Horse People
November 2020 - Horse People: The Ebelings
Written by by Kim F Miller
Friday, 30 October 2020 01:46
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California’s first family of dressage set to shine at Desert Dressage.

by Kim F Miller

The new, two-week Desert Dressage CDI competition Nov. 12-22 is expected to draw top contenders from far and wide. But it may be the familiar faces of California’s first family of dressage, the Ebelings, who dominate in and out of the arena.

German-born U.S. Olympian Jan Ebeling will have Diamond’s Diva in the Grand Prix, Status Royal in the Developing Grand Prix and a string of up-and-comers in other divisions.


Twenty-one-year-old Ben Ebeling resumes an interrupted show season.


When the Adequan Global Dressage Festival was cut short after 10 of 12 weeks, Ben had led his U25 Nations Cup team to victory and sat atop the national U25 Brentina Cup standings. His top horses at the Desert International Horse Park competition will be Illuster van DE Kampert and Behlinger. He, too, has up and comers in other divisions.

Ben & Illuster. Photo: US Equestrian

The founder and manager of the family’s The Acres in Moorpark, Amy Ebeling won’t be seen in the arena, but her work, influence and ideas will be everywhere. Last fall, Amy decided to do something about the lack of international competition in the West. The FEI landscape was sparse pre-COVID and got worse when publicly-owned venues faced restrictions that made it even harder, sometimes impossible, to stage shows.

By then, the Ebelings were in their third year of owning and wintering at their farm in Wellington, Tierra Contenta. Yet the family is proud to call themselves Californians and sought a way to support international competition and their contemporaries in the West.

Amy eschews accolades, but there’s no downplaying her gift for bringing the right people together to bring ideas to life. Through her travels with Jan and Ben on the international stage, she knew superstar dressage organizer Thomas Baur. Through Ben’s several years as a top Junior Jumper rider (concurrent with high level dressage), Amy knew the venue formerly known as HITS Thermal and was introduced to the leader of the property’s new ownership group, Steve Hankin. Steve leads the Apex Equisport partnership that purchased, in 2019, what is now called the Desert International Horse Park. The partnership of horse owners and exhibitors is staging its sophomore season of hunter/jumper circuits and now venturing into dressage.

“Thomas Baur agreed to take the new show on, and I agreed to help him,” Amy says. That’s what she’s been doing in every nook and cranny of the Ebelings’ already busy days since the idea was hatched. A few months ago, what had been slated as the Pacific Coast CDI in Temecula became a second week of Desert Dressage, providing the draw of encamping for back-to-back show weeks in the same location.

“Amy is really good at getting people together and organizing,” says Jan. “She is a great motivator.”

Amy, Ben and Jan Ebeling. Photo: Platinum Performance

The Family That Plays Together

However busy and stressful it’s been to help bring the key players together and launch the show, Amy is poised to enjoy the fruits of her behind-the-scenes labor -- as she’s been doing with Jan and Ben’s careers all along. Watching the work done at home translate to beautiful, often winning, performances in the show ring is a gratifying aspect of a bigger reward: sharing a life with horses and finding a balance that facilitates growth and the pursuit of goals as a family and as individuals, in and beyond the arena.

Like many college-age kids, Ben is back living with his parents full time during the pandemic. Unlike many college-age kids, he likes it and is thriving. “We are a close family and my parents are my best friends,” he says.

He paused his business degree pursuit at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh to pursue dressage while COVID and online-only study options run their course. “It’s been an interesting shift,” he says. “I miss my friends, roommates and I miss the learning, which is my favorite thing outside of horses.”

Friendships outside the horse world have exposed him to other family business models -- from vineyard management to the tech industry to venture capital -- and that has given him a fuller perspective on what his parents have accomplished. “There is a lot of hard work to make your small business take off and seeing that as a business major, it’s given me a new perspective on my family, our business and on life. I’ve come to see my parents as real people and not just my parents. I’m really happy to be part of this business.”

International marketing and digital marketing are areas of special interest. Ben is enjoying gaining practical experience in building up the Ebelings’ social media sites and producing compelling content for sponsors.

In Moorpark or Wellington, there are always plenty of horses to ride. Ben’s equestrian education newly included a chapter on starting young horses, in this case the 4-year-old daughter of Jan’s 2012 Olympic mare, Rafalca. “Ben’s bones bend a little easier,” says Jan of Ben being elected to start the mare whose conformation, beauty and calm, eager-to-please temperament reflects Rafalca’s. Rafalca also has a 2-year-old, sired by Gaspard Du Nuit, by Steffen Peters’ Olympic mount Ravel. She is showing signs of being an even bigger star than her mother, the Ebelings say.

These pandemic months have given all the Ebelings more time to enjoy these two youngsters as they grow up in pastures at The Acres. With horses at the heart of their lifestyle, the Ebelings’ home, barn, irrigated grass turn-outs and the dressage court are all nestled together on the property. Long trail rides in the neighboring Happy Camp Park have always been part of their horses’ development and mental and physical training. They are an appreciated bit of variety since the Ebelings returned to their California base in June.

Ben & Behlinger.

