January 9, 2014--Ten riders from across the country started the 2014 season off right as the first participants in the training sessions with U.S. Team Coach David O'Connor for the Eventing 18/Advancing Athletes program. Created in 2013 by the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) and United States Eventing Association (USEA), the goal of the program is to build a foundation of future horsemen and women that will hopefully go on to represent the United States. Selection into the program was based on talent, competitiveness, commitment, potential, willingness to learn, quality of application, and recommendations.
The riders were:
Brynn Littlehale - Saratoga, Calif.
David Pawlak - Boyce, Va.
Patience O'Neal - Spokane, Wash.
Adrian Jones - Schamong, N.J.
Madison Temkin - Sonoma, Calif.
Mia Farley - San Clemente, Calif.
Jamie Doolittle - Reddick, Fla.
Nicole Doolittle - Reddick, Fla.
Caroline Martin - Miami Beach, Fla.
Savannah Fulton - Finksburg, Md.
Reagan LaFleur - Lafayette, La.
Maddy Mazzola - Oakland, Calif.
"For me, it was very rewarding. We had 12 kids basically talented-spotted from around the country who have a lot of potential. The California riders were on borrowed horses that we were lucky enough to use," explained O'Connor. "I was extremely pleased with their progress all week. They took a lot in and showed great improvement."
O'Connor oversees the program and led the training sessions held at Meredyth South and Longwood Farm in Ocala, Fla., December 28, 2013 through January 2, 2014. The riders worked on their dressage, cross country, and show jumping skills throughout the week. Thanks to generous donors five horse were loaned to the riders from the West Coast so they didn't have to take on the expense of bringing their horses to Florida. Unmounted lectures were held each day, with the participants learning from Dr. Jill Copenhagen, Randy Pawlak, Max Corcoran, and Buck Davidson.
"It's a great program just to start to give younger people the knowledge that they need to do well. I had a wonderful experience. It was great to get to know new people since I don't know the riders on the East Coast, especially in Young Riders," said West Coast rider Maddy Mazzola. "One thing [O'Connor] really stressed was to be aware and pay attention to all the details, train yourself to pay attention, because if you miss small things now they will become bigger problems later on. He also pointed out that it is important to have supporters in this sport and to thank them for all they do."
Nicole Doolittle agreed, "It was an amazing opportunity. He stressed establishing a core foundation for riders to advance in equestrian sport, because when you have good basics things more advanced questions become easier. It was great to meet other riders and make connections that will hopefully last a really long time."
The application deadline for the next Eventing 18/Advancing Athletes Training sessions is March 7, 2014, and the form and more information will be available by mid-January to members through their MY USEF accounts.