Monthly Editorials
May 2020 - Editor's Notes
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Wednesday, 29 April 2020 05:25

editors

It’s hard not to be anxious and/or glum over the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the continuing event cancellations and many owners being unable to spend time with their horses. While the impact on the equestrian world pales in comparison to the virus’ impact on those who are fighting to protect their own and others’ lives, it’s understandable to have trouble seeing any good news. As much as I value staying abreast of the news, I also know that balancing the bad with good is always important, even when it’s a little harder to find.

 


Many of this issue’s articles helped sustain my spirits this past month. I hope they do the same for you!

 

Thanks to Pam Duffy for sharing that she taps Anais Nin’s “Life shrinks and expands in proportion to one’s courage” message as her modus operandi for Sunsprite Ranch’s future. She is a very inspiring person and horse woman and I am excited to watch her horses do their spectacular thing for many years into the future.

Thanks to Stanford’s Vanessa Bartsch for suggesting an article on Andrea Cao, the freshman team rider who vaulted to fame on Shark Tank as a 13-year-old entrepreneur. The Central California horsewoman is now mindfully managing the steady growth of Andrea Equine and continuing to work with BLM Mustangs and young horses.

Thanks to eventer Lauren Billys for sharing what it’s like to have earned a spot in the Tokyo Olympics that are now pushed back to 2021. To Susan Ighani for sharing what it’s like to relocate a 20-horse program amid shelter-in-place realities and to our delightful columnist Nan Meek for sharing what it’s really like keeping a horse a home, a dream for many of us, perhaps even more these days.

Thanks, too, to Darby Bonomi, PhD, and Marnye Langer for their wise, helpful perspectives to help us all get through.

My biggest uplift in reporting for this issue was to find there is actually good news interwoven in the virus’ impact on horses newly in need of new homes. Unlike the situation during the Great Recession that started in 2008, now there is more promotion of and support for moving horses out of shelters and into permanent homes.

Don’t get me wrong: the pandemic is hitting horses hard, but the ASPCA’s Dr. Emily Weiss explained that welfare organizations are setting aside past differences to unite in promoting “horses in transition” rather than “unwanted horses.” It’s a concept that worked really well in the small animal adoption world, and there is hope it will help horses, too. Please read about The Right Horse initiative on page 10, and visit www.MyRightHorse.org and see if you can help. Even if you can’t foster or adopt at the moment, pick a special horse and share them on your social channels. Maybe someone in your circle can.
Thanks to all of those working hard to help humans and horses during these difficult days.

Happy reading and riding. For those who can ride and visit your horse, extra hugs for the rest of us, please!!

Kim F Miller, Editor

ADOPT ME!

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He stands 16.1 hands high and has been trained to ride trail under saddle.

He is 14 years old and sold for $27,000 in 2007, racing only once.

Looking for a loving intermediate riding home for life.

Adoption fee is $800.

See Diamonte on our adoption page at www.falconridgerescue.org.

 
May 2020 - Dressage News & Views
Written by by Nan Meek
Wednesday, 29 April 2020 00:26

dressage news

Great expectations: change is afoot at Toyon Farm.

by Nan Meek

It’s been a busy few months for the Bonavito family and Sabine Schut-Kery. In November 2019, the Bonavitos purchased Toyon Farm in Napa, and have been following “stay in place” orders during the COVID-19 crisis with three generations of their family, as well as their horses. In May, Sabine is moving to Toyon Farm.

 


Toyon Farm was previously owned by Camille and Edward Penhoet, longtime supporters of dressage in California. Camille, who grew up in the Carmel area and was a competitive dressage rider for many years, and her husband bought Toyon in the 1980s and renovated the original facilities into a jewel of a private equestrian facility set among rolling vineyards.

 

Today Toyon Farm is the new home of the Bonavito family and their horses, along with a handful of longtime boarders, and is managed by Gera Slijkoord, who was the Penhoets’ manager, as well.

The Bonavitos, and especially daughter Danielle, have been part of the northern California dressage community for many years. As a kid, Danielle Bonavito trained with Carolyn Adams at Yarra Yarra Ranch in Pleasanton, just down the road from her parents’ private farm in Danville. “Carolyn taught me on my first pony, Kirov,” Danielle recalled. “She also trained me on my first horse Quincey (Against All Odds) who we bought from Courtenay Fraser in Canada.”

Later, Danielle trained with Katrin and Dirk Glitz at her parents’ farm, and Katrin coached her through her junior and young rider years. In 2014, Danielle played a key role in the combined USDF Region 6/7 dressage team winning the bronze medal at the Adequan/FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships at the Kentucky Horse Park.

“When I was ready to make some changes in my riding and training, Anke Herbert and Alix Curry introduced me to Sabine who they thought would be a good match for me and my horses. I was lucky to be accepted into her program,” Danielle remarked. “Plus, I was able to transfer colleges to one that was only 20 minutes from Sabine’s location at El Campeon Farms.”

Retirees To Olympic Hopefuls

Today, Danielle has her three competition horses at Toyon, along with three of the family’s retired horses, which include her Young Riders horse, her sister’s first horse, and her dad’s horse. “Toyon is the perfect home for all of them,” she said. The retired horses will live out their lives in comfort, while Danielle and her competition horses will continue to be coached by Sabine at home and at competitions.

Danielle vividly remembered the moment she saw that farm-for-sale ad. “I showed the ad to my mom,” Danielle recalled, “and she thought the property was beautiful.” What mother wouldn’t fantasize about luring her dressage-obsessed daughter back home from Southern California with a wonderful place like Toyon for her to live and train her horses?

The only issue for Danielle was a big one: Her coach Sabine Schut-Kery was contentedly based at El Campeon Farms in Thousand Oaks. From Sabine’s perspective, any move would have to be carefully considered so that it worked not just for her, but also for her sponsors, owners, and clients.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way – how many times have we all heard that cliché? There’s a certain amount of truth to clichés, however, and this was no exception.

Sabine explained her thinking about the decision to move north. “It was bittersweet to think about leaving a beautiful place like El Campeon Farms and the support of the great group of clients and friends that I made there. But I have always enjoyed visiting Northern California, and the welcoming invitation from the Bonavitos to move to Toyon in the Napa wine country brought the excitement of new opportunities. My first sight of Toyon Farm, nestled in Napa’s rolling hills and surrounded by vineyards, reminded me of Italy.” Sabine’s sponsors, owners, and clients have continued to be supportive of her new plans.

She is bringing six to seven horses north with her, including Sanceo, the 2006 Hanoverian stallion by San Remo and owned by Alice Womble-Heitman and Dr. Mike Heitman, with whom she has been working to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, now rescheduled for the summer of 2021. Also heading to Toyon with Sabine are Marques, the 2004 PRE stallion owned by Rhea Scott, with whom she is looking toward exhibition performances, as well as other horses belonging to her sponsors and a couple of her own horses. With Danielle’s horses already in residence at Toyon, and room for a few new clients, Sabine will be as busy as ever.

“I’m excited to continue Danielle’s development with her three talented horses. She is a gifted rider with a lot of feel, and she is very involved and hands on with her horses. Because of our trips and her commitment to dressage we have built a close relationship,” Sabine said. In 2018, Danielle and her horse traveled with Sabine to Germany to train, and this past winter she joined Sabine in Florida for the season that got shortened by the COVID-19 crisis.

Having lived and worked in the Los Angeles area since 2005, Sabine is understandably committed to her relationships with her clients and students there, so her plans call for traveling south for clinics once or twice a month. As she explained, “I will fly in to teach clinics, while my horses have a cross-training day at home. That way I can continue to work with my wonderful clientele in the Los Angeles area.” Sabine’s own work with Christine Traurig, her longtime mentor and “eyes on the ground” since 2006, will continue at Toyon, where Christine will visit on a regular basis.

Looking ahead, there’s even more to Sabine’s plans. With her time currently concentrated on coaching Danielle and on qualifying Sanceo for Tokyo, her immediate focus obviously remains on competition. But she also enjoys exhibitions, and although her plans to create an exhibition for the World Cup Finals in Las Vegas were derailed by its cancellation, she’s looking forward to revisiting the creative outlet of exhibition riding. “I’m excited and looking forward to being part of the Northern California dressage community,” Sabine said.

Toyon Farm will be a busy place under the ownership of the Bonavito family and with the coaching of Sabine Schut-Kery. Watch for great things to come.

A lifelong horse owner, Nan Meek lives on the scenic San Mateo County coast where dressage courts and riding trails overlook the Pacific Ocean. She competed in dressage to the Prix St. Georges level with her late beloved Lipizzan Andy (Maestoso II Athena II-1), and now practices the discipline of dressage with her handsome Spanish warmblood Helio Jerez 2000 and dotes on the newest family member Mischa (Neapolitano Angelica II-1).

 
April 2020 - Ask Dr. Darby Bonomi
Written by CRM
Tuesday, 31 March 2020 23:37

ask dr darby

Performance psychologist and equestrian answers readers’ questions.

Dear Dr. Darby,

On a daily basis, I have a lot of different things on my mind. When I get on to ride I find it difficult to shut off those stresses and focus on my horse. What are some things you recommend that can help me focus during practice?
—A.C., Amateur hunter/jumper rider, Carpenteria, CA


This is a common problem for riders of all levels and ages. These days all of us juggle many commitments, along with an onslaught of thoughts, concerns, and emotions. It’s imperative for our horse’s sake and our own to avoid bringing our burdens into the saddle. Horses are extremely intuitive and feel everything. If we’re stressed and distracted, they will become so as well.

 

First, I suggest creating boundaries around tasks or parts of your day. Designate certain times for work, emails, riding, errands and so on. Mental boundaries help us focus on whatever it is we’re doing rather than all the other things that buzz around in our minds. Let’s face it—it’s very stressful and terribly inefficient to try to focus on multiple things at once.

Boundaries & Time Limits

One way to create boundaries is to make daily, weekly and even monthly lists of tasks. I set time limits around tasks—giving myself 30 minutes to do x, then 45 minutes to do y, and so on. I stick to my plan as much as possible. My lists are designed to organize me, keep me on track, give me a sense of accomplishment—and give me scheduled breathers during the day! I know that when I set the timer on emails, that’s all I get for now; I have to move on to the next thing. If something doesn’t get completed, it goes on tomorrow’s list (or perhaps next week’s.) I can let the task go for now, because I know it’s on another list and will get done later.

A central purpose of setting boundaries is to be able to let go of everything else and concentrate on what you are doing now.

Another tool to leave stress at the barn door is to develop some mindfulness practices to help shed unwanted thoughts and emotions. Remember, mindfulness is a practice, so it takes practice to work.

Try this to start: take cleansing or relaxation breaths as you imagine the contents of your busy mind going into the earth. Pay attention to your body in space, feeling your bottom in the seat of the car or chair, and your feet on the ground, and become exquisitely aware of your present surroundings. Notice smells, signs, sounds to call yourself right to the present. Should a task or a worry come into mind, say thank you and let it go. This practice can be used anywhere—in the grocery line, in the car—even in the saddle! I personally like to start my rides this way, grounding, centering, and connecting emotionally with my horse.

The essence of mindfulness is to be fully aware of your experience at the present moment.

