JN Exclusive: Zone 5 Overcomes Nerves and New Partnerships to Win Gold in Adequan®/FEI North American Youth Championships

Old Salem Farm in North Salem, New York was this year’s host to the Adequan®/FEI North American Youth Championships. Previously known as the Adequan®/FE North American Junior Young Rider Championship, the event’s name was adjusted to accommodate the addition of a Children section. As always, an impressive crop of young riders was in attendance, each fueled by the hope of securing a team or individual gold medal.

Friday, August 3rd was a happy day for the team from Zone 5 as they rose to the occasion and brought home the gold medal in the FEI North American Youth Championship Junior Young Rider Championship.

The team from Zone 5, which consisted of Charlise Casas, Emma Kurtz, Paige Matthies, and Alexandra Pielet, produced a few faults for the team in the opening class. Once starting day two competition two, round A, they opened the class with one eight fault round, two four fault rounds, and one clear round. Round B, however, was their time to shine. Three riders delivered clear rounds with one four fault finish, finishing the team’s score off on a total of 17.88 faults. The silver medal would go to team Mexico West with 28.73 faults and the bronze to team Canada with 34.54 faults.

Winning Round: Alexandra Pielet & Helene VE 2018 USHJA North American Junior Rider Individual Champions

"It was just a dream come true to be able to go clear in all my rounds and have it pay off." – Alexandra Pielet and Helene VE, your 2018 United States Hunter Jumper Association – USHJA North American Junior Rider Individual Champions out of USHJA Zone 5 #FEINAYC

Posted by USEF Network on Sunday, August 5, 2018

Not only do riders in a team setting have to adjust to the added pressure, but also must rely on their teammates to put their best foot forward as well. Zone 5 team member, Alexandra Pielet was especially grateful to contribute to her team’s success throughout the competition. “It is really important to be a part of a team and learn the dynamic of teamwork,” shared Pielet. “I really loved being able to ride with some of my very close friends and experiencing winning gold with them!”

Alexandra Pielet and Helene VE, Photo by SEL Photography

Pielet and her mount Helene VE, an 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare, were the only combination to jump double clear on the final day of the Individual Final, resulting in another gold medal to add to the elated young rider’s collection.

Also on the gold medal team for Zone 5, Paige Matthies put it best about the added-on pressure when riding for a team. “Showing for a team is a lot of responsibility. It really puts the pressure on to perform for your teammates as well as yourself.” She praised her horse Dirkie Z, a 13-year-old Zangersheide gelding, for always putting his best foot forward, which she attributes to their focus on improving on the horse’s stamina in preparation for the competition. The duo’s hard work paid off as they also rode to an eighth-place finish in the individual competition.

Charli Casas added that staying mentally together is difficult in a hectic environment such as this one. “The most challenging moment was staying mentally in check,” recalled Casas. “After five rounds of jumping I had problems keeping my head straight, which was challenging over the week.” Casas found a mental balance, however, and delivered solid rounds aboard Rembrandt Blue, a 13-year-old Zangersheide gelding, to place them ninth individually.

Adding a clear to her team in Round B, Emma Kurzt aboard her fairly new mount Pippi, a nine-year-old Selle Francais mare, was quite pleased with their results. In addition to their gold medal team standings, the pair rode to an individual fourth place finish. Kurtz could be seen throughout the weekend cheering with her team on the sidelines for every class and truly enjoying her surroundings. “Being part of a team was something I never experienced before. It was quite an amazing experience to have the team cheer for me and being able to cheer them on.”

Attending NAYC was a last-minute decision for the combination, as Pippi had only appeared in Kurtz’s life back in March. Even with not as much experience together it didn’t stop them from producing quality rounds Kurtz could be proud of.

The whole team agreed being in the atmosphere of NAYC was one of the best experiences to have. Pielet praised the Old Salem for their management of the show, “I believe the show did an amazing job with the set up. It was a cool experience to see all the flags of the different countries because it is a championship. Also, the way people cheer for their team members is such a great feeling!”