Dressage competition started with a bang at the 2023 FEI North American Youth Dressage Championships presented by USDF, with the Young Riders and U25 divisions completing their team tests on Wednesday at Flintfields Horse Park.
In the Young Rider division, a total of 22 combinations representing six teams entered the arena for their first tests of this year’s NAYC. The Region 3 team proved dominant, earning a team total of 212.353 to take the gold medal. The combined team from Regions 4 and 7 won the silver medal with a team total of 203.118. The Regions 1/2/9 combined team finished in a close third-place position to take home bronze with a total score of 197.824.
Mary Claire Piller and Caterina, Emily Brollier’s 2011 Hanoverian mare, had the highest individual score of the day, posting a 71.706% for the Region 3 team. Piller was the last to go for her team and handled the pressure to turn in a clean test.
“I try not to think too much about the pressure or the medal, just going and putting down a clean test and doing as well with my horse as I can,” said Piller. “If you think too much about the pressure and the medal, it’ll all fall apart. But if you think about the overall and just being good to your horse, it all comes together.”
Piller was on the gold-medal-winning team at NAYC in 2022 and said the second consecutive victory felt vindicating.
“This is a very difficult sport, and you never know,” she said. “Some days you come out and it’s amazing, and some days you come out and you think, ‘Maybe I should not ride again.’ It’s nice to come in and see the work that you put in paying off. It feels very good.”
Piller’s Region 3 teammate, Kat Fuqua, had the day’s second-best score of 70.882% with her own 2008 KWPN mare, Dreamgirl. Fuqua and Dreamgirl earned junior bronze medals at their last NAYC outing in 2021, and their debut at the Young Rider level was a huge success.
“Today I was really focusing on everything being accurate,” said Fuqua. “I wasn’t going for too much power; I just really wanted everything to be clean and organized and to be really, really focused. My goal was to get a 70% today and it all worked out. My horse was really on my side, working with me really well today, so I was very happy.”
2023 NAYC Young Riders Dressage Team Results
Gold: Region 3
Kat Fuqua and Dreamgirl
Mary Claire Piller and Caterina
Acacia Tsamoutales and Santos
Celsiana William and Prima Ballerina
Silver: Regions 4/7
Josh Albrecht and Espresso
Averi Allen and Superman
Ella Fruchterman and Hannah Montana W
Josephine Hinneman and Copa Cabana MRF
Bronze: Regions 1/2/9
Alicia Berger and Floriano HB
Sydney Lipar and Zerragamo
Madison Manis and Roquefort
Quinn Ridgway and Dramatika V
U25 Athletes Debut at 2023 FEI North American Youth Dressage Championships
This year marks the first NAYC that includes a U25 division for dressage, and a total of eight athletes from Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. came to compete, performing the FEI Intermediate II test for the team competition on Wednesday. Team Canada took home the inaugural team gold medal for the U25 division, while the U.S. Star-Spangled team won silver and the U.S. Stars & Stripes team took the bronze.
Canada’s Brooke Mancusi had the top individual score of the day on her way to winning team gold. She rode Arthur, a 2005 KWPN gelding owned by Windhaven, to a 67.853%.
“My horse was very, very good today. I’m really happy with him,” said Mancusi. “I really wanted to nail my piaffe and passage…he was really on my aids and really listening to me, so I think it was pretty good. I couldn’t have asked for more from him today. I’ve been riding him since January, so we’re a fairly new partnership. I’m really grateful to his owner, Jill Irving, for allowing me to ride him. We get along super well.”
Fellow Canadian Claire Robinson posted the second-best score of the day with Carol Robinson’s Glamour Boy, a 2011 KWPN gelding. The pair earned a 67.794% to help secure Canada’s win.
“I’ve had my horse for about four years now, and we’ve stepped up to this level together for the first time,” said Robinson. “He’s a big character. He’s hilarious in the stable and such a fighter in the ring, and is just a wonderful partner.”
Dennesy Rogers was the top-scoring U.S. athlete and ranked third overall with Chanel, Dorriah Rogers’s 2005 Danish Warmblood mare. The pair had previously competed at NAYC in the Junior division and had a successful debut in the U25.
“My horse was very amped up, which was really fun because the passage and the piaffe work felt great,” said Rogers. “I felt like I could really get her forward into those movements. We had a couple of mistakes, but overall, the highlight was able to create the trot and the passage.”
Meet the first-ever Mexican dressage rider represented at NAYC!
