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USHJA Emerging Athletes Program


Article & photos by LaCresha Kolba

On July 26 – 30, 2015 the Jaeckle Centre in Thompson’s Station, TN hosted the USHJA Emerging Athletes Program, sponsored by Dover Saddlery.  Eleven up-and-coming riders came to the regional clinic from Georgia, Minnesota, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama.   

Riders accepted into the USHJA Emerging Athletes Program participate in one of the multiple Regional Training Sessions offered throughout the summer months of June, July and August. During the intensive training sessions, riders have the opportunity to work with top riding clinicians and some of the country's leading stable managers. Riders and horses are instructed on flatwork, gymnastics, related distances and course work, as well as experience an intensive stable-management curriculum that incorporates proper care and grooming, horsemanship skills, and barn management. Riders also complete a written test as part of their evaluation for the National Training Session. From the Regional Training Sessions, 16 riders are invited to participate in the National Training Session.

The program is open to hunter/jumper riding students under the age of 21, who are comfortable taking a jumper course at 1.10m or higher.  This program’s primary focus is to help the rider become well rounded with knowledge in: techniques, stable management, and horsemanship. 

This five-day clinic began with orientation from Anne Thornbury, the lead stable manager, who worked alongside veteran show jumper, USHJA Certified Trainer and lead clinician Candice King to instruct a group of 11 up-and-coming riders. Anne has 50 years’ riding experience and has been training for 30 of those years.  She operates Equisports, Inc and Midwest Equine Rehabilitation Center with her husband Skip.  In her introductory speech Anne explained how she does things and what she will share with the riders during the clinic.  Every aspect of her routine and program was covered, and her expertise and confidence allowed her to speak with utmost professionalism.  Anne took the students from the ground up as she requested the use of a horse to go over the simple basics of grooming.  As she demonstrated her routine, she explained why she does each aspect of her routine, always emphasizing safety.  She detailed how accidents could happen with buckets, hay bags, temporary stalls at shows.  The importance of proper fit of the horses tack and equipment was covered, along with how to handle your horse in various situations.  It was obvious she enjoyed the flow of questions from the students.  For example, Anne explained to the young participants, “If your horse needs to wear the neoprene boots when going on the flat, that animal may simply be too clumsy for what you are doing.  Neoprene boots are like little ovens: a lot of blood vessels are against the skin in the legs.  Neoprene only contributes to the heating process when that heat is trying to escape.”

At age 19 Candice King began her career on the American Grand Prix Association circuit.  She was the top placed U.S. rider at the 2001 FEI Show Jumping World Cup Final in Gothenburg, Sweden.  She has competed at the highest level of show jumping in the U.S. and abroad, and to have the opportunity to learn from this amazing rider was priceless for these participants.

King provided sound advice to the EAP athletes, encouraging them to “ride in the moment” and to watch, study and learn whenever they have the opportunity. King noted that she used to watch the top show jumpers in the schooling area and that she would go to competitions in her area, even if she wasn’t showing, just to watch those riders compete. King encouraged the riders to take a position as a working student and to “never stop learning.” 

“Always be your horse's advocate, educate yourself to be the best horseman you can be and never stop learning!” echoed Thornbury.

Thornbury, who has acted as lead stable manager for three of the 2015 regional training sessions thus far, had high praise for all of the students she has taught in the Emerging Athletes Program this year. “I have been very fortunate to have the privilege to work with three great groups of riders,” she said. “From ages 12-21 and from varying backgrounds, they have all been eager to learn and willing to work hard, literally from dawn until dusk. In today’s world of ‘full care’ stables, it’s refreshing to me to see such a nice group of young people who are so interested in learning about all aspects of horse care as well as the riding. No top rider ever made it to the top purely on their riding skills!”

Sparky Frost came as a volunteer with the EAP and loves to share her skill, knowledge and excitement for the program.  “Students are given this opportunity to ride with the ‘the greats.’  They get to see and experience the passion for horses in the riders from USHJA and the US Equestrian Team.  We are developing riders for the next level, helping them gain a standard across the board on how to handle horses, ride horses, train, perform, prepare, and behave in the equestrian world.” 

Sparky hopes to see an increase in applications from riders hoping to participate in these clinics. Riders are encouraged to apply and can find more information on the process at:

There are 13clinics across the U. S., with slots available for 20 riders at each clinic.  From the clinics, participants are chosen to participate in the final clinic and work with former Olympian, Joe Fargis.

Facilities like the Jaeckle Centre have to apply to be considered as a host. Melanie Fransen oversees the Marketing and Clinics at the Jaeckle Equestrian Centre.  “We knew we could offer a great facility for this program.  We put in our application and were very excited to be chosen.  It was important to us to align ourselves with the USHJA, especially with a program which is developing the next generation of riders.  Our facility is set up well for clinics. Ralph Hill will be returning in October; Karen Kealey will be here in November; and we will also be offering a Veterinarian lameness seminar.” For more information, visit the Jaeckle Centre at: or contact Melanie Fransen at 859-492-7348 or

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