The endurance team gold medal went to Canada this year with three teammates riding purebred Arabians. In a great show of team unity, all three members crossed the finish line together. In official times, Lee Hutton and Parker AES finished in seven hours and 33 seconds, Emma Webb and Serloki in seven hours and 34 seconds, and Jessica Yavis and Jahlad in seven hours and 35 seconds. Chef d'Equipe Maura Leahy noted that the overcast weather helped the team by providing a better environment for racing.
Emma Webb (18 Flesherton, ON, CAN), borrowed her horse from American endurance rider Jan Worthington. "My horse felt really good all day," she said. "There are not very many of us (on the team), so it's hard to get a team together and get all of us to finish."
Jessica Yavis (16, Winfield, AB, CAN) rode her own horse and despite a slip where they almost fell on Loop 3, she finished strong. "It scared me pretty bad, so I went to check with the team vet," she explained. "I decided to back off after that. He's fine now; it's just a little scrape. I've been riding my horse for eight years, so I know him pretty well. I keep in check with him all the time. I take the vet's advice and go from there."
Yavis added, "I'm so glad that we finished as a team yesterday."
Hutton echoed the team sentiments, "It was awesome crossing the finish line together. We talked about it before. We decided if we met out on the trail, we'd stick together. We kept our pace and rode it smart to complete everybody. We would not have any of the speeds or completion rates if we had no crew. They're amazing and don't get nearly enough credit. There should be enough medals for everybody." The 20-year-old from Chesterville, Ontario, Canada showed here last year and won the silver medal at the 2009 NAJYRC when endurance was a USEF rated competition.
In the Individual Endurance championships, it was 20-year-old Katherine Gardner of Coventry, RI, who rode AF Big Bucks owned by Pam Wydell to victory. The pair were able to complete the 120 km race in 6 hours, 11 minutes, and 48 seconds.
"My ride went really well. I went into it mostly because I wanted a completion, to do well but get across the finish line making sure my horse is okay. Along the way, we still had a lot of horse left and he was doing really well," Gardener explained of her race performance.
AF Big Bucks is an experienced endurance horse who has set record times in shorter races. Gardener rode him in a 120 km race a few months ago, but this is only their second big competition together. "He knows how to race and do well," she described. "When he comes into the hold, he knows to chill and relax and conserve energy. His pulse is down within seconds. That's his biggest strength, is pulsing down."
Since the endurance race at NAJYRC is an FEI four-star rated competition (for the first time in NAJYRC history), it will dramatically help the young riders that finished the race. By having this four-star qualification, they will be able to compete in more international competitions.
Also competing at the NAJYRC this week were three members from the American team that traveled to Abu Dhabi to ride in the Young Rider World Endurance Championship this past December. Under the guidance of Chef d'Equipe Emmett Ross, they posted amazing results by placing fourth out of 29 teams from all over the world.
Joining Mary Kathryn Clark and Kelsey Russell in Abu Dhabi last year was NAJYRC silver medalist Kelsey Kimbler (19, Aberdeen, SD). Here at the NAJYRC, Kimbler rode Fringant and finished in six hours, 11 minutes, and 49 seconds.
Fringant was also named the "Best Conditioned Horse" of the event. "I think conformationally he is very correct, which has helped him stay sound in the races. He has a very big heart," Kimbler said.
Kimbler has ridden Fringant since he was three years old. "He's the first horse that we've had since he was a baby and we've been able to bring him up and do our own training. It's been very rewarding. I know he has a lot of potential; this was his personal best and my personal best."
The bronze medal went to 15-year-old Cassandra Roberts of Bronson, FL. Roberts and C A Classy Marina ( a three-quarters Arabian, one-quarter Saddlebred horse) have been together for three years. "We had a good plan," Roberts said. "The weather didn't change the plan. She went how she normally goes and I let her do her own thing."
With the three NAJYRC medalists and the two riders that competed in Abu Dhabi, the American endurance team's future is very strong. Ross said, "All of these young ladies are the future of our sport. I expect to have at least one of them on the World Equestrian Games team two years from now."
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.
Photo: Team Canada takes the Gold in Endurance ( Brant Gamma Photography)