The final day of the 2019 USEA Educational Symposium gave judges and auditors the opportunity to expand their knowledge of the USEA Future Event Horse (FEH) program. Demo horses were brought in for a full day of every aspect of the FEH classes from yearlings to 4-year-olds. The morning featured Holly Simensen, a specialist in conformation and the only approved U.S. inspector of young horses for the German Oledenburger Pferde Verband. Simensen is also the widow of the late Dr. A. Martin "Marty" Simensen, who was the USET Team Veterinarian for over 22 years and 2018 USEA's Eventing Hall of Fame inductee.
As a conformation expert, Simensen evaluates horses of all disciplines, but she said good conformation is imperative for eventers. “Eventers need to go over uneven ground, so conformation as far as soundness is very important,” she explained. “There is nothing more heartbreaking than bringing a young horse up and then all the sudden they are lame.”
The yearlings, 2-year-olds, and 3-year-olds were brought in to stand up for conformation and walk and trot the triangle, and Simensen gave her impressions to the attendees as well as worked with the judges to score the different horses. “The most important thing is the first impression when the horse comes into the ring,” said Simensen. “The horse needs to be an athlete.”
Simensen emphasized how vital it was to judge the horse’s best moments. His best few walk steps, his best trot steps, but also you have to judge what you see. “There is no such thing as a perfect horse,” she said. “You can nitpick a lot, but you need to weigh how much it’s going to influence in the long run. If you see him in three months he is going to look like a different horse. If you keep on being negative they will be discouraged, so you need to say it in a positive way. It’s important to give the impression that you can see what the problems are, so you don’t put people into never never land.”
No horses grow evenly and young horses can look different every single day. “A foal may be nicely put together, but by the time they are yearlings they are going through the uglies,” said Simensen. “You rarely see them with a good neck. They just need to have refinement and cover the ground. The pretty ones often grow up to be unathletic.”
In addition to advising the judges, Simensen also gave a few tips to the breeders, owners, and handlers that attended.
After the morning spent looking at horses in hand, Robin Walker and Peter Gray ran through a mock 4-year-old class with three very different demo horses. The FEH 4-year-old class has the horses being ridden in a group together at the walk, trot, and canter. Walker explained that there was some flexibility to the format, but that judges need to use their common sense.
The last part of the day was dedicated to the jump chute with Grand Prix jumper, Matthias Hollberg, sharing his knowledge of training and what he looks for as the horses go through the chute. At the FEH Championships, the jump chute is used to evaluate the 3- and 4-year-old’s canter as well as their jumping ability; however, Hollberg said it is not a foolproof method to determine if a horse will be a top eventer. “Not all that free jump well will be good undersaddle – it is only a rough gauge,” said Hollberg.
When he is evaluating a horse in the jump chute, Hollberg looks for how fast the horse understands the concept, their technique, effort, and personality. He also recommends setting the distances longer than you would in the show ring as there is no rider to balance the horse.
The FEH jump chute can only get up to 3’3” for 3-year-olds and 3’7” for 4-year-olds, so it often isn’t enough for the horses to put in a huge effort. Hollberg said, “It’s hard to see the scope when they are just stepping over them. I am not necessarily looking for the horse to round itself with a huge bascule, but we need it to get its wither up at least. Not every horse is focused when are at a new place, so keep it small, keep it simple, and give them help with placement rails.”
Did you miss any of the coverage of the USEA Educational Symposium? You can find it all here.
The USEA would like to thank Educational Symposium sponsor EquiAppraisal for their support. Alison Gay from EquiAppraisal is sponsoring lunches for the FEH/YEH attendees, as well as supporting the Educational Symposium as a whole.
About the USEA Future Event Horse Program
The USEA introduced the Future Event Horse Program in 2007 in response to the popularity of the already established USEA Young Event Horse Program. Where the YEH program assesses 4- and 5-year-old prospective event horses based on their performance, the FEH program evaluates yearlings, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, and 4-year-olds for their potential for the sport based on conformation and type. Yearlings, 2-year-olds, and 3-year-olds are presented in-hand while 4-year-olds are presented under saddle at the walk, trot, and canter before being stripped of their tack and evaluated on their conformation. Divisions are separated by year and gender. At the Championships, 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds are also required to demonstrate their potential over fences in an additional free-jump division. Click here to learn more about the Future Event Horse Program.
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