Lexington, KY - It was a full day of equestrian sport at the 2012 Adequan/FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Championships presented by Gotham North (NAJYRC), and four podium presentations crowned this year's medalists for the Dressage individuals and Show Jumping teams. The dressage competition is sponsored by Platinum Performance and the United States Dressage Federation, while the show jumping is sponsored by the United States Hunter Jumper Association. The NAJYRC runs through Sunday, July 22, at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY. Five disciplines (a total of 9 championships for juniors and young riders) will take part in the only FEI Championship to be held annually in North America. The NAJYRC is the premier equestrian competition in North America for junior and young riders, ages 14-21.
**Please be aware that tomorrow's Show Jumping individual final for juniors will run in the Rolex Stadium at 7:30 a.m., followed by the young riders competition.
The dressage riders started out this morning in the FEI North American Junior Individual Championship. The gold medal went to Ayden Uhlir of Region 9 (Arlington, TX) on Sjapoer, a 13-year-old KWPN gelding. They received scores of 70.000% (Judge E), 70.921% (Judge H), 69.737% (Judge C), 68.421% (Judge M), 69.342% (Judge B), for a total score of 69.684%.
Uhlir said afterward, "I feel absolutely privileged to be here right now. It feels amazing."
Uhlir has ridden Sjapoer for 15 months, and while they went through "ups and downs," their "bond has definitely strengthened." She commented, "We're like the same person now."
She said of her test, "I was thinking that I really needed to improve my walk and my trot half passes and my flying changes. The day before they were not up to par where I wanted them to be. I really tried to work on those things and nitpick all of the little issues with the previous ride. Otherwise I think he did really, really well and I was really proud of Sjapoer. Going into today, I was really wanting more cadence in the trot work; that's one of our issues. Otherwise I felt like we improved from the day before."
Silver medalists Ariel Thomas (17, Region 7, Briones, CA) and Montfleury, a 19-year-old Westphalian gelding owned by Grace Goodby, received scores of 70.132% (Judge E), 68.421% (Judge H), 66.579% (Judge C), 67.237% (Judge M), 67.105% (Judge B) for a total of 67.895%.
This was Thomas' first time at NAJYRC. "My goal coming here was to ride as well as I could. Medaling was a goal but it wasn't expected," she said.
The bronze medal went to 15-year-old Laurence Blais Tetreault of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Tetreault rode Pissaro, a 15-year-old Westphalian gelding and added to her medal count after she helped her team win the gold medal on Wednesday. It was family affair as her sister, Mathilde Blais Tetreault, won a young rider team bronze medal as well this year.
"It's really, really great to be here," she said. "I come from a dressage family. My parents are really supportive and they don't put pressure. They're happy with both me and my sister's performances. We were just having fun."
Tetreault and Pissaro scored 66.842% (Judge E), 68.026% (Judge H), 68.289% (Judge C), 67.763% (Judge M), 67.500% (Judge B) for a total of 67.684%.
For all three junior dressage riders, it was their first individual medal at the NAJYRC.
The highest final score in the junior division today went to Nicolas Torres Rodriguez, a 15-year-old rider from Bogota, Colombia. Rodriguez rode Silver Label, a 15-year-old SWB gelding owned by Alexandra Rodriguez. They received scores of 73.684% (Judge E), 71.974% (Judge H), 72.368% (Judge C), 70.789% (Judge M), 71.447% (Judge B) for a total of 72.053%.
While they had the highest scores, they did not receive a medal since they are not geographically from the North American region. However, it was a fantastic experience for the South American rider. "Competing at the Rolex Stadium is a dream come true," he related.
In the Young Rider division, 17-year-old Brandi Roenick scored her fifth gold medal at the NAJYRC, having won the team gold medal for the past three years for Region 5 and the individual gold in the junior division in 2008. Roenick, who hails from San Diego, CA, rode Weltino's Magic, a 10-year-old Westphalian gelding owned by Jen Hlavacek. Roenick of Region 5 had a total score of 74.947% and Judge's scores of 75.395% (Judge E), 73.816% (Judge H), 75.132% (Judge C), 73.026% (Judge M), 77.368% (Judge B).
"It hasn't hit me yet, but I'm still on cloud nine from Wednesday so this is all really amazing," she admitted.
