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At the beginning of the 2011 event season, I joined the Area II Young Rider program in hopes of learning what it would take to qualify for the junior/young rider team.  As I was searching the Young Riders website I read about the Mentorship Program. I thought it sounded like it would be a beneficial program to participate in so I applied and was accepted. I was assigned to the course designer David O’Connor which I was extremely excited about.

Throughout the competition, I drove around with David and his dog Bourbon learning about what it takes to be a course designer. David also taught me some very valuable information about being a safe cross country rider which I will always keep in mind when walking my course. The most important lesson I learned during my time with him was how to walk a cross country course by myself; aka how to know how much to adjust your horses speed by evaluating the five phases of each individual fence.

On cross country day, we had a little bit of fun. One of David’s students was competing in the 2 star competition and he wanted to see every fence on her course. Instead of driving around in a dinky golf cart, we sped around the course after his student in his car and we saw every fence; although, I think we went above some speed limits.  In downtime, I shadowed other officials of the event such as the TD, and I even got to sit with a dressage judge to listen to the scoring process. I learned so much during this program, made some great friends, and feel ready to qualify for the team next year!

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Allie Sowden

Allie Sowden

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