Orrie was interviewed by Emily Covington in May, 2000. Our questions and her answers are presented below.
It is the dream of many young riders to one day make it to the top ranks of their sport, perhaps even one day representing the United States in international competition. The North American Young Riders program enables this vision to become a reality. Young Riders is a stepping stone for many talented young equestrians in the disciplines of show jumping, eventing, and dressage as they make their way towards professional status. The annual Young Rider Championships offer these competitors from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico the opportunity to experience an international level of competition.
Background: Equerry is pleased to introduce our readers to one recent graduate of the Young Rider program, Orrie DeCaster. Orrie very successfully competed in the Young Rider program in dressage. She competed in the Championships in both 1996 and 1997 and took home the Individual Silver Medal in 1997. Currently 22 years old, Orrie lives in West Bend, Wisconsin. She has worked since February, 2000 as dressage trainer and instructor at Lignite Stables.
Equerry: When did you first become interested in horses?
Orrie DeCaster: I became interested in horses at a young age. My aunts had horses that we would trail ride.
Equerry: Did you have any other family members who rode and shared your interest in horses?
Orrie DeCaster: My father rode when he was young. He grew up on a cattle and horse farm.
Equerry: When did you start riding more seriously?
Orrie DeCaster: I started riding more seriously in July of 1992 when I began taking lessons with a dressage instructor named Kimberly Iwen in De Pere, WI. She was very influential in my riding because I developed my dressage basics though her . She later helped me train my young horse to Prix St. George.
Kimberly was the first person I was able to watch ride dressage and that inspired me to want to do it. I started to focus on dressage in 1993 when I purchased a four year old Canadian Warmblood, who became my Young Rider partner and is soon to be my Grand Prix horse.
Equerry: What do you like about dressage in particular?
Orrie DeCaster: What I like most about dressage is how challenging and rewarding it is and also how you are at one with the horse. The challenges of training and showing inspire me the most about working with horses.
Equerry: Is there an aspect about dressage that is challenging for you?
Orrie DeCaster: The most challenging thing about dressage is the politics in showing. It gets frustrating when it comes to showing because of the politics and the big name riders. You learn to deal with it, but I think that is definitely challenging for me at times.
Equerry: Was there a particular point in your own riding that was frustrating? How did you overcome this?
Orrie DeCaster: I had a frustrating point with a trainer I once had who didn't believe in my horse and who would say many negative things about him, telling me to sell him. I overcame this by getting opinions from other trainers and by believing he could go on and be a Grand Prix horse.
Equerry: Which riders do you admire today?
Orrie DeCaster: The rider that I admire the most is Scott Hassler. I worked with Scott for almost two years and he improved my riding and my horse a great deal. He made me a stronger rider and because of that it made me into the instructor and trainer that I am today. I know two years ago I never could have thought about being a trainer, but with the knowledge that I gained from Scott and Hilltop Farm I have become successful as a trainer and instructor.
Equerry: Is there a particular horse who has been a meaningful partner to you?
Orrie DeCaster: I have only owned one horse, Gifted by Nature and he is my Young Rider horse. I found him in Illinois through Michael Barisone. I still own him and we are on our way to doing Grand Prix. He is so meaningful to me because we grew up together and learned together. He was four when I bought him and I had only been riding for a year. It's a very special relationship that we have.
Gifted by Nature and I have been together now for 8 years. We won the North American Young Riders' Champions (NAYRC) Individual Silver Medal in 1997. We have won many Prix St. Georges and Intermediare I classes. I earned my U.S. Dressage Foundation (USDF) Bronze and Silver Medals with him and we are currently working towards the Gold Medal. We have learned together and he taught me how to train a green broke horse into a Grand Prix horse. He's definitely my best friend!!
Equerry: Who are some of the horses you are currently working with? What do you enjoy most about these horses?
Orrie DeCaster: I am currently working with some Thoroughbreds, a Swedish horse and a Westphalian-Morgan cross. I really enjoy working with these horses because each one has its own challenges and it's really fun to get through them and see them slowly develop into dressage horses.
Equerry: About your experience in the Young Riders Program.. when did you begin to focus seriously with a goal towards competing in North American Young Riders Championships (NAYRC)?
Orrie DeCaster: I began to focus on Young Riders in 1994 when I groomed for a friend at the NAYRC and I had so much fun that I knew I wanted to take a shot at it. I was involved in NAYRC for two years, 1996 and 1997. I represented Region 2.
Equerry: What are a few of your memories and thoughts of that experience?
Orrie DeCaster: It was held at Tempel Farms in Wadsworth, Illinois both years. A few memories I have are of the great friends that I met and still have today. The golf cart races were always so much fun. Each team would get a group of judges, we would dress them up with a certain theme and then they would have to go through an obstacle course. That was the highlight of the week.
The main preparation I made for the Championships was to go to a lot of shows in the summer. The competition itself went great. In 1996 our Team placed 4th and I was in the middle of the group all week. In 1997, I won the Individual Silver Medal. I went beyond my goals at NAYRC. My goal was just to make the top 12. I did that and it was very exciting. It shaped me as a competitor not only for myself, but as part of a team. Through this experience, I became a stronger competitor because I was trying to reach a goal and make it onto the team. It educated me as a rider because of the FEI (Federation Equestre International) rules that we had to follow, and gave me the experience and feel for international competition.
Equerry: The NAYRC is an important stepping stone for many Young Riders on their way to professional status. Was this true for you?
Orrie DeCaster: Yes, because it brought exposure to my name. Young Riders also opened the door for me to experience riding with such instructors as Guenter Seidel and Conrad Schumacher.
Equerry: If you could suggest a way of making the program any better, what would that be?
Orrie DeCaster: It would be good to make the qualifying scores higher so that it's not so easy to make the team. And it would be nice to have more competitions for the young riders to qualify at.
Equerry: How did the YR program help you the most?
Orrie DeCaster: It made me a stronger rider and a more precise and accurate rider. The program taught me how to work for and with a team. I became a more mature rider.
Equerry: Now that you have completed Young Riders program, what are your goals with horses?
Orrie DeCaster: I would like to compete my horse, Gifted by Nature at Grand Prix and receive my USDF Gold Medal. My next goal would be to get a talented young horse and train it myself again. I'd like to do larger competitions such as the Pan Am Games, and the USET Festival of Champions, and eventually travel to Europe for training.
Equerry: Thank you very much, Orrie!
For more information on dressage and the NAYRC, check out the following site: http://www.usdf.org/programs/nayrc/
Emily Covington was employed at Hilltop Farm, Inc. in Colora, MD from 1992 through 1997. Starting as a working student, she later served as assistant stable manager, and rode young horses, including her own. She has produced a variety of photography and artwork for the farms publications. She now lives in Redlands, CA where she continues to ride and does various freelance work for Hilltop.
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