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DiGenova Off on the Right Foot at NAJYRC
Lexington, VA, USA
by Amber Heintzberger

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Jessica DiGenova (CAN) and Upolu
The 2007 CN North American Junior Young Rider Championships are underway at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Virginia, with the CIC** dressage kicking off the eventing competition today. Only Jessica DiGenova of Norvil, ON broke into the 40's, scoring 46.4 with Upolu, her partner in taking home silver team and individual bronze medals in 2006. Today the pair had a relaxed and forward test with accurate movements and polished transitions.

Coach Darren Chiacchia, just back from Brazil where he helped the US bring home a gold medal from the Pan-Am Games, was delighted with his student's performance, especially since Upolu came up lame yesterday at the beginning of their lesson. "The horse popped an abscess last night," explained Chiacchia. "It was terrible timing!"

DiGenova said that the mare has sensitive feet on hard ground and was already wearing pads to protect them. She passed the veterinary inspection yesterday, but the extra concussion of working under saddle and on gravelly footing was more than she could bear. Luckily, after a stressful night for both DiGenova and Chiacchia, and some skillful help from her farrier, Upolu is back on track.

"I was really upset," said DiGenova. "I have been working so hard and it was almost a waste of time coming here." She said that after a disappointing spring season in Florida, she and her horse have finally been performing well again. "I gave her three weeks off after the Florida two-star and then started conditioning like mad, because she's slow anyway and it's very hilly here. After two and a half months of working my butt off, last night was really stressful!"

Jennifer Brannigan, 20 and Kozmo also had a dramatic trip to Virginia from Newnan, GA. Her truck broke down in the middle of the highway, and lucky for Brannigan she was rescued by show jumper Jay Land, who was also on his way to Lexington for the championships. Brannigan's story gets even more dramatic, however: this is not the first time she has qualified for the NAJYRC, but it is the first opportunity she has had to compete here. She has had a rough couple of years leading up to this event too, riddled with drama and misfortune, losing a horse along the way.

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Robyn Miller (CAN) and T'Jean
"Every time I ride my horse down the centerline now, I am just happy that he is alive and well," said Brannigan. Their test today was their best year, and Brannigan is looking forward to riding the cross-country course on Saturday.

Canadian Robyn Miller of Milverton, ON has had a much less eventful trip to the NAJYRC. She and T'Jean, her 10-year-old Thoroughbred/Dutch warmblood gelding had a lovely test, She has been training with Casey Gillis in dressage and Ann Morgan in jumping, and said that some extra work on dressage paid off in the ring today.

"It was his best test ever," she said. "We had a great warm-up, too. Belinda Trussel is here with one of the dressage riders and helped us warm up. It really helped get him in the zone. All the canter work was the best he'd ever done, he was so obedient, and I think he was actually having fun!"

Alberta rider Danielle Ziehlke is fourth individually on Glasgow Dancer, followed by 2005 CIC* gold medalist Nate Chambers on Rolling Stone II. The Ontario/Alberta team of Robyn Miller on T'Jean, Danielle Ziehlke on Glasgow Dancer, Kathryn Duke on Eliot III and Jessica DiGenova on Upolu leads the team competition (162.2) followed by Area III&X (178.6). Tomorrow the CIC* riders will compete in the dressage phase, and all competitors will go cross-country on Saturday.


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