Sophie Simpson of (18, Wellington, Fla.) and Why Not accomplished a rare feat in the longstanding history of NAJYRC, as the pair secured the Individual Gold medal in the Young Rider Individual portion of competition, without adding a single fault to their score the entire week. Nicholas Hansen (21, Catawissa, Pa.) and Ritter Benno captured their third Gold medal, this time topping the Young Rider Freestyle Test with a score of 72.125%. Jenna Upchurch (17, Chesterfield, Mo.) and Greystoke rode to victory in the FEI Junior Individual Test, receiving a score of 70.632%. Clara Cargile (20, San Angelo, Texas) and White Indian rose to the top of the leaderboard in the CICY2*, while Annick Niemuller (17, Goodwood, Ont.) and FE Akari secured first place heading into show jumping tomorrow in the CH-J*. The Area V/IX Team sits atop the standings in team competition in the CICY2* with a total score of 183.7, while the Area I Team moved from fourth place to first in the CH-J* with a 146.7.
Sophie Simpson Shines in Young Rider Individual Final Aboard Why Not
Sophie Simpson (18, Wellington, Fla.) and Why Not, owned by Simpson Show Jumping, forged their way through competition this week, riding five clear rounds to finish a flawless effort at The Colorado Horse Park. Simpson rode to victory in the Young Rider First Round Qualifier on Wednesday, and then piloted Why Not to two clear rounds in the Nations Cup-formatted Young Rider Team competition to secure a Team Gold medal. The duo then returned to the International Ring to produce two clear rounds against the Manuel Esparza (MEX)-designed track in the Young Rider Individual Fina,l placing her atop the podium for the final time this week.
"Walking it, I thought that they were skinny fences and wide oxers. There were careful jumps in the first round, especially with the plank. I think my mount did a great job this week," said Simpson. "This is my fourth time here and every year you try to chip away at more clear rounds and always want to come back and ride better."
"This week was quite crazy for me. After winning the speed on Wednesday, I just had to keep a clear head and clear mind. I never looked at the paper to see where I stood and didn't want to see how many faults I had behind me. You take every round for what it is," she added.
Delaney Flynn (16, Scottsdale, Ariz.) and Tacxo de la Nutria finished with the Silver medal in their first NAJYRC appearance, while Jennifer Gates (20, Seattle, Wash.) and Luftikus S secured the Bronze medal.
"I think [Esparza] built fantastic all week. He challenged the riders enough by having a few tall skinny jumps that were very careful and some lines with multiple options. I think he challenged us to a very fair degree without making it too difficult," commented Gates. "This is my third year here and my second year doing the Young Riders. I've really enjoyed being here and I think this competition is always a goal."
Flynn spoke candidly about her first experience at NAJYRC and the meaning of earning back-to-back Silver medals in the Young Rider Team competition with the Zone 3/8/9 Team, as well as in the Young Rider Individual Final.
"This was my first time here at NAJYRC and it was a very good experience for me. The team atmosphere, working together, and supporting each other was one of my favorite things about this competition," said Flynn. "I was coming here just expecting to learn more about Young Riders and to actually medal with silvers is just amazing. I'm happy with my horse and the support that everyone has given me."
The Gold medal duo impressed throughout the week and Simpson was in awe of their accomplishments and perseverance, stating, "Five clear rounds, that's you know, crazy. When you sit in the stands and you watch previous years, you always think about how you can get five clear rounds."
"After winning the speed she felt great. I felt quite solid going into the rest of the week. Team day is always my favorite. Even though we were on a combined team, I still loved it and the support we gave each other. Coming into today, everyone kept asking me why I was so quiet and I just was trying to zen and be calm."
The duo have been working on their connection and communication for years, as Why Not is the only horse that Simpson has brought to NAJYRC in each of her four appearances.
"I think she wanted this just as bad as I did. It still hasn't sunken in yet. I was crying and my mom was crying. This has always been a dream of mine and always something that I've wanted, to win double Gold," she smiled. "For this dream to come true after coming here four times with the same horse and everything; I just really feel like it all came together."
