USHJA Gold Star Clinic – West Exceeds Expectations

Above: Chef d’Equipe Rich Fellers with Richard Spooner and the winning team of Alyce Bittar, Clea Caddell and Maud Christal. Credit: Kristin Rover/USHJA


Thermal, Calif. — Jan. 23, 2018 — After three days of intensive flatwork, gymnastics and jumping exercises, along with numerous unmounted educational sessions and stable management work, riders at the USHJA Gold Star Clinic – West put what they learned all week to the test in the final day’s modified Nations Cup competition at HITS Desert Horse Park Jan. 21 in Thermal, California. Chef d’Equipe Rich Fellers’ team of Alyce Bittar, 16, Clea Caddell, 12, and Maud Christal, 12, came out on top with a total of 8 faults.   

The team of Kate Abajian, 17, Amelie Bittar, 13,  and Dylan Laiken, 13, led by Chef d’Equipe Will Simpson took second place. Finishing in third place were Amelia Enzminger, 16, Sydney Luzicka, 16,  and Jerra Mays, 22, led by Chef d’Equipe Kirsten Coe.

While the atmosphere was competitive, day four of the clinic was also a learning opportunity for riders, who were able to hear from Lead Clinician Richard Spooner after each of their rounds.

“I learned a lot about horsemanship and riding these four days, things I never thought I would learn,” Maud Christal of Santa Barbara, California, said. “The gymnastics and the flat helped a lot today in my course. And today was a great experience.”

Alyce Bittar of Los Angeles, California, said she used the bending and collection techniques she learned in the flatwork and gymnastics exercises in her course on the final day.

“I thought it was really good preparation the first few days,” Alyce Bittar said. “When I used it in my round, it helped a lot. It got me in the zone for the last day.”

Lead Clinician Richard Spooner was able to see the improvement in all of the riders over the course of the clinic and was excited about the riders’ dedication and willingness to not just to make improvements in the ring, but also to become better horsemen and horsewomen.

USHJA Gold Star Clinic – West participants, the Chefs d’Equipe, and Lead Clinician Richard Spooner. Credit: Kristin Rover/USHJA

“The program is special for these young riders. To have this opportunity, it’s absolutely exceptional,” Spooner said. “To get to meet with the vet, the farrier, the mental coach, all aspects of the sport, I think it broadens their horizons.

“I think this program has to continue because of the impact that I’ve seen on these young riders. That is what we should be doing this for. To try not to just train, but to invigorate.”

Richard Spooner provides expert guidance to clinic participants. Credit: Kristin Rover/USHJA

Supporting clinicians at the clinic were equestrian mental skills coach Tonya Johnston; Marketing4Equestrians / Chicago Equestrian’s Brenda Mueller, who talked with riders about navigating the media; USEF High Performance Team Veterinarian Dr. Geoff Vernon; high performance athlete Kirsten Coe, who did a flatwork demonstration for riders; high performance athletes Rich Fellers and Will Simpson, who helped lead an educational round table discussion with Coe and Spooner; high performance farrier Bill Liggett ;and FEI Course Designer Martin Otto.

DiAnn Langer, a member of the USHJA Emerging Jumper Task Force and USEF Youth Chef d’Equipe, was pleased with how the clinic turned out. 

“The enthusiasm was contagious amongst everyone that was there, professionals watching, people who happened by. The clinicians were fabulous with information they were so willing to share. Every single athlete absolutely felt they walked away with something they didn’t know before. They walked away with more knowledge than they started with and that is what the program was designed to do.”

The USHJA Emerging Jumper Rider Gold Star Clinics are part of the USHJA Emerging Jumper Rider Program, launched in 2017 in conjunction with the USHJA Zone Jumper Team Championships. The program is designed to identify jumper athletes who have the skill and desire to excel in the sport. Individual medalists from the USHJA Zone Jumper Team Championships received the designation of Gold Star Emerging Jumper Riders, regardless of age, and were invited, along with their coaches and parents, to attend one of the clinics. Twenty-three athletes participated in the four-day session in Thermal. 

“I think it is wonderful to have this opportunity for the lower level jumpers,” Clea Caddell of Carmel, California, said about the Emerging Jumper Rider Program. “I just think it’s a great opportunity to bring in great talent. Coming here it was an educational experience, but I think everyone had a lot of fun too. I think everyone took away a lot of horsemanship and stable management. It was a very valuable experience.” 

The USHJA Zone Jumper Team Championships are offered at 1.10/1.15m, 1.20/1.25m and 1.30/1.35m and provide riders with a competitive team experience and an opportunity to earn Zone Horse of the Year points in their respective jumper sections. The Championships are held by zone and consist of both team and individual competition. Applications are currently open at 

The USHJA Emerging Jumper Rider Program serves as the entry point for the Show Jumping Athlete Pathway, a joint USHJA-US Equestrian effort that identifies and nurtures jumping athletes as they advance through the sport to enhance future success for Olympic and international teams representing the United States.

USHJA extends special thanks to the following individuals and organizations helping make these clinics possible: Desert Horse Park, George’s Jumps, Jim Brandon Equestrian Center, LEGISequine, Omaha Equestrian Foundation, The Ridge, Mike Schultz, Tom Struzzieri, and the USHJA Foundation. 

This program was developed and is led by the dedicated volunteers of the USHJA Emerging Jumper Rider Task Force: Larry Langer, chair, Diane Carney, Missy Clark, David Distler, Marnye Langer, DiAnn Langer and Jimmy Torano. USHJA also thanks high performance athletes Kirsten Coe, Rich Fellers, and Will Simpson who generously donated their time to help support the future of Show Jumping throughout the clinic.

The Gold Star Clinics are available on demand at USHJA members are eligible for a 50 percent discount on their subscription.

Learn more about the Zone Jumper Team Championships and apply for 2018 at Learn more about the Emerging Jumper Rider Program at