The FEI North American Championships for Juniors and Young Riders celebrated its 40th anniversary this year with a total of 216 young athletes from five countries lining out in four disciplines at Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, USA from 15 to 20 July.
This is the only FEI Championship held annually in North America, and the 2014 fixture, open to competitors from 14 to 21 years, offered medal opportunities in the Olympic disciplines of Jumping, Dressage and Eventing along with Endurance. Dating back to 1974 when they started out as an Eventing challenge between the USA and Canada, these Championships have expanded beyond recognition and continue to provide top-class competition along with an education in international rules and regulations for the next generation of equestrian stars.
A total of 74 horse-and-rider combinations lined out in Dressage, 61 in Eventing and 67 in Jumping while there was a field of 14 in the FEI North American Young Riders Endurance Championship which took place over a 120 kilometre course. The countries represented were Canada, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico and the United States of America.
The Dressage riders were first off the starting blocks, and Region 7 claimed Young Rider Team gold for the second year in succession. For 19-year-old Catherine Chamberlain it was the first step on a long ladder of success she would enjoy throughout the week when she produced the leading score of 72.132 for the winning side, partnering Verdicci. Backed up by 68.921 from 20-year-old Anna Buffini and Sundayboy, 65.684 from 19-year-old Cassidy Gallman and Grand Makana and 65.526 from the youngest team member, 16-year Lindsey Brewin with Vaillant, the all-Californian girls team finished on a total of 206.737.
Silver went to Canada/Quebec’s Laurence Blais Tetreault (Michaelango), Juie Channell (Furstin Anastasia), Naima Moreira Laliberte (Nao Guimeraie) and Tanya Strasser-Shostak (Action Tyme) who were more than five marks behind, while Region 8 took the bronze when Hannah McCabe (Valparaiso), Giulia Cohen (Lasserre), Hope Cooper (64.684 and Elizabeth Fell (Superstarr) posted 197.026.
Team gold medallist, Anna Buffini, said the event was “an amazing experience” and the realisation of a dream. “We’re family now!” she said of her team-mates - “I’m very thankful to be here and for the outcome. Winning the gold medal has just been icing on the top!”
The Junior team gold medals were claimed by Region 1 on a score of 199.784. At 19 years of age Molly Paris was the oldest member of the side and with Diamant Sky provided her team’s top mark of 69.946. The remaining scores were 65.649 from 16-year-old Bebe Davis and Feivel Mousekewitz, 65.189 from 15-year-old Hannah Bauer and Trustful and 61.622 from 18-year-old Katie Lang and FA Patriot.
Junior team silver went to Canada/Ontario who finished just under two marks behind. Vanessa Creech-Terauds (Finja), Alexandra Meghji (Iliado ll), Sophie Potter (Frisbee) and Liza Wilson (Fleurina) posted 197.785 which left them just ahead of Region 6/7 in bronze medal spot. Danielle Bonabito (Wyoming) posted a strong score of 68.216 for the bronze medal winning side that also included Heather Decent (Norra), Lauren Mack (Lada’at) and Olivia Zeilinger (Stentano).
The winning side’s Bebe Davis said she also enjoyed the whole team experience - “it’s definitely preparation for the future, for those who have aspirations to go on to the next level and to be, hopefully, representing the United States in international competition” she said.
When it came to the Individual Dressage Championship, Region 7’s Catherine Chamberlain shone once again in the Young Riders division with Verdicci, posting 71.789 which left her well ahead of the rest of the field. David Ziegler and Peninsula Top Man claimed the silver on a mark of 68.289 while Hope Cooper and Don Diamond took the bronze with 67.263. Chamberlain attributed much of her success to her coaches. “I just started training with David (Wightman) and Kathleen (Raine) last November....they’ve been to the World Equestrian Games and all over Germany showing, so coming to their barn was a completely new experience for me. I’ve had my horse for seven years now, but there’s always so much more to learn, and working with them has been working on the fine points”.
And the fine points were clearly in evidence when she again produced the top score in the Young Riders Freestyle, achieving 72.525 for her floorplan to a Harry Potter musical score and making it a golden hat-trick. She didn’t hold back, asking Verdicci for some challenging movements including flying changes on a serpentine, but she described it all as “really fun!”. She said “I tried to make it difficult....my horse was able to stick there with me and perform the best he could”.
Young Rider Freestyle silver went to Devon Wycoff from Region 5 riding Power Play who scored 70.975 while the bronze was awarded to Canada/Quebec’s Laurence Blais Tetreault who racked up 70.625 with Michaelango. Like Wycoff, Blais Tetrealut wasn’t overly impressed by her rides earlier in the week, but that wasn’t the case in the Freestyle. “My horse was nervous in the Team test and Individual. To finish with this nice ride, I’m very happy. He did everything I asked” she pointed out.
