News & Features
July 2020 - The Gallop: Be The Change
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Wednesday, 01 July 2020 06:18
PDF Print E-mail

gallop

Amidst much talk, actions speak loudly in the effort to bring inclusion and diversity to equestrian sports. 

by Kim F. Miller

“Be the change we seek in the world.”

This paraphrase of Mahatma Gandhi’s words is an emerging response from the equestrian world to racial injustices brought brutally to new light by George Floyd’s death on May 25. As protests denouncing excessive police force and promoting Black Lives Matter continued into June, equestrians stated their cases on social media and in person in demonstrations throughout the state.


Current events also prompt a look at actions underway for many years and those poised to bring exposure, diversity, inclusion and opportunity to equestrian sports going forward. They’re not enough on their own, but they illustrate the impact of horse people deciding to be the change they seek.

Horse Power

The night before Bay Area horsewoman Brianna Noble vaulted to national fame, she saw the video of Floyd’s death at the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. It was the “exact same thing” that happened to Oscar Grant in 2009, she explained, referencing the first incident that prompted her to public activism.

Brianna Noble and Dapper Dan at the Oakland rally. Photo: Beth LaBerge (https://www.bethlaberge.com). Brianna challenges all to post a picture of themselves on a horse, with raised fist, and post with the hashtags: #blacklivesmatter and #humblehorsemanship

The next day, Friday May 29, Brianna hauled her horse Dapper Dan to downtown Oakland and joined a demonstration. The sight of the beautiful, black 25-year-old and the 17.1-hand horse whose haunch bore a cardboard “Black Lives Matter” sign had an immediate impact. Images and interviews spun around the globe.

Showing up on horseback was intended to “give the media something positive,” she told the New York Times. “A good bright positive image to focus on, as opposed to some of the destruction.”

Early in the ensuing explosion of media interest, Brianna recognized the chance to “be the change I want to see in my community.” She began channeling the attention toward the Humble Project, her long-held dream of a program giving disadvantaged kids exposure to and opportunities with horses.

“Horses can be life changing, but usually only for the rich,” she states. “I’m one woman on one horse and I made a difference. I want to use that to create a positive future for kids who are going to change the world -- for the next generation.”

Turning “problem” horses around to sell was Brianna’s initial method of supporting herself as an adult in the horse industry. More recently, she has focused on beginning lessons, trail horses and training as Mulatto Meadows in the Oakland area’s Briones. In early June, she launched The Humble Project and, as of June 31, had raised $44,000 toward a hoped-for $100,000. “Exposing underprivileged and marginalized communities to the horse world” is its mission.

Members of the Compton Cowboys taking part in the June 7 Compton Peace Ride. Photo: Lindsey Long

The Skin We’re In

Providing a safe and supportive environment is a big priority.  While costs keep many out of the sport, Brianna notes that “the color of the skin is a huge driving force in that as well.” Having now worked and, earlier, taken occasional lessons, at several stables in the East Bay area, she says, “I’ve probably never had one barn in my life where my skin wasn’t a topic or something that caused something bad to happen.”

Experiences range from being stared at to “people complaining and not wanting you around.” Having a person ask “Why the palms of my hand are light?” and “reach out and try to pet me” are manifestations of the deep-rooted racism she’s encountered. The insensitivity of the recent touching incident is extra offensive in this time of COVID-19 social distancing.

Accomplished young FEI dressage competitor Genay Vaughn says she hasn’t personally experienced overt racism. Yet, “I have witnessed looks of surprise when others come to find that I am a rider and not a groom at competitions.

“As a person of color, when you walk into the room, even if you walk in wearing the uniform that communicates that you’re there to compete, people will see you differently,” she continues. “This is even more so if you’re black and you’re really good, because you are defying expectations of what black people can do.” (For a fuller perspective from Genay, read her article in this issue.)

Grand Prix jumping rider Mavis Spencer in the Compton Peace Ride. Photo: Lindsey Long

“Even talking about this issue,” can be a problem for an African American trying to make it in the horse world, Brianna says. “It’s hard enough to make it as a trainer, then you lose people (clients) because everyone does not have the same belief as you do.”

Building a sense of community is a Humble Project priority. “We don’t have a support system and I want to create that for young riders coming up in the sport.”

She hopes to broaden that within the larger equestrian community. She hopes that the many professionals who’ve offered support will do things like bring their students for shared lessons or to help Humble’s entry-level equestrians. “I think we will have better horsemen if we can learn something and teach something.”

Her native East Bay Area is in need of The Humble Project, says Brianna. She cites the Compton Jr. Posse and Detroit Horse Power as good examples of how valuable inner-city youth equestrian programs can be in building healthy futures for kids of color and from tough circumstances.
    

Victoria Faerber and gold medal show jumper Will Simpson coaching Riders United students.

The Compton Jr. Posse

The Compton Jr. Posse was founded by Mayisha Akbar in 1988 to “keep kids on horses and off the streets.” Along with instruction on caring for and riding horses at the Posse’s Richland Farms base in Compton, Mayisha built friendships throughout the horse show industry. These connections helped create the exposure and opportunity that are considered critical to increasing diversity and inclusion in equestrian sports.

(Editor’s Note: When Mayisha retired at the end of 2018, the Posse was renamed Compton Junior Equestrian. It is affiliated with the Compton Cowboys, which includes many riders who started with the Posse. The Compton Cowboys were prominent in the June 7 Compton Peace Ride and social activism is part of their mission. When the Jr. Posse disbanded, its longtime riding director Victoria Faerber launched the non-profit Riders United to continue working with show-ready Posse students from her training bases in Calabasas.)

Olympic gold medal show jumper Will Simpson was a Jr. Posse clinician and resident BBQ master at fundraisers for years. Dale Harvey’s West Palms Events regularly provided show scholarships -- covering entry fees, stalls and lunches -- to the Posse’s show-ready riders and transported kids to the Del Mar International to watch the Grand Prix.

Dale eschews accolades. Instead, “It’s a good time to point out that there are people who give a sh@# about this issue” and to recognize the “difference between talking and doing. And, even between writing a check and doing. There are people really contributing and affecting change in a hands-on way.”

For the most part, the main goal of the Compton Jr. Posse, Horses In The Hood and similar programs is using horses to show students the wider world and its opportunities, to teach responsibility and to build confidence. Going onto an adulthood with horses is less important than going onto a healthy, purposeful life.

Nathan Allan Williams-Bonner is a Compton Jr. Posse graduate who is building a life with horses. At 12, his grandfather got him riding with the Jr. Posse. He now runs his own small hunter/jumper training program based at Special T Thoroughbreds in Temecula and works with Victoria Faerber in Riders United.
    

Nathan Allan Williams-Bonner competing at a Nilforushan Equisports Event show.

Intentional Naiveté?

Of current events as they apply to the horse world, Nathan says, “I do believe in inclusion and that all lives matter, including black lives, and I keep a very peaceful approach to it.” He acknowledges possibly “intentional naiveté” about prejudice in his profession. “I try not to let anything blind me or make me feel like I can’t do something,” he explains. He acknowledges a sense of “having to mind my Ps & Qs” more than others in his behaviors and action, real and perceived.

Now aged out of the West Palms Events show scholarships that helped him get to this level, Nathan aspires to having a sizeable training program and to jump in the Olympics. “I’ve been blessed to work with some great people,” he notes of coaches that currently include Grand Prix jumper Susie Hutchison.  

He also hopes to help riders with backgrounds similar to his own by working with Victoria Faerber and Riders United at its Temecula branch.

Victoria has broad ambitions for Riders United. Having grown up in the Thoroughbred racing industry, she foresees partnering retired racers with inner city kids as they become more advanced equestrians. She wants to include education, arts and performance to broaden Riders United’s benefits and reach. “My dream would be to have a performance art team that tells a story, like they do in Cavalia. Some kids would ride. Some would do music, others the art.”

Horses will always be the core. “Being involved with horses does amazing things. Even if they don’t compete, riders are empowered and they learn to love and be responsible.” Many of the horses are donated, often because they have some flaw. “So, they also really bond with the horses in ways that give these horses a sense of purpose.”

She’s grateful for the ongoing competition opportunities provided by West Palms Events and Nilforushan Equisport Events and reports future possibilities with the Langer Equestrian Group shows.

“Every show is like a year of riding lessons,” Victoria explains. “They get to perform, to overcome fears and to support each other. They can learn so much. I like our kids doing the A shows. They see the strict rules and a higher bar to reach for. They see that they have to ride correctly and do things right.”

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

Calls To Action

“We’ve got to stop all this snooty stuff,” asserts The Humble Project’s Brianna Noble when asked what equestrians of all colors can do to increase diversity and a sense of inclusion. It starts with ensuring that barns and shows are welcoming places, where saying “hello” to a stranger is a regular occurrence rather than a suspicious rarity.

Look out for a person “who is looking for an opportunity to work and make something of themselves,” she stresses. “Somebody has to see us. Maybe give a chance to the brown kid whose family can’t afford the lessons.” Unpaid working student positions that help some riders advance aren’t options for a self-supporting rider, she notes.

She’s grateful to Marlene Fultz of A Star-Lit Farms in San Joaquin County’s Ripon for giving her both an opportunity and a reality check. “I was 19 and working as a vet tech when she took me over to her barn and let me ride some horses. She saw how hard I worked and she sat me down and said, ‘Look, I know you have Olympic goals, but you have to come from money to do that.’”

Marlene encouraged a more realistic profession with horses, Brianna says. Retraining “project horses” to be good partners for trail or beginning riders seemed like a crazy idea, she admits. Yet, proceeds from doing that enabled her to make a living as an equestrian -- and to buy her first horse trailer. Brianna liked the emphasis on horsemanship and training, expertise that can help her fill what she sees as a void in many show-focused training programs. Dapper Dan, the horse on whom she rose to fist-raised fame in Oakland, is one of those project horses.
   

Photo: Lindsey Long

Photo: Lindsey Long

Reactions, Discussions, Opportunities

Show organizer Dale Harvey “observed a range of reactions” to his team’s efforts to bring Compton Jr. Posse riders into the show scene. “A lot of it is positive and there have been many touching, funny moments. And some comments that were not so nice. Like ‘Where would this go for any of these kids?’ I was blown away that somebody would say that. It was discouraging. But a lot of people in our community made a point of befriending these kids and making them feel welcome.”

FEI dressage rider and para dressage coach Shayna Simon says that her mulatto and Jewish heritage “has not been a huge issue for me” in the international dressage world. “I’ve been treated very fairly.” Yet she understands how it could be an uncomfortable arena to enter for all whose skin color sets them instantly apart from the sport’s predominately white participants.  “If somebody of color says it doesn’t bother them being in an all-white world, they’re lying.”

Shayna says the best outcome of current events is more frank conversations. “I think it’s giving black people the option to speak freely about what they are uncomfortable with and that it will free up their soul to get it off their chest.” Equally, the attention is “really good because a lot of people think (racism) doesn’t occur because they are not directly involved in it. Because of what is happening, it gives people the opportunity to ask, ‘How can I support you? What can I do?’”

Such conversations are a “necessary first step to taking action,” says fellow African American FEI dressage rider Genay Vaughn. “Equestrian sports should welcome conversations like these because we have an opportunity to distinguish ourselves in the sports world as a community that embraces diversity and provides opportunity to experience all that equine culture has to offer.”

The larger world offers ample examples of the benefits of embracing diversity and inclusion. “Our most profitable corporations and universities have recognized the value in enacting institutional change,” she notes. At the 2019 Sports Business Journal Conference, the benefits of diversity were promoted by executives in mainstream sports ranging from baseball to wrestling.

Dale Harvey says providing show scholarships and bringing Jr. Posse kids in to see the show isn’t good for his business’ bottom line. “Obviously, there’s not a financial return on that. But it’s not about the business. It’s about humanity. It’s about doing the right thing.”
    
The Gallop welcomes news, tips and photos. Contact Kim F. Miller at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
July 2020 - Taking A Stance on Diversity
Written by CRM
Wednesday, 01 July 2020 06:06
PDF Print E-mail

diversity

Equestrian federation states its position on diversity and inclusion and shares resources.

US Equestrian issued a letter stating its solidarity with and support of the “black members of our community.” Signed by CEO Bill Moroney, the June 9 e-mail also outlined action plans for the sport governing body. These include:

 


1. Educating ourselves is the first step. Going forward, every employee will be required to take Diversity and Inclusion training, as well as Unconscious Bias training, each year.

 

As we work to schedule these trainings, there are many resources immediately available to our entire equestrian community. We are asking our employees and encouraging our members to take some time and utilize the resources below to educate themselves on the history and importance of these issues.

Resources include:
• The Inclusion Playbook
• The Inclusion Playbook is a Sports Impact project led by a civil rights advocate and former Division 1 athlete with the goal of empowering social change agents to transform communities in and through sports.
• The Inclusion Playbook is hosting a series of free webinars this summer, beginning this week on June 11 at 2pm ET with “Olympic Impact: Emerging Issues in Sports Diversity & Inclusion.” We encourage all staff to attend. They are free:  https://www.inclusionplaybook.com/webinar .

2. Board approval and implementation of a US Equestrian Diversity and Inclusion Commitment Statement and Action Plan. Over the past several months, Ashley Swift, a dedicated member of our Communications Department, has been leading this work and her recommendations will be presented to the Board of Directors at the Mid-Year Meeting. There will be opportunities for members and staff of US Equestrian to engage with and contribute to this program.

3. Increased communication to members on US Equestrian’s commitment to do its part to fight against racism. This includes providing members with educational resources – including training on Diversity and Inclusion, and Unconscious Bias – and ways to work to end racism. We know we cannot do this alone, but we can – and will – do our part.

The letter reminded fan and competing USEF members they have access 24/7 to a mental health first aid hotline at 1-800-633-3353.

For more resources provided by the USEF, visit www.usef.org.

 
July 2020 - Making Lemonade
Written by by Britta Jacobson
Wednesday, 01 July 2020 04:39
PDF Print E-mail

news

Friends, strangers and social media turn two heartbreaks into a happy ending.

by Britta Jacobson

“When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade.” You have all heard this slightly sarcastic saying about dealing with things when they do not go your way.

This embodiment of that philosophy began with the joy of two new foals entering the world...a long hoped-for colt out of the 18.1 hand black Clydesdale mare, Nakita, and a filly out of a little 14.1 hand Quarter Horse reining mare named Whiz Ms Dolly.

 


Within the horse world there are many different disciplines and the boundaries between them are seldom crossed.

 

The story starts with a double tragedy -- a stillborn foal and the death of mare who had just given birth -- and the willingness of strangers to help each other.

The first phone call regarding the Clydesdale came from the veterinary clinic at 8 p.m. on April 9. “I wanted to let you know that your mare Nakita gave birth to a healthy colt,” was the message for Nakita’s owners Carl and Kirsten Absher. “He is up and has already nursed once. If you want to come see them tonight we will make an exception to the normal visiting hours.” The Abshers lived 40 minutes away in Shingle Springs, California and wasted no time in making the trip to the clinic to meet the new arrival.  

The second call came the next day at 4 a.m. The mare was down with complications, but because she had been under observation, as was the clinic protocol, they caught it immediately. A third and then a fourth call came in to inform the stunned owners that, at 4:19 a.m. April 10, their mare had died.

Not wanting the risks of raising a foal without a mother, the Abshers reached out to their friend Shamarie Tong for help in locating a nurse mare.  

Meanwhile...

That same morning, 130 miles away in Santa Rosa, my Quarter Horse mare, Whiz Ms Dolly, gave birth to a stillborn filly.

Having bred and raised my own competition horses for many years and having been in the situation of raising an orphaned foal many years ago, I knew that my loss could benefit someone else. While still monitoring the mare with our veterinarian, I immediately posted on Facebook that I had a nurse mare available.

Enter friends, social media and strangers willing to help. Shamarie Tong posted that her friends lost a mare and were hoping to find a nurse mare. Ryan Fowler of Skyline Silversmiths was the first one to connect the two posts. When I was made aware of the orphaned foal, I wasted no time in calling the Abshers.

Kirsten Absher laughs when she recalls that phone call. “Hi, this is Britta Jacobson of Bennett Valley Ranch. My mare just had a still born foal this morning and if you want a nurse mare, I suggest you pack up your foal right now and get down here. We have saved the placenta to help introduce your foal to my mare.”

“It sounded more like a command than anything,” Kirsten continues. “It was just exactly what my husband and I needed to hear at that moment. Several hours later Kiskasen was given the OK to travel.”

