Conway and Whitaker Earn Individual Gold at North American Youth Championships in Pre-Junior and Children’s Categories

Jumping athletes were put to the ultimate test Saturday as they competed for individual honors in the Gotham North FEI North American Youth Championships for Jumping, presented by USHJA. Over two rounds, the Children’s and Pre-Juniors attempted to record clear efforts to their overall scores and emerge on the podium. In the Children’s, Rylynn Conway (Zone 2 – Fair Haven, N.J.) took the gold medal after a tie-breaking jump-off, while in the Pre-Junior category, Lawson Whitaker (Zone 4 – Ocala, Fla.) claimed top honors and the gold medal.

Conway Captures Gold in Children’s Individual Final

Rylynn Conway and Nossa van de Bien. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Coming into round one of the Individual Final for the Children’s category, 12 pairs were tied on fault-free efforts. That number narrowed to 11 after round one drew to a close. At the conclusion of round two of the Individual Final, only six pairs turned in completely clean slates over the three days of jumping. With a six-way tie at the top, the six competitors – Livia Martin (CAN), Taylor Cawley (Zone 4 – Wellington, Fla.), Lenir Perez (HON), Conway, Olivia Sweetnam (Zone 4 – Wellington, Fla.), and Tarin Kiely (Zone 2 – Rumson, N.J.) – went into jump-off mode to take their shot at the gold medal.

The pace kept getting quicker with Cawley and Quintago VA recording the first clear jump-off in 31.18 seconds. Just following, Perez took the pace up a notch to 30.14 seconds aboard Di Vadina, looking to improve upon his silver-medal finish at last year’s NAYC. Conway sealed the deal, however, when she raced the small but mighty Nossa van de Bien to 28.66 seconds and claimed the lead. With Sweetnam and Kiely both pulling rails on course, the gold medal was all Conway’s at the close of competition.

“It’s a super big accomplishment to be here and super exciting,” Conway said of her performance. “I’m excited to keep moving up and hopefully return next year. I was trying to have a consistent week and a few clear rounds, but we ended up having all clear rounds and it was a good time. There were a lot of people going into the last round before the jump-off, then six went into the jump-off so everyone was going to get a ribbon, so I was just hoping to do well.”

Perez represented his nation of Honduras for the second time and earned his second individual silver medal. “This horse I’ve been with for one year,” he said of Di Vadine. “This week she was great. My plan for the jump-off was just to be controlled and be quick in the turns. Honduras mostly doesn’t come to [NAYC] so representing [my country] here is big for me. I hope to represent them in [Olympic or World] games someday.”

Bronze finisher Cawley attributes her winning spirit to her mom, U.S. show jumper Molly Ashe Cawley. “The time allowed was very tight in the second round so I could hear my mom from outside of the ring telling me to go faster. She basically said, ‘You’re here so you might as well put a good shot into it.’ And that’s what we did and we’re very happy.”

Whitaker Wins Big in Pre-Junior Individual Final

Lawson Whitaker and D’artagnan. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

The faults-converted round in the Pre-Junior category combined with any additional rails on team day led to the scores coming into the Individual Final. Leading the way, Leila Diab (Zone 10 – San Francisco, Calif.) had the lead on 0 penalties, but acquired an unfortunate four faults. In second prior to the start of the day was Taylor Landstrom (Zone 6 – Excelsior, Minn.), but one rail added to her 1.46 time penalties in round one gave her 5.46 penalties. Taking over the gold-medal position was Addy Wingate (Zone 3 – Maclean, Va.) on 2.27 penalties and a clear effort in round one. 

The fortunes changed in the second round, however, as Landstrom, Whitaker, and Avery Griffin (Zone 7 – Austin, Texas) all recorded clear rounds and found themselves atop the podium. Whitaker, finishing on 3.32 penalties and only clear rounds in ensuing competition aboard D’artagnan, took the gold, while Griffin and Daring Queen took silver on 4.30 penalties, and Landstrom with Eleanor 3 claimed the bronze. 

Whitaker’s partnership with her gold medal-winning partner D’artagnan is still in the works, but their four months together have gone quite well. “He has his moments where he thinks that he’s going to go jump again,” she said of his fiery spirit during competition. “In the stall he’s falling asleep, but as soon as I put my foot in the stirrup, he is ready to go whether it’s the first day or the last. It really helped getting through five rounds because he kept his energy up and there’s still enough left in the tank.” 

Lawson Whitaker topped the podium of the Pre-Junior division individual placings. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

After winning a team gold medal at the 2021 NAYC in the Pre-Juniors, Whitaker had her sights firmly set on this individual medal. “It was a lot of pressure because I knew, with as well as I did last year, that I was trying to go for individual gold this year,” she said of her goal. “Also, with this being a new horse for me I wasn’t sure how it would go, but after our first round it was obvious we could go clear so I just needed to be super focused and ride the best that I could. It’s definitely a lot of pressure but it’s a blessing that he and I both do well under pressure.”