Last, I suggest my riders set intentions for every ride, even if it’s a solo practice session at home. Decide what three things you and your horse are going to work on today, and design your ride with those goals in mind. Having intentions or goals will help you focus your mind, keep you on track, and shelter you from those nagging thoughts about work or outside life. If your mind wanders, bring yourself gently back to the present and connect with the generous animal you’re sitting on. Remember that he or she deserves your full attention and energy.

Actively setting intentions for your day or ride will help focus your mind.

Just as there are a multitude of distractions out there, there are many tools to help draw ourselves back into the present moment and deliberately compartmentalize thoughts. Horses naturally call us to be here and accounted for—it’s part of why most of us consider barn time our therapy!

 

If you have a question for performance psychologist Darby Bonomi, PhD., please submit it to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . You are welcome to ask a question anonymously, but please provide relevant background regarding your experience and other details that enable her to best answer your question.

 
March 2020 - Ask Dr. Darby Bonomi
Written by CRM
Monday, 02 March 2020 19:04

ask dr darby

Performance psychologist and equestrian answers readers’ questions.

Dear Dr. Darby Bonomi

During a competition, I occasionally will get a late ride time and have to spend all day preparing and getting nervous for my ride. Often by the time I ride, I feel tired. How do you recommend I mitigate this ongoing pressure for a later ride time?

—Lauren Billys, International Eventer and Olympian, who recently secured her spot in the 2020 Tokyo Games with Castle Larchfield Purdy.


Dear Lauren,

 

Thanks for this great question. It’s a common situation for all athletes of all levels or anyone who performs—we don’t always get the performance time that suits us best! Most of us prefer to ride first thing in the morning, when we’re mentally sharp and physically rested. An early ride time doesn’t allow too much time to ponder over the track, watch others, or get nervous.

The preparation path is clear—get ready and go. As the day wears on, it can be harder to focus our minds and get ourselves geared up for competition. We are tired, perhaps amped up from watching our colleagues perform, and our minds can become frazzled from too much thinking. Later in the day, it’s also more difficult to productively channel our energy. Nonetheless, as you well know, many of the biggest events take place in the late afternoon or evening. Whether you’re an elite athlete or an amateur, it’s imperative to hone your pre-performance preparation so that you can gear up no matter when you’re asked to perform.

First, it’s key to manage your energy during the day by developing the skill to turn your performance energy ‘on’ and ‘off.’ I know that sounds funny, but what I mean is, if your ride time is late, you need to be ‘off’ or on ‘low’ most of the day and then deliberately turn it ‘on’ when you need it.

Tip: Envision your energy
like a flame on the stove,
regulated by a knob.
You can turn the flame up or
down, but it’s a waste of energy
to be on full flame all day.

When you’re not competing or getting ready to compete, dial your energy to ‘off’ or ‘simmer’. Being ‘on’ all day will wear you out. About an hour or so before your ride, turn up the ‘flame’. Deliberately start to raise your energy as you begin your afternoon pre-ride preparation.

Second, once you have your energy turned up, it’s time to clear your mind and get focused. I suggest that you develop a deliberate pre-ride routine that is tailored to your needs.

Pre-ride routines have three components—clearing mental chatter, centering and grounding the emotions and physical body, and narrowing the focus (or getting into ‘the zone.’)

We all have pre-ride routines, whether we’re deliberate about them or not. I strongly advocate that all show riders develop ways to efficiently and effectively get themselves fully ready to be in the saddle and present for their horse.

Tip: Develop different
pre-ride routines for different
times of the day or week.

Since we all have different needs at different times of the day, we need to adjust our pre-rides accordingly. Similarly, your pre-ride on Wednesday may look quite different from your Sunday preparation. Why? You’re tired—mentally and physically—by Sunday!

Envision a pilot’s take-off check list. About one hour before ‘take off’, start the check list. It’s at this point you’re gearing up—but not before then. For afternoons, you’ll have to figure out how to get yourself from ‘simmer’ to full flame (energized) and focused. Personally, in the afternoons I need to do some extra physical warm up, get some caffeine and protein, and practice energizing breaths. After raising my energy and grounding my body, I study my course, watch several of the best riders perform—but not too many—and then visualize my own ride while I activate my excitement for performing with my horse. Note that when I’m watching others perform, I’m either ‘on’ (intensely focusing) or ‘off’ (just casually watching). I am explicit in my mind about whether I’m in ‘prep mode’ or just ‘spectator mode’.

Tools for raising energy and focusing in the afternoon include: physical warm up and stretching with energizing breaths, listening to fast music, limited caffeine and adequate sustenance, visualizing the feeling of a great ride.

This kind of preparation is a mental and emotional skill and takes time to develop. I suggest a daily practice of making mental energy choices (on, off, simmer). When you’re at a competition, you will need to both change your thoughts and deliberately change your behavior. Don’t allow yourself to watch too many rounds. If you need to leave the showgrounds, take a nap in your car, or go shopping to be ‘off’, then do it. Even if you can’t physically leave, reframing to yourself that you’re in ‘relaxation mode’ will reduce your stress and give you a mental break so you can gear up later for your ride time. Remember, rest is a necessary component of performance.

Thank you again, Lauren, for the great question—it’s good to know that riders of all levels work on these kinds of challenges!

Best,
Darby

If you have a question for performance psychologist Darby Bonomi, PhD., please submit it to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . You are welcome to ask a question anonymously, but please provide relevant background regarding your experience and other details that enable her to best answer your question.

 
February 2020 - Dressage News & Views
Written by by Nan Meek
Saturday, 01 February 2020 19:36

dressage news

Meetings, Musical Freestyles, and More at the CDS Annual Meeting and Symposium.

by Nan Meek

Convening just blocks from the state capitol, on the riverfront in downtown Sacramento, the CDS Annual Meeting could not have been more perfectly located to highlight the importance of governance as directors, chapter chairs, and dedicated members met on Friday, January 10, for executive board and committee meetings, and on Saturday, January 11, for the CDS Annual Meeting.

 


Saturday night saw the dressage community dressed to out-bling each other for the gala awards dinner and the wild – and wildly popular – “chapter jog” in which chapters danced, strutted, vogued, and generally competed to outdo each other as dance music filled the room.

 

The highlights? Sonoma Chapter member and trainer Erika Jansson’s fashion show catwalk skills and the Santa Cruz chapter’s surprise appearance of animal-masked dancers clad in formal shadbellies, otherwise known as trainer, judge, and physical therapist Anne Howard along with her boyfriend Erik Simpson.

CDS Annual Meeting

On Sunday, the dress code shifted 180 degrees to layers of polar fleece and down to outsmart the freezing temperature at the Murieta Equestrian Center for the Musical Freestyle Symposium. Nine hardy riders brought out horses young and older to work with FEI 5* judge and USEF “S” Dressage Judge Janet Lee Foy and founder of Klassic Kur musical freestyle designer Terry Ciotti Gallo.

Concurrent with the CDS events, United States Dressage Federation continuing education in judging freestyles was held at an all-day classroom session on Saturday, with judges and judge candidates attending the Musical Freestyle Symposium on Sunday for continuing education about the technical and artistic requirements and execution in freestyles, and practice in judging.

It was a weekend filled with forward-looking governance, in-depth education, and interesting conversations with friends, old and new. In a surprising “small world” moment, I met a chapter chair – Mary Couch of the Santa Barbara County Chapter – who grew up in my hometown. Of course, our “do you know so-and-so” conversation evoked laughter and reminiscences.

While organizations such as CDS, USDF, and USEF are all about education, competition, and the governance of equestrian sport, they would not exist without all the people who care enough to make the organizations work. It was inspiring, entertaining, and heart-warming to be surrounded by them during the CDS Annual Meeting and Symposium.

Joan Williams and Kevin Reinig at CDS.

Highlights, Challenges & Camaraderie

CDS Scholarship Committee Meeting: Over the past year I’ve had the honor and pleasure of serving on this committee, which reviews applications and makes recommendations to the board for recipients of the many CDS scholarship programs for juniors, young riders, adult amateurs, professionals, and high-performance competitors. At its Friday meeting, Chair Joan Williams passed the baton (or would that be the longe whip?) to new Chair Nancy Szakacs, for the best of reasons: Joan had just been elected President of CDS.

Apart from their volunteer work for CDS, Joan is a popular trainer and “R” dressage judge from the Santa Cruz Chapter who goes beyond teaching and coaching basic dressage to enhancing skills and fostering fun for her students with musical freestyles, quadrille, long-lining, clinics with Arthur Kottas, and more, while Nancy has for many years made it look deceptively easy to balance a demanding corporate career with schooling and showing multiple horses through the levels, under the watchful eyes of the Villa Rosa Dressage dynamic duo Heidi Gaian and “The Mother” Pam Nelson.

There’s a theme here, isn’t there? Strong, intelligent, more than capable women — CDS is full of them.

Chapter jog

Annual Meeting

It would take an entire article to cover everything that took place at this meeting, and CDS will report all the details in its monthly newsletter, Dressage Letters, and online, so I’ll just stick to some of the highlights.

Former CDS President Kevin Reining was recently elected USDF Vice President, and he, along with USDF Region 7 Director Carol Tice, provided a perspective on the issues shared by CDS and USDF, as well as some that generate conflict.

Kevin expressed a concern, shared by all equestrian disciplines, about declining membership. The number one reason given by former members who have not renewed their membership is that they are not competing, so they are not renewing. He emphasized that CDS and USDF are educational organizations first and foremost, not competition organizations – our competitions exist to test the horse’s and rider’s education, just as tests at the end of a school term show how well (or not) a student’s education succeeded.

Moreover, organizations such as CDS and USDF provide governance and organization for the sport of dressage. They need the support of the entire community of dressage riders, whether they compete or not. That’s an issue that should concern us all, and it’s an issue where we can all make a difference. So, renew your memberships, if you haven’t already done so!

Carol addressed one member’s question about an issue that has been batted back and forth for years: What ever happened to the idea of alternating the finals between the East and the West? Holding the dressage finals every year at the Kentucky Horse Park is truly a financial and logistical challenge for West Coast riders.

This is a large and complex issue, with many disparate parts. As it turns out, this is where being one of the largest GMOs (Group Member Organizations) of USDF works against us. USDF Region 7 consists of CDS and three small GMOs from Hawaii. Other regions typically have six to 10 GMOs per region. With each GMO having the same ability to send riders to the finals, many more eastern riders would need to travel west than vice versa. Another logistical issue is that, should the dressage finals leave the Kentucky Horse Park, chances of getting back on their calendar is problematic. There are many more issues than those I’ve touched on here, however, but I found that Kevin and Carol’s perspectives and experiences “back East” at the USDF convention helped me better understand the big picture of our sport.

Some awards were presented, while others were saved for the Gala Awards Banquet later that day. One of the awards that always interests me is the Best Educational Event, which this year went to the Sacramento Valley Chapter for their Adult Camp. The thought of taking my horse away for the weekend, to meet up with friends and their horses, get great instruction and have tons of fun … well, what’s not to like? Only trouble is, I’m not in that chapter! But any chapter can reproduce another chapter’s successful event.

