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 Region 4 Junior rider, shares about the tremendous impact the FEI North American Youth Championships (NAYC) had on her life, and not just in the medals she brought home.
By Lexie Kment
Hello, my name is Lexie Kment, and I am a 16 year old FEI Junior rider from Palmyra, Nebraska. The North American Youth Championship, otherwise known as NAYC, not only gave me the opportunity to excel in the ring but also to find new friendships that honestly have changed my life forever.
I began my equestrian career at the very young age of 5 years old and have never stopped loving it! I first attended NAYC last year as a competitor in the FEI Junior division representing both the United States of America and Region 4. I had attended large invitation-only shows, such as the Festival of Champions, before but I was so excited for all of the new firsts that NAYC would hold for me. Some of these included; my first time competing for the United States, being part of an opening ceremony, and being part of a team in dressage. These are all things that I had dreamed about maybe doing sometime in my life but was so thrilled when my dreams became a reality.
The environment of the show facility was electric. Abuzz with people from all different parts of the country, the world even, who each had a special role to play. From the start, the environment gave me an extra boost of excitement for the week. By the end, I had achieved a goal I had never thought possible: winning gold with my amazing Region 4 team in the Team test, gold in the Individual test, and gold in the Freestyle, pulling off the NAYC hat trick! The joy of becoming one of the first ever FEI Junior riders to ever win all three gold medals filled me with so much joy, pride, and thankfulness to my support team that truly made everything possible that I almost could not contain it.
I think that even more special to me, more than winning the medals, were the friendships that I walked away with from NAYC. As a young, highly-competitive dressage rider living in Nebraska, I had always longed for a deep friendship with a fellow dressage rider who knew the high intensity level of FEI riding and really understood what I was doing. And yet, even though I love my family and friends, I had never experienced a friendship like that before last year. NAYC brought me into the fold of competing with a team of other individuals who could relate, not only to the trials but also the rewards of riding.
In general, I am a very introverted person to strangers and was surprised by the way some of my fellow competitors reached out to me in such a kind and caring way. In the very best way possible, these certain individuals continued to reach out to me, inviting me to things and really wanting to have a true, real friendship. And as I met one person, they then introduced me to others who truly got what I was doing in this equine world and my friendship circle grew and grew. A lot of times when you go to a horse show, you see the best presented side of people – the fancy, “have everything together” type – but by getting to know these girls, we were able to talk about real life struggles of school anxiety, working around homework time vs. riding time, etc.
I am so very thankful to all who have sponsored NAYC for giving me the opportunity to grow as a rider, human, and friend through this show. To those who have struggled to get to this spot, congrats on getting here, to those who need encouragement, you can do it, and to those who do not think that your dreams are possible, they are.