Lexington, Ky.—July 16
Scroll through any news outlet's online coverage of championships like the Adequan/FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships, and it's easy to get swept up in the blue ribbon tide. The sea of medals and flowers, the tricolor ribbons and coolers, and the coverage of those few people lucky and talented enough to find themselves looking across Rolex Stadium from the top of the podium.
There are stories out there that don't end in a victory gallop, and even those riders standing center ring at the end of a competition with a gold medal around their neck have a lot more to their story than how they kept the rails up and their scores high.
Take a step out of the limelight and away from the accolades to experience this: three refreshing moments in time with the humans of NAJYRC.
“Is Young Riders something you would like to do?”
“Oh, in my dreams yeah. It’s a bit hard with finding horses and getting ring mileage and stuff, and I’m new to the sport. I actually grew up foxhunting in Reno, Nev. I’ve been working for Will [Simpson] for almost three years now, but before that I had no show jumping experience or anything. I’m not in the financial situation to find my own horses and keep myself mounted, but I love being around it, and it’s something I really want to do. It’s very cool to come here and watch these Young Riders show.”
“Is it ever hard to watch from the sidelines?”
“It is, but it’s worth it. It's good experience to come here and see everything, and hopefully one day maybe I’ll get the opportunity. The whole show jumping thing just amazes me, and the feeling that I have gotten when I do get to jump horses is incredible.”
“How would you describe the feeling?”
“It's a little hard to describe. The few times that I have gotten to jump a really well schooled or talented horse it almost took my breath away. The power and coordination that is underneath you is just astounding. It really makes you realize and appreciate what athletes they are. It really reassures me that I want to have a career in this industry if I can, and to keep pushing to reach my dreams.”
Audrey Norrell, 16, is a working student for Will Simpson, hailing from Reno, Nev., and is grooming at NAJYRC.
"So how did you get into dressage?"
"I was riding little ponies, and then there’s a Pony Club across the street, and they had dressage shows, and then I thought it was ‘dressidge’, and I was like, ‘Oh, what’s this dressage thing?’ because all my friends jumped, and I wanted to be different. So I was like, ‘I want to do this dressage thing; I have no idea what it is, but I’m going to do it anyways.’ So then when the place closed down my dad found a trainer from my hometown of San Diego. I started riding when I was 11, and it just kind of stuck."
Cassidy Gallman, 19, rode Grand Makana to a team gold finish for Region 7.
Nicole Doolittle looked a bit flustered as she headed back down the jog strip after the other CCI** competitors had left. She and her impatient gray Tops were the only pair to be held in that division—and it was a lengthy hold at that.
"Was it nerve-wracking to be the only CCI** competitor held after the jog?"
“This was our first time, so I was very surprised. He was very lazy going down and coming back, so sometimes when he looks lazy—he just looks lazy! So the next time coming around I knew I just had to cluck him on and go forward. He’s been totally sound for a while, so I knew he’d be great.”
"He looked like he was giving you a hard time in the holding area."
“He was a little excited. I think he was a little tired of hanging out; he wanted to get going. It was good to see a little bit of that energy.”
(at this point, we're walking towards the FEI stabling area, which is restricted to competitors)
“Technically I’m not supposed to be following you back to stabling since I’m a member of the press.”
“Well we're friends now!” she responded with a smile, widening by the minute after the moment of relief when officials announced that they were accepted to compete.
Nicole Doolittle, 16, was the 2013 NAJYRC CH-J* individual gold medalist aboard Tops.