Lexington, Ky., July 20
The first six months of a partnership often bring a special set of challenges as horse and rider grow accustomed to one another’s styles and cues. For three riders in Kentucky this process was no different, but all three medaled in the dressage Young Rider Individual test at the Adequan/FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships despite the freshness of their alliances.
Individual gold medalist Brandi Roenick, San Diego, Calif., has only been partnered with Weltino’s Magic, a 10 year-old Westphalian gelding (Weltino—Diva, Diamond Boy) owned by Bruce and Jen Hlavacek, for less than three months. However, Roenick, 17, has known “M&M” for considerably longer, as he was previously ridden by her trainer, Steffen Peters. Weltino's Magic and Peters won two gold medals at the 2011 Pan American Games (Mexico) last fall.
“His stall is next to my locker in the barn, and his head faces out into the driveway when I pull up,” explained Roenick, who was part of the Region 5 gold medal-winning team yesterday. “He always knew me as the treat girl before. When I started riding him, though, he started paying more attention. We have a very special bond for our short relationship.” That special bond shone in the individual competition, where Roenick and M&M scored 74.94 percent for the win.
Silver and bronze medalists Monica Houweling, 19, and Alexandra Reid have each ridden their mounts for six months.
When Reid, Campbelleville, Ontario, began riding VIP, a 10-year-old owned by Deborah Miculinic, in January, she found the transition difficult at first. “He was a different caliber of horse than I’d ever had before,” said Reid. They overcame those early difficulties, however, to put in a fluid and error-free test for 70.00 percent and the bronze medal in the Young Rider Individual test.
Houweling, Delta, British Columbia, faced similar challenges early on, and it wasn’t until she reunited with Rifradin’s former rider, Debbie McDonald, for a clinic that the tide turned in their relationship.
“Debbie knew her so well; [with her help,] it clicked all of a sudden,” Houweling said. Houweling and “Rif,” a 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Gribaldi—Atradin) owned by Linda Houweling, produced a solid test for the silver medal on 71.23 percent.
Uhlir Uncovers Gold In Individual Dressage
Going into the Junior Individual test at the Adequan/FEI North America Junior and Young Rider Championships, Ayden Uhlir focused on improving her performance from the team dressage competition two days prior.
“We definitely improved from the day before,” said Ayden, 17, who rides for Region 9. “I really needed to improve my walk pirouettes and my trot half passes. They were not up to par to where I wanted them to be.”
Improve she did, and she trotted away from the dressage arena with a 69.68 percent on Sjapoer, a 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Cantango—Jenia). The team has been together for about 15 months, but she said their bond has solidified with time and hard work. With more time spent together, Uhlir, Fort Worth, Texas, also discovered Sjapoer’s picky preference in treats.
“I found out his favorite treats are perfectly ripened bananas,” she said, adding that if they are not exactly right, he turns up his nose at the indulgence.
The top 15 riders will compete in the freestyle competition on Saturday.
“I’m a little nervous about the judges liking my music because it’s Blues Brothers,” Uhlir said with a grin. “It’s a little saucy.”
—Junior silver medalist Ariel Thomas traveled from California to compete on Montfleury, a 19-year-old Westphalian gelding. After their smooth round earned them a 67.89 percent, “Monty” disliked the excitement of the awards ceremony and took an impromptu gallop around the arena. Thomas said he’s usually cool headed.
“Sometimes he gets very proud of himself,” Thomas said.
—Keegan O’Brien of Region 2 was eliminated when Willkommen, her mount for the Junior Individual test refused to go into the dressage ring in the Rolex Stadium at the Kentucky Horse Park. After multiple attempts to get the 15-year-old Hanoverian to go forward, the judge rang them out.
—Nicolas Torres Rodriguez earned the highest score of all the junior riders (72.05%), but he did not earn a medal or ribbon. Torres Rodiguez lives in Bogata, Colombia, a South American country, and is therefore ineligible for an award. However, for the 2013 junior and young rider competition, the show organizers are looking into expanding the field to riders in both North and South America.
“Competing at the Rolex Stadium is like a dream come true,” said Torres Rodrigues, 15. He and his mount Silver Label have been together for about a year. He said if the opportunity arises, he would like to return to the championship with a full team from Colombia.
—Bronze medalist for the Junior Individual dressage test, Laurence Blais Tetreault, follows her older sister, Mathilde’s, footsteps in NAJYRC. Although she comes from a family of dressage riders, Laurence said her parents don’t put pressure on their daughters to win. “My parents are really supportive,” she said. “There’s just having fun and doing good.”
—All three young rider medalists hope to qualify for the FEI Young Rider World Cup Final to be held in Europe this December.
—Weltino’s Magic is Roenick’s third NAJYRC mount; in 2010 she rode Nobel to young rider team gold with Region 5, and in 2011 she repeated that performance with Pretty Lady.
—Houweling medaled as a junior last year, but this was her first trip to NAJYRC as a young rider. “You get that feeling on the podium and just have to come back,” she said.
—While Roenick and Houweling are no strangers to NAJYRC competition, it was Reid’s first trip. “I’ve wanted to go ever since I could breathe,” said Reid. “It’s overwhelming and unreal to be on the podium.”
—All three medalists are looking forward to tomorrow’s freestyle competition. “The freestyle is my favorite, and my horse loves it too” said Roenick. “It’s great when you and your horse are on the same page.”