Williamsburg, Mich.—Aug. 14
Christian Simonson and Zeaball Diawind added a second gold medal at the FEI North American Youth Dressage Championships after the pair rode to a personal best score of 75.35 percent in the Individual Final. The silver medal went to Miki Yang and Donavan, who rode to 69.29 percent, while Tillie Jones and Qi Gong TF earned the bronze medal with 68.58 percent.
“I’m proud,” Simonson said. “When I was on the podium, I was thinking about the fact that the last time I rode the individual test at a NAYC, I was disqualified, and thinking about that and the fact that I’m here now with a different horse, one that we’ve brought up and shown step by step, and I’ve been a part of the whole process, and to be able to redeem myself in that individual test was an amazing feeling.”
Simonson, 19, was pleased with his test on the 9-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding owned by Christina Morgan, saying, “He felt the calmest he’s ever felt in the trot tour, and coming off of the back of the European tour, I felt that the individual test was something I didn’t do a good enough job in. Yesterday with the tempi changes I had a hard time counting; today that was a bit better, so I was happy about that. The whole test felt calm and felt that he was with me. Having that level of trust with him was rewarding.”
Simonson also noted his appreciation for the team that has helped him along the way: “The whole team; my trainer Adrienne [Lyle] is one of the most patient, amazing people I’ve ever met, my groom Monica [Stanke], my parents, my sponsors, I felt like everyone was here today riding that test with me, and that was a special feeling.”
Miki Yang also put in another solid performance after winning the team gold medal alongside Simonson and the rest of the Region 7 Young Rider team on Friday. “This is my first NAYC, and this has just been an amazing experience,” said Yang. “This is my first time competing on a dressage team. When I was vaulting, I was always on a team, so being able to integrate what I’ve learned from vaulting on a team to competing on a team in dressage, was a cool way to intersect the experience.”
Of her day’s ride with the 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Four Winds Farm, Yang said: “I was thrilled with today’s test. I felt like I could go for a lot of the extensions; as a rider, I tend to fade out, and I heard my mom and my coach’s voices in my head saying, ‘go to the end!’ I think that they would’ve ragged on me about that if I didn’t do it. I was also happy with our pirouettes, our left one is always stronger, and he can get a little hesitant in the right, but today I felt that I could ride that with a little more feel. The walk also improved from our last test. He tends to get a little lateral, and today I was able to keep him supple and relaxed.”
Region 4’s Tillie Jones is also a double medalist this weekend, earning her second bronze in the Individual Final with the 12-year-old Hanoverian mare that she owns with and Tish Jones. “I was delighted with my test today,” she said. “I’m just so happy that I could have two consistent tests, which were also very clean. There were a few bobbles here and there, but I am so happy with my mare. This is our second year here at NAYC, and the first year she was a little green, but this year she’s proved to be a good Prix St. Georges horse, so I’m pleased with her. Her changes have been a hard thing for her to learn, but they were all clean, and I was happy with the one tempis, so overall, I’m thrilled with the performance.”
Jones hopes to continue to the U25 with the mare and to take her on the European tour next summer. Of her two bronze medals this week, Jones concluded, “It feels amazing. To win two medals here. I’ve sat on the sidelines and cheered my teammates on in the past, but it’s a great feeling to be back in the international arena, and with a healthy horse, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Young Rider dressage competition at NAYC concludes Sunday, August 15, with the FEI Junior Freestyle Championship and the FEI Young Rider Freestyle Championship.
Children Individual Jumping
The United States’ Jordan Gibbs sat at the top of the leaderboard going into Saturday’s Children Individual competition, on a score of 0 faults. However, eight others including Reagan Tomb (USA), Jimena Carrillo Watanabe (Mexico), Sergio Nieto Rullan (Mexico), Alessandro Neumann Priess (Mexico), Lenir Alejandro Perez Facusse (Honduras), Campbell L. Hudkins (USA), Rebecca Gutstein (USA) and Kat Fuqua (USA), followed closely behind also on 0 faults.
Two rounds of stiff competition took place throughout the morning, leading only six of the original nine 0-fault riders to produce two more clear rounds to force a jump-off. Hudkins was the first in for the tie-breaking round, knocking an unfortunate rail to leave the gold up for grabs. Perez Facusse was next to take on the 1.25m course, setting an incredible time of 33.73 seconds without knocking any rails. His blazing time would prove to be difficult to beat, with Neumann Priess trying his best to overtake Perez Facusse, but falling short on a clear time of 34.57 seconds.
Carrillo Watanabe was next to challenge with First Time LS, a 13-year-old CCDM stallion. The young athlete put the pedal to the metal, turning and burning her way through the course to put in a speedy time of 32.93 seconds, leaving all fences fully intact and overtaking Perez Facusse’s lead. Gibbs would be the final athlete on course, but unfortunate faults on course would lead Carrillo Watanabe straight to the winner’s circle.
