One of the most enjoyable aspects of horse shows for me lately is the opportunity I get to visit with individuals who are participating with their young horses. Whether they bred the horse themselves or purchased it as a youngster, people at the shows with their “equine children” always seem to be having the most fun.
This was certainly the case last month at the Duke Benefit Show in Raleigh, N.C. For the first time, Duke played host to the Eastern Regional for the 4-year-olds nominated to the International Jumper Futurity. And what a fine host Duke was!
Designed to provide recognition to jumpers produced by our own U.S. breeders, the IJF has been around for more than a decade now, and we’ve seen several of its graduates go on to excel at the highest levels. Judgement, Beezie Madden’s mount on the show jumping team at the World Equestrian Games, is a homebred owned by Iron Spring Farm of Pennsylvania. Not only is this exceptional stallion the first American-bred in many a year to represent our country in show jumping at the Olympics or World Championships, but he was also a winner of the IJF 4-Year-Old Futurity.
On the West Coast, Southshore, the winner of the $150,000 Indio Grand Prix (Calif.) this year, was also an IJF winner.
Because many 4-year-olds still lack the maturity for owners or trainers to make a priority of debuting them at one of the (often distant) IJF events, the number of horses taking part remains relatively small at the three regional events. While the quantity might be modest, quality is never in short supply. Everyone who works with young horses knows that, like children, they progress at their own pace, and too much should not be asked before a horse gains sufficient maturity.
For this reason the substantial prize money awarded each year as part of the IJF program has been structured to pay owners, nominators and stallion nominators over several years of the development process. Each 4-year-old completing the two-course test at an IJF Regional automatically receives $1,000—in addition three special awards are given for Best Type/Movement, Best Performance, and Most Grand Prix Potential.
The bulk of the prize money, however, is paid out to IJF-nominated horses in the form of bonus awards for their performances as 5- and 6-year-olds in the Young Jumper Championship League Finals.
The Young Jumper Championships was first developed five years ago as a companion program to the IJF. A limited “test program” was first offered in 1998 at a series of Showpark of San Diego shows in California. The following years have seen the YJC grow into a nationwide program of YJC qualifiers for both 5- and 6-year-old horses, culminating with League Finals held over Labor Day weekend on both coasts. The host shows for the League Finals—the Hampton Classic (N.Y.) and Showpark All Seasons Summer Classic (Calif.)—each provide an exceptional opportunity for these young horses to compete head-to-head in lucrative competition.
While YJC competition is open to any horse with breed registry papers (to assure the identity and eligible age of each horse), regardless of country of origin, it is only IJF-nominated horses that are eligible for IJF Bonus Awards. These bonuses have paid out more than $40,000 per year, in addition to the prize money offered by the YJC.
I’m one of those who believes that developing equine athletes and recognizing our homebred horses are crucial factors to the long-term success of our sport, so bringing these two programs to life has been very satisfying. Having had personal experience with the thrill of seeing horses you bred, raised and developed go on to win at grand prix, it`s especially rewarding to see others having so much fun with their own prospects.
Holly and Ralph Caristo were watching with rapt attention as their daughter, Heather, rode their promising 4-year-old mare to two beautiful rounds in Raleigh. Ralph told me afterward that he felt as though he suddenly had another “kid” in his family to be proud of.
The majority of young horse owners attend the events at which their horses compete. Many ride their own horses in competition, and even more do a great deal of the day-to-day riding and training themselves. Their pride in their horses is obvious`and justified.
This year’s winner of the YJC Eastern League 5-Year-Old Finals, Tres Coronas Caravelle, is a great example of what can be accomplished by an owner with determination and a good eye.
Heather Crespo used her savings to purchase Caravelle as a barely broken 3-year-old in her polo-player husband’s home country of Argentina. She went on to develop him into the kind of horse with which top rider Todd Minikus could produce three clear rounds at the Hampton Classic. Heather worked extra hours riding horses and helping kids to afford the travel to qualifying events in Kentucky and Culpeper, Va.
What a thrill for Heather and her proud husband, Gabriel, to have her “special project” crowned a champion at the Hampton Classic and take home the winner’s share of the $20,000 purse for 5-year-olds. She even collected the special grooms’ award!
The upcoming year will see continued development of both the IJF and the YJC. Increased money will be going into the IJF Bonus Awards program, and YJC officials are hoping to inaugurate a Midwestern League Final in 2003 to supplement the Eastern and Western Finals. Plus, we hope to have a fully developed program in place for 7- and 8-year-old horses by 2004. An eventual National Championship for Young Horses, under the auspices of USA Equestrian, is the goal for many of us.
But I’m afraid I have to clarify some confusion that’s developing as the result of a new event that’s called the “YJC Indoor Finals.” That event is, in fact, not a part of the Young Jumper Championships program that has been in place for some years now. That final is part of the new National Indoor Finals being managed by Tom Struzzieri’s HITS group, next September in Worcester, Mass.
While we welcome every opportunity for competition for young horses in this country and appreciate that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the rules for qualification and participation in the League Finals organized by the “real” YJC are found on the website www.youngjumpers.com. They’re also available by contacting the YJC, via fax at (425) 827-5417, or by phoning Cheryll Frank at USA Equestrian (859) 225-6980. Look for complete specifications for the 2003 programs to be up on the website early this month.