BY Brittany Shivers
This year, nine young equestrians will represent Area III at the Adequan/FEI North American Youth Championships (NAYC) in Kalispell, Mont.
The competition will be held in conjunction with The Event at Rebecca Farm from July 24-28. A few of the riders representing Area III are from Coweta County. Ivie Cullen-Dean is from Newnan, and Claire Howard and Grace Smith both go to the Heritage School.
Riders competing for Area III have been training with Julie Richards at her farm in Newnan. Richards is a former Area III young rider and a 2004 Olympic Bronze Medalist for team eventing.
“We are excited. Last year we had four young riders, and now we’re up to nine,” said Richards. “We are one of the biggest areas in the country right now that are supporting young riders.”
There are 10 areas in the United States Eventing Association (USEA), and Area III is comprised of six states: Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Young riders, age 16-21, are eligible to compete for their area in the NAYC, according to USEA.
“A lot of people look at this particular competition as a Junior Olympics because there are riders all over the U.S. and Canada competing against their peers,” said Allina Bell, Area III Young Rider Coordinator.
To qualify for the NAYC, young riders must first declare their interest in the program through an application. Then, they must go through four national events and an international event with only one cross country penalty or refusal from their horse, according to Bell.
After meeting competition qualifications, the equestrians must also attend a summer camp to be coached and observed by Olympic coaches/selectors. This year's camp was in Aiken, S.C. and the three selectors were Julie Richards, Leslie Law and Hilda Donahue. Ultimately, the selectors decide who goes to the championships.
This year eight females and one male are competing for the area in two different competition divisions: two-star and three-star.
“I've just had my horse since Jan. 1 of this year, so we're still kind of learning our partnership together,” said Cullen-Dean. “I’m really excited to go to Montana with him and see what happens.”
On the first day of the event, the young riders must present their horses to officials to make sure they are in good health. After this, the competition begins.
Thursday, the three-star team will perform their dressage test, and Friday the two-star team will perform theirs.
The cross-country competition will be on Saturday, July 27, and the show jumping competition will be on Sunday, July 28, for both teams, according to Bell.
“I think we’ve got a really strong team this year,” said Cullen-Dean. “Everyone is rooting for each other, and we’ve got some good team spirit going on.”
All results will be finalized Sunday, July 28 at the conclusion of events.