July 18—Lexington, Ky.
Despite a difficult start to the week, the Zone 2 team pulled things together and delivered a strong performance to take home the gold medal in the young rider team show jumping final at the Adequan/FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championshipship.
Tuesday afternoon on their way to the jog, the team, along with Zone 7 competitor Wilton Porter, lost control of their golf cart when the brakes and steering failed. Luckily safe, albeit shaken up, the riders rallied to pull out a win and carry on Chef d’Equipe Ralph Caristo’s legacy.
“[Ralph] knows exactly how to prop us up and not scare us and make us think we have too much pressure,” explained Keenan. “[Ralph and his wife Holly] make us feel like we can do anything.”
Set to begin in the incredible heat of the afternoon, the competition was put on hold for 30 minutes mid-way through the first round as competitors, spectators and officials waited out a storm.
The Nations Cup course featured all the usual challenges including a water jump and a solid wall that caused their fair share of problems. Countless rails and a handful of eliminations made for a tough competition as the young riders battled it out in the Rolex Stadium.
Zone 2 riders—Keenan on Londinium, Michael Hughes on Luxina, Gabrielle Bausano on Ubico H and Mattias Tromp on Casey—picked up 16 faults in the first round and finished with an 11-point lead by the end of the event.
“There’s no doubt it was challenging. The first round there wasn’t a single clear,” said Keenan.
Riders were surprised by the challenges the course posed. “I think it rode a little bit harder than it walked,” said Hughes.
With three rails in hand, Keenan and her 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Lord Pezi—Imperiala) was the last of the Zone 2 team to jump in the second round and delivered an almost flawless trip, adding only 4 faults to the team’s final score.
“I think it’s special to win something at a championship like this,” said Busano. “But it’s even better when you do it as a team.”
A combined team from Zones 8 and 10 worked together to take home the silver medal. Taylor Alexander on Everest De Muze, Haley Schwab aboard Wakyra, Hannah von Heidegger on Geledimar and Robert Jornayvaz aboard Williams secured the second place slot with an overall score of 47 faults.
Despite the distance between competitors and the fact that the teammates spend most of their time competing against each other on various show circuits, the riders were able to come together and support each other.
“I don’t actually feel very competitive against everyone,” explained Schwab, regarding the usual dynamic of big competition. “A lot of times it can feel like a team. It’s really hard enough when I’m competing against the course.”
The combined team of Zones 3 and 5 managed to walk away with a bronze medal despite only having three team members. Chloe Reid on Victor E, Kate Morrison on Windoctro and Catherine Tyree and Wetter put in a final score of 49 to finish close behind the silver medal team.
“We knew we were at a little bit of a disadvantage but we all know our horses and we’ve done big tracks. We were really confident. To be sitting here getting bronze is really great,” said Morrison.
Zone 2 continued their domination of the medals at NAJYRC by taking home the junior team gold, accumulating just 8 faults over two rounds.
Team members Katherine Strauss on Chellando Z, Kira Kerkorian on Leopold 221, Victoria Press on Cayenne 140, and Allison Toffolon on Kadans Webster admitted they felt some pressure to do well based on their zone’s record-breaking gold-medal count of 11. “It’s definitely a lot of pressure considering there’s been a lot of wins in the past. It gives more team spirit to all of this and makes us want to win that much more,” said Toffolon, who jumped two clear rounds on her 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Hors La Loi II—Rilka B). “I’ve known all these girls for a long time. We’ve always had that friendship, so it was nice to come and work as a team, really rooting for each other. It was a great experience.”
Strauss, who rode on last year’s Zone 2 team, has spent some time competing her 10-year-old Zangersheide gelding (Chellano Z—Chibharcolle Z) at Spruce Meadows in Canada, and found the Rolex Stadium to be a challenge. “I thought the course was a great test. I just came from Spruce Meadows, so I was a little nervous coming here because the courses at Spruce, you’re working on a big field with an open gallop, and the courses are sort of unrelated lines. At Spruce, if you screw up one line, that’s bad, but you can continue the rest of your course and maybe just have one down. Here, if you mess up one line, you might mess up a few lines to come. After the first round, I felt pretty confident,” she said.
She contributed two clear rounds, while Press and Cayenne 140 had two rails in the second round, and Kerkorian and Leopold 221 were eliminated.
The team from Mexico and Zone 4 jumped off for silver and bronze, with Mexico coming out on top. Eugenio Garza Perez on Bariano, Andres Berganza on Catello 3 and Adrian Berganza on Corlando Van Koekshof each went clear in the jump-off, while Juan Pablo Gaspar Albanez and Puertas Catena didn’t need to jump to secure the silver.
Garza, 16, who’s tied for the lead in the individual competition, has had his 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood (Jetset-D—Ulderina Van Westleven—Skippy) for a year. "The last few weeks he has been jumping amazing," he said. "I couldn't ask more from him. It was definitely really surprising to do this well, and I hope to continue doing this well,” he said.
“The whole team made a great effort,” said Adrian, 17. “The horses had a long trip from Mexico City, but we did pretty good.”
Zone 4 (Haley Waters on No Doubt, Jenna Friedman on Zidoctro, Sophie Simpson on Why Not and Kaely Tomeu on Belle Bleu S) took home the bronze with 16 faults in the jump-off.
- The Doolittle sisters from Mathews, N.C., are both competing this year at NAJYRC. Nicole is riding in the eventing on the junior team and Jamie in the junior dressage. “It’s wonderful to come with my sister,” said Nicole. “She just got team bronze yesterday in the juniors. She’s so supportive and she always knows what to say.”
- While Sinead Halphin is recovering from her recent fall, Will Coleman has taken over the reins as Area II team coach. A past representative of Area II and individual young rider winner at this competition back in 2001, Coleman was quick to point out the importance of NAJYRC in his own career. “[NAJYRC] means a lot and so do the opportunities it represents,” said Coleman.
- Two members of the young rider combined team of Zone 3 and 5, Chloe Reid of Washington, D.C., and Kate Morrison of Dublin, Ohio, rode two horses by the same sire, Victor E (Indoctro—Wokina) and Windoctro (Indoctro—Surprise), to a bronze medal finish in the show jumping.
-Robert Jornayvaz, a member of the silver medal young rider jumping team is also an avid polo player. The past few months, Jornayvaz has put polo on hold in order to accomplish his goal of competing at NAJYRC.
Full results are available online.
For more Chronicle coverage, visit the NAJYRC page.
Eventing dressage resumes tomorrow with the CCI** division at 7 a.m., while the junior and young rider individual dressage begins at 10 a.m.