Saturday, Apr. 13, 2024

Brannigan Leads The California Gold Rush In Eventing

The Area VI young rider rebounds from last year’s disappointment to win double gold at her final North American Junior And Young Riders Championships.

After having her highest hopes dashed in last year’s CN North American Junior And Young Riders Championships, California rider Jennie Brannigan wasn’t about to pass up her final chance at reprisal.
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The Area VI young rider rebounds from last year’s disappointment to win double gold at her final North American Junior And Young Riders Championships.

After having her highest hopes dashed in last year’s CN North American Junior And Young Riders Championships, California rider Jennie Brannigan wasn’t about to pass up her final chance at reprisal.

Just one year ago, Brannigan, now 21, was riding for the first-placed team and sat in second place individually going into the final phase in the NAJYRC two-star. But when her longtime partner Kozmo
threw two shoes and failed the jog, her team was eliminated and all medal hopes evaporated.

But what a difference a year makes. This time around at the NAJYRC at the Colorado Horse Park in Parker, Colo., Brannigan got her retribution, scoring double gold with her young prodigy mount, Cooper. She and the 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding held onto their lead in the CCI** from start to finish, July 29-Aug. 3.

“I am just thrilled,” said Brannigan, of San Diego, Calif. “I was super nervous because he’s a young horse and you know, you always worry, ‘What if this is just not his day?’ But he is an incredible jumper,” she said of the gelding, purchased from Kelli Temple in 2006.

Brannigan brought the gray up from novice to intermediate herself, and their individual win at NAJYRC was their 17th victory together.

The pair earned the lowest dressage score (36.3) at the championships. “Dressage made me a little nervous, just waiting [until the end of the day],” she said. “But his dressage has really improved over the years.”

They tackled the cross-country course in great form, completing with no penalties. Of the 16 CCI**-Y cross-country starters, only four logged double-clear rounds. Two were eliminated, five incurred jump penalties of 20 each and eight ran over the clock.

Brannigan credited her success in the jumping arena to help from show jumper Susie Hutchison.

“We went to a big show and just did round after round, and that taught us both a lot. Another big turning point came when I made a move to the East to work with Mike Winter. That really stepped it up for us, and this whole event has definitely felt great,” said Brannigan, who also thanked her coaches Bea and Derek
di Grazia, as well as her sponsors Custom Saddlery, Ayora Saddlery and Estrella Equine Hospital for all of their support.

Brannigan’s Area VI team was the only CCI**-Y squad that didn’t receive an elimination score, finishing on a combined mark of 170.4. Comprised of Tiana Coudray and Ringwood Magister, Max McManamy and Beacon Hill and David Koss and Candy, the team had been cross training together in the lead-up to the NAJYRC.

“We all got together in July, and our coaches [Bea and Derek di Grazia] took us all to an FEI-level dressage show, and we competed as a mock team,” said Brannigan. “That really helped us bond and get to know each other in a competition setting.”

Coudray placed fourth overall (60.6), followed by McManamy in eighth (73.5) and Koss in 10th (89.9).
When asked how it felt to be on a team with all girls, Koss replied, “They’re good! Candy never really show jumps well, so I need some help.”

Practiced And Proficient

Karen Shull, College Station, Texas, and Just My Style took the individual silver medal in the CCI**-Y championship. Shull anchored the second-placed composite team from Areas I, IV and V, finishing on a score of 55.7. Having placed second at the Colorado Horse Park CCI** in May, she and her mount were more than comfortable at the championship venue.

“Competing here in the spring, my horse did well, but it helped me figure out what we could work on,” said Shull, whose 11-year-old gelding of unknown breeding has been a solid competitor since bowing a tendon two years ago. “I moved him up to intermediate at Red Hills (Fla.). He’s been great.”

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Stephanie Rhodes-Bosch, the only Canadian to compete in the CCI**-Y, took home the individual bronze medal. She and her 10-year-old Selle Français-Thoroughbred, Port Authority, moved up from 12th after dressage (57.9) to fifth after a double-clear cross-country run. When the third- and fourth-placed riders pulled four rails each in show jumping, Rhodes-Bosch’s double-clear round landed her on the medal podium.

“Going back East to prepare for this event really made all the difference,” said Rhodes-Bosch, Summerland, B.C., who placed ninth in the Jersey Fresh CCI** (N.J.) in May.

Midwest Is Best

Despite her confessed self-confidence, winning double gold in the junior CCI* came as a shock to 16-year-old Callie Judy. Anchoring the Area IV team, Judy and her 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse, Irish Odyssey, topped the division on their dressage score of 48.8.

“I said before I even came to this that I was just going to have a positive attitude and do my best,” said Judy, of Columbia, Mo. “And I am going to win!”

