Resources for Young Dressage Riders, Parents

If you are interested in dressage, or you are the parent of an interested girl or boy, here is a list of organizations and programs that can help you on your dressage journey.

A young rider at Lendon Gray’s Youth Dressage Festival | Photo by Susan J. Stickle

The U.S. Equestrian Federation (USEF) is the governing body for most equestrian disciplines, including dressage, in the United States. It sanctions top-level events.

Juniors who demonstrate exemplary sportsmanship, promote the horse and serve as role models for their peers are eligible for the USEF Youth Sportsman’s Charter Award. A national nominee from any discipline receives a certificate of honor and a six-day career opportunity workshop at the USEF headquarters. This nominee is then considered for the Youth Sportsman’s Charter Award. The winner of the award will be nominated for the USEF Junior Equestrian of the Year Award, whose winner receives a trophy, $1,000 educational scholarship and a lifetime membership to the USEF.

Junior riders can qualify for the USEF Dressage Seat Equitation Finals by competing in the semi-final classes each year, held in each USDF region. The top two competitors in each age division are invited to the finals. To get started, check your region’s schedule and find out more about working your way to the regional championships.

Each year, a number of qualifying competitions are held in each region for the North American Juniors and Young Riders’ Dressage Championships (NAJYRC). NAJYRC is open to all Juniors and Young Riders, ages 14 through 21. They submit a letter of intent and compete throughout the year to qualify for this national competition.

The U.S. Dressage Federation (USDF) headquartered in Lexington, Ky., promotes dressage throughout the United States and offers many educational programs, events and awards for young riders. There are 10 USDF regions. Within each region are local dressage clubs, called Group Member Organizations (GMOs), who offer a variety of opportunities for young dressage riders, such as scholarships or volunteer positions. Also part of the USDF, Intercollegiate/Interscholastic Member Organizations (IMOs) provide an avenue for students in middle school through college to participate in USDF-recognized shows and awards programs, as well as internship opportunities.

USDF FEI Junior/Young Rider Clinics, presented by internationally known dressage riders and teachers, are open to Juniors and Young Riders, who are USDF members riding at Third Level and above.

For beginning dressage riders, there are Youth Regional Team Championships. Each USDF region holds one of these competitions. Anyone age 21 and under may compete.

Each region has a USDF Regional Dressage Championship for all dressage riders. There is a division for Juniors and Young Riders riding at Training Level through Intermediaire I.

The USDF also offers: the Creativity and Arts Contest for Juniors and Young Riders to enter their dressage-oriented artwork; the Youth Convention Scholarship to cover the expenses for four youth members to attend the annual USDF convention; Youth Education Grants for each region to help fund youth camps, clinics or educational programs; the Youth Volunteer of the Year Award to honor a 21-or-under USDF member who has volunteered at least 25 hours during the year on any dressage-related project and has contributed on a national basis to the sport of dressage; and the Youth Shining Star Award to recognize outstanding sportsmanship among USDF youth members.

Lendon Gray’s Youth Dressage Festival is held every year in Saugerties, N.Y. This unique competition includes classes in equitation, dressage and Prix Caprilli, as well as contests and awards for groups and individuals for such things as sportsmanship, stall decorating and spirit.

The U.S. Pony Club has over 600 individual clubs that offer riders under 21 an opportunity to train, compete and clinic in dressage–even if they don’t have a horse.

The Riders Interscholastic Federation of North America is a national organization that promotes equestrian sports in middle and high schools. Riders ages 12 through 18 can compete in dressage at a number of levels. The Interscholastic Equestrian Association is a similar organization.

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