Megane Suave and Nuance, winners of the CCI3*YRC-S. Photo credit to Veronica Green-Gott

Adamstown, Md. – All riders in the USEF Eventing Young Rider Championships have officially crossed the finish line. After a competitive day of cross country yesterday, the riders tackled Chris Barnard’s show jumping course today. Winners took their turns on a podium in an award ceremony full of pomp and circumstance to top off a weekend of firsts for these young eventers.

In the CCI3* division, Canada’s Megane Suave and her own Nuance brought home the blue ribbon with a score of 46.9. Lizzie Hoff and HSH Limited Edition finished in second place with a score of 50.4. Caitlin O’Rourke rounded out the top three slots with What the Devil, finishing on a score of 66.7.

With only four FEI competitions under her belt, the Maryland International was Megane Suave’s first time competing at the CCI3* level. “It’s our first CCI3*-S and it was big on cross country. I really pushed for it, and she just came out and gave me all she had,” Suave said. “And then this morning, she saved my butt couple times, and she was like, ‘I got you Mom, we’re going for it.’ I gave her a better ride after that.”

Suave has been competing the 10-year-old Thoroughbred mare for the last six years, making this win not only her first CCI3*-S, her first win at the FEI level, and an all-around sentimental moment. “I’m just really proud of her. She’s like my best friend. She’s been my best friend for six years. It’s just really fun to get out here and work with her and have good results and see the work pay off.”

Second place Lizzie Hoff dealt with a little added pressure this morning, as she didn’t want to interrupt her horse’s clean streak of six clear show jumping rounds at the Intermediate level in a row. “My horse is a very good show jumper and honestly, it makes me a bit more nervous because I want to keep up the clean rounds,” Hoff said. “The pressure is on for me to ride him the way he needs so he can be ready to jump a clear round. But he tries so, so hard for me at every single show. And he did that today. I am just so thrilled with how hard he tries for me every single day.”

Third place winner Caitlin O’Rourke had the opposite concerns heading into the stadium round, as show jumping is not Shannon O’Rourke’s What the Devil’s strong suit. “We’ve worked really hard on our show jumping in the past year,” O’Rourke said. “I’ve trained a lot with [Australian Olympian] Scott Keach, and that’s honestly completely turned me and him around. I was really proud of him today. He had two rails down, but it was a huge improvement. He jumped quite well, and we still held on to our position. Thankfully, I’ve always believed in him. He hasn’t always had the perfect record, but I’m so happy with him.”

The USEF Eventing Young Rider Championships are designed to introduce North America’s up-and-coming riders to both upper level competitions and what it’s like to be a professional eventer. As such, the event follows the same format as a top championship event, complete with an opening ceremony, jog, and award ceremony. Riders were also introduced to the team format of competition.

“This is my third time at the Young Rider Championships, but I make new friends every time, and it’s always so fun to be on the team and to be supporting my friends and getting to watch them,” Suave said. “We were all talking earlier about how so much of Young Riders is about the experience and not so much the results— it’s not the end all, be all. It’s so good to get the experience and hopefully use it for the future.”

The CCI3*-S winning team members were all from Area II: Caitlin O’Rourke and What the Devil, Maya Clarkson and Cluseo, and Megan Loughnane and Flamenco Ping.

Caitlin O’Roark & What The Devil on the jog strip at Maryland International in the Young Rider Championships. Photo credit to Veronica Green-Gott

In the CCI2*-S division, Audrey Ogan took first place with her own Always Cooley. Canada’s Chelsea Lowe took second with Donna Pledge’s Fernhill Malito Park and was followed closely by Canada’s Saffron Klotz with her own Ballingowan Clarity.

CCI2* winner Ogan said she’s learned a lot from her Irish Sport Horse mare, Always Cooley. Despite some naysayers, Ogan continued to believe her horse could not only help her become a better rider, but produce results, too, making this win even more special. “Some really special people, Kim Severson and Lewis Rogers, helped me get her,” Ogan said. “She’s the horse that I never really knew I needed. She’s been really tricky. It’s been really fun to figure her out. I had been told that she’s the horse that I learn on so that I can win on something else because she makes me a better rider. So it makes it really, really special to be able to come out here and win on my own horse.”

