Coaching for the North American Junior Young Rider Competition (NAJYRC)

Megan Lane, Tina Irwin, Maura O'Sullivan winning a Team Gold Medal Photo: Tina Irwin
Megan Lane, Tina Irwin, Maura O'Sullivan winning a Team Gold Medal Photo: Tina Irwin

What does it take to coach for the North American Junior Young Rider Championships(NAJYRC)? Tina and Jaimey Irwin, (Canada), Ontario, Nancy Later Lavoie (USA) Region 8, and Reese Koffler-Stanfield (USA) Region 2, share the youth they coached through the NAJYRC. Going the distance to the NAJYRC involves preparation and experience with focus, a plan, and discipline. The three coaches build not only good riding, but life-long characters including: grit, optimism, and the control of pressure. A youth’s journey through the NAJYRC program prepares youth for life's challenges, whether onto a career in dressage or moving on towards other career challenges. A good coach helps with the entire process and makes the program work for all North America. Whether a young rider has a chance at winning for the team, or as individuals, they form a bond with others that enriches the ability for success in the program, through the championships, and for their future. 

Jaimey Irwin and Camille Frechette (winning Team Bronze 2012) Photo: Tina Irwin
Jaimey Irwin and Camille Frechette (winning Team Bronze 2012) Photo: Tina Irwin

Tina(32) and Jaimey(35) Irwin from Stouffville, Ontario, have worked with several Young Riders from Canada. Tina said, “It is very rewarding coaching the Junior/Young Riders because they learn so quickly. The "kids" are like sponges and soak up the information that you give them and are able to channel it into their riding quickly because of their young bodies and athleticism. It is important to know each young riders goals and to formulate a plan on how to achieve these goals.  It is great to work with Junior/Young Riders that put pressure on themselves because it shows that they have the drive and the will to succeed.”

Nancy Later Lavoie of Ashby, Massachusetts said, “NAJYRC was a super experience for all of the Region 8 girls because of the team atmosphere. The Championships gives the riders the feeling of the International arena, the confidence of entering a qualifying process, riding it out, making the points, being chosen for a team and then riding with the team pressure. Whether you are planning to go on to be a professional, or just want a partnership with your horse and to learn competition skills, NAJYRC is a great goal for the young dressage athlete.” 

The coaches journey’s with past students: 

Cassandra Hummert competing at NAJYRC Photo: www.susanjstickle.com
Cassandra Hummert competing at NAJYRC Photo: www.susanjstickle.com

Reese Koffler-Stanfield (33) from Georgetown, Kentucky coached Cassandra Hummert through the NAJYRC:  “I'm so luck that Cassandra Hummert contacted me about coming to College at the University of Kentucky. When Cassandra arrived, we sat down to talk about her goals for the next four years. She had ridden at the Junior level and competed at the National Finals but wanted more. Her goals were to compete at NAJYRC and the Brentina cup. So that's what we did. We were able to find her a wonderful new equine partner, Plato Carlos, who has taken her to NAJYRC, Regional Finals, and this winter in Florida earner her USDF Gold medal. Over the last two years, while Cassandra has been part of our team she has matured from a Junior rider to a very seasoned and competitive Grand Prix Rider. As an instructor it has been a joy to coach her and help her not only formulate a stategy, but follow through on her plan to achieve all of her riding goals. I look forward to continuing to coach her on all her equestrian journey.”

Tina and Jaimey Irwin said: “We were both Young Riders, so we know what it takes to make it to the Championships and how important the experience is for your future equestrian career.  It is a real stepping stone. We have had a really great string of Junior/Young Riders over the last few years. Maura O'Sullivan and Pik Czar were at the NAJYRC two years in a row; the first year in 2009 they competed at the Junior level, where they won Team Gold for Ontario. The following year in 2010 Maura was on the Silver Medal winning a Young Rider Team medal for Ontario.

Maura first started riding with us when she was 14 on her back yard Hanoverian cross gelding, who was not particularly suited for Dressage. We helped her find Pik Czar, who competed to the Intermediare 1 level. We feel it is vital for Juniors/Young Riders to learn from schoolmasters that can teach them. Maura's riding sky rocketed, after starting out with Pik Czar at First Level the first season, and she progressed to Juniors the following year and then Young Riders the next.  

Team Irwin Photo: Tina Irwin
Team Irwin Photo: Tina Irwin

Maura has gone on to follow in her family's footsteps and take on the challenge of studying law. Her family has very generously donated Pik Czar to us to use for others to learn from. "Czar" is now 17 years old and is still feisty. He is teaching our working student, Samiia Goodman who has been training with us for one and a half years and is from all the way around the world, New Zealand. "Sami" as she is known, has taken Czar out at the FEI Junior Level Nationally this season and has won every class that she has entered. Unfortunately, she is not able to compete at the NAJYRC because she is not from North America. However, she is gaining a ton of experience in the FEI arena from a very good schoolmaster. 

