News & Features
April 2020 - Horse People: Ben Ebeling
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Tuesday, 31 March 2020 23:53
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In a happy place even while sheltered amid scary world events.

by Kim F. Miller

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

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


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

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

Photo: US Equestrian

Happy Medium

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Holly Smith / PS Dressage

Fortuitous Coffee Shop Stop

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead

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

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

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

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

March 2020 - The Gallop: Rare Breed Resurgence
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Monday, 02 March 2020 21:10
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El Campeon Farms steps up as a steward of the Santa Cruz Island Horses.

by Kim F. Miller

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


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


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


Donatello and his rider, Willow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter El Campeon

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

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

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

Working Equitation: A Perfect Fit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 2020 - $10,000 Woodside-area Equestrian Merit Scholarship Award
Written by by Nan Meek
Monday, 02 March 2020 19:56
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Now accepting applications until April 10.

by Nan Meek

The Mounted Patrol Foundation and the Woodside-area Horse Owners Association (WHOA!) are pleased to announce a new scholarship, the $10,000 Woodside-area Equestrian Merit Scholarship Award, jointly sponsored by the two organizations for a deserving local high school senior with a demonstrated involvement in equestrian activities as well as academic achievement and community service.


Both the Mounted Patrol Foundation and WHOA! share a deep interest in the next generation of equestrians, as well as a commitment to helping them achieve worthwhile goals, through each organizations’ ongoing activities and now through their joint sponsorship of the new $10,000 Woodside-area Equestrian Merit Scholarship Award.


Application deadline is April 10, 2020, at 3:00 pm, and incomplete applications will not be considered. Eligible applicants are seniors who attend high schools in San Mateo, Santa Clara, and San Francisco Counties, and who have been accepted to and plan to attend a college, university or other continuing education program this fall. The $10,000 Woodside-area Equestrian Merit Scholarship Award will be paid directly to the recipient’s college, university or continuing education program in support of the recipient’s tuition, fees, room and/or board.

Selection criteria include demonstrated equestrian involvement, academic achievement, and community service. Financial need will be taken into consideration in the selection of the scholarship recipient. Finalists will be required to provide transcripts showing their GPA. The scholarship will be awarded by May 29, 2020.

Applications and important information are available online at and .

The Mounted Patrol Foundation believes that horses and equestrian activities have helped create a wonderful, healthy community in Woodside, California, and the surrounding area.

Historically, horses were essential to life in the United States for transportation, work and pleasure. The Mounted Patrol Foundation seeks to honor this legacy by continuing to support, maintain, develop and encourage equestrian facilities, activities and heritage in the town of Woodside, the county of San Mateo and the state of California. Their vision also includes the preservation of horse habitats and trail systems to provide both opportunities and environments conducive to the enjoyment of horses for horse owners and the public at large. The Mounted Patrol of San Mateo County Foundation is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3), charitable organization that works in collaboration with local government, other public agencies and other non-profits to support and promote equestrian activities and facilities in the area. Learn more at

The Woodside-area Horse Owners Association (WHOA!) works independently and in collaboration with other organizations and local government to ensure that the presence of the horse in Woodside and the surrounding San Mateo County communities is recognized, protected, and promoted. Its mission is to preserve the fundamental role of horses in maintaining the rural character of the Town of Woodside and neighboring foothill communities, to enhance opportunities for equestrian activities, and to promote the enjoyment of horses in all their various roles. WHOA! envisions a community where horses and horse activities for equestrians and the general public are appreciated, and where the rural landscape, trail networks, and horse properties are preserved. Operating under the fiscal umbrella of the Woodside Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit org., WHOA! has gifted more than $200,000 to local equestrian projects and programs thanks to generous sponsors, volunteers, and the proceeds of its annual Woodside Day of the Horse celebration.

Find out more at

February 2020 - Editor's Notes
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Saturday, 01 February 2020 22:45
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What a treat to have a stellar sire, Olympic Imothep, on our cover and ridden by California girl Nicki Shahanian-Simpson. It’s awesome to have an American breeding program bring such wonderful European bloodlines to the States. Imothep is the foundation sire for Hyperion Stud, LLC. Hope you enjoy the feature article on this great breeding program, along with several articles on everything from specific stallions to an overview of modern breeding practices.


This month’s extra dive into the hunter/jumper world is highlighted by a preview of the FEI World Cup™ Finals for jumping and dressage, coming to Las Vegas before we know it this April. Thanks to Darby Furth Bonomi for a terrific glimpse of how tapping into the joy of our sport is the best route to success, and to Whitethorne Ranch’s Georgy Maskrey-Segesman for sharing horse shopping tips. We have the scoop on Ashlee and Steve Bond’s clinic at Hansen Dam Horse Park and the well-earned honors junior rider Julia Stone and professional Nick Haness received during the USEF Annual Meeting’s Pegasus Awards dinner.


photo courtesy of Tamie Smith

Our team managed to cover a lot of ground in January. You’ll find an extensive report on the California Dressage Society’s annual meeting from Nan Meek; plus photo highlights from the CPHA Awards Banquet, EquestFest and the Galway Downs Fundraising Clinic. Phew…

Now to work on our March issue, which has a special focus on horse health and eventing. Speaking of the latter, fun to see California-based stars Tamie Smith and Frankie Thieriot-Stutes representing their sport to new audiences as guests at Land Rover’s new 4xFar Festival in Coachella. As Sally Spickard reported for Eventing Nation, Tamie and Frankie – with Chatwin and Mai Stein – represented US Equestrian, making new fans for the sport riding around the grounds at the Empire Grand Oasis and greeting fans who visited in the FEI-Stabling set-up there.

Happy riding and happy reading!

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it




Cami is a 15 yr old quarter horse mare up for adoption at FalconRidge Equine Rescue in Valley Center, California.

She stands 14.3 hands high and is broke to ride, but needs someone who will take the time to love her and bond with her.

She is not aloof, just sour on life a little. She tacks up fine and stands still for mounting/un-mounting great, but making her go is not the easiest of things if you are a novice. She just needs a tune up with an assertive rider. On the ground shes a sweetheart.

She loves to be groomed and has a sweet personality. Gorgeous girl for the right person. Adoption fee is $500.

Please see Cami on our website at under Horses For Adoption and follow the instructions.

