Christian Simonson and Zeaball Diawind Break NAYC Record with Outstanding Performance in FEI Young Rider Freestyle Test

Lexie Kment and Montagny von der Heide Sweep NAYC Junior Division with Win in FEI Junior Freestyle Test

Traverse City, Mich. – Christian Simonson (Ventura, Calif.) and Zeaball Diawind shattered the NAYC record for the highest score in the FEI Young Rider Freestyle Test, receiving a 78.935 percent from the judging panel to secure the pair’s third gold-medal performance of the week. Allison Nemeth (Flemington, N.J.) and Tiko earned a 73.330 percent for second place, while Tillie Jones (Lincoln, Neb.) and Qi Gong TF secured the bronze medal with a 73.170 percent.

Simonson and Zeaball Diawind, a nine-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding owned by Christina Morgan have impressed all week in Traverse City, helping Region 7 take the team gold on Friday and securing their first individual gold medal yesterday in the FEI Young Rider Individual Test. The pair have worked to solidify their relationship over the past several years and Simonson has brought “Zeaball” through the ranks with the help of trainer Adrienne Lyle.

NAYC Junior Freestyle Championship podium. Photo by US Equestrian

“I am surprised and really grateful. Adrienne had to leave last night, and so today we just warmed up virtually,” said Simonson, explaining his preparation for the class. “Coming off two back-to-back days, he was tired today and I was hoping that he would dig deep, and he surpassed my expectations. He makes me so grateful to be able to ride him. This is our third freestyle ever together, and so to have him hold that much composure and perform that way after such a long crazy week makes me so thankful.”

Having been to NAYC before, but not completing the weekend, Simonson reflected on the work it’s taken to get back to this competition and the development of the partnership with Zeaball that would get them the closest to the 80 percent mark of anyone at NAYC and record a personal best for the pair.

“It’s been a crazy week, and I’m super grateful for Zeaball and the team. He dug so deep and I’m so proud. He was a really good boy,” said Simonson.

Nemeth and Tiko, a ten-year-old Danish Warmblood mare owned by Karen Nameth secured second place with a strong ride to their musical freestyle and recorded a personal best at the FEI level. The duo was very competitive at NAYC, with Tiko just beginning to hit her prime with Nemeth, who plans to continue to move the mare up the levels over the next few years.

“Today she felt really good,” commented Nemeth. “We’ve had some problems in the past maintaining our composure and not spooking, and we’ve had some issues with tension, but she just felt so relaxed and confident in there today and I am speechless. This week as a whole, it’s been a blur, but it’s been so great. I’m fortunate to have such supportive teammates. I’m so speechless, I did not imagine being here right now.”

Tillie Jones and Qi Gong TF, a 12-year-old Hanoverian mare owned by Tillie & Tish Jones, rounded out the podium in the Young Rider division in the freestyle. This is the pair’s FEI debut and Jones was pleased with their performances throughout the week as they look to continue improving at the FEI levels.

“It felt so good out in the arena, and from what I can remember she felt amazing! She is such a great mare. She is so confident in herself and I’m so confident in her. I’m just so lucky to have a special mare like her that can go even farther than what I’m riding her at right now,” said Jones. “That just feels really special, and I think there is more in there. I’m so happy with how she did today and how much she gave in out there after a really long week.

Lexie Kment and Montagny von der Heide Sweep NAYC Junior Division with Win in FEI Junior Freestyle Test

Lexie Kment (Palmyra, Neb.) and Montagny von der Heide secured a podium-topping position in the FEI North American Youth Dressage Championships in the Junior division for the third time this week, earning a 74.775 percent from the judging panel to sweep the division’s top honors. Julia McDonald (Byron Center, Mich.) and Lehndorff van de Vogelzang took second place with a 71.850 percent, while Kat Fuqua (Atlanta, Ga.) and Dream Girl rounded out the top three on the podium, finishing with a 71.150 percent.

Kment and Montagny von der Heide, a 17-year-old Trakehner gelding owned by Laureen van Norman, have had a banner week at NAYC, helping Region 4 secure top team honors and winning both individual classes handily. The impressive pair have been partnered for just under a year and have connected quickly, leading to several notable performances.

“I am pretty speechless. I don’t even know what to say right now. It’s amazing,” commented Kment. “My horse was great today. We’ve had a lot of competition and I expected him to be tired, but he gave it his all and I gave it my all and it all worked out.”

This is the pair’s FEI debut and the first time Kment has competed in the Junior division. She commended and thanked the team behind her and “Monty” and discussed how pleased she is with their ability to deliver this week at their biggest competition together.

“I’ve only been with him for about nine months, and his owner, after I won the Children’s at the Festival of Champions last year, she offered Monty for me to ride

NAYC Young Rider Freestyle Championship podium. Photo by US Equestrian

and it’s been a great match,” explained Kment. “I think that it’s time. At first, I was weary because I had never done Juniors before, so I felt like we needed to get going, but over time, he’s really started to feel like my little boy and part of the family. It’s been amazing. I want to say thank you to the organizers, and to my sponsors, and my mom for helping to coach me, and to my family. It’s just been amazing.”

McDonald guided her own Lehndorff van de Vogelzang, a ten-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding, to their first start in FEI competition this week in the Junior division at NAYC and finished just off of the podium in yesterday’s FEI Junior Individual Test, motivating them to aim for the podium in today’s FEI Junior Freestyle Test.

“I’m speechless. I’m just so happy,” smiled McDonald. “I’ve had him for over a year. Christine Traurig and Laurie Moore have really helped my partnership with him. He’s just my best friend and such a good boy. It’s been a lot of fun being here. I’ve met a lot of friends and it’s been a long week, and a short week all in one, and I’m sad that it’s over, but I had a lot of fun.”

After strong performances in all three tests and the only competitor contesting both the dressage and jumping competitions at NAYC, Fuqua and her own Dreamgirl, a 13-year-old KWPN mare concluded their weekend with a third-place finish in the FEI Junior Freestyle Test. This is the pair’s FEI debut and Fuqua was proud of their performances throughout the week representing Region 3.

“It’s been an amazing week, and it was exciting to do both the jumpers and the dressage here, so I got to meet a lot of new people on both sides. It’s really exciting to have two bronze medals. I think that my first medal gave me a lot of confidence for the rest of the week,” commented Fuqua. “I’ve had Dreamgirl for about a year-and-a-half, and at Festival of Champions last year we were third. She’s just taught me so much in dressage.”