The U.S. Young Rider Program
By: Gabby Glumac
The United States has worked hard to create a program geared towards Juniors and Young Riders. The international level tests for dressage riders between the ages of 14-21 years old are the FEI Junior and FEI Young Rider tests. The FEI Junior tests are third level equivalent, and the FEI Young Rider tests are Prix St. George equivalent. The Junior tests can be shown by riders between the ages of 14-18, and the Young Rider tests can be shown by riders from the ages of 16-21. There are two main championships in the U.S. that are either for or geared towards allowing Juniors and Young Riders to compete these tests and gain national and international titles.
Juniors and Young Riders have the option to qualify for the North American Junior Young Rider Championship (NAJYRC), which is an international championship for equestrian disciplines that allows riders in North America to come together and compete as part of a team and for an individual medal title. In dressage, the United States is broken up into different regions, and in order to compete at this championship, one must qualify at shows that are deemed “qualifying” by the USEF. The top four riders of each region are then chosen to represent that region and the U.S.A. at the NAJYRC. In the dressage discipline, the competition begins with the Team test as each team competes to win either the gold, silver, or bronze medals. The next day is the Individual tests, where individual riders compete for their own title and medal. On the last day, the riders who placed in the top twelve compete their freestyles, where each rider is able to coordinate their movements to music, and compete for the freestyle medal. This competition is set up to mirror the Olympics in many ways.
Another championship is the Festival of Champions, where Junior and Young Riders can also qualify for and compete solely as an individual rider. You can qualify at deemed qualifying competitions as a Junior or a Young Rider, but for this championship you only compete for an individual title. This show is also just for the United States, so the medals earned at this championship are national titles. The top twelve riders in the nation are the first invited to this competition once the qualifying season has ended.
After one has aged out of being a Junior or Young Rider, the next step is being a “U-25” rider, which is riding the FEI Grand Prix for those who are between the ages of 16-25 years old. This allows riders who are at the Grand Prix level to compete with others around their age. The national young adult “Brentina Cup”, is a national championship created to encourage Young Riders to make the transition to the senior Grand Prix ring.
The United States Dressage Federation also conducts clinics across the country by the U.S. youth coaches, George Williams and Charlotte Bredahl, in order to help reach and educate more youth across the country as well as talent search for riders who can then be further invited to educational events. The goal is to reach more youth across the nation, and allow more opportunities for private lessons and theory sessions on dressage.
All of these championships and programs were made to help encourage riders of all ages to compete, and have championships where they could compete with the best riders in their divisions. This has also helped create a path for the youth to follow and help them move through the levels of dressage and learn the beginning ropes of competing internationally. The United States has recognized the importance of teaching the correct basics of dressage to the youth in order to produce future international U.S. riders.
Visit my website for more information on competitions I have attended and my own experience at one of the USEF High Intensity training sessions I was selected to attend with the U.S. Youth coaches in my personal blog at gabrielaglumacdressage.net!
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