January 2020 - The Gallop: SafeSport
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Wednesday, 01 January 2020 00:55
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Presentation at USHJA Annual Meeting addresses questions about a process widely supported in theory but hotly debated in its execution.

by Kim F. Miller

A standing-room-only presentation on SafeSport during the United States Hunter Jumper Association’s annual meeting has returned the subject to top talking point in many circles. The presentation was given by the U.S. Center for SafeSport’s Michael Henry, chief officer for response and resolution.

USHJA president Mary Babick set the stage for Henry’s presentation in a letter to members before the meeting: “As an organization, the USHJA is committed to safety and fairness for our members. Our sport produces many positives for our participants. Horses bring horsemanship, sportsmanship, empathy and teamwork into our lives. But let’s face it, whether it is the treatment of horses or people, we also have dark corners of the sport. As a sport and a community, we can and should be better.


“As equestrians it is our duty to work to make our sport strong and healthy. It is time to step up and no longer tolerate inappropriate behavior and to emerge as a safer and altogether more positive environment for our people and our horses. We should have zero tolerance for cruelty and abuse whether of horses or humans. Victim shaming and blaming is never acceptable.


“In the wake of the U.S. Center for SafeSport ban of George Morris, on Monday, November 25 the USHJA Board of Directors voted to re-name the Hunterdon Cup and remove the George H. Morris trophy from the International Hunter Derby. 

“The USHJA supports the mission of SafeSport. Our support does not make us deaf to the questions raised by many members concerning some of the processes utilized by the U.S. Center for SafeSport.”

A Razor-Thin Balance

The two-hour-plus presentation during the Annual Meeting in Denver included detailed explanations of what happens when a claim is filed, how an investigation proceeds, why and when restrictions are placed on “respondents” and background on SafeSport’s formation.

Dispelling the notion that any step in the process involved “willy nilly” decisions was a key message, as was explaining that SafeSport walks a razor’s edge between protecting the rights, reputations and livelihoods of claimants and respondents and mitigating the risk of ongoing harm to others.

The entire presentation can be viewed at This reporter recommends the talk to everyone in our sport. As Henry explained, everyone who “meaningfully participates” in a sport that’s part of the “Olympic movement” is subject to SafeSport regulations, per the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017.

That includes trainers, exhibitors, volunteers, etc. SafeSport’s mission is two-fold: to prevent abuse and misconduct through education and training; and to provide accountability through its investigation and sanctioning process. The Center is an independent non-profit with jurisdiction over all sports within the U.S. Olympic and Para Olympic movement.

The presentation was dense with information that exceeds available space. A few highlights:

Reporting: “We can only investigate when we get a report,” said Henry. “We don’t cull the internet looking for misconduct.” Reports come primarily through website submissions at These range from a stated allegation – sometimes anonymous – to allegations accompanied by uploadable documents that support the claim: emails and audio files, for example. “It’s a way for people to raise an alarm that something needs to be looked at. Many times, these are third party reports.”

Investigations: Initial intake and preliminary inquiry determining the veracity of claim begin the process. SafeSport’s investigative team consists of people with backgrounds in law, law enforcement, social work, child protective services and other relevant fields. With or without the claimant’s input beyond the initial claim,  SafeSport investigators attempt to corroborate their statements in various ways. Claimants often suggest others who can speak on the subject. Nobody is forced to cooperate with the inquiry, including the claimant.

“We don’t take every case and move it through to formal investigation and adjudication,” Henry explained. If there is not sufficient evidence to initiate a formal investigation, the case is filed as “administratively closed.” Occasionally, information received later triggers the re-opening of such cases.

In most cases, the alleged perpetrator is not notified of claims until there is sufficient evidence to initiate a formal investigation. Exceptions do arise if an “articulatable risk” is determined. In such cases, temporary measures can be implemented, but those are rare.

“Most people don’t know what’s going on with the thousands of cases we are working on,” he said. “The process is designed to be confidential. We don’t want the kind of world where, in order to have these circumstances addressed, you have to be suddenly out in the open. That said, we can’t go forward until the people alleged of violations are informed of the investigation and given a chance to respond. You’ll receive notice when we are to a point that you need to know what you’ve been accused of.”

Informing the respondents before this point would jeopardize the credibility of their answers, Henry said. The process prevents their response being influenced “by knowing the narrative in advance.”

Henry stressed that the SafeSport team is acutely aware the impact of allegations on the recipient’s life, family, career, reputations, etc., and that temporary restrictions are only made when it is determined others might be at risk. “That was precisely the issue with Larry Nassar,” Henry said, referring to the former U.S. Gymnastics team doctor who was convicted as a serial child molester. “Are you exposing others to risk by not telling anyone?”

“Most people do not want to come to terms with this stuff happening more often than most people think,” Henry continued. “Every week, we get some allegation of child sexual abuse, sometimes multiple allegations.”

Quantity & Outcome of Cases: SafeSport receives about 230 reports a month. Since its creation in 2017, it has dealt with approximately 4,600 reports that manifested in 4,000 cases. Of those, 2,800 have been investigated and resolved. Eight hundred of those were determined to involve violations of the SafeSport code and led to sanctions. Sanctions ranged from formal warnings to permanent ineligibility to participate in their sport or another sport within the Olympic movement. This latter, most severe category is often defined on the SafeSport website as “sexual conduct with minors.” That indicates, Henry said, egregious forms of abuse that are not detailed in order to protect victims’ privacy. “Respondents” are told the names of their accusers during the formal investigation, but victims’ names are not made public by SafeSport at any time. Claimants sometimes make allegations known to the public of their own accord.

All SafeSport decisions are open to arbitration from an “independent, neutral” arbitrator, and SafeSport can help with costs for those who can’t afford the process. Of the 800 decisions, “less than 1 percent” have been overturned by arbitration, Henry stated. The Center also has an ombudsman available to help all parties understand and navigate the investigation process.

Reports are currently investigated by a fulltime staff of 20, each of whom handles approximately 20 cases. An increase to a 40-person staff is expected by the end of this year.

False Allegations: During a Q&A session, Henry acknowledged widespread fears of false allegations. He confirmed that, if the testimony of a claimant or witness could be proven false,  SafeSport treats those as a sanctionable offense, triggering an independent case.  He acknowledged the reality that any claim that becomes public has the effect of a guilty verdict, even if the respondent is deemed innocent. Henry reiterated that this risk is carefully weighed against the risk of further harm and of not holding the guilty accountable for their actions.

