While the World Championships are underway in Herning, Denmark, the future world champions are gearing up to battle at the FEI North American Youth Championships in Traverse City, MI.
From Wednesday, August 10 through Sunday, August 14 nearly 200 riders from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Honduras will vie for both team and individual medals in the premier competition for riders ages 14–21 in North America.
Here’s what you need to know:
The FEI North American Youth Championships are the only international championship held annually on this continent. In short: it’s exactly what the name says it is.
Over the next five days, show jumping riders will compete in team and individual competition in the four divisions divided by age and fence height: Children’s, Pre-Junior, Junior, and Young Rider Championships.
Dressage riders will compete in team, individual and individual freestyle competition in Junior and Young Rider divisions.
Jumping Cheat Sheet
In 2021, Mexico and Honduras swept the individual podium in the Children’s division. This year, the odds weigh in USA’s favor.
Featuring fences up to 1.25m in height, the Children’s division will see 21 athletes ages 12–14 come forward, 15 of which are American. The lineup includes three NAYC debutantes with Grand Prix pedigree in Mathilde Candele (daughter of Canadian Olympian Yann Candele), Taylor Cawley (daughter of American professionals Chris Cawley and Molly Ashe Cawley) and Olivia Sweetnam (daughter of Irish team staple Shane Sweetnam).
But they’ll have their work cut out for them. Canada’s Livia Martin and Taylor Wood, USA’s Lilah Nakatani and Honduras’s Lenir Alejandro Perez Facusse have championship experience in their corner as returning athletes from NAYC 2021.
Last season saw the debut of the Pre-Junior division, featuring athletes ages 14–16 and fences up to 1.30m. It also saw a runaway winner in Mia Albelo who took home individual and team gold medals after leading through five rounds of competition and without accruing a single fault. Albelo is a year older and has moved up to the Junior division. That sound you hear? It’s this year’s 23 Pre-Juniors sighing in relief.
With 35 combinations ages 14–18 set to compete and fences up to 1.40m, the Junior division lineup is chalked full of talent. Baylee McKeever, daughter of Castle Hill’s Erica and Lee McKeever and goddaughter of Olympic medalist McLain Ward (USA), is making her NAYC debut. NAYC 2021 individual silver medalist Ansgar Holtgers returns with a different horse, while 2021 Pre-Junior champion Albelo has made the jump up a division. That doesn’t even cover proven winners Carlee McCutcheon, Corinne Sweeney and Stella Wasserman. This division is one to watch.
The Young Riders division is where future team champions are forged. For riders aged 16–21 and with fences up to 1.50m, the field is as deep as the fences are high. Some 34 combinations will come forward this week in Michigan.
Ones to watch: besties Sam Walker (CAN) and Tanner Korotkin (USA). Both come to NAYC with 5* winning records and experience that belies their years. Defending Junior individual champion Zayna Rizvi is back with her gold medal winning mount Excellent as is Equestrian Canada’s newly crowned Junior Equestrian of the Year and 2021 NAYC team silver medalist Eric Krawitt. U25 winner Dominic Gibbs brings his top horse Amazing. And that’s just the top of the list.
Dressage Crib Notes
With 31 athletes set to ride down the center line, the Junior dressage division promises to be stiff competition. All eyes will be on Lexie Kment and Montagny von der Heide this week, who swept the division with three gold medals in 2021. This year, the competition will hit closer to home, her sister Kylee is also competing. Sibling rivalry? Let’s hope so.
Twenty-three combinations hailing from the U.S. and Canada will contest the Young Riders division in dressage. Perhaps more telling than who’s on the list is who’s not. Namely, Christian Simonson. The NAYC legend has six medals to his name, four of them gold, and set a NAYC record score in the freestyle last year of 78.935%. One to watch in his place: Erin Nichols. The California native is recently back from a young riders tour in Europe, where she competed alongside Simonson, and has brought her top mount Handsome Rob AR to the cherry capital.