Roenick and Weltino's Magic have only been together for 10 weeks. Weltino's Magic was the double gold medalist at the 2011 Pan American Games with Roenick's trainer, Olympian Steffen Peters. "We have a really special bond for the short amount of time we've been together," Roenick pointed out. "The way we've adapted to each other has been absolutely amazing."
She went on to say, "This is my third year at Young Riders with three different horses. The first year, I had my mom's horse. Last year with Pretty Lady it felt really good coming in on my own horse. This year coming in on Magic, I was nervous when I got here but he gave me the 'It's okay, I'll take care of you.' That's exactly what he did today. I sat there and he floated around and let me guide him. I was very happy."
Speaking of tomorrow's Freestyle Championship, Roenick said, "My freestyle is my favorite test and my horse loves it more than any test that I ride. It's always good when you and your horse are on the same page, so I'm really confident going into tomorrow."
Monica Houweling of Delta, British Columbia, Canada, was the silver medalist. She rode Linda Houweling's Rifradin, a 14-year-old KWPN mare, to scores of 72.763% (Judge E), 70.921% (Judge H), 68.553% (Judge C), 70.789% (Judge M), 73.158% (Judge B) and a total of 71.237%.
The 19-year-old said afterward, "I'm still kind of in shock right now."
Houweling and Rifradin have been together for six months. "It was tough in the beginning," she conceded. "She's a mare, and I'd had geldings, so I wasn't really sure how to work with that. The biggest change for me is that she was with Debbie McDonald for five years and I had a chance to work with Debbie when she was back in California. Since that point, we clicked so well. She's been on my side and since then it's just been amazing."
While Houweling has medaled twice before at NAJYRC, it was in the junior division. But that experience led her to want more as a young rider. She agreed, "You get that feeling on the podium and you just want it again. Every time it's amazing. You just feel so great being up there when you're making your country proud. It's just so much fun being here. I love the competition. I wanted to challenge myself and come out at young riders with my new horse. It's a whole new ball game, but I was ready for it."
Bronze medalist Alexandra Reid (20, Drumbo, ON, CAN) and VIP, a 10-year-old gelding owned by Deborah Miculinic, received scores of 70.789% (Judge E), 69.211% (Judge H), 71.184% (Judge C), 68.684% (Judge M), 70.132% (Judge B) for a total of 70.000%.
Reid acknowledged, "It feels very overwhelming and unreal to be here right now. I've always wanted to come here. It's just never really worked out with horses. You almost get to the point when you get to things like (NAJYRC) and it doesn't happen, so I never thought I'd actually be standing up there."
Reid said that VIP is "a different caliber of horse than I've ever had too."
For all three young riders, they said that their next goal was the FEI Dressage World Cup for Young Riders.
Show Jumping Awards Team Medals
Finishing with just nine total faults, Zone 2 dominated in the team championship. The Zone 2 Junior team was led by anchor rider Lillie Keenan (15, New York, NY) in her first time riding at NAJYRC. She and Vanhattan, a 10-year-old KWPN gelding, were double clear to lead the team to victory.
"For the first round, I was definitely nervous, but I knew I could trust my team and do it for them even more than just for myself," she said.
Although Keenan knew that Zone 2 had the gold in hand, she went through the second round riding for a clear round to stay near the top of the standings for the individual championship. She has four total faults after three rounds, and is tied for second place.
"It was a lot of fun, and fun to be on this team knowing they would do everything in their power and I just had to hold it up," she said. "For me and my horse, it was a good position. We both feed off that kind of energy. As long as I keep it cool and he knows I expect it from him, it works. Having already won team gold, (and) knowing it when I was going in the ring, I was thinking, 'Don't tell my horse, we need individual, we need to go clean.' He knows a lot is expected of him and he really wants to prove himself."
Kira Kerkorian of Sagaponack, NY, was also riding at the NAJYRC for the first time. The 14-year-old is younger than her experienced 15-year-old KWPN gelding, Malcolm. They had eight faults in both rounds. She described, "I thought the hardest part for me was 12 a-b-c (on the course) because my horse has a huge stride. It was hard to get him to rock back and go clean. He tries to help me out whenever he can."
Although Katherine Strauss is only 13 years old (her FEI age is 14 to qualify her for this championship), the talented rider from New York City kept her cool in two rounds riding Chellando Z, a nine-year-old Zangersheide gelding. With scores of four and five faults, Strauss showed maturity in her ride.
