WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A New Jersey teen helped her team win a gold medal in an invitation-only  nations cup type competition in Florida.

From Dec. 27-30, 2018, a group of 2018 USHJA Zone Team Championships individual medalists and select wild card recipients expanded their equestrian horizons in a unique educational opportunity by participating in the USHJA Gold Star Clinic-East Coast at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center.

After three days of mounted and unmounted instruction from top clinicians covering a variety topics including stable management, horse health, breeding, press relations, flatwork, gymnastics, the clinic culminated on day four with seven teams competing in a Nations Cup format. Earning the victory was the team of Cameron Tague, Sydney Stephenson, and Cathleen Driscoll, led by Chef d'Equipe Hardin Towell.

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Tague, of Cream Ridge, N.J., won’t be resting on her laurels. "I'm already planning my show schedule leading up to the championships next year so I can try to make it again" she said. "The opportunity is just incredible, the amount of information we're getting, it's unparalleled to any other program this sport offers right now."

Each team consisted of three riders: one at 1.10m/1.15m, one at the 1.20m/1.25m, and one at 1.30m/1.35m. One minor adjustment to the format was all riders rode a full course in round one and then an abridged, jump-off course in the second round, again allowing them another opportunity to put their knowledge to work. Continuing the invaluable experience, lead clinician Richard Spooner provided feedback and commentary following each rider's course.

"It's an absolute necessity for these young riders to have this opportunity," said Spooner, 47, who was a star in the equitation as a junior rider, and has generated his own successful show jumping career via years of hard work, and plenty of watching and learning. "It's a program I wish I had when I was younger," he said.

Finishing in second place were Heidi Crappell, Tague (stand in score only for a rider who did not participate in the final day), and Greer Campbell, led by Chef d'Equipe Lillie Keenan. Keenan was also Chef d'Equipe of the third place team, composed of Darian Smith, Jennie Edwards, and Addison Reed.

Throughout the packed four days of mounted and unmounted instruction, riders learned from Spooner, Olympian 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, media training with Brenda Mueller of Marketing4Equestrians, "Young Horse Conformation, Type, and the Importance of Pedigree" with Jean-Yves Tola and Jos Sevriens, "Sport Horse Lameness: How Conformation and Competition Schedule Impacts Soundness" as well as a pre-purchase exam workshop with US Equestrian team veterinarian Dr. Geoff Vernon, DVM, and Equine Diagnostic Imaging specialist Dr. Natasha Werpy, DVM, DACVR, a presentation on the joint U.S. Show Jumping Athlete Pathway with USEF Youth Chef d'Equipe 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 Keenan, Kursinski, Langer, Spooner, Towell, and Dr. Vernon.

"It's fantastic when I work with these riders because I get little glimpses of the future of the sport," said Spooner. "I really enjoy being a part of the process."

As an added bonus, this year participants were also able to ride over a replica of the "star jump" used at 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon, on loan from Rush Weeden/Brookwood

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.

Providing riders with a competitive team experience and an opportunity to earn Zone Horse of the Year points in their respective jumper sections, the USHJA Zone Jumper Team Championships are offered for junior and amateur riders at 1.10/1.15m, 1.20/1.25m, 1.30/1.35m levels and beginning in 2019 also a Platinum 1.40/1.45m level will be available to juniors, amateurs, as well as professionals. The Championships are held by zone and consist of both team and individual competition.

The clinics are part of the USHJA Emerging Jumper Rider Program, which uses the USHJA Zone Jumper Team Championships, 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 are invited, along with their coaches and parents, to attend one of these clinics.

The new Platinum Jumper Championships are open to juniors, amateurs and professionals competing at the 1.40/1.45m level, and will be held as overlay classes with special 1.40/1.45m open classes and grand prix classes held at the American Standard typically offered during the same competition hosting a USHJA Zone Jumper Team Championship. Individual medalists from the Platinum Jumper Championships will qualify for a Platinum Masters Training Session.

"I think anytime you can do more of this, the better," said Spooner regarding the new 1.40/1.45m platinum jumper level. "I'd like to see this at the 1.60m level."

Learn more about the USHJA Zone Jumper Team Championships at www.ushja.org/zonejumper.

Learn more about the USHJA Platinum Jumper Championships at www.ushja.org/platinumjumper.

Learn more about the Emerging Jumper Rider Program at www.ushja.org/emergingjumper.

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