News & Features
December 2020 - Big Horse Feed and Mercantile
Written by CRM
Wednesday, 02 December 2020 04:02
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Legendary Temecula store offers something for everybody, even in tough times.

Big Horse Feed and Mercantile has epitomized one-stop equestrian shopping since opening 22 years ago. It has weathered tough times for all brick-and-mortar retailers in the internet shopping era. In the current time of COVID, the 8,000-square foot store, its owner Rose Corona and its service-driven staff have been beacons of persistence and resilience when it comes to helping customers feed, care for and enjoy their horses and the equestrian lifestyle.


Feed stores are considered essential businesses and Big Horse’s extensive supply of feed and supplements puts it firmly in that category. Open throughout the pandemic and going into the holidays that represent the peak of the year’s sales, the Temecula store is open daily. Its diverse inventory ranges from horse keeping necessities, tack and grooming supplies to english and western riding apparel and fashion and home decor with a distinctly equestrian theme.  


In “normal” times, Big Horse has been a favorite stop for last-minute shoppers, often “horse husbands” looking for that perfect gift for their wives. Because of worldwide issues in the manufacturing supply chain, there will likely be delays in restocking inventory this year. Shopping early is Rose’s advice as last-minute shoppers may be out of luck if restocking isn’t possible.

There is, however, plenty of time to take advantage of one of Big Horse’s most popular offerings: the wish list. Like a wedding gift registry, this service enables horse owners and equestrian lifestyle enthusiasts to visit the store and touch, feel and/or try on items, then make a wish list. A Big Horse team member will keep the list to help when a friend or family member calls or visits the store wondering what that person might like. Rose calls it the “be a hero not a zero” gift giving guarantee and it’s been a big hit for many years.

The wish list system is offered year-round and is particularly popular over the holidays. It has greatly reduced disappointments on the part of the gift receiver and returns to the store.

Another tradition that continues is Big Horse’s emphasis on maintaining a knowledgeable sales team and providing great customer service. Situated in the middle of fast growing, but still horse-dense Temecula, the store attracts a mix of shoppers who know exactly what they want and others who appreciate help determining which of the multiple options in every product category best suit their needs. Plus the many who arrive without a firm idea what they want, trusting Big Horse’s reliable promise of having something for everybody.

A helpful staff is a big plus over online shopping, as is the ability to compare ingredients, materials and other characteristics side by side. And with tack, apparel and home decor, there’s no substitute for the sensory input of touch and feel.

Big Horse was not able to conduct its famous Corn Maze fall festival this year, a community favorite and powerful fundraiser for military-related charitable organizations. Otherwise, it’s been able to carry on through tough times and keep serving horse owners and enthusiasts. Rose is grateful to longtime loyal customers for their continued support and she encourages all to support local family-owned businesses of all kinds. “It’s not just the owners you’re helping, it’s everybody they employ and every manufacturer we buy from and their staff too.”

Big Horse Feed & Mercantile is located at 33320 Temecula Parkway in Riverside County’s Temecula. You literally can’t miss it! If you can’t visit in person, contact store personnel at 951-676-2544 or  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or check out

December 2020 - An Unstoppable Ascent
Written by by Kim F Miller
Wednesday, 02 December 2020 03:49
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Young eventer Tommy Greengard takes the direct route to his dreams.

by Kim F Miller

Tommy Greengard is studying environmental science at UC Berkeley. It’s a field on which the future of the free world may hinge, yet it’s unlikely to draw Tommy away from horses. From a 3-year-old to the 20-year-old he is today, “I’ve been totally fixated on horses,” he says.

The morning of his sixth birthday, at precisely 8 a.m., is an indelible memory. The three years prior, “I’d sit and watch my mom take lessons at Mill Creek Equestrian,” he says, referring to the now-closed horse world hub in Malibu’s Topanga Canyon. “You couldn’t take lessons until you were 6, so that’s what I got to do on my sixth birthday and the rest is history.”


That history has only just begun. A junior at Berkeley and studying online, Tommy spends as much of each day as he can with horses. On a serious eventing path since moving from Mill Creek’s beginner program to its training program under Robyn Fisher’s guidance, Tommy is preparing for the upper levels on his own new horse, Joshuay MBF. They train with Andrea Pfeiffer and Amber Levine at Chocolate Horse Farm in Northern California’s Petaluma. Along with riding Josh and a few others at Chocolate Horse, he typically rides between five and nine horses a day at Ned Glynn’s hunter/jumper training barn, Sonoma Valley Stables. He also worked at Dover Saddlery when time allowed.


Tommy and Josh closed out 2020 on high notes: a fourth in the Galway Downs Modified Training Challenge and a second in Open Training at Twin Rivers last month, the latter with the help of an 18.4 dressage score. They are well suited for continued success. Tommy has enjoyed dressage since Robyn emphasized it early on, the Dutch Warmblood is elegant and agile and extra work with dressage coach and judge Lilo Fore is helping Tommy build up the 6-year-old’s strength. “He already has a really innate ability to do the jumping,” Tommy says. So much so that it’s difficult to keep him inside the paddock during turn-out. “He just jumps out!”  

Andrea “can’t take much credit” for Tommy’s accomplishments. “I got to step in with a young man who already had a very strong background. I am just putting the finishing touches on him.” The biggest challenge has been finding him the right horse for the next step up. His background with a wide variety of horse types and traits positions him to make the most of Josh’s raw talent.

“Robyn was really big on throwing me on top of everything,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate to ride a lot of different horses at different levels, up to Preliminary.” With Josh, he hopes to go higher.

Tommy with Andrea Pfieffer & Amber Levine.

Not Just a Rider

Like most parents, Liddy Morrin and Gerry Greengard thought that exposing their child to a variety of experiences would be good. At some point, they threw in that towel and chose to “get on board,” Liddy says. “Looking back, it is extraordinary how differentiated and specialized he was at a young age.”

“When you know what you want to do, it makes other things easy,” Liddy reflects of now-clear benefits of her son’s singular dedication. “He is an incredibly focused child. He never had any problem keeping his grades up, even though he was away from school a lot.”

Tommy with Robyn.

She makes a distinction between herself, who “enjoys riding,” and Tommy, who “is extremely interested in all of it: the breeding, buying, selling, nutrition, coaching...He wants to drill down deep on all of it.”

Shortly into his ownership of Josh, he had a chance to do exactly that with an unusual health issue.

The Greengards purchased Josh in May of this year, from Andrew McConnon in North Carolina. About a month into his new home, the horse developed allergy symptoms that progressed quickly from mild eye gunk to the eye being swollen completely shut. Six weeks at UC Davis Veterinary Hospital resulted in an unusual diagnosis of eosinophilic keratoconjunctivitis, aka “EK.” This is an inflammatory disease of the conjunctiva and cornea. It’s rare in horses and has no known cure or specific cause beyond a suspected hypersensitivity to parasitic or environmental allergens.

Tommy with Spartan Strength. Photo: MGO Photography

Once ointments and antihistamines helped get the condition under control, preventing a recurrence became the priority. Aware that even good quality hay brings dust and allergens into the horse’s habitat, Tommy started steaming Josh’s hay in a Haygain high-temperature steamer. “We needed to make sure that hay wasn’t contributing to the allergies, and Haygain has been instrumental to changing everything for him.” Tommy is vigilant in making sure Joshuay is not fed anything but steamed hay, at home and shows.

That level of care typifies what Andrea describes as Tommy’s most distinctive trait as a horseman: “compassion for the horse,” in and out of the saddle. “We instill that every day and Tommy has that. Horses have good days and bad days and you have to love who they are every day.”

Tommy and Joshuay. Photo: Kim F Miller

Athletic & Attentive to Detail

A long list of attributes follow that. “He’s an athlete,” Andrea continues. “He’s incredibly studious and attentive to detail.” That latter can trip him up on occasion. “If I had to pick on him, I’d say he can be too detailed oriented. I have to say sometimes, ‘It’s OK you missed that trot step.’  I try to get him to relax about the process a little. He is very driven, wants to do everything right and never half-way.”

Robyn saw those attributes early on. “He came to me at 7, and I’ve been able to watch him go from this young boy who dressed as Woody from Toy Story for Halloween to this intelligent, bright young adult.”

The dedication was always there. When Robyn moved from Mill Creek in Malibu to Moorpark in 2013, Tommy switched high schools to be closer to the barn. Before he could drive himself, Tommy’s parents, who both work full time, made the long, congested commute from their home in Malibu to R Farms in Moorpark, Robyn’s new base with her husband and fellow professional David Koss.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have my parents’ support,” Tommy says. Going all in on the eventing path has been full of parenting positives.  “There is so much hard work in the eventing world,” notes Liddy. “It shaped him in terms of discipline.” Gratitude is a family priority that Tommy learned to apply to the variety of horses he rode coming up the ranks. “We didn’t try to keep up with the equine Jones,” Liddy notes.

“We were concerned that it is a very privileged world. As a parent, you want your child to understand some of the issues regarding equity and access. From a young age, Tommy didn’t pay attention to the demographics of who was in the ring with him: whether they were adults or what gender they were.”

“It’s funny, I never really thought about it,” says Tommy when asked if being a boy among many girls affected him in the early days. “I feel like the girls at Robyn’s raised me in a lot of ways. I can’t wait to see them at shows now. It’s like they’re my older sisters and I was always part of the gang.”

Tommy, age 7, at Mill Creek Equestrian Center.

Everybody Loves Tommy

Throughout high school, the laser focus on horses was fine so long as Tommy kept his grades up. “My dad jokes that I looked at school like a box I had to check off the list in order to be able to ride.” Getting into UC Berkeley requires more than checking academic boxes. While he considered skipping college and going directly into an equestrian career, that was a non-negotiable with his parents.

Choosing Berkeley was “a great decision” he almost didn’t make.

“Robyn told me I had to go,” relays Tommy, who recalls being more interested in schools that would have allowed him to keep riding at Robyn’s. Continuing a role of mentor, coach and close friend, Robyn had another mandate when Tommy committed to Berkeley: moving to Chocolate Horse. “Robyn said, ‘You are going to Andrea and Amber and that was that,” Tommy remembers.  

David Koss had ridden with Andrea while attending Santa Clara College, a connection that enhanced Chocolate Horse’s already strong appeal as a magnet for serious horsemen of all ages, abilities and budgets.

Along with the easy horsemanship segue from Robyn to Andrea and Amber’s program, the people part has been a breeze, too. “Everybody loves Tommy,” Robyn says. “The girls he grew up riding with are like his big sisters.

They are very protective of him.”

Robyn’s group was like family, and the vibe is similar at Chocolate Horse, Tommy says.  So are the opportunities to learn and advance for all who are driven and hard working. While he may have other options after graduating Berkeley, Robyn has no doubt Tommy will pursue horses as a profession and that the profession will be lucky to have him.

Tommy at the Galway Downs International.

November 2020 - The Gallop: Straight Talk
Written by by Kim F Miller
Friday, 30 October 2020 02:28
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Free horse health webinars help cut through the clutter and information overload.

by Kim F Miller

MacKinnon Products president and equestrian Julie Garella-Williams began sponsoring several Continuing Education programs for veterinarians a few years ago. It involved a shift of marketing budget that was partly motivated by being “over fake news in the horse care jungle complex,” she reflects. It also fit with her personal passion for information regarding all facets of horse health. MacKinnon sponsored the CE programs for American Association of Equine Practitioners nationally and regionally, and its president and CEO sat in on the presentations.


When COVID-19 shut down the show circuit and other aspects of the equestrian world earlier this year, Julie’s CE experiences seeded an idea for making constructive use of horse owners’ extra time.


“I’m not the kind of person that can sit still,” she explains. “Everybody was so down in the mouth. There were no shows and nobody knew what was going to happen. So I said, ‘What can we do? Let’s do something educational.’”

Julie’s professional and personal interest in equine health has led to many positive relationships with veterinarians. The first she pitched the idea to was James Orsini, MS, DVM, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s New Bolton Center.  They had worked together on an ice boot for laminitis cases and discussed a webinar on that debilitating hoof disease.

Thus was born the For The Love Of The Horse series of live, free, interactive, educational webinars presented by leading veterinarians, researchers and scholars. The first presentation “Laminitis: Understanding the Disease and Best Practices in Prevention,” was offered live in the spring and is now one of 10 and counting recorded presentations available for on-demand, free viewing. Participants in the live webinars can interact with the presenter through a chat function.

