IRELAND’S Rhys Williams and Seamus Hughes Kennedy have been selected for the highly competitive Young Riders Academy 2024.

The YRA programme has been developed by Athenaeum under the patronage of the European Equestrian Federation, with the cooperation of the International Jumping Riders Club and the support of Rolex. The Athenaeum is a non-profit association that was established in 2014 by a team of professionals and equestrian institution representatives, who shared a common passion for horses.

Its key mission is to run the YRA, a unique programme that provides brilliant young show jumpers with the opportunity to receive world-class training and education in a supportive and nurturing environment.

The programme goes beyond just training, offering senior education on key topics, such as veterinary care, business and economics, communication and legal aspects. Through this initiative, the working group aims to provide equestrian athletes with the tools and resources they need to take control of their careers and reach their full potential.

Eighteen young riders representing 12 countries showcased their skills in both flatwork and jumping courses during the selection process earlier this month, all under the attentive eyes of four outstanding champions and professionals in the sport: Otto Becker, Jean Maurice Bonneau, Jeroen Dubbeldam and Emile Hendrix. Following a careful evaluation of all applicants’ attitude, motivation and technical abilities, the selection panel, along with the YRA Board, announced the official Young Riders Academy Team 2024 this week.

Out of these participants, seven riders have been nominated for the Full Programme team, namely Jenny Krogsaeter from Norway, Oliver Fletcher from the UK, Mathieu Bourdeaud’hui from Belgium, Rhys Williams from Ireland, Max Haunhorst from Germany, Iris Michels from the Netherlands and Jules Van Hoydonck from Belgium.

Additionally, two talented riders have been selected for the Educational Programme team: Mel Thijssen from the Netherlands and Seamus Hughes Kennedy from Ireland.

“It is everything I have ever dreamed of since I’ve been young, and I am more than ready to put my best foot forward,” said Rhys Williams.

“Seeing the world-class riders that have graduated from the academy, like Richard Vogel, Bertram Allen, Micheal Duffy, Harry Charles and Jack Whitaker, make me want to follow in their footsteps.”

The professional training group for 2024, will involve Olympic riders and Olympic champions, Jos Lansink, Franke Sloothaak, Marco Kutscher, Schröder’s brothers, Rob Ehrens, Jens Fredricson and Rolf Goran Bengtsson.

The programme will officially kick off with the first sporting event, which will be the clinic with Franke Sloothaak scheduled for mid-April at Peelbergen Equestrian Centre. The education programme, coordinated by project manager Valentina Ottaviani, will be launched in June at Franklin University Switzerland in Lugano, followed by additional sessions at Uppsala University in Sweden, FEI in Lausanne and Rolex Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.