Much like how a student will spend the year studying and preparing for a comprehensive final exam, the USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Championship jumping test is designed to be the ultimate test of a young horse’s education over fences. Fair Hill International in Elkton, Maryland has been hosting the USEA Young Event Horse East Coast Championships concurrent with their fall three-day event for 10 years, serving as the final stop of the season for many 4- and 5-year-old young event horses.
YEH East Coast Championship course designer Trish Gilbert shared that she has crafted the YEH jumping course to provide an across-the-board test of the young event horse’s ability to tackle different questions, both in the show jumping arena and on the cross-country course.
“For cross-country, I’ve tried to incorporate every sort of fence that they might encounter,” Gilbert explained. “There’s water, there’s a trakehner, there’s brush, there’s big round fences, slightly skinny fences, corners – all those bits and pieces that you find on a cross-country course. I want to see that [the young event horse] is brave, that he can handle all these questions that are asked of him.”
The YEH jumping test guidelines specify that the Championship course should include five show jumping efforts and ten cross-country efforts. The maximum height specification for the YEH jumping test increases over the course of the year so the young event horse has the chance to build their confidence up over the course of a season. For example, courses for the 4-year-old YEH divisions are limited to fences between 2’3” and 2’11” from January through July and 2’7” to 3’3” from July to November, which is the same height as the Championships specifications.
The YEH Championship course begins with five show jumps. Horses will jump fences 1 and 2 on a straight line, then land and curve around to the left and back across the diagonal for fence 3AB, the one required show jumping combination on course. After curving right to fence 4, riders will have the option to jump either the left-hand or right-hand vertical, one of which is set higher than the other and gives riders the chance to demonstrate their horse’s scope. The course continues to sweep to the right and over the fifth show jumping fence before transitioning to the cross-country portion of the jumping test.
Competitors curve to the left over fence 6, a bench, and continue sweeping left over the train at fence 7 before coming to fence 8AB, the first cross-country combination and the first water of two water questions. Riders jump over a cabin at fence 8A which slopes down into the water on the landing side before galloping through the water and out on an uphill slope and over the log at fence 8B.
Galloping away to the right after fence 8AB, riders will jump the feeder at fence 9 and continue to the right over fence 10, the brush ramp. Fence 11, a corner, and fence 12, a trakehner, are both tests of the young event horse’s education and ability to tackle different types of obstacles when galloping across the country.
Riders continue on the loop to the right back to the water for the one cross-country option fence on course. Fence 13A provides an option to enter the water from the right or from the left, resulting in either a right-hand or left-hand bending line out of the water and up over the cabins at 13B. The option allows riders to choose the path that will best play to their horse’s strength and demonstrate their aptitude for cross-country.
Horses gallop away from the water to the left for the final two fences: the wagon at fence 14 and the ramp at fence 15 before proceeding to the gallop portion of the jumping test, where horses demonstrate the efficiency of their movement across the country.
The USEA YEH East Coast Championships for the 4- and 5-year-olds begin today with the dressage and conformation portion of the championship and will perform the jumping test tomorrow. Sally Ike and Lucinda Green will judge the dressage and jumping portions while Chris Ryan will judge conformation.
About the USEA Young Event Horse Program
The Young Event Horse (YEH) Program was first established in 2004 as an eventing talent search. Much like similar programs in Europe, the YEH program was designed to identify young horses that possess the talent and disposition to, with proper training, excel at the uppermost levels of the sport. The ultimate goal of the program is to distinguish horses with the potential to compete at the three- and four-star levels, but many fine horses that excel at the lower levels are also showcased by the program.
The YEH program provides an opportunity for breeders and owners to exhibit the potential of their young horses while encouraging the breeding and development of top event horses for the future. The program rewards horses who are educated and prepared in a correct and progressive manner. At qualifying events, youngsters complete a dressage test and a jumping/galloping/general impression phase. At Championships, young horses are also evaluated on their conformation in addition to the dressage test and jumping/galloping/general impression phase. Click here to view the jumping standards and specifications.
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This article will be updated to include statements as they are released from upcoming USEA recognized events regarding actions they are taking due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).