The North American Junior/Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC) is a prestigious, weeklong competition in which the best young athletes from the United States, Bermuda, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean Islands meet to compete for FEI team and individual medals. The NAJYRC is run under the rules of the international governing body for equestrian sports, the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI). It is the only FEI championship that is held annually in North America, and it is host to eventing, dressage, show jumping, reining and endurance.
This competition is a fabulous opportunity for young people to get a feel for international competition, and for many it is the beginning of a serious career in the sport. In the past years, Region Two’s teams have won six team gold medals, along with individual medals. In addition, two years prior, Region 2 produced the highest scoring young rider in the country who qualified and competed in Europe.
Each year junior and young rider teams are selected to compete in the NAJYRC. Each of these teams consists of 4 riders, making 8 total riders that represent the region. For Region 2, the top riders are selected to represent the states of Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia for a week of intense competition.
So what’s the difference between junior and young riders?
In dressage, junior riders range between the ages of 14-18, while young riders range from the ages of 16-21. Age, however, is not the only difference between the two divisions. Junior and young riders also perform different tests from one another. The junior tests consist of third level movements, with the difficulty of fourth level, while the young rider tests are Prix St. George equivalent.
How do you qualify to compete at NAJYRC?
To qualify, a dressage rider must compete in qualifying shows. Riders need to compete a minimum of 3 NAJYRC qualifying shows. At each show the riders must participate in the team and individual tests for their divisions with two qualified judges. They must also have one score from a junior or young rider freestyle. To be considered for the team, riders must have an average score of at least 62% and one freestyle score of at least 65%.
How many days do the riders compete at the NAJYRC?
It varies. All riders in the dressage portion of the NAJYRC compete for two days, one day in the team competition and one in the individual competition. From there, riders who have qualified for the freestyle will move on for one last day of competition.
What happens at the NAJYRC aside from the show?
During this weeklong competition, the competitors have the opportunity to meet young people with similar interests to their own, and it is certainly a great time to make new friends from around the US and neighboring countries. Each year there are several competitor parties hosted by different organizations, such as the USDF and the host facility of the competition. Competitors also have golf cart competitions, decorating their region’s golf carts with team colors. Last year the competitors had a golf cart parade over to a neighboring farm, Spy Coast, that culminated with a party for all competitors at the NAJYRC. In addition, this week gives athletes an opportunity to watch other disciplines, such as show jumping or reining, or to go shopping at the vendors.