Jul 23, 2018

On and Off the Record: Young, Future, and New Event Horses

By Claire Kelley - USEA Staff
Off the Record at the 2014 YEH 5-Year-Old East Coast Championships. USEA/Leslie Threlkeld Photo,

Cooley is a common name among the international eventing community, and one that the United States Eventing Association (USEA) Young Event Horse (YEH) program has certainly noticed. Cooley Off the Record, now known as Off the Record, made his mark in the reign of Cooley horses with his most recent win at the Brook Ledge Great Meadow International presented by Adequan FEI Eventing Nations Cup CICO3* with William Coleman in the irons. A win proving that he is not a horse for the future but a horse to watch now. Horses like Off the Record can transform into competitive upper level event horses by starting their eventing careers in the USEA’s Young, Future, or New Event Horse Programs.

Rewind four years and Off the Record (Arkansas VDL x Drumagoland Bay) graduated from the YEH program in 2014. As a YEH graduate, Off the Record shares this status with several heavy hitters of upper level eventing. Heavy hitters including a horse picked to represent the United States at the 2018 World Equestrian Games for Eventing, Tsetserleg (Windfall x Thabana), and the 2012 YEH 5-Year-Old Champion who has over 28 wins under his belt, Cooley Cross Border (Diamond Roller x Whos Diaz).

Off the Record (aka Timmy) has had a nearly flawless 2018 show season with every completion resulting in a top three finish. The path to stardom started in 2014 where he earned second place at Waredaca Farm YEH 5-year-old division on a score of 84.05 and went on to finish ninth at the YEH 5-Year-Old Championship at Fair Hill International.

Coleman and Off the Record at the YEH Championships in 2014. USEA/Leslie Threlkeld Photo.

Coleman and Off the Record on their way to winning the 2018 Great Meadow International CICO3*. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

Since the start of his eventing career, Coleman has been Off the Record’s sole rider and has guided the horse through the levels with pure professionalism. Read below to understand why the decision was made to enter Off the Record in a YEH competition as opposed to a New Event Horse (NEH) competition or Future Event Horse (FEH) competition.

For the record, the YEH, FEH, and NEH programs all have different underlying goals and it’s important to be aware of the differences. All three programs are designed for young horses to have a positive learning experience; however, each program’s main objective is what defines their identity.

If a horse possesses raw, natural talent for the upper levels of eventing, then sign up for an YEH competition. If a horse is a 2-year-old and already showing talent for eventing, then sign up for a FEH competition. If a horse needs more exposure in a competition setting, then sign up for a NEH competition.

The YEH Program

YEH graduate Tseterleg and Boyd Martin competing at the WEG Combined Test at Great Meadow International. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

In 2004 the USEA launched the Young Event Horse series which can best be described as an eventing talent search. Therefore, the YEH program is essentially a talent show among 4-year-old and 5-year-old horses. It is geared towards horses who show the potential for three- and four-star levels of eventing, much like Off the Record, Tseterleg, Cooley Cross Border, and more. The ultimate goal of the program is to identify horses for the future. Professionals are not the only ones who find success in the YEH program. As stated in Behind the Judge's Eyes: Are You Losing Points in the YEH Jumping Test, Marilyn Payne describes that the goal of YEH is to “show off the horse’s talent. As a rider you want to do as little as possible.”

Off-the-track Thoroughbreds are just as capable of winning a YEH competition as any other horse. Check out The Hot-Blooded Horse in the USEA Young Event Horse Program and learn how Meghan O’Donoghue's search for an off-the-track Thoroughbred closely aligns with the YEH judging guidelines.

The prestige and popularity of this program can be found across the country with over 30 YEH competitions, East and West Coast Championships, and many YEH graduates building a foundation for a four-star. In order to make the YEH program more objective than subjective, significant changes were made in 2018 including the removal of the conformation phase at qualifier events, new scoresheets, new dressage tests, and more. Click here to check out more details on the changes.

The FEH Program

JB Virgin Electric (Ampere x JB Extra Virgin Olive) was the Yearling winner in the 2017 FEH competition at Rebecca Farm. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

After the popularity of the YEH program, the FEH program was created in 2007. The ultimate goal for this program is to identify potential upper level event horses as yearlings, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, and 4-year-olds. This program does very little work under saddle and judges evaluate horses in hand. The only age group of horses that are judged under saddle are the 4-year-olds to just show off their gaits while being ridden. Regardless of the age, qualifier events do not have jumping. Jump chute divisions are held at FEH Championships for the 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds.

Jump chute clinics and educational opportunities are held across the country with the most recent held at Loch Moy Farm in Adamstown, Maryland. Click here to learn more on the latest jump chute clinic.

Horses that are four years old can compete in both FEH and YEH qualifier events. However, the horse is only allowed to compete in either the FEH or YEH Championships.

The FEH program is aimed for American breeders to showcase their young horses, such as the event breeder in Purcellville, Virginia, Phyllis Dawson. Read Behind the Breeder’s Brand Part 1 and Part II to discover how Phyllis Dawson has built one of the best breeding programs in the country for event horses.

With over 35 FEH competitions and an East, West, and Central Championships, the FEH program is a successful program separate from the YEH program. Click here to learn more about the FEH program.

The NEH Program

Any horse new to eventing can benefit from a NEH competition! USEA Photo.

Last but not least is the NEH program. The youngest of the three programs, the NEH program was created in 2011. The NEH program was designed to be an introduction to the sport of eventing. NEH classes are intended to provide a stepping stone to recognized eventing with a focus on education and preparation.

The NEH webpage states “the ultimate goal of the New Event Horse Series is to choose the horse that possesses the talent, mindset, that’s most likely to become a competent, safe, and fun adult amateur, junior, or young rider horse at the Preliminary levels and below.” Although judges are looking for a suitable, safe, lower level event horse, many upper level prospects can use the NEH competitions as stepping stones for YEH competitions or recognized USEA events.

For NEH, the dress is casual, the atmosphere is relaxed, and horses must be four years old or older. To learn more about NEH competitions, check out the NEH guidelines.

A 5-year-old horse is allowed to compete in both YEH and NEH competitions. A 4-year-old horse is allowed to compete in all three YEH, FEH, and NEH qualifier events. And any horse older than four years old is allowed to compete in a NEH competition and a USEA recognized event.

The USEA strongly encourages everyone to utilize these three programs as they aim to build a stepping stone for success.

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