Boyz R Back: Local Lads Shine in Dressage
You’d be hard-pressed to find one 13-year-old boy sporting riding breeches and happy to spend hours a day at the barn — let alone two within a five-mile radius of each other.
It’s an even bigger anomaly when you hear that the boys in question banded together to form a youth dressage team. A winning youth dressage team.
Local riders Sam Smithson, 13, of Southern Pines, and Campbell Jourdian, 13, of Southern Pines, teamed up with Zackary Batts, 11, of Greensboro, and traveled to Raleigh June 1–3 for the United States Dressage Federation Region 1 Youth Team Competition, which took place as part of the NCDCTA Capital Dressage Classic.
With Tami Batts as chef d’equipe, the trio — aptly known as “Boyz R Back” — won the training level division and ended up second overall out of eight youth teams.
Although Smithson and Jourdian have known each other for a while, they met up with Batts for the first time at Dressage in the Sandhills in mid-May. The Classic was their first show as a team.
Smithson rides every day, and he began riding dressage in early 2011. He said his aunt, Sue Smithson, helped him get started in the sport.
His ride Carousel Prince, or “Simon,” is a 3-year-old trapped in an old man’s body, according to Smithson. He’s been riding the 15-year-old Welsh-Arab cross, owned by Bernie Dembosky, for about a year.
“He’s like a little rocket ship,” he said. “He’s so much fun to ride.”
Jourdian has had his mount Jet Star, an off-the-track Thoroughbred he got as a Christmas gift, for almost three years. He said “Jet” is sweet and quiet, but not the easiest ride.
“I’ve become a better rider because of him,” Jourdian said. “I’ve developed a good seat and learned how to handle him when he’s strong. He’s a good teacher.”
Jourdian was the team’s final rider on Saturday afternoon at the Classic, performing the training 1 test.
The rider before him had to pull up only two movements into her ride because her horse went lame. Jourdian barely had his coat buttoned before the judge blew the whistle for him to enter the ring.
“Mom yelled, ‘That’s your whistle!’” Jourdian said.
With only 45 seconds to begin his test, he composed himself, marched down the centerline, and ended up with a 67.708 percent from judge Joan Humphrey of Florida. It was the best score of the day for the team.
“I was surprised that it ended up better than my other test. I had so much less time to warm up,” he said. “I was really proud of him (Jet).”
Smithson’s best ride came in a training 3 class, a qualifying event for the 2012 Great American Insurance Group/USDF Region 1 Championships. He and Simon posted a 65.800 percent.
The Encore Team from Sanford, coached by Susie Wiedman, just edged the boys out for the overall youth team win, finishing with a combined score of 128 to Boyz R Back’s 125.
Smithson said he and Simon hadn’t shown since Longleaf Horse Trials in April and hadn’t focused on dressage for most of this year, so he was pleased with their performance.
“We just wanted to go and have a good time,” he said.
Smithson also performed two first level tests on Sunday, his best being a 68.966 percent for First Level 1. The 61.774 percent he earned for first level 3 also qualified him and Simon to perform a first level freestyle set to music at future shows. He said he hopes to debut the new freestyle at Pinehurst Fall Dressage in September.
However, dressage is not Smithson’s exclusive equestrian game. Next on the agenda for him and Simon is novice level at the Carolina Horse Park starter horse trials in early July.
“I enjoy dressage a lot, and Simon’s good at it,” he said. “But I’d rather run cross-country than do circles all day!”
Jourdian said he loves dressage, and he’s excited to start working toward the upper levels in the sport. But he also agreed with Smithson. “The feeling of jumping cross-country is the best.”
Jourdian expects to show Jet in the Rise n’ Shine Dressage Show at the Pinehurst Harness Track in mid-July and continue eventing his other ride, Sapphire.
So what keeps the boys coming back to the barn almost every day?
“It’s just something I enjoy more than anything else,” said Smithson. “I’ve grown up around it and have so much fun doing it.”
When his family moved away from the Sandhills horse community a few years ago, Jourdian tried other sports, but he decided once they came back to Southern Pines that he wanted to get serious about horses.
“Everyone thought my sister would get more into it, but now I do all the riding,” he said, laughing.
Jourdian’s mom, Ashley Van Camp, said Jourdian didn’t realize it was mainly a girls’ sport when he was younger.
“As he’s gotten older, he’s realized that there aren’t many boys around,” Van Camp said. “But his love of horses and riding is more important to him than whether his friends are doing it or not.”
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