Old Cases: An attendee asked about cases involving older people for abuses that occurred long ago, and those in which there was no evidence of the person being a current risk. Henry acknowledged that those were more difficult cases to investigate. The reality that victims of any time are typically not thinking of how to explain the events as they occur is worse in older cases.

“In allegations from years prior, we look at are there still actual risks, or are there enough mitigating factors?” As for evidence, he noted, “Even with allegations that are decades old, we still often have some physical or documentary evidence.” Microfiche documents showing both parties being in the same place many years ago are one example of possible corroborating evidence.

The bottom line is, “We always hold ourselves to the evidence,” he stated. When cases are mostly based on testimonies, “we have to weigh it very carefully.” That process is made harder when people chose not to participate in the investigation process.

Learn More
U.S. Center for SafeSport:
Athletes for Equity In Sport:
United Athletes Alliance:

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 .

January 2020 - Happy National Day Of The Horse in Huntington Beach
Written by photos by Kim F. Miller
Wednesday, 01 January 2020 00:03
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photos by Kim F. Miller

Various programs based at the Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center welcomed community members to enjoy National Day Of The Horse on Saturday, Dec. 14. Staged at the multi-faceted public boarding and training facility in Huntington Beach, the day included jumping and therapeutic riding demos, vaulting, parades of breeds and opportunities to meet, pose and interact with horses. A concurrent holiday boutique raised funds for the Free Rein Horses Helping Humans program. Its mission is “to heal humans and rescued horses by creating a bond that empowers and nurtures both.” Visit for more information.



Free Rein Foundation’s Justine Makoff, left, and Tracy Burroughs.

Michele & Frisco make friends.

Patient Reindeer.

Making friends.

Marcia Salans & Lance.

Cowboy on the run.

Santa & friend.

Free Rein’s Kissing Booth offered hugs and kisses from favorite program steeds.

Parade of Breeds.

Windsong Farm trainer Tracy Burroughs and Grand Prix rider Michelle Kerivan during their jumping demo.

Therapeutic Riding Center of HB star

January 2020 - Winning Ways
Written by photos: USEA/Leslie Mintz
Tuesday, 31 December 2019 21:49
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West Coasters are stars at USEA Awards Banquet in Boston.

photos: USEA/Leslie Mintz

Every year the eventing community comes together to celebrate the hard work and accomplishments of its members at the United States Eventing Association Annual Meeting & Convention Year End Awards Ceremony. The gathering was held in Boston in mid-December.


Led by Master of Ceremonies Jim Wofford, the awards ceremony is one of the most anticipated events of the Convention and gives eventers the opportunity to celebrate their successes with their family and friends. The West Coast was well-represented in various awards categories, plus several received generous grants to put toward their competitive goals.

Dr. Jennifer Miller

Whitney Tucker-Billeter, right.

The evening’s presentation began with the USEA Classic Series drawing sponsored by DG Stackhouse and Ellis Saddles. USEA President Max Corcoran and Lesley Ellis presented the prize to the winner of the drawing, Dr. Jennifer Miller (Cave Creek, Arizona). Miller was awarded a custom fitted Stackhouse and Ellis saddle.

As the title sponsor of the USEA Classic Series, Hylofit generously provided Hylofit heart rate monitor systems to the lowest-scoring winners from each of the USEA Classic Series events. Whitney Tucker-Billeter of Temecula and Anna Hallberg of San Diego and Eileen Morgenthaler of Portola Valley were West Coast recipients.


Tamie Smith & Mia Farley

Meg Pellegrini

Tamra Smith, a RevitaVet sponsored rider, presented the Linda Moore Trophy to the 2019 RevitaVet USEA Young Rider of the Year Mia Farley (San Juan Capistrano). Farley received a check for $1,000 and a RevitaVet system.

The 2019 SmartPak USEA Stallion of the Year, presented with The Windfall Trophy, $1,000, and an embroidered show cooler provided by SmartPak, was Cassio’s Picasso (E.H. Hirtentanz x Cassio Pia), a 7-year-old Trakehner stallion owned by The Picasso Syndicate and ridden by James Alliston.

Broussard family

The Theodore O’Connor Trophy, $1,000, and an embroidered show cooler was awarded to the 2019 SmartPak USEA Pony of the Year, Ganymede (Ballywhim An Luan x Court Hawk), a 16-year-old Connemara mare owned and ridden by Meg Pellegrini.

Carol Kozlowski presented the USEA President’s Lifetime Achievement Award to The Broussard Family (Kalispell, Montana).

Former USEA President Diane Pitts presented the USEA Foundation Grants. The $10,000 Essex Grant was awarded to Mia Farley.

Sara Mittleider

The Wilton Fair Grant is donated by David and Cheryl Lenaburg with the goal of supporting U.S. developing riders. The Fund allows up to $100,000 in grants to be given each year for a variety of educational opportunities for riders 29 and under who have not yet ridden for a senior team. Two Wilton Fair Grants were presented this year. Two grants were presented and Californian Charlotte Babbitt of South Lake Tahoe was one of the recipients.

The Mike Huber Award was presented by Diane Pitts to Derek and Bea di Grazia.

Andrea Baxter

Sarah and Rebecca Broussard and Lou Leslie presented Sara Mittleider (Kuna, Idaho) with the $10,000 Rebecca Broussard National Developing Rider Grant and Andrea Baxter (Paso Robles, California) with the $50,000 Rebecca Broussard International Developing Rider Grant.

Article excerpted from USEA press release.

January 2020 - Earl Warren Showgrounds
Written by by Joshua Molina - reprinted compliments of
Tuesday, 31 December 2019 20:12
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Renovations ahead for vintage Santa Barbara venue.

by Joshua Molina - reprinted compliments of

The Earl Warren Showgrounds board of directors on Thursday, Dec. 12, voted 8-0 to approve an equestrian facilities renovation plan that could bring world-class shows, competitions and events to Santa Barbara.

“It will not only improve the equestrian facilities, but it is going to improve the showgrounds as a whole,” said Ben Sprague, CEO of the Earl Warren Showgrounds.


Geophysicist and horse rider Karen Christensen led a group representing several hundred community members interested in bringing the equestrian facilities into the modern era. Christensen is also working with the Santa Barbara Equine Assistance & Evac Team, a nonprofit organization that assists with large animal rescues during emergencies and disasters. 


The group plans to raise between $600,000 and $750,000 to fund a variety of changes for the first phase. Sprague said the showgrounds has four arenas, but they are in a state of disrepair. The plan, he said, is to combine two arenas into a larger facility, improving the footings, repair three of the horse barns, remove three other barns and create a lunging area for events. A new sound system also would be installed.

