Trot Away with New Ideas from the First Ever West Coast Young Event Horse Seminar

The East Coast seems to have the lion’s share of top-level rider and horse names, as much of the equestrian events and National Eventing news tends to come from there . . . but West Coast riders, horses and events have sure been making a name for themselves in the last decade. In fact, we’re becoming known as “The BEST Coast”.

So it’s just fitting that the first ever West Coast Young Event Horse Seminar is coming to the famed Twin Rivers Ranch in San Miguel, right here, in SLO County. Yes, that’s exactly what will happen on Wednesday, April 11 and Thursday April 12, 2018.  The Young Event Horse (YEH) Seminar is open to anyone interested in attending (you must pay a registration fee though).

All Equestrians Will Trot Away with New Ideas

“All equestrians will trot away with a good handle on the new Young Event Horse requirements, along with ideas and standards to bring back to breed and discipline associations looking to improve horse, rider and show standards for their respective interests.”

A full host of top-level United States Equestrian Association (USEA) experienced riders, judges and event organizers will be bringing their expertise to share with attendees of the First Annual USEA West Coast Young Event Horse Seminar. All equestrians will trot away with a good handle on the new Young Event Horse requirements, along with ideas and standards to bring back to breed and discipline associations looking to improve horse, rider and show standards for their respective interests.

All equestrians involved with jumping will enjoy Daniel Zilla, a renowned Grand Prix Jumper rider & trainer from Branscomb Farm in Half Moon Bay, CA as he speaks on Judging the Jumping phase.

Young Event Horse Schedule of Events at Twin Rivers Ranch, San Miguel, CA

Wednesday, April 11 | 4:00 – 7:30pm Panel Discussion

Topics discussed: Judging of Conformation, Dressage, Jumping, and the Gallop as all aspects pertain to the USEA Young Event Horse qualifying competitions and the Championships. The new YEH scoring system will be highlighted and a Q&A session will follow each topic.

The Wednesday session will be followed by a wine pouring by the Dubost Winery along with hors d’oevres.

Thursday, April 12 | 9:00 am – 1:00 pm Practice Judging Sessions

Practice judging sessions, with horses and riders, will introduce attendees to the new scoring system, judging the dressage, conformation, and jumping/gallop phases, as well as tips for organizers, competitors, and all others involved in YEH competitions. The judging sessions will be followed by discussions of scores given.

A complete description of the scoring and judging of a Young Event Horse can be found in this USEA Guidelines for Judging and Scoring < article.

Young Event Horse Seminar Panelists:

The West Coast Young Event Horse Seminar is packed with power from these top-level US riders, clinicians, managers and judges.

Gretchen Butts, MD – an active participant in Eventing. She is the Waredaca Horse Trials organizer where Young Event Horse competitions have been offered since the program’s inception in 2004. Gretchen is a YEH Judge, a National “S” and 3*** and 4**** star FEI judge, plus is a Technical Delegate. She has competed through the FEI 4**** star level.

Bea DiGrazia – a California based Eventing rider and trainer. She and her husband Derek operated Stillwater Farm where they ride and train horses for Eventing, Hunter/Jumper and Dressage. Bea has competed at top events here in America and abroad. Among the list are: Badminton, Burghley, Rolex, Lumuhlen, and Boekelo. Bea is a “R” Event judge and is certified by the USEA to judge both FEH and YEH competitions. She judged the YEH Championships in 2014 and 2015 and is the co-organizer of this event.

Loris Henry – past President of the United States Eventing Association. Loris is a Dressage competitor and trainer. She is a “S” Dressage judge and an “S” Event judge and a retired 3***and 4**** star Event judge. She is a member of the USEA YEH Committee, along with being a judge for both FEH and YEH.

Mark Weissbecker – an East Coast based internationally successful Eventer. Mark manages two farms: Birch Hill Farm in MA and Winter Brook Farm in NC where he rides and trains horses and riders in Eventing. He also develops prospects for other disciplines including Dressage and Hunter/Jumper. Mark is a graduate “A” Pony Clubber, “r” Dressage judge, “R” Eventing judge and a member of the USEF Selection committee for Eventing. He judged the 2017 YEH Championships.

