Edited Press Release
Fourteen-year-old Harper Tjardes and 17-year-old Cyanea Robine have a lot in common. Both are talented horsewomen who captured the 2022 TAKE2 Junior Rider Award, presented by TCA, in their respective divisions by impressive margins. The two also believe that if you want to elevate your riding skills, get a Thoroughbred.
“He’s made me so brave,” Tjardes said of her TAKE2 partner, King of Hearts, who also happens to be 14. “He’d do anything for me, and with him, I’ve done things I never thought I could do.”
From near Omaha, Nebraska, Tjardes topped the TAKE2 Junior Rider Hunter standings with 447.5 points. Robine led the TAKE2 Junior Rider Jumpers with 431.5 points.
Sponsored by the TAKE2 Second Career Thoroughbred Program Inc. and Thoroughbred Charities of America (TCA), the TAKE2 High-Score Junior Rider Award was created for the 2018 season to recognize the junior riders competing on Thoroughbreds in nationwide TAKE2-affiliated Hunter and Jumper classes. Champions receive trophies for their accomplishments, and the top five junior riders in each division earn TAKE2/TCA saddle pads. In addition, all junior riders who are enrolled for the award and compete in TAKE2 classes are eligible for a drawing for a $1,000 scholarship grant from TAKE2. The grant can be used to pay tuition and expenses for higher education anywhere in the U.S. Individuals are eligible as TAKE2 Junior Riders until the end of the TAKE2 season in which they reach the age of 18. There is no fee to enroll.
From an equestrian family, Tjardes had taken a hiatus from riding, then, she said, “I really fell love in with it all over again.” She began jumping a Quarter Horse-Welsh mixed-breed pony before moving to a new barn to gain experience with hunters and equitation.
King of Hearts is her first Thoroughbred. The New Mexico-bred, racing as Dom’s Trick, made 62 starts primarily in the Southwestern United States, including appearances at Fonner Park in Tjardes’ home state. He stole his rider’s heart when she began riding him two years ago.
“He’s amazing,” said Tjardes. “He taught me how to ride really well and do bigger shows.”
On the lookout for a bigger horse so that she could take bigger jumps, Tjardes initially thought “Vegas,” as she calls him, was a Warmblood.
“My mom is the one who told me that he’s a Thoroughbred,” she said. “He raced until he was eight years old, and he transitioned really well to hunters. It’s crazy, because in racing the horses go so fast, and hunters go slow.”
Her mother Michelle grew up riding Thoroughbreds, including while she was eight months pregnant with Harper.
“They are such a great breed,” she said. “They’re versatile, they’re brave, and they’re competitive. Unfortunately, in the competition world in the central Midwest, some judges have a bias towards Warmbloods, despite all the amazing characteristics of a Thoroughbred.”
One of those characteristics is the ability to adapt. It was a long ride from Nebraska for last month’s TAKE2 Finals at the Kentucky National Horse Show, but that didn’t faze Vegas.
“We hauled him 13 hours to Kentucky, and the next morning, he tooled around two arenas that he’d never been in, and he just took it all in like the champ that he is,” Michelle said.
Competing against adults and 20 rivals in the TAKE2 Hunter Final, Tjardes and King of Hearts finished fifth.
TAKE2 Testimonial: Harper Tjardes
Robine and her horse Riley faced 12 rivals in the TAKE2 Jumper Final and beat them all, winning the event for a second straight year. Like Tjardes, Robine praised her horse for what he’s taught her.
“If while we’re riding I don’t make the right decisions,” she said, “he’ll be, ‘OK, I’m going to kind of take over and do this for you.’ He has a really good heart, and he wants to please.”
Riley, whose Jockey Club name is Pic Me First, hadn’t had a regular rider for some time before Robine teamed up with him, so she had to work a little bit to gain his trust.
“Once he trusted me,” she said, “it made a huge difference. He saves me a lot from making mistakes.”
Unlike Vegas, who transitioned from fast track work to a slower pace for Tjardes, Riley is able to use his speed in the jumping ring.
“He’s very, very quick,” said Robine, “and I love going fast. We always have a blast in the show ring.”
She had initially gotten involved with Thoroughbreds because they fit more easily into her budget, and she appreciates that the TAKE2 program offers opportunities to earn the kind of prize money available at bigger shows. It was during her triumphant appearance at the 2021 TAKE2 Finals that Robine was encouraged by TAKE2 Executive Director Andy Belfiore to sign up for the TAKE2 Junior Rider Award.
“I didn’t think I would win,” she said. “It’s really crazy to me, and I’m very, very happy.”