UNF student wins national dressage competition

Spinnaker

Mary Cameron-Rollins, a junior at UNF, competed in the Adequan North American Junior Young Rider Championship July 22 through July 26 presented by Gotham North, where she took home the team bronze and individual gold medals.

The competition held once a year in Lexington at the Kentucky Horse Park, is host to over 180 competitors from all across the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

The event that Rollins took part in, dressage, is a very technically challenging competition. The rider guides the horse through a series of movements and trots and is critiqued very carefully.

During competition every judge has his or her own opinion on how the horse rides, said Cameron-Rollins. It’s important to find a horse that every judge likes a lot and that’s very difficult. There’s a specified team test and specified individual test.

“Individual is a little harder because you need one horse that does really well,” she said.

The individual test requires the same movements as the team trial, but the order is much harder. In the team test you’d have time between the movements, but in the individual test you have much less time, and you must get the horse to switch positions very quickly. The last day you have a musical freestyle where you match the beat with how your horse trots.

“The whole idea is to strive for perfection,” Cameron-Rollins said. “When you’re riding you’re not just perfecting yourself, you are perfecting something with its own mind.”

Riding horses has been a burning desire in her for as long as she can remember. Starting young at age eight, Mary has been riding horses for 13 years, but she isn’t planning on stopping any time in the near or distant future.

“It’s not like gymnastics or soccer where once you hit 30 you’re done,” she said. “There are people who can ride into their 80s. It’s something that stays with you forever.

What may be most impressive of Cameron-Rollins’s gold medal ride is the horse that she won it on, Rose Noir. She said it was magical, because many thought that this particular horse wouldn’t amount to her promise when she first bought her. An injury nearly cost Rose Noir her life, but she nursed her back to health over a period of months and the hard work paid off with their first place finish.

“My horse got hurt three years ago, and they thought she wouldn’t be able to compete,” said Cameron-Rollins. “She was hurt on mother’s day, six months after I bought her, and I didn’t start riding her again until August. For her to come back was really a blessing. It was an affirmation that everything we did was worth it. The horse was perfect. That’s very rare. It was the ride of my life.”