Junior Individual Dressage medalists from L to R: Ariel Thomas (Reg 7) - Silver, Ayden Uhlir (Reg 9) - Gold, Laurence Blais Tetreault (Quebec, CAN) - Bronze, and the high score dressage rider of the day, Nicolas Torres Rodriguez representing Columbia. (Susan J. Stickle)
Lexington, KY - It was a full day of equestrian sport at the 2012 Adequan/FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Championships presented by Gotham North (NAJYRC), and four podium presentations crowned this year's medalists for the Dressage individuals and Show Jumping teams. The dressage competition is sponsored by Platinum Performance and the United States Dressage Federation, while the show jumping is sponsored by the United States Hunter Jumper Association.
The NAJYRC runs through Sunday, July 22, 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.
The dressage riders started out this morning in the FEI North American Junior Individual Championship. The gold medal went to Ayden Uhlir of Region 9 (Arlington, TX) on Sjapoer, a 13-year-old KWPN gelding. They received scores of 70.000% (Judge E), 70.921% (Judge H), 69.737% (Judge C), 68.421% (Judge M), 69.342% (Judge B), for a total score of 69.684%.
Uhlir said afterward, "I feel absolutely privileged to be here right now. It feels amazing."
Uhlir has ridden Sjapoer for 15 months, and while they went through "ups and downs," their "bond has definitely strengthened." She commented, "We're like the same person now."
She said of her test, "I was thinking that I really needed to improve my walk and my trot half passes and my flying changes. The day before they were not up to par where I wanted them to be. I really tried to work on those things and nitpick all of the little issues with the previous ride. Otherwise I think he did really, really well and I was really proud of Sjapoer. Going into today, I was really wanting more cadence in the trot work; that's one of our issues. Otherwise I felt like we improved from the day before."
Silver medalists Ariel Thomas (17, Region 7, Briones, CA) and Montfleury, a 19-year-old Westphalian gelding owned by Grace Goodby, received scores of 70.132% (Judge E), 68.421% (Judge H), 66.579% (Judge C), 67.237% (Judge M), 67.105% (Judge B) for a total of 67.895%.
This was Thomas' first time at NAJYRC. "My goal coming here was to ride as well as I could. Medaling was a goal but it wasn't expected," she said.
The bronze medal went to 15-year-old Laurence Blais Tetreault of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Tetreault rode Pissaro, a 15-year-old Westphalian gelding and added to her medal count after she helped her team win the gold medal on Wednesday. It was family affair as her sister, Mathilde Blais Tetreault, won a young rider team bronze medal as well this year.
"It's really, really great to be here," she said. "I come from a dressage family. My parents are really supportive and they don't put pressure. They're happy with both me and my sister's performances. We were just having fun."
Tetreault and Pissaro scored 66.842% (Judge E), 68.026% (Judge H), 68.289% (Judge C), 67.763% (Judge M), 67.500% (Judge B) for a total of 67.684%.
For all three junior dressage riders, it was their first individual medal at the NAJYRC.
The highest final score in the junior division today went to Nicolas Torres Rodriguez, a 15-year-old rider from Bogota, Colombia. Rodriguez rode Silver Label, a 15-year-old SWB gelding owned by Alexandra Rodriguez. They received scores of 73.684% (Judge E), 71.974% (Judge H), 72.368% (Judge C), 70.789% (Judge M), 71.447% (Judge B) for a total of 72.053%.
While they had the highest scores, they did not receive a medal since they are not geographically from the North American region. However, it was a fantastic experience for the South American rider. "Competing at the Rolex Stadium is a dream come true," he related.
In the Young Rider division, 17-year-old Brandi Roenick scored her fifth gold medal at the NAJYRC, having won the team gold medal for the past three years for Region 5 and the individual gold in the junior division in 2008. Roenick, who hails from San Diego, CA, rode Weltino's Magic, a 10-year-old Westphalian gelding owned by Jen Hlavacek. Roenick of Region 5 had a total score of 74.947% and Judge's scores of 75.395% (Judge E), 73.816% (Judge H), 75.132% (Judge C), 73.026% (Judge M), 77.368% (Judge B).
"It hasn't hit me yet, but I'm still on cloud nine from Wednesday so this is all really amazing," she admitted.
Roenick and Weltino's Magic have only been together for 10 weeks. Weltino's Magic was the double gold medalist at the 2011 Pan American Games with Roenick's trainer, Olympian Steffen Peters. "We have a really special bond for the short amount of time we've been together," Roenick pointed out. "The way we've adapted to each other has been absolutely amazing."
She went on to say, "This is my third year at Young Riders with three different horses. The first year, I had my mom's horse. Last year with Pretty Lady it felt really good coming in on my own horse. This year coming in on Magic, I was nervous when I got here but he gave me the 'It's okay, I'll take care of you.' That's exactly what he did today. I sat there and he floated around and let me guide him. I was very happy."
Speaking of tomorrow's Freestyle Championship, Roenick said, "My freestyle is my favorite test and my horse loves it more than any test that I ride. It's always good when you and your horse are on the same page, so I'm really confident going into tomorrow."
Monica Houweling of Delta, British Columbia, Canada, was the silver medalist. She rode Linda Houweling's Rifradin, a 14-year-old KWPN mare, to scores of 72.763% (Judge E), 70.921% (Judge H), 68.553% (Judge C), 70.789% (Judge M), 73.158% (Judge B) and a total of 71.237%.
The 19-year-old said afterward, "I'm still kind of in shock right now."
Houweling and Rifradin have been together for six months. "It was tough in the beginning," she conceded. "She's a mare, and I'd had geldings, so I wasn't really sure how to work with that. The biggest change for me is that she was with Debbie McDonald for five years and I had a chance to work with Debbie when she was back in California. Since that point, we clicked so well. She's been on my side and since then it's just been amazing.
While Houweling has medaled twice before at NAJYRC, it was in the junior division. But that experience led her to want more as a young rider. She agreed, "You get that feeling on the podium and you just want it again. Every time it's amazing. You just feel so great being up there when you're making your country proud. It's just so much fun being here. I love the competition. I wanted to challenge myself and come out at young riders with my new horse. It's a whole new ball game, but I was ready for it."
Bronze medalist Alexandra Reid (20, Drumbo, ON, CAN) and VIP, a 10-year-old gelding owned by Deborah Miculinic, received scores of 70.789% (Judge E), 69.211% (Judge H), 71.184% (Judge C), 68.684% (Judge M), 70.132% (Judge B) for a total of 70.000%.
Reid acknowledged, "It feels very overwhelming and unreal to be here right now. I've always wanted to come here. It's just never really worked out with horses. You almost get to the point when you get to things like (NAJYRC) and it doesn't happen, so I never thought I'd actually be standing up there."
Reid said that VIP is "a different caliber of horse than I've ever had too."
For all three young riders, they said that their next goal was the FEI Dressage World Cup for Young Riders.