Today I want to talk about my experiences at the Palm Beach Derby CDIJ at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida. Now, I know that everyone is talking about Florida now and you’re probably tired of reading about it, but I had a unique and once-in-a-lifetime experience that I think is really important to share.
For those of you who may not know, four junior and young rider girls and their horses were flown over from the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany for a few weeks to compete at the Global Dressage Festival. All these girls are highly accomplished in their countries, in Europe and all across the globe, being national and/or European champions, and being highly ranked in the world. I was the only junior from North America competing at the Palm Beach Derby, and therefore I was able to personally experience and fully come to understand just how amazing the European riders and horses are. What a great thing!!! In addition, I got to see for myself how much work there is for myself, but also (especially youth riders).
In Canada, Iliado and I are pretty big fish. We came out of most of our national shows with wins and claimed the national junior championship title last year. Of course there are other juniors with great horses and they are all amazing riders, but I think that we are all pretty equal and there is always a relatively high chance that we will win. In North America, even, I consider myself to always have a chance at a win. But riding with these girls from Belgium and Germany – it’s a whole different experience. I mean, they are just so incredible! It was super eye-opening for me to see what the calibre of junior dressage is like in other parts of the world, and I can honestly say that because of the opportunity I had to ride with these individuals, my ambition has heightened significantly and I am now more determined to achieve my goals.
I am very grateful for my experience at the Palm Beach Derby CDI because even though we did not win our classes, we won in so many other ways. I think I gained a lot of knowledge and understanding about junior dressage in a global context. I also believe that it brought Iliado and I even closer than we already are, because we were forced to push each other to strive for excellence. And I realized that I would rather be a fish in an ocean than a stream because that is the only way that I will learn to be the best I can be.
Many have told me that I think big, that I always have. But after this experience, I now understand that I have been thinking much, much too small. However, that has changed. Now, I am so much more determined to push myself further and further out of my comfort zone, take risks, make mistakes and develop my skills as a competitor. And I think that it is your responsibility to do the same. You owe it to yourself to have the faith in your abilities to constantly try and transcend your limitations. Because you can. Whether this is in a dressage show, or in the arena at home, or in other aspects of your life, you should never settle, never tell yourself that you can’t do something. Never take the easier way out. It is our responsibility as equestrians and as people to develop ourselves and our societies to be better.
Thank you so much to everyone who has helped me this weekend, and a special thanks to my competitors for instilling more determination in me to succeed in everything I do.