For The Love Of The Horse has a growing list of business partners, but the content is expressly “not sponsored” by any company. The goal is completely objective information, Julie explains. “We are trying to take complex subject matter and, working with true experts, distill it for horse owners. I’m very passionate about this and I feel that if owners really understand how things work, then they can make the right, informed decisions about their horse’s health.”

Well-known California veterinarian Phoebe Smith, DVM, of Riviera Equine Internal Medicine and Consulting, is the featured speaker on the next live webinar on Sunday, Nov. 8 at 4pm PST.

The topic is the complex subject of Metabolic & Cushing Syndrome: Understanding Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention.

California photographer and media consultant Alden Corrigan was among the first to help promote the talks, through the Competitive Equestrian. Pro Equine Grooms, Phelps Media, the American Quarter Horse Association and other outlets also jumped on board, spreading the word via email and social media. As of early October, over 6,000 horse owners in 38 states and 40 countries had viewed the presentations, either live or on demand, Julie reports. Forty-eight percent had watched more than one episode.

Judging from the nature of questions posed throughout the series, Julie surmises that participants run the gamut from high-level competitors to the roughly 70% of horse owners who don’t compete at high levels. The common denominator is they all want the straight scoop on their horses’ health.

Hot Topics

An Oct. 4 talk on cardio and respiratory health featured Cristobal Navas de Solis, LV, MS PhD, from the New Bolton Center. The veterinarian shared his expertise and his own and current research on various aspects of cardio and respiratory health in performance horses. He discussed the concept of “VO2 max,” which is the maximum rate of oxygen consumption used in incremental levels of exercise. He explained that it is mostly used with elite level human endurance athletes and is beginning to have potential for applications with horses.

The talk moved into the physiology of how air moves from the horse’s nostril, down the upper airway’s trachea, and into the lungs, where oxygen is transferred into the blood stream. Obstacles on the long journey include conformational obstructions in the narrow airway passage into the trachea, lung disease and inflammation triggered when environmental irritants get past the body’s natural defense mechanisms. The latter sets the stage for conditions on the Equine Asthma Spectrum. Dr. Navas de Solis noted that the way horses are managed -- usually in barns much of the day -- makes them predisposed to respiratory disease. He emphasized the importance of “improving the environment as much as you can.”

Exercise associated deaths are an area of special interest to Dr. Navas del Solis. He explained that New Bolton is using fitness trackers with an EKG affixed to the girth to monitor heart rate and rhythm, stride length, speed, etc. The data is hoped to help reduce or prevent such tragic outcomes.

Questions during the cardio and respiratory health webinar ran the gamut. For example, an upper level eventer asked about training routines to strengthen the respiratory system and another participant asked whether there is a correlation between obesity and asthma in horses. That answer is yes, Dr. Navas del Solis said, though not to the extent that it exists in people.

Eventing competitor and USEA Area VI chair Asia Vedder tuned into her first For The Love Of The Horse episode for Dr. Navas del Solis’ talk. She described the series as valuable to all horse owners and as coming at the right time. “There is so much information out there, especially now as more people are doing things on social media, where you can post anything: opinions, false articles, etc. Having these topics addressed by experts is really good.”

Asia hopes that the pros and cons of various therapeutic products will be a future topic, along with supplements, muscle recovery, shoeing and recognizing a properly balanced foot, etc.

This month’s presenter, Phoebe Smith, is excited to share information on metabolic conditions and their treatment and management. Long passionate about education for all who care for horses --veterinarians and owners -- Dr. Smith notes that horse owners are like everybody else in that they often don’t know much about a health subject until they’ve had to deal with it. She describes the talks as a nice counterpoint to the considerable amount of misinformation that exists and agrees the COVID era is a good time to offer it. Among her own clients, she’s noticed that the down time with no shows has led many to ask her great questions: like, “I’m going through my horse’s medicine cabinet and I need to know how this drug works. Or, I’ve wanted to know why my horse makes this noise forever, and now I have time to address it.”

The next For The Love Of The Horse presentation is Sunday, Nov. 8, at 4 pm, with Phoebe Smith, DVM, on Equine Metabolic & Cushing Syndrome. For more information, visit

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 .

Presentations in the free, on-demand library at include:
•    Back Issues in Performance Horses, with Kent Allen, DVM
•    The Impact of DNA on the Performance Horse, with Samantha Brooks, Ph.D.
•    Tendon Issues: Reducing The Strain, with Sherry Johnson, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVSMR
•    Hay: What’s In It & What Else Does Your Horse Need? with Clair Thunes, Ph.D.
•    The Value of the Ridden Lameness Exam, with Rick Mitchell, DVM, MRCV, Dipl. ACVSRM
•    Unraveling the Mystery of the Stifle: Anatomy & Rehabilitation Approaches, with Melissa King, DVM, PhD., Dipl. ACVSRM
•    Hoof Lameness: Understanding Causes & Cures, with Raul Bras DVM, CJF, AAPF
•    Breeding For Success: It’s More Than Luck, with Pat Garrett, DVM.
•    Laminitis: Understanding the Disease & Best Practices in Prevention, with James Orsini, MS, DVM.

November 2020 - From The Judge’s Booth
Written by by Melonie Kessler
Friday, 30 October 2020 02:18
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Veteran official and trainer enjoys an impressive display of dressage’s benefits as a fitting finalé for a difficult show season.

by Melonie Kessler

The California Dressage Society Championships are a wrap!  What a great show finalé to this crazy year. Glenda McElroy, Meaghan Mallory and the many volunteers and CDS board members put on a fantastic USDF Region 7 and CDS Horse of the Year championship Sept. 24-27 at the Del Mar Horsepark.  

For those riders who were able to qualify with the limited shows California was able to offer (due to COVID restrictions and the horrible wild fires plaguing the state from North to South), this year’s Regionals did not disappoint.


I was very honored to officiate along with six other judges, FEI-ranked as well as S (senior) national licensed judges. I watched four days of horse and rider combinations put their best foot and hoof forward for the chance of earning the Regional or CDS championship title. From Training level to Grand Prix, the amateur, junior, and open riders did a fantastic job showing how their time and dedication paid off producing harmonious performances with happy horses.  
I would like to share a little of my experience from the four days I officiated.


Judging is a mentally strenuous event. As a judge, we are required to be on site 30 minutes before the first ride to orientate ourselves with the arena and our scribes. I can not say enough about the importance of a good scribe. Their job is to write each comment and score given by the judge for each movement. This is a very important job. I was fortunate to have had great scribes, including California Riding Magazine’s very own Kim Miller!  She and the other scribes were wonderful, never missing a word.  

Judging can be very intense as many classes can have riders’ scores separated by hundredths of a point. A good scribe makes the judge’s job so much easier. Thank you to all the scribes that volunteered. For those not familiar with dressage scoring, here is a brief explanation: The tests are designed with compulsory movements we call “exercises” and are scored with whole or half points. In a championship class there are two judges at each arena. I was positioned at either C (the front) or E (the side) each day.

Speaking From Experience

On a personal note, I have been judging for over 25 years. I also run a dressage training business for over 40 years and have competed for nearly 50! I have judged all over the country including Hawaii and Canada at local, state, and regional competitions and championships. I am still as enthused judging today as I was when I first began.

I know the amount of time it takes to train a dressage horse, and the commitment necessary to compete and work towards qualifying for a championship competition.

I can see the nerves in both horse and rider and I can see the harmony when the pairs execute the test in balance and grace.  

I love judging because it allows me to give a voice to the horse as I evaluate the training that has gone into the performance. Not only do I enjoy rewarding great performances, but by sitting so close, I can see the look in the eyes of the horses which often reveals the willing cooperation of a truly beautiful partnership. Reading horses’ body language is a part of the scoring system. Tension and resistance are scored negatively, whereas relaxation and confidence are rewarded.  

I notice some small mistakes at times in certain classes such as widening of the hands or accidentally not following the movement of the horse. The instructor in me wants to remind the riders to not lose points by losing their position. Luckily, there is a space at the bottom of each test for judges to comment on the overall performance of the pair and give advice per the training pyramid that could help future performances.

I find the walk work not always ridden to the horse’s potential, which is unfortunate as many placings are separated by a very small margin and this is an area in which riders should be careful not to lose points.

A rider’s ability to display the horse’s range of motion in the horse’s topline on a stretch circle is also a very important skill that needs to be confidently shown. These basics are demonstrated in the lower test of Training level and First Level and they are the building blocks to the more difficult exercises of the higher levels.

The FEI division was equally as impressive as the lower level test. High quality horse and rider pairs showed the power and elasticity of their horse’s gaits and then, with very subtle aids, were able to collect the steps into piaffe and passage and pirouettes.  

Nerves can easily overtake horses at this level as a positive tension in the horse is necessary to elevate and lengthen the steps and strides. The skill of the rider prevents positive tension from becoming negative tension. Years of practice and developing the relationship with each other is essential in performing at the top Grand Prix level. There were many combinations that displayed this partnership and their scores reflected that harmony.

I was impressed with the high level of preparation and finesse by this year’s competitors. And I want to thank each competitor for making this Region 7 Championship a great experience and a joy to judge.

Author Melonie Kessler is a USEF “S” dressage judge and trainer. She was based in Southern California for many years and is now located at the beautiful DevonWood Equestrian Center in Sherwood, Oregon. She can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

November 2020 - Pressure Relievers
Written by by Clara Bonomi
Friday, 30 October 2020 01:22
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Focus, friends and quiet time for pre-ride ringside observations are among effective methods for managing show-related stress.

by Clara Bonomi

As a rider and frequent competitor, I know for a fact that stress plays a significant role in my mindset. Juniors seem to experience a unique form of tension that surrounds perfectionism, a lack of confidence, and most prominently, a pressure surrounding winning.

I asked four juniors from various locations and barns across the West Coast how competitive stress affects them, more specifically how they prepare themselves for a competition.


“I mainly feel stress when I’m warming up, which then can transfer over to the show ring,” says Leyton Hillard, a rider at Silver Bay Stables in Sonoma County. “For example, if I don’t necessarily have the strongest warm-up or it’s really chaotic then I start to get thrown off of my game.”


However, many riders, including myself, experience stress while focusing during their actual round, rather than beforehand. I spoke to Skyler Allen, one of my barn-mates from Sonoma Valley Stables, about her experience with this type of tension.

“I find myself only focusing on what I’m stressed about and then everything else just disappears,” Allen tells me. “[My horse] is really sensitive, so then he’ll get stressed out as well and it all just starts turning into the snowball effect.”

I found that other juniors also had a similar feeling of anxiety in the ring when one thing appears to be going wrong for them. Another one of my barn mates, Danielle Park, expresses that this is something she frequently experiences while competing.

“I get really stressed about being perfect,” she says. “Normally for me, once I make one mistake on course, I feel like it all starts to fall apart. I think one of the biggest things for me is that, the second I start thinking about points, everything starts to go downhill in my mind.”

However, some riders find a more general struggle with self-esteem, which then leads to stress. I spoke about this with Ella Cate Duke of Oz Inc. located in Canby, OR.

“For me, it’s more a lack of confidence,” Duke remarked. “I’ve been working really hard on focusing solely on my ride and the course and how my horse is feeling, but when those things don’t come together, I start to lose faith in my ability to ride.”

Personally, I find myself the most stressed when I feel pressure to ride well for my fellow competitors, trainers, parents, or friends, whether that pressure be intended or not. A lot of my stress comes from a place of feeling the need to satisfy others rather than myself, something that I should prioritize instead.

The fear of being criticized from those who are not the judge often makes me uncomfortable and results in a more distracted and chaotic round. Even though everyone has had different experiences with stress and anxiety, I can relate with all of these riders. Feeling the need to nail everything, and giving up when that doesn’t happen, which is rarely the case, is often a common issue among junior riders, including myself.

Management Strategies

However, through years of riding and showing, these same athletes have found ways to deal with their stress and transform it into something more useful.
“Before I get on, I try to really take time for myself to just relax and listen to music or polish my boots,” Hillard says. “I think the most important thing is making sure that my trainer and I have a solid plan not only before I go in the ring, but also before I even get on my horse.”

Thoroughly planning and preparing is a common and, in my opinion, very helpful de-stressing strategy for many riders, regardless of whether they are showing or even riding at home. According to Allen, choosing specific goals for each ride can also be beneficial.

