My name is Sami Clark and I have recently been chosen to represent Area VI on the 1* Team at the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships this year on my mare Next Dance (aka Ali). I thought it would be cool to share a little bit of my story with all of you and my journey to Young Riders.
I am 16 years old and I have been eventing since I was 10 years old. My trainer is Christine McNabb and I board and ride at Twin Palms Combined Training in Loomis, CA. I have been training with Chris since I was 11.
I bought my 14 year old Selle Français mare, Next Dance (Ali), two years ago from Momi Henne in Washington State (Micah Decher told us about her). We began competing at the Novice level and soon after, moved up to our first Training together and then our first Preliminary and first 1*. I competed at my first Preliminary last summer at Shepherd Ranch and quickly became interested in the Young Rider Team.
Ali is very mellow. Sometimes I even forget she is a mare because she doesn’t act like one. We have such a great relationship. She is my best friend. She always goes crazy in her stall when she sees me walking down the barn aisle and nickers to me. She loves to take naps with me in her stall and lay her head in my lap (she thinks she is a dog). She also loves to lick. She licks me all the time (my hands, arms, and neck) but never bites. I trust her and she trusts me equally. I put my life in her hands everyday just as she does with me. Her favorite treats are carrots, pretzels, and granola bars.
Throughout the past year, I have had several successful Prelim runs and then this spring we traveled to Greenwood Farm Horse Trials in Texas (all the way from California) to compete in the CCI 1* division where we qualified for the team. After a jog for the team selectors at Woodside International Horse Trials, the team members were notified.
We had a clinic for the candidates earlier this year at Twin Rivers Ranch, and this weekend I am going to Young Rider Camp for lessons with the team coach, Brian Sabo, and several other trainers. I really like the clinics and camps because it helps to improve my riding and get me exposed to other teaching styles and techniques. They are also a fun way to spend time with the other riders on the team.
I do not come from an equestrian family. My parents knew nothing about horses until they got involved in my riding career. The team has a few grooms, Katarina Wulstein and Taylor Ravenscroft, that come to help everyone out in Kentucky. I have been very lucky to have such a great support system during my journey to Young Riders’ as well as my whole riding career.
My mom and dad will be coming to Kentucky with me. They are my biggest fans and have always worked so hard to help make my dreams a reality. I am also lucky to have support from EVERYONE at my barn. They have all cheered me on every step of the way as well as participated in all of my fundraising opportunities. My other friends outside of the barn (non-horsey and friends from shows) have also provided me with so much support, and I am so thankful for each person who has helped me.
I have never been to Young Riders before, so this will be my first year. I am most excited to have the opportunity to travel to Kentucky with my best friend (my mare Ali) and to gallop around the cross country course at the Kentucky Horse Park, as well as getting to ride in the Rolex Stadium.
The logistical challenges include packing, planning, and shipping. I have already created a list of all of the things I need to pack for Ali and myself, but I am sure that I will be adding more to the list as we get closer. Luckily, we get to stay in the houses in Kentucky with the whole team, so that takes care of the sleeping situation. Also, Kim Littlehale (the Area VI Coordinator) has put together a system where each family cooks one night for all of the team. For the shipping part, Ali will fly out of Oakland on July 11th and so will my parents and I. Ali and two other horses are flying, and two of the horses are shipping to Kentucky on trucks.
It was a long journey with a lot of ups and downs and a lot of hard work, but it’s safe to say that it was well worth it! I am so thankful for everyone who helped me to get here and for all of the support. I look forward to traveling to Kentucky with the rest of the team!
Sami and Ali