It was a week of ups and downs for Young Riders in the NAJYRC’s freestyle dressage class.
Luckily for riders Lauren Asher and Chase Shipka, the downs came early. On Saturday afternoon, Asher pulled through to win second place medal in the North American Junior & Young Rider Championships — and Shipka rode her way to gold.
After the relief of victory washed over them, Shipka, Asher and bronze medalist Marline Syribeys
Asher came the farthest of all the winners to clinch second place. She was second to last after a self-described “rough” first round.
And she also literally traveled the furthest to get here. Asher is based in Holland, and she flew with her mare Hønnerups Event to compete at the Young Rider Championships.
It wasn’t an easy trip. Hønnerups Event has been in quarantine the entire time she’s been in the states. Asher has to bring along a vet and sign off with USEF every time the horse even leaves its stall.
It took a ton of organization and hard work, but Asher said this medal makes it worth it.
“She’s been super this whole season, flying around, going to a bunch of different shows, a bunch of different places,” Asher said.
Chase Shipka also didn’t love her preliminary round on her mount, Zigal.
“The main thing for my freestyle was that I kept it not dull but relaxed,” Shipka said. “That’s why the music was a little bit quieter, as (Zigal) is very sound sensitive.”
That choice fits with Shipka’s belief in choreographing freestyle routines with a specific horse in mind. This routine was no exception — Shipka helped to craft it specifically for her and Zigal.
Syribeys joined Shipka and Asher in the medals today. And as she climbed up to the podium, she got another surprise: the Style Award for dressage. No, it’s not because she wore a trend-setting shadbelly. The award is given to the rider who’s a positive, kind horseman, both on the horse and on the ground.
Vets, discipline chairs, and many other officials weigh in since they all see how riders behind the scenes.
Typically, the NAJYRC chooses just one Style recipient per discipline, so Syribeys was surprised and excited to win it.
“I try staying super positive about things, and be encouraging to people, and just generally be the best person I can be,” Syribeys said.
She still has another year as a young rider to keep spreading her positivity in the dressage world. But the victories were bittersweet for Asher and Shipka, as this was their last year as young riders.
Shipka is heading back to Wellington, where she may round out her final year with another competition in the fall. Meanwhile, Asher is heading even farther — back home to Holland, where she’ll continue to train.
After a well-deserved break, of course.