Landstrom held onto her spot on the podium by a thread, delivering a crucial clear round with Eleanor 3 when it mattered thanks to her trust in their two-year partnership. “Today is a very focused day because you have two rounds where you are wanting to jump clear,” she commented. “Having that focus and keeping it through both rounds really creates a high-pressure situation. If you just stick to your plan and trust your horse, it’s a good mentality.”

Griffin was one of two athletes on the podium to jump double-clear in Saturday’s Individual Final, doing so aboard Daring Queen. “It took me a while to figure out how to ride her, but she tries so hard and she was great this week,” she commented on her mare. “We went in just trying to jump clear rounds and have a good experience and she did. She jumped four clear rounds [plus] a time fault so she was amazing. We came in sitting fifth, so our plan was to just try to jump two clean rounds and see what everyone else would do to potentially be able to podium. That’s what we did, and she had a lot more in her than I thought she did. She went in and did amazing.” 

Jumping competition at the 2022 NAYC concludes on Sunday, August 14, with the individual final rounds for Juniors and Young Riders.

Watch the 2022 North American Youth Championships live stream on USEF Network.

Erin Nichols and Handsome Rob AR Win Individual Young Rider Dressage Gold at 2022 FEI North American Youth Championships

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

 A dream came through for Erin Nichols on Saturday at the 2022 FEI North American Youth Championship (NAYC) as she finished in gold-medal position for the Individual Young Rider Dressage division.

Nichols (Yorba Linda, Calif.) expertly guided her own Handsome Rob AR, a 2012 Dutch Warmblood gelding, through a precise and flowing test that earned a 69.000% from the judges. The victory comes after Nichols and her Region 7 Young Riders team took team silver earlier in the week.

“I was just so proud, and hearing that final score was so exciting,” said Nichols. “I’m super thankful for my ride that I did today and all of the moments leading up to this.”

Nichols has developed Handsome Rob AR through his career since he was a five-year-old and the pair’s top scores at this year’s NAYC is a testament to their partnership.

“I definitely didn’t imagine this moment,” said Nichols. “I was optimistic and excited for what was to come when we first got him, and to be able to come and be individually gold at this championship is so exciting. It’s a total dream come true.

“We’re hoping to keep developing up the levels and see how much he can do,” said Nichols. “He’s still young—he’s only 10—so he’s still got some talent. We’ve still got to teach him some new things, and I’m excited to see where we go next.”

Erin Nichols at the pinnacle of the podium in the Young Rider individual final. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Gemma Starn (Putnam Valley, N.Y.) finished in second place with her own Diamond First Choice, a 2011 Hanoverian gelding, scoring a 68.206%.

“‘Theo’ is a really kind horse,” said Starn. “He’s often compared to a pet or a dog, but he’s a very talented pet! He tries so hard every single day. There’s never a day where he says no to me.”

At age 21, Starn is in her final year of eligibility for Young Riders, and she reflected on the impact of the NAYC experience.

“[NAYC] is a really special event,” said Starn. “Being around a lot of people who are super passionate about riding and dressage and are coming up through the levels is really special.”

Another Region 7 athlete, Ellanor Boehning, (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.), took home the bronze medal with Sir Junior, the 2011 Rheinlander gelding she co-owns with Ann Boehning. 

“I think the Region 7 team this year has a really strong team, both in the Juniors and the Young Riders,” said Boehning. “Having a team that’s there to support you, cheer you ringside, even when there’s mistakes, they’re there to cheer you up, it’s a big part of what goes into all of this. I think it makes a big difference to have people there that you know from home there to cheer you on and support you.”

After winning team silver and scoring a 67.117% for the individual bronze, Boehning is looking ahead to the upcoming U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions.

“Next up for ‘Junior’ is going to be to head up to Lamplight,” said Boehning. “To be honest, this was our first year doing Young Riders and I wasn’t sure if I was going to move up or not, so just to be up here and be on a team—let alone be a podium finisher—is amazing in and of itself. So, now [our goal] is just fixing everything up and smoothing it all over.”

Dressage at the 2022 NAYC concludes on Sunday with the Junior and Young Rider Freestyle Tests beginning at 8:00 a.m. E.T. Watch live on USEF Network.

Karl Cook Commands CaptiveOne Advisors CSI3* Grand Prix

Karl Cook stands with Matt Morrissey. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Karl Cook (USA) wasn’t going to let the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF), presented by CaptiveOne Advisors, end without a grand prix victory. After winning three CSI3* grand prixs in 2021, the reigning recipient of the CaptiveOne Advisors Open Jumper Rider Bonus sped to the win in Saturday afternoon’s $138,600 CaptiveOne Advisors CSI3* Grand Prix with his longtime partner Caillou 24.

The track, set by Anderson Lima (BRA) and Nick Granat (USA) was built for the occasion, with elements that caused rails down for several top competitors, but it did produce seven clear rounds. Of those clear rides, only four navigated to clear jump-off efforts, and Cook set the pace to an unbeatable standard when he raced to a time of 38.77 seconds. He shaved 3.25 seconds off the leading time at the moment, set at 42.02 seconds by Sarah Scheiring (USA) and Bellwyn Farm, LLC’s Anibale de Hus. Margie Engle (USA) returned last aboard Gladewinds Partners, LLC’s Aston des Etisses in the order and secured a spot between the two in 41.04 seconds and claimed second, while Scheiring took third.

