August is Youth Month on YourDressage! From stories about remarkable young dressage enthusiasts across the country, to articles about some of the opportunities USDF offers to youth riders, join us all month long as we celebrate equestrians aged 25 and under. They are the future of our sport!
Here, a young rider from Region 9 shares her experience making the switch from eventing to dressage, and fulfilling her ultimate dream of qualifying for the upcoming FEI North American Youth Championships (NAYC).
By Sydney Schultz
My name is Sydney Schultz, and I live in Mandeville, Louisiana. I am beyond excited to be a competitor in the 2022 FEI North American Youth Championships (NAYC) as a Young Rider. The past two years have been an incredible journey and to finish with this competition is “storybook” material!! I have been an eventer since the age of seven, and riding a horse since I was able to walk! I graduated high school in 2019 and went directly to work with Courtney Cooper (5-star Eventer), as a working student at C-Square Farm, in Pennsylvania. I worked with Courtney riding at Training Level, with 3’3” jumps, for about a year before returning home in 2020.
2020 was an incredible year for me as I truly discovered dressage with my new trainer, Vicky Busch of Busch Sporthorses, located just 30 minutes north of my home. I had NO knowledge of dressage beyond First Level. When asked to do a “shoulder-in” I had to ask, “How do I ask for that?” I rode not only my horse, but some of Vicky’s horses as well.
At my first dressage show, I competed at Second Level on Vicky’s horse, Jacamo, which was also his first time competing at Second Level. In July of 2021, I earned my USDF Bronze Medal aboard Jacamo. I was fortunate enough that Vicky was willing to teach me how to do flying changes on Jacamo and another horse we had in training at the time. Vicky and I discussed trying to qualify for the 2022 NAYC and in November 2021, I competed at Prix St. Georges for the first time with her horse Dunkirk, and scored a 68.67% and a 73.23%.
In May 2022, I earned the scores for my USDF Silver Medal,, from both Jacamo at Fourth Level and Dunkirk from Prix St Georges. This has been such an incredible year, being able to learn at these levels. I have now come to fully realize and appreciate that dressage is the base of all knowledge for eventing and many other disciplines. I currently have a mare, Excel Star Saphira, that I event, and we are moving up to Training Level this summer/fall. All of the dressage work that I have learned on Jacamo and Dunkirk has been slowly transferred over to her training and is helping her develop not only in dressage, but also show jumping, along with some cross country aspects.
When I first started riding Dunkirk and Jacamo, there was so much feedback and knowledge that it became somewhat overwhelming at times. I remember going home, looking up articles, and watching videos so I could better myself for the next day and lesson. Learning tempis and pirouettes on Dunkirk was a mental challenge. There would be a long checklist that I would have to go through in a split second, or he would be confused or mishear what I was trying to ask for. I am beyond grateful for being given the opportunity to not only compete with Dunkirk, but also to learn from him. He is a very particular teacher, and if you don’t ask exactly how it’s been taught to him, the outcome isn’t what you have planned.
For me to have just a year to prepare, compete, and qualify at this level of dressage is truly a dream (since this is the year I turned 21)! I could not have done any of this without the endless support from my trainer, Vicky. She has taught me everything I know about dressage and unselfishly allowed me to ride her beautiful and talented gelding, Dunkirk. I also couldn’t have done it without the support of my parents (Mike and Kimberly Schultz), who have always stood by and helped me reach my dreams and goals in both the eventing world as well as the dressage world. I am truly grateful to be able to represent Region 9 for NAYC 2022!!! I am so excited to experience this week and give it 100%!!
Update: Since this story was published, the combined USA Region 3/Region 9 team, which Sydney was a part of, won Gold in the team competition at the FEI North American Youth Championships! Read the press release from US Equestrian here.