Same Systems, New Mediums

While training the horses continues as normal throughout the COVID period, travel restrictions and concerns have changed the way Jan works as a coach and clinician. Along with the steady stream of young riders that rose up along with Ben’s pursuit of three North American Young Riders Championships, Jan has students at The Acres, in Wellington and many points in between and beyond.

During the pandemic, he is primarily coaching over Pixeo and Skype. “It’s better than I had anticipated,” he says. “Once you figure out how everything works, it can be quite nice and the clients seem to love it. They can video tape the lesson then go back and view it afterward, which is a great learning tool.”

In lieu of being on-site and able to physically demonstrate his instructions, “it really makes you think as a coach and trainer how to explain things,” Jan says. “And about how to explain things to each student.” Some students like things clearly spelled out and some are overwhelmed by too many words, he notes.

Amy & Ben.

Show Ready

Ben, Jan and The Acres-based young professional Claire Darnell all qualified for the USEF Festival of Champions in August. They made the difficult decision to play it safe and not travel to the Chicago area competition, so they are extra excited about getting back into the show ring.

Ben and his relatively new horse Illuster van de Kampert (owned by Amy Ebeling and Sasha Cutter), a half-brother to Steffen Peters’ Suppenkasper, made headlines in Florida this spring. Both Illuster and Behlinger have back stories that illustrate the extent to which Ben is carrying on the family legacy as a horseman.

Amy describes Behlinger, aka “Bugatti,” as “our miracle horse.” He was purchased as a 4-year-old by the familiar ownership group comprised of Amy, Beth Meyer and Ann Romney, aka “the Three Amigos.” Bugatti was a “very sensitive” horse from the beginning, a quality that often correlates to brilliant dressage work at the highest level. “But when we got him home, we found out he was much more sensitive than we had thought -- to the point that he was dangerous,” Amy shares. The Ebelings wound up sending him to natural horseman Monty Roberts for two years.

Through Bugatti’s progress, the Ebelings learned and embraced many of Roberts’ methods and partnered with Roberts on a few projects. When Bugatti returned to The Acres, Jan was coaching and competing in Europe, and Amy was confident enough to let Ben begin to work with the horse. “I didn’t ask Jan because I knew he would have said no!”

Ben Ebeling.

Amy credits Ben’s years riding jumpers up to the 1.50m ranks with helping develop split second reactions and sensitivity in the saddle. Only a year later, in 2018, Ben and Bugatti spent a summer in Europe on the European Young Riders Tour, culminating with a strong outing at the Future Champions FEI CDIO-Y in Hagen, Germany. And they were great USDF Region 7 partners in NAYC for 2017 and 2018.

Illuster is another very sensitive horse. He and Ben’s partnership had a rocky start. In one of their first Young Rider Grand Prix outings together in the summer of 2019, Illuster’s energy was so excessive that Ben chose to retire from the test.

By Week 8 of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, Illluster was settling into the new groove of being both “calm and on,” Ben explains. That resulted in U25 Grand Prix and Grand Prix Freestyle victories with consistent scores in the mid 70s. “I was beside myself!” Ben shares. Although the Festival ended two weeks early, Ben was thrilled to close it on their Week 10 victory with the Stars & Stripes squad in the CDIO U25 Nations Cup in March.

“He needed to trust Ben, which he’s learned to do,” Amy says, an understatement for the pair that now tops the national U25 Brentina Cup standings.

Jan Ebeling.

Father & Son Showdown?

Beyond ensuring that Ben knew enough to be safe on and around horses, Jan and Amy deliberately avoided putting any pressure on him to ride. Ben and Jan have often said they think jumpers may be Ben’s true passion and eventual path, but dressage is the focus for now.     Jan acknowledges the dual roles of father and coach are interesting. As with all his students, Jan strives to “have my riders figure things out on their own, while I’m there to give them sort of a floor plan.”

“Growing up with me, Ben has learned my system of riding (the ‘only system!’ he jokes) right from the beginning. Yet, if you think of riding being a sort of language for communicating with the horse, then we all have our own accent or dialect.”

Father and son’s similar yet distinct languages have them on a track that may result in head-to-head competition in the Open Grand Prix ring soon.

Regardless the results of such a showdown, it would be a win for this family so devoted to their horses, each other and their sport.


The Ebelings are Sponsored by:


  • Carolina Arena
  • Cavalor
  • County Saddlery
  • Dressage Extension
  • Effol
  • EquiTrek
  • Fleck Germany
  • Frantisi
  • GEM
  • GPA
  • Haygain
  • Hermes
  • Herm. Sprenger
  • Ice Horse
  • Parker Equine Insurance
  • Platinum Performance
  • Robert Squared
  • Roeckl Sports
  • Wellington Agricultural Services
September 2020 - Horse People: Zoie Noelle Brogdon
Written by by Winter Hoffman. Originally posted by reprinted with permission.
Wednesday, 26 August 2020 20:40
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Young rider on the road to show jumping success and becoming a role model for equestrians of color.

by Winter Hoffman. Originally posted by reprinted with permission.