In fact, chapter chairs met for round table discussions by region – northern, central, and southern – to share their successes and challenges, exchange information and ideas, and brainstorm solutions. In the northern region discussion at which I represented the San Francisco Peninsula Chapter, several chapter chairs talked about collaboration with neighboring chapters on events to include both chapters’ members. One topic led to another, with the result that the group decided to set up a Facebook page to facilitate chapter-to-chapter information sharing.

Sunday Symposium

Musical Freestyle Education

As a future musical freestyle rider, I looked forward to auditing the Saturday afternoon USDF continuing education in judging freestyles, and attending the Sunday all-day Musical Freestyle Symposium. I wanted to know how musical freestyles are judged so I could learn how to ride them most effectively, but I also wondered if I wasn’t putting the proverbial cart before the horse, since I’ve only just begun to work on my own freestyle.

Lucky for me, the lecture and symposium both lived up to my hopes and more. I have a lot more to learn and a long road ahead before I enter at A, but thanks to CDS I have a better foundation than if I had not attended this weekend. I discovered the details that go into scoring the technical and artistic requirement, and how the choice of music impacts the execution of the freestyle itself. I also learned – thank you Janet Foy – to never, ever bore the judge!

While I would love to share detailed notes on every horse and rider in the symposium with you, I’m sure your eyes would glaze over, as mine did when reading them afterward. The vision in the arena far surpassed my scribbled hieroglyphics on the page. Suffice to say that I learned something – or many things – from watching each and every pair. So here’s to you with immense gratitude for bringing your horses out in the frigid temperature:

Sandy Savage and Habanero, who demonstrated how matching the metronome tempo with the music could be improved upon with music that’s just a tad faster or slower than the metronome.

Katy Augsburger Katz, who rode a First Level freestyle that gave us our first taste of the discussion that various judges had about actual scores for each movement.

Anne Howard, who rode her late mother Sandy Howard’s Grand Prix horse Rondo in a Second Level freestyle because the symposium needed one at that level.

Elena Flaharty and Charlie, who demonstrated a Third Level freestyle and gave us another opportunity to eavesdrop (legally) on the judges’ scoring rationales.

Ana Gilmour, whose compact black mare I confess I wanted to take home with me, and whose question about the “fan” pirouette movement sparked a detailed discussion of its intricate scoring.

Katy Barglow and Scout, whose Fourth Level freestyle to the music of “Annie” demonstrated a cohesive theme, and was fun to watch.

Ruth Shirkey and Wyleigh Princess, whose Intermediaire 1 freestyle drew the comment “lovely music highlights the horse” – and boy, did it.

Christian Hartung and Desario, in their Intermediaire 1 freestyle, received a comment of “elastic, powerful, well ridden” from Janet Foy.

Barbi Breen-Gurley and Vindicator, with their Michael Jackson music, brought the day to an uplifting end.

Get Your Freestyle On!

This month, there’s another opportunity to ride in or audit a musical freestyle clinic. On February 22-23, at the Horse Park at Woodside, you can learn “how to make your freestyle sing” with professional musician, FEI trainer, and freestyle designer Melanie Michalak.

“There’s a difference between riding a test to music, and riding a true freestyle,” Melanie contends, and she should know – she’s designed more than a hundred winning freestyles, including US Olympic Trials, Pan Am Games, Young Riders, and National Championships.

All the details for this musical freestyle clinic, hosted by the San Francisco Peninsula CDS Chapter, are at www.sfpcds.org.

 


A lifelong horse owner, Nan Meek lives on the scenic San Mateo County coast where dressage courts and riding trails overlook the Pacific Ocean. She competed in dressage to the Prix St. Georges level with her late beloved Lipizzan Andy (Maestoso II Athena II-1), and now practices the discipline of dressage with her handsome Spanish warmblood Helio Jerez 2000 and dotes on the newest family member Mischa (Neapolitano Angelica II-1). Yes, dressage is embedded in her DNA.

 

 
January 2020 - Editor’s Notes
Written by CRM
Wednesday, 01 January 2020 01:01

editors

News of West Coast equestrians receiving impressive honors rolled in throughout our December issue deadline. We have full reports on many of them in this issue, but a few that came too late are:

US Equestrian named 17-year-old Elvenstar rider Julia Stone as Junior Equestrian of the Year. Big kudos to Julia, who is now a freshman at the University of Georgia.

 


Sarah Lockman’s team silver and individual gold Pan Am Games partner, First Apple, is up for International Horse of Honor. The Dutch Warmblood stallion was purchased for Sarah by Summit Farms, whose owner Jerry Ibanez sadly passed away recently, a great loss to our sport. Temecula-based Nick Haness is a nominee for National Equestrian Of Honor. Super recognition for this young professional, who also received the California Professional Horsemen’s Association Special Achievement award. Along with countless competitive successes, he is known for giving a leg up to talented young riders who may not have the money means to fulfill their ambitions.

 

The USEF award voting is open until January 2, at 9 p.m. our time, and the winners’ names will be revealed during the USEF Annual Meeting Jan. 10-11 in Florida. Vote at www.usef.org.

We hope you enjoy the tributes to recipients of all the CPHA’s Special Awards. Six years ago, we launched the tradition of asking those close to the winners to write about what makes the honorees special and it has become one of our most celebrated features. We hope to share it with many of you at the CPHA Awards Banquet Jan. 3 in San Diego, during the Pacific Coast Horse Shows Association’s annual meeting and awards celebration.

Another piece of late news was sad: the passing of Joan Irvine Smith on Dec. 19. “She had a bigger impact on horses and showing horses than she ever knew,” wrote her friend Kathy Hobstetter in sharing the news.

Big thanks to Edgar Schutte’s Eurequine for sponsoring this month’s cover. It’s great to have these fantastic stallions and breeding services serving the country from California.

I really enjoyed attending Day Of The Horse festivities at the Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center. Happily, there were several of these events going on throughout our readership area. They are so important.

Even though the big public boarding, training and show facility is visible from a main street in Huntington Beach, trainer Tracy Burroughs told me that she often encounters neighbors who have no idea there are opportunities to ride and interact with horses close by. The event drew a good crowd who had the chance to learn about show jumping, therapeutic riding, vaulting and the Free Rein Foundation that pairs rescued horses with people in need of healing.

Wishing everyone a very happy New Year.

Happy reading and riding,

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


ADOPT ME!

 

Otis is a five year old quarterhorse gelding up for adoption at FalconRidge Equine Rescue in Valley Center, California.

He stands 15.2 hands high and has a very sweet and loving personality. He has lameness on his right hind and therefore is mostly a companion horse. He has been in rehab and not ridden since he arrived, had chiropractic sessions with no improvements. Kids could walk him, or a lightweight adult only. Puppy dog personality.

Adoption fee $500.

See Otis on our adoption page at www.falconridgerescue.org.

 
December 2019 - Editor’s Notes
Written by CRM
Sunday, 01 December 2019 10:05

editors

Thanks to DG Bar Ranch for sponsoring this issue’s cover and sharing the news of their two young stallions, Koning DG and L Primo DG. These young sires are set to keep the Dutch Warmblood breeding endeavor thriving for another 35 years. In a world of seemingly never-ending “new,” there’s something deeply reassuring in the ongoing success of this family business run with heart, horsemanship and a mix of tradition and forward-thinking ideas.

 


With Christmas coming, my editorial wish list leans toward stories that inspire and this issue has three that especially stand out. First, there’s the tale of the five years it took Central California horsewoman and corrections officer, Heidi Richards, to see through her vision for a horse handling educational program at the Pleasant Valley State Prison. Next it’s Dr. Suzi Lanini’s first person account of her reasons for riding in this year’s Tournament of Roses Parade. She’s well known as an accomplished amateur dressage rider, but the small animal veterinarian – and her star Arabian Justin Kayce – regularly make contributions that extend well beyond the arena.

 

Opal Hagerty revisiting her life long passion for horses. Photos: Judy Lucous

Last but not least, loved seeing a big story in the Nov. 19 Los Angeles Times about a 95-year-old San Diegan having her wish for “one last ride” granted by the Temecula Carriage Company. When they learned of the request through the Court Retirement Center in Escondido, Mark and Marika Matson invited Opal Hagerty to come out and meet one of their Draft horses, Blossom, then take a lovely carriage ride through nearby vineyards. Happy holidays, indeed!

A gift we can all give ourselves is learning to land safely from a fall, or at least greatly reduce the risk of serious injury. I’m excited that Landsafe Equestrian has four clinics in California this month and I hope many of our readers – from every discipline – will find a way to participate or audit. Landsafe principal Danny Warrington is a long-time eventer whose first wife, Amanda Warrington, died of her injuries after a fall in 1998. Danny emerged as a passionate proponent for riders taking responsibility for our own safety, rather than waiting for rules and regulations to make the sport safer. The latter are great, of course, but all good change starts with taking individual responsibility.

Now to work on our January issue. We’ll be featuring breeders and our annual spotlight on recipients of the California Professional Horsemen’s Association special awards. It’s an honor we look forward to every year.
Thanks to all our advertisers, our readers and those who’ve submitted articles and story ideas. Please keep them coming in the new year. Warmest wishes for a happy, safe holiday with family members—humans and horses.

Sincerely,

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Adopt Me! Snow White is a 15 year old paint mare up for adoption as a companion horse only with no riding from FalconRidge Equine Rescue in Valley Center, CA.

She has an old pelvic injury and is unsound for riding. This nice mare spent the last few years as a nonriding therapeutic horse. Gentle and sweet, this girl is darling and would make a great pasture puff family member for life!

Adoption fee $400.
See Snow White on our adoption page at www.falconridgerescue.org

 
December 2019 - What's Happening
Written by CRM
Sunday, 01 December 2019 07:49

whats happeningCalifornia Riding Magazine Event Calendar

Does your special event deserve special coverage in California Riding Magazine’s What’s Happening Event Calendar? If so, let us know and don’t forget a photo. Send it all to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Our deadline is the first of the month for the following month’s issue. Please submit your events by December 1st for the January issue. It’s the place to be and it’s free!


No Shows
Dec. 1 & Jan. 4 in Orange County’s San Juan Capistrano

These are popular opportunities to get show experience at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park venue without the related show fees. Instead, at $30 per round, riders and horses gain experience over “A” show caliber jumps and courses, including an option with the open water jump. Set in two rings, courses range in fence height from .70M to 1.4M, and rounds are unlimited. Show stalls are available to rent for the Saturday night before each show.

Clients of Apollo Equine Transport and Horseflight participate in the No Show for no cost.

For more information, email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Ladies Night at Big Horse Feed
Dec. 3 in Riverside County’s Temecula

It’s Ladies Only after-hours shopping at Big Horse Feed and Mercantile in Temecula on Tuesday, Dec. 2. From 6-8 p.m. this Southern California one-stop shop for all things equestrian welcomes women to enjoy store-wide discounts on everything from horse care supplies and equipment to jewelry and apparel, for riding, everyday wear or a night on the town. It’s also a perfect time to identify wish-list items for Big Horse’s popular gift registry.

For more information, visit www.bighorsefeed.com.

Straightening the Crooked Horse
Dec. 5-9 in Los Angeles County’s Agoura Hills

Renowned author and trainer Klaus Schoneich and Gabrielle Rachen-Schoneich have taught their holistic training system at their Center for Anatomically Correct Horsemanship in Germany for over 30 years. They’ve trained top FEI Grand Prix dressage horses and Olympic FEI dressage riders and rehabilitated thousands of incorrectly moving horses.