"I do want to thank everyone that is involved in my success. The grooms, the vets, and everyone who is involved with Nini, also on my side, my family and my friends who have been so supportive this week. I want to thank each of the sponsors of this event. Without their support we wouldn't be able to compete on teams at such a young age and have this incredible experience."
Allyn Mann of Adequan®, the title sponsor of the event, spoke about the deeply rooted purpose of their sponsorship, which is a major component in the continued importance and history of the annual event.
"I want to thank everyone for participating and to the parents for supporting their children here. We're just a piece of the puzzle in the overall success of this event and I'm honored to be able to support this amazing competition. We saw three of the Olympic disciplines competing this week," he said. "I love to see the perseverance of each of you. There are no guarantees when you get here of how it's going to go. People deal with more adversity than others, but it shows what they're all made of, and it's just a pleasure to be here."
Nicholas Hansen and Ritter Benno Take Young Rider Freestyle to Earn Three Gold Medals
Nicholas Hansen (21, Catawissa, Pa.) and Ritter Benno swept the Gold medal podium this week in the USDF North American Junior & Young Rider Dressage Championships in each of the three classes offered to Young Riders. First, Hansen earned Team Gold alongside his fellow Region 1 riders, before continuing his brilliant consistency in the FEI Young Rider Individual Test and the Young Rider Freestyle. The duo earned a 72.125% to secure the victory ahead of Rebekah Mingari (20, Crestwood, Ky.) of Region 2 aboard Elzarma TF, who collected the Silver medal. Emily Ferguson (20, Winnipeg, Man.) representing the combined team of Ontario/Manitoba/Alberta and Wrazzmatazz received the Bronze medal for their score of 68.295%.
Hansen and Ritter Benno have dominated the competition this week, as the pair did not earn a score lower than 70% for their efforts and have been working towards a strong performance in their last appearance at NAJYRC. Hansen was still shocked with the results, making their conclusion to competition even more bittersweet.
"This is something I certainly didn't expect to happen. You know, the horse works its heart out. I worked as hard as I could and rode as diligently as I could. It's really amazing to see your hard work over the course of the past few years pay off," noted Hansen.
As the pair took to the ring, the notorious Star Wars theme song played through the speakers. Hansen, who is a fan of the storied series, wanted to use something creative for his choreography and musical accompaniment, explaining that as the test continues, the music slowly transitions from the older scores of the Star Wars franchise, to newer versions, ending with the most recent edition.
"I thought it would be something cool to play with. I've always really liked a lot of the scores from Star Wars itself and the way we put it together is that at the entrance of the freestyle that is the original music and then we work through the rest," discussed Hansen. "I always try to ride to music you can hum along to."
"The part of the test that I'm the most happy with was the final extension to the halt. Out of the corner, he just kind of took me to the centerline. I didn't need to tell him to go. He just knew what we were doing and took me right to the halt at X," detailed Hansen, when speaking of his favorite part of the test this afternoon.
Mingari and Elzarma TF also surpassed their own personal expectations of a final podium finish, as the young mare, at only seven years of age, only recently began contesting Prix St. Georges. Their music, which is a mixture of compositions previously used by the mare's dam, Allure S, in Large Tour competition, received great marks from the judging panel.
"I had a really awesome ride today and my mare put her heart out there for me. The music is actually her mother's [Allure S]. We tweaked everything to fit her routine a bit more and she did an incredible job," said Mingari. "The music fits her very well and it was overall just a great experience."
"The pirouettes and the tempi changes were very good. We went down the centerline and she gave me five perfect three tempis in a straight line and I was really proud of her for that," she added.
Ferguson and Wrazzmatazz have only been partnered together since this past February and the pair have made tremendous improvements in just a few short months before arriving at NAJYRC.
"I thought our half passes were great. He's a very dynamic horse and we're able to increase the level of difficulty by making the angle a bit steeper and he really showed those well today in the ring," she said. "We've accomplished so much in such a short time. It's been a very fun journey for us."
