A Year Older, A Division Wiser

Leslie Threlkeld
I celebrated another birthday this week.  How does it feel?  Several words come to mind, like “work,” and “taxes.”  At first I wasn’t sure what was so special about the big 22.  You don’t gain any new rights at 22, except the right to pay more bills.  Then I remembered why this birthday is a big one–I’m officially too old for Young Riders.  When I was a little eventer, rip-snortin’ around the pasture on my backyard wonder-horse, I used to dread the terrible day I would…”age-out.” 
I can’t say I’m so concerned about it now.  Have you seen the skillz the Young Riders have these days?!  I remember wincing at the division roster when certain competitors were in my class back then, but thank goodness I side-stepped the Jennie era.  And I’m not sure what’s scarier in a JYOP cross-country warm-up–the skinny young riders on their big warmbloods or their bellowing coaches eyeballin’ me.  My little horse and I, we’re just trying to stay out of the way.  I welcome the senior divisions.  Those kids can keep their overly competitive spirits and teenage dwama.  But that’s not to say I don’t support the program.
Joining the YR Program
If you are eligible to be a Young Rider and have not registered in your Area, I highly recommend you do so.  It is a great way to learn sportsmanship and experience competing on a team.  Many opportunities are available to Young Riders to work with top trainers and travel to the best facilities to train and compete.  Plus, you create important relationships with active members in the Eventing community.
The USEA has information about coordinators, area maps, and grant and scholarship applications.
NAJYRC and Team Challenge
I began participating in Area III YR events around age 12 or 13, and I traveled to Chicago, IL as a groom at the 2002 NAYRC.  Grooming at a 3-day was one of the most educational experiences I’ve had in the horse world.  If you don’t qualify to compete on the team, go as a groom instead.  Active Novice and Training level riders also learn a lot in preparation for leveling-up.
The 2010 North American Junior and Young Rider Championships will be at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington July 28-August 1.  Contact your Area YR Coordinator for information on the team/groom selection process.
The Kentucky Horse Park also hosts a USEF Eastern Junior-Young Rider National CCI1* Team Championships at the Hagyard Midsouth Three-Day Event and Team Challenge
Fundraising and Volunteering
Several of the Young Riders programs sustain themselves by hosting their own fundraising events.  Area 3 hosts a spaghetti dinner, Area I offered a stall-stripping service, and Area VII YR’s host an annual benefit Horse Trial.  Of course, a big thanks goes to the Young Riders cheering section–the parents!  They also put in countless volunteer hours supporting their little competitors all the way to the finish line.  Mum might not have been much for PTO, but she’s the best groom I ever had.
What does your Young Riders program do to volunteer and raise money?

Well Young Riders, I’m sure I’ll start missing you when I find myself in a division with Karen or Darren.  Jennie has aged-out too, huh?  Make the most of the opportunities available and learn as much as you can.  Remember you are the future of our sport!


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