The Schoneichs’ method teaches the horse to carry itself freely with a swinging back, resolving 90-95% of motion-related problems. Their system is described as the “missing link” when preparing horses for performance, whether they are Olympic hopefuls, “problem” steeds or everyday riding partners.

The clinic will take place at Lion Heart Ranch. For more information, visit www.lionheartranch.com.

Holiday Fun Schooling Show
Dec. 7-8 in Alameda County’s Pleasanton

Alameda County Equestrian hosts this day of dressage practice, with the added attraction of a holiday boutique and crafts. Divisions include dressage, hunters, equitation and jumpers in front of dressage judge, USDF L official Ivette Harte, and Jay Arend, a USEF R judge for the hunter/jumper classes.

The venue is the Pleasanton Equestrian Center, located at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. This series of fun, community focused competitions continues in the new year with January, February, March and May dates. Team competitions, barn challenges and fun and functional prizes are more highlights.

For more information, contact organizers Greg and Dawn Benson of Alameda County Equestrian at www.alamedacountyequestrian.com.

Landsafe Equestrian Clinics
Various dates, starting Dec. 8, & locations throughout California

Physical training on gymnastic mats and a mechanical horse teaches techniques for minimizing injuries in falls. Excellent for riders in all disciplines. See story, this issue.

Anne Kursinski Clinic
Dec. 13-15 in Burbank

Anne Kursinski is a five-time Olympic show jumper with two team silver medals. Her teaching resume is approaching similarly high status with many years giving clinics throughout the country. She is a tough taskmaster with clear explanations of the reasons behind her instructions and insights from her many years of success.

The clinic will be held at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. For riding and auditing information, call organizers Stacie Ryan and Karen Perlow at 818-309-5001.

Indoor Eventing
Dec. 14-15 in San Juan Capistrano

The Pacific Indoor Eventing Series began in 2014 as a “way to rally excitement for eventing, bring new riders into the sport and allow current event riders to school cross-country questions in a contained environment,” says its website. “Inspired by similar shows in Canada, the PIE shows are heavy on fun and have plenty of classes for all abilities of riders.”

Divisions range from Walk/Trot to Preliminary with 3’6” fence heights, plus special classes including a Training Level Gambler’s Choice and a Pony Club Challenge for U.S. Pony Club Members. Each regular division has two rounds, one over a course of show jumping style fences, and another over cross-country style jumps, both in the covered arena at Sycamore Trails Stables. The Pony Club Challenge has a third phase: a written horsemanship test administered in the office.

For more information or to sign up, visit www.pacificindooreventing.com.

EquestFest presented by Wells Fargo
Dec. 29 in Burbank

Get up close and personal with the 2020 Rose Parade equestrian units at EquestFest presented by Wells Fargo. Watch beautiful horses and talented riders perform drills and dances and demonstrate trick riding and roping.

Attendees can also stroll through the stables, talk to riders and learn about the various tack and the many different breeds while enjoying the vendor court, displays, great music, food, and drinks.

Staged at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank, this is a great reminder of the many ways in which horses are enjoyed and the role they’ve played in much of our country’s past and present. Excellent event for experienced horse people and those new to the equestrian world.

Doors open at 10 a.m., the show begins at noon and the vendor court and activities continue until 3 pm.

Advance tickets are available through www.sharpseating.com and day-of tickets are available on a first come, first served basis.

 

 
November 2019 - Flying Changes
Written by CRM
Wednesday, 30 October 2019 22:48

fc

Carol Dean-Porter

Much admired hunter/jumper trainer, Grand Prix rider and industry advocate Carol Dean-Porter passed away at her home on Oct. 21. She was surrounded by her husband Dan and family members. Throughout her illness, an outpouring of affection from the equestrian community reflected the many lives – humans and horses – that she touched.

 


Two of the many deeply influenced by Carol, Denise Finch and Mandy Porter, started a www.gofundme.com page during Carol’s illness. It remains active with the request that friends of Carol consider a donation in her honor, to help Dan with considerable expenses that remain. The page is entitled “Support Carol Dean & Dan Porter.”

 

We hope to publish a nice tribute for Carol in our December issue. (If you have a story you’d like to share about Carol, send it to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .) Meantime, here is Carol’s bio explaining some of her equestrian accomplishments:

For more than 40 years, Carol Dean-Porter has been a professional rider and trainer of hunter-jumper horses at her Carol Dean-Porter Stables in Los Angeles, California.

As a rider, Carol successfully rode several talented show jumpers to wins at the international Grand Prix level. During her career, she became the two-time Champion and four-time Reserve Champion of the GTE High Jump at the GTE Summer Horse Show in Huntington Beach, CA, winner of the Gran Premio de Mexico, and winner of the All Seasons Summer Classic Grand Prix, just to name a few. In recognition of her numerous wins, Carol was named the Leading Jumper Rider at the California National Horse Show at The Forum in Inglewood, CA.

As a trainer, she has coached many national, Pacific Coast, and USEF Zone champions in Hunter, Equitation, Jumper, and Hunter Breeding divisions. Several of Carol’s students have gone on to become international level riders and trainers themselves. Today, Carol crosses the US to teach clinics to all levels of riders, from beginners to national champions. Her instruction spans several topics, from the hunter-jumper disciplines to preparing young sport horses to show in hand.

In addition to her experience as a rider and trainer, Carol holds her USEF “R” license for judging hunters, jumpers, equitation, and hunter breeding, and is a member of the USEF Licensed Officials Committee. She is also licensed with the American Paint Horse Association (APHA) and is a Sport Horse judge with the Arabian Horse Association (AHA). Throughout the year, Carol travels across the US and Canada judging horse shows of all levels, including National Championships, Regional Finals, Medal Finals, and Zone Championships. (She was also a judge on JudgeMyRide online critique site.)

Over the years, Carol has been the author of numerous print and online articles for publications such as Horse and Sport Magazine, BigEq.com, Catchride.com, and EquestriansUnlimited.org, and provided ringside live coverage of the Las Vegas World Cup Show Jumping Finals for AOL and other news sources.

Carol’s involvement in the equine industry extends well beyond the show ring. In 2002, she founded “Horses For Parks,” a donation program which has raised funds in excess of $750,000 for the National Parks Trust.

We hope to publish a nice tribute for Carol in our December issue. If you have a story you’d like to share about Carol, send it to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Flying Changes welcomes your submissions. Please tell us about what’s happening in your life and/or at your barn: births, deaths, engagements, job changes, new hires, marriages, new management and barn moves. Send your reports to Kim F. Miller at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Photos welcome!

 
November 2019 - What’s Happening...
Written by CRM
Wednesday, 30 October 2019 21:54

whats happeningCalifornia Riding Magazine Event Calendar

 

Does your special event deserve special coverage in California Riding Magazine’s What’s Happening Event Calendar? If so, let us know and don’t forget a photo. Send it all to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Our deadline is the first of the month for the following month’s issue. Please submit your events by December 1st for the January issue. It’s the place to be and it’s free!


Horse Expo Pomona
Nov. 8-9 in Pomona

One of the best horse expositions in the United States, the Western States Horse Expo is a must-attend event for any horse owner. Catch up on the latest training and education, shop the nation’s premier equine vendors and connect with horse friends. Attending the expo is a low-cost, high quality way to stay engaged in the horse industry, making sure you have the tools, knowledge and products to help make the most of your investment in the horse owning lifestyle year-round.

Given the timing, it’s a Holiday Edition, with free stockings to the first 800 through the gates at Pomona Fairplex, plus free gift wrap, hot cocoa and evening entertainment.

The line-up of riding, training and horsemanship experts is the usual awesome agenda Horse Expo is long known for. Dressage multi-Olympian Steffen Peters, Chemaine Hurtado of Symphony Dressage Stables and Cavaletti Clinic’s Erika Jansson are a few of the familiar faces who will be presenting.

Dr. David Ramey, DVM; Dr. Deb Bennett, and Star Milling’s Dr. Bray are among the featured presenters in Horse Expo’s University series.

For tickets and more info, visit www.horseexpo.com.

 

Land Safe Clinics
Various December dates & locations

 

Equestrian sports attract an estimated 7 million people annually in the United States. Rider safety continues to be a serious concern. A common challenge that all riders face is the risk of injuries resulting from falls. Every ride can result in a fall, but certain scenarios introduce more risk than others.

FEI research shows that the risk of fall with injury ranges from 1 in every 250 starters for low impact falls to 1 in every 520 starters for serious injuries. The type of fall also correlates to the risk of injury or death. The risk of having a serious injury is once every 55 falls.  A rotational fall, however, increases the risk to once every 5 falls.

The Landsafe program has three main goals: to save lives, reduce injuries and increase safety education of parents and riders. Landsafe addresses these goals with training using a riding simulator and fall techniques involving tumbling and gymnastic exercises. Body awareness and self-preservation skills are the objectives taught by Land Safe principals Danny and Keli Warrington of Maryland.

The clinic is coming to California on these dates and locations.

  • Dec. 7-8 in at Kingsview Equestrian Center in Woodland
  • Dec. 15-16 at Red Fox Farm in Gilroy
  • Dec. 22-23 at Shea Therapeutic in San Juan Capistrano
  • Dec. 28-29 at Twin Rivers in Paso Robles (with Buck Davidson clinic)

Visit www.landsafeequestrian.com for more information.

 

Day Of the Horse Festivities
Dec. 14 in Huntington Beach

Games, contests, crafts, riding demos, shopping and pony rides are all part of the Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center’s Day of the Horse festivities. A Christmas and holiday boutique will feature gifts for immediate enjoyment and to put under the tree for others – horses included.

For more information, visit www.hcpec.com.

 

Hawley Bennett Clinic
Dec. 14-15 in Sonoma County’s Petaluma

 

Southern California-based Canadian eventer Hawley Bennett comes to the beautiful Hawkwood Hill Farm for a weekend that will focus Saturday on show jumping skills and Sunday on cross-country. Hawley is a lifelong equestrian who carries the USEA’s Level IV Instructor Certification. She believes that any goal or dream is possible with hard work. She is known for equal dedication to riders and horses of all experience levels.

Auditors are welcome at $20 per day.

For more information, contact clinic organizer Alice Chan at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .'; document.write( '' ); document.write( addy_text38087 ); document.write( '<\/a>' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 
October 2019 - Dressage News & Views
Written by by Nan Meek
Tuesday, 01 October 2019 02:46

dressage news

Volunteer Road Trip: 16,000 steps, worn-out socks, and even more fun than expected at California Dressage Society Championships.

by Nan Meek

“Let’s volunteer at Championships!” said the text message from my friend. Why not, I thought. We weren’t showing this year, so we wouldn’t be competing. And we both know how much volunteers are needed, difficult to get, and even more difficult for a show to run without – especially a championship show.

The Great American/United States Dressage Federation Region 7 & California Dressage Society Championship Show (aka “Championships”) was held this year on Sept. 19-22 at the Murieta Equestrian Center near Sacramento, a two and a quarter hour drive away.