“It would begin the process of replacing the facility,” said Mike Medel, board president for the showgrounds. “It’s fixing up the basics so we can draw more of the horse shows. It also doesn’t jeopardize our vision of being a multiuse center.”

The showgrounds have been struggling financially for several years, but the facility has been turning around financially since the hiring of Sprague, who took over early last year. Sprague told Noozhawk that the projected end-of-year budget is stronger than initially anticipated by 10 percent. Sprague recently secured $300,000 from the state of California in debt relief. In April, the facility had to take out a line of credit to cover payroll and operating costs.

He said there’s been a “false narrative” in the community about the showgrounds.

“We have made a lot of progress in a year,” Sprague said. “A lot of positive stuff has happened this year.”

Sprague said the facility might still need to take out a loan in the new year.

“We are not out of the woods, but we made a lot of progress in the last year,” Sprague said.

Christensen said she is thrilled with what lies ahead. Madison Square Garden in New York; Devon, PA, and the Earl Warren Showgrounds used to be the nation’s top three horse facility destinations. She said she is optimistic that those days will return, adding that everybody from various horse disciplines, such as english, rodeo, western and driving, are part of this “collaborative effort.”

“This is a fantastic turning point,” Christensen told Noozhawk. “Earl Warren has lost its glamour, but we think we will have a horse show circuit and it will bring a lot of income to Santa Barbara. We are trying to rebuild it so that it is more multi-use, so the arenas that we are building can be used for movie nights, car shows, 4-H and car shows.”

The work is expected to be completed by April 15, Christensen said.

“Earl Warren is run by a group of volunteers,” she said. “It is owned by the state, and it has no money. Asking them to go fix it was never going to be the answer. The real idea was, as a horse community, understand what their needs are, how to work with them and develop the funding they needed.”

December 2019 - The Gallop: Prison Program Prepares Grooms
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Sunday, 01 December 2019 10:01
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Determined horsewoman fulfills dream to have horses help people in yet another way.

by Kim F. Miller

Transcendent moments grace Heidi Richards’ life with horses, but none quite compare to the sight of Pleasant Valley State Prison inmates interacting with horses as her students in a new program that prepares them for careers caring for horses after their release. A version of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chances Vocational Training Program, the Pleasant Valley endeavor had its grand opening in the San Joaquin Valley’s Coalinga in October.  It’s a joint venture between TRF, West Hills College, Harris Ranch and the prison, but it’s Heidi who had the vision and saw it through five years to fruition.


“There are days when I drive to work and I can’t believe it actually happened,” she acknowledges.

The Pleasant Valley Equine Rehab Program is the first California manifestation of TRF’s Second Chances program. It provides vocational training for incarcerated men. During a rigorous 18-week training program, inmates learn anatomy, injury treatment, nutrition and other aspects of care. After their release from prison, graduates of the TRF Second Chances Program in other states have gone on to careers as farriers, veterinary assistants and caretakers.

In Coalinga, the curriculum is sanctioned by West Hill College, which offers Equine Science classes and degrees. It includes natural horsemanship-based desensitization methods, learning to tack up a horse for various disciplines and basic farrier work to safely trim a hoof after a lost shoe or other minor incident.     

In keeping with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s mission, the program also helps horses. At Pleasant Valley, two 12-year-old horses now have careers as “instructors” helping the inmates learn to care for them. Two young horses belong to Harris Ranch and will rehabilitate from injuries with the students’ help, then go on to other careers. A third young horse will join the program soon, meeting the total of five horses for which the program is designed and funded by a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Innovative Programming Grant. A hoped-for later phase is hiring a trainer to take the young horses after they’re rehabbed to provide the training foundation needed to increase their second-career options.

The courses occur in the fall and spring semesters, with 15 students each for a total of 30 expected to be certified each academic year. Candidates must apply and are carefully screened. They all reside in the prison’s Level 1 minimum security facility and are interviewed by Heidi, the West Hills College Farm director and a psychologist. “We are very careful to pick people who have the kind of personality needed to work with horses,” Heidi explains. In its inaugural run, 67 people applied for the 15 available spots. Most are very close to earning parole. The few with more time to serve will continue working with the horses as assistant instructors.
“Wow!” Moments

Midway through its first semester, the equestrian program has already created many “Wow!” moments, Heidi says. While working with a horse in the facility’s round pen, one student had a moment of true connection with the horse, including the horse starting to follow him around the pen. “He told me it was the best feeling he’d had in eight years,” Heidi relays. Another had already lined up a stable job, with help from his wife. After the Oct. 16 ceremony christening the program, several participants expressed deep appreciation.

It’s already obvious to Heidi that horses positively affect people inside the prison’s walls as much as they do the people outside them. “The TRF Second Chances began as a vocational program,” corroborates Second Chance’s website. “It wasn’t long before other benefits of the program were realized; inmates not only learned a viable skill but also gained confidence and a sense of empathy. Studies have shown a reduction in recidivism rates at facilities that host the program.”

Participants’ enthusiasm is conveyed in daily actions, starting well before there were any horses on the property. The horses live in 24’ by 24’ stalls, with 6’ high walls and shade covers. Along with the round pen, there are wash racks and an arena, all built by the inmates in the program.

A Horse Helper

Supporters include Harris Farms’ John Harris, right

Heidi with future horse care professionals.

Heidi Richards

Despite Heidi’s occasional disbelief that the multi-faceted project came together, the accomplishment is the latest – and biggest – in a life dedicated to helping horses. “I’ve been rescuing horses since – oh gosh – since I can remember,” Heidi laughs. “I started rescuing them from auctions and from people who weren’t able to take care of them. I made sure they had good homes and I always tried to find people, like 4-H or Future Farmers of America, who maybe couldn’t purchase a horse but could take care of one.” Some of these included wild Mustangs she started while in high school.

After earning an Associate’s degree in Equine Science from West Hills College, Heidi went to work for Harris Ranch. The renowned racehorse, breeding and training facility has long advocated for post-racing careers. She worked there for 10 years, primarily on foal watch and delivering babies.

Heidi joined the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation 15 years ag, while continuing to work with and enjoy horses in her off-time.

