Lexington, KY - The show jumpers and reiners finished today by naming two new individual gold medalists each at the 2012 Adequan/FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Championships presented by Gotham North (NAJYRC), which conclude tomorrow at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY. Kilian McGrath and Abigail McArdle took gold in the Young Rider and Junior Show Jumping divisions respectively. The Show Jumping was sponsored by the United States Hunter Jumper Association.
In the SmartPak Reining Individual Championship, Reed Kyle was gold in the Young Riders, while the Junior gold medal went to Haley Franc. Five disciplines (a total of 9 championships for juniors and young riders) took 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.
Showing poise and strength under pressure, the three medalists in the Junior Show Jumping Championship all went double clear today. The top 25 returned for the first round, while the field was narrowed to the top 15 in the second round.
Gold medalist Abigail McArdle (18, Barrington, IL) and Cosma 20, a nine-year-old Hanoverian mare by Couleur Rubin x Shakira, showed phenomenal consistency and did not put one foot wrong through five rounds. They ended on a score of zero. "It's such an honor to be here. I'm beyond happy," she said. "I thrive under pressure and so does my horse. In the last round, it was significantly easier than the other (round). It was a matter of holding it together and not doing anything stupid. I was nervous, but it turned out well."
McArdle trains with Katie and Henri Prudent, who also coach Olympian Reed Kessler. Since they are preparing for the approaching Olympic Games, McArdle worked with Frank Madden at the NAJYRC. McArdle felt that her preparation and showing at Spruce Meadows helped Cosma 20 with experience and peaking at the right time for the NAJYRC. "I felt super comfortable going into here," she agreed.
Although Cosma 20 is young, McArdle has "never really had a horse quite like her." She described, "She's great to ride, she has a great personality, and she's so careful. Any mistake I make or rails we have, she learns from every experience and only becomes better. She's a great type for this many rounds; she's always hot and has energy. She jumped better each round. She showed herself to me by being so successful in Spruce Meadows that she has a lot of potential."
With her barn mate heading to the Olympics, McArdle has dreams of representing the United States in the Games as well. "I think this competition is a wonderful format to get you ready for something like that," she explained. "It's really an honor to have this event here getting you ready for such things."
When both Shawn Casady (18, Harriman, TN) and Charlotte Jacobs (17, East Aurora, NY) went double clear, they knew it would come down to a jump-off to determine who would get silver and who would take bronze. Jacobs was the first to return in the jump-off on Kachina, a 14-year-old Selle Francais mare by Voltaire x Coline Star. They tried to turn on the speed early, but a rail fell for four faults and they finished in a time of 37.85 seconds.
Casady and Zubantos, an eight-year-old KWPN gelding by Namelus R x Zabanta, had to put in another clear round to win outright, and they did just that. The amiable Casady said he was "planning for a jump-off" before it happened because the top riders were so close.
Having gotten the ride on Zubantos this winter, Casady was grateful for the opportunity to compete with him at the NAJYRC. The horse came from grand prix rider Margie Engle, and Casady's trainers, Ken and Emily Smith, thought the horse would work well for him. The DeMartini family of Elm Rock LLC purchased Zubantos and gave Casady the ride. "I have to say a huge thanks to everyone who put that together for me. They all have been right there for me all year with this special horse. It's a huge opportunity for me," he acknowledged.
To receive an individual medal is a rare thing, and for Jacobs, it felt incredible. "I was hoping I could stay consistent and jump clear. I went in and had to go first (of the four-faulters in the second round) and jumped clear. I knew I would have a medal and was super happy," she said.
Describing her jump-off round, she said, "I've shown against (Shawn) a lot and know he goes fast. I really took a shot and ended up having one down, but I'm very happy with how it went. Every single round she jumped better and better."
In the Young Rider Individual Championship, no one was able to produce a totally clear round. However, one time fault in the first round helped Kilian McGrath to the gold medal. McGrath came into today's competition on 15.92 faults and sat in fifth place, had one in the first round, and added six faults in the second round to finish on 22.92 faults.
Eighteen-year-old McGrath, who hails from Westlake Village, CA, and trains with Karen Healey, didn't consider winning the gold medal coming into today. "I was hoping I'd make top three at the most," she revealed. "I honestly was shocked when they said that I won. I asked Karen if this was real. I've only dreamed of getting a gold medal. I never thought it would happen this quickly. I just tried to be as consistent as possible and it worked out. I'm maybe not as qualified as most riders, but I had a good horse."
