Lexie Kment is taking the good with the bad.

Last year’s dominant dressage force at the FEI North American Youth Championships—Kment and Montagny von der Heide rode away with three gold medals in the Junior division—returned to Traverse City with the same Region 4 dream team that won gold in 2021 to reclaim their team title on Wednesday.

But the journey back to NAYC has been a fraught one for the 16-year-old.

Kment and “Monty” followed up their breakout performance at NAYC with a reserve champion title at the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions in 2021. It was the most successful season of her budding career.

“At the end of last year, I felt the pressure of okay I came off a great season. Now we have to go back and do it all over again,” said Kment.

Then her now 18-year-old mount was sidelined by injury.

“Monty” suffered a small tear to the hind flexor tendon in February and required several months of rest and rehab.

“Coming back from that, my first thought was okay, but I’m never going to get back to this spot again. So that was a lot of tears and sadness,” shared Kment. “And then coming back through rehab it was like, okay, maybe we can do this.

“So just coming into today, it was, Yes. I want to be here for the team and I want to do well. But I just want to get through the test and have it go well!

Fuelling the pressure cooker of championship competition stress: Region 4 brought a three-member team, meaning they didn’t have the luxury of a drop score in Wednesday’s team competition. All three riders needed to deliver.

Kment started the team off with a cautious but clean test to deliver a 67.121% score.

Ella Fruchterman and Kylee Kment—also defending champion team members from 2021—were next in the 20 x 60 for Region 4, delivering two of the top scores of the day. Fructerman and Holts Le’mans produced a 69.303% highlighted by their half passes and a clean walk tour. Kylee and Honor, the final combination to return, delivered the top score for the team, cementing their win with a 69.364% for a team total of 205.788%.

“In the warm up it was all coming together. He felt like he was going into my hand coming from the hind leg. And then going into the test, usually there’s a little bit of a switch like, I start riding differently knowing it’s in the show ring. This time it felt very cohesive,” said Kylee.

“He was really in front of my leg. The walk work and canter work, he was really listening. It was so fun!

Kylee Kment and Honor. ©TCHS/Megan Giese
©TCHS/Megan Giese

Making the win all the sweeter, the three teammates have become close friends after first meeting at the 2021 NAYC.

“Coming in last year, we had not known each other until we got off the trailer,” said Fruchterman.

“This year, we ran into each other in Florida and we’ve been talking over the phone all year. So I think we’ve really come together as a team. And I feel great friendship with these girls. It’s so special being up here with them.”

For Lexie, who now holds four NAYC gold medals, the lesson she’s riding away with is the same one that got her here: gratitude.

“Going into the rest of the week, yes, I want to do good. Yes, I want to make my country and team proud,” said Lexie. “But I am so thankful to get through today and that I have a sound horse and that he’s happy. I’m happy. [So I’m] just going in with a thankful calm [perspective] and being ready to take the good and/or the bad.”