In our sport, you can go to the Olympics when you’re 21… or when you’re 60. Or, you can never make a team but still have a profound impact on the athletes around you and equestrian sport as a whole.
Success in horses is a lifelong endeavor, but our sport in the U.S. places a huge emphasis on riders 21 and under. Some young riders feel they have an "expiration date" once they age out and have a hard time transitioning into a pro career. On the other hand, young athlete development is common in nearly all sports and is a key component in developing future teams and top riders and in many aspects, it works well.
What are the effects (both positive and negative) of focusing so many resources on that age group?
In this episode of Equestrian Voices, host Caroline Culbertson is joined by Diann Langer and Kirsten Coe to better understand this topic as it applies to the hunter/jumper/equitation disciplines.
Diann and Kirsten are a mother-daughter pair who operate Red Top Farm and have a deep understanding of the development pathway that children, juniors, and young riders may choose to follow in order to become top riders. Diann is the USEF Show Jumping Youth Chef d’Equipe, and Kirsten chased an illustrious junior career before becoming a professional rider and representing the U.S. in team competition on numerous occasions. They discuss:
- What the pathway is for children, juniors, and young riders up through 25
- How getting spotted early on usually takes place, and the role of parents and trainers
- The upsides and downsides - and understanding that it’s not a perfect system, but in many cases it produces successful riders
- The sport’s unfortunate shift to focus on competing more than training at home
- Diann’s reflections as a mother of watching her daughter chase success in her junior years, and Kirsten’s reflections on how things have changed since she competed as a junior in the late 90s.
Note: If you’d like to learn more about the youth and developing Jumping pathway in the U.S., the following resources will help you: