Four teams were fielded for this year's endurance race and it was a great opportunity for young riders to experience the FEI competition and what they can do for their country in the future. Leading the Gold medal-winning team for the USA Southeast was Cassandra Roberts (16, Bronson, FL) on Viktory Banner, who also won the Individual Gold medal with a winning time of 6:19:31.
This was the first time that Roberts had ridden Viktory Banner in competition. She got the ride on him after her mare was injured. "I've ridden him a little in training, but that's all," she said. "I expected to go fast! He had a lot of experience before I started riding him. He's an amazing horse. It was pretty exciting. It makes me feel pretty good to win two Gold medals."
The Individual Bronze medalist was also on Team USA Southeast. Heleen deBeer (19, Atlanta, GA) and DCL Mooi Penny finished in 8:19:22. Although she was born in South Africa, deBeer has lived in the United States for 12 years. She has been riding DCL Mooi Penny for two years.
"Penny is a very sensitive, loving mare to her riders. She is a delicate mare with a lot of staying power and fantastic heart rate recoveries," deBeer said.
They were joined by Taylor White (15, Camden, SC) on Hoover the Mover with a time of 9:08:10, as well as Katie Baldino with Reminisonce +/ and Mallory Capps (19, Atlanta, GA) with Masterpiece Vlad. The USA Southeast had a team time of 23:47:03.
Capps said of the experience, "Riding for a team is definitely a good experience. Everyone is very supportive and you have a great crew. Everybody, including myself and Katie, as soon as we got pulled, we hopped in and supported our team because we wanted to see our team get a Gold medal. It's a team sport and that's what endurance is really about. We helped Northeast and Canada (too). It doesn't matter what team you're on. It's like one big family."
The USA Southeast Chef d'Equipe, Ann Stuart, was excited to see more riders compete in Endurance at NAJYRC this year. "I really appreciated it because a lot of us are getting older. We were looking around a few years ago wondering who was going to come up and ride in endurance races. We have an incredible squad. We filled in gaps in other teams. We're lucky in Southeast to have so many riders; I'm really encouraged about that. They had great attitudes," she said.
Emma Webb (19, Flesherton, ON, CAN) from Team Canada was a double Silver medalist with Vagas. She led the team with a time of 7:29:40. Jessica Yavis (17, Winfield, AB, CAN) and Jahlad (8:33:11) and Jaylene Janzen (20, Edmonton, AB, CAN) on Sakic (9:42:51) helped their team finish second with a total team time of 25:45:42.
Webb spoke about her relationship with Vagas, noting that she borrowed him for this competition, "Last December, I got to race him 75 miles and that went really well. I've been riding him a bit this summer, but this is the second time I've actually competed on him. He's a fun pony. We had a good time."
Webb was a part of the Gold medal-winning team at last year's NAJYRC. This year, she was on a new horse, Vagas, who is owned by her neighbor. "I've ridden him more than just at this competition," she acknowledged. "He's an eight-year-old Arabian off the track."
It was not all a smooth ride for Webb, however. She explained, "It was stressful, but we made it around. He lost the same shoe twice. The shoe has been put on four times in the last 10 days, so there wasn't much foot left by the time we were done. But with his shoe on, he was sound and he passed the vet checks."
Webb has aspirations to make Canada's team for next year's Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Normandy, France. It is a big goal for a young rider. "Maybe we'll make it to WEG next year, it may be on my own horse," she remarked. "There are only so many people that have horses that are at that level (in Canada) and want to go to WEG. It is a really big commitment."
The Bronze Team medal went to USA Northeast Combined with a team total time of 26:49:48. Michael Bishop (16, Raleigh, NC) and TEF Sunflash had a time of 8:33:14 to lead them, while Forest Green (16, Star Tannery, VA) and LR Amana Tabi finished in 9:08:15. Just behind him was Maria Muzzio (15, Fairfax, VA) on Khlil Asam in 9:08:19, and a split second behind was Hunter Green (15, Star Tannery, VA) and DJB Braveheart, who finished in 9:08:20. Sydney Sumrall (16, Atlanta, GA) and DCL Mooi Koedoe were also part of the team.
Bishop's horse, TEF Sunflash, won the Best Conditioned Horse Award. "Flash is a very high energy, strong horse. He loves to go and he hardly ever stops really. He drinks well and he's very fit. He's done three 75-mile races since December."
They have only been paired together since the beginning of May. "We had to figure everything out at the Biltmore Endurance Ride, which was our qualifying ride for Young Riders," he said. "The Best Conditioned Horse Award was great to get, but the Team medal was a big honor."
The Adequan/FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Championships presented by Gotham North conclude tomorrow with the Stadium Jumping phase for Eventing, which will determine the Team and Individual medals for CCI1* and CCI2*.
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.