Erik Duvander Outlines 2019 Strategic Plan for U.S. Eventing Team

Erik Duvander. Photo by Libby Law Photography.

Erik Duvander, USEF Performance Director for Eventing, unveiled his 2019 strategic plan for the USEF High Performance program today at the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana.

“Twelve months ago when I was standing here, I had no idea about so many different things in American eventing. The amount of people who are engaged in the sport — everyone has to work simultaneously to pursue the same common goal of being competitive on the world stage,” Erik said.

“The more we can work together on everything, keep the information and thoughts flowing, and keep an open door at all times, the better we can do our jobs. … My role is playing the long game. I think it’s about building a system that is going to last for a long time.”

Erik said the High Performance program’s mission is to create an environment where U.S. riders learn how to succeed at a championships. The program’s philosophy must be a “relentless pursuit of our mission. Every day is committed to creating a winning team.”

Achieving the mission will involve identifying talent at the Emerging, Developing and Elite levels of the High Performance program; targeting resources to achieve goals; and evaluating, maintaining and improving horse power.

Creating A Winning Team

After the U.S. failed to secure qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics at this year’s World Equestrian Games, the team must now qualify at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. The team’s immediate goal for 2019 is to secure Olympic qualification at the Pan Ams.

“Some people think that’s a burden. I think it just gives us another opportunity to work together as a team and produce a top result on the day at a championships. I think it can be a good thing to develop our team for the Tokyo Olympics,” Erik said.

“If we had one more year with the team we took to the World Championships, it would have been a different story. … We have to be more focused on the future.”

With that in mind, Erik emphasized the importance of regularly reviewing targets and goals to ensure the resources allocated to the High Performance riders are delivering the expected outcomes. Horse and rider combinations who do not meet those targets will be removed from the program.

Erik said an increased focus will be placed on giving riders opportunities to experience the dynamics and pressure of riding in a team. The ultimate goal will be to develop riders “who are comfortable with riding to team instruction.”

Certain competitions throughout the 2019 season will be used as team simulations, with a training camp held several days before and riders and horses shipping to the venue together like they would at a true team competition. The idea will be for the riders to “go through the motions about what it means to be in a team,” allowing the riders to make mistakes in a practice environment and learning how to operate going forward.

Sending teams to Aachen CICO3* in Germany and Boekelo CCIO3* in the Netherlands will continue to be a priority in the 2019 season. “Aachen is a good test, and we need to know the riders can operate under that pressure,” Erik said. “Boekelo is another competition I believe has a great value to develop our riders in a team environment.”

Performance Advisory Group

A Performance Advisory Group consisting of a small, focused group of diverse experts and stakeholders in the U.S. eventing community will be created to advise, monitor, review and provide feedback on the High Performance program.

The Performance Advisory Group will also seek to bridge the gap between the Eventing 25 and Elite programs, recommend training lists and squads with input from talent-spotters, and recommend national and international funding.

Team selection must be administered as per the selection procedures for each specific competition, and consideration will be given to all qualified applications.

An ad hoc group of the USEF Eventing Sport Committee will also be developed to oversee the Performance Advisory Group activities.

Monitoring and Evaluation

Individualized Performance Plans (IPPs) will be created for all horses and riders in the High Performance program, with Erik continuously monitoring their progress in training and at competitions.

Erik also said it is critical to develop a new U.S. performance environment in which functioning as a team becomes part of each rider’s comfort zone. Having a smaller Elite group of listed riders will allow for that environmental shift, he said.

The next 12 months will be used to “determine guiding standards, values and expectations on behavior within the group.” Erik said he hopes to “drive a change in the environment to inspire athletes to work as a team to create a program that the athletes want to a part of at every level.”

Donors and Sponsors

Gloria Callen was announced as the new chair of the Event Owners Task Force (EOTF) this morning, and Erik said he is looking forward to working alongside the EOTF to bring new horse power into the High Performance program.

Erik said an emphasis will be placed on tracking the results of young horses and how they compare to current top horses in their development.

The High Performance program will also seek to identify riders who need more horses of a higher quality, and then guide the riders in their effort to produce horses for the long-term. Managing horses and keeping them sound through multiple championships will also be a key priority.

“The next step is putting it all in motion — getting everyone in line, on the bus and driving the bus in the direction we want to go,” Erik said. “This is the real mission.”

Tomorrow’s session for the High Performance riders will address “the pathway” and “how we get riders from bottom to top.”

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