USHJA EAP Level I Training Session Participants

By Jackie McFarland and Marnye Langer


With a solid equitation history, including Reserve Champion in the 2008 NorCal 3’ Medal Finals, a 4th in the 2008 CPHA Child/Adult Medal Finals and a top 15 finish in the 2007 Onondarka Medal Finals, Jessica Tali is no stranger to the challenges of achieving goals and riding under pressure.

A student of Nicole Bloom’s (Round Meadow Farm) since age six, Jessica turns 15 this month. It was Nicole who recommended that Jessica consider looking into the Emerging Athletes Program, and when she found the information online, there was no question she wanted to participate. She applied and was ecstatic to find out she was chosen for the 3’ session.

Jessica explained, “It was an important decision for me because I chose to apply instead of going to one horse show. Because shows are so expensive, my family and I, along with Nicole, plan out my show schedule at the beginning of the year. I do extra work at the barn to earn some credit to help pay expenses. For example this summer I’m a working student. I chose EAP over a horse show and it was well worth it.”

The young equitation star not only excelled – even though she was challenged – at the clinic, but garnered important information that she continues to utilize. “Melanie really helped point out things I can work on and also things I was doing well. I learned exercises I can practice at home. Now, when I go out to hack, I will always think about having the horse in front of my leg, keeping him straight, doing more lateral work. From halts to turns, making certain the communication is always there. Overall, having more of a connection and better communication with my horse.”

Jessica also enjoyed learning more about the details of taking care of her horse, which was required at the clinic, and liked the backpack full of goodies including a saddle pad, a boot polishing set, t-shirt and more.

Although her show schedule was slimmer, Jessica has garnered even more blue ribbons in the equitation ring this year, winning in her age group and in the Big Eq, while also learning invaluable lessons as a working student. With a career goal of becoming a horse trainer, this ambitious equestrian is well on her way.

With medal finals approaching, be sure to look for Haley Webster, a fourteen and under rider who hails from the Sacramento Area. Haley has ridden with Patty Ball for most of her riding years. She was selected for the EAP clinic held in Northern California this past May, and she made the most of the experience. “Oh, man when I found out I was accepted I was running around the barn like crazy yelling. I was so excited! Getting to ride in a clinic with Melanie was an amazing experience. I really liked all the exercises she had us do and she really described everything very well.”

Haley took away some valuable tips from the clinic. “One of the major things Melanie really put out there was just to go forward, and to go forward out of trouble. You would think that’s something you already know, but many times when I’m riding and my horse is spooky or doesn’t want to walk by something my first reaction isn’t to go forward so that really helped me a lot.”

Post her EAP experience, Haley has had a great summer. During two weeks at the Woodside Summer Circuit she was champion in the Equitation 12-14 and posted some strong finishes on her Junior Hunter. She continued on to Pebble Beach where she captured her more equitation wins and then had a clean sweep in the Large Junior Hunter 15-17, won the Junior Hunter Classic, and won the Maclay and the Overall Phase of the Washington International.

Last year she was a top finisher in the Onondarka Finals and is having no trouble competing with the best in both the 3’6” medals and the Junior Hunters. There is no doubt that Haley will be one of California’s ascending stars.

If the goal of the USHJA’s Emerging Athlete Program is to identify young riders with raw talent, a fierce desire to better themselves, a passion for horses, and only lacking show ring experience and refined teaching, then you couldn’t pick better candidates than Jenna Koehler (17) and Phillip Flynn (19) of Colorado.

Both youngsters were selected for the EAP Training Session Level I clinic in Parker, CO held in June. Jenna has her own horse, but almost no show ring experience. Working at a polo farm, she’s acquired solid horse management skills. Phillip does not have his own horse, but is lucky to work with a trainer who gives him opportunities to ride different mounts. As a participant on the Findley College (OH) championship IHSA team last year, Phillip will enter his sophomore year this fall.

Both riders were really impressed with Melanie Smith Taylor and enthusiastic about the experiences in the EAP clinic. “I am a clinic junkie and this was the best clinic I’ve ever done. Melanie has incredible insight and is very detail oriented,” added Jenna.

“Melanie is very well spoken and the amount of information I got was almost overwhelming. I didn’t have a fancy horse, but I went to learn. It seemed that Melanie recognized and respected ambition. She was willing to help riders with their goals,” contributed Phillip.

These two riders share another honor, given by their Zone 8 Jumper Committee as well as Melanie Smith Taylor. In order to expose the EAP riders to advanced levels of the sport, the Zone 8 Jumper provided funding for two EAP riders to attend the North American Junior Young Rider Championships this week, and they asked Melanie to select the two candidates. Phillip and Jenna where thrilled to find out they had been chosen and are looking to make the most of their experience. While keeping their fingers crossed about being selected for the second level of the EAP, this has already been a great year for these emerging athletes.

Following each Level I Training Session, the clinician, which this year is Melanie Smith Taylor, will evaluate the riders and create a ranking list to determine who will be invited to the Regional Level II Training Session. After the Regional Level II Training Session, a select group of riders will be invited to participate in the National Training Session. The National Training Session will include extensive instruction with riding sessions, nutritionists, veterinarians, blacksmiths and sport psychologists. It will also have a Nations Cup type competition for the riders. The top two individuals selected from the National Training Session will each receive a grant for one month of advanced training.

The Level II Training Sessions are scheduled as follows:
August 29-30, 2009: Region 1 (Zones 1 & 2) USET Training Facility, Gladstone, NJ
September 5-6, 2009: Region 3 (Zones 5 & 6) Canterbury Farm, Hampshire, IL
September 12-13, 2009: Region 5 (Zones 9 & 10) Blenheim Facility, San Juan Capistrano, CA
September 26-27, 2009: Region 4 (Zones 7 & 8) McCutcheon Stables, Aubrey, TX
November 21-22, 2009: Region 2 (Zones 3 & 4) Wrenwood Farm, Naples, FL

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