2023 NAYC U25 Dressage Team Results
Brooke Mancusi and Arthur
Claire Robinson and Glamour Boy
Silver: U.S. Star-Spangled
Alexander Dawson and Freedom
Dennesy Rogers and Chanel
Cameron Wyman and Thys
Bronze: U.S. Stars & Stripes
Emily Hewitt and Fidens
Jenaya Celina Olsen and Beach Boy
Erynn Ballard Blazes a Trail in $38,700 Alltech CSI2* Welcome Stake
At the beginning of the jump-off in the $38,700 Alltech CSI2* Welcome Stake, Erynn Ballard (CAN) knew she had a tall order. She was one of 17 to jump clear over Nick Granat’s (USA) first-round course, and she knew all the returning pairs were fast.
Of the 16 that opted to return, Ballard went first with One Way VD Molendreef, owned by Wight Show Stables LLC. She put in a quick clear in 38.91 seconds.
“One Way had a really nice double clear, and when I came out of the ring I thought 35 [seconds] wins the class,” she recalled. “I thought One Way would be sixth or seventh because I thought that enough people would be fast with one down.”
Her lead didn’t last, but she had a secret weapon in her back pocket in Nanini Van D’Abelendreef, owned by Ilan Ferder. Coming in midway through the jump-off order, she pushed the time that much quicker to 34.69 seconds.
“Thirty-four [seconds] won the class and [One Way] was ninth. That just goes to show you the quality of horses jumping off. Not that many had a rail down,” Ballard said.
While she was surprised by the way the class shook out, she wasn’t surprised at all by who stood in the winner’s circle, as she has as much admiration as possible for Nanini Van D’Abelendreef.
“She’s forever my favorite girl,” she said of the 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare (Kannan x Heartbreaker). “It’s really fun to develop her. We’ve had her since she was secen-coming-eight and I did her from 1.30m straight up to 1.50m. When you have a relationship with a horse like that who’s so special and so good, it just makes it a little different.”
Aside from a short stint when Sydney Shulman Desiderio (ISR) took the reins, Ballard has been “Nina’s” primary rider.
“Last year, Sydney had her and I was in Europe, so I was watching her and I said, ‘In a perfect world, you buy Nina, and I get to ride her while you’re pregnant.’ That’s actually how it worked out,” Ballard shared.
It’s not just the speed that made Ballard fall in love. She loves everything about the mare.
“I love a good mare,” she continued. “She’s a fighter. She tries so hard for you every time. This was a great jump-off for her, because the faster you go the better she jumps. It was not an easy class to win. Cathleen Driscoll (USA) is fast. She is really fast. So when you know she’s on top you have to give it everything, especially when there’s 17 clear.”
Driscoll claimed second with Magnolia, owned by Plain Bay Farm, just off the pace, and in third was Margie Engle (USA) with Jackofhearts, owned by Gladewinds Partners, LLC.
“I think now that she’s 10 we know who she is; she’s a winner,” Ballard continued. “A horse that tries so hard like her, we just fit her in where we know she’s going to win. For her, the most important thing is to use her in classes she can win. That’s who she is; she’s a winner.”
On the tail end of a successful season in Northern Michigan, Ballard is ready to finish strong for week six of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival.
“It’s a great place,” she remarked. “I’m always best when I’m riding so the fact that they added a two-star in for us along with Young Riders is to my advantage. The days are long but they’re worth it. The jumping is good, and the facility is amazing. You can come here and show for many weeks and know that every week there’s something to look forward to.”
CSI2* action resumes Friday with the $38,700 CSI2* Hippodata Speed Classic, followed by Saturday’s $77,300 CSI2* Grand Prix.
Riders Speed to Qualifier Wins in FEI North American Youth Championships
The Gotham North FEI North American Youth Jumping Championships, presented by USHJA, got underway Wednesday morning with the first individual qualifiers for the Children’s and Pre-Junior sections.
Topping the Children’s section, Lauren Padilla, representing Zone 10, rode to a clear-round time of 66.72 seconds with Diadem de Revel VG, owned by Highland Farm LLC. Zone 9 rider Isabella Smith was second with Quinka, while Zone 4’s Taylor Finkle and Sheldon took third.
Canadian competitor Mathilde Candele took top honors in the Pre-Junior qualifier with Disco de Pleville, with a time of 62.30 seconds. Lauren Frandsen, of Zone 10, and Golda were second, while fellow Zone 10 teammate Scarlett Willis and Samurai claimed third.
The Children’s and Pre-Junior riders will continue Thursday with their respective Team Finals, while the Junior and Young Rider sections will ride in their first individual qualifiers.