The Adequan® North American Youth Championships (NAYC) for eventing not only provide a fun, unique competition for up-and-coming eventers, but have also served as an excellent steppingstone for equestrians with the ambition to represent their country on a team or continue working in the equestrian industry after their youth careers. We spoke to two recent NAYC alumnae, Caroline Martin and Cornelia Dorr, about what the NAYC meant to them and they shared some words of wisdom for the first-timers.
Martin is a two-time NAYC competitor and gold medalist, first competing in the CCIY2* (now a CCIY3* under the FEI’s new eventing classification system) in 2011 aboard Classic Touch where they placed in the top 15 individually and secured fourth in the team competition. Martin returned to the NAYC in 2013 with Quantum Solace, sweeping the team and individual CCIY3* competition to bring home two gold medals.
Dorr has five medals in her two appearances at the NAYC: in 2016, she took home team gold and an individual bronze in the CCIJ1* long format (now a CCIJ2*-L under the FEI’s new eventing classification system), and in 2017, in the CCIY3*-S, she earned another team gold, along with individual silver and gold medals.
What do you feel you gained as a rider and as a person from your NAYC experience?
Martin: I have a bit of unique perspective. I went into [NAYC] the first time in 2011 with a mare called Classic Touch and I went in thinking it would be one of the last events of my career. I was heading to study abroad after and I thought I was going to cancel riding and not continue on.
I didn’t even really know what [NAYC] was the first time I did it. My coach at the time told me it was something I could have a lot of fun doing, so I kind of went into it blind because I don’t come from a horsy background. It completely turned my perspective on riding. I really enjoyed it, I was part of Area 2 my first year, and then I actually did go on to study abroad.
The second time I did [NAYC], in 2013, now that actually changed my whole life. I decided after [NAYC] that year that I was going to do eventing professionally, and I’ve been full time and professional since.
Dorr: As a rider, it gave me a little bit of a confidence boost. Not just that I did well, but just getting there was a validation that you’re doing something right. You’re working hard and you’re training your horse well. You’re there with a network of people your own age that are competing at the level you are, and I really enjoyed that. It’s like you become part of something bigger than yourself. You become part of a lot of other people and their horses—it’s the team bonding that meant a lot to me. It took me by surprise how much we bonded. I’m still in contact with them, especially my 2016 team.
In 2016, the opening ceremonies were probably the most fun I’ve ever had. We had dinner and all the teams were in their own little bubbles, and then a couple of people went and sat with other teams or teams came over to each other, and we created this giant circle. We all were sitting next to each other and we went around and talked about what we were doing with our horses that weekend and about us as people. It wasn’t facilitated by any adult; it just happened. It was really cool.
How did the team aspect of NAYC contribute to your equestrian career since then?
Martin: I rode for Area 3 [in 2013] and learned from our coach, Kyle Carter, and I saw how standards are so high for team atmospheres. He did such a great job as coach to untie us, we all enjoyed it, and yet to also be competitive.
It teaches you about pressure. I was the first rider out the year I won and I was told to jump clear no matter what. I was told the same thing at the [FEI Eventing Nations Cup Great Britain] at Houghton Hall last year, clear with no time faults, and we got the silver medal. When the coach tells you that you must do something, you just do it. You go and do what your team asks of you, it’s not about you or your plan in a team competition. Come back and give your team an advantage.
Dorr: Now, wherever I go, I make that same bond with everyone. In 2016, one of the girls on our 1* team jumped the two 2* coffin instead of the 1* coffin, and she came back to the barn bawling and apologizing to everyone on the team. Everyone was so supportive and kind and understanding of that, so now wherever I go, I look for relationships like that.
I haven’t been on a team like NAYC since, but having been on a Young Rider team definitely makes me more comfortable with the potential of being on another one later.
What advice would you have for an NAYC eventing first-timer this year?
Martin: Go into it open minded. I went in without dreams or faith in myself as having the ability to be a professional but it shaped my career and my whole life. Without [NAYC], I wouldn’t be in the position I am today. It’s also important to make connections [at NAYC] because these will be the people you work with in the future.
Dorr: I’d just say to enjoy it. It doesn’t matter if you do well or not. Just get the most out of the experience. I was very focused on my horses throughout the event, especially the second year, but I still made time to be social. You can still be social and be focused; if you can find that balance, it’s worth it.