In the Young Rider division, three Region 7 and California Dressage Society members took one last dance in the Rolex Stadium. As the setting sun cast a warm glow through the retreating storm clouds, Kelli Newton riding Luciano and Jaclyn Pepper with Taboo performed beautiful tests to finish in eighth and ninth place, respectively. But perhaps the most moving moment of the evening was the final performance of Mackinzie Pooley's 20-year-old partner, Jonkara. Riding to music from movie "Slumdog Millionaire," Pooley was rewarded for a gutsy ride with the Bronze Medal in their last appearance together. "My horse was amazing," she explained. "Since it was our last time, we really went for it because we had nothing to lose."
On Sunday, competitors gathered outside the stadium for the final time to attend closing ceremonies and prepare for their journeys home. Region 7 riders admitted that leaving is bittersweet. "NAJYRC has been the most amazing experience," said Stephanie Early. "We all so looked forward to coming, and now we have to go home and back to reality." Green fields, white fences, beautiful barns, foggy mornings, southern hospitality, and streets named after famous horses were all named by team members as things they'll remember about Kentucky. Each rider also has a special NAJYRC moment that is foremost in her mind:
Morgan Wolfe: "That special moment right before you enter the ring for your first test."
Stephanie Early: "Last Friday at 3:30am when we saw our horses arrive here and step off the van."
Maggie Charbonnet: "I had so much fun taking a polo lesson on Saturday morning!"
Leah Myers: "The first time I rode down the ramp into the Rolex Stadium."
Kelli Newton: "Having my family and friends fly in to be here, and riding my Individual Test on Thursday - that test was really fun."
Mackinzie Pooley: "My final ride with Jonkara in the freestyle."
Ari Lopez: "Flying here on the plane with my horse was the most amazing experience."Jaclyn Pepper: "Just getting to compete here at NAJYRC was so special."
While traveling by air or by land, the horses of Region 7 embark on their journey west on Monday, with the exception of Ari Lopez and Corlander II, who will remain on the East Coast in preparation for their next adventure, the USEF Festival of Champions in Gladstone, NJ. While the riders may now go their separate ways to school or college, to another competition, or to take time off from showing to train for the next level, they all leave the NAJYRC with unforgettable experiences and knowledge gained. "A friend reminded me of a great quote: 'it's not about winning, it's about overcoming your adversaries and conquering your fears that makes a true champion'," noted Ari Lopez. Young rider team mate Jaclyn Pepper believes that everyone now has a better appreciation for what being on a team really means. "We learned to work together as a team, and had to come together and be there for each other," said Pepper. Junior competitor Leah Myers was careful about placing too much emphasis on final results. "You can't get caught up in just the score," she explained. "It doesn't always truly reflect your ride - you have to think about how that test felt to you." Mackinzie Pooley agreed. "No matter how the competition goes, it's most important to just be proud of how you did."
Complete scores and placings for all tests and individual horses and riders are available at this link: http://www.youngriders.org/Results.aspx.