“I always try to pick just three things to focus on for my round,” she tells me. “Having everything structured out and making sure that I always have a backup plan also makes it much less stressful for me.”

Methods used in warm-up rings and pre-ride reminders also help a lot of riders.

“Counting every stride and tuning into the rhythm of my horse, even when it isn’t necessary, definitely helps me calm down sometimes,” Park explains. “I also always try to remember that I’m not at a show to win, I’m there to have fun and to gain experience.”

However, some athletes find that preparing themselves for competition away from the barn environment is more helpful than not. Duke tells me that spending time both alone and surrounded by others helps her reduce stress.

“Being able to sit next to the ring by myself and hear riders and trainers talk about the course is really useful. Hearing more than one perspective can help me learn from other’s mistakes and feel more prepared,” Duke says. “I also sometimes spend time with friends before I show because I feel like they ground me and remind me that this opportunity should be considered more of a fun experience rather than a mission to win.”

It is clear that juniors from different barns and areas all have unique ways of coping with stress, but most of them can relate that it plays a definite role in their competitive mindset. All competitive juniors experience stress, and most of it is self-inflicted. Whether it’s overly focusing on winning, perfectionism, or desire to please others, such stress takes away from rider’s ability to perform their best and enjoy their time in the saddle. Fortunately, the riders I spoke with are aware of their stress and actively pursue ways to relax and remember to ride.

Author Clara Bonomi is a talented junior hunter/jumper competitor who trains with Sonoma Valley Stables. She can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

October 2020 - The Gallop: Past at Forefront of Today’s Fire Fights
Written by by Kim F Miller
Thursday, 01 October 2020 17:04
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The upside of extensive fire experience is life-saving preparedness.

by Kim F Miller

Claudia Sonder, DVM, has been at the heart of California’s evolving response to fires as they relate to horses for several years. In “normal” times, she is the partner-owner of Napa Valley Equine, but during the ever-expanding fire season, she’s command central as the Northern California Association of Equine Practitioners’ Disaster Response Committee chair.

The only upside of the state’s devastating fires in the last decade is how they served to inspire preparedness measures among community groups and individual horse owners.


Blazes throughout the state marked a full month of burn as California Riding Magazine went to press in mid-September. Even as more people step up to receive various levels of training to assist horses in a disaster, there are still many who believe “it can’t happen to me,” Dr. Sonder reports. Part of the problem is the lack of government-backed assistance for large animal rescue, she explains. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the PETS Act authorized the Federal Emergency Management Association to provide rescue, care, shelter and essential needs for individuals with household pets and service animals and to the animals themselves. There is no federal funding equivalent for large animals, the veterinarian notes.


Yet, remarkable strides have been made in multi-agency efforts to help large animals, often through Community Animal Response Teams (CART), that are similar to Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) that exist in many counties.

California Riding Magazine editor Kim F Miller appreciated Dr. Sonder’s time in sharing the evolution of Northern California’s life-saving response to the recent and current fires. Plus, suggestions for getting involved and, most importantly, being prepared horse owners.

Kim: How did you get into being a point person for community efforts to help horses in disasters?
Dr. Sonder: I’ve been in the Napa area since 1997 and had experienced a few small fires and helped with some evacuations. Really, all of my knowledge and experience of how to do it came from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, where I served as director of Equine Health for several years. In 2013 or 2014, we did a lot of research to write an article on preparing for and helping horses in disaster. (When Disaster Strikes, What Will You Do?) That was my first exposure to CART, an organized response to disasters.
In 2014, the Valley Fire in Lake County became my first exposure to a “run for your life” evacuation. Being in neighboring Napa County, we ended up supporting Lake County efforts and that spooled out into the CART program and the NorCal Equine Trailer.
It took that kind of fire for myself and Napa County to realize the need to plan for these kind of things. Fortunately, Napa County has forward-thinking leadership and they all saw the incredible need for large animal shelter support. We all sat down and said, “Let’s come up with a system so if this happens again, we’ll have the ability to take in hundreds of horses on short notice.”
Sure enough, in 2017, the Wine Country firestorm hit Napa. I think we evacuated 400 horses in 24 hours and, in the end, we had 800 horses sheltered in Napa County. We could do that because we had laid the foundation by pre-designating where the shelters should be and having teams ready to go.

Kim: I gather this involves working with various government agencies.
Dr. Sonder: Yes. In the research we did for the 2014 UC Davis Horse Report article, we learned a lot from people in Southern California, where there’d been so many fires. A top thing we learned is that their efforts were well integrated with their local government.
We get a lot of people asking about CARTs, and the first thing to do is go talk to your area’s Animal Control Department. You want a plan that is tied into the actual emergency action plan for your area.
Kim: What roles exist within the network of volunteers required to assist horses in a disaster?
Dr. Sonder: Plenty! Some of my best volunteers are long time horse people who know how to safely handle excited horses during an adrenalized evacuation. These are people willing to take the time to go through the training required to be safe going into a fire zone. The county requires this of volunteers heading into to help in “warm zones,” areas where a fire has burned over.

Kim: What’s the general time commitment to receive that training?
Dr. Sonder: The CERT training is the first step and requires 20 hours. On top of that is an additional 10 to 20 hours a year to do the different tasks related to horses. If you work on a phone hotline or dispatch, for example, you don’t need as much equine experience. If you are going to work at an equine shelter, then you need training to stay safe around those animals, to know about biosecurity measures and other things. For animal search and rescue and evacuation, you need all the training that keeps you safe in a warm zone.
Once you complete that training, the county will issue you an ID badge or, in our case, a vest, that identifies you to people working the fire line or blockade.
Kim: Do you have enough trained volunteers?
Dr. Sonder: In traditional fires in the past, we have had enough people to get the work done. With COVID, our volunteer base is almost cut in half because the majority of people who’ve had the training fall into that upper risk age bracket: a lot are retired. And then there is the size of the fire. In 2018, the Camp fire and right now, the North Fire in Butte County, they’re just too big.
CARTs all across California are working together to create a system for mutual aid. So, the leader in Butte County can call me and say, “I need 10 animal search and rescue volunteers.” We have the same training system, so I know exactly what she needs. That’s how we are handling these huge fires.

Kim: I understand the NCAEP’s Emergency Response Trailer is critical to successful responses. Tell us about that.
Dr. Sonder: It’s an amazing trailer. It was donated in 2018 by the West Coast Equestrian Federation affiliated with Murieta Equestrian Center, Carol Ward and from the Trailer Specialist after the Valley Fire. We realized we needed a mechanism to have a medical hub for animals at the shelters. It is supported by many of NCAEP’s educational partners, who are the big equine and livestock pharmaceutical companies. They actually donate product to fill the trailer, so we have all the emergency drugs to care for the shelter horses in the field, and without the owner ever receiving a bill for it. Member veterinarians volunteer for shifts and a great thing about the trailer is that our vets can actually work out of it, keeping records, etc. If a shelter manager is worried about a horse, they can write the number on a board and the vet on duty will go check on it.
It’s a big, 30’ trailer. We have key people that volunteer to haul it. Boehringer Ingelheim’s Brent Brown is one who drops everything to get the trailer where it needs to be.
(At press time, the Trailer had been based in Butte County for a week and counting.)

Kim: How can horse owners be better prepared?
Dr. Sonder:
•    So often we talk about disaster preparedness without talking about preparing the horse. Make sure your horse will load in the trailer -- not just with you: with someone else. Practice in circumstances you might face: in the middle of the night, in a rush, with lights, headlamps, etc.
•    Get your horse used to being in a confined space. In these last two major fie events, horses have been in 12 x 12 pens for 14 days. Get them as well socialized as you can.
•    Microchip your horses, so they are easy to track.
•    Have a picture of you and your horse together. Create an info sheet with your horse’s name, age, what he eats, allergies, vet, vaccine status, etc. Laminate it. When you come to the shelter, you can hand it over to the manager and they’ll know everything they need to about your horse.
•    Have some hay ready for your horse and bring it to the shelter. The main reason we see so many colics is because the change in feed adds to the perfect storm of conditions.

Kim: Thank you so much for talking to me and for everything that you and your colleagues do for our horses!
Dr. Sonder: You are welcome!

Donations for the NCAEP’s Emergency Response Trailer are greatly appreciated.

Claudia Sonder, DVM. Photo: ©2011 UC Regents - by Don Preisler

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 .

October 2020 - Smoke Coping Strategies
Written by by Nan Meek & Kim F Miller
Thursday, 01 October 2020 16:12
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Minimizing exercise and maximizing hydration are keys to preventing smoke’s harmful effects.

by Nan Meek & Kim F Miller

Smoke from wildfires in the West had made its way to the East Coast of America and has hit Europe. Speculation that it will circumnavigate the globe is sadly realistic.  That smoke is as bad for horses’ health as it is for people.

Here’s a primer on smoke and tips on minimizing its effect on your horse.


What’s In Wildfire Smoke

Smoke comes in endless variations, depending on what is burned. In the case of wildfires that spread beyond forests and rangeland to consume homes and other structures, smoke is produced from burning wood, vegetation, plastic, building materials, furniture, vehicles and combustibles such as gas and oil.

Wildfire smoke can contain carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides, among other chemicals, for example. Even the smoldering stages of a fire can be deadly – that’s when colorless, odorless carbon monoxide is produced in the greatest quantities. In high doses, carbon monoxide can be fatal.

Of greatest concern, however, is the particulate matter from wildfire smoke. Particulates are an airborne mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets that are very small – less than five microns in diameter, smaller than the width of a human hair. Sub-micron particles are small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs where they can cause damage even before any signs of respiratory distress become evident.

How Horses Are Affected

Horses show signs similar to humans, with irritated eyes and respiratory systems, compromised lung function and worsened conditions on the Equine Asthma Spectrum that ranges from Inflammatory Airway Disease to Recurrent Airway Obstruction, aka “heaves.” Watch for signs such as coughs, nasal discharge, wheezing and other breathing distress – if such signs increase or persist, your veterinarian should be called to provide professional diagnosis and treatment.

Not as widely discussed is the effect of particulates on the immune system, but it’s high time to highlight this important fact. Particulates have been shown to alter the immune system, which reduces the lungs’ ability to remove inhaled materials such as pollen and bacteria. Because horses are continually exposed to allergens outdoors as well as in the stable, an immune system compromised by wildfire particulates is a serious matter.

How to Help Your Horse

First of all, watch for clinical or behavioral signs that your horse needs treatment and don’t hesitate to call your vet if you are concerned. You know your horse better than anyone, and your equestrian instinct can be your horse’s best defense.

Keep exercise to a minimum. Avoid activities that increase smoky airflow into your horse’s lungs. You may note your horse being less active in his field or paddock, a sign that his horse sense tells him not to exert himself when it’s more difficult to breathe. Even if his horse sense hasn’t kicked in, be his advocate and refrain from normal activity until the air clears.

After a particularly intense period of smoke inhalation, it may take four to six weeks for your horse’s airway to heal. Give your horse the gift of time to heal. Exercising too soon could aggravate the condition of your horse’s lungs, delay healing and compromise future performance. Experts familiar with the training and competition schedules of sport horses advise a return to exercise no sooner than two weeks after the atmosphere is clear of smoke.

In the meantime, water is your horse’s friend. It keeps the horse’s airways moist and helps clear inhaled particulates from the airways; dry airways encourage particulates to stay in the lungs and air passages. Because horses drink most of their water within two hours of eating hay, encourage water consumption by keeping fresh water close to where he eats.

Helpful Equipment

As an equine health company, respiratory health is one of Haygain’s primary areas of expertise. The Flexineb Portable Equine Nebulizer we distribute is on the frontlines of efforts to help smoke-threatened horses throughout the West right now.

If your horse is diagnosed with smoke-induced respiratory conditions, your veterinarian may prescribe treatments such as IV fluids, bronchodilator drugs, nebulization or other means to hydrate his airways. Nebulization, commonly known as aerosol therapy, enables medications or natural therapy liquids to be aerosolized into tiny particles small enough for your horse to inhale deep into his lungs.

The Flexineb is proven to deliver 71% of the nebulized drug deep into the horse’s lower respiratory tract, with the other 29% reaching the upper respiratory tract and trachea. Its light weight, silent operation and easy application help the horse stay calm during treatment.

