The Young and Future Event Horse article series is being provided through a partnership between Mythic Landing Enterprises, LLC., and the USEA.
Matt Flynn is well known in the Eventing community as a rider that has proven to produce successful young horses for the sport. Matt’s business, Flynn Sporthorses, selects, imports and produces European sport horses for American jumping sports. The horses that come into his program are primarily Eventing prospects, however some can be more suited for pure dressage or show jumping.
One of Matt’s early imports, Breakthrough, participated in Ireland’s Young Event Horse program as a 4-year-old and was showing great success. When he arrived at Matt’s facility as a 5-year-old it made sense to continue to show him in the 5-year-old division. He placed well in all the qualifiers and went on to win the East Coast 5-year-old Championship at Fair Hill in 2009. Ever since, Matt has continued his achievements with his talented string of young horses throughout the program.
Matt explains, “Once I participated in the program with Breakthrough, I realized it was a great way to get our young horses out, especially the ones for sale so they could gain more exposure. The layout is perfect for the ones that are ready to do their first event because they’re able to gain confidence jumping over a few show jumps and then the course gradually introduces the cross-country obstacles.”
Matt participates mostly in the Young Event Horse division, however he offers valuable training advice to help other riders produce their own future event horse. For some, it can be difficult to know where to start when you’re preparing your youngster for their first show, so Matt offers a few thoughts on how to get started.
Matt continues, “The first concept that needs to be established is making sure your horse can walk by your side with their bridle on. Make sure they understand that they need to stay by your side and pay attention to your commands. You don’t want to get to a show and have your horse dragging you all around the show grounds.”
Once your horse can walk confidently by your side, it’s time to introduce the jog and then begin to practice the patterns you’re going to have to perform. Matt continues, “The jogging can be tricky because you have to turn around the triangle formation at the same time. Set-up the pattern you’ll have to do at the show and just practice, practice, practice so that when you get to the competition it’s just second nature. Additionally, I always make sure to have an experienced grounds person with me to help with the training.”
Along with the jog, having your horse stand properly so the judges can evaluate their conformation is a big part to your overall score in both the Future and Young Event Horse divisions.
“It’s extremely important to evaluate how your horse is built and how you can best show that off before you get to the show. Be sure to really show the various angles of your horse. You may want your horse to be evaluated with one hind leg forward and one hind leg back to better show-off their hind end. Another important piece of advice is that when your horse is standing for the judge, make sure they’re stretching their neck out so the judge can easily see their lines,” Matt suggests.
During the conformation evaluation portion in both the Future and Young Event Horse divisions, the judges are really honing-in on how the horse moves and looks without tack so their lines and angles can be examined as well as any conformational flaws.
Matt describes, “The in-hand work is the judges’ opportunity to observe how the horse’s legs move naturally without a rider. The judges will be asking themselves; Does the horse track up naturally on their own? Do they move straight on all four limbs? Do they have a natural, uphill balance or are they more downhill? They’re also evaluating whether the horse has general athleticism and if they’re a blood-type model of horse, which is all very important in an upper-level event horse.”
Matt explains that one of the biggest benefits to this program is the recognition that breeders receive for their American-bred horses. Matt continues, “Too often in this sport, Americans are forced to rely on other countries to produce horses that exhibit International quality and I would love to see that begin to change. We have the potential at home to produce just as successful horses, which is exactly what this program is encouraging. This program provides a venue where our talented up-and-comers can be showcased and our American-bred horses can be recognized.”
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The USEA Future Event Horse Program (FEH) was introduced in 2007 to evaluate yearlings, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, and 4-year-olds for their suitability for the sport of eventing based on conformation and type. The FEH program also created a pipeline for horses to gain experience competing before attending USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) competitions.
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