June 9—Gladstone, N.J.
Brandi Roenick’s brand new partnership with small tour sensation Weltino’s Magic has garnered her plenty of attention lately, but it was an old friend who helped the 17-year-old from Scottsdale, Ariz., step into the spotlight in the U.S. National Young Rider championship.
She rode Pretty Lady into first place in the Young Rider Team test on 71.37 percent ahead of Genay Vaughn on Donarweiss GGF (67.26%) and Mackinzie Pooley on Brigadier (66.76%).
Roenick has lived with Steffen and Shannon Peters on and off since she was 13, home schooling in order to focus on her riding at the Peters’ Arroyo Del Mar facility in San Diego, Calif. In April, the news was released that Roenick would take over the ride on Jen Hlavacek’s “Magic,” the horse that Steffen piloted to team and individual gold medals at the 2011 Pan American Games (Mexico). Roenick wants to represent her country at the FEI World Cup for Young Riders in Germany in December.
But their partnership began one week after she needed to declare for the national young rider championship, so she turned to Pretty Lady, the horse with whom she won a national junior title in 2008 and a reserve young rider championship in 2011.
“Pretty Lady will always be my top horse no matter what horse I get in the future,” said Roenick. “She put me on the map and put me where I am. She’s still my No. 1. That won’t ever change.”
The 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare was injured in 2009 and again in 2010, so having her come back sound and in better shape than ever in 2011 has been emotional for Roenick.
“Coming here last year and getting reserve, that was incredible. It’s been all uphill from there,” she said. “It was a confidence gainer. She is capable of being very successful in the young rider division. She’s a hard worker. She really wants to please me. She gets stronger and better every year. She’s more confident in the arena. Every day she’s a completely different picture than the day before.”
And when Roenick is done riding Pretty Lady? She’s already planning to continue the legacy. The mare is due to have a foal by Grand Prix stallion Kingston via embryo transfer, and Roenick hopes that’s just the beginning. “I’m hoping to have another superstar, a mare. It’s definitely not going to be little!” she said.
Vaughn is also no stranger to the U.S. Equestrian Team headquarters. This is the third trip here for the 16-year-old from Elk Grove, Calif., with Waranja, although it’s her first time as a young rider. And, in addition to Waranja, she’s riding the 11-year-old Hanoverian stallion Donarweiss GGF, a horse she acquired from Hilltop Farm (Md.) in October.
“This is the biggest venue he’s been to. He’s been just a little excited, but he’s got a really good temperament, the best stallion I’ve ever seen,” she said. “He’s not like a stallion to me. He acts like a gelding.”
Vaughn trains with her mom, Michele Vaughn, and also clinics with Jan Ebeling, although she was grateful to Chris Hickey, Donarweiss’ former rider, for some tips this weekend.
Pooley, who also made the trip from California, said her mount, Brigadier, was feeling just a bit underpowered due to the travel.
“I’ve only had him for six months. He was good, but I hope tomorrow he has a little more impulsion. He was a little tired,” she said.
Pooley rides with David Wightman, who previously competed Brigadier at the FEI levels.
Flying High As A Kite
In the junior competition, Ayden Uhlir led the way with Sjapoer (68.64%) over Rebecca Cohen on Downtown (67.37%) and Stephanie Early on Panash (67.29%).
Although Uhlir, Arlington, Texas, rode Sjapoer in the junior championship last year, they were a new partnership then, and an additional year has created a much stronger team.
“We weren’t really on the same page. We’ve become friends now and understand each other a lot more,” she said. “His personality is like a kite. It’s always up in the air and so free and majestic. Sjapoer and I are very much alike. We get distracted sometimes. We need to stay focused more. He and I are starting to learn to focus and stay grounded and concentrate on what we’re doing at the present moment.”
The 17-year-old rides with Bre Dorsett.
Cohen didn’t even know if she’d be showing at Gladstone after Downtown suffered a bout of colic soon after arriving from Wellington, Fla. And that wasn’t the first setback for the 16-year-old who rides with Ilse Schwarz. Last year, “Daddy” kicked himself and got an infection, which never really healed properly.
“It flared up a couple of weeks ago,” said Cohen. “He was in a hospital for a week, so I missed out on a lot of riding. I have an incredible relationship with him. We’ve grown together since the beginning of season. He was coming off an injury, and I’d been at boarding school for a while, and we kept on getting better together. It’s a miracle that we’re here. I’m so happy.”
Early has found an unusual way to keep her 11-year-old Hanoverian mare, Panash, happy.
“I got her when she was 7. She bucked me off a lot really badly, so we had to figure out a way to change the bad behavior,” said Early, 17. “We took her home. She lives at my house [in Watsonville, Calif.,] in a pasture. She’s kind of a cow pony now. She’s way happier. We go on trail rides. She comes camping with us and ties to the trailer over night. She’s been able to become a horse.”
A One-Two Finish
Barbara “Bebe” Davis came to this year’s USEF National Pony Rider Championship with two chances of winning the title, and she made a good start by finishing first and second in the Pony Team test.
Davis, of White House Station, N.J., finished runner-up in last year’s championship with Bohdjan (Princs Baccarat KR6—Papanga), and she came back with even more confidence this year. She rode the 13-year-old Dutch-bred gelding into second place today (63.61%) behind his stablemate Poldy 10.
Although she’s had him for five years, Davis admitted Bohdjan can get a bit tense. “He was very relaxed today, just a really good boy. Sometimes he gets a little bit nervous. I think he feeds off my energy. Today I was really relaxed and confident, and I think it made him relaxed and confident as well,” she said.
Poldy 10 (Platello—Loni), a 16-year-old German Riding Pony, earned the blue by finishing on 66.97 percent. He came to Davis from Germany last August. Having a second ride proved to be helpful to the 14-year-old rider, who trains with Cesar Parra. “It was good for me to mentally shift gears and to get in another ride so I could fix some mistakes from my riding,” she said. “They are similar and different. They have different movements that are difficult for each one, but the concept is the same.”
Third place went to 13-year-old Caroline Fernalld and Orrwood Madison Bay (Thunderbay—Jellico Fancy Affair), who made the two-and-a-half day drive from Denver, Colo., worth it, earning a 62.10 percent.
Fernalld, who’s competing at Gladstone for the first time, rode the 15-year-old Morgan mare a little conservatively because she can get excited. “I just kept her mellow and slow,” she said.
But she has a different plan for her second ride. “I’m going to try to give her more impulsion and just bring forth whatever pony I have,” she said.