Fifteen-year-old Zoie Noelle Brogdon is one of the more advanced riders to come out of the Thousand Oaks, California equestrian program Riders United. It is an offshoot of the Compton Junior Posse, the former inner-city riding group designed to introduce urban youth to the world of horses. Riders United is one of only a few in the U.S. designed to provide Black and minority riders of all ages from many different socioeconomic backgrounds the educational groundwork of horsemanship and give opportunities for riders to compete in the show ring.

Relying on monetary and in-kind donations from generous supporters, Director Victoria Faerber tirelessly organizes the day-to-day operating logistics at the Thousand Oaks location, while former CJP member Nathan Williams-Bonner heads up the Temecula branch of the organization. (See Be The Change, California Riding Magazine July 2020 issue).

Fellow Californian, Olympian Will Simpson, was inspired by the cause in 2008, and stepped up to donate his time to train the riders, which currently range in age from 12 to 25. Brogdon had the opportunity to clinic with Simpson four years ago and the Olympian saw a spark in the young rider. With the support of Meadow Grove Farm and the family of Zazou Hoffman, Brogdon picked up the ride on their 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding Emilion in 2018.

(Editor’s Note: the author is Zazou’s mother, Winter, who previously volunteered with and loaned horses to the Compton Junior Posse).

Together, they have seen great success in the 1.00-1.10m Jumper divisions over the past several years as she gains more mileage in the saddle.

As a Phelps Sports contributing columnist, Winter Hoffman sat down with Brogdon to learn more about her riding development, her future goals and how she feels our sport can be made more easily accessible to riders of all backgrounds.

Compton Jr. Posse rider Zoie Brogdon competing at the Del Mar International. Photo: JXB Photography

Winter: How were you introduced to riding?
Zoie: My first time on a horse was when I was about five years old at Griffith Park, but I didn’t really start riding horses seriously when I was young. I did other extracurricular activities, such as soccer, gymnastics and track. I was on the LA Jets Track Team for a few years and I ran the 4×100 meter and the 4x 400 meters.

I actually began taking lessons when I was around 9 at a summer camp called Silver Spurs in Burbank, California. My mother worked in Burbank at the time, and out of convenience, she signed me up for two weeks. On the first day when she picked me up from camp the owner of Silver Spurs told my mom with a smile on her face, “This is Zoie’s sport — you’re in trouble now.” I guess the owner saw my connection to horses back then but I don’t think my mom knew what this journey was going to look like.

Winter: How did you come to have a passion for the sport?
Zoie: Silver Spurs was my introduction to horseback riding. My mom was told that I would need to go somewhere else if I wanted to learn how to compete. She read about the Compton Jr. Posse online and enrolled me in their summer camp for four weeks. At CJP, they taught me more than just how to properly sit on a horse, but how to truly ride one. I learned horsemanship, how to clean stalls, groom a horse, the anatomy of a horse, horse markings, how to tack a horse, you name it. We even took a field trip to the Longines Masters in Los Angeles.

The more I learned about the horse world, the more I wanted to be a part of it. Being at CJP is where my passion for horses ignited. One of the highlights I had at CJP was getting the opportunity to appear in Beyonce’s video Daddy Lessons, which was on her historic “Lemonade” album. They approached CJP needing a young girl who knew how to ride horses. I was picked for the part, but although I appear in various parts, sadly, the actual riding footage was cut from the video.  

Winter: Growing up, what challenges did you face as a Black rider?
Zoie: The challenge of being a rider of color is that I don’t have many other riders of color to look to for inspiration. African-American girls have Serena Williams to look up to in tennis, and Simone Biles in gymnastics. I’d love to rise to the highest levels of the equestrian sport so that African-American girls can look to me for inspiration and know that it’s not impossible.  

Winter: You currently train at Riders United with Victoria Faerber and Olympian Will Simpson donates his time to coach you. Can you tell us how this came about, the high points and what you have learned from Victoria and Will?
Zoie: I first met Will Simpson at CJP and he became a very prominent part of my riding career. Although Victoria was our trainer, Will taught many clinics for the show team at CJP. After a couple of years with CJP, I was asked if I wanted to compete at an A-rated show. It was a West Palms Events show at the LAEC. Will came to the competition and warmed up me and Mt. Colbrook, the horse I was riding, that day. I did opportunity classes and won several blue ribbons. This was definitely a high point for me.

When CJP closed, Victoria started Riders United, and Will continues to give us lessons when he has free time. Victoria has taught me the basics of riding, but most importantly, she has taught me horsemanship and how to take care of my horse and keep him healthy and happy. Victoria has seen the best and the worst of me as I’ve matured into being a teen, and she has helped me through these difficult years with a horse by my side.

Victoria has a special way of bringing out the best in a rider and a horse. Now that I’ve advanced from opportunity classes to 1.10m classes, Will’s lessons have been particularly insightful. Each lesson I learn something new that truly helps get the job done.

Winter: What opportunities has Riders United opened up for you that you may not have had if you had never joined the program?
Zoie: Riders United has opened doors for me. Through Riders United, I have been able to participate in clinics from people like the master horseman Bernie Traurig and Olympic gold medalist Will Simpson. I have also been able to participate at A-rated shows like West Palms Events and Nilforushan Equisport Events. With these opportunities, I have been able to meet many professional riders who I consider mentors.  

