Katie Johnson faced one big obstacle in her dream to compete at the 2008 North American Junior/Young Rider Championships. She didn't have a horse. So, she did what any enterprising young rider would do. She found a good horse, approached the owner and asked for a short-term lease. She got the horse, she got to the NAJYRC and she got a gold medal – twice.
Johnson, 19, of El Cajon, California, was the gold medal winner in Saturday's Young Rider Individual Championship with a score of 69.05 percent. Earlier in the week, she earned a gold medal as a member of the first-place Region 7 Young Rider Team. Her teammate, Brianna Dutton, joined her on the winner's podium as the silver medal winner in the Young Rider Championships.
Johnson was clearly shocked to have done so well at her first NAJYRC. So shocked, that she could hardly stop crying during the press conference that followed the awards ceremony as she tried to let her win sink in. "I can't believe it," she said holding back the tears that later streamed down her face. "I came here hoping to make the top ten, so this is unbelievable."
Johnson took the gold medal with Millenium, a 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding sired by Inspector and owned by Pam Schachter, who had been riding the horse at Prix St. Georges. "I didn't have a horse and I really wanted to do this. I had one more year. I called her and asked if she'd do a short-term lease and she agreed," Johnson said.
Johnson and Millenium have only been paired since April and her lease is up in August. Clearly, she's fallen in love with the horse saying "he went out there today and tried his best darn hardest. I couldn't be happier with him."
Johnson, who also lists snowboarding and music as two of her favorite past-times, has spent most of her life training with her mother, Elizabeth Johnson, but she also trains with Debbie McDonald. She spends her days riding and her evenings attending community college classes and doing online course work.
Johnson said she does well under pressure and that seems to be a good thing, considering that she still wasn't quite sure what to expect from Millenium. The uncertainty fact is another reason why she told herself not to expect much, but simply to focus on having fun at this year's NAJYRC. "I came in thinking 'just have fun' because I didn't know the horse well and every day was different and a learning experience with him. It was like, 'Let's see what he can do today.'"