Young Riders From Around the World Gathered for 2008 Youth Dressage Festival

Hundreds of young riders gathered in Saugerties, New York for the 2008 Youth Dressage Festival and the Mushroom Matrix, a sponsor of the event, joined them. The annual event, founded by Lendon Gray, celebrated its 10th anniversary at this year's event, held at the HITS show grounds.

Teams of young riders flew in from throughout the Western Hemisphere, with one team even arriving from Guatemala. After three days of competition that included a written test on horsemanship, an equitation test that judged riding skills and a dressage test that challenged both horse and rider, Brooke Molde, a 20-year-old from Pennsylvania, emerged as the overall champion. And Brooke happily noted that her new Mushroom Matrix hat, donated to every rider who placed in each of the eight divisions, matched her team shirt just beautifully.

"It looks great with my shirt, doesn't it," asked Brooke who was happy to have a Matrix hat to "cover up my messy hair for photos." Helping Brooke take the win was her equine partner, a nine-year-old Hanoverian gelding named Mojo. "He kept a really good attitude throughout the competition and enjoyed it and that was the biggest thing," she said of Mojo. "He had a good time and there were no incidents and he's so much fun to ride when he's having a good time."

Brooke got started riding when she was seven and her parents won a silent auction that consisted of four riding lessons. She got the four lessons and that launched her riding career. Currently, she trains with Krista Tycho Noone. This was Brooke's second year competing in the Festival. She credits her better score this year in the written portion of the competition with giving her the win. Last year, she scored in the 80s on the written test. This year she received a 90.5. Her equitation score was 98 and her dressage score was 75.5 percent.

"Last year, I was a little unprepared for the written test. My score was in the 80s so this year, I studied a bit harder. My equitation score was the same as last year. Good thing it didn't go down or that would have been a little bit embarrassing," she said.

When not riding, Brooke is in college studying geology. In addition to competing in dressage, she's also busy competing in the sport of eventing with her new horse, a Thoroughbred named Ron Burgundy. In addition to her Matrix hat, Brooke also received a one-month supply of Matrix for her horse. And every competitor at the event received a free sample of Matrix Daily Life Essentials for humans to help get them off to a healthy start in life.

Young riders who compete in the annual Festival do so not only as individuals, but also as part of a team and one team that traveled a distance to attend was from Guatemala. The four team members – Isabella Corletto, Nina Santos, Alexandra Dominguez and Ana Cristina Andrade – arrived in New York a week before the show. Riders who travel from afar are usually loaned horses and the early arrival gave the Guatemalans a chance to get to know the horses on which they competed.

The Guatemalan youngsters, ranging in age from 11 to 16, are all accomplished riders back home. Still, they learned much during their time at the Festival, mostly about horse care because Lendon Gray insists that competitors care for their own horses.

"We had a wonderful time and our kids learned a lot," said team coach Silvia Luna. "It was a big experience for them. For them, it was a new thing having to cope with taking care of the horses from sun up to sun down." At home, most of the Guatemalan youngsters have grooms who help care for the horses.

Despite the hard work required to qualify and to compete in the Youth Dressage Festival, hundreds of youngsters work hard each year to earn the right to attend and the Matrix is proud to be part of the event. This was the second year that the Matrix helped sponsor the Festival.