Chronicles of My Road to Kentucky by Devon Brown
Special thanks go to all the generous sponsors that helped me on my road to Kentucky for the 2009 NAJYR Championships, Lexington, Kentucky
**Karen Joyal**Area 3 Adult Riders**Jimmy Dudley**Dr. Nash Equine Practice**Chase Commercial Properties**Steve and Margaret West**Stoneledge Farm**Lyle Darnell**William and Elizabeth Freeman**The Mitchell Company**The Foresite Group**G Marshall Hart JR.**Dave and Nada Brown**Shereen and David Fuqua**Kim Schisler**Mr. and Mrs. Greg Null**Bill and Levy Crawford**
To dream something and to experience it are two completely different things.
I dreamed of competing in the Junior Young Rider Championships, but not only to compete individually, but to compete with a team. On July 22, I actually experienced the thrill and excitement of that first afternoon jog at the Young Rider Championships!
It all started about 2 years ago when I first heard about the Championships. The second someone described it to me I wanted to be there. I wanted to compete in an international field of riders and most importantly compete as a team member of the Area 3 young riders.
I got Dynamic Image (“Dan”) from England about a year and a half ago. I had to sell my Connemara pony I grew up with for a horse that I could hopefully one day do a 2* on. That’s when my mom and I flew across the ocean and found Dan, a 16.2 hand half Irish draft and half Connemara/Tb.
Dan had only done a couple Preliminary events and was still green. I knew I would have to work for what I wanted. To become solid at the Preliminary level, and try out for the 1* team I competed all of 2008 at the Preliminary level. It was hard to learn how to ride this huge horse. Don’t get me wrong, it is still hard even now, but in different ways. Our partnership has grown and we completed a CCI* in November 2008 and a CIC* in March. That was one requirement I had to complete to try out for the 1* team.
I also started conditioning him in early May before selection trials because Dan needed to be the fittest he has ever been and since he is half draft, getting him fit takes a lot of hard work and preparation. My mom and I went somewhere every weekend to be sure to put in the much needed trot and gallop sets. Then during the weeks when we couldn’t get off the property I put on my ear phones and did trot and canter sets in our Arena, many times late at night under the lights. In June, Dan and I made the 1* team goal we both had been working hard to get to and by training camp he was definitely fit and ready. I couldn’t have been more excited.
Dan wasn’t the only one that had to work hard for our dream….I had to devote my whole summer fundraising so we could go to Kentucky. I ended up babysitting for my neighbor and putting all of that money toward the young rider fund. On to the hard work…
The Area 3 1* team consisted of Emily Renfroe, Libby Head, Katy Nichwander, me and our coach Kyle Carter. Our training camp was at River Glen in Tennessee a week before the competition. Our amazing grooms; Claire Robinson, Alison Mickler, MaryHollice Baird, and Jackson Roberts met us there. Our Chef D’Equipe Leigh Litrell and all the Moms who volunteered to help out were also amazing. Leigh made sure everything was where it was suppose to be and we all got to where we were supposed to be when we needed to be there!
Our training camp consisted of dressage and jumping lessons and a galloping day. On the galloping day the head groom Brittany, showed all of the grooms how to cool off the horses after galloping and how quick you must be. Training camp wasn’t all work and no play…. We all got to have some fun by going Zip Lining one day which was very cool. Also, we went out to dinner every night at training camp because no one wanted to make dinner. I absolutely love my one and two star team mates, grooms, coach and Chef. We all got along very well and have become great friends and we all learned how to work as a team. This was the best experience of my life…
The Kentucky horse park was absolutely amazing. I had not been there since I was 13 and it was truly mind boggling. The atmosphere was incredible. Both teams got to Kentucky on Monday and rode in the grand stadium that day. Now that was something that Rolex riders were in the same stadium just a few months ago.
The first afternoon jogs were on Wednesday in torrential downpours. Even in the rain we had to look our best. Our grooms were fantastic. They helped each rider look the best they can in front of the ground jury. All riders on Area 3 passed without hesitation and it was on to dressage!!!
The one star team did not do dressage until Friday morning. Unlike the 2 star who did their dressage test under the lights!! Now that was something you don’t see everyday! The day before dressage, our coach sat us down and went through the test making sure we had every little detail down. So when it came time for the test, we would go into the ring confident in ourselves and our horses. Our team did fantastic in dressage. Libby Head was the first to go and she got a 56.1. Emily Renfroe was the next and she got a 62.0, then Katy Nichwander went and got a score of 62.6. So Area 3 one star team was on their way to victory that first day.
