News & Features
February 2021 - Here’s the Thing About Riding
Written by by Leslie Potter, courtesy of US Equestrian
Tuesday, 02 February 2021 20:59
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Eight Takeaways from the 2021 USEF Robert Dover Horsemastership Clinic Week

by Leslie Potter, courtesy of US Equestrian

Twenty of America’s top young dressage athletes had the opportunity to work with former U.S. Dressage Technical Advisor and Chef d’Equipe Robert Dover and other prominent coaches as part of the 2021 USEF Robert Dover Horsemastership Clinic Week (RDHCW). This year’s program took place at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Fla., January 7-10.

With a lifetime of experience as a competitive dressage rider and a long history coaching elite athletes in the sport, Dover brings his expert eye and well-earned wisdom to the one-on-one sessions at the RDHCW. Here are eight key points from this year’s clinic.


1. Have A Vision Of Greatness.

“In every moment, from half-halt to half-halt, you’re seeing a movie in your mind, and the movie is you and Tiko being the most beautiful, grand, fearless, fierce, and invested combination. It doesn’t mean something won’t ever go wrong, but it means your vision is clear: your rhythm, your sense of cadence, your sense of your half-halt, your sense of greatness in every step.”

Dover offered this advice to Allison Nemeth (Flemington, N.J.) as she worked on an extended trot with Tiko, a 10-year-old Danish Warmblood mare owned by Karen Nemeth. Dover repeated this concept in nearly every individual session, driving home the importance of visualizing the best version of your horse in the movement at hand.

“If you’re not seeing it in your mind, how do you create it? If the only eyes you’re looking at everything in life is your eyeballs, how do you create the next thing?” Dover said to Sydney Lipar (The Woodlands, Texas) as she rode Herzkonig, aka Percy, a 17-year-old Hanoverian Gelding owned by Denise Lipar. “I teach in pictures; I try to make you see a movie. In your mind, when you’re riding in the walk, and I say you’re going to do an extended trot for five strides, you’re going to see only one vision, and that’s you and Percy walking with so much collection and energy that in the next half-halt, which comes from your thought, you see only one thing.”

Dover frequently invoked the top riders in the world, including Laura Graves, Charlotte Dujardin, and Isabel Werth, as riders who have only one vision with every horse they ride, and that vision is of perfection. They don’t leave room for “what ifs.”

2. Give The Lightest Aid Possible.

“If a fly touched your horse’s side and he didn’t react, he’d get bitten up. If you touch his side and you think, ‘It doesn’t matter if you don’t go forward or react,’ he’s always going to require that you do more than that to make him do more than what he’s doing. You can’t expect him to react in one moment with that amount of spur, if in another moment, he didn’t think that he was required to react.”

Dover brought up the innate sensitivity of horses in his opening lecture and referenced it throughout the sessions. Horses can feel a fly land on their side and react immediately with a twitch of the skin, he explained, indicating that they are capable of responding to the lightest touch.

“Every touch is training,” Dover said to Kayla Kadlubek (Fairfax Station, Va.) as she worked with Perfect Step, her 20-year-old Hanoverian gelding. “That’s why you see beautiful dressage riders and their feet are faced [toes pointed in]. You don’t see a lot of spur. You rarely see the spur touch. Even the thought of the touch is more than enough. The spur is a refinement. It’s a tool, for sure, if they don’t listen to the lightest possible aid. But the more you use it, the more problematic it is.”

3. You Need To Be In Control Of Pace, Tempo, Frame, And Length Of Stride.

“There are four things that you have to always be in control of from half-halt to half-halt,” Dover told Averi Allen (Pleasant Hill, Mo.), who rode Superman, Jonni Allen’s seven-year-old Hanoverian gelding.

“One is the rhythm of the horse, meaning the rhythm of his footfalls in each gait, how fast or how slow his feet come to the ground.

“The next thing is the tempo: how fast or how slow in each gait he’s going over every meter of ground.

“The third thing is his frame: You decide how high, how low, how long or how short his frame is from your vision.

“The fourth thing is his length of stride. Collection isn’t a subtraction from extension. Collection is an addition of engagement into the collection from his extension. It’s up to you to own those four things, and that can only happen when you clearly know what you want.”

4. Praise your horse.

“Don’t forget to tell him when he’s a good boy,” Dover told Kadlubek.

“Say to yourself, I don’t need to keep this all together. I just need to ride, keeping my legs beautiful, keeping my hands beautiful, riding the half-halt that makes them come up to that beautiful spot. And then the key is: ‘Good boy! Good boy! Keep doing it yourself! Keep being motivated so that I don’t have to work so hard!’”

