I would like to thank everyone who was able to make it to the Young Rider meetings in Thermal and Wellington. For those who couldn't, I look forward to meeting with you next time. It is very important to me that everyone who is interested in the "Athlete Pipeline" hears about the most current and relevant information on new developments for the future.
At the meetings I was able to explain in broad strokes the direction that we need to go in order to establish and nurture the very best future talent for international competition. Unfortunately, more detail will have to wait until more of the programs are approved. However, I would like to share what is currently in the works.
The U25 category, which is open to riders the year you turn 16 up to and including the year you turn 25, is a very important term to remember. It allows for riders who have graduated from Young Riders to have more experience and opportunities.
A U25 ranking system is being developed at the USEF which will eventually be used to select teams for this age category. The teams that will be selected from this ranking list will participate on tours designed to give riders who have never participated on a CSIO5* team the experience needed to do just that. It will also give every potential International rider insight into how every other rider in this category is doing. The intent is to educate everyone on what classes really matter and where you need to compete to move up the ladder. It will be tested later this year to ensure that it does what we want it to do and should be ready to be put to use shortly thereafter.
There will be more to the U25 category as we go forward. We aim to develop U25 competitions in the U.S. that we hope will serve as qualifying competitions for the European Youngster Cup. This concept is still being developed and we will keep you posted. I feel that this is a category show managers can use easily and I have received very positive feedback and interest.
Because Young Riders, 16 to 21, are still in school in May and June, when the most prestigious CSIOY competitions take place, it continues to be a problem for the U.S. to send a Young Rider Team to Europe. However, it is important that our riders have access to CSIOY/J/Ch competitions because they provide the Nations Cup experience that is critical to preparing our riders for Senior CSIOs and Championships.
The U.S. has only one CSIOY/J/Ch competition at this time: it takes place at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) competition in Wellington, FL. This year it was held Feb. 26-March2. To address this issue, talks will be initiated with the intent to establish more CSIOY/J/Ch competitions in North America.
Canada and Mexico will be included in these discussions. If we can't get to Europe for team experience, the solution is to bring the experience here. The West Coast may be the logical next step. So many great riders have come from the West Coast that have and continue to have a huge impact on the global sport of show jumping. The West Coast needs to continue to play a crucial role in our Athlete Pipeline development. My hope is to work with the West Coast to develop a CSIOY/J/Ch that will provide our up-and-coming athletes with more Nations Cup experience.
At the meetings I also talked about the FEI age for children's jumpers. Children's jumpers at the FEI level are 12-14 years old. Different from the U.S., they jump 1.20-1.25m. This is the height that children this age jump around the world. At present, through a search at the USEF, I have only found 23, that's right, only 23 12-14-year-olds who have accomplished that. This is simply not good enough. If our aim is to develop the best young riders in the world, we must start our riders in a direction that will lead them to this goal earlier. To achieve this goal, all of us must focus on how. Internationally 12-14 year olds are not only jumping that height they are jumping open water as well. So this is the challenge. I would like to hear your thoughts.
I want to make sure to mention the USHJA has approved a new medal. It will come into effect in December of 2014. The USHJA 3'3" Jumping Seat Equitation Class will be a great step for young riders. Along with the coveted Talent Search competition, the Jumping Seat Equitation Class is an asset to the development of future world class jumper riders. There are other jumping medals that I would like to acknowledge but I will mention two; the WCE in California and the Sam Edelman Equitation Class on the East Coast. Both were designed to encourage the American Forward Style of Riding over a jumper course. The U.S. is known around the world for this style and it is something of which we should be very proud. As the material (jump equipment) becomes lighter, so must the horses and the riders. The Americans have a real advantage with this style of riding and many great foreign riders are adopting it.
In the qualifying period 2014-2015, the Talent Search Classes and the Finals will have a fresh, new look. The Show Jumping High Performance Committee, which is focused on the development of our future sport and how it will lead in the world of show jumping, have worked with the Equitation Task Force and have created an exciting pipeline within the Talent Search Classes. More information will be reported as we get closer to that qualifying period.
I want to make sure that awareness of the Athlete Pipeline is a driving force in the development of our future riders and young horses. I mention the young horse because without the horse the rider pipeline is not necessary at all. Young horses and the development of them is our future. Not only for the experience and the additional dimension it gives the rider but because experienced top horses are getting increasingly harder to find and emerging countries are simply outspending the U.S.
I am convinced that this part of the Athlete Pipeline cannot be ignored. Breeders around the world know that there will be a shortage of top horses in the not-too-distant future. I am currently working with the Breeders, Young Jumper Task Force along with the Young Horse Specialist from the other FEI disciplines for answers. To address this elephant in the room, I want to encourage every young rider to educate themselves on this situation and understand its impact on their future....
I want to share a great saying as we move forward: "How little I know about the sport I play." Think about it!