Lexington, Ky.—Nov. 2
Though that Dec. 1 date loomed in the future marking the end of her junior era, Nicole Dorwart decided to ignore it. Sure, her competitors would be looking to win an equitation final or sweep the junior hunters divisions at every horse show. But that wasn’t her goal as she purchased a 6-year-old gelding.
“We sold my horse Cupido Z to [Kat Fuqua], and we were able to get two horses,” said Dorwart. “One green hunter, and I was able to get an eq horse, Olaf, who just got leased out. With what we had that’s what we were able to do. We weren’t planning on going to finals. We really were just planning to help me get better, just kind of have a fun last season.”
And though Varkai’s age’s suggested youthfulness, the Holsteiner (Connor—Nekton) proved anything but as he seamlessly entered the 3’3” junior, 16-17, division.
“When we started off, he was doing really, really well. It was like, all right we’re going to chase some points and see what we can get into,” said Dorwart. “He’s very mature, and he always has been. He’s gotten so much better with his lead changes particularly. Jumping better from the base of the jumps—just kind of relaxing his head down, this and that. But never anything with the jumps or the ring, that’s never been a problem for him.”
So Dorwart started qualifying for the biggest shows despite her lack of goals. And though the last championships went OK, she looked at the National as a way to get back to basics and end her junior career on a positive note.
“After Junior Hunter Finals [Pennsylvania] and [Pennsylvania National at] Harrisburg, we didn’t have the best shows. It wasn’t him, it was more me,” she said. “But I kind of came here just with just trying to put everything together and stop worrying so much about the jumps. More counting three, two, one, staying out in my corners, getting straight, holding my lead—back to the basics. And that honestly has helped me every time I actually focused on that and take a breath.”
As she exited her last junior show, Dorwart and “Kai” earned the championship in the 3’3” junior, 16-17, division above Lindsay Sterne and Imagination and earned the grand 3’3” junior title.
“He’s never been here, and he just walked in and just did it. He did nothing wrong. He just walked in and acted like he’s been here a million times before,” said the freshman at West Chester University (Pennsylvania). “It feels amazing especially on him, too. We weren’t even expecting to go to finals. I mean we really got him more as a project, and he ended up being absolutely fantastic. Just the best brain ever, so it feels incredible.”
Naughty Ponies And A Change Of Plans
As an aspiring rider dreaming of the bigger shows, all Jordan Ricker wanted to do was compete at USEF Pony Finals (Kentucky). But despite her biggest wish, she never made it to the epicenter of all things 14.2-hands and below.
“I had a very bad pony,” said the 16-year-old from Hershey, Pennsylvania. “I qualified, but I didn’t go because wouldn’t have made it around. But Pony Finals was always the goal.”
But in 2017, Ricker graduated to horses when she purchased Cosido from Cindy Bond, pushing the Pony Finals dream in the rear view. The Holsteiner gelding of unrecorded breeding had just recently been imported and possessed all the qualities that a green 7-year-old horse would have. But with the naughty pony in her resume, Ricker could handle it, with the help of Bond and Abby Russo.
“I started out doing like the baby greens. He was very green when I first got him—no lead change,” said Ricker. “He wasn’t quite there but after this year in Ocala when we brought him home, he just kind of grew up. Ever since after Ocala he’s been very good.”
Ricker showed him last year in the children’s hunter, stepping up to the 3’3” in November. She just now started showing “Sid” in the 3’6” juniors, but didn’t expect an opportunity to show at the National Horse Show would pop up.
“I was on the wait list for this show, so I didn’t think I would come,” said Ricker. “[I didn’t learn until] a week before the show. I was like third on the wait list, and then I got bumped up.”
But the change of plans didn’t rattle Ricker one bit as she and Sid debuted in their first indoor final on top, taking the 3’3” junior, 15 and under, championship above Maddie Tosh and Gotham.
“I was like, I just want to go and give him a good experience to get in a ring like this,” said Ricker. “I had no expectations going into it. He’s always been amazing. He’s so nice and very talented. I would not trade him for anything.”
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