I hadn’t thought to ask about the breed of the foal prior to the transport. I was somewhat surprised to find out it was a Clydesdale!

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, once the foal arrived at my Bennett Valley Ranch everyone donned masks and gloves. Carl and Kirsten rubbed the colt thoroughly with the placenta I’d saved from my mare’s stillborn foal. Then I draped it over the foal’s back and led in the distraught Whiz Ms Dolly. After a few tense minutes, the mare began to relax. To everyone’s relief, she allowed Kiskasen to nurse.  

By late May, Spindrifts Kiskasen was growing up nicely alongside his adopted mother. You can’t miss this pair: Whiz Ms Dolly is 14.1 hands and her adopted son will be as tall as her soon! My husband and I breed and train Quarter Horses and I am an NRHA Non-Pro reining competitor. The purebred Clydesdale colt stands out among our other horses in size and appearance but is otherwise fitting in just fine.

A significant portion of the approximately 600 Clydesdales born in the United States each year are bay, with the other colors being chestnut, black, or roan. Kiskasen is one of the small percent that will be black once he sheds his baby fuzz.   

So, if you ever see a black Clydesdale pulling the famous Budweiser wagon, remember the little Quarter Horse mare and the generosity and ingenuity of the horse community that enabled him to grow into his big, strong self.

 
July 2020 - Fine Forum Addition
Written by CRM
Wednesday, 01 July 2020 04:12
PDF Print E-mail

news

Craig Stanley named as USDF Sport Horse Prospect Development Forum faculty member.

The United States Dressage Federation™ (USDF) is pleased to announce Craig Stanley as the newest member of the USDF Sport Horse Prospect Development Forum Faculty. Craig will be joining the ranks of Willy Arts, Michael Bragdell, and Scott Hassler. This forum aims to bridge the gap between in-hand competition, and the start of a dressage horse’s under-saddle competition career, making instructor expertise in the development and training of young dressage sport horses integral. Each faculty member brings a knowledge of in-hand work, breaking, training, and development to impart on the demo riders and auditor audience members.

 


Craig is based in the Fresno area’s Madera.

 

USDF Sport Horse Committee Co-Chairs Kristi Wysocki and Natalie DiBerardinis stated, “We’re very excited to welcome Craig Stanley as a new faculty member for the USDF Sport Horse Prospect Development Forum. Like our other faculty, Craig’s experience encompasses the entire sport horse development process, from breeding to training into the FEI levels. We’ve really enjoyed watching him develop Caliente DG from the Young Horse Championships to Grand Prix, and now we see him bringing along her offspring, including Habanero CWS with whom he won both the USEF Four-Year Old & Six-Year Old National Championships. As a guest presenter during our 2020 Sport Horse Prospect Forum, Craig’s sympathetic approach to the horses resonated strongly with the riders and spectators.”

Upon being notified of his inclusion as a faculty member, Craig responded, “I am pleased and humbled to accept USDF’s offer to serve as a full member of the USDF Sport Horse Prospect Development Forum faculty and look forward to working with USDF and the other faculty members for future events!”

Press release provided by USDF. For more information about the USDF Sport Horse Prospect Development Forum, contact  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or call 859-971-2277.

 
June 2020 - The Show Must Go On! Or, Must It?
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Thursday, 28 May 2020 04:51
PDF Print E-mail

news

Organizers and exhibitors enter the “new normal” with fluid plans, frustrations and frets.

by Kim F. Miller

With cautious optimism, a scaled-down schedule of equestrian competition is expected to begin this month. At least that was the case as this issue went to press during the third week of May. As in every segment of society, uncertainty has been the only constant when it comes to the pandemic’s impact on equestrian sport.

 


The United States Equestrian Federation and discipline-specific governing bodies have issued clear requirements and recommendations for safe return to competition. Qualification criteria for medal finals, championships and various industry programs have been or are being modified. So have mileage rules in several cases where organizers want to reschedule shows cancelled between mid-March and the expected easing of Federation restrictions on May 31.

 

In parts of California and elsewhere, the lifting of USEF restrictions is made moot by city, county and state regulations that supersede those of sport governing bodies.

Marnye Langer with Dale Harvey. Photo: Kristin Lee Photography

Stemming The Trickle Out Effect

Langer Equestrian Group co-chief Marnye Langer wants horse shows to resume for three main reasons. “I want to put people back to work; trainers, groomers, haulers, etc. Second, I want to test and figure out what we need to do to have shows in this new, somewhat temporary environment, which I think will be our environment for the rest of the year. Third, I want to have exhibitors experience a show in this more restrictive environment and see how they feel about it.”

She is hoping for a June 13-14 unrated hunter/jumper event at Hansen Dam Horse Park in the Los Angeles area’s Lakeview Terrace. It would be in place of what would have been the Verdugo Hills June show. The LEG team is ready to implement a simple, low-cost competition that could be contested over one or two days. At press time, however, the City of Los Angeles Recreation and Parks, to which Langer Equestrian is a concessionaire, had said “no.”  

Why a carefully staged horse show was declined while horse racing was underway at Santa Anita half an hour away is one of several frustrations for the organizer. It also illustrates the conflicting guidelines issued by various governing bodies that complicate the process of moving forward with competition.
    

Robert Kellerhouse with exhibitor Gina Economou at a 2019 Galway Downs show. Photo: Kim F. Miller

Divergent Opinions

Responses to a May Facebook survey of exhibitors produced divergent responses on whether, when and how people would want to resume competing. “It was very polarized, which didn’t surprise me,” Marnye says. “I appreciate that people were either on one end of the spectrum or the other.”

Those in favor sited the ability to take personal responsibility for their own and other’s safety by following protocols, and the desire to help get the equestrian economy going. Those in the “no” camp attributed that to either not being personally comfortable with returning, or some who asked, “How can you be so irresponsible? I’ll never come to your shows again,” Marnye relays.

Out of 140 respondents, 50% said they’d be comfortable returning to shows this month; 20% said July; and 30% said August.

Relatively even differences of opinion occurred on several points. These included the importance of a show being rated by national, regional or local organizations and preferences for a one-day haul-in show versus a two-dayer. Thirty percent said they’d want to stable their horse overnight even with the various social distancing restrictions, 20% said no thanks. Thirty percent said they’d be willing to show even if the format was “show and go: no hanging out,” with 20% saying no. The rest had more moderate responses to these questions on the survey’s 1-5 scale.  

The poll results stand alongside Marnye’s hunch that nobody knows what they want until they experience it. “Once people come to a handful of shows, if they are pretty restrictive, I’m not sure how many will want to keep spending money until it’s a better experience.” All of which intensifies the importance of getting some events underway to see if a formula can be devised that works for all involved.
    

Cost Containment

Costs will be a critical component. Marnye anticipates keeping the simplified format to about $400 for a stall and fees covering five classes. That’s compared to approximately $750 to $900 for a rated show weekend produced by LEG.

Above all, Marnye is among those deeply worried about what she calls the “trickle out” effect of the economic shut-down. Langer Equestrian Group also manages the Hansen Dam Horse Park, the boarding, training and special event facility that is normally home to about 175 boarded horses. Fifty of those left since mid-March, presumably many for stables with fewer restrictions on how owners can interact with their horses. Whether the destination stables had lighter restrictions, or had looser enforcement of similar rules, is unknown.

The upshot is a disturbing math equation either way: “50 fewer horses is two fewer stable workers, less income for the trainers, less shavings purchased, etc.” Marnye notes. “The snowball effect goes on and on.”

There might be a silver lining. “Now more than ever, we are really learning how to work together in our industry,” Marnye reflects. “It’s given a lot of lip service but, by and large, we don’t do it and we are not as well off as a result. There is a way of working together without impeding your own company’s success: to be competitive and collaborative.”

Cornerstone Dressage’s Glenda McElroy.

Is It Safe?

As for how safe it will be to resume showing, Cornerstone Dressage manager Glenda McElroy is confident of the efficacy of guidelines and of exhibitor compliance. Especially at shows staged at city, state or county-owned venues.

“Exhibitors should feel very comfortable competing at those facilities,” she says. “They are going to be watched and checked very carefully,” she says of venues including Los Angeles Equestrian Center and Hansen Dam Horse Park in the Los Angeles area, and Del Mar Fairgrounds and Horsepark in San Diego County.

Events at privately owned places may be equally safe, she stresses, but there is no doubt the level of enforcement and scrutiny at publicly-owned venues will be intense.

Cornerstone’s Festival Of The Horse CDI, March 17-22, had to be scrapped and attempts to reintegrate it into a mid-June show didn’t pan out. Although restrictions were to have been eased by then, the logistics of travel and accommodations for officials was one of many insurmountable obstacles.

Star Spangled Dressage June 27-28 at LAEC is Cornerstone’s next event. Separate entry and exit doors and plexiglass desk shields for the show office are already in place at LAEC. Ample stabling and parking should make physical distancing relatively easy, Glenda notes.

Sizing up her clientele’s mood, Glenda senses exhibitors with “pent up energy” ready to show, and those, sometimes at higher health risks, who may sit things out a while longer. Star Spangled Dressage typically draws 120-130 horses. It was too early to predict entries at press time, but Glenda was prepared to adjust in either direction: either limit entries to facilitate safety procedures if entries are high, or consolidate into a one-day event if they are light.

Hotel stays and dining out seem to be exhibitors’ bigger concerns, she shares. “We may see more one and two days shows at the beginning.”

“Everybody is having to adjust to this,” says Glenda, whose experience includes many years of hosting CDIs and serving on FEI World Cup Finals organizing committees. “It’s not comfortable for anyone, but with all the steps that are being taken by organizations, local government agencies and facilities, there are good guidelines in place to help everyone feel as comfortable as they can.”

Much Scrambling, No Omelets

A blank calendar belies behind-the-scene scrambling to reschedule important competitions on the eventing circuit. There were no rescheduled recognized competitions on the US Eventing Association Area VI calendar at press time.

Robert Kellerhouse’s newly christened “Kellerhouse Presents” team is poised for action at Galway Downs Equestrian Center in Temecula. Its two early-year anchors, the International Horse Trials at Galway in late March and The Spring Event at The Horse Park at Woodside in late May, were virus victims.

Attempts to work with Shepard Ranch and their June 19-21 date for a recognized show in Temecula were lost to logistical challenges, including finding available hotel rooms for officials. “We’d started planning it about two months ago,” Robert shares. “It was such a big endeavor, and this has all been just crazy.”

Going forward, “If ‘phase 3’ -- sporting events without spectators -- is announced on June 1, we’ll be able to offer an unrecognized competition pretty quickly,” Robert says. Getting a recognized event is more complicated and would take longer, even with Area VI and the relevant governing bodies doing everything possible to reschedule events. Its staging would also need to be weighed with the question of what it would prepare exhibitors for, Robert states.    

The Sexton family who owns Shepard Ranch in Santa Ynez announced an unrecognized schooling derby on that same June 20-21 weekend. It will be two, one-day shows with several combined phase options.

Also lost was what would have been the inaugural Twin Rivers CCI4*-L in April, a highly anticipated addition to the international calendar. The Baxter family’s Paso Robles team tried to reschedule it for early June, but it was not to be.
Still set for the summer are the Twin Rivers Summer Horse Trials, July 2-5; The Summer Event at Woodside, Aug. 7-9; Shepard Ranch Horse Trials Aug. 21-23; Woodland Stallion Station

Horse Trials Aug. 29; and the Copper Meadows One-Day Horse Trials on Sept. 5.

The Event at Rebecca Farm, a highlight of the West region eventing circuit, was still set for July 22-26 in Montana.

(Editor’s Note: Show cancellations and postponements change daily. Check event websites for the latest status.)

 


Help For Lesson Horses

Current and ongoing economic hardship throughout the industry are another of very few sure things. Especially for riding schools, where lesson horses need care, food and exercise even when lessons aren’t allowed. The United States Hunter Jumper Association acknowledged this in launching the USHJA Feed Aid program on May 18. It provides $300,000 in matching funds to assist riding schools and training barns that provide lessons to non-horse owners. For more information, visit www.ushja.org.

 

 
June 2020 - New USEA Area VI’s Chair: Asia Vedder
Written by CRM
Thursday, 28 May 2020 03:27
PDF Print E-mail

news

Longtime California competitor steps into leading role amid COVID-complicated competition calendar changes.

Asia Vedder is a familiar face on the West Coast eventing scene. She trained and rode professionally for a while, is now a top amateur competitor and served as the volunteer coordinator for the Twin Rivers Ranch competitions for several years.

Asia stepped down from the Twin Rivers post last year and agreed to join U.S Eventing Association’s Area VI as secretary when asked last November. In March of this year, Lisa Sabo resigned as Area VI chair and Asia agreed to step into the lead role.

 


“Becoming chair was not on my radar at all,” says Asia, who lives in Santa Barbara County’s Carpinteria. “But when I was asked, I said, ‘I think I can handle this.’ My father was on the USEA Board of Governors in the 90s, so being involved in the management side of the sport is not a foreign concept.”

 

Asia took on the larger Area VI role just before the COVID-19 pandemic added extra complexities. Managing the competition calendar is a big part of Area VI’s work under normal circumstances and coping with cancellations and hoped-for rescheduling adds intensity to that ongoing process.

“The organizers have been really good and the Council is trying to respond to their requests, although it’s tough when so much is still up in the air.” At presstime, USEF and USEA suspension of their branded events was to end May 31.

A big question is whether The Event at Rebecca Farm will run July 22-26 in Montana. It was “a go” as of early May, with a final decision expected in early June.

If The Event happens, that ups the urgency for Area VI organizers to stage opportunities for horses and riders to prepare. As of May 8, there were two upper level events slated for late June and July, at Galway Downs in Temecula and Twin Rivers in Paso Robles. (Update: The Galway Downs show has since been cancelled.)

If state or regional activity restrictions extend through June, it’s unlikely that anybody could get ready for Rebecca Farm. “Then we’re looking at horses who’ve had over a three-month break from competition,” Asia explains of one of several possible contingencies for which Area VI has plans. “Early in the pandemic, we were one of only a few USEA Areas to have submitted a coherent plan.”
    

Membership & Championship Growth

In addition to helping refigure the competition calendar around ever-changing realities, Area VI has plenty of priorities, its new leader says. Growing participation in the sport is a long-standing priority that will likely be even more important with the pandemic’s expected effect on the economy. Streamlining and upping the impact of Area VI’s digital presence and communication, getting more kids into the North American Young Riders pipeline and continuing Area VI’s strong tradition with Young Rider and Adult Camps are additional points of focus.

Another focus for Area VI is boosting the Area Championships. They are being held at Copper Meadows in September this year. “Copper Meadow’s Taren Atkinson has hosted them in the past and done a great job, so I’m looking forward to what she will do this year,” Asia explains.

“Taking the pandemic into consideration, qualifications have been relaxed. The championships are tough, and don’t always have great attendance. Loosening qualifications is something we had been discussing already, and in light of the suspension of competition, it only made sense to really open things up.”

Along with eventing at a high level, Asia helps manage her family’s 100-acre organic lemon and avocado farm in Carpinteria. She keeps and trains her horses there, including Isi, who debuted and excelled at the 3* level last year, and a new young horse. She’s also rehabbing from a long-needed hip replacement surgery in January.

“I hadn’t planned to be back showing until May anyway,” she says. “I’ve been getting my strength back and trying to unlearn some bad habits I developed from compensating for my bad hip for several years. Getting to know my new horse,” she continues. “And there is always homework to be done, and things to focus on to take advantage of this down time between shows.”

 
May 2020 - Sunsprite Ranch Expansion
Written by CRM
Wednesday, 29 April 2020 05:12
PDF Print E-mail

cover

Two new stallions reflect sporthorse breeding program’s embrace of “do it now!” philosophy.

Over morning coffee at Sunsprite Ranch, Pamela Duffy sometimes takes some time to reflect on her life and present circumstances. In the midst of the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic, solitude has become a given, and has brought a complicated mix of thoughts, plans and projects to the table.  

For Pam, losing her mother in October 2018 and her husband, Don Trotter, in June of 2019 have been turning points that have forced her to reconsider some of her options.  

 


The original plan was, Pam states, to bring down the workload at her Temecula ranch and spend more time in leisurely pursuits such as traveling to places far and exotic. Don had travelled extensively for his job at the United Nations, but they definitely had a shared travel bucket list. Unbeknownst to most riders in USEA’s Area VI and beyond, he was starting to limit his volunteer stewarding calendar in order to spend more time in non-equine activities.  

