Course Discourse Canada

The Dream of Representing Canada

Dave Ballard says the road to realizing the dream of representing your country in a major equestrian event starts at the North American Youth Championships.

By: Course Discourse Canada

This year, at this moment, I am aware that the dream of representing your country is not an easy dream. My career did not see my dream of representing my country as a rider in a major jumping event that could have been the Olympics, the World Championships or with a Nations Cup team be a dream that came true. There are many young riders in Canada that have this dream. The road to make this dream a reality is a long one. The most important factor is financial. This is an incredibly expensive dream because of the time commitment and the purchase of not one animal but probably several. Chasing the dream for years over countries and over continents is daunting. Having the proper coaching from the beginning will mean coaching changes and could involve several changes. Above everything else it involves the families that are supportive and that includes siblings that may not have the same dream. I could go on forever about the problems that make this dream a difficult one but in no way do I want to discourage anyone from trying to make this dream a reality. Having dreams make us who we are.

As a parent and a professional in the equestrian sport my dream did not come true but my dream for my oldest daughter has been that she could represent Canada in a major (WEG or the Olympics). Erynn is a consideration for WEG 2018 and this is the last day for the team to be announced and Sandi and I are waiting to hear the team chosen. This is the dream at the highest level.

Why am I writing this? Have you as a rider, a parent or a coach really looked for a beginning to this long and difficult road to represent your country in an equestrian event? I am now going to give you a list of some young equestrian riders.

Stella Chernoff (AB)
Eric Krawitt (AB)
Charlotte McLaughlin (ON)
Olivia Stephenson (AB)
Ava Wong (AB)

Anya Berenznicki (AB)
Madison Hilderman (AB)
Austin Krawitt (AB)
Sam Walker (ON)

Emily Fitzgerald (AB)
Sabrina Lefebvre (PQ)
Sadie Leon (ONT)
Samantha Starratt (AB)
Alexanne Thibault (PQ

These riders just competed at the North American Youth Championships in Old Salem NY. They were members of a Canadian team. They did not represent a region or zone. They were members of a Canadian team representing Canada. They signed up to be considered for these teams with their horse(s) and were observed by members of the yr/u25 committee and selected to represent their country based on performance. Canada had the right to select teams in the past by regions and there were four regions that represented the whole of Canada. This was changed a couple of years ago when interest in representing a region seemed to be in decline. This new system paid major dividends last year when the results at the NAYC in Saugreties, NY were one of the most successful Championships to date for our Canadian riders. Good results are always important, nationally and personally but the thrill is being there and being part of a team. Being part of a team has pressures that are not the same as being an individual against other individuals. You have to be there to truly understand all the good things that can from this competition.

My point to make here is if you have a dream to represent you country in an equestrian event you can start with the NAYC. This year we finally had permission to have prize money for the very first time. With the generous donation of $150,000 from Gotham North this is now in line with many other competitions. The Children’s division is not eligible for prize money. Your own coach can go with you or qualified coaching is available in the persons Beth Underhill, Dayton Gorsline and myself (this year and in previous years). You can register now for next year for the division that is in your age group. It costs nothing and there are no other obligations except send your competitive results to EC.

The head of the NAYC is Beth Underhill and the work that she has done over the last few years in this program has been amazing. This job comes with few rewards. Beth must rely on the great results from her work since taking on this endeavour to feel a sense of achievement and sometimes this is not enough but she is always positive and this positive outlook is conveyed to the teams that she represents. It has been my privilege to work with Beth the last two years with the NAYC.

Our federation (EC) was on hand in Old Salem and they were well represented by Stefanie Krysiak who is new to the job but with her dedication to help and learn she will be a great addition to the head office. Stefanie was a great help every day and walked miles to make our job easier.

The parents of the riders this year were fantastic. They were helpful and enthusiastic and we were noisier than the Mexican group and that says something about how loud we were. In support of all the families in the past they have always been loud and supportive win or lose and that is the way it should be.

In closing the only thing to say is “sign up” and work towards riding on a Canadian team.

I am Dave Ballard.