In an exciting finish, the team representing USA Region 7 rose to the top of the podium in the Young Rider Team Final at the 2021 North American Youth Dressage Championships (NAYC) in Traverse City, MI, on 13 August 2021.
The team Championship test featured 29 combinations but no less than five were eliminated, leaving a group of 24 producing a team score. This year's North American Youth Championships also saw no Canadian riders being fielded, a first in the many-year history of this acclaimed continental youth championship.
USA Region 7 won team cold with a combined team score of 210.235. The team saw top performances from Erin Nichols (Yorba Linda, Calif.) and Handsome Rob AR, Miki Yang (Los Altos Hills, Calif.) and Donavan, Katherine Mathews (San Marcos, Calif.) with Solière, and Christian Simonson (Ventura, Calif.) with Zeaball Diawind.
The team from Region 1 finished with the silver medal on a team total of 202.089, and Region 4 secured the bronze on a final team score of 199.735.
Gold for Region 7
The Region 7 team was led by Simonson and Zeaball Diawind, a nine-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding owned by Christina Morgan, who received a 73.588 percent to earn the highest score of the class and help solidify the team’s standing. Yang and Donavan, a 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Four Winds Farm, scored the team’s second highest mark with a 68.970 percent in their first appearance at NAYC. Mathews and Solière, a 17-year-old Hanoverian stallion owned by Peridot Equestrian LLC received a 67.677 percent, while Nichols and Handsome Rob AR, a nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Diane Nichols also received a 67.677 percent.
“I was working a lot on bending and keeping a consistent feel throughout the test,” explained Nichols of her ride. “Since my horse is only 9, I’ve been learning with him as well as growing myself, so it was a great experience.
“I’m speechless about winning. This is an amazing experience, I love the team environment, and this region is fabulous, and everyone here is very kind, it’s been great to get to know a lot more people.”
“A highlight from our test was the trot work,” said Yang. “Donavan is a son of Vivaldi, so I think that the trot work is a natural highlight, but maintaining the suppleness and the contact and bend in both directions was something that we were working on a lot and I felt like I could really go for it while maintaining a good feeling in the arena. He was certainly happy to be in there as well.
I started riding him about one and a half years ago, he was originally my mom’s horse, and after a while I took over the ride. He is definitely not a push-button horse, he’s very picky about the rider that he wants, and he’ll make it clear if he doesn’t want to do it. Having him accept me has already been such an honor in itself because he’s really one in a million, and the fact that he chose me makes me really happy.”
“The contact has been a work in progress with my horse,” explained Mathews, “and for this test it was one of the most consistent ones we’ve had with the contact to date, so I’m very proud of that.
“This is my second time competing at NAYC, and it’s beautiful here. The footing is amazing, we had torrential downpours, so it was a lake one day, and then completely rideable the next. It’s been a wonderful facility to compete at this year.”
“Coming off of the back of a European tour,” concluded Simonson, “my goal was to just build Zeaball Diawind’s confidence up. It feels really good to get a personal best. It’s cool to see that, I’ve had him since he was seven, and test by test he’s developed a lot more confidence.
“This team has been awesome. All of them have been so supportive, and everyone brought their A-game, and this horseshow itself. Everyone, the families, have all been so supportive with everything going on, and it’s been really great.”
Silver for Region 1
The Region 1 Team of Hannah Irons (Queenstown, Md.) and her own Scola Bella, a 12-year-old Hanoverian mare, Allison Nemeth (Flemington, N.J.) and Tiko, a 10-year-old Danish Warmblood mare owned by Karen Nemeth, and Megan Peterson (West Chester, Pa.) and her own Amoretto, a 16-year-old KWPN gelding finished the Young Rider Team Test on a total of 202.089, for a strong second place showing. Irons and Scola Bella received a 68.765 percent from the judging panel to anchor the team’s score. Nemeth and Tiko earned a 68.412 percent, while teammate Peterson and Amoretto received a 64.912.
“A highlight of our test was the trot work,” noted Peterson. “I thought that the energy was consistent throughout the entire round so I was really happy with it.
“I’ve had Amoretto for about five years now, and he’s a great boy. I couldn’t have asked for a horse with a better attitude. He’s always so kind, and the friendliest guy in the barn, just a great horse. He never disappoints me.”
“Our suppleness and the connection were strong points,” said Nemeth, “because we’ve had problems maintaining that consistency throughout the test, and I was really happy with him today.
“It feels great to be here on a medal winning team. I couldn’t ask for better teammates. We’ve had a great time so far.”
Irons continued, “Scola Bella stayed relatively relaxed in there in that electric atmosphere. They’re very different from our shows at home and she was hot, but she went in there and really tried for me.
“She’s a sensitive queen, and it’s taken a few years to really feel like we can go out there and go for it. She thinks that she rules the world. Second NAYC, and to come back after a challenging year and have a great team, it’s great.”
Bronze for Region 4
Rounding out the top three teams on the podium was the team from Region 4. The team comprised of Tillie Jones (Lincoln, Neb.) and Qi Gong TF, a 12-year-old Hanoverian mare owned by Tillie & Tish Jones, Averi Allen (Pleasant Hill, Mo.) and Superman, an eight-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Jonni Allen, Nicolas Beck (Chanhassen, Minn.) and his own Campari, a 14-year-old KWPN gelding, and Emma Lavin (Sioux Falls, S.D.) and her own Bella Mia, a 10-year-old Swedish Warmblood mare. Jones led the team with the highest score, earning a 68.735 percent aboard Qi Gong TF. Allen and Superman finished with a 65.471 percent, narrowly edging teammates Beck and Campari, who received a 65.529 precent. Lavin and Bella Mia earned a 62.000 percent.
“We had some unfortunate bobbles due to some outside circumstances,” admitted, Lavin, “and my mare really came back to me and it went well, so I’m proud of the confidence she gained from that experience.
“I’ve had her for three years, and she’s a wonderful mare. She’s opinionated, but once she trusts you she really gives it her all.”
“The level of trust Campari had for me was a real highlight of the day,” said Neck. “He was there for me and gave me all he had, and I’m very proud of him for that.
Allen continued, “The canter pirouettes were a real highlight today. We’ve been struggling with those, and Superman’s really sat and come to my aids, and I’m really happy with him.
“I’m so happy and proud of all of my teammates. We all worked well as a team, and have had a blast.”
Jones concluded, “This is my mare’s second year competing in the Prix St. Georges, and so I’ve really enjoyed riding her. She’s very sensitive, very forgiving, and is a favorite in the barn. She is a joy to ride and I am just so thankful to ride a healthy horse at this competition. I’m so grateful to be here and to ride with my amazing teammates, it’s been a blast."
--- USEF press release, edited by Eurodressage