Karen Winn – Kentucky based Eventing participant. Karen was deeply involved with the American Hanoverian Society, US Pony Clubs, and the Thoroughbred breeding and racing industry. She is an “S” Eventing judge and Technical Delegate, a 3*** and 4**** star FEI Eventing judge, a level 2 FEI Eventing Steward, a “R” Dressage judge and a FEH & YEH judge, and is a member of the USEA young event horse committee.

Daniel Zilla – Farm manager and head trainer at Branscomb Farm in Half Moon Bay, California. Daniel breeds, raises and trains horses for jumping and Dressage with pure German Verband approved pedigrees. Daniel is a recognized specialist in starting young jumpers, competes regularly at the Grand Prix level and is a regular clinician in the USEF Young Jumper development program. The 2010 North American licensing champion stallion Contiano BF and the 2011 reserve Champion stallion Chicardo were both trained and competed by Daniel.

Judy Wardrope – Performance horse researcher for nearly 30 years. Judy has studied both the top performing horses as well as some not as fortunate and sport and racing to determine what separates the best from the rest. She has amassed research on the pedigrees of top performance horses and analyzed the functional aspects of Equine conformation. A notebook which she prepared specifically for the seminar will be available for purchase. For more info on Judy, her research books and clinics, go her website JWEquine.

Wendy Wergeles – based at Cottonwood Ranch in Los Alamos, California. Wendy teaches and trains horses and riders for Eventing, Dressage, Hunter/Jumper and Fox Hunting. She holds her “r” Eventing judge and “S” Technical Delegate licenses, is certified as an FEH/YEH judge and is a USEA-ICP level III instructor. She has been the organizer and co-organizer of several Horse Trials in the Western US, created The Event Derby® series of competitions, and the Elite Event Horse Auction. She the co-organizer of this YEH seminar.

Program Success Story

Fleeceworks Royal “Rory” is a product of the USEA Young Event Horse Program here on the West Coast. Rory won the USEA West Coast YEH Championships 2014 as a 5-year old then qualified for the Holekamp Grant for the 7 yr. old YEH World Championships. This mare and her rider Tamie Smith continue to shine in the US event world. Fleeceworks Royal was bred in California by Charlotte Wrather.

“I can say it is an amazing experience being a part of this journey. We do plan on breeding Rory. We are looking to find the right stallion,” says owner Judith McSwain.

Several YEH Program Changes

One focus of the YEH Seminar is to cover the program changes for 2018. Here is a list of the major changes:

  • New, Shorter Dressage Tests
  • No Conformation at Qualifiers
  • No Bye Year for Mares
  • New Scoring System

What is the Young Event Horse Program?

The Young Event Horse (YEH) Program was first established in 2004 as an eventing talent search. Much like similar programs in Europe, the YEH program was designed to identify young horses that possess the talent and disposition to, with proper training, excel at the uppermost levels of the sport. The ultimate goal of the program is to distinguish horses with the potential to compete at the three- and four-star levels, but many fine horses that excel at the lower levels are also showcased by the program.

The YEH program provides an opportunity for breeders and owners to exhibit the potential of their young horses while encouraging the breeding and development of top event horses for the future. The program rewards horses who are educated and prepared in a correct and progressive manner. At qualifying events, youngsters complete a dressage test and a jumping/galloping/general impression phase. At Championships, young horses are also evaluated on their conformation in addition to the dressage test and jumping/galloping/general impression phase. Click here to view the jumping standards and specifications.

The USEA would like to thank SmartPakStandlee Hay CompanyProfessional’s Choice, and Merck Animal Health for sponsoring the Young Event Horse program.

Get in on the Action

Registration for the seminar is $45 for current USEA members and $50 for USEA non-members. To register for the seminar, please click here.

The USEA would like to thank Bea DiGrazia and Wendy Wergeles for organizing this seminar! For more information, please contact one of them at or

Cover photo: Fleeceworks Royal and rider Tamie Smith. Photo courtesy of Judith McSwain, owner.

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