Hawke’s Bay teenager Dylan Bibby has been getting in as much practice as possible in riding different horses as he prepares for the FEI Youth Equestrian Games in Aachen later this month.
The 18-year-old from Onga Onga won the right to represent New Zealand alongside 29 others from 30 continents at the event to replace the scheduled 2022 Youth Olympic Games, which have been postponed until 2026.
He’s had lessons and input from the likes of double Olympic silver medallist Greg Best and Waipuk horseman Simon Wilson in the build-up. “It’s just been about riding different horses and getting a feel for them,” he said. “I have discovered a few habits of my own that I wasn’t really aware of, so I just need to be conscious of that. While I have done a bit of riding of other horses before, I haven’t jumped them at 1.3m.”
That said, there are quite a few equines on the Bibby family farm and it is fair to say they’ve all got quite different styles, mannerisms and quirks.
Lucy Olphert, who will be his coach at the event, has helped organising a barn for Dylan to head to in Germany so he can continue his preparation.
Dylan and mum Kelly fly out this week, while dad Hamish and sister Leah will join them in Germany for the prestigious event.
“It has come around so quickly,” says Dylan. “I am so excited. It is such a great opportunity. It’s everyone’s dream to ride for New Zealand – I never thought it would happen this early for me.”
The trip is partially funded by the FEI and he has also had help from numerous others including Matt Holden from Kelso who organised an auction at the winter workshop where things like holiday home stays and helicopter rides went under the hammer. “I am so appreciative of all the support I have received.”
He is really looking forward to seeing how the big competition barns are set up and run. “We are a farm set-up here with a couple of stables and tie ups. It would be great to get overseas in a few years and get some work in a big stable.”
Dylan’s usual day job is helping out on the family farm shepherding and also at stock yards alongside agents, learning their trade.
But for now his mind is on the task he will face in Germany where he will be aboard a borrowed horse and up against some of the best young talent – aged between 15 and 18 – in the world. “Getting on with the horse is the biggest challenge and getting it to go around the course and over the fences nicely,” he says. “I will have the same horse for the whole competition, so I hope I get one who is bold and a bit forward going with no real complexity to it.”
He will compete individually and as part of the Australasia team, which includes riders from Australia, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. The chef d’equipe is Aussie Todd Hinde.
“This is just going to be awesome – I can’t wait!”
Competition gets underway on Wednesday (June 29) with the first round of the team competition. The second round the following day, is being held in the main arena at Aachen and just before the showjumping Nations Cup competition. The best three results count for each team, with two drop scores. The individual competition starts on Saturday (July 2).
All competitors are aboard borrowed horses. A random draw will be done on June 23 and riders will have three training days and a welcome competition – outside of the official programme – to form a partnership with their mounts.
FEI have also unveiled an education programme that will be delivered to the teenage riders and covers all aspects of equestrian with a focus on their current and future sporting careers, emphasising the significance and relevance of the Olympic values.
One of the main goals of the FEI Youth Equestrian Games 2022 is to significantly impact the lives of the participants beyond the competitive element. The FEI is committed to encouraging young athletes to grow and develop according to the values of the Olympic movement.
FEI president Ingmar de Vos says to educate and support the young generation of equestrians is vital for the sustainability of the sport.
The education programme has been fully tailored to the needs of young athletes, so they can expand their knowledge on areas that will play an essential role throughout their lives.
The holistic programme includes a variety of sessions that will focus on crucial topics for the equestrian athletes of the future, such as anti-doping policies, physical and mental health issues, and the transition into the job market.
The competition can be seen on FEI TV and through the FEI social media pages.
6th June 2022