5. Use Your Breath In Three Steps.

Dover helped Lexie Kment (Palmyra, Neb.) with Montagny von der Heide, Laureen Van Norman’s 16-year-old Trakehner gelding, in honing precision in the location of each movement and transition. He explained that the movement should begin when the rider’s body is aligned with the letter, and using breath to prepare and execute a movement can help.

“When the horse’s nose arrives at the letter is the beginning—the breath in. Close your legs, close your fist. Then the breath out. It’s three steps: breathe in the nose; bring your aids on and say, ‘this is where we’re going now’; and as he starts into his half-halt, you breathe out and he goes there.”

6. Collection And Extension Live Within Each Other.

“The true distance between the grandest collection and the greatest extension of any gait is the thought,” Dover told Lydia McLeod (Charleston, S.C.) as she rode her nine-year-old KWPN gelding Honneur B. “In every step of the most collected trot—the piaffe—the horse’s desire is still, ‘I could do an extended trot. I’m trotting on the spot but I could do an extended trot.’ That means he has each one of those in the other at all times. While he’s in the extended trot, he could piaffe at any stride because he’s through and on the aids. And when he’s in the collected piaffe, he’s forward-thinking. Those are what we call access points, where you truly know how to access collection and extension and you don’t lose one for the other.”

7. Have A Purpose For Each Part Of Your Warmup.

While working with Hannah Irons (Queenstown, Md.) on her warmup routine with her own Scola Bella, a 13-year-old Hanoverian mare, Dover illustrated the need for a mindful warmup, recalling an accomplished student he’d coached in the past.

“One of my students was an Olympic rider who’d had loads of training. She would get on every horse and go through the exact same training [routine]. I could tell you every single time what they were going to do; it was always exactly the same. There is a lot to be said for doing that, provided it all brings the horse to a perfect place to do the next thing. But she had one horse that got better and better that way and another horse that, by the time she did all that, was exhausted. By the time she went into the ring, instead of having the most brilliant animal, he was brilliant 20 minutes ago.”

For example, Dover says, if you get the leg yield that you want in three steps, you don’t necessarily need to continue all the way across the diagonal.

“Don’t stay [in the movement] so long that she says, ‘OK, I’ve done it, [my rider] hasn’t said ‘good’ and now I’m going to fail.’ Every step that you’re going around where you’re not creating something are just steps. You’re either making it better or you’re just going around for the sake of going around. So when you get great feelings, when she’s done what you want, you don’t need to keep doing that. One half-halt that brings her to a perfect state of balance and attention, and you say, ‘Thank you. Now we can go on to some other things.’”

8. Throughness Is A Solution To Spookiness.

Early in their session, Allison Nemeth and Tiko had some trouble where Tiko wanted to shy away from the video camera at the end of the arena. Dover explained that while spookiness is an innate part of horses because of their evolution as a flight animal, it doesn’t mean that spooking is inevitable.

“When a horse is out in the field, they look around, because they’re animals of flight. Their head and neck are in constant motion,” said Dover. “Except when they—stallions especially—start to show off, and then you’ll see them go on the bit with no bridle at all. They’ll arch their neck and start passaging around, floating all over the place. They’ll get that shape for a period of time because their brain gets invested in that moment of showing off. They’re concentrated in that moment and they’re not spooking or shying and jumping away from things. And when that moment, under saddle, becomes the way they’re trained such that their brain is always going, ‘I’m on the aids. Allison is talking to me. We’re having this conversation back and forth, totally balanced, I have no other thoughts other than what Mom wants and I’m waiting for her next cue.’ That’s when spookiness goes away.”

Watch the USEF RDHCW 2021 sessions on-demand on USEF Network thanks in part to a grant from The Dressage Foundation.

January 2021 - Suppenkasper Named Adequan®/USDF Grand Prix Horse of the Year
Written by courtesy of United States Dressage Federation™
Friday, 01 January 2021 19:52
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courtesy of United States Dressage Federation™

The United States Dressage Federation™ (USDF) would like to congratulate the twelve-year-old, 18.0 hand, Dutch Warmblood gelding, Suppenkasper, owned by Akiko Yamazaki’s Four Winds Farm LLC, and ridden by Steffen Peters of San Diego, California, for being named 2020 Adequan®/USDF Grand Prix Horse of the Year. Suppenkasper›s median score of 76.149 percent made him the top horse in the United States competing at this level and the recipient of USDF’s highest honor.   