About 10 years ago, she began thinking about merging horses and prisoners. Her own experience working with BLM Mustangs inspired her to investigate the Wild Horse Inmate Program, in which inmates gentle and start wild horses. “I hit a roadblock with that because of the requirement for permanent fencing,” she says of a program introduced to much of the public via this year’s movie, The Mustang.

Five years ago this month, Heidi reconnected with former Harris Farms manager Dave McLaughlin. She also found the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, which agreed to back Heidi’s idea. The next milestone was discovering the CDCR Innovative Programming Grant. She turned to West Hills College for help with the application, a process that entailed, among many steps, documenting the success of a similar program elsewhere and demonstrating that it did not yet exist in the intended location.

Working with two state entities, the Prison and the College, was a new challenge, she notes, as were the safety issues of pairing horses with people not accustomed to working with them.

Harris Farms’ support was relatively easy to secure, given the family-owned company’s commitment to doing good while doing well in the horse world and beyond. It was the same with the like-minded Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.

The CDCR grant funds the program for three years. After that, Heidi is optimistic that that West Hills College, Harris Ranch and the TRF will continue their various forms of support and that the program’s success will assure its continuance at the prison. Occasional fundraisers will help with needed equipment additions and there are plans to attain long term self-sustainability.

“Sometimes it feels like a big dream because I wanted it for so long,” Heidi concludes. “It’s the best feeling ever when I walk out there and see how the inmates are responding to the horses.”

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 .

December 2019 - Carol Dean Porter Tributes
Written by CRM
Sunday, 01 December 2019 09:36
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Late horsewoman’s legacy lives on through friends.

As Carol Dean Porter’s many friends prepare to celebrate her life on Saturday, Dec 7 at the Hansen Dam Horse Park, we asked some to share stories of how she touched them as a person and a horsewoman. Carol passed away on Oct. 21 and is missed by many throughout the equestrian world but her legacy will clearly live on through the many she influenced.

Celebration of Carol’s Life: Saturday, Dec. 7, 11 a.m. at the Hansen Dam Horse Park in Lakeview Terrace. Friends of Carol’s are invited to celebrate her remarkable life and contributions to the sport. Please RSVP to Marnye Langer at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Marnye Langer

I loved to share my horse and riding related ideas and questions with Carol. I would explain what I was thinking or feeling, Carol would listen thoughtfully, and then she would share some observation or insight that made the lightbulb go off in my head. When I implemented her suggestion, inevitably I got improvement. She was an astute, empathetic observer of the horse and always wanted to see horses happy and successful in their jobs.

When I was frustrated, she would give me perspective. When I was lacking confidence, she would give me courage. When I was delighted in an accomplishment, she would cheer and reinforce the things that led to the success. I could count on Carol being honest and always in a constructive manner. I knew Carol always put the horse first and so I listened carefully when she gave advice.

Carol was also a fan of horsemanship and helping people maximize their enjoyment with horses. When I needed help with the Los Angeles Hunter Jumper Association Horsemastership Scholarship, a three-phase program that emphasizes horsemanship, Carol was one of the first to raise her hand to help. She contributed to judging the Riding Phase, and she also actively helped with the Hands-on Phase. She loved talking to the participants and coaching them through tasks they were unsure of. She made sure they finished the Hands-on Phase with more knowledge and confidence to encourage them to maintain a life-long love and respect for the horse.

I miss my friend, but I know her spirit is carried forward by many of us. When I work through something with one of my horses or have a particularly good jumping round, instead of texting Carol I send a little thought out to the universe. Wherever or however she is, I am sure she appreciates my intent and appreciation.

And I am honored that the entire LAHJA Board of Directors renamed our scholarship program to: The Carol Dean Porter LAHJA Horsemastership Scholarship

Diane Grod

I could never adequately describe the emotional toll the loss of Carol Porter has had on me. She was a friend, fellow competitor and judge. Carol was more like a sister to me and she was the largest contributor to me in my appraisal business. So, I guess you could call her a partner as well.

Not long after I became a Certified Equine Appraiser in 1997, Carol insisted that everyone thinking of donating a horse to National Park Trust hire me before she would take them for her charity. I literally appraised over 300 horses for her through the years. We collaborated together on a weekly basis and sometimes just talked about “stuff.” I had the misfortune of breaking the news of Rob Gage’s death to her. I will never forget that moment in time.

Carol passed the torch, so to speak, to Jonelle Ramsay of Ramsay Equine Select to keep donations going to the charity she loved so much, National Park Trust, and Jonelle will continue to do that in Carol’s memory and as a legacy to her past support.

I think about her every day as she was truly one of the greatest people I know. I am sure she is looking over (her husband) Dan’s shoulder constantly. She passed away on their 30th anniversary.

Rest in peace, dear friend. I wish we could have talked more when I went to see her in the hospital. She was in so much pain but now she is finally pain free and with God.

Denise Finch

How do you put into 400 words or less what your hero meant to you? It’s also hard to find any words at all when your heart is still so sad. The lessons I learned from my years with Carol as my mentor go far beyond horses. Yes, I learned a lot about horses from her, an immeasurable amount, in fact. But as I find myself missing her every day since her passing, it is her advice and voice of reason I miss the most. Sometimes this was telling me it will all be OK and sometimes it was putting her boot up my butt with a necessary reality check. Because of her guidance and positive influence, I am a better person, wife, mother and, of course, trainer.

Carol was someone I could always count on in life, which is something I find rare these days. If I had questions, she always answered regardless of where she was, what she was doing or how she felt. I will probably miss that most of all and I’m thankful she’ll always be a voice in my head.

Carol was a true horseman, which besides honesty and accountability, is also becoming increasingly rare these days. She believed that kids should be taught all aspects of our sport and the horse, not just how to find the distance to 10 jumps accurately. She encouraged everyone to continue teaching the next generation what it means to be a horseman, not just a rider. I am thankful that she instilled these values in me and, in turn, I will pass them along to everyone I have the honor of teaching.

She also gave back to the masses with Judge My Ride, where she shared her tips, knowledge and guidance with those that couldn’t have access to her on an everyday basis. It is hard to know how many people and horses she touched and helped with Judge My Ride alone: it has to be countless.

Carol was one of the greatest horsemen and people you could ever hope to know. Her legacy will carry on in her many students and people that loved her. Even though she’s gone, she’ll always be right here.

