Lexington, KY-The 2013 Emerging Athletes Program, presented by Dover Saddlery, began its fifth anniversary with two of the highly anticipated ten Regional Clinics. The Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers, GA., launched the new EAP season June 10-13 and welcomed 22 eager riders to an extensive four-day clinic with the legendary Bernie Traurig. Also on hand was stable management expert Anne Thornbury, who will oversee the barn care curriculum at five EAP locales, including the Ledges Sporting Horses facility in Roscoe, IL., on June 17 where 19 excited participants worked with her and world class clinician Cynthia Hankins.
Riders and horses participating in the Regional Clinics are instructed on flatwork, gymnastics, related distances and course work, as well as an intensive stable-management curriculum.
Bernie Traurig said as an opening day greeting, "Try letting go of your own beliefs and see if another way works better." His forward style of teaching the riders made the Conyers clinic a huge success.
Sally Ike of the Chair of the EAP Committee viewed the opening clinics with a sense of real pride in the program's growth and success during its first five years. Ike said,
"We've had a 20% increase in applications from 2012 to 2013 and the overall standard from the nearly 250 applications is higher than last year. We're looking forward to an exciting year and are appreciative of everyone who contributes to make EAP such a great program, e.g. facility owners or operators, clinicians, and the families of our participants."
Among the attendees of the Georgia clinic was Rebecca Warth of Hilton Head, S.C., and she couldn't wait to share her thoughts on the program,
"The 2013 Emerging Athletes Program was one of the most rigorous experiences I have ever participated in; however, I loved every minute of it. I was able to improve my riding and stable management skills as well as gain a whole new appreciation for my horse and everyone involved in the hunter/jumper world. This program helped open my eyes to new ways of working with my horse, such as the American Forward Riding System that Bernie introduced us to at the beginning of the clinic.
Another important aspect that I took away from this was to pay attention to the basics no matter how simple they seem. Lastly, I loved being surrounded by the competitive yet hardworking atmosphere that was created by all of the EAP members. It truly was memorable and I would do it again in a heartbeat."
The legendary Conrad Homfeld created two indoor courses and two outdoor courses for each of the 2013 Regional Clinics, for Georgia, Traurig selected one of Conrad's indoor technical layouts and all participants described it as brilliant.
One of Traurig's quotes quickly spread among the riders and became a mantra to many, "Destroying complacency without destroying confidence can take us into tricky territory."
Hanna Powers of Potomac Falls, VA., said, "EAP was a tremendous experience! I would best describe it as taking everything that I knew about horses, dismantling it, and then rebuilding it all the right way. I learned so much from Bernie, Anne and Mary as well as all the specialists who spoke to us. The intense nature of the program was addicting to me, it was certainly a peak moment of my life. One of the best aspects of the week was the other riders."
Also from the Conyers clinic, Piper Serra of Cumming, GA., came away feeling inspired, "The EAP program helped me to realize the kind of equestrian I want to become. During the clinic I not only added new skills to my riding tool box but also learned valuable horsemanship. Even though it was very hard work, I truly enjoyed the experience and have made amazing friends and connections. The clinicians, Bernie, Anne, and Mary, have not only taught me skills that I will use for the rest of my equestrian career, but have also given me new outlook on riding that has inspired me to embark on a lifelong journey to strive to become not just a rider, but a well-rounded horseman."
The level of enthusiasm and appreciation at the Ledges Sporting Horses regional clinic in Roscoe, IL., was just as glowing.
Hankins and Thornbury worked their way through the curriculum, but allowed for adaptability as needed for each rider's level of understanding. Riders were broken into smaller groups, each rode once a day and audited another group, while serving as jump crew for the clinician. Sectioning into groups provides students the ability to observe how clinicians handle the different situations during each riding session.
"The group ranged from ages 14-20 and several were returning EAP riders. I tried to keep the flatwork interesting, showing its relevance to making a horse more rideable on course." Hankins said.
Connor Siegel of Evanston, IL., said of the program, "The EAP creates true horsemen by exposing developing professionals to volumes of knowledge, which they can then use to form a system tailored to their horse's exact mental and physical needs."
The intensive stable management studies from expert Anne Thornbury made quite the impression on participants. Emma Green of Carmel, IN., said, "My path is clear and now I just have to work harder to find my way. It was an amazing experience from horse care and stable management to outstanding riding sessions."
When the jumping sessions began the participants received an added bonus, Hankins said, "Course designer, Hector Loyola, set Conrad's course, adapting it to the ring and volunteered to teach the riders how to set, measure and place the jumps, before we walked it and developed our strategy of how to ride it. It was very generous of him."
Hankins added her overall thoughts on the clinic, "Pat Boyle and Skip Bailey at Ledges were terrific in offering a ring and supplying a full Grand Prix set of jumps for the final course everyone jumped on Day 4. We had nine clear that then advanced to a jump-off course. This was a great group of riders, a few of which really showed an educated feel, eye and talent that is really what this program is all about: discovering those riders that are under-the-radar and giving them an opportunity. I hope all the riders were able to take something away from the four days to help them with their horses in the future. I try to be honest and fair, yet still remain positive. But, I confess, I don't "grade on a curve" for their final "report cards."
EAP Task Force member Mary Babick attended both the Conyers, GA., and Roscoe, IL., clinics and had this to say at the conclusion, "It is refreshing to find so many young riders who truly have a passion for pursuing all aspects of horses. These young riders prove to me that the flame of horsemanship still burns. The EAP participants at both Conyers and Roscoe were thirsty for knowledge and the clinicians and stable manager taught them skills that they will use for the rest of their lives. The importance of having a system was stressed and whether they were in the barn or the ring the riders noticed a visible difference. The horses looked and felt better and the rider's positions improved greatly.
Working with the riders is both an honor and a privilege and EAP is one of the highlights of my year."
The next EAP Regional Clinics are now underway in Parker, CO., at the Colorado Horse Park, in Herndon, VA., at the Frying Pan Farm Park and in Wilsonville, OR., at the Whip N Spur. Look for follow-up reports on these clinics soon. USHJA wishes all the 2013 EAP participants a great learning experience.
A special thank you to Nutrena for providing educational seminars at each EAP clinic. For more information about Nutrena, a USHJA Contributing Sponsor, visit them online at nutrenaworld.com.
To learn more about the Emerging Athletes Program, presented by Dover Saddlery please visit the USHJA web site or contact Carrie Vaught at (859) 225-6703.