The pair rode to a compilation of One Republic music, which Ferguson says fits the tempo and style of Wrazzmatazz perfectly. She commented, "I love the canter music, especially because it really suits my horse."
Upchurch and Greystoke Take Gold in FEI Junior Rider Individual Test
Jenna Upchurch (17, Chesterfield, Mo.) and Greystoke, a flashy dapple grey gelding, rode to a class high 70.632% in the FEI Junior Individual Test at the USDF North American Junior & Young Rider Dressage Championships. Upchurch, who stood atop the Gold medal podium for the first time this week, accepted the Gold medal with poise and grace, having bested a competitive class.
Vanessa Creech-Terauds (16, Caistor Centre, Ont.) and Fleur de Lis L were awarded with the Silver medal for their score of 70.184%, while Carlos Maldonado Lara (17, Guadalajara, Mexico) and Massimo, the only representatives in the dressage discipline from their home nation of Mexico, received the Bronze medal with a final score of 69.974%.The FEI Junior Rider Individual Test is the only class of all disciplines hosted so far this week that has seen each participating country represented on the podium.
Upchurch and Greystoke only began working together this past December and have solidified a strong relationship to this point. Upchurch defined herself as a dressage enthusiast who loves the challenge, preciseness, and accuracy of the sport.
"Winning Gold, that's something you dream about the minute you find out about these championships," she said. "It was huge for me and it's always been a dream of mine, so this is wonderful. I really like the challenge of dressage. That's why I was drawn to it."
Upchurch has bounced around the disciplines, riding in the hunter/jumpers and also competing in the Arabian pleasure world before transitioning full time to the sport of dressage. The commute for Upchurch is a long one, as she drives over two hours to her home base each week to train.
"This has been an interesting transition going from the hunter/jumpers to the Arabian circuit to open dressage. Last year I was lucky enough to lease a horse and that was a great experience," she added. "I felt like he was very balanced and correct in our test today and I'm so pleased with the result."
Vanessa Creech-Terauds aboard Fleur de Lis L narrowly missed the Gold medal as the final rider the class for the afternoon, scoring just four-tenths off the winning ride.
"I was so pleased with her today and I felt like she gave me her all in the ring. It was a great feeling to earn that score and I'm so happy to be here," said Creech-Terauds. "This competition means so much to everyone and it's an incredible experience for each of us."
Maldonado Lara was the sole representative of Mexico in dressage competition this week. He and his mount Massimo performed beautifully and will look to improve on their results Sunday in the Junior Freestyle Test on the final day of competition at NAJYRC. Maldonado Lara also noted that he would like to motivate more members of the dressage community in Mexico to travel to the competition in 2017.
"To come here and have this huge venue and all these other disciplines was fun. To have Mexico and the United States and Canada on the podium together is kind of surreal to think about," said Maldonado Lara. "My horse was very good today, and I want more riders from our country to come here and compete. I want to have a good team here for next year."
Area I Team Leads CH-J* While Area V/IX Team Holds CICY2*
The USEA North American Junior & Young Rider Eventing Championships saw the leaderboard shake up after horse-and-rider combinations took to the cross-country course Saturday in both the CH-J* and CICY2* divisions. The Area I Team, composed of four riders from the state of Massachusetts, overtook the lead after strong performances by three of the team's members. Katie Lichten (17, Hamilton, Mass.) and RF Luminati, Madeline Lichten (17, Hamilton, Mass.) and Yarrow, Erica Jarrell (16, Lincoln, Mass.) aboard Uni Sprite, as well as Cornelia Dorr (18, Manchester, Mass.) with Sir Patico MH, finished with a total team score of 146.7 to push them into the first place position heading into show jumping tomorrow in the CH-J*.
In the CICY2*, the Area V/IX Team rose to the occasion to take over the top spot in the division with the final phase of stadium to be completed Sunday, which medals will be presented to both the top teams and individuals. Clara Cargile (20, San Angelo, Texas) and White Indian, alongside Madeline Backus (21, Larkspur, Colo.) and P.S. Arianna, as well as Alyssa Phillips and Bliss III (20, Fort Worth, Texas) earned a total score of 183.7 to sit just five points ahead of the Area VI/VIII Team, who are in second place with a 188.8.
