Courtney Cooper and C Square Farm/Excel Star Sporthorses Announce Amateur Training Award

USEA/Meagan DeLisle photo

It’s long been a topic of conversation. Amateur riders – the many cultural definitions of that term – have long been identified as the most overlooked subset of equestrians. This is a dilemma that transcends discipline, and within the sport of eventing there remains a yawning gap between the developing rider pipeline and the professional ranks and the amateur rider.

To be fair, options for the adult amateur community do exist. The USEA also has an Adult Rider Committee dedicated to ensuring amateur riders, who make up the bulk of membership, have a voice and a seat at the table. The USEA also offers some grant opportunities for which amateurs are eligible, including the newly-formed Kim Meier “Kick On” Memorial Grant.

In the opinion of many, however, there can never be enough opportunity for everyone – and Courtney Cooper of C Square Farm and Excel Star Sport Horses agrees. Last week, Courtney sent out an exciting press release: she’s decided to offer two amateur riders the opportunity to come and train with her for 7 days throughout the upcoming year. To make the award as amateur-friendly as possible, Courtney’s offering the option to split the training up into multiple weekends or other agreeable chunks of time.

“The time can be spread into multiple long weekends, or taken all at once,” Courtney wrote in the release. This will provide an opportunity for learning and mentorship with a five-star rider. The riders will have access to all Courtney’s program and facilities have to offer, including full courses of Jump4Joy jumps, top-of-the line footing, cross country schooling, dressage training, and horse management.

Courtney knows the grind of the amateur. Sales has always been Courtney’s jam – she first started out selling Cutco knives during college, following that up with a full-time career as an insurance agent.

Courtney Cooper and Who’s A Star. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

“I know what trying to balance everything is like, because I’ve done it. I’ve done trot and gallop sets on the shoulder of the road, in the dark, with a head lamp,” she says. “I had a full time career before I did horses full time, and I can’t imagine being a mom or dad and trying to do that as well as a full time career and ride and the balance needed for all of it. A couple of my amateurs get up at 5 am to ride their horses before they go to their day jobs so they can be with their kids after work for their children’s activities. I just felt like amateurs needed a break and some support.”

Amateurs are a vital part of the sport, and supporting them should be second nature to the professionals. “They keep the sport somewhat affordable in this country. Without them, there are a lot of FEI classes that wouldn’t run because they don’t have the lower levels to protect and finance the upper levels. The amateurs may not be filling the entries of the upper FEI level classes, but they support all the upper levels with their entries and therefore support the upper level riders — not to mention they do the bulk of volunteering .”

So what’s the skinny on this opportunity?

Courtney will provide lodging for the recipients and board for one horse for a total of 7 days, taken a week at a time or over multiple shorter periods. The scholarship can take place either in Aiken, SC or Nottingham, PA The recipients will receive daily lessons from Courtney on their own horse(s), with a potential to ride some other horses if appropriate. Recipients may also compete during their time and get support at the competition

More details below.

Who’s Eligible:

Anyone who makes the majority of their living through means other than horses. We will not hold to the strict definition of an Amateur held by the USEA/USEF, so if you teach some lessons but have another career, please apply! You should be actively competing in the last 12 months at the BN level or higher.

How to Apply:

Please fill out an application at this link.

Applications should be submitted by December 15, 2023. Courtney and a panel of her Amateur clients will review applications and choose a winner by December 31, 2023.

What’s Not Included:

  • Transportation to and from C Square Farm
  • Outside facility fees
  • Entries to events

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