 

One of the directions in which the Sunsprite breeding program was headed was to bring it to a close, although gradually. “I have spent too much time, passion and effort planning hypothetical matings, staying up nights with mares due to foal, and maintaining the fencing and flooring and the like to just walk away from a dream that was pushing and pulling persistently in my head, soul and heart for years and years,” Pam explains.  

Infinity, one of Sunsprite Ranch’s two new stallions.

In March 2019, Pam and Don went to Germany together. It was a great trip, as well as a wonderful opportunity to talk about the future. Berlin was the stop that brought art, architecture and some real luxury to the lives of the couple. It also made Pam painfully aware of Don’s stubborn cough and lack of stamina.

Then, in April, Don underwent many diagnostic tests and was found to have cancer in multiple organs.

With this recognition, there was time to discuss what the Sunsprite dream entailed and how best to bring the basic plans into fruition. There was also time for reminiscing and humor and a hard stare at the realities of imminent death. “Not sufficient time” says Pam. “I think we made the most of it though.”  

Donald Trotter’s legacy in both the warm-up arena and volunteerism will live on and he was so proud, also, of the Sunsprite program. He rarely got to see the horses compete, but certainly enjoyed following their careers. His trademark smile, words of encouragement for the riders, and thumbs-up gesture “gave the riders wings” as Pam describes it.
     

Sara Sellmer. Photo: MGO Photography

New Paradigm

Pam’s new life-stage has actually embraced a new paradigm of expansion, probably due to the fact that she is, in her own words, “a hopeless contrarian” when it comes to planning. Pam holds the following quote close to her heart: “Life shrinks and expands in proportion to one’s courage.” The author is Anaïs Nin.

“I started to think about life in terms of enjoyment and risk and opportunities.       

I also saw that nothing in life is guaranteed and that if you are lucky enough to think in bold lettering, so to speak, you owe it to yourself to do so,” says Pam. “I also started to tap into a carpe diem or “Do It Now” mentality.”        

With that in mind Sunsprite recently purchased two stallions that will represent the company in the breeding shed.

In 2019, Pam purchased a second facility, which goes by the name of Donegal Farm, in honor of the Irish county in which the Duffy family, for generations, was born and raised. Donegal Farm is far better suited to having a stallion in residence and is also very well appointed for training young horses.
   

Don de Marco. Photo: MGO Photography

Don de Marco. Photo: MGO Photography

Don de Marco

Until now, Sunsprite’s foundation has been mares from Pam’s favorite bloodlines, paired with outside stallions ranging from the familiar and proven to the lesser-known up-and-comers. Pam still has a beginner’s giddiness and a willingness to fiddle with her own breeding formulas going forward, so Don de Marco, by Donnerwetter, has been purchased, transported from his former home in Florida, and started back under saddle.

His bloodlines stem from a very successful mare line, including the genetic jewel Chinchilla, allowing proven old but very valuable bloodlines to shine through.  
Chinchilla was born in 1977 and her conformation and overall quality allowed her to bring home numerous regional and national titles in Germany in the early and mid-1980s.   

“Don de Marco is very modern in body type and his offspring have excellent records, winning in a variety of disciplines, including hunters, dressage, jumpers and also eventing,” Pam says. Through Donnerwetter, he is a paternal half-brother to the famous dressage sire and former world-ranked competitor, Donnerhall.  

Don de Marco is 14 years old and boasts a very correct foundation, Pam continues. His unique temperament appeals to riders who want to be partners with their horse rather than a passenger.  Don de Marco does have set opinions, Pam adds.  “He has his own intelligence and code of ethics.” That strong sense of himself more than fills his 16.1 frame.  In Pam’s words, “He’s a gem in a small package.”

Infinity. Photo: Jutta Bauernschmitt

Infinity.

Infinity

Infinity, Sunsprite’s second stallion, is much younger. He was born in 2017 and like his future stablemate, Don de Marco, brings traditional bloodlines to the table.  

Pam purchased Infinity at the November Trakehner stallion show in Neumunster, Germany.  There were many young quality stallions looking to be approved, if the breeding committee had found their characteristics laudable enough. However, in the end, the percentage of stallions that were given the approval vote was low. Infinity was among them. Pam shared that the “hook” that caught her attention in regard to the stallion was the connection to Infinity’s grand sire.

Pam’s interest in this sire (Amiego) had to do primarily with the fact that he was the sire of one of Pam’s foundation broodmares, Donamia. In 1987, at the Pan American Games, Amiego represented Bermuda,  where he won the individual bronze medal, ridden by Peter Gray, in Combined Training/Three Day Eventing.

Amiego shares the same dam, the incomparable Abiza, with Abdullah, who represented the United States with his rider Conrad Homfeld and won a team gold and individual silver in show jumping at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. On Infinity’s dam side, he carries the exceptional sire Buddenbrock, an elite stallion with many successful get in the dressage world.

During the grading process whereby the young stallion “prospects” are shown to the public, the candidates are presented numerous times so that they can be evaluated. “Most of the horses were reactive and impressionable.  Infinity, himself showed a presence beyond his young years, strolled out calmly and obediently, like he had been doing this all his life,” Pam explains.  “He was kind of unflappable, and the more I saw him, the more I loved him. He is balanced when he moves, elegant and compact. I really do have high expectations for this guy.”  

Infinity will stay in Germany for another year at least, but there are plans for collecting him and freezing semen for the American public, likely to be available in 2021.  

Photo: Pamela Duffy

Exciting Times

“These are exciting times at Sunsprite!” Pam states. “Another fortunate event has been the presence of my dear friend from Canada, Sara Sellmer, who is hanging out and playing at Sunsprite. Sara originally came to the U.S. to compete in eventing through the winter and spring.  Fortunately, she is enjoying the weather and the horses and I am thrilled for her to be part of the Sunsprite family. Hopefully when we all get back to competing, you will be seeing her on several Sunsprites.  

“In the meantime, we’re having fun starting some young horses and it’s great to watch her. She is a phenomenal rider and also a phenomenal person.”    

Sara sees many common positives in the Sunsprites she’s riding.“Intelligence, athleticism and sensitivity are common traits. They are all very correct in their movement.

Rebecca Braitling on Kirschblute 3. Photo: MGO Photography

“The related traits of balanced canters and big walks are of special appeal,” Sara continues. “A balanced canter translates to a natural ability to adjust the stride. That makes it easier for the horse and safer for us as riders. It’s a big advantage when you are galloping down to a big solid fence. Cat-like is the phrase I keep going back to,” she reflects. “They are soft and light over the ground and really agile.”

Being a part of the horse industry has never been for the faint of heart. Pam believes that staying true to one’s goals and committing to the journey, one step, one jump, one competition at a time, is the ultimate celebration of living life.

“Stay healthy, stay strong and don’t forget to add sprinkles of joy and amusement to the mix.”

For more information, visit Sunsprite Warmbloods on Facebook.

 
April 2020 - The Gallop: Pandemic Perspectives
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Wednesday, 01 April 2020 00:58
PDF Print E-mail

gallop

Every nook and cranny of the equestrian world impacted by coronavirus.

by Kim F. Miller

“March Madness” took a devastating form last month as the coronavirus spread to the point of being declared a global pandemic. That happened on March 11, accelerating a wave of severe disruption in all facets of life, including the equestrian world.

In the early days, competitions first attempted to continue with their shows, but with alterations to reduce concentrations of people and adding safety protocols. Within days, sometimes overnight, organizers shifted to either postpone or cancel their events.  

 


On March 13, the United States Equestrian Federation announced that all its owned events were suspended for 30 days, and asked organizers to do the same. News that the World Cup Finals were cancelled came the same day, followed by the same status for the The Land Rover Kentucky Three Day Event. Sunday, March 24, the International Olympic Committee announced it would make a decision regarding this summer’s Olympics within four weeks. Canada announced its athletes would not compete if the Games are held this year, and there was strong speculation that the Olympics would be postponed to 2021.

 

On March 19, California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered residents to stay home, with the exception of those engaged in businesses deemed essential. Although horseback riding was listed in many descriptions of safe outdoor activities, the businesses that enable most people to ride were not deemed essential. Many stable owners had already told boarders to stay home and entrust the care of their horses to a skeleton crew of staff.

While human health is the priority in all these decisions, the economic impact is already drastic. The necessary cancellation of shows has a ripple effect that is hard to quantify: judges, course designers, grooms, photographers, announcers, award organizers, food preparers and office staff barely scratch the surface of people who are now suddenly without income.

The California Professional Horsemen’s Association launched a GoFundMe.com page to help these kind of show workers. As of March 24, it has raised $3,655 toward a $15,000 goal. The West Coast equestrian world is a generous lot, but with almost everybody’s livelihood affected, it’s an especially tough time because the impacts are just beginning.  

To get a little more understanding of how this is impacting different people and horses in the West, California Riding Magazine Kim F Miller checked in with three people: Stanford Equestrian Coach & Red Barn Executive Director Vanessa Bartsch; veterinarian Phoebe A Smith; and Lisa Sabo, owner of Sabo Eventing and the Newport Mesa Riding School.

The Gallop welcomes news, tips and photos. Contact Kim F. Miller at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Vanessa Bartsch: On the Front Lines

Vanessa is the Stanford Equestrian Team coach and Executive Director of Stanford’s Red Barn Equestrian Center, which is home to Stanford’s 30 horses and the base for private training businesses run by Willow Tree Farms, Northern Run, Nicole Prows Dressage and RW Dressage. Its location in Northern California’s Santa Clara County put in on the front lines of efforts to prevent coronavirus spread in the U.S. The University was the first campus to close to most students and its Medical Center was among the first to offer tests to the community.

Kim: What were the earliest preventative steps taken at Stanford and its Red Barn?
Vanessa: Stanford was at the front edge of this. We have amazing resources through the school, its hospital, its health and safety officers, etc., so we adapted faster than others because we knew it was coming.
That led us to look at our operation of how we run the barn and what are our priorities. We determined that our #1 priority is protecting a core group of personnel who know every one of the horses on our property better than even their owners because they are in and out of their stalls every day. So, our priority was to ensure they were healthy and at the least risk of exposure as possible because they are paramount to making sure horses stay healthy.

Kim: How are the horse care logistics working out?
Vanessa: We determined a one person per six to eight horses plan. For Willow Tree’s horses, for example, that meant their grooming staff and (trainer) Guy Thomas going in alone. Each program was given a 2-3 hour window every day so we could limit who is sharing space at the barn at any given time. It helps that each program is in its own barn, so it’s easier to separate people.
For the team horses, I have my two assistants each working a half day, with one to two volunteers that are current or former student athletes. They scrub in and scrub out, wear rubber gloves and are disinfecting doorknobs, brushes, etc.
It’s been tricky with our team horses. Their average age is 13 to 14 and, while they don’t need to be kept competition fit, it can be hard for teenage horses to be taken completely off work then put back on. In normal circumstances, the horses work three weeks, then have a week off during which they get extra turn-out time and time on the walker, so we are incorporating that the best we can. It would help if it stopped raining--not that I want there to be a drought either!
We have fast-tracked retirement plans for a few of our older horses thanks to alumni and friends who can provide them a nice forever home.  

Kim: I saw in the early days that you had oodles of volunteers offering to help, but clearly you could only have a few people coming to the barn. How did you decide who to call?
Vanessa: I’ve known through my time at Stanford that there is a huge and loving community supporting us. I’d say we had between 50 and 70 alumni saying “What can I do? How can I get in there and help?” That’s the silver lining: seeing the amount of support, which has also been there for us during fires and other worst times.
Understanding how community health works, we made the decision early on that we needed to take the aid of super helpers. People who could pull a four- or eight-hour shift, versus an hour here or there. Some are phenomenal riders, and some are phenomenal on the ground: they are fast and efficient and can prep the horses so our coaches can ride them all. They are great with turning horses out, getting the laundry done, and other things so that my riders can get out and exercise as many as possible.
    
Kim: What’s been the toughest part of this very tough situation?
Vanessa: Stanford people love having a plan, an orderly plan. I have so many emergency plans, including phone trees. The most difficult part was the landscape was changing so rapidly. Every day there was a new edict that we had to adapt to. Every day, we thought we had things handled safely and then, 24 hours later, there was a new hurdle. As the first university to close, it was very stressful for the first week, and then getting to a plan that could stick for a day or two. Now (as of March 19), we are on shelter-in-place, and things have stayed the same for a while.
I’ve been communicating with our boarders as much as possible, conveying the importance of protecting our staff’s health. Every individual wants to see their horse and have a place to come to that is not stressful, and I want to give that to them. But horse people understand the sacrifice each individual makes is for the greater good.  
The second part of what’s been most difficult is outside of barn management: it’s being there for my student athletes. I had 16 seniors this year, which is large for a 42-member team. It’s one of my best teams in terms of being caring, loving and well-bonded men and women. Their entire plan for their school year, and as athletes, is now cut short over something none of us could have foreseen.
We had a team meeting Tuesday night and it was very sweet to look at 38 members on our Zoom (Video Conferencing) meeting, trying to continue some sense our community. We are featuring a senior every day on our Stanford Equestrian Team Instagram account.
And, we are working with the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, asking what does this mean for kids who have qualified for the post-season, and for whom this was their athletic pinnacle, and it’s now cut short for absolutely necessary reasons.
Above all, I want to be there for each of my riders. It’s scary for you and me, and I can’t imagine how it is for 18 to 22-year-olds. It’s a lot to absorb.
    
Kim: Any lessons emerging from what you’ve seen and been through so far?
Vanessa: The importance of preparedness in running a barn. We talk a lot about worst case scenarios, and it can sometimes feel so pessimistic. Fires and earthquakes are all things we hate to think about and this mass pandemic is something out of a science fiction movie. So, the lesson of all this is probably to have way more contingency plans than you ever thought you needed and be ready to be adaptable.  

Kim: Final thoughts?
Vanessa: It hit here first and Stanford had the ability to test before anyone else. Along with Johns Hopkins University, I think we have a bead on this. I think what we are seeing is the tip of the spear. I was just on a conference call with other coaches around the country: there are several parts of the country that don’t yet have any restrictions. It’s crazy. I hope we are doing things right.

 

Veterinarian’s Perspective: Phoebe A Smith, DVM, of Riviera Equine Internal Medicine & Consulting in the Santa Ynez Valley

Kim: What does this look like from your perspective as an equine veterinarian?
Dr. Smith: As large animal vets, it falls into the context of herd immunity, in which we try to protect the vulnerable by minimizing the disease in the herd. So, conceptually, this is all very familiar. It’s what we do with horses when there is a contagious disease on a farm or showground. We lock down, nobody in, nobody out.  Much of the regular public has not had to think like this in recent history.

Kim: Is there a risk of transmission between horses and infected people?
Dr. Smith: Multiple species have different forms of coronavirus. But the one that causes the current disease, SARS-CoV-2, is new, so there is not a lot known about it in human medicine yet. At this point, there is no evidence that horses are part of the transmission process in any direct way. You could make a crazy link through a “fomite,” an inanimate object capable of transmitting an infectious organism. For example, say an infected person sneezed on your horse’s coat, and somebody else put their hand in that same spot, then touched their face and became infected.
As to whether horses can get it, we don’t believe so. There is rapid work being done trying to figure out what the virus does and who it can affect. I am getting that question frequently from clients, but there are no reported incidences of horses getting the SARS-CoV 2 virus.

Kim: How concerned are your clients about COVID-19 and their horses?
Dr. Smith: Completely coincidentally, there are some cases of equine coronavirus in our region currently. The equine coronavirus is a gastrointestinal-borne condition which presents as GI disturbance, colic, diarrhea, fever, or any combination of these clinical signs. This is caused by equine coronavirus, which is well-typed and something that we are familiar with. In most cases, we are able to treat equine coronavirus at the farm with supportive care.  Less commonly, intensive care may be required for more severely affected cases.
Most horses recover from equine coronavirus within days of falling ill. The virus can be transmitted in manure, so the treatment should include isolation.
So, the biggest concern is when I have to tell a client that their horse has coronavirus. I immediately say, ‘But wait...it’s not that coronavirus!” Again, this current regional incidence of equine coronavirus is completely coincidental with COVID-19, but it is causing some confusion.
    
