Jacob Pope is a young rider from Maryland who won the United States Hunter Jumper Association’s Emerging Athletes Program (EAP) Finals in November 2011. Each year hundreds of young riders apply to the program hoping to further their education in both riding and horsemanship.
In 2011, 12 EAP finalists competed to win two spots at the George Morris Horsemastership Training Sessions held in January 2012 in Wellington, Fla. By finishing as the top rider, Jacob also earned a $3,000 training grant and a $1,500 gift certificate to Dover Saddlery!
In order to make it to the finals, held at Country Ridge Stables, Mundelein, Ill., 16-year-old Jacob had to attend local training sessions (EAP Levels One and Two) where his riding skills and horse care knowledge were judged. He also had answer questions about his showing experiences, his scholastic achievements and his future goals in the horse world.
The 12 finalists rode loaned horses at the 4-day event and they cared for their borrowed mounts as well. Jacob and the other young riders were judged on their stable management skills and their performance in flatwork and jumping sessions. They also had to take a written exam.
On the last day of the finals, the riders had to jump around a Nations Cup-format competition—meaning they rode in teams of four--over a two 3’6” courses as the judges watched. At the end of the finals, Jacob was named the winner.
Young Rider asked Jacob some questions about his horsey life and the EAP experience:
YR: When did you start riding? Did you ride ponies first?
JP: I took my first riding lesson when I was 6 years old, but I lived around horses my whole life. I rode ponies first. I learned to ride on a large pony and later, when I started entering Short Stirrup classes, I rode a small and moved up to the childrens’ ponies, and then the regulars and greens.
YR: Did you have your own horse or did you ride lesson horses?
JP: I rode lesson horses, but I had horses at home that I could practice on too.
YR: Do you have your own horse now or do you ride your trainer’s horses?
JP: Right now, I own two horses, a Thoroughbred, and a mini. They are mainly pets though. So when I show, I mainly just catch ride and ride my trainers’ horses.
YR: Did you ride your own horse in the regional training sessions?
JP: At EAP Level 1, I rode one of my trainer’s horses. He is one of my favorite horses, but the first day of the training session, he was a bit of a handful, but by the second day, he had improved quite a bit. Then at EAP Level 2, I borrowed a horse that was also a bit fresh the first day, but ended up being fantastic by second day and end of the clinic.
YR: What’s your favorite chore at the barn? Least fave?
JP: My favorite barn chore would have to be any type of cleaning, actually. I love keeping things clean and organized because I think that if things are looking professional, I will then ride well and ultimately the horses will feel better with clean tack, a clean environment, and a clean, healthy coat. My least favorite would be emptying and filling water buckets.
YR: What’s your favorite equestrian activity?
JP: I love hacking and exercising horses out in the field. I love being out in the open with the horse and letting him have some fun outside of the ring.
YR: What was it like riding a horse at the EAP Finals that you’d never ridden before? What was Private Prospect like to ride?
JP: I honestly am kind of used to just getting on a horse and going. As I don’t own any of the horses that I show, I’m pretty used to riding whatever horse is available. Private Prospect or "Keaton” was fantastic. He has amazing flatwork, which always makes things easier. He was very relaxed and overall did not do anything that made him tough to ride or work with on the ground. He was an overall great ride.
YR: Do you plan to go to college?
JP: I do absolutely plan to go to college and whether or not I plan on participating in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, I will for sure ride in college.
YR: What would you like to do after college?
JP: Ultimately, I would like to be a successful trainer with a string of great show horses and riders. Being a large animal vet would be a great career to have too, and I think I would really enjoy it!
If you’d like to participate in the EAP, learn more about it on the United States Hunter Jumper Association’s website at www.ushja.org.