After seven gruelling hours on horseback, a 16-year-old Winfield teen and her two teammates from Ontario successfully crossed the finish line of the 75 Mile FEI Endurance Championship, winning a gold medal.
Jessica Yavis from Winfield, Lee Hutten of Ottawa and Emma Webb of Flesherton, Ont., all members of the Canadian Junior Endurance Team were the sole team to finish the race held July 20 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky.
Yavis, a Grade 12 student at Buck Lake, who lives on a horse ranch near Winfield, said the competition was an awesome experience and she is proud of the team’s gold medal win.
About half way through the race, the teen could have earned a gold medal all on her own, as she was tied for first, however, her horse Jahlad stumbled and skinned his right knee.
At that time, Yavis chose to give up her placing and drop back to fifth place. Later, she realized her teammates were only a few minutes behind her so she slowed down even more so she could ride with them. Her team spirit proved timely and in the end Team Canada crossed the finish line together. The endurance race began at 6:30 a.m. and the Canadian team came in at 4:10 p.m. with their hands raised in a victory salute.
“It was amazing, but the tension wasn’t over yet. We had to see a vet and pass an inspection.”
Webb, 18, who rode to the finish line on her trusty mount, Serloki, competed in her first distance event when she was four and has been on team Ontario since she was 13, and joined team Canada last year.
She said winning the gold for Canada was an awesome feeling.
“When we were coming down the home stretch I felt a triumphant sense of accomplishment that Team Canada had made it across the finish line and I was a part of it. Later when we found out that it was the first gold FEI medal for Canada in endurance I was very proud to be part of the team.’’
Webb said the weather throughout the race was unpredictable.
“It went from killer hot, to storms, to cloudy, so we didn’t know what we would get. The rain we had earlier in the week made the footing slippery at some points which makes you nervous about going fast since you don’t want your horse to fall.”
Lee Hutten experienced a few tense moments before the race began as vets were concerned about her horse, Parker’s gait. However, the vets gave horse and rider the green light to proceed and when the competitors assembled at the starting gate, the horse and rider was there. However, Hutten struggled to keep Parker at a slower pace all day to ensure he remained healthy and strong throughout the competition.
Throughout the race, horses were examined by veterinary staff four times and each horse and rider was required to take a rest period.
Hutten and Parker placed fifth overall, Webb and Serloki placed sixth, and Yavis and Jahlad placed seventh. The total combined team time was 21 hours.
The race is over and the young riders are proud gold medal winners, but competitions will continue.
Hutten, who is 20, will no longer qualify for Canada as a young rider, however she could compete on the international endurance stage as an adult.
Webb plans to spend next year focusing on endurance racing and will compete in a 75-mile FEI two-star race on Aug. 4 in new Lowell, Ont.
Yavis plans to compete next weekend at Brule in a provincial 50-mile race.
Both Yavis and Webb plan to compete in the World Endurance Young Riders Championships in France next year.