Area VIII Young Riders brought home some impressive hardware from the 2019 Adequan/FEI North American Youth Championships presented by Gotham North last month! Held at Rebecca Farm in Kalispell, MT, Area VIII fielded two teams, both a CCI2* and a CCI3* team. The riders returned home with Team Gold in the CCI 2* and Team Silver in the CCI 3*! To round out the stellar weekend, two individual medals were won by Elizabeth Henry (Individual Silver in the 2*) and Cosby Green (Individual Bronze in the 3*).
Members of the CCI2* team included:
Elizabeth Henry on Charlotte La Bouff
Cierra Daratony on Rio De Janeiro
Gracie Elliott on Ballylanders Finn McCool
Tate Northrop on Fine With Me
Members of the CCI3* Star Team were fielded from Area IV and Area VIII. They included:
Cosby Green on Takine De La Barbais
Heather Morris on Jos UFO De Quidam
Emma Fetting on Spanning the Globe
Greta Schwickert on Charles Owen
For Area VIII, Emily Beshear was the coach, Maxine Preston was the Chef d’Equipe and Shelley Ryan was the coordinator. Additional support was provided by Dr. Laura Werner of Hagyard Equine Medical Institute as the team’s vet.
The Area VIII Young Riders Program is open to riders competing in Beginner Novice and above, who are 21 years old and younger who live in Area VIII. This unique program offers young eventers educational opportunities to learn skills they need to compete well and safely. It also teaches necessary riding techniques as they move into the upper levels of competition. Riders in Area VIII must be selected to be a representative of the area at the CCI1* and CCI2* competition at the North American Young Riders Championship.
MSEDA caught up with Gold Medal team members Tate Northrop and Gracie Elliott to ask about their awesome trip West.
MSEDA: Where did you qualify for Young Riders?
Gracie Elliott: I qualified for Young Riders at Chattahoochee Hills 2* short!
Tate Northrop: I started this season in Aiken to complete my Preliminary qualifications for the 2* level. I then completed my two CCI2* events, one at Virginia Horse Trials (which I recommend!) in May and another at Fox River Valley in June. That allowed me to make my minimum qualifications to be eligible for the team!
MSEDA: Was this your first year competing in this event?
GE: This was my first time competing at Young Riders! The rest of my team had never competed there either, so winning gold as a rookie team was extra special!!
TN: Yes, I’m 14, so this was the first year I was eligible.
MSEDA: What horse did you ride?
GE: I rode my own Ballylanders Finn McCool, known in the barn as Finn. He is an 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding that I brought over a little over 3 years ago. When he came over, he had not gone to any events, so I have been able to produce him from the start!
TN: I rode my horse Frank, show under the name Fine With Me. We bought him 2 years ago to help me get to Young Riders. He’s also known as “my teacher.”
MSEDA: How did you find your horse?
GE: One of my coaches, Megan Moore, sourced him for me in Ireland.
TN: We bought him from Martha Lambert, who was selling him for her sister Margie Darling, who had owned him since his racing days. Martha and her daughter Lauren were a big part of his training and even campaigned him up through the Intermediate level. We were very lucky to find him so close to us.
MSEDA: Who is your trainer?
GE: I train with Megan Moore out of Georgetown, KY, and Linda Strine out of Nicholasville, KY.
TN: I kind of freelance; I do lots of clinics and get to train with Emily Beshar, who is the Area 8 coach. Also a big shout-out to Emily Ragan for helping me from the start!
MSEDA: Did you know the other members of your team before you got out West?
GE: Before heading out to Montana, I knew my teammate Cierra, as well as Cosby Green, who was on the 3-star team. It was such an awesome experience to get to know Elizabeth, Tate and Heather throughout the week!
TN: I knew of them, but we got to get really close through the Area 8 training sessions and camps. But sharing this experience in Montana brought us even closer.
MSEDA: Have you been to Rebecca Farm before?
GE: I had never been to Rebecca Farms before, but it is one of the most beautiful venues I have had the opportunity of competing at! It took the horses about 36 hours on the van and it took me about 8 hours to get there from Kentucky by plane!
TN: No, but I certainly hope we get to go again! Rebecca Farms is amazing! It took a long time to get there (thank you Brook Ledge Horse Transportation!) and a whole lot of delayed and canceled flights, but we finally got there.
MSEDA: What was your favorite part of the trip?
GE: It’s so hard to pick my favorite part of the trip! I loved getting to hang out with the team (and go white water rafting in the national park!), hack around and explore the venue, and of course get to compete! It was truly a dream come true!
TN: My favorite part of the trip was the team experience and the awesome girls I shared it with.
MSEDA: How did you feel your competition went?
GE: All of the pieces seemed to come together during the competition. Our dressage test was the best that we could lay down at this point in our training, we had the best cross country round of our lives-- I was absolutely thrilled to go double clear--and we had an amazing show jumping round that was just one silly second over the time! I couldn’t believe that we only added .4 penalties to my score at the biggest competition we have ever been to!
TN: We had some of our best performances up there, including having a double-clear cross country run at our first long format.
MSEDA: Was it fun to be a part of a team?
GE: I think the best part of competing at NAYC was the team experience. It was incredible to get close with other riders who showed up to every one of each other’s rides to cheer every teammate on. We laughed together, we cried together and standing up on the podium together was something I will never forget!!
TN: Yes, it was one of my favorite parts of this experience. The best part is having all the support from our coach, chef, organizer and vet, along with the encouragement from my teammates.
MSEDA: Would you recommend other equestrians try to take part in Young Riders?
GE: I would 100 percent recommend Young Riders to anybody who will listen!! It takes a lot of work to get there and is not for the faint of heart, but it is one of the most rewarding experiences that I have been blessed to immerse myself in!
TN: Yes, I would definitely recommend it. I loved the experience, but know it’s not for everyone.
MSEDA: What are you taking away from this competition?
GE: My biggest take-away from the competition is having confidence in my horse and my riding. It was a long road to produce Finn up to this level, and I often doubt that I have prepared him enough for the task at hand. He really stepped up to the plate at NAYC and proved to me that we can both do it and do it well!
TN: Overall, I have a greater appreciation of the sport and all the people it takes to make these competitions happen.
MSEDA: What advice would you give to someone who dreams of riding at Young Riders?
GE: If I were to give advice to someone trying to get to Young Riders, I would encourage them not to compare themselves to others. I went from doing Preliminary on my previous horse to running around a Beginner Novice on Finn, so it took me a while to put things in perspective when I was seeing the friends I had been competing against move up the levels while I was starting from scratch. It takes a lot of time to get ready for something like this, but it is so, so worth it!
TN: This definitely would not have been possible without finding the right horse like Frank or having such supportive parents and people around me.