2019 Young Rider of the Year – The Riders Perspective


When I found out I had been selected for the Top 10 I was quite surprised! So to have made it to the Top 3 is very exciting and gratifying experience. I am very grateful to the selectors Bronwyn Shortt, John Pearce and Stevie Hill for providing me with this opportunity!

Walking into the admin building on Saturday morning, there was a buzz in the air. Everyone was chatting excitedly about the busy weekend ahead, and trying on their new uniform. The admin building had undergone a serious makeover by Deena and Emily and was almost unrecognisable. I loved being able to mingle with riders from the other disciplines, it was a fantastic opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones!

On Saturday we had two lessons with Steven Hill. My horse jumped super, it was our first time out in a little while and I was so pleased with him. We were also very lucky to have an informative session from Kentucky Equine Research which was insightful and engaging. It was also great to have a goal setting/exercise session, and talk by Dr. Rohan Luxmoore about promoting equine performance longevity.

I had the best weekend. We had a fantastic group of girls who made the Top 10 for Jumping, and I am sure the selectors would have had a very difficult task separating the candidates. If anyone is considering applying next year, I would strongly encourage them to do so. It is a fantastic way to develop interpersonal, public communication and riding skills whilst catching up with friends new and old.

- Jess Grant
2019 Jumping Young Rider of the Year Top 3 Finalist


From the initial application, to the potential selection into the Top 10 Young Rider of the Year, to the Finalist Training Squad and finally the awards night, it was definitely an experience I will never forget. 

When I first saw the Facebook post to apply, I almost chickened out but thankfully a friend convinced me to apply and I have never looked back since. 

Shortly, after the applications had closed the Top 10 finalists from each discipline were announced and I was so excited to be part of the Top 10 for Eventing amongst a great group of people. I went off to tell Mum and Dad but came across a small problem, we were going to be in Queensland leading up to and over the finalist weekend. I must admit I freaked out at first, but it wasn’t long till I started searching what flights were available to fly back to Melbourne earlier than planned, see if someone could keep one of my horses in work, try to figure out how to get home from the airport, and find transport to Werribee. What seemed like a mission and a half all came together thanks to some amazing people who made sure I would make it. 

I got back home and nothing seemed to be going to plan. There were horse issues, car issues, float issue. It didn’t seem like we were ever going to make it to Werribee but thankfully we did and just in time for the weekend to start. I came into the weekend with no expectations, just to have a fun weekend and hopefully learn lots along the way. 

My weekend started off with a dressage lesson with Amanda Ross. Undies (silly name for a horse I know) was a little overly excited to be out but it was a fantastic lesson, walking away from it with new and very useful tools to use when he is too excited for his own good. 

We had a group showjumping lesson in the afternoon where I also learned lots of new things to help me get the best out of Undies. It was also great to watch and learn from the other riders too. The gaps between our lessons were spent writing and preparing a speech on a topic we were given, attending informative lectures and also socialising with riders not just from Eventing but also the other disciplines too. 

We had a great night on Saturday night playing trivia with everyone and getting to know each other. Sunday was another day filled with lots of exciting things. We went out for a cross country lesson in the morning and it was great getting to trot and canter around as a big group and playing with different gears we would need out on course. 

The rest of the day we had some really great presentations; competition review, high performance and a talk from a vet all of which I learnt a tonne from and couldn’t wait to put everything I learnt to practice. I guess the saying time flies when you are having fun is pretty true, the weekend seemed to be over in a flash. It was soon pack up time at Werribee and we all went back home eagerly awaiting to find out who made the Top 3. 

A few days had passed and the Top 3 riders from each discipline were announced. I was so happy and excited for Brooke and Dan but I was also very surprised to have made it into the Top 3 as I really didn’t expect to. Despite my surprise I was still super excited and couldn’t wait to attend the awards night. 

The awards night came up faster than expected and was unlike anything I had attended before. It was definitely a night I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. The Young Rider of the Year Category were the first to be presented and I was very shocked, extremely shocked to have come away from the night as the 2019 Eventing Young Rider of the Year. 

I came into this experience with absolutely zero expectations and it was something I was definitely not expecting. It was such a great night from start to finish and I am already excited to attend again next year. 

If I wrote a list of everyone to thank I would be here for a very long time. There are so many people to thank, from the people who help and support me and my horses on a day to day basis, the team behind the amazing weekend down at Werribee (selectors, coaches, organises, etc), then onto the awards night, so a big thank you to you all!!

- Ella Smith 
2019 Eventing Young Rider of the Year Winner


My name is Natasha Moody and I am very fortunate to be in the Dressage Young Rider of the Year Top Three. 

The Young Rider of the Year (previously Ambassador program) is a program I have admired for many years since I first attended an awards night hwere my friend Ebony Toole was the Eventing winner on a horse that my uncle bred and raced and my mum started off the track.

I was thrilled to be selected in the Top 10 and very excited to be invited to the Finalist Training Squad.  Having previously been selected in the top 10 this was actually the first training weekend conducted that I could attend.  It was a busy and engaging weekend with breakfast at 7 am and interesting educational sessions starting at 8 am going through until dinner at 6 pm. 