The Junior Individual Dressage title went to 14-year-old Camille Bergeron riding Lowelas and they went on to also win their Freestyle. Molly Paris (Diamont Sky) stood on the silver medal step of the Individual podium while Alexandra Meghji (Iliado ll) took the bronze, but in the Freestyle Paris had to settle for bronze when Cassie Schmidt and Velasquer came closest to Bergeron’s winning score when posting 70.725.
Course designer, Steve Stephens, set a challenging track in the Young Riders Team Jumping event with only six clears over two rounds, and it was Zone 3 who came out on top with a total of 14 faults. This result was all the more creditable for the fact that Alison Cooney and Touluca were eliminated in both rounds so the second-round scores for team-mates Christina Firestone (Arwen), Chloe Reid (Athena) and KC van Aarem (Mastermind) were crucial. And they pulled it out of the bag when Firestone and Reid followed first-round four-fault efforts with clears at their second attempt, while van Aarem added only a single time penalty to the five she picked up first time out.
Silver went to Zone 4 on a hefty 35 faults, Victoria Colvin (Chanel B2), Brittni Raflowitz (Punchy Dorcel), Virginia Ingram (Urban) and Haley Gassel (Quite Dark 2) also experiencing their fair share of pressure when Gassel was eliminated first time out, returning for a much-improved 12-fault score in the second round. The bronze-medal-winning Zone 2 had only three team-members, but their chances were seriously boosted when Michael Hughes and Luxina produced the only double-clear of the competition. The team finished just two faults behind the silver medallists when Victoria Press (Cayenne) recovered from a 17-fault result in round one to leave just one on the floor second time out while Riley Newsome (Sunny Face G) followed her 17-fault first attempt with a double-error in round two.
Team gold medallist, Chloe Reid, said “our Chef d’Equipe (Sandra Ruiz) told us today that it was the first time in ten years, I believe, that we have gotten a gold medal so it is very exciting for us”. Firestone said the course was pretty difficult “but I think I had a lot of faith in my horse and her rideability was spot on. She was really listening to me so we worked really well together and were able to work out the difficult parts and get a nice clean round. I was able to fix my mistakes from the first round so I was very happy” she added.
The Junior team title went to Zones 1 and 9 who completed on a score of 12 faults. Sara Nordstrom and Conington led the team to victory with a double-clear while Jennifer Gates and Lord Levisto collected just four faults in the second round. McKayla Langmeier and HS Classic Care had just a single fence down each time out while Victoria Arute picked up 17 faults, hampered by a broken hackamore bridle, and then 12 in round two.
Talking about her double-clear, Nordstrom said “it didn’t quite sink in until after I had jumped the last jump each time and it was so, so exciting!”
Zone 5 were just one fault behind in silver medal position. Alec Bozorgi (Navy Blue Tarroy), Kady Abrahamson (Quick Blue Z), Meredith Darst (Zenith Dance) and Vivian Yowan (Vornano van den Hoendrik) finished three faults ahead of the all-male Mexican team who slotted into bronze medal position. Juan Pablo Gaspar Albanez (Puertas So What) was foot-perfect in both rounds while twin brothers Andres and Adrian Berganza faulted just once each time out with Catello 3 and Conovalenco and Santiago Attias Bulhosen and Deluxe Dancer completed the line-up.
It was a big day for the Porter family when brothers Wilson and Lucas Porter claimed Young Rider and Junior Individual Jumping gold.
Lucas was lying second with Phineas as the Junior Individual Final began, and two immaculate rounds with just a single time-fault saw him rise to the top when overnight leaders, Lucy Deslauriers and Hester, made a single mistake in round one. Sophie Simpson and Why Not were one of just two Junior combinations to go double-clear on the last day and subsequently earned Junior Individual bronze.
Newly-crowned gold medallist, 16-year-old Lucas Porter, described his challenge. “The first round was really technical. In the second round there weren’t as many lines, but I knew I couldn’t make any mistakes. I tried to take a few breaths and not get too nervous”. His strategy clearly worked, and then his 20-year-old brother, Wilton Porter, followed suit to take the Young Riders Individual Jumping title.
This was Wilton’s second time at these Championships, so he could feed off the experience gained in 2013. “Last year I think on the team day I definitely let the nerves get to me” he said, “but I was more able to control my nerves this year”. And reflecting on his brother’s similar success he pointed out “it’s unbelievable for one of us to win a gold medal, and for us both to win is amazing and a credit to our parents and supporters!”
