Sunday marked a special milestone for Zayna Rizvi (Zone 4 – Wellington, Fla.) as she claimed her second individual gold medal at the Gotham North FEI North American Youth Championships for Jumping (NAYC) presented by USHJA, aboard Excellent. As the only pair to not drop a pole at the 2021 NAYC, Rizvi and Excellent pulled off a repeat in 2022, this time winning the Young Rider category at Flintfields Horse Park in Traverse City, Mich.
On 3.02 penalties after day one, she saw herself lower on the leaderboard than riders who put in extremely quick rounds. A double-clear effort–one of only two–during the team competition, quickly shot the 16-year-old to the top. Pairing that feat with a double-clear effort in the individual final put her comfortably ahead of the next closest finisher, who incurred 8.41 total penalties.
“I think it has a lot to do with my horse, not just me,” Rizvi said of Excellent, a 2009 KWPN gelding owned by Peacock Ridge, LLC. “He's amazing; every time we step in the ring he really tries his heart out for me. I think he especially likes it here because he always seems to do well here. It's not just me, it’s the whole team behind me and obviously my horse who makes this all possible.”
As a repeat competitor, Rizvi knows what the experience at NAYC can provide in terms of preparing riders for upcoming championship events. “It’s a really nice thing to be able to practice being on teams like this to prepare for the future,” she said. “Being on a team, it is super important to work with your teammates. You learn how to grow as a rider on a team but also individually. I hope to one day be on senior teams, so this is a really great experience for me and my horse too.”
Training under the watchful eyes of John Brennan and Missy Clark of North Run based in Warren, Vt., for nearly six years, Rizvi has risen the ranks under their guidance and shared her victories with them as well. “They’re so encouraging but tough when they need to be, and they definitely make it a lot easier,” she said of her trainers. “They help and guide me, and I wouldn’t be the rider I am without them. After last year I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I knew this year would be harder because the jumps are bigger, so I didn’t expect it but it’s a great outcome.”
The top of the leaderboard saw quite a shift as the Individual Final got underway. Tanner Korotkin, leader after day one and in second coming into the final day, had an unfortunate refusal and was taken out of medal contention. Additionally, Alexandra Pielet, who finished third on day one, pulled two rails in the second round of the final to also be out of the medals.
Audrey Schulze (Zone 2 – Saddle River, N.J.) and Lord Up, owned by Riverbrook Sport Horses, LLC, took the second spot on the podium, claiming their silver medal after shooting up from tenth-place position coming into the Individual Final. Clear efforts in both rounds of the final secured her medal.
“My horse has been jumping great all week and I wanted to keep it up and be consistent with a round similar to how my first round was,” Schulze said. “He tried hard and was a good boy. It’s an awesome experience to be on a team to practice and understand the formats.”
Alexander Alston (Zone 5 – Gahanna, Ohio) also had quite the comeback, coming into the Individual Final in seventh place and recording only a single time fault for a bronze-medal finish with Prestigious for owner Alston Alliance, LLC.
“After being team gold for Team 5/7 combined I pulled it back together to continue the rest of the week,” Alston said of his plan for consistency throughout NAYC. I’ve had [Prestigious] for a year and a half. He means business, and he was ready to take on another task today. He helped me out a lot.”