Stempel set to fulfil championship ambition
Robin Stempel is determined to complete her quest of representing Bermuda in the 2020 Adequan/FEI North American Youth Championship, an important step onto even greater stages in her burgeoning dressage journey.
A process that has been three years in the making since transitioning from pony to 17.3 hand Hanoverian gelding Rossano Royal 2 to focus on the dressage discipline, Stempel's endeavours are primed to culminate in an appearance in the premier equestrian competition in North America for young riders aged between 12 and 21.
To reach the prestigious event hosted at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival at Flintfields Horse Park, Michigan, United States in August, the seventeen-year-old needs to gain three more pass scores from the individual and team elements of qualification, having already secured four out the seven required, which also included a freestyle element.
In another welcome boost, that qualification process has, for the first time, been available in Bermuda with the final qualification opportunity on island set for the beginning of May.
“We started out with a plan three years ago with qualification being a possibility,” said the Saltus Grammar School student, who has made impressive strides in the competition arena.
“The first major step for me was switching from a pony to the horse I am on now.
“That was the first step where it hit home about how serious it was all becoming. From there I spent time training with him before I started doing my qualifiers this year.
“I found the pressure of going from regular shows to qualifiers OK. I thought about them being no different, but trying to tell yourself mentally and actually doing it is very hard. That was a big thing to learn.
“It's very much the same as a normal show, but it counts towards something so much bigger. The first show was very challenging, but then after that I felt like I understood the balance better; it's all about managing the pressure.
“I'm glad to be making this step as a junior, especially for Bermuda.
“I want to go and be competitive and show everyone that Bermuda does have the athletes to do this.
“I want to do well for myself, my family, my coach. I want to prove that I can do this and that it is doable for us as an island.
“That's what I want out of it, but I know even if I don't make it I've learnt so much through this journey.”
Having overseen Stempel's dressage journey to date, Angela Halloran-Smith, Bermuda's National coach, had no doubts about the young rider fulfilling her ambition, citing the North American Youth Championships as a stepping stone to more prestigious events such as the Youth Pan American Games and Youth Olympic Games in the coming years, should she choose to pursue those opportunities.
“This process to now has been all about time together between rider and the horse,” said Halloran-Smith. “That has made all the difference.
“There is a lot of pressure for both rider and horse, they both have to adjust to new environments and the pressures that brings.
“It's all about spending time in the saddle, going through the sweat and tears. Ross has been a great horse for Robin to learn and now they are really starting to click as a team, that's really exciting from my point of view.
“I've always known it's been there, but it's one thing knowing it as a coach and the rider themselves seeing and believing that the connection is there. Achieving what they want is a realistic possibility.
“This sort of competition prepares young riders for bigger events if that is what they want to pursue. It's an elite group and it's the best of the best of this age group.
“Even after this,there are bigger and better opportunities beyond that and the fact the possibilities are there is very exciting from my point of view because this isn't a dead end, there are greater things to follow.
“This is such a great goal to have because after this for the first time in 2021 there will be the Youth Pan American Games and in 2022 the Youth Olympic Games.
“These North American Youth Championships are a perfect stepping stone towards those bigger things. If we can achieve this then the sky is really the limit.”
While her coach is in no doubt about her athlete's future competing prospects the rider's levelheadedness seemingly matches her undoubted ability in the saddle as she remains pragmatic about her future aspirations.
“I try to take everything step by step because I feel that is the only way I can take it,” Stempel added.
“Conversations have come up about what could be next, but I just try to focus on what is the immediate target.
“I would love to continue obviously, but all my focus right now is on qualifying for these championships.
“It was frustrating at first because things didn't click immediately [with riding Rossano Royal 2] but now I'm really starting to feel it all come together and I can see the possibilities that are there.
“I don't want to set any limits or goals on myself but if I keep getting opportunities then I'd like to take them.”