The popular and innovative USEF Developing Driver Program (DDP) held its final clinic of the year on picturesque Hillcroft Farm in Paris, Ky., October 24 - 26, 2014. Whether drivers were wrapping up their show year or getting ready for the 2015 Florida season, this intensive clinic offered up-and-coming High Performance drivers a special opportunity to develop their skills under the tutelage of World Champion driver Thorsten Zarembowicz of Germany.
Thanks to the generous support of sponsors, including a major gift from U.S. World Equestrian Games Team member Misdee Wrigley Miller, the USEF Developing Driver Program provides supplemental training opportunities for American combined drivers who have demonstrated a commitment to the goal of competing at the USEF/FEI level and who are in pursuit of competitive excellence.
The objective of this program is to increase the number of drivers and their horses/ponies competing at high performance levels, therefore developing the drivers that may be future International competitors. In 2014 four clinics were held at locations across the country in Florida, California, and Kentucky.
"I am so pleased with the direction of the program," said Miller. "It has accomplished exactly what we set out to do, which was to identify drivers and horses who have the ability to go on and compete on an international level. Even more, I think it indicates that USEF and the USET Foundation are very serious about nurturing and supporting the development of future High Performance drivers. I know it means so much to the drivers, and I'm thrilled at the response. This is what the program is all about, and I think we're headed in a great direction for the future of the sport."
The October clinic welcomed 10 participants from four states ranging in age and experience from young drivers to advanced-level competitors, including Colten Parker (Batavia, Ohio); Jennifer Harber (Milton, W. Va.); Kari Harmon (Hamilton, Ohio); Carrie Ostrowski (Lexington, Ky.); Avery Wilson (Goshen, Ky.); Nifty Hamilton (Alva, Fla.); Jason Stronks (Paris, Ky.); Chase Gillespie (Ona, W. Va.); Jennifer Keeler (Paris, Ky.); and Stacey Giere (Brecksville, Ohio). Over three full days, training sessions were held for dressage work, contesting a challenging cones course, and schooling through several marathon obstacles. Additional educational sessions were offered to enhance knowledge and experience for future FEI competition.
"It was such an amazing opportunity to participate in the Developing Driver clinic," said Keeler, who drove her young single pony Amazing Grace over the weekend. "The coaching we received and new skills we learned are invaluable for us in order to advance in our training. But perhaps even more importantly, the experience also opens your eyes to the idea of competing at the international level in the future, which is something that we may not have considered to be possible before."
Clinic organizer and U.S. Team driver Katie Whaley was pleased to see such a diverse mix of experienced competitors as well as fresh faces (both human and equine) at the Developing Driver clinic."This is the third clinic I've organized, and it was the most talented group we've had.I was really excited about it," Whaley noted. "In addition to the tremendous training opportunity, we've seen so much camaraderie in this program, and that team-building spirit is so important for our sport."
Due to the overwhelming response to the USEF Developing Driver Program, as well as additional private donations, USEF Director of Driving Lizzy Staller reports that the program is planned to expand to five nationwide clinics in 2015, providing even more opportunities for aspiring international combined driving competitors. For more information regarding the Developing Driver Program and upcoming clinics as well as becoming a financial supporter of future clinics, please contact Lizzy Staller at firstname.lastname@example.org.