The MARS Bromont Rising U-25 program is growing in geography and scope

Participant Taylor McFall, right, and Bettina Hoy, with the Dragonfire Farm team on the ground, and Hawley Bennett-Awad, left.

“Keep your head up. You should watch where you’re going!”

Sometimes it’s the little things that make the big difference. Enjoy the commentary above from three-time German Olympian Bettina Hoy and 23-year-old American Sophie Click as they took to the CCI4*-L cross-country course at Galway Downs International.

Bettina was the guest coach for the MARS Bromont Rising U-25 scholarship program when she made her West Coast debut at this event in early November in Southern California. Sophie was one of five riders selected to receive coaching from Bettina before and throughout the competition, a ‘Centerline’ session with Ground Jury President and three-time Olympian Peter Gray and inspirational guidance from the sports supporter and supporter Jim Wildasin.

A scholarship of up to $2,500 iced the cake for Sophie and four other selected participants: Americans Taylor McFall, Julia Beauchamp-Crandon and Reece Blinks and Canadian Anna Rekrutiak, all CCI2*-L riders.

Sophie continued a run of bad times on Clayton Fredericks’ demanding 4*-L track and finished 6th in the CCI3*-L.

Having participated in other youth programs, Sophie was grateful for the unique combination of training, encouragement and cash provided by MARS Bromont. “It was a huge benefit,” Sophie said at the end of the competition.

Participant Sophie Click and Tarantino

“Of course the money is great, and so are the workshops. Learning from a field judge about dressage trials was very helpful and I like what Jim (Wildasin) said. Bettina is so knowledgeable. I learned so much from her, including that little tip while driving across the country. It may sound silly. I was walking down the course looking down at my feet, and when she told me to look up, I realized, “Yes. I probably should!’”

“Bettina is the best,” said Taylor McFall, the 19-year-old who finished as reserve champion in the CCI2*-L. She was “delighted at the opportunity to work with a world-class rider like Bettina. Working with people like her is how you get better.”

Early influence

“This program is such a good idea,” Bettina said of the goal of impacting riders at key stages of their competitive progression. “It’s great to start influencing them in a positive way at this stage in their career, not just when they’re further along in the process.”

Bettina clarified that her role at Galway Downs was to work alongside the riders’ trainers rather than imposing her ideas. “I just want to explain my ideas as I would to my students. Hopefully the riders and their coaches back home get something out of it.

“After all, we all speak the same language. We want safe sport, good riding and nice, happy horses.”

Bettina trains riders all over the world and started the MARS Bromont riders as she does all her students: “I always start with the basic principle of using diagonal aids: the inside of the leg to the outside rein, the control and positioning of the outside. shoulder. The next is to have sympathetic hands: using your core or seat, then your leg, then your hand, and using your hand to help your horse, to show them the way.”

In a pre-show lesson, Bettina used a walking foot yield to animate these concepts. “Going slower gives you time to think about your aids, make corrections and feel the result when you apply the diagonal aids correctly.

“These are lessons you have to apply all the time: Every time you start a movement in dressage, every time you go through a turn in jumping and out in cross country, you have to be able to turn that outside shoulder. .”

Reflecting after the participants completed the dressage and cross country, Bettina was pleased to see that most were putting these concepts into practice.

Bettina suggested adding a team component to the MARS Bromont program. “In Europe, it’s a lot easier because we have all kinds of team events for ponies, young riders and juniors, so by the time they’re 14 or 15, they’ve had a lot of experience riding in a team.”

L-R, top row, Peter Gray, Sophie Click, Anna Rekrutiak, Jim Wildasin L-R, bottom row, Taylor McFall, Reece Blinks and Julia Beauchamp-Crandon

Known in the central line

Program director Peter Gray likes the idea of ​​teaming up for the future. At Galway Downs, he was pleased to see the progress of the participants. “I was very pleased with their results. I hadn’t met any of the kids before and to see them do so well in person was fantastic.

” I’d like to think that Bettina added to their competitiveness here. They were all doing well before, of course, but even if this program just helped them with the confidence to have someone of Bettina’s stature say, “Yes, you’re on the right track,” and offer some ideas and ways of thinking about things, that’s great.”

Peter’s Centerline sessions try to break down what he calls the “rider-judge communication barrier”.

“When I went down my first Olympic center line (in 1980), I thought I knew what the judges were looking for. But like many riders, I really didn’t. In my time there was never any interaction between the judges and the riders. For the last 10 years, I’d like to think we’ve been working on it.”

Common advice included making the most of your warm-up time before taking the field. “We don’t judge, but as we sit there waiting for the bell, we watch and notice, even if subconsciously. We might think, ‘Oh, that’ll be good!'”

Use this time to show your horse’s strengths, Peter told the participants. “If your horse has a poor gait, then don’t go during this time.”

He suggested going against the wisdom of conventional coaches to go deep into the corners. “The deeper you go into the corner, the more balance the horse has. As a judge, I’ve seen people slow down so they can go deep into the corner. I’ll give more marks to the larger trot that shows suppleness by bending through the corner without going that deep.

“It’s quite fun for me to share my perspective as a pilot and more recently as a judge. The bottom line behind all my judgment is “happy horse equals a happy judge”. If you show that happy horse, that freedom in the gait – not restriction – you’ll get good marks.”

Sports advocate and event parent Jim Wildasin kicked off the MARS Bromont workshops by talking about developing the character traits needed for long-term success in the sport.

Among his tips:

  • Give back to sport
  • Build on the progressive “It gets worse!”
  • Learn to ride well: Be a student of the sport.

The program is evolving

The MARS Bromont Rising U-25 effort was launched in 2019 by Bromont Horse Trials organizer Sue Ockendon and the late Steve Blauner “to recognize and support youth in this sport, the future of eventing in North America.”

After a two-year hiatus during the pandemic, the program returned to the MARS Bromont CCI in Quebec, Canada last June, then added the Galway Downs International with the enthusiastic support of organizer Robert Kellerhouse.

In 2023, program eligibility will increase to 30 years, Peter reports. The goal of helping talented riders advance in riding and competitive success remains the same. MARS Bromont and Galway Downs CCIs will once again host scholarship and education opportunities, and there is talk of adding a third competition, he notes.

To apply for the program at existing locations visit or For more information, email Program Director Peter Gray at [email protected]

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