“California Girls” Sweep US Dressage Junior Championships

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Jamie Pestana and Winzalot. © 2010 SusanJStickle.com
Jamie Pestana and Winzalot. © 2010 SusanJStickle.com

By JOANIE MORRIS

GLADSTONE, New Jersey, Aug. 14–The self-styled “California Girls” swept the USEF National Junior Dressage Championship Saturday with the top three places unchanged from the first leg of the title event.

Jamie Pestana of Livermore, California, and Winzalot defended their lead and swept both tests to score another convincing victory with a score of 70.263 per cent, the only score over 70 per cent in the class.

Catherine Chamberlain of Chandler, Arizona, was second on 69.895 per cent and Genay Vaughn  of Elk Grove, California, on Waranja was third on 66.789 per cent.

“It’s such an honor to make it here, to be in the top 12,” said the 17-year-old Jamie. “The top horses in the country are here, makes you feel pretty special.”

It hasn’t been the easiest road to a national title for Pestana. She injured her shoulder in a fall running track and reinjured it earlier in the week. She heads home Sunday where she expects to have surgery.

The test was accurate and stylish and the pair looked very confident in the big atmosphere at the Dick and Jane Brown Arena at the USET Headquarters. Only six years old, Winzalot is far less experienced than many of his peers as Junior horses tend to be veterans of the sport. He doesn’t seem to mind the pressure, and Pestana has produced him since she got him from Catherine Haddad, an American Grand Prix competitor based in Vechta, Germany, when he was just 30 days under saddle as a three-year-old.

“He has a really great mind,” Jamie said of the horse who has lived up to his name. “He loves to learn and he is up for the challenge. I didn’t know he’d be ready this fast. ”

Jamie felt Winzalot was a little backed off in the first test so she made a point to get him really forward before she entered the ring. Her plan paid off and Winzalot stayed on her aids and delivered a clean test. Their winning two-day percentage was 69.429 per cent.

“I was happy overall with how well he was listening,” she said. “It’s so nice to have a young horse that can listen so well. I didn’t expect a six-year-old horse to be so consistent.”

Catherine Chamberlain made one mistake which kept her from improving on her second runner-up finish in a row. Their score of 69.895 per cent left them comfortably in second place with a two day total of 69.191 per cent, and Verdicci, who is only eight years old, delivered for his 17-year-old rider.

“I made one mistake, but I was really happy with my ride,” Catherine said. “My horse tried really hard. He broke in the trot extension.”

This group of Junior riders has been incredibly consistent and third place finisher Genay Vaughn repeated her overall placing, not only from Friday but from 2009. Vaughn, 16, put in a solid effort for her mark of 66.789 per cent and a two-day total of 67.638 per cent on Waranja, a 14-year-old Hanoverian mare.

“My horse tried her hardest,” she said. “She was really good.”

All three riders hope to return to the Festival, and the historic significance of the venue at Gladstone is not lost on riders who were not even born when the facility was in full operation.

“It’s great,” said Vaughn. “It’s such an historical place. It’s cool to get to say you got to come here.”