Kim: Are there helpful take-aways for horse owners and care providers?
Dr. Smith: Yes, the principles of how respiratory viruses are spread are valuable lessons for animal health as well as human health. There is a lot of talk about how COVID-19 is spread through respiratory secretions -- coughing or sneezing. The virus also spreads through fomites, when those secretions get onto something that another touches. Think about how many things a horse touches with its nose to ask “Hey, what’s that?”
Because everyone has had to think about this form of transmission in such a detailed fashion, it could improve awareness of how contagions travel and that should improve a farm’s ability to control disease spread in the future.

Kim: Any general advice to horse owners regarding COVID-19?
Dr. Smith: We all want to spend time with our horses and you should continue to unless you are sick with the coronavirus or have symptoms that indicate you might be infected. And this is only because your horse could accidentally become a fomite if you coughed or sneezed on his blanket, or somewhere else, that another person might touch. They are just now working out how long the virus survives on different surface types.
(The National Institutes of Health announced on March 17 these finding regarding the virus’ stability on various surfaces: in aerosols for 3 hours; on copper, up to 4 hours; on cardboard, up to 24 hours; and up to two and three days on plastic and stainless steel.)
    
Kim: What about advice for those who can’t get to their horse because of self-imposed or mandatory “shelter in place” restrictions.
Dr. Smith: I think everyone understands that horses still need to get out and get exercise and are working with barn managers to find efficient ways to do that. I hate to see horses standing around all day in their stalls. Activity is important to keeping horses healthy, which will minimize the number of vet visits and minimize the general downstream effects of all of this.

Kim: Any suggestions for those who can safely spend time with their horses, and have extra time because of show cancellations or postponements?
Dr. Smith: It’s the same concept as what we are working on for ourselves and our families: what do we want to work on that we don’t normally have time for? Maybe it’s ground manners or getting over that fear of needles.
Some of my clients are using this break to give their horses extra rest. And some of my upper level rider clients are having to re-think how they are conditioning and preparing their horses, especially those with Olympic plans and hopes. I think we will see there is a lot of coordination in finding ways to allow them to continue preparation without risking anybody’s health.

Kim: Final thoughts?
Dr. Smith: It will be interesting to see how this shapes our future. On the horse and horse owner side, I think there will be truly lasting benefits in people having more familiarity with disease control and response to disease outbreaks.

 

Lisa Sabo: Owner, with her husband Brian Sabo, of Sabo Eventing and Newport Mesa Riding Center and Newport Mesa Pony Club, based at the Orange County Fairgrounds Equestrian Center, in Costa Mesa
 
Kim: As of March 19, what was the status of your business activities?
Lisa: We initially got a letter from the Fairgrounds that all activities need to halt. But we explained that the horses still need care and exercise. So, our owners, trainers and grooms are allowed to be at the barn caring for the animals.
We are not having any gatherings or group lessons, so the school horse program is totally shut down. We are washing our hands like crazy and keeping a 10’ distance from each other. I have always been the one constantly telling people to use their own brushes because you don’t want to spread anything between horses. And, now I’m doing it to prevent the spread of anything between humans.

Kim: Who’s keeping your lesson horses exercised?
Lisa: We have 12 lessons ponies. I have six instructors, two of whom are full-time, and they are exercising the school ponies. We are also putting them on the walker, which I hate to do, but we’ve had to go down to a skeleton crew.

Kim: This is impacting every business, but I’m thinking lessons program are taking an especially hard hit.
Lisa: Each lesson horse costs about $1,000 a month. Every month, if my black meets my red, I’m happy. I consider my school program as here to provide access for people coming up into the sport and some of them develop into training clients. I feel like school horse programs are necessary to attract people to our sport and to share our love of horses. I’m proud that I do it, but times like this are really devastating. It’s worrisome.

Kim: How are your training clients holding up?
Lisa: This is impacting everyone. My client families include airline pilots, travel agents, doctors, dentists, etc. Everybody is affected. I’m worried for everybody and for our industry. Horses, after all, are a luxury.

Kim: Any problems with compliance with the safely guidelines?
Lisa: We all have to follow the government guidelines. Even though it might be tempting to haul away for a cross-country school somewhere, the President and the Governor have told us to stay put and not travel. If I needed to haul a horse for a health emergency, I would do it, but not for anything else. Travel involves stopping at gas stations, using their restrooms, etc... Because we can be carriers and not even know it, I consider it my personal responsibility to stay put.
Sometimes I think we horse people are a little out of balance. I think some people feel exempt from the safety guidelines. If this were a horse disease, people would understand the horse needing to be isolated and taking all these steps to stop the spread. If anyone has any doubts about the importance of compliance still, they should just think about what they would want done if this was happening with their horses.

Kim: You are one of the most positive people I know. Is there a bright side?
Lisa: It’s a good time to give the competition horses a little let down. With our area’s show schedule, June is normally a slower month. But with the events being cancelled or postponed, that slow month is now March and April.
It’s also a good time to study horsemanship. Every Saturday is horsemanship class at our Riding Center. I just sent out an email with an online horsemanship class, with a bunch of attachments to study. Hopefully, we can keep people involved that way.
Of course, I am hoping this is only for a few weeks. We all have to suffer the consequences. As a whole, we need to dig in and get through this.

 
April 2020 - Foal Growth
Written by courtesy of America’s Horse Daily
Wednesday, 01 April 2020 00:43
PDF Print E-mail

news

Special care and nutrition are required for young horses.

courtesy of America’s Horse Daily

A healthy foal will grow rapidly, gaining in height, weight and strength almost before your very eyes. From birth to age 2, a young horse can achieve 90 percent of more of its full adult size, sometimes putting on as many as three pounds per day.

Genetics, management and environment play significant roles in determining individual growth patterns. Through research, we also know we can influence a foal’s growth and development – for better or worse – by the nutrition we supply.


Strive for Balance

 

Feeding young horses is a careful balancing act. The interplay between genetics, management and environment and nutrition is complex. While we can do nothing to affect the genetics of an individual, we can affect how those genetics are ultimately expressed.

The nutritional start a foal gets can have a profound effect on its health and soundness for the rest of its life. We can accelerate growth if we choose. However, research suggests that a balanced dietary approach, which supports no more than a moderate growth rate, is less likely to cause developmental problems.

Some conditions that have been associated with rapid growth rates include:
•    Contracted tendons
•    Epiphysitis
•    Angular limb deformities
•    Osteochondrosis

The Foal’s Changing Diet

As early as 10-14 days of age, a foal may begin to show an interest in feed. By nibbling and sampling, the youngster learns to eat solid food. Its digestive system quickly adapts to the dietary changes. It is now recognized that coprophagy (eating of feces) is normal in the form and may lead to foal heat diarrhea as the intestinal microflora changes. This diarrhea was previously thought to result from hormonal changes in the milk but has been observed to occur with orphaned foals that have no exposure to maternal hormones.

At 8-10 weeks of age, mare’s milk alone may not adequately meet the foal’s nutritional needs, depending on the desired growth rate an owner wants for a foal. In order to achieve a more rapid rate of gain, high-quality grains and forage should be added to the foal’s diet.

It is essential the ration be properly balanced for vitamins and minerals. Deficits, excesses or imbalances of calcium, phosphorous, copper, zinc, selenium and vitamin E are of particular concern in the growing foal. Improper amounts or ratios can lead to skeletal problems.

Foal Feeding Guidelines

As the foal’s dietary requirements shift from milk to feed and forage, your role in providing the proper nutrition gains in importance. Here are some guidelines to help you meet the young horse’s needs:
1.    Provide high-quality roughage (hay and pasture) free choice.
2.    Supplement with a high-quality, properly-balanced grain concentrate at weaning, or earlier if more rapid rates of gain are desired.
3.    Start by feeding 1 percent of a foal’s body weight per day (i.e. 1 pound of feed for each 100 pounds of body weight) or one pound of feed per month of age.
4.    Weigh and adjust the feed ration based on growth and fitness. A weight tape can help you approximate a foal’s size.
5.    Foals have small stomachs, so divide the daily ration into two to three feedings.
6.    Make sure feeds contain the proper balance of vitamins, minerals, energy and protein.
7.    Use a creep feeder or feed the foal separately from the mare so it can eat its own ration. Try to avoid group creep-feeding situations.
8.    Remove uneaten portions between feedings.
9.    Do not overfeed. Overweight foals are more prone to developmental orthopedic disease (DOD).
10.    Provide unlimited fresh, clean water.
11.    Provide opportunity for abundant exercise.

Weaning

Foals are commonly weaned at 4-6 months of age. Beginning about the third month, the mare’s milk supply gradually declines and a natural weaning process begins.

To prepare the foal for complete weaning, its ration should be increased over a two- to three-week period to make up for the nutrients being lost in the diminishing milk supply. The mare’s grain should be reduced and/or gradually eliminated to further limit milk production.

Once the foal is no longer nursing, a 500- to 600-pound weanling should be eating between 2-3 percent of its body weight in feed and forage a day.

Sustaining Growth

Weanlings and yearlings continue to build bone and muscle mass at a remarkable rate. From weaning to 2 years of age, the horse may nearly double its weight gain.

Weanlings and yearlings benefit from a diet containing 14-16 percent protein. They also require readily available sources of energy to meet the demands of growth and activity. The percent of concentrates or roughage a diet may contain depends on the desired growth rate. However, the diet should never contain less that 30 percent as roughage – measured by weight.

A good rule of thumb is to provide 60-70 percent of the ration as concentrates and 30-40 percent of the ration as roughage – measured by weight. The diet must also provide ample fiber to keep the digestive tract functioning properly. Some of the new complete feeds have the ration already balanced.

Weight-gain and development taper off as the horse matures. As growth slows, you will need to adjust the ration to approximately 1.5-2 percent of the yearling’s body weight. The grain-to-roughage ration should also be adjusted so that by the time the horse is a 2-year-old, half of its daily diet (by weight) is coming from grain sources and the other half from hay and pasture. Breed type, maturity, desired growth rate and condition, and level of activity will affect the horse’s exact nutritional requirements.

Total Care and Management

Work with your equine practitioner to develop a total health care plan for your foals, weanlings and yearlings. A regular deworming, vaccination and examination schedule is essential to ensure that your foal is getting the care it needs.
Remember, vaccination and deworming regimens may vary depending on regional factors and disease risks. Consult your equine practitioner for exact recommendations.

Here are some other management tips:

•    Unless there is a medical concern, provide youngsters free-choice exercise daily. The less time foals are confined to stalls, the better. Avoid confining foals for more than 10 hours per day.
•    Use longeing, round pen or treadmill work judiciously. Excessive forced exercise can strain joints and limbs.
•    Never exercise a foal to the point of fatigue. If you observe a foal’s limbs to be shaking or weak, or if the mare cannot keep up with the adult horses in a herd, the mare and foal need to be confined until the foal is rested.
•    Keep your youngster’s feet properly trimmed to foster proper bone development.
•    Provide a clean, safe environment with adequate shelter from the elements.
•    Check the horse’s surroundings and eliminate any potential hazards, such as loose boards, nails, wire fencing or equipment.

The reward for providing excellent nutrition, conscientious care and a safe environment will be a healthy foal that grows into a sound and useful horse.

 
April 2020 - Farewell to a Champion
Written by by Esther Hahn
Tuesday, 31 March 2020 23:34
PDF Print E-mail

news

Remembering Mark Watring’s gold medal partner, Sapphire.

by Esther Hahn

When Puerto Rican show jumper Mark Watring arrived at the 2002 Central American Games in El Salvador with his then 10-year-old mount, Sapphire, the joke that circulated around the competition was that Puerto Rico had sent a pony.

Although Sapphire stood at a respectable 16 hands, the stall in which he was stabled had a divot in the ground so the gray, Holsteiner gelding (Liostro x Roman) could barely hold his head over the door.

“Of course, we were all offended when we heard what people were saying,” Mark remembered, smilingly. “Our grooms would respond, ‘Wait until you see the pony jump!’”
Once the Games were underway, the first day of equestrian competition was a speed class that was also a medaling class, and Mark and Sapphire won. They went on to win the overall individual gold medal, as well. By the Games’ end, the Puerto Rican contingent had composed a little theme song for their winning, little pony, and Mark and Sapphire returned home with double-gold honors from their first international competition together.


At First Sight

 

Mark, based in the Los Angeles area’s Hidden Valley, first laid eyes on Sapphire in 1998, while visiting Puerto Rican colleague, Edgar Pagan, at his Southern California stables.

“Edgar had got in about 10 horses from Europe, and he asked me to come and try them,” said Mark. “I went, and while I was there, I saw this dappled gray horse waiting to get shod. I asked Edgar, ‘What horse is that? Is that one of yours?’ He said, ‘Yes, but he came without two shoes, and while he was in Europe, he kept getting bumped from his flight so he hasn’t been ridden in a month.’”

These details didn’t discourage Mark from riding the 6-year-old prospect. And as soon as the horse had all four shoes on, Mark talked Edgar into giving him the honor of the horse’s first ride on U.S. soil. After just a few jumps, Mark knew he found his next star, bringing Sapphire home that very same day to own in partnership with Dr. and Mrs. John Bohannon.

“I think it was his eye that caught my attention,” Mark explained about his instant connection to the horse. “He was so beautiful. I loved his look and his conformation. From the moment I saw him, I thought that he was stunning.”

All Things Gold

In a couple years’ time, Mark and Sapphire began their winning record at the Grand Prix level. Soon followed the double-gold international debut in 2002 and individual gold at the 2003 Pan American Games in the Dominican Republic.

At the Pan American Games, Mark and Sapphire sat in fourth place following the first speed round before moving into the lead after the two rounds of Nations Cup competition. Mark competed as an individual as Puerto Rico did not send a team.

“There was a press conference following the team rounds,” Mark described. “I arrived early and there were chairs around a table so I just sat in the middle. And when the teams came in, I was asked to move so that the U.S. team that won team gold could have the center chairs. After questions with the teams, the press turned its attention toward me and asked what I expected to see after the individual rounds on the final day. I replied, ‘I’ll be sitting back in the middle [of the table].’”

Mark’s prediction proved true when he and Sapphire did in fact secure individual gold, earning not only a middle seat at the table but also a slot at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

For the next four years that followed, Mark and Sapphire continued to dominate at the 1.60-meter level throughout the West Coast and at Spruce Meadows in Alberta, Canada. In 2006, the pair repeated their double individual gold performance at the Central American Games in Colombia.

Parallel to Mark’s journey with Sapphire was the growing family that Mark and his wife Jenny began amid the successful riding career. Sons Sterling and Stone joined in 2000 and 2003, respectively, growing up alongside the world travel and international acclaim.

“I’m so appreciative of how much of the world I’ve been able to see, from such a young age, thanks to Dad and Sapphire,” said Sterling. “I’m forever grateful.”

A Legacy In Progress

“I retired Sapphire as a 1.60-meter horse, not realizing he had another 10 years in him,” Mark revealed. “I retired him when he was 16, and I think he had a lot more years left. I should have done some of the smaller classes with him. He was sound right to the day he passed away.”

In retirement, Sapphire enjoyed his daily rides with Jenny. And in the year before his passing, Sapphire learned to work “on the wire,” a bridle-less form of riding that utilizes a strap around the horse’s neck for direction and control. But all the while, a tumor common to gray horses grew large on the side of Sapphire’s head. It began to affect his eye and his ability to chew.

In a matter of two days, it looked as though Sapphire had lost a hundred pounds of weight, according to Mark, which prompted the difficult decision to lay Sapphire to rest on Saturday, February 29, 2020.

Sapphire’s legacy will continue not only in the stories of his gold-medal heroics, but also in his clone, Saphir, born in 2010. And through Saphir, Sapphire’s genetic legacy will be in the foals on the ground and those to come. Mark currently owns one foal, Cortir, by Saphir, in addition to storing frozen straws for future breeding.

“He always cleared the jumps by a couple of feet, but it was so smooth,” said Mark, remembering his longtime partner. “It wasn’t like you were getting jumped loose. His jump wasn’t hard to stay with—you basically just went along with him. He started out spooky and stayed spooky his entire life. It was easier to jump the jumps than to go around them.”

In a sense, the way Mark has described Sapphire, is a model to approach life: overcome obstacles without too much struggle. It just may be the final gift from the iconic gray horse that gave so much to his rider and to the sport.

 
July 2020 - Entrigue Consulting
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Wednesday, 01 July 2020 06:10
PDF Print E-mail

cover

Innovative marketing, business guidance, and a range of options help equestrian sport and its stake holders achieve a return on their investment.

by Kim F. Miller

Kelly Artz is a lifelong horsewoman who sees a lot of untapped potential in equestrian sports. With Entrigue Consulting, she has made it her business to help stake holders build their brand and find personal and financial successes like that found in mainstream sports.

