Lexington, Ky. - July 19
She may have been the last rider of the day at 6:20 p.m, but Ayden Uhlir didn’t let it get to her. Aboard Sjapoer, her 2012 individual junior gold medal mount, Uhlir topped the young rider individual test at the Adequan/FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships.
“It was quite a journey coming from juniors. It’s a lot harder to do these tests, but a lot more fun. I definitely enjoy it and it was well worth it,” said Uhlir, 18, Kirkland, Wash.
Uhlir and Sjapoer, a 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Contango—Jenia), were the only young rider team to score above 70 percent from all five judges, earning a total score of 71.60 percent.
Uhlir, who’s homeschooled, is missing her finals this week, but she promised she’d make them up. This year she moved to Kirkland to train with Jeremy Steinberg and Shauntel Bryant. “I definitely had to focus a lot more than I did in the juniors last year. Definitely a lot more dedication. I had to cut out some stressors in my life and distractions and I really buckled down,” said Uhlir of her move. “He’s been on me about a lot of things. I definitely need a little kick in the butt. I get a little lax sometimes, it was good. I needed it.”
For silver medalist Jamie Pestana (68.60 percent), her ride with Winzalot meant a lot after a lackluster performance last year. “He was amazing. He did everything I could have asked for and more,” she said.
The 20-year-old from Livermore, Calif. has trained the 9-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Wolkenstein II—Franzisca) from the start. “I’d say I had more expectations [this year] and he was definitely more ready to come this year. It’s always exciting to do well,” she said.
Bronze medalist Devon Wycoff was making her return to NAJYRC after competing in 2011. Aboard Power Play, she scored a 68.57 percent, just shy of the silver medal.
Wycoff, 19, Boulder, Colo., made the move to the young rider level last year and was able to ride Power Play with more accuracy. “Last year we made the jump from third level to Prix St. Georges, so it was a lot of just learning the test and trying not to make a mistake and trying to have a clean test. It was a great learning experience,” she said. “Coming in, I was hoping to just be thrilled with my ride and not go back and say, ‘Uh, just those fours, or just those threes.’”
Although she admitted the gelding was a little tired, he put in a good effort. “He always does what I ask of him and tries his heart out,” she said.
Waiting Out The Competition
Despite the late ride times after 5:30 p.m., the temperature had not improved for the last group of the junior individual dressage championships and the top placed riders had all day to observe the judging…and all day to worry.
While silver medalist Naima Moreira Laliberte admitted to taking two naps throughout the day, gold medalist Lindsey Holleger and bronze medalist Rison Naness tried to stay relaxed and cool for their evening rides.
Just before Holleger cantered into the arena, Laliberte’s score was announced as the new junior individual leader. Entering the arena, Holleger knew she had to ride her best to take the top spot.
“It was a little added pressure but still the same because you always want to do your best when you go in the ring,” she said.
Holleger rode long-time partner Friedensfurst (Donaufurst—Feodamee Von Kootenbach), an 11-year-old Trakehner gelding with whom she’s moved up through the levels. On Wednesday, Holleger and Friedenfurst were part of the bronze medal Region 3 team.
Laliberte, who took home team gold with her fellow riders from Quebec earlier in the week, put in a strong performance to finish just behind Holleger. Laliberte competed with Windbreaker 3, a 17.3 hand 12-year-old Westphalian gelding. The pair has been working together three months and NAJYRC is only their third competition.
During her canter work, Linda Zang, the judge sitting at C, blew the whistle and called for Laliberte to stop. However, Zang was mistaken as the junior had not made an error. Despite the minor disruption, Laliberte and Windbreaker 3 composed themselves and finished their test.
“I was wondering because I thought I had it right but I know I have a past where I got whistled a lot. In the moment I was a bit stressed out,” said Laliberte.
Bronze medalist Rison Naness of Los Angeles, Calif. rode her 15-year-old Hanoverian mare, Venezia under the tutelage of team coach Jan Ebeling. The daughter of Pan American Games gold medalist, Kristina Harrison-Naness, Rison also competed on Wednesday on the Region 7 junior team who took home the silver medal.
Rison was pleased with her rides and experience thus far at NAJYRC. “I think that yesterday and today we had really solid rides and I’m so happy with how [Venezia’s] been. She’s taken me through the entire thing and I couldn’t be happier,” she said.
-Arden Wildasin rode Mystery Whisper, Phillip Dutton's 2012 Olympic Games mount for eventing, in the young rider dressage championship where they scored a 61.31 percent.
- David O’Connor is looking forward to what Saturday’s cross-country course will teach horses and riders in both the CCI* and CCI** eventing. “I’m hoping that it’s going to be a true team competition, where team strategy is going to have a little bit of a say about it,” said O’Connor.
- In a kind gesture, all five judges of the individual junior dressage competition attended the riders’ press conference joining in on the photos and questions as the three medalists celebrated their individual wins.
-Dressage for the CCI** division wrapped up with Caroline Martin and Quantum Solace taking the lead with a 50.2. Rowdie Adams and No Money Down sit in second place with a 50.9.
For full results, visit the NAJYRC site.