North Salem, N.Y. - Caroline Garren picked up her second gold medal from the Adequan®/FEI North American Youth Championships (NAYC), presented by Gotham North on August 4 at Old Salem Farm. She added the win in the United States Dressage Federation (USDF) North American Junior Individual Championship to her record with a score of 70.14%, after having helped her Region 3 team to the team gold earlier in the week.
Bianca Schmidt, from Region 4, claimed the silver medal, while Chase Robertson of Canada took the bronze.
“The feeling is so amazing, especially since this is the first horse I’ve ever owned myself,” said Garren, of Atlanta, Ga., of her win aboard her and Charles and Michele Garren’s Bell Angelo, a 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding. “It’s been a really wonderful experience growing and learning with him, so to see all those years of work pay off is really exciting.”
Garren, 18, grew up riding but spent most of her early career on lesson horses. “I rode Quarter Horses, Percherons—you name it, I probably rode some variation,” Garren said. “This is the first horse where my parents sat me down and said they wanted to buy me a nice horse to compete.”
The Garrens bought Bell Angelo for Caroline three years ago. “I felt this great connection. He was a young horse, and I have never ridden a young horse before, so that was a big learning curve to have a seven-year-old instead of a [older horse],” Garren said. “At first it was tough, but we got him into the right program with my trainer Karen Lipp. He can be quite quirky sometimes, but we really put the time and energy into finding the right equipment, feed, and vets, and everything that works for him. It has been a really great experience with this horse. I love him; he’s my baby.”
Garren, with Lipp’s help, developed Bell Angelo from first level to the FEI Junior level. In 2017, they competed at Garren’s first NAYC, where they finished in the top 10 of both the Junior Individual Championship and the Junior Freestyle Championship.
“We were pushing a little bit to get into the juniors [last year], and this year he was very confirmed at about third and fourth level, and he was very ready,” she said. “As opposed to last year, he’s really starting to develop true self carriage. Last year he needed a lot more help from me. This year, I can let him be a little bit in the work, which results in a much more enjoyable ride. He’s matured; he’s muscled now, and he’s much more confident at this level.”
After her Team test, Garren had identified her geometry in the test as an area of improvement, and before the Individual Championship, she worked with Lipp to improve it. “She has a great app on her phone where you can see exactly where you’re going in the test and we spent a good portion of time looking at that, so I was much happier with that,” Garren said. “I was also happier with the overall energy of the test.”
Schmidt, 16, from Region 4 and Robertson, 16, from Canada earned identical scores of 70.02 percent. The collective marks were also tied, so the tie was broken by the collective mark of the judge at C. This put Schmidt, of Edina, Minn., into the silver medal aboard Eliana Schmidt’s Lou Heart, a 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding. “I think it was the whole test, the whole feeling, the whole experience,” said Schmidt. “It sounds cheesy, but I enjoyed every minute of it.”
That gave the bronze to Robertson, from Calgary, Alberta, riding Teresa van Lambalgen’s 15-year-old KWPN gelding Winsome. “I think that I really went for things and I tried my very best and it paid off,” said Robertson. “It’s the most incredible experience and I’m just blown away by how this has come together. I could never imagine anything better than this.”
Check out the live stream of the NAYC on USEF Network continuing Sunday, August 5, with the USDF North American Young Rider Dressage Freestyle Championship at 8:00 a.m. EST followed by the USDF North American Junior Rider Dressage Freestyle Championship, and the children’s, junior and young rider Individual Finals of the North American Youth Show Jumping Championships, presented by the USHJA, at 8:30 a.m. EST.
View the NAYC schedule and results.