“It is just amazing! I could not believe that I won. After I jumped the last jump, I knew I had the best time because all of Team Mexico was screaming,” exclaimed Carrillo Watanabe. “[First Time LS] and I have been together for three years. We have obviously had our ups and downs, as I think that everybody does, and it has definitely been a journey. I hope that we can continue to stay together.”
As the only individual rider for Honduras, Perez Facusse rode to the Individual second place honors. The 12-year-old athlete was thrilled with the performance of his 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare, Di Vadine, owned by Jorge Loria, Annette Lora and Diego L. The experience was an emotional one for Perez Facusse, crediting his horse for helping him reach this level and achieve the silver medal.
“I am very proud to represent my country here and the medal is a bonus as I am the only individual rider here. I am very proud and I cried after my round,” shared Perez Facusse. “Two months ago I was jumping .85m, so it was very exciting to jump this today and it is going to be an amazing journey with [Di Vadine].”
Neumann Priess rounded out the top three aboard Corlinus, a 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion owned by Ralf Neumann. Also representing Mexico, the young athlete was thrilled with his top three finish and spoke highly of his three-year partnership with the stallion. After coming back from an injury, Neumann Priess and Corlinus’ bond is stronger than ever and the pair looks forward to a bright future riding for Mexico.
“We have had [Corlinus] since he was 8 years old. He was my brother’s horse before and then sadly he needed to have surgery. They gave him to me to rehab but I kept the horse and we have a connection now—it is a great story. I have had the ride on him for two years now and I have been riding for 10 years,” Neumann Priess said. “It went great. It always can be better but this [experience] could not be possible without my dad and my mother. They always support me and they always give me advice on how to go forward.”
Pre-Junior Individual Jumping
This is the first year of the Pre-Junior section being offered at NAYC, and all of the competitors were hopeful to take the section’s inaugural gold medal. The United States’ Mia Albelo was the only athlete to begin Saturday’s competition on 0 faults, so she knew the pressure was on to remain consistent throughout the final two rounds of competition in order to keep her top spot. She managed to keep her cool during the first round and continue her faultless streak, with Caroline Mawhinney (USA) sitting in the silver position and Mexico’s Xaviera Carrillo Watanabe seated in the bronze-medal spot before the final round.
As the last rider to try her hand at the track and following a streak of clear riders from those sitting behind her, the pressure built up for Albelo to clear the timers with all of the rails intact. In the end she would rise to the occasion, emerging victoriously as the only athlete to ride a faultless week aboard her own Cocominka EST, a 10-year-old Rheinlander mare. Riding under the tutelage of show jumping legend Margie Engle, Albelo has been able to learn from her vast experience competing on teams for the United States.
Albelo said, “When Margie [Engle] and I talked [before the second round], she said ‘Get everything out of your head and ride each jump like a single jump. When you cross those timers you keep cantering because anything can change in a single moment.’ That was exactly the plan we rode, especially in the second round where there were even more nerves. Going through those timers and keeping all of those rails up was pretty emotional for me knowing that I had won the gold and would be wearing the gold proud today.”
The top three from the first round would remain the same at the conclusion of the second round, with Mawhinney riding double clear Saturday to finish on a total of 1.46 faults to receive the silver-medal honors aboard her own Stella Levista.
“Stella [Levista] is best described as ‘tiny but mighty.’ She is so small but tries her heart out in every competition. She is fast, brave and careful—everything you could want in a horse and I could not love her more,” Mawhinney said of the 13-year-old Hanoverian mare.
Rounding out the top three was Mexico’s Xaviera Carrillo Wanatabe, taking home the bronze medal after also riding a double-clear afternoon and finishing on a three-day total of 2.37 faults. She was thrilled with her top-three result. “This was my first time competing at the North American Youth Championships. I have done three or four Nation’s Cups representing my country, but this one was my first time competing at this championship and I am just so very grateful for everyone. Especially Salvador Oñate Barron for letting me ride Con Rouet, and giving me the opportunity to ride such an amazing horse. I am just so grateful to be here!” she said.
Albelo concluded, “We can all agree that this is an incredible opportunity and we are so fortunate to be here and compete here. It is truly unique to give the youth the opportunity to compete as a team. Thank you to all the sponsors who put this on for us, because we really, really appreciate it.”
The 2021 FEI North American Youth Jumping Championships will conclude Sunday, August 15, highlighting the Junior and Young Rider Individual Final competition. Sunday’s gold-medal Junior athlete will secure a quota place for one U.S. athlete to join the North American Team at the 2022 FEI Youth Jumping Competition in Aachen, Germany.