a lot of things," said Chowanec. "With the tempis, we pushed them a little bit to get them all bigger and it felt very good."
Chowanec competed in the 2012 USEF Young Rider National Championship and finished in fourth place. This year she is focusing on how to manage Embrujado XI when he is easily spooked.
"Over the years it's kind of been what works with that day," Chowanec explained. "Some days I really have to slow him down and get him thinking about me and rely on my aids. Other days, like today, he was really behind me so I had to push him forward and push him through the spookiness, not go around it."
Kaitlin Blythe rode Daverden into third place. Blythe (Rougemon, N.C.) and the 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding produced a solid effort scoring 65.053%.
The AGCO/USEF Young Rider Dressage National Championship competition continues Friday, with riders performing the FEI Young Rider Individual Test, which will count for the remaining 50% of the overall average.
Find out everything you need to know about the championships at http://www.usefconnect.com/festival/.
Susan J Stckle is the offiial photographer of the Dutta Corp/USEF FEstival of Champions