When Naima Moreira Laliberte walked down the ramp into Rolex Stadium to ride her young rider individual freestyle on Belafonte, the chestnut Hanoverian had a little bobble. They’d only ridden this particular freestyle once together—at a show to qualify for the Adequan/FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships—and Belafonte is known to be a bit of a chameleon, letting a new color of his personality show every day, so Moreira wasn’t quite sure how he’d behave in the bigger atmosphere of the arena.
At the top level of show jumping, the junior riders carry themselves more like mini professionals than teenagers. Press conferences are business-like affairs, with generally thoughtful answers analyzing the technicality of the course, the rideability of their mounts.
One might think that riding an Olympic horse, or one that had come from a professional, would give a junior rider an edge in any competition. But the Area II junior eventing team—Camilla Grover-Dodge, Morgan Booth, Amanda Beale Clement and Skyler Decker—have had some serious homework to do before earning the top spot after one-star dressage at the Adequan/FEI Junior and Young Rider Championships today.
They’ve had to really put their feet on the gas pedal in order to get their riding in tune and up to par with their mounts.