Suppenkasper was recognized during the 2020 Adequan®/USDF Year-End and All-Breeds Awards presentation, as part of the 2020 Adequan®/USDF Virtual Convention. In recognition of this achievement, a commemorative personalized plaque, an embroidered cooler, and a gift certificate provided by Dressage Extensions will be awarded.  Also, Suppenkasper is the recipient of the Colonel Thackeray Award and will have his name engraved on a silver trophy to be on permanent display in the Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame, housed at the USDF National Education Center, located at the Kentucky Horse Park.

“USDF is thrilled to be able to recognize this extraordinary horse for his many accomplishments during this unique and trying 2020 competition season. We also congratulate Akiko Yamazaki, Four Winds Farm, Steffen Peters, and the entire Suppenkasper team,” stated USDF Executive Director Stephan Hienzsch.

For more information about the Adequan®/USDF Horse of the Year awards or to access a list of past and current recipients, 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 .


January 2021 - US Equestrian
Written by by US Equestrian Communications Department
Friday, 01 January 2021 19:40
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US Equestrian Announces Addition of 2020 Green Pony Hunter Section to 2021 USEF Pony Hunter National Championships

by US Equestrian Communications Department

US Equestrian has announced the addition of a 2020 Green Pony Hunter section to the competition schedule of the 2021 USEF Pony Hunter National Championships to be hosted in Lexington, Ky. at the Kentucky Horse Park from August 9-15, 2021. The Ad Hoc Selections Group of the USEF Board approved the addition on December 2, 2020.

The 2020 Green Pony Hunter section will be split into Small/Medium/Large sections and awards will be presented for each phase and section, including an Overall Grand 2020 Green Pony Hunter Champion and Reserve Champion.

In order to enter the 2020 Green Pony Hunter section, ponies must have been eligible for the Green Pony Hunter section at the time of the 2020 USEF Pony Finals (August 3, 2020) and did not receive a Green Pony reinstatement or waiver for the 2020 competition season. Ponies who qualified for the 2020 USEF Pony Finals and meet the eligibility requirements are qualified for the section in 2021, as are those who qualify for the 2021 USEF Pony Finals in the Regular Pony Hunter section. Ponies competing in the 2020 Green Pony Hunter section cannot cross enter into the Regular Pony Hunter section or the 2021 Green Pony Hunter section.

Eligible riders must be Juniors and may only compete on a maximum of six ponies in the hunter height sections. Riders cannot exceed three Regular ponies and three Green ponies with a maximum of one pony entered per height section.

For further questions or inquiries, please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


January 2021 - IEHJA Honors 2020 Medal Winners
Written by by Patti Schooley
Friday, 01 January 2021 19:26
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by Patti Schooley

The Challenges of showing and competing in 2020 are now behind us. Yeah! New health and safety measures that were incorporated into our show venues now seem normal. Of course, riders wear a mask except in the show ring. Of course, you hang out with barn mates by maintaining a six-foot distance and wash your hands frequently. Who said you cannot have clean hands at the barn? Of course, you groom and saddle up in your stall and avoid those group cross ties. Of course, lessons are now individual or in much smaller group settings, allowing your trainer to focus more on you. Oh no! I bet you are riding better than ever. Challenge, change, and adaptation are the new normal.


IEHJA, like other associations, made the painful decision to cancel its 2020 Year End Championship Show. However, the board of directors were determined to recognize those competitors that accumulated enough points to win division championships and reserve championships. Awards will be presented, just in a new format. Stay tuned for more information. The board next asked itself “what to do about the IEHJA Medal Awards”? Medal Finals were always a big part of the Year End Show and riders had competed all year to qualify. Adapt, Adapt, Adapt!

Fortunately, the North Inland County Horse Show was scheduled for October at Galway Downs. As an IEHJA sanctioned show many of our medal riders were already planning to go. Could the board “adapt” its medal finals into an existing horse show? Of course, it could! With the help of the North Inland County show management the IEHJA 2020 Medal Finals were added to the show premium. Great prizes were acquired along with medals and ribbons. Ready to go!


Lauren Cordova receives Reserve Champion Award.

Shannon Archer 2020 Flat Medal Finals winner.