The golden pair have been together just since the beginning of the year. They did their first grand prix this year, which was "a good confidence boost" before coming to NAJYRC. "He's one of the most amazing horses I've ever ridden," McGrath said of Salerno, a 13-year-old KWPN gelding by Indorado x Larena. "He's really smart, really forgiving and really athletic."
Callie Smith (18, Bernardsville, NJ) and Upstaire, an 11-year-old KWPN gelding by Gran Corrado x Ralmetaire, had only eight faults coming into today, but added another eight in round one. In round two, Smith was the final rider on course. She had a rail in hand, but when she lowered the second to last jump, it all came down to the final oxer. Smith was galloping to make the time, and Upstaire couldn't quite clear the final fence. Another eight faults in the second round gave them a total of 24 and the silver medal.
"I didn't want to come in and underestimate the course like I did yesterday," Smith explained. "I came in with different mindset. (In the last round), I probably could have taken extra time where I had my first rail. I thought if I could ride well it would be okay, but it fell apart at the end."
Smith feels that the NAJYRC helps riders prepare for the next level in their equestrian career. She said, "Young Riders is the precursor for any larger event. We learn so much here, especially as a team event. If you want to go to Olympic level or show (for the team) in Europe, you have to do something like this and be prepared."
Lydia Ulrich (18, Rochester, NY) entered the first round today sitting in eighth place. She and Santos Utopia, a 13-year-old KWPN gelding by Nevado 21 x Kitty Utopia, had 18.28 faults and added four in the first round and five in the second round for a total of 27.28 faults and the bronze medal. She said, "The first round was pretty technical. I knew going into it I had to be extra careful." Of the tight time in the second round course, she noted, "I lost time in the beginning of the course. You had to try and go fast without going too fast."
She added, "There were a lot of changes on the leader board today. I realized that and I was more nervous going into the second round." Ulrich agreed on the preparation that young riders get at this event. "The whole system is a great stepping stone on having a career. It's a really good opportunity for us to go on at this level."
Reiners Slide, Stop, and Spin to Gold
The 2012 NAJYRC will go down in history as one the most exciting in the sport of Reining. Sponsored by SmartPak, today's Individual Final was hotly contested in both Juniors and Young Riders.
Reiners Slide, Stop, and Spin to Gold
The exciting gold-medal effort in the Young Rider division was Reed Kyle of Whitesboro, TX, with an outstanding run aboard A Ruf Gal, an American Quarter Horse owned by his father and Chef d'Equipe Pete Kyle. The final competitor to go in the class because of his high score in the Team Championship, the jury rewarded his technical superiority with a soaring high score of 218.5, a full four and a half points ahead of the next contender.
A gold medal in the Team and Individual makes Reed Kyle double-gold for the 2012 NAJYRC, an incredible accomplishment. Ever-composed, Kyle complimented the riders who competed just prior to him in his biggest competition as he made final preparations for his winning ride.
"This was an incredible experience. I'm really happy my horse and I did so well, and a little sad that I don't get to come back next year," said Kyle, referring to his last year as an age-eligible Young Rider.
Kyle (21) said of A Ruf Girl, "I give all credit to my horse. That is one of my higher scores that I've had. She's just an all-around great horse. She spins harder in the pen than she does anywhere else. Going in the spin, she'll just whip on around. You just lay reins over on her and she spins. I feel like that's one of her stronger points."
Silver medalist Laura Sumrall (19) of Summitt, MS, riding Einsteins Fancy Pine is an annual favorite at these Championships and also had an exceptionally good run just a few riders prior to Kyle, making for excitement as the high marks kept coming in. Scoring 214, Sumrall was also a full four points ahead of the third place rider, demonstrating the true achievement of the two top slots. Sumrall immediately congratulated her peer and friend Reed Kyle when the final scores were announced in a display of her usual high sportsmanship.
Sumrall rode her Einsteins Fancy Pine, a horse she has had for two years, to the silver medal. "I couldn't be happier. Today has been a very good day on all accounts. For my mare, she was good across the board. (Usually) her strongest point is her stops, but today I'll have to go with her spins. We struggled with it in the past, but we've worked on it. She gave me the best spins she's ever laid out for me."