Entrigue is a full-service marketing and brand strategy consulting agency. It represents brands of all types and sizes, primarily equestrian. Clientele ranges from individual riders and training businesses to product manufacturers and retail businesses, big and small. She and her team welcome all comers from start-ups with a good idea to established efforts that need a reboot.

 


“If you have a business, you have a brand,” Kelly asserts. She likens owning a business to having a horse or a child in the sense that it needs to have its growth nurtured and guided every step of the way.

 

Entrigue Consulting CEO, Kelly Artz, with her mare, California-bred Kailaani. Photo: Kristin Lee Photography

Experts in all facets of digital marketing comprise the core of the Entrigue team. Websites, graphic design, visual story-telling, small business strategy, search engine optimization, and staying one step ahead of the ever-evolving social media landscape are among her team members’ areas of expertise.  “You’re only as good as your team,” Kelly says.

 Her lifetime involvement with horses and the equine industry allow her to guide a team that is all about “connecting the dots” for clients. “Moving riders and businesses toward their goals helps move the whole sport forward,” she notes.

Kelly and her dressage partner, Winston. Photo: Kristin Lee Photography


Speaking From Experience

Kelly speaks equestrian clients’ language. She is an HB United States Pony Club graduate who spent her early 20s as a working student for multiple trainers, including Canadian Olympic eventer Hawley Bennett. Since then, she has imported and sold jumpers from Europe in the U.S., founded three companies including Entrigue, and continues to compete in the show ring.

After switching from eventing to dressage, Kelly quickly earned her USDF Bronze and Silver medals. She rode on the U.S. team for the 2019 Maccabi Games in Budapest, Hungary, winning individual silver and team bronze medals. Kelly currently competes her 17-year-old KWPN gelding, Winston, and her 8-year-old Swedish Warmblood mare, Kailaani, bred by Californian Leslie Morse.  

Beyond the arena, Kelly has an MFA in digital media from UCLA and a BA in Psychology. She served as an analyst for production consultants prior to founding Entrigue, working on big name accounts such as Hersheys and Gatorade. She spent two years producing a feature documentary about female jockeys, working with Chantal Sutherland, Kayla Stra, Julie Krone, Mike Smith, Victor Espinoza and more. She also founded and operates the successful equestrian apparel company, Anique.

The unique combination of horsemanship, education, business experience, and a forward-thinking approach enables Kelly to lead Entrigue’s clients to success on many levels: financially and in taking pride in their brand.

Entrigue is walking Kelly’s talk. Entrigue’s roster of clients has grown to include many of industry’s biggest names and brands over the past few years. Olympic medalists Will Simpson and Laura Graves are on that list, as are collaborations for the Kentucky Derby and the Longines Global Champions Tour. Equipe, County Saddlery and Grand Prix Riding Apparel have also been among Entrigue’s corporate clients.
    

Kelly Artz with announcer Noah Rattner at Del Mar Fairgrounds

Nothing Happens Overnight

Kelly compares building an effective marketing strategy to building a Grand Prix dressage horse -- It doesn’t happen overnight. She debunks a pervasive misconception that marketing and sales are the same thing. “Marketing is positioning,” she told interviewers on the Freelance Remuda Podcast last year. “It’s getting in front of the right customers and with content that appeals to them.”

Ensuring that all the brand’s marketing channels work together is a priority. As is making each of today’s necessary marketing channels earn their keep. “A website without good SEO (search engine optimization) is useless,” she explains. “Nobody will find you.” The same goes for social media profiles that are not posting regular content that reaches and appeals to real potential customers.  

Too often, brands expect a specific marketing effort to convert directly into sales. “It just doesn’t work that way,” Kelly notes. When a celebrity athlete like Beezie Madden endorses a product, it creates a positive association in the right customers’ mind. But knowing when that translates to an actual sale is nearly impossible to determine. Putting a promotional code on such an endorsement enables tracking its direct impact on sales, but that benefit is “only a tiny part of what marketing is,” she explains.

“Immediate results are hard to produce. With marketing for brands, it’s all about gaining momentum. Everything from name recognition to increasing web traffic and social media growth takes time and effort to get it to a place where it’s leverageable and useful for positioning for more sales.  With time and continued work, it all starts to fall into place and work together.”

For many clients, Entrigue facilitates all aspects of their marketing efforts: from daily social media content to managing their digital ads on multiple platforms, creating quality print materials, website maintenance and more. Optimizing e-commerce sites for the buyer and shopper’s benefit is another specialty. Google Ads, Amazon store support and blog writing are recent additions to Entrigue’s extensive menu of services.

The Entrigue Consulting live stream team during the Adequan West Coast Dressage Festival

“The Olympics and Then What?”

Connecting riders and brands in mutually beneficial partnerships is a core of Entrigue’s business. The idea for this arose when Kelly worked with Angie Stevens, a talent agent for jockeys in the racing industry. “I learned a lot about how endorsement deals are structured and saw that jockeys were treated like professional athletes because they are valuable marketing vehicles. They are what everybody is watching during a race.” Having big TV audiences for racing helps make jockeys “like billboards.”

She saw the need for something similar in the Olympic equestrian sports. “I looked at some top riders who had potential for big audiences, but they had no management, no brand, and no way to actually talk to their fans in one place--so they had nothing to offer sponsors in the way of return on investment.”

Even if a sponsorship deal was struck, the lack of professional help with website, social media and appearance management often led partnering companies to feel short-changed.

“With riders, I’ve found that most are not worth the sponsorships they want,” Kelly observes. “They don’t like hearing that, but the things they want usually take years to get.” Along with being a talented rider, “You have to have the marketing and branding to be able to move yourself forward in the sport.” Rising in the rankings must go along with building an engaged fan base that has value to a sponsor.

“Olympics and then what?” is a question Kelly encourages professional equestrians to ask themselves. “I think some riders think that the Olympics is the end-all be-all and that it comes with a million-dollar check after. It doesn’t.” Whether they get to the Olympics or not, the rider needs to have a business model and a brand they can be proud of and leverage for a future by being of value to others.

2019 Pan Am Games dressage gold medalist Sarah Lockman was one of Entrigue’s first clients. At the time she had very few Instagram followers and a handful of small sponsors,” Kelly recalls. Long term development was the goal from the beginning and it took time to reach the level of backing that has put Sarah on a realistic track to fulfill Olympic dreams.

Talent and success in the saddle are two factors required in riders who can generate the needed ROI for a sponsor. Hard work is equally important.

“They have to be willing to put in the time, to do the photo shoots or hire a ghost writer,” Kelly says. In Sarah’s case, a strong work ethic and an openness to clients of all kinds helped the stars align. When the late Gerry Ibanez called Sarah several years ago, after finding her online, for help with a Friesian he’d bought sight-unseen, Sarah welcomed the inexperienced horse person. It was the beginning of a partnership with Ibanez’ Summit Farms that has since made Sarah’s international dreams a reality.

“It should be important to all riders, but especially top riders, to continue to grow the sport and bring new people into our world,” Kelly asserts. “It’s very possible to introduce new people to horse sports and facilitate a joyful experience that they want to be a part of -- whether it’s supporting a trainer and their business or helping a rider obtain an Olympic mount. Current equestrians are responsible for showing others there is value in our sport in order to bring in new owners, riders and sponsors.”

Similar dedication is needed to attract top horses. Rather than counting on a wealthy individual to buy them horses, Kelly coaches clients to form ownership syndicates and focus on their own networking and relationships. She recommends they be built around the opportunity to sell the horse at a profit if it doesn’t wind up well-suited for international success. Without that opportunity for a return on their investment, counting on owners who may lose interest over time is a poor plan for staying well mounted, especially in sports like dressage with very little prize money.



All Budgets Welcome

Entrigue’s ability to capitalize on evolving marketing trends and realities is available to businesses of all budgets. The brand looking only for logo design is as important as the big company looking for the full suite of services.  “We encourage clients to work with what they have,” Kelly explains. “Everyone starts somewhere.” Budget restrictions can be a blessing. “It can fuel a lot of creativity.”

“I believe a well-run business and marketing strategy will sustain itself in the long run,” she continues. “If you can’t take $10 and make it $100, you can’t take $100,000 and turn it into a million. You have to have the brand in place and the structure there internally. Every business is different and we help clients with all that to create an effective strategy for the long run.”  

“There’s no substitute for strategic, consistent work”, Kelly concludes. “That means reaching out for clients, fans, followers, sponsors, etc. Then having a firm sense of what value you can bring to any partnership and being poised to deliver it when the opportunity arises.”  Entrigue Consulting is all about getting equestrian athletes and businesses ready to make the most of those opportunities.

For more information, visit www.entrigueconsulting.com.

 

 
July 2020 - Genay Vaughn
Written by CRM
Wednesday, 01 July 2020 06:03
PDF Print E-mail

diversity

Accomplished African American equestrian speaks up.

Young dressage professional Genay Vaughn shares her perspective on Black Lives Matter and how it relates to equestrian sports and individual responsibilities and opportunities. Genay is the assistant trainer at her family’s Starr Vaughn Equestrian Center in the Sacramento area’s Elk Grove. USDF Gold, Silver and Bronze medals are among her accomplishments.


Q: In the overall Black Lives Matter movement, how important is diversity in equestrian sport? Why does it matter? How do the two connect?

 

I consider myself fortunate to be a member of the international community of dressage. I’ve heard criticism lately about how elitist equestrian sport is, because of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and racial injustices and prejudice in the United States. These conversations are happening all around the world right now, with 20 countries taking to the streets to show their support for black people. Equestrian sports should welcome conversations like these, because we have an opportunity to distinguish ourselves in the sports world as a community that embraces diversity and provides opportunity to experience all that equine culture has to offer. Equestrian sport is about the high-performance connection between humans and animals, and, like our horses, that connection knows no color.

Q: Compared to the general world, how much systemic racism have you experienced in the horse world?

In my experience, and I can only speak for myself, I have not personally experienced overt racism in my sport. However, we must acknowledge that racial bias is an unfortunate part of the history of equestrian sport.

Genay at a protest in Sacramento last weekend.

For example, when horse racing saw its height in America at the end of the 19th century, 13 out of 15 of the top jockeys were African American. The ability to make a significant earning as a jockey led more white athletes to enter the sport. Around this time, at the dawn of the Jim Crow era, institutionalized racism crept into the world of horse racing. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled with the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision that segregation was legal. Due to that ruling, white jockeys during the 1900 racing season used intimidation tactics to keep black jockeys from competing. Even though the Supreme Court overturned the 1896 decision in 1954 with Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. did not see another black jockey in the top level of competitors until 2000.   

It is hard to discuss issues of race without discussing the intersection of race and class. As a biracial African American athlete, I was fortunate to be exposed to the sport and to have the opportunity to participate. Equestrian sport is expensive, by its very nature, and so it is inherently exclusive and predominantly accessible to those who can afford to participate. An athlete who doesn’t own a horse needs to have access to one, and to have the opportunity to be near a place where one can train, usually some place that has land.

Although I personally have not experienced overt racism, I have witnessed looks of surprise when others come to find that I am a rider and not a groom at competitions. In other similar sports, athletes at the height of their career have spoken publicly about more overt forms of racism. In tennis, black athletes such as Serena Williams have experienced mistreatment by fellow athletes, fans, and commentators for their race and have spoken about it in interviews. And such stories are commonplace in other exclusive sports. Lewis Hamilton has spoken about his disappointment that the Formula One community did not condemn racial inequality at a time when so many other sports organizations like the NFL and NASCAR have.

The truth is, as a person of color, when you walk into the room, even if you walk in wearing the uniform that communicates that you’re there to compete, people will see you differently. This is even more so if you’re black and you’re really good, because you are defying expectations of what black people can do. We are an affront to some people’s limited world view. Such a sentiment has no place in an international sport, where the goal should always be to respect one another, no matter our color, our culture, or what country we call home.

Q: What can equestrians of all colors do better?

I think it’s great we’re having these kinds of conversations, because it is a necessary first step to taking action. This is what BLM is all about. Dressage is an international community, and we have a particular interest in valuing social equity and fairness. Two words that come to mind are exposure and opportunity.

Exposure means knowing what the sport is. Opportunity means having the chance to pursue the sport, something my family afforded me. In other words, if you never encounter the ocean, or pond, or pool, how would you ever learn how to swim? There are opportunities out there that provide exposure and equitable access to horse riding, but there could be more. Things like scholarships, after school programs, and equine-assisted therapy, are ways in which equestrian organizations have already worked to create a more inclusive community.

One premier example is the equestrian leader Lezlie Hiner, who founded the polo organization Work to Ride in 1994. Work to Ride exposes inner city kids of West Philadelphia to polo. These are kids who have never previously had the opportunity to ride a horse, let alone compete in polo. What’s even more incredible is that they have turned out stars, simply by providing the exposure and opportunity to learn and enjoy the sport.

The BLM movement is a call to action for individuals as well as organizations. It challenges us all to be better. Now is the time for the equestrian community to seize the opportunity to distinguish ourselves, by working harder to provide more exposure for those who would not otherwise be able to enjoy horses. Inclusion is an important value on its face, but if people are unclear why it is not only the right thing to do but also the smart thing to do, one need only look to the work of economist Scott E. Page, or all the moves Fortune 500 companies and educational institutions are making on this front. Our most profitable corporations and brightest universities have recognized the value in enacting institutional change. This is not just because of BLM, as research shows organizations perform better with a more diverse makeup. BLM is a catalyst to necessary progress.

The sky is really the limit for what we can do when we put our minds to it and commit to inclusion as a common value.

 
July 2020 - Taking On Tack Care
Written by by Brooke Goddard • photos: USHJA, Toni Anderson, Kira Casartelli
Wednesday, 01 July 2020 04:16
PDF Print E-mail

news

Toni Anderson and Kira Casartelli team up for Toni’s Tack Tips

by Brooke Goddard • photos: USHJA, Toni Anderson, Kira Casartelli

While most teenagers were watching videos on Netflix during the pandemic, Toni Anderson and Kira Casartelli teamed up to produce horsemanship videos, including a “Horsemanship 101” series for Hansen Dam Riding School. Several years ago, Toni started an Instagram page called “Toni’s Tack Tips” as a passion project where she would share her thoughts on different horse-related products. Her videos have evolved from there. “I’ve always had fun explaining things and showing people various horse products,” Toni shared.

 


Toni, the 2018 USHJA Horsemanship Quiz Challenge (HQC) Gold Medalist, stars in the video series and shares her wealth of horsemanship knowledge with others. “As I was studying for the HQC, I started to think that there was a serious need for horsemanship resources,” she explained. “The downtime during the pandemic gave me the opportunity to finally start producing videos with the help of my friend and production manager, Kira.”

 

Their videos dive into depth on horsemanship-related numerous topics. “Our videos focus not only on the ‘how’ but also on the ‘why’ behind everything we do,” Toni added. “I want people to understand the importance of why we do certain things. For instance, putting water on your tack can damage it over time. I want to emphasize to people the importance of why we do what we do.”

Toni is heading into her final year of college and she has already garnered years of experience when it comes to horsemanship. As the USHJA HQC Gold Medalist, Toni got a special opportunity to intern at Spy Coast Farm, a top horse breeding and training operation in Lexington, Kentucky. Toni was also the overall winner of the 2019 LAHJA Horsemastership Scholarship, earning funds toward her degree at Scripps College in Claremont, Calif. Outside of school, she works as a show groom and braider and often helps her “other mother” Marnye Langer at shows. Toni enjoys showing in the 1.0M jumpers and medals on LEGIS Light My Fire.

Toni’s family friend, Kira, is the vision and the creative mind behind their video series. “There was a lot of trial and error,” Kira explained. “We experimented a lot with camera angles and lighting. We realized that sometimes we needed to position the horse facing the back of the cross ties in order to get better lighting. We also started using a tripod with bendable legs. By wrapping the legs around the end of a broom, we could get stable shots from above the horse.”

Kira, 14-years-old, is heading to The Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts (SOTA) in the fall to focus on her artistic passion. “I’ve always been interested in arts and architecture,” she said. “My mom has worked as a professional photographer, so I had some experience just from watching her.”

“Kira is the best,” Toni said. “She has a talent for finding great camera angles. She also rides horses but has less experience than me. Kira’s comments are helpful because she is able to tell me if I am making sense and explaining things well.”

