Traverse City, Mich. – The FEI North American Youth Dressage Championships (NAYC) continued today, with the Young Rider division awarding a second gold medal to Christian Simonson (Ventura, Calif.) and Zeaball Diawind after the pair rode to a personal best score of 75.353% in the Individual Final. The silver medal went to Miki Yang (Los Altos Hills, Calif.) and Donavan, who rode to 69.294%, while Tillie Jones (Lincoln, Neb.) and Qi Gong TF earned the bronze medal with 68.588%.
“I’m proud,” Simonson began. “When I was on the podium, I was thinking about the fact that the last time I rode the individual test at a NAYC, I was disqualified, and thinking about that and the fact that I’m here now with a different horse, one that we’ve brought up and shown step by step, and I’ve been apart of the whole process, and to be able to redeem myself in that individual test was an amazing feeling.”
The 19-year-old commented on his test with the nine-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding owned by Christina Morgan, saying, “He felt the calmest he’s ever felt in the trot tour, and coming off of the back of the European tour, I felt that the individual test was something I didn’t do a good enough job in, yesterday with the tempi changes I had a hard time counting, today that was a bit better, so I was happy about that. The whole test felt calm and felt that he was with me. Having that level of trust with him was rewarding.”
Simonson also noted his appreciation for the team that has helped him along the way, noting that “The whole team; my trainer Adrienne [Lyle] is one of the most patient, amazing people I’ve ever met, my groom Monica [Stanke], my parents, my sponsors, I felt like everyone was here today riding that test with me, and that was a special feeling.”
Miki Yang also put in another solid performance after winning the team gold medal alongside Simonson and the rest of the Regin 7 Young Rider team on Friday. “This is my first NAYC, and this has just been an amazing experience,” said Yang. “This is my first time competing on a dressage team. When I was vaulting, I was always on a team, so being able to integrate what I’ve learned from vaulting on a team to competing on a team in dressage, was a cool way to intersect the experience.”
Of her day’s ride with the 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Four Winds Farm, Yang elaborated: “I was thrilled with today’s test. I felt like I could go for a lot of the extensions; as a rider, I tend to fade out, and I heard my mom and my coach’s voices in my head saying, ‘go to the end!’ I think that they would’ve ragged on me about that if I didn’t do it. I was also happy with our pirouettes, our left one is always stronger, and he can get a little hesitant in the right, but today I felt that I could ride that with a little more feel. The walk also improved from our last test. He tends to get a little lateral, and today I was able to keep him supple and relaxed.”
Region Four’s Tillie Jones is also a double medalist this weekend, earning her second bronze in the Individual Final with the 12-year-old Hanoverian mare owned by Tillie & Tish Jones. “I was delighted with my test today,” she commented. “I’m just so happy that I could have two consistent tests, which were also very clean. There were a few bobbles here and there, but I am so happy with my mare. This is our second year here at NAYC, and the first year she was a little green, but this year she’s proved to be a good Prix St. Georges horse, so I’m pleased with her. Her changes have been a hard thing for her to learn, but they were all clean, and I was happy with the one tempis, so overall, I’m thrilled with the performance.”
Jones hopes to continue to the U25 with the mare and to take her on the European tour next summer. Of her two bronze medals this week, Jones concluded, “It feels amazing. To win two medals here. I’ve sat on the sidelines and cheered my teammates on in the past, but it’s a great feeling to be back in the international arena, and with a healthy horse, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Young Rider competition at NAYC concludes tomorrow, August 15, with the FEI Junior Freestyle Championship and the FEI Young Rider Freestyle Championship.