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Thu, 2015-08-06 09:48

The Race to Le Lion: Former USEA Young Event Horses Are in the Running for World Breeding Eventing Championships in France with Holekamp/Turner Grant

D.A. Duras and Kelly Prather at The Fork CIC2*. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo

At the 2012 USEA Annual Meeting and Convention in Colorado Springs, a new grant was announced that aimed to support a pipeline of developing horses for the U.S. Eventing Team. The Holekamp/Turner Young Event Horse Lion d’Angers Grant, founded by Tim and Cheryl Holekamp and Christine Turner, helps the highest scorer of the USEA Young Event Horse 5-year-old Championship travel to the FEI World Breeding Eventing Championship in France as a 7-year-old for the two-star, if the horse obtains the proper competition qualifications.

Since the Grant was announced in 2012, the first group of horses eligible to receive the grant are those that competed in the 2013 USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Championships as 5-year-olds. That group of talented horses turned seven this year, so this is the first year that the grant will take effect. Debbie Adams’ D.A. Duras, ridden by Kelly Prather, is the top contender for the Grant to the Championships at Le Lion d’Angers, October 16-19, followed by Dempsey Syndicate’s Dempsey, ridden by Tamie Smith.

Addressing a Need

As David O’Connor explained at the Evaluation of the Young Event Prospect clinic in February, it’s no secret that Europe has had the edge on developing horses for Eventing. From a bounty of sport horse breeding programs that have been finely tuned over many decades, to systematic agendas for developing young horses properly in their early riding years, the roots of sport horse development are deep, with a wealth of knowledge passed down through generations of horsemen.

But O’Connor asked, “Why not us?” Self-sufficiency in producing our own top-quality young horses for the sport will benefit American breeders and make it unnecessary for riders and owners to compete with Europeans for top-quality foreign horses. Furthermore, it provides a pipeline for future Olympic team horses here at home.

But there is also no doubt that awareness and incentive for growing high-caliber young horses on domestic soil for Eventing is increasing, and programs like the USEA Young and Future Event Horse Series are steps in the right direction. With the Holekamp/Turner Young Event Horse Lion d’Angers Grant, Cheryl and Tim Holekamp and Christine Turner are spearheading a major incentive for the development of high-caliber young event horses.

Held to the Highest Standards

Getting these developing horses out on the international stage is part of this process. Not only is it valuable exposure experience for horses that could possibly be some of U.S. Eventing’s powerhouses in a few years, but it’s a good way to see how they stack up against the rest of the competition. Many young horses who competed in the FEI World Eventing Breeding Championships have gone on to compete at the top of the sport, such as this year’s Rolex winner fischerRocana FST, who won the 6-year-old championships in 2011 with Michael Jung.

Horses that are age-qualified to compete at the 7-year-old two-star this year would have competed in the USEA Young Event Horse 5-year-old Championship in 2013. But horses that topped the YEH leaderboard in 2013 aren’t a shoe-in for World Championships; as one would expect, qualifications are selective and challenging to meet. With only 70 seven-year-olds allowed in the CCI2*, the horses must have completed a CCI1* and a CIC2*, each with zero obstacle penalties on cross-country and a maximum of 4 penalties (one rail) in show jumping.

As the grant states, if the leading horse from the 5-year-old USEA Young Event Horse Championship is not qualified for the World Championship by the qualification date of September 14, the grant will go to the next eligible horse and rider pair who is qualified, willing and able to go. Debbie Adams’ D. A. Duras (Numero Uno – Medoc) placed 5th at the 2013 USEA YEH East Coast Championships as a 5-year-old and has already met the aforementioned qualifications for the World Championships. Adams is as thrilled about the mission of the program as she is to own the current top contender for this year’s Grant.

“As a committee member of the YEH and an active competitor of young horses, I really believe in the concept of developing these young athletes to be able to compete at the highest level of Eventing,” said Adams. 

Good for the Horse, Good for the Sport

“A good beginning is essential if the horses is to have a chance of tapping into his potential. It is a super way to promote the program of YEH to have our horses competing with the best as a young age,” Adams explained. “And it is very, very good for our riders to be exposed to international competition as much as possible. Everyone learns from others. So we need to be rubbing shoulders with the best to up our game.”

In the interest of promoting domestic breeding instead of buying young horses abroad, a larger cash prize of $17,500 is awarded to horses bred in North America. If the winner is an imported horse, he will be awarded $8,000. Adams imported D.A. Duras, who is ridden by Kelly Prather, from the Netherlands as a 4-year-old, and she is excited about the opportunity that this Grant provides.

“This trip would be super for him as he would be competing against some of the best young horses in our sport,” she said. “Working in an atmosphere of quality - and with crowds - are pressures that all competitors must learn to deal with. Being surrounded by quality inspires everyone to ‘up their game’ and I have heard that it is a true Championship test for young horses. That type of course and experience would help his education for the future.”

If D.A. Duras is, for any reason, unable to attend, The Dempsey Syndicate’s Dempsey (Idocus – Obelisk), ridden by Tamie Smith, would receive the full cash prize; Dempsey was bred in the U.S. by Liz Rothman. Both horses are currently qualified, and the riders and owners have stated their desire to attend the World Championships.

But for now, D.A. Duras will continue his preparation and education with eyes set on France in October. As Adams explained, the impact of attendance at the World Breeding Eventing Championships goes beyond her horse alone.

“The U.S. could demonstrate that we are developing and supporting talented young horses. It will inspire others to reach for this goal of going to the World Championships for Young Event Horses, realizing that they need to carefully plan and train their young horses to attain certain goals. Competition makes everyone sharpen their skills, so the level of young horses will continue to rise. As this is part of the pipeline of talent for future upper level horses, it is an important goal.”

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