Various professionals from Kentucky Equine Research, Gisborne Veterinary Clinic, EquiLivin and Equestrian Australia delivered informative educational sessions about ways we can not only improve ourselves as riders but also ways we can improve our care for our horses and ensuring equestrian maintains a positive reputation through the actions of riders like ourselves. During the weekend we also had the opportunity to ride in group lessons with fellow finalists and participate in a very helpful protocol day instructed by Jan Smith. 

The Equestrian Lifestyle Session delivered by EquiLivin founder, Kath Stewart was my favourite educational session. Kath focused on the importance of finding a lifestyle balance between fitness on and off the horse. The session was engaging with all exercises directly relating to when we are on a horse however the session was physically challenging. 

After a busy Saturday of educational sessions and speeches, the dinner was the perfect opportunity to get to know fellow finalists from different disciplines through some friendly competition during the trivia night. Unfortunately, my team narrowly missed out on first place but I loved making new friends with finalists from Show Horse, Eventing, Showjumping and Dressage. 

To be selected in the Top 3 was a shock and I feel extremely privileged to be selected. A massive thank you to Deena Peters and Emily Van Sonsbeek for running a fun and engaging weekend.  I am now very excited and nervous about the interview and final selection on Saturday, regardless of the outcome it has been a fabulous learning experience and hope I can continue to be a good ambassador for the sport.  Thank you to the selectors Deb and Corinne for volunteering their time to support this program and finally thank you to Mathew Brown for supporting the Young Rider of the Year and good luck to the other finalists.

- Natasha Moody 
2019 Dressage Young Rider of The Year Top 3 Finalist 


On the 29 and 30 of June, I participated in the Young Rider of the Year Training Weekend that was held at Werribee Park. It was an extremely enjoyable weekend for myself and I am sure everyone else who was selected to be in the top ten for their respective disciplines; 40 young riders in total.

I was fortunate to be chosen as one of the finalists for the show horse discipline and over the two days the top ten completed a range of activities with riders from the dressage, eventing and show jumping sections.
Each day combined practical riding sessions with theory activities. On the Saturday the showing riders had two mixed lessons with our appointed instructor, show and dressage rider, Jason James. I was really excited to work with Jason as he is a beautiful rider, an extremely positive instructor who always aims for correctness, softness and results. I have a new big horse that can be quite tricky so it was really beneficial to have a number of lessons over the weekend to test and re-apply his advice.

Rebecca from Kentucky Equine Research delivered a really interesting seminar around the ins and outs of equine nutrition and provided some key points to remember when feeding our horses. I found this really beneficial because our team of horses vary significantly, so I was able to learn about some of things that could help in order to get the very best performance out of them. Especially when it comes to lazy horses!
Another fantastic seminar was given by Katherine Stewart who founded the app, Equilivin. This was all about keeping fit as riders and learning some different ways in which we can keep healthy in mind and body. Equestrian is very different to other sports because not only are we working with animals from 300-700kg with a mind of their own, but we are also using so many different muscles to that of someone who may play tennis or run a marathon. Katherine's session made me more aware of the range of muscles used to ride, the ones I use well and others I should utilise better in order to enhance my own riding technique.

Preparing and delivering a speech to all of the riders from the disciplines as well as the selectors at the end of the day caused much nervous energy amongst many of the young riders. In the morning, we were given a pack which included a topic that we had to work on throughout the day and then, depending on our topic, talk about how we felt towards a certain area within the sport, or discuss some ideas that could be proposed to EV. This was a very interesting part of the day because everyone was able to learn a little more about each other's disciplines as well as take away some ideas on how our sport can be improved to reach its full potential. We are involved in a fantastic sport, but just like how we can never stop learning, we can never stop improving as well...knowledge, attitude and appreciation of others!

Dinner that night was a great time to mix socially with riders from the other disciplines – something that we do not get to do at any other time. The trivia made it all the more entertaining, for the parents as well.... Competitiveness isn't just around the young rider group!

The second day of the weekend commenced with a very interesting and educational presentation from Rohan Luxmoore from the Gisborne Vet Clinic. For an aspiring vet like myself, I thoroughly enjoyed this session and it really stressed just how important it is to monitor your horse both at home and when away, so that they are in the very best shape for training and competing.

The show horse riders then separated into their own group where we had a group discussion with committee member, Lorri Mansell, about ways our discipline can be improved and just how important volunteers are in the sport so that events can continue to run in the smoothest way possible.

Following on from this session we had a one on one interview with the selectors, Rebecca Farrow and Linden Hearn which included a test on our abilities to put a double bridle together. Concluding the day was a final lesson with Jason and a chance for the selectors to see what we were putting into practice from the previous two lessons.

It was great to see the selectors so present throughout the weekend. Informal walks through the stable block and relaxed conversation throughout the two days really gave you the feeling that they were invested in the whole process and were considering all elements of us as potential ambassadors.

Overall, it was a fantastic weekend and I feel so privileged to have been able to take part. I am extremely excited and humbled to have made the Top 3 for the Show Horse discipline leading into the Awards Night.

I would like to thank Equestrian Victoria for the opportunity to be involved with such an interesting and positive learning weekend. I feel that with the many issues surrounding young people these days, Equestrian Victoria through their junior members and training initiatives such as this weekend, have a wonderful opportunity to advance our sport in a really positive way and I am excited to be a part of it.

- Ava Halloran 
2019 Show Horse Young Rider of The Year Winner