Sophie Simpson (18, Wellington, FL) and Why Not, owned by Simpson Show Jumping, forged their way through competition this week, riding five clear rounds to finish a flawless effort at The Colorado Horse Park. Simpson rode to victory in the Young Rider First Round Qualifier on Wednesday, and then piloted Why Not to two clear rounds in the Nations' Cup formatted Young Rider Team competition to secure a team gold medal. The duo then returned to the International Ring to produce two clear rounds against the Manuel Esparza (MEX) designed track in the Young Rider Individual Final placing her atop the podium for the final time this week.
"Walking it, I thought that they were skinny fences and wide oxers. There were careful jumps in the first round, especially with the plank. I think my mount did a great job this week," said Simpson. "This is my fourth time here and every year you try to chip away at more clear rounds and always want to come back and ride better."
"This week was quite crazy for me. After winning the speed on Wednesday, I just had to keep a clear head and clear mind. I never looked at the paper to see where I stood and didn't want to see how many faults I had behind me. You take every round for what it is," she added.
Delaney Flynn (16, Scottsdale, AZ) and Tacxo de la Nutria finished with the silver medal in their first NAJYRC appearance, while Jennifer Gates (20, Seattle, WA) and Luftikus S secured the bronze medal.
"I think [Esparza] built fantastic all week. He challenged the riders enough by having a few tall skinny jumps that were very careful and some lines with multiple options. I think he challenged us to a very fair degree without making it too difficult," commented Gates. "This is my third year here and my second year doing the Young Riders. I've really enjoyed being here and I think this competition is always a goal."
Flynn spoke candidly about her first experience at NAJYRC and the meaning of earning back-to-back silver medals in the Young Rider Team competition with the Zone 3/8/9 Team, as well as in the Young Rider Individual Final.
"This was my first time here at NAJYRC and it was a very good experience for me. The team atmosphere, working together, and supporting each other was one of my favorite things about this competition," said Flynn. "I was coming here just expecting to learn more about Young Riders and to actually medal with silvers is just amazing. I'm happy with my horse and the support that everyone has given me."
The gold medal duo impressed throughout the week and Simpson was in awe of their accomplishments and perseverance, stating, "Five clear rounds, that's you know, crazy. When you sit in the stands and you watch previous years, you always think about how you can get five clear rounds."
"After winning the speed she felt great. I felt quite solid going into the rest of the week. Team day is always my favorite. Even though we were on a combined team, I still loved it and the support we gave each other. Coming into today, everyone kept asking me why I was so quiet and I just was trying to zen and be calm."
The duo have been working on their connection and communication for years, as Why Not is the only horse that Simpson has brought to NAJYRC in each of her four appearances.
"I think she wanted this just as bad as I did. It still hasn't sunken in yet. I was crying and my mom was crying. This has always been a dream of mine and always something that I've wanted, to win double gold," she smiled. "For this dream to come true after coming here four times with the same horse and everything; I just really feel like it all came together."
"I do want to thank everyone that is involved in my success. The grooms, the vets, and everyone who is involved with Nini, also on my side, my family and my friends who have been so supportive this week. I want to thank each of the sponsors of this event. Without their support we wouldn't be able to compete on teams at such a young age and have this incredible experience."
Allyn Mann of Adequan®, the title sponsor of the event, spoke about the deeply rooted purpose of their sponsorship, which is a major component in the continued importance and history of the annual event. "I want to thank everyone for participating and to the parents for supporting their children here. We're just a piece of the puzzle in the overall success of this event and I'm honored to be able to support this amazing competition. We saw three of the Olympic disciplines competing this week," he said. "I love to see the perseverance of each of you. There are no guarantees when you get here of how it's going to go. People deal with more adversity than others, but it shows what they're all made of, and it's just a pleasure to be here."
Source: Press release from The Colorado Horse Park // Picture © Sportfot
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