Saturday, Sep. 23, 2023

It’s A Coastal Clash In Show Jumping At NAJYRC

It was a battle of the coasts at this year’s Adequan FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships, but Zone 10 triumphed in the junior team championships after a nail-biting jump-off against Zone 2 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, July 21-26.

The Zone 10 team, composed of Richard Neal, Pasadena, Calif., Samantha Harrison, La Cañada, Calif., Taylor Siebel, Woodside, Calif., and Alec Lawler, Atherton, Calif., tied with Zone 2 with 12 total faults after five rounds of competition.



It was a battle of the coasts at this year’s Adequan FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships, but Zone 10 triumphed in the junior team championships after a nail-biting jump-off against Zone 2 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, July 21-26.

The Zone 10 team, composed of Richard Neal, Pasadena, Calif., Samantha Harrison, La Cañada, Calif., Taylor Siebel, Woodside, Calif., and Alec Lawler, Atherton, Calif., tied with Zone 2 with 12 total faults after five rounds of competition.

The young West Coast team maintained its sangfroid even when a gold medal was on the line.

“One thing about these Nations Cup-style classes is that things can really change,” noted Neal, 16. “If you’re not in it at the beginning, you can be in it at the end, or if you’re in it at the beginning you may come a bit close at the end. You just have to keep fighting and be there for your team and stay focused.”

Zone 2’s Katie Dinan and Mobile 4 were first to negotiate the tricky course, which included a vertical-to-oxer combination and a sharp right-hand turn to a tall vertical sporting the FEI logo. Although Dinan had a rail at the second jump, an imposing square oxer, she  finished with a respectable time of 39.88 seconds.

Harrison and her mare Santika promptly followed with a clear round, and after completing an impressive slice to the FEI vertical, they clocked a blazing time of 37.30 seconds and put the pressure on the East Coast team.

“I was a little nervous to go first [for Zone 10] only because I didn’t know what the time was like or how the lines rode,” said Harrison, 16. “I just wanted to go around clear and set the tone for the team. It was a little bit of a challenge though.”

Jacqueline Lubrano and her partner El Regresso Conga may have felt the pressure as they accrued 8 faults after attempting some tricky turns.

With a 12-fault cushion, Siebel and her Thunder-Ball, a 9-year-old Royal Dutch Warmblood, were able to pull a rail at the first element of the problematic combination without much consequence.

“I just got him at the beginning of the year,” said Siebel, 17, of her new partner. “We had to work extra hard to get to know each other and make it so that we could come here.”

Zone 2 sent in their third and final competitor, Jazz Mace and her Valentino. But all hope of a comeback was shattered as Mace tallied 8 faults in a well-ridden but conservative jump-off.

Lawler’s 14-year-old Live Fire seemed at bit tired as the two stopped the timers at 42.08 seconds, having pulled one rail along the way, leaving Zone 10’s jump-off total at 8. Although Zone 2’s collective time of 117.50 was better than Zone 10’s at 120.25, it was the fallen rails that determined the outcome.

“I think it’s invaluable experience that we don’t get at any other venue,” said 17-year-old Lawler of winning gold in the impressive stadium. “This is by far the most pressure that we feel all year, and it’s great to have[this] experience for our future riding.”

Modern Legends

While the juniors of the historically successful Zone 2 may have finished with silver, their young rider counterparts didn’t settle for anything less than gold in the team championships.

Team members Carolyn Curcio and Blast Off, Chelsea Moss and Lorena 90, Alexandra Thornton and Naomi and Jessica Springsteen and Vornado Van Den Hoendrik ended the team competition with 34 faults, 14 points ahead of silver medal winner Zone 5.

Moss, 19, and Lorena 90 paved the way for the Zone 2 riders after posting a clear first round. Teammate Springsteen accrued 1 time fault, while Curcio and Thornton each pulled one rail.

“A lot of people didn’t make it around the course,” noted Moss of Olaf Petersen’s big, wide and technical creation. “I was just happy that I made it around in the first place!”


But the second round proved to be a difficult endeavor for most. Because the young rider team championships were scheduled for the end of a long day, many horse-and-rider combinations completed their first round in daylight and their second round at night under the bright stadium lights. Therefore, more rails fell in the second round.

Thornton and Springsteen pulled two rails each, while Springsteen again accrued 1 time fault as well. Moss’ normally careful mount pulled three rails, while Curcio’s score was eliminated from consideration. The team ended with 29 second-round faults.

Zone 5 also ran into trouble in the second round. While Jennifer Waxman boosted hopes with a brilliant clear round, fellow Ohioan Theo Genn racked up 14 faults, and Kirstie Dobbs and Eso tallied 16.

“The course was hard,” noted Genn. “But it should be.”

