WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Emma Callanan, of Tewksbury Township, N.J. was on the team that won the Nations Cup competition at the inaugural United States Hunter Jumper Association Emerging Jumper Rider Gold Star Clinic-East.
The team competition was held on Dec. 30 at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center in West Palm Beach, Fla. Earning the victory in the debut event was the team of Callanan, Cayman Szegda, and Julia Ziffer, led by Chef d'Equipe DiAnn Langer.
The team competition was the culmination of the clinic's three preceding days of intensive training and instruction from numerous top clinicians and presenters, including lead clinician Richard Spooner. The competition itself brought more lessons learned as this select group of top athletes chosen for the clinic applied their learnings from throughout the week in the Nations Cup competition.
Szegda, 15, of Marietta, Georgia, put what she had learned in the ring throughout the week into practice, delivering two clear rounds for her team aboard her own mount Valotti VDL.
"I liked the Nations Cup format a lot," said Szegda, who regularly trains with Megan Thiel. "I thought the whole clinic was a really cool experience - to have all of the different professionals. They have their own different ways of saying things. It's cool to hear the different ways and to bring it all together and figure some things out."
Callanan and Ziffer similarly executed what they'd learned in the Dec. 27-30 clinic, with Callanan picking up just four faults in each round and Ziffer earning four faults in the first round and returning to jump clear in her second trip.
"My horse was really good today; I was really happy with her," said Ziffer, 17, of Darnestown, Md. "I thought the clinic was really well run, and they had a lot of different people come in and just explain things a little differently than I would usually hear it. It was a really cool and really awesome experience to come here."
Finishing in second place from among the eight teams were Phoebe Topping, of Sagaponack, N.Y., Carolina Villanueva, of Texas, and Amelia Zahn, of North Carolina, led by Chef d'Equipe Kirsten Coe. Coe was also Chef d'Equipe of the third place team, composed of Gracie Allen, of Moorestown, N.J., Sydney Berube, of New Hampshire and Katlynn Butler, of Virginia.
While modeled after the traditional Nations Cup format, rather than jumping the same course in both the first and second round, all riders jumped an abridged, jump-off course in the second round, allowing them to put into practice more of what they had learned from Spooner, the 'Master of Faster,' throughout the week.
Each team also consisted of one rider competing at 1.10m/1.15m, one at the 1.20m/1.25m height, and one at 1.30m/1.35m, and Spooner provided feedback and commentary following each rider's course to allow the riders to continue to learn and grow throughout the experience.
"If I described the clinic in one word, it would be extraordinary," said Spooner following the conclusion of the clinic. "What a job the USHJA has done with this. This is exactly what all riders need."
Riders learned from Spooner, Olympic silver medalist Anne Kursinski, and their Chefs d'Equipe in the ring. They also participated in in-depth educational sessions outside of the ring, including "Equine Care and Stable Management" with Colleen Reed, "Best Practices for Self-Promotion" with Brenda Mueller of Chicago Equestrian/Marketing 4 Equestrians, "Sport Horse Lameness in Today's Sport" with US Equestrian team veterinarian Dr. Geoff Vernon, DVM, and Equine Diagnostic Imaging specialist Dr. Natasha Werpy , DVM, DACVR, "Athlete Pathway" with DiAnn Langer, "No Foot, No Horse" with US Equestrian High Performance farrier Bill Liggett, "Dissecting the Course" with world-class course designer Steve Stephens, and a highly-informative round table discussion with show jumpers Coe, Lillie Keenan, Kursinski, Langer, Callan Solem, Spooner, and Dr. Vernon.
"I wish I had had opportunities to do this as a kid because it's not just showing them what it's like in the ring," said Spooner, 47, who has represented the United States many times in his career. "For these clinics, I see what I'm doing as the least important part. The fact that they're back in the barns learning to work with the farrier, working with the vet, working on horse care, and really learning the whole aspect of the sport has got to be enlightening to them. They can kind of see what they're getting into. I think it's a fantastic opportunity for these young riders."
A second clinic will be held from Jan. 18-21, at the HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, Calif.
"I could not be more pleased with how things turned out," said US Equestrian Chef d'Equipe and USHJA Emerging Jumper Rider Task Force member DiAnn Langer of the inaugural Gold Star Clinic. "We had a huge schedule. We had to keep moving forward at all times. All the clinicians were amazing, every single one of them - media, farrier, the vet presentation - all of them were just over the top. I think everyone learned a lot. I think the parents were happy to be included in the process and the professionals as well. I'm ecstatic."
The USHJA Emerging Jumper Rider Gold Star Clinics are part of the USHJA Emerging Jumper Rider Program, launched in 2017 in conjunction with the USHJA Zone Jumper Team Championships. The program is designed to identify jumper athletes who have the skill and desire to excel in the sport. Individual medalists from the 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 the clinics.
The USHJA Zone Jumper Team Championships are offered at 1.10/1.15m, 1.20/1.25m and 1.30/1.35m and provide riders with a competitive team experience and an opportunity to earn Zone Horse of the Year points in their respective jumper sections. The Championships are held by zone and consist of both team and individual competition.
The USHJA Emerging Jumper Rider Program serves as the entry point for the Show Jumping Athlete Pathway, a joint USHJA-US Equestrian effort that identifies and nurtures jumping athletes as they advance through the sport to enhance future success for Olympic and international teams representing the United States.
Other selected riders from the tri-state area were: Sheila Ann Sadighi, Essex Fells, N.J.; Leslie Schillat, Malvern, Pa.; Isabelle Heckler, Colts Neck, N.J.; Bridget Perier, Summit, N.J.; Gwyneth Babington, Blue Bell, Pa.
Learn more about the Zone Jumper Team Championships at ushja.org/zonejumper.
Learn more about the Emerging Jumper Rider Program at ushja.org/emergingjumper.
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