Haygain’s high-temperature hay steamers also help by adding water to the diet and reducing up to 99% of the respirable particles found even in hay of good nutrient content. These are problematic every day and especially when the horse’s respiratory function is compromised from smoke inhalation.

Soaking hay is another way to add water and reduce some of the particles, however, soaking for as little as ten minutes can increase the bacteria load in hay by 150%. That’s especially hard on horses whose immune function is suppressed by respiratory distress.

While it’s usually healthier for horses to live outdoors, the opposite is true when smoke is present. Keeping the barn air clean is extra critical, especially reducing two main culprits in respiratory disease: dust from stall bedding and ammonia fumes from bacteria that proliferate in the urine collecting under conventional stall mats. Haygain’s ComfortStall Sealed Orthopedic Flooring has built-in cushion that reduces bedding needs to only that required to absorb urine. Its top layer is sealed to the stall wall, preventing urine seepage to the stall floor.

Bottom Line: Keep exercise to a minimum and hydration to a maximum. Watch for signs your horse is not feeling normal and keep an extra watch on horses with compromised respiratory and immune systems. If in doubt, call your vet.

October 2020 - Fire Fall-Out
Written by by UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine & The Paulick Report
Thursday, 01 October 2020 15:48
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Reducing and managing the dangers of smoke inhalation.

by UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine & The Paulick Report

Editor’s Note: This article was published after the 2017 fires, but is, unfortunately, still relevant.

The severe fires throughout California over the past three months have exposed humans and animals to unhealthy air containing wildfire smoke and particulates. These particulates can build up in the respiratory system, causing a number of health problems including burning eyes, runny noses and illnesses such as bronchitis. They can also aggravate heart and lung diseases such as congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema and asthma.


Because little information is available to horse owners and even equine veterinarians on the effects on horses of breathing air laden with particulates, UC Davis equine specialists are offering these suggestions to serve as a general guide.

What Is In Smoke?

Smoke is made up of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, soot, hydrocarbons and other organic substances including nitrogen oxides and trace minerals. The composition of smoke depends on what is burned; different types of wood, vegetation, plastics, house materials, and other combustibles all produce different compounds when burned. Carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas that is produced in the greatest quantity during the smoldering stages of the fire, can be fatal in high doses.

In general, particulate matter is the major pollutant of concern in wildfire smoke. Particulate is a general term used for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Particulates from smoke tend to be very small (less than one micron in diameter), which allows them to reach the deepest airways within the lung. Consequently, particulates in smoke are more of a health concern than the coarser particles that typically make up road dust.

How Smoke Affects Horses

The effects of smoke on horses are similar to  effects on humans: irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract, aggravation of conditions like heaves (recurrent airway obstruction), and reduced lung function. High concentrations of particulates can cause persistent cough, increased nasal discharge, wheezing and increased physical effort in breathing. Particulates can also alter the immune system and reduce the ability of the lungs to remove foreign materials, such as pollen and bacteria, to which horses are normally exposed.

Assessing and Treating Smoke Inhalation in Horses

During the recent Napa area fires, UC Davis equine specialists Drs. Joie Watson and Gary Magdesian created a quick reference guide for horse owners (see sidebar) to determine potential smoke inhalation damage and a quick reference guide for veterinarians on treatment of smoke inhalation in horses.

In the height of the Napa fires, the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine hosted Dr. Elizabeth Woolsey Herbert of the Adelaide (Australia) Plains Equine Clinic. She performed a wet lab on equine burn bandaging for dozens of students, and lectured to more than 100 faculty and students, presenting “Findings and Strategies for Treating Horses Injured in Open Range Fires.” Thank you to the Wiley Online Library for making the publication free online for owners and veterinarians currently dealing with horses with thermal injuries.

Protecting Horses from Air Pollution

•    Limit exercise when smoke is visible. Don’t have your horse do activities that increase the airflow in and out of the lungs. This can trigger bronchoconstriction (narrowing of the small airways in the lungs).

•    Provide plenty of fresh water close to where your horse eats. Horses drink most of their water within two hours of eating hay, so having water close to the feeder increases water consumption. Water keeps the airways moist and facilitates clearance of inhaled particulate matter. This means the windpipe (trachea), large airways (bronchi), and small airways (bronchioles) can move the particulate material breathed in with the smoke. Dry airways make particulate matter stay in the lung and air passages.

•    Limit dust exposure by feeding dust-free hay. This reduces the particles in the dust such as mold, fungi, pollens and bacteria that may have difficulty being cleared from the lungs.

•    If your horse is coughing or having difficulty breathing, have your horse examined by a veterinarian. A veterinarian can help determine the difference between a reactive airway from smoke and dust versus a bacterial infection and bronchitis or pneumonia. If your horse has a history of having heaves or recurrent airway problems, there is a greater risk of secondary problems such as bacterial pneumonia.

•    If your horse has primary or secondary problems with smoke-induced respiratory injury, you should contact your veterinarian who can prescribe specific treatments such as intravenous fluids, bronchodilator drugs, nebulization, or other measures to facilitate hydration of the airway passages. Your veterinarian may also recommend blood tests or other tests to determine whether a secondary bacterial infection has arisen and is contributing to the current respiratory problem.

•    Give your horse ample time to recover from smoke-induced airway insult. Airway damage resulting from wildfire smoke takes 4-6 weeks to heal. Ideally, plan on giving your horse that amount of time off from the time when the air quality returns to normal. Attempting exercise may aggravate the condition, delay the healing process, and compromise your horse’s performance for many weeks or months.

While we recognize that owners and trainers of sport horses may want to return to work sooner than 4-6 weeks, Dr. Kent Pinkerton* recommends that horses return to exercise no sooner than two weeks post smoke-inhalation, following the clearance of the atmosphere of all smoke. Horses, like all other mammals, tend to have an irritation to particles, but will recover from the effects within a few days. With the devastation at San Luis Rey Downs (where 46 horses died, mostly from fire or smoke inhalation), it would be wise give the horses a break from exercise and then to gradually re-introduce them back to their routine exercise. On December 10, 2017, Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director at the UC Davis Kenneth L. Maddy Equine Analytical Chemistry Laboratory and at the California Horse Racing Board, issued an advisory on behalf of the CHRB regarding horses at the Del Mar racetrack.

•    Air quality index (AQI) is used to gauge exercise/athlete event recommendations for human athletes. It may be reasonable to use those for equine athletes as well. For example, the National Collegiate Athletic Association lists the following recommendations on their website: “Specifically, schools should consider removing sensitive athletes from outdoor practice or competition venues at an AQI over 100. At AQIs of over 150, all athletes should be closely monitored. All athletes should be removed from outdoor practice or competition venues at AQIs of 200 or above.” During the Napa area fires, the Napa Valley Unified School District used the AQI to determine when students should return to school. They recommended 2 weeks off based on the AQI which was over 400 and took more than 10 days to resume normalcy.

*Dr. Kent Pinkerton is a professor in both the medical and veterinary medical schools at UC Davis. His research focuses are on the health effects of inhaled environmental air pollutants to alter respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological structure and function. Special areas of interest include the interaction of gases and airborne particles to produce cellular and structural changes within site-specific regions and cells of the respiratory tract in both acute and chronic timeframes of exposure.

What Horse Owners Can Do To Monitor Horses Evacuated from Fire Areas

by Drs. Gary Magdesian and Joie Watson

Horses exposed to fire smoke can suffer respiratory injury of varying degrees, ranging from mild irritation to severe smoke inhalation-induced airway or lung damage. Knowing what is normal versus concerning can help to know whether your horse should be evaluated by a veterinarian. Respiratory rate at rest should be 12-24 breaths/minute. Horses should be examined by a veterinarian if any of the following are noted:
•    Respiratory rate is consistently greater than 30 breaths/minute at rest
•    Nostrils have obvious flaring
•    There is obvious increased effort of breathing when watching the horse’s abdomen and rib cage · There is repetitive or deep coughing,
•    Abnormal nasal discharge

Horses should also be monitored for skin and tissue injury, especially for the first few days after exposure.


October 2020 - Stay A While
Written by CRM
Thursday, 01 October 2020 05:20
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Blackjack Farm offers a Rider’s Retreat at their new Airbnb.

As we’ve mentioned in past articles, a recurring theme at Blackjack Farm has been visitors expressing a desire to stay for a while. Well, they finally can. In August Blackjack Farm launched their onsite Airbnb and it’s been booked every weekend since.

“It’s been wonderful so far,” says Robin. “Whether a non-horsey guest just wants to come for a weekend getaway or someone is looking for a complete rider’s retreat they can find it here.” By providing a menu of options to add to your stay, a guest can enjoy as much or as little activity as they like. They host a Friday night movie night under the stars including dinner before the movie and s’mores over an open fire afterwards.


For riders, Robin offers a complete rider’s retreat focused on fundamentals, flatwork, and rider fitness. Guests have the option to bring their own horse or ride one of theirs. The property has everything you could want including a well-appointed gym, a running/walking track plus all your expected horse amenities. Travelers and Horse Haulers looking for layover space will find that here as well.


For more information on any of the services they offer please contact Robin directly or visit their website at for more information.

October 2020 - Success!
Written by CRM
Thursday, 01 October 2020 05:15
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Prisma develops the first-ever functional full-body equine veterinary imaging system for a standing conscious horse.

Prisma Imaging has successfully developed a new system for equine diagnostic imaging that addresses the shortcomings of current technology. Founded in 2016, Prisma developed a system that captures CT and radiographic images of the entire anatomy of a standing, weight-bearing and conscious horse. The advanced imaging capabilities established through Prisma’s research and development is different from anything available in the marketplace. The resulting system represents a game-changer for the overall effect on equine diagnostics and horse health care.


Other ventures have attempted to build equine CT systems but have been unable to provide a comprehensive solution to image the horse’s entire anatomy.

Other devices are repurposed human medical CT systems. Most systems require that the horse be under anesthesia, representing a risk to their health and safety. In 2015, another venture’s attempt employed the use of robotics, but never developed a working system. 

“Miscues in the industry demonstrate a strong demand for better equine CT imaging,” said Michael Silver, Prisma’s founder and chief operating officer.

“Building next-generation imaging to benefit the veterinary industry and horse health is the core of Prisma’s mission.”

Prisma’s system is distinctly different and was developed to ensure every component meets high-performance specifications. Fully-documented, thorough testing by third-party experts have been performed on every aspect of the system.

Authorities on imaging have taken notice of the groundbreaking work of the Prisma team.

“The testing done with Prisma’s system demonstrates image quality which has eliminated the risks to achieve commercial readiness,” said Josh Star-Lack, principal scientist at Varex Imaging, author of over 100 papers and co-inventor of 27 patents.

According to Silver, their unique solution is facilitated by three major innovations:
1)    Robotics.
2)    Using two types of radiographic technologies.
3)    A motion correction system to compensate for the movement of a conscious horse.

Prisma’s system has successfully performed in vivo imaging of live horse subjects and has demonstrated the efficacy of the system’s multiple technologies. Prisma’s CT image quality has proven to be on par with the top medical-grade CT systems.

“The CT images taken with Prisma’s system revealed all of the relevant anatomy and was virtually indistinguishable from those taken with medical-grade CT systems.” said Kurt Selberg, DVM, MS, DACVR, associate professor veterinary diagnostic imaging, Colorado State University and lead imaging practitioner at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon.

Silver projects that commercial installations of the system will begin in mid-2021.  “Prior to purchase, Prisma will require the customer’s inspection and full satisfaction that all its capabilities are fully functional and meet or exceed the highest standards,” Silver said.

Press release provided by EQMedia. Visit to learn more.

December 2020 - Galloping Into 2021
Written by by Area VI Chair Asia Vedder
Wednesday, 02 December 2020 03:54
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US Eventing Association Area VI plans virtual year-end awards, all-in fundraiser and other readiness steps for next year.

by Area VI Chair Asia Vedder

2020 has been an odd year, I don’t think anyone would with disagree with that. Each year presents its own unique challenges, and this year was a doozy. Our Area VI organizers have done a wonderful job juggling the calendar to provide the best schedule, in the safest way.  There was a steep learning curve, but they did a commendable job in figuring out to keep everyone safe, and the shows running smoothly. COVID-19 shows no signs of slowing down at this point, and the Council has had to look ahead and make some safety decisions.


