Saugerties, N.Y.—July 22
Each day of the competition, Chase Shipka rode harder and harder. The first day of the Adequan/FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships, the 20-year-old commenced the Young Rider Team competition conservatively for a clean, solid test. She received the second highest score (69.92%) on Wednesday.
On Friday, she amped it up, taking all the risks she possibly could on her brown Dutch Warmblood named Zigal (Future—Galante) and “asked all the questions.” Again, she improved, (71.52%) winning the silver medal in the Young Rider Individual competition.
Today in the Young Rider freestyle championship, she achieved an even higher score of 74.65 percent—earning the gold medal and garnering the highest combined average percentage score from the team, individual and freestyle dressage riders. Because of her high average, she was also honored the Fiona Baan Memorial Trophy for the pursuit of excellence.
Consistency, patience and a bold ride paid off for the Virginian in her freestyle test. The calming music sounded across the speakers with hints of Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years,” plus a classical flair.
“I designed it with my choreographer and Robert Dover specifically for Zigal, just showing off his strong points, like the pirouettes,” said Shipka, who said the music was absolutely perfect for the gelding and showed off his strengths.
The inspiration behind the soothing music was to calm Zigal, who is extremely sensitive to sound. In the victory gallop, the cheering crowd sent him into a spirited sprint down the quarter-line of the arena.
The freestyle music lit up the cloudy weather for the top three medalists.
Lauren Asher’s music choice was an upbeat ’80s music medley and synced with her canter transitions. Asher accepted the silver medal with her score aboard Honnerups Event with a score of 70.93 percent.
“Somehow the music gets me in the right frame of mind and I can block out the outside world better,” she said.
After a tough week, she determinedly rode for a comeback.
“To come from second to last in the first day and to win silver the last day is pretty amazing,” said Asher. “I just focused on what I’ve been training on at home and trusted in the fact that it was just one ride and I [could do it].”
Asher is currently living overseas in Amsterdam and flew with her Danish mare to the United States last week for the NAJYRC to represent Zone 7/9.
The bronze medal recipient, Marline Syribeys, chose an inspirational number with drumming and horse racing theme tidbits.
The Young Rider from Atlanta, Ga., scored 70.32 percent on her Hanoverian gelding Hollywood.
“I really like the energy that the music brings. I know my horse really well and [for the choreography], just went through what I thought would be a good idea in my head,” said Syribeys. “I didn’t want to make it too difficult, just because it’s his and my first year here, so I wanted it to not be crazy difficult, but still challenging for us.”
In addition to winning the bronze, she also took home a style award—celebrating a rider with style in the form of manners and overall demeanor around the competition grounds and at the organized functions.
“It means so much to me to have that honor,” she said smiling with the same rosy demeanor that won her the trophy. “I try to always stay super positive and encouraging to other people as the best person I can be on and off the horse.”
In the press conference after the awards ceremony, Janet Foy—a FEI***** judge and Ground Jury I President at the competition—commented on Shipka, Asher and Syribeys’ performance.
“It was so much fun—I’ve been doing this for a long time and to see the quality of the horses, the quality of the riding and the risks you guys took and the choreography was amazing, and when Chase came down centerline, like right at me,” said Foy. “Just three’s and she’s like ‘Alright babe, look at this,’ she does this killer pirouette, right in front of me—like better than a lot of Grand Prix horses I judge. I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s it.’ You know, it was so cool and so much fun to see the risks and to see [Asher’s] comeback. All of you are such wonderful young ladies and I’m so looking forward to see you go into the U-25’s and stand on the podium in the adult world, because that’s where you can all go.”
The Young Rider freestyle championship today concludes the NAJYRC young rider dressage competition at HITS-on-the-Hudson, with the NAJYRC Junior freestyle championship occurring July 23.