By Catherine Chamberlain
I was fortunate enough to be involved with the USDF Junior/Young Rider programs from the start of my dressage career. I started riding horses at nine years old, and by the age of twelve, I decided that I wanted pursue dressage seriously. I did a lot of research about how I could become more involved in the sport and educate myself, and I found USDF to be very helpful in getting me on the right track. I determined at a young age that I wanted to educate myself beyond the riding side of things. I very much wanted to understand the work and dedication that goes on, to allow us to have high level competitions and programs available in the United States. I decided that I should start with my local dressage community and build from there.
In 2008, at the age of thirteen, I started volunteering for my local GMO, the Arizona Dressage Association. In 2011, I won the Youth Convention Scholarship, which allowed me to attend the Adequan®/USDF Annual Convention, and to get more in-depth information about what went on behind the scenes of our sport. I started volunteering on USDF’s Youth Advisory Subcommittee, while continuing to work with my local GMO. In 2012, I won the USDF Youth Volunteer of the Year Award and was, again, able to attend the annual convention. After gaining so much from my experiences at the convention, I went on to attend in 2014, 2015, and 2016, as well. Since then, I have become a board member of the USDF Youth Committee, as well as The Dressage Foundation. This year, I was elected as a Participating Member Delegate for Region 7, and will attend the annual convention to represent my community and continue to increase my education. I feel that I have received a lot of help and support over the last thirteen years in the dressage community, and I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to give back and help however I can.
As far as my riding career, the USDF Junior/Young Rider programs have helped me tremendously. I rode in my first USDF Jr/YR Clinic when I was thirteen, and went on to compete at my first national championships as a Junior, later that year. At fourteen, I competed at my first North American Junior/ Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC), and the following year, I was able to earn Junior Individual and Freestyle silver medals, as well as the Junior Reserve National Championship. I returned to the NAJYRC as a Young Rider in 2011, 2014, and 2015, and was able to earn three team golds, two individual golds, and an individual silver medal. In 2015, I also won the Young Rider National Championship and had the honor to represent the U.S. at the CDIO Nations Cup, in Hagen, Germany. Now I am preparing my young mare to compete in the Under 25 Grand Prix division and am very excited to see what we can achieve.
In January of 2015, I was able to participate in the USDF/USEF Young Rider Graduate Program. It was a fantastic educational experience, and really helped to prepare me for a career as a dressage professional. They provided us with information about so many different avenues in the sport, and it helped us make a lot of connections with other young professionals with the same passion and drive.
I am so grateful for the numerous Junior/Young Rider programs provided by USDF. They’ve not only helped me achieve my goals and get on the right path as a dressage rider, but I truly believe that they have helped to shape me as a person and fuel my work ethic and passion. It seems that the younger generation coming up the ranks is benefiting from the ever-evolving programs offered by USDF, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how it will positively impact the future of dressage in the US.