Lincoln, Neb. – May 22, 2019 – Four riders have been selected for The Dressage Foundation’s Young Rider International Dream Program that sends top U.S. young riders to Europe for an intensive dressage experience. The program is administered by The Dressage Foundation (TDF) and funded by generous donors.
Bridgid Browne (GA), Sophia Chavonelle (ME), Raissa Chunko (CO), and Emma Sevriens (GA) were selected to participate in this year’s program. The selection committee based their decision on candidates’ essays, competition scores, recommendations, videos of their riding, and signs of commitment to the sport of dressage.
Bridgid Browne is a 22-year-old former young rider. She recently graduated from the University of Kentucky and is now working for Shannon Stevens and Marcus Orlob of Elite Expression Dressage in Annandale, NJ. Bridgid is a motivated individual who is dedicated to the sport of dressage with goals of competing at the top international level. Bridgid hopes to have the opportunity to compete in the U25 Grand Prix in the next couple years. She is currently training her own 4-year-old filly, Karina Sandra TF, with aspirations to go to the young horse championships this summer.
Sophia Chavonelle is an 18-year-old rider from Windham, Maine, who has been actively involved in dressage since she was 13. Competing in local and regional shows throughout her high school career, Sophia earned her USDF Bronze Medal as well as several Regional Championship and New England Dressage Association Year-End placings aboard coach Tanya Rennie’s DeJure. Her favorite accomplishment, however, was being rewarded the USDF’s 2016 Youth Volunteer of the Year, an annual award recognizing the volunteerism of young riders around the country. Sophia worked to graduate high school early in order to become a full-time working student and focus on training her new horse, W Spotlight, a 2008 Westphalian gelding. It was with Spotlight that Sophia secured a spot on the Region 8 Junior team for the 2018 North American Youth Championships. Competing at the NAYC allowed Sophia to experience the camaraderie of working with a team and enhanced her desire to one day be a U.S. team rider. Now, as a new member of the Yellow Wood Dressage team with trainer Ashley Madison, Sophia is continuing to pursue this goal.
Raissa Chunko is 19 years old and lives in Fort Collins, Colorado. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience from Colorado State University. Raissa has been actively competing in dressage since 2008 and has earned numerous USDF Region 5 and Rocky Mountain Dressage Society Champion and Reserve Champion titles at Training through Third Level. She is also a five-time competitor at the USEF Dressage Seat Medal Finals from 2011-2017. Her current mount, Rebelde RSDP, was given to her as a training project in 2016, and she has successfully competed with him at FEI Junior, Third and Fourth Levels. In addition, Raissa operates her own professional grooming service, providing braiding and body clipping to area riders and she also professionally handles horses at Dressage Sport Horse Breeding Shows.
Emma Sevriens is a 20-year-old from Georgia, who has been riding since she was 5 years old. Both of her parents are in the horse business and they manage the Stables at Blalock Lakes. She is currently competing in the Young Riders division with her horse, Nido King, a Holsteiner bred by her parents. Along with Nido, she rides many other horses at her parents’ farm. Emma is a student at the University of West Georgia and in their nursing program.
The program, conceived by Olympic medalist and TDF board member, Michael Poulin, will be led this year by chaperones Reese Koffler Stanfield (KY) and Bill McMullin (MA). Beth Baumert is serving as administrator as she has since the program’s inception, and Eliza Romm is assisting her. Poulin believes TDF’s International Dream program helps young American riders reach their potential by fueling the “power of the dream” for participants.
The group will attend the World Equestrian Festival CHIO Aachen in July to watch some of the top riders in the world train and compete. They will have the chance to discuss training with judges, coaches and riders, and watch the warm up as well as the competition rides. Reese Koffler Stanfield and Bill McMullin will be this year’s chaperones.
While traveling, the young riders will record their observations in daily journals and chronicle the events with photos and video to share with their home dressage organizations.