The rider response was great, with larger than normal class sizes. The IEHJA medal classes were up first in the show schedule to qualify more riders for the finals. Jasmine Baez riding Zymon beat out a field of 5 riders to win the Flat Medal class. Other place winners included Jackie Mark on Winchester, Ruby Darnell and My Cousin Vinny, Haley Peterson on Qualypso and Samantha Gossby riding Around the World. The 2’3” medal class saw Shaunessy ridden by Eden Choi win the blue with Lauren Cordova on Beckett, Amelia Kent on Everything’s Coming Up Daisies and Samantha  Gossby and Around the World completing the placements. Jasmine Baez and Sydney topped the 2’6” medal class with Pearl Baldi on Attakiss, Katie Emery and Majestic Achievement and Emma Bryson a top Biscotti completing the order.

Competition heated up for the Medal Finals. The Flat Medal Final Class fielded 11 riders with Shannon Archer and Twice the Charm winning the top spot. Close behind came My Cousin Vinny ridden by Ruby Darnell, Jackie Mark on Winchester, Aria’s Destiney ridden by Campbell Lear, Jasmine Baez on Zymon and Makenna Hull on Huey Lewis. The winning combo of Shannon Archer and Twice the Charm picked up the blue in the 2’3” Medal Final with Beckett and Lauren Cordova in reserve. Amelia Kent riding Everything’s Coming Up Daisies, Juliet L’Ansin on To the Max, Samantha Gossby and Around the World, Jocelyn Reiche riding Constant Luck and Eden Choi and Shaunessy in winning order. Fierce competition in the 2’6” Medal Finals saw Sydney and Jasmine Baez taking the blue. Majestic Achievement ridden by Katie Emery came next followed by Biscotti and Emma Bryson, Diarados Boy and Brinley Werhli and Forrest Franklin riding his own Axl Rose.

Ruby Darnell on My Cousin Vinny.

Shannon Archer and Twice The Charm wins 2’3 medal.

Congratulations to all our IEHJA Medal Classes and Medal Finals winners. Your determination and hard work paid off! Hope to see all of you and the rest of the IEHJA competitors at our 2021 shows. Check out the show calendar posted on our website, See you at the barn or in the show ring!

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

February 2021 - World Equestrian Center
Written by courtesy Of World Equestrian Center • photos courtesy of Andrew Ryback Photography
Tuesday, 02 February 2021 20:45
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Ocala Winter Spectacular #1 Highlights

courtesy Of World Equestrian Center • photos courtesy of Andrew Ryback Photography

Ocala Winter Spectacular kicked off with a full slate of hunter and jumper competition along with eight exciting feature classes. Exhibitors and visitors enjoyed delicious breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks at our four on-site restaurants. Live music filled the Grand Plaza both Friday and Saturday evenings, adding to the excitement of the show. Feature classes ranged from 2’6” derbies to a 1.50m grand prix, offering fun classes with prize money for exhibitors of every level.

Dorrie Douglas and MTM Chelsea 98 topped the $20,000 Welcome Prix 1.45m.

Feature class action began in the WEC Grand Arena with 26 entries in the $20,000 Welcome Prix 1.45m. Four entries managed double clear rounds, but it was Dorrie Douglas and MTM Farm’s MTM Chelsea 98 (Cristallo x Lacanau) that sped to the win. Douglas and the 11-year-old Westphalian mare took their time in the first round, jumping clear in 83.000 seconds, one second under the time allowed. The pair picked up the pace on the short course, mirroring Lambre’s inside track and blazing through the timers. They stopped the clock at 42.084 seconds, taking the win.

William Coleman and Tropics took the blue in the $20,000 WEC Hunter Derby 3’6”-3’9”.

Melissa Donnelly and Grand Tour won the $15,000 WEC Derby 3’ Open.

Friday saw three hunter derbies including the $20,000 WEC Hunter Derby 3’6”-3’9”, the $15,000 WEC Derby 3’ Open and the $15,000 WEC Derby 3’ Non Pro in the beautiful 5,000 seat stadium. William Coleman and Jill Grant’s Tropics (Diarado) nabbed the win in the $20,000 WEC Hunter Derby 3’6”-3’9”, taking to the course early in the order, setting the bar high by laying down a flawless course for a score of 91. Coleman and the 10-year-old Selle Francais gelding were last to return in the handy round and held nothing back, taking inside turns to fences 1, 2, 4, and 6. With an option to turn right or left to a final line after fence 6, the pair chose to turn left, demonstrating a brilliant effort over the final fence for a score of 93, brining their overall score to 184 for the win.

Laura Cho and Westley earned first place in the $15,000 WEC Derby 3’ Non Pro.

