News & Features
August 2020 - Rain or Shine
Written by by Premier Equestrian
Monday, 03 August 2020 05:04
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Premier Equestrian offers arena advice for California’s wild weather.

by Premier Equestrian

California has been known to have some extreme weather. From torrential El Niño rains to persistent state-wide drought, the weather in California is a challenge when related to equestrian arena maintenance. Add to that the California water restriction laws scheduled to take effect in 2023 and the challenges arena owners face in terms of water are real, expensive, and daunting. Proper arena maintenance includes water management, whether you’re draining water away or putting water on the surface. This article will look at the challenges created from too much rain or too much shine and some strategies to handle the flood or the dry dust-choked parch.

 


For arena footing to function at its best, sufficient moisture is essential. Too much water makes the surface un-ridable, too little can leave the surface deep and dusty. Properly maintained footing complements equine biomechanics by providing shock absorption, support and stability. Keeping just the right amount of water in the surface is critical for success.

Heidi Zorn, president of Premier Equestrian, North America’s leader for equestrian surfaces, was asked about how to deal with excess water and arena drainage.

“In any horse arena it’s the base that determines and affects drainage. Options range from a simple compacted base to arena drainage mat solutions. Compacted bases drain water off to the side; it’s slow and may wash away some of the footing with it. Mat systems, like OTTO Sport, drain the water vertically into a drain layer then into pipes. This allows the arena to be used immediately after a rain event compared to the traditional compacted base that may take days to dry out.”

Riding in heavy rain is possible with OTTO Sport base mats.

OTTO Sport Base Mats

OTTO Sport makes mats that are particularly suited for California rainfall. Installing OTTO Sport base mats will create a true all-weather riding surface. Each OTTO Sport Mat, one square meter in size, is comprised of drainage holes, water cups, several heights of traction knobs and locking rings. 252 holes in each mat let excess water flow through to a drainage layer beneath, the water flows away leaving the footing saturated but still ridable. Puddles and mud will no longer be an issue, even after a heavy rain. At the same time, each mat’s water retention cups hold up to one gallon of water (1,200 gallons for a standard dressage arena), which helps to ensure that the entire arena surface remains consistently hydrated when the sun finally comes out.

“OTTO Sport mats are amazing,” says Zorn. “We installed them at Arroyo Del Mar, Steffen Peters’ farm, because they need an arena that’s available every day, rain or shine. Before, they used to tarp the arena when rain was forecast, it took hours and made the arena useless. Now, with OTTO Sport arena mats they never have to tarp, and the arena can be used even when it is raining. It’s a very effective solution for too much water.”
OTTO Sport Base Mats are so effective that last season they were installed in the International Arena at The Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (WEF) located in Wellington, FL.

The Ebb & Flow system – showing the layers. Installed by Olympia Footing, LLC.

Premier Ebb & Flow Base System

Another effective solution for rain management is the Premier Ebb & Flow System. “The Ebb & Flow system is great for handling rain but is also effective for keeping water at the surface,” continues Zorn. “Our Ebb and Flow system works in rain and shine. The system maintains a reservoir of water under the footing. When it rains the system pumps the water out, keeping the footing consistent and ridable. When it is dry the reservoir hydrates the footing from below. It’s all automatic and all very effective.”

For those with a serious commitment to managing water resources efficiently, the Premier Ebb & Flow System is a unique and effective option for conserving available water, ultimately leading to greater ease of arena maintenance and lower water costs.

The Ebb & Flow system provides consistent hydration of the arena surface from below; moisture is wicked up through the sand to the surface, effectively delivering moisture on demand. An electronic control panel monitors water levels, which can be fine-tuned to the centimeter. The system automatically releases excess water (such as after a heavy rain) and draws more water in as needed.

This base system consists of a liner and a pipe array, which is connected to both a water source and the electronic control. The pipe array is then covered in sand, followed by your footing of choice. Alternatively, OTTO Sport Mats may be installed between the base and the footing, providing a true state-of-the-art riding surface.