There will be no Annual Meeting and Banquet this year, instead we will be doing a Virtual Awards week, where we will feature a couple divisions each day. Debi Ravenscroft will have all awards and trophies available to be picked up at the Ride On bus, beginning with Galway Downs’ January Horse Trials.


Our annual Town Hall meeting also had to be cancelled due to COVID, but we still want to hear your thoughts. We have come up with a survey, and would greatly appreciate it if you would take the time to fill it out and let us know how we are doing, and how we might improve. Click here to fill it out.

Be on the lookout for updates on our Area VI Fundraiser December 1-15th. We are looking for 100% area participation and appreciate everyone helping us spread the word.

December 2020 - In Service To The Sport
Written by CRM
Wednesday, 02 December 2020 03:47
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Sailor Boden is honored for her volunteer work in dressage.

The United States Dressage Federation™ is pleased to announce that Sailor Boden, of Riverside County’s Canyon Lake, has been named 2020 USDF Youth Volunteer of the Year. This prestigious award honors one outstanding youth volunteer who has contributed, both nationally and locally, to USDF and dressage. As the winner, Sailor will be presented with a perpetual trophy, donated by the Akin family of Warwick, NY, in honor of Lendon Gray, which is on permanent display in the Roemer/USDF Hall of Fame. She will also receive a “keeper” trophy and be featured in the yearbook issue of USDF Connection.


Sailor is the type of volunteer who offers her help willingly, before being asked. She is the enthusiastic smile as you enter the warm-up ring, the final “have a great ride” at the in-gate, and the supportive “Congratulations!” at the end of your ride. She goes above and beyond by driving several hours to volunteer at shows that she is not already attending, just so she can spend her weekend supporting the sport she loves. She can always be counted on to perform any job assigned with a cheerful smile and outgoing personality.


Outside of the dressage world, Sailor organizes fundraising events and cares for the miniature horses at a mini rescue sanctuary and is a member of her high school equestrian club where she assists her fellow club members at competitions, while utilizing the opportunity to spread the word about and introduce others to dressage. Additionally, she serves as Vice President of Sales for her high school virtual enterprise class. In this role, she mentors students by helping them to develop business ideas that promote environmental sustainability and prepare for their college and job interviews. Sailor is unique in that she is able to balance an extensive list of extracurricular activities, academic success, a full-time riding program, and volunteering in a large capacity both inside and outside of the dressage community.

USDF Youth Programs Committee Chair Roz Kinstler adds, “All of us involved in dressage and USDF share a passion for our sport, and Sailor Boden is clearly a kindred spirit.  Ours is a difficult sport, and to see how excited she is to be involved in every way that she can reminds us all of why we do what we do.  From her effort to help both show management and her fellow exhibitors at competitions, to sharing her knowledge with her high school equestrian club members, it’s apparent that she will find a way to stay involved with the sport and continue to contribute to its success, forever.  Our youth members are our future and with Sailor’s help, USDF will prosper.”

Press release provided by USDF. For more information about the USDF Volunteer of the Year Award, visit the USDF website at, or contact the USDF office at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

November 2020 - Better Together
Written by by Brooke Goddard
Friday, 30 October 2020 02:20
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Show managers Marnye Langer and Steve Hankin team up to create a series of fun and affordable shows.

by Brooke Goddard

“How can we do shows that are affordable and different from other shows?” This was a question that Steve Hankin, President and CEO of Desert International Horse Park, posed to his business partners.

To answer his question, Steve teamed up with one of his peers with decades of experience in the equine business: Marnye Langer, the Managing Director of LEG Shows & Events. While Marnye and Steve have very different backgrounds, both feel strongly committed to their passion for horses, growing the base of the sport and creating fun, affordable horse show opportunities on the West Coast.


Marnye and Steve are collaborating and co-producing a series of shows in Thermal targeting riders who are competing up to 3’3’’ in the hunters and equitation and up to 1.20m in the jumpers, starting with the National Sunshine Preview that was set to take place Oct. 23-25. Their first show hosted all seven of the 2020 LA Hunter Jumper Association Medal Finals, which were initially scheduled to take place in Los Angeles and had to be moved due to COVID-19 restrictions from local government entities.


“It feels like a lot of the shows are the same thing over and over,” comments Kay Altheuser, LAHJA President. “It’s important to make it exciting and keep people interested in coming back. This year, COVID-19 has put a wrench in everything and I think it’s great that we are able to return to horse showing safely.  I love what Marnye and Steve are doing with their joint show. I like that there is also a reining competition at the same time as the National Sunshine Preview.”

“We came up with the objective of an affordable show at a fantastic facility, with professional staff top to bottom and over great jumps,” Marnye shares. “That idea led to us reconfiguring an existing show right before the National Sunshine Series followed by Coachella Valley Opener in January, and the Coachella Valley Classic in February. It will be a three-show mini-series. We want to invite people who can’t afford to do a couple weeks in the desert or who are not that focused on high-level competition.”

Photo: Cathrin Cammett

Unique Perspectives

In August of last year, Steve and his partners took the reins of the Desert International Horse Park. Since then, his team has transformed the facility while actively working to create a fun and distinctive horse show experience for all exhibitors coming to the desert.  DIHP brings a fresh take to show management and maintains their motto of “Horses First.”

Steve Hankin and Casper.

On the other hand, in 2021 the Langer Equestrian Group, founded by CEO and President Larry Langer, will be celebrating its 50th anniversary of producing horse shows. In addition to producing A-rated shows, Marnye has worked passionately over the past several years to develop a series of local, USEF B and C-rated shows at Hansen Dam Horse Park and LA Equestrian Center that cater to the weekend rider.   

Marnye serves as the Managing Director of LEG Shows & Events, which produces hunter/jumper shows in California and Colorado. As the Langer Group’s CFO, she oversees all of the companies within the Langer Group, including, an equine insurance agency; LEG Consulting; and LEG Up News, a public relations company. She and Larry started the Hansen Dam Riding School, which gives over 300 lessons a month. It is based at the Hansen Dam Horse Park, which Larry manages and has brought back to thriving status as a boarding, show, clinic and special event facility.

Marnye and LEGIS Let’s Do Lunch

“I want people to have fun with horses. I don’t care if you are riding English or Western, hunter/jumper or dressage,” Marnye expresses. “I want people to have fun and be safe. While it’s great for an entry level person to go to a big show and watch grand prix riders like Mandy Porter, it’s also good to have some shows focused on them, riders jumping up to 3’3’’ or 1.20m. It’s important for them to not always be stuck out in Hunter Ring 7 but for them to be the focus of attention.”

“It feels like lower level riders are often overlooked because a show is so huge, and people are paying attention to the bigger classes,” Kay notes. “Eventually, it becomes mundane and they don’t want to come if there’s not something special to do.”

Although Marnye now competes in the Amateur-Owner Jumpers, she comes from a grassroots background as the daughter of a local level professional. “People are always talking about grassroots. I like to joke that I was the earthworm looking up at the grassroots. When I was younger, I got to go to a USEF show maybe two or three times a year and it was a big deal.”

Sophia Segesman trained by Georgy Maskrey Segesman at ETCetera at Hansen Dam Horse Park. Photo: Equine Clicks/Liz Corkett

Relating to Exhibitors

“I always knew that I wanted to work in the horse industry and years ago there weren’t many options,” Marnye explains. “You could be a trainer, a vet, or a tack store owner. Seeing my mom’s experience as trainer, I saw firsthand how challenging it was. I thought that I wanted to be a vet and went to UC Davis with the intent of studying science. I realized that wasn’t my passion and after graduating I worked in the fair industry. I stayed involved in the horses and had to work to support my own riding. I was a braider, a show secretary, and started writing for California Horsetrader. I became one of the founding members of the Sacramento Area Hunter Jumper Association (SAJHA) and eventually got involved with the governance of the sport.”

Steve is passionate about providing great experiences for riders of all levels and he hopes to learn from Marnye’s involvement at the local level. “We’re working closely with the team from the Langer Equestrian Group because of their experience in the sport and also their expertise with producing this type of show,” Steve says. “We believe that we need to help build the base of the sport. Marnye and I are both learning that each of us has a strong point of view about creating more fun horse shows and we are excited to work together.”

 “As horse show managers, Marnye and I have many discussions about the sport and where it’s headed,” he adds. “It’s not often that you see horse show managers working together. “

Steve comes from a corporate background, but first and foremost is someone who loves horses and loves riding. Steve’s wife, Lisa, also rides and competes on the hunter/jumper circuit. They are “horse people” who, like the Langers, understand the perspective of the competitor. “DIHP’s primary focus is the major circuits and they are not the entry point for the sport,” Steve explains. “However, DIHP is a place where many new riders come for this first experience. The first show I rode in was here at DIHP, as an exhibitor.”

Marnye also speaks from the exhibitor’s perspective: “I’m sensitive to the fact that shows are expensive because I show. It’s not inconsequential. However, the horse show bill represents about a third of your horse showing cost for the week. When we talk about lowering the cost, we need to talk about the whole picture from barn set-up fees to hotels, shipping, and even meals on the road. That’s the conversation we need to have when discussing showing costs.”

Elvenstar riders with trainers Kay Altheuser, Rachel Mahowald, and Becky Abeita. Photo: Kristin Lee Photography

Forward Thinking

Julie Conner-Daniels runs Eclipse Farms in Newhall, Calif. and has entry-level clients in training who are looking to get a taste of horse showing at an affordable price. “I bring my clients to LEG shows because Marnye is always trying to improve, her arenas have good footing, and she makes sure there are quality courses. Marnye is not standing still. She is always trying to go forward and trying to come up with new ideas and new ways to get people excited about the sport.”

“I feel like she is a huge supporter of the whole horse industry,” Julie says.  “Marnye takes it seriously and she does a great job. You have to be striving all the time in this industry. It’s an ever-moving target.”

Georgy Maskrey-Segesman is a professional who operates Whitethorne LLC in Somis, Calif. She trains top level hunter, jumper and equitation riders and sells horses suitable for all levels of the sport. Georgy is passionate about promoting growth within the sport and she feels optimistic about the LEG-DIHP partnership. “It really gives me hope for the sport that people are willing to work together. I feel personally that not enough people embrace that. It’s always competitive and people are stepping on one another. I believe in banding together to lift one another up. We are stronger in numbers than individually. This really makes me excited about what we could do.”

Before heading to Tryon International Equestrian Center in North Carolina, Georgy asked Marnye if she could rent out the HDHP Grand Prix Arena to school some of her horses before making the trip. “I think it’s great that Marnye is willing to be creative and I appreciate it.”  

Marnye also looks forward to horse shows returning to Los Angeles. “We have used this downtime to prepare Hansen Dam Horse Park to be able to host major five-day shows along with smaller, local-focused shows. It is a fabulous boutique location for quality shows to fun one-day schooling events and everything in between,” she comments.

Photo: Cathrin Cammett

“Whether it’s show managers or trainers and people across the board, everybody needs to support one another,” Georgy shares. “Of course, we all need to make the bottom line work. Steve is interested in engaging in a conversation about how we can make the sport better and Marnye is making a huge effort to do something different and needed.”

Kay Altheuser echoed Georgy’s sentiments. Kay represents numerous perspectives as she wears many hats: the Director of Equestrian Programs at Elvenstar, the President of the LA Hunter Jumper Association (LAHJA), a USEF “R” licensed official, and a member of the USHJA Zone 10 Committee. “I think it is a great idea that Marnye and Steve have teamed up because both of those minds have some amazing thoughts to put together. Many times, you see managers disagree with each other or see each other as competition. Maybe if they started working together more, we could create better shows and improve the sport. Putting good ideas together is a good thing.”

 “If you work to make your industry better and stronger, your own business will benefit,” Marnye concludes. “Larry has taught me to think big picture, looking at the long-range plan and trying to do things that are generally good for the industry. At the end of the day, when you work together you will be better than you could have been on your own. I like it when one plus one equals three.”

For more information on the shows resulting from this partnership, visit or

November 2020 - Santa Barbara Treasure
Written by by Rhea Hayes
Friday, 30 October 2020 01:38
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September show is milestone in remarkable equestrian community effort to revive the Earl Warren Showgrounds.

by Rhea Hayes

When Earl Warren Showgrounds debuted in 1958 with the annual Horse and Flower Show, the state-of-the-art amenities and the ambiance of Santa Barbara proved to be an intoxicating combination. The first-class venue quickly earned nationwide attention amongst the equestrian community, and it was highly regarded for decades. The Dome arena was the place to be, where patrons showed off in evening dress and paid entry fees to be wined and dined on a Saturday evening of thrilling competition and performances. At that time, the “big three” were Madison Square Garden, Devon and Earl Warren!


