“A Total Dream Come True” – The 2022 FEI North American Youth Championships (NAYC)

Erin Nichols celebrates aboard Handsome Rob AR. Photo submitted by Erin Nichols

By Chelsey Burris

Each summer, young equestrians between the ages of 14 and 21 gather to compete for top team and individual honors in the Olympic equestrian disciplines of dressage and show jumping, and a chance to earn FEI medals. This is the only FEI championship held annually in North America… the FEI North American Youth Championships!

Affectionately known as NAYC, this year’s edition was held in Traverse City, Michigan.  Here are some of the unforgettable moments from the 2022 competition, which we are sure to be talking about for years to come!

Lightning Strikes Twice in Junior Rider Team Competition

The dressage action kicked off with the Junior Rider Team Competition on Wednesday, August 10.  Last year, NAYC was interrupted by a huge storm (Persevering Through the Storm – the 2021 FEI North American Youth Championships), which flooded arenas, flipped judges’ huts, and tore the VIP tent to shreds.  Clear skies and sunshine were predicted for this year’s show – but a different sort of storm was brewing, and it was centered on three junior riders from Region 4.

In this division, the Region 4 team was out to defend their 2021 title, with all three of the gold medal-winning members back again this year – Lexie Kment aboard Montagny von der Heide, Ella Fruchterman aboard Holts Le’mans, and Kylee Kment aboard Honor.  These three juniors had been working hard all year, hoping for lightning to strike twice for them!

Sisters Lexie and Kylee, both from Palmyra, NE, took the NAYC world by storm last year.  Meanwhile Ella, of Woodbury, MN, shared how the trio’s bond as teammates has grown since the 2021 NAYC.  “Coming into last year, we had not known each other until we got off the trailer and were all together for the first time,” she said. “This year we ran into each other in Florida, and we got to hang out and we’ve been talking over the phone the whole year, so I think we’ve really come together as a team and built great friendships. It’s so special being up here with them.”

With only three riders on their team, all of their scores would count (on teams participating with four riders, the competitor with the lowest score is dropped from the team’s final total).  It would take their best efforts to win gold again this year.  But alas, the power trio rose to the occasion and put in stellar performances, earning Region 4 their second consecutive gold medal!  Kylee and Honor notched the team’s top score, with a 69.364%.

This victory was especially sweet for Lexie, since her competition horse, Montagny von der Heide (or “Monte” for short), had been sidelined by an injury earlier this year.  “Coming back from that, the first thought was that we were never going to get back to that spot again,” Lexie shared.  “Just coming into today, my mindset was that I want to be here for the team and I want to do well but I just want to get through the test and have it go well, and have him be sound. So just achieving that goal was really, really great.”

Close behind the winning Region 4 team was the Canadian team (Olivia Tomljenovic and Valkira, Kiara Williams-Brown and Herdeiro Santana, Alison Campbell-Wright and Slapstick, and Anna Swackhammer and Fabienna GV), which took silver.  Region 7 captured bronze with their team of Josephine Hinnemann (Murietta, CA) and Copa Cabana MRF, Maggie Elizabeth Evans (San Diego, CA) and Fuengirola, Emme Chisholm (San Diego, CA) and Improv, and Anna Yost (Mountain View, CA) and Irieno-S.

Truly a Dream – Region 3/Region 9 Makes a Statement in Ultra-Competitive Young Rider Team Division

The Young Riders got their first taste of the NAYC spotlight on Thursday, in the team competition.  Taking first place honors was the combined Region 3/Region 9 team.  Comprised of Sophia Schults aboard Conocido HGF (Ocala, FL), Mary Claire Piller aboard Oreo (need to verify location)[1] , Sydney Schultz aboard Dunkirk (Mandeville, LA), and Sydney Lipar aboard Zerragamo (The Woodlands, TX), the team earned a total of 199.353% for the competition.  Anchoring the gold medal winning effort was Sophia Schults, who scored an impressive 67.647% aboard Conocido HGF.

