New Stars Turn on the Style at FEI North American

 Lausanne (SUI), 23 July 2013: Athletes from the USA, Canada and Mexico lined out in the FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships 2013 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, USA where there were a total of 20 sets of medals up for grabs.

Competitors between the ages of 14 and 21 years were in action once again, and with 222 entries across five disciplines it was another hectic and spectacular fixture. These Championships date back to 1974 as an Eventing challenge between the USA and Canada, with Dressage added in 1981 and Jumping a year later. The first complete Young Riders Championship was held in British Columbia, Canada in 1982 while Juniors joined the ranks in 2006 and the discipline of Reining was added to the schedule in 2008 with Endurance combing on board in 2011.


The USA Region 7 team won the Young Rider Dressage Team title with a finishing score of 206.421, improving from silver medal position at the 2012 Championships. The highest score for the winning side was 71.105 registered by 20-year-old Jamie Pestana who was Junior Individual and Freestyle champion in 2010. Pestana clearly understands the concept of team sport, commenting afterwards “it’s great when you’re out there and your team is cheering for you and you know that you’re not just there for yourself, but for your team-mates and your region”. All four members of this side were from California, and 18-year-old Ariel Thomas, who contributed a score of 67.184 with Montfleury pointed out “it’s really nice because we have so many shows and CDIs (in the region), so it really helps us get the feel of what it’s going to be like before we come here”. The other two members of the victorious Region 7 side were 20-year-old Jaclyn Pepper who produced a mark of 68.132 with Taboo and 16-year-old Teresa Adams who posted 64.237 with Weejee.

Pestana had to settle for silver medal spot in both the Young Rider Individual and Freestyle however when Ayden Uhlir from Region 6 reigned supreme in both with Sjapoer. It was a clear-cut result on both occasions, Sjapoer racking up 71.605 to top the Individual and an impressive 72.175 to clinch the Freestyle. Uhlir calls her 14-year-old gelding her “other half” and insists they are very alike. “We’re very social and overall happy!” she said. Pestana has enjoyed fluctuating fortunes with Winzalot in these Championships in previous years but was right on song this time with the nine-year-old this time around. “I got him as a baby, and we moved up the levels together” the rider pointed out. Bronze in the Individual event went to Devon Wycoff from Region 5 while in the Freestyle it was Canada’s Tanya Strasser Shostak and Action Time who stood on the third step of the podium.

Double-champion Uhlir showed her class when failing to be unnerved when the music stopped during her Freestyle, continuing on as if nothing had happened and then picking it up again when the music was restored. “I just stayed on my exact pace” she said afterwards, “I knew that when the music would come back on I’d be where I was supposed to be…I just rode it, and it all worked out in the end!”

The Canada/Quebec team took Junior Dressage team gold for the second successive year, pinning USA Region 7 into silver and Region 3 into bronze. The winning side of 16-year-old Naima Moreira Laliberte (Windbreaker), Laurence Blais Tetreault (Lowelas), 17-year-old Felixe Cote Villeneuve (Pissaro) and 15-year-old Betrice Boucher (Dante) racked up a score of 201.864. Tetrault said the team win was the result of hard work. “I think we just trained really hard. Naima and I are from the same state, so we train and work together. Working together I think really helped us” she said.

It was a close contest for the Junior Individual Dressage medals but Lindsey Holleger from Region 3 won through with a great performance from Friedenfurst to pip Naima Moreira Laliberte and Windbreaker from the gold medal winning Canada Quebec team, while team silver medallist Rison Naness (Venezia) claimed the bronze. Holleger’s winning score was 70.974.

Junior Freestyle champion was 16-year-old Laurence Blais Tetreault who had already helped Canada Quebec to the team gold. Riding the 13-year-old Lowelas, Tetreault posted a fantastic mark of 71.525, and said afterwards “I would definitely recommend NAJYRC (these Championships) to other riders. It prepares you if you want to go further (in the sport). In my future, I think I’m going to look back and be so happy that I got the chance to do this” she added wisely.


