Lexington, KY – As the day continued on Saturday for the 2012 Adequan/FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Championships presented by Gotham North (NAJYRC), more gold medalists were crowned. Brandi Roenick and Weltino’s Magic had the highest score to capture the Dressage Young Rider Freestyle Championship, while Canadian rider Laurence Blais Tetreault and Pissaro were gold medalists in the junior division. The dressage is sponsored by Platinum Performance and the United States Dressage Federation. The endurance riders were honored today in a podium presentation after they completed the first four-star endurance race in NAJYRC history yesterday. Team Canada took the gold medal, while Katherine Gardener and AF Big Bucks were the individual champions.
The NAJYRC concludes tomorrow at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY. Five disciplines (a total of 9 championships for juniors and young riders) will take part in the only FEI Championship to be held annually in North America. The NAJYRC is the premier equestrian competition in North America for junior and young riders, ages 14-21.
Racking up a incredible sixth gold medal at the NAJYRC, Brandi Roenick (17, San Diego, CA) was unbeatable this year. She and Weltino’s Magic, a 10-year-old Westphalian gelding owned by Jen Hlavacek, wowed the judges in their freestyle to score 72.625%, 70.625%, 71.250%, 72.375%, and 73.125% for a total of 72.000%.
“(The NAJYRC) is always a top goal,” Roenick said. “It’s always a very fun competition to come to and coming here every year and medaling has been an honor and more than I’ve ever dreamed of. It’s just an amazing feeling.”
Roenick and “Magic” performed a freestyle routine that Magic did with his former rider, Olympian Steffen Peters, who is also Roenick’s trainer. “It got passed down to me due to such a short amount of time I had to get ready,” Roenick said. The pair have only been together for three months.
Since Peters is in London preparing for the Olympic Games, Roenick’s “eyes on the ground” were her mother. “My mom has been helping me,” she said. “Steffen has taught me to not be dependent on his training because he can’t always be here. I like having eyes on the ground, so Mom is the perfect fit for me. She knows me better than anybody does.”
Roenick acknowledged Magic’s initial fear of the cameras on the side of the ring, “I can’t expect him to be a super star every day,” but felt that the test’s highlight were their tempi changes.
Monica Houweling (17, Delta, BC, CAN) and Rifradin put together a freestyle routine that included “beautiful and powerful” music by Karen Robinson that won them the silver medal. Their judge’s scores were 67.750%, 68.750%, 73.250%, 73.375%, and 71.000% for a total of 70.825%.
Houweling designed her own choreography, and she was “super happy” with her ride. “She was a little bit nervous; she was looking at the cameras. But as soon as we went to work, she was just trusting me. Our pirouettes were really great. I was just thrilled with how she performed for me.”
Mathilde Blais Tetreault (20, Montreal, QB, CAN) and Michelangelo were the bronze medal winners in the freestyle. They received judge’s scores of 68.250%, 68.875%, 69.375%, 69.625%, and 70.500% for a total score of 69.325%.
Tetreault’s Spanish influenced music was by Karen Robinson as well, and it was her music that caused anxiety in her test. Her music started skipping halfway through her test, which put Tetreault off where she was supposed to be. “I didn’t know whether I should stop or keep going. After that I was anxious, but he was really good for me,” she said. The music righted itself, and Tetreault got back on step with her test.
She described Michelangelo as “not easy. He has a little character,” she said. “I’m careful not to cross the line, and he really likes to work for me.”
It was a great day for the Tetreault family as both sisters received freestyle medals. “It’s really nice because I’m so proud of her. She’s working really hard. I would really like to be on the same team with her next year. We’ll have to see if she can make it because she’s only 15.”
Taking home a third medal from the NAJYRC this year was Laurence Blais Tetreault (15, Montreal, QB, CAN) in the Junior Freestyle Championship. Tetreault rode Pissaro, a 15-year-old Westphalian gelding, to judge’s scores of 73.000%, 74.125%, 75.500%, 71.625%, and 73.625% for a total of 73.575%.
