Raeford, N.C. - The first ever USEF/USET Foundation North American Futures Team Challenge kicks off this week at Cloud 11~Gavilan North LLC Carolina International CCI and Horse Trial in Raeford, N.C. Eight U.S. athletes and two reserve combinations will be named to two teams to gain experience competing in a team environment. The Team Challenge was announced during the 2018 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention last December as part of U.S. eventing’s strategic plan, spearheaded by Erik Duvander, U.S. Eventing Director of High Performance. The new program looks to create a “culture of competitiveness” and provide a more clearly defined pathway for eventing athletes in the United States.
“U.S. eventing athletes lack opportunities to ride as a team, compared to most competitive countries within our sport,” said Duvander. “We hope this part of the program will, over the years, give our athletes a higher level of preparation before being selected for championships. [The Team Challenge] is only one aspect of areas of needed improvement, but I am pleased we are now ticking this box in a less expensive way compared to sending combinations to Europe for their first team experience.”
Athletes submitted applications to the USEF Performance Advisory Team. They were identified based on their results, potential, willingness to learn, and commitment to developing into future team athletes, following the FEI Eventing Nations Cup selection criteria as a guideline. Both members of the USEF Training Lists and ‘wild card’ athletes were able to apply. Duvander and Leslie Law, USEF Eventing Emerging Athlete and Development Potential Coach, will each serve as a Chef d’equipe. The following are the team rosters:
Erik Duvander’s Team:
Hallie Coon (Ocala, Fla.) with Celien, her and Helen Coon’s 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (CCI4*-S)
Sydney Elliott (Bossier City, La.) with QC Diamantaire, Carol Stephens’s eight-year-old Oldenburg gelding (CCI3*-S)
Ariel Grald (Vass, N.C.) with Leamore Master Plan, Anne Eldridge’s nine-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (CCI4*-S)
Caroline Martin (Miami Beach, Fla.) with Danger Mouse, her and Sherrie Martin’s 11-year-old Warmblood gelding (CCI4*-S)
Reserve combination: Matt Flynn (Reddick, Fla.) with Wizzerd, Patrick and Kathleen Flynn and Merry Go Round’s 10-year-old KWPN gelding
Leslie Law’s Team:
Alexandra Baugh (Lexington, Ky.) with Mr. Candyman, Altorac Farm’s 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding (CCI3*-S)
Cosby Green (Lexington, Ky.) with Highly Suspicious, Eddie and Clay Green’s eight-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (CCI3*-S)
Elinor O’Neal (Reddick, Fla.) with Zick Zack, Sally Cox’s nine-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (CCI3*-S)
Chris Talley (Honey Brook, Pa.) with Sandro’s Star, Hannah Salazar’s 10-year-old Oldenburg stallion (CCI3*-S)
Reserve combination: Cornelia Dorr (Manchester by the Sea, Mass.) with Sir Patico MH, her 12-year-old Zweibrucker gelding
The athletes participated in a two-day educational program before the start of the event which included: expectations of being a team rider, general routines during preparation, how to operate at a team event, dressage test ride reviews, and show jumping practice.
“We will be running these teams in the same manner as we would in FEI Eventing Nations Cups or a Championship Team,” explained Duvander. “To fully replicate a championship is hard to do, but the athletes will have a greater understanding after this experience of the difference between riding as a team member and riding as an individual. Riding for a team carries different expectations of the athletes and we believe this team environment should be practiced for better team performances in the future.”
“It should really be a very good simulation for those inexperienced on teams to have a first holistic look into team scenarios,” added Law. “For example, we started the week with a training camp, which will serve to both create team atmosphere and camaraderie, and obviously work on honing our skills going into the competition. [Each day] started with a team jog, and we will have a planned out order of go for the members, team course walks, etc.”
In addition to gaining experience as team riders, the athletes will also be evaluated for their potential to be future team riders. Law said, “We will be looking to see how they handle the team dynamics as far as working with each other and working with a coach, how they react to having to follow orders, and how they react to team pressure.”
Duvander also added, “Some athletes will naturally thrive in a team environment and others may have some areas that need improvement and experience. We need to use these team experiences to identify and develop the necessary skills and get the athletes accustomed to team routines and expectations.”
The team results will be updated following each day of competition on the U.S. Eventing Association (USEA) and USA Eventing Facebook pages. Results will be calculated in the same manner as a Nations Cup Competition with the best three scores counting (one drop score from each team). While the athletes will be competing in either the CCI4*-S or CCI3*-S their scores will all be weighted equally.
The next USEF/USET Foundation North American Futures Team Challenge will take place at the Bromont International CCI3*-L from June 6-9 in Bromont, Canada.
“Carolina International is one of our very good spring events in the U.S. and they were happy to help us run this unofficial team event this year,” said Duvander. “Bromont was chosen because it is run by Sue Ockerdon, their event director, and she is hoping to develop a team event at Bromont for North and South American teams in the future. Plus, Bromont is also an event away from home, bringing another aspect of experience to develop future team riders.”
USET Foundation Supports the Team Challenge
The Team Challenge is being funded by the USET Foundation, so that the athletes are able to get a full team experience with access to the entire eventing support structure. “[Supporting the Team Challenge] fits perfectly in with the mission of the USET Foundation,” said Bonnie B. Jenkins, USET Executive Director. “This fits all of our taglines: supporting athletes, promoting international excellence, and building for the future. We’re really helping to provide opportunities to athletes as they matriculate along the pathway and gain team experience, which is critical. It is giving some of our up-and-coming athletes another opportunity to go out and compete as a team. We hope it will produce some new stars for [the U.S.].”
Jenkins continued that she is excited to “to ensure that [the Team members] receive some funding to help with their expenses along the way because it’s not easy. They already have big investments and lots of expenses, so if this funding can help make this possible, that’s really great, and we’re really happy to be a part of it. Strengthening the pipeline and having this pathway where the athletes can get opportunities and experiences early on, not only riding with the coaches of the U.S. team, but being out there and representing their country, so there is so much they are going to learn that will ultimately help the U.S. achieve great things.”
The United States Eventing Association (USEA) will be on site at the Cloud 11~Gavilan North LLC Carolina International CCI and Horse Trial. Follow along with their coverage of the USEF/USET Foundation North American Futures Team Challenge on the USEA’s social media: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter or by visiting the USEA website at www.useventing.com.
The USEF International High Performance Programs are generously supported by the USET Foundation, USOC, and USEF Sponsors and Members