Rizvi Reaches New Heights in Young Rider Individual Final at Gotham North FEI North American Youth Championships Presented by USHJA

Traverse City, Mich. – Sunday marked a special milestone for Zayna Rizvi (Zone 4 – Wellington, Fla.) as she claimed her second individual gold medal at the Gotham North FEI North American Youth Championships for Jumping (NAYC) presented by USHJA, aboard Excellent. As the only pair to not drop a pole at the 2021 NAYC, Rizvi and Excellent pulled off a repeat in 2022, this time winning the Young Rider category at Flintfields Horse Park in Traverse City, Mich.

Zayna Rizvi and Excellent. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

On 3.02 penalties after day one, she saw herself lower on the leaderboard than riders who put in extremely quick rounds. A double-clear effort–one of only two–during the team competition, quickly shot the 16-year-old to the top. Pairing that feat with a double-clear effort in the individual final put her comfortably ahead of the next closest finisher, who incurred 8.41 total penalties.

“I think it has a lot to do with my horse, not just me,” Rizvi said of Excellent, a 2009 KWPN gelding owned by Peacock Ridge, LLC. “He’s amazing; every time we step in the ring he really tries his heart out for me. I think he especially likes it here because he always seems to do well here. It’s not just me, it’s the whole team behind me and obviously my horse who makes this all possible.”

As a repeat competitor, Rizvi knows what the experience at NAYC can provide in terms of preparing riders for upcoming championship events. “It’s a really nice thing to be able to practice being on teams like this to prepare for the future,” she said. “Being on a team, it is super important to work with your teammates. You learn how to grow as a rider on a team but also individually. I hope to one day be on senior teams, so this is a really great experience for me and my horse too.”

Training under the watchful eyes of John Brennan and Missy Clark of North Run based in Warren, Vt., for nearly six years, Rizvi has risen the ranks under their guidance and shared her victories with them as well. “They’re so encouraging but tough when they need to be, and they definitely make it a lot easier,” she said of her trainers. “They help and guide me, and I wouldn’t be the rider I am without them. After last year I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I knew this year would be harder because the jumps are bigger, so I didn’t expect it but it’s a great outcome.”

The top of the leaderboard saw quite a shift as the Individual Final got underway. Tanner Korotkin, leader after day one and in second coming into the final day, had an unfortunate refusal and was taken out of medal contention. Additionally, Alexandra Pielet, who finished third on day one, pulled two rails in the second round of the final to also be out of the medals.

Audrey Schulze (Zone 2 – Saddle River, N.J.) and Lord Up, owned by Riverbrook Sport Horses, LLC, took the second spot on the podium, claiming their silver medal after shooting up from tenth-place position coming into the Individual Final. Clear efforts in both rounds of the final secured her medal.

“My horse has been jumping great all week and I wanted to keep it up and be consistent with a round similar to how my first round was,” Schulze said. “He tried hard and was a good boy. It’s an awesome experience to be on a team to practice and understand the formats.”

Alexander Alston (Zone 5 – Gahanna, Ohio) also had quite the comeback, coming into the Individual Final in seventh place and recording only a single time fault for a bronze-medal finish with Prestigious for owner Alston Alliance, LLC.

“After being team gold for Team 5/7 combined I pulled it back together to continue the rest of the week,” Alston said of his plan for consistency throughout NAYC. I’ve had [Prestigious] for a year and a half. He means business, and he was ready to take on another task today. He helped me out a lot.”

William Martin Meets his Match in Junior Individual Final

It was Canada’s moment at the pinnacle of the podium as the Individual Final for the Junior category of NAYC came to a close. William Martin accepted his gold medal for his performance aboard Ricore Courcelle, owned by Teddy Vlock Show Stables, LLC.

William Martin and Ricore Courcelle. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Holding the top spot coming into the final, Martin saw his lead creep away as he incurred just two time faults in round one. On a new score of 5.90, he returned and jumped the clear round required to guarantee at least a silver medal finish, and his destiny lay at the hands of competitor Della White’s performance. With one rail down for White and Giggs in round two, she fell out of medal contention and Martin secured the gold.

“It was a little surreal in the moment,” said Martin,16, (New Albany, Ohio). “I really didn’t think that horse would produce as much as he did. He really took me by surprise, and I owe him a lot more credit now.

“He’s got so much personality and he’s very, very bossy,” Martin continued about his winning mount, Ricore Courcelle, a 2005 Selle Français stallion (Quaprice Bois Margot x Alme). “But at the end of day, he comes out of his stall every day in a good mood and he’s got a good attitude towards everything he does. I think that makes riding him so much easier because he enjoys everything.”

Like many athletes competing at NAYC, Martin was in attendance for a good time without expecting a top result, but extremely grateful when that result came in. “I walked into the first class and I thought, ‘I’m happy to be here. Let’s not take anything for granted.’ But I really think it’s those moments that make you appreciate every day so much more, so I’m grateful for that.”

Also on just two time penalties during the entirety of the Individual Final for the Junior category, Caroline Mawhinney (Zone 4 – Wellington, Fla.) claimed the silver medal aboard her own Stella Levista. Paired with a double-clear performance in the team final, Mawhinney’s performance sealed the deal for her in clinching a podium spot.

William Martin, Caroline Mawhinney, and Hailey Royce accepted their medals atop the Junior individual podium. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

“Stella [Levista] definitely has her own way of going,” Mawhinney said of her mare. “I’ve had her for two years now, so I really trust her, so Jessica [Mendoza, my trainer] told me to lean into that and to ride my round. I don’t worry about anything else because, truly, when I’m in the ring, it’s just me and her. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner. She wants just as much as I do. She’s careful, she’s quick, and she’s just incredible.”

