August 16, 2013 ~ Canada’s Young Riders team is home from Kentucky and still flushed with the glow of their 120km Silver medal finish at the July 19, 2013, North American Junior and Young Riders Championships.
Eager to defend Team Canada’s 2012 Gold medal performance, pulling the team together was especially troublesome this year. There were serious challenges right from the beginning. With the potential to have five members, there were only four that qualified: Katya Levermann (BC), Jaylene Janzen (AB), Jessica Yavis (AB) and Emma Webb (ON). Then, as the days to competition counted down, they lost one qualified team member, Katya Leverman, through a series of heartbreaking circumstances that left her without a horse.
Fourteen year old Katya Levermann from BC has dreamed of going to Young Riders since she was ten. In an attempt to qualify, after her own horse was side lined from an injury, Katya and her mother Katrin, travelled throughout Canada and US, to FEI qualifying events riding leased horses, finally getting her qualifications on an amazing horse named Parker AES, bred and owned by Dessia Miller from Ontario. However, three weeks before the race Parker colicked and sadly had to be euthanized.
Katya still wanted to be at the event. With no time to enter another qualified horse, Katya still resolved to be in Kentucky to assist her teammates, and she was glad she did. “I experienced a whole new level of endurance riding and saw that FEI rides differ in a lot of ways from our rides in the Northwest region – horses, terrain, crew, rules and the way of riding,” she said. Katya was accustomed to riding the challenges of mountainous terrain with little speed work.
She learned what a lot of endurance riders accept when they move up to this level of competition – handing your horse over to a crew. “I always use to look after my own horse in the vet checks,” she shared. At most national and local endurance rides this is the normal occurrence.
In the qualifying process Katya also learned she had a special skill, “I had no problem riding different and strange horses for qualifications this year. I just did what the owner told me to do.” She added, “Some horses were easier than others.”
Katya will again attempt for NAJYRC in the future, “I may try again to qualify my own horse.” Those who know her are sure she will.
Jaylene Janzen from AB rode Sakic, an 11-year-old Canadian-bred Arabian gelding sired by Taj Rai Hassan and owned by her mother Christy Janzen. Jaylene and Sakic were first-time participants at this event even though they have been together for many miles. A challenge for Jaylene was expected to be her fragile knee. In her mid teens she suffered a severe knee injury that required several surgeries, much physiotherapy and many frustrating days of not riding. She still uses a knee brace to ride.Jaylene did have some dramatic moments, but not on account of her knee.
At the last VC, with eight miles left to go, Jaylene went down with heat exhaustion. After vomiting she lay flat-out in crew area. She was faint, had leg cramps, and a headache. The vets used horse rectal thermometer under her armpit and were relieved to find she didn’t have a fever. The medic was called and eventually she was sitting. She remembered her rallying thought while lying there on the ground, “Sakic is sound and ready to go and I can’t let him down”. Meanwhile Brett, Jaylene’s brother and chief crew person, had Sakic tacked up and ready to go. When Jaylene was ready, the advice to her from her mother was not to go too slow on the last loop in case she crashed again. She left the vet check cantering and came in to the finish line cantering. She and Sakic made it, a last place finish but still with a respectable time of 9:42:51.
It’s interesting to note Sakic was the only Canadian horse that did not need to re-present at the vet checks. They took eighteen out of twenty minutes at the first VC for the heat to come down. Roxy Bell DVM monitored horse temperatures nonstop. Until unusually high core temperatures came down, riders didn’t present their horses to the vets.
Jessica Yavis from Alberta, the veteran at this competition, was attending NAJYRC for a third time. She rode an 11-year-old Canadian-bred Arabian, Jahlad, sired by Jahmar, owned by her mother Jaye Yavis. “It was still exciting,” she said. She was confident about what she was walking into and how her horse would react, and the potential dangers of the weather, “I was extremely excited to have Jaylene Janzen by my side on my third and final year of this competition.”
When asked about the team strategy, she said, “I always ride my horse to how he feels, and that was my plan for the day, although he reacted to the heat and humidity, which slowed him down against his will during the second and third loops in the ride. “Her experience at Young Riders taught her more about working as a team, “Especially in the crew area,” she said.
Yarvis appreciated the privilege of riding with some riders from the Southeast and Northeast division who she said were, “were very kind to me”. She and Jahlad completed the course in 8:33:11 in 5th place overall. Of note is that Jessica is the only youth to complete on this course three times in a row with the same horse.
Nineteen-year-old Emma Webb rode Vagas, sired by Haffir El Rimal and owned by Bob Gielen of Ontario. Emma rode Vagas last year in Florida in a qualifying ride. She was familiar with the horse as both she and Bob would attend the same local rides. “Bob wanted me to do well and Vagas is an amazing horse.” Emma confided. “After last year’s gold medal I went in feeling more confident,” she said. Emma’s plan from the start of the race was to stick behind the early front-runners, maintain a steady speed and, most importantly, keep Vagas happy.
Emma’s ride was not without anxiety. “During the race Vagas lost the same shoe twice, we discovered on coming into the first check and the fourth check.” This added some stress but the farrier was able to get the shoe on and have the horse trotting out sound without losing any time.
The heat affected Emma and Vagas as well. At the third check Vegas didn’t eat very well, but by using a crew person’s trick by changing the food, he started feeling better and eating and drinking well again.
Emma was proud to say, “He was a fun horse to ride in the victory lap the next day – he felt great!” testimony of a great rider and a great crew, including the farrier. Emma’s silver medal individual time was: 7:29.40
Editors Note: in 2012 at the NAJYR Championship, Lee Hutten and Parker AES, Jessica Yavis and Jahlad, and Emma Webb and Serloki finished together and were the only team to have three riders complete the race.
Special thanks to the rest of the support team:
Maura Leahy (MB) – Chef d’Equipe – Everywhere all the time.
Julie Green (ON) – Assistant Chef – capable and knowledgeable
Roxy Bell, DVM (AB) – Well of knowledge, handy with a thermometer
Deanna Spiker DVM (AB) – Always encouraging, sees bright side
Dr Glenn Sinclair DVM (MB) – Calm, sense of humour, caring
Crew – Bob Gielen, Brett Janzen, Jaye Yavis , Mickey Bell, Rick Yavis, Eddie York, Katrin Levermann, Christy Janzen – a number of strengths that came together to make a seamless team.
Contributed by Kathy Irvine