Winter: Why do you feel that programs like CJP or Riders United are so crucial to our sport and our world?
Zoie: Programs like CJP and Riders United are crucial to our sport because they allow kids who look like me to be exposed to and participate in a sport they would have never known existed.  If it wasn’t for CJP, I would never have known anything about show jumping, equitation or dressage. Programs like these are crucial to our world because they help bridge different cultures.

Winter: What steps do you feel the equestrian community can take to be more welcoming and inclusive of riders from various backgrounds?
Zoie: Unfortunately, this sport is a very expensive sport, so it can be cost prohibitive for many to participate. I feel that if we could develop a sponsorship program, we could make the sport more accessible and more affordable to all people from different backgrounds. Of course, supporting programs like Riders United is another way for the equestrian community to be more welcoming and inclusive of riders from various backgrounds. We sincerely appreciate the used riding clothes and tack that are often donated.
However, receiving funding can be used to offset so many show expenses such as the cost of a groomer so we aren’t so fatigued at shows. Or the cost of a tent, table, and chairs so we have a place in the shade to eat lunch comfortably and regroup during our downtime. These things may sound insignificant, but they will help the riders feel like they belong and allow them time to interact with other riders.

Winter: You must have a very supportive family, please tell us about them.
Zoie: My mother is my biggest cheerleader! She takes me out to the barn every weekend and is my groom when we are at shows. She makes sure I’m on time for my classes and that my boots are shined before each competition. She really does it all! My dad, although admittedly a little afraid of horses, has grown to love my horse, and is always making sure my winning rounds are on Facebook to show me off. I am really appreciative to have such wonderful parents to support me in all my endeavors.

Winter: What are you planning to do after you graduate high school?
Zoie: My plan after I graduate from high school is to attend college, but I don’t know where exactly.  It would be great to go to a college that is out-of-state, but then I probably wouldn’t be able to bring my horse. Right now I think I would like to study veterinary medicine. But who knows, that could change by the time I go to college.

Winter: Do you think you will continue to ride while attending college? Have you considered colleges with NCEA or IHSA equestrian teams?
Zoie: I would love to ride while attending college. My only hope is that if I do, it won’t interfere with my education. In a perfect world, I would go to college during the week and train and go to shows on the weekends. Colleges with NCEA or IHSA equestrian teams are definitely something I have thought about, especially because they compete in equitation.  As a jumper, competing in equitation would help my riding get stronger.

Winter: Talk to us about your horse Emilion.
Zoie: Emilion is my horse’s show name. His barn name is Nijinsky. My trainer named him Nijinsky after a famous race horse, but I call him “Ninja” for short. At home, Ninja is goofy, playful, and energetic – just like me.  He loves to listen to all kinds of music and go on trail rides.  Ninja is also a very sweet horse. There are other horses in the barn that have tried to bite him when he walks past them, but Ninja wouldn’t hurt a fly. At a show, Ninja is determined to win – just like me. He gets mad if he hits a rail and he saves me when I don’t approach a fence quite right. He loves his horse treats after every lesson and he loves to be scratched on the face with a curry comb of all things. We have been partners for about two years now and I’ve loved every minute of it!

Winter: What advice do you have for ambitious young riders?
Zoie: Have fun and build a good relationship with your horse. Ninja and I are best friends, and we goof around all the time. Ninja has quite a personality, and he loves hip-hop and rap music. Because of our bond, we have a great connection in the arena. Also, be open to advice offered from other seasoned riders. I’ve been very fortunate to have many supporters in the equestrian community who have helped me along the way – Kenneth Vinther, Mark Watring, Edgar Pagan, Mike Nielson, and Cindy Postel to name a few. 

Winter: What do you think it takes for a rider to get that “competitive spark?”
Zoie: This is what Kobe Bryant called the “Mamba” mentality. It’s a mindset and I don’t think you have to be born with it. If you want to be the best, then you have to work really, really hard to become the best. But, you have to want it for yourself and not for others!

Winter: What is a typical training day for you like?
Zoie: When I arrive at the ranch after a long car ride, I take Ninja out of the turn-out and walk up a hill to get to the tack stall. I tack him up while listening to music and having a good karaoke session to wake myself up. Then Ninja and I walk around the track a few times before we head into the arena to meet Victoria.

Each lesson can be different depending on what Victoria and I agree on doing that day. We will either work on improving my equitation, my eye, and distance coordination, or my jumping release. After our hour lesson, I walk Ninja about 15-20 minutes around the track to cool down. Sometimes we go on a trail ride and enjoy nature together. Then we come back to the stalls where I will untack and hose Ninja off. Then I always ice Ninja’s legs, give him a treat, and a few kisses before putting him back in his stall.

Winter: How do your trainers prepare you and your horses? What do they have you practice?
Zoie: My trainers prepare my horse and me by cross-training. We do a lot of dressage and flatwork, go on trail rides, focus on my jumping, and learn from different clinicians to get different perspectives. We also work on my horse’s fitness, flexibility, strength, and overall happiness.