"I try to just ride my best and ride normally," she said. "I was fortunate to be able to compete here. I was happy that Ralph chose to put me on the team, so I just tried to follow through and ride my best. The last line in the first round was a little bit easy and my horse likes to get downhill. We jumped in bold and I had to lift him up, so we had 'a' of the triple down in the first round."
Having shown at the NAJYRC twice now, 17-year-old Charlotte Jacobs of East Aurora, NY, was the "veteran" of the team. Jacobs rode Kachina, 14-year-old Selle Francais mare who stands at 18 hands high. Kachina and Jacobs' father, Louis, had plenty of success in the grand prix ring before he handed the reins over to Charlotte.
"I've gotten the chance to watch him over and over on this horse and he jumped tons of clear rounds," she said. "When he handed her down to me, we started in the Low Juniors, and through Florida I worked my way up to the Highs. She's a great horse and I'm so happy. It was a great present from my dad."
Jacobs and Kachina had a double clear performance today and are tied for second in the individual standings.
Charlotte thanked longtime Zone 2 Chef d'Equipe Ralph Caristo for their team's success. The Zone 2 Junior Show Jumping team was able to bring home an amazing tenth gold medal for Zone 2, more than any other zone in the history of the NAJYRC, and it was just the beginning of a golden night for Caristo.
Strauss said, "Ralph is so committed to the team and knows the (NAJYRC) program so well. He's done such a great job leading Zone 2 to 10 gold medals." Keenan added, "He and (his wife) Holly (Caristo) are always there. Zone 2 is really Ralph and Holly."
The silver medal in the Show Jumping Junior Team Championship went to Zone 5, which put in a fantastic performance considering they only had three riders, and therefore no drop score. They finished with a total of 20 faults. They made every round count as five out of six of their rounds were clear.
Abigail McArdle (18, Barrington, IL) led the way with a double clear performance, adding nothing to her clear in yesterday's individual qualifier. She and Cosma 20, a nine-year-old Hanoverian mare, stand alone at the top of the standings for the individual championship.
Sixteen-year-old Kalvin Dobbs of Carmel, IN, was riding in his fourth NAJYRC, and his experience showed when he rode Winde, a nine-year-old KWPN mare, to two clear rounds in today's competition.
Hometown rider Ali Boone (18) of Lexington, KY, had trouble in the first round with Wait and See, a nine-year-old KWPN mare, and racked up 20 faults. However, she showed poise and came back in the second round to finish clear and help her team to silver.
Zone 4 finished as the bronze medalists on a total score of 32. They were led by anchor rider Shawn Casady (18, Harriman, TN) on Zubantos, an eight-year-old KWPN gelding. Casady was able to ride through a rainstorm in the first round with just four faults and come back clear in the second round. Casady is also tied for second place in the individual standings.
Both Elizabeth Patz (18, Windermere, FL) on Cordino, an 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding, and Claudia Billups (17, Oxford, MS) with Quick N Easy, a 10-year-old Zangersheide gelding, had 12 faults in the first round and improved to just four faults in the second round. Kaely Tomeu (16, Wellington, FL) and Belle Bleu S, an 11-year-old Holsteiner mare, had 16 faults in the first round but came back with the necessary clear trip in the second round to help their team onto the podium.
Zone 2 added yet another team gold medal to their count to make it 11 in the history of the NAJYRC. They had a commanding lead with 21 total faults. The team was led by Mattias Tromp of North Salem, NY. The 17-year-old rode Vosquinus, a 10-year-old KWPN gelding, to a clear in the first round and four faults in the second round. Added to his multiplier score from yesterday of 3.55, Tromp now leads the individual standings for the young riders with 7.55 points.
Tromp has ridden Vosquinus since December, and he is the first horse that Tromp has ridden in bigger classes. "He's a very sweet, forgiving horse; a great first time horse. I'm grateful to have him." Tromp discussed the situation of showing at night under the lights. "He doesn't really care what the conditions are. I felt like jumping under the lights was an advantage rather than a disadvantage."
Just .45 points behind Tromp in the individual standings is teammate Callie Smith (18, Bernardsville, NJ), who has eight total faults. Smith and Upstaire, an 11-year-old KWPN gelding, had eight faults in the first round, but came back in the second round with a clear. "They were my rails and not his," Smith said. "I feed off of my nerves, but I think I underestimated the course a bit in the first round."