The Jumping action got underway with a Speed class for both Juniors and Young Riders which counted towards the individual standings. And there was an interesting tie between Mexico’s Eugenio Garza riding Bariano and Zone 1’s Dana Scott with Whatever RB in the Junior division. Zone 4’s Kaley Tomeu and Belle Bleu finished third here.

The course was designed by Steve Stephens and in the Young Riders section it was Lillie Keenan from Zone 2 who produced the quickest round with Londinium to head off Zone 4’s Shawn Casey in second place and Zone 2’s Charlotte Jacobs in third.

And it was Zone 2 that clinched team gold in both Young Riders and Juniors. Stephens set a tough track for the Young Rider team event and there were only two clear rounds, the winning side completing on a total of 36 faults. Lillie Keenan and Londinium led her side to victory with a single fence down in each round. Mattias Tromp (Casey) added four and eight while Michael Hughes (Luxina) double-faulted in both rounds. It was a difficult outing for Gabrielle Bausano and Ubico H who picked up 20 first-round penalties before being eliminated second time into the ring.

Keenas described the course as “challenging” but said she didn’t give her horse the best ride…”he rose to the occasion though” she said.

The combined team from Zones 8 and 10 took Young Rider team silver with a total of 47 faults. Hannah von Heidegger and Geledimar produced one of just two clear rounds of the day to make a major contribution and was joined by Taylor Alexander (Everest de Muze), Haley Schwab (Wakyra) and Robert Jornayvaz (Williams). Heidegger describes her mare as “quirky, but that’s why I love her!”

Young Rider team bronze went to Zones 3 and 5 with consistent performances from the three-member squad of Kate Morrison (Windoctro), Catherine Tyree (Wetter) and Chloe Reid (Victor E) who finished just two faults behind the silver medallists.

The Junior Jumping team title went to Zone 2 led by Allison Toffolon (Kadans Webster) and Katherine Strauss (Chellando Z) who went double-clear. Victoria Press (Cayenne) was foot-perfect first time out but left two on the floor in the second round while Kira Kerkorian (Leopold) suffered elimination in both rounds. The final team total however was just eight faults. At just 14 years of age it was quite an achievement for Strauss who said “I just came from Spruce Meadows and I was nervous coming here because the courses at Spruce are in a big field, and you go in an open gallop and there are a lot of unrelated lines. There, if you mess up a line, you can usually continue the rest of the course better. Here, if you mess up one line you might mess up a few to come”.

It came down to a third-round decider between Mexico and Zone 4 for silver and bronze and three clears in the jump-off clinched silver for the Mexican side of Eugenio Garza (Bariano), Andres Berganza (Catello 3), Juan Pablo Gaspar Albanex (Puertas Catena), and Adrian Berganza (Corlando van Koekshof). Zone 4’s bronze medallists were Haley Waters (No Doubt), Jenna Friedman (Zidrocto), Sophie Simpson (Why Not) and Kaely Tomeu (Belle Beau).

The stage was now set for the Individual finals, and they didn’t disappoint with Keenan taking the Young Rider title and Garza Perez claiming Junior gold. There were 18 through to the closing stages in the Young Riders division and it came down to a three-way battle between Kate Morrison, Lillie Keenan and Charlotte Jacobs – the latter in the lead carrying 7.58 faults going into the final day. A pole down put paid to her chance of gold however and she had to settle for bronze when Keenan jumped clear to stay on her running tally of eight faults and Morrison, carrying 13.70, did likewise for the silver. Keenan described Londinium as “a really special horse. We started showing this year and he was a star right away. We got along very, very well”. Jacobs said of the pressure “I took a lot of deep breaths and tried to do the best of my ability”.

Junior champion was Eugenio Garza Perez with Bariano who was tied with three others going into the last day and who never touchd a pole over five rounds of jumping. He understood the consequences of his last-day effort not just for himself, but also for the Mexican team. “We knew that one rail could cost us and we would be out of the medals. I was nervous, I’m not going to lie” he admitted afterwards. “I felt like I rose to the occasion when I needed to and performed well under pressure. My coaches believe in me, and I’m glad I could show them!” he said.

