“Who Loves You Baby!” a voice yelled out from the stands as one of the Canadians entered the ring. To those who had never heard that voice before there was a moment where heads turned to find where that strong proud voice came from. Yet, for the Canadians it was no surprise.
Ellen Dvorak, Chef d’Equipe of the Canadian Junior and Young riders from the Ontario, Canada team didn’t bat an eye. “His name is Jan Holland and he comes to all of his daughter’s events and supports her and everyone else,” she explained as we chatted outside the stalls where the Ontario Canadians horses were housed.
His daughter is 21-year-old Jaimie Holland, a Junior in High School and Jaimie is used to her dad leading up the cheering squad at all of her events. “I love the girls, the camaraderie and the skill. I am here for all the girls and I think they are fantastic kids,” commented Jan. “I am thoroughly impressed with the level of skill. It’s great fun and I am the self appointed cheerleader.”
He then focused on the Adequan FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships presented by Gotham North adding, “This event is outstanding. It is such a great event.”
Jan even supported his daughter in her decision to take a half a year off from school in order to go down to Wellington, FL to compete this past Spring, with the horse she calls Nina but whose registered name is Fleurina. The 12-year-old Westphalian, liver chestnut mare and Jaimie are great friends because as she explained, “Nina likes to be part of the party. She likes it when everyone is around her stall. If your back is to her she will poke your. If you are looking at a magazine she will look over and read it with you.”
Sadly for this group of Canadians, this will be Jaimie’s last year in the NAJYRC because she is aging out. “We are going to miss Jan,” commented Ellen. “He has been such a huge supporter for everyone and they all listen for that ‘Who loves you baby’ at the end of their ride.”
Jaimie is one of eight riders from the Ontario Dressage teams and they are all stabled together.
Maura O’Sullivan is 18 and just finished 12th grade and will be going to the University of Kings College in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Maura rode her 14-year-old chestnut Hanoverian gelding Pik Czar.
Maura qualified very late in the game and thanks to the help of their Chef d’equipe. “I had all of my technical scores to qualify but I didn’t have my freestyle. Our Chef and her husband Tom Dvorak went to the show manager and asked them if they could put in extra classes so some of us could get our freestyle scores and that’s when I qualified. We had to get two scores of 64 or higher in Prix St. Georges and a score of 65 or better in the freestyle.”
It took Maura a little more time to qualify because of her initial Classical music done with contemporary instruments. “Czar is not a fan of exciting music and the atmosphere in general. The beginning of my ride initially was drums but we had to change it because it got him too pumped up.”
While Czar tends to get vocal in a nervous sort of way the Canadian Team is vocal in a supportive way. Throughout the week you could hear them hit those high notes of support over and over again and in between there was always the ‘Who Loves You Baby!”
Maura’s mom is Corey who commented, “I am extremely proud of all the competitors including my daughter, especially the hard work they’ve done. When I am here I try to stay out of the way and help when asked and cheer loudly for our team. “
Megan Lane is 19 and has no plans to go to college. “I am going to stick with riding,” she explained. She rides the 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare Caravella.” Megan is from Collingwood, Ontario and hopes to compete internationally and own a buying and selling business. Megan arrived earlier than most of the competitors which gave her a chance to meet all the competitors from the East and the West.
“It is really fun. During competition everyone is usually very focused and so you don’t get a lot of play time. That allowed me the opportunity to get to know these people better,” she explained.
Megan’s mom Cathy was with her as well and was quite thrilled with everything. “I think it is great,” she commented. “I like the fact that we have young kids so it is specifically aimed at kids this age. I also like the competency that these kids have and it’s great that they get to go to a venue that gears itself towards up and coming riders. It gives them a wide spread because there are areas where they can crawl up the ladder and see how they are judged on an international level and other learn about other areas where they need more work. Also, the venue is fantastic. It is important for the kids to have exposure to a show run this way. This show truly honors the kids and recognizes the fact that these kids are at a high level and they run this event at that level.”
Amy Jager is 21 and is a Sophomore at the University of Guelph. She is riding Key West, a German Trakehner, 10-year-old gelding by Charly Chaplin
“I think the most memorable experience of this trip for me was the first time I hand grazed him. I walked out between the layers of land and he got very excited even though he is usually very calm. When we got to the top he just stopped and we looked at it together and then he started trotting. The Kentucky Horses Park brought the real horse out of him. He wanted to go. It was really cool. It was as if he looked around and said okay, let’s go."
Ontario, Canada Junior Riders in Dressage
Sarah Loewen is 17 and hails from Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is going to be a senior in High School. Her horse is Ricardo, a 12-year-old, bay, KWPN Dutch Warmblood gelding, by Gracio. “It is fluky that I am here,” she laughingly commented. “This is my first year riding dressage. I’ve only been doing it for a little over a year and I can’t believe that here I am getting scores I never dreamed of getting.”
