Lexington, KY - For first time in the event's history, the Adequan/FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Championships presented by Gotham North played host to the North American Young Rider Endurance Championship. The competition included both CEI2* and CEI4* divisions which were completed yesterday, and team medals were presented today in both divisions.
In the CEI4* divisions, Team USA took home the Gold medal after accruing a collective ride time of 25 hours, 25 minutes, and 31 seconds. The team was made up of Lindsay Bean and Tektonic, Devan Horn and DJB Sameill, Kyle Gibbon and Missu Koran, and Kelsey Russell and My Wild Irish Gold, who successfully negotiated the 75-mile track despite the intense heat and humidity of the Kentucky summer.
Individually in the CEI4*, Russell took home the Gold, Bean the Silver, and Gibbon the Bronze. "I just took it slow and easy," Florida-resident Russell said. "I tried to let the horse pace themselves because they're good at knowing how fast they can go. "They were really nice trails, really well marked," she said, adding that although the grass was "a little slippery," she used a combination of Renegade boots and mud nails to gain traction.
Russell was able to preserve "Irish" well throughout the course and by the end, the horse still had enough steam to give Russell a memorable finish: "We trotted all the way until the last turn and then cantered around the last turn. There were horses behind us, and the horses just wanted to race, so we let them."
Bean, who hails from Maine, said the terrain at the Kentucky Horse Park was different than the mountainous ones she's used to riding on at home, but due to warm summer weather, she was glad for the change: "It was really hot, so the harder terrain would have made it difficult." She also explained that leading up to the 75-mile ride, she used other competitive rides to prepare, as well as lots of walking and hill work in warm temperatures to build up Tektonic's endurance.
The rolling hills of Kentucky were also a change of scenery for Vermont-resident Gibbon, but he enjoyed his ride through the Bluegrass. "It was a really pretty course...nice scenery," he said. "[The track] was really well marked; there was no way to make a wrong turn. That gives you a lot of confidence for the course." Gibbon said in preparation for the NAJYRC, he and Missu Koran have been competing on a regular basis and did a few 100-mile rides, but interspersed adequate rest and some interval training for a rounding training program.
Also in the CEI4* division, Tektonic received the Best Conditioned Horse Award, which was decided earlier this morning.
In the CEI2* class, the Team Gold medal was awarded to Team USA Northeast A, whose collective ride time totaled 25 hours, 40 minutes, and 57 seconds. Team members included Bean and Tektonic, Gibbon and Missu Koran, Forest Green and LR Amana Tabi, and Steven Hay and Khalil Asam. "[The track] was easy to follow," Hay said. "The heat was a big deal. It required smart riding."
The Team Silver was awarded to Team USA Southeast with a collective ride time of 25 hours, 49 minutes, and 19 seconds. Riders included Russell and My Wild Irish Gold, Mallory Capps and Precious Beaunita, Mary Kathryn Clark and DA Al Capone, and Cassandra Roberts and SA Belshazarr.
Capps said that the heat influenced how the competitors cooled their horses out after each loop, and also the pace at which the ride was completed. "We did lots of electrolyting and lots of ice water," she explained. "People took it slow. Usually we have faster times but we had a lot of people go slow." Unfortunately for Capps, the heat was too much to handle: "The ride was too hard for me and the horse, but the one loop was nice. It was out in the sun and you just get pounded with heat all day long."
Conversely, Roberts said that her horse handled the heat well and that she enjoyed riding the well-marked trails.
Finally, Clark said she used a heart monitor during the ride to keep close tabs on her horse's heart rate. She also said, like many other competitors in the ride, she used a cell phone to keep in touch with her crew during her ride.
"I used a Bluetooth headset," she explained, adding that her crew called regularly "to check in, see how the horse is doing, and know what they have to have ready" for when she arrived from a loop. She also said she kept in touch with the team veterinarian throughout the ride and updated them on Al Capone's condition. "That helped a lot," she said.
Individually in the CEI2*, the Gold medal was awarded to Sophia Bashir from Team USA Central and Dazed and Amazed, the Silver was presented to Roberts, and the Bronze to Hay.
Bashir, a Texas native, travelled to Virginia to train with Dazed and Amazed with lots of "fast walking in mountains and hills and intervals." Additionally, she was pleased with how her horse handled the heat. "He handled the heat well," she said. "The first loop was better because it was cooler. We started slowing down throughout the day. I tried to keep a consistent pace and that seemed to help us out." Bashir added that this competition was her first 75-mile ride, and that while she isn't sure what she'll do next, she'd like to continue and try a 100-mile ride.
Sir Valient, who represented Colombia in partnership with Camilo Andres-Villa, received the Best Conditioned Horse Award in the CEI2* division.
For more information, visit http://www.youngriders.org.
For photos, videos and more, visit USEFNetwork's NAJYRC page at: http://www.usefnetwork.com/featured/NAJYRC2011
Photos: Endurance photo finish on a hot Kentucky summer day. Photo: SusanJStickle.com; Team USA Wins the CEI4* Photo: SusanJStickle.com; Kelsey Russell, Individual Gold Medal Winner, CEI4* Photo: SusanJStickle.com; Team USA Wins the CEI2* Photo: SusanJStickle.com