The Children’s and Pre-Junior categories took center stage Thursday morning of the final week of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival for riders to jump the team portion of the Gotham North FEI North American Youth Jumping Championships, presented by USHJA, on Thursday at Flintfields Horse Park.
In a thrilling battle for the top spot, Zone 4 was awarded the gold medal in the Children’s category. Zone 4 representatives Hailey Guidry, Laila Murad, Alexa Curry, and Taylor Finkle rode to a total score of just 4 faults after two rounds of jumping. After two rounds on Thursday were tallied with the opening round from Wednesday, they were tied with a combined Zone 1/2 – Amelia Burnside, Jordan Rich, Cecilia Chatterjee, and Rylie True – forcing a jump-off for the top spot on the podium.
Zone 4 came out strong with a blazing-fast clear effort in the jump-off, and the back end of the team was able to keep up the momentum, finishing not just with fewer faults but also quicker after all riders jumped off. Zone 4 stood atop the podium while Zone 1/2 took silver, and Zone 7/8/9, with riders Michaela Munson, Evan Werner, Haley Honegger, and Isabella Smith, finished in the bronze medal position.
“It feels very good,” Guidry, 13, said of winning the gold medal. “I’ve had Esmeralda for a few months now. We’ve gone together very well and she is the sweetest thing ever. I’m so happy to have been able to be here and experience this because this is my first year. I have seven more junior years, so it’s very exciting.”
Zone 4 was also among the most spirited teams to step out during NAYC, which the team believes helped solidify their bond.
“It was really crazy and hectic and we were all working together to try and make the best helmets and pom-poms for our horses,” remarked Curry, 14.
True was the one who had to anchor the Zone 1/2 team in all three rounds of jumping, and she rose to the occasion every time. She had an unlucky rail at the last fence in the jump-off, but pulled off the quickest time of any competitor.
“In the jump-off, I really went for it but it was just an unfortunate rail at the last jump,” she remarked. “But I think it went well and I’m really happy with how it went.”
In the Pre-Junior category, Zone 10 came into Thursday’s competition with a significant lead, just 1.83 total penalties on their scorecard after the first qualifier. All four riders – Djuna Lauder, Lauren Frandsen, Scarlett Wallis, and Chloe Kuang – put in stellar rounds to keep them on a zero score throughout the two rounds of jumping, with two riders, Frandsen and Wallis, jumping double clear. At the end of the Team Competition, they captured the gold medal.
Behind them was Zone 4, featuring Gabriella Curry, Suzette Tittle, Cristian Hacker, and Amy Krebs, who took the silver medal. The bronze medal was awarded to the Zone 1/3/5 team, Campbell Hudkins, Riley McKesson, Malia Radcliffe, and Luke Rinehart.
“We’re all a team,” Lauder remarked about her team’s strategy. “[Our chef emphasized] clear rounds. Don’t go for broke; don’t push it too much. Clear rounds were what was going to get us gold, and we succeeded at that.”
Frandsen, among other riders, is in contention for an individual medal as well. “I’ve had my horse Golda for a little less than a year now and she’s the best mare I’ve ever had,” she said of her 8-year-old mount for the Pre-Junior category. “Since she’s so young we really have to go in and just give her confident rounds, and I feel like this week that’s what we’ve done.”
Curry enjoyed the opportunity to jump the same track twice, a privilege rarely had in the sport of show jumping. “The track today was definitely more technical,” she shared. “The first round there were a couple spots I didn’t ride my, best but in the second round I was really able to step up on those technical aspects of the course.”
Hacker, 16, shared the team spirit Zone 4 felt as they all jumped round one clear, putting them in contention for a top medal. “We all had such a great round and were gathered together congratulating each other, and we kept that going into the second round,” he explained. “It was really important for the team to go in with a great mindset.”
The Children’s and Pre-Junior sections will have Friday off before competing in their respective Individual Finals on Saturday.
Region 6/4 Win Team Gold in Junior Team Competition at 2023 FEI North American Youth Dressage Championships, Presented by USDF
Dressage competition continued Thursday at the 2023 FEI North American Youth Dressage Championships, presented by USDF, with the Junior Teams taking center stage and the U.S. Regions sweeping the podium.
Thirty six horse-and-rider combinations went head-to-head across nine teams, with the team of combined USDF Regions 4 and 6 coming out on top of the podium with a total score of 204.575. USDF Region 3 earned the silver medal on 204.364, and USDF Region 8 earned the bronze with 203.787.
