Lexington, Ky.—July 20
When you see a show jumper on Sunday, and their white breeches have blue stains up and down the back, it’s generally safe to assume they’ve made a rough water landing in the ring.
Nothing could be further from the truth for the Porter brothers—they left the Adequan/FEI NAJYRC Individual Final sopping wet, dyed blue, and grinning ear to ear, but they weren’t thrown into the open water by their mounts. Lucas and Wilton Porter were treated to a dunk in the obstacle by friends from team Mexico after taking home a gold medal apiece in the Junior and Young Rider Individual Finals.
“I’m good friends with Eugenio Garza, and he’s a member of the Mexican team, and we threw him in last year because he won,” a very blue and very wet Wilton explained at the press conference. “So I guess this was revenge.”
Pre-plunge Wilton was waiting in the wings for the last rider in the Young Rider division, Michael Hughes, to finish his course. Hughes had been in the top three of the individual standings all week at NAJYRC and was the overnight leader following Saturday’s rounds, but a pair of rails in his first course on Sunday narrowed the lead considerably. To clinch a gold medal, there was no margin for error—Hughes had to jump clean in the fifth and final round.
As Hughes and his mount Luxina began their final course, the stadium grew quiet. The pair flew over the first jump with room to spare. A tight rollback to a vertical, a two stride oxer-vertical combination—Hughes was jumping just as he had all week: clear and confident. He navigated the first two jumps of the final combination with ease, and that’s when Wilton heard it—the collective groan as Luxina tipped the last rail.
“I was still sitting on [Diamonte Darco], and they were checking her boots,” Wilton said. “I didn’t actually see Michael have the rail; I just kind of heard it. I hate to say it, but it was a good feeling.”
Having the last fence down in a combination was not something Hughes expected.
“I didn’t think I was going to have it; usually she jumps out of the combinations really, really well,” he said. “I think that I just jumped B so strong that I just got there a little bit too early.
All three medals in the Young Rider division were won by riders piloting mares, and Hughes didn't think that was coincidence.
“I think mares try a little bit harder,” he said. “I think that when they know their job and they like doing their job, they try really hard.”
Hughes said Luxina is mareish in more ways than one.
“Most times I show her, she’s bucking around the whole course,” he said with a smile. Luxina threw a particularly hard buck after hitting her one and only rail Sunday, perhaps expressing her frustration at that costly 4-fault mistake.
“She jumped great all the rest of the week,” Hughes said. “She’s been such a great horse this whole week; I mean I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Hughes put in solid efforts all week long to take home the silver medal, but the rider behind him in third had a far more tumultuous journey to the podium. Bronze medalist Tori Colvin almost took herself out of medal contention on Day 1. She had a tough go in the first individual qualifier, pulling four rails, time faults, and going to her stick a couple of times to get Chanel B 2 around the course.
“It was rough; she did not want to leave the ground for some reason,” Colvin said.
The qualifier was held in the Walnut ring at the Kentucky Horse Park, which Colvin thinks the mare may not have liked.
“She’s never been like that ever since I’ve had her, so I didn’t know how she was going to be in [the Rolex Stadium], but when she got in there she was just amazing.”
Colvin leapt from 22nd to third place over the five rounds of competition to take the bronze medal, but she didn't have too much time to revel in her comeback. She answered as many questions as she could at the press conference Sunday afternoon before running to catch her first international flight. As the winner of the Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix Series at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.), Colvin earned herself and Don Juan a free plane ride to Chantilly, France, and an invitation to compete in the CSI** Chantilly Horse Show, part of the Longines Global Champions Tour, which will be held July 25-27.
“It feels amazing; I’ve never been there,” Colvin said. “We’re going to go sight-seeing too; we’re not going to just show.”
Tori’s parents Brigid and Jim Colvin will be joining her on her first trip abroad, and Tori said if her mom looked especially anxious at the in-gate today, it may have had something to do with the plane they were boarding that afternoon.
“I think she’s more nervous for the flight than she was for the show because she’s afraid of airplanes,” Tori said with a smile. Brigid nervously clasped her hands in front of her face for most of Colvin’s second course, hardly able to watch as her daughter posted a clear round. “She was nervous for that, but I think the airplane kind of put her over the edge.”
Junior Individual Final
Set to go at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, the course for the NAJYRC Junior Individual Final looked positively eerie. Already an overcast and drizzly morning, a thick fog stretched across the ring and pond beside it, necessitating artificial illumination from the Rolex Stadium lights. At a glance, the scene could be mistaken as a course walk for a night class. The Juniors would ride under the lights, and over the largest track they'd seen all week.
The fences were bigger and the course challenging, but you wouldn't have known it from how the Juniors rode. This was their fifth and final round at NAJYRC, and the difference between Sunday’s class and Thursday’s first round was noticeable. They were more confident, more stoic. Perhaps the exhausting weekend left no energy for nerves, or maybe after four rounds of competition the riders just got over them. Mistakes were made in Sunday’s round, to be sure, but they were not the jump-dismantling falls, stops and rail collections from Thursday’s course.
It was light rubs and slightly deep spots that brought down rails in the Juniors' final round, and multiple faults went up on the board for all riders but one—Lucas Porter. He picked up just a single time fault on his way to a gold medal.
“I knew going into the second round that I had a little more than 1 fault between me and the second-placed person at the time,” Lucas explained. “That’s why I took a long time to the second-to-last jump and a long time to the last jump as well, because I knew that I could take a time fault, but I had to keep all the rails up.”
That second-placed rider he edged out with his clear round was Lucy Deslaurier and Hester. Deslaurier took the silver medal after clearing every single fence she jumped at NAJYRC except one, which her father Mario Deslaurier was trying to help her jump from the sidelines.
Standing near the in-gate on Sunday, Mario stared intently at the pair as they navigated Steve Stephens' course, biting his lip and leaning back as Lucy approached each fence. As Hester left the ground, Mario did too, swinging his leg to clear imaginary hurdles in sync with the very real fences his daughter was jumping.
“I think he gets a bit nervous for me; I think a little bit more than for himself in the ring,” Lucy said. The one rail Deslaurier did pull in the first round she attributes to the pressure of coming in to Sunday on top.
“Going in I knew that I was leading until that point,” Lucy said. “I think that’s the reason I had the late rail. I got a bit anxious toward the end of the course. After that round I was kind of hard on myself, but I knew that I had to keep calm and ride my best going into the next round.”
Bronze medal winner Sophie Simpson and Lucy have a couple of things in common—they both have very successful show jumping parents, and they’re both quite stoic, whether it’s during a ride or in press conferences. Some Juniors gave exuberant pats and flashed huge smiles following their rounds, but it’s just not Simpson and Lucy’s style. Theirs is a quiet confidence and professional demeanor, perhaps the result of being raised by parents in the business.
Simpson broke from that conservative script for just a moment in Sunday's second round. She cleared both courses in the Junior final, and after galloping through the timers she glanced back at the board, pumping the air when it confirmed what she already suspected.
“I was sitting sixth coming into today. I knew that I had to give it everything and jump two clean rounds. She jumped it great, and she gave everything to me. I got it done, and that’s why I’m sitting here,” Simpson said matter-of-factly.
When asked to think back to that fist pump moment center ring, her face lit up as she launched into a mini gush about her mare, Why Not, reminding everyone that behind the professional demeanor is indeed a teenage girl who just loves her horse.
“I am so happy, the mare tried so hard for me this week,” Simpson said smiling as she thought back to her clear round. “She jumped every round so well, and I’m really happy.”
To read more about all the winners at NAJYRC, check out the August 4th issue of The Chronicle of the Horse print magazine.