So it’s official. On July 11, Iliado and I will head down to Lexington, Kentucky to represent Ontario in the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships for the second year in a row.
We are so excited for this incredible week and are appreciative of everybody who has gotten us to this point. For the next few weeks and during the championships itself, I will be covering the experience of preparing for this big show as well as competing in it, so stay tuned for my next articles!
The main thing I am looking forward to at NAJYRC 2015 is reconnecting with my old friends and making new ones. This show is unique because it is one of the only competition environments where it’s all young people, as the age range for this show is 14-21 years. It is such a great opportunity to meet people with similar lifestyles, skills and ambitions, and connect with others who share the deep, deep love for horses.
Last year, I remember that I made a bunch of new friends from everywhere, from New York to Kentucky to California to British Columbia to Atlantic Canada, many of whom I speak with on a regular basis. Spending a week with my teammates brought us together so much and those girls and I are still really close, which is such a great feeling. Becoming close with everyone created a really positive and supportive environment, and everyone was cheering us on and encouraging us to do our best, which was one of my favourite things about NAJYRC. I think all juniors and young riders benefit from this kind of youth-focused environment because it is a chance to really get to know others your own age, which is not something that you can often do at dressage shows, at least in Canada anyway.
Also, this year there is a new team challenge type game that runs throughout the week. Basically what is supposed to happen is that you get paired up with other riders from different regions and disciplines, so it gives you a great chance to meet new people you wouldn’t necessarily have a chance to throughout the show. It’s so great the way NAJYRC is promoting these friendships and hosting initiatives that help us meet other people who share our passion for riding!
Another great thing about NAJYRC is the golf cart parade and opening ceremony at Spy Coast Farm by the Kentucky Horse Park! Spy Coast Farm is a beautiful farm and they host a huge opening ceremony and rider party for all the competitors and their families, grooms and coaches. It is a really fun way to kick off the amazing week and it makes you feel really welcome at the show.
There is also a golf cart parade, where you decorate your golf cart with items that represent your country or region and then your team drives it to the opening ceremony, and the best-dressed cart always wins a special prize. Last year, our team (tried to) dress up our golf cart as an RCMP horse and policeman, but we didn’t have a lot of prep time and it was a bit of a disaster haha! However we had a lot of fun doing it and we had a good laugh at how ridiculous it looked. I also almost crashed the golf cart because the horse’s head kept blocking my view – we probably should have tested that first! I can’t say what our theme will be this year yet but hopefully it will be a little bit more visually pleasing.
Of course, getting to go down to Lexington and compete at this amazing venue is such a privilege. I love riding in the Rolex Stadium! The first time I rode in there I got really nervous because it is such a big atmosphere and I was a bit in awe of my surroundings so I had a hard time concentrating, but after a while it gets easier. I am so excited to go down the centreline in the Rolex arena this year! But it isn’t just the stadium. The Horse Park also has great barns, a museum of equestrian history, and a barn with a variety of breeds. Additionally, there is a great VIP tent and fabulous vendors. It’s seriously unbelievable!
Returning to NAJYRC as a representative of Ontario is such an amazing opportunity and we are really looking forward to it of course. But, there is a lot of intense training and pressure that comes with it. The team competition was extremely nerve-wracking for me last year, because I was not used to having others counting on me. Usually dressage shows are completely individual, but at NAJYRC you are competing for 2-3 others on your team. Last year, that made me very anxious because I didn’t want to let my teammates down. I’m hoping that this year will be a little different because I will know what to expect, but leading up to it I am already getting a little nervous! But I know that I have a great team and they are always so supportive no matter what.
I’ll be covering the prep leading up to the show and my team’s experience at NAJYRC so make sure you stay tuned for more!