Parker, Colo. – July 31, 2016 – Nicholas Hansen will be bringing an impressive haul of awards home with him from the 2016 North American Junior & Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC). He and Ritter Benno captured gold medals in each of the three classes offered to Young Riders.
After earning the top score of the day Wednesday to lead the Region 1 team to gold, the pair continued to show brilliant consistency. In Friday’s Young Rider Individual Test, they scored a 72.502 percent to take gold over Rachel Robinson on Indira (silver, 68.921 percent) and Lexy Donaldson on Power Play (bronze, 68.053 percent).
Hansen and Ritter Benno returned Saturday to secure their third gold with a 72.125 percent in the Young Rider Freestyle. Also on the podium were Rebekah Mingari on Elzarma TF, who collected the silver medal with a score of 69.328 percent, and Emily Ferguson on Wrazzmatazz, who received the bronze medal with their score of 68.295 percent.
“This is something I certainly didn’t expect to happen,” Hansen said. “You know, the horse works its heart out. I worked as hard as I could and rode as diligently as I could. It’s really amazing to see your hard work over the course of the past few years pay off.”
The pair have had a tumultuous go over the past four years, as Ritter Benno was given a poor diagnosis on his potential return to top competition after sustaining a serious injury. Hansen, not willing to give up on his dreams, rehabilitated Ritter Benno, navigating him back through the ranks of dressage and ultimately guiding him to their two gold medals this week.
“Being able to put him slowly back into work, have him actually feel better than before he went lame, and get here after being told that your horse probably won’t be able to work again is something that is amazing,” he explained. “I would like to thank the vets who did what they did to get the horse to where he is now. My horse in particular he has such a big heart and such a hard worker. He’s just such a happy horse.”
As the pair took to the ring for the Freestyle, the Star Wars theme song played through the speakers. Hansen, who is a fan of the storied series, wanted to use something creative for his choreography and musical accompaniment. He explained that as the test continues, the music slowly transitions from the older scores of the Star Wars franchise to newer versions, ending with the most recent edition.
“I thought it would be something cool to play with,” Hansen said. “I always try to ride to music you can hum along to.”
Mingari and the 7-year-old Elzarma TF rode to a mixture of compositions previously used by the mare’s dam, Allure S, in large tour competition.
“I had a really awesome ride today and my mare put her heart out there for me,” Mingari said after her freestyle. “She did an incredible job. We went down the centerline and she gave me five perfect three tempis in a straight line, and I was really proud of her for that.”
Ferguson and Wrazzmatazz have only been partnered together since this past February and are rapidly improving as they get to know each other. The pair rode to a compilation of One Republic music, which Ferguson feels is a perfect fit for the tempo and style of Wrazzmatazz.
“I thought our half-passes were great,” Ferguson said. “He’s a very dynamic horse, and we’re able to increase the level of difficulty by making the angle a bit steeper and he really showed those well today in the ring. We’ve accomplished so much in such a short time. It’s been a very fun journey for us.”
Young Rider Individual silver medalist Rachel Robinson stepped up her game at exactly the right time to produce her best test to date with Indira.
“I actually came out crying, which never happens for a good reason,” she laughed. “It was pretty incredible. Her canter work was just super on point to the aids. She was engaged and beautiful. It was definitely the best ride we’ve had together.”
Lexy Donaldson knew she could count on Power Play to give his all, and the pair’s effort paid off with the Young Rider Individual bronze.
“I was really happy with my canter work today, especially the one tempis because we hit all of the counts,” Donaldson said after Friday’s Individual Test. “I went into both tests knowing that I had to just try my best, because I knew that Player was behind me and I wanted whatever happened to be successful. He tried his heart out.”