September 2019 - All In For EAP


Parents value the USHJA’s Emerging Athlete Program as much as their participating kids.

by Darby Bonomi, PhD • photos © Alden Corrigan Media

The Emerging Athletes Program Regional Training Session, held at Sonoma Valley Stables in Petaluma from July 17-21, was a huge success on many fronts. Clinician Cynthia Hankins, Stable Manager Nanci Snyder, and USHJA Representative Amy Owen Center were the formidable team educating and supporting 19 eager young riders during 5 days of intensive training at Ned Glynn’s beautiful facility.

Similar to all EAP sessions, riders were expected to take full care of their horses from mid-day Wednesday through Sunday. No assistance or support was allowed from parents, trainers, or grooms. For many riders, this was a huge opportunity to bond with their horse, learn horsemanship and horse care, and experience what it’s like to be a full-time horseperson. From setting up the stall and tack room, to feeding, wrapping and show grooming, the riders did it all.

Cynthia Hankins

Participants learned course design and were responsible for setting the jumps each day. They were treated to special lectures on riding theory and stable management, along with presentations from other experts. At this clinic, participants listened to Frankie Thieriot, founder of Athletux Equine, talk about social media behavior and the pros and cons of sponsorships for junior riders.

I gave a talk on my specialty, performance psychology. The emphasis was getting mentally and emotionally fit to ride, recovering from mistakes, and creating an effective pre-ride routine.  Last but not least, riders were given intensive riding instruction over four days with master clinician Cynthia Hankins.

Taking the Stable Management quiz

A Feast of Opportunities

The consensus from the sidelines was this training offered up a feast of opportunities for young, motivated equestrians. Many of these riders would not otherwise have access to such high-level instruction. There was a huge level of gratitude to the USHJA and The Lindsey Maxwell Charitable Foundation for making EAP available and affordable. “This is such an amazing, intense experience over five days,” said parent Jennifer Fetner, whose 12-year-old daughter Greylin participated for the first time. “I especially appreciate the scholarship part of it; it’s important that a mix of riders can access these resources. This is a great value.”

Towel drying legs after a bath

Offering a 3-foot section was also immensely popular, both among parents and riders. Claire Pollioni, mother of Ava and an equestrian herself, commented, “I’m really excited there is a 3-foot option now, for those riders who don’t have the experience or the horse for the 3’6”.”

Parents also applauded the five-day format.  Having the clinic “over multiple days, longer than typical clinics, allows the clinician to really get to know the riders and their horses. You can see real progression,” remarked Claire.

Cori Garnero Tuck, another equestrian mom who attended with her daughter Sara, noted that Sara, “benefited from multiple days of instruction from the same clinician. It allowed her to feel more comfortable to ask questions and to express herself. She also liked being able to watch and learn from the other riders.”

While the riding instruction was top notch, the stable management curriculum also was extremely thorough and valuable. Where else do you get the opportunity and the guidance to really learn horsemanship and how to fully care for your horse?  For many riders, the stable management provided by Nanci was a highlight of their EAP experience.

Anna Brostrom

“Sara loved going to the barn at 6:30 a.m. with her new friends to clean stalls and feed, and heading back out 8:30 p.m. to do night check,” remarked Garnero Tuck. “She and the other riders really bonded over doing something they all loved and had in common—the welfare of their partners. Nanci provided great insight and guidelines for the girls, and they all left with a better appreciation for their horse and for those that help with their horses’ care on a daily basis.”

Austen Dollente

Finally, a vital aspect of EAP is the camaraderie that forms between participants—and their families. Riders experience first-hand how a stable is run by a team. They learn to work together effectively and have fun, too. Many new friendships are formed and old friendships enriched. As we know, the best thing about our sport is that it brings like-minded people together.  From my perspective as an auditor, presenter, and parent of a participant—I made several new friends, rekindled old relationships (with mom-riders I competed with as a child!) and learned quite a bit from Cynthia, Nanci and Amy.

It was a huge value, indeed. Thank you, USHJA for offering this program and The Lindsey Maxwell Foundation for your generous support. The EAP Regional Clinics are a true gift to our equestrian community.