By Sydney Lowe
THERMAL, Calif. – March 21, 2021 – The Desert Circuit wrapped up the eighth and final week of competition at the Desert International Horse Park (DIHP). Jumper action in the grand prix ring concluded with highlight classes such as the $15,000 North American Youth Championship (NAYC) Trials 1.45m Classic, $5,000 Zone 10 NAYC Pre-Jr Trial 1.30m, and the grand finale, the prestigious $250,000 FEI Grand Prix CSI4* 1.55m, the perfect way to end the circuit.
The grand prix ring saw twenty-six 1.45m entries for the final Zone 10 $15,000 NAYC Trial Classic. Riders vying for a spot on the NAYC team for Zone 10 qualify for the team by competing in these competitions during the season and their best three finishes out of five trial classes count toward a possible spot on the team. Children, Junior, and Young Rider categories provide an exciting opportunity for riders in these age groups to compete against their peers in a Championship format similar to that of that of international senior Championships like the Olympic Games. Competition in each age category is held over the course of multiple days and features both a Team Competition, with Teams fielded by Zone, and an Individual Competition. The 2021 FEI North American Youth Championships take place in August.
Only two riders jumped clean over the Marina Azavedo (BRA) designed course to move onto the jump off. Melody Liu and Corsari Van De Helle had an unfortunate rail but a quick time of 44.224, which landed her the victory over Lauren Flather and Fenna, who collected 8 faults and a time of 84.749 for second place.
Liu, 18, of San Marino, CA, rides with Michael Hebert and has had her mount for about a year. She got the 11-year-old last year before the global shut down so didn’t get much opportunity to show him. They spent time at home getting to know each other and she also attends USC to study Congnitive Science.
“He’s amazing! He’s super careful, super quick and he really bails me out of a lot of things, he can take a joke!” laughed Liu when describing her horse.
Liu described the NAYC program as a stepping stone to be able to compete at a national level and then be able to represent the zone on a team.
“Getting that experience and to be able to ride with all the other top, junior and young riders across the nation is really cool,” added Liu. “I definitely see going on to do the Olympics, hopefully, and then go on to the World Equestrian Games.”
The $5,000 Zone 10 NAYC Pre-Jr Trial 1.30m Classic concluded in the Stephex Arena at DIHP. Twenty-three riders vied for the championship title and Devi Ferreira (Encinitas, CA) aboard Zelote VDL who lead the victory gallop after a stellar jump-off ride.
Peter Grant (CAN) built a technical course for riders to maneuver. Featuring an intimidating triple bar bending to a triple combination and multiple tight rollback turns, riders faced a true challenge. Many fell victim to a four-fault ride, but six lucky riders returned for a tie-breaker round. Galloping through the timers at 40.794 seconds was Ferreira and Zelote VDL to clinch the win.
“I just started riding him in August and he used to do all the World Cups and traveled around Europe going to all the big horse shows. He was an active stallion for VDL Stud,” narrated Ferreira. “He happened to find me, and we were doing the 1.10ms and now we are doing the 1.30ms. He is just amazing. He is a really special character.”
Competing in a prestigious program such as the North American Youth Championships is pivotal for many young rider’s careers. The trials are the first step in transitioning to an upper-level rider.
“I think it is a good step into the community to be able to get your name out there,” explained Ferreira. “I think it is just a good steppingstone for the bigger classes. I am looking forward to improving my riding and being able to move up by the end of the year.”
Avery Rose Glynn (Petaluma, CA) took home the second-place honors aboard Dollar Girl H after a speedy jump-off time of 41.48 seconds. Rounding out the top three was Katie Kehring (Woodside, CA) and Mr. Miracle Man after stopping the timers at 42.55 seconds.