Trainers, riders, and horses alike gathered in Woodstock, Illinois at Jigsaw Farms on Tuesday, June 14 for their first-ever USEA Instructors’ Certification Program (ICP) Workshop. The three-day clinic featured theory and practical application as sixteen eager instructors and over 20 different riders of varying levels soaked in as much knowledge from ICP certified instructors Karen O'Connor and Mary D'Arcy.
Five-time Olympian, three-time World Equestrian Games competitor, and two-time Pan American Games athlete, O’Connor, focused primarily on the proper techniques utilized in dressage specifically tailored for the discipline of eventing. As the 1993 number one ranked lady rider in the world and 10-time U.S. Female Equestrian Athlete of the Year, O’Connor’s presence at Jigsaw Farms allowed trainers the ability to learn from one of the most accomplished riders in the sport upholding the mission and values of the USEA Instructors’ Certification Program (ICP).
Specializing in producing horses and riders from the beginner novice level all the way up to the Olympic level D’Arcy’s accolades include Head Coach, Olympic Event Team, Eventing Team Coach for Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Olympic Games, Coached individuals - Atlanta Olympic Games 1996 and Coached Irish Young Rider Three-Day Event Team - Gold Medal, European Championships - Achelswang, Germany. As a USEA Certified LeveL V- ICP Faculty Member and Assessor, D’Arcy is an incredible resource to the ICP program offering her consultation knowledge and invaluable experience as one of the most highly decorated trainers in the sport.
Hosting an ICP Workshop
The workshop was spearheaded by the efforts of the United States Pony Club (USPC) who reached out to Jigsaw Farms initially with the desire to host an ICP Workshop. The USPC provided 12 full scholarships to the workshop through the Eleanor Brennan Fund for Pony Club members, leaders, and instructors who wished to pursue becoming ICP certified with the goal of strengthening instruction for not only Pony Club members, but for eventing riders across the nation.
Formally founded in 2002, the USEA Instructors’ Certification Program, was initiated with the primary goal of continuously furthering the education of eventing instructors with crucial training principles upon which instructors and trainers could continue to grow. Stacie McManus, who assists in the operational management of the farm, reflected on their first-ever ICP Workshop.
"The trainer at our farm is Jennifer Rousseau of L’Esprit Equestrian and she is a strong proponent of the ICP program and has worked diligently to contribute to the continuing education of trainers, riders and horses. We also work closely with Barb McMorris – a fierce advocate for Pony Club and their mission. The two ladies asked if we would be interested in hosting and we were honored to participate. I had previously audited both Mary D’Arcy and Karen O’Connor and found them to be excellent and welcomed the opportunity to have them both at Jigsaw Farms."
Fostering a community
In only their second year of operation, Jigsaw Farms stands as a dream finally having come to fruition. Founded by Jake McManus, Stacie’s son, the 38-acre “horse haven” is not just a safe space for horses, but also all walks of equestrians. Jake, who has ridden since he was just five-years-old, has autism and found an outlet in his therapeutic riding program. His enduring love for the horse and his unique connection to them prompted him and his mom to partner with long-time trainer Rousseau to blend the two worlds together and cultivate a community where all levels of riders could grow and learn together. Rousseau is also an active member in several ICP committees, most notably heading up the subcommittee that created the USEA Eventing Handbook by the Levels.
"Jigsaw Farms is a labor of love in support of our “Founder” Jake," stated McManus. "Jake is a 26 year old with autism who was put astride at a therapeutic riding barn as a 5 year old. His love of horses, riding and connection to animals made us believe that he had a future in the equestrian world. Jake’s journey, crazy experiences and passion for horses led us to the creation of Jigsaw Farms, the puzzle piece is the symbol for autism - hence Jigsaw Farms, in June of 2020. It became 38 acres of horse haven in Woodstock, Illinois in the midst of the pandemic and allowed us to create our dreams for Jake in this bubble of safety and security. Jake works, rides and thrives with the support a lovely circle of boarders, riders and staff on ‘his farm’ - tooling around in the spiffiest Gator you will ever see! L’Esprit Equestrian and Jennifer Rousseau taught Jake so much on and off a horse and helped us create a vocational program for him more than a dozen years ago. The opportunity to practice those skills and learn in a real barn was a blessing. Jennifer always created a place for Jake to learn and grow and encouraged her team to create a welcoming environment. There is truly something special about the equine community at its best. We are thrilled to be able to host L’Esprit Equestrian and their amazing cross-country fences and program at Jigsaw Farms and help support the mission of best practices, education and safety in the sport. While Jake has given up his English tack and prefers to cowboy around these days on his trick horse, we love being part of the eventing community and cheering from the sidelines."
O'Connor and D’Arcy, who have taught at countless ICP Workshops and Symposiums focused on the dressage aspect of eventing over the course of the three days and took a broader approach to their instruction showcasing how proper flatting movements and training techniques for both horses and riders could be applied in all areas of eventing to produce a better, softer horse and more educated and effective rider.
"I was thrilled with the workshop," exclaimed McManus. "We hosted two faculty, 16 candidates, 54 riders and many auditors. It was a complicated undertaking by the ladies that organized the workshop and we were very happy that things ran smoothly and the Farm could host such a high caliber event! There were around 50 people a day and about 18 horses per day plus the candidates and faculty, volunteers, scribes and auditors. I am sure each person in attendance walked away with a “Karen-ism” that struck them individually. Mary D’Arcy was excellent in all ways! She was very good at connecting with the candidates and pushing them to look at the combinations in front of them and using her keen eye to aid the candidates to become better each day. It was a privilege to see both these ladies empowering and instructing the next generation of coaches in the sport. I also credit the faculty for offering their time in the informal times as well. I think the value of the off the record lunches, ability to ask questions and field discussions with these excellent faculty members is tremendous and I am sure each candidate walked away feeling connected, supported and ready to tackle the next steps."
Participants of the ICP Workshop at Jigsaw Farms reflected on a heartfelt moment that rang true in fostering a strong and supportive equestrian community where all walks of riders can come together in a safe space to learn and grow.
"The Founder [Jake] had a good time chatting and showing off to the ICP bunch. My favorite moment may have been when he sat Detroit [his horse] on the beanbag and yelled at five-time Olympian Karen O'Connor, 'Karen - are you paying attention? Take a look at this!' Her response is part of what makes it all worthwhile and why we jump through hoops in the chaos. She stopped what she was doing, looked at Jake and said, 'Wow man - that's quite a horse! You put us all to shame Jake.' In that moment, she showed everyone present that being in the moment, accepting others, and being joyful matters! Jake sometimes teaches us all. Jigsaw Farms is a special place and we thank you for being part of it. And a big shout out to Miss Jennifer for all the hard work, crazy hours and care she provides us. We would be lost without you!"
About the USEA Instructors’ Certification Program
Instructors are essential to the training of riders and horses for safe and educated participation in the sport of eventing. The USEA Instructors’ Certification Program (ICP) was initiated in 2002 to educate all levels of eventing instructors with crucial training principles upon which those instructors can continue to build throughout their teaching careers. ICP offers educational workshops and assessments by which both regular instructors, Level I through Level V, Young Event Horse (YEH) instructors, and Young Event Horse professional horse trainers can become ICP certified. Additional information about ICP’s goals, benefits, workshops, and assessments as well as names and contact information for current ICP-certified instructors, YEH instructors, and YEH professional horse trainers are available on the USEA website. Click here to learn more about the Instructors’ Certification Program.
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