In the bronze medal position was a rider who did not incur any penalties following the first qualifier, Hailey Royce (Zone 4 – Wellington, Fla.) with Sonic Boom, owned by Double Clear, LLC. Coming in on 7.02 penalties, she remained clear over all four rounds Friday and Sunday for a third-place finish.

William Martin topped the Junior individual podium. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Royce is a former gold medalist and knows how it feels to perform at the top level and how important consistency over the three days can be. “Going in this year, I wanted to do better than I had in the past,” she remarked. “And I went in and I made a little mistake in round one. And then I knew going in that my horse was ready and I really gave it my all. He jumped four clear rounds after that and he really was incredible. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner.”

Ella Fruchterman and Erin Nichols Win Dressage Freestyle Gold at 2022 FEI North American Youth Championships

A phenomenal week of equestrian competition concluded on Sunday at the 2022 FEI North American Youth Championships with the Juniors and Young Riders presenting their freestyle tests. Ella Fruchterman (Woodbury, Minn.) and Holts Le’Mans struck gold in the Junior division, while Erin Nichols (Yorba Linda, Calif.) and Handsome Rob AR topped the Young Riders podium.
2022 FEI NAYC Junior Dressage Freestyle.

Ella Fruchterman and Holts Le’mans. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Fruchterman and her own 2011 Danish Warmblood gelding added a third gold medal to their collection today after winning team and individual gold earlier in the week, but she admits that the nerves were still with her leading into the final test of the competition.

“I’m honestly a little overwhelmed,” said Fruchterman. “I was super nervous this morning. Even to the last minute in the warmup, my stomach was turning, and I was just like, ‘You need to calm down. You need to go in and have some fun.’” Fruchterman’s music was created by a friend of her brother, who happens to be a music producer.

“The vocals on the freestyle are actually his, and they’re also some of my cues,” she explained. “Whenever they come up, I get excited because I know I’m on the music. That always makes me happy.”

Ella Fruchterman took the top spot on the Junior Freestyle podium. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Madison Sumner (Wellington, Fla.) turned in an excellent test with her stunning black 2007 KWPN gelding, Briar, to score a 71.515% and win the silver medal.

“I’ve had him for about a year and a half now,” said Sumner. “We’ve built such an amazing partnership over such a short amount of time, and it really affected my test. We had some really good parts, and he really trusts me in the test, so I was really happy.”

Lexie Kment (Palmyra, Neb.) returned to the podium after an expertly ridden freestyle with Laureen Van Norman’s 2004 Trakehner gelding, Montagny von der Heide. The pair earned a 71.385% for the bronze medal.

“The feeling to be up on the podium is pretty amazing,” said Kment. “Coming into this year I did not have super high expectations for medals at all. I didn’t even know if I was going to make it here. Getting here, getting gold the first day, not quite making the podium the second day, and then making the podium today is so amazing, and I’m so thankful.”

Over the week at NAYC, the athletes built friendships across regions, and Fruchterman explained how that brought an extra dimension to the experience.

“It’s absolutely amazing sharing the podium with Lexie and Maddie and on Friday my teammate Kylee was up here with me,” she said. “It’s just so special to be up here and see them blossom and you get to share this incredible experience with people who understand it and are going through the same emotions.”

2022 NAYC Young Rider Dressage Freestyle

Erin Nichols and Handsome Rob AR, her own 2012 Dutch Warmblood gelding, ended an already fantastic week on an especially high note, winning the Young Rider Freestyle Test with a personal best score of 74.456%. The win came after the pair earned individual gold and team silver earlier in this year’s NAYC.

Erin Nichols and Handsome Rob AR. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

“I’m totally on cloud nine,” said Nichols. “It’s just more than I could ever dream of. I’m super proud of my horse and super thankful to everybody who supported me up to this level. It’s been an incredible journey, and I’m excited to see where we go.” Nichols opted for fun music and exciting choreography to make her freestyle stand out.

“We wanted to do an old-time, 60s freestyle that kind of makes you want to dance to it,” she said. “I really like the choreography. It fit well with my horse, and I get to add my little own spice with the one-handed three time changes, so it’s really exciting and it all went really well today.”

Nichols’ Region 7 teammate, Ellanor Boehning, (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.) and her own 2011 Rheinlander gelding, Sir Junior, won the silver medal with a 72.545%.

Erin Nichols topped the Young Riders Freestyle podium. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

“This was my first time ever riding this freestyle at a show,” said Boehning. “I got the music about two weeks ago. I went through it twice at home, and I was like, ‘Everything’s there, I know I can do it, I just have to go and be confident about it.’ Just having confidence in the test is what really held all the pieces together and made it flow well today.

“Before I got on, I was a little bit nervous, but once I get on my horse, it’s all about confidence,” she continued. “Confidence is key. Fake it ‘til you make it! I know if I’m confident, Junior’s going to be more confident going in and doing his best. I just try to be there for him.”

Sophia Schults (Ocala, Fla.) and Conocido HGF, a 2012 PRE gelding owned by Hampton Green Farm, scored a 70.952% and added a freestyle bronze to the team gold they’d picked up earlier in the week. This year’s exceptional NAYC results for the pair are the result of a long and sometimes challenging partnership.

“I’ve had him since he was four years old, and he’s 10 this year, and it’s been a tough journey to get here,” said Schults. “It was really hairy for a long time, but honestly, it’s just been the last six months or so, something in his mind said, ‘Yep, we’re doing this.’ Every show we do now I have to pinch myself because we actually make it through the tests these days. It’s been absolutely unbelievable. He will work so hard for me every day and I can’t thank him enough for that.”