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2011 USHJA Emerging Athlete Finals Held in Chicago Area

Lauren Ditallo and "Con" owned by Debbie McIntyre
The 2011 United States Hunter Jumper Asoociation's Emerging Athletes Program National Training Session was hosted by Kimber Ditallo, Laura Stern and Country Ridge Stables in Mundelein, IL from November 17-20 2011 and was sponsored by Dover Saddlery.
The 2011 finals group consisted of 12 riders broken into 3 groups and a team of 6 clinicians.
Chicago area rider Lauren Ditallo was one of the 12 riders to progress to the 2011 finals. Seventeen year old Lauren is from Long Gove, Illinois and trained by Laura Stern.
The clinicians consisted of top riders and horsepersons. Peter Wylde, Gold Medalist at 2004 Athens Olympic Games, was the main clinician. Melanie Smith Taylor, member of the Show Jumping Hall of Fame,was the Judge, Jennifer Alfano, three-time USHJA International Hunter Derby Series Champion, was a Stable Management Clinician, Sally Ike, Team Leader for the FEI Show Jumping World Cup Final Team since 1990, also a Stable Management Clinician and Mindy Bower, third generation horsewoman from Colorado, was the Horsemanship Clinician.
The final clinician was Chicago area Veterinarian, David R Heinze, DVM, PC from Fox Valley Equine Practice in Elburn, Illinois. Dr Heinze is a 1976 graduate of Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine.
The participants of the EAP are selected through an application process during which they provided their experience and involvement in the Hunter/Jumper Industry as well as future goals. Those along with recommendations, outside interests and scholastic achievements were used by the committee members to select a group of riders to participate in one of the Level One EAP training sessions held throughout the country. The level one EAP programs consisted of two days of riding sessions and horsemanship discussions held in 10 zones.  From this pool of participants, selections of riders were invited to continue on to the Level Two EAP Training Session. Theses selections were based upon riding skills, horsemanship skills and potential shown in the level one clinics. Five level two EAP training sessions were held throughout the country. From these five sessions the top 12 were invited to participate in the 2011 Finals.
The EAP National Training Session consisted of four days of riding and horsemanship classes, a written exam, and concluded with a two round Nations Cup competition. 
I caught up with Chicago area rider, Lauren Ditallo, at the end of Day 2 to get her thoughts on the program.
Lauren is currently a freshman at the University of Nevada at Reno. As a working student for professional Julie Winkle, Lauren has a very busy schedule. She takes one day off a week and the rest of the time is spent between classes and taking care of five horses, two of which are her own. 
This is the third year that Lauren has participated in the Emerging Athlete Program. She had nothing but positive thoughts and comments on the program and the clinicians.  When asked if she had any advice for young riders wanting to try out for the EAP, her answer was that the program keeps getting better every year and young riders should 'try it'.  The written exam is hard but if a rider studies hard they will do just fine. This year she used the Trainer Certification Program manual to study for her written exam. The whole program is about learning, wanting to be a better overall horseman and being curious about everything relating to the horse. She really feels that the program and the clinicians have all been very helpful and she feels that she has been able to get her "foot in the door" with respect to professional mentors and relationships. 
The horse that Lauren selected by random draw was 'Con' a 9 year old, 16.2 hh gelding owned by Debbie McIntyre. The riders drew horses on the first day where they were allowed to have the afternoon to get to know the horses that they were assigned for the training session. Lauren said she really like Con that he had a long stride but was very adjustable 
What does the future hold for Lauren? She is studying for her business degree and plans to apply her education to the horse industry.
For additional information on the USHJA Emerging Athletes Program go to