Meg O'Mara (18, Rumson, NJ) was competing for her second time at NAJYRC; she won the individual silver medal in the junior division in 2010. She rode Sinatra IV, a 12-year-old SBS gelding, to 12 faults in the first round and nine faults in the second round. She recalled, "Usually my horse is really bright and careful under the lights; today we had little bit of bad luck. I had to go first and I'm really mad at myself still. The course was really tough. It was a technical course, which is good for our zone because we're used to them. I love these four (riders). They saved me a lot."
Rounding out the Zone 2 team was 18-year-old Lydia Ulrich of Rochester, NY. She and Santos Utopia, a 13-year-old KWPN gelding, had five faults in the first round and four faults in the second round. "He's a pretty hot horse; he has a lot of energy and likes to win," she described. "He's great under the lights; the bigger and scarier, he just jumps better. He's a horse that gets better with every round."
Smith talked about the team camaraderie, "Tonight was all about the team. We wanted it so bad. We were clutching each other at the gate, freaking out, and so nervous for the whole team. It shows that we do have a great team relationship and have compassion for each other."
All four members of the team thanked Ralph and Holly Caristo for their time and effort for the Zone 2 riders. Smith said, "When they were talking about the junior riders (making it 10 golds for Zone 2), I said we were about to make it 11, and we did."
"Ralph is the best Chef ever. He puts his heart and soul into every Zone 2 competition. It's amazing how he can get riders and horses ready to go mentally. Every time you come out of the ring, he says good job, don't worry, go fight the next time," O'Mara expressed.
Ulrich added, "Thanks to Ralph and Holly; they're both great leaders. It's so nice to have them behind everything we do and so willing to get us ready to win."
Tromp chimed in, "He's our fearless leader."
The silver medal went to the composite team of Zones 3, 7, and 8 with a total score of 34 faults. Also at a disadvantage with only three riders, their goal was to complete the courses and be able to stay in the hunt for a team medal. Kaitlin Campbell (20, Washington, D.C.) and Grand Pleasure, an 8-year-old BWP gelding, had eight faults but returned with a clear trip in the second round. Katie Cox (18, Conrad, TX) showed in her fifth NAJYRC, this time on Twilight, an 11-year-old Warmblood gelding, and posted scores of 13 and 5. Navona Gallegos (21, Santa Fe, NM) and No Fear, 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding, had just four faults in both rounds. Gallegos noted, "It was great to be able to form a team and have camaraderie."
Zone 10 finished as the bronze medalists with a total score of 35 faults. Sage Flynn (19, San Diego, CA), a silver medalist at last year's NAJYRC, rode Hot Pants, a 14-year-old KWPN gelding, to eight faults in the first round but returned for a single time fault in the second round. Unfortunately eliminated in both rounds, Stevie Sorenson (18, Sonoma, CA) and Esperanto, a 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding, were still able to celebrate a bronze medal. Riding the 10-year-old SBS mare Semira de Saulieu, Charlotte Gadbois (19, Newport Beach, CA) recorded scores of six and ten tonight. As the anchor rider, Kilian McGrath (18, Westlake Village, CA) posted scores of five faults in both rounds on Salerno, a 13-year-old KWPN gelding.
The top 25 riders will return for tomorrow's first round of the individual championships in both the junior and young rider divisions.
Tomorrow's competition begins with the Individual Finals for the juniors at 7:30 a.m. in the Rolex Stadium, followed by the young riders. The Individual Freestyle Championship for the dressage junior and young riders follows the jumping. The Individual Finals for Reining will start at 11:30 a.m. in the Alltech Arena. The Eventing Cross Country phase kicks off at 8 a.m.
All of the action in the Rolex Stadium tomorrow will be broadcast live on the USEF Network presented by SmartPak at www.usefnetwork.com.
For full results or to learn more about the Adequan/FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Championships presented by Gotham North, please visit www.youngriders.org.
NAJYRC showcases the best young rider and junior horse/rider combinations in dressage, eventing, jumping, reining, and endurance. Young equestrians from across the continent will descend on the Kentucky Horse Park to vie for FEI medals at these Championships.
For sponsorship information visit www.youngriders.org/Sponsors.aspx.