Amidst the humid air, glaring sun, and ninety-degree summer heat, nine horses proved their weight in gold at Loch Moy Farm’s Future Event Horse (FEH) jump chute clinic on Thursday, July 5 in Adamstown, Md. Following the day after Independence Day, it was no coincidence that the majority of young horses were American bred. The United States Eventing Association (USEA) FEH program aims to shed light on American breeding programs that produce upper level event horses.
The main objective of the FEH program is to evaluate the potential of yearlings, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, and 4-year-olds to become successful upper level event horses. The growing program now has over 35 competitions across the country, West, Central, and East Coast Championships, and educational opportunities like the jump chute clinic at Loch Moy Farm.
The jump chute at Loch Moy Farm. USEA/Claire Kelley Photo.
The palpable heat didn’t deter the clinician, Samantha Allan, from providing a unique, educational experience for all of the participants including the horses, owners, riders, handlers, and volunteers. “The greatest thing about the jump chute is that the horses can learn how to take care of themselves over a fence without the interference of the rider,” said Allan.
Positive reinforcement was the name of the game as one could hear the phrase “good boy” or “good girl” frequently throughout the day. Horse treats were another form of positive reinforcement as the designated catcher always greeted the young horse with a tasty snack. Whether their feat was big or small, horses left the clinic feeling confident, encouraged, and comfortable in their own skin.
The designated catcher giving a treat to 2-year-old Aberdeen NBF. USEA/Claire Kelley Photo.
Starting at 9:00 am, one by one horses entered the jump chute for their private 30-minute lesson. The first step in the session was to get the horses warmed up by free lunging. In doing this, Allan and her assistants were able to get a feel for the horse both physically and mentally. While warming up, the horses always remained in the same rhythm and continued going in the same direction until they were asked differently. The clinic mirrored the figure-eight pattern used at FEH Championships, and this pattern is used so the judges see the horse’s “balance and length of stride,” said Allan.
“Exposure and experience” are the reasons why Krista Child and her stunning 4-year-old stallion Saint Sandro’s Caspian (Saint Sandro x GNF Crescendo) made the journey from Pittsburgh, Pa. to Adamstown, Md. The first horse of the day, Saint Sandro’s Caspian gained valuable experience as one can watch in the video below.
Although each horse had a unique experience, one constant was the introduction to the jump chute. Every horse first went through the jump chute with poles on the ground and most of the time it was Allan leading the horses herself. Gradually the fences in the chute were raised one by one with the maximum height never exceeding 3’9”, as the Championship standards describe that the maximum height for 4-year-olds can never exceed 3’9”.
“For the 2-year-olds, 10 minutes is okay! I don’t like to do too much with the 2-year-olds just because they are still growing,” explained Allan. Regardless of their age, Allan recommends that all horses can benefit from going through the jump chute, “even the upper level horses.”
Whether it was a sensitive horse or one that needed some encouragement, a 2-year-old or a 4-year-old, the main benefit to the jump chute was for the horses to think for themselves, a common theme among the USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) program and USEA Future Event Horse program. “[The jump chute] teaches them the footwork of dealing with mistakes without having to worry about the rider being in the way or catching them in the mouth. If it’s done correctly it can definitely improve the horse’s jumping technique,” explained Allan.
If it’s done incorrectly, the jump chute can have adverse effects. “The biggest [mistake] is that people move too fast. They put the fences up too high too fast or they want to send the horse through [the jump chute] too fast.”
Whether it’s at home or at a jump chute clinic, it’s crucial for a horse to have experience in a jump chute prior to competing at the FEH Championships. Similar to the clinic at Loch Moy Farm, a jump chute clinic will also be held the day before the start of each FEH Championship. The USEA strongly recommends that participants do their homework so horses are not over faced at the Championships. After all, practice makes perfect!
“Keep everything quiet and relaxed” and positive reinforcement were the two main takeaways from the clinic. These two highlights instilled confidence in every horse and provided tools for the owners, riders, and handlers to produce a foundation for the future.
Allan and the 2-year-old Exit Strategy first practicing the jump chute at the walk. USEA/Claire Kelley Photo.
About Samantha Allan
An active member in the USEA Future Event Horse committee and a heavily experienced FEH/YEH judge, Samantha Allan is a noteworthy name. Allan is also a USEF Eventing judge, USEF Eventing TD, a USDF Bronze medalist, an ‘A’ rated United Stated Pony Club graduate, and has competed up to the Advanced level in eventing. Currently, she breaks and trains horses for eventing, dressage, show jumping, foxhunting, racing, and pleasure riding out of her program, Allan & Clover Sport Horses.
About the USEA Future Event Horse Program
The USEA introduced the Future Event Horse (FEH) program in 2007 as a pilot program in response to the popularity of the already established USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) program. Based on conformation and type, the FEH program evaluates yearlings, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, and now 4-year-olds for their potential as an upper level event horse. Horses are presented in hand and divisions are separated by year and gender.
New in 2017 was the FEH 4-year-old division. The 4-year-olds are presented under saddle at the walk, trot, and canter before being stripped of their tack and evaluated for their conformation. Additionally, 4-year-olds also participate in the free-jump divisions at Championships to show their potential over fences. Click here to learn more about the Future Event Horse Program.