Gold medalist team-member Sydney Schultz has a unique story, having just switched from eventing to dressage in 2020.  “For me to have just a year to prepare, compete, and qualify at this level of dressage is truly a dream (since this is the year I turned 21)!” she shared in the lead up to the competition.  “I am truly grateful to be able to represent Region 9 for NAYC 2022!”  Sydney recently shared her story about her journey to NAYC – you can read it exclusively on YourDressage.

Region 7 continued what would be a very successful showing, where their team of Lily-Rose Bacon with Warm Night, Lucienne Bacon with Do Re Mi, Ellanor Boehning with Sir Junior, and Erin Nichols with Handsome Rob AR took home the silver medal. 

In bronze position was the combined Region 6/Region 8 team.  Brenna Donovan aboard Scandal LWF, Jessica Beck aboard Elewaard, Gemma Starn aboard Diamond First Choice, and Megan Tursi aboard So Speciale Edition turned in a team effort of 197.559%.  This was a very competitive division, with only 1.794% separating the top three placings.

That Girl Is On Fire! Ella Fruchterman Continues Her Tour de Force in Individual Junior Competition

Fresh off her gold medal winning effort as part of the Region 4 Junior Team, Ella Fruchterman and her horse,Holts Le’mans, prepared for the individual competition.  She admitted that the pressure was on.  “I was a little more nervous today than I was on Wednesday, just because you come off that high [of winning gold] and you want to do well, but I wanted to make sure my nerves were under control and that I was very calm and there with him,” she shared. 

Delivering a personal best performance of 69.294%, Ella and her Danish Warmblood gelding secured their second gold medal of the show! 

Anna Swackhammer of Ontario, Canada earned the silver medal with Fabienna GV.  This was her second medal winning performance at the 2022 NAYC, after being a part of the silver-medal winning Junior Rider Team for Canada.

Another familiar face was back on the podium with bronze – Kylee Kment and Honor, who were Ella and Holts Le’mans’ gold-medal winning teammates from the Junior Team division. 

After their rides, dual 2022 gold-medalist Ella shared about how she loves the comradery of NAYC.  “It’s really great getting to meet people that have the same passion as you and understand the long hours in the barn, balanced with schoolwork, and missing social events with your friends because you’re at horse shows on the weekend,” she said. “As a Junior, it’s also really inspiring watching the Young Rider division and aspiring to get there next year.”

A “Handsome” Performance Earns Gold in the Individual Young Rider Division

With the Individual Young Rider Competition being next on the docket, those not familiar with Erin Nichols of Yorba Linda, CA, soon would be.  Aboard her Dutch Warmblood gelding, Handsome Rob AR, she earned a 69.000%, which locked up the honor of gold. The victory came after Erin and her Young Riders teammates won silver for Region 7 earlier in the week.

Erin and her horse have been together for five years, since he was just five years old, and she has helped develop him into the horse he is today.  “I was optimistic and excited for what was to come when we first got him, and to be able to come and be individually gold at this championship is so exciting. It’s a total dream come true,” she shared after their win.

With 68.206%, Gemma Starn of Putnam Valley, NY earned silver aboard Diamond First Choice.  Now 21 years old and in her final year of eligibility to compete at NAYC, she shared her thoughts about this event.  “Being around a lot of people who are super passionate about riding and dressage, and are coming up through the levels, is really special.”

Region 7 was well represented on the podium, with Ellanor Boehning and Sir Junior of Rancho Santa Fe, CA being awarded the bronze medal in this division.

Back on the Podium – Gold Medalists Back on Top on Freestyle Day

On the final day of NAYC’s dressage action were the Junior and Young Rider freestyles.

Ella Fruchterman, already a familiar face at the 2022 NAYC with two gold medals, was back and ready for more.  Turning in another excellent performance with her Danish Warmblood Holts Le’mans, the pair danced their way to their third gold medal!  Even after her previous success at the show, Ella shared that she was anxious entering the freestyle.  “I’m honestly a little overwhelmed,” she said. “I was super nervous this morning. Even to the last minute in the warmup, my stomach was turning, and I was just like, ‘You need to calm down. You need to go in and have some fun.’”

