Nicholas Hansen and Ritter Benno Take Young Rider Freestyle to Earn Three Gold Medals

Posted by By at 31 July, at 22 : 34 PM Print

Nicholas Hansen (21, Catawissa, PA) and Ritter Benno swept the gold medal podium this week in the USDF North American Junior & Young Rider Dressage Championships in each of the three classes offered to Young Riders. First, Hansen earned a team gold alongside his fellow Region 1 riders, before continuing his brilliant consistency in the Young Rider Individual Test and the Young Rider Freestyle. The duo earned a 72.125% to secure the victory ahead of Rebekah Mingari (20, Crestwood, KY) of Region 2 aboard Elzarma TF, who collected the silver medal. Emily Ferguson (20, Winnipeg, MB) representing the combined team of Ontario/Manitoba/Alberta and Wrazzmatazz received the bronze medal for their score of 68.295%.

Nicholas Hansen and Ritter Benno (

Nicholas Hansen and Ritter Benno (

Hansen and Ritter Benno have dominated the competition this week, as the pair did not earn a score lower than 70% for their efforts and have been working towards a strong performance in their last appearance at NAJYRC. Hansen was still shocked with the results, making their conclusion to competition even more bittersweet. 

“This is something I certainly didn’t expect to happen. You know, the horse works its heart out. I worked as hard as I could and rode as diligently as I could. It’s really amazing to see your hard work over the course of the past few years pay off,” noted Hansen.

As the pair took to the ring, the notorious Star Wars theme song played through the speakers. Hansen, who is a fan of the storied series, wanted to use something creative for his choreography and musical accompaniment, explaining that as the test continues, the music slowly transitions from the older scores of the Star Wars franchise, to newer versions, ending with the most recent edition.

“I thought it would be something cool to play with. I’ve always really liked a lot of the scores from Star Wars itself and the way we put it together is that at the entrance of the freestyle that is the original music and then we work through the rest,” discussed Hansen. “I always try to ride to music you can hum along to.”

“The part of the test that I’m the most happy with was the final extension to the halt. Out of the corner, he just kind of took me to the centerline. I didn’t need to tell him to go. He just knew what we were doing and took me right to the halt at X,” detailed Hansen, when speaking of his favorite part of the test this afternoon.


Rebekah Mingari and Elzarma TF (

Rebekah Mingari and Elzarma TF (

Mingari and Elzarma TF also surpassed their own personal expectations of a final podium finish, as the young mare, at only seven years of age, only recently began contesting Prix St. Georges. Their music, which is a mixture of compositions previously used by the mare’s dam, Allure S, in Large Tour competition, received great marks from the judging panel.

“I had a really awesome ride today and my mare put her heart out there for me. The music is actually her mother’s [Allure S]. We tweaked everything to fit her routine a bit more and she did an incredible job,” said Mingari. “The music fits her very well and it was overall just a great experience.” 

“The pirouettes and the tempi changes were very good. We went down the centerline and she gave me five perfect three tempis in a straight line and I was really proud of her for that,” she added.

Emily Ferguson and Wrazzmatazz (

Emily Ferguson and Wrazzmatazz (

Ferguson and Wrazzmatazz have only been partnered together since this past February and the pair have made tremendous improvements in just a few short months before arriving at NAJYRC. 

“I thought our half passes were great. He’s a very dynamic horse and we’re able to increase the level of difficulty by making the angle a bit steeper and he really showed those well today in the ring,” she said. “We’ve accomplished so much in such a short time. It’s been a very fun journey for us.”


The pair rode to a compilation of One Republic music, which Ferguson says fits the tempo and style of Wrazzmatazz perfectly. She commented, “I love the canter music especially because it really suits my horse.”


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