From December 27-30, a group of 2018 USHJA Zone Team Championships Individual Medalists and select wild card recipients expanded their equestrian horizons by participating in the USHJA Gold Star Clinic-East Coast at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Towell, of Wellington, Florida, was one of the expert show jumping athletes chosen to help educate the clinic attendees and lead a team through the culminating Nations Cup-style competition.
After three days of mounted and unmounted instruction from top clinicians, covering a variety topics including stable management, horse health, breeding, press relations, flatwork and gymnastics, the clinic culminated with seven teams competing. Earning the victory was the team of Sydney Stephenson, Cameron Tague and Cathleen Driscoll, led by Chef d'Equipe Hardin Towell.
Driscoll, from Elk Mills, Maryland, received her spot in the clinic after winning the 2018 USHJA Emerging Athletes Program National Training Session. "[This sport is] not just about showing up every day and riding your horse; you have to want it. You have to want it more than anything else, and you have to be willing to sacrifice your time and money and put everything you have into this," she noted. "It really needs to be a whole-hearted passion."
The USHJA Emerging Jumper Rider Gold Star Clinics are part of the USHJA Emerging Jumper Rider Program, launched in 2017 in conjunction with the USHJA Zone Jumper Team Championships.
Tague, of Cream Ridge, New Jersey, clearly sees the benefits. "I'm already planning my show schedule leading up to the championships next year, so I can try to make it again,” she said. "The opportunity is just incredible. The amount of information we're getting is unparalleled to any other program this sport offers right now."
Each team consisted of three riders: one at 1.10m/1.15m, one at the 1.20m/1.25m and one at 1.30m/1.35m. One minor adjustment to the format was that all riders rode a full course in Round 1 and then an abridged jump-off course in Round 2, again allowing them another opportunity to put their knowledge to work. Continuing the invaluable experience, lead clinician Richard Spooner provided feedback and commentary following each rider's course.
"It's an absolute necessity for these young riders to have this opportunity," said Spooner, 47, who was a star in the equitation as a junior rider, and has generated his own successful show jumping career via years of hard work, and plenty of watching and learning. "It's a program I wish I had when I was younger," he continued.
Throughout the packed four days of mounted and unmounted instruction, riders learned from Spooner, Olympian Anne Kursinski, and their Chefs d'Equipe in the ring. They also participated in in-depth educational sessions outside of the ring, including horse care, stable management, course design and a highly informative roundtable discussion with show jumpers Lillie Keenan, Anne Kursinski, DiAnn Langer, Richard Spooner, Hardin Towell and veterinarian Geoff Vernon.
The USHJA Emerging Jumper Rider Program serves as the entry point for the Show Jumping Athlete Pathway, a joint USHJA-USEF effort that identifies and nurtures Jumping athletes as they advance through the sport to enhance future success for Olympic and international teams representing the United States.
For more information about the USHJA Emerging Jumper Rider Program, please visit: www.ushja.org
For more information about Hardin Towell and his availability for clinics and coaching, please click here.
Special thanks to the USHJA for the press release.