Tetreault already won the team gold medal and the bronze medal in the individual championship. “I
can’t describe how it feels. It takes really long and every day you have to ride and think of what you’re training for. Have a goal and it keeps you going. I’ve had my horse for three years, and it’s a long way to the top.”
Tetreault and Pissaro performed their freestyle to music from the movies Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda. “It is fun music,” she said. “It fit my horse well because he’s so cute and fun. I found my music with my sister and put it together myself.” Tetreault said that her success was also bittersweet as this is her last competition with Pissaro.
Mariah Sutton (16, Kitchener, ON, CAN) was “still speechless” after her silver medal performance on Renoir, her Oldenburg gelding. The judges gave them scores of 72.375%, 72.625%, 68.125%, 70.375%, and 71.750% for a total of 71.050%.
Regaining her speech, Sutton exclaimed, “My test was awesome. It flowed so great and Renoir was just full of spirit and just so loyal. It’s an honor to have a horse like that.”
Sutton’s music were instrumental versions of rap and breakdancing songs, which had a “lot of bass in it” and “expressed Renoir’s gaits.”
The bronze medal went to Ayden Uhlir (Arlington, TX) on Sjapoer, a 13-year-old KWPN gelding. They were given scores of 68.375%, 69.375%, 72.125%, 67.375%, and 73.375% for a total of 70.125%. “I feel pretty good right now receiving a medal in each one of my classes. I’m still up in the clouds right now,” she said. Uhlir was on the bronze medal team and won gold in the individual championship.
Uhlir and Sjapoer have worked on various aspects of their tests since they competed at the USEF Dressage Festival of Champions last month. She explained, “We were really working more towards expression in the movements, and he needed to have more suspension in his gaits. We were fairly prepared for this competition this year.”
Uhlir’s music from The Blues Brothers was picked “because it really fits Sjapoer’s personality,” she said. “He’s saucy and feisty, and he has an old soul to him. I like oldies music more than the new stuff. I really like the trot work music. I thought it matched him so perfectly. I picked the music myself and my trainer choreographed everything.”
Again in the junior division, the highest scores of the day went to Nicolas Torres Rodriguez (15, Bogota, Colombia) on Silver Label, a 15-year-old SWB gelding owned by Alexandra Rodriguez. They were not eligible for a medal because of their home country designation, but nonetheless were very pleased to have such a strong performance. They received judge’s scores of 76.000%, 75.750%, 77.500%, 72.625%, and 75.625% with a total of 75.500%.
Rodriguez lives in Bogota, but travels once a month to train in New Jersey with Cesar Parra. Silver Label lives in New Jersey, but Rodriguez is able to practice on his 17-year-old horse at home, with whom he competes in Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire I competitions. He has had Silver Label for one year and hopes to advance to the grand prix level. Their freestyle music was from the movie Avatar.
“It was a great ride,” he said. “All the week has been great and the horse has had his best week since I bought him.”
The endurance team gold medal went to Canada this year with three teammates riding purebred Arabians. In a great show of team unity, all three members crossed the finish line together. In official times, Lee Hutton and Parker AES finished in seven hours and 33 seconds, Emma Webb and Serloki in seven hours and 34 seconds, and Jessica Yavis and Jahlad in seven hours and 35 seconds. Chef d’Equipe Maura Leahy noted that the overcast weather helped the team by providing a better environment for racing.
Emma Webb (18 Flesherton, ON, CAN), borrowed her horse from American endurance rider Jan Worthington. “My horse felt really good all day,” she said. “There are not very many of us (on the team), so it’s hard to get a team together and get all of us to finish.”
Jessica Yavis (16, Winfield, AB, CAN) rode her own horse and despite a slip where they almost fell on Loop 3, she finished strong. “It scared me pretty bad, so I went to check with the team vet,” she explained. “I decided to back off after that. He’s fine now; it’s just a little scrape. I’ve been riding my horse for eight years, so I know him pretty well. I keep in check with him all the time. I take the vet’s advice and go from there.”
