This was my first year attending the Markel/USEF Young and Developing Horse Dressage National Championships as the USEF Dressage Young Horse Coach. I had a wonderful time, and I felt that it was a very productive experience. The venue, Lamplight Equestrian Center, is absolutely beautiful and has great atmosphere – not to mention perfect all weather footing and plenty of arenas to accommodate many horses showing at many levels.
The show was run smoothly and efficiently, and I cannot thank the show management staff, as well as our USEF staff enough for it. Additionally, these Championships would not be what they are without the tireless support of Markel Insurance. It was a pleasure to meet some of the Markel management team - Julian Bowen Reese, Brandon Seger, and Michelle Burch, as well as longtime Markel agent Mary Phelps who has tirelessly helped promote this program since it was founded in 2004. I would also like to express my sincere appreciation to Scott Hassler for his hard work in establishing the solid foundation of our USEF Young Horse Program.
Before arriving at Lamplight, I had just returned from the FEI World Breeding Championships (WBC) in Verden, Germany where our U.S. rider and athlete Endel Ots made an impressive statement in skill and performance on both his five and six year old horses, Lucky Strike and Samhitas, respectively.
Horses were frequently referred to as “athletes” not just “riding horses.” Comments addressing the equine athlete’s type, mind, power, scope, activity, elasticity, and the ability to carry are what I heard most frequently at the WBC.
Additionally, after watching world class horses during this event, there was a standard of excellence affirmed. And the communication of this standard to all riders, owners, and breeders is what I consider part of my job to be, in general, and what I worked to accomplish during my time at the Championships.
I saw very talented horses at the Championships. Here are a few fundamental criteria I repeated to riders during coaching:
- Rhythm, suppleness and relaxation are keys to everything -without that quality connection is not possible.
- Hind legs have to match the front legs - without that expression in the horse and the gaits are false and based upon tension.
- A horse has to move through the body: the trot has swing; the walk marches, the canter has jump.
- The gaits have to cover ground, and in the trot and canter there must spring as well.
Our judges can only reward the good (8), very good (9), or excellent (10) potential in our young horses if they are presented accordingly.
The horses show clear training and development along the scale of training.
As I said in my riders/ owners/ breeders meeting held during the Championships, “our target is to breed, invest into, train, and produce the best horse in the world. Only the best is good enough. We have to produce larger numbers in quality of horses to field our Championship Teams as well as supply all categories of our sport and industry here in the U.S.”
I am humbled that all riders, owners, and breeders were so interested in and appreciative of my input and coaching. Such a positive reception fueled my enthusiasm for our USEF Young Horse Program even more!
The Markel/USEF Young and Developing Horse Dressage National Championships at Lamplight are one of our most important, if not the most important, events in our sport here in the U.S. The Championships are specifically a showcase of talent of our future champions.
Our top quality young horses, which are bred, selected, and beautifully trained and developed are the spring board to future medals for our U.S. Teams.
This Championship for our future champions is great event deserves and needs greater participation from spectators, and I am looking forward to working with the show management staff, as well as USEF staff on ideas to expand the marketing of the event to the public.
Last, but not least, I would like to give a big round of applause to the breeders, owners, riders and their grooms for making huge efforts to attend the Championships traveling from all parts of this big country.
Their enthusiasm, initiative, and commitment are what will make our USEF Young Horse Program and the Markel/USEF Young and Developing Horse Dressage National Championships a continuing, and even bigger, success.
GO TEAM USA!