April 2020 - Farewell to a Champion
Written by by Esther Hahn
Tuesday, 31 March 2020 23:34
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Remembering Mark Watring’s gold medal partner, Sapphire.

by Esther Hahn

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

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

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

At First Sight


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

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

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

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

All Things Gold

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Legacy In Progress

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 2020 - High Standards, Low Cost
Written by CRM
Monday, 02 March 2020 20:48
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New development hunter/jumper show encourages affordable advancement in the sport.

Already known for its inventive management style, Nilforushan Equisport Events (NEE) is living up to its reputation with the addition of a new, unrated show weekend to its popular spring series. Taking place April 9-11, the Nilforushan Equisport Events Developmental Series will combine the feeling of competing at an A-rated horse show with the cost of competing at a local competition.


This unrated show will be held at the beautiful Galway Downs facility, the same that hosts the organization’s four-week Temecula Valley National Horse Show, to allow exhibitors to take advantage of a premier space and experience for an affordable flat fee. NEE’s four-week National series begins April 15-19, followed by three consecutive weeks May 13-31.


“The goal of this new Developmental Series is to allow equestrians to develop young horses, gain experience in the ring or simply to have fun without spending a huge amount to do so. We want this sport to be accessible to everyone. Nobody should have to save money for months or years to be able to afford a worthwhile horse show experience,” commented Ali Nilforushan, co-founder of Nilforushan Equisport Events.

The Grand Prix Ring offers a myriad of branding opportunities. Photo: Elaine Wessel / Phelps Media Group

“With our new Developmental Series, we are aiming to create an exciting event for exhibitors to compete in a beautiful location with nearly all of the benefits of an A-rated show for the price of a local, unrated horse show. The focus will be enjoyment and friendly competition, while those riders who make a living in the industry can also take advantage of the low price to help bring along a younger horse.”

As an organization committed to inclusion and enhancement of the equestrian sport, Nilforushan Equisport Events wants to change the perception that only the wealthy can afford to compete in order to allow everyone in the industry the opportunity to ride at a quality event. The Developmental Series will provide a chance for exhibitors seeking a more cost-effective option to gain experience in the ring, while also catering to local equestrians who are not chasing points or qualification standards.

One flat rate will encompass stall and class fees in addition to breakfast and lunch each day, helping to alleviate the financial burden that has come to be associated with horse shows in the United States.

In 2019, the Audi VIP Tent featured cars in the space as well as exclusive branding rights. Photo: Phelps Media Group

Similar to its four-week Temecula Valley National Horse Show circuit, the Development Series will offer world-class footing, jump tracks designed by top course designers and ample amenities for exhibitors. The beautiful and sprawling Galway Downs will host the competition, offering a perfect backdrop for photos and helping to turn many equestrians’ dream scenarios into a reality.

For riders with non-equestrian family and friends, ample entertainment experiences will be offered in addition to food and drink options to keep them comfortable and interested in the day’s activities. Staying true to its mission to broaden the appeal of equestrian sports to the public, Nilforushan Equisport Events will also invite the community to attend the entertainment that will be held during the horse show. Working towards an overall goal to provide riders, trainers, parents, exhibitors and guests with an outlet to experience a top-notch horse show at a reasonable price, Nilforushan Equisport Events is hoping to add a new gem to the Southern California equestrian calendar.

Article provided by NEE. For more information, visit

March 2020 - International Dressage
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Monday, 02 March 2020 19:49
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Three CDIs added to the California dressage calendar.

by Kim F. Miller

Three new international dressage shows, “CDIs,” have been added to the California calendar. The first up, the Pacific Coast CDI 3*, unfurls March 6-8 at Galway Downs Equestrian Center in Temecula. The new competition surfaced late last year. It was to be held at El Campeon Farms in Thousand Oaks as a stand-alone CDI giving top tier riders and horses an important opportunity to earn qualifying scores. In late January, the venue was changed to Galway Downs, and a national show was added.


Pacific Coast will hold a second CDI at Galway Downs on Nov 12-15, this one with a qualifier for the 2021 World Cup Finals. That’s followed by another new CDI Nov. 19-22, also with a World Cup qualifier, at the Desert International Horse Park and staged by different organizers: East Coasters Thomas Baur and Monica Fitzgerald.


The Pacific Coast crew is led by Barbara Biernat, whose main business is not show organization. “I’m out of my comfort zone,” says the owner of Horse And Rider Boutique that outfits many of the sport’s top stars with dressage attire and gear. The transplanted German is a die-hard West Coast dressage supporter who recognized that “somebody has to do something” when the initially-promising West Coast Dressage Festival of 2018 and 2019 disappeared from the 2020 calendar. Barbara’s prior experience includes helping manage two competitions in Paso Robles with the much-missed Lisa Blaufuss. The late organizer embraced fun additions, including a relay race, that harkened back to Barbara’s equestrian upbringing in Germany.


Ripple Effect

The community had high hopes for the Festival. It sought to give the region’s competitors ample reason to spend most of the season at home, rather than take their horses and their business to the long Florida winter circuit. Its demise left more than holes in the calendar. Re-igniting interest, support and faith from exhibitors, sponsors and even the USEF has been an uphill battle, Barbara acknowledges.

“The ripple effect is huge,” she explains of many taking a “sit this one out” stance. Finances for Pacific Coast are “totally transparent,” she states, and prospective sponsors are welcome to review them. “Most people have no idea how much it costs to put on a show,” she notes, especially a CDI in which the international officials are one of many extra and significant expenses.

“We have some people in the background who have really been encouraging me,” she reports. Bringing East Coast show organizer Debra Reinhart of Centerline Events and Galway Downs facility manager and competition promoter Robert Kellerhouse onto the organizing committee assured the best odds for success, even in the short time window in which they’re working.

Debra manages the USDF Finals and the 650-horse New England Dressage Association Finals. Robert was the first organizer to stage a CCI4*-L (formerly called a 3*) competition in the West, with the Galway Downs International in 2010, and has led the way in staging top-flight international eventing competition. As equestrian facilities manager, he’s orchestrated logistics for highest level dressage and A-rated hunter jumper competition at the venue.  

The shift from a CDI-only into a CDI and National show, and the move from El Campeon to Galway Downs, was only approved in late January. By then, it was too late to catch people already planning to compete in Florida for the winter. Nonetheless, Barbara was pleased to have 20 riders entered in the CDI as of press time and healthy numbers for the national divisions.

Adequan helped everything come together by stepping up as a sponsor. And even professionals who are missing the show because they’ll be in Florida are supporting remotely with class sponsorships and other help. More financial support is critical to assuring the show’s success.

