This summer marks 40 years since what is now the Adequan/FEI North American Junior Young Riders Championship first took place in 1974. For much of that time, West Coast equestrians have represented our region very well. With the Championships set for July 15-20 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY, our riders are making final preparations to uphold that high standard.
Organizers for all three disciplines report strong interest and participation among riders, and each team is blessed with the small army of volunteers and supporters required to prepare them for safe, successful and enjoyable experiences in Kentucky. It's a monumental undertaking, but worth it, says Zone 10 jumping spokesman Fred Bauer. "We think it's an important step in their careers to learn about and have the experience of riding on a team."
Well-contested qualifying seasons came to a close for eventing and show jumping by mid-June, while the USDF Region 7 dressage squad was yet to be officially named at presstime.
The eight riders gunning for spots on Area VI's One-Star team had to be pared down to six. Four will comprise the team and two will ride as individuals, with that decision coming just before the competition. Coordinator Lauren Billys, an international eventer herself, is thrilled with the quality and quantity of the turn-out this year. "Area VI is a big force at Young Riders every year and for the last few years we've had an overwhelming number of entries in our FEI competitions," she explains. That's largely due to new mandates regarding the qualifying process for international championships, which have helped prompt the staging of more FEI shows out West. And that means more chances to qualify and prepare for the Kentucky Championships.
The One Star Team, which competes at Preliminary level, consists of Kiera Carter and Corinthoz (see story, 36), Elle de Recat and Pacino, Kate Lathrop and Worth The Wait, Ainsleigh Mitchell and Chance Affair, Lulu Shamberg and Amarna and Kaylawna Smith and London Calling OHF. Alexandra Willoughby and Tiki Car are Area VI's representative at the Two Star level.
The talented and brave Area VI riders are all first-time Championships participants. One of them is especially brave: Kaylawna Smith, who has spent much more time in the pool than in the saddle in recent years. The daughter of Next Level Eventing's Tamie Smith, Kaylawna stopped riding in high school to play water polo at the highest levels, which she plans to continue in college.
She had competed at Preliminary as a 13-year-old, but, with her parents' encouragement, dove into high school sports and became a big star in water polo. This past spring, Kaylawna said, "Mom, I really want to go to Young Riders before college," Tamie relays. "I looked at her, saying, 'You haven't even ridden in four years; I don't know if that's even possible."
A Facebook post led to the offer of a horse, London Calling, by client Brittany Whiting (a Riding Magazine sales consultant). London Calling had been taken to the One-Star level by Tamie, but he and Kaylawna had to fast track the process of qualifying and getting to know each other. "They could not mess up one competition," Tamie says. A minor injury incurred during a conditioning swim put them off one local qualifier, so they hauled to Texas in mid-May to get a required One Star under their belt.
The horse has been great and so has Kaylawna. "She has that athlete's 'never quit' attitude and is used to a lot of pressure from water polo," explains Tamie, who was thrilled to get the news of Kaylawna's team spot on the same day her daughter graduated high school in early June.
In addition to having the help of team coordinator Lauren Billys, members get the privilege of having Temecula-based Canadian Olympian Hawley Bennett-Awad serve as chef d'equipe.
Zone 10 jumper committee co-chair Fred Bauer describes the qualifying contest as "quite spirited this year." That's especially true on the Junior team side, where things went down to the wire with berths on the line during the Final trials at the June Classic in San Juan Capistrano in early June. Ready to tackle courses set at 1.40m (4'7") in height, the Junior team consists of Peyton Warren (see story, page 36), Eve Jobs, Sydney Calloway and Gabrielle Cirelli, with Morgan Dickerson as the alternate.
Members of Zone 10 Junior show jumping team celebrate selection trails placings that send them to Kentucky for the North American Junior Young Riders Championships this month. With Zone 10's Fred Bauer, from left, are Peyton Warren, Eve Jobs, Sydney Calloway and alternate team rider Morgan Dickerson. The squad's fourth member Gabrielle Cirelli is not pictured because she skipped the awards ceremony to make her high school prom..
Photo McCool Photography.
Turn-out for the Grand Prix-difficulty Young Riders division was thinner, with three riders giving it a go. Hannah von Heidegger, Simonne Berg and Morgan Garnett will represent Zone 10 at this level, and their team could be rounded out with a rider from another zone that did not field a full team. Drafting complete Young Riders teams is an issue on a national level, Fred explains. "The standards are so high, if a horse and rider can do that, they can do a 1.50m Grand Prix, so they're choosing between Young Riders and doing a class where you're competing for price money, like $50,000." Gaining mileage in Europe is another option for horse/rider pairs that can be successful at this level. Young Rider participation, Fred notes, is being addressed on a national level and finding ways to encourage and support participation in the Championships remains a big priority for Zone 10.
Simonne Berg, left, and Morgan Garnett, will join Hannah von Heidegger in representing Zone 10 in the Young Riders Championships in Lexington, Kentucky July 15-20. They are pictured here with Zone 10 Jumper Committee Chair Fred Bauer after the final trail at Blenheim EquiSports' June Classic I in San Juan Capistrano. Photo: McCool Photography
Interest and participation for both teams was stronger than last year, when Zone 10 fell short of fielding a full team in both divisions. "So, we think things are pulling back up a little bit," he continues. "I'd say the competition on the Junior side is hopeful because that's the pipeline for the future."
Lori DeRosa of top San Diego training barn, Newmarket, is set as the team's chef d'equipe.
"The turn-out has been really good, probably better than it has been in many years," says Tracy Gallman, who is going on her third year as USDF Region 7's team coordinator. "It's wonderful that we've had eight to 10 girls out there who love dressage and want to grow in the sport by competing at this level. The Region 7 team spirit and partnership is alive and well!"
It's takes a small army of volunteers and supporters to prepared our teams for a safe, successful and enjoyable experience at the Championships. This jewelry sale staged by rider Cassidy Gallman during a spring Flintridge dressage show was one of many fundraisers staged for the cause.
The finalized teams and the chef d'equipe were yet to be named, but Anna Buffini and Sundayboy looked a lock to continue their winning ways at the helm of the Young Riders team. She led the standings in early June with an overall average of 70.547, plus a mid-June win of the National Young Riders Championship held during the USEF Dressage Festival in Gladstone, NJ. Tracy's daughter Cassidy Gallman (see story, page 36) finished second to Anna in Gladstone, and held a 66.158 overall qualifying score with her mount Grand Makana, so she looked good for the Kentucky team, too. Lindsay Brewin and Valliant seemed likely contenders also.
Cassidy Gallman after finishing second overall in the National Young Riders Championship during the USEF Festival of Champions in Gladstone, NJ, in mid-June.
In the Junior standings, as of mid-June, it was Danielle Bonavito, Olivia Zellinger and Lauren Mack who appeared in line for the Championship squad.
The Championships started as an eventing challenge between the United States and Canada and has since evolved into the premier equestrian competition in North America for junior and young riders, ages 14-21. Dressage joined the Championships in 1981 and show jumping leapt in the next year. Those three continue to be the dominant disciplines, but reining slid into the party in 2008 and endurance in 2011. In 2006, younger riders were welcomed in the Junior division. The event is run under the rules of the International Equestrian Federation and it's the only FEI championships held annually in North America.
For more information and to follow our team's results, visit www.youngriders.org.