Jon Holling has always been a great friend to Eventing Nation, and it seems like every year we can count on him to check in with us during Young Riders. Many thanks to Jon for writing, and thank you for reading. Best of luck to all competitors, including Jon’s Area IV riders this weekend!
Hello Eventing Nation! It has been a long time since I last checked in with all of you. This week I find myself back in Lexington, Ky., at the North American Junior & Young Riders Championships. It really is one of my favorite times of the year. It’s fun to sit back and watch all of these great young riders do what they love. The reality is that some of these kids will go on one day to ride on the senior team for their respective countries.
I have been involved in the Area IV program as a rider, selector and most recently coach for … wait for it … 16 years. Wow, time flies by! In that time I have literally watched riders come up through the program and go on to represent their country in Olympic Games, World Championships, Pan American Games and Nations Cups. So who in this year’s competition has what it takes? Only time will tell, and the cool part is it really could be any of them. The next gold medalist for the World Championships may be here this week.
As far as the actual competition goes, I am happy to report that things are running smoothly so far. The communication between the officials and the teams here has been great, and I know that whatever the week brings us, we are all ready. Dressage for the CCI* has concluded, and I must say that I thought the quality of the horses and riders was very good this year. The CCI** dressage starts early Friday morning, and then it will be all systems go for cross country on Saturday.
David O’Connor’s courses are definitely true championship caliber. The one-star track has four water jumps with six jumping efforts between them. The rest of the course is beautifully presented and fairly technical. The two-star track has plenty to do as well. Fence four is a big bold ditch and brush followed by the first water at fence five. This complex is immediately followed by a narrow upright rail to an offset skinny with a ditch that the horse and riders have to sneak by without jumping — a la Rolex 2013 — so there is plenty to do early on the track. Once they get to that point, the course does not let up.
Fence 19 is probably the most uniquely built fence. It is a log sponsored by the USEA on top of a mound, followed in five strides by a giant ear of corn complete with giant sticks of butter for ground lines on top of another mound. I get hungry every time I see it!
I have noticed that the trend recently in the actual jump construction at many FEI events has been to use smaller-diameter timber that makes the fences very airy and therefore appear very big. There are several fences on both tracks that are built this way. It will be interesting to see how the horses and riders jump those fences. I think it is a great opportunity for them to see that type of construction at this level.
We are expecting and hoping for rain tonight. If we get it, the footing should be perfect; if not, the ground may be a bit firm. Overall, the park looks beautiful and primed for a great weekend. So here’s to a great week of superb competition, good friends and bad dancing!