Sienna Rowe Wins Junior Individual Gold, Claire Robinson Wins Inaugural U25 Freestyle Grand Prix at 2023 FEI North American Youth Dressage Championships Presented by USDF

Competition continued today at the 2023 FEI North American Youth Dressage Championships, presented by USDF and welcomed Individual winners in the Junior and U25 Freestyle divisions.   

Junior Individual Championship

Sienna Rowe (Urbanna, Va.) and Jason Rowe’s 13-year-old Westphalian gelding Lightfire Just Do It landed atop the podium in the Junior Individual Championship with the only 70% of the class, riding to a final score of 70.676%. 

“I was thrilled because my ride Thursday was close to a 70%, but not quite,” said Rowe. “I was very happy to get a 70% and to have had a really good ride.”   

Rowe and “Nike” have been partnered for three years, and Rowe described him as a personable mount. 

Sienna Rowe & Lightfire Just Do It. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

“He’s like the perfect little guy,” Rowe said. “He’s like this little ball of fire. He’s got a great personality. When you go to open his stall door, If you try and leave, he sticks his face out and doesn’t let you shut it.” 

Rowe set her sights on NAYC and will decide her next moves with the gelding soon. 

“I was just really hoping to do good here,” Rowe said. “From here, we’ll see where it goes.” 

Madison Sumner (Wellington, Fla.) and the 16-year-old KWPN gelding, Briar, owned by Madison and Wayne Sumner, rode to a personal best score of 69.382% to take home the silver medal. 

Madison Sumner & Briar. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

“It’s been an amazing experience to be here with all these talented riders,” said Sumner. “I’m grateful to have my amazing support team, and it means a lot [to be at NAYC]. I was really happy with my half-passes today. And the overall feeling he gave me, he was really with me the whole time.”

Norah Wright (La Grande, Ore.) and her own 18-year-old Andalusian gelding, Baccos Do Retiro, rounded out the top three by claiming the Junior individual bronze. The pair began their week as members of the gold medal-winning Region 6/4 team and today earned a score of 69.382%.

Norah Wright & Baccos Do Retiro. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

“What makes Baccos special is that he really tries no matter what he does and just loves to get out there and show,” said Wright. “Today, our high points were the trot for the whole test; he was balanced and really with me.”  

U25 Grand Prix Freestyle Championship

Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Saturday evening brought a special treat for spectators at Flintfields Horse Park as the inaugural NAYC U25 Freestyle Championship took place. Eight combinations performed their freestyles for the judging panel, and for many of them, it was an early experience in their FEI Grand Prix career.

Claire Robinson of Canada was the final entry on the order, and with Glamour Boy, a 2011 KWPN gelding owned by Carol Robinson, she put down the best test of the evening, earning a 71.090 from the judges and the gold medal.

“I’ve not ridden this freestyle too many times, and of course every time you learn something a little bit new about the pattern and how you’re riding it,” said Robinson. “When I finally came to that final halt, I just looked back and was like, ‘I think that was everything. I think it all happened!’ It was a really good feeling on that final centerline where I knew he was with me, and I felt that I had had him with me for the whole test. It was really awesome.”

Claire Robinson (CAN) & Glamour Boy. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Robinson’s freestyle is set to music from Hamilton, which she chose to fit her horse.

“We had to find something that would really suit him. He’s sort of a tall, elegant horse, and I really loved the music,” she said. “This is a horse that I finished to the level myself, so I’m a little bit green at the level and he’s a little bit green at the level. I just really wanted [a floorplan] I felt like could play to his strengths a little bit, and where I could really produce a clean test and that worked out today.”

Alexander Dawson of U.S. Region 2 earned a 69.185 from the judges to take home the silver medal. Dawson rode Freedom, a 2007 Oldenburg stallion owned by Barbara Caldwell.

“My trainer Patty brought him up from a young age, and she trained his father,” said Dawson. “He really has a lot of history going back in Region 2, with Barbara Cadwell breeding multiple of the stallions and the mares on his dam’s side. He’s a really cool horse and super intelligent. Every horse I ride from here on out is going to be compared to him, and just his understanding and really wanting a fair, consistent partnership. It’s a real pleasure to ride him and I’m honored that I had the opportunity to.”

Alexander Dawson (USA) & Freedom. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Dawson’s freestyle test was designed for Freedom when he was a developing horse. 

“We borrowed it for the event,” said Dawson. “We went through it a few times in the two weeks leading up to it, and I’m really glad it all came together in the ring instead of just in the warmup.”

Emily Hewitt from Region 3 earned the bronze medal in the freestyle, posting a 67.985% with Fidens, a 2010 KWPN gelding owned by her sister, Hannah.