In the past, generations of families held Thanksgiving dinners down the barn aisles …rain or shine, in order to support their riders in the National Amateur Horse Show (the “Turkey Show”). A plethora of other events filled Earl Warren with activity; from the Santa Barbara Fair and Expo, to Christmas tree lots and flea markets, gem shows, car shows, antiques shows and more. In the 1960s, Earl Warren was also the site of nearly 300 live concerts featuring rock and roll royalty including The Beach Boys, Neil Diamond, Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, and Jim Hendrix Experience.


Mike Nielsen, CPHA’s 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient in his early days.

But If you’ve visited or shown at Earl Warren in recent years, you’d be hard pressed to imagine its former glory. The property seemed stopped in time. In a state of decay, the footing was alarming and bordering on dangerous… a problem that has sparked outrage with trainers and exhibitors since the late 1980s. From  the Old Spanish Days Fiesta Rodeo, California Dressage Society, The Santa Barbara National, and the Arabian Horse Association to the critical services provided by Santa Barbara Equine Evac, Earl Warren has had a deep and loyal following.

But despite multiple fundraising attempts, efforts again and again resulted in dashed hopes.

Now in its 65th year, the showgrounds and facility has had its share of drama, political malfeasance, and alarmingly disparate visions for the property’s future. The 19th District Agricultural Association receives no state funding, and with competing visions for the way the facility should be operated, there was a perceived notion that horse shows were of less importance and upkeep of the arenas and barns was not a priority. Opportunities to compete in modern elegant settings had nicked away the desire to travel to Santa Barbara. Ambiance could not always deflect attention from the conditions.

Advocates for the horse community went unheard and the various disciplines fought amongst themselves. Rumors abounded that the facility would succumb to urban development. Getting  a cohesive message to an overstressed board and management team was not easy. Already consumed by chasing revenue to keep the lights on, there was no equestrian specialist on Earl Warren’s staff. Change would require a new approach, a way to control how improvements were handled and donations managed.

Tackling The Challenge

In August of 2019, the  local groundswell of equestrians became fearful of the certain demise and possible closure of the fairgrounds.  Numerous emotional voices created a cacophony at long drawn out board meetings and concerned equestrians of all disciplines bombarded the board of directors with ideas and pressure. An unofficial leadership team started to form. It wouldn’t be long before the Hunter/Jumper/Western/Dressage/Breeds/Rodeo factions would organize, compromise, and come together like never before. An approved plan and Memo Of Understanding in December 2019 was a huge hurdle, and Earl Warren’s rebirth was on the brink of becoming reality.

Karen Christensen is Treasurer and past president of the Santa Barbara Chapter of the California Dressage Society. Putting together a show last summer, she was dismayed to find dangerous footing, scattered trash, dirty bathrooms, a broken drag and no water truck. Her project management experience stood out over others and she would become the key leader of the technical team to rebuild the equestrian facilities. A geophysicist  by day, Karen envisioned a business plan that would be fully researched, prefunded, and would be independently executed by a trusted non-profit… a plan that could be presented to and approved by the Earl Warren Board of Directors. She pulled together the technical team key to the representation and support of the various disciplines critical  to the future success.

Courtney Cochran, had grown up at Earl Warren, a rising star who has served for years as President of The Santa Barbara County Riding Club for years and is now Trainer/Owner of Ridgewood Farm.  Courtney’s unrelenting desire to save Earl Warren matched Karen’s vision of a privately funded plan.  It became clear that this was the key to retain control of the outcome, and had been the missing element of past fundraising efforts.

With so many areas to address, millions of dollars would be needed, but many amazing members of the community donated nearly $600,000 before Covid hit. Karen rallied donations and discounted services from local businesses, a load of DG here, a used tractor there. Lisa Novatt led the western crowd and earned support from the Fiesta Rodeo. Michele Bandinu, a dressage competitor and owner of Custom Hardscapes is a passionate and generous team member who donated thousands of dollars in heavy equipment and labor.

Kathy O’Connor is the founder and President of Santa Barbara Equine Assistance and Evacuation Team, and her team was the key to the project’s success. SBEquineEvac is a respected 501 (c)3 organization that benefits the entire community, not just the various recreational equestrians. It’s a volunteer organization that orchestrates the year-round emergency services provided to large animals evacuated to Earl Warren when displaced by fires, floods and earthquakes. Earl Warren’s  600 permanent stalls have provided ample room for emergency shelter of animals of all kinds including alpacas, goats, and chickens. By day Kathy is Physical Education Department Chair at Santa Barbara City College, but when she spent “53 days in a trailer” at the showgrounds during the 2018 Thomas fires and subsequent debris flow that devastated Santa Barbara, she gained a more thorough knowledge of the shortcomings of the facility, the barns.

The technical team lead by Karen donated countless hours of research, phone calls and coordinated vendors and donors. Horse Show Manager Lance Bennett, having revived the Santa Barbara National Multi-Breed Show in 2019, as well as expertly managing SBCRC shows, was the voice for the hunter jumper shows as was Penny Wardlaw for the Arab shows. Lance is excited about the revival of the Hunter/Jumper week in July 14-18, 2021.

Encouraging Developments

Unlike other state and county fairgrounds, Earl Warren Showgrounds was specifically built as an equestrian venue. Through the efforts of the Parks family, a local Santa Barbara ranching family, Earl Warren was supposed to have been protected from change of use. But it’s clear that Earl Warren is more than just a horse facility enjoyed by generations of riders, it has become an invaluable community asset that could not be allowed to perish. Its spacious parking lots serve as emergency disaster relief assemblage areas for Fire and Police, and most recently Earl Warren was the go-to place for large capacity COVID testing.  

Most of Phase One was completed just in time for the lifting of Covid rules to reopen the facility. The success of the SBCRC Back to School show and the Camelot Classic in September, 2020  showcased the base and footing in the main arenas and innovative new fencing that allows two rings to be merged into a larger arena suitable for Derbies. Also new are the judges and announcer stands, water truck and drag, and a sound system donated by the Earl Warren Showgrounds Foundation. The excitement of the exhibitors return to the showring was palpable. Amid record attendance and positive reviews, patrons were understanding of the efforts  made and any concerns were quickly addressed.  

Now the challenge is directed towards completing Phase One; building a new arena with fencing, updating three barns, funding future maintenance and initiating Phase Two: renovating the rest of the barns, landscaping and other outstanding needs. The ask for critical additional funds is priority. It’s still a long road, and this is where support is needed from the horse community, to ensure that  Earl Warren will be taken to the next level.

Nobody could have predicted that both Earl Warren and The Santa Barbara County Riding Club’s Fall Hunter/Jumper season opener would coincide just in time to provide hope for both their futures…despite an international pandemic, changes and support would arrive just in time to salvage the waning interest in showing at the historic Earl Warren even though more  attractive alternatives  called from all  over Southern California. And for the first  time, donors can be confident that their donations are being properly utilized.

Continuing renovations will further the mission to allow Earl Warren Showgrounds to become a self-sustaining premier show ground able to hold all types of equestrian competitions and events. Please support this effort with your tax-deductible donation.

Author Rhea Hayes is a volunteer with the Santa Barbara County Riding Club. To contribute to this important effort, visit and click on “Showgrounds Equestrian Restoration Project.”

November 2020 - Going Global
Written by CRM
Thursday, 29 October 2020 23:51
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EQUUS Film & Arts Fest 2020 Virtual Event set for November 13-22.

Well, it has been a totally surreal year since we last visited with you, so let’s put our best “Hoof” forward and gallop into the new “Virtual” world of the 2020 EQUUS Film & Arts Virtual Event.

Early in May and June when we began to see the major film festivals start to go virtual, the EQUUS team began to discuss what this year’s fest might look like if we made the move to a totally on-line film & arts fest. While it might have seemed a bit confusing at first as we started to discuss the possibilities of this, we suddenly realized the exciting new opportunities that were available with our team at Film Festival Flix, the home of the EQUUS Film Channel.


Even though there was never a time we ever considered cancelling the EQUUS Film & Arts Fest because of COVID-19, we were concerned about being able to bring the best experience to a now global audience. We are now extremely excited about our plans moving forward with the November festival as being a Virtual Edition, please join us November 13-22 for this exciting event.


The wonderful part of this year›s festival is the filmmakers who have submitted their films from around the world will be able to invite their friends, supporters and crew members to our Virtual festival during our 10 days, along with an added ability to view, support and enjoy these wonderful films from anywhere in the world.

Advertisers will have the opportunity to reach and engage a global audience. Adding videos for their products to the programing.

To date we have received an excellent selection of over 38 equestrian films with an additional 10 encore screenings of past WINNIE winners from more than 16 countries. The filmmakers, authors, podcasters and artists that have been selected into our fest will be able to unite their fans around the world and enjoy our festival within the safety of their homes, on their own comfy couches with as much butter on their popcorn as they want.

We have had over 60 literary works submitted with 13 artists featured and six podcasters, entered into our new podcast category.

We will have a dedicated interview team headed up again this year by Diana De Rosa along with Julianne Neal, Candace Wade, Milt Toby and Lisa Mae DeMasi who will be reaching out to the filmmakers, authors, podcasters, and artist from around the world to capture their experiences of their film, art, podcast and writing process. We will give every creator the opportunity to digitally talk about their work with our on-line Zoom interviews.

So, in celebration of EQUUS Film & Arts Fest, we eagerly approach our Eighth season with the message “Pony On”.  

Lisa Diersen and Diana De Rosa continue their passionate mission of being the best Equestrian Film & Arts Fest in the world.  We must “Pony On” because storytelling and filmmaking, art and literary creation never stops and we support those hard-working storytellers, no matter their medium towards future success.

Tickets available at Press release provided by the Equus Film Festival.

October 2020 - Classics Eventing: Megan Sykes
Written by by Kim F Miller
Thursday, 01 October 2020 16:37
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Young professional is making her mark as a competitor and trainer with a budding sales business.

by Kim F Miller

Young eventing professional Megan Noelle Sykes entered 2020 with an impressive head of steam. The previous year, she and the horse she’s brought along for the last six years, Classic’s Mojah, earned two CCI3*-L top 10 finishes, at two of North American’s most challenging competitions: Rebecca Farms and Fair Hill International. Newly named to the United States Equestrian Federation’s Eventing 25 Emerging Athletes that fall, she and “Mo” completed their first Advanced level finish at Twin Rivers this past February.


And then COVID happened. Then a bad riding accident happened, followed by bed rest, two months of limited mobility and lots of physical therapy. Embodying the grit and grace typical of eventers, Megan didn’t let any of that dampen her enthusiasm for her budding career as a top-level competitor, trainer, sales agent and coach.


Her response to the riding accident that fractured her pelvis and shoulder speaks volumes about her character. On the way to the hospital, she briefly worried that everything she’d been building for in her career would go down the drain. Instead, she found a way to turn the down time into a positive. As she wrote for Jumper Nation in July, she used it to examine her horse’s training foundation and where there might be holes. She framed the accident as a way to build mental toughness and took her own physical rehabilitation as seriously as she’d take it for one of her horses.

Megan was back in the saddle faster than her doctors had predicted, and with new mental skills and horsemanship tools to tackle her big goals. Megan’s new business partners Brian and Kailynn Wallace weren’t surprised, and not because they’re long-time horse people: they’re not. Brian was Army Infantry for 10 years and both have backgrounds that enable quick recognition of “a person willing to do what it takes to be as successful as they say they want to be.”

Megan Sykes, head trainer and owner of Classics Eventing,riding Classics Mojah at Twin Rivers.Photo: Marcus Greene Outdoor Photography. Follow us - Facebook: MGO Photography; Instagram: @_mgo_photography

Putting In The Work

They had witnessed Megan’s devotion to the horses at home in Texas and seeing it translate to competitive success was inspiring.  Shortly after seeing her compete at Fair Hill last fall, the Wallaces realized that Megan’s character and approach warranted an investment in her career as business partners.

