Of the athletes who participated in Regional Training Sessions across the country, 16 riders will be selected by the Emerging Athletes Program Committee, based on the recommendations of the riding and stable management clinicians, to participate in the EAP National Training Session.
A select number of athletes who demonstrated exceptional stable management knowledge will also be invited to attend the session as stable managers.
The three-and-a-half day training session gives riders the opportunity to train with several of the country's top clinicians, while riding and caring for a horse provided by the host facility and assigned to them by the EAP representatives. Each rider starts on a fair and level playing field and must utilize all the skills they have honed throughout the entire EAP process to bond quickly with their equine partner.
The small group size allows the riders to work very closely with the clinicians during the riding and stable-management sessions throughout the several days. Finalists are again closely observed and evaluated during all phases of the National Training Session and are expected to be active participants in all activities. The riding sessions address flatwork and jumping, while stable-management sessions are hands-on, in-depth and extensive. Barn chores are monitored, and a written test gauges the knowledge each finalist has gained throughout the year. Additional clinics, such as veterinary seminars, trimming and shoeing, saddle fitting, and feeding regimens may be offered, as well.
The final day concludes with a Nations Cup-style competition. Riders are randomly drawn into four teams, competing over a 1.0m jumper-style course in a two-round format that offers them an opportunity to showcase their riding skills as well as their ability to perform under pressure.
At the conclusion of the session, one rider is named the overall USHJA EAP National Champion based on their performance in the riding and stable management sessions throughout the week, earning a $3,000 grant to be applied toward the cost of advanced training with an approved trainer. The Champion and Reserve Champion are also offered the opportunity to participate in the following year’s USHJA Gold Star Clinics.
For many of these riders, their participation in the EAP National Training Session introduces a new level of understanding and commitment to the hunter/jumper sport. These young riders may run into each other at horse shows during the year, or this may be the only time they meet, but the camaraderie shared throughout the EAP process is an experience that will stay with them for a lifetime.