Our columnist is excited about the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s plans to develop an interdisciplinary young horse championship.
Everywhere you look, people are talking about the necessity of developing young horses for all disciplines and breeds.
From the Olympic disciplines of eventing, dressage and show jumping to the national disciplines and breeds such as hunter, Connemara, Saddlebred and Morgan, everyone needs programs that promote the training and development of young horses while also acknowledging the commitment of the breeders, owners, trainers and riders. Several Chronicle columnists, including Linda Allen, Denny Emerson and Scott Hassler, have written wonderful articles on the need to develop programs and acknowledge young horse enthusiasts.
For me it all goes one step further. As a member of the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s Budget and Finance Committee, I see allocations within some of the discipline budgets supporting developing horse programs. Outside of the Federation, we have leaders of affiliate and non-affiliate organizations who are also working to support this type of effort. From feedback from different members of the equestrian community, it seems that the splintered efforts of all these various groups are getting things done, but not at the level the people involved would like.
I believe there is no better way to establish a sustainable developing horse program than to build a partnership between these groups and the USEF for the purpose of creating a young horse championship. Further, this championship should encompass all these disciplines and breeds together in one place at one time.
An Opportunity For All Disciplines
This exact initiative is currently underway in the USEF. I don’t think the idea of a young horse championship is the brainchild of any one of us in particular, but rather it’s the commitment of several interested people who have come together to develop a major event that has the ability to be sustainable and would offer an opportunity for interested disciplines and breeds to participate.
We started this journey with an informal meeting during the USEF Annual Convention last January. We wanted feedback on whether there was interest in the breeding community for such an event. Even with short notice, several enthusiastic people showed up, and we had a very promising discussion. After the meeting, we re-grouped and held a series of staff meetings to determine our approach based on the positive reception.
Since that first meeting, we’ve contacted the various discipline and breed committees and affiliates to invite them to participate in the planning of the championship by naming two individuals to the Steering Committee.
As with any new endeavor, the first concern is whether the USEF will tread on existing programs or try to put them out of business. This couldn’t be farther from the reality. Our first Steering Committee meeting went quite well, and we made every effort to answer the representatives’ questions and to make ourselves available for continued support and assistance.
Knowing the sensitivity of launching this project, we determined early on that we needed the discipline and breed groups to bring the USEF an outline of how they envision their component of the championship. Each discipline and breed has the flexibility to design what best suits their specific needs, including format, specifications, eligibility, etc.
This flexibility is necessary because we need to value and enhance the already established programs and provide a mechanism for them to be components of the whole. With marketing, a system can be established so that each discipline and breed preserves its individual identity under the umbrella of this championship event.
Greater Promotion And Marketing
Pulling together the various individual efforts into the global partnership venture opens the door to endless possibilities for creating a long lasting program that will exceed our expectations. Just like a group will get a better deal than an individual, a group effort to develop young horses will be much more successful on a much larger scale than any single effort. Under the umbrella of the USEF Young Horse Championship, we can create opportunities that don’t currently exist.
Sponsorship is one of the greatest advantages to a universal developing horse approach. With multiple disciplines and breeds participating over several days, the event becomes more than a horse show. It becomes an equestrian event that appeals to the general public and promotes the breeding, training and yes, marketing of young horses.
Imagine bringing horses of multiple breeds that are participating in multiple disciplines to one place at the same time and the resulting opportunity to increase exposure for all involved. The chance to introduce people from all different perspectives and backgrounds to so many different types of horses will allow our breeders, owners, trainers and riders to gain the recognition and reward for their dedication to the breeding and development of our future champions.
Creating an event versus just another horse show is critical to the success of this venture, and choosing the right venue is important. The Kentucky Horse Park would be a logical choice. It’s home of the USEF, but more importantly, it has the infrastructure to accommodate the variety of all our disciplines and breeds, having just hosted the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. The young horse championship will provide the same opportunity for inclusion that the WEG did.
Increased recognition and awareness are core components of this event. We plan to develop a simple incentive fund program, which will reward breeders, owners, trainers and riders. Affiliates or breed associations can also add to incentives by offering specific breed or other awards.
In addition to a monetary reward, we can also create resources to help these important groups. A Breeder’s Directory and a Young Horse Trainer Directory are currently in development, and eventually a Young Horse Trainer Certification Program could help educate young horse trainers and recognize proper training.
In the scheme of equestrian sports, the United States is a youngster compared to our European counterparts who have been breeding, training and showing horses for many more years. Many other countries have extensive horse and rider development programs, and we’re making the effort to establish our own, which will last well into the future.
There are so many reasons on so many levels to support this project. I encourage you to keep an open mind, take an interest and assist in making this event and program into the sport-wide answer to developing our young horses.
Bill Moroney, Keedysville, Md., is president of the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association, a member of the U.S. Equestrian Federation Board of Directors and a USEF R-rated judge. He started writing Between Rounds columns in 2004.