 
September 2019 - Editor’s Notes
Written by CRM
Saturday, 31 August 2019 22:00

editors

August is vacation month for much of the world, but not for many West Coast-based equestrians. Through late July and August, our region’s riders contributed to great results at the Pan American Games and the North American Youth Championships. You’ll find reports on all those competitions in this issue, along with coverage of the many and diverse shows and events in California – from the Hansen Dam Summer Junction’s chance to dabble in different disciplines to Dancing King Farm’s celebration of the P.R.E. horse. Enjoy!

 
August 2019 - Editor’s Notes
Written by CRM
Friday, 02 August 2019 02:40

editors

This month I am particularly struck by and grateful for the work of our California Riding Magazine contributors, “old-timers” and newbies alike. Our longtime Dressage News & Views columnist Nan Meek not only wrote about the Herculean logistics involved in staging a dressage show, she helped to actually stage a CDS show during this issue’s deadline and wrote the “heroic” cover story about the WHOA! Woodside Day Of the Horse in such a way that I am already making plans to experience the October event myself. Who could resist such horsing around?

 
August 2019 - Flying Changes
Written by CRM
Wednesday, 31 July 2019 22:11

fc

Flying Changes welcomes your submissions. Please tell us about what’s happening in your life and/or at your barn: births, deaths, engagements, job changes, new hires, marriages, new management and barn moves. Send your reports to Kim F. Miller at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Photos welcome!

 
August 2019 - A Damn Fine Hand
Written by by Joell Dunlap - all rights reserved by the author 2018
Tuesday, 30 July 2019 22:03

adamn

Installment #14, Metta.

by Joell Dunlap - all rights reserved by the author 2018

Mary and Colette had three things in common. They were 14 years old, they were crazy about horses and both had attempted suicide in the last year.

The girls came together at the ranch. Mary was the tiny, quiet one with a calm exterior and an artist’s temperament. She had Mediterranean skin and short, thick course black curls. She was what the adults called “an old soul.” The kids called her “helpful” “sweet” or “too quiet, maybe she’s kinda stuck up.”

 
May 2020 - Ask Dr. Darby Bonomi
Written by CRM
Wednesday, 29 April 2020 04:59

ask dr darby

Performance psychologist and equestrian answers readers’ questions.

Dear Dr. Darby,

I have been on Shelter In Place for several weeks, with no end in sight. I can’t even see my horse, much less ride or have a lesson. And, of course, we have no idea when the shows will be rescheduled. This is my last junior year and I feel so sad about it. I know it’s a small problem in some ways, but it’s a real loss to me.

Thanks,

—C.P., Sacramento, CA


Dear C,

 

Thanks for your question. You raise many important topics. Let’s start with the grief you are feeling, and the guilt that is on top of that grief. I’ve had quite a few clients feel guilty about their sadness over the loss of horse shows, or horse time. They feel that it’s not OK to have these feelings when others are in much worse shape. It’s important to recognize that we are all experiencing losses in our lives, some bigger than others, and all the grief is powerful and real.

When you feel that grief—usually a very heavy bodily feeling along with intense sadness—allow it to be. Don’t push away your feelings. Acknowledge them.

You might try writing them down in a journal.

Journaling about your feelings during this time can help you manage and cope—it gives you a safe place to put feelings out there, in an unedited version.

If you are in your last junior year as a rider, I suspect you may also be a senior in high school. If so, you’re missing out not only on horse show milestones, but also on other milestones—prom, senior retreats, yearbook meetings, parties and even graduation. The losses are significant, and there is no way to ”make them up.” Nonetheless, this crisis calls upon us all to accept the situation, gather our strength, and find ways to move forward in positive and productive ways.

After you have allowed yourself some grieving time—maybe even daily—put it away and actively decide to focus on moving yourself forward.

One of my mantras is stay grounded in present time while keeping your eye on where you’re headed. This perspective is even more relevant now. As I said before, we have to mindfully acknowledge what we are going through, and at the same time keep our intentions and larger purpose in mind.

Keep Your “Why” Front & Center

What is your why, when it comes to riding? Is it to hone your skills and jump bigger? Or complete a pattern flawlessly? Or take your skills to the next level?

Well, all those goals are still relevant. We are all a work in progress. This crisis has changed our path, but the floodwater will recede, and we will navigate a new path to our destination.

So now let’s talk specifically about the loss of riding during Shelter in Place.

First and foremost, stay fit. Ok, you can’t ride right now, because you’re at home. But you can be active. Actually, it’s essential to stay fit, both so that you can be ready to get back on when we get the green light—but even more important—for your overall physical and mental health. I suggest, if you haven’t already, designing a plan of workouts six days per week, that includes stretching, strengthening, balance, and aerobic conditioning. If you need help, there are countless videos and Zoom workouts available right now. The most important thing is that you put workouts in your daily routine and stick to it. I personally like to get outside, and because of where I live, this is relatively easy and safe for me.

Second, use visualization to “ride.” Visualization is a powerful tool that many of us use to prepare for a performance. In this circumstance, you can “practice” your rides by closing your eyes and visualizing. The more intense and alive you make your visualization, the more effective it will be. Sit yourself on a stool or somewhere where you can simulate your position in the saddle. Sit up straight, put yourself in a riding seat. Close your eyes. Call to mind a lesson, or a show round that you want to work on.

Bring it into sharp focus so that you can sense every detail, just like you would on an actual ride. Feel your horse underneath you. Feel your feet in the irons.

Touch your horse’s mane. Feel the bridle in your hands. Now, in great and vivid detail, ride the round or the lesson. Practice what you are working on. To your brain, such intense visualization is very close to doing the real thing. Visualization is a great way to correct mistakes, too!

Third, study videos of yourself and of pros you admire. Really observe both yourself and the pros—see what tips you can pick up. Now that you have more time, videos can be an effective tool, and studying them closely will give you real information rather than just the gratification of watching.

Finally, staying socially connected, even though we’re physically apart, is essential during this time. You’re young so it’s likely you’re on social media a lot, but even so, try to maintain more real time connection with your riding friends. You’re not alone in your predicament, and I think sharing feelings with friends makes us all feel better. Be sure to reach out to people beyond texting and messaging so that you can have more meaningful conversations. One of the beautiful elements of showing is that we all tend to make friends across the region and state. During this time, you might be surprised how many people are in your same boat and feeling the same things.

Hang in there. We’ll get through this together.

—Darby Bonomi, PhD

If you have a question for performance psychologist Darby Bonomi, PhD., please submit it to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . You are welcome to ask a question anonymously, but please provide relevant background regarding your experience and other details that enable her to best answer your question.

 
April 2020 - Editor's Notes
Written by CRM
Wednesday, 01 April 2020 01:02

editors

Hard to believe it was only three weeks ago that I was volunteering as press officer for the new Pacific Coast Dressage CDI3* March 6-8 in Temecula. We were all talking about COVID-19 at the time, but in a relatively unworried way -- jokingly trading elbow bumps instead of handshakes or hugs as we met. The show ran smoothly, but we all came home to a world that radically changed with the March 11 declaration of a global pandemic. Even then, it took a while to realize the wide-reaching impacts it would have on all of us.

 


California show organizers scrambled to do the right thing. Some first altered the nature of their shows, then later cancelled them all together or sought to reschedule them for later. The USEF’s March 13 declaration that all its owned events were cancelled for the next 30 days, and the request that organizers follow suit, pretty much put the kibosh on competitions and gatherings of any kind. Mandates from local, state and federal government cemented that new reality. The cancellation of the Del Mar National and the World Cup Finals, in Las Vegas, hit particularly close to home. The USEF’s suspension was initially through April 16, then extended to May 3, per recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control.

 

Deadline week, March 22, brought the news that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has been postponed ‘til some time in 2021. Those are still shocking headlines, but the broader waves of impact are being felt at private and public stables throughout the state. As we went to press on March 25, some stables were still allowing owners to come ride and care for their horses -- most on structured schedules to limit human interactions. Some had immediately closed to boarders while trainers and minimal staffs care for the horses.

By the time this issue arrives, I’m sure a lot more will have changed. Please consider donating to the California Professional Horsemen’s Association’s GoFundMe effort to help some of our colleagues who’ve been most immediately affected: CPHA Fundraiser for Horse Show Work Force at www.gofundme.com. California horse people have helped each other through some pretty terrible things in the past, and I know that will be part of this crisis’ eventual resolution.

We welcome the chance to spread helpful and encouraging news as it becomes available. With a mid-deadline 180° turn in what we should report on, I am super grateful to my friends and excellent writers Nan Meek and Marnye Langer for their great articles in this issue. And, how timely that performance psychologist Dr. Darby Bonomi, PhD, answers a question this issue about staying focused amid distractions? It was submitted by a reader well before any semblance of normalcy went out the window, and it applies now more than ever.

And to USEF photographer Taylor Pence for capturing Sabine Schut-Kery’s joyous expression and sharing it as our cover image.

Thank you to Premier Equestrian for sponsoring our cover feature on footing innovations. I have been following this company for many years and it’s impressive how they’ve found ways to contribute to elite-level innovations and make them available to those of us at the more “normal” economic levels of our sport.

Stay healthy, please. If you are healthy and have access to your horse, give him an extra hug for those who can’t hug their own right now.
    
Kim F Miller, Editor
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ADOPT ME!

Little Feather is an arabian mare back up for adoption at FalconRidge Equine Rescue in Valley Center, California.

She is 15 years old and has been with her adopter for the last seven years in Ramona. Her adopter trained her to ride on trail, which she has done since she learned to ride. She is healthy and sound, up to date, and has the arabian sensitivity so she is looking for an experienced rider who wishes to continue to take her on trail rides.

Adoption fee is $500 and a contract is required.

Please contact her adopter Lisa to see Little Feather at 760-315-8164.

 
March 2020 - Editor's Notes
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Monday, 02 March 2020 21:13

editors

News of the first annual Whitethorne Equitation 101 event came in just as we were going to press for this issue. It will be held in conjunction with the Memorial Day Classic on Monday, May 25, at the Hansen Dam Horse Park and it builds on the very successful Whitethorne-sponsored American Tradition of Excellence in Equitation.

 


As we have reported, these unique combinations of education and competition are underwritten by Whitethorne Ranch, owned by Georgy Maskrey Segesman and her family. Lead educators in the Equitation 101 are Equestrian Coach’s Bernie Traurig and Diane Carney. The event will see junior and amateur riders competing in equitation and medals from 2’9” to 3’0”. (Contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for more information about Equitation 101.)

 

Georgy Maskrey Segesman didn’t have to underwrite these events. The Nilforushans didn’t have to add the lower-cost Developmental Series at the upcoming Temecula hunter/jumper shows. Blenheim EquiSports didn’t have to create the grant programs for young professionals and West Palms Events doesn’t have to offer the generous Michael Nyius scholarship.
But they chose to.

Sure, in every case, there may be a profit or PR benefit to what they’re doing, but I doubt that outweighs the cost in time, money and effort from their team.

We had the fun of chatting with Twin Rivers and Copper Meadows eventing course designer Hugh Lechore, an East Coast guy, recently. When asked what he noticed about the West Coast while out here, he said, “It’s a smaller pool of riders, they’re genuinely all good friends and they know and support each other. It’s kind of an old-school attitude and approach: everyone is in it to have a good time and be supportive.”

