Neither Junior Ella Fruchterman and Young Rider Erin Nichols is a stranger to the FEI North American Youth Championships dressage podium.
Both managed to stick the landing on Sunday, leaving them with even more to celebrate on the final day of the 2022 NAYC Championships at Traverse City, MI. Fruchterman and Holts Le’Mans took the Junior Freestyle, while Erin Nichols and Handsome Rob AR earned gold in the Young Rider Freestyle.
It turns out, nerves are a good omen for Fruchterman.
A hat trick for Junior Ella Fruchterman
The Woodbury, Minnesota native earned her third gold medal on Sunday in the Junior Dressage Freestyle after climbing the podium two other times as both the Individual Junior Champion and Team gold medalist with her veteran Region 4 squad.
After all that climbing, though, Fruchterman says she still had a case of the jitters on Sunday.
“I was super nervous this morning. Even to the last minute in the warmup, my stomach was turning,” Fruchterman said. “I was just like, ‘You need to calm down. You need to go in and have some fun.’”
In the end, she did have fun, earning a score of 72.300% aboard her 11-year-old Danish Warmblood, Holts Le’Mans. Madison Sumner of Wellington, Florida took silver aboard Briar scoring a 71.515%, while Lexie Kment and Montagny von der Heide of Palmyra, Nebraska earned a 71.385% and bronze.
For Fruchterman, winning with this particular Freestyle music was especially meaningful, given that it was composed by her brother’s friend, a music producer.
“The vocals on the freestyle are actually his, and they’re also some of my cues,” she explained. “Whenever they come up, I get excited, because I know I’m on the music. That always makes me happy.”
Fruchterman, 18, trains with Angela Jackson of Rhine River Farm and also comes away with the NAYC Amanda Johnson Award for the Junior rider who receives the highest combined average percentage score from their Team, Individual, and Freestyle rides.
“This week definitely exceeded all of my expectations, and I am still trying to find the words to express how much joy and gratitude I am feeling,” Fruchterman expressed on her Instagram.
“Mr. Lemanzypoo couldn’t have given me a better feel today, and words can’t describe how proud I am of him.”
Erin Nichols earns a personal best in the NAYC Young Rider Freestyle
Young Rider Freestyle Dressage gold medalist Erin Nichols had a simple strategy for her Sunday performance: Give them something they can dance to.
It certainly paid off for the 19-year-old from Yorba Linda, California who earned a personal best score of 74.456% aboard the 10-year-old gelding, Handsome Rob AR.
“We wanted to do an old-time, 60s Freestyle that kind of makes you want to dance to it,” Nichols said. “I really like the choreography. It fit well with my horse, and I get to add my own little spice with the one-handed, three-time changes.”
Nichols—who previously won NAYC Young Rider Dressage individual gold and team silver medals—was joined on the podium by her Region 7 teammate, Ellanor Boehning of Rancho Santa Fe, California. Riding Sir Junior, Boehning’s score of 72.545% was good enough for silver. Fighting nerves, the California rider says she stuck by the old motto, “Confidence is key.”
“Before I got on, I was a little bit nervous, but once I get on my horse, it’s all about confidence,” Boehning said. “Fake it ‘til you make it! I know if I’m confident, Junior’s going to be more confident going in and doing his best. I just try to be there for him.”
Finally, bronze medalist Sophia Schults of Ocala, Florida was delighted by her score of 70.957% on Conocido HGF, a now-10-year-old gelding she produced over the last six years—to sometimes mixed results.
“It was really hairy for a long time, but honestly, it’s just been the last six months or so, something in his mind said, ‘Yep, we’re doing this,’” Schults explained.
“Every show we do now, I have to pinch myself, because we actually make it through the [tests]! It’s been absolutely unbelievable. He will work so hard for me every day and I can’t thank him enough for that.”
Erin Nichols was also awarded the Fiona Baan Memorial Trophy for the Young Rider who receives the highest combined average percentage score from their Team, Individual, and Freestyle rides.
“I’m super proud of my horse and super thankful to everybody who supported me up to this level. It’s been an incredible journey, and I’m excited to see where we go,” Nichols said. “It’s just more than I could ever dream of.”