Last week, I attended our Area VI Young Rider Summer Camp at Twin Rivers Ranch. I was initially nervous since this would be the first time we would be riding together as the team candidates in front of our coach and other instructors who were brought in for the week, and it would also be the first time that I would exchange more than just smiles and passing greetings with the girls on the team. But when I arrived at Twin Rivers late Tuesday evening, I was instantly greeted by my teammates Sophie Tice and Brianna Maroney, who were just finishing up barn chores before heading out to dinner and it already felt like we’d all been friends for ages. Bones arrived later that night with Kaitlin Vosseller, who was willing to haul him up for the week!
Our private dressage lessons with Bea DiGrazia and our coach, Bec Braitling, began early Wednesday morning. I’d never ridden with Bea and had only ridden with Bec at a clinic once before, so I was worried that I would be unprepared for the day. Luckily, my nerves quickly calmed as I watched Bea patiently coach my teammates through unique exercises that were helping the horses use and lift their backs and to be more supple and through all around.
Mallory Hogan and her supermare Clarissa Purisiam aka "Clarissa" kicked off our lessons for the day. The team all came together along with our Chef d’Equipe— Kristin Hogan— who is also Mallory’s mom, and we all watched as Bea instructed Mallory through lateral exercises. Mallory finished her lesson by running through our test, which is also how the rest of the lessons went for the day. Madison Temkin and Hollywood were next, followed by Sophie and Mojo, then Kaley Sapper and Tuscan Sun aka "Tuk". It was fun and interesting watching them ride and Bea and Bec taught since I haven’t really focused on my teammates’ riding before. It was also educational as a visual aid because some of their horses resembled Bones at times, so when Bea had them perform certain exercises, I could see the positive results in their rides and could visualize it in my own riding.
Dressage is my and Bones’ weakest link, so we admittedly did have some struggle before we saw success in our lesson. It was tough and although I felt like we were a bit in over our heads, my new friend and teammate Kaley was kind to remind me that at the end of the day, we were there to learn, not to perfect — and I think Bones and I did just that. We walked away with some new tools and methods to work with and definitely an ignited drive to be better!
The next day, we worked in groups on cross-country exercises with Bec. There were lots of forward lines, angles, bounces, etc. so we had to be sure both horse and rider were sharp for these exercises. Bones hadn’t jumped since our cross-country run at the Aspen Farms a few weeks ago so needless to say he was feeling quite excited to be doing his favorite thing again! It was a bit of a challenge to curb his enthusiasm that day but it definitely felt good to know how on top of it he was even after a short break. After our groups brushed up on our cross-country skills, we headed out downtown to go jog outfit shopping. That was a fun afternoon and was a great bonding experience; it became very clear that the Area VI team has awesome chemistry!
Besides being the one to organize all of the campers’ riding schedules, Area VI Young Rider Co-Coordinators Kristin Hogan and Laura Poch also organized an evening with course designer Sarah DuBost and a presentation by Boehringer Ingelheim (Merial) about equine gastric ulcers. Both presentations were extremely educational and interesting, and I think both topics are important to discuss for us young riders to learn more about the tricks of the game and to stay knowledgeable about ways to keep our horses as happy and healthy as can be. We capped this night with an impromptu dance session led by Sophie, Mallory, and Rachael McGregor with Katy Perry’s iconic “California Girls” blaring in the back — some fabulous moms even joined in on the dancing that night!
Photo courtesy of Lisa Takada.
We wrapped up camp with show jumping on our final day. Bec warmed us up in a separate ring and then we each rode through a course set to height that we had set the night before with Sarah DuBost. This was a great way to simulate a real competition and it was fun to watch each other’s rounds. While we were setting the course, Sarah explained which areas of the course could be problems areas due to the technical nature. Having this in mind, we rode each fence accordingly, which I think really showed during our rounds. Everyone jumped great — confidently — and I think I speak for all of the team when I say we left camp feeling prepared for a little show that’s taking place this week!
This wasn’t a very brief blog post, but I didn’t think it would be fair not to mention all the efforts and educational opportunities that went into the camp by our Coach, instructors, guest speakers, organizers, and team parents. I also enjoyed getting to know some of our team grooms at camp and I really look forward to hanging out with them again in Montana! All of these people made our few days of camp an exciting experience — the only downside was that we were missing our teammate Delaney Vaden, but we will be seeing her soon!
Bellamy, an Oldenburg/Thoroughbred gelding of unknown breeding, came to Tamra Smith’s farm in Southern California with his mane half-way down his neck and filled with burrs. Bellamy had been sitting in a field for a little over a year after unseating several riders in a row and Smith, known for being good with tricky horses, agreed to take him on.
Pan Am Games team gold medalist Tamra Smith and Mai Baum and five-star pairs Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 and Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin headline a strong Advanced field when Twin Rivers begins an exciting season of eventing competition this weekend.
The USEA Future Event Horse (FEH) and Young Event Horse (YEH) programs have around 30 qualifying competitions each, and youngsters around the country are about to begin their seasons aimed at Championships.