Dust can be controlled with SlowDust.

Dust in the Wind

On the other end of the California weather spectrum is drought. The result of drought is obvious: water restrictions, high water costs, and low water flow. Water is one of the main issues when it comes to arena maintenance and performance. When arena footing is dry it loses its support, body, and traction.         

Strategies for adding and retaining moisture in an arena are in high demand. California has passed water restriction laws that will affect the supply and cost of water for all people and industries beginning in 2023.

“There are things you can do to keep water in the arena,” says Zorn. “Each one has tradeoffs. The very first thing is to look at what’s in the footing. Some sand holds water better than others. Also, adding synthetic fibers and textiles can help retain moisture. Then, there are products you can add that will help retain moisture.”

HydroKeep absorbs and retains water.

Premier Hydro-Keep

Premier Hydro-Keep is one of the products that can help to retain moisture and reduce dust in riding arenas. Hydro-Keep is a polyacrylamide crystal with tremendous absorptive qualities—it can absorb as much as 20 times its weight in water. One pound of Hydro-Keep can absorb 40 gallons of water. Polyacrylamides are more common in daily life than you might think; they make diapers absorbent and are used in agriculture. Hydro-Keep is safe for humans and horses.

When Hydro-Keep crystals get wet, they expand by absorbing the water. Over time, as the soil surrounding it dries, the crystal contracts, releasing up to 95% of the water it contains. This flow between expansion and contraction of the crystals actually helps reduce soil compaction, an added benefit. While Hydro-Keep won’t eliminate the need to apply water to an arena surface, its ability to absorb water molecules and release them over time can result in an average 50 percent reduction in water use.

Hydro-Keep is supplied in 55-pound bags, which will each cover 6,900 square feet of surface area. It is easy to apply and can be combined with other additives for enhanced water retention. Hydro-Keep may be used indoors or outdoors, where it is non-toxic for animals and the environment. On average, one application lasts about three years.

Properly hydrated footing keeps horses safe.

SlowDust    

SlowDust is another Premier Equestrian product that helps during dry times by providing dust control. This product uses a flocculation polymer to bind microscopic dust particles together. To give an example, flocculants are widely used at water purification facilities, where they attract not just particles such as sand or debris but also potentially dangerous organisms like bacteria or protozoa. When clumped together by the flocculant, these now larger particles can be readily caught by water filtration systems.

SlowDust offers a similar effect to riding arenas. All arena sand, over time, will degrade into smaller and smaller particles due to the stresses of use; these particles contribute to increased dust. Dust particles are charged to a negative state. When applied to an arena, the positively charged flocculant polymer in SlowDust binds the dust particles to create a unified particle that is too heavy to be airborne.

SlowDust application has the added benefit of improving traction through particle stabilization. Similar to Hydro-Keep, SlowDust will reduce the need for watering by about 50%. It comes in a 55-pound bag, which covers 15,000 square feet of arena surface. SlowDust is easily applied with a fertilizer spreader and is safe for use both indoors and out. The polymer will degrade more quickly in direct sun, so users should expect to reapply every one to two years for an outdoor arena and every two to three years for an indoor.

International Arena at WEF – OTTO Sport base mats installed.

Magnesium Chloride

One of the most affordable options when it comes to preserving existing moisture within footing is the application of magnesium chloride. This form of salt is readily available at most major home/garden centers or wholesale distributors and can be applied with a fertilizer spreader, then groomed into the surface. Magnesium chloride draws moisture from the air and pulls it into the footing, thereby helping with dust control. Its chemical composition also makes magnesium chloride effective at preventing the formation of ice; therefore, it is a popular choice for moisture control at facilities located in colder climates, when supplemental watering is not possible.

