USEA Young Horse Symposium Open to All and Better Than Ever

Wise Pirello de Bel, 3-year-old Colt Winner and Overall 3-year-old Winner at the 2015 East Coast Future Event Horse Championships. Photo by USEA/Leslie Mintz, used with permission. Wise Pirello de Bel, 3-year-old Colt Winner and Overall 3-year-old Winner at the 2015 East Coast Future Event Horse Championships. Photo by USEA/Leslie Mintz, used with permission.

The USEA Evaluation of the Young Event Horse Symposium in Ocala, Florida February 22-23 promises to be better than ever this year. The USEA staff and committees have been hard at work planning and have invited several exciting panelists to teach and ride for the educational benefit of USEA members at all levels of participation.

“The upcoming USEA ‘Evaluation of the Young Event Horse Prospect’ Symposium is a great opportunity for eventers to learn about the development and the potential of young horses through education and training,” said USEA CEO Rob Burk. “This is a very important program for all of our members including American breeders, owners and competitors as we strive to breed, identify and develop top event horses in our country.”

The USEA has altered the focus of the symposium from years past to revolve less around judging and scoring and more on useful instruction regarding selecting and developing horses for a career in eventing as well as how to present young horses in competition.

The FEH and YEH programs were designed to identify and showcase future three- and four-star horses, but horses that will not reach the highest levels of the sport are not excluded from participating. In fact, YEH Committee Co-Chair Marilyn Payne stressed that the symposium is geared towards horses and riders of all ages because developing horses properly is critical, regardless of whether or not the horse is destined for a four-star or team medal.

Lynn Symansky and SpectraVET Cohiba at the 2015 East Coast Young Event Horse Championships. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Lynn Symansky and SpectraVET Cohiba at the 2015 East Coast Young Event Horse Championships. Photo by Sally Spickard.

The two-day symposium will begin with the Future Event Horse program for yearling through 3-year-olds. FEH Committee Chair Susan Graham-White will go over policies, rules and procedures for those new to the program and will work with professional handler Phil Silva during live horse demonstrations in the afternoon.

Phil will go over how to work with young horses in hand in preparation for showing. Susan and FEH Committee member Robin Walker will then judge a mock competition, in which Phil will work the young horses on the triangle and explain scenarios that will teach people how presentation affects scoring.

Free jumping was added to the FEH 3-year-old championships for the 2016 season, and Robin will do a presentation about scoring and set up as well as how to prepare young horses for jumping through a chute. Last year the attendees were treated to a live demonstration of free jumping, but this year they will watch an instructional video produced by the USEA. This is because the jump chutes have found permanent homes thanks to dedicated supporters of the FEH program.

Carolyn Mackintosh has taken the jump chute used for the East Coast Championships and set it up at her own Loch Moy Farm in Maryland. She will be adding footing and a roof so that the program can host seminars there.

Priefert, the presenting sponsor of the FEH series and championships, has donated a jump chute that will be stored at Jennifer and Earl McFall’s farm in California and transported to Twin Rivers for the West Coast Championships so that owners and breeders on the West Coast may have similar opportunities to free jump their young horses.

Earl McFall and Let's Go DF at the 2015 West Coast Young Event Horse Championships. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Earl McFall and Let’s Go DF at the 2015 West Coast Young Event Horse Championships. Photo by Sally Spickard.

For the YEH portion on the second day of the symposium, attendees will be treated to an appearance by Kai-Steffan Meier, a German team rider with an impressive reputation for producing young horses and consistent success at the Bundeschampionat and Le Lion d’Angers.

Kai-Steffan will join the other instructors in the classroom before getting ready to put the theories to practice in the saddle. He and Leslie Law will ride a selection of young horses, discuss their strengths and weaknesses and suggest training methods tailored to each horse’s needs.

Marilyn explained that it is not uncommon for judges to see nice horses that are not being shown to their potential and therefore not scored as high as they could be.

“We want to help the breeders, riders and trainers and give them ideas of how to bring along a young horse,” Marilyn said. “We want to try to show people how to bring out the best in each horse, how to develop the gallop, improve gaits and jumping style and technique, and improve the horse’s instinct and quickness.”

Susan said that it is important for the FEH and YEH programs to complement one another and support owners and breeders throughout a young horse’s development. “We need to make sure that education for breeders is a specialized one to help them produce the best baby they can, not only in what they choose to breed but also how to raise and handle them,” Susan said.

Providing a comprehensive two days of young horse education, the symposium will even cover animal health and how it relates to evaluation and training. Daniel Marks, VDM will consider the biomechanics and conformation of horses and how that translates to their physical potential and the ability to do their job.

Dr. Gary Spurlock and Dr. Shauna Spurlock will help owners and breeders understand the growth phase and how nutrition and farrier work comes into play so that by the time their babies are ready to enter the YEH ranks, they have been produced well in every aspect of growth.

Will Coleman and Don Dante at the East Coast Young Event Horse Championships at Fair Hill. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Will Coleman and Don Dante at the East Coast Young Event Horse Championships at Fair Hill. Photo by Sally Spickard.

From yearlings to five-year-olds and beyond, there is a lot of information to glean from the professional panel lined up for the symposium. With winter in full swing, you might consider an extended trip to Florida to attend the symposium as well as enjoy all Ocala has to offer this time of year. Here is a possible schedule of activities suggested by YEH Committee Co-Chair Timothy Holekamp.

  • Thursday February 18 to Sunday February 21 is the Rocking Horse Winter II Horse Trials, which typically boasts near 500 entries from Beginner Novice through Advanced with a significant attendance by our country’s top riders and many emerging talents, both four-legged and two.
  • Monday, February 22: Future Event Horses will be featured during the symposium on this day, with FEH Committee members Robin Walker and Susan Graham-White discussing conformation, movement and teaching a practical lesson in preparing young horses for free jumping.
  • Tuesday, February 23: Through a combination of classroom sessions  at the Ocala Jockey Club with multiple teachers and practical demonstrations at Longwood Farm using a variety of young horses, attendants will receive a comprehensive overview of the relationship between young horses and the sport of eventing.
  •  Wednesday, February 24: This will be a one day YEH judges’ seminar and certification day taught by Marilyn Payne. This session is open to new judge candidates and will serve as an important refresher course for currently certified YEH judges. However, auditors are welcome to observe, which may provide for valuable insight to the process and purpose of young event horse judging.
  • February 23-24: Make time to stop by the High Performance training sessions at Meredyth South, adjacent to Longwood Farm, where the country’s top riders will be working with David O’Connor to prepare for the 2016 season.
  • Thursday, February 25: Here are four things you MUST do while you’re in Ocala.
  • Friday February 26 to Sunday February 29: Head to Live Oak Farm to watch a major competition for our sister sport of combined driving as well as a $50,000 CSI.

Attendance for the symposium will cost a small fee of $25.00 for USEA members, and $50.00 for non-members. Click here for an online registration form. More information about the symposium is available here.

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