Twenty-seven entries filled the stadium for the $15,000 WEC Derby 3’ Open. Competition was close, but Melissa Donnelly claimed the win in the class aboard Elizabeth Becker’s Grand Tour. The pair navigated a lovely first round for a score of 88, then returned in the handy round to show off their skills. Donnelly and Grand Tour chose inside turns to fences 4, 5, 7 and 9, and crafted a beautiful rollback to the trot fence option. The pair were rewarded with a score of 89 in the handy round, brining their overall total score to 177 for the blue ribbon.

Aaron Vale took first and second place in the $75,000 WEC Grand Prix 1.50m.

The $15,000 WEC Derby 3’ Non Pro saw 20 entries vying for the win. Several entries scored into the high 80s and low 90s, however none could beat Laura Cho and her own Westley (Clarimo x Unique VIII). Cho and her 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding were first in the order, setting a high standard with an impressive round and a score of 89. The duo returned near the end of the order for the handy round, displaying their handy abilities with inside tracks to fences 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9, and topped off their performance with an effortless, tidy rollback to the trot fence. Cho and Westley earned a second score of 89 for an overall total of 178 to top the class.

Christina Kelly and Kingdom jumped to the win in the $7,500 Futures Prix 1.40m.

WEC $75,000  Grand Prix 1.50m saw an international field of 30 entries battling for the lion’s share of the prize money, a World Equestrian Center — Ocala scrim and a stunning trophy from the National Snaffle Bit Association (NSBA). Aaron Vale owned the class, claiming 1st and 2nd place aboard Thinkslikeahorse’s Elusive (Rodrigoo x Alouette) and Sleepy P Ranch LLC’s Major (Carmargue x Pinot), respectively. Vale piloted both horses through clear first rounds before returning for the jump-off. Vale and Elusive were first in the order, Vale and Elusive shooting into a full gallop between each fence. The pair flew through the timers, leaving all rails up in a time of 40.570 seconds, which would prove unbeatable. Vale then returned aboard Major, again taking to the course at full speed. The pair crossed the timers at 42.520 seconds, moving into 2nd place by two-hundredths of a second.

Susannah Morrell and Sunset’s Sparkle eared top honors in the $2,500 WEC Pony Hunter Derby.

Saturday also saw 24 entries vying for the win in the $7,500 Futures Prix 1.40m. Ireland’s Christina Kelly and her own Kingdom (Lux Z) stole the win near the bottom of the order with an impossibly quick jump-off, besting 2nd place by more than three seconds. Kelly and the 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse Gelding navigated one of the quickest clear first rounds in 84.117 seconds, then continued straight to the jump-off. The pair chose the inside track and raced through the timers at 42.122 seconds to steal the win.

Bradley Federico and Zamundo took the win in the $2,500 Non Pro Hunter Derby 2’6”.

Bradley Federico and Hope Farm LLC’s Zamundo (Zambesi) took home the blue ribbon in the $2,500 Non Pro Hunter Derby 2’6” out of 23 entries. The duo laid down two beautiful rounds to top the class.


January 2021 - Del Mar Horsepark to Discontinue Shows, Boarding in 2021
Written by by Luke Harold
Friday, 01 January 2021 19:48
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by Luke Harold

Horse boarding and shows will be suspended at Del Mar Horsepark in 2021, Del Mar Fairgrounds officials announced.

The suspension of horse shows at the horse park allows the board of directors that oversees the state-owned fairgrounds, which owns the park, to evaluate “the necessary investment required to meet water quality requirements for equestrian activities,” according to a news release. The horse park is located next to the San Dieguito River, about two miles east of the fairgrounds.

Del Mar Horse Park. Photo: K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune

Fairgrounds staff will attempt to move horse shows to the fairgrounds, where there have been infrastructure upgrades “that can accommodate large-scale equestrian events.”

Those upgrades were part of a recently completed two-year, $15 million infrastructure project that added a holding pond, a constructed wetlands treatment area and other improvements to the racetrack infield. The fairgrounds has also built a stormwater treatment plant to comply with state and local regulations designed to protect nearby waters.

According to fairgrounds spokeswoman Jennifer Hellman, the horse park has a conditional waiver of waste discharge from animal operations from the Regional Water Quality Control Board. She added that the fair board “needs time to do its due diligence to consider the expenditure required for the upgrades necessary to continue equestrian operations at Horsepark.” The fairgrounds is navigating a precarious financial future due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused the cancellation of the large events that provide most of its revenue.

There are 38 horses boarded at the horse park by three trainers who have monthly stall rentals that expire at the end of 2020, Hellman said. They were given through March 2021 to vacate.

