Nov 06, 2022

Training for Success: Will Coleman on Developing Young Event Horses

By Kaleigh Collett - USEA Staff

It is no secret that Will Coleman has seen much success in his career as of late, including a team silver medal at the 2022 FEI Eventing World Championships in Pratoni del Vivaro and a first-place finish at the CHIO Aachen 4*-S in 2020, making him the only American rider to tackle such a feat. However, what some may not know is that several of Coleman’s top mounts, including Off the Record who helped him secure both previously mentioned accolades, are graduates of the USEA’s Young Event Horse program. Coleman has had the ride three of his upper-level mounts since the beginning of their careers:

  • Off the Record – a 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (VDL Arkansas x Drumagoland Bay) owned by the Off the Record Syndicate, who finished ninth at the 2014 USEA YEH East Coast 5-year-old Championship
  • DonDante – a 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding sired by Pachio, owned by Team Rebecca LLC, who finished 4th in the 2015 USEA YEH 5-year-old East Coast Championships
  • Chin Tonic HS – 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Chin Champ x Wildera) owned by Hyperion Stud, who finished 5th in the 2017 USEA YEH 5-year-old East Coast Championships

After his return from Italy, we asked Coleman to give us the inside scoop on his tips and tricks for training your next partner from Young Event Horse competitor to successful upper-level campaigner! Here’s what he had to say:

What does the competition season look like for one of your 4- or 5-year-old horses leading up to the USEA YEH Championships?

“While I haven’t done the YEH Championships in a few years, we would try to give our young horses some varied competition experiences before a big event like this. They would spend time at dressage shows, jumping shows, and some events, often not even competing, but just hanging out and working around the competition venues. I don’t compete four-year-olds very much at all, but I try to give every young horse several outings before I actually ask them to perform in a competition setting. This helps to relax them and make the outings enjoyable, rather than anxiety-inducing.”

What is your process for progressing young horses up through the levels?

“We take an individual approach to each horse. There is no one route that all our horses must follow. You can only go as fast as they learn and develop physically, so we have no pre-set notion of how that will go. We just support the process; we don’t force it. Most of the time, we are focusing on foundational basics in their training and creating relaxed outings competitively.”

Do you find that the long-term partnerships you have with several of your horses has given you an edge in competition as they have progressed?

“I think there are definite advantages to having the horses since they are young. You know them well physically and mentally, and that makes managing them to be happy and to perform well a much easier process.”

Are their certain traits or attributes that have been consistent among your successful YEH graduates?

“I think that, to this point, I have been drawn to horses that may not be the most talented, but that are honest and try really hard. For any horse, I’m not sure you can train “try” into them, but you can nurture it and support it, and I think these three horses are examples of horses that really want to do right. I’ve tried hard to encourage that and not dishearten them as they have gone up the grades, with the help of my team and some great coaching that I have received.”

If you could give one piece of advice to a young horse trainer, what would it be?

“Work with people who understand horses better than you do.”

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 aged four and five, 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 four- and five-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 learn more about the Young Event Horse Program.

The USEA would like to thank Bates Saddles, SmartPak, Standlee Premium Products, Parker Equine Insurance, Capital Square, Kerrits, and The Jockey Club for sponsoring the Young Event Horse Program. Additionally, the USEA would like to thank The Dutta Corp., Title Sponsor of the Young Event Horse Championships.

About The Holekamp/Turner Grant

Founded in 2015 by Timothy and Cheryl Holekamp of New Spring Farm and Christine and T.J. Turner of Indian Creek Farm, the Holekamp/Turner Grant provides a USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Championship competitor with the opportunity to represent the United States at the FEI Eventing World Breeding Championships in the 7-year-old CCIYH3*-L Championship at Mondial du Lion in Le Lion d’Angers, France. With the sole purpose of paving a clear pathway for U.S. team horses to progress in the sport of eventing, recipients who are North American bred will be awarded the full cash grant of $17,500, while imported horses are awarded $8,000. Additionally, The Dutta Corp. offers a prize to the Holekamp/Turner Grant recipient, consisting of a round trip flight from the Eastern United States to Europe.

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Crabo, Keyser, and Martin Conclude 2022 Season with Area X Championship Honors

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