They are hoping to grow their YouTube channel while continuing to help riders gain horsemanship knowledge. “I want to help pass knowledge down to the next generation of equestrians while creating a resource from which riders of all levels can learn,” Toni added.

Visit their YouTube channel, Toni’s Tack Tips, to learn more.

 
June 2020 - The Gallop: Silver Linings & New Ideas
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Thursday, 28 May 2020 04:56
PDF Print E-mail

gallop

Horses as a healthy habit is a hoped-for foundation of the “new normal.”

by Kim F. Miller

Jim Hagman immediately took the coronavirus seriously. The founder of Elvenstar, the multi-faceted hunter/jumper program in Moorpark, Jim shut down their riding school in early March. A friend in Wuhan, China, had relayed the severity of the scene there. “I had a gut feeling about it and I paid attention to what was going on,” Jim reflects of the relatively early warning. A few days later, California governor Gavin Newsom declared statewide activity restrictions.

 


Stable quarantine for 17 days, then creation and implementation of protocols for owners to return safely to the barn, for limited time slots, followed. In early May, Elvenstar surveyed clients regarding interest in traveling out of state to compete in the foreseeable future. “100 percent said ‘no’,” Jim relays. “These are not alarmists. They are very even-keel people, but they get it.”

 

Although Elvenstar students are a regular force on the “Indoors” A circuit and medal finals in the East every fall, Jim is grateful for this unusual season when the program has no contenders in their final junior year. Surveyed Elvenstar families “made it clear there was no chance they’d want to go to any championship held indoors.”

In-state travel to shows is a possibility most of his clients are open to, Jim shares.
    

Jim Hagman with Lanie Walkenbach, one of many Elvenstar stars.

Silver Linings

Jim is a keen student, observer and leader of the sport. While he describes himself as “4.8 on a scale of 5” worried about the immediate and long-term impact of COVID-19, he also sees a silver lining. “Youth have been impacted to such a degree. I think parents are going to want their kids to do more things outdoors, in nature, and in less crowded quarters. They are going to want them to do things that involve health and there’s nothing more healthy than being with horses.

“With the stresses of a shut-down world, I think more parents will want kids interacting with something more than the electronic box in their hand. And, I think this will open people up to the premise of being with your family, and not racing to the next social activity.”

With many career paths no longer viable after the worldwide economic crisis, Jim hopefully predicts that more people will choose a path inspired by their passion, including horses and, equally important, horsemanship education. “We can capture that by educating people in a real environment of learning how to teach. There is a system for teaching, involving early childhood development, psychology and becoming certified. There is technical knowledge in knowing how to communicate these things, and in learning to communicate with parents. We skip all that in our industry. In my mind, this lack of foundational basics is the main reason our sport is not what it could be.”

Too often, he continues, families seeking an experience with a horse get fast-tracked onto a show path. Along with being too expensive for many, this route omits many of the most gratifying, educational and character-building aspects of a life with horses.

“Ninety-nine percent of Elvenstar’s clients did not come here to do the Maclay Medal,” Jim observes. “Their kid just wanted to be near a pony.” Fostering a love of learning about horses needs to be the foundation of the sport. “Everything above that is gravy.” He hopes that the “new normal” may facilitate such a shift in the industry.

New Ideas

Georgy Maskrey-Segesman sees these unprecedented times as perfect for a new idea set for a trial run May 22 at her Whitethorne Ranch in Ventura County’s Somis. She’s been pioneering education and horsemanship-based programs for several years and the tentatively titled “West Coast League” is the latest.

Details were still being ironed out at press time, but the basic idea has training barns competing against each other as a team comprised of an amateur, junior and professional rider. Before the first of two jumping rounds, the rider and trainer will introduce themselves to the judge -- Equestrian Coach’s Bernie Traurig on May 22 -- sharing their goals and challenges. After the round, they get the judge’s evaluation, then a chance to implement the suggestions in the warm-up ring and during a second round in front of the judge, followed by more feedback.

“Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong,” is the league’s working motto.

Judging criteria is intended to reward correct riding and to factor out the quality and capabilities of the horse ridden, Georgy emphasizes. “The rider on a Quarter Horse with a limited stride is not going to be penalized for doing five strides where others are doing four,” she says. If executed effectively, this keeps the rider on the same level as another on a fancier, scopier steed.

A $150 entry fee and an emphasis on education is all about value that Georgy and an enthusiastic Jim feel will be all the more important in the post-pandemic era. “So many people have horses to ride and they can do two or three shows a year,” she explains. “But the majority don’t have access to people who are judging medal finals and the chance to get their feedback. It’s always nice to get a new perspective and the idea is to make the sport more inclusive.”
    

Georgy Maskrey-Segesman with sponsored young rider Emma Pacyna.

Team Approach

Tabulating points for the barn over an individual will foster more learning and a team approach to better horsemanship, Georgy and Jim hope. “You can learn a lot by being around other people,” Georgy says. “I myself have learned a lot just by eavesdropping!” Jim adds, “We all do!”

Embrace of educational opportunities is sometimes stymied by reluctance of the rider and/or trainer to receive criticism -- even constructive -- in public. Georgy acknowledges the West Coast League may not be everybody’s cup of tea. She sees a bright spot, however, in the unexpectedly positive response to the judges’ feedback that is a central component of the Whitethorne American Tradition of Equitation Excellence launched in 2017. “That surprised me!”

Getting feedback is important to education and is a priority for parents, Georgy and Jim note. “There will always be some who resist learning in this public way, but there are plenty of people like us that embrace it out there,” Jim states. “And, it’s the parents who will drive this. They want feedback for their kids in whatever they’re doing.”

Along with Whitethorne and Elvenstar students, trainers including Carolyn Biava, Michelle Pacyna and Kathy Megla were among the inaugural event invitees who welcomed the chance to participate. Georgy reports that some of the country’s top equitation judges are on board to participate in the future. The format works as a one-day, stand-alone event, or piggy backed with a one-day competition. The hope is that it can be staged at large private or public facilities, and that it may help rebuild a pipeline of development shows suitable for varying abilities and budgets.

Georgy is organizing the event on her own without the help of or sanctioning by any governing bodies. She welcomes the freedom and independence that provides for the moment, and the longer-term prospect that the concept might be made more broadly accessible with an organization’s help.
    
The Gallop welcomes news, tips and photos. Contact Kim F. Miller at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
June 2020 - It’s Picture Day!
Written by CRM
Thursday, 28 May 2020 04:22
PDF Print E-mail

news

Beautiful baby horses are always a cheerful sight. We loved seeing them light up social media this season and here’s some of our favorites.

 


 

Coronet’s Asher, by Coronet D’Honneur (Comme Il Faut x Dinard,) out of a Riverman x Schoenfeld mare. 'We’re super excited about this gorgeous boy, as he's a second generation breeding for us,' says Rachel Jansen Jones of CrossRoads Farm in AZ. 'I bred his dam, who was one of my all-time favorite riding horses.'

First Premium Belgian Warmblood 2018 colts, of Hansen Sport Horses in San Francisco & Belgium. Springsteen by Ricardo Z from Nanou D’Oryvil, Yarlands Summer Song. Ricardo Z is the #6 ranked eventing sire and Yarlands Summer Song was ranked in the top 10 world eventing sires for 10 years. Savoy by Triomphe de Muze (Chin Chin) from Adelma E-label, Darco. 'The Triomphe de Muze gives me Alme which is one of my five foundation lines for breeding jumpers,' says Elizabeth Hansen. Photo: Madigan Nugent

Opocalypse LS - 2020 sBs colt Diamanté Fino X Cornet Obolensky x Pilot. The foal was bred and owned by Leeana Baugh Conroe of Texas.

Miss Ladee Rose’sae out of Champagne by Coconut Grove, and sired by Landkonig. 'This is a healthy, extremely athletic fancy filly,' says a proud Susan Worthington of Rainbow Equus Meadows in Lincoln. 'She will make Rainbow proud whatever she does in the future.'

Primo’s Sienna Gen ECE by L Primo DG x Geneva COF, bred and owned by Ellen Corob of San Luis Obispo.

O Pagani H - Diamanté Fino x Cassini II and owned and bred by Courtney Hurley in San Juan Capistrano.

'We are very excited to introduce RT Remarkable,' Says Max Wilcox, owner of RipTide. 'This colt is by the Holsteiner stallion, RipTide. With Riverman and Pablo for his grandfathers this kid can’t help but be fancy!' RipTide is standing at stud in San Diego County’s Lakeside.

Uppercrust PR, of Pomponio Ranch, was sired by ASB Conquistador, and is out of Creme de Lu, by Kannan. 'We are excited to have a homebred filly that has brought many of the top European bloodlines to California,' says Kaitlyn Bradley. 'We are excited to see her jumping future as both sides of her line have incredible jumps, and the future of our breeding program in San Gregorio with the addition of an excellent dam.'

Porchea DG, from DG Bar Ranch in Hanford. She is by Koning DG and out of Julea KS by Charmeur, who is out of Thea KS by Idocus.

Two yearlings by Cassio Picasso: On the right is Champagne Bubbles, out of Shannon Harger's Real Bubbles, a Thoroughbred mare who has competed at Preliminary eventing. The darker bay is Katelyn Grubich's colt out of her Holsteiner mare by Capone. This colt’s name is Carter. Sire Cassio Picasso is an American Trakehner Association-approved 8-year-old. He has been campaigned by James Alliston on the West Coast circuit, where he has a big fan following.

Filly sired by Eurequine stallion, Lord Adonis (Lordanos/Raphael/Ramiro Z) out of Boadicea by Balou du Rouet/Contendro. 'Lord Adonis' first foal crop after moving stateside hit the ground for us and breeders in 2019,' explains Eurequine’s Edgar Schutte. 'He is showing his ability to stamp offspring like this filly with a type desirable for the hunters and jumpers. She is short coupled, long legged, with a beautiful head, doey eye and affectionate personality.' The owner/breeder is Cara Choy. Photo: Hannah Beebe

Johnny Rocket TW is the first foal out of Miss January (For Pleasure) and by the stallion Best Regards (Cumano). His dam earned numerous championships in the Amateur Owner Hunter and Performance Hunter divisions and his sire is a top contender in the International Derby Ring. Three Wishes Farm has partnered with Touchstone Stables to develop this charismatic foal for the hunter and hunter derby rings. 'We have high hopes that he will follow in his parents footsteps!'says Anneliese Kannow of Three Wishes Farm.

The mare Apache Van De Los with her black colt, SR-71 Blackbird, the first foal born to Jaguar van Paemel in the USA. The colt is named after the fastest jet in the world, explains owner Maud Christal.

Jaguar Deluxe 1, by Jaguar van Paemel, and out of Dusty, a mare campaigned in the Thermal Million by owner Russell Morgan. Russell and Jenny Morgan own the colt.

 
May 2020 - The Gallop: “In Transition,” Not “Unwanted”
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Wednesday, 29 April 2020 05:21
PDF Print E-mail

gallop

Equine welfare organizations follow the lead of small animal re-homing successes. 

by Kim F. Miller

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a boom in dog and cat adoptions from shelters throughout the country. Horses haven’t been so fortunate. Being a bigger money, time, labor and land undertaking than a small animal, horses face harder times now and likely well beyond the pandemic’s effect on human health.

But the news isn’t all dire.

 


Sunday, April 26 was the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ designated Help A Horse Day and this year its focal point was The Right Horse Initiative. This relatively new ASPCA program embodies positive trends in the equine industry coming together for the good of the horse. The Right Horse campaign encourages those able to foster or adopt a horse in need, opening up spaces at shelters where more horses may be surrendered or wind up due to COVID-19 related economic hardships.

 

Emphasizing adoptions and fostering is the crux of the program, following the example of small animal welfare groups dating back about 15 years. “If I can keep 10 horses forever, I can help 10 horses,” says ASPCA Vice President of Equine Welfare Dr. Emily Weiss. “If I can take in 10 horses and get them re-homed, I can help a lot more horses.”

“The world is a different place for equines now,” Dr. Weiss says when comparing the COVID-19 impact to that of the recession that started in 2008. “Back then, we heard a lot about places where horses could find a safe refuge, but much less in the way of re-homing. Today there is much more sophisticated support and much more coordination of industry support.”.  

To help individuals more easily connect with horses in need of temporary foster homes, the ASPCA is updating its online adoption platform, MyRightHorse.org, to spotlight horses available for fostering. The site, previously focused solely on encouraging adoption, now includes a re-branded homepage, opportunities to inquire about specific horses and resources about fostering.

Those unable to foster or adopt are encouraged to get involved by sharing an available horse from MyRightHorse.org on their social media channels to help spread the word and find a home.

Ivey. Description from Horse For Horses in Galt: Ivey McGee is a Thoroughbred mare. She is so gorgeous! She is a very dark bay, almost black, and definitely a looker. She spent several years as a broodmare. She is an alpha mare and requires a confident rider. For the right person, she will make a rewarding and event competitive partner. She is currently being ridden.

Lost In Transition

The language surrounding horses in need has helped prompt a positive sea change. While the term “unwanted” still lingers, it’s been emphatically replaced with “in transition” wherever possible. A major example is the multi-organizational effort, spearheaded by the American Horse Council, and originally called The Unwanted Horse Coalition. Last year, its name was changed to The United Horse Coalition.

Again, small animal welfare trends led the way. “We found with cats and dogs, about 15 years ago, that shelters were not the place to go for an adoptable animal,” Dr. Weiss explains. “Somehow those animals were considered ‘broken.’ With horses, we found that people thought of horses in shelters as somehow different from the horse in their backyard. The vast majority of them are not any different. Instead, we think of them as ‘lost in transition’ because they are transitioning between careers or homes.”

Mouse. Description excerpted from Saffyre Sanctuary, Inc. in Sylmar: For most of my life, I was on a rental string. I enjoyed being the babysitter for beginners, swimming in the ocean, and feeling like I had an important job. Nothing bothers me. I am fine around traffic, machinery, good with other animals and I am the perfect family horse. I am as close to bombproof as you will find. If you are looking for a cuddle-bug, I am it.

“There are horses that need to be ‘rescued,’” she clarifies. “They have medical issues, have been the victims of cruelty or are at the end of their lives.” These horses need to live out their lives in the specialized care of a suitable rescue or shelter. The majority of horses in need, however, are well suited to being transitioned to new homes and jobs. “Most horses coming through shelters are ready for their next adventure,” Dr. Weiss says.

The Thoroughbred Incentive Program, Retired Racehorse Project and the BLM and Mustang Heritage Foundation’s Mustang Makeovers are among the industry and breed-specific programs leading the way in popularizing and proving the merits of transitioning horses into new lives. “Efforts like these have provided the runway for what we are doing,” Dr. Weiss reports. “These are organizations committed to supporting their horses beyond their sport. It’s an exciting time for these horses in transition and those who could be at risk.”

Organizations’ willingness to set aside philosophical differences and come together for equine welfare has also played a big part, she continues. The United Horse Coalition and the The Right Horse program both reflect groups “setting aside our differences” to work together. Laws regarding horse slaughter and the Horse Racing Integrity Act are among the “big emotional” topics on which participating members may passionately disagree, yet progress for horses in transition is possible by focusing on points of agreement. Even as the wider political culture seems more divided than ever, horse welfare advocates are finding and positively exploiting their common ground.

Gio. Description from Love This Horse Equine Rescue in Mojave: Gio is a gorgeous chestnut gelding with a lot of professional training under his belt. He was entrusted to us by his former owner who is elderly and wanted Gio to continue his training and to find a home that will compete with him. He has his registration papers.

Right Horse Partners

The ASPCA program works with horse helping organizations in two phases, the first of which is the “Warm Up Ring.” In this phase, facilities must meet 13 vetting criteria, then are visited by a Right Horse rep for a site visit before onboarding as a partner program.
    
Right Horse Partners in California include:
•    Love This Horse Equine Rescue in Acton - www.lovethishorsearabianrescue.org
•    Hope For Horses in Galt - www.horse4horses.com
•    The Monty Roberts Institute in Solvang - www.MontyRoberts.com

Prospective Partners in the Warm-Up Ring include:
•    Win Home Place in Canyon Country - www.winhomeplace.org
•    Saffyre Sanctuary, Inc. in Sylmar - www.saffyresanctuary.org

The Gallop welcomes news, tips and photos. Contact Kim F. Miller at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
May 2020 - Andrea Equine
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Wednesday, 29 April 2020 05:08
PDF Print E-mail

news

Young entrepreneur does good while doing well.

by Kim F. Miller

A Craigslist ad, a $25 BLM Mustang and gumption galore have taken Andrea Cao a long way. This month, the Stanford University freshman and member of its western equestrian team celebrates the second anniversary of Andrea Equine, her second venture into entrepreneurship.

