North Salem, N.Y. – Alexander Dawson qualified for his first Adequan®/FEI North American Youth Championships (NAYC) presented by Gotham North two years ago. He anticipated competing against talent from all across North America. Unfortunately, three days before the NAYC he was riding at home and his horse reared, lost his footing, and landed on its side. One of Dawson’s stirrups ended up lodged between his foot and horse, which broke Dawson’s tibia and fibula. This unfortunate incident derailed his dream. However, it taught him how to face a setback and tested his commitment to the sport early on. After a year of recovery and a surgical battle scar to show, Dawson arrived at Old Salem Farm for his first NAYC this week.
“It is extremely special to make it [to NAYC]. The goal was to make it to [NAYC]. My mom cried as I made it through the jog because we were actually here. To go through [qualification] twice and actually make it here, it is just a real blessing,” said Dawson.
The 18-year-old recent high school graduate from Kenosha, Wisconsin, discovered his love for horses growing up on his family’s farm. He started hunter/jumper lessons at eight years old, learning the basic lunge line and post to trot. From there, he transitioned to eventing, and through eventing, he discovered his passion for dressage. It was then that he decided to make dressage his sole focus and began training a short drive away with Patty Becker at Fireside Farm.
“Patty has taught me everything,” said a thankful Dawson. “She has taught me that dressage is for any horse. It does not really matter what horse you have, dressage is going to improve them, especially their movement, because that is what dressage is all about. The feeling between you and the horse and connection is a really cool feeling.”
Dawson learned more about the importance of connecting with the horse through his time in equitation programs. He is a veteran of the US Equestrian Dressage Seat Medal Final where he won the 13 & under division in 2013 and the 14-18-year-old division in 2015. He credits his time in the program with helping him advance to the NAYC.
“The equitation program is one of the smartest decisions I ever made because just being there, I met some really good riders at the same age. Equitation teaches you how to communicate with the horse, so you need good equitation to be able to improve your horse the most,” explained Dawson.
He brings this early education to the NAYC where he is competing with Raven Black. With many competitions close to home, Dawson is only making his third trip out of the state with his nine-year-old Westphalian gelding. “He really tries his best and gives it his all,” he described. “I try to conserve his energy. He just wants to go out every day at his hardest. He is a go-getter and very lovey in the stall. When you are brushing him, he wants to cuddle and sleep in your arms. You like to see a [horse] that appreciates you.”
Dawson competed as part of the Region 2 team earlier in the week and will advance to Sunday’s USDF North American Junior Rider Dressage Freestyle Championship after placing in the top 18 in Saturday’s USDF North American Junior Rider Individual Championship.
“I came to [NAYC] to compete with the best; [NAYC] is not my little pocket of Wisconsin and Illinois. I just wanted to ride with the best because there is something about riding with the best that makes you try to mimic them. When you see something close to perfection, it invigorates you to want to achieve that yourself.”
Dawson may not earn a ribbon at the NAYC, but he will return home with growth and experience, and that is something he’s thankful for.
“My parents and supporters mean a lot to me. I definitely could not do this on my own. I am extremely happy to be here, and I know I wouldn’t be here without them, Patty or the team at Fireside Farm,” concluded Dawson.
Check out the live stream of the NAYC on the USEF Network through Sunday, August 5.
View the NAYC schedule and results.