July 27, 2011 -- Dressage Juniors and Dressage Young Riders got their first experience today as to what it will feel like to compete in the jaw-dropping Rolex Stadium during this week's Adequan/FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC) in Lexington, KY. Riders were understandably impressed by the expanse and atmosphere of the arena, including Region 7 Young Rider Kelli Newton, who couldn't help but smile after schooling her mount Luciano. "I was here to watch the World Equestrian Games last year, and all I could think as we walked down the ramp into the stadium was that this was the same place that Steffen Peters and all the other amazing horses and riders from around the world competed last fall."
But what does it really take to reach this moment of being able to ride in the same arena where world and national champions have been crowned? After all the qualifying competitions have concluded and the agony and ecstasy of monitoring ranking lists is over, some riders and horses still face a daunting journey to actually reach the Kentucky Horse Park and take their chance at a medal. Spending 51 hours in a noisy and hot tractor trailer, bouncing headlong across the nation's interstate system and an ever-changing landscape, would probably be enough to convince most to stay in the comfort of their own home. But if you are one of the remarkable horses of Region 6, this arduous trip from the Pacific Northwest is navigated every year without complaint.
At this year's NAJYRC, Region 6 fields a full Junior team, represented by Brooke Bayley and My Kona Boy, Molly Eastridge and Donnerspiel, Sadie Lahey and Up To Date P, and Meghan Slaughter with Spinnaker. Trusting their steeds' safety and well-being to American Horse Transport, these riders waved goodbye to their horses after they boarded the van from their barns in Washington and Idaho. They would not see them again until three days later in Kentucky.
Of course, sending their beloved horses on such a journey was not without concern for the riders. As the "veteran" of the team, Lahey (who competed as an individual for Region 6 in 2010) knows full well the risks that a lengthy trip entails, after her mount colicked following last year's arrival in Lexington. "After such a miserable experience shipping my horse last year, we were all definitely worried," Lahey explained.
And despite describing this year's transport company as "very capable and knowledgeable", new team members experienced some of the unintended perils of long-distance shipping of horses firsthand. On Friday, Eastridge's mount came down with a 103.5-degree fever and was immediately administered intravenous fluids and antibiotics. "He's better now, but still a little tired and struggling with the heat," noted Eastridge. "It's also a challenge for us not to be able to ride for three days while traveling and then two more days off while he was ill."
Slaughter's mount Spinnaker refused to drink a drop for the duration of the trip. "He drank seven gallons of water the moment he stepped off the van here," she said. Bayley agreed that her gelding My Kona Boy was also reluctant to eat or drink on the road, "but he was still happy and in good shape when he got here."
Despite the travel obstacles to get here, and the discouraging thought of a long journey home, the determination of both the horses and riders of Region 6 results in the team's having an indomitable spirit and genuine appreciation for just being at the NAJYRC. "We are so happy to be here," said Eastridge. "We came into the stadium this morning and we all had the biggest smiles on our faces."
Veterinary inspections were held for all Junior and Young Rider dressage horses this afternoon, followed by an evening of fun with a decorated golf cart parade through the Kentucky Horse Park and a party at neighboring Spy Coast Farm. Team competition gets underway Wednesday morning at 7am ET. Live scoring will be available at this link: http://www.youngriders.org/Results.aspx.
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July 26, 2011 -- Move-in day at the Adequan/FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC) is an exercise in semi-organized chaos. Convoys of horse vans roll through the picturesque entrance to the Kentucky Horse Park, and license plates from around the United States and Canada adorn vehicles parked haphazardly in the horse stabling area. Stable attendants direct trailers to appropriate horse barns, horses whinny with excitement and welcome, Junior and Young Rider competitors unload armload after armload of dressage and horse equipment, and the show offices hum with activity as final preparations are made for one of the continent's premier dressage championships. | Read More