Photo credit ©TIEC.
Mill Spring, NC – August 5, 2019 – Tryon International Equestrian Center at Tryon Resort welcomed 24 athletes participating in the USHJA Emerging Athletes Program Regional Training Session presented by the Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund, hosted July 29 – August 2. Participants spent five days receiving mounted instruction from clinician Jeff Cook that focused on flatwork, gymnastics, related distances, and course work, in addition to receiving coaching on grooming, horsemanship skills, and barn management from Veterinary Technician and Certified Equine Rehabilitation Practitioner, Anne Thornbury.
“The purpose of this program is to open eyes and open doors,” stated Thornbury, who has been sharing her wealth of knowledge and expertise with EAP participants since 2012. “It [EAP] opens the kids’ eyes to all the things they need to learn about being horsemen and all the opportunities there are besides just riding in the horse industry.”
Thornbury went on to explain the difference between a rider and a horseman, something she stresses to her students: “Riders might be able to find distances on a horse that’s correctly prepared, but not know one thing about what it ate, what it drank, what was its mood… [but] horsemen want to know everything there is to know about their horse. If you want to be the whole package, a really good rider has to know their own horses. It’s all about the horse. The horse always comes first, no matter what. Their safety and care come before what those kids want to do. I hope that their takeaway is that no matter what, the horse’s comforts are met before their own, and that they appreciate everything their horse does for them. You can’t do it without them.”
Cook focused on improving the riders’ basics and fundamentals this week. “Hopefully with the aids and their position improving, they can do things in such a way that things just happen easier and are a lot more enjoyable for horse and rider.”
Cook continued, “You don’t stay the same. You either get better or worse, and as long as you’re at it [riding], you have to keep trying to learn. For example, there was a moment in that last session where a student lengthened the rein a little and [I really noticed] the difference in the horse’s back legs. We’re always looking to learn.”
Although some participants enter the program just for the experience, many have professional aspirations and hope that the program will open doors to new opportunities and serve as a pathway to success. “Those kids [who want to be professionals] can come to us and we’ll mentor them and find places for them to go,” Thornbury continued, naming several top professionals who were EAP graduates, such as Jacob Pope and Carly Williams. “For kids that want to make something out of riding, it’s a great step up for them,” Thornbury emphasized.
To learn more about the USHJA Emerging Athletes Program, visit USHJA.org.