Karl Cook and Caillou 24. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

“The jump-off course suited him because he’s got a big stride,” Cook commented on Caillou’s strengths and how they played out in the class. “He can reach quite high speeds and still jump clear. But he’s a little slower in the tight turns, so if it’s tight and winding, I can go as fast as I can go, but I still won’t win. This one had more galloping and swooping style turns. It was about getting a big canter and riding a track that allowed me to pull the reins as little as possible.”

Cook had a sensational summer last year at the Flintfields Horse Park, but this year it’s taken him longer to hit his stride. “It’s a long trip to get here so maybe it takes me a minute to settle in,” he remarked as to why. “Last year and this year, GLEF has been really good to me. The past two weeks I’ve had a rail in each of the grand prixs – little unlucky there – but it’s still going well so I’m always happy to be here.”

Cook admitted that Caillou’s program is extremely specific, and that’s one of the keys to success with the 15-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Casall x San Patrignano Corrado). “He’s a creature of habit so everything is about routine, down to his timing for getting fed,” Cook shared. “He gets fed very accurately. Not because he gets cranky, but he needs that consistency. He has his afternoon program he does; he likes to roll and lay in the sand. But the big thing is consistency. Every day needs to be as identical as possible.”

Margie Engle and Aston De Etisses. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Cook has had the horse for several years now, but he continues to adapt his style of riding based on what the horse needs at any given moment. With a lull in their success earlier this year, they have meshed yet again producing this top result, along with a second place in Thursday’s CSI3* Welcome Stake. Now that he feels Caillou going strong again, he plans to aim him at the Major League Show Jumping CSI5* Grand Prix during the American Gold Cup at Traverse City Fall Horse Shows.

Before Saturday’s class, the M. Michael Meller Style Award was given to Eliza Lehrman (USA), who placed eighth overall with just one time fault aboard Eluna CL Z.

At the conclusion of the class, the Clear for the Cause $15,000 donation was awarded from CaptiveOne to JustWorld. The amount was based on how many times both the CaptiveOne Advisors fence and Justworld fence were both jumped clear in the same round for the duration of GLEF 2022.

Sarah Sheiring and Anibal De Hus. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

As the final class of GLEF to allow riders to accrue points toward the $30,000 CaptiveOne Advisors Open Jumper Rider Bonus, Saturday’s Grand Prix earned Engle valuable points to hold her lead heading into the fall series.

Eszther Kiss, Executive Director of JustWorld, stands with Matt Morrissey. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Final Results: $138,600 CaptiveOne Advisors CSI3* Grand Prix

  1. CAILLOU 24: 2007 HOLST gelding by Casall x San Patrignano Corrado
    KARL COOK (USA), Signe Otsby: 0/0/38.77
  2. ASTON DES ETISSES: 2010 SF gelding by Mylord Carthago x Quidam De Revel
    MARGIE ENGLE (USA): Gladewinds Partners, LLC: 0/0/41.04
  3. ANIBALE DE HUS: 2010 SF stallion by Conrad x Argentinus
    SARAH SCHEIRING (USA), Bellwyn Farm LLC:0/0/42.02
  4. KIRSCHWASSER SCF: 2010 BWP gelding by Amaretto D’Arco x Nabab De Reve
    FREDDIE VAZQUEZ (PUR), Freddie Vazquez: 0/0/43.03
  5. GREYA: 2014 OS mare by Colestus x Contender
    KENT FARRINGTON (USA), Kent Farrington LLC: 0/4/39.95
  6. LEONIE: 2009 OS mare by Leo Von Faelz x Chacco-Blue
    ERIN DAVIS-HEINEKING(USA), October hIlls Sales Limited: 0/4/41.52
  7. BOHEME DE LA ROQUE: 2011 SF mare by Kannan x Quick Star
    Grace Debney (GBR), Temple Equestrian LLC: 0/wdr
  8. ELUNA CL Z: 2012 ZANG mare by Emerald x Nabab De Reve
    ELIZA LEHRMAN (USA), Five Way Farm LLC: 1/84.64
  9. ENANDA: 2009 KWPN mare by Nebab de Reve x Holland
    LUCY DESLAURIERS (USA), Luja LLC: 4/77.79
  10. BLUE MOVIE: 2006 AES mare by Chacco Blue x Pilot
    |ROWAN WILLIS (AUS), Rowan Willis: 4/77.97
  11. NAMASTE VAN HET EYCKEVELD: 2013 BWP gelding by Elvis Ter Putte x Coriall
    SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Sweet Oak Farm: 4/80.03
  12. IVARO N: 2013 KWPN gelding by Elvaro x Celano
    LISA GOLDMAN-SMOLEN (USA), Barbara Disko: 4/80.56