Lexington, Kentucky—Jan. 30, 2020—The U.S. Hunter Jumper Association Gold Star Clinics wrapped up after two weeks of bi-coastal educational sessions and mounted instruction with top clinicians, athletes and horsemen. The West Coast Clinic, held January 15-19 at the Desert International Horse Park in Thermal, California, was led by Kirsten Coe, while the East Coast Clinic, led by Todd Minikus, was held January 22-26 at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. A total of 42 athletes participated in the clinics, learning from the best throughout the four-day clinics that focused on this year's theme, "Building a Winning Team."
Leading the mounted instruction on the West Coast, Coe's approach to the clinic was to provide the participants with knowledge they could take home and use effectively, regardless of the equipment or facilities they have at their disposal. "I think it was very clear cohesive message from all the clinicians this year, not just myself, said Coe about the week of educational opportunities. "It was all about discipline, how to correct the horse, the shape of the lines and the track, and ultimately this was one of the best first-round Nations Cups (modified format) we’ve had with the fewest amount of faults. They all applied what they learned all week and they did it really well."
On the East Coast, Minikus focused on on suppling the horse with effective riding and using the basics to train a horse to be responsive in a competition setting. "I have been very fortunate to have people along the way in my career help me—bits of advice from awesome horsemen, trainers and riders—so I feel fortunate to do this," said Minikus. "Hopefully there is something they learned this week that they can use for the rest of their riding careers."
After three days of mounted instruction, the West Coast and East Coast clinics culminated on day four with teams competing in a Nations Cup-style competition over courses set by FEI Course Designers Michel Vaillancourt and Steve Stephens, respectively. The modified, two-phase format featured the first round as a Table II and the second as a Table II 2.d. On the West Coast, Chef d'Equipe Mandy Porter led the winning team of Leah Lively (1.10m), Alyce Bittar (1.20m) and Courtney Youell (1.30m), named Gone With the Wind, on a total score of 8 faults after the two rounds. Team Courageous 5 made up of Avery Moore (1.10m), Alexis Ortiz (1.10m), Summer Hill (1.30m) and Chef d'Equipe Alex Granato finished fault-free to claim the competition on the East Coast.
Though they all enjoyed the competition aspect, Lively remarked on how important the team feel throughout the week was: "We had a great team but it wasn’t just this team—I got to work with people that I usually wouldn’t get to meet. Everyone was pitching in to help one another—it didn’t matter if [they were on the same team.]"
"I think that a lot of time spent in the barn with our teammates really helped," echoed Hill. "It definitely felt like by the end of the day today, we were all friends and working for each other and with each other. I think that was the biggest thing—we got to spend sunup to sundown together, doing work together and getting to know each other so we were stronger."
Both coasts featured similar schedules, which included additional education from industry experts discussing horse health and nutrition, course building, media training, and different aspects of a competitive Jumping team. Colleen Reed, who was the Stable Management clinician for both clinics and oversaw the care for the participants' horses on-site, led a session that covered how to take your horse's vitals, proper grooming and jogging for FEI classes. USEF Youth Chef d’Equipe DiAnn Langer, USEF High Performance Team Veterinarian Dr. Geoff Vernon and the clinics' respective lead clinicians discussed what, and who, goes into creating the winning team of a top rider, including veterinarians, grooms, trainers, and other essential personnel. In addition, Dr. Vernon talked about sport horse lameness, demonstrating what a veterinarian looks for during an exam and how to identify a lame horse, and Langer led a conversation about the Show Jumping Athlete Pathway, highlighting how a rider can utilize the program to progress in the sport.
Athletes in both clinics received media training from Brenda Mueller, Marketing4Equestrians and Chicago Equestrian Founder and Editor, where they participated in mock interviews, learning how to properly answer questions and how to manage their social media professionally. Platinum Performance hosted an equine nutrition session led by Dr. Darci Agin at West and Dr. Torri Maxwell at East, where both talked about the microbiome, the importance of proper gut health to help a horse perform at its best and how to read a feed tag. A hands-on session with farriers Leah Clarke, on the West Coast, and Bill Ligget, on the East Coast, taught participants how different shoes can affect a horse's way of going on different footing and how to maintain hoof health when dealing with issues such as quarter cracks. Riders at the East Coast clinic were also treated to a special viewing of Beezie Madden's workout routine with her personal trainer, Tony Cabrales.
Each clinic also included a round table discussion with top competitors, which included answering questions created by clinic participants. On the West Coast, Coe, Dr. Vernon, Clarke, Porter and Rich Fellers led to conversation, while the East Coast featured Minikus, Granato, Margie Engle and Anne Kursinski.
Both clinics are now featured on-demand via Horse & Country TV through livestream provider EQSportsNet. Current subscribers to EQSportsNet can use their same login credentials to receive access through Horse & Country TV. New subscribers can join for just $10 to watch all on-demand coverage from both events.
The 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 riders to become well-rounded horsemen on their path to excellence. Individual medalists from the 2019 USHJA Zone Jumper Team Championships received the designation of Gold Star Emerging Jumper Riders, regardless of age, and were invited, along with their coaches and parents, to attend one of these clinics. The top two riders from the 2019 Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund/USHJA Emerging Athletes Program National Training Session were also invited to attend the Gold Star Clinic of their choice, as were a select number of Wild Card applicants.
The USHJA extends special thanks to Jenny Booth, The Otis Booth Foundation and the Pacific Coast Horse Shows Association for supporting the Emerging Jumper Rider Program, as well as the entire Desert International Horse Park and Jim Brandon Equestrian Center teams for hosting the Gold Star Clinics. The USHJA also extends its gratitude to our official sponsors Charles Owen, CWD, Parlanti and Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital for making these programs possible.
To learn more about the Emerging Jumper Rider Program, visit ushja.org/emergingjumper.
Results: Team Competition - West
1. Gone With The Wind
2. The Unicorns
3. Grey Gang
5. Pro Stars
6. Triple Threats
7. Solar Flares
Results: Team Competition - East
1. Courageous 5
3. Razzle Dazzle
4. Clear Round
5. Equestrian Evolution
6. Pony Power Puffs
7. Sweet and Sour