I was extremely nervous going into dressage. For one thing the judges were very strict, one little mistake and they would catch it. Another reason why I was nervous is because Dan and I were not having our best lessons the days before, I had to end up riding him twice a day to get what the coach and I wanted from Dan. When I started warming up for the test I could feel that Dan knew today was the day to be great. He knew that this day meant so much to me and he performed his heart out. We went in the ring with only about 10 minutes of warm up but that’s all he needed, he danced his way around that test like a pro. I knew we had one of the best tests we have ever had when we hit the centerline and halted at X. I couldn’t keep my tears in as the crowd screamed and shouted. That was the best part of my whole experience at young riders. When Dan and I hit X on a square halt, all of our supporters were there and screamed as loud as they could for us. That was the happiest thing I have ever heard.
After I thanked the judges through tears, I was walking out of the ring and saw 8’s across the board for rider. Then the score went up and Dan and I got a 45.7!!! The best test we have ever had. I cannot explain how happy I was at that moment. When the score revealed I got a 45.7, the crowd went wild, my coach jumped up with joy, and my mom clapped with the same teary expression that I had. It was the greatest moment I have ever had riding. So Area 3 one star team was in 1st after dressage and Dan and I were tied for 1st individually.
ON TO CROSSCOUNTRY!!!
The course walked tough. It was definitely a one star course; it had a bounce, 2 hard water exercises, and everything was maxed out. I knew this course would test Dan’s partnership with me and it would be the ultimate challenge for both of us. We weren’t even done with warm-up when they called us up to the box. I was very nervous because Dan did not have a couple minutes of walk to catch his breath and we both were just not clicking in warm up. I pulled it together, straightened up, and thought to myself; I can do this, this is what I have been working for. So off we went!! Dan tried his heart out and left everything on the course that day. He listened to me and didn’t bat an eye once. If he was nervous about a jump in particular, all I had to do was put my leg on and guide him to the jump.
Though I have run around prelim for about a year now, I still haven’t been able to figure out the speed that I really need to be going for prelim. So before the last jump I didn’t judge my time right, I thought I had enough time to slow down so I could be right below optimum time. It was very silly and ridiculous to try to push my luck like that. So in the end we ended on a clear round with 2 time penalties. Which bumped us out of 1st place. It was a lesson learned. I still had an ultimate blast out on the beautiful cross country course by David O’Conner, he did an awesome job.
Dan and I were in 2nd after cross country and my team told me how lucky I was to even be there and so I realized it was wrong of me to even be a little sad for those 2 time faults. It was a well deserved lesson. But the grooms helped out so much in cooling down the horses and helped all the riders ice their horses and get them ready for the Sunday morning jog.
Everyone in Area 3 passed the jogs again without hesitation! So we were all off to the show jumping ring! I was nervous all morning, especially after I walked the course. It looked really tough, a lot of turns, and all maxed out. When I went into warm up for show jumping Dan felt great. Maybe a little tired but still had a lot of energy. Dan’s warm up was absolutely great! But when we went into the ring it just wasn’t our day. I made the mistake by not “wakening” him up before we started the course so he was too under powered to the first half of the course. I think Dan and I just underestimated the huge jumps and was not connecting in the way we usually do. We had 4 rails, which is new to us. Usually the most we would ever have is 2 rails. I think it just wasn’t our day. But once again, it was a great learning experience. I now know how I need to come out to a huge course like that, I need to have more power and wake him up before the first jump. It was very unfortunate and we dropped down to 6th place. But I am still so very proud of Dan. He tried his hardest for me and that’s all I could ask from him. Even though we could taste victory before entering the ring, we still came out of the ring feeling like we won. We both tried our best and have learned so much at NAJYRC. To be able to learn how to work as a team, make new friends, and experience something that can change your life is all that you could ask for as a rider.
My favorite part of NAJYRC was making life long friends. I was re connected with people I had not seen in years. Such as Taylor Humphrey, I had not seen her since the AEC’s 2 years ago. I became such good friends with all the area 3 riders, grooms, coach, and staff. That was my all time favorite part of NAJYRC. I could not ask for a better group of people. I would like to congratulate all of the teams who worked hard to get to NAJYRC. Even if you had mistakes you wish you didn’t make, just know that it’s all a learning experience. I hope next time Dan and I will be able to go to NAJYRC, it will be for the Area 3 two star team. That is my next goal I hope to accomplish in the future.
Special thanks to Mrs. Leigh Litrell for the following amazing videos which chronicle the Road to Kentucky for the team!!
Show Jumping and Closing Ceremonies
Cross Country Day
Day 1 and 2