The US Event Horse Futurity: A Patriotic Dream

If you want to start an argument in a room full of riders, all you really have to do is mention importing horses from overseas vs buying them in America. On one side you have those who believe that the horses are better in Europe, or that it’s easier to shop there, or that there are more “good deals” to be found. Whether those opinions are right are wrong (I’ll get to that in a minute) what I do know for sure is that at their core Americans are some of, if not the, most patriotic people on the planet. You have to admit, if it was possible to sit every US Team rider on a US-bred horse, it would make our star-spangled hearts grow three sizes.

The old-fashioned belief that US breeders aren’t producing the same quality of horse has certainly been disproven. Two of the three horses on our last Olympic team and two of the four horses on our last World Championships team were bred right here in the USA. In recent years US-bred horses have permeated the ranks at all levels, with some of the best young talent in the country having come from domestic breeding programs. While that sounds like a win, and on some level it certainly is, if you dare to dream bigger, it’s really just the beginning.

Breeding, buying, and raising young horses in this country is not without its challenges. We’re a much larger country geographically than any of our European counterparts, which means everything is further apart. The cost to raise horses here can be more expensive. And perhaps most poignantly, many people don’t believe in, promote, or support domestically bred horses as much as they do in other countries (you have not truly lived until you’ve been held captive in a pub listening to an Irish rider tell you 101 reasons why an Irish-bred horse is superior to any other). We also have a bit of an ingrained social belief that anything imported is better by default, a notion that facts and data just don’t support.

What is perhaps our biggest and most difficult challenge is that we don’t have a tried-and-true system to connect our breeders, young horse trainers, and riders the way that many other countries do. After all, people can’t buy US-bred horses if they don’t know where to find them. Insert: The US Event Horse Futurity.

The US Event Horse Futurity is working to connect US breeders, young horse trainers, and riders.

Founded in 2018 by leading US eventing breeders Elizabeth Callahan and Laurie Cameron, The US Event Horse Futurity’s purpose is to support and reward the breeders, trainers, and riders of US-bred young event horses. They believe that there are many distinct advantages for riders to purchase US-bred horses, advantages that they try to highlight within The Futurity. “There is a degree of transparency here in the US that you might not find oversees, both in the horse’s background, training, and health as well as in the vetting process.” Callahan said, “There is also the opportunity to develop the horse from the very beginning so that you know that horse inside and out.”.

Bringing a horse along from the beginning, directly from its breeder, offers the opportunity for riders to know their partners thoroughly.

With decades of experience in the breeding industry (and multiple 5-star horses) between them, Callahan and Cameron recognized that one of the biggest issues we had here in the US was the lack of an established pipeline. Callahan said, “We had no way of connecting the breeders to the people who develop these young horses into our future superstars.”. Their solution was to quite literally put their money where their mouth is and start a program to do just that.

The Futurity, which is run entirely on volunteer efforts, is a competition that follows Young Event Horses from the beginning of their 4 or 5-year-old year to the culmination of their competition season at the YEH Championships in the fall. Breeders or trainers of US-bred horses can complete the application on the Futurity website and pay a one-time entry fee into the Futurity. From there trainers are asked to submit regular social media updates (of varying content) that is shared widely on the Futurity’s platforms so that fans can follow along with these young horses as they progress through the year. Most of these horses will be aimed at USEA Young Event Horses classes, with the goal of making it to YEH Championships in the fall. For those that do make it, there’s $10,000 of Futurity prize money up for grabs, a cut of which also goes to the breeder, as well as several other special awards (including the ever-popular Fan Favorite).

The program offers prizes, including $10,000 of Futurity prize money.

The Futurity encourages trainers to not only chronicle the successes, but also the trials and tribulations we often see with young horses – as we all know, it certainly isn’t always a linear path. Futurity trainers get the chance to show us how they address common problems, let us follow along with the highs and lows of young horses, and give us a behind the scenes look at their training programs and skills. The breeders get exposure for their horses and their breeding program, with the goal that long-lasting connections will begin to form between both groups. For fans and followers of the Futurity, it gives a unique educational opportunity to learn from some of the best riders and trainers in the country.

Since 2018, The Futurity has awarded over 40k in prize money, with more added each year, and has already seen results: several of the inaugural Futurity class have progressed to the 3*L level. While the first few years of the Futurity focused purely on 4-year-olds, this year they will be expanding to include 5-year-olds as well as West Coast entrants. The Futurity features each horse, trainer, and breeder on their website and social media and also offers a public database of breeder and trainer links, to help potential Futurity trainers and horses make a connection.

When asked why she’s so passionate about the Futurity and it’s mission, Callahan said “I bred a horse, Quantum Leap, that was selected to represent the US at the World Championships for Young Event Horses at Le Lion d’Angers in France, and was lucky enough to attend. The best young event horses in Europe were there, as were the best riders. And at the end of the day, my US-bred horse, the only US bred in the over 100 horses that were there, was just as competitive as the best Europe has to offer. There are many more of these horses in the US – we just have to get US riders to find them and get breeders to find the trainers and riders. It’s simple, it’s just not easy!”.

Callahan and Cameron believe that working together and creating a community to source and develop US-bred young horses can only strengthen our position for future upper-level success for the US in Team competitions. The US Event Horse Futurity is the first big step toward making that dream a reality.

If you’re a trainer or breeder interested in entering the 2023 US Event Horse Futurity, check out their website or Facebook page. If you have questions, are interested in sponsoring an award, or would like to be added to their breeder and trainer database, contact [email protected] .

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