USEF Launches New High Performance Development Program

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Robert Dover, Jessican Ransehousen and Gil Merrick with Charlotte Bredahl-Baker. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Robert Dover, Jessica Ransehousen and Gil Merrick with Charlotte Bredahl-Baker watching rides in the National Championships. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

GLADSTONE, New Jersey, USA, June 21–A new program designed to provide high performance riders personalized aid of Olympic trainers and American FEI judges has been launched by the U.S. Equestrian Federation. The program was tried out at the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF National Championships in Gladstone this weekend.

The initial aim of the program was to fill a void until a new National Coach/Chef d’Equipe is selected in the next few months, especially at a time when numerous horses at Grand Prix and Intermediaire level are being readied to compete for a place on the U.S. team for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky.

A significant part of the program is to include riders’ individual coaches in the program.

Robert Dover, the six-time Olympian for the U.S., and Jessica Ransehousen, a three-time Olympian, FEI “I” judge and former U.S. Chef d’Equipe, were the on-site trainer/judge team at the national championships.

Olympic riders Guenter Seidel, Steffen Peters and Debbie McDonald have each agreed to provide two sessions along with Hilda Gurney, a two-time Olympian who is an FEI “I” judge.

McDonald said she is thrilled to participate as a “way of giving back to the sport.”

Initial reactions from the riders was positive.

Tara Stegen of Wellington, Florida, who rode in the Grand Prix championships said some tips by Ransehousen about riding corners, for example, had changed completely the way she now rides New Tango.

“I think it’s really cool that you can pick what you want from their observations,” she said.

Shelly Francis, also of Wellington and who rode in both the Grand Prix and Intermediaire championships on different horses, said, “I think it’s good to have constructive criticism.”

The sessions may include visiting shows to watch riders interested in having their riding critiqued from the perspective of a top rider/trainer and an international-level judge. In some cases, riders may be asked to perform movements where improvement can be suggested.

The majority of the 24 riders who competed at Grand Prix and Intermediaire signed up for the critique by Ransehousen and Dover.

The pair prepared notes of the observations and later met privately with the riders and their coaches if they were present.

Ransehousen said the program may be implemented for future championships.