Stephen Foran impressed the clinicians and judges during the USHJA Emerging Athletes National Training Session, presented by Dover Saddlery, November 15-18, and earned top honors.
After the Nations Cup concluded the final day, four riders were asked to contest the jump-off course as a final ride-off for the placings—Foran, Ana Forssell, Ashlyn Matheus and Katie Lynch. Each rider received an unfamiliar horse from among those in the pool and had a short warm-up before tackling the course, where they were judged on their skill, style, adaptability and promptness.
“I was incredibly impressed with virtually everything Stephen did in the ring and in the stable,” said show jumping Olympic gold medalist and lead clinician Peter Wylde. “He was a convincing winner from start to finish.”
Foran’s all-around performance—from riding to horsemanship to horse care—resulted not only in the victory but also garnered him a place at the George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Session in Wellington, Florida, in January.
“I’m so thankful and so excited. I’m still pinching myself,” said Foran. “I can’t believe it. What I think I learned most [from this weekend] is what hard work and desire can really do.
“I can’t really put into words how badly I wanted this when I was coming here,” he continued. “I think about horses 24/7, and I came here dedicated to learn as much as I could and to be as successful as I could and work as hard as I could. And I feel like it paid off in the end.”
Foran, 17, of Lake Forest, IL, is a junior at Stevenson High School and trains with his father, Steve Foran of Liberty Farm. His hard-fought victory came over 15 other finalists during the fourth annual “Finals” competition, held at Fields and Fences outside of Chicago and hosted by Carl and Rush Weeden of Brookwood Farm.
In addition to impressing Wylde with his riding skills, Foran displayed his stable management knowledge to clinicians Karen Golding and Sally Ike.
Golding, who instructed Foran at the EAP Regional Clinic in Wisconsin, said she was amazed with the information he retained from their initial meeting and the enthusiasm he had in the stable.
“From Day No. 1, he slipped in there like I’d just worked with him the day before,” said Golding. “He and Connor Siegel [who won the Stable Management Award] were the first ones at the barn each morning, even before Rush arrived.”
For his accomplishment, Foran received a $3,000 training grant for future instruction and a $1,500 gift certificate from Dover Saddlery. Each of the remaining finalists received a $100 gift certificate from Dover Saddlery as well as a variety of products and gifts, many presented during a Friday night reception at the Dover Saddlery store in nearby Libertyville, IL.
The clinicians and EAP Committee members present—Wylde, Ike, Golding, Mary Babick, Julie Winkel and Kip Rosenthal—also chose Forssell, of Petaluma, CA, to receive the second coveted spot in the George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Session. Both Foran and Forssell will receive a helmet from USHJA sponsor Charles Owen for their accomplishment.
“When thinking about judging our competition, we have to balance the difficulty of the borrowed horses with the skill of the riders,” said Wylde. “It’s always hard for us to reward or punish a rider for a horse that’s challenging.
“I chose to sit on Ana’s horse [during the session] and realized his size and power and how unsuitable he was for her physical size,” added Wylde. “Her ability to mentally understand him and do a skillful job with that horse earned her second place.”
Forssell, 20, a young professional who works for Ned and Hope Glynn, currently teaches beginners and shows when finances allow.
“This program has changed my life,” said Forssell. “Every time I go to a horse show I think differently. Every time I get on a horse I think differently. My thought process when working with the difficult or young horses has changed as well as my barn management skills. I groom for myself at the horse shows, which is something I’ve always done, but there are so many little things that no one’s said to me. It’s opened my eyes to how many more little details there are and it’s made me tune into all of that.”
Foran and Forssell were among the 16 finalists to qualify for the EAP National Training Session from a pool of more than 200 riders who applied for the 2012 Regional Clinics around the country. The finalists traveled to Fields and Fences, owned by Anita Schadeck and Jim Robers, where Brookwood Farm trainers Carl and Rush Weeden hosted the event and provided horses loaned by clients and friends.
Throughout the EAP National Training Session, the finalists were judged on their riding skills, as well as their horsemanship in the barn and in the ring, and a written exam. EAP committee members and clinicians evaluated the riders and met each day to analyze the competitors and, finally, to select the overall winner.
The riders drew for their horses and then spent two days getting to know them through flatwork and over fences training with Wylde, stable management lessons with Golding and received instruction from specialists Janice Marquis, an equine physiotherapist, and Kip Rosenthal, a sport psychologist with a PhD in clinical counseling psychology.
On the third day, the riders showed in a Nations Cup-format competition over a course set at 1.10 meters. Their riding skills, knowledge and understanding of their horses, performance under pressure and teamwork were evaluated.
Team Antares F (Connor Siegel, Brendan Weiss, Lizzy Traband and Jacquie Schoeggl) dominated the Nations Cup with 0 faults over the two-round competition. Traband, as the third rider in the line-up, cemented their title in the second round before their anchor rider, Weiss, even entered the arena.
Team Cylana (Buckley Wallace, Morgan Schneider, Katie Lynch and Cori Cromwell) placed second with a strong performance, while Team Via Volo took third (Alec Bozorgi, Ana Forssell, Ashlyn Matheus and Izzy Gabriel) and Team Flexible earned fourth (Stephen Foran, Sara Nordstrom, Megan Devine and Elizabeth Melton).
This year, four EAP regional competitors were invited to take part in the EAP as team coordinators, with Morgan Dickerson, Rebecca Morris, Chrissie Kubiesa and Aelin Hill traveling to Illinois to work with the EAP clinicians and riders.
Other award winners included:
· Sportsmanship – Morgan Dickerson (voted on by riders)
· Best Written Test – (tie) Katie Lynch and Megan Devine (perfect scores)
· Stable Management – Connor Siegel
· Best Horse – Wisdom owned by Rush Weeden and Jamee Field
Parents and friends of the EAP were also included in the educational and entertainment aspects of the clinic, and during a Saturday night reception the EAP teams were auctioned off in a Calcutta, a raffle was held and donations were accepted that raised more than $15,000 for the EAP program.
In his closing comments, Wylde congratulated all of the EAP riders on their achievements and expressed his support of the program.
“This has been as fun for me as it has been for you,” said Wylde. “It’s actually one of the reasons I’m going to move back to the U.S. [from Europe] because I like this program so much, and I want to be more involved with it.
“This group has been by far our best group as a whole,” Wylde continued. “I thought all of you did incredibly well today in the Nations Cup, even those who had problems in the first round came back with a vengeance and rode incredibly well in the second round and I commend you for that. And what I love to hear is how interested everyone is about the horsemanship and stable part of it because we all believe—the clinicians and the people who started this program—our country needs to cultivate horsemen and women and not just riders because in the end that’s what’s going to make you guys winners and the best in the industry.”
The USHJA and EAP Committee wish to thank the following owners for generously donating their horses to the EAP National Training Session: Ellen Baher, Diane Carney/Telluride, Kathleen Caya, Jamee Field, David Golder, Mary Goldman, Gillian Grafton, Melissa Hirt, Kianna Jones, Sarah Kemper, Peter Lane, LFV, Inc., Gitza Peterson/Gray Horse Farm/Julie Koerner, Emma Sargent, Annie and Rush Weeden and Serah Vogus.
Complete coverage of the EAP National Training Session will be published in the January 2012 issue of USHJA In Stride.
For more information about the USHJA Emerging Athletes Program, contact Meghan Carney (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call 859-225-6721.