He was talking about eventers, but I think it applies across disciplines. Horse And Rider Boutique owner Barbara Biernat didn’t have to step in and become a show organizer for the new Pacific Coast CDI March 6-8. She recognized the need for more international shows to support the region’s dressage riders and maybe she had some direction from above, from the much-missed Lisa Blaufuss, in taking on the enormous task.

Lou and Kelly Gonda didn’t have to lift a finger for the Santa Cruz Island horses, but they opted to follow the lead of other supporters and make their beautiful El Campeon Farms a base for stewarding the rare breed into the future. The Peridot Equestrian, LLC, team doesn’t have to earmark partial proceeds of April’s Carl Hester clinic to USDF Region 7 Young Riders team, but they are.

You can read about most of these endeavors in this issue. They only scratch the surface of the good deeds that grace our region, starting with the corps of volunteers who make our eventing and dressage competitions possible.

So, thanks to all for the daily inspirations of doing good stuff.

And thanks to Classic Equine Equipment for sponsoring this issue’s cover. The manufacturer of gorgeous, long-lasting stalls and stable accessories is a long-time supporter of California Riding Magazine and we’re grateful for the chance to share their evolving story with our readers.

Happy reading and riding!

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Titus is an approximately 14 yr old thoroughbred gelding up for adoption at FalconRidge Equine Rescue in Valley Center, California. He stands 16.2 hands high and moves soundly. He had been started under saddle in the past, but had some pain issues as he has high withers so proper saddle fit and equine knowledge is a must. Needs restarting with a slow confident rider to let him know riding is not painful anymore. Titus has been enjoying playing in the pasture the last few years with other horses and no riding. His adoption fee is $500.  Please follow the directions for adoption on our website at www.falconridgerescue.org.

 

 

 
March 2020 - What’s Happening...
Written by CRM
Monday, 02 March 2020 18:27

whats happeningCalifornia Riding Magazine Event Calendar

Does your special event deserve special coverage in California Riding Magazine’s What’s Happening Event Calendar? If so, let us know and don’t forget a photo. Send it all to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Our deadline is the first of the month for the following month’s issue. It’s the place to be and it’s free!


0320 wh1

A Golden Year with LEG
Various dates starting March 13 in the Los Angeles area.

The Langer Equestrian Group celebrates is 50th year of staging high-quality hunter/jumper shows at all levels. Up next is the Verdugo Hills March Fling at the Hansen Dam Horse Park in Lake View Terrace. A busy season of LEG competitions flows steadily throughout 2020.

Spring will showcase two back-to-back weeks of ‘A’-rated horse showing with Verdugo Hills May (May 15-17) and the Memorial Day Classic (May 21-24) at Hansen Dam Horse Park.

Fall will feature the $15,000 LEG Jumper Championships and 12 medal finals, including LAHJA, USHJA Zone 10, and LEGIS League medal finals. The season wraps up with the LA Season Finale (Nov. 13-15) hosting the LEGIS League Equitation Challenge.     

“I look forward to delivering the best season yet,” said Marnye Langer, Managing Director of The Langer Group. “We are proud to be celebrating 50 years of producing excellent horse shows.”

For more information, visit www.langershows.com.

0320 wh2

French Classical Dressage Symposium
March 20-22 in Healdsburg

Barbier Farms hosts a weekend of lectures, question and answer sessions, private lessons designed for auditors’ benefit and the Saturday evening extravaganza, complete with a catered dinner surrounded by beautiful Lusitanos. It is a unique opportunity to work directly with Dominique Barbier.

For more information, visit www.dominiquebarbier.com.

0320 wh3Ultimate Dressage Symposium
March 13-15 in Elk Grove

Nor-Cal Western Dressage Association hosts this Ultimate Dressage Clinic and Symposium with master instructors Frances Carbonne and Simone Windeler. All dressage disciplines are encouraged to attend as the subjects covered pertain to Classical, Western Dressage and Working Equitation. Topics will include the rider’s mental tool kit; tools of the trade; training timeline; and warm up area success and successful showing tactics.

The venue is the Starr Vaughn Equestrian Center in the Sacramento area’s Elk Grove.

For more information and to register, visit https://www.facebook.com/NorCalWesternDressage/ 

0320 wh4Diane Carney Clinic
March 21-22 in the Reno area’s Washoe Valley

Franktown Meadows Hunter Derby and Silver State Pony Club present a USHJA Trainer Certified Program-approved clinic with Diane Carney.  All proceeds from the clinic will benefit Silver State Pony Club.

Participants will be grouped into sessions of six to eight riders each, and auditors are welcome. Trainers seeking credit toward the educational requirement of the Trainer Certification Program must notify Franktown Meadows of their intent, must attend all sessions in their entirety, and must sign in and out each day of the TCP Clinic on the official form provided by the USHJA.

Diane Carney is a lifelong, dedicated horsewoman, emphasizing horsemanship in every aspect of her world.  Her in-depth knowledge has been earned as a grand prix rider, hunter rider, clinician, USHJA certified trainer, event organizer, commentator, course designer, USEF R judge, USEF International Disciplines Committee member and former USHJA Board of Directors member,

For more information, visit www.fmhunterderby.com

0320 wh5Galway Downs International Horse Trials
March 27-29 in Temecula

CCI4*-S through Beginner Novice Rider competition is set for this ever-improving venue in beautiful Temecula Valley wine country. New breezy, clear-span FEI Stabling was a big hit last fall and Jay Hambly returns as lead course designer with the assistance of veteran builder and Galway Downs track expert Bert Woods. Marc Donovan is on the stadium courses.

Saturday night’s exhibitor party is always a fun tradition. Entries are open until March 10.

Visit www.galwaydowns.comfor more information.

0320 wh6Paso Robles Horse Park
Hunter/jumper season starts April 4-5

Embarking on only its fifth year, the Paso Robles Horse Park has a busy season of hunter jumper shows starting with the Kick-Off Schooling event April 4-5. The schedule continues through the summer and fall, highlighted by the back-to-back Classic Series starting April 15.

The calendar is highlighted by some nice additions.

The first of those is the 2 EX Young Horse Program. Young horses gain EXperience and EXposure during B-rated series: Rosé in May, Paso Pumpkins & Ponies, and Turkey Trot & Jump.

This new program will offer stalls to all competing young horses (7 and under) for $50. All competitors riding young horses can opt into unique exposure opportunities to capture and share video footage of their horses through a specially promoted Park YouTube channel. The Park is dedicated to facilitating this video exposure, and sharing these videos on our robust social media channels and further promoting reach through target advertising support.

The Paso Park Hall Of Fame is a new Top Barn, Top Amateur, Top Junior, Top Jumper and Top Derby Hunter award for the Paso Park Classic Series. Competitors will be tracked at the Paso Park Welcome Classic, Paso Park Spring Classic, Paso Park Fall Classic, and Paso Park Oak Tree Classic. The top prize will take home $2,500 and more than $10,000 worth of additional Hall of Fame prizes will be given away.

For more information, visit www.pasorobleshorsepark.com.   

0320 wh7Carl Hester Clinic
April 11-12 in San Diego County’s San Marcos

Five-time British dressage Olympian Carl Hester, MBE, presents a Through the Levels Masterclass at Peridot Equestrian. Working with horses at various levels of development and competition, Carl will share his strategies with their riders in ways that are equally informative for auditors. When he gave a similar clinic in Del Mar a few years ago, he was insightful and delightful. We are lucky to have him back in the region.

Each day, Carl will work with six riders. There will be an hour lunch break and an autograph signing at the end of the day on Saturday. Bring his book, Making It Happen, to be signed.  VIP tables and general admission are both available. Rider selection will be made by Carl on was set to be announced on April 1.

For tickets, vendor and sponsorship information, visit www.peridotequestrian.com

0320 wh8Del Mar National
April 14-May 2 in San Diego

From reserving exclusive dinner box seats to cashing in on the Horse Lovers Package – a sweet deal that includes admission to all three Saturday night shows – it’s time to reserve seats for the world-class 75th Annual Del Mar National Horse Show. Night Of The Horse culminates Western Week on April 18; Dressage Week is anchored by the Evening of Musical Freestyles on April 25 and the finale for Hunter/Jumper week is the $75,000 Grand Prix of Del Mar on May 2.

The Del Mar National kicks off its thrilling three-week run on April 14 and includes three distinct disciplines: Western, Dressage and Hunter/Jumper. This iconic show has received the prestigious Heritage Show designation from the United States Equestrian Federation and is recognized on the international stage, attracting nearly 1,500 horses and Olympic, World Cup and World Champion athletes. Competitors will vie for more than $300,000 in cash and prizes at this storied event, nestled in the picturesque seaside setting of Del Mar.

For tickets and more information, visit www.delmarnational.com.

 
February 2020 - What’s Happening...
Written by CRM
Friday, 31 January 2020 22:41

whats happeningCalifornia Riding Magazine Event Calendar

Does your special event deserve special coverage in California Riding Magazine’s What’s Happening Event Calendar? If so, let us know and don’t forget a photo. Send it all to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Our deadline is the first of the month for the following month’s issue. It’s the place to be and it’s free!


Education Event
Feb. 10 in San Juan Capistrano

Equine Medical Associates presents a client education day at Blenheim Equine Rehabilitation, which is located at Blenheim Farms adjacent to the popular Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park venue. Platinum Performance’s Dr. Victoria Maxwell will speak on nutrition and there will be a demo of Blenheim Equine Rehab’s water treadmill and salt water equine spa.

Platinum Performance and Zoetis are the sponsors.

For more information, visit www.equinemedicalassociates.net.


Musical Freestyle Clinic
Feb. 22-23 in Woodside

“Making your freestyle sing” is the theme of this clinic with musician FEI trainer and freestyle designer Melanie Michalak. “There’s a difference between riding a test to music and riding a true freestyle,” Melanie says. Understanding what makes a great freestyle, assessing the horse’s strengths and weaknesses to maximize or minimize them in a freestyle are among the topics to be covered, along with selecting the best music. 

Riding opportunities include private, semi-private and “quadrille” and auditing is another option. The clinic takes place at The Horse Park at Woodside.

To register, visit www.sfpcds.org.

Desert Circuit Highlights
Various dates in Thermal

Now under the new ownership and management of Apex EquiSport, the eight-week hunter/jumper Desert Circuit features peak weeks this month. On Saturday, Feb. 15th, it’s Equitation Saturday with 3’3” and 3’6” medals, half of them staged in the Grand Prix Stadium. That’s followed Feb. 18-23 and Feb. 25-March 1 both having FEI CSI3* jumping and a wide range of hunter and equitation classes.

Live streaming from all 12 rings of competition is also an option.

For more information, visit www.deserthorsepark.com.

Working Equitation Schooling Show
Feb. 29 in Hidden Valley

Judge, clinician, competitor and trainer Jill Barron heads up this Working Equitation schooling show at the beautiful El Campeon Farms in Hidden Valley. Jill will also be available the week before for private lessons focusing on any aspect of this exciting discipline: dressage or obstacles.

For more information, visit www.ecfinvitational.com.

Sustainable Equine Management Workshop
March 7-8 in Petaluma

Award winning “Horses for Clean Water” creator Alayne Blickle is the main presenter in this two-day workshop covering site design, manure management, composting, erosion control, confinement area innovation, pasture and mud management, insect and weed control, drainage, integrated habitate restoration, fencing, arenas, fire preparedness and more.