Michael Hughes was in the lead as the Young Riders Jumping Final began, but two mistakes in the first round and another four in round two saw him having to settle for silver. The rider already had team bronze in his medal collection said his horse had “been great all week so I’m still really happy”. Victoria Colvin and Chanel B2 added individual bronze to her team silver from earlier in the week.
Area lll claimed Young Riders team gold in Eventing on a final score of 238.9. Lying third of the four competing teams after Dressage, they took the lead on cross-country day and held on for the win in the final Jumping phase. David O’Connor’s cross-country track proved highly influential, and the team gold medallists produced two clear rounds to move them into pole position. “Last year I rode at Young Riders as an Individual and this year I’m lucky enough to ride on a team” said the winning side’s Calvin Ramsey who was one of just four to jump clear and finish cross-country within the time with Flintstar. “You’re not just riding for yourself, you’re riding for the team and it’s not about Individual gold, it’s about Team gold” Ramsey added. And the following day, Ramsey joined team-mate Adrian Jones (Irish Odyssey) to jump double-clear over the coloured poles to seal it. Nicole Doolittle and Tops produced an eight-fault and zero score while Emily Rusinyak and Reatta HW picked up 12 faults before also completing with a clear. It was a weekend of fluctuating fortunes for the eventual gold medallists, but they stuck to their job and didn’t let the pressure get to them.
“My favourite part about being on a team is that even if my rides didn’t go to plan I was able to cheer on my teammates and end up finishing with a medal!” said Jones.
The three-member Areas V and Vl side took silver, Bailey Moran (Loughnatousa Caislean), Katie Resnick (The King’s Spirit) and Alexandra Willoughby (Tiki Car) posting a team score of 258.3. “We all talked about it and were like, alright, let’s put our big girl pants on here because we’re a three-person team, we don’t have a drop score so we all have to ride our best to get on that podium!” Resnick explained. The Canada/Ontario team took bronze despite elimination for Hanny Bundy (D’Jon) and Jamie Kellock (Don’t Blink) on cross-country day while Lauren Clark (Coolumn XV) and April Simmonds (Impressively Done) each held their ground. And Simmonds and her appropriately-named ride, lying sixth after Dressage and in silver medal spot after cross-country day, eventually claimed Individual bronze when collecting four faults on the final afternoon.
Ramsay and Flintstar, who rose from 15th after the opening phase, were lying sixth going into the final afternoon and that double-clear earned individual silver while 21-year-old David Ziegler claimed Individual Young Rider Eventing gold. Leading from the outset with a superb Dressage mark of 46.3 he added nothing in the second phase but had a nerve-wracking jumping round with three fences down. Such was his advantage however that he still finished almost five marks ahead of Ramsay in silver medal spot, and it was an history-making performance from the young Canadian who had also earned Individual silver in pure Dressage earlier in the week - he is the first competitor ever to earn medals in two different disciplines at these Championships. He intends to continue competing in both disciplines as long as he has the horses, seeing where his dressage ride, Peninsula Top Man, can take him while his eventer, Critical Decision is likely to be retiring soon.
The Junior Eventing Team gold medals went to Area ll who completed on a score of 165.9 for the win. Grace Fulton (Wild Orange), Margret Schaeffer (Grey Area), Madeline Mosing (Tako) and Alexis Nelson (Total Eclipse) finished more than 24 marks ahead of the Team silver medalists from Area V, while Area Vlll claimed the bronze.
The eventual champions improved from bronze medal spot after Dressage to forge the lead on cross-country day and added only four faults in the Jumping ring to secure the most convincing of victories. The silver medal side from Area V included Nicole Hatley (Ace), Margaret Stoker (Second Hand Rose), Clara Cargile (White Indian) and Alyssa Phillips (Bliss lll) while the bronze medal team from Area Vlll consisted of Sam Laurel (Baba Creek), Woods Baughman (Trukee Bash), M Paige Pence (Class Action) and Kelly Taylor (Indelibly Irish) who were only six points further adrift. It was double-clears from Pence and Taylor that clinched the bronze for their side. “My round was probably the best I’ve ever had because I have never had a double-clear round...so I was very happy with my horse!” said Taylor.
It was something of a fairytale for team gold medallist Nelson when she also claimed the Individual title with Total Eclipse, a reject from an Appaloosa breeding farm that she bought for $800 and broke herself with the help of trainers. Adding nothing to their dressage score of 49.4 they finished more than five points ahead of 14-year-old Patience O’Neal and Markus from Area Vll and lX who completed one of 10 double-clear performances in the jumping phase to rise from fifth to silver medal spot. “I thought my horse jumped really well. He was really excited, I think because of the big ring, because in the Northwest we really don’t have big arenas” said the rider from Washington. Clara Cargile and White Indian added Individual bronze to their team silver. “I just knew I had to stay forward and keeping thinking positively” she said.
