Post Cards from Young Riders

Since 1998 I have been writing Post Cards from Young Riders. What started as a casual e-mail to my mother chronicling my adventures and impressions has turned into an annual, more formal story of the North American Junior & Young Rider Championships that is widely distributed.

Although Larry (Langer) and I arrived on Monday, show jumping competition did not get underway until today.

The NAJYRC is one of the final competitions at the Kentucky Horse Park before the World Equestrian Games, and things are very busy both at the Horse Park and throughout Lexington (KY). Roads leading to the Park are being widened and bleachers are being erected.

Over the past week horses have shipped in, riders and coaches appeared, and the officials are gathering from around the world. One of my favorite aspects of Young Riders is working with officials from a number of different countries. Annual friendships are renewed, and we spend time catching up on one another’s families and life events. I also really enjoy having all the disciplines running concurrently. I just wish Reining was not at the other side of the Park. The cowboys are hot.

Because we are sharing the main stadium with Dressage, we are in for some late nights. However, it will be a little cooler for the horses and riders, and we’ve been lucky so far. The weather cooled from the stifling temperatures of a week ago, and this California girl is not accustomed to the humidity. Fortunately, a breeze has kicked up these past two days.

We got underway this afternoon about 4:00 with the Juniors, and Olaf Petersen, Jr. built a challenging track. In this Championship, the first round for both Juniors and Young Riders is judged as a speed round, but the course is big and the track is long. Clear rounds were hard to come by and four fault penalties were common throughout the class.

Frances Land (Zone 4) set a blistering pace on Merlin, and she attempted an acute slice at the narrow oxer, which Merlin could not negotiate. Demonstrating great focus, Frances spun around, hopped over the oxer, and continued on. In this scoring format no penalties are assessed for the stop, only the time taken, and Frances finished on a time of 80.41. None of the thirty other riders were able to best Land’s score. Kendall Skreden (Zone 10), who is making her first appearance at Young Riders, posted the first clear round of the day and finished with a time of 91.11, which put her in fourth overall.

Two Canadians from Alberta (Canada) finished second and third. Jasmine Wiggins and Little Milton blazed around in a time of 85.34, while her fellow countryman Ben Asselin piloted Lolita to a time of 90.06. Three riders with only one time fault took the next three spots. Audrey Coulter (Zone 10) was only .32 over the time allowed with Rodenburghs California (5th), Abigail McArdle (Zone 5) and Sacha 12 finished 6th, and Rachel Schnurr (Ontario, CAN) and Magic Jumper were the last of the riders with just a time fault and finished 7th.

The fast four fault riders finished in the last three ribbon placings: Cayla Richards (Zone 10), Meg O’Mara (Zone 2), and Brett Gage (Zone 7). The other two riders from Zone 10, Jocelyn Neff and Lindsay Douglass, finished out of the ribbons but with only four faults each.

After a course change and walk, we moved on to the Young Riders. The scoring changes, with faults converted into time. Because this is an FEI Championship, a little more math occurs and after a multiplier is applied to the times, the fastest time finishes with a score of zero and the remaining riders receive points based on the difference of their score to the leader’s score.

Again, clear rounds were hard to come by. Richard Neal (Zone 10) and Cavaliers Tommy Tank held on to the lead for awhile despite a rail on the course. Marshall White (Alberta, CAN) and Quinland edged Neal for the lead, but then Mexican rider Alberto Balas took the lead with Sylvana and for much of the class it looked like he couldn’t be beat. For most of the 42 riders, Balas’ time looked to be the winner. However, late in the class Reed Kessler (Zone 2) and Quinlan blazed around the course. It looked they were going to leave all the rails up in a very fast time. At the end of the course, finishing with the 12A and 12B combination, Reed pulled both rails. But her speedy time propelled her to the top of the class despite the rails.

Alberto was relegated to second, and Marshall finished third. Overall the Zone 10 riders did quite well with three riders in the top ten. Richard finished fourth, Alec Lawler sat seventh and Taylor Seibel rounded out the top ten. Saer Coulter finished 16th after Chalan pulled two rails, and Lucy Davis had an uncharacteristic refusal with Nemo 119. However, her quick thinking kept her in the game and they finished 25th.

Because of the way the scoring works, Reed now carries zero penalties, while Alberto has .16 and Marshall has .45. In fact, the top ten are separated by just a time fault. This is the slimmest margin in years. Often the leader has a rail in hand over the top riders, but not this year. With so many riders separated by just fractions, Reed can nary afford a mistake.

Individual medals will be determined after five challenging rounds, with the second and third composing tomorrow night’s Team Championship, which runs under a Nations Cup format. Ralph Caristo (Chef d’Equipe) brought a veteran Zone 2 team, and on the left coast the Zone 10 team is champing at the bit to regain the gold medal they lost last year. However, neither team can afford to discount the six other U.S. teams, along with those from Canada and Mexico. Competition will be fierce tomorrow night.

Full results are available on the NAJYRC website at