Win she did, after placing seventh in the dressage and moving up to sixth with a flawless cross-country ride. When each of the top five riders following her double-clear show jumping round dropped rails, Judy found herself atop the CCI*-J podium.

“I am in total shock,” said Judy, who had some bad luck at the spring Colorado Horse Park event. She and her mare parted ways in the warm-up for country in the preliminary division but still managed to finish fourth. In the one star, she and her other mount, Call On Me, were in second place going into show jumping when they parted ways at the second-to-last fence and were eliminated when her horse left the arena.

“It feels so good to come back here and redeem ourselves,” said Judy. “But I still can’t believe I won.”

The team division of the CCI*-J saw 29 starters comprising seven squads. The Midwest riders from Area IV took the initial lead when Jessa Lux and Car Tango tied for first after dressage on a score of 43.1. The three remaining team members, Judy and “Oddy,” Hannah Ross and Fantasia (45.5) and Edith Lee and Ballycormac Petrocelli (61.9) contributed to a combined score of 137.4. They went on to maintain their lead to the end, winning the team gold with a final score of 161.4.

“Being on a team really increases the pressure, because you know what you do doesn’t only affect you, but everyone on the team too,” said Judy. “We are really proud of our performances though, and have to thank all the parents, volunteers, grooms, our horses and everyone who helped put this together, and our coach.”

The Area IV team enlisted the help of Jonathan Holling, who was impressed by more than just the medals his students won.

U.S. Riders Reign In Reining

Two teams competed in the inaugural reining competition at this year’s CN North American Junior and Young Riders Championships—one squad of U.S. riders and a team of Canadians.

The U.S. team won the gold, and its members took home all three of the individual awards. Carlie Thompson, Columbus, Ohio, and her 6-year-old Quarter Horse, Paid By Corona, finished with a score of 219.00 to earn the individual gold. Thompson spends time training with Casey Hinton in Texas and will attend Ohio Wesleyan University this fall.

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Reining scores are added from three judges, who start with a base score of 70. Points are added or subtracted incrementally based on the performance of each movement. The three marks are then added together for an overall score, akin to dressage.

“It’s pretty cool to think, you know, we’re making history here!” said silver medalist Jason Kvols, Steamboat Springs, Colo. Kvols earned a mark of 217.00 with his Quarter Horse, Sunny Spotacular, and trains with Devon Warner, Franktown, Colo.

Colorado resident Lacey Vernon, who trains with her father, Guy Vernon, in Kiowa, Colo., earned the bronze medal with her Quarter Horse Duncans Dun It and a score of 214.50.

“I was really proud of all the girls, but especially Jessa. She was in the lead [going into show jumping], and she started to have trouble in the middle of the course,” Holling said. “But instead of letting the pressure get to her, she got it together by the end and proved to everyone she could handle it. Not only that, but when she came out of the ring, the first thing she did was smile at her team and tell them what a great job they did.”

Leaping Up The Leaderboard

Lindsay Crnkovich was just as surprised to move up from eighth place before show jumping to win the individual silver medal in the CCI*-J with her 14.3-hand, 12-year-old Quarter Horse, Right Back Atcha. The pair sat in ninth place after dressage (49.1) and, like Judy, moved up slightly after a double-clear cross-country trip. In show jumping, Crnkovich kept all the rails up and watched as everyone but Judy added penalties to their score.

“He has the best personality,” said Crnkovich of her gelding. They train with John Staples and have forged a partnership over the past six years.

Crnkovich, Phoenix, Ariz., also led the combined team from Areas VIII and X to the silver medal, with the help of Elinor MacPhail and Woodstock, Catherine Ruggiero and The Aviator and Andrew Diemer and Cold Harbor.

Sarah Talaga and her 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood cross mare, Vena, also took two identical medals home to Richmond Hill, Ont. The pair won both the individual and team bronze.

Talaga purchased Vena over a year ago and began competing at training level. During that time, Vena was diagnosed with glaucoma and had to have one eye removed.

“I just took it really slow and careful bringing her back into training,” said Talaga, of their progression up to preliminary. “We have a great partnership, and she really trusts me.”

The pair started the competition in fifth after dressage (45.9) and moved up to fourth after cross-country despite adding .8 time penalties to their score. They dropped one rail in show jumping to win the bronze on a mark of 50.7.

Talaga’s combined team from British Columbia and Ontario ranked a close second place after dressage behind Area IV, but they experienced a setback when Julia Norman and Sauvignon had to withdraw because of an abscess. But using Norman as their drop score and counting strong marks from Jacqueline Bradshaw with Wizard Of Oz and Marissa Wolfe with The Maestro, the Canadian team still finished in bronze-medal position.

Heather Messner

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