“I know what hard work looks like,” Brian explains. “She’s been boot strapping herself up from a young age and we understand that philosophy.” The business is developing horses and its success will be measured in financial terms and in the Wallaces’ ability to enjoy the horses, their development and the sport itself.

As newcomers to the horse world, they don’t plan to become eventers themselves. Brian and Kailynn met Megan while learning to ride only a few years ago with her husband, Reed Sykes, a natural horsemanship trainer.

The Wallaces foresee enjoying that path themselves while delving fully into eventing as Megan’s partners. Like all equestrian sports, eventing seeks growth by getting new people interested. Megan’s role in inspiring the Wallaces to get involved is a model that any sport advocate would love to see widely replicated.

The qualities that inspired the Wallaces to support Megan have also helped her build a strong base of sponsors. They include Deco Pony, MDC Stirrups, EquiClean, The Hangry Mare, Professionals Choice and Halter Ego.    

Photo: MGO PhotograpHy

The Right Stuff

Although she’s from and is based in Midland, Texas, Megan and her business, Classics Eventing, are well known throughout the West Coast. The most formative years of Megan’s equestrian career were spent as a student of and working student for, first, Heather Morris, then Tamie Smith, at Next Level Eventing. Over the years, she has groomed for the 4* competitors and been a contender herself. First, with her NAYC horse, Ghypsy, a former broodmare Megan brought to CCI1* success, then with “Mo,” an Oldenburg who started out as a dressage horse and needed a better outlet for his athletic ability.

Megan describes Tamie and Heather as the best role models, past, present and future. These partners in Next Level Eventing in Temecula set highest standards for hard work and dedication. Like the Wallaces, they recognized the right stuff in Megan’s riding abilities and work ethic and have allowed her to earn opportunities and supported her in making the most of them.

“She has some big things coming her way,” says Tamie. “She is kind of the silent, deadly one: the one that you don’t really notice, then all of the sudden, you say, ‘Who’s that girl?’ She never stops trying and learning and she is a super hard worker and very humble.

“It’s no small feat to pick up from your home,” Tamie continues. “To travel to go learn and be away from home for weeks and months at a time. That’s the difference between somebody who is going to make it in the sport and someone that is just going to skate along.”

Megan started on a hunter/jumper path and switched to eventing at 14. She began riding at Mike Huber’s Gold Chip Stables, where she also groomed for Heather. That bond led her to Southern California when Heather returned to Temecula to partner with Tamie in Next Level Eventing.

“They have been the best influence for me with their coaching and support, and they are both bad ass women who I adore,” Megan explains. “They are prime examples that hard work will get you there.” Neither had opportunities handed to them on silver platters, and both have willed their way through professional and personal obstacles to success in the sport.

Megan has made the 18-hour drive from Texas to Southern California at least twice a year for a while now. She’s currently on the East Coast, where she had hoped to contend the American Eventing Championships. When those were cancelled due to COVID, Megan re-routed for the chance to work with Leslie Law, USEF’s Young Rider coach and run Chattahoochee Hills and other events. The plan is to conclude the season with CCI4*-L at Tyron, North Carolina in November.

Long drives are old hat for Megan, but travelling with four horses is new and a reflection of Classic’s Eventing’s growth. Now instead of “Mo” and a client or sale horse, it’s Mo; her new personal horse, the 6-year-old mare, Tennessee Whiskey, and two sale horses. It’s a new challenge in travel and horse management logistics, but one Megan welcomes as inherent to fulfilling her goals of becoming better known on the national eventing circuit and building up a sales horse business.

“My favorite part of being a professional rider is riding,” she says. “But I’ve always known that if you’re going to be in eventing or any equestrian sport, you have to have your toe in everything. Having a little sales business is a good way to sit on a ton of different horses and build things up.”

A Passion for Development

Developing horses is a passion she shares with her husband, natural horseman Reed Sykes.  “He brings a different awareness. As english riders, we are used to either buying a horse that’s already going under saddle or one that’s been handled by someone else for its first 60 or 90 days. Witnessing the process of how the horse gets to that point has been a big learning experience.”

That, in turn, affects her thinking on how to supplement that start in later phases of the horse’s training. “Even when a horse gets out of ‘cowboy training,’ there is still a lot of work to do, and it’s great to be able to work with the person who started the horse.” It’s a partnership that helps maintain relaxation in the horse and patience in the handler throughout all steps of training.

“In the competition world, it’s easy to get thinking that we can forget about this or that because we have a show in two weeks and we need to get something else done,” Megan reflects. “Reed’s approach has opened my eyes to the benefits of going slow: to the reality that there will always be another competition and it’s most important to get things right so it’s always a positive experience for the horse.”

Along with developing, campaigning and selling horses, Megan enjoys giving clinics whenever her schedule allows. Her frequent travels lend themselves to side trips for sessions across the country. She welcomes the chance to pass along all that she’s learning through coaching from the best and her own growing base of experience with horses and competition at all levels.
For more information on Megan Sykes and Classics Eventing, visit

October 2020 - After The Smoke Clears?
Written by CRM
Thursday, 01 October 2020 16:10
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Better safe than sorry when it comes to timing of exercise after smoke exposure.

The wildfires’ effect on horses will linger long after the smoke clears. That was the main takeaway from a September 16 livestream Zoom call with Dr. Phoebe Smith of Riviera Equine Internal Medicine and Consulting and Drs. Mark Revenaugh and Austin Rowland of Northwest Equine Performance.

Revenaugh and Rowland spoke from their practice in the Portland, OR area, where the Air Quality Index was in the “deep purple” zone of 400s, noted Dr. Revenaugh. (That’s actually maroon and on the most severe end of’s AQI chart).


Very prominent in all other aspects of equine care, the Portland vets didn’t have deep experience treating horses dealing with smoke inhalation. So, they turned to Dr. Smith to ask their own questions and address the most common inquiries of their horse owning clients.


In addition to being an internal medicine specialist, Dr. Smith has a mobile practice based in Central California. That has put her many times on the front lines of helping owners care for their horses through the aftereffects of California’s too frequent fires.

The following is a paraphrased recounting of this extremely helpful and important conversation. It can be found it its entirety on Northwest Equine Performance’s Facebook page.

Dr. Revenaugh: Where we are the AQI is 440. What does that mean?
Dr. Smith: The Air Quality Index is a measure of air quality that spans from 0 to 500. The numbers are derived from multiple factors that affect air quality. With the current wildfires, the most significant of these is particulate matter in the air. Up to 100, the air quality is acceptable, with the possible exception of for those who are unusually sensitive to air pollution. Over 300, everyone is likely to be affected and there’s a hazardous health warning for all.
Particulate matter is what we’re dealing with now. Particles above 5 microns in size can usually be filtered out of by natural defense mechanisms in the horse’s upper airway. Smaller than that, they get stuck way down deep in human and horse’s lungs.  What we’re seeing is the number “pm2.5,” meaning very tiny particles of everything that’s burning now: wood, plastics -- everything in the homes and cars, etc.
Dr. Revenaugh: The crux of this conversation is that, in addition to getting oxygen into the blood stream, the lungs function as an air filter. If you look at an air filter in your house, you know that the more air passes through it, the dirtier it gets. The horse being a living species, however, you can’t just replace the filter. It is a long process to get those particulates out of the respiratory tract.
Dr. Rowland: There are no large volume studies in equines about the impact of smoke and particulate inhalation, so we extrapolate information from studies with human athletes. What do we know from those?
Dr. Smith: We use similar AQI guidelines and recommendations as far as when it is safe to be outside, to exercise and to return to work after the smoke has cleared. Above 150, everybody is affected to some extent. Above 200, it’s not safe for anyone to exercise -- horse or human.
In humans, there is information documenting hospital admission rates during times of smokey air. In addition to respiratory distress, they’ve also found problems with blood pressure and cardiac disease. We don’t know about cardiac issues in horses related to smoke inhalation.

Dr. Rowland: What is the consensus regarding the risk of exercise to a horse when the smoke has cleared and the air quality becomes acceptable?  
Dr. Smith: That is probably the hardest question: When can you start riding? The answer is a minimum of two weeks after the smoke has cleared, and it can be up to six weeks depending on the amount of smoke in your area. Thinking of the lung as an air filter, the lungs just can’t be cleaned that quickly.
We’re talking about “respiratory rest,” the state in which the horse is not breathing hard, or fast, or deeply. The idea is to minimize the volume of air moving through the lungs.

Dr. Rowland: What are the ramifications of putting a horse back to work too soon?
Dr. Smith: At a minimum, decreased performance. It may be that your horse is not acting badly, but he is not getting maximal performance because the oxygen levels he’s getting are reduced up to 20 days after smoke exposure. So, best case, he won’t have the same level of performance, and not just in terms of speed or respiratory recovery rate. Oxygen is needed for the function of muscle, brain, tendon, limbs, etc., so it’s a decrease in performance of all the body’s systems.
The worst case scenario is that particulate matter causes inflammation that persists after the air clears. That results in broncho constriction -- a narrowing of the airways. If you work a horse with inflamed lungs hard, residual inflammation from smoke exposure could become worse than it was before the exercise.
Dr. Revenaugh: With horse shows coming back, everyone wants to show. How quickly can people get back to that? What are the guidelines to know if it’s a good idea to compete or to ship the horse off to a competition?
Dr. Smith: I keep hearing “Well the air quality is good where the show is.” But if your horse has been living with smoke inhalation, then he needs a minimum of two weeks after the air has cleared. That’s both for his airways and his muscles and tendons, etc. Besides considering the lungs, if you haven’t been able to ride for three weeks, are your horses’ legs ready to exercise?

Dr. Revenaugh: What about turning horses out?
Dr. Smith: That depends on local air quality, the air quality inside the barn and whether or not the horse will be wild and wooly running all around. If he’s going to walk around a little in a 12 x 12 paddock, that’s OK if the air quality is OK.
If possible, you could sprinkle the pasture to reduce the particulate matter in the air.
Dr. Revenaugh: If the horse is worked too hard too soon, could the end result be compared to horse with asthma or heaves? Because what we’re talking about in these conditions is particulate matter and the body’s reaction to particulate matter.
Dr. Smith: Absolutely! In fact, asthma is a sequelae (consequence) of smoke exposure. The asthma can be mild, but it could be severe asthma depending on the severity of exposure, and sensitivity of the horse’s airways. That’s what we don’t know exactly. It means that training should be put on hold so that mild asthma created by smoke inhalation is not exacerbated and put over the edge by exercise.

Dr. Revenaugh: How can we mitigate the damage from smoke inhalation?
Dr. Smith: The most basic is to try to minimize exposure. Then, ensure respiratory rest for the horse. Keep the airway moist. Provide water, keeping in mind that horses usually consume the most water within two hours of eating. You may want to wet the hay.
Dry airways are sticky; particulates tend to stay there. A moist airway is more able to remove particulates through normal defenses.

Dr. Revenaugh: What symptoms give a clue that the horse is struggling when he’s returning to work?
Dr. Smith: The obvious sign is that, if your horse was doing fine with hand walking, then started coughing at the trot. The more subtle signs are nostril flair and a higher than normal respiratory rate. Normal is 12-24 breaths per minute, and a rate above 30 can be a symptom of trouble. Also, your horse might just seem a little off.
These are among many areas where it’s so important to know what’s normal for your horse. If any of these symptoms occur, call your horse’s veterinarian. He/she is the one who can determine if the issues are coming from smoke-related respiratory inflammation or from a secondary bacterial infection.  

Editor’s Note: This wonderful discussion also touched on the pros and cons of various medications, supplements and treatments for protecting equine respiratory health during smoke exposure. Every answer began with consulting your horse’s veterinarian because of the multiple variables involved. As of Sept. 22, this discussion was posted on Northwest Equine Performance’s Facebook page and we highly recommend it. Thanks to these veterinarians for generously sharing their time and knowledge so widely.

October 2020 - Horse Barn Design Disasters to Avoid
Written by by Nikki Alvin-Smith, for Horizon Structures
Thursday, 01 October 2020 05:22
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A little bit of forethought goes a long way!

by Nikki Alvin-Smith, for Horizon Structures

Horse barn designs vary greatly but one thing they all have in common is the need to be functional and safe for both horses and their handlers.

If you are planning a new horse barn build, here are a few design disasters you’ll want to avoid.

