Two New Jersey riders were half of the gold medal Region I dressage team at the Adequan/FEI North American Junior and Young Riders Championships, as competition got under way for the meet at the Colorado Horse Park.
Elizabeth Bortuzzo of Annandale on Macao and Mallory Chambers of Flanders with the quirky Urithmic, both of whom are trained by Heather Mason of Flying Change Farm in Lebanon, helped boost the Young Rider squad to the top of the podium over seven other teams.
They earned 63.868 percent and 64.474 percent respectively. The high score for the squad and the entire competition, as the only rider to score above 70 percent, was Nicholas Hansen of Catawissa, Pa., aboard Ritter Benno with 72.263. The fourth Region I team member, Lian Wolfe of New Hope, Pa., on Zimba, was marked at 62.026.
Nicholas, who is in his third NAJYRC, brought Elizabeth’s horse with his mount in a four-horse trailer on the long trek west.
Heather noted that fundraising so Elizabeth and Mallory could make the trip only went so far. Mallory, a Centenary University student, shipped Urithmic commercially. She was able to find a $3,600 alternative to an original bid of $5,800, but hitching a ride with Nicholas was a money-saver for Elizabeth, who couldn’t afford a commercial shipper. That’s an example of teamwork going beyond the competition arena.
The Region I team total was 66.868, just edging the Canadian squad from Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta, which had a score of 66.737.
The bronze medal went to the composite team from Regions 4, 5 and 7 with 65.474.
Nicholas, who trains with Canada’s Jacquie Brooks, called the Colorado competition “invaluable. When you have an opportunity to compete against people who are riding at your level, but then have a chance to ride against people from different countries at the same time, you form bonds that you have for the rest of your life,” he said.
Elizabeth, 20, planned to compete in eventing at NAJYRC, but when her mount came down with Lyme disease, she opted instead for dressage and turned to her mother’s “good horse with a good temperament,” who has just started Prix St. Georges.
Heather owns Urithmic, a talented but troubled horse, and has put in a lot of effort with him.
“He had been with a rough trainer and it blew his mind,” said Heather, noting he’s a difficult combination of “lazy and explosive” with a penchant for rearing and bolting.
After training him to Grand Prix, Heather “put him on the back burner” for about a year until handing the Dutch warmblood off to 21-year-old Mallory, her working student, a C2 with the Spring Valley Pony Club.
“I saw she was a brave rider,” Heather remarked.
Urithmic has a permanent home with her.
“I would never sell him,” she said, explaining the unreliable horse is useful “as long as he’s managed correctly.”
She’ll be working on more ring familiarization with Mallory preparing for the next day of competition, because Urithmic spooked in the canter depart during the team test.
Mason, who competed at Young Riders’ twice herself and earned a team bronze medal, was happy to be back at the international continental competition.
“It’s always a big deal,” she explained.