Her first venture, the Q-Flex, landed her on ABC-TV’s Shark Tank, where she earned a modest investment and guidance from Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran. That was in 2015 when Andrea was 13. The Shark Tankers’ support helped make a success of the Q-Flex, a self-acupressure device Andrea designed to help her single mother, a nurse, relieve tension in the hard-to-reach parts of her back.  

 


With the help of her mom, Hong Cao, Andrea brought the product to market, made door-to-door sales calls, then placed it with retailers in her San Luis Obispo County area. The simple device is now sold around the world with profits that made possible the purchase of the five-acre ranch in Atascadero where Andrea’s four horses live.

 

Her current venture is Andrea Equine, which includes a line of tack and equipment built on “ethical manufacturing, living wages, fair pricing and true quality.”

These are all things “that nobody in our industry was talking about” when Andrea began researching sources and processes for making the rope halters, leather tack and bits with bright turquoise accents that are now marketed around the world.

In addition to her entrepreneurial accomplishments, Andrea bootstrapped her way up from horse crazy kid with no money for lessons, let alone her own horse.

She’s now a seasoned trainer whose horsemanship resume includes starting several BLM Mustangs and other breeds and helping others develop their own.

All of the above was accomplished along with academic achievements required to be accepted to Stanford University, an institution with an acceptance rate of barely over 4 percent.

At home since the pandemic closed most of the campus in early March, Andrea is planning a leave of absence for the spring semester. She’ll refocus on training her own horses and spending more time on Andrea Equine.

A Brilliant “Black Sheep”

“Chaotic prioritizing” is Andrea’s secret for accomplishing all that she has and juggling her interests. “It’s learning what is most required of me at a certain time, and going down the list to get it done, even knowing that I’m never going to get everything on the list done.” Always a self-sufficient and independent kid, Andrea has a passion for her pursuits that provides natural motivation.

An inquisitive nature has served her well. That was helpful when she was “so blessed” to be selected for Stanford’s Intercollegiate Horse Show Association team among an always competitive field of candidates. For all her horsemanship accomplishments, Andrea had no competitive experience. “My position was trash!” she asserts. That opened a new realm of learning called “equitation” or “horsemanship,” the divisions for western discipline collegiate equestrian competition.  Most of her teammates are well versed in these subjects.

“Her internal motivation and curiosity are immense,” says Vanessa Bartsch, Stanford Equestrian Head Coach. The school’s admission policies have the effect of pre-screening prospective equestrian team members for exceptional characteristics, she notes. Even in that group, Andrea stands out.

“Here’s a kid who had, at 13, a business idea and ran with it. She loved horses, so she decided to get a Mustang and figure out how to train it by working with it. As a teenager... who does that?”

Teammates had heard Andrea’s Shark Tank backstory and were “excited to meet this person who was obviously really into horses,” recalls teammate Paiton Gleeson, a sophomore. “Not just the competition aspect, but she was clearly into the whole world of taking care of the horse and building a bond.”

Andrea’s “super bold nature” is what immediately struck Paiton when the freshman showed up at the Stanford Red Barn last fall. “She immediately had this huge presence and was not afraid to try new things. When you first come on campus, it can be a little intimidating, but she didn’t seem intimidated at all.”

Paiton also admires the fact that, even with Andrea’s impressive equestrian accomplishments, she had no problem asking for help with the unfamiliar aspects of competition.

Paiton expects Andrea to have a broad influence on the team. “She is really involved in the D-School (Design School), which has an entrepreneur focus. That is kind of the spirit she brings to the team in terms of wanting to figure out ways to make the whole team, and everyone on it, better.” Upgrading the tack room with Andrea Equine gear is an immediate example.
    

“A PhD in Feel”

Andrea’s earliest equestrian wishes were fulfilled through a Craigslist ad seeking to trade barn chores for the chance to ride somebody’s horse -- never mind that she didn’t know how. “I taught myself how to ride,” she shares. “It’s a miracle I made it on the team.”

“After the first couple weeks of instruction on the team I realized I had no idea what I was doing and had spent 10 years using the wrong position,” Andrea continues cheerfully. “I rode in a ‘chair seat’ -- I sat on my butt when I learned to ride and was breaking colts. Looking back, I don’t know what was keeping me on.”

She approached the process of re-learning to ride “gracefully and playfully,” Vanessa says. The constant catch-riding format of IHSA competition can be humbling enough, but Andrea embraced the extra requirement of revising her position for competition purposes. Learning to use her inner thigh for a secure position and to reach her leg down long around the horse’s side was a big change from the short stirrup lengths that were a habit after starting many young horses.

The end result has been well worth it for reasons beyond the higher likelihood of earning points for her IHSA team. The better position quickly translated to being a more effective rider, a realization that didn’t take long thanks to what her coach calls a “PhD in feel.”

What Andrea lacked in show experience, she makes up for in instincts. “She may not be used to doing hundreds of patterns, but when we put her on a horse that’s having a bad day, she calms them immediately,” Vanessa reports. “She has a supportive temperament that makes her perfect any time we’re having a horse challenge.”

The prospect of making the equestrian team was a deciding factor in Andrea’s college choice and it has brought friendships and sanity to the exciting swirl of freshman life. Andrea jokingly calls herself “the black sheep” on a western squad that includes “someone with a legendary barrel racing record and an Arabian show world champion.” Her own experience with starting horses, ground manners, round penning and other training techniques has blended with her teammates’ experience in the form of “some interesting conversations,” she says. “It’s been really cool to add that perspective.”

Above all, “My teammates are my best friends,” Andrea adds. “Without them, I think I’d go crazy.”
    

Rewards Beyond Ribbons

Lack of show experience has never meant a lack of rewarding experiences. Working with any horse, especially the wild Mustangs and especially her “heart horse,” Spirit, has always produced daily rewards. “Even though there’s no ribbons, no spectators or any kind of public validation, it’s super cool how many small goals and victories there are,” she says of starting horses from scratch. “When a Mustang that was not bred to be trained first gets the confidence to come up and smell your hand, when you halter break a foal, or saddle up a horse for the first time, it’s all so monumental. All of those things set the tone of your relationship.”

The process continues with under-saddle work. “When you get the horse to soften laterally, to collect for a split second or slide to a stop with their hind end underneath them...There is so much reward and fulfillment in those moments.”

The trail is Andrea’s favorite teaching terrain. “You can work a horse in the arena as much as you want, but it doesn’t mean the horse is going to stay with you out on trail. Barking dogs and train tracks are among the interesting journeys to lead a horse on.” Round pen work is another stage for training methods that fall loosely under the “natural horsemanship” heading.  The teachings of Ray Hunt, Tom Dorrance and Buck Brannaman are among the influences reflected in her own mix of methods.

Unique Take On Tack

Getting into the tack business resulted from frustrations over the quality, cost and manufacturing practices involved in existing supply. She found that the ethical and transparent manufacturing processes critical to her definition of Q-Flex’s success were not standards or even familiar as she began investigating tack supply chains.

She was “shocked” to find tack companies not owned by horse people and brands marketed as high quality that sourced materials in countries with poor labor practices. As she began to make inquiries, “They couldn’t tell me much about the manufacturing process in terms of working conditions and what people were being paid,” Andrea explains. “I feel like customers should demand to know that information from companies they buy from.

“I don’t care about being the biggest player in the market,” she continues. “I just want to inspire the conversation.”

Using fair and sustainable manufacturing process while keeping Andrea Equine tack affordable is a challenging balancing act. “Fair pricing does have to reflect what we have to pay to support the family-owned companies we work with. It’s a give and take and a constant conversation.”  

The tack is made by a network of small businesses across America. “One of our first leather manufacturing sources were Amish people,” Andrea recounts. Communication involved emails that were responded to via a hand-written letter that was faxed back. Andrea Equine’s product development phase took a year of “flying around the country, meeting all these people,” she explains. “It was such an adventure.”

Her business management principles and priorities were firm early on. During the Shark Tank opportunities with the Q-Flex, “Mark Cuban told me we could reduce our costs by working with China,” Andrea explains. “I said, Why? Our margin is already great. Why take away business from people who are not only manufacturers, they’re our friends? That’s just how we are doing things.”

Regular donations to horses in need is another firm element of Andrea Equine’s business model.

With sales doing well and coming from around the world, Andrea hopes the next expansion may be into english tack. Newly exposed to the hunter/jumper world through her Stanford Equestrian friends and experiences, Andrea is cooking up some ideas and has plenty of advice and product testers for the next three years.  

Presuming normal school will resume in the fall, Andrea will continue on a self-created course of study she describes as “as close to a business start-up major as you can get.”

Meantime, she’s excited about what the leave of absence may make possible. Along with continuing with her own horses, she’s looking for an opportunity to dive deep into the reining discipline. “It’s really cool having some freedom to work on exactly what I want to work on and see where I want to go with it.”

Extra time will likely to devoted to Andrea Equine. “It’s such a great balance of turning my passion into my career and it’s been such a blessing at every stage,” she explains of the plan to keep that as her career and to train as a not-for-profit pursuit.

“I can use my training experience and time to develop and refine the feel of products, and impact so many more equestrians that way. As a trainer, I can only help six horses/clients at a time. With Andrea Equine, I can help and enable thousands of people achieve a better relationship with their horses on a daily basis.”

 
April 2020 - Every Horse Deserves Good Footing
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Wednesday, 01 April 2020 00:51
PDF Print E-mail

news

Premier Equestrian parlays its place at the forefront of evolving arena industry to bring benefits to all.

by Kim F. Miller

Premier Equestrian has deservedly received a lot of attention and praise for its work as Exclusive Footing Products Supplier for the International Arena at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida. WEF is a global hub for highest-level show jumping, especially this year because of the World Cup Finals being held in the U.S. and the Olympics, that were set for this summer.

Closer to its home base in Sandy, Utah, the company has been winning over the West Coast for some time. Four-time Olympic dressage team member Steffen Peters was among the first Californians to recognize the benefits of Premier’s OTTO Sport Arena Base Mats, range of footing blends and expertise on sand, footing additives and all facets of arena construction.

 


Last fall, Peridot Equestrian in San Marcos chose Premier Equestrian as the best fit for its plans to become a hub of high-level dressage education and training. Most recently, the new owners of Toyon Farm in Napa, have chosen Premier Equestrian for an arena overhaul.

Peridot and Toyon have a common denominator in that first-hand experience made easy work of this critical decision in facility planning and management.

Peridot’s Jessica Eaves Mathews and her daughter Katherine kept their horses at Steffen and Shannon Peters’ Arroyo Del Mar stables in San Diego before opening Peridot. “I know there are other good footing companies out there, but I figured why mess with what works?” explains Jessica. “It was kind of a no brainer.”

Converting what had been a jumper training facility was a major undertaking and the arena and footing were “the easiest parts of the process.” Since they moved in and started riding last fall, “The footing has been perfect,” Jessica reports. “Everybody who comes here loves it.” Those “everybodys” include resident dressage trainers Dawn White-O’Connor, Niki Clarke and Verena Sonstenes-Mahin.

Toyon Farm was recently purchased by the Bonavito family, whose daughter Danielle Bonavito has been training in Florida all winter with her coach and Olympic hopeful, Sabine Schut Kery.  Sabine’s base in Wellington, TYL Dressage, has a Premier Equestrian arena.

“It was an easy decision when Sabine asked me to check out their footing,” says Danielle, a rising dressage star whom the Bonavitos have entrusted with arena decisions. She is familiar with Sabine’s horses and saw how confidently and comfortably they worked in the Premier Equestrian arena. Next, Danielle visited WEF and watched jumpers meet their sport’s demands in the International Arena. The Toyon team was sold on what they saw.

Premier Equestrian is the exclusive U.S. distributor for Germany’s OTTO Sport Arena Base Mats. Their ability to reduce concussive impact by 40% was a strong selling point, Danielle explains. So was Premier’s ability to consult expertly on footing selection and all phases of Toyon Farm arena construction. The installation is being handled by one of Premier Equestrians’ Preferred Builders, Tony Judge’s Olympia Footing, and was set to be finished in late March.
    

FEI Grand Prix Freestyle CDI3* sponsored by Premier Equestrian, victors Sabine Schut-Kery (USA) and Sanceo at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival. Photo: Taylor Pence/US Equestrian

An Option For Everybody

Premier Equestrian’s dominance in the West is just beginning, thanks to services and products that fit a range of budgets and priorities. Not everybody can get an International Arena-grade riding surface, Premier’s Heidi Zorn acknowledges.

“But everybody can get much better footing.”

The first of those options is DIY arena building. At this most affordable tier, Premier Equestrian walks the client through the best choices for their needs and budget. This starts with preparatory steps like arena location and grading and continues through the final touches of sand selection, footing blends and maintenance, all factors that vary depending on climate, proximity of suitable sand and arena use.

Working with a Preferred Builder, as Toyon Farm is doing with Olympia Footing, is an option for those who want a turn-key solution.

Arena building plans are Premier Equestrian’s newest service. “These are similar to engineered plans for building a home,” explains Heidi. “They can be taken to any excavator or licensed road contractor.” The plans include four base options and come with three detailed bid sheets for comparing accurate bids from local contractors. “The plans tell the contractor what kind of grading, compaction, testing and drainage is needed,” says Heidi. “They are perfect for people who don’t have a preferred builder in their region and who want the option between DIY and having somebody else build their arena.”

Premier Equestrian recently provided the OTTO Sport Base Mats and the ProTex Footing product for the International arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, in Wellington, FL. Photo: Sportfot

“Super Sand”

Sand concentrate is a new Premier Equestrian product that improves riding surface performance while containing costs. Too many people overlook the importance of sand characteristics when building or rehabbing an arena, Heidi stresses.

“It’s not just about the fiber additives and the arena base. Sand is a huge key component in the final footing.”

The seemingly simple topic is complicated by the reality that sand characteristics vary geographically. There’s no such thing as “arena sand” even though building materials suppliers might market theirs as such. This explains why WEF owners, Equestrian Sports Productions, transported and mixed several different sands to reach the perfect footing blend.

Premier’s very fine silica sand concentrate addresses these challenges by binding to more common sands from any region. If it’s determined that an arena needs four inches of sand, for example, three inches of most local sands can be combined with one inch of Premier Equestrian’s “super sand” to work with any of its footing products. All proposed sands are tested for clients’ needs as part of Premier’s process.  
    

Heidi Zorn congratulates Sabine Schut-Kery and Sanceo on their win in the AGDF FEI 3* Grand Prix presented by Premier Equestrian.

Heidi Zorn congratulates Sabine Schut-Kery and Sanceo on their win in the AGDF FEI 3* Grand Prix presented by Premier Equestrian.

At Forefront of Evolving Industry

Prior to the current Winter Equestrian Festival arrangement that extends through 2022, Premier Equestrian may have been best known in the dressage world. That could be because Heidi is a dressage rider herself and has frequently spoken at educational events. And it could be because dressage riders often lead the way in identifying riding surface as critical to their horse’s performance and longevity in the sport. Playing a critical role in the International Arena where Nations Cup, Olympic qualifying and millions of dollars in prize money was determined, Premier Equestrian is now front and center in the show jumping world, too.

Footing advances at the sports’ highest levels have a trickle-down benefit for horses at the sport’s more populated base levels. Heidi is thrilled to see the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) lead the way in setting ever-higher standards for the safety and enhanced performance of its athletes. With arena surfaces, this involves cutting-edge research and technology and objective methods for defining “good footing.”

The FEI recently enlisted the Objective Biomechanical Surface Testing machine, aka the “OBST,” to quantify the various forces of impact involved in take-off, landing, galloping and turning. It measures the impact, cushion, responsiveness and grip, and the uniformity of those characteristics throughout the surface. In essence, it measures what the horse feels when it performs on a specific surface.

Equestrian Sport Productions’ Palm Beach International Equestrian Center closely followed the FEI’s lead regarding footing. The 12-week WEF series included four weeks of 5* rated competition, which must meet the footing standards made possible by the OBST.

Heidi hopes that national sport governing bodies will follow suit in adopting clear standards for footing that keeps horses safe and sound. But even before that happens, horse owners in all disciplines are becoming better educated about what surfaces -- at home and shows -- are best for their horses. That’s moving the needle in the right direction, she says.  