For more information, email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Kristin Hardin Clinic
March 14-15 in Santa Ynez Valley’s Solvang

Grand Prix jumping rider Kristin Hardin will give a clinic at this beautiful breeding facility Pollyrich Farms in the Santa Ynez Valley. As a clinician, Kristin is known for straight talk and encouragement for riders and horses of all levels. The weekend will be divided into groups of four or five riders at various fence heights. Auditors are welcome for $10 a day.

For more information, visit www.pollyrichfarms.com.

 
January 2020 - What's Happening
Written by CRM
Tuesday, 31 December 2019 19:46

whats happeningCalifornia Riding Magazine Event Calendar

Does your special event deserve special coverage in California Riding Magazine’s What’s Happening Event Calendar? If so, let us know and don’t forget a photo. Send it all to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Our deadline is the first of the month for the following month’s issue. It’s the place to be and it’s free!


Ashlee Bond Clinic
Jan. 4-5 in Lake View Terrace

International show jumping rider Ashlee Bond is coming to The Hansen Dam Horse Park for a jumping clinic on January 4-5, 2020. Ashlee brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in the world of show jumping. Most recently, Ashlee helped the Israeli Equestrian Team qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

There will be four groups, ranging in height from .80m to 1.30m.     

The clinic will be held in the Hansen Dam Grand Prix Arena featuring geotextile footing and show quality jumps.  Spur Tech Spurs will be one of our sponsors and each rider will receive a pair of spur straps courtesy of Spur Tech. There will also be professional photography from Kristin Lee Photography.

Auditing is free for spectators – come watch and learn. Lunch will be provided for clinic participants.

Contact  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  for more information.

Fundraising Clinic
Jan. 4-5 in Fresno

The Fresno County Horse Park stages its annual fundraising clinic with Jock Paget as the star attraction and a roster of top regional professionals donating their time to help all get ready for the 2020 season.
Bunnie Sexton, Chris Scarlett, David Adamo, David Koss, Deb Rosen, Kristi Nunnink, Natalie Brady and Wendy Wergeles are among the pros available for lessons.

For more information, visit www.fresnocountyhorsepark.com.

CDS Annual Meeting & Symposium
Jan. 11-12 in Sacramento

The California Dressage Society has designated Freestyle as the focus of the educational symposium that is always a big draw for this gathering. This starts Saturday afternoon with a video and talk by designer Terry Gallo and judge Janet Foy. That is followed by a Sunday live demo and discussion of freestyles at the Rancho Murieta Equestrian Center.

Friday and Saturday morning activities take place at the convention’s main venue, the Embassy Suites, Sacramento Riverfront. Committee and chapter meetings occupy these time slots, with Saturday night set aside for the annual awards gala. It’s a nice evening of connecting and celebrating with friends and the chapter gift baskets in the silent auction are always fun to peruse and bid on.

For more information, visit www.california-dressage.org.

USHJA Gold Star Clinic with Kirsten Coe
Jan. 15-19 in Thermal

Now in its third year, the United States Hunter Jumper Association’s Gold Star Clinics have become widely recognized as a terrific educational opportunity. That’s especially so for the junior and amateurs who earn full participation privileges by qualifying at the Regional Team Jumping Champs or through a wild card bid. And there’s plenty to learn by auditing.

This year’s main clinician is Grand Prix jumping rider Kirstin Coe, also the daughter of USEF Youth chef d’equipe DiAnn Langer. The Gold Star clinic format extends well beyond riding. Unmounted sessions in the past have taken deep dives into breeding and young horse evaluation, building a brand as a rider and, always, numerous aspects of horse care and show preparation.

The clinic overlaps with the first week of the Desert Circuit at the Desert International Horse Park.

For more information, visit www.ushja.org.

Galway Downs Fundraising Clinic
Jan. 18-19 in Temecula

Ian Stark once again headlines this great start to the 2020 eventing season. Jumping lessons with the British star and a long list of top regional professionals help participants up their game, while entry fees go toward improvements at Galway Downs Equestrian Center, the Southern California eventing hotspot in Temecula.

Alice Sarno, Auburn Excell Brady, Barb Crabo, Emilee Libby, Erin Kellerhouse, Gina Economou, Hawley Bennett-Awad, Jennifer Wooten-Macouzet, Taren Hoffos, Liza Horan and Susan Friend are just a few of the pros donating their time to this cause. Taking lessons as a rider is ideal, but auditing is a wonderful way to learn from all instructors. Auditing is free, with a suggested donation.

For more information, visit www.galwaydowns.net.

 
December 2019 - Dressage News & Views
Written by by Nan Meek
Sunday, 01 December 2019 09:31

dressage news

California dressage riders shine at the US Dressage Finals.

by Nan Meek

California is recognized around the country for the quality of its dressage, but our location “out West” is regarded by our sport’s “back East” governing bodies as too far for eastern-based riders and officials to travel for national competitions. Such is the case with the US Dressage Finals, held annually at the Kentucky Horse Park, which admittedly is a fantastic location for many reasons, but a heck of a trek for West coast competitors.
Despite the distance and the cost in travel time and expense, 10 California riders and a dozen horses made the journey to Kentucky for the US Dressage Finals, this November 7-10.

 


What they brought home, in addition to three championships, two reserve championships, and numerous top 10 awards, was a wealth of experience, camaraderie, and dreams for even more dressage competition.

Ruth Shirkey & Wyleigh Princess. Photo: Susan J. Stickle

Ruth Shirkey & Wyleigh Princess

With her 9-year-old Hanoverian mare Wyleigh Princess (Weltmeyer x Heiress B by His Highness), Ruth Shirkey brought home the Intermediate I Freestyle Adult Amateur Championship with a score of 73.900%, as well as the Prix St. Georges Adult Amateur Reserve Championship title on 70.843% and third in the Intermediate I Adult Amateur Championship on 70.294%.

“This was my first time going to Kentucky, and I thought I would be happy with a top five, so these championships were a little surreal, quite frankly,” Ruth commented. “It all seems like a fairy tale!”

Ruth and Wyleigh were part of the KEFA Performance Horses contingent headed up by Kevin and Ericka Reinig. “It’s great to have all the mutual support and camaraderie, knowing they’re there for you. They know us so well, from the in-hand training Kevin gave Wyleigh as a youngster to Ericka, Lindsay and Chelsea helping start her under saddle back in the day.”

Ruth and her husband Eric Drew did their own hauling, with EMT and medical transport professional Eric behind the wheel while tax accountant Ruth worked on phone and laptop. Their seamless teamwork and comprehensive preparation paid off, with a trouble-free trip and safe arrival at the Kentucky Horse Park, a round trip of 5,600 miles there and back to Wyleigh’s home base at Carolyn and Patrick Adams’ Yarra Yarra Ranch in Pleasanton.

These days, Ruth works with Wyleigh on her own and in clinics with US Equestrian Dressage Young Horse Coach Christine Traurig, who is helping them continue advancing up the levels.

Reflecting on her fairy tale experience, Ruth remarked, “The best part of it all was the opportunity to compete against the top riders from other regions. We have a wonderful pool of talent in California, and we have the opportunity to show against each other at our own Annual Show. Then the US Dressage Finals are yet another level. With the top riders from other regions, it’s a broader pool of competition. We’re tested and compared directly against our peers. While we can read the USDF listings each year, they don’t tell the whole story – those scores are from different judges, different show conditions, etc. At the Finals, we were all riding in the same conditions, for the same judges, and it was clear who was the best on the day.”

As a rider who likes to get the most education out of every experience, Ruth said she appreciated the chance to see others riding. “You can see what the judges see, and all the rides are videoed so you can see the marks score by score. It was interesting that the nicest moving horses didn’t always score dramatically better – it was more about riding the movements properly and building the flow of the test so it was fluid and presented a harmonious overall picture.”

Looking ahead, Ruth remarked, “This experience reoriented me. Next year I’d like to get into the CDI arena and qualify for Lamplight.” That’s the USEF Dressage National Championships held at Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, Illinois, next August, where national championships are contested at Grand Prix and Intermediaire I, among other national titles. Here’s betting that’s the next cross-country trek for Ruth Shirkey, Eric Drew, and Wyleigh Princess.

Brian Hafner & Enjoy Point J

“She went into the arena like she owned the place,” Brian Hafner said proudly of Enjoy Point J, his 10-year-old KWPN mare (Westpoint x Invisible by Wagenaar). They clinched the Fourth Level Open Reserve Championship on 69.074% and added a seventh place finish in the Prix St. Georges Open Championship on 69.314%.

Brian describes his mare’s strengths as being very consistent and brave, adding that she’s quite a personality with a little sensitive side, as well. Their outstanding performance meant even more after being unable to ride for a few days before the long haul to Kentucky, due to the wildfires affecting air quality at their Santa Rosa home base.

Remarkably, the US Dressage Final was only her fourth show at Prix St. Georges, and as Brian remarked, “She gets better scores at Prix St. Georges than she does at Fourth Level.” Brian bought her two years ago as a sale horse, and noted that an option to selling her would be an in-barn lease.

Brian also showed Wendy Roberts’ Dreamcatcher to fifth place in the Intermediate II Open Championship with a score of 65.539%.

Jocelyn Towne and her trainer Kristina Harrison after the rainy day warm up ride in Kentucky.

Jocelyn Towne & Bandini

Jocelyn Towne returned to riding four years ago after a 20-year hiatus, and with her 9-year-old Hanoverian gelding Bandini (Bon Fatious x Shakira by Sandro Hit) she’s already won the US Dressage Finals Fourth Level Adult Amateur Championship with a score of 70.833%.

“When I won the USDF Regionals, I didn’t know if I should go,” Jocelyn recalled, “and I’m glad I listened to friends who told me I wouldn’t regret it if I went!” Her concerns included not only the trip itself, but apprehension about the combination of nerves with the kind of cold weather to which California girls just aren’t accustomed.

“There were a lot of firsts for us on this trip,” she explained. First trip to the Finals, first hack for this city-based horse and rider across the rolling green Kentucky hills, the expansiveness of the Kentucky Horse Park, and the long walk to the Alltech Arena on the “green carpet” that made them feel like stars.

“A lot of things came together for us at this show,” Jocelyn said. In addition to her regular lessons with trainer Kristina Harrison, Jocelyn has just ridden in a clinic with US Dressage Technical Advisor Debbie McDonald a week before Kentucky. “She just used some different language about using half halts and the short side and the corners to balance and set up for the movements. It’s nothing that I hadn’t heard before from Krisi and in clinics with Button Baker, but for some reason it all came together, and we had the best ride ever. After the class, I didn’t know if we’d won, but I knew it was the best we could do.”

Kimberly Frederick & Fantastica CS. Photo: Susan J. Stickle

Kimberly Frederick & Fantastica CS

“I couldn’t have asked for more,” Kimberly Frederick said of her 5-year-old Hanoverian “red-headed mare” Fantastica CS (Furst Romancier x Lady Liselo by Londonderry). Not only did they win the Training Level Adult Amateur Championship with a 70.172% score, they also placed fourth in the First Level Adult Amateur Championship on 73.565%, all in their first main competition year together.

