New as an American, Lina Uzunhasan Posts Hat Trick of Wins to Become Top Ranked Young Rider for European Tour

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Lina Uzunhasan and Donna Ray. © Arnd Bronkhorst/www.arnd.nl

April 18, 2017

Just six weeks since first competing for the United States, 17-year-old Lina Uzunhasan has become the top ranked Young Rider seeking to ride on an American Nations Cup team in Europe this summer.

Lina and Donna Ray, her nine-year-old KWPN mare and in training with Dutch superstar Anky van Grunsven, put themselves at the top of the U.S. standings after a hat trick of victories at CDI in Sint Truiden, Belgium. The scores of 72.675 per cent for individual and 75.933 per cent for the freestyle were higher than at any of the 11 Young Rider CDIs in North America so far this year.

Born in the United States but growing up in Turkey, Lina began competing Donna Ray (United x Negro) in junior rider CDIs under the Turkish flag in the Netherlands three years ago. Three months later, the pair competed in their first European Junior Championships.

In 2015, the family moved to the Netherlands so Lina could pursue a career in dressage and she rode Donna Ray in their second Europeans.

At the 2016 European Juniors, again riding as an individual for Turkey, Lina and Donna Ray placed fourth in the team competition and fifth in individual and freestyle championships.

By year’s end, the duo was ranked the No. 4 junior combination in the world.

The pair moved to Young Rider ranks last December.

Last month, Lina made the choice to ride for the United States instead of Turkey.

“Although I have lived in Turkey for most of my life,” she said. “I have always felt more American than Turkish. It gives a sense of pride to ride for the U.S.

“I might not be taking the easiest path with this choice. As a Turkish rider it would be easier to fulfill my dream, competing at the Olympic Games. However, I don’t want to be at the Games just to participate. The nationality change gives me the chance to compete against top class competitors and I thankfully seize this opportunity.”

Anky, one of the most successful dressage riders in history, said: “Lina is truly a good rider. She is young and inexperienced, but already capable of really improving a horse in a positive way. Her progression is impressive. If everything falls into place, we’ll see some really nice things from her in the future.”

The results in Belgium over the Easter weekend to Monday were her first victories at Young Riders.

“The Star Spangled Banner” was played for the first time in her honor.

“At that moment it felt as if everything fell into place,” she said. “It really made me proud.

“Could I be more proud? The last two days have been really good. For me, the canter work has been an overall highlight during these two tests. In the freestyle I used my Intermediate I music that I had adapted to Young Riders level and it worked really well.’

Qualifying scores from the required two CDIs, both in Belgium this month, placed them firmly at the top of U.S. European Young Rider Tour standings with just 10 days remaining for three combinations to qualify for the team.

The tentative schedule of the Young Rider tour is: CDIO-Y Nations Cup at Moorsele, Belgium May 18-21; CDI-Y Roosendaal, Netherlands, May 31-June 4 and CDIO-Y Nations Cup at Hagen, Germany June 13-18.