By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
The first of two competitions to select American entries for the World Young Horse Championships in Germany is being staged in California this weekend ahead of a major overhaul of the program that has become increasingly important in developing a pipeline for future Olympic and world championship mounts for the United States.
This weekend’s competition at the Flintridge Riding Club in La Cañada-Flintridge, a small affluent Los Angeles community, will be followed by an East Coast trial at Leesburg, Virginia in two weeks–a Midwest event was dropped–in a procedure that has been applied for the past decade in selecting horses for the Verden, Germany event in August.
As of next year, selection will be based on results at designated CDIs and national competitions that U.S. Young Horse Coach Scott Hassler welcomes as it cuts down the need for young prospects to travel vast distances and creates a more even playing field as horses will not have to peak at the same time despite different training cycles in widely varying parts of the country.
Among the six-year-old prospects at Flintridge is Caliente DG, KWPN mare (OO Seven x Contango) that was bred at DG Bar Ranch in Hanford, California and was the 2012 selection trial reserve five-year-old champion ridden by Craig Stanley of Madera, California.
Others in the same division include Charlotte Jorst of Reno, Nevada and Vitalis, a KWPN stallion (Vivaldi x Donnerschwee) and Ashlyn DeGroot, the 19-year-old grand daughter of DG Bar Ranch founders Tony and Betty DeGroot, on the home-bred Calvin Klein, KWPN gelding (Dolany x Weyden). Both combinations are in the top 12 of the national young horse ranking list.
The five-year-old division includes Stacee Collier of Reno, Nevada on her KWPN mare déjà vu (Ijsselmeer Ikepono x Rubinstein), Karen Ball of Coto de Caza, California on Calimero, Kathleen Raine of Murrieta, California and the Oldenburg mare Finesse (Festrausch x Brentano II) and Ashlyn DeGroot on another homebred, Dalina DG, a KWPN mare (Jazz x Contango).
Scott Hassler of Chesapeake City, Maryland, who has been the U.S. Equestrian Federation young horse coach for the past decade and is in California for the trials, said the selection system for 2014 is patterned after the World Cup qualifying proceduress and will be much better for horses.
While he said he will miss the head-to-head competition that has been in effect for the past decade that the trials for Verden have been used the new system is the latest step in getting more young horses into the pipeline to become prospects for Americans to compete at Olympics, world championship and Pan American Games.
“That for me is the most important thing,” he said.
The effort to develop young horses for higher level competition, he said, has paid off with more horses moving through the pipeline that was created by Anne Gribbons, the U.S. coach for three years until the end of 2012. That pipeline now leads to Debbie McDonald, the developing horse coach, and Robert Dover, the newly appointed U.S. team coach.
The number of young horses being tracked has grown consistently by at least 20 horse a year and the total being watched this year stands at slightly over 200 horses, he told dressage-news.com.
Efforts to reach out by offering training sessions at strategic locations around the country where there are concentrations of young horses and that are open to everyone, including breeders, he said, “has been a big hit.”
In addition to the major centers of Southern California and South Florida, other regions include Texas, Atlanta, Ocala in Florida, Chicago, New England and Washington state.
“Our absolute main goal,” he said, “is to welcome entry level horses, to be inclusive. That’s what the open clinics are all about, getting these horses into our pipeline to get the depth we need for our teams.”
As the young horse coach for the past decade, he said, “it’s been a continuous climb forward in such a positive way. It flows nicely. The system is working good.”
The team work with the various coaches he described as “amazing how we all come together for our country.” New coaches have brought new ideas, new viewpoints.
“We have to give Anne credit for the vision, drive and detrmination to establish the pipleline,” he said.
“It’s now in place and we have a new set of viewpoints. It’s very exciting with the foundation we have built
“We got out backsides kicked at the Olympics. Now everyone’s in high gear with lots of emotion. That’s super exciting.”
Although there is no funding from the U.S. Equestrian Federation to help with the costs of sending young horse to Germany for the world championships, Scott has personally gone to sponsors to raise $10,000 to help defray costs as well as assisting riders in creating their own fundraising efforts.
And he is part of an effort to work with The Dressge Foundation to raise and distribute money.
“I think we can do a better job,” he said, “we cannot stop tryng to be better.”