Findlay, Ohio—November 12, 2019—According to 2019 Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund/USHJA Emerging Athletes Program National Training Session Lead Clinician Peter Wylde, there were no doubts about who the this year's champion would be—Julianna Empie. The 19-year-old from Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, stood out from 15 other participants to stand atop the podium at the University of Findlay, in Findlay, Ohio.
“To me, she was the clear winner,” stated Wylde. “What I loved about Julianna’s riding throughout the whole weekend was it was effortless, it was seamless, and she always managed to find a continuing distance to the fence. She just did a really good job. That horse was not such an easy horse and she made it look easy. She is a natural and has a big future.”
Julianna Empie showcased her riding aboard Woody, provided by Henry Pfieffer. Photo: Rachel Sowinski/USHJA
An Emerging Athletes Program National Training Session first-timer, Empie spent the riding and stable management sessions building a partnership with “Woody,” provided by Henry Pfeiffer. Through three days of mounted instruction with Wylde, a Nations Cup-style competition and stable management with Anne Thornbury, Empie walked away with the top honors.
“I can’t even begin to describe how this feels. I never could’ve expected it,” she said. “I was just so happy to be able to get to this point. I have been to four of the Regional Training Sessions and was so happy to be able to go to those, so I was so excited when I learned I was going to Nationals, but to win it is just a completely different experience. I did not think it would end up this way!”
“The first couple days, I was just figuring out my horse. He was a lot different than I expected. He was a different ride than I am used to, so I was getting used to him, but we were pretty consistent and I think that was key,” Empie continued.
After all 16 riders completed two rounds of Sunday’s competition, four riders were called back for a ride-off, each on different mounts than those they rode previously. Empie’s round aboard “Clark,” the eventual winner of the EAP Outstanding Horse Award owned by the University of Findlay, over the shortened course solidified the EAP Committee members’ and clinicians’ decision that she should be take home the trophy.
“There were two in particular that I really thought were at the top,” said Peter. “We always like to have the ride-off and give the chance to someone that maybe didn’t have such an easy horse, but Julianna rode the best ride-off of all of them and I really loved her riding all weekend.”
Reserve Champion Skylar Wireman, 15, of Bonsall, California, was the youngest rider of the session but left the biggest impression on Wylde during her rides aboard MTM Waffle, provided by the University of Findlay.
“Skylar is the whole package of what we love for the Emerging Athletes Program. She is a young, great horsewoman with a bright future. She is hungry and rides very well,” he said.
As the top two finishers, Empie and Wireman each received a riding spot at a 2020 USHJA Gold Star Clinic in the 1.10/1.15m section and a certificate for a Charles Owen helmet. The clinics identify Jumper athletes who have the skill and desire to excel in the sport. The four-day clinics offer horsemanship, stable management, mounted instruction and additional educational lectures and seminars from industry leading professionals and clinicians. Empie also received a $3,000 grant to be used toward advanced educational training, a pair of Parlanti International tall boots, and a trophy as the overall winner.
Sixteen finalists and three stable managers participated in the National event. Photo: Rachel Sowinski/USHJA
The Nations Cup-style competition culminated the 2019 Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund/USHJA Emerging Athletes Program and National Training Session, held at the University of Findlay James L. Child, Jr. Equestrian Complex. The event included four days of riding instruction, stable management evaluation, a written test, the Nations Cup and ride-off, as well as a variety of educational seminars.
Seminars included stable management with lead clinician Anne Thornbury, a saddle fitting demonstration with Amanda Berges, a sport psychology session with EAP Committee member and sport psychologist Kip Rosenthal Ph.D., a rider fitness session with personal trainer Susan Gertzman, and an equine gastric health lecture with specialist Leah Mitchell.
The EAP riders drew for their horses from a pool of mounts generously donated by the University of Findlay, Lake Erie College and Henry Pfeiffer and had four days to get to know their mounts through flatwork and over fences training with Wylde before contesting the Nations Cup.
The 16 riders were divided into four groups to work together during the event and compete as a team in the Nations Cup. The teams were supported by stable managers Jonathan Porteous, Mara Picciochi and Tess von Hemel during the competition. Teams were named after four Show Jumping Hall of Fame horses.
Team Gem Twist (Empie, Wireman, Alyssa Simin and Rebecca Morris) earned gold, winning belts from Boy O’ Boy Bridleworks. Team Idle Dice (Sea Sea Dance, Rose Kauffman-Skloff, Madeline Vorhies, Chiara Perni and stable manager Porteous) earned silver, while Team Jet Run (Katie Pelzel, Alicia Weismann, Joelle Hylton, Celia Cram and stable manager Picciochi ) earned bronze and Team Touch of Class (Elle Brady, Evelyn Smith, Samantha Reynoso, Claire Huskey and stable manager von Hemel) placed fourth.
Porteous was named the EAP Outstanding Stable Manager, and all three of the stable managers this year were invited to one of three 2020 USHJA Gold Star Clinics.
Let’s Go, Brady’s mount owned by the University of Findlay, was awarded Shapley's Best Turned Out Horse, and the peer-nominated Sportsmanship Award was given to Huskey.
New this year, the Charles “Chuck” Keller Grant was awarded to Simin with the purpose of furthering her equestrian training in pursuit of equestrian excellence. The USHJA EAP Committee selected Simin for the $500 grant, made possible by anonymous donation, based on her care and handling of horses, treatment of horses while mounted and level of personal interaction with clinicians, peers and spectators.
For more information about the Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund/USHJA Emerging Athletes Program, visit ushja.org/EAP.