The 2013 Adequan FEI NAJYRC Show Jumping, presented by USHJA, wrapped up competition with the Individual Medal rounds today at the Kentucky Horse Park. The finale for show jumpers were the final two rounds in the individual medal competition on Saturday morning.
Junior riders were the first to take on the Steve Stephens Table A courses of 12 obstacles [15 efforts] that included the new fence designs of a large horseshoe and a bicycle, both verticals, and a time limit for round one of 80 seconds. Of the 24 starters only two managed clear rides; Zone 1's Sydney Shulman (NY) and Mexico's Eugino Garza Perez (TX). Zone 2's Katherine Strauss (NY) stayed in medal contention with only four faults. Following the rules of FEI, the international governing body for equestrian sport, scoring was based on accumulative faults from riders' previous rounds and the top 15 would advance to the final round. The cut off for returning was 28 faults or less.
At the start of the final round two riders elected not to return. Mexico's Perez, who came into this final day of competition with no faults, rode another fault free round to lock up the gold medal. Strauss from Zone 2 held to just the four faults and picked up the silver medal and Shulman remained at five faults to claim the bronze.
Asked to describe her experience, Strauss said, "He [Chellando Z] was great the whole time, I just had a foot in the water. I was really nervous going into the first round because it was kind of make-it or break-it time. You have to know yourself when you get nervous; my tendency is to go slow and kind of ride backwards, so I knew to ride him faster. My parents and coach were so supportive, they told me you can't control how everyone else does, so just do the best you can do and focus on the course. "
Shulman added, "I just recently acquired my horse at the end of the Florida circuit, so I chose to show him as a learning experience for both of us. I'd never shown him two days in a row, so two classes a day was interesting to see how he held up throughout the competition. He was great!"
Both Strauss and Shulman look to return for 2014 with the hope of stepping up into the Young Riders division.
Closing out the show jumping Zone 2 had two riders in contention for the gold in the Young Rider section with a mere .42 point difference between them. In the end the top podium positions would go to Lillie Keenan (NY) and 11 year-old Oldenburg gelding Londinium clinching the gold medal with a total of eight faults overall, and Charlotte Jacobs (NY) with 15 year-old Selle Francais mare Kachina taking the silver medal with 11.58 faults. Zone 5's Kate Morrison (OH) and her partner Windoctro, a 10 year-old KWPN gelding would take the bronze position with a total of 13.70.
Despite 15 riders being qualified to return only 13 accepted the final challenge. The final round's 12 fence [15 efforts] layout in the Rolex Stadium had a tight time of 66 seconds. "I think with any course you go into you have to be aware of the time. My horse is pretty good with it, because he has a huge stride. So as long as I make up some time around the longer corners he's pretty good with it, but with these bigger fences you can't start pulling either, you just have to keep going a little more forward." Morrison said.
The two-horse race for the gold was decided by the last rider on the last jump when Jacobs' mount nicked the rail just enough to cause an audible gasp from the grandstands.
Jacobs said, "It was tough. She's usually such a careful jumper. We landed and I thought we had it, then I heard the crowd and realized it was down. Lillie and I are close; we're teammates, so I'm happy for her."
Jacobs and Keenan may be tough competitors, but they are also close friends. When talking about the pressure of coming into the final day of competition with so much on the line, the question everyone wanted answered was how they handle it. "We had dinner last night together as a full team. Charlotte's one of my closest friends and if the roles were reversed I'd be very very happy for her just as she is for me." Keenan said.
Zone 2 Chef Ralph Caristo spoke up as well, "What these two [Keenan and Jacobs] don't realize is I'm the guy with the pressure! They don't know what pressure is unless they're at the gate watching. I root so hard, as they know, for both of them. I'm really happy that they are as close as they are and I couldn't be more proud of them."
USHJA is proud to be the presenting sponsor of Show Jumping for the Adequan FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships, presented by Gotham Northand recognizes the importance this program plays in the development of our sport's future top athletes.
For complete results please visit www.youngriders.org.