Dec 13, 2019

Duvander Debriefs on the Year with USEF High Performance

By Leslie Mintz - USEA Staff
Jenni Autry and Erik Duvander. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

In the last 12 months, Erik Duvander has spent 260 days on the road, attending 26 competitions, and five team events. That is how Duvander opened his day of USEF High Performance sessions today at the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention in Boston, Mass. There were two USEF High Performance Open Sessions with the Pan American Games panel scheduled in between giving Duvander plenty of opportunity to share the year at the USEF.

“Thousands are working within our sport – organizers, course designers, etc.” said Duvander. “This is such a big organization, and everyone is doing it for the love of the sport. My job is the top one percent and that wouldn’t happen without everyone else.”

Duvander called out Boyd Martin as an example of the progress that has been made as well as his philosophy. “After WEG Boyd had a really good look at himself and asked, ‘How do I get out of the hole?’ He just stepped up and really figured out a system around this horse and got help, and then he went to finish second at Kentucky and win gold at the Pan American Games.” Duvander emphasized that he wants the riders to know how they are going to get from A to B and be very analytic about it.

“You see the progress first at home, then in the warm-up, then in the ring at the competition,” he said.

When Duvander first arrived in the U.S. he said he heard a lot of talk about the ability to ride on teams and the feeling of the country being isolated, and he said he is proud of how the North American Futures Challenge has turned out and the great feedback from the riders on how helpful it was. Next year a west coast challenge will be added at Galway Downs.

In July all eyes were on the Pan American Games and the importance of the U.S. securing a spot at the 2020 Olympics. “I thought the Pan Ams was one of the toughest competitions for me because of the importance of getting our Olympic qualification,” explained Duvander. “And the course ended up being much tougher than we expected.” With the Pan Am box checked, the next competition was a Boekelo which proved to be a super-competitive competition with the new Olympic format being tested out. While the U.S. results weren’t stellar, Duvander remarked on the impressive turnout of the U.S. supporters. “There were 50 owners out there – everywhere you looked it was a sea of American clothing. To get that level of support – I’ve never seen it before. If we can get to a stage where we can really encourage people to get behind us it means a lot to us and our riders.”

On November 26th, the USEF released an update to the Elite, Pre-Elite, and Development Training Lists and that has been a hotbed topic as people wondered why certain riders and horses were left off the list. Duvander explained that the list matched the riders on the global stage. “The list is measuring against the best in the world – it isn’t about just having one good result,” he said. “There are a lot of factors and I run through them with every rider on the list. What can our funding and resources support? You can’t dilute it too much – there has to be a cutoff point. This last selection we added on 25% more due to input from Dr. Susan Johns and the selectors.”

The USEF has also been working with EquiRatings to analyze the country’s scores against the rest of the world to help make decisions for the lists and teams.


The 2020 Eventing Strategic Plan looked similar to the 2019 plan with a focus on working with the various groups who have a stake – USET Foundation, Eligible Athletes, Event Owners Task Force, USEA, etc. The mission is to “create a competitive learning environment were U.S. athletes and horses can develop their skills to succeed at championships.” With 230 days to the Olympics, Duvander will continue to work with riders to utilize individual performance plans (IPPs) with goals to ensure progress and clarity in what they are aiming to achieve and provide a platform to monitor successful outcomes. “We need to have a tracking system to make sure we are investing in the right people. Every person who is on the list, a team, grant recipients, etc.”

Duvander also praised the success of the Performance Advisory Team which was developed last year. The team consists of Karen O’Connor, Derek di Grazia, Bobby Costello, Ian Stark, Leslie Law, and Duvander in order to review, challenge, and advice the high performance program. Duvander said that the flexibility of the small group is great and that “I respect them hugely. I want everyone to have strong opinions.”

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About the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention

The USEA Annual Meeting & 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 other eventing enthusiasts. The USEA organizes multiple seminars in addition to committee meetings, open forums, and tons of fun! The 2019 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention is taking place at the Sheraton Boston Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts, December 12-15, 2019. Click here to learn more about the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention.

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