Fifteen-year-old Norah Wright and her own Baccos Do Retiro, an 18-year-old Andalusian gelding, scored the highest for the winning Region 6/4 team, riding to a 68.939%. Teammate Lexi Kment rode Laureen Van Norman’s 19-year-old warmblood Montagny von der Heide to 68.727%. The pair were the anchors for their region, and Kment, a gold medal veteran of NAYC, just wanted to go in and have a fun ride with “Monty.” She explained, “It means a lot [to be back on a winning NAYC team]; it is super special because coming into this competition this year, I came in wanting to have fun. I went into the ring today with a big smile on my face, I was so proud of these girls and how well they did, and I just knew that whatever was going to happen was going to happen.”
Daphne Glenn and her 11-year-old Westphalian mare Romanesque achieved a 66.909% for Region 6/4, and Olivia Martz rode her mom’s 19-year-old Oldenburg gelding Ronvair to a 63.909%. “Retro [Ronvair] is my mom’s horse,” Martz explained.
“It feels really special to be taking him at 19 years old and competing with him because he is a horse that my mom bred and trained, and right now she is battling cancer, and it feels really special to be able to be here to experience it all on her horse that she did everything with.”
The silver medal team of Region 3 was comprised of Justine Boyer and Campanero HGF, Tessa Geven and Sir Frederico, Madison Sumner and Briar, and Virginia Woodcock and her own Mollegardens Sans-Souci. Woodcock, who was the anchor rider for the team, achieved a score of 69.303% with the 9-year-old Danish Warmblood mare. “It means so much to be here with these girls,” Woodcock said. “It’s been really fun to be a part of this team, the support between us has been amazing, and I wasn’t expecting to be here, and this is a pleasant result; it’s very exciting.”
The bronze-medal winning Region 8 Team included Lucy Sheldon and Porsche’s Florencia, Sophia Forsyth and Dimagico, and Leah Drew and Damon’s Davian.
See full results here.
Olivia Williams Captures Young Rider First Individual Qualifier with Irocco Blue S
The Junior and Young Rider categories of the Gotham North FEI North American Youth Championships, presented by USHJA, got underway Thursday with their first individual qualifiers. Topping the Young Rider section was Olivia Williams, from Zone 5, with Irocco Blue S. The pair went midway through the starting order of 36 entries and blazed to a time of 64.31 seconds that couldn’t be caught.
“I’ve had him for a little over two years and he’s been a really great horse for me,” Williams said of the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (VDL Zirocco Blue x Numero Uno). “We’ve come up the ranks and jumped some of our biggest classes together. He’s a great confidence builder and I feel really blessed to ride a horse as nice as him. He steps up every time we ask him to jump something new. I’m very proud of him and I feel very privileged to have the ride.”
In her second appearance at NAYC, Williams feels extra motivated by Thursday’s win as she carries that into the Team Competition and further rounds of jumping.
“It’s so great to be here,” she continued. “Each year this is something I look forward to. My first time competing was last year on the same horse so to be able to come back with confidence and to have a great mindset is really special.”
Originally from California, Williams has dreamed of competing at NAYC for most of her childhood, so now that the dream has become a reality, the next step is to take a top finish.
“Growing up, all I wanted to do was Young Riders. It was a big goal for me from the beginning,” she elaborated. “When I was able to come last year it was such an accomplishment and this year to qualify and come back, with Andrew and Alex Welles, is such a great feeling. These championships give you such a great opportunity to grow as a rider with your horse and get in the championship mindset.”
This year, Williams is keeping her horse with Team Welles as she travels back and forth between horse showing and attending the University of Notre Dame, studying Finance with a minor in real estate.
“One of the things Andrew stressed before going in today was that ‘pressure is a privilege.’ That really stuck with me the entire week. It’s such an opportunity to be here, I feel so lucky to compete and [now it’s about] maintaining the mindset and just having fun and going one step at a time.”
Taking the win in the Junior section was Nora Nauss, riding for Zone 6, aboard Bretzelle d’Arthenay in a time of 61.90 seconds. Guatemalan representative Daniel Montenegro Ortiz claimed second with Ira De Span, owned by Flavio Montenegro, and Zone 4 rider Olivia Sweetnam took third-place honors with HDB Quality, owned by Sweet Oak Farm.
The Juniors and Young Riders compete in their respective Team Competitions Friday.