The 2021 LOPE Benefit Horse Show is October 23 →

Starting Gate Program for Future Horsemanship Leaders

“While we teach, we learn.” — Seneca


Horsemanship Gap in Industry

There is a large gap in the horse industry for skilled horsemen and horsewomen. Most major stables are constantly in search of all-around foundation trainers and riders. A young professional who can give a horse a solid grounding in the basics is always in demand.

It’s common in the horse world for trainers to focus on one discipline only. Whether they compete in reining, dressage or jumping, they often become narrowly specialized in order to attract good show results (and thus a steady stream of clients for instruction, training and sales).

there are fewer people who have the horsemanship skills and patience to successfully bring along a green OTTB prospect.

There are fewer people who have the horsemanship skills and patience to successfully bring along a green OTTB prospect.

In the rush to bring a horse to competition or the sale barn, the basics of foundation training are often skimmed over — for the trainers, the horses, the clients and the competitors. The art of basic horsemanship is becoming obscured due to lack of practice in the current market.

Consequence for OTTBs and At-Risk Horses

At the same time, the number of horses who need foundation training is growing — especially in the category of ex-racehorses. Thoroughbreds are relatively inexpensive (compared to imported warmbloods), tremendously athletic and talented. There has been a significant uptick of TBs appearing in show rings, eventing competitions, barrel races and ranch versatility shows. A young competitor on a budget can find wonderful show prospects in the OTTB world at a reasonable price.

Yet there are fewer people who have the horsemanship skills and patience to successfully bring along a green OTTB prospect. Because of that, OTTBs can end up in at-risk situations (via auctions and kill pen sales) — instead of being properly developed over time to become steady show or pleasure mounts.

The Starting Gate Program

To help meet the horsemanship gap (and thus help more at-risk horses), LOPE has launched the Starting Gate scholarship program. The Starting Gate educates promising young equestrians and aspiring horse trainers in foundation horsemanship. In this way, we hope to encourage and support future horsemanship leaders in the professional horse industry.

The best way to help at-risk horses is to help them develop a solid foundation and job skills. By giving talented young riders educational opportunities, our goal is to nurture their budding dedication to horsemanship and influence their future careers in the industry.

Internships and Scholarships

The Starting Gate program gives tailored learning paths to students passionate about horsemanship via internships and scholarships. Junior Internships are available for promising teenage equestrians. Horsemanship Scholar spots are awarded to aspiring young trainers.


Junior Internships

Junior Internships are offered to teenage equestrians who have demonstrated a serious commitment to horsemanship, equitation and stewardship. The internships are custom designed to meet the specific needs of each young student. Junior interns will work a set number of hours per month at LOPE. In exchange, they will receive lessons on retraining OTTBs, riding/showing opportunities with LOPE horses, scholarships for clinics/schooling shows and ongoing interaction with professionals in the horse industry. Internships are by invitation only at this time.

If you are interested in learning more (or have a teen you would like to nominate for consideration), please contact LOPE.


Horsemanship Scholars

Horsemanship Scholar spots are awarded to aspiring trainers with specific skills in colt starting and vaquero horsemanship. They are shorter in duration than the Junior Internships. In exchange for training assistance with the LOPE horses, Horsemanship Scholars will receive opportunities to attend clinics with top horsemen and teachers. In addition, LOPE will provide a blog platform for the Horsemanship Scholars to share their training progress with the LOPE horses. In addition, LOPE will be raising funds to launch a 2018 Horsemanship Scholar spot that would include a longer-term commitment and a small stipend.

Scholar spots are available by invitation only at this time.

Austin Equine Hospital Schleese
Paddock Foundation American Association of Equine Technicians and Assistants Sam Houston Race Park
Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance The Ranch Broker Moose Pants Studio
Thoroughbred Charities of America Scissortail Hill Equestrian Secretariat Foundation
Treaty Oak Equine Express