October 2017 - Generation Next

Kate Cohee and Pik’s Allegro in the Team Championships Jog.

New additions to CDS’ Junior/Young Rider Championship add extra inspiration and preparation for upcoming stars.

by Kate Cohee

It is early morning, and a pink sun is just beginning to peer over the tops of the distant Cuyamaca Mountains. The only sounds to be heard on the grounds of the lush Del Mar Showpark are of horses chewing hay, the clip of lunge lines onto halters, and the occasional clang of bits being cleaned. For the 35 juniors competing at CDS Southern Section Junior Championships in early August, this was the pinnacle of years of blood, sweat, and tack soap.


Staring off into the sunset on the ground of beautiful Del Mar Showpark.

As a junior competitor myself, I know firsthand the incredible amount of work it takes to participate.

The California Dressage Society celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, and gave itself a few birthday presents. Among them was the addition of a new team challenge for juniors to compete in – the Team Championship Challenge, which is in addition to the Team Competition already offered. Other changes include the prizes. This year, instead of the champion getting a cooler, the winner received a leather halter, reserve took home an embroidered backpack, and third jogged off with a CDS saddle pad.

The pre-existing Team Competition combines riders onto teams of up to four. Their scores are comprised of a Dressage Seat Equitation class, the second test ridden at each rider’s individual level (ex – Training Level Test 2), and a team theory test. This challenge requires no qualification, so any junior can participate in the Team Competition. One of the best aspects of this event is the team collaboration involved. Riders coordinate outfits, make posters for their stalls, and work together as a team on the theory test to earn the highest score. It promotes sportsmanship and builds bonds between young riders, something that keeps them in the sport and adds a level of fun to what is otherwise a stressful weekend of showing. Last year, I made friends with several girls from this challenge, and found myself reunited with them at 2017 Juniors. There is something truly lovely about walking out of an arena to cheers from your fellow competitors, who now double as your best riding friends.

Team Competition champions, The Mane Attraction.

The new Team Championship Challenge is also a team event with capabilities to become an individual event, and is scored based on the combined scores of a rider’s two championship tests, a freestyle, a jog, and a theory test. It is meant to bridge the gap between showing at CDS or Regional Championships and North American Junior Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC). This year, Region 7 clinched a win in both team and individual Junior Championships this year, but failed to bring a full Young Rider team to compete. The addition of the Championship Team Challenge in both the North and the South adds additional skills to a rider’s repertoire that are necessary for potential NAJYRC candidates, as well as bringing an extra bonus to the show.

As Beth Coffey-Curle, co-coordinator of the Junior programs for CDS, suggested, the addition of the Team Championship Challenge also gives older riders something new to look forward to at CDS. So even if you’ve been to Juniors several times in the past, there’s a new addition to the class sheet to try out. It’s adding an additional step and additional challenge to CDS Juniors, and I feel it was an amazing addition. Only two riders competed in the Championship Team Challenge this year, Katherine Mathews, and myself, Kate Cohee.

Kristyna Lukacova’s mount, 6-year-old Training level champion Caladio.


Personally, the highlight of my weekend was performing my freestyle in the Team Championship Challenge. It wasn’t the cleanest test I’ve ever ridden, but the work of finding and cutting music, planning, riding, editing, re-editing, re-re-editing, and re-re-re-editing my test, then finally getting to perform it in front of friends, family, and judges was exhilarating. I felt the music in every stride, and it truly felt like dancing. I’d highly recommend it to every junior next year, no matter what level you ride at, to give the Team Championship Challenge a try. It may seem like a lot of work, but no matter your riding goals for the future, whether they be NAJYRC or happily hacking, there’s no feeling like the pride and exhilaration of riding your freestyle. I’d love to potentially see an article on the best tips for making and riding a freestyle, as contributed by readers, to help up juniors out!
I also had the honor of watching fellow competitor, friend, and rising star Katherine Mathews and Roosevelt perform their Junior Freestyle.

Team Championship victors, Kate Cohee and Katherine Mathews.

