Lexington, KY - It was dueling dressage riders today in the gleaming parallel lines set on the field of the Kentucky Horse Park's new Main Stadium. Junior competitors (ages 14-18) and Young Riders (ages 16-21) performed side-by-side to kick off the 2010 Adequan FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Championships presented by Gotham North.
Today's event, The Platinum Performance/USDF Dressage Championship Team Test represented day one of the five-day competition, held for the second consecutive year at the Kentucky Horse Park, venue for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games coming September 25-October 10.
When all the half-passes and flying changes were executed, it was a rousing chorus of Oh, Canada, as the Junior team from Canada/BC reigned supreme. Esmee Ingham, 17, aboard Norseman; Sylvie Fraser, 17, and World Star LHF; and Monica Houweling, 17 aboard Stentano earned a combined score of 201.297 to capture the Gold medal in the Junior test event.
Ingham and Norseman also posted one of the highest scores of the day, a 69.027. As temperatures soared by mid-afternoon, "We got really hot and tired during the warm-up," noted Ingham, "and my coach asked me if I had just 10 more minutes in me," she laughed.
"I was thrilled with him and his performance, and I'm feeling really confident about tomorrow," added Ingham of her 14-year-old Swedish Warmblood. "He was a little lazy in the warm-up, but as soon as we walked down into the stadium, he perked up for me. He was on the edge, and I was able to contain it."
"I was absolutely amazed with my horse in the test today," added Houweling of Stentano, an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood. "This is the highest score I've gotten all season. I was just amazed at how well it went."
Fraser, a second-time competitor at NAJYRC, noted also that she was "very pleased with my horse's test overall. Worldstar is only seven. There were a few challenges, but we managed to maintain it throughout."
Earning the Silver medal in the Junior test today was the U.S. Region 7 team of Meg Adams on N.A.S.H.; Stephanie Early on Panash; and Jaimie Pestana with Winzalot. One of the day's highest Individual scores (69.459) was earned by Jamie Pestana on Winzalot. Together, the team earned a total score of 197.783.
And taking the Bronze Medal was U.S. Region 3/4 combined with riders Clare Krska on Romincka; Alexandra Kitchen on Ronaldo; Rebecca Cohen aboard Downtown; and Stephanie Bedford and Wahlen. "To be here with fellow teammates and good friends is just so exciting," added Gold medalist Ingham.
In the Young Riders competition, the U.S.'s Region 5/6 combined team ruled. Teammates Jhesika Wells aboard Intrepid; Brandi Roenick with Nobel; Madeleine Birch with Starlight; and Laura DeCesari on Cheenook II, earned a total of 199.842 to capture the Gold medal. "This was my first time showing FEI and coming to Young Riders in the Horse Capital of the World," said Wells, who piloted the 20-year Dutch Warmblood Intrepid to a score of 69.263. "It was pretty amazing to be here." And if having another rider in the ring next door was a distraction, Roenick quickly quipped: "I was just too hot to notice anything in the other arena!"
The Gold medalists, as well as many other team members, were very moved by the fact that they were showing in the same venue that would host the WEG just a little later this year. "Walking down that tunnel and walking in and see that huge grandstand," said Birch, "and it really hits you." Added DeCesari, "It's such an honor to be here."
The Silver medal went to the Canada/Ontario team of Megan Lane and Caravella; Jaimie Holland aboard Fleurina; Amy Jager with Key West; and Maura O'Sullivan riding Pik Czar with an overall score was 198.421.
Lastly, the Bronze medal went to the U.S. Region4/8 combined team consisting of riders Hans Baertsch aboard Rubinstar GB; Tessa Dick with Lord Chalk Hill; Mary Bahniuk Lauritsen with Rossignol-ISF; and Meagan Davis riding Bentley.
The NAJYRC features riders from North America, and is considered an important contributor to future international competitions such as the Olympic Games and World Cup Finals.
Later that afternoon, the top Junior and Young Riders were officially welcomed to the 2010 championships and to the KHP with a festive opening ceremony. After each team was welcome with Olympic pageantry, national anthems were played and nations' flags were raised.
The Kentucky Horse Park's Chief Executive John Nicholson office then welcomed visitors and competitors alike as new members of the Kentucky Horse Park. The Park, he said, "is now a sacred place on Earth that reveres the horse. I invite you all to make it your home."
Welcome also came from USEF CEO John Long, who noted that the NAJYRC is the event "I most look forward to and I am happy to see it to return to the Park each year because it's about our continent." Long also gave a shout out to families and friends of all the competitors for their continued support, and he left the riders with one last bit of advice: "Do your best, be safe, and have fun."
The 2010 Adequan FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Championships presented by Gotham North continues tomorrow with Individual dressage competition and Team final in reining.
For more information, please visit www.youngriders.org.
Photos: Gold Junior medalists from Team/BC - Esmee Ingham, Sylvie Fraser and Monica Houweling. Photo by SusanJStickle.com.
Gold Young Rider medalists from the Region 5/6 - Madeleine Birch, Laura DeCasari, Brandi Roerich and Jhesika Wells. Photo by SusanJStickle.com.