After trying to qualify for the NAJYRC for 3 years, Mary-Cameron Rollins, 22, not only made the region 3 team, but actually won the YR gold individual medal in 2009 at the NAJYRC in Lexington, KY atop Rose Noir, with a whopping 70.263%. “Winning the gold medal was something I never expected, only something I dreamed about,” Rollins said. A lot has changed for Rollins since her big win this past summer. Now that she is aged out of the Young Rider age bracket, Rollins has focused her energy in starting a sales barn located in Loxahatchee, FL with Werner Van den Brande, a successful international dressage competitor, trainer, and broker. At their sales barn, Van den Brande and Rollins have around 10 to 15 horses for sale at a time. As for Rollins, she is experiencing the sport of dressage from a different perspective, and loving it. “It has been so far a wonderful experience. I am learning so much and though I don't get to ride many of the clients’ horses, every horse that I do get to ride I learn something from,” she said.
However, Rollins, like most riders, has experienced both ups and downs since the big win. “After young riders, Rosi decided to take what I like to call and unplanned but well-deserved vacation, due to a suspensory issue that is in the process of healing,” said Rollins. However, she remains positive and excited about her new endeavors, despite Rosi’s lameness. “I am very lucky we have a barn full of horses to ride!”
Horses are not the entirety of Mary-Cameron’s life, however, as she is a college student as well. “I just transferred from the University of North Florida to Florida Atlantic University, in Boca Raton. It is about a 45-minute drive, but I like the campus and I am just starting out part time so it's not so bad. I am coming in as a junior so almost done!”
Being a part time student has allowed Rollins to pursue her horse career. Between school and horses, she keeps a busy schedule. “Needless to say, we are very busy riding, and I always have something to do! Lately, I have been spending most of my time at the gym in the morning, doing cardio and weights and then the afternoons at the barn and evenings at school,” Rollins said. “For me, to my parents dislike, riding always came first. It is always hard to balance school and an equestrian career in any discipline. I just try to take my time on everything and never get rushed or stressed.”
In her time at the barn, Rollins has been working with some of Werner’s young horses. In doing so, Rollins is realizing how rewarding working with them can be. “I have been given the privilege to work with some of Werner's young horses, which is really where my experience was lacking. I really enjoy it and I think I would have to say my next goal would be to get a youngster ready for the FEI young horse championships,” she said.
As far as her mare Rose Noir is concerned, Rollins looks forward to breeding her via embryo transfer in spring 2010. “I want to have lots of little "Rosi pods"!” Rollins added.
As for now, Rollins is enjoying training with Werner, taking clinics with Steffen Peters, and working with Molly Tatham. “Right now I am working a lot with Werner,” Rollins said. “Training with him has been a wonderful experience and I have learned so much. He is always concerned with how the horses are going. He has really taught me in this sport you always have to have an open mind to try new or even old things to improve horses.” Werner enjoys working with Mary-Cameron as well. “She is a talented rider, and she accepts new ideas and training easily. She still has to learn a lot, but so do I. You are never too old to learn. We work really well as a team, and I really enjoy the time we spend working together,” Brande said.
Mary-Cameron also looks forward to working with Patrick Burssens again, once Rosi is back on track. Burssens coached Rollins to her win at the 2009 NAJYRC.
Many Young Riders aim to move on to the Young Adult Brentina Cup after the NAJYRC, but many, like Rollins, can’t afford to buy horses of that caliber. “I would love to move onto Brentina cup, however, like many other riders when they graduate from young riders, I don't have a horse to do it on, and I definitely can not afford to purchase one at this time. Rosi would have been ready if only...I am sure eventually I will get there, it is a goal of mine so I hope it's only a matter of time,” she said.
Rollins looks to her future and hopes to have a successful career in the horse world. Like many young riders, she isn’t afraid to dream. “I dreamed of winning the individual gold in young riders so I think it's good to keep dreaming. I guess ultimately, I want to have a world-class sales barn with international quality horses for all sorts of riders. I like to see horses that we have sold succeed with their new owners. It gives me an unbelievable feeling of satisfaction and pride,” said Rollins.
She admits that she dreams about going to the Olympic Games and the FEI Young Horse World Championships, but in the end Rollins said her true goal is to be the best horsewoman she can be.
However, she also realizes that a career in the horse industry is not necessarily an easy one. “It is a lot of hard work and not really glamorous at all, but in the end the horses always make you proud one way or another, they always make it worth it,” Rollins said.
Rollins is grateful to be able to pursue a career in something she is so passionate about, and she is grateful to have already achieved so much in her riding career thanks to a great support system. “I have been so fortunate in my short dressage career to have a horse like Rosi, who has taught me more than I could ever have imagined and the amazing support system of not only my parents and family, but also my trainers and even my groom Deonne and braider Angel!”
Mary-Cameron realizes that to get as far as she has gotten in the last few years has taken more than just good riding. “I will never be able to express my gratitude! Just getting this far has taken a village; I can't wait to see the next ten years!”