Alright, I’ll say it: the US produces horses that are just as good as the ones in Europe. Having seen and/or been involved with breeding programs on both sides of the pond, I believe that this is true without a doubt. And I’m not a commercial breeder, so I feel like I don’t have any bias in this one.
What Europe does have, that we do not, is a solid and well-established pipeline for bringing up and training their young horses, and a way to connect the talented ones with good riders. This, obviously, helps tremendously when it comes to sourcing good young horses as potential upper level mounts for their own riders. I often find myself wondering particularly about France… you so rarely see a French rider at the top international levels on a non-French bred horse. The same is often true of Ireland and Germany, as well. So if we believe that we produce horses here that are just as good as theirs (and I do), yet most of our upper level horses are imports – what are they doing that we’re not?
The biggest missing link in our chain seems to be in connecting the breeders, and thus the horses, with good young horse riders and producers. We don’t really have a program in this country that highlights riders that are particularly skilled at bringing up the babies, and we don’t really have any program to help bridge the gap between them and the breeders. At least… that used to be the case.
New for 2019 is a brand new program, the US Event Horse Futurity. The Futurity is the brainchild of US breeders Laurie Cameron and Elizabeth Callahan, both of which have produced successful upper level event horses (Quantum Leap, in the top photo, was bred by Elizabeth Callahan). They, like many other breeders, have faced hurdles when it comes to connecting their best horses to our best riders. We have programs like FEH and YEH that highlight the horses once they get to competition level, but – how do we get them there? If you don’t already have a relationship with a rider, how do you find one, and how do you promote your breeding program within the US eventing community, to professionals and amateurs alike?
The purpose of the US Event Horse Futurity is laid out thoroughly on their website:
- To develop a market for purpose bred /produced event horses through media exposure and publicity
- To develop and promote a pool of professionals who are willing and able to develop the young event horse to the top levels of the sport
- To develop and align a network of breeders, trainers, and riders to develop the pool of young horse talent in the US
- To engage the general public into the world of young horses and Young Event Horse Training
- To develop a fan base for young horses and young horse trainers
For it’s first year, the basic outline of the Futurity is simple: it’s open only to US-bred horses that were purpose-bred for sport, and are turning 4 in 2019. There are 12 horses entered, and each paid an entry fee of $525. The money goes into a pot, and will be given out as prize money to Futurity horses that compete at the 2019 4yo Young Event Horse Championships at Fair Hill. Here’s the official prize money breakdown:
- 10% to the breeder of highest scoring Futurity entrant
- 50% to the highest scoring Futurity entrant
- 25% to 2nd place Futurity entrant
- 10% to 3rd place Futurity entrant
- 5% to 4th place Futurity entrant
- Ribbons to the Highest scoring horse and reserve
- Ribbon to the fan favorite entrant (chosen by polling the week before the Championship)
Fan favorite? This is where things get really fun and unique.
We all know that a big part of what makes a program successful is the support it gets – both from the participants as well as from the public. If you can get the public involved and interested, not only is it good for the program itself, but it’s also good for the horses, the riders, and the breeders that are participating. After all, a big part of the purpose of the program is to increase public awareness, and help spotlight the quality of horses that we produce right here in the US. So, the Futurity wants to encourage public involvement as well.
Part of the requirements for the Futurity participants include monthly blog posts or videos so that fans can follow along on each horse’s journey as they aim for YEH Championships. You’ll get to see and hear about how the horses are coming along, what they’re working on, and get to know more about the riders and horses behind the scenes. For people like me, not only is this fun and engaging, it’s also a fantastic learning opportunity. How often do we to peek behind the curtain and get details about how a dozen different 4 year olds are being developed toward the same end goal? Not only is this interesting from the breeding perspective, IMO it’s interesting to anyone in any discipline that has or might someday have green horses.
The blog posts and videos will be posted on the Futurity’s facebook page, and they have an Instagram account that will post regular updates as well. They have already done introductory posts for each of the entrants, so you can learn a little bit about them, their history, their bloodlines, see photos and videos, and maybe pick an early favorite. There’s also a full entry list on the Futurity’s website.
Aside from all the prizes available for the horses, special prizes will also be awarded to the fans that interact most with the social media pages (via likes, comments, and shares). There will also be a winner chosen from the pool of people that voted for the horse that ends up winning. Yep, that’s right, YOU CAN WIN STUFF too! Just by interacting with a facebook page and/or Instagram account.
I am a big believer in what the Futurity is trying to accomplish here, and I really want to do whatever I can to help support it. The program is completely run by volunteers, as well as being self-funded, so having public support is going to be really important. I’m not a rider, and I don’t have an appropriate horse that can participate, but I do have a little bit of a public platform. What I REALLY want to do is encourage participation. I want people to follow along on social media and see how the year goes. I want people to see the kind of horses we’re producing here. I want these riders to get a chance to show us all how good they are at bringing along young horses. I want us all to learn more about what really goes on in the first year of an event horse’s career. So to help encourage more of you to follow the Futurity, I’m offering my own little prize package incentive.
Want to win a “Have a Great Ride” saddle pad from Ride Heels Down and a $25 Riding Warehouse gift card? I’m going to make this really easy, with 4 different ways to win. Pick as many as you like!
- Take a look through the 2019 US Event Horse Futurity participants and leave a comment here letting me know which horse is your early favorite (feel free to tell me why you like that one, because I’m nosy). That’s good for one entry.
- Go like the US Event Horse Futurity on Facebook. That’s good for one entry.
- Go follow the US Event Horse Futurity on Instagram. That’s good for one entry.
- Share this post on facebook. That’s good for one entry.
Let me know in a comment which entry options you took! I will draw a random winner from the pool of entries (and yes, I will verify the follows and likes) so the more entries you get, the better your odds of winning. And remember – the more you like and comment on the US Event Horse Futurity’s social media accounts throughout the year, the more chances you get to win prizes from them as well!
I’m really excited about this program, and I think it could be exactly the kind of thing we need to help us start bridging that gap between US breeders and US riders. How neat would it be to someday have a winning US team all sitting on US bred horses? How neat would it be for all of us – pros and amateurs alike – to be able to easily connect with US breeders and good young horse producers, and be able to get nice horses without having to go to Europe to do it?