Ellie Hardesty, entering her fourth year as president of the California Dressage Society, said the Del Mar Horsepark “has always been a loyal facility” for the shows her organization has held. Plans for 2021, including lining up judges and sponsorships, were in the works before she learned last week of its closure.

“We would have liked to know that this was actually going to happen and we could have made different arrangements,” said Hardesty, adding that the shows are planned at least six months in advance.

Rancho Santa Fe resident Rochelle Putnam said she has participated in about 50 shows at the horse park over the last 10 years. She said its closure is “going to be a huge gap to fill.”

“I’d have to think that provided significant economic boosts to Del Mar and Solana Beach and everything in terms of hotel stays, restaurants, Mary’s Tack and Feed is right there (across the street from the horse park),” she added. “There are a lot of businesses that really benefited from hosting these big, successful horse shows.”


January 2021 - USHJA Brings New Competitive Opportunities
Written by Courtesy of USHJA
Friday, 01 January 2021 19:32
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USHJA Brings New Competitive Opportunities to Adult Amateurs, Children’s Hunters, Young Jumpers, Adult Equitation and Derby Competitors in 2021

Courtesy of USHJA

The U.S. Hunter Jumper Association is pleased to announce five new competitive opportunities for members for the 2021 competition year: the USHJA Hunter Team Challenge, USHJA Young Jumper Championships, USHJA 3’3” Adult Jumping Seat Medal and regional championships for the USHJA National Hunter Derby and International Hunter Derby programs.

The USHJA Hunter Team Challenge offers riders competing in the 2’-2’6” Children’s Pony Hunters, Low Child/Adult Hunters and 3’ Children’s/Adult Amateur Hunter divisions a unique team experience. There are no qualifying procedures, but riders must meet eligibility requirements listed in the program specifications. To participate, riders must pre-enter with the horse show on a first come, first served basis. Sixteen riders in each of the three sections will be accepted.

The Hunter Team Challenge will take place over two days, consisting of over fences and an under saddle, and will be held in three regions: East, Central and West. For more information and to see 2021 Hunter Team Challenge dates and locations, visit

The USHJA Young Jumper Championships will serve as the national championship for young jumpers in the U.S., allowing talented prospects to be showcased by owners, breeders and riders and shown at the national level. The competition will offer separate Championships for 4-, 5-, 6-, 7- and 8-year-olds. Four-year-olds will compete in a Style and Jumping Championship, which includes a First Qualifier and Final set at .90m. Five- through 8-year-olds compete over a three-round format that features First and Second Qualifiers and a Final set from 1.15-1.40m based on each age section, as well as a Consolation Classic for horses not competing in the Final. In addition to prize money, incentives and bonus prize money will be offered for United States breeders and American-bred horses.

Horses must be enrolled to be eligible and must be registered with USHJA and recorded with USEF to participate. The 2021 Championships will be held September 8-12 at the MMG Fall Show in Traverse City, Michigan. For more information and to enroll, visit

Making its debut as the first USHJA adult equitation program, the USHJA 3’3” Adult Jumping Seat Medal class will begin August 2, 2021, with inaugural Finals being held in 2022. Modeled after the successful EMO Insurance/USHJA 3’3” Jumping Seat Medal for junior riders, the Adult section is open to Adult Amateur riders 18 and over who have not competed in a USEF Talent Search or jumped at 1.30m or higher in the same competition year. Riders must be current Amateur members of USEF and USHJA. Riders qualify for the USHJA 3’3” Adult Jumping Seat Medal Finals by earning 10 or more points during the qualifying period. Finals will be hosted on each coast, and qualified riders may choose either location. For more information and program specifications, visit

Regional Championships for the USHJA National Hunter Derby and USHJA International Hunter Derby competitors will also be available starting in 2021. Six regional championships will be offered for each: North, North Central, Northwest, South, South Central and Southwest. The National Hunter Derby Regional Championships will follow the same two-round format as the regular National Hunter Derby Class, however the championships will be offered in three sections: Open, Amateurs and Juniors. For more information about National Hunter Derby Regional Championships including dates and locations, visit

Six Platinum Performance/USHJA International Hunter Derby Regional Championships will also be held in addition to the national Platinum Performance/USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship held in Kentucky. As part of a new requirement for the International Hunter Derby program in 2021, horses must be enrolled to be eligible to participate in International Hunter Derby classes, regional championships and the national championship. For more information about International Hunter Derby Regional Championships including dates and locations, visit


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.

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