Ogan’s show jumping coach, Lynn Symanski, was instrumental in helping her improve her performance in the stadium. “My coach, Lynn Symanski, has really done wonders to help us, because this is a tricky phase for my mare,” Ogan said. “I also get a little bit nervous in the show jumping. So as we walked the course, we talked about the places where I could take a deep breath and really know where I’m going, so that as I’m riding, I can just ride what I feel. And it was really incredible to go in there and have my horse feel so good.”

Audrey was the only rider to double medal, achieving first place as an individual and riding on the winning 2* team, alongside Luciana Hackett with As Good As Cash and Rylie Nelson with Galloway Sunrise.

This is second place winner Chelsea Lowe’s second time at the Young Rider Championships. While she started the day with a healthy dose of pre-competition nerves, she pulled off a double clear show jumping to stay just 0.1 points ahead of third place. “[Fernhill Malito Park] was a really good boy, he tries for me all the time. I’m so very thankful to ride a horse like him, who just keeps trying and keeps giving his all at every show,” Lowe said.

Third place winner Saffron Klotz knew the pressure was on when she went into the ring. Starting the day in the lead, she had one rail down which dropped her to the third spot on the podium. “My warm up was great and then in the ring, I settled a bit and got less nervous,” Klotz said. “[Ballingowan Clarity] tried his hardest for me the whole way around, until I couldn’t see a jump, and then we had one down. So we lost the lead, but I’m still super thrilled with him. He was amazing. He tries his hardest for me.”

In the CCI1*-S division, Catherine Purcell took the individual win on her own Mystic Hazzard, followed by Berkley Gardner and her own In Vogue. Katelyn Smith and her own HSH Henry maintained her third place position from yesterday.

Purcell’s heart skipped a few beats throughout her round, but she managed to keep all the rails in the cups. “I was riding as hard as I could and [Mystic Hazzard] just really helped me out. I felt her rub a couple rails and I was like, ‘Ah, dang it.’ But they didn’t fall down! She was just so good,” Purcell said.

The highlight of her time at the Young Rider Championships was the team aspect of the competition, according to Purcell. “It’s just so much fun and everyone is willing to help out when you need it. I was kind of a hot mess – I mean, I’m wearing Katelyn’s gloves. But everyone is just so kind and fun and easy to spend time with. I’m really glad that I was fortunate enough to be put on a team with them.”

A Young Rider Championships first-timer, second place winner Smith could not believe she was on the podium. “It was definitely super special. It’s my first year here and [on day one] I was like, ‘Wow, if I could be on that podium in the ceremony it’d be like a dream come true.’”

When she found herself standing on the podium, she said that “It just didn’t feel real to me at all. It didn’t feel real.”

Area II’s Berkley Gardner and In Vogue, Sophia Stolley and Briana Stolley’s BWE Stopping Waves, and Leeci Rowsell and Catherine Nolan’s Man of Conviction made up the CCI1*-S winning team.

The competitors spoke highly of the pomp and circumstance around this year’s championships. Water balloons, a mechanical bull, and an action-packed opening and closing ceremonies added a lot of excitement to the weekend.

“They’ve really put a lot of effort into making it a really great team experience, having people from Canada and the teams all come together,” said CCI2*-S winner Audrey Ogan. “They’ve had so many activities that are team building, and it’s such a gorgeous venue. It’s run so well, and there’s so many volunteers and people that make the show run. It’s just really, really special. And it’s a hot weekend, but they did a lot to make sure our horses were sound and happy and safe.”

“The award ceremony was super special,” Gardner said. “I was kind of in a daze a little bit. We got up there and all the people were pointing their cameras at us. Everybody was smiling, everyone was happy to be there. So with all the support and everything– we couldn’t not be happy. It was really amazing.”


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