Young riders had something new at this year’s. A special lounge in the tent stabling, called the Collecting Gaits Farm lounge, was stocked full with snacks and drinks of all kinds to help young riders get through the busy weekend.
“Nourishment” is what 13-year-old Anna Campbell called the trove of goodies. Anna, of Dallas, Texas, came to Gladstone to groom for her sister Rachel and ended up grooming for any junior or young rider who needed extra help. The lounge became a resting place for her to grab a snack and make new friends. “I love it. It’s a great way to meet other riders and to visit with people. And I love the fact that they put the day sheets here so that we can keep track of ride times,” she said.
One other rider for whom she groomed all weekend was 15-year-old Natalie Martin, who was enjoying her first trip to Gladstone and time in the lounge. “I think this lounge was a really good idea to have a place to relax and to get free snacks. I’ve been in here a few times and it’s been a good way to meet other riders,” she said. Martin admitted that she was enjoying not just the lounge, but the entire atmosphere at Gladstone. “I really like it here and have had a really good time. I like how this is so quiet.”
It wasn’t just other young riders who visited the lounge. A good number of America’s leading adult riders and trainers dropped by as well, providing the younger generation of dressage riders with a unique opportunity to pick the brains of many of America’s best. “Most of the time when I went by the lounge, it was packed,” said Gil Merrick, former USEF Managing Director for Dressage Sport Programs, who was on hand to help hand out awards. One frequent lounge visitor was Scott Hassler who took breaks from his busy schedule coaching three young riders at the Festival. “Scott loves being in there,” Merrick said, joking that at times he was so surrounded by young riders that it was like “he was holding court.”
Also dropping by to chat was Olympian Debbie McDonald. “It was such a great idea to bring the kids together,” she said. “Collecting Gaits Farm did such a great job giving them such a nice place to go. It’s important for them to feel important.” When asked if she felt the young riders were making good use of the lounge, McDonald laughed and said, “Oh, they are using it. It looked well used when I went in there.” Her future suggestion is to appoint one rider a day to serve on clean-up detail. “It really is a great way to start something for them and it’s helped develop good camaraderie. I see a lot of them talking and hanging out and just having a good time.”
Shereen Fuqua, who, along with her husband Jeff, owns Collecting Gaits Farm, sponsor of the Festival and the young rider lounge, was pleased with the success of the lounge in its first year. “Through Anne Gribbons’ encouragement years ago, our first sponsorship with USEF was with the Junior Championships.In recent years, with the addition of all age groups competing at the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF National Dressage Championships, I wanted to do something that would create camaraderie with the kids who look up to the professionals, many of whom are now considered celebrities,” she said.Fuqua credited USEF’s Jennifer Keeler with coming up with the concept of the lounge.”