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Thu, 2016-12-08 14:26

O'Connor Talks Strategy With USEF High Performance Riders

David O'Connor at the USEA Convention. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

In David O’Connor’s first presentation since the USEF announcement of his new role as Technical Advisor, he outlined his plan for the upcoming year for the Eventing High Performance Riders.

O’Connor explained the three-month review process following the 2016 Olympic Games, “which were a huge disappointment to me and all of the country. That day didn’t work out, but I don’t believe the program is broken. The program has a way forward.” The “heart-wrenching” and “soul searching” review process resulted in a rewriting of O’Connor’s job description. His focus is now going to be on the big picture management of the program, providing both short term and long term target markers for the riders (dressage scores, progress through the season, percentage of clear cross-country and show jumping rounds), helping riders develop a coaching and competition plan to meet the targets and assessing the riders’ achievements.  

USEF High Performance Lists

Will Connell, the USEF Director of Sport Programs, is currently working on unifying a system of “lists” for all three disciplines (dressage, show jumping and eventing). O’Connor said the name of the lists, process for choosing who will be on the lists (and how to remove someone from the list) and funding for the lists are all under review, however he gave a mid-January date as a release for the next list. He emphasized the importance of clarity of how and why someone is not on a list is important for it to be understood by public, owners and riders. Once a rider is a selected to be on a high performance list it will be a partnership with O’Connor to create a plan for the rider’s coaching and competition schedule and funding for both. The plan will be well-documented in order to keep anything from being assumed.


O’Connor had opened the meeting with stating that we are 20 months away from the World Equestrian Games (WEG), and while it may seem like we have a home field advantage we don’t – except for the fans. While the FEI recently decided on some sweeping changes to both the WEG and the Olympics, O’Connor wants people to forget about the fact that the WEG is now classified as a three-star. “All that means it is a 10-minute course,” explained O’Connor. “Usually a three-star has 40 efforts in 10 minutes and a four-star has 45, but WEG/Olympics will be 45 in 10 minutes, which means the intensity is heightened. It is going to have that same feeling as a quality four-star.” Capt. Mark Phillips will be course designer and O’Connor commented on his tendency to build big courses and the only thing which will be taken away is the ability for a table to be 6’6” wide – instead it will be 6’ wide. Coaching at Championships is another fact to be figured out with O’Connor’s new role as individual coaches may be brought in or a central coach could be appointed.

Overseas Competition

For the last quadrennial a big investment on traveling and competing overseas has been made, and O’Connor commented that he can see some of that shifting over to only riders meeting certain strict targets. Although there will be some funds reserved for riders coming through the pipeline to gain experience. “I am a big believer that you don’t wait for the government to send you over if you have ambition,” said O’Connor.

Before closing the meeting to riders only, O’Connor explained that conversations are ongoing, but he plans on being clear and transparent. The public may not like all of O’Connor’s decisions, but he is determined to at least let them know the process.

Stay tuned for more from Convention as coverage is added!

About the USEA Annual Meeting and Convention

The USEA Annual Meeting and Convention takes place each December and brings together a large group of dedicated USEA members and supporters to discuss, learn, and enjoy being surrounded by eventing enthusiasts. The 2016 Annual Meeting and Convention is taking place at the Diplomat Resort & Spa Hollywood in Fort Lauderdale, Fl. December 7-11, 2016. 

Thank you to our amazing lineup of sponsors that make this event possible: Merck Animal HealthStandlee Hay ForageNutrenaAdequanDevoucouxCharles OwenSmartPakRebecca FarmMountain Horse, Auburn Laboratories Inc., Broadstone Equine Insurance AgencyEventing Training Online, Stackhouse SaddlesPoint Two Air JacketsGallops SaddleryProfessional’s ChoiceWorld Equestrian Brands, Bit of BritainCWDH.E. Tex Sutton Forwarding CompanyJump 4 JoyThe Fork at TIEC and more!

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