Lexington, KY – July 30, 2012 – Californians came home from the 2012 Adequan/FEI North American Junior Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC) with an individual gold medal and team bronze. As Chef d’Equipe, Karen Healey coached Kilian McGrath of Westlake Village, CA, and her mount Salerno to the individual gold medal in the show jumping Young Rider division. In addition, Healey helped Zone 10 win the team bronze medal. It was a great start to a busy finals season that continues through November.
After completing three of five rounds over two days, 18-year-old McGrath and Salerno, 13-year-old KWPN gelding by Indorado x Larena, were in fifth place going into the third and final day. The pair quickly rose in the ranks after round one, earning the best score of just one time fault, and only six faults in the second round. The solid final performances over difficult courses helped secure the gold medal.
Healey said, “Kilian really worked hard to overcome her nerves. was very exciting to have her win the gold.”
“I was hoping I’d make top three at the most,” McGrath revealed. “I honestly was shocked when they said that I won. I asked Karen if this was real. I’ve only dreamed of getting a gold medal. I never thought it would happen this quickly. I just tried to be as consistent as possible and it worked out.”
The Fine Points
When McGrath came to train with Karen Healey, she was already an accomplished rider. As can happen with a new set of experienced eyes, Healey worked on the fine points. McGrath explained, “Karen really helped me fix little parts of my riding. She helped adjust my position and with execution of the course. For example, I used to lock my shoulders. By having her tell me to unlock my shoulders, it changed how I rode completely and made it a lot easier. I found that really helpful, especially for the bigger jumps. It improved my execution and made my horse jump better.”
McGrath worked with another master this past winter. “When I first got Salerno, he wasn’t the most rideable on the flat. George Morris came out to Thermal, and through Karen, he ended up riding my horse for a week. Having George’s insight really helped,” McGrath related. “I was in awe that he would take the time to come to the ring and watch me show and give me insight. I couldn’t ask for anything better. Between George’s flat work and instruction, and Karen’s training, things came together and it really helped.”
Healey found Salerno through Olympian Laura Kraut. “He’s phenomenal,” she described. “He’s so scopey and so careful, but at same time if you make a mistake, he’s not going to hold it against you. He’s let Kilian make a jump into bigger classes.”
“He’s one of the most amazing horses I’ve ever ridden,” McGrath said of Salerno, “He’s really smart, really forgiving and really athletic. He’s the best horse I could have ever asked for. ”
Working As A Team
In the Young Rider team competition, the team of Kilian McGrath, Sage Flynn, Stevie Sorenson, and Charlotte Gadbois brought home the bronze medal.
“We were just time faults away from winning the silver,” Healey said. “The kids were all great, and everybody was focused on working as a team.”
Before the Zone 10 team left California, Healey invited the junior and young riders to her house to have them speak with sports psychologist Ken Ravizza. Healey noted, “Competing as a team is much different than what most of these riders have done as individuals. I really wanted them understand what they could do. I wanted them to know that no matter how bad it is, you don’t give up and you fight to the finish. I think it was very helpful for all of them. For Kilian, it definitely helped with her nerves. At the in-gate at Young Riders, she repeated her mantra to herself. She rode so cool and so composed all the way through it.”
McGrath enjoyed the team aspect. “Everyone on the team was so supportive and wanted to do their best. It is truly a nice feeling when you go in the ring and have people cheering for you,” she said.
Triumph Through Adversity
McGrath’s year hasn’t always been successful and triumphant. Two of her equitation horses passed away from different illnesses, so winning at the NAJYRC was a huge boost. “We’ve had a rough year,” McGrath acknowledged. “I’m hoping that if we can afford it, I can go to the Prix de States and finish the year on a good note. I’ve been given the opportunity to help promote and sell an equitation horse. So if it works out, I’ll be using him for the finals.”
McGrath will be one of many talented Karen Healey students that are competing in the equitation finals that round out the end of the show season. “It’ll be fun, we have a nice group of students.” Healey said with a smile.
Karen Healey Stables will start the medal finals season at the CPHA Junior and Adult Hunter Seat Medal Finals at the Blenheim Summer Classic II on August 16-18, 2012. Following the medal finals in California, the team will travel to the East Coast for the fall indoor circuit.
Dedicated to excellence at all levels, Karen Healey Stables provides an advanced program for the serious competitor. Since coming to California, her riders have won over 90 medal finals including the 1990 ASPCA Maclay National Finals and the USET Talent Search Finals in 1986, 1987, 1990, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2002, 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2010. Jumper clients have earned spots on numerous teams and won medals at the NAYRC and the Prix de States, including Double Gold Medalist Hannah Selleck and Team Gold / Individual Silver Medalist Samantha Harrison. She has also trained numerous hunters and jumpers to tri-colors at indoors over the years.
Karen’s methods of teaching the steps to good riding have produced a multitude of top riders, including European champion and three-time FEI World Cup champion Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, the only woman to be first in the world rankings. Along with Meredith, many of Karen’s former students have gone on to be top professionals.
Reprinted with permission from Jennifer Wood Media.