Our last USEA Podcast episode of the year is a #TeamTalk for our listeners, checking in with USEF Eventing High Performance Director Erik Duvander and USEF Managing Director for Eventing Jenni Autry. In conversation with Nicole Brown, Autry and Duvander reflect back on 2020 and look ahead to what's to come in 2021 for the U.S. Eventing team.
Duvander talks a bit about how 2020 started out with preparations for the Olympic Games, and how even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and upended the year that he was thinking the team could use another year to be fully prepared for the Olympics. Of course, the Olympics have now been rescheduled for summer 2021 and Duvander is feeling confident about the U.S. Team's ability to put in a strong performance.
Autry then discusses some of the logistics of getting to an Olympics game and what happened when everything was thrown into uncertainty this year. It was necessary to have a plan B, C, and D, but most of all to stay positive and keep working hard! 2020 World Equestrian Brands USEA Rider of the Year Liz Halliday-Sharp talks about what that adversity was like to deal with as a rider in her keynote address as part of the USEA Annual Meeting, which can be viewed here.
Duvander observed that event riders are very resilient, and this year only proved over again that when the going gets tough, eventers buckle down and get it done. It's not just eventers, either - organizers, officials, and volunteers have all had to stay flexible and positive this year to restructure the eventing calendar after losing three months of competition and to make events logistically possible given the new restrictions due to COVID-19.
Autry said that one of the highlights of the year was seeing how the months of downtime and canceled competitions in the spring allowed riders to really buckle down and train and then come out strong in the fall with strong performances at Great Meadow and Tryon, where four riders finished on sub-30 scores at the CCI4*-L level.
Looking forward to 2021, things are still looking uncertain. Duvander and Autry both comment on what it's like to work with the atmosphere of uncertainty - you have to proceed as though things will happen as planned, and if plans change you have to be prepared to pivot to plan B. And of course, Duvander is thinking even further ahead than 2021, with the Paris Olympics on the calendar for 2024 followed by the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.
Autry lays out the final selection trials - the Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5*-L, Badminton Horse Trials CCI5*-L, and the Jersey Fresh International CCI4*-L - and said that plans are moving ahead for these competitions.
Duvander concludes by reflecting on what success will look like for the United States at the Olympics next summer, saying the biggest aspect will be making sure each horse and rider that travels to Tokyo is as prepared as it is possible for them to be so they have the best chance of being successful.
There were surprisingly few shakeups to the top of the leaderboards Friday at the MARS Bromont CCI, but the incredibly close scores leave no margin for error heading into Saturday’s exciting cross-country phase across all five levels.
Tomorrow, the first of five regional clinics for the USEA Emerging Athletes U21 (EA21) Program kicks off in the central region of the country in Benton, Louisiana, at Holly Hill Farm. Throughout the summer, the remaining clinics on the East and West Coast will follow. At each clinic, 12 hand-selected riders will participate in a two-day clinic led by USEA Eventing Coaches Program (ECP) coaches. The purpose of the EA21 program 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 intention is to provide young athletes with access to an added level of horsemanship and riding skills to further their training and skill development with greater consistency.