Taking silver with a 71.515% was Wellington, Florida’s Madison Sumner, aboard KWPN gelding Briar.  Lexie Kment also added another medal to her growing collection with a bronze in this division, aboard Montagny von der Heide.

Next, it was the Young Riders’ turn to strut their stuff.  Erin Nichols and Handsome Rob AR were back in this division, having already earned individual gold and team silver earlier in the week.  The pair saved the best for last – scoring a personal record of 74.456% in their fun and energetic freestyle, and clinching another gold medal.  “It’s just more than I could ever dream of,” Erin shared after her ride. “I’m super proud of my horse and super thankful to everybody who supported me up to this level.”

Ellanor Boehning and Rheinlander gelding, Sir Junior, took the honors of silver with a score of 72.545%.  Ellanor and Erin are teammates representing Region 7, and excitedly ascended to their places on the podium together.  This accomplishment was especially sweet for Ellanor, as this was her first time ever riding this freestyle at a show. “I got the music about two weeks ago,” she shared.  “I went through it twice at home, and I was like, ‘Everything’s there, I know I can do it, I just have to go and be confident about it.’”

Claiming the freestyle bronze was Sophia Schults of Ocala, FL with PRE gelding Conocido HGF.  This pair had been part of the Region 3/Region 9 gold-medal winning Young Rider team earlier in the week.

Handing Out the Special Awards

At the conclusion of NAYC, a few special awards are given out for exemplary riders and performances. 

For her phenomenal week, USDF awarded Ella Fruchterman of Region 4 the Amanda Johnson “Pursuit of Excellence” Memorial Trophy.  This trophy, which is on permanent display in the Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame, is awarded to the Junior rider who earns the highest combined average score in the three dressage tests: FEI Junior Team, Individual, and Freestyle. 

Erin Nichols of Region 7 was awarded the Fiona Baan “Pursuit of Excellence” Memorial Trophy this year.  This trophy is awarded to the Young Rider who earns the highest combined average score in the three dressage tests: FEI Young Rider Team, Individual, and Freestyle.

The Patsy Albers perpetual trophy was awarded to Debbie DelGiorno.  This award is named in honor of long-time USDF Region 1 Chef d’Equipe Patsy Albers. It is presented annually at NAYC to the dressage chef d’equipe who best demonstrates the same level of dedication, enthusiasm, and team spirit shown by Patsy throughout the years.

The Dressage Style Award is presented to the rider who has shown “style” throughout the competition, not only when mounted, but also in the form of manners and overall demeanor. Madison Sumner took the honor this year.


Junior Rider’s Team Test

Gold – USA Region 4 – 205.788%
Silver – Canada – 199.636%
Bronze – USA Region 7 – 199.181%

Young Rider’s Team Test

Gold – USDF Region 3/9 – 199.353%
Silver – USDF Region 7 – 198.618%
Bronze – USDF Regions 6/8 – 197.559%

Junior Individual

Gold – Ella Fruchterman and Holts Le’Mans, USA Region 4 – 69.294%
Silver – Anna Swackhammer and Fabienna GV, Canada – 69.029%
Bronze – Kylee Kment and Honor, USA Region 4 – 68.971%

Young Rider Individual

Gold – Erin Nichols and Handsome Rob AR, USA Region 7 – 69.000%
Silver – Gemma Starn and Diamond First Choice, USA Region 8 – 68.206%
Bronze – Ellanor Boehning and Sir Junior, USA Region 7 – 67.117% 

Junior Freestyle

Gold – Ella Fruchterman and Holts Le’Mans, USA Region 4 – 72.300%
Silver – Madison Sumner and Briar, USA Region 3 – 71.515%
Bronze – Lexie Kment and Montagny von der Heide, USA Region 4 – 71.385%

Young Rider Freestyle

Gold – Erin Nichols and Handsome Rob AR, USA Region 7 – 74.465%
Silver – Ellanor Boehning and Sir Junior, USA Region 7 – 72.545% 
Bronze – Sophia Schults and Conocido HGF – USA Region 3 – 70.925%

Congratulations to all the youth equestrians for their great performances at the 2022 NAYC! If you missed any of the coverage from the competition, you can stream it on-demand on USEF Network.


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