Kevin and Ericka Reinig helped her find Fantastica, who was imported from Germany about a year ago, as a 3-year-old just turning 4. “It takes a village to get a horse down centerline,” Kim said of the group of family, friends, and supporters who pitched in for all of the KEFA competitors.

“I’m just getting the connection with my mare, and having her trust me,” Kim explained of their first year together, in which they’ve been working on rideability to bring out the beauty and harmony. “Of course, you have to have the basics, and we’re just starting.”

Not a bad way to start, with a US Dressage Finals championship. “I was almost in tears of joy during the victory lap in the Alltech Arena,” Kim recalled. “It was so much fun, and I hope to attend the Finals again.”

But Wait, There’s More

There are more California riders who brought home a rainbow of ribbons and a priceless array of unforgettable experiences from the US Dressage Finals.

At first level, Kristina Harrison and Emily Murray’s Juilliard DG placed third in the First Level Freestyle Open Championship with 77.122%, and fourth in the First Level Open Championship on 72.546%.

At second level, Rebecca Clare Evans and Donna Stutzman’s Tom Collins stood ninth in the Second Level Open Championship with 66.032%.

Third level saw Elena Flaharty and her own Royal Chrome take third in the Third Level Freestyle Open Championship with a score of 72.756%, while Ericka Reinig and Alanna Sellers’ Bellisambrosso RTH stood eighth in the Third Level Freestyle Open Championship with a 71.856%. In the Adult Amateur Third Level Championship, Elaine Lamotta and Caribbean Veluv scored a 59.792%.

FEI level competitors included Ericka Reinig and Elaine Lamotta’s Stanford LR with a 66.235% in the Prix St. Georges Open Championship and a 64.510% in the Intermediate I Open Championship, while Jaclyn Pepper and Cooper scored at 64.853% in the Intermediate I Open Championship.

If I’ve left anyone out of this impressive compendium of riders who deserve nothing but massive congratulations, my apologies – especially since even someone like me who didn’t qualify for the Finals knows that hard work, dedication, perseverance, and talent (plus a little bit of good luck) are traits shared by all these riders.

Congratulations!

A lifelong horse owner, author Nan Meek lives on the scenic San Mateo County coast where dressage courts and riding trails overlook the Pacific Ocean. She competed in dressage to the Prix St. Georges level with her late beloved Lipizzan Andy (Maestoso II Athena II-1), and now practices the discipline of dressage with her handsome Spanish warmblood Helio Jerez 2000 and dotes on the newest family member Mischa (Neapolitano Angelica II-1). Yes, dressage is embedded in her DNA.

 
November 2019 - Editor's Notes
Written by CRM
Thursday, 31 October 2019 00:31

editorsnotes

Volunteers are the lifeblood of many aspects of the competitive equestrian scene. It was great to see them starting young at the Woodside International Horse Trials in early October.

 


The Glenoaks Stables Pony Club Riding Center was one of several local clubs to lend members to the cause. Here are jump judges Amelia Azzi, 8, (orange hat) and Esmé Garrett, 7, (black hat).

 

May Morita, 10, (purple shirt) and Anna Le Grix, 9 (pink shirt.) Thanks Charlotte Arrouye for the pix.  They are our future stars, whether they become so as riders or supporters of the sport.

It was equally great to see so many current West Coast equestrian stars excelling all over the country and abroad. On the eventing front, Tamie Smith and Mai Baum were the highest placing American pair in the FEI Eventing Nations Cup CCIO4*-L hosted by Military Boekelo in the Netherlands. They were 11th in an intensely competitive field of 97 pairs from all over the world.

On the hunter/jumper front, this issue features the accomplishments of junior jumper star Emma Reichow, who followed her win of the USET Show Jumping Talent Search West by becoming the 2019 Neue Schule/USEF National Junior Jumper Individual Champion at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show. And the Rising to The Challenge article details the superstars among 74 Californians contesting various divisions at the Capital Challenge Horse Show in the Washington, D.C. area.

That’s in addition to lots of great stuff going on in our wonderful home turf.

Big thanks to Big Horse Feed and Mercantile, our cover sponsor for this issue. It is hands down the best place to find the perfect horse care or equestrian lifestyle gift for anybody on your list. Even better, it’s a year-round source for friendly, knowledgeable service, great products and a very strong commitment to supporting the community.

Much to be thankful for as usual. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Kim F Miller, Editor

ADOPT ME! Snowflake is an approximately 3 yr old appaloosa/quarter pony cross up for adoption at FalconRidge Equine Rescue in Valley Center, CA. She will be small at 12 hands and most likely not grow much bigger. She is halterbroke only and looking for a loving home who will continue her training under saddle in the future. Snowflake is kind and willing, just was not exposed to much of the world. Looking for a loving home to continue her learning. She is bright and curious, not a mean bone in her body. Healthy and sound. Sweet and very pretty girl. Adoption fee is $400. Check Snowflake out on our adoption page on the FalconRidge website at www.falconridgerescue.org and follow the instructions.

 
November 2019 - Dressage News & Views
Written by by Nan Meek • photos: Terri Miller Photography
Wednesday, 30 October 2019 22:27

dressage news

A sparkling, sensational, spicy show for this year’s dressage champions.

 

by Nan Meek • photos: Terri Miller Photography

 

Sparkling smiles and bling on bridles, boots and saddles reflected the effervescent atmosphere at the 52nd California Dressage Society Championship Show and 2019 Great American Insurance Group / USDF Region 7 Dressage Championships at Murieta Equestrian Center on September 19-22, 20219.


It’s a show that is a West Coast institution, this year at its ever-upgrading northern venue, where everyone from first-time qualifiers to long-time show ring stars competed for their goals … and had a brilliant time, as well.

CDS President Ellen Corob commented, “It’s a show people start the season thinking about, whether they aim to qualify for the CDS Championships or the USDF Regional Finals, or both. They have to work hard, hone their skills, and school well to qualify. It can be a big, scary show for new people, and it’s a big deal just to qualify, even if you don’t compete. For those who do compete, it’s a great accomplishment to place, much less win – these are the best horse and rider combinations in California, so even a tenth place means a lot.”

Champions at every level are crowned, from Training through Grand Prix, including Open, Amateur, and Juniors/Young Riders. The future of dressage is on show with young horses in the CDS Futurity and young riders in the Junior/Young Rider and Equitation. The grassroots bedrock of dressage – amateur riders – fill their divisions, own horses competed by professionals in the open divisions, and arguably have the most fun of the show season at the year-end championships.

Hilda Gurney on Iris. Photo: Terri Miller PhotographyLindsey Schultz on Delia 87. Photo: Terri Miller Photographyhttps://www.california-dressage.org/where a scroll down the home page reveals complete results in an easy-access PDF format, along with daily news releases that capture the competition highlights and provide the back stories of some of the winners.

More in-depth info on scoring, who rode which horse, and how individual judges placed each ride at the Championships, can be found on FoxVillage.com by filtering for Results, CA (California), and then scrolling down start dates to 9/19/2019 for the “Great American/USDF Reg 7 & CDS Championships”. To the right of this entry are columns for searching the lists of classes, riders, horses, and scratches. It’s detailed info about show results, without the backstory that the CDS web site provides.

The California Dressage Society Facebook page also provides stories and information, so like their page and follow them for ongoing info about dressage here in California – there’s a lot going on in addition to shows and championships.

Dressage in California is sparkling these days, with something for everyone. From new riders to veteran competitors, amateurs on schoolmasters to pros on young horses, and everyone in between, the 52nd California Dressage Society Championship Show and 2019 Great American Insurance Group / USDF Region 7 Dressage Championships provided a shining showcase at which to celebrate the diversity of dressage.

A lifelong horse owner, Nan Meek lives on the scenic San Mateo County coast where dressage courts and riding trails overlook the Pacific Ocean. She competed in dressage to the Prix St. Georges level with her late beloved Lipizzan Andy (Maestoso II Athena II-1), and now practices the discipline of dressage with her handsome Spanish warmblood Helio Jerez 2000 and dotes on the newest family member Mischa (Neapolitano Angelica II-1). Yes, dressage is embedded in her DNA.

 
October 2019 - Editor’s Notes
Written by CRM
Tuesday, 01 October 2019 04:01

editors

After spending much of August working from a quiet family cabin in Northern Idaho, coming home to the beginning of medal finals season and various league wrap-ups was a bit of a head-spinner.

While going to press for this issue, I jumped back into the whirlwind with a weekend at Blenheim EquiSports’ International Jumping Festival in San Juan Capistrano. It was one-stop shopping for the Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals and the EMO Insurance/USHJA’s 3’3” Jumping Seat Finals Medal Finals, won by Emma Catherine Reichow and Nicole McMillion, respectively. Not to mention the five North American League jumpers and hunter finals for the West Coast and the final round of the Markel Insurance Grand Prix league before the finals at the Las Vegas National next month.

 

 
October 2019 - What's Happening
Written by CRM
Tuesday, 01 October 2019 00:48

whats happeningCalifornia Riding Magazine Event Calendar

Does your special event deserve special coverage in California Riding Magazine’s What’s Happening Event Calendar? If so, let us know and don’t forget a photo. Send it all to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Our deadline is the first of the month for the following month’s issue. It’s the place to be and it’s free!

 
September 2019 - What’s Happening...
Written by CRM
Saturday, 31 August 2019 17:29

whats happeningCalifornia Riding Magazine Event Calendar

Does your special event deserve special coverage in California Riding Magazine’s What’s Happening Event Calendar? If so, let us know and don’t forget a photo. Send it all to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or call her at 949-644-2165.

Our deadline is the first of the month for the following month’s issue. Please submit your events by October 1st for the November issue. It’s the place to be and it’s free!

 
August 2019 - Dressage News & Views
Written by by Nan Meek
Friday, 02 August 2019 01:43

dressage news

On with the show!

by Nan Meek

There’s a dressage show almost every weekend within reasonable driving distance of the little patch of paradise I call home, most of them organized by either a professional show manager or a commercial equestrian center.

These days, most of those dressage shows are “three-star,” meaning they are recognized by CDS, USDF, and USEF (officially, California Dressage Society, United States Dressage Federation, and United States Equestrian Federation). A few of them are “one-star” shows, recognized only by CDS.

 
August 2019 - Thoroughbred Makeover: California Contenders
Written by by Kaitlyn Zaleski
Wednesday, 31 July 2019 20:41

tbmakeover

Eight California Thoroughbred trainers headed for Kentucky this fall.

by Kaitlyn Zaleski

Hot summer days and a busy schedule while getting ready for my wedding at the end of July led to a quiet month for Hula’s Thoroughbred Makeover training. Considering the very active spring and early summer that we’ve had, I think this has actually been the perfect excuse to give Hula some down time. We did recently take one trip into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada for the day to do some hill work. She has become such a pro at hauling that the trip required zero training moments and was just pure fun! She even expertly navigated three different water crossings, something we’ve struggled with in the past.

 
August 2019 - What’s Happening...
Written by CRM
Tuesday, 30 July 2019 17:01

whats happening

California Riding Magazine Event Calendar

Does your special event deserve special coverage in California Riding Magazine’s What’s Happening Event Calendar? If so, let us know and don’t forget a photo. Send it all to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Our deadline is the first of the month for the following month’s issue. Please submit your events by September 1st for the October issue. It’s the place to be and it’s free!

 
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