To learn more about Riders United and how you can support their mission, check them out online, and on Facebook and Instagram.

About the Author: With a background in filmmaking, fashion and contemporary art, Winter Hoffman brings a unique perspective to the equestrian world. A lifelong horsewoman, she helped her daughter, Zazou Hoffman, navigate her way to a successful Junior career culminating in 1st place in the 2009 ASPCA Maclay Equitation Championship at the National Horse Show and second in the USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final with East Coast trainers Missy Clark and John Brennan. Zazou is now a trainer and professional rider at Meadow Grove Farm in the Los Angeles area. She has competed on several developing rider Nations Cups representing the United States.

April 2019 - Horse People: Claire Manhard
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Friday, 29 March 2019 02:04
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San Diego up-and-comer makes steady progress toward international goals.

by Kim F. Miller

This is Claire Manhard’s final year of eligibility for Brentina Cup U25 dressage competition and she is poised to make the most of it. Since graduating college in December of 2017, the San Diegan has been making her mark on the upper level dressage scene. She and 15 year old Danish Warmblood, Wilfonia, began 2018 at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Florida, competing at Intermediare II. By August, they had qualified for their first USEF Young Adult Brentina Cup Dressage National Championships in the Chicago area, where they finished fourth overall and third in the U25 Grand Prix.

December 2018 - Benjamin Heckman
Written by CRM
Friday, 30 November 2018 02:06
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Adrenaline rush snags a mainstream sports guy’s interest in pursuing an equestrian path.

Benjamin Heckman is a sports crazy 16-year-old. The Northern Californian is a Warriors fanatic with a head full of basketball stats and stories. After a cross-country jumping experience at Eventful Acres this past spring, he’s also a fanatic about eventing. Benjamin had plenty of fun in his first three years of regular riding, but admits it would be a “bit cooler” if he weren’t virtually the only young guy doing it.

Maggie Clancy’s Strides Riding Academy in Petaluma is the main source of Benjamin’s horsemanship foundation so far. There, he started on a hunter/jumper track and enjoyed being a member of the barn’s Interscholastic Equestrian Association team along with 11 girls. Since the eventing camp, he’s switched full-time to that discipline and now has his own new horse. Benjamin followed his mother Alice Chan’s footsteps into the horse world, and is off and galloping through it with her full support.

October 2018 - Emma Pacyna
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Thursday, 27 September 2018 20:15
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Hard-working Region 8 Maclay Medal winner inspires a little help from her friends.

by Kim F. Miller

"You need to talk to Emma Pacyna.”

Georgy Maskrey-Segesman got that message from a few friends and fellow equestrian professionals about a year ago. She operates a sporthorse sales and leasing program at her family’s Whitethorne Ranch in Moorpark and was on the lookout for a working student suited to making the most of the opportunity.

April 2017 - Tina DiLandri Yates
Written by Kim F. Miller
Friday, 31 March 2017 03:15
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horse people

Young show jumper rides high on her return to the West Coast.

by Kim F. Miller

I’m a bit on cloud 9,” said Tina DiLandri Yates of her third place finish in last November’s Longines FEI World Cup™ class in Las Vegas aboard Zelote VDL. She went to Vegas without expectations about her placement, but wound up at the winners’ press conference after giving German veteran Christian Heineking, the victor, and Mexican Olympian Enrique Gonzales a run for their money in the jump-off.

December 2016 - Kristine Howe
Written by Kim F. Miller
Thursday, 01 December 2016 02:57
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horse people

Long absence from the sport makes Grand Prix Freestyle Championship all the sweeter.

by Kim F. Miller

If you’ve ever driven through California’s agriculture valleys and fantasized about galloping through orchards and crop fields, you have a sense for what Kristine Howe’s childhood was like. Growing up a horse crazy girl on her family’s Westlake Farm in the Fresno area’s Stratford, Kristine believes she probably sat on a horse before she could walk. Her grandmother raised Arabians and her parents supported her horsey enthusiasms in every way.

November 2016 - Ruth Bley
Written by Kim F. Miller
Tuesday, 01 November 2016 02:40
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horse people

A quiet contributor to the sport becomes a national champion.

by Kim F. Miller

It’s quiet all day in Castro Valley’s Cull Canyon. Golden, oak tree-dotted hills stand sentry above Cull Canyon Ranch, where amateur eventer Ruth Bley lives, keeps her own horses and manages a small boarding and training facility. It’s even quieter at 9 p.m., when Ruth puts away her third horse of the night. That’s following a full day in the “real world,” where she manages an electrical contracting company.

June 2016 - Kayla Lott
Written by Kim F. Miller
Wednesday, 01 June 2016 06:56
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horse people

Interscholastic Equestrian Association champ taking her game to Oklahoma State.

by Kim F. Miller

It’s fitting that Kayla Lott’s fifth and final trip to the Interscholastic Equestrian Association Finals was her finest. Riding for Elvenstar, an early West Coast adopter of the national program for middle and high school riders, Kayla conquered in Kentucky during the April 20-24 Championships. She was Varsity Open Champion, defending a title earned for Zone 10 last year by Ransome Rombauer, and earned the Leading Rider Award.

