I spent the last few days with Allison Brock a former Young Rider participant. As a professional today, who was looking back, she said that her time in Kentucky taught her some valuable lessons about competition and the levels required of our horses, riders, and trainers. After hearing her stories, I contemplate the many opportunities that are emerging for Junior and Young riders today. I am so thankful for the increased support and realization of need in our youth programs. Many of us have been lucky enough to be included in the Dressage4Kids, the Emerging Dressage Athlete Programs, the High School Equestrian Athlete Program, the new Elite Dressage Clinics and the USEF 5 year planning system. Allison and many professionals today had none of this support years ago. But if we want to be competitive at the international level in a consistent and dominating way, we need to build and support such programs.
One tidal wave of effort toward this goal is led by Lendon Gray and the Emerging Dressage Athlete Program (EDAP). This program’s mission statement is to “Encourage riders under 21 to become true horsemen with correct position, competitive skills and knowledge of all aspects of riding and horse care; to offer scholarships to enable competitors to further their education; to have fun and develop good sportsmanship throughout.” There are now several different events and aspects to the program. There are the two day regional clinics, the week-long national clinic and the three month intensive boot camp. All begin however, with the same application process. To apply you need to go to the EDAP website http://dressage4kids.com/Emerging%20Dressage%20Athlete%20Program.htm then click the link to the application. You have to fill in the form as well as sending a video or a link to an online video. There are no specific move requirements.
Do not be discouraged by the application process. And don’t worry if you aren’t a ‘high performance competitor.’ In fact, when I interviewed Lendon Gray she said applicants “never even had to have ridden in a recognized show.” The program was designed to look for the “Diamond in the Rough.” When I asked what she was most proud of with the first year of EDAP; she said, “It was bringing forth some very talented riders who received opportunities they would not have had otherwise.”
I applied in both 2011 and 2012 and intend to do so again in 2013. You can apply at any time in the year. There are no deadlines. I suggest you put the application in your January to do box! But here is the IMPORTANT part; after you apply then go out and get your friends to apply as well. This is necessary because a clinic in your area will not be set up until enough applicants are selected in your region! This is not daunting. It in fact can be a great generator for increased youth activity in the region. It really helped motivate my old region 9 last year!
Once there is enough interest a local clinic is scheduled and the fun begins. The 2 day regional clinics are used as the stepping stone to selection for the yearly national clinic in Wellington, Florida. This clinic, the Robert Dover Horsemastership Clinic is an intense week long clinic with daily riding instruction by a ‘who’s who list of trainers and riders in the US.’ The morning rides (and infamous workout sessions) are followed by afternoons of intense lectures and a mountain of information. My mom said it reminded her of Maymester in college; a whole semester of information in a few short days! Then evenings you get to socialize and spend time with your peers in a noncompetition setting. This is one of my favorite aspects of the program. I have made so many friends this way. Brandi and I met at EDAP last year, went snowboarding over spring break together and are now celebrating our one year anniversary at the second EDAP clinic. In addition, the Courtney Dye Horsemastership Clinic will be held at Hassler Dressage at Riveredge in Maryland July 31 to August 4 .
The tidal wave of growth rolls on as now EDAP has gone further and has added an intensive 3 month long boot camp this year. Imagine the week long EDAP clinic being extended into 12 weeks. Add the dimension of bringing your own horse and being able to compete in shows with the assistance of such amazing training.
Finally, I asked Lendon what was the one thing she hoped that all the riders and auditors this week would leave Florida having learned. “Just one,” she joked, and then added “to realize that there is a community of riders on the same journey…and that we are all in this together. Let’s learn from each other…and that includes the horses as well!”