Jun 25, 2024

The Goal Versus the Art During Day 1 of the USEA EA21 West Coast I Clinic

EA21 Coach Rebecca Brown is once again leading the two West Coast clinics taking place this summer. USEA/Atalya Boytner photos

Paso Robles, Calif.—June 25— The goal versus the art was the theme of the day for the 2024 USEA Emerging Athletes U21 (EA21) West Coast I Regional Clinic. From green bean young horses to FEI veterans, the goal was the same for every rider: working the way up the pyramid of the German training scale. The art of riding was how they got there.

For many of the 12 selected participants of the clinic, EA21 Coach Rebecca Brown’s words were a continuation of what was taught last year. The effort put forth by Brown, the other EA21 coaches, and EA21 Director David O’Connor to create a standardized curriculum showed in the participants’ explanations of the training scale during the morning lecture.

However, unlike in past years, athletes were asked to swap horses and execute their real-time understanding of the concepts on catch rides. They were not allowed to discuss the horses’ manner of going prior to the lesson except for any safety instructions. Additionally, they were asked to come to the clinic with the Preliminary Test A memorized.

With many riders with professional aspirations among the participants, Brown wanted to make one point clear: “You need to be able to say the same thing 50 different ways to your students and you also need that for horses.”

The goal may be the same thing for each horse—better balance, more straightness, improved connection— but the art of effective riding would determine how the goal was achieved. Think of a lifted chest to improve the balance, louder aids to encourage more impulsion, a slower tempo to improve the connection, or shorter reins for clearer communication.

The first pair of the day, Ella Garcia and Soobin Oh, had the immediate challenge of having the exact opposite rides from their usual mounts. Garcia, who usually rides a tall and lofty Thoroughbred, was now on Oh’s compact and little warmblood. Both riders had to shift their modes of riding to communicate most effectively with their temporary new mounts.

This was Soobin Oh's first year participating in a EA21 Regional Clinic

After about 15 minutes of warm up and getting to know their rides without instruction, Brown would bring the athletes in to discuss their analysis of the horses, their experience, and best modes of communication. That completed, she would send the riders out for some guided warm up before sending them one at a time to ride the dressage test with feedback at the completion and a re-ride of certain movements.

“Watching the other people ride is interesting,” Fiona Holland said on seeing her fellow participants on horses different from their usual. “It's cool to see how they can change from how they can ride the horse to what it needs to be ridden.”

For other riders, despite conformational differences in the horses, the modes of riding were very similar. Anna Weston Smith rode in the fourth group of the day on Kayley Batt’s experienced veteran mount while Batt partnered with Smith’s young horse. “My horse is a baby and a little weak,” Smith commented. “I just hopped on this Intermediate/three-star horse, and I was like, they're pretty similar. They're just in different bodies.”

In another moment of standardizing education in the U.S. eventing pathways, Brown followed O’Connor’s method in pushing riders past describing basic solutions to describing the problem. “What’s the problem and what’s the symptom?” She would ask.

In Preliminary Test A, riders were asked to leg yield in the trot from the centerline back to the rail almost immediately after their free walk. Over and over, riders would lose their balance and straightness in the leg yield.

“Why is the leg yield in this test difficult? Because you have to prep so much in the corner and go into it immediately from the turn. The symptom was the loss of outside connection in the leg yield,” Brown explained. “But the problem was the prep in the corner.”

When given the opportunity to re-ride, riders pushed out to maximize the space in the corner, allowing themselves every chance to create engagement in the new gait and achieve straightness when turning onto the centerline for the lateral work.

Two repeat participants in the Regional Clinic, Elsa Warble and Julia Beauchamp Crandon, were also participants of the 2024 EA21 National Camp which occurred at the beginning of January this year.

Elsa Warble is a long-time participant in the EA21 program.

Warble brought her young Novice horse to the clinic but swapped onto Taylor McFall’s more experienced FEI ride. “I catch rode at the National Camp, and that was a really cool experience to get that new perspective and be like, okay, these pieces work and that doesn't,” Warble said. “To have that incorporated now in the Regional Camp was a really cool idea to see what’s my baggage, or what’s his baggage, and then be able to really work on with yourself and apply that to other horses.”

For Crandon, who has now heard the teachings over the German training scale in EA21 clinics and camps four times, muscle memory is happening. “Every time I go over [the training scale], it makes just a little bit more sense. The first time I looked at it, I was like, okay, I really gotta study this to know it. Every time I hear it, it comes more naturally. Now when I'm riding, I'm able to feel more which is which. I'm able to put the pieces together myself and figure it out on my own.”

Jillian Mader, another repeat participant, received the highest compliment of the day from Brown who noted a substantial improvement from last year to this year. “You can have all the skills but you need the confidence to really let yourself ride,” Brown commented. “You have that now.”

The day wrapped with a course set up for show jumping and cross-country arena exercises tomorrow. Day two begins at 7:30 a.m. PST with a lecture on jumping techniques before riding begins at 8:45 a.m. PST.

The Participants:

West I | Twin Rivers Ranch | Paso Robles, California

  • Kayley Batt
  • Julia Beauchamp Crandon
  • Lauren Crabtree
  • Molly Duda (Scratch)
  • Ella Garcia
  • Fiona Holland
  • Jillian Mader
  • Taylor McFall
  • Soobin Oh
  • Nadia Vogt
  • Elsa Warble
  • Anna Weston Smith
  • Brooke Corsaut (First alternate pulled from the waitlist)
  • Waitlist: Lauren Bebb and Coco Ramkowsky

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About the USEA Emerging Athlete U21 Program (EA21)

The purpose of the USEA Emerging Athletes U21 Program (EA21) is to identify and provide consistent quality instruction to the next generation of elite event riders. The aim is to create a pipeline for potential team riders by identifying and developing young talent, improving horsemanship and riding skills, and training and improving skills and consistency.

The USEA Emerging Athletes U21 Program was launched in 2022 with a model of five summertime regional clinics taught by selected USEA Eventing Coaches Program (ECP) instructors, leading to a winter national camp consisting of selected Young Riders from the regional clinics. Athletes who are 21 years or younger, are current members of their USEA Young Rider Area program, and are established at the Training Level or higher, are eligible to apply for the EA21 program. Click here to learn more about the USEA EA21 Program.

The USEA would like to thank ARMA, Kerrits, PulseVet, Ride iQ, Sidelines Magazine, Schneiders Saddlery and #WeRideTogether for sponsoring the USEA Emerging Athletes U21 Program.

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