DEXTER, MI – Sixteen-year-old Olympic hopeful Cierra Daratony’s may have a grey horse, but at the NAYC it was black and white. She was there for the gold.
And that’s exactly what she got, along with three other members of the Area VIII “dream team” finishing with 13.6 points to spare on a cumulative result of 90.6, earning four gold medals in the 2019 Adequan North American Youth Championships (NAYC) in the CCIJ2*-L.
Daratony competed as part of the Area VIII Young Rider Eventing team and as an individual on her horse Rio de Janeiro (River Dancer x Vanilla Ice) at NAYC, the premier eventing competition for young riders under the age of 18 wrapping up last week in Kalispell, Montana.
Eventing is a three-phase equestrian competition equal to a Triathlon, which includes Dressage, Stadium Jumping, and Cross Country elements over a 3-day period.
Daratony was first to lead her team in the dressage phase, which starts the competition, and rose to the occasion by securing a personal best dressage score of 29.4. Leaving the ring to the sounds of her teammates’ screaming cheers, emotions were running high, setting the stage for an incredible week.
“I was a little nervous going first for our team,” Cierra Daratony said about phase two, the cross country day. “There was no one ahead of me to watch to see how the course was riding, but I was pretty confident after walking my course seven times,” she laughed. “I knew where I was going, and I knew Rio was totally game to do anything,” Daratony added about her grey homebred mount that had 2.4 time penalties on course, but jumped clean to sit on an individual sixth place.
Daratony then piloted Rio to a clear stadium jumping round on the third day of competition, finishing on a 32.0 for Area VIII. “As soon as we jumped the first jump, I knew it was going to be great. He was amazing,” she said about her 10-year-old Holsteiner/Thoroughbred gelding.
Daratony, whose family runs Cobblestone Farms in Dexter, was first out for the squad. As the team’s trailblazer, her strong start helped launch them into the lead with three riders finishing double-clear.
“My teammates were so great I had to bring it home for them,” described Daratony, who will be a junior at Dexter High School and has a long history riding, eventing and teaching youth about horses through Cobblestone’s youth camps and lessons. Owned by Jim and Darlyn Daratony, Cobblestone Farms is southeast Michigan’s premier eventing facility. Located in Dexter, Cobblestone’s beautiful barn, large arenas, and rolling cross country fields are the ideal location to foster excellence in horsemanship. The Daratony’s other daughters have also competed and now teach equestrian youth camps and train at the family farm.
“Growing up at Cobblestone since I was a baby, I got my first horse when I was two,” added Cierra. “When my sisters competed at Young Riders 15 years ago, they would set me up on their horses and walk me around and teach me. Every day I was jumping the cross-country jumps on my own feet, and I thought, ‘One day I’ll do this on a horse.’ It’s just been living a dream.”
As the Area VIII squad achieved their dream, the tight-knit group’s team spirit was hard to miss between endless hugs and high-fives. When they weren’t turning heads with shrieks of excitement cheering for each other, the girls were bonding over purple shampoo–because every single one of their horses are grey.
“I think our grey horses were the secret to our success,” joked Cierra, describing how the team bonded while bathing their horses before dawn each morning.
“Because all our horses are grey we got up at 4am to bathe them each day and shared secret beauty tips like baby powder, vinegar for the tails, Vetrolin White-N-Brite, and purple shampoo to help keep them clean. It was fun to make friends who have purple-stained hands like mine!”
“That’s the beauty of Young Riders,” she added. “Even though we’re from different parts of the area, we bonded over the sport, and we’re able to come together and support one another. It’s been a great experience.”
Looking polished as professionals, the all grey glam squad also cleaned up with individual finishes including Cierra’s 6th, along with her teammates’ 2nd, 10th and 19th.
Going into show jumping, the stakes are high, and Cierra never expected to ride her family’s homebred Rio de Janeiro. “He was born at Cobblestone in 2009,” she said. “My mom [Darlyn Daratony] started him and took him through novice. Then my horse ended up being lame at one of our Young Rider camps, so I rode Rio, which I never expected because I was maybe 4’8″, and he was 17.1 hands. It’s been a great partnership ever since.”
Cierra’s future in U.S. eventing looks bright. Her squad’s huge smiles say it all. This team not only came to win, but to enjoy teamwork and build everlasting friendships.
About Cobblestone Farms
Cobblestone Farms’ beautiful main facility is situated on picturesque acres minutes from downtown Dexter, MI. We offer boarding, training and lessons, haul-in schooling, shows and clinics and sales. Around the corner from our main facility Cobblestone Farms’ competition grounds feature rolling hills, flat space for temporary stabling and stadium show rings. Cobblestone regularly hosts schooling derbies along with our annual USEA Horse Trial in late summer. Our 10th Anniversary HT hosted almost 300 competitors from around Area 8, housing over 230 horses. www.cobblestonefarmsllc.com
For NAYC team results, visit eventing.startboxscoring.com/eventsr/rebecca/yrht0719/index.php