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U.S. Saddle Seat Young Riders Stars Team Wins Gold at Saddle Seat Invitational Test Event

by Ashley Swift, US Equestrian Communications Department | Nov 2, 2019, 11:55 AM EST

Las Vegas, Nev. – The 2019 U.S. Saddle Seat Young Riders Stars Team secured the gold medal and gained valuable experience in international competition at the 2019 U.S. Saddle Seat Invitational Test Event in Las Vegas, Nev. Hosted at South Point Arena and Equestrian Center from October 29 through November 1, the U.S. team faced off against a tough Canadian team in three-gaited saddle seat equitation. Under the guidance of Coach Christy Parker (Hortense, Ga.) and Assistant Coach Mary Mag Wilson (Cave Creek, Ariz.), the U.S. saddle seat equitation program has again proven itself to be a force in international saddle seat competition.

2019 U.S. Saddle Seat Young Riders Stars Team

Parker and Wilson also coached the U.S. Saddle Seat Young Riders Stripes Team to victory against South Africa in New Orleans, La., earlier this year. “I didn’t think anything could top the New Orleans experience, but I think these five girls took that as a challenge and threw down the hammer every single ride and every moment of this competition,” said Parker.

“These 16 kids are everything great about this sport,” Parker continued. “I can’t find the right words to express their dedication to the process, courage, and incredible skill, not to mention their teamwork and welcoming hospitality to the other countries. Every one of their families, instructors, and trainers should be so very proud.”

Gaining valuable experience in international competition, the gold medal-winning team of Dawson Archibald (Andover, Kan.), Chelsea Dragan (Burlington, Ky.), Lillian Johnson (O’Fallon, Mo.), Gabriella Snyder (St. Louis, Mo.), and Reagan Webb (Dayton, Ohio) learned about the experience of competing for their country this week.

“Usually when I’m showing and riding, I’m working for myself and for my barn. But here, I’m working for all the girls on the team. We’re [always] encouraging each other and trying to do our best for each other,” said Johnson.

“It’s such a huge honor to be here representing my country and it’s such a privilege to be given this opportunity,” said 16-year-old Dragan.

The riders competed on horses they were unfamiliar with as a true test of their equitation and horsemanship skills. Teams participated in the draw for horses on Tuesday, October 29, and had time to practice and to familiarize themselves with their new equine partners the next day.

The judged portion of the event began on Thursday, October 31, where the U.S. made a strong first impression on the judging panel of Bret Day (Versailles, Ky.), Allison Deardorff (Molalla, Ore.), and Kent Swalla (Columbia, Mo.). Competition concluded on Friday evening and the pressure was on as riders performed rail and pattern work one last time. The U.S. athletes produced strong individual workouts, solidifying victory for the U.S. Saddle Seat Young Riders Stars Team.

Adding to the importance of the U.S. Saddle Seat Invitational Test Event, the competition serves as an opportunity to develop and observe potential riders for future team competitions, including the Saddle Seat World Cup.

The 2019 U.S. Saddle Seat Young Riders Teams’ efforts are supported by the USA Equestrian Trust. US Equestrian is pleased to partner with Becker Brothers LLC, who supplied practice jodhpurs for the 2019 U.S. Saddle Seat Young Riders Stripes and Stars Teams. Additional support has been generously provided by Golden Creek Farms Inc., Dawson Archibald, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew J. Schindler, and multiple patron, fan, and stall donors. US Equestrian would like to extend a special thank you to the owners, trainers, and volunteers that generously provided their horses and time for this special event.

For more information about the U.S. Saddle Seat Young Riders Teams and other saddle seat pathway programs, go to

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Learn more about saddle seat equitation and all of US Equestrian’s 29 recognized breeds and disciplines in this Learning Center video.

Photo by: Osteen