Sarah rode hunters and jumpers for eight years before entering into the Dressage world. “I wanted to move up in the FEI levels but I didn’t have the guts to do the big jumps,” she explained. “Her coach (Tracie McDonald) in Manitoba said she’d be good for Dressage,” piped in her mom Kathryn. Mom does “whatever needs doing,” she explained and Jaimie’s dad supports her as well sending poems along the way.
I had the chance to read one of his little ditties which went like this and was on her cell phone:
Dressage is precision on an outdoor floor
Dancing with a horse is hard to ignore.”
“We are just proud of her,” continued Kathryn. “My daughter is part of a program called the Canadian Sport Center for Excellence. They assist kids in high level and they have helped her. “It is great that we have sponsors such as Gabriele and Equestrian Factory working to support the girls at this level. We are not from Ontario and to get support and fundraising is difficult and so it is nice that somebody has stepped up and taken a hold of that. Being able to do this makes them be a part of a bigger picture. If it wasn’t for companies like KAM other people wouldn’t know they can achieve this. I think it is fantastic that Gabriele is supporting them. It will help them all of their lives.”
Sixteen-year-old Noemie Gagnon-Bergeron, is from Ottawa and is going into the 12th grade. While her 8-year-old bay, Thoroughbred Dutch Warmblood cross has a registered name of Vavite Fortuna, she calls him Vivente, the name he arrived with. “Just to be here and to be able to see all the disciplines was amazing,” interjected Noemie. “It’s lots of fun.”
When asked why she chose the discipline of Dressage it was because it “is a challenge. It is never perfect. You always have something new to accomplish and I like that.” Dominique, her mom, agrees and also is thrilled at what this event offers her daughter. “It is a great experience. It is something that they will remember all their lives. It is another level and offers more exposure to what is going on in the equestrian world.”
Sarah Pfaff, 18, is going into her first year at the University of Windsor, Harrow, Ontario. She is riding Pamaika, whose barn name is Polly because “it fits her,” she commented. Polly is a 13-year-old, Dutch Warmblood, grey mare. She passed along an anecdote about the golf cart race they had (shhh – don’t tell the organizing committee). It was very short lived though and it was against Chris Van Martels, one of the coaches one day when they were coming back from the main stadium. “We won because the other golf cart passed out.”
The reason Sarah talked about this incident was not about the race but about the example of the kind of fun they were all sharing. “It was funny because people think dressage is serious but you get a chance to see the fun side of people.” Sarah’s mom Jill echoed the other parents. “I think it has been a terrific experience especially the camaraderie. The girls have had time to bond and become really good friends unlike at home where they just see each other at shows.”
As an aside Jill added that it wasn’t just the kids that were bonding. It was also the moms. “We get together and laugh. We make sure the girls have everything and since we have a golf cart it’s been good because we use that to run the errands.” Jill also revealed that the mom’s plan to enter into the new age of social media and have started talking about having a blog for the team moms.
Anneka Sutton is a 16-year-old High School senior from Ontario. Fidelio is a 13-year-old, liver chestnut Westphalian. “My mom is one of the sponsors of the team and she is always so bubbly with everyone here. She is always trying to help the horses if they have a hydration problem or anything else related to health and nutrition.”
Anneka’s mom is Gabriele Sutton, founder of KAM Animal Services which produces an easy to give supplement in a cookie form. I was curious about these cookies and asked Gabriele for a quick explanation. Unlike most equine health products, “Cookies with a Clue” are completely legal in the show ring, making it absolutely acceptable to sneak a quick treat to your equine partner even before your next class. There are five varieties and they all have cool names that indicate what they are for (Belly Bites, Chubbies, Owchees, Stress Busters and Booster Bites – all five are part of he Survivor Kit. Go to www.kamanimalservices.com and check them out.)
Anneka’s favorites at the Booster Bites. “My mom is so supportive of me and everyone else. I’ve learned a lot from her about nutrition and other things. This whole season I couldn’t go into the ring without giving my horse the Booster Bites. I got addicted to the whole idea of me giving it to him. It makes him more expressive and he loves them too. When he is not eating I stick those in his feed and he starts eating right away.” This is Anneka’s first year and even though she didn’t reach her goal if earning a medal her mom’s been great “reminding me that it’s my first year here.”
Anneka’s friend and groom is Carly Brohman, who was able to view the experience from a different perspective. “It is crazy because everyone is so into it and enthusiastic and very competitive and serious. It is cool to sit back and watch everything and see how everyone interacts and yet not have to be involved but see what it is all about.”
Ellen took some time to reminisce and thank the sponsors. “KAM Animal Services paired up with Mark Nicols from Equestrian Factory to do these cool custom designed jackets, polo shirts and hats,” she commented. Gabriele did a great job in pulling it all together and she donated the cookies for all the Ontario riders. Both Mark and Gabriele intend to continue their sponsorship of up-and-coming Young Riders.”
It seems like it’s not just the riders who need to be praised but the coaches, parents, grooms, sponsors and anyone else at home and at the North American Junior Young Rider Championships that deserve to hear the words “Who Loves You Baby!”
Article and Photos by Diana DeRosa