A last-last minute bridle change helped the Zone 10 rider into the winner’s circle.

A bridle snafu led to a stellar result for Zone 10’s Lilah Nakatani during the first-round Team and Individual Qualifier in the 2022 FEI North American Youth Championships (NAYC) Children’s Jumping division. 

Nakatani was also part of the NAYC-winning Children’s team in 2021, but—despite being a relative veteran at this year’s event—she did not foresee a mandatory bridle change just minutes before her trip aboard the eight-year-old mare, Dianett. The pair’s double-noseband and snaffle combination was not permitted in the Children’s division and required a last-minute swap-out for a hackmore bridle.

“It was a little bit nerve-wracking, because I had to change [tack] when I was just three [riders] out. But it was [actually] better, because when I rush, I don’t have to think so much!” Nakatani joked. 

For her part, and despite a little extra ‘enthusiasm,’ Dianett handled the change-up with equal grace.

“She was a [quicker] than I was hoping to be, because she was a little bit spicier in the hackamore,” said Nakatani, who ultimately completed her round with one less stride in two different lines than she had planned, finishing on a dominant time of 71.88 seconds.

“I was a little stuck [in places], because I couldn’t quite turn that great in the hackamore,” said Nakatani. “[But] she was fantastic.”

Dianett, who was purchased from Alan Waldman in 2020, has taken Nakatani from the 1.10m Children’s Jumper division up to the 1.35m classes and to the NAYC twice in just two years. Her natural speed meshes well with the young rider’s style—even if it occasionally leads to some interesting rounds.

“She has a little bit of spice, sometimes, and she can get [wild],” Nakatani explains. “But she’s the coolest little mare. She’s super friendly and super kind.” 

Having Dianett back as her partner for the Championships again in 2022 has also helped Nakatani to build her confidence. “I’m a little calmer this year, [overall]. I was [nervous at the NAYC] last year, because I was the youngest one, and it was my first time doing it. So, this year, [it’s] coming a bit easier.”

In fact, it seems to be coming easily for the entire Zone 10 Children’s Team, all of whom jumped clear on Day 1 during the combined Individual and Team qualifier, and are currently tied for first place with Zone 2, Zone 4, and Canada on a zero score. The Team Final will take place on Thursday, August 11, with the Individual Championship to follow on Saturday.   

In addition to new tack, Nakatani is also getting to know a new trainer at this year’s event: Alora Sporthorses’ Savannah Jenkins, who is helping her in place of her regular coach, Kyle King. But, according to Nakatani, the notoriously speedy King did provide her with some very telling, last-minute advice for the Championships over the phone. 

“I talked to him last night, and he said, ‘You’re either going to win or you’re going to lose,’” Nakatani said, “So you might as well try and win!’” 

Feature image: TCHS/Megan Giese