How Much Time Does a Junior Really Have?

The Rush to the Equitation Ring

*It’s very common that a 14-year-old student moves to my barn who has not yet been successful in the 3′ ring, and has potentially never even had her own horse, who tells me that she has the goal of qualifying for Medal and Maclay Finals. Parents think that when their children are 14 years old, that they are still young. In the horse show world, this is a very common misunderstanding. Unfortunately, the junior rider just doesn’t have a lot of time to get everything done.

It’s important to have a good foundation and be confident at each new level before moving up to the next.

* I think it’s wonderful for a student to have two years in each division. During the first year, you can really learn and make mistakes while feeling no pressure to get ribbons, while during the second year, you can feel confident and enjoy yourself, often receiving top ribbons.

When should a rider get serious?

* Let me break it down for you this way… A junior in high school with a September birthday is 17 years old, which means it’s her last year riding as a junior under USEF rules. So, if she wants two years to compete at the 3’6″ level (and in an ideal world, wouldn’t she want more than that?) she has to move up to the 3’6″ ring when she’s a sophomore in high school. If she wants two years at each level, then she has to move up to the 3′ ring in 8th grade, which means she would have moved up to the 2’6″ ring in 6th grade. This takes us back to 4th grade, when she would have moved into the 2′ ring. So, as a 10 year old, she’s showing consistently with well established goals and a plan for moving through the levels. Ideally, a student would start showing even earlier, so she could have more time. 

* It’s dangerous to move up too quickly, and I think many people are rushed through the levels because they get a late start. For many of my students, showing 10 to 12 times per year is the maximum they can do. Because a horse only has a limited number of  jumps in him during his career, we rarely school our horses  at their show height at home, so, if you’re showing at the 3′ height with the goal of moving up to 3’6″, you’re only practicing 10 to 12 times per year. When I break it down like this, it’s easy to see why students need to get serious early.
So, let’s get our students started at a young age, and make them safe and successful!

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