“Fidens is actually Hannah’s horse that she’s had since he was five, and so since this was my last year [of U25 eligibility], she provided me this opportunity to take him out, get to know him, and really allow for me to be here,” said Hewitt. “I feel like [having a U25 division at NAYC] adds a different level of seriousness and competitiveness, and when it comes to showing at Grand Prix, I think showing without a whip and in front of five judges really makes you grow as a rider.”

Emily Hewitt (USA) & Fidens. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Lauren Frandson and Hailey Guidry Claim Individual Gold Medals at Gotham North FEI North American Youth Jumping Championships

Lauren Fransdon & Golda. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

The Children’s and Pre-Junior categories of the Gotham North FEI North American Youth Jumping Championships, presented by USHJA, concluded Saturday with gold medals being awarded to Hailey Guidry and Lauren Frandson, both of whom jumped five clear rounds without a single rail down all week.

Frandson’s mount, Golda, lived up to her name in the Pre-Junior section, as the last to go in both rounds to secure the gold medal representing Zone 10

“It feels great to jump all clear rounds this week and I’m super proud of my horse,” said Frandson, who trains with Blue Ridge Farms under Sean Leckie and Sophie Simpson-Leckie. “It’s definitely a lot of pressure but I feel like we performed really well. I’ve had my horse Golda for a little less than a year. We’ve been super successful because of all the practice we’ve done. We competed in the trials to qualify to come here and I feel that that really helped me here this week.”

Pre-junior Individual Final podium. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Last year, Fransdon acquired the ride on Golda from Ilan Ferder, who also helped train her from the sidelines during NAYC this week. While there was significant pressure on her shoulders to come in and uphold her leading score on 0.29 penalties, she did not let that faze her.

“My coaches and family all helped calm my nerves this week just by talking me through my course and reassuring me that I made it here and I can do it,” Fransdon reflected.

Moving up in the placings between rounds in her first appearance at NAYC, Myra Krishna set herself apart by jumping double clear in both the Team Final and the Individual Final to take the silver medal with Fanatic D’Alphi, owned by Dracarys Sporthorses LLC. Training under David O’Brien, Krishna didn’t set expectations, which she believes helped her perform well under the pressure.

Myra Krishna & Fanatic d’Alphi. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

“I’m really proud of my horse because he jumped his heart out for me,” Krishna reflected. “There really was no pressure because I had no expectations going into this week. I had so much fun getting to know the girls, and the team factor was a lot of fun.”

As for how she managed the nerves of being a first-time competitor at the prestigious event, she said, “I tried not to make myself nervous because it’s my first time here. Everyone was telling me not to put pressure on myself, just to jump every jump as best as I can.”

Scarlett Wallis came into the Individual Final in a very promising position and maintained a medal-winning spot, despite one unlucky rail in the final round.

Scarlett Wallis & Samurai. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

“My plan in the final rounds was to have the fewest faults as possible,” Wallis explained. “I got a little quiet going into the one-stride so I had the ‘B’ element down but I’m still super happy with my horse. I’ve had him for about two years and I got him from Meredith Herman who’s also training me this week.”

Children’s Individual Final podium. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

In the Children’s category, Guidry – representing Zone 4 – came into the day tied for the lead with three other riders. As she began round two, she was tied with just Taylor Finkle, who rode last and had two rails down putting her out of contention for a medal. Guidry and Ezmeralda EH Z claimed the gold without a jump-off, while two riders went head to head for silver: Alexa Curry and Haley Honegger.

Curry jumped off first with Ciemusic Z, pulling two rails on her way to a very quick time. Slowing the pace, Honegger and Wilde Hilde took the silver medal, with a clear effort over the jump-off track. 

Hailey Guidry & Ezmeralda EH Z. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

“It feels unreal honestly; I’m speechless,” Guidry reflected of her double gold medal finish at her first NAYC. “My horse was absolutely amazing and I couldn’t have done it without her. She’s perfect. I honestly just came here for experience and I didn’t think this was going to end up happening, and it did.”

After her fifth clear round, she was prepared to have to jump off for gold, as she did on team day. Finkle’s rails erased that possibility, though. “I was a little nervous,” Guidry said of having to wait and see if a jump-off would decide the gold medal. “Taylor is amazing and rides so well. She’s so fast so I was nervous if I were to have to jump off.”

Overall, the experience for Guidry, 13, has been an incredible one. “It’s very exciting and you meet so many new friends,” she shared. “It’s awesome to have a team because you have your friends and sometimes you get to make new friends. It’s a lot of fun and a new experience.”

