November 12, 2013--The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) and its Eventing High Performance Department introduced a redesigned Developing Riders/Eventing 25 Program for 2013, and the participants had impressive performances throughout the season. Selected by application, 17 riders from across the country benefitted from regular access, coaching, and guidance from U.S. Team Coach, David O'Connor. The year began with intensive USEF Developing Riders/Eventing 25 Program Training Sessions in January and February in Gilroy, Calif., and Ocala, Fla., respectively. The sessions consisted of both mounted lessons as well as lectures covering riding theory and technique, stable management, and course design. Riders came away with a clear understanding of the expectations for the future.
The Developing Riders/Eventing 25 riders put their newfound knowledge to good use and had great accomplishments during the spring season. Nora Battig (Granite Bay, Calif.) and Steppin' Out finished second in the Poplar Place CIC2*, while Lauren Kieffer (Middleburg, Va.) and RF Cosima came in fourth. In North Carolina at the beginning of April, Kieffer partnered with Czechmate to win The Fork International Horse Trials CIC2*. Katy Groesbeck (Temecula, Calif.) rode Oz Proof of Purchase to the win in the Twin Rivers CCI2* by finishing on her dressage score. In the Twin Rivers CIC3*, Mackenna Shea (Tacoma, Wash.) and Landioso won the division while Zachary Brandt (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) and Cavallino Cocktail finished a close second. On the East Coast, Kieffer rode Veronica to the top spot by adding nothing to her dressage score in the Ocala Horse Properties International CCI2*.
"I think first off what David has done in general whether it had been sending horses and riders to Europe or developing younger generation is really going to turn things around and it already has," commented Brandt. "He has helped me an unbelievable amount with my flat work, as well as my jumping, but my dressage has improved immensely. I don't think I would have been able to move up as well as I did this year without his help. I did my first Advanced in March and my first CCI3* in May. He's really laid the foundation down for all the Developing Riders on how to make it to the upper levels, how to conduct yourself at the upper levels, and what it takes to represent the U.S. in a team competition."
Meghan O'Donoghue (Carbondale, Ill.) and Pirate had a spectacular showing at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by Land Rover in their first appearance at the CCI4* level, finishing in 12th place and also earning the $1,000 HSBC FEI Classics Training Bursary. Caitlin Silliman (Chestertown, Md.) also tackled her first CCI4* at Kentucky, gaining valuable experience and finishing 24th with Catch A Star.
The hard work continued to show at international competitions across the country. At Jersey Fresh, Silliman won the CCI2* with Remington XXV and Kieffer and Veronica won the CIC2*. Kieffer and Veronica competed at the CIC3* level for the first time at the CHC International Horse Trials, winning the division, with Jacob Fletcher (North Little Rock, Ark.) and The Prof finishing fifth. In the CIC2*, Jenny Caras (Marietta, Ga.) had two top ten finishes with her horses, placing fifth with Fernhill Fortitude and eighth with Fernhill Stowaway. At the Bromont Three-Day Event, Kieffer finished third in the CIC3* with RF Cosima.
Two Developing Riders/Eventing 25 riders had great results at the Adequan/FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Championships presented by Gotham North. Caras and Fernhill Stowaway helped Area III win the Team Gold medal, earning the Individual Bronze medal themselves. Lizzie Snow (Milwaukie, Ore.) rode Ringfort Tinkaturk to seventh place individually, aiding the combined team of Areas VII, VIII, & IX to a Team Silver medal.
The up-and-coming riders made quite a showing at The Event at Rebecca Farm in Montana at the end of July. In the CIC3*, Groesbeck finished third and eighth with Oz The Tin Man and Oz Proof of Purchase, respectively, while Brandt and Cavallino Cocktail came in fifth. Jordan Linstedt (Redmond, Wash.) earned second-place honors in the CCI2* with Revitavet Capato.
Two riders from the program attended their first international competitions abroad in the late summer and early fall. In the beginning of September, O'Donoghue and Pirate traveled to the Fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials with the help of a Jacqueline B. Mars Competition and Training Grant from the USET Foundation. The pair did not disappoint in its first competition overseas, holding its own with some of Europe's top riders and finishing in 11th place. Kieffer and Veronica were selected for the Military Boekelo CCIO3* Nations Cup Team in October.
"The opportunities that this program provided me this year have been amazing," stated O'Donoghue. "The camp David put on for us this winter was focused on producing young horsemen in this country. The inspiration the camp produced certainly contributed to me success throughout the year. The Under 25 program is part of a pipeline for the future of U.S. eventing. There have been numerous opportunities that I have taken advantage of because of this program. It was an honor to be selected as part of the program's first year!"
The final three-day events of the year took place in October and the Developing Riders/Eventing 25 riders had top performances yet again. At The Dutta Corp Fair Hill International, Danielle Dichting (Roswell, Ga.) added just a few time penalties to her dressage score to finish fifth in the CCI2* with The Graduate. Caras claimed the USEF National Young Riders Championship title for being the top U.S. competitor aged 16-21 in the CCI2* after coming in 12th with Fernhill Fortitude.
"For a new program for the under 25 riders, it was brand new this year and nobody really knew what to expect and I think it exceeded all of our expectations," said O'Connor. "The weeks that we did training sessions and the clinics that we did afterwards that followed up all went really well. All of those riders really went on to compete in a better way than I think they had before. Two riders going to Europe, other ones winning two-stars, and others doing well in three-stars. To me it was a very successful program for this year."
The redesigned Developing Riders/Eventing 25 Program enabled several talented riders to reach new heights this year. The success that the program riders had with their horses throughout the year bodes well for the future of the sport.
For more information about the 2013 USEF Developing Riders/Eventing 25 Program, please click here: http://usef.org/_IFrames/breedsdisciplines/discipline/alleventing/hpeventing.aspx.
Follow the 2013 Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team here.