Saugerties, N.Y.—July 23
When Nicole Meyer Robredo crossed the final finish line at the Adequan/FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships, her hand shot up in elation. With the completion of another clear round in the NAJYRC Junior Show Jumping Individual final, she saw her biggest goal finally materialize—a gold medal for Mexico.
“This is all I ever wanted,” said Robredo. “I worked hard for one year, training everything, so I’m really excited.
“It was really hard, because the other riders were really talented and were doing their best,” she continued. “It feels incredible for me to finally be on the podium to give a medal to my country.”
While Robredo helped Mexico North earn silver in the NAJYRC Junior Show Jumping Team competition two days prior in a silver-bronze jump-off, neither she nor any Mexican rider had yet to earn the gold medal this year. But through her dedication and her strong partnership of three years with Hercule VH End House, she gave Mexico the honor—to the delight of her fans who hooted and hollered during her victory lap (and threw her in the water jump in celebration).
Even though Robredo has owned the 10-year-old warmblood of unknown breeding for three years, this year marked a change.
“I had a different trainer this year [from Argentina] and I had ups and downs,” she said of the journey. “We trained every day and had a very strategic plan. I had to sacrifice a lot of things like going out with my friends and other stuff, but it feels amazing.
“[Hercule VH End House and I’ve] grown up together and he really surprised me this time,” she continued. “I talked to him the entire course—I was like praying! But I was sure he could do it, he really demonstrated that the other day [in the team competition]. One thing I always told him is ‘You can do this. We can do this.’ ”
Robredo admitted that it hadn’t always been smooth sailing for her and Hercule VH End House, but her united attitude and positivity helped make a consistent showing this year at NAJYRC. Hannah Loly and Ayma De La Demi Lune followed her taking the silver with Briley Koerner and For Jef VD Wezelse earning bronze.
“You really need to be patient in this work, because it’s really hard,” Robredo said when asked what advice she’d give to younger riders. “These years especially, the beginning was really hard for me. I’ve been riding my horse for three years and there have been championships where it didn’t go that well—but you need to be focused every course. If it doesn’t go well, keep trying every time.”
Canada Takes A Clean Sweep In Young Riders
This year at the NAJYRC Young Rider Show Jumping Individual competition, the podium wasn’t meant for anyone else but Canada. Julia Madigan and Farfelu Du Printemps took gold, with her Canadian teammates Alexanne Thibault and Veronica Bot flanking her with silver and bronze.
Madigan had never competed at the NAJYRC before—and with this year being her last year of eligibility, she made sure to make it memorable.
“We were going for gold,” said Madigan. “[Trainer Jill Henselwood shared her] experience going to Pan Ams with Special Ed and helped me through it. It feels great that the plan came together.
“I tried to not think too much—turned my mind off,” she continued. “If I start thinking a lot it makes my head spin a bit. So I was kind of focusing on that and staying relaxed through my arms. I get a little stiff, but focusing on my plan in the ring and what I was doing down the lines and not really thinking about anything else.”
Chef d’Equipe Beth Underhill believed that the camaraderie of the team helped each individual rider achieve their best.
“I couldn’t have had a better week with all of you,” she said. “You’re team players through and through and the team spirit they exhibited was something you want. And having been on as many Nations Cups teams I’ve been on, I know how important that camaraderie—that support—is, and when you have it, there’s nothing like it. And I think that was proven this week, how it’s raised not only our expectations but our performance and it’s given us a boost going forward. As a proud Canadian, I want to congratulate my team.”
From Madigan’s rookie swan song, to Thibault’s debut and Bot’s third try, all riders credited their strong dedication as a team to their communal and individual success.
“We have a really strong team this year, and back at home, there’s been a lot of work done to help young riders—a lot thanks to our Chef Beth Underhill,” said Thibault. “I think it’s no coincidence that we swept the podium.”
Laiken Remains Flawless In NAJYRC Children’s Jumping
Coming to the last fence of the NAJYRC Children’s Show Jumping Individual, Dylan Laiken and Callao were coasting. Prior to their final approach, their record proved pristine at NAJYRC. They contributed to Zone 10’s gold medal performance in the NAJYRC Children’s Show Jumping Team competition two days before, and had yet to tally a single fault mark on their scoreboard.
“It was kind of nervewracking because I didn’t know if I would hit the last rail or just go in there an completely fall apart,” said the 13-year-old.
But at the last stride of her final course for the individual title, Laiken gave a giant kick—reminding the 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding of his feet. Then mid-air, Laiken let out a smile.
“[The final kick is] just our thing,” she said. “I’ve always done that. It’s, ‘Wake up. This oxer is very big—or vertical.’
“I felt like world was in my hand,” Laiken continued. “I couldn’t believe it was real. I still don’t believe this is all real.”
Laiken and Callao not only were the sole 0-fault score in their section—the pair were also the only horse-and-rider combinations at NAJYRC to remain without a single penalty.
“[Callao’s] just the sweetest horse known to man,” said Laiken. “He’s the best. He’ll try his heart out. He’ll jump through fire. He just tries and tries. I give him all the love I can.
“He’s special because he has that feeling where he wants to win,” she continued. And to repay his hard work, the 13-year-old from California noticeably hugged and patted him as she galloped away from the finish line.
Laiken and Callao stood on the podium above two Canadian representatives—with Anya Bereznicki taking silver and Kyara Semrau taking bronze. As the inaugural winners of the children’s section in NAJYRC, these young equestrians couldn’t stop beaming of their agreed biggest accomplishment yet. And all agreed that they hope this is one box mark checked on their way to the Olympics to represent their respective countries.