Region 7, California's Dressage Gold Medal-Winning Young Rider Team - CN North American Junior and Young Riders

Region 7, California's Dressage Gold Medal-Winning Young Rider Team

There’s no doubt about it. The California team that nabbed the NAJRC Young Rider Dressage Team Gold Medal is a real team. There were no individual egos here. The riders worked together. Their trainers worked together and their parents worked together.

“It was easy being chef d’equipe,” said team leader Liz Hendrix. “It was an amazing group that worked together – from the riders to the trainers to the parents. There were no problems.”

The Gold Medal-winning team from Region 7, all from California, consisted of Jaclyn Meinen, of Dana Point, riding Rockette DG, Emily Tears, of Rancho Santa Margarita, riding Luciano; Amanda Harlan, of St. Helena, riding Liberte; and Crystalyn Hoffman, of Santa Clara, riding Diamo 10. The teams total winning score was 204.223 points.

The riders were a team long before they ever arrived at the Championships. Karen Ball, who trains Tears, said they were in constant contact with one another months before the competition. “There aren’t enough words to express what an experience it is to be with such a great group of girls. They were on the phone constantly with one another, sharing laughter and support.”

Region 7, California's Dressage Gold Medal-Winning Young Rider Team

Opportunities and Support From Trainers

Amanda Harlan and Jaclyn Meinen had been to the NAJYRC last year, so they had experience and were able to share it with the others. Harlan said the previous trip made this one much easier for her. “I knew the layout of the place and what to expect and that made it less stressful. Last year, no one on our team had been here before so we had no idea what would happen.”

Were it not for such a broad team effort, two of the members would have never competed. Emily Tears, 21, owns a seven-year-old Holsteiner gelding named Lopaca (Lorentin x Lagos) that wasn’t ready for the qualifying competitions. Hence, Karen Ball gave her the ride on the 13-year-old Luciano (Lasandos x Libretto) back in February so she could qualify.
PhelpsPhoto: Emily Tears and Lopaca

“It was kind of a last minute decision,” Ball said. “I injured myself in December and couldn’t ride. When I found out that Emily was turning 21 this year and this would be her last chance to go to the Championships, we realized we had to push on and make it happen this year. I wanted her to have the chance to live the dream I never had.”

And a dream come true it was for Tears. “It was an incredible experience. Everyone has been so great and I couldn’t have asked to be part of a better team,” she said.

Jaclyn Meinen Gets a Leg Up and a Ride on Rockette

Jaclyn Meinen also made the team thanks to the support of others. She competed in the Championships last year with her own horse, Rivaal. But when Rivaal was unable to compete in this year’s qualifiers because of an injury, Meinen’s trainer, David Wightman offered another horse, but when it didn’t pass the FEI jog at a qualifying competition in Los Angeles, the 19-year-old should have been out of the running. “But walking back from the jog, Sandy Harper turned to me and said, ‘You can have Rockette.’”

That started a one-month crash course in how to ride the 15.3-hand, nine-year-old Dutch mare so the pair could make the next qualifier in Del Mar, California. Once they made it, Whiteman donated six months of free training to help Meinen prepare for the Championships with Rockette (Ferro out of Alona).

“Just to be able to be part of this is amazing,” Meinen said. “Everyone pulled together. I couldn’t be more thankful. This whole thing was unbelievable.”

Amanda Harlan Gives Credit , Where Credit is Due

Her words were echoed by teammate Amanda Harlan, 17. “This whole experience has been amazing. My teammates, my family, my trainers have all been great and the week has gone by so fast,” she said. “I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.” She also had high praise for her horse, the 13-year-old Dutch gelding Liberte (Fleming out of Ezelina). “He’s such a good boy and I’m so thankful to have him. He gives his heart and soul.”

Harlan trains with Jan Ebeling and Sue Curry. Ebeling was part of the team of trainers backing up the Gold Medal-winning group. And he couldn’t stop talking about how much of a team this group had become. “The most wonderful thing was how much this team pulled together and got along. And I’m not just saying the riders. The parents, the trainers, everybody pulled together. The trainers actually talked to one another and worked together. Everyone gave it their best and we’re all very proud.”

Crystalyn Hoffman- First Time and Last Time's A Charm

For Crystalyn Hoffman, this was also her last chance to compete at the NAJRYC because she’s 20 this year. Hence, it was her first and last trip to the Championships. “And it was amazing. I didn’t really know what to expect coming her and going through the whole process, but I loved it. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.”

Hoffman trains with Pam Nelson and Heidi Gaian. She competed with her 16-year-old Westphalian gelding Diamo (Diamantino out of Ferari). Hoffman admits to being nervous when she first arrived at the Championships, but said the team spirit got her through. “I don’t think we would have gotten through without one another. I was pretty nervous but we supported one another and that helped us out.”