Mar 22, 2021

Top 10 Tips for Presenting Your Horse in a USEA Future Event Horse Competition

USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

The USEA Future Event Horse (FEH) program is designed to assess yearlings, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, and 4-year-olds for their suitability for careers as eventers. In FEH competitions, yearlings, 2-year-olds, and 3-year-olds are shown in-hand while 4-year-olds are presented under saddle. At the FEH championships, 3- and 4-year-olds also demonstrate their ability over fences in the jump chute.

Proper handling of your young horse at FEH competitions is essential to giving them their best chance for success. Susan Graham White and Robin Walker, co-chairs of the FEH Committee and the judges for the 2020 USEA FEH East Coast Championships, share their top tips to help you present your young horse and show off his potential.

  1. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and it’s true – presentation is important. Make sure your horse is in good physical condition – they should be at the proper weight, their hooves should be well maintained, and they should be well groomed prior to the competition.
  2. That goes for the handler as well – you should present a polished, professional picture. Handlers should be dressed in neat attire such as khaki pants with polo shirt and good footwear which will allow you to run safely. When FEH competitions are held in conjunction with events, boots and breeches will be considered appropriate. Helmets are required.
  3. Yearlings should have been handled enough prior to the competition that they can show off their potential. It’s a fine line and sometimes they are so overwhelmed that we get to see little of their best.
  4. The 2-year-olds are very often the most difficult year. You want them to be well-mannered and looking polished and well-presented from their body condition and feet to their handling and their tack.
  5. A 3-year-olds should have more mileage and present a more experienced picture. They should also be familiar with and prepared for the jump chute without being overschooled.
  6. The 4-year-old FEH class is designed for horses not ready for the rigors of the 4-year-old Young Event Horse (YEH)Class, but they should still be proficient and able to demonstrate their gaits under saddle. To the rider, it pays dividends to have the horses riding as well as you can get them.
  7. Practice makes perfect! You should practice regularly at home how to stand up your horse and how to walk and trot in hand. Do a small amount each day until your horse is confident and moves freely forward with you.
  8. It is often easier to position your horse by pushing them back, instead of pulling them forward, one or two diagonal strides to attain an open stance. If your horse steps forward, merely push them back a stride into position.
  9. Moving forward is key to helping your horse display their gaits to the best of their ability. If needed, you can have an assistant handler with you to follow along behind your horse with a whip to encourage them to move forward.
  10. Before you enter a Future Event Horse competition, you should make sure that you have read the rules for FEH competitions, checked out the other resources on the USEA website, and made sure you have the proper tack and other equipment.

Want more tips from top professionals? Check out other articles in our Top 10 Tips series!

About the USEA Future Event Horse Program

The USEA introduced the Future Event Horse Program in 2007 in response to the popularity of the already established USEA Young Event Horse Program. Where the YEH program assesses 4- and 5-year-old prospective event horses based on their performance, the FEH program evaluates yearlings, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, and 4-year-olds for their potential for the sport based on conformation and type. Yearlings, 2-year-olds, and 3-year-olds are presented in-hand while 4-year-olds are presented under saddle at the walk, trot, and canter before being stripped of their tack and evaluated on their conformation. Divisions are separated by year and gender. At the Championships, 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds are also required to demonstrate their potential over fences in an additional free-jump division. Click here to learn more about the Future Event Horse Program.

The USEA would like to thank Bates Saddles, Parker Equine Insurance, SmartPak, Standlee Hay Company, , and Etalon Diagnostics, for sponsoring the Future Event Horse Program.

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