Young Guns Do Battle at CDI Blainville Dressage International

Ontario riders Julie Watchorn and Amy McIlwham battled it out for top spot in the Young Riders’ Division at the CDI***-W Blainville Dressage International running June 29 to July 2 at Blainville Equestrian Park in Blainville, QC.

Featuring the next generation of superstars, the Young Riders’ division is for competitors aged 16-21. The competition at Blainville is the final qualifying event for the annual North American Young Riders’ Championships to be held in 2005 in Lexington, Virginia, at the end of July. Based on their performances at Blainville, both Watchorn and McIlwham are strong contenders for the Ontario Team.

Watchorn, who was a member of the Silver Medal Ontario Team last year and placed fourth individually, will be looking to improve on her results in 2005. At Blainville, the 19-year-old rider from Schomberg, ON, earned a score of 67.17% on Friday at Blainville. Despite suffering from tonsillitis, Watchorn put in a solid performance riding Quintesse, a12-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare that she imported from Germany five years ago.

McIlwham of Ottawa, ON, settled for second riding Marzipan, an eight-year-old Hannoverian stallion that she has been training for the past three years. The pair earned a score of 66.08%.

“Everything was really solid, we didn’t make any mistakes, and Marzipan was really trying his best despite the heat,” said McIlwham, acknowledging the extremely hot and humid weather conditions that the athletes have been competing under all week in Blainville. McIlwham enjoyed a successful Junior career, winning Team and Individual Gold Medals at the 2002 Championship of the Americas, and is making her Young Riders’ debut this year.

Despite the fact that Watchorn and McIlwham have been competing against each other all week, there is a friendly rivalry between the pair.

“We really do push each other to be better competitors, we are always trying to stay ahead of one another,” noted Watchorn, who trains outside of Toronto with Gillian Sutherland.

“We are happy to see each other do well because if we are selected for the North American Young Riders’ Championships, we will be teammates and it will be really important that we both get the highest scores that we are capable of,” added McIlwham, 19, a Carleton University student who trains south of Ottawa with Ruth Koch.

In the Grand Prix Speciale, it was Nancy MacLachlan of Terra Cotta, ON, who claimed victory with a score of 65.96% riding Ariston, her nine-year-old Ukranian-bred gelding. She defeated Germany’s Albrecht Heidemann who earned a score of 62.56% riding the big bay gelding, Lincoln.

Sanctioned by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), the CDI***-W Blainville Dressage International runs from June 29 to July 2 at Blainville Equestrian Park located in the heart of Blainville, QC. The four-day Blainville Dressage International culminates with Saturday night’s Casino de Montreal Freestyle Extravaganza. Over 200 horses are competing at this year’s international event, which offers $20,000 in prize money and also serves as Canada’s longest running World Cup Qualifier.

For more information, please visit or contact Blainville International at tel: (450) 434-8202, e-mail:

Photo credit – Cealy Tetley

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