Yavis added, “I’m so glad that we finished as a team yesterday.”
Hutton echoed the team sentiments, “It was awesome crossing the finish line together. We talked about it before. We decided if we met out on the trail, we’d stick together. We kept our pace and rode it smart to complete everybody. We would not have any of the speeds or completion rates if we had no crew. They’re amazing and don’t get nearly enough credit. There should be enough medals for everybody.” The 20-year-old from Chesterville, Ontario, Canada showed here last year and won the silver medal at the 2009 NAJYRC when endurance was a USEF rated competition.
In the Individual Endurance championships, it was 20-year-old Katherine Gardner of Coventry, RI, who rode AF Big Bucks owned by Pam Wydell to victory. The pair were able to complete the 120 km race in 6 hours, 11 minutes, and 48 seconds.
“My ride went really well. I went into it mostly because I wanted a completion, to do well but get across the finish line making sure my horse is okay. Along the way, we still had a lot of horse left and he was doing really well,” Gardener explained of her race performance.
AF Big Bucks is an experienced endurance horse who has set record times in shorter races. Gardener rode him in a 120 km race a few months ago, but this is only their second big competition together. “He knows how to race and do well,” she described. “When he comes into the hold, he knows to chill and relax and conserve energy. His pulse is down within seconds. That’s his biggest strength, is pulsing down.”
Since the endurance race at NAJYRC is an FEI four-star rated competition (for the first time in NAJYRC history), it will dramatically help the young riders that finished the race. By having this four-star qualification, they will be able to compete in more international competitions.
Also competing at the NAJYRC this week were three members from the American team that traveled to Abu Dhabi to ride in the Young Rider World Endurance Championship this past December. Under the guidance of Chef d’Equipe Emmett Ross, they posted amazing results by placing fourth out of 29 teams from all over the world.
Joining Mary Kathryn Clark and Kelsey Russell in Abu Dhabi last year was NAJYRC silver medalist Kelsey Kimbler (19, Aberdeen, SD). Here at the NAJYRC, Kimbler rode Fringant and finished in six hours, 11 minutes, and 49 seconds.
Fringant was also named the “Best Conditioned Horse” of the event. “I think conformationally he is very correct, which has helped him stay sound in the races. He has a very big heart,” Kimbler said.
Kimbler has ridden Fringant since he was three years old. “He’s the first horse that we’ve had since he was a baby and we’ve been able to bring him up and do our own training. It’s been very rewarding. I know he has a lot of potential; this was his personal best and my personal best.”
The bronze medal went to 15-year-old Cassandra Roberts of Bronson, FL. Roberts and C A Classy Marina ( a three-quarters Arabian, one-quarter Saddlebred horse) have been together for three years. “We had a good plan,” Roberts said. “The weather didn’t change the plan. She went how she normally goes and I let her do her own thing.”
With the three NAJYRC medalists and the two riders that competed in Abu Dhabi, the American endurance team’s future is very strong. Ross said, “All of these young ladies are the future of our sport. I expect to have at least one of them on the World Equestrian Games team two years from now.”
Tomorrow’s competition concludes with the final phase for Eventing, stadium jumping, and the team and individual champions will be named. The Closing Ceremonies will honor all of the medal winners and competitors at the NAJYRC.
All of the action in the Rolex Stadium tomorrow will be broadcast live on USEF Network presented by Smartpak at www.usefnetwork.com.
For full results or to learn more about the Adequan/FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Championships presented by Gotham North, please visit www.youngriders.org.
NAJYRC showcases the best young rider and junior horse/rider combinations in dressage, eventing, jumping, reining, and endurance. Young equestrians from across the continent will descend on the Kentucky Horse Park to vie for FEI medals at these Championships.
For sponsorship information visit www.youngriders.org/Sponsors.aspx.