The 2015 Florida International Dressage Youth Championships will begin this week at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival, highlighting some of the best rising talent in the world, giving them a unique competition experience against their peers. The event, sponsored by Hampton Green Farm, Pana Cavallo, and Dressage4Kids, has welcomed competitors from around the country and the globe to compete in FEI Pony, Junior, Young Rider, and U-25 classes on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, with the awards presentations on Sunday morning. "In the three years we've been running this show, it has gotten bigger and bigger," said Lendon Gray, President of Dressage4Kids. "This was a group effort, and we are so thankful to have Kim Boyer of Hampton Green Farm and the Davis family of Pana Cavallo behind it with us."
Four of the riders in this year's Championships spoke at a press conference and rider informational meeting about their experiences competing and what they look forward to this week.
Nicolette von Leuwen, trainer of the two Dutch riders competing in the championships this week, Rosalie Bos and Dana van Lierop, said that opportunities like these continue to help grow the sport and the quality of riders pursuing the upper levels. "The show here is amazing. It's a dream come true for these riders to have this experience in the U.S., and this competition is so well organized. It has been great for the girls to meet new riders, and it's great to see how open everyone is here to learning."
Vivian Niemann (GER) plans to take advantage of the opportunity to compete against the best in the U.S., but also enjoy her time in Wellington. "It's amazing to ride here because there are so many different shows and riders, but I can say that we never have weather like this," she smiled. "These rings are beautiful, and it's really important to have fun while you're competing because that is what is beautiful about the sport.
In a unique situation, Asia Ondaatje-Rupert (USA) will ride in the Pony division for the third year in a row, but will also be competing in the Junior division with a new horse. "I got my Junior horse last winter, and I've always had a little bit of difficulty with my pony because he is very tough to ride," said Ondaatje-Rupert. "Competing in the Pony classes has really helped me prepare for moving up to Juniors. I've become a better rider for doing the Pony classes, and I found that it was easier riding my horse because I was able to handle situations more quickly from my experience with my pony."
Ashley Conroy Zugel (USA) switched from the jumper ring to the dressage arena and has pursued the sport ever since. Competing last year on her jumper-turned-dressage horse, Conroy Zugel feels confident for the 2015 competition, competing as a Junior. "The first time I competed here it was on my jumper horse who I trained into a dressage horse, and now I'm riding an actual dressage horse. I have a better understanding of the test, and my goal is to be accurate and keep him in front of my leg," she explained. "I think this is a great experience for all of the riders and most shows you don't have the chance to have all four divisions together at one time."
Reigning Overall Champion from 2014, Tanya Strasser-Shostak (CAN) will be competing two horses this week, with her Young Rider horse and her more experienced U-25 mount. Strasser-Shostak, who is aiming at the Adequan FEI North American Junior Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC) in Lexington, KY, this July, will be using this week as preparation for making at run at NAJYRC. "You won't get an atmosphere like this anywhere else, and it's really important to take advantage of an opportunity like this. I also think that having the European riders here really helps you to ride better and gives you something to work towards," she commented.
For more information on the Adequan Global Dressage Festival please visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.
About the Adequan Global Dressage Festival:
The Adequan Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) is one of the world's largest international and national dressage circuits featuring 7 FEI Dressage events, including a 5* and the only FEI Nations' Cup Series CDIO in the Western Hemisphere. The AGDF offers more than $650,000 in prize money for the seven international competitions, making it one of the richest circuits in the world. The Stadium at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center facility includes the Van Kampen covered arena (made possible by Kimberly and Frederic Boyer and family) and four outdoor arenas with world-class footing, 200 permanent stalls, and a VIP seating area.