Individual Junior silver went to 14-year-old Katherine Strauss from Zone 2 who collected just four faults over five rounds of jumping with Chellano Z and bronze sent to Sydney Shulman and Quidam who completed with just five faults on the scoreboard.


The team from Area lll took the Young Rider Eventing Championship title ahead of the combined side from Areas Xll, Xlll, lX while Area V claimed team bronze. And Area lll also claimed two of the three individual medals with Caroline Martin and Quantum Solace standing top of the podium and bronze medallist Jennifer Caras (Fernhill Stowaway) separated by Area V’s Rowdie Adams (No Money Down).

It was dressage leader Adams who still held sway after the cross-country phase having enjoyed a spectacular ride with No Money Down, the only horse-and-rider combination to finish their run over the fixed fences without jumping or time faults. The eventual individual champion, Martin, lay second with the addition of just two time penalties while Caras was in third having added 11.6. This also ensured that Area lll had the team advantage going into the final Jumping phase.

And with one of just two clear rounds over the coloured poles, 18-year-old Martin sealed it. She said afterwards that riding Quantum Solace “feels like you’re sitting on top of the world…I know he can make it over (the fences). I’ve never felt a horse that has so much heart and power, and it’s effortless” Martin said of her eight-year-old Argentinian thoroughbred gelding which was originally destined to be a showjumper. “I had no idea what kind of horse he could turn into. It’s pretty cool to think two short years ago I didn’t think he could do this. He’s pretty mature for his age. He’s my best friend, and he’s the only thing that stayed consistent in my life. He’s always there for me”, she added.

Last into the ring, Adams had two rails down when settling into silver medal spot. It’s been something of a fairytale story for this rider and the horse she rescued from a junkyard six years ago. “I was a little kid that thought every horse was cool,” she remembered. “He was eight when I got him, and now he’s turning 14. It’s taken a lot of years and all the disappointing rides, but something clicked on him and I never gave up on him. It brought us here today. I had a lot of people tell me he was never going to do anything and he’s proven everyone wrong. It’s fantastic to think that he’s come all this way. The fact that he did a beautiful dressage ride for me, jumped around like a pure genius in cross country, he could have had every rail down today and it would be okay. He’s done so much for me” she said with tears in her eyes.

Team Silver medal went to Area VII, VIII & IX with a total of 242.1 penalties from Jacqueline Larouche (The Gingerbread Man), Erin Strader (Radio Flyer II) and Lizzie Snow (Ringfort Tinkaturk) while Area V’s Alexa Ehlers (In Any Event), Mary Frances Cargile (Take the Mick) and Rowdie Adams (No Money Down) took the bronze.

It was Nicole Doolitte and the aptly-named Tops who took the Junior Individual title as well as team gold for Area lll alongside Victoria Clayton (The Secret Agent), Manhattan (Ashley Dodds) and Diane Portwood (Cinerescent). It was a close-fought affair after the cross-country phase here when the top four riders were all within five penalties of each other. Doolittle had the advantage over Mary Peabody Camp (Rave Review) while Emily Macauley (Canadian Exchange) lay third going into the last day.

Doolittle therefore had all of the pressure on her as she entered the stadium for the final Jumping round but she kept her cool and with a flawless clear from her 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding she claimed double-gold. The 15-year-old champion described her horse as “quite a goofy horse.” She continued, “he’s a very personable horse. He’s really in tune with how you’re feeling and you can tell how he’s feeling at any time. He’s wonderful under saddle, and I’ve come into a great rhythm with him. It’s been a blast getting to know him. He’s become my best friend in this whole process.”

The Silver medal went to Ann O’Neal Pevahouse (Area V) on Don Bosco, an 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding by Don Bosco. They had 54.4 penalties from dressage, were clear through cross country, and their clear in jumping rocketed them up from seventh to second place.

The Individual bronze medal hung around the neck of April Simmonds from Ontario who rode the eight-year-old Impressively Done. They scored 53.7 in Dressage and were in 13th place, but after just 1.2 time penalties on cross country, they moved up to eighth and their great clear round in jumping moved them to third after all the riders placed from second through sixth had faults in the final phase.


