Kiera Carter & Corinthoz – Area VI Eventing One Star Team
It's a good thing Kiera Carter was a bad hunter rider. "I always wanted to go faster than they wanted me to go," says the now-16 year old. That instinct, combined with exposure to eventing through a lower level clinic when she was 8 years old, changed her equestrian course.
"Everything about eventing appeals to me. There's so much freedom in the sport, everyone takes care of their own horses and the people are so supportive and generous. Even when you are at a competition, everybody is happy for each other and it's all about the horses' and riders' safety. Ribbons come after that."
Kiera earned her spot on the Area VI One-Star team with her partner of nine years, the 12-year-old Swedish Warmblood Corinthoz. They've come up the levels together, which "has made it a lot cooler to accomplish this," Kiera says with pride. "We have always figured things out as a team." They've competed at the Preliminary level for a little over a year and feel confident, but not cocky, about the challenges awaiting them in Kentucky.
"I think cross-country is going to be a bit tougher than what we've seen out here, just because our venues don't have that kind of grassy, hilly terrain" found at the Kentucky Horse Park site that's home to the sport's gold standard, the Rolex Kentucky Four Star Three Day Event. Everything about the Championships appeals to Kiera, too, but she is particularly excited about tackling that famous track. "That course looks so much fun to ride!" She's grateful to Area VI organizers for providing ample venues to prep for the Championships. "Jumping wise, I think the course difficulty and challenges we have in Area VI are pretty high with lots of great questions."
She's excited about the team camaraderie, too. Lulu Shamberg and Ainsleigh Mitchell are friends from when they used to ride together at the Mill Creek Equestrian Center, and the whole crew gets along really well.
Corinthoz, or "X," has fulfilled Kiera's every hope and dream. It was love at first sight when she saw him, fresh from Sweden, as a 3-year-old. Although everybody in her circle acknowledged that pairing a green horse with a green and very young rider wasn't the wisest move on paper, they trusted Kiera's gut and supported the partnership.
"He loves every aspect of his job," Kiera reports. "When it's dressage, he gets so full of himself. He knows when people are looking at him and we've always pulled really good dressage scores. On cross-country, he's steady and happy. He never freaks out and, in fact, the more questioning the course, the better he is. He loves being challenged. In stadium, he's super careful."
In short, "He loves being given a job and when you ask him to do something, he'll try to do it."
A rising senior at Canyon High School, near her home in the North Los Angeles area's Canyon Country, Kiera says riding has influenced every aspect of her life. She plans to pursue a veterinary degree and work as a large animal surgeon. Kiera trains with Deborah Rosen at Wild Ride Eventers, at the El Sueno Equestrian Center, in Ventura County's Somis.
Peyton Warren – Zone 10 Show Jumping Junior Team
The Championships have been a bulls eye on 16-year-old Peyton's goal sheet for the last few years, but she didn't start 2014 thinking she'd be leading the standings going into the final trial round in early June. Yet, there she and Lysander 99 were and their good round in San Juan Capistrano locked up their Kentucky berth.
"A few years ago, I would not have seen myself stepping up at this pace," she explains. That outlook shifted in the fall of 2013 with solid rounds in her first Grands Prix, at Woodside and the Sacramento International. "We got this year started off on the right foot at Thermal and our confidence improved."
She attributes that all to her amazing horse, "Lyle." He's not the easiest horse to ride or get along with, and that's just the way Peyton likes it. "I'm a little weird in that aspect," she laughs. "I don't always get along with the easier horses. I like the quirky, weird ones."
Lyle can be "grumpy, strong and spooky." Like Peyton's previous jumper, Sherry Lady, "He likes to go fast and do his job, so the transition was maybe a little easier for me." Her partner in a Friends of the Meadows Grand Prix win at Spruce Meadows in 2012, Sherry Lady was a tough horse to top, but Lyle is another diamond in the rough made to shine under Peyton's hand. "We've never been the family to buy the fanciest pony or the top jumper, but I've been really blessed that my last three horses have all been outstanding." That string started with her pony Sunnyside Up.
