By Rebecca Roman
Having the opportunity to compete at the FEI North American Junior/Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC) is definitely the highlight of my dressage career, so far. I competed in the Young Rider division in 2015 and 2016, and the relationships and memories I made at this event will last forever.
The road to the competition itself can be very challenging physically, mentally, and emotionally. The qualifying period is one of the most difficult aspects of the NAJYRC, because you are competing against your friends for a spot on the team. It is not easy to be supportive of fellow riders during this time, because everyone desperately wants to make the team, and only four riders are chosen. This past year, there were nine girls trying to qualify for the Young Rider team for my region, Region 3. Stakes were very high and the competition was tough. Qualifying for the team, with so many other talented riders, was such an honor and privilege.
If someone were to ask me what my favorite part of the NAJYRC competition was, I would not be able to give them just one answer. In my opinion, there is not one part of the competition that is better than another, and everything that goes on for the entire week is enjoyable. This past year, the opening ceremony was one of the more memorable nights of the week. The ceremony was held at the Promise Ranch Therapeutic Riding Center and, over the course of the night, there was a cutting demonstration, a live band, a bull ride, and a giant bouncy house. The memories of dancing the night away with all the other Region 3 girls will stay with me forever.
The competition itself is such a unique experience because you are able to watch other riders, competing in different disciplines. It’s always fun to hang out and watch the cross country. I was amazed at the fitness of the horses, galloping through those courses. My delicate dressage horse, while he’s in great physical shape, would not make it through one of those courses. I also loved watching the show jumpers. I started jumping when I first began riding, but quickly realized that I did not have the nerve to jump over things more than a foot off the ground, which resulted in my transition to dressage. The dressage portion of the competition is, of course, my favorite. Aside from competing in the event, the best part is cheering on the other girls in my region, both Juniors and Young Riders. I loved standing beside the show ring and rooting on my team. Watching them all grow as people and riders, even just over the course of one year, is incredible.
Overall, the best parts of this competition are the new relationships we created that will last us a lifetime. Before participating in NAJYRC, I hardly knew any other girls my age, when I went to competitions. Now it’s almost impossible for me to attend a show and not have friends there. This competition is all about building these relationships and forging connections. While being a part of the silver medalist team, and receiving the silver medal, is one of my greatest personal achievements, creating new friendships with other girls my age, who are all amazing riders and even better friends, is what the competition is all about.