Junior/Young Riders Camp Out at HITS-on-the-Hudson as Youth Dressage Festival Follows on Heels of Saugerties CDI

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Saugerties, New York – The dressage high performance riders may have been the star attractions at the Centerline Events CDI-W/Y/J/P, but junior and young riders were also there in full force – and many of them are still there.

That’s because the Youth Dressage Festival, developed and organized by Lendon Gray, has followed on the heels of the CDI. And at both the CDI and the Youth Dressage Festival, the focus is on equitation. The Saugerties CDI played host to the USEF Dressage Seat Medal Finals presented by Dressage Today® and competition at the Youth Dressage Festival centers around horsemanship and riding skill rather than who can buy the best-trained horse.

Equitation competition has long been a part of hunter/jumper shows, but it’s relatively new in the dressage world. The Dressage Seat Equitation Medal competition judges a rider’s seat, position and use of aids, not the horse. The Youth Dressage Festival has a similar focus but it tosses in a written test to measure competitors’ knowledge of horses and horsemanship.

Junior and young riders qualify by participating in the USEF Dressage Seat Medal Semi-Finals which are held at each of the Great American/USDF Regional Championships. Riders who competed in last fall’s semi’s qualified for these Finals. Therefore, riders who compete in the upcoming Semi Finals at Regionals will qualify for the 2008 Finals which will be held in Lamplight next August.

And when the dust settled in the show ring, the winner in the 13-and-under division was a youngster from Washington state and the winner in the 14-18 division was a young rider from Michigan.

Christina Thomas From Kennewick, Washington Wins on a Borrowed Horse

Christina Thomas, a 14-year-old from Kennewick, Washington took the win in the 13-and-under division. Although 14, she qualified as a 13-year-old. Her winning score was 87.333 and she earned it on a horse borrowed from Lendon Gray. Gray is no stranger to the concept of borrowed horses. She rounds up a fair number of them each year for the Youth Dressage Festival. Borrowing horses is one way young competitors can afford to attend such competitions as the Youth Dressage Festival and Dressage Seat Equitation Medal finals. Just ask Thomas.

“I live in Washington State and couldn’t bring my own horse. That would cost lots of money,” she said.

Thomas has been riding since she was 10. She trains with Rae Lamming and back home she spends much time riding her horse Oberon. Thomas competed in the Dressage Seat Equitation Medal two years ago and finished tenth. She attributed the move from 10th to 1st by saying that in the past two years “I became a more effective rider and learned my right leads.”

Coming in second in the 13-and-under division was Isabelle Leibler, of Greenwich, Connecticut.

Robyn Weston, of Grandville, Michigan Wind 14-18 Division

In the 14-18 division, first place went to Robyn Weston, of Grandville, Michigan with a score of 86.667 percent. Coming in second with a score of 85.333 was Lauren Hadley of Ponca City, Oklahoma.

The 17-year-old Weston got her win on her own horse, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding sired by Ids. She trains with Laurie Moore and has been riding dressage since the age of 10.

“I like dressage because it’s always challenging. There’s always something to work for and always something new to learn,” she said.

Weston said she was surprised by her win, but maybe she shouldn’t have been. This was her third trip to the Dressage Seat Equitation Medals and her first year, she placed third. Her second year she placed second. So perhaps it was only fitting that this third time around, she should be first.

Weston, who heads off this week for her freshman year at Michigan State University, was also winner of the Best Smile award. “I figured if I can’t ride, I can at least smile. So I smiled as much as I could and won,” she said.

Ashley Peterson and Mozaick Win CDI Young Rider Freestyle

In CDI competition, one bright star was Ashley Peterson, winner of the CDI Young Rider Freestyle with Mozaick. The 20-year-old New York City resident trains with Lendon Gray. She bought Mozaick last summer from Cesar Parra, who imported the Dutch Warmblood gelding (by Inglesias out of Daimant STV) in 2005. Peterson and Mozaick rode their freestyle to British rock music that included such hits as “Saturday Nigh Fever,” “Mack the Knife” and “Georgy Girl.”

Peterson was certainly pleased with her freestyle ride. “It’s only our second time riding it at a show. So I was very happy with the way he went.”

Competition at the Youth Dressage Festival runs through Wednesday. The first day consists of phase one of the competition – the written test. The riding competition kicks off on Tuesday and runs over two days during which competitors will compete in dressage competition and equitation competition. Wednesday will see such fun events as the prix caprilli competition.