Sunday, May. 26, 2024

Dainer Takes Team Liberty To Top Of USEF Junior Team Championships

Jennifer Dainer swept all three classes of the U.S. Equestrian Federation Junior Dressage Team Championships to propel Team Liberty to a gold medal and earned herself the kudos of top junior dressage rider in the country. Held at the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center, Pebble Beach, Calif., July 8-11, the top 12 qualified juniors, representing states as far flung as Kansas, Georgia and Washington, faced off in team and individual competition.

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Jennifer Dainer swept all three classes of the U.S. Equestrian Federation Junior Dressage Team Championships to propel Team Liberty to a gold medal and earned herself the kudos of top junior dressage rider in the country. Held at the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center, Pebble Beach, Calif., July 8-11, the top 12 qualified juniors, representing states as far flung as Kansas, Georgia and Washington, faced off in team and individual competition.

Team Independence (Renna Idnani, Clare Marie Hove, Maya Dalla Valle and Eloise Aud) earned the silver medal, and Team Freedom (Ashley Schemp, Emily Mitchell, Vanessa Simon and Elizabeth Wilson) claimed the bronze. This junior competition is one of only six junior competitions granted USA Junior Olympic status by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

On her own Gable, a Hanoverian-Thoroughbred cross gelding, Dainer, riding in her second consecutive team championship, rose to the top like the proverbial cream. But she didn’t win the team gold all on her own. Teammates Susan Walker and Chelsea Seburn tied for third place individually, and even though Erin Magbee’s competitive weekend started out a little roughly, she finished strongly to place fifth in the individual test (64.10%), which moved her up to 11th individually.

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To qualify for the junior championships, riders aged 14 to 18 needed five qualifying scores. Once at the championships, they were assigned to one of the three teams based on a handicapping format that tries to start the teams off on equal footing. The team and individual tests were worth 50 percent each. The competitors ride under FEI rules and in front of a panel of five international judges, and it’s often the first time many have ever ridden in front of more than one judge. They work with a chef d’equipe–this year’s chef was U.S. Olympian Charlotte Bredahl–and emphasis is placed on the team competition.

“As chef d’equipe, I get the juniors to focus on sportsmanship. Before they started the competition, I gave them a letter on what it means to be a winner, and not the blue-ribbon kind of winner,” said Bredahl. “I try to take the pressure off by helping them focus on the team aspect of this competition. I think it helps set the tone for the whole weekend.”

Experience Helps
Dainer, of Danville, Calif., said she bene-fited from riding in the 2003 Championships, held during Dressage at Devon (Pa.). “I knew what to expect this year. There were no surprises, and that kept me calmer,” she said. Last year Dainer was one of the favorites, but the frenetic energy of Devon overwhelmed Gable and neither he nor Dainer did their best. She said they’ve come a long way since then.

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“Well, of course it helped that this show is so much closer to home and all my friends and family were here to support me,” she said. “Gable also trusts me much more. Going to Devon really helped him get used to the whole experience too.” Dainer also said her familiarity with the junior tests was a big factor. She and Gable started to show Prix St. Georges this year, so the junior tests, ridden roughly at a skill level between third and fourth levels, seem considerably easier now. The pair really showed just how confirmed they were on Saturday when they scored the high score of the cham- pionships (69.12%) in the team test.

“He was just awesome then. He was really listening to me, and I had so much fun riding him,” said Dainer. “I couldn’t believe how well he went for me.” She added that the 8s she scored on her canter extensions also reflected the new level of trust she and her horse have developed. “One of the judges commented on how forward Gable was. He put so much energy into going forward, and I just let him, because I totally trusted him to come back to me,” she said.

Dainer, who also won the dressage seat equitation championships last year, rides with an elegant, correct seat and lovely hands. She and Gable seemed to glide around the ring in perfect harmony and rarely made a mistake. Dainer, 16, said she’ll likely try out for her region’s young riders team next. Whether she’ll wait a year or not, all depends on how Gable and she do as they step up a level.

“I might wait a year until we’re really solid at Prix St. Georges,” she said. “I’ve got time to wait.” Whirlwind Tour Seburn, from Greenleaf, Idaho, almost ran out of time as she tried to qualify for the championships on her Rhinelander gelding, Rolex, whom she’s owned for a 1

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