January 2016 - Emma & Gracie Marlowe
Written by Kim F. Miller
Saturday, 02 January 2016 05:51
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horse people

Aspiring professionals engender the support of the village required to make their mark in the sport.

by Kim F. Miller

November 14, 2015 was the peak of “Marlowe Weekend.”

Seventeen year old Emma Marlowe stayed atop three rounds of the WCE Medal Finals at the Las Vegas National Horse Show to win that one in the afternoon, and 19 year old Gracie nailed the LAHJA/LA Saddlery Senior Medal finals a few hours later in Los Angeles.

December 2015 - Elizabeth Landers
Written by Kim F. Miller
Saturday, 28 November 2015 01:41
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horse people

Worldly equestrian experiences enlighten a goal of high-level success in jumping and dressage.

by Kim F. Miller

Elizabeth Landers caught our attention when we read that she and her First Level star Liberty had transitioned to dressage from show jumping. It turns out that is only the tip of the iceberg in this USDF Region 7 First Level Freestyle champion’s story.

November 2019 - Horse People: Skylar Wireman
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Wednesday, 30 October 2019 23:37
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“Yes!” is always this young horsewoman’s answer to more riding opportunities.

by Kim F. Miller

As a parent, nothing compares to having a child’s character praised by others. As the ribbons and trophies rack up in the Wireman household from 14-year-old Skylar’s hunter, jumper and equestrian accomplishments, such compliments outpace them.

“She’s a great student, a super hard worker and is wonderful to have around,” says Traci Brooks, who, with her husband Carleton, was among the first to recognize Skylar’s potential as a pony and hunter catch rider. “She makes it easy for us because the horses like her, the kids like her and she’s super fun to have around.” That nicely sums up how this rising star is viewed by those who’ve seen her grow up on the circuit.

Skylar Wireman & Hot Pants. Photo: Kim F. Miller

San Diego trainer Lisa Halterman lent Skylar the ride on top equitation mount, Hot Pants, because she saw a work ethic carried forward in the young rider raised at her mom Shayne Wireman’s Chestnut Hills Equestrian Center in Bonsall. “Shayne works harder than anybody I know and so does her daughter.” Shayne purchased the property when she was 20, having followed her mother’s advice “that anything is possible if you work hard enough for it.”

“My mom raised me that way,” Shayne reflects. “That everything you want, you have to work hard for and earn.” Appreciation is the trait Shayne is most proud to see in Skylar. “She is more grateful for what she has because she understands what it costs and has earned it.”

It’s always been family policy that Skylar pays for special class entry fees herself. By helping clients with horse keeping chores she started her horse show fund early. She’s grown savvy about weighing the pros and cons of entering various classes, in terms of her odds of winning prize money and of helping herself or the horse onto the next level.

International Hunter Derby on Captivated. Photo: SNC

“The earliest example I remember was, at 9, Skylar wanting to do the Del Sol Hunter Derby at the county shows Mark Conley managed. I think the entry fee was $50. I told her, ‘You’re going to be in there with professionals. It’s a tough class.’ She made the second round and finished second!” More recently, Skylar’s been determined to get a piece of the International Hunter Derby prize purses. “She kept forking out the money and never got into the top 12 for prize money, but she would not give up,” Shayne says.

Skylar recently crossed that threshold and got to make a nice deposit in what the family calls “The Bank of Dad.” Dan Wireman is “not a horse guy,” Shayne explains. But he’s a friendly and instructive banker, offering generous interest rates and explanations of how they compound. From a young age, Skylar put horse cash atop birthday and holiday wish lists and she’s always been able to deposit prize money in her fund.

Happily, Skylar’s adult approach to pursuing firm Olympic equestrian dreams hasn’t dampened her joy in the daily process of good horsemanship. A happy, helpful attitude and sense of fun radiate whether she’s mucking a stall, at the back gate before a big class or in the winner’s circle.

“I like to help people out,” Skylar explains. “If somebody doesn’t know how to do something, I’m happy to help. At the USHJA’s Emerging Athlete Program sessions, for example, we all work together to keep the barn nice and tidy. Everyone learns together and we all bond by helping each other.”

Skylar and one of her many buddies, Emily Williams

No Place Like Home

Along with victories, Skylar is racking up travel miles. This month, she was set to contest the Maclay Finals at the National Horse Show in Kentucky, the USHJA Emerging Athletes Finals in Ohio, then on to Las Vegas for the WCE and 1.3M Jumper finals. She loves it all but also cherishes her time at Chestnut Hills, where DIY horse care and fun go hand-in-hand.
A sophomore at Bonsall High School, Skylar returned to public school for high school after four years of online, home school study. She’s grateful to the administrators’ understanding attitude toward her sport commitment and happy to fulfill contracted expectations when she’s absent for shows. Twice a week, she’s finished at 11:30 a.m. so she can spend more time at her favorite place: the barn.

Skylar Wireman. Photo: Kim F. Miller

Caring for and enjoying three Miniature Horses is a favorite downtime barn activity with friends. One Mini pulls a cart around the property and others are guided over small jumping courses, with Skylar and her friends getting extra exercise along the way.

