Finding the Balance: The Road to Dutta Corp. USEA Young Event Horse Championships

This season, we’re following along with Peru’s Diego Farje and his new ride, EQ Scorpio, a part of the newly-formed Equestly Horses program. This series is brought to you in partnership with Equestly, purveyors of the best riding apparel and outerwear out there — trust us, we’ve tested it! To catch up on more Equestly Stories, click here.

Diego Farje and EQ Scorpio. Photos courtesy of Equestly.

Last time we caught up with Peruvian 4* eventer Diego Farje, he was working on building trust with the young EQ Scorpio, a recently imported Argentinian warmblood with show jumping bloodlines. Scorpio, owned by Equestly, has put Diego’s horsemanship skills to the test, as he’s a highly reactive and sensitive young horse that has a hard time trusting new people.

Since building a bond with Scorpio, Diego and his mercurial partner now have a new challenge in front of them: the Dutta Corp USEA YEH 4-year-old Championships, presented by Dubarry, at the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill.

Typically, preparing for a big championship like this one involves fitness work, a full season of competing, and a solid six days a week in the saddle. This approach isn’t well-suited to young horses who are still growing, let alone one as sensitive to pressure as Scorpio. Instead of designing a training regimen and sticking to it religiously, Diego is letting Scorpio set the pace.

Just like us, our horses have good days and bad days, and Scorpio is no exception. While it may be important for an experienced event horse to learn how to push through bad days, Diego believes that young horses like Scorpio need a little bit of leeway to facilitate the learning process. If Scorpio is having an off day either mentally or physically, Diego doesn’t waste a ride trying to get through to the bay gelding. Instead, he changes plans to go for a hack or flat instead of jump, or vice versa, and comes back to his planned schedule another day.

“Our routine completely depends on how he’s doing. Sometimes I start flatting and he feels a little tired. So I don’t go too hard and just focus on stretching him out and working on elasticity,” Diego said. “You always want to have a training schedule that works for everyone, but you never know what’s going to happen. I really like to stay flexible with him, since he’s so young. I wouldn’t let him do nothing for a week, but it’s a really fine line to not overwork them. I just want Scorpio to work enough that his body is feeling really good and that he’s feeling confident.”

Diego Farje and EQ Scorpio. Photos courtesy of Equestly.

As head rider for Boyd Martin, Diego works long days training horses, teaching lessons, working in the barn, and essentially cramming 30 hours worth of work into a 24-hour day. So, not only does he make allowances if Scorpio is having an off day, but he also makes allowances for his own energy levels as well. This doesn’t come from a place of, “Oh, I’d rather be sitting on the couch binge-watching Yellowstone right now,” but more from the idea that Scorpio deserves Diego at his best. And if he’s too tired to do right by the young warmblood, why even get on?

“If I try to ride him at 7pm just so I don’t miss a day of training with him, I’m going to think I’m improving him, but actually I won’t be working him properly because it’s too late. I’m tired and he’s already settled in for the night,” he explained.

You may think that this shifting schedule would be difficult to track. How does Diego avoid winding up going for a hack more days than not? Diego and Scorpio stay on task thanks to his secret weapon, the Equestly.Ride app. The app tracks where you ride, how long you rode for, and even what pace you rode at. The more rides you record on the app, the more points you get. Once you build up enough points, you can get discounts on Equestly merchandise.

The YEH Championships at the Maryland 5 Star are comparable to a Novice level event. Due to this, and Scorpio’s high level of natural fitness, Diego isn’t so much focused on building the horse’s cardio or muscle tone as they lead up to the event. Instead, he uses the Equestly.Ride app to track Scorpio’s health and training progress. Using the notes section, he records if Scorpio ever feels off either mentally or physically, so he can identify potentially problematic patterns.

“It tracks everything; you know, where you were riding, the activity, and the speed. It’s nice to get into the app and know that you have a record of what you are doing with your horse,” Diego said. “Like, if the right side was a little bit tired or if this is the same leg that felt a little bit weird last week and it’s happening again this week, you can even track these things so you know to contact the bodyworker or vet. It’s a good way to keep track of your training and keep track of how your horse is progressing and also keep track of their health.”

Instead of working on Scorpio’s physical fitness, Diego has focused on Scorpio’s mental fitness. Over the summer season, Diego has been working on getting Scorpio off property and exposing him to new experiences. From taking the young horse showjumping at Lillian Heard and Ryan Wood’s farm, winning the YEH qualifier at Waredaca, to taking lessons with Erik Duvander, Scorpio’s summer season has been all about building his confidence in unfamiliar situations. Scorpio has risen to the occasion for all of these new experiences.

“Erik is helping me to develop Scorpio really properly,” Diego said. “In the beginning I wasn’t super focused. If he drifted a little bit to the side or wasn’t properly collected, I’d think it was fine because he’s a baby. But Erik has shown me that I need to focus on keeping him straight, keeping his legs pushing underneath him, and keeping him balanced.”

Diego Farje and EQ Scorpio. Photos courtesy of Equestly.

It can be tempting to push a talented young horse like Scorpio too hard and too fast. But Diego makes it clear– just because they can do it, doesn’t mean they should do it. “This is one of the only sports where you have to work with another entity, you know? You need to prioritize that partnership because at the end of the day, you are a team,” said Diego. “It’s like introducing a child to a sport. You need to find the balance between encouraging them to take that sport seriously and making sure that they like the sport.”

In that same vein, Diego isn’t focused on ribbons at Championships. His goal is only to give Scorpio a good experience in a really big show environment. Winning for him is completing the event and leaving the horse trial with a horse that’s more confident than the one he rode in on. This lack of pressure for both horse and rider could be their secret weapon. When the pair has left with blue ribbons in the past, it was because they entered the competition with this more relaxed approach.

“For me, I’m approaching it like any other training session. I don’t want to put a lot of pressure on him,” Diego said. “The main goal is just to perform as well as we can. And make sure that he enjoys his job. He might be a little bit nervous, but it’s important to get that experience for shows in the future. You know, this is just the beginning. It’s not like this is the end of his career.”

If you’ve been following along with Diego and EQ Scorpio’s journey, keep an eye out for Diego on board a bright bay gelding with lots of chrome among all the excitement of a CCI5*. We’ll find out whether or not Diego’s horse-led approach to getting ready for Championships will pay off October 19th through the 22nd.

Have you checked out the all-new Equestly.Ride app yet? You can download it for free in the Apple App Store (sadly, it’s not currently available on Android – but we’ll keep you posted!). Inside, you can track your rides, make a training schedule, manage your horse’s appointments, and catch up on news from EN — all in one place. Plus, the more you use Equestly.Ride, the more points you’ll earn toward awesome Equestly merchandise and more. Learn more here.

And introducing, the EQ Pad, now available for pre-order or in person at the Maryland 5 Star — stop by booth #44 in Vendor Row to snag your gear!


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