Lexington, Ky.—Feb. 18, 2021—After four days of mounted and unmounted sessions with experts in the industry, the 2021 USHJA Gold Star Clinic - East wrapped up at Jim Brandon Equestrian Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. The clinic, held February 11-14, featured instruction for 21 hand-selected participants.
With five-time Olympian and longtime clinician Anne Kursinski leading the mounted sessions, riders from across seven Zones convened to learn from the best. Beginning with flatwork on Day One, Kursinski put the horse-and-rider combinations through their paces, focusing on strong position in the saddle, correct use of aids and creating a responsive horse through lateral movements. Riding on the flat continued into Day Two, where Kursinski added in some work over poles to finesse the horses' adjustability and responsiveness. The third day of mounted instruction featured a collection of gymnastic exercises to prepare for the final day's full course, and each rider completed a variety of lines and combinations to strengthen their horse's rideability.
"[I wanted] to inspire them to really improve and get to the next level. What each rider got was individual to them, their horse and their style. Hopefully I inspired them and pushed them enough so that they can get better," said Kursinski.
The Clinic culminated with a final day of jumping over a full course designed by Nick Granat. After warming up with Kursinski, riders completed the course and then reviewed their ride, returning to finesse certain elements as desired.
"There were a couple that really did experiment with what I taught them and incorporated what I worked on. It's a wonderful program for all the riders. Hopefully I left some inspiration with them and even if I was tough on them, that they take it positively because I know they can get better. It was fun [on the final day] to see them improve," said Kursinski.
"I think Anne did a really great job making it all cohesive—it built throughout the week—and giving every rider the opportunity to do these exercises at their level. Everybody had the same exercise tailored to them and it was really nice," said Genevieve Munson, 16, a veteran participant of the Gold Star Clinics from Rogers, Arkansas.
Out of the saddle, an array of educational sessions were offered. Expert stable manager Colleen Reed oversaw the riders' management of their horses throughout the week, leading instruction on proper barn management and horse care alongside USEF High Performance Team Veterinarian Dr. Geoff Vernon. Dr. Vernon also led a slow-motion presentation session on equine biomechanics with USEF Youth Chef d'Equipe and USHJA Jumping Technical Advisor DiAnn Langer.
"That was one of my favorite parts—to get that practical knowledge. Anytime we have Dr. Vernon around I get really excited. I love working with him and his knowledge is just unparalleled," said Munson.
In the barn, Linda Sheridan, former groom for Gem Twist, and Owen Rogers, groom for McLain Ward, joined a practical demonstration on caring for and preventing leg injuries with Reed and Dr. Vernon. Additionally, Marnye Langer, CFO and managing director of Langer Equestrian Group; Kim Miller, editor of California Riding Magazine; and Brooke Goddard, managing editor for Langer Equestrian Group, directed a virtual session on sponsorship and media tips.
The USHJA Gold Star Clinics are the pinnacle of the USHJA Emerging Jumper Rider Program, which identifies Jumper riders who have the skill and desire to excel in the sport while educating them to become well-rounded horsemen on their path to excellence. During a normal year, individual medalists from the Markel/USHJA Zone Jumper Team Championships receive the designation of Gold Star Emerging Jumper Riders, and those from the Markel/USHJA Platinum Jumper Championships as Show Jumping Platinum Athletes, and are invited to attend one of the Gold Star Clinics. The top two riders from the USHJA Emerging Athletes Program National Training Session are also invited to attend the Gold Star Clinic of their choice, as well as a select number of Wild Card participants. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of the 2020 Zone Jumper Team and Platinum Jumper Championships, USHJA adjusted the rider selection procedures for the 2021 Gold Star Clinics.
The USHJA Gold Star Clinic-West was postponed last month due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and will be rescheduled to a later date.
"This is my third Gold Star Clinic and every time it has been great," said Munson. "Just because you've been to Gold Star once, I would not discourage at all going again. It is not going to be the same and USHJA has done a great job with that. My overall experience is always two thumbs up."
The USHJA extends special thanks to the entire Jim Brandon Equestrian Center team for hosting the Gold Star Clinic - East. The USHJA also extends its gratitude to Official Sponsors CWD, Nutrena, Parlanti and Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital for making these programs possible.