To start with, I want to congratulate all of our Olympic participants and medal winners, including our horses, riders, owners, trainers and fans! We should also thank NBC-TV, with which its affiliates Bravo and USA gave our horse sports some real airtime this year–except for the individual show jumping final. I thought Tim Ryan and Robert Ridland did a great job as play-by-play and color commentators, and I was very impressed with their salute to Melanie and Lee Taylor. And John Strassburger and the staff at the Chronicle really kept us all up to date throughout the games. Thank you!
Last month’s North American Young Riders Championships showed the truth to the saying, “Build it, and they will come.”
Howard Simpson has hosted the NAYRC at Tempel Farms in Wadsworth, Ill., more times than any other individual since doing it for the first time way back in 1985. His efforts have not gone unnoticed, I can assure you.
The time that he and his staff take to provide the special touches at this venue are something we all have to get behind and preserve. We have to teach the youth of today how and why special events like this are a stepping stone to future dreams. These riders are our future for Olympics to come.
In previous articles I’ve asked this question: Are we educating our young people about what they need to learn and accomplish to step up the ladder to places like the Olympics? Let me tell you about someone who’s doing just that.
I have been lucky enough to be the Zone 2 chairman for the past four years. That means I’ve been a part of the young riders program that’s in place for junior jumper riders from age 16 to 21. Zone 2 has won five gold team medals since 1995, along with one silver medal and many individual medals. And Ralph and Holly Caristo have been the driving force behind this amazing record.
Although each rider comes to the competition with his or her own trainer, it’s the Caristos who make them into a team, who show them how to work together as a team, not just as a collection of individuals. The riders–with matching polo shirts, belts and team hats–and their horses are beautifully turned out every day, and the Zone 2 tack room is always decorated with our banner and red-white-and-blue curtains and flowers.
All of these touches are part of the team spirit that makes this a great event.
Ralph is one of the few chefs d’equipe who appears in a coat and tie for team presentations in the ring. Win, lose or draw, all the team members remain at the NAYRC each year until it’s over. There is never any display of poor sportsmanship by the Zone 2 team, of leaving Tempel Farms after a poor performance the first day.
Ralph instills confidence in the team as a whole. The individual riders never feel as if they have let anyone down if they make a mistake. On the other side of the coin, the entire team shares in the medals and congratulations if they win.
The NAYRC is an example of how special events lead to positive steps for our sport of horse showing. At the hunter, equitation and lower level jumpers we have the USEF Pony Finals, the USEF National Junior Hunter Championships, The Marshall & Sterling Finals, the North American League Finals, the USEF Medal Finals, the World Championship Hunter Rider program, the USET Talent Search Finals, the ASPCA Maclay Finals, the Capital Challenge, and the Syracuse Invitational, to name a few.
This summer I attended a show that could become another special event, the HITS On The Hudson shows at the new facility in Saugerties, N.Y. Tom Struzzieri has built a fantastic, horse-friendly show grounds. It has beautiful stabling, a grand prix ring and a grand hunter ring that rival any in this country, all with footing that stood up to enormous amounts of rain.
Tom has provided six other rings and plenty of schooling areas, along with permanent buildings to house bathrooms, restaurants and vendor shops. There’s even a lounge with computer-access terminals. People want to show at places like this, where the management has put in an extra amount of effort.
Finally, many people are waiting to see how the new U.S. Equestrian Federation’s hunter/jumper affiliate, the U.S. Hunter/Jumper Association, will help bring our sport together. But now’s the time to jump on board to help.
It’s time to help create or promote more top events like the NAYRC and HITS On The Hudson. To do it, we’re going to have to work together, just like our Olympic show jumping riders did to win their silver medal. Their work ethic, team sportsmanship and wonderful riding made it happen, and we have to do the same thing.