MAY 1998 BACK ISSUE
Part of Horse Previews Magazine website. Posted on 5/7/98; 2:00:00PM.
Youth of the Month: Katey Randall
My home has always been Spokane, Washington and the best part of my life growing up there has been my time riding horses. My memories of learning to ride are clear and very happy; what I can't recall is when, in fact, horses - and especially dressage - became more important to me than anything else.
Before I was ten years old, I remember going from barn to barn, trying to find a discipline that matched my particular vision of riding. The place I was looking for turned out to be the Marshland Equestrian Center, where I was soon taking two lessons each week from my trainer Jennifer Smith. For several years, I learned the technique "dressage", while using a wonderful, patient horse named "Commander", who seemed to love this unique type of structured, stylized riding.
Every child with an interest in riding looks forward to having her own horse and I was hardly an exception. While I loved Commander, he was not "my" horse; other riders also trained with him. One of the turning points in my life, then, occurred on my thirteenth birthday when I walked blissfully unaware into the Marshland barn, only to find my parents, a few friends, and my trainer Jennifer. I wish every little girl could have a moment to remember in her life like mine, when I looked past them and there stood my new horse Duke, with a red bow around his neck. The thoughts that raced through my mind in that moment where the same thoughts that have helped me to stay with the training schedule that must be followed to advance in the increasingly competitive field of dressage.
For four years, Duke and I made a good team, riding and competing together on the dressage circuit around the Pacific Northwest. My Next move - to Zenturio, the horse I have now - was prompted mostly by my growing faster than Duke. When I turned 15, I knew I had to have a bigger horse, or my feet would start dragging along the ground when I rode.
Good dressage horses that "fit" their rider's personalities are very difficult to find. My search stretched on for almost six months and took me from Washington to Oregon to California. When Jennifer and I were told about a 15 year old Dutch Warmblood that was admittedly a big step up from Duke, we cautiously boarded an airplane to San Diego with little real hope that this would be the "one".
Zenturio turned out to be a much bigger horse than Duke. His size, was, however, an obstacle only to climb up onto his saddle - from the first time I rode Zenturio, I knew that he was the horse I needed to make it to the "Young Riders' Championship" in Chicago.
During the 1997 dressage season, I "showed" my new horse in a series of competitions, that resulted in my qualifying as an "alternate" on the NAYRC Region #6 Young Riders' Team for 1997. Just when I had resigned myself to training extra hard for the next year's competition, one of the team members was forced to drop out, and I advanced to her spot with only a week to prepare. Thanks to Federal Express and a mother who revived her dormant secretarial skills to timely respond to the somewhat rigid formalities that are part of the "Young Riders" registration process, I satisfied all the deadlines, and Zenturio and I were off to Chicago.
That is, Zenurio was off - with the other team horses, for a cross-country trailer ride all the way from the West Coast to Chicago. I was lucky enough to fly, accompanied by my Assistant Trainer, Dyan Nitta. By the time of the Championships, Jennifer was 9 months pregnant, and promised to join us if she hadn't delivered when the competition began. (It turned out that Jenni was as good as her word: as if to show that her dedication to her riding students was complete, she made it to Chicago and somehow kept from having her baby until we all returned safely to Spokane.)
For my part, my time in Chicago at the "Young Riders" Championships was the high point of all the great riding experiences I've had up to this point in my life. Perhaps because dressage itself is such a structured activity, Competitions, and especially Championships, are presented in a very formal fashion, with little deviation permitted from the standards and procedures set for the riders. During the daylight hours of the week long stretch we spent in Chicago, this was certainly true. At night, however, my four teammates and myself got to know each other at a series of dances and dinners. As the youngest member on the team, I appreciated the other girls making me feel like a real part of these events.
During the five days' of the competition, there were girls (and a few boys) riding against each other from every part of America, as well as Canada and Mexico. None of the dressage shows I had attended in the past prepared me for the level of intensity, and the standards of excellence I found at the Young Riders' Competition. When I returned to Spokane, and my teammates went back to their homes in Seattle and Montana, we had taken 5th place. (One of my team members had also placed "4th" on an individual basis). We were rightfully proud of ourselves, and, while I think I could have done better, I look forward to competing again this summer.
The 1998 NAYRC contest will, in fact, be my last chance to be part of "Young Riders" before I go off to college. Regardless of what happens after that, I know that the time I spent competing during the summer of 1997 (and during August, 1998) will place these experiences among the best of my lifetime.
At some point in their lives, almost all little girls develop a love for horses. It's been almost ten years now since I first remember having those feelings. I'm just starting to realize, though, that I may be one of the lucky ones whose interest will stay with me through my whole life.
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