New Junior Individual Eventing champion Nelson, meanwhile, talked fondly of Total Eclipse whose stable-name is Casper. “We went up the levels together with a lot of struggles but also a lot of awesome moments” said the 18-year-old champion. “He is just the coolest guy in the world, and he takes such good care of me!” she added.
There were 14 entries in the FEI North American Young Rider Endurance Championship which took place across the Kentucky Horse Park and surrounding farmland and, after little more than six hours and 14 minutes, it came down to a single second that separated the first and second-place finishers.
Morgan Watson and Cassandra Roberts from the Southeast team cantered the home stretch side by side but it was Watson, riding My Lords Elisha, who crossed the finish line first in a time of 6:14:23 for the gold while Roberts and Golden Lightning finished second in 6:14/24 for Individual silver. Christina Kimery and Selket Da Yankee took Individual bronze when stopping the clock on 6:44:32. Watson and Roberts joined Michael Bishop (Thundering Overtime), Mallory Capps (SA Belshazzar) and Josie Whelan (FFC First Csea Lord) to take Team gold for the Southeast, while the Central team claimed Team silver.
Individual bronze medallist, Kimery, joined Mary Kathryn Clark (Chasing the Wind), Emilynn DiBassie (MK Spyder) and Jessica DiCamillio (SHA Strike Two) for that Team silver, and the Best Condition Award was presented on Sunday to Laconic, ridden by the USA Northeast Combined Team’s Maria Muzzio.
Results-FEI North American Championships for Juniors and Young Riders 2014:
Young Rider Dressage Team Championship: GOLD - Region 7, 206.737: Sunday Boy (Anna Buffini) 68.920, Vaillant (Lindsey Brewin) 65.526, Verdicci (Catherine Chamberlain) 72.132, Grand Makana (Cassidy Gallman) 65.684; SILVER - Canada/Quebec, 201.395: Michaelango (Laurence Blais Tetreault) 65.342, Furstin Anastasia (Julie Channell) 67.053, Nao Guimerale (Naima Moreira Laliberte) 65.763, Action Tyme (Tanya Strasser-Shostak) 68.579; BRONZE - Region 8, 197.026: Lasserre (Giulia Cohen) 65.868, Don Diamond (Hope Cooper) 64.684, Superstarr (Elizabeth Fell) 61.921, Valparaiso (Hannah McCabe) 66.474.
Young Rider Individual Dressage Championship: GOLD - Verdicci (Catherine Chamberlain) 71.789; SILVER - Peninsula Top Man (David Ziegler) 68.289; BRONZE - Don Diamond (Hope Cooper) 67.263.
Young Rider Freestyle Dressage Championship: GOLD - Verdicci (Catherine Chamberlain) 72.525; SILVER - Power Play (Devon Wycoff) 70.975; BRONZE - Michaelango (Laurence Blais Tetreault) 70.625.
Junior Dressage Team Championship: GOLD - Region 1, 199.784: Trustful (Hannah Bauer) 65.189, Feivel Mousekewitz (Barbara Davis) 65.649, FA Patriot (Katie Lang) 61.622, Diamont Sky (Molly Paris) 68.946; SILVER - Canada/Ontario, 197.785: Finja (Vanessa Creech-Terauds) 58.676, Iliado (Alexandra Maghji) 65.649, Frisbee (Sophie Potter) 63.568, Fleurina (Liza Wilson) 68.568; BRONZE - Region 6/7, 196.584: Wyoming (Danielle Bonavito) 68.216, Norra (Heather Decent) 60.108, Lada’at (Lauren Mack) 64.486, Stentano (Olivia Zeilinger) 63.892.
Junior Individual Dressage Championship: GOLD - Lowelas (Camille Bergeron) 70.342; SILVER - Diamant Sky (Molly Paris) 68.868; BRONZE - Iliado ll (Alexandra Meghji) 67.711.
Junior Freestyle Dressage Championship: GOLD - Lowelas (Camille Bergeron) 71.275; SILVER - Velasquer (Cassie Schmidt) 70.725; BRONZE - Diamante Sky (Molly Paris) 69.825.
