The USEA has been hard at work building the Young Event Horse (YEH) Program and Future Event Horse (FEH) Program since their inception in the mid 2000’s. FEH, the literal younger sibling to the YEH program, has been steadily gaining momentum as event riders and event horse breeders look to shape the future of the sport through the horses they’re producing. This year over 100 horses participated in the FEH Championships across the East Coast, West Coast, and Central divisions.
Since the program is relatively new in the grand scheme of our sport and, participants have yearned for more educational opportunities pertaining to the young horse programs. After all, with the exception of trot-ups, in-hand judging isn’t something typically associated with the sport of eventing. The USEA has answered with the incorporation of YEH and FEH into the annual USEA Educational Symposium (don’t forget — registration for the symposium is currently open and applications to have your horse participate as a demo horse are currently being accepted, too!) and this weekend the USEA released a new series of educational videos pertaining to the FEH programs which were produced by Mythic Landing Enterprises and filmed this fall at the 2019 FEH East Coast Championships at Loch Moy.
You can (and should!) watch all of the videos here, but here is a overview of what to expect from each, plus a few tips and tricks we picked up:
This video is a thorough discussion with FEH judges Robin Walker, Susan Graham White, Chris Ryan, and Peter Gray of what makes a good event horse type and how they asses this when looking at youngsters. It covers:
- First impressions when the horse walks in the ring and their overall picture.
- What they look for in the walk and trot when presented in-hand. Did you know that the score for the walk is weighted higher than the trot? You’ll have to watch to learn why …
- The differences between a correct mover and a flashy mover.
- What they look for in conformation, particularly in the legs, and how it relates to soundness.
- Tips for judges and volunteers in assessing horses, where to position yourselves to most effectively and safely assess a horse, and formulating scores.
If you’re interested in the nitty-gritty of form to function, then you’re going to really eat up this video. In summary, it’s all about balance. For a sport with three different phases, we need a horse that’s somewhere in between a rangy, galloping sport horse and a lofty-moving dressage type.
Martin Douzant of The Frame Sport Horses specializes in young horse development and has a multitude of pro tips for handling your future event horse during judging. Here’s a few “do’s and don’ts” that we gleaned from the video, but you should be sure to watch the video yourself for all of Martin’s tricks of the trade.
- Make sure horse’s bridle fits and that the horse has a well-fitting comfortable bit that’s not too strong. Also make sure that the reins on the bridle are a good length: you want to be able to hold them comfortably in one hand.
- Bring an assistant handler. This isn’t required, but they can help you show off the more of the horse’s movement by encouraging them from behind.
- Practice key movements of the presentation at home such as standing still and turning right, away from the handler.
- Use a chain to lead the horse if you can help it. It can be noisy, which may spook the horse, but it also doesn’t give the greatest impression to the judges.
- Forget the required gear. A helmet is required and gloves are encouraged to avoid rope burn if your youngster gets a bit excited.
- Be late! Get to the show ring with enough time to give your horse a good look around and let them settle in to the surroundings.
More pro tips with Martin Douzant! This video further describes how a handler can best present their horses to the judges during in-hand presentation. Martin shows us how he practices leading his horses and what techniques he uses signal them to turn, how to help keep the horse straight, how to show the judges the horse’s biggest possible walk, and how to achieve a nice halt and stand. He also runs through the judging triangle.