Kristen Becker proves you don’t have to come from a riding family in order to rise to the top in international competition, but fully appreciates the support it takes from her family to get there.
The 17-year-old Lemont, Illinois rider was the highest-placed American in the Junior Dressage Competition at the NAJYRC, as a triple medal winner: helping her Region Two team win Silver with the highest team score, of 68.4, placing second in the Individual Competition with a 67.65, and maintaining that position in the Individual Freestyle with a 70.10.
Becker, who trains with Ken McGrath, of Wauconda, Illinois, competed at the Championships with her nine-year-old Dutch gelding, Ramses (Contango x Hamlet).
A first-time competitor at the NAJYRC, Becker admits to being a bit nervous, but credits Ramses with helping calm her nerves. “Going into the individual test, I was the last rider and I had some nerves, but my horse was calm and put everything he had into that ride and he calmed me down.”
How It All Started
She got her start with horses by resorting to the usual tactics of a six-year-old – begging. “My parents weren’t riders or into horses, but I was just one of those kids who begged for a pony.”
Her parents didn’t initially give in to the pony idea, but they did allow for riding lessons at a barn down the street. The lessons were meant to cool their daughter’s passion, instead, they ignited it. “They told me I could have a few lessons. A few turned into many, many lessons the next six months.”
The pony came next. “They actually wanted me to get out of the horses, but it was such a cute pony,” Becker said. That first pony was named Dolly and while she was nothing fancy, she was good enough to launch Becker on the path that would end up taking her to the NAJYRC and a Silver Medal.
After Dolly came Moo, who is now 15 and more of a family pet than competitive partner. It was with Moo that Becker began her competitive career in the hunter/jumper world, as many youngsters do. But Moo made it all too easy and Becker is a young rider who likes a challenge.
“Moo was so easy. It was just point and shoot. I thought, ‘there has to be something more to riding.’ So, I tried eventing but I hated the cross country part of that because he’d take off. So then, I tried dressage. The barn I had been at closed down and we had to make a last minute move and that move was to a dressage barn. Dressage was more of a challenge for me and so I continued on with it.”
First Time Team Experience
And, here she is now – one of the few to compete at the NAJYRC. She’s no longer riding the ponies.
“It was my first time being on a team and it was a great experience. I have some super team members on both the junior and young rider teams. I learned what it’s like to be on a team and to go out there and do your best job for the team rather than learning about having to win. It was very much about having fun. Shown here on the podium Region 2 Team members: Ashlee Todosijevic, Kristen Becker, Allessandra McGinnis, and Katie Foster.
Becker hopes to compete again next year and while, unlike many young riders, she expects to have a career that involves more than horses when she graduates college, she said there is no doubt that throughout her life “the horses will definitely be stuck with me.”
Becker will go home with more than a medal. She’ll also be taking with her the experience of competing at an international event and being part of a team. And that’s an experience not every young rider gets to have.