My EAP Experience
About a week ago, I completed my first ever USHJA Emerging Athletes Program, and let me tell you, it was one of the best experiences of my entire life. I recently posted a question box on Instagram (@lequestrian and @breechesandsweats) for people to ask any questions they had regarding EAP. Today, I am going to answer all of these questions and share my experience!
What’s it about? What do you do? How do you sign up for it? How do you get selected for it?
“The Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund/USHJA Emerging Athletes Program was created to provide opportunities for young riders to advance their horsemanship education and riding skills.” - USHJA Website.
The Emerging Athletes Program is a 5-day opportunity to strengthen your horsemanship knowledge, both in and out of the saddle. You are set up with 2 fantastic clinicians (one stable manager and one riding instructor) with whom you work numerous times throughout the day. One of my favorite aspects of the regional program was that I got to bring my own horse. Therefore, over the 5 days, you are solely in charge of your horse (although the clinicians are eager to help and answer any questions you may have).
If you go to the USHJA website, there is an application that you can fill out to apply for the regional training session (I included the link here, however, the 2023 application has not been uploaded yet).
Additionally, this year there were about 11 locations where the regional session was held, therefore there is almost definitely an EAP program near you!
Is there a certain height you need to be able to jump for it?
Yes, you and your horse must be able to comfortably jump a .90 meter or 1.0 meter course (you have a choice between the 2 heights).
How was the set-up and how did it run?
I personally thought the set-up and schedule was extremely well done. Everything was organized and well-thought-out before our arrival. I attended the EAP Regional Training Session at Mount Holyoke College and thought the facility was unbelievable. When all Emerging Athletes arrived, we had quite a few hours (depending on arrival of course) to get ourselves and our horses set up and settled. For your stay (at least for me) we had 1 stall for our horse, 1 tack stall, and 1 hay/feed stall (I shared the tack and hay stall with 2 other riders).
Day to day, everything was scheduled, making transitions seamless. Your day was basically split into 4 sections: riding, jump crew/observation, stable management, and chores (we obviously had lunch and snack/water breaks in between). You were split into groups with 4-5 riders who you would work with throughout the day or week (for my program, we kept the same groups).
For riding, we jumped for 3 days and had one flat day. Jumping-wise, we had a gymnastics day, course day, and show day. Stable management was your time to soak up and advance your horsemanship knowledge. We addressed everything from hay and feed, grooming, wounds, leg care, etc.
What did you think of the coach and stable manager?
I had two unbelievable clinicians. My riding coach was Jeff Cook and my stable clinician was Colleen Reed. These two clinicians were SO knowledgeable and wanted to help make their riders better horsewomen (and men!).
As many of my fellow riders discussed, Jeff always had a reason for everything. He wouldn’t just tell you to do something just because. Instead, he always had the horse’s best interest in mind and would thoroughly explain how his adjustment would benefit you and your horse. He brought a variety of knowledge and/or experiences ranging from jumpers to race horses to western etc. He would frequently bring up fellow riders/friends to further explain an opinion or theory and recommend professional riders to study or watch for examples of what he was teaching.
Colleen was probably one of the most informational and intelligent horsewomen I have ever met. She had so much knowledge about horse care, it was mind-blowing. Any question we asked she (like Jeff) had a thorough explanation for you. She was clearly extremely passionate about keeping horses safe, healthy, and happy. Colleen and Jeff were open and encouraged questions, which I took advantage of!
I was so lucky to be paired with such fantastic clinicians.
What new stuff did you learn? What was your favorite thing you learned?
I learned so much about not only my horse, but horses in general. I feel everything I learned is incredibly important for my future in riding. I truly enjoyed our discussion of hay and feed, the different types, their purpose, and ingredients, and our discussion of wounds, and how to identify, clean, and treat them.
Favorite part of it?
It’s hard to choose one favorite part of my time at EAP because I loved every second of it. However, being very vague, I would say the greater bond I made with my horse, Lux, was one of the most invaluable experiences. After just 5 days, I can pick up even the smallest changes in him. For example, his mood in the morning will predict his mood/energy level when riding. I also learned that he is quite a messy horse! He isn’t picky where he poops or drags his hay (unlike other horses attending EAP who had one corner to go to the bathroom and another for hay), which was always fun in the morning to clean!
What did you focus on throughout the daily sessions?
As stated before, we addressed many things on a daily basis to create better horsewomen or horsemen. From hay, feed, legs, riding theories, light seat vs. deep seat, proper releases (there are SO many types of releases), etc. we addressed almost every topic regarding horses. Each day had a different topic and focus, which I felt was organized and allowed us to go extremely in-depth.
What was the schedule like?
I included the rough schedule they provided you, however, I found my clinicians were not crazy strict and gave you plenty of time to get everything you needed to get done, done. They always had the horse’s best interest in mind.
Click the link here to check out the schedule they followed!
Did you make a lot of new friends?
I made SO many incredible friends throughout my time at EAP. We all have discussed our show schedules for the rest of the year and many of us will be crossing paths in the near future. As 21st century teenagers or young adults, we obviously exchanged Snapchats and Instagrams to keep in touch. I am so grateful for the connections I made in just 5 days.
Do you have any tips or advice for EAP?
I have so many tips to share based on my experience:
Definitely bring a wheelbarrow over a muck tub (unless you want to create an innovation like I did)
Go over everything you need to know with your barn about the horse’s feeding routine (ie. does his grain need to be soaked, on average how much hay, etc.)
Have all of your first aid supplies packed in a box, so everything is in one place when you need it
I recommend cleaning your stall multiple times daily, making it easier for the next morning to clean
Have your horse groomed during morning chores, just in case you’re rushing to tack up
Bring a notebook to take notes throughout your observations, stable management, riding theories, etc.
Bring Duct Tape and Zipties! I didn’t and had to borrow some, but they came in handy too many times!
Bring tons of hooks and organizers for your tack room setup (specifically the over-the-door ones). It makes it so easy to organize and keep everything in place
Bring tons of snacks to grab a quick bite before you ride or when you’re hungry
Before you go to EAP, go to the grocery store and get easy lunches to make in the morning. For example, I got mayo, bread, cheese, and deli meats to make a sandwich in the morning before I left (lunch was not provided)