However, magnesium chloride does have its limitations. While magnesium chloride is less corrosive than its cousin, calcium chloride, some animals still find it irritating to the skin, particularly on the lower limb. Further, its ability to draw moisture can have a negative effect on equine hooves; owners often need to treat animals with a farrier-endorsed hoof protectant. Finally, magnesium chloride is only appropriate for use in an indoor or covered arena, as even a moderate level of rain will wash it off the surface and into the surrounding watershed.

The International Arena at WEF was updated with OTTO Sport Base Mats.

Final Thoughts

No matter your budget, there is a solution to your arena’s moisture maintenance needs. The experts at Premier Equestrian, North America’s leading supplier of high-quality footing additives, arena groomers, base mat systems and arena consultation, are here to help you determine the best fit for your facility and your wallet. Premier Equestrian products are in use from the most elite venues to private arenas all over the world, and the staff is proud to use its advanced knowledge of equine biomechanics and footing to serve their customers’ needs.

Visit www.PremierEquestrian.comor call 800-611-6109.

 
August 2020 - How Many Horses?
Written by CRM
Monday, 03 August 2020 03:51
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Varying reports regarding size of the U.S. horse population clarified by American Horse Council.

Several figures have been circulated regarding the U.S. horse population in the last few months. The American Horse Council wishes to clarify these statistics to avoid confusion and misunderstanding of the data.

There are presently three major organizations that collect and publish data regarding the U.S. horse population, albeit with different target audiences and different definitions.
 


The most comprehensive number comes from the 2017 National Economic Impact of the US Horse Population conducted by the AHC Foundation which counts 1,013,746 horse owners owning or leasing farms housing 7,246,835 horses in the U.S.

 

The USDA, National Agriculture Statistic Service (NASS) recently completed a census which counts only horses that are on working farms. This definition excludes boarding, training and riding facilities; as well as any other operation that fails to generate a minimum of $1,000 in sales of equine products, defined as “breeding fees, stud fees, semen or other”. NASS reports a total of 459,526 horse farms in the US, with an agricultural population of 2,847,289 horses.

In addition, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) publishes a report on pets. While horses are defined as “livestock”, the AVMA study does ask owners about all types of animals in their care and thus publishes the number of horses reported. That number is 1,914,394.

The Food and Drug Administration utilized both the AVMA survey and information from USDA’s periodic surveys of farm animal populations to estimate the U.S. horse population at 3.8 million. FDA explained that population estimates are important for helping determine potential eligibility for drugs to be used for “minor uses”.
 
AHC President Julie Broadway noted “While NASS and AVMA statistics serve important purposes, only the AHC Foundation’s Study most closely reflects the total horse population in the US.” To purchase a copy of the 2017 National Economic impact Study go to www.horsecouncil.org and navigate to the 2017 Naational Economic Impact of the US Horse Population study.  

Press release provided by the American Horse Council.

 
August 2020 - Home Sweet Home
Written by photos: Joshua Nilsen Photography
Monday, 03 August 2020 03:30
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Jamie Barge and her show jumpers are happily settling into their recently completed Malibu training facility.

photos: Joshua Nilsen Photography

International show jumping rider Jamie Barge recently moved her horses into her own training facility near her home in Malibu. The new construction project was preceded by research into best design ideas and equipment. The private six-stall facility is set on two acres close to the Pacific Ocean’s cooling breezes.
Three months of shelter-in-place allowed Jamie and her horses to settle in and take full advantage of the beautiful new facility. California Riding Magazine editor Kim F Miller enjoyed catching up with Jamie about the experience.


Kim: You’d been keeping your horses at a beautiful place, El Campeon Farm in Hidden Valley. Why did you want to have your own barn?
Jamie: I loved my time at El Campeon and still go there on a weekly basis. I had so much support from the staff there, even through the building process of my own barn. Christy Reich and Mark Audenino actually came to visit during construction to make suggestions and answered many, many questions along the way! For me, it was a financial decision to start building equity in a property.

Luebbo enjoys ComfortStall padded flooring and Haygain Steamed Hay.

