Morgan Heinrichs Rides to Gold in Junior Freestyle Championship

On the Scene at the 2008 North American Junior and Young Rider Championships

Morgan Heinrichs and Orlando beat out some tough competition to take the gold medal in the Junior Freestyle Championships at the 2008 North American Junior and Young Rider Championships. The pair took the gold with a score of 71.90 percent.

This is the 16-year-old's first year competing at the NAJYRC and she was rather surprised at her freestyle victory. "I was hopeful, but I didn't really imagine this happening." Part of the reason she was surprised is that she has only been riding Orlando, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding sired by Rohdiamant, since February.

"We really started bonding through the whole qualifying process. Our first couple of shows weren't that good. So, I'm really happy with how much we've improved together," said Heinrichs, who trains with Jenny Baldwin. "We're still getting to know each other and I didn't really imagine that they could get here. So, I'm really proud of him. Overall, today he felt really good. He was really energetic and excited."

Her strategy going into the freestyle competition was simply "not to get nervous but to just have fun."

Following close behind Heinrichs to earn the silver medal was McKenzie Jenkins, 15, riding Tsarina Bint RII, a 12-year-old Polish Arabian/Thoroughbred mare. Riding to music from the film, A Thomas Crown Affair she earned a score of 70.90 percent. Her strategy was similar to that of Heinrichs – stay calm. "We just wanted to have fun and had a great day."

Taking the bronze medal in the Junior Freestyle was Mackinzie Pooley, 15, riding Jonkara and earning a score of 69.45 percent. This was Pooley's second time at the NAJYRC. She competed last year and also took the bronze in the freestyle and in individual competition with Jonkara, a 17-year-old Oldenburg mare.

"I'm really excited," Pooley said of her bronze medal. She said that over the past year, she and her mare have "focused on making things more consistent and working together better as a team." When asked her feeling about attending this year's NAJYRC, Pooley said she most loved having the chance to mingle with riders in the other disciplines and she highly recommends the NAJYRC for junior riders. "It's an awesome program and it really helps you move to the next level in your riding."