Don’t Give Up On The Next Generation of Horsemen
The author believes the future of horsemanship is bright—if you know where to look.
Written by Cara Anthony
Originally published in The Chronicle of the Horse’s January 15 & 22, 2018 issue.
Over the last year, there’s been a lot of concern about who will be responsible for the continuation of the American Show Jumping System. Having just sold my fifth grand prix project to one of the “rising stars” mentioned in these discussions, I began to wonder who will produce these young horses for the next up-and-comers who just want to go straight to the big ring.
I started to look around and began to see an ambitious group of young and talented riders who are doing the work in the back rings and down on the farm. These young professionals are apprenticing, assisting and learning all aspects of our sport, especially training and developing young horses. This hardworking group is the legacy of our current top trainers and riders, students and promising talents who have risen through the ranks of the big eq divisions and the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association’s Emerging Athletes Program before turning pro.
Think Natasha Traurig, Michael Hughes, Spencer Smith, Cooper Dean, Theo Boris, Mavis Spencer, Carly Anthony and Jacob Pope. These are just a handful of names from a growing list of passionate young professionals who are working from the ground up. They are diligently learning our trade in the back rings of the show and at home, but they are here!
Mitch Endicott (son of Mike and Christa Endicott), for example, is currently working for Thunderbird Show Stables (Brent and Laura Balisky). He’s riding their young jumpers, driving the truck, coaching clients, preparing their horses and grooming. One of his projects is a homebred of Brent’s and Laura’s that he has taken from the 1.10-meter ring to winning ribbons at the Royal (Ontario) in the 1.30-meter this year. Mitch is one of the first ones there in the morning and one of the last to leave at night. He’s gaining all the experiences necessary to go on and be at the top of our sport.
Another example would be Shawn Casady, who had a prominent junior career, winning in all three rings (hunters, equitation and jumpers) and apprenticing briefly for Ken Smith immediately after he aged out. Shawn then moved to Europe and worked for Alan Waldman, where he rode Alan’s young horses, groomed and took them to the shows. He earned valuable international experience (albeit on the youngsters) working in a respected dealing yard with hands-on experience on how to properly prepare sales horses. Shawn recently moved back to the States and started working for John and Beezie Madden, which led to the opportunity to ride an Olympic horse in the big ring.
The responsibility and experience of arriving early to the show or barn, doing night check, discovering a horse hasn’t drunk enough water and is now displaying early signs of colic, taking off the wraps and noticing heat or a bump that wasn’t there the night before when they wrapped the horse, as well as the end of day routines—clean up, blanketing and reviewing the day to formulate a plan for tomorrow—is what makes the true horseman/ woman. These long hours are needed to gain insight and knowledge of the inner workings of the top of the sport, and these young professionals are doing it!
Education And Experience
I was recently talking with DiAnn Langer (head of the U.S. Equestrian Federation Developing Rider Program) about opportunities for these riders. She had seen Carly riding a 7-year-old at the FEI/WBFSH World Breeding Jumping Championships For Young Horses (Belgium). In Europe it’s a big deal to breed and develop these great horses of the future, and it’s relatively inexpensive to bring them along over there. It’s also a great place for emerging riders to build their portfolio and get discovered. Lorenzo De Luca is a fine European example of working his way up the ranks by starting on the young prospects and developing them into grand prix horses. Now he has a fine string of five-star mounts.
Mavis Spencer, another young professional who comes to mind, also went to Europe to gain experience. She had a successful junior jumper career on the West Coast. She took a break from riding and went to groom for Kent Farrington and then Darragh Kenny, traveling all over the world caring for all level of horses from young prospects to winning grand prix mounts. Mavis learned what it takes to care for these horses in order to keep them going and improving. It’s no longer enough to know basic care of the horse with the five-star level demanding FEI protocol and zero tolerance for drugs. Mavis left Darragh to work for dealer Neil Jones, grooming for De Luca. Eventually she started back riding, bringing promising young horses along. Now she’s riding at the five-star level and competing in World Cup qualifiers. She even has a new owner, proving hard work, determination and ambition can get you to the top.
Unfortunately, it’s much more expensive to bring young horses along in the States. DiAnn and I discussed trying to get these young riders connected with the American breeders to see if there was an opportunity for both sides: providing mounts for the young riders to bring along and getting these young American-bred horses off the farm and out in the world. She’s very passionate about this idea, and I’m intrigued as I have a few homebreds myself. There are many ways to promote this idea, and perhaps this can be the topic of future articles.
I appreciate the old guard’s concerns when I see new trainers and riders leap directly into the world of international competition and business dealings. Some have tremendous success, which should be applauded. Most would have benefited greatly from more seasoning. I believe that our sport can benefit from both, and we should equally applaud (and support) those who are making the commitment to acquiring their legacy knowledge the old-fashioned way, in the trenches without glamour or glory. That is the important foundation that supports the continuity of our traditions. These young professionals are fully capable of earning their way into the big ring. Lilly Ward, are you listening?