Kim: How long did the process take and when did you start planning?
Jamie: The actual construction of the barn itself took about two years. We’ve been saving ideas and pictures for many years. My family bought the property in 2013 and began working with a local architect.
We did a lot of research both online and asking show professionals and fellow riders. We went and saw so many barns, too. A big part of planning is just knowing what works for your horses. We were building during the Woolsey Fire in 2018, which was extremely scary but also helped as we added extra fire protection.

Kim: Did you stick with your original plan in terms of design of barns and the arenas and the equipment? Or did you learn things along the way that caused you to make mid-stream changes?
Jamie: We did stick with our original plan which was made keeping coastal California climate as key. I’ve spent most of my life in barns, so I’ve seen many. In that sense, I have learned along the way.

Steamed hay is a stable staple.



Kim: What were “must haves” versus things that you could live without if you had to?
Jamie: My must haves were good footing, turn-out, and a place for my hay steamer. I had to choose between turn-outs or a walker and felt that my horses value their alone time in the turn-out more. They get worked, turned out and hand walked on a daily basis.
I also was never really a fan of in/out stalls, mostly because the ones I was used to were pipe corrals and the idea of the horses getting cast in the metal bars always scared me.  However, with our climate, in/out stalls make so much sense. It also gives the horses more room to move around.
We have one larger “out” for two stalls so two horses share who is outside. We designed the out with vinyl-wrapped wood and as little room as possible for casting. The horses love to be outside.
At first some of them, especially Bo (Luebbo), were skeptical. Bo is used to having a stall guard at the shows so I think he was confused about whether he was allowed to walk “out” of his stall by himself! Now he knows it and loves to sunbathe.

Kim: What barn company did you work with and why were they good?
Jamie: The barn is custom built but we purchased a hay shed from Ulrich Barns. This building was designed, ordered, delivered in consultation with their staff and we are very happy with it.

Kim: What are some of the products that are key to making the barn the best for your horses?
Jamie: The ComfortStall in the horse’s stalls seem to be the biggest hit. It makes stall cleaning easier, especially between horses if you want to disinfect a stall. The biggest plus is the horses love it! They are definitely lying down and off their feet more at night.
My Haygain hay steamer is another product that I think is great in my barn. We have the big one in our hay shed so it’s easy and convenient to use. We place a whole bale inside, but we separate the flakes so the hay steams more evenly. All my horses love their steamed hay.
The arena is also a big one. The footing was the most important thing for me. I originally wanted someone from Germany to build my arena as they were well-known for arenas with good footing.
However, we then met Dave Martin, who was local to my area. I was lucky that he was also re-doing the rings at El Campeon, so I got to ride on his work before he did my ring. He did an amazing job and I absolutely love it! The footing stays great through all the micro-climates here: the wind, the marine layer, the occasional heavy rainstorm!


    
Kim: What lessons did you learn in the process that might help others have an easier time?
Jamie: Be patient. It’s practically impossible to build on a deadline. Hold out for what you want and find a way to make it work with all the building requirements. Having a contractor who was dedicated, conscientious and creative was critical. Also know that as you use the barn there will be some things you’ll have to change or adjust. That’s all a part of being in a new barn. The base board in your arena will get nicked; that’s what it’s there for!
When I first moved my horses to my barn, Rocco figured out how to open the stall doors. But he loves attention so he would wait and open the door right in front of you: kind of like “Look what I did!” Fio quickly learned Rocco’s trick but waited until he thought no one was looking. I came out of the hay shed and he was walking out of his stall! We had to go back and put carabiners on the stall doors. They also figured out how to pull the end cap off the latch and watch the spring go flying. They thought that was really fun for a few days. We ended up just taking the springs off the latches.

