By Ross Creech\
Having had time to digest the amazing programs and recognition opportunities available for USDF youth, as outlined in the previous article, The Children Are Our Future, you are now ready for Round 2 of our youth opportunities roundup! Can you believe there are more!?
It is no secret that youth dressage enthusiasts and competitors are the future of both our beloved sport and organization. As such, USDF is committed to providing quality education, resources, and guidance to dressage youth throughout the US to further their competitive goals, establish a high level of classical dressage training in the US in order to maintain the integrity of the sport into the future, and to integrate them into the USDF governance structure as a way of molding and training the future leadership of USDF.
To this end, the following are additional USDF programs and recognition opportunities available to the youth of the organization. All youth are encouraged to get involved and take advantage of everything USDF has to offer!
USEF/USDF Young Rider Graduate Program
Recently featured in the Spotlight On series, this program, with funding support from The Dressage Foundation, brings together top professionals from around the country to teach on a variety of subjects, meant to foster strong role models for the future of the US equestrian industry. Held as a two-day educational seminar, this program focuses on topics of which young adults (age 20-28) need knowledge, in order to prepare for a professional career in this industry. Some of the topics covered in these seminars include goal setting, sponsorship, international competition, contracts, insurance, and tax practices, to name a few. By having top professionals educate our young adults on these crucial topics, graduates of the program are equipped to take the next steps in their professional equestrian careers and have a leg up on others who have not had the opportunity to take part in this invaluable experience.
Held on a bi-annual schedule, with the next currently scheduled for January 14-15, 2023, the USDF/USEF Young Rider Graduate Program is open to USDF Participating and Group Members, age 20-28, currently riding at Third Level or above. Additionally, through the Carol Lavell Gifted Memorial Fund, The Dressage Foundation offers grants, of up to $500 each, to individual participants to attend.
Established in April 2022, the USDF Dressage Spirit Award provides a unique recognition opportunity for youth in our sport that have made significant contributions to their local equestrian communities while promoting the sport of dressage in a variety of ways, such as volunteering, helping to form new youth clubs, fundraising, or supporting local dressage-related events. Any youth USDF member (those who have not reached their 21st birthday by the first day of the membership year, December 1) is eligible to be nominated for a Dressage Spirit Award. Applications and more information on the award and nomination process can be found on the USDF website.
USDF Dressage Seat Medal Semi-Finals
As part of the USEF/USDF Dressage Seat Medal Program, which celebrates excellence in equitation for riders age 18 and under, and qualifier for the USEF Dressage Seat Medal Finals, the USDF Dressage Seat Medal Semi-Finals are held at each of the nine Great American Insurance Group/USDF Regional Dressage Championships, with two age divisions being offered: 13 and under, and 14-18.
Riders can qualify to compete in the USDF Dressage Seat Medal Semi-Finals in one of two ways. This can be done by earning a qualifying score of 70% or above in an eligible Dressage Seat Equitation Class (walk/trot restricted equitation classes not eligible), or by qualifying for the Great American Insurance Group/USDF Regional Championships.
At the conclusion of the USDF Dressage Seat Semi-Finals competition, the top two placed riders will be invited to continue on to compete in the USEF Dressage Seat Finals.
USDF/IDA National Quiz Challenge
In partnership with the Intercollegiate Dressage Association (IDA), the USDF/IDA National Quiz Challenge focuses on classical dressage theory and training, as well as dressage competition rules and is divided into four divisions (Introductory, Lower Training, Upper Training, and First Level). Any IDA member who is also a USDF member is eligible to participate in the quiz challenge, with the five highest scoring individuals in each of the four divisions advancing to the championship round, held during the IDA Nationals competition. An overall winner will be named in each division, with one being named the overall Grand Prize winner. The Grand Prize winner of the challenge receives an invitation to attend an upcoming USEF/USDF Young Rider Graduate Program (see above).
Congratulations to the 2022 USDF/IDA National Quiz Challenge Winners:
Grand Prize Winner: Elizabeth Kness, Rutgers University (Winner of First Level)
Divisional winners were:
Introductory – Eva Fritsch, Miami University
Lower Training – Breanna Gemmell, Averett University
Upper Training – Anne Morgan, Averett University
FEI North American Youth Championships
As the only FEI championship held annually on this continent, the FEI North American Youth Championships (NAYC) for Dressage is a unique and prestigious competition that brings together top FEI Juniors and Young Riders, age 14-21, to vie for team and individual FEI medals in the three Olympic disciplines of dressage, show jumping, and eventing. Each year, Junior and Young Rider Teams from each of the nine USDF Regions descend on the competition to showcase their competitive prowess and mastery of dressage fundamentals.
In addition to the individual and team medals awarded, special presentations such as the Amanda Johnson and Fiona Baan “Pursuit of Excellence” Memorial Trophies, Albers Award, Howard B. Simpson High Five Trophy, The Style Awards, Captain Andres B. De Szinay Memorial Sportsman Trophy, and the HorsePower Trophy.
The NAYC qualifying and entry process can be a daunting process for even the most knowledgeable competitors, so USDF has a number of resources and tools to help interested youth, and their parents/guardians navigate the waters.
From enthusiasts and volunteers, to top level competitors, USDF has a plethora of offerings for all youth members. Through these many offerings, it is our fervent hope to help develop classically trained horse persons and knowledgeable professionals to ensure the success and longevity of the sport and organization so dear to our hearts. There is no time like the present, so get out there and get involved. YOU-th are the future!