“Everybody wants a unicorn, but you have to start with a pony,” notes Barbara. “We have to be realistic about what’s possible.” Rather than flashy VIP opportunities, Pacific Coast Dressage will succeed by being “communal,” she continues. A low-key cocktail party during Freestyle competition will be a social highlight of the weekend.

The Pacific Coast team will hold a second CDI at Galway in Nov 12-15, this one with a qualifier for the 2021 World Cup Finals. With more time to plan, for riders and organizers, Barbara is excited about the potential for that show, too.

The Pacific Coast November show is followed the very next week, Nov. 19-22, by the third new CDI in California, at the Desert International Horse Park, which is now in its first season of ownership and management by the Apex EquiSports partnership.  The “Thermal” venue has long hosted multi-week hunter/jumper circuits and the November dressage show is expected to be followed by more from the new entity in 2021.

Back-to-back World Cup qualifiers in November could attract an unusually large number of top riders. New FEI rules mandate that each state may only stage three World Cup qualifiers, so that means riders may re-route to California before Florida, getting a jump start on the process, Barbara predicts.

Desert Dressage

“We are thrilled to welcome dressage riders to the Desert International Horse Park and to have the opportunity to host our first FEI dressage event combined with a World Cup™ Qualifier,” says Steve Hankin, President and CEO of DIHP. “We have been hard at work improving our horse park. We believe dressage riders will really enjoy the experience here.”

This coming November will be the first time a dressage event will take place at the Desert International Horse Park: “As with our jumping events, we have assembled a great team for the event, including Thomas Baur and Monica Fitzgerald. We are excited to expand the use of the horse park beyond show jumping events. Thomas has been working with us closely and we are confident this partnership will bring new opportunities for the dressage community on the West Coast,” notes Hankin.

Thomas Baur is the current Sports Director of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida; and has served as the Discipline Manager of Dressage and Para Dressage Tyron WEG in 2018 and the Event Director of the World Cup™ Final Omaha in 2017.

“I am looking forward to organizing my first CDI in California. There are a number of dedicated and talented riders and horses on the West Coast who require good competitions to continue to grow the sport.”

Monica Fitzgerald, the current Competition Manager of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, has been appointed as the Office Manager for Desert Dressage. The show will take place in the horse park’s Grand Prix Arena with the Freestyle portion occuring on Saturday, Nov. 21 under the lights. The Prize List will be available on Desert International Horse Park’s website late summer 2020.


2020 California CDI Circuit

Pacific Coast I | March 3-8 | Galway Downs Temecula
Festival of the Horse | March 19-22 | Los Angeles Equestrian Center
Golden State Dressage Festival | April 2-5 | Sacramento Murieta Equestrian Center
Del Mar National | April 23-26 | San Diego Fairgrounds
Golden State Dressage Classic | June 11-14 | Murieta Equestrian Center
Pacific Coast II | November 12-15 | Galway Downs in Temecula
Desert Dressage | November 19-22 | Desert International Horse Park in Thermal


February 2020 - The Gallop: Horse Shopping 101
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Saturday, 01 February 2020 22:42
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Balance, behavior and no “if-onlys” are among Georgy Maskrey-Segesman’s criteria in sourcing sales and lease prospects for the hunter/jumper market.

by Kim F. Miller

After horse shopping in Europe for 15 years, Georgy Maskrey-Segesman has honed a gift for talent spotting, especially for the equitation and jumper divisions. Based at her family’s Whitethorne Ranch in Ventura County’s Somis, Georgy is known as a top source for lease and sale horses. She enjoyed extra limelight last year as the Whitethorne-sponsored young rider, Emma Pacyna, dominated the equitation division in the West and made her mark nationally on one of those horses, Constantinos.


Germany-based Dutch horseman Tjeert Rijkens is Georgy’s longtime partner. Shopping tours with Tjeert typically include seeing between 10 and 15 horses every day, most of them pre-screened by the Dutchman based on what he likes and what Georgy likes and is looking for on that trip. Sometimes she has a specific rider or division in mind, and often she’s looking for quality prospects with the general U.S. market in mind.


Equitation is Georgy’s specialty and passion, followed by jumpers. If a horse knocks her socks off as a hunter prospect, she’ll consider it, too.

Tjeert is a Holsteiner fan with a deep knowledge of bloodlines. While she appreciates his expertise and absorbs what she can, Georgy is not a bloodline expert in an academic sense. However, unknowingly, she often prefers horses from the same lines: Contender, Landgraf and Caretino.

Tjeert has a network of contacts whose farms they first visit. Georgy and Whitethorne’s rider Savannah Jenkins typically first evaluate the prospects going under saddle with another rider as their host reviews age, experience, breeding, etc. If the horse meets their initial muster, Savannah will ride it there. The next step is the horse coming to Tjeert’s facility to see how it behaves in an unfamiliar setting.

Savannah Jenkins & Quintana 11. Photo: Kim F. Miller

No Second Chances

Initial instincts are influential. “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” Georgy notes. Balance is the first thing she looks for. “They either have it or they don’t,” she says of how well “the horse can naturally carry himself. You can’t teach that.” It’s evident at the trot and, at the canter, it’s critical to a good jump and to being able to find the jumps on a nice stride. Conformationally and in their way of going,

“You don’t want them downhill, or excessively uphill either.”

She’s also looking for that “nice look” in the horse’s eye – a soft expression that indicates relaxation and attentiveness to the rider.

An easy lead change is a make-it or break-it matter, especially in a 6 or 7-year-old. The flying change indicates balance and receptivity to training, Georgy explains. “If someone tried to bring the horse along, but it got flustered at the lead change and never quite got it, that’s a bad indicator. Other horses seem to get it the moment they hit the ground.” Favoring the latter is a way of “hedging my bets,” especially for an equitation horse. Jumpers are a different story.  “Touch Of Class cross-fired the entire way around the course,” she notes of the Thoroughbred mare Joe Fargis rode to team and individual jumping gold at the 1984 Olympics.

Spookiness is another deal-breaker. “That makes me crazy. With today’s rules and regulations, nobody wants to be lunging a horse for an hour to have it rideable.” Georgy screens for this trait by placing a jump in an unusual spot in the ring and/or with an unusual element: a cooler over the rail or an unfamiliar box underneath it.

“I don’t mind if they take a peek, but if they are repeatedly scared or skittish, no thank you.” The prospect’s second or third passes are critical. “If they get a little frozen or take a stutter step the first time, but are more bold the second or third time, I’m OK. Of course, my happy place is the horse that canters down brave as a bull and doesn’t care what you put up.”