Premier Equestrian’s principals are horse people, too. Heidi is an amateur dressage rider when time allows. Keeping more horses comfortable and performing at their peak longer is a gratifying aspect of the work. “The way the arena is built at WEF is only accessible to the upper economic echelons,” she confirms. “But we have options that make it affordable for everybody to have better footing.”

For more information on Premier Equestrian visit www.premierequestrian.com.

 


OTTO Sport

Premier Equestrian has been the exclusive United States distributor for OTTO Sport Base Mats from Germany since 2014. OTTO Sport mats have been used by top competitors throughout Europe for over 30 years and represented exclusively in the United States by Premier Equestrian, Inc. since 2014. The 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the 2010 World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park and the renowned Aachen Equestrian Festival are among the 6,000 top arenas worldwide to use OTTO Sport.

 

From the all-important horse’s perspective, OTTO Sport Base Mats absorb 40% of the concussive force when the hoof hits the ground, while jumping or galloping between fences. Cutting that impact by 40% -- even before adding the cushion of the footing blend atop the base – means substantially cutting down wear and tear on the horse’s joints.  It’s often said that every horse has only so many jumps in its body. OTTO Sport makes it possible to get the most from each jumping effort and hoof-fall.

Remarkable drainage capacity is another unique OTTO Sport advantage – up to eight inches per hour. Dressage Olympian Steffen Peters and his wife Shannon witnessed this first-hand in 2015, when California’s El Niño rains flooded much of their stable property in San Diego. They were able to ride through it thanks to their newly installed OTTO Sport Base Mats and ProTex footing blend from Premier Equestrian. That was a big boost to Steffen’s successful bid for a spot on the U.S. Rio Olympics dressage team, where he contributed to the bronze medal.

As a boarder at the Peters’ stable during that time, the experience was one of many that sold Peridot Equestrian’s Jessica Mathews on Premier Equestrian.

 
April 2020 - Horse People: Ben Ebeling
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Tuesday, 31 March 2020 23:53
PDF Print E-mail

horsepeople

In a happy place even while sheltered amid scary world events.

by Kim F. Miller

Twenty-year-old Californian Ben Ebeling has long been a familiar face on the Florida winter dressage circuit. At the end of a cut-short circuit in mid-March, he made himself unmissable by leading his team to victory in the CDIO3* U25 Nations Cup.  He and Nuvolari Holdings, LLC’s Illuster Van de Kempert contributed to team gold with a second-place finish at Intermediate II; and wins in the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Freestyle, scoring 70%, 71.179% and 75.13% respectively.

Ben is the son of 2012 U.S. Olympic dressage team member Jan Ebeling and Amy Ebeling, who were based out of their Moorpark facility, The Acres, full time for most of Ben’s youth. His parents never forced him to ride competitively, but they did insist he know enough to be safe working around horses and riding on family outings. About midway through high school, he settled on a much more serious equestrian path, and in two disciplines. Up until last year, he competed at Young Rider levels in both dressage and jumping.  In the process, The Acres became a hub of USDF Region 7 Young Rider activity and success. Ben attended his first  Championships in 2016, initially as a rider, then, due to a last-minute lameness, he contributed in other ways that earned him the Andrew B. D’szinay Sportsmanship Trophy. For the next few years, he and The Acres stablemates were core members of Region 7’s teams.

 


Starting college at Carnegie Mellon University in the fall of 2018 triggered a change for the Ebelings and coincided with them moving into a new partial-year base in Wellington. It’s called Tierra Contenda, Spanish for “happy place,” and it’s been that for Ben.

Along with being a terrific school, Carnegie Mellon is located in Pittsburgh, only a two-hour flight from Wellington, so his parents and the horses were not far away. As a freshman, he started out without riding, which was “a bit tough coming from riding all day every day.” Another plan involved a heavy load of six classes and flying to Florida every other week to keep up with his riding. “That was insane.”
    

Photo: US Equestrian

Happy Medium

Ben then found a happy medium in a Monday-through-Wednesday class schedule, then flying to Florida to work with the horses and compete Wednesday afternoon through Sunday. Most recently, he’d scaled down his course load to better accommodate riding. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, he’ll study remotely as college students are doing throughout the country.

“We are super lucky in that we can continue working and we and those who work with us are kind of isolated in our site,” Ben explains. If the pandemic is contained and activity normalizes, the Ebelings plan to return to their Moorpark home stable in July — already postponed from their normal May return. The plan is to stay in California through November, when Amy is among those helping stage the new Desert Dressage CDI at the Desert International Horse Park in the Palm Springs area’s Thermal.

Like the rest of the world, the Ebelings’ plans are fluid in these uncertain days. “It’s a really scary time,” Ben acknowledges of the coronavirus pandemic. “ We need to take it seriously and take all the precautions to help ‘flatten the curve.’ At the same time, I think we all need to take a deep breath.” As the logistical leader of the Ebeling endeavors, Amy is handling the situation in a typically admirable way, Ben says. “She has been awesome with our staff, hosting meetings every day and making sure that everybody is safe and comfortable.”

If and when the competition season resumes, Ben plans to target the U25 Brentina Cup and possibly the Small Tour division. Continuing his jumper career isn’t on the current agenda: his horse, Caddilac FS Z, was sold last year. “It’s the first time I haven’t had a jumper and it’s a little sad because that is really where my heart is. I love every minute of the jumping, but with school and dressage, I needed to take something off my plate.”
    
Promise & Challenge

Doing so well with the 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding, Illuster Van De Kampert, is a major milestone in a partnership of promise and challenge.

The “jumper-like energy” Ben sensed and loved when he first tried Illuster in October of 2018 has been a double-edged sword. “The moment I sat on him he was the most fun horse I’d ever sat on,” he recalls. “He had that jumper mentality and energy and his gaits are fantastic.”

The process of getting him into the Grand Prix ring was “an awesome project for me and my dad,” Ben says. They started off well last January in the Young Rider division in Florida and enjoyed a good year of getting to know each other. “The whole season at Young Rider level, he was super hot in the ring and I knew, as we got into Grand Prix, he would get hotter and hotter.”

Indeed, the transition had its rough patches. During a Grand Prix outing last summer in Europe, Illuster’s energy was so excessive that Ben chose to retire from the test.

“He is very anticipatory of the next movements,” Ben says of Illuster, a half-brother to Steffen Peters’ Suppenkasper through their sire Spielberg. “He has such large movements, especially in the passage, it’s like he was afraid of himself.” Adjusting his nutrition with the help of sponsor Cavalor Feed and working to make the horse more comfortable with himself and in the show ring brought gradual improvements.

Their first three to four CDIs of the 2020 season saw scores from 59 to 64s, and “I was like, Yeah!” Ben shares. By Week 8 of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, Illluster was settling into the new groove of being both “calm and on,” resulting in Grand Prix and Grand Prix Freestyle victories, and crossing the 70s threshold. “I was beside myself!” Although the Festival ended two weeks early, Ben was thrilled to close it on their Week 10 victory in the CDIO U25 Nations Cup win March 11-12 with the U.S.’ Stars and Stripes squad.

“Winning a team medal for me is one of the most satisfying and exciting accomplishments in the sport of dressage,” he says. “To have that result in our first U25 Nations Cup was very rewarding for the whole team. The most special thing about the whole weekend was realizing that after hard work and determination, great results are being achieved.”
    

Photo: Holly Smith / PS Dressage

Fortuitous Coffee Shop Stop

Ben and Illuster have a coffee shop encounter to thank for getting connected. It occurred while returning home from his first European Young Rider tour, in 2018 with Behlinger. With the horse quarantined before going directly to the North American Youth Championships in Old Salem, New York, Ben and Amy where staying with New York friends and had visited a coffee shop, both wearing their USA Dressage hats.

“This lady approached and asked if we rode dressage,” Ben explains. “I introduced myself and she said, ‘I’ve heard of you and I have a horse for you.’ At first, honestly, I thought she was a little crazy! It was my first experience having somebody approach me and know who I was.”

Four months later, visiting his folks in Florida during a break from his first semester in college, Ben remembered the woman’s offer to come see the horse. Illuster was at Marcus Fyffe Dressage program in the Wellington area.

The woman in the coffee shop, Sasha Cutter, was, in fact, crazy in the savvy sort of way regarding Illuster and Ben’s suitability. A rider herself, she’s now in training with Jan Ebeling and is a co-owner of the horse with the Ebelings.

Looking Ahead

Along with Illuster, Ben continues to compete Behlinger, his partner in 2017 NAYC Region 7 Junior team gold and a European Young Rider tour, plus a newer U25 horse, Diamond’s Diva. Longtime Ebeling family friend and owner Ann Romney has an ownership interest in Behlinger and Diamond’s Diva.

The Romney and Ebelings’ long friendship made headlines in 2012 when Jan and Rafalca represented the U.S. at the London Olympics, while Ann’s husband Mitt Romney ran for president of the United States. Exposure to life, events and ideas beyond the horse world has been a big part of Ben’s upbringing. That is reflected in his open-minded and enthusiastic outlook on future career paths.

Carnegie Mellon is providing a great continuation of interesting new friends and international connections, he explains. Pursuing a business degree with a marketing concentration is an invigorating path, whether as a “back up plan” to horses or as a career. “You have to have interests in addition to horses,” he says. “Whether that lines up as my career or I do horses after school will just depend on how things are going and how I feel.”

Meantime, Ben is enjoying riding an average of 10 to 13 horses every day while in Florida, appreciating every minute of being able to shelter in a happy place and do what he loves.

 
March 2020 - The Gallop: Rare Breed Resurgence
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Monday, 02 March 2020 21:10
PDF Print E-mail

gallop

El Campeon Farms steps up as a steward of the Santa Cruz Island Horses.

by Kim F. Miller

Many good developments had a generous boost from the Gonda family’s El Campeon Farms. Star junior rider Eva Gonda brought the family into the equestrian world as a passionate and talented hunter/jumper rider. Eva’s coach, Will Simpson, helped the US Equestrian Team earn a gold show jumping medal at the 2008 Olympics with their horse Carsson vom Dach.

 


The center in South Ventura County’s Thousand Oaks is a longtime USET Training facility. Its beautiful white-fenced pastures, big red barns and perfectly footed arenas are now home to a handful of fortunate professional horsemen -- Sabine Schut-Kery, Abigail Followwill and Katrina Karazissis. It’s a popular film location where seven Super Bowl commercials with the Budweiser Clydesdales were shot, and it regularly welcomes the public for everything from school field trips to high performance clinics.

 

A rare breed of horses is El Campeon’s current beneficiary since the Farm became a steward of the Santa Cruz Island Horses in 2014. These gentle, hearty horses can trace their genetics to the Iberian Peninsula, the origin point for the Colonial Spanish horses brought to North America by the Conquistadors and California’s Missionary Padres.

Donatello.

Donatello and his rider, Willow.

The horses were brought to the Channel Island’s Santa Cruz Island the late 1880s to help with ranching endeavors. They were used for wide-ranging tasks from herding cattle and sheep on the Island’s 60,000 acres, to pulling plows and family buggies. Some even showed up as stunt animals in early 1900s films.

Ranching ended on the Island in the 1980s and the horses’ fate fell into question for many years. They had fared well in a mostly feral state when the Island was sold from private hands to come under the National Park Service’s jurisdiction. A long battle ensued over whether the horses should be allowed to stay or be removed because they were not a native species.

Dr. Karen Blumenshine of the Santa Barbara Equine Practice was among those to lobby for letting them stay. Supporters sometimes slept on the island in fear the horses would be culled in the middle of the night. Simultaneously, Dr. Blumenshine initiated the process of researching the breed’s genetics. With the assistance of UC Davis veterinarians and geneticists, it was established that these horses had a unique genetic pool with sufficient diversity to sustain breeding the herd.

By the late 1990s, the California government won on removing the horses from the Island and supporters switched tactics to ensure their survival in new environments.

Dianne Nelson at the Wild Horse Sanctuary in Shasta County’s Shingletown took in the last of the herd.  The horses’ long isolation on Santa Cruz had preserved their genetics, but that also made them susceptible to diseases. And their lack of experience with predators made them easy targets for mountain lions.

Christina Nooner led the next step toward salvation by adopting a five-day old filly from the resettled herd. Named “Sunshine,” the filly was nursed to health and is now the namesake for the Sunshine Sanctuary for kids and horses in the Bay Area’s Los Molinos. She’s was the first member of a what’s now called the Heavenly Heritage Herd.

Simultaneously, work continued to determine and preserve their genetics through DNA testing and consultation with equine genetic experts. This research confirmed the connection to the Spanish horses and those discoveries have inspired others to help ensure the breed’s perpetuation.

Enter El Campeon

Finding breed stewards to broaden and multiply efforts on the horses’ behalf was the next step. El Campeon owners Kelly and Lou Gonda learned about the horses through their interest in goats. “Will (Simpson) had won the gold medal and the Gondas’ children were grown and off on their own,” explains Christy Reich, El Campeon’s manager. While researching the origins of goats on another Channel Island, San Clemente Island, the Gondas learned of the Santa Cruz Island horses and their plight. “Lou came to the United States as a 16-year-old and he’s always had a fascination with California history and the early California cowboy -- Vaquero -- way of life,” Christy continues.

In 2016, El Campeon purchased 13 Santa Cruz Island horses, including three stallions, and committed itself to breeding and promoting the horse’s great temperaments and versatility.

As a steward of the breed’s future, the El Campeon team works with UC Davis’ equine geneticists and reproductive experts to establish best practices, standards and protections. The horse’s best traits are good temperaments and calm brains, Christy reports. At an average height of 14hh, they are easy to handle and ideal for children and amateurs who dominate inquiries when the horses compete or participate in demos and exhibitions. They appeal to people getting back into riding after a hiatus and to experienced riders downsizing from Warmbloods.
    

Working Equitation: A Perfect Fit

Equally important is ensuring that these horses will have a job. “Like every breed, you have to redefine what their job is to make it,” Christy explains. “If we just breed them, then they will live and die with us.”

Working Equitation is a relatively new discipline in the United States, but it’s a very old one where it originated on the working ranches of Portugal. “It’s such an interesting sport. Parts of it speak to the high-performance side,” Christy observes. “When you see some of the riders at the top of the sport, they are doing tempi changes through the obstacles, for example. It’s all about proper collection, classical riding and horses having a good brain because they have to do all the different events in a workmanlike manner.”

The level-headed, intelligent temperaments and physical abilities of the Santa Cruz Island horses make them perfect partners in Working Equitation. While she’s partial to the SCI horses, Christy notes that all horses can excel in the discipline: “It’s non-denominational!”

El Campeon participates in and promotes the discipline. Last year, the inaugural El Campeon Invitational was a big success with 40 horses and their characteristically friendly owners. “It’s such a cool group of people, all from different walks of life,” Christy notes. “Everybody is really supportive of each other.”

A Working Equitation schooling show took place in late February and this year’s El Campeon Invitational will be held on Memorial Day Weekend.

El Campeon’s breed ambassador, Cochise, shines in Working Equitation, Western Dressage and Open dressage competition. In the latter, he’s already scoring well in Training Level work, thanks to naturally-relaxed fluid gaits that are prized by riders and judges. He wowed one of dressage’s top talent spotters, Christine Traurig, during a recent visit, Christy recounts. “She stopped teaching a lesson when she saw him and said, ‘Who is that?’”

Smaller than traditional dressage breeds and often wrapped in eye-catching shades of palomino, cremello and liver chestnut, the horses stand out and inspire inquiries. Chochise and his stablemates have made their mark at competitions throughout the region. This year’s itinerary includes the Showcase in April in Los Angeles and the Andalusian World Cup in Las Vegas this August.

The successful appearances are building demand for the breed and El Campeon hopes to have its first batch of homebreds available for sale soon, possibly this year. It all depends on how they progress in their training with El Campeon rider Abigail Followwill. El Campeon has four mature stallions and two junior stallions. Breedings have included some carefully considered out-crossing, under the close direction of UC Davis scientists, to ensure genetic diversity.

In lieu of a pre-existing registry for the Santa Cruz Island horses, El Campeon works with The Livestock Conservancy, which works to save many heritage breeds from extinction.

While the Santa Cruz Island horses are very different from the hunters and jumpers El Campeon was once famous for, they surely have equal -- likely more -- gratitude for all the Farm and its family have made possible for them.

The Gallop welcomes news, tips and photos. Contact Kim F. Miller at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>
Page 1 of 27