This year, the United States Eventing Association (USEA) introduced two new national leaderboards: the 6-year-old leaderboard and 7-year-old leaderboard. These new honors, along with Morven Park’s new CCI3*-L 7-year-old division and CCI2*-L 6-year-old division, offers new opportunities for young event horses competing in the U.S. The 6-year-old leaderboard ranks 6-year-old horses at the Preliminary, CCI2*-S, and CCI2*-L level and the 7-year-old horses are ranked at the Intermediate, CCI3*-S, and CCI3*-L level.
The highest-ranked 6-year-old horse and the highest-ranked 7-year-old horse will both be recognized at the 2019 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention in Boston, Massachusetts on December 12-15. Currently, Laurie Cameron’s Swedish Warmblood gelding Miks Master C (Mighty Magic x Qui Luma CDB) is topping the 7-year-old leaderboard with 88 points and Nancy Winter's Connemara/British Sport Horse gelding, Crystal Crescent Moon (Catherston Dazzler x Ebony Moon) is topping the 6-year-old leaderboard with 44 points.
These leaderboards were the “missing link for evaluating horses in these two age groups,” described Tim Holekamp, who proposed the creation of the leaderboards in December 2018. Approved by the USEA Board of Governors, 2019 is the first year to have both a 6-year-old leaderboard and 7-year-old leaderboard.
“The main purpose was to start to complete the upward pathway for North American young event horses, which now stretches from yearlings through 7-year-olds, by way of the programs associated with the USEA Future Event Horse (FEH) and the USEA Young Event Horse (YEH), including the [Holekamp/Turner Lion d’Angers] for 7 year-olds,” said Holekamp. “What we are hoping is that over the next few years interest will rise in a little competition here in the U.S. among 6- and 7-year-old horses that are of particularly good breeding, talent, and conformation, using the existing USEA award point system as the measuring stick, but focused only on the Preliminary level for 6-year-olds and Intermediate for 7-year-olds.”
The reason why the 6-year-old leaderboard focuses on Preliminary level and 7-year-old leaderboard focuses on Intermediate level is because “these are the levels tested at the annual FEI World Championships for young event horses, called the Mondial Du Lion, held at the spectacular and challenging venue at Le Lion, France in the Anjou district each October,” explained Holekamp. “This is a heavily attended weekend venue consisting only of a CCI2*-L for 6-year-olds and a CCI3*- L for the 7-year-olds. In some of the recent years, the [Holekamp/Turner YEH Lion d’Angers] Grant has been able to send some very competitive 7-year-olds, with the current placing to beat being ninth place earned by D.A. Duras."
Holekamp, in part with Christine Turner, is responsible for the Holekamp/Turner Young Event Horse Lion d’Angers Grant that’s awarded to the highest scoring horse of the USEA YEH 5-year-old Championships with a cash prize that enables them to travel to Le Lion d’Angers in France for the 7-year-old CCI3*-L Championship.
“To improve the quality of the horses entering the eventing pipeline in the U.S. and to provide better mounts for our very talented cadre of riders,” said Holekamp. “The overall goal is to improve the quality of horses entering the eventing horse pipeline in the U.S. [and] to provide better mounts for our very talented cadre of riders. We believe that if we can focus on measuring the quality of domestic sport-specific breeding, the limited amount of resources (both time and money) available to provide horses to our upper riders and rising talents can be better spent on far more prospect horses than using large amounts to buy a few horses in Europe and the U.K. Increasing numbers of entries and attendance at YEH qualifiers, finals, and symposia imply that there is a thirst for improved knowledge and horses. Each time an American home-bred horse wins big internationally others are encouraged to try to produce similar prospects for the sport.”
“Each little bit of advancement matters,” said Holekamp, and this new advancement will benefit young event horses across the nation.
The USEA 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 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 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.
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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).