16-year-old Veronica West is having a great summer. Veronica, under the guidance of Mette Rosencrantz—a two-time member of the Swedish national dressage team and a five time US National Champion competitor— has been impressing judges since her arrival on the dressage scene just 2 years ago. Most recently, Veronica gave strong performances at the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC) held in Lexington, Kentucky. In the Team competition, Veronica and her horse, Nobleman, earned a score of 68.676%, which helped secure the silver medel for the Region 7 Junior team. In the Juniors’ Individual Championship test, Veronica and Nobleman placed 6th, qualifying them for the Freestyle competition.
Veronica took some time during her summer vacation to answer some questions for L.A. Chapter CDS.
Why did you decide to focus on dressage a couple years ago?
After selling my pony of two years, I had initially looked into pursuing eventing. However, I soon realized that jumping larger fences intimidated me. I had done a few dressage shows with my pony and competed up to first level with him. We had always done well, and I enjoyed the control and precision the dressage ring inspires. It was during the summer of 2013 that I made my decision. Having a better feel for dressage, I wanted to focus on pursuing it further.
Looking back on it, Mette and I often laugh about how quickly the decision to switch to dressage was made. It felt like it happened in a span of two days. One day I was riding my pony with my legs practically dragging on the ground, with Mette telling me I have such long legs I should do dressage. The next day I said to her that I would switch to dressage.
Attending an international show requires early planning. When did you make the NAJYRC your goal and what aspects went into your plan?
NAJYRC has always been a goal of mine, even when I still wanted to pursue eventing. When I first bought Nobleman, because he had vastly more experienced than I, my initial plan was to take things really slowly; begin in first level and to take things from there. Maybe we would make it to NAJYRC by my junior year in high school, I thought. We spent November through January getting to know each other, but showing wasn’t even on my mind. Our first few shows were spent in first level, and half way through the show season we moved up to third level and had a really successful end to the show season. After winning the CDS Third Level Jr/Yr Championships in September of 2014, I realized that with more practice during the winter months I could try the FEI Junior tests at the start of the new show season.
NAJYRC came into the picture after our first few times showing the FEI Junior Tests, when we were getting good results not only at national shows, but also in the CDI circuit. My plan was to go to all the shows I could go to and to get as much experience as I could in the ring. Having had an incredibly long show season leading up to NAJYRC, we spent the last month at our barn having some days of lighter work and doing some pole work. We didn’t want to drill the movements from the tests over and over. Along with some of the other Region 7 team members, we planned to have our horses flown to Kentucky four days prior to the competition in order to get them acclimatized.
Over the last year, how much of preparation was “fun” vs. “work”?
I would say that fun and work went hand in hand. There weren’t any aspects that I did grudgingly. Being a competitor can be hard at times because we all want to do well, but I always try and remember that I am also doing this for fun, otherwise what is the point? Mette does a great job of incorporating different exercises into our training program, so it doesn’t just feel like all I am riding the tests over and over. I enjoy the training process as well as showing, so there is a pretty good balance of playtime and work.
What was it like to ride in the Rolex Stadium? How do you feel about your rides?
Riding in the Rolex Stadium is definitely an experience in and of itself. Being in a stadium with bleachers surrounding you from all sides is something I had never experienced before. It can be intimidating at times, but once you’re in the ring you quickly forget about everyone else.
Overall, my rides were consistent, and there weren’t many major mistakes. The Team Test was our sharpest and most polished ride, I felt. There weren’t any major bobbles in test and Nobleman had the most energy that day. Sometimes the hardest part for me is to ride the same way I do in the warm up, as I do when I enter the arena. He is such an honest and willing horse that I’m never worried that he will change once he’s in the show arena. I know we have the potential of getting those 8’s and 9’s; it’s just a matter of feeling confident to ask him for more expression.
How did your horse, Nobleman, handle the experience?
Nobleman, being a seasoned schoolmaster and having shown in large competitions all over Europe, handled the experience very well. He is a good traveler and arrived in good form after the plane ride to Kentucky. All of us strictly monitored our horses’ fluid intake, but after a couple rest days Nobleman felt ready to go. Atmosphere doesn’t usually affect him, so the Rolex Arena wasn’t an issue for us.
What will you do with your medal and awards?
I have my ribbons and awards from all of the horse shows I have attended over the past six years hanging across my bedroom walls and sprawled about the house. I plan on framing my NAJYRC medal and awards next to all the other ribbons.
What are your plans after Championships?
Right now Nobleman is having some well-deserved time off of showing. I plan to continue training during the winter months and to resume showing at the start of the next show season. Since the show season was so long this year, I felt that at times I had to focus on riding the movements for the tests instead of learning the movements as part of training. Having done the FEI Junior Tests many times, I plan on showing 4th level as well as PSG in order to get more experience at various levels. I do, however, want to take part in the California CDI Circuit and to hopefully make the Region 7 Junior Team again next year. Having more experience riding in the FEI division as well as more practice, I hope to medal in all aspects of the NAJYRC competition next year. In the years to come, I plan on keeping Nobleman throughout high school. He has invaluable experience and can teach me about the upper levels of dressage. With him I hope to return to NAJYRC in the young rider division and maybe eventually try the U-25.
What advice would you give a junior rider considering a bid for the 2016 NAJYRC?
I would tell a junior rider that if you want something really badly, with enough determination and perseverance you could make your goals a reality. It is important to have specific goals of what you want to achieve in order to put things into perspective. It isn’t just enough to have a goal, you need to go after it and give it your all. Have a plan of how your going to reach your goal, including what shows you are going to attend in order to qualify. Talk with your trainer and set up a cohesive training program. Plan on attending clinics and put aside time to work on other things besides movements from tests. Write lists that include when and what forms need to be filled out and to read all of the information regarding NAJYRC thoroughly. Most importantly, don’t get discouraged by setbacks. We all have them and it’s important to push through.