Peyton attends a small, girls' Catholic high school near her home in the Sacramento area's Rancho Murrieta. She's spent her whole riding career with Rudy Leone and Jill Humphrey at Leone Equestrian there. "They are like my parents!" Peyton says. "I've been with them coming up on 13 years and I just really love them. They've always had my best interests in mind and I definitely could not have done any of this without them."
Getting the chance to catch ride several ponies and sale horses has helped Peyton make the most of her abilities. After the Championships, she'll head back to the Kentucky Horse Park later in the summer to ride a few ponies in the USEF Pony Finals.
Peyton has a strong handle on the economics of the horse business. A high school junior this fall, she's eyeing colleges where she can keep riding and her extensive catch riding experience will likely make her popular among NCAA equestrian recruiters. After college, she foresees keeping herself in the saddle and paying the bills by developing investment horses, at least for a few years.
Returning to her immediate priorities, Peyton says the excitement of the Young Riders Championships is heightened by going with a great team. Teammate Eve Jobs is one of her closest friends. "She's always there for me," says Peyton. And the rest of the squad of Northern and Southern California girls are either pals already or soon to be so.
Cassidy Gallman – hopeful for the Region 7 Young Riders dressage team. (The team was not finalized until after our deadline.)
"I guess I just am not a 'normal' sport person," says Cassidy. She tried them: softball, gymnastics and cheer. But one lesson at the former A Stable Place at the Poway Rodeo Grounds introduced her to the non-normal sport around which much of her life now revolves: dressage, or "dresege," as she initially thought it was pronounced. The complicated nature of the discipline appeals to her. "I always think of it as a puzzle: that you have to put all the pieces together to get this perfect product. The more I kept doing it, the more epiphanies I had, and I love the fact that every day, it's something new and different, even when you're riding the same horse."
By 11, Cassidy was totally hooked on dressage and she's been a serious student ever since. She rode with Bettina Loy for about seven years, then bought her 2012 Junior Championships mount, Woden, from Stephen Birchall at Birchall Equestrian and began training with him at the Dove Hollow Dressage Center in San Diego County's Olivenhain.
Cassidy acknowledges a considerable "knowledge gap" between her and her current partner, Grand Makana. Laurie Falvo trained the horse, owned by Joan Cvengros, to impressive wins on the way to Grand Prix so, "He knows a lot more than I do." Cassidy recognized while trying to transition from the Junior to Young Riders tests that "I had been kind of fudging it a little bit, whereas Makana really knew what he was doing."
It's been a very fun way to learn, with one of her challenges being to learn when and how to ask for something from his repertoire of high-level movements. Toward the end of the Young Riders qualifying period, Cassidy opted to compete in the National Young Riders Championship during the USEF Festival of Champions in Gladstone, N.J. in mid-June. That was at the cost of missing a few final chances to accumulate scores for a spot on the Region 7 Kentucky team. It was worth it, she decided, for a chance to experience the Festival, and especially in a World Equestrian Games year with so much at stake for the country's top riders.
Contesting the Festival seemed an especially good decision when Cassidy finished overall second in the National Young Riders Championship, second to Region 7 stars and NAJYRC shoe-ins Anna Buffini and Sundayboy. It's an accomplishment that will most likely be considered in the selection process for the July Young Riders Championships.
If the dressage fates align, Cassidy will be travelling to the NAJYRC for the third time. In addition to her Junior team experience two years ago, she went last year with her mom Tracy Gallman, who is now in her third year as Region 7's team coordinator. Last year, "the girls called me the team mascot and the parents called me the team manager," she explains. Her main job was "fostering team spirit" and she was proud of her work. Even though she was not competing herself, she loved the experience of helping out wherever the need arose and felt very much a part of the team's great showing: Young Rider team gold and Junior team silver.
Cassidy's support of the team began early in the qualifying season when she began selling jewelry as a fundraiser for the team. It's through an entrepreneurial youth enterprise, called Chloe & Isabell, and from which she's donated her sales commission directly to the Region 7 team.
The 19-year-old graduated from Del Norte High School in San Diego last year and is midway through two years at Mira Costa College en route to her dream school, UC San Diego. Art history, criticism and conservation are on her major agenda, plus a minor in business and a determination to "always keep riding."