Dobbs echoed her teammate’s sentiments but recognized that it wasn’t an unfeasible task to clear all the jumps.

“The course was hard, but as long as you stuck with your plan and did what you were going to do, it was completely set up for you to succeed,” she said. “It wasn’t one of those courses where they try to make you fail. That gives you confidence when you go in.”

But at the end of the day, it was Zone 2’s aggressive and accurate riding that clinched gold.

“My one main goal was to be team gold, and we did that, so it was really exhilarating. The atmosphere is really different; everyone supports each other, and it’s not so much everyone against each other like it usually is at a horse show, so it’s really fun,” Moss said. “I’m happy we get to have our picture on the Zone 2 wall now.”

Teammate Springsteen couldn’t have agreed more.

“It’s really cool to be a part of it and so exciting to be on the gold-medal team,” she said. “I was definitely nervous, but I had a lot of fun and everyone did really great. It was nice going into the second round with a lead. It allowed us to relax a little bit.”

Chef d’équipe and prolific horseman in his own right, Ralph Caristo, led the Zone 2 young rider team to their victory.

A Perfect Partnership

Caristo also guided Zone 2 junior rider Kaitlin Campbell aboard Connery 9, who eked out a win over Zone 10’s Samantha Harrison in the junior individual championships.

The two riders were neck-and-neck entering the jump-off for the top spot, but Connery 9 (Corofino I—Elsbe) wasn’t about to have his first rail of the week. The gray gelding was the only horse in show jumping to jump fault-free for the entire competition, an impressive feat considering that he and Campbell, 17, contested six rounds together.

“My horse is a little lazy, so I have to create the energy with him,” Campbell noted of her mount. “But he’s extremely careful so no matter what distance I give him, he tries to get his legs out of the way. He does all he can to stay off the jumps.”

Bronze medalist Richard Neal of Zone 10 claimed his medal in a separate jump-off against fellow Zone 10 rider Annie Laurie Cook and her mare Gina.

And while some riders may have had more success than others, all agreed that the most difficult jump employed in the course was the open water.


“The open water isn’t used enough in the junior jumpers, so we really don’t have any practice when we get here,” said Campbell. “I don’t think I’ve ever jumped one without a rail on top.”

But Connery 9 and Campbell made it over with room to spare each time, a notable feat considering the jump was where most competitors accrued their 4 faults. Campbell credited trainers John Roche and Shane Sweetnam of Sweet Oak Farm with helping her to best her peers.

Campbell, Upper Black Eddy, Pa., will head off to American University in Washington, D.C. this fall.

Waxman Wins Again

Even though it seemed as though Zones 2 and 10 were going to lay claim to all of the prizes of the week, 17-year-old Jennifer Waxman wasn’t about to let the coasts have all the fun.

Waxman, Chagrin Falls, Ohio, won the young rider individual gold medal after accumulating 7.36 faults over five rounds with Venturo (Major de la Cour—Lloyd).

“He’s come a really long way,” she said of her partner, whom she also shows in the grand prix classes. “He needed a lot of flatwork. I started getting it at the end of last year, but then he had some time off before Florida. I couldn’t really quite get any clear rounds out of him, but then we got to Devon [Pa.], and we finally just clicked. He started to understand what I wanted, and he tries so hard.

“There’s no other horse I’d rather be on in a pressure situation,” she added.

Waxman enlists the help of Ken and Emily Smith and credited them with helping her bring Venturo to the next level.

“I was a little worried coming into today because he had already jumped four rounds this horse show, which is a lot for any horse,” she said. “After he went clear this morning and he tried so hard, I couldn’t let him down in the second round.”

Venturo didn’t so much as breathe on a rail, and his enormous efforts, coupled with Waxman’s skillful and calm riding, paid off in spades. Although they picked up 1 time fault, the pair cantered right to the gold medal. 


•    Grand prix rider Wilhelm Genn served as chef d’équipe for Zone 5; his son, Theo, was a member of the silver-medal young rider team.

•    British Columbia native Joelle Froese was the highest-placed Canadian individual during the NAJYRC, claiming the young rider individual bronze medal. The 21-year-old credited her horse, Condor, and her trainer, Jill Henselwood, with her stellar rounds.
“He was basically running around the 1.30m when I got him. He was like a backyard horse,” she said of the 9-year-old Westphalian gelding. “And I hadn’t jumped bigger than 1.30m either, but he loves to jump, so we’ve just slowly been working on flatwork and coming up together.”

•    Under the NAJYRC rules, Zones 2 and 10 only sent in three riders each for the junior team championship jump-off. After the third rider for each Zone jumps off, the chefs d’équipe may decide whether or not to send their last rider. Anchor riders Richard Neal and Luke Skywalker S of Zone 10 and Kaitlin Campbell and Connery 9 of Zone 2 were not required to jump off.





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