Parker, CO - The Adequan®/FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Championships presented by Gotham North (NAJYRC) continued on at The Colorado Horse Park (CHP) welcoming the third day of championships for athletes competing in the show jumping, dressage, and eventing disciplines.
Nicholas Hansen of Region 1 and mount Ritter Benno secured another mark above 70% this week, receiving a 72.502% from the judging panel to take the USDF North American Junior & Young Rider Dressage Championships Young Rider Individual gold medal.
Nicholas Hansen (21, Catawissa, PA) of Region 1 has had a spectacular week at CHP, piloting his mount Ritter Benno to the two highest scores seen so far this week in the USDF North American Junior & Young Rider Dressage Championships Young Rider classes. Today, the pair earned a 72.502% in the Young Rider Individual Test to take the gold medal, while Rachel Robinson (21, Orlando, FL) of Region 3 guided Indira to a silver medal finish, receiving an overall score of 68.921%. Hometown competitors Lexy Donaldson (18, Littleton, CO) of Region 5 and Power Play rounded out the top three finishers, collecting the bronze medal with a score of 68.053%.
Hansen and Ritter Benno have taken the week by storm, first anchoring Region 1 in the Young Rider Team Test, in which they earned the gold medal, as well as rocketing to the top of the leaderboard in the Young Rider Individual Test. The 2001 Westphalian gelding has proved to be worth his own weight in gold this week, helping Hansen to achieve his dream of standing atop the podium at NAJYRC.
"It honestly hasn't really sunk in yet. For us to be at the very top for the second time this week; it just doesn't feel real. It's something that I think I can speak on behalf of almost all riders that are here; this is something that takes so much work," commented Hansen. "I just can't thank everyone enough who has helped me get here but I also can't thank the horse enough."
"If he were a human, he would give the best hugs," smiled Hansen, when describing the personality and traits of Ritter Benno. "Honestly, he's the happiest horse who always tries 100% ever single day and never gives up. It's a pleasure and an honor to be able to ride him."
The pair have had a tumultuous go over the past four years, as Ritter Benno was given a poor diagnosis on his potential return to top competition after sustaining a serious injury. Hansen, not willing to give up on his dreams, rehabilitated Ritter Benno, navigating him back through the ranks of dressage and ultimately guiding him to their two gold medals this week.
"Being able to put him slowly back into work, have him actually feel better than before he went lame, and get here after being told that your horse probably won't be able to work again is something that is amazing," he explained. "It honestly is. I would like to thank the vets who did what they did to get the horse to where he is now. My horse in particular he has such a big heart and such a hard worker. He's just such a happy horse."
The pair excelled in their trot work, scoring above the expectations of Hansen, although he anticipated improvement as it is what the pair have been focusing on in the months leading up to the event. He commented, "My favorite part of the ride today was the trot work. It's something we've really been working on over the last couple of months and it felt really great to be able to sit the trot and have it be so adjustable."
The three riders discussed the different mentality needed to switch from a team competition atmosphere back to an individual one, as they now turn their focus to the final class of the week in the Young Rider Freestyle.
"I was really happy with my canter work today, especially the one tempis because we hit all of the counts," said Donaldson. "I went into both tests knowing that I had to just try my best, because I knew that Player was behind me and I wanted whatever happened to be successful. He tried his heart out."
Robinson, who earned her first medal of the week in the Young Rider Individual Test aboard Indira, found herself overjoyed with emotion at the conclusion of their test, which she noted was the best of their career together.
"This test today was most likely the best test I've ever had in my entire life. I actually came out crying, which never happens for a good reason," she laughed. "It was pretty incredible. Her canter work was just super on point to the aids. She was engaged and beautiful. It was definitely the best ride we've had together."