The Area I Team CH-J* riders finished consistently within the time allowed. Each of the members commented on the thoroughness of the course design, which made them feel confident and prepared. While three of the four members completed the track, Madeline Lichten and Yarrow accidentally jumped the CICY2* coffin obstacle, which led to their technical elimination from competition.
"The course rode really well and it was very fun. Hugo ran boldly, which I was not quite expecting, but he was super and honest," said Dorr, regarding her ride aboard Sir Patico MH.
"I thought the beginning of the course was big and bold and that set the tone for a good ride throughout the rest of the course," said Katie Lichten. "The course was very fair and you couldn't take anything for granted out there. I thought my horse was just amazing. There was a little bit more pressure this year, because I think we were expected to do better."
"The support from the team has been amazing," said Madeline Licthen. "I felt really bad that I messed up on course today, but everyone on the team was so understanding. I jumped the 2* coffin instead of the 1* coffin, so we were eliminated."
Jarrell, who completed the track aboard Uni Sprite, felt the benefits of team competition specifically, as she said the support throughout the course and at the finish is something she particularly enjoyed.
She commented, "You have eleven girls running at you and hugging you at the end of your course. It helps you to forget anything you may have been stressing about. I think our team is really close this year and it's been the greatest support network."
The Area V/IX Team clinched the top spot on the leaderboard after faults were accumulated by nearly every team on the CICY2* course. Of the three combinations, two riders feel their strengths lie in their show jumping phase, which will help them immensely looking towards the final day of competition Sunday.
"I'm just going to try and ride my best. He typically does better when I don't mess us up, so I'm just going to give him the best ride possible," said Cargile.
"I would say that it's one of her best phases. She's really a freak show jumping so I just have to hold on," laughed Phillips.
Cargile continued to speak of the course, which she previously had the chance to see, as the pair took top honors at the CIC2* hosted at CHP earlier this summer.
"This was a similar track for us, as we ran an FEI event here in June, and I was a little bit nervous. He was an absolute super star today," she said, as the pair's performance have them currently leading the division individually with a total two-day score of 49.50.
Phillips and Bliss III had a strong go around the track and finished with just 13.6 time penalties to help boost the combined team's chances of standing atop the medal podium Sunday.
"She really handled everything the way that I wanted her to. She got a little bit tired at the end, but other than that she jumped around everything great. I'm super happy with our round and that she's feeling good and ready for tomorrow."
Backus is a Colorado native who returned back to the state after being based on the East Coast for the past year. She piloted P.S. Arianna to an overall score of 60.8, as 11 penalties were administered for breaking a frangible pin on course.
"It's great to compete at home again. I think it all rode very nicely and rode very well. Coming from Area IX, we're a small area and I don't always have the privilege of being on a team, so it's been great this year to have a team," she said. "We've done a great job to this point and we'll continue that all the way through the weekend."
Annick Niemuller (17, Goodwood, Ont.) and FE Akari currently lead the CH-J* division after producing a double clear cross-country round to sit on their dressage score of 43.50. Lee Camiolo (16, Louisville, Ky.) and Cahaaron V.E. are in second place with a score of 45.00, while Carmen Holmes-Smith (18, Chase, B.C.) and Spartacus round out the top three individuals with a score of 45.90 heading into Sunday's competition.
Cargile and White Indian will hold the lead in the CICY2* division with an overall score of 49.59, while Shelby Brost (18, Red Deer, Alta.) and Crimson follow just behind the leaders on a score of 50.20. Elena Hengel (20, Woodland, Minn.) and Zipp round out the current top three standings with a score of 52.30 seconds.
For more information on NAJYRC and The Colorado Horse Park, please visit www.youngriders.org or www.coloradohorsepark.com.
Photo Credit ©SusanJStickle and ©Sportfot. These photos may only be used once in relation to this press release.