Smelly Stalls & Dodgy Walls


Respiratory health in horses can be compromised by the lack of a well-ventilated environment free of ammonia odors and stale air. Even with the best passive ventilation systems such as open soffits, gable vents, ridge vents and windows, bad air can linger in the barn.

Smelly stalls that cannot be efficiently cleaned due to dirt floors and lack of drainage for hosing down and deep cleaning provide the caregiver limited options for doing a good job.

At a minimum consider preparing a level barn site with a gravel base and add a compacted stonedust layer on top. If you can afford it install a concrete base with drains in each stall, covered with rubber mats for the comfort of the horse as an easy deep clean solution. Concrete can also be added after the main build is complete if you need to spread the expense of construction over time.

Smells and dampness in stalls can also come from poor drainage around the barn. Stalls that flood periodically during heavy rains, or seasonally when the snow off the roof that has accumulated along the side of the barn in cold weather melts down as temperatures rise, can cause musty smelling floors and offer an opportunity for fungal and bacterial growth.

The addition of a French drain around the barn and/or sloping the apron of the building away from the walls can help. Ask a site contractor for advice. Soil types, site management of surrounding terrain such as hills, will all need to be considered to choose the best option for both the initial barn site and drainage needs.

Dodgy walls are an accident waiting to happen. Not all horses get along so infighting between stall occupants can quickly escalate into kicking and rearing and horses jumping up to reach each other nose to nose at the top of a dividing stall wall. A horse that becomes cast against a wall is also capable of taking down a dodgy wall, adding to a calamitous situation.

During my horse breeding career I have spent significant time working with young horses and I can attest to their abilities to do damage even when you think you have constructed a barn to be tough enough to handle their antics. One morning I was stunned to find a solid 2” x 12” dimensional lumber wall that was 10 feet tall, smashed to the ground and the two young geldings looking sheepishly at each other still in their respective boxes. The wall was well secured (or so I thought), but after this incident I nailed additional 1”x 1” wood firmly to each corner on each side of the partition walls in every stall, in addition to the metal channels that secured the boards to the exterior and front stall walls.

Other walls to worry about are the front stall walls. Open design front walls look attractive and can be beneficial for airflow throughout the barn. However, even the sanest horse can decide to jump out and walking in the barn to find your horse didn’t quite clear the door or wall and is lodged with his stifles hooked over the front wall is a sight no horse owner wants to see.

Aisleways Not Alleys

It’s important to know that horses do not see the same way we do. Their eyesight is very different and one component to consider is that when going from a bright light into a darker space or shadow, the horse can take 50 minutes to adjust his eyesight to be able to make out his environment.

Consider for instance, the hunter/jumper horse that goes from schooling outside on a sunny day to compete in an indoor ring that is not well illuminated.

His vision will not adjust to see fences with clarity right away. This is why it is important to ‘collect’ outside the ring but inside the building before your turn comes, whether you are competing in hunter/jumpers or racing barrels.

As you enter the barn when you bring a horse in from the paddock, his vision will not adjust fast enough for him to immediately see where he is going. Aisleways should be wide enough for the caregiver to lead the horse safely and kept free of any obstacles or obstructions such as chairs and tack trunks that limit access.

Horses do not like to enter confining dark alleys.
Narrow Doors & Tiny Stalls

A stall door should be at least 4’ wide otherwise there is likelihood the horse will hit his hip on the doorframe during passage in and out of the stall. Narrow doors are also a great method to damage blankets as the horse brushes against the frame.

If more than one horse is sharing a space such as a run-in shed, the entrance should be 10’ wide or more, and make the shed wider rather than deeper so the horses can escape from each other during arguments.

Tiny stalls provide a recipe for injury for horses becoming cast in the stall and limit the daily movement of the horse within the space, which can cause mental and physical stress. Build the stalls at least 10’ square, or larger for bigger breeds. 

Consult a barn buying guide to help determine the perfect barn for your needs.
Nibble. Nibble. Chew. Chew.

A student of mine built a beautiful 10-stall barn and proudly invited me to tour its wonderful fresh smelling wood interior. The construction was faultless aside from one glaring omission. The top of the 4’ high kickboard walls, windowsills and tops of the doors were all unprotected from the nibble, nibble, chew, chew of horses as there were no metal strips added to deter equine occupants from their inevitable delight in investigating the fresh wood. I hesitated to mention it, but I didn’t want to see damage done to the lovely barn so I suggested it be added before horses moved in.

Sadly, my advice went unheeded, and when I returned to the barn a month later one of the doors was chewed down over 1’ in its center and other areas had been nibbled on in various degrees. Frankly, the contractor should have suggested the metal additions but as it was not a horse barn construction expert they probably didn’t know.
The Evil Of Low Ceilings

Low ceilings in barns not only limit airflow and thus impede good ventilation throughout the structure, they can also cause a painful condition in horses called Poll Evil. Poll Evil is a septic bursitis of the cranial nuchal bursa at the top of the head of the horse that can be caused by infection or by an injury such as a blow to the head or neck.

Low ceilings also limit light and create a dark interior that requires more expense to illuminate.
Where’s The Light

It’s common though not particularly useful to run electric lights down the center of an aisleway. This placement of lights will cause shadows. When a horse is cross-tied in the aisle, it will be difficult to see much of his body except for the top of his back.

Lights installed on each side of the aisle do a much better job of providing the light needed to see properly to pick hooves and work on the side and underside of the horse.
Power Up

While it is tempting to skip the expense of adding electric outlets as well as light fixtures to your barn’s interior, it is prudent to think again.

No electric outlets means no fans, vacuums, vet equipment, bucket heaters, power washers etc. can be used in the barn without dragging extensions around from the house or other power source. These extensions are trip hazards and can become damaged by shod hooves or equipment and can represent a fire hazard.

Placement of a GFCI (ground fault circuit interruptor) waterproof electrical outlet by each stall safely out of the horse’s reach with all wires encased in conduit to protect them from rodent damage, nicks and tears will add safety and function to the barn. Consult a licensed electrician about the various options.

In conclusion, barn design truly matters and form and function need to be addressed. Check out an experienced barn building company and consult with their experts and don’t be shy to ask lots of questions. In today’s world there are many options and solutions for limited budgets, and a good barn that is well designed will offer many years of great service.
Article provided by Horizon Structures Inc. Visit to learn more. For more information about author Nikki Alvin-Smith and the content services she offers, visit

October 2020 - Pony Club
Written by CRM
Thursday, 01 October 2020 05:18
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Offers teaching resources to instructors and educators for barn, classroom & online use.

The United States Pony Clubs, Inc. has been teaching riding and horse care since 1954, and during recent years has expanded to offer more learning and membership opportunities than ever before. The Professional Membership option is available to any equestrian instructor, professor, teacher or educator who is interested in ready-to-teach educational materials for their students and clientele.


“We know our traditional Pony Club and Riding Center models don’t always fit the needs of those who are interested in accessing the many educational resources available through Pony Club,” said Karol Wilson, USPC Director of Member Services and Regional Administration. “Our Professional Membership option is a great way to make teaching easier and customize the educational package that is best for you and your students, with complete course curriculum for the classroom or the barn.”


Now more than ever, there is a demand for educational opportunities that can be tailored to different learning situations. A USPC Professional Membership offers flexible solutions for equine education with or without access to horses. Lesson plans can be modified to teach students at every skill level, with organized, easy-to-understand lesson plans.

A USPC Professional Membership includes a variety of Pony Club instructional resources: an online profile, organized lesson plans, the Pony Club IQ (an interactive, online informational tool), bi-weekly E-News, and educational webinars. In addition, Professional Members may purchase educational packages providing access to comprehensive materials to help teach basic horse care and riding skills. Packages include Achievement Badge guides and student workbooks, introductory level certification materials and complementary e-membership for students, and teaching resources for classroom use.

The United States Pony Clubs, Inc. (Pony Club) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1954. Pony Club is the largest equine education organization in the world, with more than 10,000 members in the US, and over 500 clubs and riding centers nationwide. USPC is proud to provide education to youth and equestrians of all ages, with instruction and competitive opportunities in more than nine English and Western riding disciplines. Pony Club’s educational standards continue to be instrumental in curriculum development for schools, universities, equestrian professionals and organizations across the United States. Many of the nation’s top equestrians, including Olympic team members, as well as successful business professionals and government leaders, have roots in Pony Club.

For more information, visit

October 2020 - No Coughing: Less Dunking
Written by CRM
Thursday, 01 October 2020 05:11
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Steffen & Shannon Peters see steamed hay resolve a mysterious cough and ease a hay-dunking habit in their dressage stars.

Shannon Peters is not afraid to try something new when it comes to her horses’ health. When her Grand Prix mount of a decade ago, Flor de Selva, struggled with weak hooves and tender feet, Shannon researched natural ways to improve hoof strength and introduced the concept of barefoot trimming as an option in the high-performance dressage world.


Her husband, four-time dressage Olympian Steffen Peters, is a tad more conservative. He has his native Germany’s renowned tradition of horsemanship and is meticulously careful about every aspect of care.


Yet, they’ve both become believers in the benefits of Haygain high-temperature steamed hay. As with barefoot trimming, Shannon led the way on behalf of Flor De Selva. The Westfalen gelding contracted Lyme disease in 2009, compounding long-standing issues with a sensitive immune system. Lyme disease is difficult to diagnosis and debilitating in humans and perhaps more so in horses because it’s rare and presents as other conditions.

“Squishy” foundered five times in four years and was simply sick much of the time. Although Haygain was relatively new in the U.S. then, Shannon learned of steaming’s ability to reduce up to 99% of the dust, mold, fungi and bacteria found even in hay of good nutrient quality. She put Squishy on it to help reduce his exposure to toxins in general and found that it helped him lead a more comfortable life.

Shannon Peters & Disco Inferno.

Cough Cure

Shannon turned to Haygain more recently when her current Grand Prix mount, Disco Inferno, contracted a cough for no apparent reason. The Peters’ Arroyo Del Mar training base in San Diego is not a high allergy area and proximity to the California coast keeps the air clean and fresh. The 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood lives outside, so indoor air could not be blamed.

Early this year, Disco Inferno developed a mild cough, only while working. No fever or runny nose, Shannon reports. It quickly accelerated to “the kind of cough that pulls the reins out of your hands.” He couldn’t be ridden and even coughed while being hand-walked. Cough medicine, soaking the hay and reluctantly administered antibiotics did not help.

With Squishy comfortably living in retirement, Shannon had recently sold her original hay steamer to a local racehorse trainer. “Of course!” she sighs.  She purchased a new Haygain and, within two days of getting steamed hay, Disco was no longer coughing.

Meanwhile in Florida, Steffen Peters and Suppenkasper earned two 80-plus scores en route to 11 wins in 11 outings at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival. The win streak was likely to have earned Steffen yet another Olympic experience. That was until the Tokyo 2020 Games were postponed and the show world shut down because of COVID-19.

Suppenkasper, aka “Mopsie,” had no coughing, respiratory or other health issues to suggest he needed steamed hay, but the Peters opted to try it out for him when he returned to California in April.

In lieu of health challenges, Mopsie does have one bad habit steamed hay has helped reduce: he’s a notorious hay dunker. “He could have 10 buckets of water in his stall, and he’ll dunk his hay in every one of them,” Shannon relays. With dry hay, the big Dutch Warmblood would dunk each bite, making each water source gunky and unappealing and reducing his desire to drink.

Steffen & Shannon Peters. Photo: Terri Miller Steiner

Dunking Down

Mopsie loves the steamed hay, Shannon reports, and he’s dunking much less of it in his water sources. Perhaps he’s read the research that Haygain steaming quadruples the amount of water in the horse’s diet and is less concerned about hydration. Most likely he hasn’t read that, but his appetite for it corroborates studies indicating that horses prefer steamed hay to dry or soaked.

“Normally, we’d have a lot of hay left over and now he’s eating most of it and his water sources are a lot cleaner than they used to be, which is nice,” Shannon says.

Haygain high-temperature hay steaming was developed in conjunction with the Royal Agricultural University in England in 2009. It has been quickly embraced by high performance eventing and show jumping competitors. On the dressage front, Debbie MacDonald was an early adopter, for her Olympic and World Cup partner Brentina.

Steffen and Shannon Peters join a growing number of top dressage professionals adding steamed hay to their horse’s routine, as both a solution to specific health challenges and for its overall benefits even for horses with no apparent issues.
Article provided by Haygain:

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