“I do everything at the barn,” Skylar says of an at-home routine that usually includes riding six horses a day. Her rides are typically a mixture of schooling lesson horses, prepping ponies, her own or leased show horses and a few youngsters that currently include two 3-year-olds. She rides friends’ horses that need a tune-up, for-sale steeds and anything else available.

While she’s become a seasoned A show rider, Skylar still competes and excels in Greater San Diego Hunter Jumper Assn.’s shows and in the Interscholastic Equestrian Association league, where Chestnut Hills is a West Coast pioneer and dominant force nationally. The team’s riders have qualified for and competed back East at Nationals all three years of the team’s existence, and Skylar has represented it as an individual at Nationals twice, winning in 2018. She’s especially excited to have the IEA Hunt Seat Nationals in Los Angeles, in the spring of 2020.

helping out with summer camp

While there’s ups and downs to being the trainer’s kid, Skylar sees it as a pretty sweet deal. “It’s really nice because I’m always getting help.” Having a trainer mom that’s busy is a plus, too. “I’ve been allowed to make some mistakes and to figure some things out on my own.”

There’s rarely time to have a lesson of her own. Instead she rides on her own while Shayne is teaching others, with Shayne offering suggestions as she can. At shows, she’s on her own for knowing class schedules and getting to the ring and ready on time.

“Some people tell me I’m hard on Skylar,” Shayne shares. “At the same time, I feel like we are such good friends. She knows I have high expectations of her. At the end of the day, the best feeling I can get is when someone tells me that she is so kind, humble. A great kid. I live for that.”

Jumping fun with Manny the Mini

Earning Opportunities

Working with San Diego trainer Lisa Halterman for the past two years has augmented Skylar’s education. The jumper Avalon and her equitation partner, Hot Pants, are two current rides that came through Lisa. The trainer has a history of finding hard working kids whose talents outstrip their budget and giving them a leg up with good horses. Skylar fit that bill to a T, Lisa says.

As a catch rider, Skylar is in increasing demand.  “We’d seen Skylar from afar for some time and noticed how hard she and her mom worked, doing everything themselves at shows,” relays Traci Brooks. “She was doing everything the right way and we were happy to give her an opportunity.” For the last few years, Skylar has returned their early belief with consistently sympathetic riding. “She treats each horse like an individual, riding it the way it wants to be ridden. She has great compassion for each horse and tries to understand its perspective.”

Along with the Brooks, Nick Haness, Christa Endicott, Leslie Nelson and Paul and Nicky Haunert have asked Skylar to ride for them. They typically approach Shayne first, who then asks her daughter an unnecessary question: “Would you like this ride?”

“Yes!” is always the answer, Skylar confirms.

WCHR Junior Rider Champion, with Nick Haness, at Capital Challenge Photo: Shawn McMillen Photography

2019 Highlights:

May: • Res Champion $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at Memorial Day Classic on Captivated
June: • Overall Grand Green Pony Hunter Champion West Coast Pony Challenge on Jimmy Choo
WCHR shows: • High Score Rider at all four shows she did, all on catch rides
September: • Portuguese Bend National: Champion PCHA Horsemanship Finals 14 & under on Hot Pants • Champion $10,000 Jr/AO Jumper Classic and the Inaugural Carol Dean Porter Jumper Style of Riding Award on Avalon • Champion Junior Hunters on Captivated• High Point Junior rider and High point Overall rider, High Score Jumper Horse and High Score Jumper Rider
Blenheim Fall: • Champion and Res Champion USHJA Pony Hunter Derby Finals West on Secret Crush and Half Moon Bay; 10th Maclay Regionals     on Captivated.
Blenheim International: 4th USEF Talent Search Finals on Hot Pants
October: Capital Challenge 1st, 3rd, 3rd, 5th in 3’3” Junior Hunters and Res Champion in the WCHR Challenge Class on Captivated • Overall National WCHR Champion 3’3” Junior Hunter Rider • USHJA Emerging Athlete Program: selected for the National EAP Finals in November

Hunt teams at the GSDHJA Champs in 2016

Rating Recent Accomplishments

Riding: Which accomplishment were you most proud of?
The PCHA 14 & Under Medal Finals win. It’s my final 14-year-old year so it felt awesome to win. The first year I did it, four years ago, my horse took off bucking in the first round. I was eighth the year after that, then third last year. And, I just love the Portuguese National Horse Show that hosts this final. It’s all volunteers who work so hard to make the show happen and it’s local, so I see a lot of my friends.

Riding: Most exciting?
Winning the 1.3M Jumper Classic, also at Portuguese Bend. I rode in my first class at that height with Avalon (leased from Margot Verdict) just the day before, so it was exciting to move up to begin with. We wanted to qualify for the finals at the National Horse Show in Las Vegas, but we knew it would be hard without only two shows to qualify. Fortunately, you qualify by prize money, so I knew if we won, it would move us way up. Which it did!

