Lexington, Ky.—July 17
Young Rider Hanna Bundy left the dressage ring at the Adequan/FEI North American Junior And Young Rider Championships (Ky.) hugging D’Jion’s neck before being surrounded by a flurry of red shirts—the Ontario eventing team that she launched into the lead with her individual second-placed score of 50.7 in the CH-Y**.
“I’ve been chasing this dream for a lot of years, and I’m so happy to be here,” said Bundy, who was a groom for team Ontario at NAJYRC last year, a role that helped her prepare mentally to compete in the big atmosphere of Rolex Stadium for her riding debut this time around.
Her and her teammates’ big praise for “Mustard” wasn’t all for the fancier movements in the test. “His walk is the most difficult part!” said Bundy, 20, of the normally tense horse who likes to break into trot. “I’ve just really been working on keeping angles so he’s occupied in the walk work, and he was really really good. I think thats where I got a lot of my marks.”
Her fellow teammates were April Simmonds, 17, on Impressively Done, Lauren Clark, 18, on Coolumn XV and Jamie Kellock, 19, on Don’t Blink.
Clark has been to NAJYRC before, but on a more experienced mount. “He’s never been in something this large, but he’s been awesome so far,” she said of Coolumn XV, who proved he was ready for the move up. “We took him down to the ring familiarization and he was just walking around on a loose rein and didn’t seem to care, so he’s been a really good boy.”
The team agreed that training camp the week prior to the competition, held at CEO Eventing, just minutes from the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, helped them find their groove for NAJYRC. They spent time together out of the saddle, too, shopping for matching jog outfits. And while the four riders admitted that none of them are fashionistas, “four wrongs make a right!” joked Kellock.
David Ziegler, who competes in both pure dressage and eventing, took the individual lead on a 46.3 ahead of Bundy in the CH-Y** on four-star veteran Critical Decision, while defending CH-J* champion Nicole Doolittle, 16, climbed to third with her NAJYRC veteran Tops.
Ziegler’s training with Missy Ransehousen, “B.G.’s” former rider, and her mother Jessica Ransehousen, whom he calls “the George Morris of dressage,” helped him take the lead. He’s been a working student for them in Unionville, Pa., since graduating high school. “B.G.’s been around [Rolex Stadium] a few times, too,” Ziegler, 21, joked. B.G., who’s contested the biggest events in the world, knew this venue marked the pinnacle of competition for his sport, and lit up in the ring.
Area IV Takes Surprise Lead In CH-J*
The combined scores of Area IV teammates Kristine Burgess on BFF Tiara, Elena Hengel on Zipp, Hannah Stohr on Hey Jude and Rebecca Gall on Can Ya Dig It led the competitive division of 44 horse and rider combinations.
So how did the Midwest put themselves back on the NAJYRC dressage map in the CH-J*?
“I have to say we have a really nice coach; Jon Holling is really good at getting us prepared the day before and really getting our horses where we need to be, and he’s really great mentally, getting us the right mental state to go in,” said Stohr. “Besides that, I think just in the Area IV we’ve been really lucky to start getting more competitive trainers and they’ve been able to produce these more upper level riders.”
“We also have a lot of time to practice dressage in indoors, so that helps!” joked Hengel about their area’s less-than-ideal climate.
The lead came as a bit of surprise, too, as some of the riders and horses weren’t yet confident at the level. Stohr found Hey Jude in a cow pasture in Oklahoma four years ago, and took him on as a training prospect.
“So it’s really fabulous that he still takes care of me somehow at prelim,” she said. “He’s really a saint. A friend found him and was like, ‘Oh, he’s cute.’ And somehow he ended up at my trainer’s barn.”
Hengel, 17, has never competed on a team before, and admitted that there’s a bit of added pressure to perform well. “But it’s just really nice to have people who all want me to do well and want me to succeed, and we can work together,” she said.
She added that Zipp definitely lives up to his name and it’s taken patience to develop a partnership; she bought him from Will Coleman about a year ago. “I always had just big, calm, easy-going packers all my life, so it’s definitely been a learning experience, but I’m very thankful to be learning on a horse like him, and I think going through struggles has really made us more of a team,” she said.
Burgess, 15, and Gall, 17, had never competed at NAYJRC either, so the team victory tasted especially sweet.
The top three individuals in the CH-J* were Kaylawna Smith on London Calling OHF, Alyssa Phillips on Bliss III and Moira de Ste Croix-Laframboise on Blue Ben.
To read more about all the winners at NAJYRC, check out the August 4th issue of The Chronicle of the Horse print magazine.