Five regional foundation squads, aiming to produce a pool of up-and-coming talented riders, are being launched across England.

The squads have been set up through funding from Sport England and are being co-ordinated by the British Equestrian Federation (BEF).

They will comprise dressage, eventing, show jumping and paradressage.

The BEF hopes the squads will identify talented riders not currently on its World Class programme.

BEF head of regional development, Maggie Still, said the new squads will sit just below the World Class development programmes.

Eight riders from each discipline, aged between 16 and 24, will be selected in five regions: the north, East Midlands, West Midlands, south-east — including London — and south-west.

The squads are being developed between British Dressage (BD), British Eventing and the British Show Jumping Association.

They will provide selected riders with access to top equestrian specialists including coaches, physiotherapists, psychologists, nutritionists and vets via a series of clinics.

Ms Still added: “The financial support received from Sport England will allow this stepping stone to be put into place at regional level.

“We hope extra support will make selection on to the World Class programmes more achievable for talented performers.

“The idea is to develop a pool of regional talent to support the strength of our equestrian Olympic and Paralympic squads in years to come.

“We are looking for exceptionally talented riders — so strong judging criteria will apply.”

BD chief executive Amanda Bond said: “We are really excited by the new foundation squads as they will allow many more riders to benefit from training and support.”

Riders can now apply to be part of the first regional foundation squad — for the north (until 29 May).

Subsequent regional squads will open from August.

• Application forms and the selection policy document can be found at www.bef.co.uk

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (30 April, ’09)