Will Coleman on developing young event horses

06 November 2022

Training for Success: Will Coleman on Developing Young Competition Horses

It’s no secret that Will Coleman has had a lot of success in his career lately, including a team silver medal at the 2022 FEI Eventing World Championships in Pratoni del Vivaro and a first place finish in the CHIO Aachen 4*-S in 2020, making him the only American pilot to have tackled such a feat. However, what some may not know is that several of Coleman’s top mounts, including Off the Record which helped him achieve the two previously mentioned accolades, are graduates of the Young Event Horse program at the ‘USEA. Coleman has ridden three of his top tier mounts since the start of their careers:

  • Off the Record – a 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (VDL Arkansas x Drumagoland Bay) owned by Off the Record Syndicate, who finished ninth at the 2014 USEA YEH East Coast 5-Year-Old Championship
  • DonDante – a 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding sired by Pachio, owned by Team Rebecca LLC, who finished 4eat the 2015 USEA YEH 5-Yr-Old East Coast Championships
  • Chin Tonic HS – 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Chin Champ x Wildera) owned by Hyperion Stud, who finished 5th at the 2017 USEA YEH 5-Yr-Old East Coast Championships

After returning from Italy, we asked Coleman to give us the inside scoop on his tips and tricks for training your next partner, from Young Event Horse competitor to top campaigner! Here is what he had to say:

What does the competition season look like for one of your 4 or 5 year old horses before the USEA YEH Championships?

“Although I haven’t participated in the YEH Championships for a few years, we would try to give our young horses varied competition experiences before a big event like this. They would hang out at dressage shows, jumping shows, and some events, often not even competing, but just hanging out and working around the competition sites. I don’t do a lot of competition with four-year-old horses, but I try to give each young horse several outings before asking him to perform in competition. This helps to relax them and make outings enjoyable, rather than anxiety-provoking.

What is your process for advancing young horses through levels?

“We take an individual approach to each horse. There is no one road that all of our horses must follow. You can only go as fast as they learn and develop physically, so we have no pre-set idea of ​​how this will go. We just support the process; we don’t force it. Most of the time we focus on the fundamentals of their training and create relaxed outings in competition.

Do you find that the long-term partnerships you have with many of your horses have given you a competitive edge as they have progressed?

“I think there are definite advantages to having horses since they are young. You know them well physically and mentally, and that makes managing them to be happy and perform well a much easier process.

Are there certain traits or attributes that have been consistent among your successful YEH graduates?

“I think, so far, I’ve been attracted to horses that may not be the most talented, but are honest and really try hard. For any horse, I’m not sure you can train to “try”, but you can nurture and support it, and I think these three horses are examples of horses that really want to do well . I tried hard to encourage them and not discourage them as they climbed the grades, with the help of my team and the excellent coaching I received.

If you could give one piece of advice to a young horse trainer, what would it be?

“Work with people who understand horses better than you do.”

About the USEA Young Event Horse Program

The Young Event Horse (YEH) program was established in 2004 as a search for eventing talent. Like similar programs in Europe, the YEH program was designed to identify young horses between the ages of four and five, who possess the talent and disposition to, with proper training, excel at the highest levels of the sport. The ultimate goal of the program is to single out horses with the potential to compete at the four and five star levels, but many fine horses that excel at the lower levels are also featured by the program.

The YEH program provides an opportunity for breeders and owners to show the potential of their young horses while encouraging the breeding and development of the best competition horses for the future. The program rewards horses that are educated and prepared in a correct and progressive way. During the qualifying events, the young people perform a dressage test and a jumping/galloping/general impression phase. During the Championships, young horses are also evaluated on their conformation in addition to the dressage test and the jumping/cantering/general impression phase. Click here to learn more about the Young Event Horse program.

USEA would like to thank Bates Saddles, SmartPak, Standlee Premium Some products, Parker Equine Insurance, capital square, Kerritsand The Jockey Club for sponsoring the Young Event Horse program. In addition, USEA would like to thank The Dutta Company., Title Sponsor of the Young Horse Championships Event.

About the Holekamp/Turner Grant

Founded in 2015 by Timothy and Cheryl Holekamp of New Spring Farm and Christine and TJ Turner of Indian Creek Farm, the Holekamp/Turner Scholarship offers a USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Championship competitor the opportunity to represent the United States at the FEI Events. Breeding World Championships in the 7-year-old CCIYH3*-L championship at the Mondial du Lion in Lion d’Angers, France. For the sole purpose of clearing a clear path for Team USA horses to progress in the sport of eventing, winners who are bred in North America will receive the full cash grant of $17,500, while imported horses will receive $8,000. In addition, The Dutta Corp. offers a prize to the recipient of the Holekamp/Turner scholarship, consisting of a return flight from the eastern United States to Europe.

About Marco C. Nichols

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