It was another NAJYRC veteran Jake Letner (19, Harris, MO) in bronze with a score of 210.00 riding A Genuine Diamond. "He's about automatic," Letner described. "I just sit up there and look pretty. I don't do that very good so he has to pull double duty! 'Red' is by far a strong stopper; that's his claim to fame. He gave me all he had today."
For the Juniors, the maple-leaf rose to the top during the raising of the flags, and earning the top of the podium was Haley Franc (14, Prince Albert, SK, CAN) showing her Jacs Shy Boy to a 212 score and earning the beautiful Adequan prize cooler. She remarked, "I'd definitely say this is my best win. It's really big for me. He's just a great horse to ride through the pattern and I couldn't be any happier."
New to the NAJYRC but following in his brother Jonathan's Young Rider footsteps, in silver was 13-year-old Stephen Timberlake of Memphis, TN, riding Whiz Bang Boom and earning a score of 207. Timberlake said of his experience at NAJYRC, "There's nothing else like it to be here. You get to see everyone, all different disciplines, and it's a place for everyone to come and show what they have. It's just amazing."
Bronze was earned by Kaylan Marks (17, Yorktown, TX) aboard Sparts Electricspark riding to a 205.5 score and clinching the remaining podium position. Marks has owned her six-year-old Quarter Horse mare for nine months. "She's just a great overall horse," Marks said. "She's really relaxed, so easy going, and very personable. Her strengths are definitely her stops. She can drag her butt! Her rollbacks, you just pick her up and set her right back on the track. That's her highlight."
As the curtain closes on the 2012 SmartPak Reining Championships, a renewed energy charges the sport of Reining. It is the promise of these Juniors and Young riders, their incredible runs and the consistent elevation of quality that is most notable for the sport over the five years of inclusion in these continental championships. Although hard to imagine, 2013 will surely bring even better quality from the sport. The championships are an incredible development ground for the sport's young and future super stars.
Eventing Finishes Cross Country Phase
The CCI2* eventers completed the second phase of their competition today over the fantastic cross country course designed by Olympic gold medalist David O'Connor. Currently leading the team standings is Area VI, VII & IX. On the team with the lowest penalties is Kendyl Tracy on Ever So Lucky. They had no jump or time penalties and stayed on their dressage score of 53.3 penalties to lead the individual standings as well. Joining her on the team is current third place individual rider Lizzie Snow on Coal Creek, who had zero jump penalties and 4.4 time penalties to finish on 55.1. Sarah Braun and Perfect Intentions finished with no penalties over cross country and have 59.8 penalties to date, while Teresa Harcourt and Bonza Twist of Fate are on 62.3 penalties.
Area II, III & IV are currently in the second place spot for the team competition, while Ontario & Quebec are in third. The current second place individual is Connor Husain of Area II, III & IV, who rode Piece of Hope to no jump or time penalties and stands on 53.9 total penalties.
In the CCI1* competition, the leading team is the Canadian team from Ontario, who has two of the top three riders in the individual standings. Standing in second is Kylie Figueira on Danzig. They had no jump or time penalties and have a total of 49.6 penalties. Haley Armstrong-Laframboise and Roksolana are in third with 51.2 penalties after they finished cross country with zero time and jump penalties. The other team members are Daria Ivandaeva and Autorytet, who finished with 56 penalties after they picked up 1.6 time penalties on the cross country course, and Charlotte Evans on Mail Order Bride (zero time and jump penalties), who have 59.8 total penalties.
Leading the individual standings is Victoria New of Area V. New and Fleeceworks Mystere du Val have just 48.5 penalties after they cleared cross country with no penalties. They are on the Area V team, who stands in second place. Third in the team standings is Area III.
The eventers will finish tomorrow with the stadium jumping phase to determine the team and individual medalists.
Tomorrow's competition concludes with the final phase for Eventing, stadium jumping, and the team and individual champions will be named. The Closing Ceremonies will honor all of the medal winners and competitors at the NAJYRC.
All of the action in the Rolex Stadium tomorrow will be broadcast live on 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.
Photos: Abigail McArdle (Zone 5) aboard Cosma 20 take the Gold medal in the Junior Individual Show Jumping (Sportfot); Reed Kyle and A Ruf Gal (Waltenberry)