The successful YRA Jumping Forum at Le Cadre Noir de Saumur with Franke Sloothaak and Pippa Funnell

Lugano, November 21st, 2022

It has been a long time since Eleonora Ottaviani, the YRA Board and Jean Maurice Bonneau thought it would have been interesting one day to organize a masterclass with young talents in the Grand Manège de Saumur and to share the experiences with equestrian stakeholders. From trainers to owners, riders, and fans.

Together with IFCE ( Institut Français du Cheval et de l’Equitation) YRA discussed the project already few years ago. However, some adversities, mainly due to the pandemic, forced them to delay the plan. Finally, this November was the perfect time, and last week the dream came true.

“What characterizes Young Riders Academy is the commitment to combine high-level technique and equestrian culture with information and experiences that leads to consideration on both personal development and professional riding” remarked Eleonora Ottaviani. “We strongly believe in the importance for young riders to rediscover roots and tradition of our equestrian history, and this is, certainly, the leading aim for integrating in the program, training activities in equestrian historical places such as Strömsholm in Sweden, and the Cadre Noir de Saumur, where YRA organizes several study sessions”.


During last week, YRA team 2022 has lived an intense journey facing challenging trainings with Franke, Pippa, and IFCE team, who had the chance to technically test different scientific systems on riders ‘posture. The result followed-on in an assessment on the different methods and positions - German vs UK - where balance resulted to be the crucial performance element. “Although they are topics that we well know, certain exercises on balance have been really enlightening” commented Joseph Stockdale ; “it has been a truly incredible experience” added Sofia Manzetti.

“Conversations and experiences of young talents with great champions are another important part of YRA program, where discussions and insights between those talents and champions of different disciplines are even more inspiring and enriching” explains Ottaviani “Franke Sloothaak is an incredible trainer and a philosopher;  Pippa Funnell is a rider with great technical skills and deep empathy and humanity. Indeed, an interesting combination! “.

“To begin, I really want to underline that I felt privileged to be here at Le Cadre Noir sharing the floor with a champion like Franke; he was also my hero when I was a child” stated Pippa Funnell. “I would also like to point out that, if I have done my job well, young talents and everyone present should bring home at least one concept, which is fundamental to me. It is not about forces; it is about relationships. It is about repeating and rewarding; we must listen to our horses and be aware on how they communicate. It could even make the difference between winning and finishing second”; affirmed Funnell.

“It has also been impressive how those IFCE horses, which worked with YRA riders under Pippa and Franke advice, well improved along the way on the different exercises” commented Jean Maurice Bonneau.

At the end of three powerful days of conversations and trainings, the closing momentum had been the round table with several experienced equestrian players as Kévin Staut, Edward Levy, Nicolas Blondeau, Lieutenant-Colonel Thibaut Vallette, Grégory Bodo, Stephan Montavon, on topics as evolution of equestrian sports and well-being of the horse. Subjects which opened great discussions and confirmed that even at the highest level, the welfare of the horse will always be imperative.

And finally, it was Kevin Staut task to share the take home message with young talents: "always consider respect and well-being as essential elements for your horses to ensure them a long career in the sport".

The young Riders Academy is a program conceived for European talented young show jumpers with the cooperation of the International Jumping Riders Club (IJRC) and the support of Rolex since its first edition. Founded in 2014 by Athenaeum, a non-profit association, the program will give talented riders between the ages of 18 and 23 the chance to live and train for several months at an international professional stable. On top of it, professional education in business and economics, management, communication, veterinary and legal practice related to show jumping. The goal is to grow future champions as well as potential managers of this sport. YRA team 2022: Zoe Osterhoff, Philipp Schultze Topphof, Joe Stockdale, Conor MacMahon, Sofia Manzetti, Alexander Housen, Gaj Riossa, Gilles Muller, Joana Schildknecht, Ignacio Astolfi.

Franke Sloothaak comments on balance exercises

Pippa Funnell about Horsemanship

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Photos: On the horse Joseph Stockdale, 23 years old, who was a member of the British Team that won the bronze medal at the Herning World Championships / Pippa Funnell  with the young Swiss rider Gilles Müller (Credit: YRA Fabio Petroni)