Young Rider Team Jumping Championship: GOLD - Zone 3, 14 faults: Arwen (Christina Firestone) 4/0, Athena (Chloe Reid) 4/0, Mastermind (KC van Aarem) 5/1, Touluca LS (Alison Cooney) Elim/Elim; SILVER - Zone 4, 35 faults: Chanel B2 (Victoria Colvin) 5/0, Punchy Dorcel (Brittni Raflowitz) 8/1, Urban (Virginia Ingram) 9/14, Quite Dark 2 (Haley Gassel) Elim/12: BRONZE - Zone 2, 37 faults: Luxina (Michael Hughes) 0/0, Cayenne 140 (Victoria Press) 17/4, Sunny Face G (Riley Newsome) 8/8.
Young Rider Individual Jumping Championship: GOLD - Diamonte Darco (Wilton Porter) 10.52: SILVER - Luxina (Michael Hughes) 12.23: BRONZE - Chanel B (Victoria Colvin) 18.01.
Junior Team Jumping Championship: GOLD - Zones 1 and 9, 12 faults: Conington (Sara Nordstrom) 0/0, Lord Levisto (Jennifer Gates) 0/4, HS Classic Care (McKayla Langmeier) 4/4, Aletta (Victoria Arute) 17/12; SILVER - Zone 5, 13 faults: Navy Blue Tarroy (Alec Bozorgi) 0/4, Quick Blue Z (Kady Abrahamson) 6/0, Zenith Dance (Meredith Darst) 0/8, Vornano van den Hoendrik (Vivian Yowan) 5/4; BRONZE - Mexico, 16 faults: Puertas So What (Juan Pablo Gaspar Albanez) 0/0, Catello 3 (Andres Berganza) 4/4, Conovalenco (Adrian Berganza) 4/4, Deluxe Dancer (Santiago Attias Bulhosen) 9/16.
Junior Individual Jumping Championship: GOLD - Phineas (Lucas Porter) 1.65; SILVER - Hester (Lucy Deslauriers) 4.0; BRONZE - Why Not (Sophie Simpson) 5.71.
Young Rider Team Eventing Championship: GOLD - Area lll, 238.9: Realta HW (Emily Rusinyak) 75.00, Irish Odyssey (Adrian Jones) 127.1, Fintstar (Calvin Ramsay) 63.2, Tops (Nicole Doolittle) 100.7; SILVER - Area V & VI, 266.3: Tiki Car (Alexandra Willoughby) 66.7, The King’s Spirit (Katie Resnick) 116.2, Loughnatousa Caislean (Bailey Moran) 83.4; BRONZE - Ontario, 1138.5: Coolumn XV (Lauren Clark) 74.3, Don’t Blink (Jamie Kellock) 1,000, D’Jon (Hanna Bundy) 1,000, Impressively Done (April Simmonds) 64.2.
Young Rider Eventing Championship: GOLD - Critical Decision (David Ziegler) 58.3 ; SILVER - Flintstar (Calvin Ramsay) 63.2; BRONZE - Impressively Done (April Simmonds) 64.2.
Junior Team Eventing Championship: GOLD - Area ll, 165.9: Wild Change (Grace Fulton) 57.9, Grey Area (Margret Schaeffer) 58.6, Tako (Madeleine Mosing) 69.8, Total Eclipse (Alexis Nelson) 49.4; SILVER - Area V, 190.5; Ace (Nicole Hatley) 64.6, Second Hand Rose (Margaret Stocker) 1,000, White Indian (Clara Cargile) 55.2, Bliss lll (Alyssa Phillips) 70.7; BRONZE - Area Vlll, 196.9: Baba Creek (Samantha Laurel) 69.7, Truckee Bash (Woods Baughman) 66.1, Class Action (M Paige Pence) 61.1, Indelibly irish (Kelly Taylor) 82.5.
Junior Individual Eventing Championship: GOLD - Total Eclipse (Alexis Nelson) 49.4; SILVER - Markus (Patience O’Neal) 55.0; BRONZE - White Indian (Clara Cargile) 55.2.
Young Rider Endurance Team Championship: GOLD - Southeast, 19:16:37: Thundering Overtime (Michael Bishop), SA Belshazzar (Mallory Capps), My Lords Elisha (Morgan Watson), FFC First Csea Lord (Josie Whelan), Golden Lightning (Cassandra Roberts); SILVER - Central, 23:01:12: Chasing the Wind (Mary Kathryn Clark), MK Spyder (Emilynn DiBassie), SHA Strike Two (Jessica DiCamillo), Selket Da Yankee (Christine Kimery).
Young Rider Endurance Individual Championship: GOLD - My Lords Elisha (Morgan Watson) 6:14:23; SILVER - Golden Lightning (Cassandra Roberts) 6:14:24; BRONZE - Selket DaYankee (Christina Kimery) 6:44:32.
Best Condition Award: Laconic (Maria Muzzio) USA Northeast Combined Team.