The Dressage European Young Rider Tour is considered an important part of the development of the youth dressage journey. Three athlete-and-horse combinations were selected for the 2018 Dressage European Young Rider Tour, which is linked to the Discover Dressage™ USEF Emerging Athlete Program for Dressage.
"The Tour is designed to introduce our Young Riders to competing internationally, both as individuals and as a team representing the U.S.” said George Williams, U.S. Dressage Youth Coach and Chef d’Equipe. “It is important for our Young Riders’ development to have a chance to compete against their counterparts in Europe.
The Tour sent Benjamin Ebeling, Callie Jones, and Anna Weniger to a series of competitions, with the highlight competition being the CDIO-Y Hagen from June 12-17. Additionally, Jones and Weniger competed at the CDI-Y Compiègne from May 17-20 and the CDI-Y Aachen from May 29-31.
The final leg, the Future Champions Hagen CDIO-Y, was especially exciting, because the US riders went head-to-head as a team against a number of the best of their division in the world. And none of this would be possible without Discover Dressage, a 501c3, a sponsor of USEF Emerging Athlete Program for Dressage.
Jones is one of the three riders who represented USA in the equestrian ballet discipline that she describes as "the art of being able to build a strong connection and bond with your horse. You and your horse have to be one, together, strong and trusting of each other. Once you establish that, then the magic happens"
A normal week for Callie Jones consists on studying at Murray State University, from Monday through Friday. On the weekends she rides Phil and get lessons on multiple horses at Rhine River Farm with her trainer Angela Jackson.
How has the 2018 been for you?
2018 has definitely been a year that I only once dreamed about. I had so many amazing opportunities come my way and an amazing show season. I started the year out as a working student for George Williams in Wellington, FL and learned so much from him. Showing in Wellington at the Global Dressage Festival shows helped me earn a spot on the USEF European Young Rider Tour. Show season this year was amazing, winning the Individual Gold Medal and Freestyle Bronze medal at North American Youth Championships and the Young Rider National Championships was a reward for all the hard work I put in. It was also a year of learning. These opportunities allowed me to watch so many talented riders, learn and grow from watching them, as well as ride with some of the top trainers in our country.
What was it like making the 2018 US Dressage European Young Rider Tour?
Making the 2018 US Dressage European Young Rider Tour was truly a dream come true. It had been a huge goal of mine for several years and I honestly never thought I would achieve that goal, so to be selected felt amazing. Competing in Europe was incredible, but being able to watch some of the top young riders in the world compete was also a wonderful learning experience. Watching them really opened my eyes, even they make mistakes, but they make up for it by taking risks and riding “outside of the box.” This carried over to my riding and I started taking more risk in my tests and it really paid off for me this year.
Where have you traveled this year? What shows did you do? Which one was your favorite?
While competing in Europe, we competed at three CDIY events: in Compiègne, France; Aachen, Germany and Hagen, Germany. Hagen was where we did the Nations Cup and that was a once in a life time experience and one I will never forget. When we returned to the States I competed at the North American Youth Championships in North Salem, New York. We ended the show season competing at the Young Rider National Championships at Lamplight Showgrounds in Illinois. It is hard to pick a favorite because each of these shows are so special to me because I accomplished so much at each of them and was able to do so much with my horse, Phil.
How has Discover Dressage helped your progress in the sport?
Being part of the Emerging Athlete Program has allowed me to have one on one time with the USEF Youth Coach, George Williams and Assistant Youth Coach, Charlotte Bredahl. Having this time has been very beneficial to me, since they give quality feedback that I can apply to my everyday riding. Also, as a part of the program, we have access to Andy Thomas which has been a huge game changer for me. Overall since being in the program, I truly feel as if I have grown immensely as a rider through the resources that are available to me
Do you have any tips for dealing with competition nerves?
For me it is crucial that I surround myself with positive people. This helps calm my nerves and relieve stress. Then I can go into the show ring with a positive attitude and mindset. Also, I like to take 15-30 minutes before I tack up as “me time.” This may consist of putting on headphones and sitting with my horse or taking a walk so I can visualize my test.
What is your advice you would give to a young rider who would like to advance in sport?
I can honestly say that consistent hard work is key. You can’t just wake up one morning and decide that you don’t want to ride that day. If you really want something, then you should do everything you can to make it happen, but if it doesn’t happen then don’t stop there. Work harder to make your dream come true. Participate in clinics, watch other riders, take notes, and make yourself known, but stay humble.
One of my favorite quotes is by Mark Cuban,
“Work like there is someone working 24 hours a day trying to take it away from you.” Overall just don’t give up when times are tough because those are the moments that will mean the most to you once you reach your goal.