Lexington, KY – It was a stormy afternoon at the Kentucky Horse Park for part of the USDF/Platinum Performance North American Junior and Young Rider Dressage Championship at the 2011 Adequan/FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Championships presented by Gotham North, but storms could not dampen the brilliance of the dressage being performed.
Competition was suspended at approximately 3:30 p.m. when a thunder and lightning storm passed through the area, knocking out electricity at the Rolex Stadium. But thanks to the quick work of the Organizing Committee and Kentucky Horse Park staff, the show soon resumed.
The Young Rider division was intensly competitive, punctuated by the last rider’s flawless freestyle. Isabelle Leibler and Watson 108 representing Region 8 were rewarded for their brilliant test with a score of 74.00%, which earned the pair the Individual Gold medal.
“This is the third time we’ve performed [this freestyle] in competition, so we’re going through the ropes, trying to see how it ends up, and how the striding work,” she said after her test. “Today, he just felt like he was right there for me and he had my back. He was ready for everything. I was so excited to have a feeling that my horse wasthere with me…it was the most amazing feeling.”
Leibler rode the 14-year-old Westphalian gelding to music from the movie “ET.”
“It’s my favorite movie, so I tried to put something together because it’s just my favorite. I think it fits Watson, and I think we made a good piece.”
Watson, Leibler said, has an “amazing heart and a huge personality.”
The Individual Silver medal went to Chase Hickok and Palermo from Region 1. The team turned in a flashy and consistent test to earn a score of 70.725%.
“This was the first time we rode this freestyle in competition,” she explained. “He was right there with me, and we fought for every point. It was a stressful week, but he was a trooper the whole time.”
Hickock performed with the 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood to Latin-themed music: “It’s fun, it really suits the horse, and it has a lot of energy and personality. I wanted to do something to that would show off his gaits.”
Rounding out the top three and taking home the Individual Bronze medal were Mackinzie Pooley and Jonkara from Region 1. Under a darkening Kentucky sky, the pair’s dynamic test was rewarded with a score of 70.004% from the judges.
“My horse can be quite hot in the freestyle, but she was amazing,” Pooley said. “We had nothing to lose, so we just went for it.”
In her last ride on Jonkara in international competition, Pooley rode the 20-year-old Oldenburg to music from the movie “Slumdog Millionaire.” She said that, “It’s fun [music] to ride to, it makes me happy, and I really enjoyed riding to it.”
“She has the biggest heart of any horse I’ve had the pleasure to known, and I couldn’t be more proud of her,” Pooley added.
Riding as an individual from Manitoba, Canada, Sarah Loewen turned in an expressive performance aboard Ricardo to receive a 69.675% from the judges, which was enough to clinch the Individual Gold medal.In the Junior division, heavy storms disrupted the flow of the competition, however when all was said and done, the medals were decided under sunny skies.
“I think my test went very, very well,” Loewen said. “I don’t think there’s much I could improve. I wanted to ride a clean test. He was awesome.”
Loewen and “Ricky,” a 13-year-old KWPN, performed to big band music in their freestyle: “It’s fun. My horse dances to it, and I think it suits his personality.”
Team Canada West’s Monica Houweling and Stentano were in the ring twice today as the show was suspended in the middle of their first performance, but they returned several hours later to give a flashy and consistent performance. The pair earned a 67.70% from the judges, which was good enough to take home the Individual Silver medal.
“The second time in the ring he was pretty tired, so I just pushed for everything I had,” Houweling explained. “He was super tired, but I’m really proud. He just dug deep and pulled it together.”
She also designed the freestyle for her 12-year-old KWPN around music from “Slumdog Millionaire.”
Taking home the Individual Bronze medal from Region 1 was Julia Burtt and Aaron IV, a 15-year-old Hanoverian. The pair rode early in the afternoon, but their score of 67.15% was high enough to stand up to most of the other competitors.
“He was there for me,” Burtt relayed. “He was really good, but he was tired. It’s been a stressful week.”
Burtt, who rode her freestyle to music from the “Madagascar” soundtrack, said that the biggest thing she learned this week was, “No matter what happens in the test, where it happens, just ride the next movement and make the best out of it you can.”
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-Erica Larson for USEF