Kim: Are there pros and cons to living so close to the barn?
Jamie: I live less than a mile from the barn. This has been really nice as I can get there quickly if necessary. The only con I can think of is there’s not enough time to drink a cup of coffee on my commute! My barn is small enough to make sure each horse gets as much attention, training, and top-level care as needed. My barn was designed and built with the horses as a number one priority, while also being efficient for us caretakers.

Kim: Thank you, Jamie!!

 

 
July 2020 - The Gallop: Be The Change
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Wednesday, 01 July 2020 06:18
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.

 
August 2020 - In Memoriam: Robert E. Smith
Written by by Leslie Mintz, for the US Eventing Association
Monday, 03 August 2020 03:53
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Eventing advocate leaves a cherished legacy.

by Leslie Mintz, for the US Eventing Association

Longtime USEA member and supporter Robert E. Smith has passed away following a battle with cancer. Smith was born in 1946 and grew up in Malibu, California. He started out riding on his parent’s ranch and originally competed in hunters and jumpers.

 


In 1968, Smith transitioned to eventing and began training with Hilda Gurney at the Woodland Hills Pony Club. He had two very successful horses – Malibu Lad, who competed through Intermediate, and Timber Top, who competed through Advanced, including at the famous 1977 Ledyard International. Smith then lent Timber Top to Brian Sabo, who would successfully ride him around Ledyard once again as well as the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event.

 

Ledyard would be Smith’s last event as he decided to focus on the development of the sport in Area VI and at the national level. Smith moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to work for the California Public Utilities Commission after graduating from the University of California Los Angeles with a master’s degree in Public Health.

In 1976 Smith, along with Kay Hitch, Janey Bennett, Vicky Matisi, Jackie Ahl, and Sabo, founded the Combined Training Equestrian Teams Alliance (CTETA). “His dream was to create an ‘Adult Pony Club’ to foster horsemanship as a next step beyond Pony Club,” explained his friend Sabo. “On the long drives coast to coast we had endless talks about the Combined Training Equestrian Teams Alliance (Bob loved long names!).

Eventually, CTETA became a nationwide organization, was an affiliate of the USCTA (now USEA), and had 22 “Combined Training Teams” with a similar structure to the U.S. Pony Clubs. We conducted many ratings, and with our 501 (c) designation and insurance, ran clinics across the country. Many adults were certified in ratings that included written and riding tests culminating in receiving certification from Level 1 through 4.”
    
Woodside Heritage

In 1982, CTETA, with Smith as President, secured a lease on a 272-acre piece of property owned by Stanford University and known locally as Guernsey Field and began to host a wide range of equestrian activities for a number of different disciplines including eventing, hunter/jumpers, polo, driving, and reining. CTETA hosted the USCTA Western DeBroke Championships beginning in 1996. In 1998 the facility was renamed the Horse Park at Woodside, now a hub of training and competition in several disciplines.

From 1985-1987 Smith served on the USCTA Board of Governors and he was recognized with a Governor’s Cup in 1995 due to his devotion to the sport. The winner of the Woodside CCI4*-S is given the Founder’s Cup in honor of Smith.

“Bob’s influence on the sport was immeasurable and his legacy provides our sport benefits that will continue long into the future,” said Sabo. “Of course, a book could be written on Bob and his journey. But his legacy would be the furtherance of the sport he loved, and he would be happy with that.”

In his later years Smith took up combined driving, and in 2008 he married Andrew Garcia and they lived at their Handy Horse Farm in Wilton, California.

The USEA sends its deepest condolences to all of Smith’s family, friends, and connections.

Article reprinted courtesy of US Eventing.

 
August 2020 - Senior Spotlight: Sophia Siegel
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Monday, 03 August 2020 03:41
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A positive outlook on things beyond her control makes the most of an unusual junior career finalé.

by Kim F. Miller

For all its privileges and pleasures, the horse life can be humbling, too. Through three years of going out for the North American Youth Championships Zone 10 teams, Sophia Siegel knows that first-hand. She’s batting .300: good for baseball, but not so much in the horse world and especially when two of three at-bats disappeared without even getting a swing in.

