Wayne, Ill. – Aug. 27, 2021 – The first of two Dressage Seat Medal Final championships, the 13 & Under division, took place on Friday at Lamplight Equestrian Center, with ten young competitors gathering to vie for the division’s medals up for grabs. At the conclusion of the group assessment and pattern tests performed by each rider individually, it was Olivia Martz of Gig Harbor, Washington, who donned the gold medal for the victory lap aboard Norra.
The USEF Dressage Seat Medal program, which promotes building a strong foundation in equitation, is a positive and exciting way for young riders to focus on their riding development without the horse’s quality playing a factor in the results. The finals feature two divisions — a 13 & Under division and a 14-18 division. The riders are first assessed in groups during the finals, being asked to perform various gaits on demand. The riders are then asked to perform a test pattern in the dressage arena that the judges have designed.
Martz guided Norra, her 20-year-old German Riding Pony mare, around both the group assessment and individual test with expert care to stand out among the crowd. The pattern, which featured a large canter serpentine with simple changes going across X, several transitions and a leg yield to centerline followed by a halt before exiting the arena, gave riders ample opportunity to showcase their ability to adjust their mounts and ride precisely. Martz, who trains with her mother Brook Martz and aunt Kelly Burris, was awarded a score of 8.6 for her effort in the assigned pattern.
”I feel like the pattern went pretty well today. I was so nervous – my heart was beating and I couldn’t hear anything,” Martz explained. “It was all a blur. I have to stay relaxed because Norra is not a very easy going horse. If you aren’t relaxed, she’s like “pew, pew, pew’ bolt around the arena. She’s a stinker that way – love her anyways though!”
Earlier this summer, the pair had to work through some challenges in the arena and Martz has been focusing on keeping Norra calm and collected. After improving upon some of their weak points in their training and getting more experience in the ring, Martz was thrilled to put in such a great performance and take home the top prize in such a competitive division.
“It’s pretty insane! We never, ever expected to do that. I’m so happy to have so many of my family here supporting me. I’m a little like, “What just happened?!” Martz laughed. “It was really important that everyone could be here to support me because I don’t think I could have done it without my mom or aunt here.”
Looking ahead, Martz is looking forward to competing in the FEI Junior division with Norra and another mount of hers with the goal of qualifying for the North American Youth Championships, as well as competing in the FEI Pony division with “Silver Belles”
“Norra is sweet and sassy,” she said of her mount. “I love her so much – she’s such a caring horse, but she has an attitude. She’s not easy going all the time but neither am I. We have to make sure we are both soft and we don’t pull on each other. We both are working as a team and not working against each other.”
Making the trip from Atlanta, Georgia, Virginia Woodcock rode her 12-year-old Pinto gelding The Safari Party to a silver medal finish. The pair competed frequently at the Tryon International Equestrian Center this summer, placing first in all of their First Level entries to prepare well for the medal finals. Following their performance in the group and individual assessments, Woodcock earned a score of 8.4 to take the second place honors.
“My horse can be a bit feisty, so [I work on] calming myself down and making sure we are working together well as partners, which is what the sport is all about,” she said. “Having him as part of my family has been important to me. We’ve been training up the levels which has been an amazing experience to learn. We’ve been doing a lot of Second Level [work]. I’m so thankful for my trainer Anneliese Vogt-Harber and both my parents for everything they do.
“[The Safari Party] isn’t a pony but he sometimes acts like one,” Woodcock laughed. “He’s so sweet on the ground and is such a hard worker. We are both really hard workers. We work well together in that way. I’ve only had him for about a year-and-a-half. Just being here is such an honor. I wouldn’t have even cared if I got last [place] – just being here with all these amazing riders is a privilege.”
Rounding out the top three with the bronze medal was Ruby Lewis aboard Pickles, a 10-year-old Pony of the Americas gelding. With her mother and trainer, Marsha Lewis, the young rider has also worked on keeping her cool in the ring and building upon good habits in the saddle. Her practice paid off as she was awarded a score of 8.2 at the conclusion of the class.
“I’ve been working a lot on keeping my toes in and also staying calm because my pony also bolts,” Lewis said. “My mom is my trainer, and I’ve been going to lots of clinics and horse shows to build up to this. I’ve been working on Second and Third Level because I want to do the FEI Pony [division] next year.”
“We actually weren’t planning on bringing Pickles,” Lewis explained. “I was going to bring a different horse who turned up lame, so we brought Pickles. He’s very clever and he’s a nice pony. We’ve had him since he was 2 years-old. We do a lot together. He’s not the easiest pony to ride but it’s amazing that I’m here. I didn’t think I was going to make it because he had been struggling with hives. It’s amazing to be here and to compete with all these riders.”
The USEF Dressage Seat Medal Final 14-and-Over Division will take place Sunday, Aug. 29, at 1:30 p.m.
Dressage Seat Medal Final 13 & Under
Place / Rider / Horse / Owner / Total Score
1. Olivia Martz / Norra / Olivia Martz / 86
2. Virginia Woodcock / The Safari Party / Virginia, Elizabeth and Richard Woodcock / 84
3. Ruby Lewis / Pickles / Marsha Lewis / 81.999
4. Grace Cummins / Fly Magic Finn / Grace Cummins / 79
5. Nori Benck / Maximus / Nori Benck / 78
6. Jack Burwell / Magnito / Heather Valentine / 77