Saugerties, N.Y.—July 20
Just after the press conference in front of the purple FEI banner, the three top Junior dressage teams from today’s Adequan/FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships scattered to greet their families and take added celebratory photos, but Christian Simonson and Benjamin Ebeling—from Region 7 in California—lingered back.
“I can’t stop smiling!” said Simonson into his friends’ ear.
“I know—it hurts,” replied Ebeling with a grin cemented on his face.
The Region 7 team had every reason to celebrate—taking the gold medal with weighted scores each above 68 percent. They started the morning’s competition on top with Ava Dingley’s ride on Furst Von Der Heide, earning a score of 67.02 percent. Then, her teammate Aleyna Dunn set the bar high with the winning score of the day (68.97 %) aboard Bivera. After competing her test, she enthusiastically hugged her horse and the Region 7 crowd cheered noticeably louder than the rest. Benjamin Ebeling was the next to go from the team, garnering a score of 68.16 percent.
During one of the breaks in the competition and before the fourth member of Region 7 completed his test, the announcer recited the current standings with the California crew in the lead.
“That may make [Region 7] untouchable, we’ll just have to see how it goes,” sounded the speakers.
Christian Simonson’s ride on Herzkonig proved the statement true with a beautiful test, scoring 68.89 percent—the second highest score of the day behind his teammate.
Dingley, Dunn, Ebeling and Simonson’s scores sealed Region 7’s standing atop the first tier of the podium. Their victory gallop was as spirited as the crowd—Simonson had his FEI medal between his teeth and his friends laughed along as they lapped the ring.
“We’ve all known each other a long time—we hang out all the time,” said Simonson. “This is a goal we’ve been working at together and it’s really awesome to get this far.”
When asked if their friendship translated to success at the Championships, Dunn said, “Without a doubt! We have done really well because we know each other so well. We know each other’s personalities and are able to connect really well. And everything’s so easy and simple—we know when to support each other and to scream so loud, know one another’s horses—it’s like we’re brothers and sisters practically.”
The silver medal was awarded to Region 1—Allison Nemeth, Kayla Kadlubek, Amanda McAuliffe and Claire Hodges. The four riders from the southeastern part of the country, didn’t all know each other before the show, but nonetheless appreciated their new friends and the support at the competition.
“This is my first time being at NAJYRC,” said McAuliffe. “My favorite has been being a part of a team—it’s been pretty cool.”
The bronze Junior Championship medal went to a three-woman team from the Midwest. Tillie Jones, Mackenzie Peer and Bianca Schmidt competed for Region 4 and shared an added challenge when qualifying for the Championships.
“It’s hard to qualify with only three [recognized competitions], because that’s exactly how many you need to qualify,” said Jones, who also had the third highest score of the day—68.18 percent—on Apachi.
The Junior riders return to ride for individual titles on July 21 and in the junior rider freestyle July 23.