The Adequan® FEI North American Youth Championships presented by Gotham North provide big opportunities to their young participants and can help launch professional or high-performance careers. But the experience is about even more than that, say NAYC alums Adrienne Lyle (dressage) and Lucy Deslauriers (jumping). We sat down with both to get their advice for first-time competitors and find out what they feel they gained from participating in NAYC as youths.
Dressage Olympian Adrienne Lyle, a member of the silver medal-winning Dutta Corp. U.S. Dressage Team at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Tryon, fondly recalls her NAYC days, including a team bronze at the 2004 NAYC with Region 6. After that success, Lyle went on to capture the USEF Young Adult Brentina Cup Dressage Championship and represent the U.S. at the 2012 London Olympic Games, the 2014 Alltech FEI WEG in Normandy, and the 2018 WEG, as well as on a number of medal-winning Nations Cups teams.
What advice do you have for first-time NAYC competitors?
“They really should, first of all, really enjoy the honor of getting to go. It’s a really big deal to get to go to something like this and to get to represent your region and ride on a team. And use this as a learning experience and a steppingstone. You don’t have to be the shining star there to determine your future, and I think that’s important for kids to know. If you have the horse that’s not as competitive as some of them but you can go and put in your best test, people will still notice. They’ll still appreciate you’re riding and appreciate your sportsmanship and your horsemanship.
“There’s a whole lot that goes into being successful in this sport beyond just your scores, so I think it’s important that you pay attention to how you present yourself throughout the entire competition, on and off your horse. For a lot of people, this is their first introduction to the bigger networking in the profession.
“Don’t think that if you don’t win, you’re going to be a nobody. It can be discouraging for kids if they think that way, and I think it’s important that they really do understand that people are watching and noticing not just the winners, but they’re also noticing the good horsemen and the good sportsmen, as well.”
What do you feel you gained from your experience at NAYC?
“I was from Washington state growing up, and I’d never been to a CDI or any type of competition that was held in that format. So, for me, it was my first introduction to competition in a team format, one, and, two, having a jog—I’d never gone to anything like that. So it was a real learning curve, as far as the way competitions like that are run, and it was very eye-opening and informative.”
How do you think you developed as a rider from that experience?
“The opportunity to ride on a team is really incredible. It’s always a very different experience than just riding for yourself—you have the support crew and also the added pressure of riding for a team, which is something good to get used to. Also, the connections I made there were really wonderful. It exposes you to people with your same passion from all around the country, and that can open up a lot of doors for riders. It’s about more than just going there and winning a gold medal. That’s wonderful, of course, but there’s so much else you can take away from the experience, regardless of how your performance is or how fancy your horse is to be there. It can open up a lot of doors for people who want to do this seriously as a profession.”
What did you enjoy the most about NAYC? Was it the competition or other activities around the competition?
“The competition was wonderful! It was all really new for me, so I knew for sure I was not going to be the hotshot at the NAYC when I went. I just went there to learn and take things in. And it was a lot of fun. Having a chance to have that many people your own age in one place and you all have the same passion and the same drive—it was just really fun to see. It’s inspiring to realize there are lots of other people out there, especially when you come from an area like I did, which didn’t have a huge dressage community at the time. I kind of always dreamed about it and got these little glimpses of things, but to really network with people and realize that there are a lot of people out there sharing your same ambition was exciting.”
Lucy Deslauriers is a two-time FEI North American Youth Championships jumping competitor. She won individual gold and team silver in 2015 with Zone 2 and individual silver in 2014. Her accolades extend far past NAYC. At only 20 years old, she has been a member of several FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ teams, including the bronze medal-winning teams for the 2019 FEI Jumping Nations Cup Canada and FEI Jumping Nations Cup USA as well as the 2018 FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final team. Riding Hester, she will compete on the U.S. Jumping Team at the Lima 2019 Pan American Games next week.
What did competing in the NAYC teach you about yourself, competing for a team, and preparing your horse for a major international championship?
"I competed at the NAYC two times with my horse Hester, and it was my first team competition. Producing results not only for yourself, but also for your teammates is a high pressure situation. Therefore, the NAYC taught me how to manage nerves and maintain focus under pressure at a young age. The NAYC was also my first championship. Under the guidance of my father, who has competed in many championships before, I learned how to manage my horse so that he would peak at NAYC. For example, I did not show Hester for the few weeks leading up to the championship so that he would feel fresh for the many rounds of competition. In fact, this is also true of our preparation for the Pan American Games. There is an implicit importance about these team events, and championships in particular, beyond an individual Grand Prix or another class."
What is your most memorable moment of competing at the NAYC?
"The most memorable moment of my NAYC experience was competing and celebrating with my teammates! As the zones are based on region, many of my best friends who I grew up competing against locally were my teammates. At the junior/young rider level, we mostly compete as individuals. The opportunity to work together to earn a medal was unique and exciting. And of course, being there with Hester, and now reflecting on the NAYC as such a moment of growth for our partnership."
How did the NAYC prepare you to compete on senior FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ teams, including the Lima 2019 Pan American Games?
"My NAYC experiences introduced me to team competition and taught me important skills that I use today in senior nations cups. For example, I learned the importance of willing yourself when something goes wrong on course to do what you can for the best score possible for your teammates. The NAYC also helped to bridge the gap between the junior levels and the senior ranks."
What is the best piece of advice you can give to current NAYC competitors?
"Have fun! The NAYC was one of the most fun weeks of my junior career. Competing on a team is an incredible, but somewhat rare, opportunity. From covering my helmet in zone two stickers with my teammates, to securing a medal with them during the competition, I loved every moment of the week. It’s a long week of jumping, so take one round at a time, ride your best, and enjoy the experience of being there."
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