Guest post by Naya Shim of The Upward Transition. Check out my post about competing as an Amateur on her blog!
As I slowly creep up to the age 18, it’s starting to hit me that I will no longer be a Junior rider anymore. With two years under my belt, I periodically think about what it’d be like to ride and show after aging out. I have a handful of Amateur riders at my barn who I can watch at shows, and all I can think about is, “Is that what I’ll be like?”
Whether you’re chilling out in Hunterland, still turning and burning in the Jumper ring, or even riding for leisure and taking a break from the show ring, even though you might be on the younger side of the Amateur status, I feel like it still makes a lot of riders feel old. Why? Because the door with all of those opportunities open to you as a Junior rider has now closed behind you.
I can say I’ve only been a competitive Junior rider for a little less than two years now. But before that, my riding days as a Junior had been spent at lesson barns with lesson horses/ponies, in-house schooling shows, and camp. Riding once a week, wearing my animal-print gloves, and schooling tights (Absolutely no-shame in this phase though. I had a ton of fun!).
I started “pretty late” in my riding career. I never got the chance to do any pony divisions, wear the braids and bows, and follow that “Pony Finals Dream.” Though once I started competitively riding, I realized that opportunities are basically endless for Juniors.
From riding 5 times a week, to leasing, to buying one’s own horse after a year, owning multiple horses or one, catch-riding, being a working student; there are plenty of directions to go as a Junior. I’ve seen riders that have started later than I, who look flawless in the 1.25m Jumpers or getting started in the Big Eq after just doing the 2’6-3’ divisions for a year. I’ve also seen riders that have been riding ever since they were at the age of 5 who are competitive in the 3’ divisions. Everyone progressed at a different pace.
As a Junior in the showing world, though, it’s competitive. Like, very competitive. The equestrian sport is unique because most of your career is already built up during your youngest years. I’m not too familiar with the Western disciplines or Dressage, but in terms of the Hunter, Eq, and Jumpers, you have anything from Pony Finals, the Big Eq Finals, THIS Medal Finals, M&S Finals, Junior Hunter Finals, USHJA Derby Finals, Zone Finals, NAJYRC (Young Riders).. there are so many different goals you can set for yourself. But after you age out, that’s it. Most of these get crossed off the list.
In terms of training, I personally feel that Juniors have it the “roughest.” In other words, the business and competition within the Junior riders itself is at the max. From no-stirrup lessons, intense flat-work training, to different over fences exercises, it’s all about the practice. Time is something that is limited for most adults, which is something that us younger riders have a little more of.
But don’t we all wish we had a little more time?