Hundreds of Young Riders Turn Out for 12th Annual Youth Dressage Festival


Karyn Staehling with Lendon Gray (Photo courtesy of Susan J Stickle - www.SusanJStickle.com)
Karyn Staehling with Lendon Gray (Photo courtesy of Susan J Stickle - www.SusanJStickle.com)

Coverage sponsored by Har-Lynn Farms (

www.harlynnfarms.com), caring for performance horses in the early years and later years of life.

Saugerties, N.Y. – Karyn Staehling came to the 12th Annual Youth Dressage Festival for fun and, with the help of Welt Lady, left with the top prize – overall winner. The annual event drew more than 350 young riders who spent three days enjoying not only the competition, but also all of the fun, friendship and educational opportunities that are part of the Festival.

The Youth Dressage Festival, started by Olympian Lendon Gray, is a three-part competition that aims to reward young riders for their horsemanship.

It consists of a written test, an equitation test and a dressage test. Karyn scored a 99 on her written test, a 98 in equitation and earned a 70.25 percent in her First Level Test 2 with Claire Glover’s Hanoverian mare Welt Lady. “I just started riding her about a month ago,” Karyn said of her partner.

Karyn, 18, is from Virginia. She first hooked up with Courtney King-Dye in Florida in 2009 and when Courtney went back to her summer base in New York that spring, Karyn went along. She’s currently training with Jennifer Marchand while Courtney recovers from the riding accident she had this past season in Florida. “Jen is doing a great job keeping everything going and training the horses, but we do miss Courtney and we’ll be excited when she can be back in the saddle,” Karyn said. “Courtney is just great to be around. She is so professional but so down to earth and works with both horses and people in such a kind, honest way.”

This year’s Youth Dressage Festival, held at the HITS show grounds, ran July 9-11and while Saturday’s competition had to negotiate some early morning thunderstorms, most of the weekend remained dry and beautiful. This was Karyn’s first year attending the event and she didn’t come to win. “I was pretty excited because it was just a fun thing that I decided to do and it turned into something really great.”

Ingrid Slattery and Bosco
Ingrid Slattery and Bosco

The young rider graduated early from high school at the age of 16 and right now, her focus is on “learning as much as I can and being the best I can and then I’ll see where that takes me.” She is planning eventually to attend college and earn a business degree.

Winner of the leadline class was five-year-old Ingrid Slattery riding the pony Bosco. She couldn’t remember how long she has been riding, but her mother, Jessica Feinleib, reported that her daughter first got on a horse at 22 months. “My husband and I both ride and we took her along and she got used to it and used to being around the barn,” Jessica said. Ingrid said she liked her partner Bosco “because he’s nice to me.”

Thanks to a legion of volunteers, this year’s show went off without a hitch, Lendon said, despite the fact that it was even bigger than last year’s event. “It’s been an amazing weekend. We had more riders by quite a bit, perhaps 40 more than last year. But the volunteers have worked so incredibly hard and it went really smoothly.”

Among those volunteers was a group from Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury, Connecticut. “They gave up their weekend to help and they aren’t even competing,” Lendon said. One of those volunteers was Jena Zoller, 17. She rides western, but said many of her colleagues in the high school’s equestrian program ride dressage. “And they wanted to see how the show works in case they want to ride next year. So, we thought this would be good. Also, this is just a great event. It’s been a lot of fun, we’re learning a lot and all the volunteers and riders are so nice.”

Each year, something new is added to the Youth Dressage Festival with the goal of providing young riders with a more complete equestrian education. This year’s event added some training in the psychological aspects of competition. Sports psychologist Dr. Jenny Susser was on hand to give a pre-competition lecture to both parents and riders and remained on site all weekend. “She was like our resident counselor,” Lendon said. “A couple kids who had a really hard time went to Jenny and had a chat with her and she was fabulous.” Also added this year was an education room that hosted informal lectures on a variety of topics throughout the event.

Mia Morgan and Dolly
Mia Morgan and Dolly

Lendon has long pushed for other regions of the U.S. to launch their own Youth Dressage Festival and she hasn’t given up hope. She adds that while the Northeast version is rather large, attracting riders from around the world, including two from Brazil this year, other regions can start with a much smaller version. “I would still love to see this started elsewhere and it doesn’t have to be this big of a deal. It can be small and simple. This could be done anywhere and it would provide such a good education for young riders.”

To learn more about the Youth Dressage Festival visit www.youthdressagefestival.com.




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