Cassandra Roberts and Viktory Banner helped the USA Southeast team to double-gold in the Endurance Championships. In her very first competition ride with this horse, the 16-year-old from Bronson in Florida posted the winning time of 6:19.31 She only got the ride when her own mare was injured and she just had a few training sessions prior to arrival in Kentucky. “He had a lot of experience before I started with him” she explained. “He’s an amazing horse and it was pretty exciting. It makes me feel pretty good to win two gold medals!” she added.

Joining Roberts on the Southeast squad was Heleen de Beer from Atlanta who also took individual bronze with DCL Mooi Penny when crossing the finish line in 8:19:22 while the other two members of the winning side were Taylor White whose finishing time was 9:08:10 and Mallory Capps (Masterpiece Vlad). The winning USA Southeast team time was 23.47.03.

It was double-silver for Team Canada’s Emma Webb and Vagas. This partnership retuned a time of 7:29:40, which underlined just how quick Roberts and Vicktory Banner had been when clinching Individual gold. Webb, who took team gold in 2012, had plenty of reason to be pleased with her two silver medals this time out however as she was riding a borrowed horse. “Last December I got to race him 75 miles and that went really well. I’ve been riding him a bit this summer, but this is only the second time I’ve actually competed him! He’s a fun pony and we had a good time!” she said.

A total of four teams competed for the Endurance Team title and bronze went to to USA’s Northeast who posted a team time of 26:49:48. And they had the added distinction of including the Best Conditioned Award at the end of the race when Michael Bishop’s TEF Sunflash came up trumps. “Flash is a very high-energy, strong horse. He loves to go and he hardly ever stops really. He drinks well and he’s very fit. He’s done three 75-mile races since December” Bishop explained. In true sporting spirit however, the 16-year-old rider pointed out that “the Best Conditioned Award was great to get, but the team medal was a big honour”.


As it did during the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in 2010, the Reining Championships took place in the air-conditioned Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park and excitement was at fever-pitch throughout the competitions. This was a two-way contest all the way between USA and Canada and team medals were equally shared, with USA clinching Junior team gold and Canada topped the Young Rider podium.

It was a sensational US Junior team victory as they pulled it off with just two riders when Gimme Major Bucks, ridden by Victoria Cartillar, didn’t pass the veterinary inspection. Against the odds, Matthew Verser and James Michael Phillips riding Sunrise in Hollywood and Shining Shoes respectively really rose to the occasion with scores of 206.5 and 213 to win it. Chef d’Equipe, Dell HKendricks said “they had huge hurdles to overcome with only two horses to show, but they kept fighting their way through. That’s the real fun of being on a team – when you come through even though you’re not supposed to!”

The Junior silver team medals went to Canada’s Emily Wilson (Miss Cielo Chex), Maxine Whiteside (Sailors Good Sackett), Hannah Sted (Lil Cat n Gun and Haley Franc (Jacs Shy Boy).

In Young Riders the Canadian gold medallists Pearl Aebly (Ms Smart Holywood), Stephanie Thomson (Jacs Docsan) and Madison Steed (Jumpin Jack Trash) were all first-timers at the NAJYRC. Steed said “we went in with a plan to have a good, easy, calm round and show the judges that Canada is here. It means a lot, to be able to represent your country at an event like this. To come here and get the gold, with us being beginners, was awesome!”.

Young Riders Reining Team silver went to USA South Central’s Jonathan Stepka (Sweet Mega Brown), Jake Letner (A Genuine Diamond) and Jamie Erickson (Rock Mountain Whiz).

Canada’s Madison Steed and Jumpin Jac Trash took the Young Rider Reining Individual gold medal, showing with great confidence and skill to secure an emphatic five-point win over the USA’s Jamie Erickson and Rocky Mountain Whiz whose US team-mate, Jonathan Stepka, took bronze with Sweet Mega Brown. Steed said of her victory “it all goes back to my horse. He doesn’t stop, he has so much try in him. He’s a cool horse that way. You can push him as hard as you want. I really owe it to him”. Erickson, also 16 years of age, was only competing in his fifth show with Rocky Mountain Whiz and said “each time we ride, we’re always improving”.Photo: FEI/StockImageServices

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