Day In The Life Interview with Debbie DelGiorno Region 1 FEI Youth Coordinator and NAYC Chef d’Equipe

We have a special “Day in The Life” segment here for you at …. meet Debbie DelGiorno, Region 1 FEI Youth Coordinator & NAYC Chef d’Equipe for Region 1 Dressage. (The US has young riders in dressage, jumping, and eventing). This interview is packed with information, if you are a young rider or parent of a young rider… you need to read this interview! Enjoy!
* Tell us about yourself and how you got started in Young Riders:
Almost 2 decades ago, at the time my daughter(Nicole DelGiorno) discovered her passion for dressage, there were only a handful of youth in our region involved in the sport and it was hard to find information. As my daughter progressed through the levels (the “youth pipeline” didn’t exist at that time), it was a natural progression for me to get involved in leadership to help other parents and youth navigate through the process.
* What are the positions you have held in YR and tell us what you do in each.
My daughter first started riding and learning about horsemanship through US Pony Club – while she learned, I Iearned too and held the positions of Rally Coordinator and Jt District Commissioner of Shore Riders Pony Club in the Delmarva Region. I started as a volunteer at local GMO dressage shows (ESDCTA) and soon became involved in the organization from a leadership standpoint and held the positions of Secretary and Vice President for many years and was very involved in the growth and activities of the Youth Committee.
Since 2006, I also serve on Lendon Gray’s Dressag4Kids Committee and have been involved with the management of the Youth Dressage Festival and held the position of Show Secretary for many years.
Upon Patsy Albers passing in 2012, I became the Region 1 FEI Youth Coordinator and NAYC Chef d’Equipe for the Region 1 team (they were very big shoes to fill!). Region 1 represents the states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. As the Region’s FEI Youth Coordinator, in addition to helping athletes and their parents/trainers navigate the process of competing in the sport at this level, I am responsible for ensuring that we have the appropriate funds raised to field teams to the FEI North American Youth Championships and ensure that all of the required NAYC athlete documents/payments have been submitted by the various deadlines. Although it is not a responsibility, I enjoy going to the NAYC qualifiers to support our Region 1 youth athletes.
I have organized our Region’s FEI Youth Clinic since 2008 at various premier venues such as Eagle Crest Farm, Hilltop Farm and Riveredge.
Since 2009, I have been a Region 1 Participant Member Delegate (PM) to the USDF Board of Governors with a particular focus on representing the interests of youth. I adamantly campaigned for our youth membership to be able to compete in the US Finals and I am proud to report that youth will have their own division at the US Finals in 2021.
* What is the best path to take if you want to compete as an FEI Youth athlete.
Be certain to find a good instructor who will provide a solid training foundation upon which to build the upper level skills needed to participate in the FEI youth divisions. Participate in the Dressage Seat Equitation Medal Program. Now that we have the FEI Childrens Division, I would encourage riders younger than age 14 to work towards this division as a goal. The tests in this Division are at the equivalent of 1st-2nd level with a concentration on the rider’s position and effectiveness of the aids. You may compete in this Division with a pony or horse. Riders aged 12-16 with a pony trained at second/third level may also complete in the FEI Pony Division. Although these 2 divisions are not part of the North American Youth Dressage Championships (NAYC), they are a part to the USEF National Dressage Championships (aka Festival of Champions, FOC). The FEI Junior Division (ages 14-18 riding at 3rd/4th level) and FEI Young Rider Division (ages 18-21 riding at the PSG level) are more competitive and those riding at this level may qualify for NAYC and/or USEF National Dressage Championships.
* What is your favorite horse show?
Of course, my favorite competition is the FEI North American Youth Championship – it is the only FEI intercontinental championship where youth represent their country. We compete in teams against Canada and Mexico, very much like a “junior Olympics” with most, if not all, of the same FEI protocols to follow as our senior team riders. After the veterinary inspection, each athlete receives their country’s patch to sew on their show coat signifying that they have represented their country in international sport.
My second favorite is the USEF National Championships where the top 12 youth in each FEI Division compete. Also included at this competition are the small and large tour divisions as well as the young and developing horse divisions. It is a fabulous way to showcase our sport at a national level.
* What do you do for fun when not busy with horse shows?
There is not much that I do that is not somehow involved with horses. I enjoy watching my daughter train and teach.
* Great tips for kids/teenagers/young adults wanting to do Jr/YR?
A good indicator for readiness to compete at the FEI JR/YR levels, is to enter a few TOC classes at a Level 3 Competition. This way you are “off the radar”- you don’t have the pressure of riding in a qualifying class – and you will very likely be judged by the same judges that are used for the actual NAYC/FOC qualifying classes at that competition. If you can consistently score 64-65 in these tests, you are ready to declare your intent to qualify for NAYC and/or Festival of Champions.
Prior to submitted your application, athletes should sit down with their parents and put together a budget that includes everything from training, veterinary, cost of attending 3 qualifiers including the coaching and travel expense (gas, tolls, hotel meals, etc) and the expense of NAYC (entry fees, travel expense for humans/horses, coaching, and other team expenses that may not have been covered by team fundraising). It is heartbreaking when an athlete qualifies for NAYC but does not have the funds to go. The same also applies to Festival of Champions.
* What is rewarding about what you do?
What is rewarding for me is to see the camaraderie and sportsmanship that develops among the team athletes and parents as well as the life-long friendships that are made. It warms my heart to see NAYC alumni that have been on a team that I managed now training their own students at the FEI level. I also love when my alumni give back to our annual fundraising online auction in the form of lessons, etc.
2013 – Awarded the Region 1 Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Dressage Community
2014 – Received the NAYC Patsy Albers Award for Dressage Chef d’Equipe.
2015 – Received the USDF Region 1 GMO of the Year Award (ESDCTA)
2017 – USDF Volunteer of the Year Award
2018 – Dressage4Kids Corinne F. Gray Memorial Award – presented to a volunteer in honor of a woman who spent her life trying to help children and adults alike enjoy all aspects of horse care, competition, and companionship.
To get started:
Youth and their parents and trainers can contact their region’s FEI youth coordinator for information about the FEI youth programs.
Upcoming Region 1 FEI Youth Clinic
Thrilled to announce to announce that the annual Region 1 FEI Youth Clinic will be returning to Riveredge this year on November 21 and 22nd. Athletes may apply through the USDF website by 10/21:
Helpful Links for USA Youth
Thank you so much Debbie for all you do for the Young Riders in Reg 1! #H4YC #Youngriders #FEI

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