University of Findlay hosts National Emerging Athletes Program

University of Findlay hosts Emerging Athletes Program national training session with Olympic-level riding clinician

By Kate Dhuy,

The University of Findlay’s English Equestrian program hosted the Emerging Athletes Program’s (EAP) National Training Session for the sixth time, where participants worked with clinician Peter Wylde and stable manager clinician Colleen Reed.

Held on Nov. 9-12, the clinic brought together 16 hand-picked riders from regional EAP training clinics across the country to learn and train with top clinicians, according to the United States Hunter Jumper Association’s (USHJA) website.

Education Program Coordinator for EAP Eileen Cody said the EAP is a non-profit division of the USHJA focused on developing a good horsemanship foundation in the next generation of young riders.

“Programs have shifted to a primarily riding and showing-type focus,” Cody said. “(The association) felt there was a gap in educating riders on the things back in the barn and how to be good horsemen and barn managers.”

Cody explained the goal of the program is to identify the up-and-coming professionals of the next generation. Being chosen to participate in a national training session is a great way to be seen by professionals across the country.

This year, several student-owned horses also participated as mounts. Freshman Eliza Potterfield-Zara’s Angel Easy Du Lavoir “Xerox” won the EAP Outstanding Horse award.

The English Equestrian program’s graduate assistant and 2022 alumni Erin Schalick participated in the National EAP training session during 2022, which was also hosted by UF.

“(My experience) was incredible and I would definitely do it again if I could,” Schalick said. “The people, horses, really the whole thing was wonderful.”

While she learned about EAP before coming to UF, Schalick didn’t apply to participate until after watching Findlay host sessions her freshman and sophomore year.

Her advice to participants interested in applying would be to keep an open mind, and just because a clinician doesn’t match “your” discipline, doesn’t mean they can’t offer something of value.

“My regional clinician was Jimmy Wofford and he’s an eventer-based rider,” Shalick said. “So, you would think, ‘Oh, he’s an eventer and I’m more hunter-type, so what can I learn from him?’ A lot, actually. I got to do a bunch of exercises that I might have done before, but not Jimmy’s way. I learned so much from him.”

This year’s riding clinician, Peter Wylde, is among a list of 12 active riding and stable management clinicians that work with the EAP.

“(Wylde) has been involved with this program since the beginning,” Cody said. “Our reserve winner of the national session in 2019, Skylar Wireman, was totally unknown at the time. Wylde really worked to give her opportunities and horses to give her that leg up. He actually took her with him to Florida that year to show and work with him. Those are the opportunities and connections we’re trying to make.”

Hunter/Jumper Instructor, Findlay’s Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) team coach, and 2015 alumni Brittany Friesner had previously participated in the 2012 EAP region 5 training session.

Friesner listed many of the benefits of both auditing and participating in both regional and national sessions, emphasizing the importance of learning from the ground.

“It’s super beneficial for our students to watch their assigned horses go and get instructed by these top-level clinicians,” Friesner said. “You don’t always get a lot of time to process in the moment while you’re riding, so being able to listen and watch from the ground is really helpful.”

Friesner explained that she picks the horses, the committee watches riders school the horses before the participants arrive, and the 16 best-suited for the week are chosen, with at least two alternates.

The committee and UF staff work hand-in-hand to create the best possible experience for EAP participants every year the University hosts. While there isn’t much of a monetary benefit to hosting the sessions, Friesner said the networking opportunities for students and the program itself more than make up for it.

“There’s so many professionals in the industry that are here for the committee, and they get to interact with all of us throughout the week,” Friesner said. “Just to have an Olympian (like Wylde) here is incredible, and the students never run out of things to learn.”

With an exciting week ending, a huge congratulations to Emily Grace Swinson on UF’s Barolo who won champion of the 2023 EAP National Training Session.

To apply for upcoming 2024 regional clinics, visit the EAP’s branch of the USHJA website for more details.