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2019 Captain Jack Fritz Grant Recipient: Naomi Porter

Photo by Belynda Moore Photography

2020 Young Rider Graduate Program Report

As I begin to write this report, my mind still buzzes with the information that was packed into the last two days’ classes. The Young Rider Graduate Program covered what felt like every topic involving growing a career within the dressage community, as well as many aspects I wasn’t aware of before.  I arrived home with more than 50 pages of personal notes jotted down, as well as multiple friendships and connections made.  I know this experience will help me start and grow my business and build upon what I already knew.

Arriving to West Palm Beach in and of itself was an experience unlike any other that I have had the privilege of being blessed with. From arrival to the airport, where people were milling around wearing riding clothes as casually as we in Washington wear flannel, to having the opportunity to spend my free hours before the program exploring the Adequan Global Dressage Festival grounds and the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, I felt a sense of belonging; as if this community was built entirely around a mutual love for equestrian sport and lifestyle. Touring those grounds gave me the chance to physically see what my goals might look like someday.

Though these experiences just mentioned were not a part of the 2020 USDF/USEF Young Rider Graduate Program, it’s being held within close proximity to our Nation’s capital for FEI sport, making those experiences possible, lending an opportunity for myself and the other attendees to experience first-hand the depth that our passions can reach, and the great community that can be afforded by providing equestrians with an environment for our shared interests to thrive infinitely. What has been achieved in Wellington for the equestrian community has been brought about by people who themselves were once young professionals with dreams and goals of their own, and it was so encouraging for me to have the chance to be immersed in it for even a short time.

Nurturing a community of positive equestrian growth, opportunities, and lifestyle is a goal I have had in my mind since I first became responsible for the day-to-day care of a lesson, training, and boarding facility; the very facility where I currently work. The experience of learning to care for each individual horse and human, and observing how attention to even the small details makes a large impact to them, has given more meaning to my life, and provided me with a purpose; sitting alongside my personally-satisfying goal to become an international rider.

Throughout the Young Rider Graduate Program, I felt my passionate dream being unpacked, sifted through, and organized into a goal that made sense not only for me, but the community that I seek to serve. In that one weekend, I learned truly just what my family, friends, peers, and The Dressage Foundation had chosen to support in donating their funds to my opportunity to educate myself further: the goal that in 30 years the Pacific Northwest will see an equestrian community as strong and interwoven as that in Wellington, offering a chance for cross-country camaraderie to all corners of America and a renewed appreciation for horses and equine sport by the general public.

By the end of the second day of lectures, I was already eager to apply for the next session in 2022. My plan is to use the next program as a chance to reflect on the progress made since 2020, and to gain more insight on which steps to take next to best expand that progress. The opportunity to have guidance for such large and specific career goals in such a concentrated setting is invaluable to me as someone who has experienced first-hand the difficulties that come with being located in an area where dressage-related opportunities are relatively limited and expertise can be hard to come by.

I would like to thank The Dressage Foundation, Jenny Johnson, the Jack Fritz Memorial Grant Review Committee, every one of the organizers of the Young Rider Graduate Program, the speakers, and all of the staff at USEF and USDF who helped to make this seminar possible. It is your guidance and pillars of support that have brought me to this next step in my journey to becoming the best version of myself in order to nurture this sport which has nurtured my life.