Haley Honegger & Wilde Hilde. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Honegger was advised by her trainer and mother, Alexia, to keep her score to a minimum, so she knew exactly what she had to do in the Individual Final, jumping double clear.

“My mom is my trainer and she told me I needed to be clear on a tidy track,” said Honegger, just 12. “I did exactly what she said and my mare pulled a clear round and I was so happy with her.” 

With Honegger’s especially fast mare, the jump-off was going to be an exciting one, but when Curry pulled two rails, Honegger stuck with strategy over speed. “She’s a very spicy mare and every day she’s been getting hotter,” she remarked. “Towards the end I had to tell her, ‘No, we’re not going fast. You have to slow down,’ because she thought it was jump-off time.”

The silver-medal finish is the icing on top of the cake for Honegger, who didn’t know if she’d get the chance to compete with Wilde Hilde again.

“Last year this week, she got a nail in her foot and she almost had to be put down,” Honegger said. “I’m so happy to be here with her and to be able to show her at all. This medal really means a lot because I almost lost my mare. To have her here makes me really happy.”

Alexa Curry & Ciemusic Z. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Curry put in four stellar clear rounds through the course of the week, and despite the jump-off not going to plan, she was beyond proud to stand on the podium.

“Going into the jump-off I knew I had to be clean, but I also had to be fast because Haley is so fast,” Curry explained. “I didn’t pull out the round I wanted but it was really good. It was really fun jumping the qualifier clean because I knew I’d qualified for Saturday. Today, I had two clear rounds and I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Juniors and Young Riders get their chance at the Individual Final to close out the Gotham North FEI North American Youth Jumping Championships, presented by USHJA, beginning Sunday morning.

Cathleen Driscoll Flies to First with Magnolia in $77,300 CSI2* Grand Prix

Cathleen Driscoll & Magnolia. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Cathleen Driscoll (USA) knew it was her last day competing in Northern Michigan for the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF) on Saturday. So, she knew she had to make it count.

Aboard the Plain Bay Farm entry Magnolia, Driscoll was third of 11 to jump off over Nick Granat’s (USA) track. With Daniel Bluman (ISR) in the lead with Corbie V.V., Driscoll quite literally gave it all she had, shaving off over two seconds and setting a new time to beat of 32.98 seconds, with seemingly little room to improve, if any.

“My mare is naturally fast and not the biggest mover, but good in the turns and good on the gallop,” Driscoll explained of the 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Mylord Carthago x Van Gogh). “So I made the decision for seven [strides] from two to three whereas bigger-moving horses did six. I tried to make it up in the turns and the gallops. I opted for the seven coming home which was quite a big one at the last, and I’m lucky she gave it to me. But she’s just such a naturally fast horse.”

Cathleen Driscoll stands for presentation. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Two riders gave it their absolute best and came within shouting distance of Driscoll. Luis Larrazabal (VEN) and Belle De Muze, owned by Driss Ngadi, clocked in at a very fast 33.34 seconds, but Nicolas Gamboa (COL) squeezed himself right in between with NKH LLC’s NKH Mr. Darcy, at 33.17 seconds. Gamboa took second while Larrazabal claimed third. 

“This is my last class here for GLEF and I am thrilled with the result, but it was nail biting up until the very end,” said Driscoll, who had to watch eight more rounds until her win was solidified. “It was a great jump-off with a lot of great riders and horses and a fun class.”

Nicolas Gamboa (COL) & NKH Mr. Darcy. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Taking her fifth FEI win of the Traverse City Horse Shows season, Driscoll has had a more successful summer than most, earning victories on a variety of horses.

“Traverse City has been absolutely fantastic for me over the last six weeks,” she shared. “The footing is fantastic, the weather is great, and the horses love it here. All of my horses have jumped great in this ring.”

Even though she’s already a seasoned winner, Driscoll just began jumping FEI classes two years ago. Training under Katie and Henri Prudent at Plain Bay Farm, she’s blasted to the top and is the one to catch in any FEI class nowadays.

Luis Larrazabal (VEN) & Belle De Muze. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

“I’m extremely grateful for where I am in my career,” she reflected. “I’m actually still fairly new in the FEI ranks. It’s quite unbelievable to have strong FEI horses so I’m really trying to relish in the moment and learn from my mistakes.”

As she packs to head home, she feels a great sense of accomplishment for all she’s done at GLEF 2023, knowing there’s still more ahead before the season draws to a close.

“Everyone wants to leave winning,” she remarked. “It doesn’t always happen but I’m glad it worked out today. My horses can go home and have a nice rest and we look forward to coming back here in the fall.”

FEI action resumes in late August for the Tournament of Champions.