Katherine hopes to attend NAJYRC in the future, and eventually ride in the Olympics and set a world record like her idol, Charlotte Dujardin. Aboard Roosevelt, affectionately known as “Teddy,” Katherine had an excellent weekend, scoring a 77% on her Beauty and the Beast themed musical freestyle on Saturday night and taking home the Mona Lisa Highest Combined Score Freestyle & Championship Perpetual Trophy among other accolades. She told me that CDS Juniors gave her the opportunity to score personal records in both her championship tests, make new friends, and continued to push her toward making the Junior Team next year. Katherine also talked about how, even though she hasn’t been on the CDS Juniors circuit for a long period of time, CDS has opened doors and provided amazing opportunities, including taking a clinic with Charlotte Bredhal earlier this year.

Another featured rider is Evan Pollack, who pilots Dow Jones at 1st level. This is her second year doing juniors, and her favorite thing about championships is the community involved. The power of friendship in dressage is something that keeps her coming back each year. Her favorite moment this year? Watching the junior freestyles in the Championship Team Challenge.

Giving Back

I caught up with Kristin Young after the show, who is the co-organizer for CDS Juniors along with Beth Coffey-Curle. She talked about what she does for CDS, including her work on coordinating the annual Northern, Central, and Southern Junior Clinics along with planning Juniors each year. She shared her favorite part of the show, “the kids. Wait, no, it’s actually the honor round!” She went on to explain the reason she devotes so much of her time to juniors, which is to give us the opportunity to get rewarded for hard work while getting to do the sport that we love and connecting with new young riders, and I couldn’t agree more. Thank you Kristin for your time, as I know you’re already busy planning next year’s clinics and Championships!

Katherine Mathews, Mona Lisa high point combined freestyle and test score champion at her 1st ever CDS Juniors.

Our amazing junior coordinators, Kristin Young and Beth Colley-Curle.

Similarly, Beth Coffey Curle and I sat in an abandoned golf cart after team awards and chatted about her experience at CDS Juniors. It’s her first full term on the Juniors board, and her first time at CDS Southern Juniors. Beth and Kristin co-chair the Juniors together. She’s incredibly involved in the junior clinics, but this was her first year taking on a leading role in Junior Championships in both the North and the South. For Beth, highlights of Championships include: the ability to meet all the riders in the South, attend the annual San Diego Chapter International Party, gather and chat with riders at the ice cream social, and especially to watch some of the juniors tactfully and gently manage difficult rides. She was also excited about the new Team Championship, and discussed ideas she has for next year, including making it an individual instead of team challenge. Thank you Beth, for your hard work this year on CDS Juniors!

Supporting our juniors is incredibly important. The young riders that compete at CDS Juniors each year, both in the North and in the South, are the future of American dressage riders. These are the kids with big dreams, strong work ethics, and incredible ability. Juniors provides an opportunity for youth to grow, learn, be challenged, make friends, and succeed in their riding efforts, which is why it is integral to continue supporting CDS Junior clinics, scholarships, and championships.

I’ve been personally touched by the effects of the CDS Juniors program. I only started riding dressage two years ago, after over 10 years of showjumping, and found a community within the CDS Juniors that welcomed me with open arms. After attending Junior Championships twice and a Junior clinic once, I know I’ve made lifelong friendships with like-minded riders. They encourage me to do my best every time I step foot in the irons, cheer me on ringside, and sneakily pass me makeup remover when happy tears come down my face.

Support your local junior. Because we are the future, and after 2017 CDS Junior Championships, I can safely say that the future looks very, very bright.

Author Kate Cohee is an 18 year old student at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland who is majoring in Social Anthropology and Comparative Literature. She has been riding for 13 years, and competed in 4th level CDS Junior Championships on Pik’s Allegro this year. Kate trains with Christine Stephenson out of Orange County’s Aliso Viejo. She plans to continue riding in university and aims to be a professional dressage rider and trainer in her future. You can find her on Instagram at @kate.cohee. Article reprinted from the California Dressage Society’s Dressage Letters.