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Lehari Leads Long-Format Event at NAJYRC
Lexington, VA, USA

Eventing got under way today at the 2006 CN North American Junior and Young Riders Championships (NAJYRC) at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, VA.  First on the roster was the dressage phase of the CCI J/Y*, a non-championship division for Juniors and Young Riders to be conducted as a traditional long format three-day event.

Kendal Lehari of Uxbridge, Ontario, Canada, holds the lead with a score of 40.0 penalties on her off the track thoroughbred gelding Understudy who was previously ridden by her mother Gwen Lehari.  Ashley Scott of Rocheport, Missouri, who scored 45.7 penalties on Riverman is second, and Jamie Marlewski of Oxford, Wisconsin, who scored 48.6 penalties on Sprint Tech is third.  In the team standings, Area VIII is in first place with a score of 153.2, Team Ontario is second with a score of 155.0 and Area II is third with 156.8.

Lehari said that her horse felt good in the dressage, and still got strong in the canter despite the heat. "We had a short warm-up because it was so hot. In the ring he tried to take off with me in the canter!" she said. "I haven't seen my test sheet yet, but his trot work felt very good."

For many competitors, the NAJYRC is their first experience riding on a team, as well as their first time competing under the rules of the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), the international governing body for equestrian sport.

For Lehari, it is her first time competing in the long format, which includes steeplechase. She and Understudy have been partners for about a year and together complete a training level three-day training camp at Belvoir in Ontario. But Saturday will be her first time tackling the steeplechase in competition, and at preliminary height. She is confident that her horse is fit, but is still concerned about the extreme heat. She noted that they will have plenty of cold water and ice on hand after cross-country.

"The cross-country course looks big – it looks good," she said. Lehari and the other Ontario riders are coached by Ian Roberts, who will represent Canada at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany at the end of the month. He took his riders to Middleburg, VA for a week before the championships, where he also worked with his coach David O'Connor, a past Olympic gold medalist and current president of the US Equestrian Federation.

"Ian said not to back off when we're on course, and to just sit up and ride every fence like it's the last one," said Lehari. "Ride like you stole it!" she laughed.

Lehari said that it is fun for her to have the opportunity to compete at the NAJYRC even though she is in a non-championship division. Someday, she said, she would like to compete in the championships too.

"It's been very cool that all three disciplines (dressage, eventing and show jumping) are here," she said. "I didn't get to see much today because I was focused on my ride and my team, but hopefully I'll get to watch some dressage and jumping too."

The two championship divisions in eventing, the CCI** for Young Riders and the CCI* for Juniors, will complete the dressage phase of their events on Thursday and Friday respectively.

"These championships are so significant for many of these Young Riders who benefit from the experience on their way to someday riding for their countries in international competition," said NAJYRC event director Penny Ross.  "For those whose careers culminate with this experience, it is meaningful in a very different way.  We feel it is important that everyone goes home having had a wonderful time and having gained a valuable experience whether they win medals or not."


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