 


Sophia represented the Zone 10 Junior team in 2017, and had earned a team spot for 2019 when an injury sidelined Eleganto VDL, aka “Elmo,” shortly before leaving for New York. Another top mount, Classic Verite, aka “Charlie,” also went on the injured reserve around the same time.    

 

Happily, both were ready for a return to work early this year, and a relatively green mount, Barracuda, is coming along nicely.

With Charlie, Sophia was aiming to make the NAYC Young Riders (1.45M) team this summer. This time, the pandemic put paid to the plan. Originally slated for July, the Championships were cancelled fairly early in what became three-and-half months of show cancellations.  

Sophia graduated high school in June and had high goals and hopes for what she could accomplish in her last junior year of showing. “It’s a bummer, but it’s OK,” she says. “The show season is obviously not going to be what we expected.” She sees an upside for her horses’ mental health. “I don’t think my horses have gone this long between showing. They’ve always been on the go and it’s been nice to see them take a deep breath.”

Sophia has enjoyed keeping her show horses fit, healthy and ready to return when the time comes.
    
Good Use of Extra Time

The time-off has given her more time for horsemanship pursuits beyond the show ring. One of those is a 2-year-old that lives at Branscomb Farm in Half Moon Bay. The dam is Suleika 525, Sophia’s first NAYC prospect. The sire is Grand Prix jumper and elite Belgian Warmblood Jonkheer Z, who stands at Pomponio Ranch.  

She’s also had more time to volunteer with the Into The Light Horse Rescue and Sanctuary in Woodside. This rescue is a little different than others because most of its charges are young, typically between 2 and 5 or 6. Most originate from wild Mustang populations.

Highlights of her first year of helping at Into The Light include being the first person to sit on one youngster’s back and helping others progress on their paths to being re-homed as safe, sane riding horses whenever possible. “It’s not like starting a show horse,” Sophia says. “They are much more chill because of the environment in which they are raised.”

Sophia Siegel. Photo: Sophia Jain

Working with these horses helps maintain a broader perspective on the horse world, Sophia reflects. “In our sport, and especially when jumping at the high levels, it can be easy to lose touch: to view the horses as a vehicle for success.” Helping horses who might otherwise have been headed to slaughterhouses ensures that she never takes anything for granted.

These hours of hands-on horsemanship also made it easier to cope with the lack thereof during the stable shut-downs in her Peninsula area. She was grateful to be able to keep taking lessons with her coaches Harley and Olivia Brown in Portola Valley, but not a fan of showing up and going straight to the mounting block. “We had to wait outside the barn for my horse to be magically brought to me, ready to ride. That was tough because I enjoy spending time with them and grooming them. I love them like pets. But, I do consider myself lucky to have been able to ride. I know other barns were not that fortunate.”

Her observations all fit her coach Harley Brown’s description of Sophia as a horsewoman: “She is really dedicated, she works really hard and she loves the horses.” Even without Sophia able to compete at NAYC last summer, Harley Brown Equestrian had three riders on the Zone 10 silver medal winning squad. “Our barn is chock full of competitive young riders and Sophia fits right in,” Harley says. Along with riding chops, “Everybody likes her and she’s easy to train.”

Sophia started riding with Toni and Colin McIntosh, then rode with the Thomases at Willow Tree Farm before moving to the Browns about a year ago.

Good News, Too!

The disappointment of the COVID-19 show cancellations was offset with the realized dream of acceptance to Stanford University this fall. “It’s been my dream,” Sophia says. She enters as a biology major with special interest in environmental conservation and marine biology.

Having juggled high level riding and academics throughout her life, Sophia expects to keep doing the same throughout college. She lives 20 minutes away from the Stanford campus and she can keep her horses and continue riding with the Browns in Portola Valley.  Given the COVID-19 situation, her first fall will most likely be online, which makes it a little easier to juggle studies and competing.

