USA Young Horse Program in 2011 Shaping Up As Most Successful Ever

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Emily Wagner and Wakeup. ©Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

The United States young horse program is experiencing its most successful year with six horses achieving qualifying scores for the five and six-year-old divisions at the World Young Horse Breeding Championships in Verden, Germany Aug. 3-7.

Three horses in the U.S. and three in Germany attained the 8.2 minimum that U.S. Equestrian Federation set to qualify for the world championships for which the U.S. can enter two horses in each of the two divisions. Three U.S. selection trials were staged–one in eastern U.S., one in the Midwest and one in the west–using the same panel of judges over three weeks of competitions. An equine herpes virus outbreak in the western United States during qualifying kept some prospects at home.

“It started out looking like it might be quieter, but it turned out to be a stellar year with high quality horses and riding,” said Scott Hassler, based in Chesapeake City, Maryland, who has been the U.S. Equestrian Federation Young Horse coach for the past six years.

“The program is stronger than ever.”

Although there is excitement over Verden, the costs of transportation and competing–typically at least US$30,000 (€21,000), most of it in air transportation–are a hurdle to many owners and riders. The U.S. federation does not provide funding as most support goes to high performance combinations which this year includes European tours for prospective 2012 Olympic combinations and the Pan American Games. U.S. sports do not government funding.

The Markel Young Horse Championships in the U.S. are scheduled for Wayne, Illimois at the end of August.

U.S. horses to score 8.2 or better and this be considered for Verden are:

5-Year-Old Division

–Florentinus, five-year-old stallion (Florestan x Londonderry x Weltmeyer), with a scores of 8.5 and 8.4, ridden by Jennifer Hoffmann, based in Encinitas, California, but who has been training and riding in Germany since last December.

–Sanceo, five-year-old Hanoverian stallion ridden by Sabine Schut-Kery of Thousand Oaks, California, for the owners, Alice Womble-Heitman and Dr. Mike Heitman of Hempstead, Texas, scored 82.280 in the western competition at Flintridge, California. Sabine said the owners and she have decided not to go to Verden but instead compete at the national championships in Wayne, Illinois, because “it will be less stress” on the horse.

–Somer Hit, five-year-old Hanoverian stallion (Sandro Hit x Rhussia x Rotspon) was ridden by Lauren Chumley for owner Alice Tarjan to score 8.376 in the eastern qualifier. She has not yet decided whether to seek to go to Verden.

6-Year-Old Division

–Ratzinger, a six-year-old stallion (Riccione x Inschella), scoring 8.5 and also ridden by Jennifer Hoffman;

–SPS Royal Coeur, a six-year old mare, owned and competed by Marne Martin-Tucker of Woodbine, Maryland, but the horse is based in Europe, and was awarded 8.36 at Somerford Park Premier League show in England last month.

–Wakeup, a six-year-old stallion (Wagnis v Matcho), owned and ridden by Emily Wagner of Wally Woo Farm in La Cygne, Kansas, who competed in the five-year-old division at Verden in 2010. Emily, 23, and the stallion scored 8.58 in finale of the Midwest competition. Emily, who launched a fund raising drive in 2010, has not yet decided whether to go to Verden if she is selected this year.

Royal Coeur

Two of the horses, Wakeup and Somer Hit, were bred in the U.S.

“I am feeling really encouraged by the young horse program.,” said Scott Hassler, 43, and with his wife, Suzanne, are the parents of two daughters. He is a fulltime trainer, of young horses to Grand Prix.

“The quality of the horses and the riding is high.

“You know the program is working when you see horses that were competing as four-year-olds at the national championships and now qualified as five-year-olds and the five-year-olds are now succeeding in the six-year division.

“Of course, what we have to remember is that in the United States fewer than 150 horses were nominated for all three young horse levels.” The number in Europe is many times greater.

Scott said that changes are being considered for the young horse program such as implementing an outreach program whereby the young horse coach can travel more extensively to provide advice and answer questions of competition organizers, breeders and riders across the country to encourage and engage people that might otherwise not participate.

“I’m very, very excited seeing the young horse program going forward,” he said.