Megan Lane is another up and coming rider that started riding with Jaimey when she was only 12 years old. Megan started out on some ponies and one in particular (that was just over pony size) named, Dolany. Megan and Dolany had a lot of success at the Junior level, being the number one ranked combination heading into the 2008 NAJYRC in Colorado, with an average of 70%. She very quickly outgrew Dolany and therefore needed a new horse. In 2009 Megan acquired a mare named, Caravella, that she was extremely successful with at the Kentucky NAJYRC winning three medals. 

Tina Irwin and Megan Lane going over the ride Photo: Tina Irwin
Tina Irwin and Megan Lane going over the ride Photo: Tina Irwin

Megan was a working student for us any chance she could get. Whether that meant not going on family trips to Florida for the winter break, or spending her summers at our place riding and working. Megan became like part of the family and lived, worked and rode with us for many years. She also had the opportunity to learn from our schoolmaster, Waldano (who was Jaimey's ex small tour horse.) This helped her learn how to ride the upper level movements. After many years of hard work and dedication and developing and learning a solid training base, Megan has been able to go and win many medals at the NAJYRC and has gone on to become a successful Grand Prix rider.

Camille Frechette came to us at 12 years old with her bratty, although extremely cute, little pony, Ali Baba. French was her first language, coming from Quebec, and so her English was not very strong in the beginning. This did not stop Camille, who is one of the strongest willed people that we have met. She is a very petite pretty french girl that everyone loves instantly when they meet her. You cannot not like Camille, she is charming and feisty in a small package.

After some training with Ali Baba, we decided together that this was not the best suited mount for her. Camille went on to compete a beautiful bay Holsteiner, Limited Edition, at the Junior level. She ran into some difficulties with him which hindered them from reaching her goal, to compete at the NAJYRC. In 2012 Camille was more determined than ever, as her last year as a young rider that she would find a horse, no matter what it took and make the Quebec Young Rider Team - and so she did. A very lovely lady in our barn, Denise Lenz, gave Camille the ride on her horse, Viva's Capitol. She saw the potential and talent in Camille. With Jaimey's guidance, the pair went on to win the Team Bronze medal at the NAJYRC in 2012 in Kentucky. Camille has since gone on to also study Law in Quebec, but vows that when she becomes a fancy lawyer she will be back in the saddle.  

Alexandra Meghji and her elegant PRE gelding, Iliado has been cleaning up at First level this year. He is a new mount to her, as she just started training with us at the young age of 14.  We look forward to this lovely matched pair and their FEI Junior debut next year."

Taylor Lindsten  Photo: Sarah Lindsten
Taylor Lindsten Photo: Sarah Lindsten

Nancy Later Lavoie said: “One of the most recent dedicated young riders we have had with us is Taylor Lindsten, originally from Cave Creek, Arizona. Taylor came to me September 2012 after competing her dutch horse Raoul in the North American Junior Young Rider Championships at the Junior level. Raoul, "Cookie", was Taylor's event prospect who decided he did not like water combinations, this made it difficult for Taylor to move up to the level necessary to compete in NAJYRC on the event team. Taylor was determined to go to NAJYRC and was dedicated to Cookie's training and well being, so she changed disciplines. They had a great time in Kentucky which instigated Taylor to try out for Young Riders the next year. I do not think Taylor had any idea what was necessary to take a horse from just getting thru the 3rd level work of Juniors to competing in the Prix St. Georges level of Young Riders.

Taylor Lindsten  Photo: Sarah Lindsten
Taylor Lindsten Photo: Sarah Lindsten

Taylor had a lot going for her, but one of her best traits was her interest to learn and ability to take a lesson. We spent a lot of time in the beginning taking Cookie back to the basics, working on his relaxation and teaching Taylor to ride with positive aids rather then the defending aids they had grown accustom to from his bad habits. After Cookie and Taylor got thru with the basics teaching them the movements was easy and by February Taylor was showing Cookie in a very green Prix St Georges. Taylor has a great ability to stay focused in the ring and this helped Cookie to keep his cool even when the exercises' were difficult. She was able to qualify Cookie for NAJYRC and competed him in Kentucky for Region 8 in 2012. Many people get to NAJYRC and become overwhelmed with the atmosphere and the competition. Taylor competed Cookie to the top of his ability and strength level of the moment. So many people go to a competition and sabotage themselves by trying to change everything at the last minute, I was very proud of Taylor for not only teaching Cookie so many difficult movements herself but for staying on her path and riding in the same system to the best possible points in the big ring. I think this experience will help her with her ability to train horses along in the future. Taylor is now working at Four Stars Farm in California. She has started jumping again, but is using her dressage skills to help the jumping horses with their flat work."

NAJYRC info:

CLICK HERE to learn more about the North American Junior Young Rider Championships

Regional info (from the regions of these three coaches): 

Ontario Canada Website is: http://equinecanada.ca/dressage/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&id=6&Itemid=599&lang=en

USA Region 8 is: http://www.usdfregion8.com/ and  CLICK HERE Nancy's letter to Region 8 Young Riders

USA Region 2 is: http://www.usdfregion2.org/fei-junior-young-riders.html

Most important, a youth or young rider wanting to prepare for NAJYRC, must find a coach who has taken students successfully through the NAJYRC program starting at the Junior Level and then on to the Young Rider Level.  Find your good local coach and work smart.  




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