Scott Hassler Talks About His Decision to Leave as USA Young Horse Coach

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Scott Hassler at the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida. © 2015 Ken braddick/dressage-news.com
Scott Hassler at the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida. © 2015 Ken braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, Feb. 1, 2015–Giving up the United States Young Horse coaching position that he essentially created when he became the first and only person in the job was one of the hardest decisions Scott Hassler has made.

“I’m not leaving with one ounce of a negative feeling,” Scott told dressage-news.com of the decision to give up the job on May 1. “It was hard to give up. I truly loved it.”

But the opportunity to return to the show ring himself while still feeling fit and competitive at the age of 48 won out over continuing coaching young horses as the official coach since 2006. He gave four months’ notice so he could help find his replacement and work alongside his successor. The job description is available here. Applications close Feb. 13.

Now, he gets to ride at both Chesapeake City, Maryland where he has been based for the past nine years and Wellington, Florida at the Global Dressage Festival where he is spending his second winter circuit.

Scott came to the U.S. Equestrian Federation job with an impressive résumé.

After training with the late Herbert Rehbein in Germany, Scott worked with Jane MacElree who bought 400 acres (162Ha) to develop Hilltop Farm that opened as a training and breeding center in Colora, Maryland in 1991. Susanne Hassler, Scott’s wife, made history in 2004 when she rode the farm’s Royal Prince to fourth place at the World Young Horse Championships, the best American result that stands today.

Scott and Susanne moved to nearby Chesapeake City to set up their own business and work with John and Leslie Malone, who have developed top notch breeding. training and equestrian educational operations in Europe as well as the United States. The Malones are the single largest private landowners in America and in addition to support of dressage bought one of the country’s largest Thoroughbred breeding facilities, in Ocala, Florida. They are renowned for gifts of many tens of millions of dollars for medical research and development such as stem cell treatment for horses.

As the first Young Horse coach for the USEF, Scott had to build from scratch a program to cover many areas important for young horses–recognizing trainers, providing incentives to excite breeders, holding clinics that were the first of any division to be open to both grassroots and high performance.

“I think we laid down a pretty good model,” he said. “creating a model that I feel good about.

“I created my own markers of success, building awareness and setting challenges–are horses coming into the program going on to success?”

He criss-crossed the country looking for talent and encouraging it, but the price was separation from his family.

Among graduates of the young horse program are some of the top prospects, such as Sanceo, for this year’s Pan American Games.

“I could have done it for as long as they wanted me,” he said, “though there was a cost at home. Our business partners supported us knowing that what we were doing was helping the country.

“I felt that I gave it a very good run, created a very good program.

“I’m not getting any younger. I can coach and teach for a long time, but I can’t ride at my best level for a long time. We’re at an incredible training facility. I want to be there. I missed the relationship with horses.

“I really want to compete again. I have the support of my clients. I want to be at home.”