Lexington, Ky. Jennifer Wood and Brad Ettleman for USEF – The SmartPak North American Junior and Young Riders’ Reining Championship reached fever pitch today with the Team competition for Juniors and Young Riders at the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park.
With Gold medals for both nations in respective divisions, the top of the podium and hardware was evenly divided at the North American Championship today with Team USA South Central taking gold in the Junior division and Team Canada golden in the Young Rider division.
With a score of 419.5, the American team, comprised of Mathew Verser and James Michael Phillips, pulled off a miraculous win with only two active riders. Riding Sunrise in Hollywood (Verser) and Shining Shoes (Phillips), their respective scores of 206.5 and 213 were reflective of their strong efforts in the competition.
The Junior USA Team was down to two riders after Gimme Major Bucks, ridden by Victoria Cartillar (17, Wynne, AK), unfortunately did not pass the jog. However, since they were present at the jog, Cartillar received a Gold medal.
Chef d’Equipe Dell Hendricks said, “This team did a great job. They had huge hurdles to overcome with only two horses to show, but they kept fighting their way through. That’s the real fun about being on a team – when you come through when you’re not supposed to.”
Cartillar added, “It’s a really great experience to be here with a team and support your team through everything, to make sure their horses are okay and they have a great ride.”
Verser (14, Jonesboro, AR) was happy with his ride and thought the stops were the best part of his pattern. He also enjoyed meeting people from other disciplines, from across the country and from other nations. Phillips (14, Hartsch, OK) agreed, “It’s cool to watch and learn what they do different from your sport and in their country. It’s fun to meet new people and learn about their horses and sport.”
Phillips added about his ride, “My horse listened and did what I wanted him to do. I couldn’t ask for him to do a better ride.”
The Silver medal went to Team Canada:
Emily Wilson (16, Oxbridge, ON) and Miss Cielo Chex – 0.0
Maxine Whiteside (14, Olds, AB) and Sailors Good Sackett – 0.0
Hannah Steed (14, Cochran, AB, CAN) and Lil Cat N Gun – 194.0
Haley Franc (15, Prince Albert, SK, CAN) and Jacs Shy Boy – 206.5
Reining Young Rider Gold medalists from Team Canada: Chef d’Equipe Wendy Dyer, Pearl Aebly, Madison Steed, and Stephanie Thomson (Waltenberry)
In the Young Rider Team Championships, the maple leaf flew high as Canada took the top of the podium. Consisting of Pearl Aebly (18, Okotoks, AB, CAN) riding Ms Smart Hollywood (score 208.5), Stephanie Thomson (18, Fort McMurray, AB, CAN) showing Jacs Docsan (score 212) and Madison Steed (17, Cochran, AB, CAN) aboard Jumpin Jac Trash (score 211), the Canadian team repeated their years of success in the Young Rider division, taking medals home once again. This was the first time for all three riders at NAJYRC.
Aebly commented that the Alltech Arena was amazing. “I love it here,” she expressed. “I was also happy with how my ride went. She’s a great horse. The best parts were her circles and her stops.”
Thomson enjoyed the victory gallop after their Gold medal podium. “I’ve always wanted to do that!” she exclaimed.
Steed agreed and added that she loved being on a team and being a part of Team Canada. “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 a huge event like this. To come here and get the Gold, with us being beginners here, was awesome.”
The Silver medal went to Team USA South Central:
Jonathan Stepka (16, Little Rock, AR) and Sweet Mega Brown – 211.5
Jake Letner (20, Harris, MO) and A Genuine Diamond – 210.5
Jamie Erickson (18, Keytesville, MO) and Rocky Mountain Whiz – 206.5
Riders advance to the Individual medal round on Saturday after a day of rest on Friday. With another set of medals available, North America’s top young riders vie for honors once again.