In late June, Sophia and her horses returned to competition, trekking south to the Nilforushan Equisports Events Temecula Valley National Summer Series at Galway Downs. With her relatively green jumper, Barracuda, she was second in the High Classic during Week 1. And Elmo is coming back nicely, taking a red ribbon in a 1.2M class the same week.

“It is really refreshing to see everybody again,” Sophia says. “It seemed like everybody picked up where they left off: nobody missed a beat. It does make me appreciate the sport and the fact that it’s outside, especially as Gov. Newsom just announced the closing of indoor group activities. I think we’ve all been a bit lonely and it’s really nice to see everybody and to see them doing so well. Everyone is being team players and congratulating each other on being back and doing well.”

Sophia’s next shows were as uncertain as everybody else’s at press time, but she is sure about eventually moving up into the Grand Prix ranks. “I’m really grateful for all the horses I’ve had, but they’ve all been a little challenging.” Although she was always stepping up herself, “I had to be their guide as we moved up.”  She and the Browns are scouting for a new horse for the Grand Prix division.

Meantime, she’s happy to keep bringing out the best in the horses she owns and those she gets to work with, from her jumpers to the Into The Light steeds and her 2-year-old.

 
August 2020 - The Shows Go On!
Written by CRM
Monday, 03 August 2020 03:10
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Shuffling of dates and locations and Herculean efforts on the part of show managers got the California show circuit back on track. Kudos to the many who made these highlights and many others possible.


USHJA Gladstone Cup at Sonoma Horse Park

Presented by Intermont Equestrian at Emory & Henry College, the USHJA Gladstone Cup took place at the Sonoma Horse Park. It was the only class featured on Friday, June 17 and drew 39 riders who competed for judges Maggie Jayne and Fran Dotoli. While the show ran in the “new normal” format, it was familiar riders in the top 4: Payton Potter took top honors, followed by Sophia Sanders, Stella Wasserman and Taylor Griffiths-Madden.

Payton Potter & Khaled. Photo: GrandPix Photography

Cassio Rivetti & Kaiser Van Het Lameroeck. Photo: TheWestEquestrian

Cammie Edwards and Idol Hour. Photo: MGO Photography



Twin Rivers Summer Horse Trials
July 2-5 in Paso Robles
  • Cammie Edwards and Idol Hour topped the Senior Beginner Novice Rider division.
  • James Alliston & Paper Jam took top honors in the Open Intermediate
  • Taren Hoffos & Regalia win the Open Training.

James Alliston & Paper Jam. Photo: MGO Photography

Taren Hoffos & Regalia. Photo: MGO Photography

Zume Gallagher & Edita. Photo: McCool Photography


Temecula Valley National Summer Series
June 24-28 at Galway Downs Equestrian Center in Temecula
  • Cassio Rivett & Kaiser Van Het Lambroeck win the $25,000 Alliant Private Client National Grand Prix.
  • Joie Gatlin & High Five were runners-up.
  • Kaitlin Campbell & Doraindo were third.

Blenheim EquiSports Summer Festival
July 15-19 in San Juan Capistrano
  • Zume Gallaher & Edita top the $25,000 1.4M Markel Insurance Grand Prix.

West Palms Events Welcome Back
July 8-19 at Del Mar Horse Park
  • Seventeen-year-old Trent McGee earned his first Grand Prix win aboard his mare, Boucheron, in the Sunshine Grand Prix staged in honor of Joe Lombardo, who passed away the same weekend. Trent is a Michael Nyuis Scholarship recipient and an awesome young horseman.
  • Julia Rossow & Goodnight Moon earned top honors in week one’s USHJA National Hunter Derby.
  • Trent McGee & Boucheron. Photo: Sara Shier Photography

    Julia Rossow & Goodnight Moon. Photo: Sara Shier Photography

 
July 2020 - Entrigue Consulting
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Wednesday, 01 July 2020 06:10
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.”

 
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