Riding: Most fun?
Going to the Capital Challenge Horse Show and becoming the Overall National WCHR Champion 3’3” Junior Hunter Rider. It was my first time going to Indoors, so just doing that was amazing. It’s definitely very competitive, but at the same time really fun and great to meet a lot of new people.

March 2019 - Horse People: Charlotte Babbitt
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Friday, 01 March 2019 01:50
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Independent young eventer gets more than by with a little help from her friends and family.

by Kim F. Miller

Winning two One-Star eventing competitions with a 6-year-old horse last year only scratches the surface of young rider Charlotte Babbitt’s story so far. The high school senior decided to live apart from her family at 15 in order to train with Andrea Pfeiffer’s Chocolate Horse Farm in Petaluma. Before that she lived with her family in the Tahoe area, where top notch eventing training was not available. With the blessing of her parents Elizabeth Thieriot and Victor Babbitt, she moved to Petaluma. She’s lived with members of Chocolate Horse Farm’s honorary family for the last three years, most recently with trainer Amber Levine.

October 2018 - Jaime Krupnick Geffen
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Thursday, 27 September 2018 20:19
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CPHA Foundation victory is the latest accomplishment in an already transformative year.

by Kim F. Miller

Jaime Krupnick Geffen was still on Cloud 9 three days after winning the CPHA Foundation Adult Equitation Championships in late August. She and her soon-to-be own horse, Conux, had elegantly mastered the riding and responsiveness challenges asked over two rounds held at Blenheim EquiSports’ Showpark Summer Classic. “The more technical the better when it comes to courses,” said Jaime of her enjoyment of the weekend’s counter-canters, trot fences, bending lines and striding challenges.


May 2017 - Mary Jensen
Written by Kim F. Miller
Friday, 28 April 2017 20:21
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horse people

Unique leatherwork becomes all the rage in equestrian circles.

by Kim F. Miller

It all started with a dog collar. That was the first leather item Mary Jensen set out to make just for fun on her boyfriend Allen Clarke’s new sewing machine. “I’m like, ‘This is kind of fun!’” she recalls.

December 2016 - Katherine Kinnison
Written by AnnA Buffini
Thursday, 01 December 2016 03:03
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horse people

Young jumper rider Katherine Kinnison looks to follow in her coach Nayel Nassar’s footsteps.

by AnnA Buffini

Young professional Nayel Nassar mostly focuses on his own impressive international show jumping career. When he does have a student, you know they’re good.

Katherine Kinnison is Nayel’s junior protégé. After a blazing hot 2016, she is on a roll to have an even better 2017.

December 2016 - Sydney Hutchins
Written by Kim F. Miller
Thursday, 01 December 2016 02:37
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horse people

Two-time Maclay Regionals winner juggles final junior year with busy life as a University of Georgia Bulldog.

by Kim F. Miller

The final year of junior eligibility can create crushing mental pressure for medal finals participants. But Region 8 Maclay Finals winner Sydney Hutchins decided not to let herself get into that situation.

September 2016 - Mackenna Shea
Written by Mikaela Kantorowski
Wednesday, 31 August 2016 19:09
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horse people

Young eventer makes her mark with terrific Rolex and Rebecca Farms finishes.

by Mikaela Kantorowski

Mackenna Shea is not like most 23 year olds. A normal day for Mackenna is spent at the barn riding and caring for a number of extremely talented horses under the watchful eye of Tamie Smith.

Mackenna is one of the nation’s brightest young eventers with wins at the Advanced and Three Star levels, as well as a successful trip around the Rolex Kentucky Four Star course.

June 2016 - Augusta Iwasaki & Lexie Looker
Written by Pam Maley & Jackie McFarland
Wednesday, 01 June 2016 06:53
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horse people

Pony stars on parallel paths into the junior ranks.

by Pam Maley & Jackie McFarland • photos by McCool Photography

Boldly galloping into the world of Junior Hunters, Augusta Iwasaki, 12, and Lexie Looker, 16, have taken the leap into horses with the same dedication and determination that earned them tremendous success in the pony ring.

December 2015 - Kelsey Holmes
Written by Kim F. Miller
Saturday, 28 November 2015 01:48
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horse people

Plan B has been pretty sweet for talented young eventer.

by Kim F. Miller

Seventeen year old Kelsey Holmes learned early that “Plan A” doesn’t always pan out.

In the summer of 2013, Kelsey was thrilled to purchase the experienced Two Star horse, NZB The Chosen One, from two-time Olympic gold medalist Mark Todd. They debuted that fall at Training Level, then segued successfully into Preliminary, intent on qualifying for that summer’s North American Junior/Young Riders Championship for Area VI.

December 2015 - Genevieve Meyer
Written by Sydney Callaway
Saturday, 28 November 2015 01:32
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horse people

Setbacks don’t alter Maclay Regional winner’s goal of ever-improving horsemanship.

by Sydney Callaway

I have known Genevieve Meyer for many years, as we have competed together in the equitation and jumper ring on several occasions. I can always spot her by her intent focus and perfectly polished boots. Genevieve is a hardworking young girl with a dream of riding professionally and the drive to get there. We all know the saying “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” However, when you put hard work and talent together, not even the sky can limit this young rider.

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