Gladstone, NJ - The second Saturday of theproved to be one of the busiest days of the six day championship. Three different USEF National Championships took place in the Dick and Jane Brown Dressage Arena at the USET Foundation Headquarters.
The National Young Rider Dressage Championship kicked it off and three superstar Young Riders swept into the top three places after the first half of the competition.
Meagan Davis (Stone Ridge, NY) took a commanding lead on Bentley. The pair put in a personal best performance and was rewarded with the only score over 70% in the Young Rider Team Test. Davis capitalized on her last year as a Young Rider with a horse that she has worked hard to produce.
"I age out this year," said Davis. "I was the reserve champion in 2009 so I wanted to come in and maybe win it this year. My horse was so with me today. It was the most incredible feeling."
Bentley has plenty of spunk and has been known for some quirky behavior in the ring, but today he and Davis left that history behind and put in a fantastic effort. The 15-year-old Danish gelding received good marks for his extended work at both the trot and canter - a place where the big mover is always reliable.
"He's an amazing horse," said Davis. "But he can also be really tricky. Every time I asked for a half halt he gave it to me."
Davis takes online college classes through the State University of New York and mixes running a barn with working at a wine store and doing a lot of volunteering throughout Region 8. A student of Lendon Gray's, she makes sure she seizes every opportunity to learn.
"I basically have four jobs, so I can afford to do this," said Davis.
Davis, who was on the Bronze medal-winning team at the 2010 Adequan FEI North American Junior/Young Rider Championships presented by Gotham North (NAJYRC) two weeks ago in Kentucky has the FEI Young Rider World Cup Final on her list of goals for the end of the 2010 season, and will aim for the small tour in 2011 if things continue to go according to plan.
Mackenzie Pooley (Coto De Caza, CA) isn't going to let Davis run off with the Championship title just yet. She and Jonkara scored 67.526% to cruise into second place on the strength of their canter work. Jonkara is very experienced at 19 years old, and she has brought Pooley up from Juniors. They were the reserve champions in the Junior division at the 2008 National Dressage Championships.
"Young Riders is my goal," said Pooley. "And I wanted to come here and be in the top five."
Pooley, like Davis and third place finisher Jillian Kemenosh are fresh from the NAJYRC and have all made the trip from Lexington where all three picked up top ribbons with these same horses.
"She's been great all season," said Pooley, who is a 17-year-old high school senior. "This is the icing."
Pooley relies on Jonkara's experience in the ring, but also knows that with such a classy veteran - there is a mutual agreement on how things are going to go.
"She trots the way she trots," said Pooley. "The canter work was the highlight. She was awesome. I am really happy with her."
Kemenosh (Haddonfield, NJ) just missed a medal at NAJYRC, where she was fourth in the Freestyle - but she and Nelzon have a solid partnership forged over the last four years and their score of 66.316% as the first combination in the ring left them comfortably in third place.
"He usually gives one hundred percent," said Kemenosh of her 15-year-old Dutch gelding. "He was a little backed off but he tried his heart out all season. I can't fault him; it's been a long season."
Kemenosh, a sophomore at the University of Delaware, rides with Scott Hassler and manages to balance college and her riding. This was her third trip to the Festival of Champions.
"This is always a privilege, not many get here," said Kemenosh. "You have to appreciate it no matter what the outcome. We are riding in the same ring as the riders qualifying for the World Games and surrounded by the top riders in the country."
The National Junior Dressage Championship finishes today with the Junior Individual Test and the Brentina Cup begins with their first of two tests.