USEF High Performance Talks Game Plan for WEG and Beyond

Boyd Martin and Shamwari 4 finished seventh individually as the highest placed U.S. combination at the 2014 World Equestrian Games. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Building on his meetings with the USEF High Performance athletes at the 2017 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention, newly hired Eventing Performance Director Erik Duvander has unveiled further details on his strategic plan for the 2018 season.

With an emphasis on identifying, selecting and supporting U.S. combinations, the USEF Eventing High Performance Program has recently undergone a face lift that places emphasis on strategic development for the immediate and future goals of both individual riders and teams.

“The immediate focus of the Eventing High Performance Program is qualification, preparation, and execution of a successful World Equestrian Games,” Erik said. “In preparation for the WEG, the majority of our horses will target a spring CCI4*, and we look forward to a strong showing at the Land Rover Kentucky CCI4*, in addition to some horses representing the U.S. at Badminton and Luhmühlen and spring CCI3*s.

“We will then utilize the FEI Nations Cups at Great Meadow, and our hope is to secure an invitation to Aachen to practice and prepare in a team environment twice in July.”

Riders with multiple horses aimed toward the WEG will divide them between the spring CCIs in order to have time to focus on each individual horse at the major competitions in preparation for WEG. The eventing portion of WEG will take place Sept. 12-16 at Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, North Carolina.

“We will train and prepare every day to select and field a team with a serious chance of winning a medal,” Erik said. “However, if strategic decisions have to be made on the field of play, we will take into consideration that our USOC-approved target is Olympic qualification.”

Looking Ahead to the Next Four Years

For 2018, the USEF High Performance program will also focus on developing realistic and individualized performance plans for riders that provide clarity, purpose and focus, as well as prepares riders for championships and team competitions at the highest level.

Additional goals for the High Performance program remaining continue cross country education and improvement, increased communication between athletes and support staff within the program and team, and creating a four-year plan for success across the program’s three tiers: Elite, Developing and Emerging Athlete.

USEF High Performance is in the process of developing a four-year performance plan for the three-tiered program that looks to the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru; the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan; and beyond to other championships, as well as funding for training lists and targeted overseas competitions.

Elite High Performance

The Elite Program consists of combinations that are considered to be, or will be, “internationally competitive at Games level” before the next WEG or Olympic Games. With the goal of WEG and Olympic qualification and podium achievement, criteria for selection to the Elite Program includes a track record of success, depth and talent of a string of horses, and the athlete’s ability to produce peak performances in conditions similar to the Games.

The Elite Program provides athletes access to training resources; veterinary and human medical advice; and financial support through coaching, training, and travel grants. All combinations are reviewed based on agreed-upon targets and performance indicators, such as competitions results, return to fitness and training targets. Combinations that fail to meet their targets within an agreed time frame can be removed from the Elite Program.

Development Program

The Development Program seeks to identify and support combinations that are “well on their way to performing at an elite level” through measured success at CCI3*, CICO3* and CCI4* competitions. The two-tiered system for the Development Program introduced in 2017 will continue in 2018.

Tier 1 of the Development Program, called Elite Potential, is designed to support experienced international athletes with horses on a trajectory to reach the Elite criteria in the next four years. These athletes will receive the same access to USEF training resources as the Elite Program.

Tier 2 of the Developing Program is for athletes who have not previously been selected for a team or met the Elite criteria but are on a trajectory to achieve Elite status in this or the next Olympic cycle. Click here to view the horse and rider combinations named to the 2018 USEF Eventing Winter Training Lists.

In choosing the combinations for the training lists, the USEF Eventing Selectors of Bobby Costello, Phyllis Dawson, Debbie Furnas, Jan Byyny and Derek di Grazia review results and performance and analyze potential in consultation with Erik Duvander. The lists are reviewed bi-annually in consultation with the USEF High Performance Working Group and the USEF Eventing Sport Committee.

“Athletes who have their own effective coaching and management set-ups, which are then supplemented by the High Performance Program and its benefits, are very important,” Erik.  “Our intention is to use, whenever possible, four-star events to prepare and practice in that environment where appropriate for individual and team competition training.”

Emerging Athletes

The Emerging Athlete Program also uses a two-tier system, Eventing 25 and Eventing 18, and includes an accepted participants list as well as an auditing participants list, designating riders with the potential to become future team candidates. Click here to view the Eventing 25 riders and here to view the Eventing 18 riders.

Emerging Athlete riders participate in or audit training sessions and lectures focused on horse management, physiotherapy and show jumping course design. Goals of this program are to develop talent that can be nurtured to produce riders to represent the U.S. at the international level.

USEF Eventing Emerging Athlete Coach Leslie Law will continue as the coach for this program and led the first Eventing 25 Training Sessions of the 2018 season this week in Ocala, Florida. The USEF Emerging Athletes Working Group is currently evaluating this program and plans to roll out improvements and changes to the structure in 2019.

USEF High Performance funding, which is supported by the USET Foundation, U.S. Olympic Committee, and USEF sponsors and members, “is not support for all, but rather is about trying to target athletes and horses that will contribute to the aim of sustained success at Games level.”

The USEF also noted that “inclusion or exclusion on a Training List does not imply or preclude an athlete for selection for a Games and Championships. Performance markers, key performance indicators, and soundness of horses may determine where and when funding is allocated.”

The current 2018 USEF Eventing High Performance Training Lists will be reviewed in June. Click here to read the full press release from the USEF.

[US Equestrian Eventing High Performance Program Emphasizes Focuses on Immediate and Future Athlete Success]