A “heartless” horse is crossed off the list. “He can’t give up if the distance is a little long.” Good, natural jumping form is critical. “They have to jump well in front: not dangling a leg or dropping a shoulder.”

Stride length needs to be big enough for whatever division Georgy has in mind for the horse, though if that comes with a difficult-to-sit trot, she’ll think twice. Georgy’s expertise is equitation horses and, especially for them, “the sitting trot has to be comfortable.”  If the horse is an “unbelievable mover” she might compromise on that point.

If the horse passes the under-saddle test, Georgy wants to see it being handled in the cross-tie and observe it in the stall for general behavior. “Nobody wants a barracuda,” she says. “Years ago, I got one that was a cribber because I hadn’t paid careful attention to him in the barn.”

Prospects for sale or lease are scrutinized with different criteria, Georgy notes. “It might sound strange, but for me, the lease horse is held to the higher standard because he has the very specific job of teaching a rider and he’s usually going to change programs consistently – usually every year. He has to want to take a rider by the hand and educate them.”

Not all horses are suited for that. She cites Emma Pacyna’s star equitation partner, Constantinos, as an example: “My inclination is that he would get flustered if he was teaching a 3’ kid how to do the Big Eq division. His job is to be an Indoors horse with someone that already rides well.”

Veterinary exam results are evaluated a little differently for lease or sale horses, too. Although it’s rare for any horse to have perfectly clean x-rays, the sale horse needs the best report possible. With a lease prospect, Georgy looks at the x-rays in the context of the horse’s age and how it moves. “If there’s a change on the x-ray, but the horse is 11 and living with it, I’m OK with that. If he’s 5 and his feet are a little upright, but he’s sound and going, I’m OK with that.”

Georgy Maskrey-Segesman with sponsored young rider Emma Pacyna.

No “If Only…”

If these basic criteria aren’t solid, Georgy takes a pass. “Selecting a horse is like dating,” she explains. “If you have to say, ‘If only…’ I think you are probably never going to be able to fix it.”  There are exceptions to every rule, but she says, “It’s better to go with very specific criteria, based on what I can live with, and stick to it.”

Georgy foresees that her long-standing partnership with Tjeert will continue to source the bulk of Whitethorne’s lease and sale prospects, but she’s also interested in buying American-bred horses. She describes three programs, Kimberlee Farms, Three Wishes Farm and Anke Magnussen’s program, as examples of excellent domestic sporthorse producers. The problem is the cost of developing them in the States.

The first obstacle is open land for youngsters to grow up naturally in large pastures. The second is the expense of the early years of show mileage needed to make them ready for buyers who mostly want a horse they can start competing with right away.

Blenheim EquiSports and other show organizers who offer waived or discounted entry and stall fees for young horses are a big help, she emphasizes. Yet the cost of getting a young horse ready for sale is still prohibitively high.

In sponsoring Emma Pacyna and hosting the Whitethorne American Tradition of Excellence Equitation Challenges, Georgy has put her money where her concerns are in attempting to improve aspects of the hunter/jumper sport. Tackling young horse development costs is on her radar screen in the future.

Staging schooling shows at her facility is a possibility. The key, she states, is developing a way to track results at such unrecognized events, so that breeders have show records to include in the horse’s marketing package. While only in the idea stage now, such an effort would fit with one of Georgy’s priorities. “I feel really strongly that, if we want to participate in the sport, we have to give back to it and do whatever we can to try to keep it going.”
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 .

January 2020 - Know Before You Show
Written by CRM
Wednesday, 01 January 2020 00:14
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USEF 2020 rule changes relate to a range of topics ranging from horse welfare to show coat color.

The New Year brings changes to the United States Equestrian Federation rule book that governs all sanctioned equestrian competition. Affiliate, the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association, has created a simple guide of rule changes taking effect for the new competition year.

The following are important rule changes affecting hunter/jumper competition, aligned with their discipline and rule number for easier location in the rule book. These went into effect Dec. 1, 2019, for the 2020 competition year. The entire rule book can be found on

Tack and Appointments:
This rule change clarifies the proper use of a curb chain to protect horses from equipment that could inflict pain or discomfort. Curbs must be constructed of loose links, joints, and/or lie smooth against the jaw of the horse and be free of sharp or inhumane objects.

Hunter Attire and Coat Color:
This new rule specifies that conventional attire following the tradition of fox hunting is encouraged and preferred and that judges shall not eliminate a rider for inappropriate attire except for safety.

Hunter and Pony Hunter Breeding:
This rule change clarifies that horses and ponies in Hunter Breeding classes should be judged on the ability to become or produce hunters and adds the term “athleticism” to the traits by which horses and ponies are judged.

Definition of a Complete Hunter Round:
This rule change defines what qualifies as a completed Hunter round. This rule rewrite aims to eliminate the practice of attempting to force a class to split by having a horse-and-rider combination enter the ring but not complete a course. It also defines completion of an under saddle class.

Use of Electronic Devices:
This rule states that the unsafe use of electronic devices, as determined by the competition steward in their sole discretion, including the use of cell phones with or without earphones/buds while mounted is prohibited in all areas designated for schooling and exercise and while longeing horses on competition grounds.

Jumper Prize Money:
This rule outlines how prize money and entry fees will be determined and distributed if a class is combined due to insufficient entries as outlined in JP 122.1.c.

Jumper Sections/Classes Restricted by Horse Age:
This rule is aimed to help clarify and guide course designers to construct safe and positive courses for the development of young jumpers. The rule includes course guidelines for all ages, 5-year-old Jumpers, 6-year-old Jumpers and 7-year-old Jumpers.

Sections/Classes Restricted to Junior, Amateur/Owner, Amateur Jumpers:
This rule changes the title of classes to High (1.40m or 1.45m), Medium (1.30m or 1.35m) and Low (1.20m or 1.25m), for Amateur Owner Jumpers, Amateur Jumpers, and Junior Jumpers. Prize lists must identify classes as High, Medium or Low according to the definition of the rule. This rule also further clarifies cross-entry restrictions between the lowest height section of Junior, Amateur Owner, amateur Jumpers and CSI3* Grand Prix classes offering $25,000 or more in prize money at the same competition.

National Standard Jumper Classes:
This rule change, under the Jumper rule book subchapter defining levels of difficulty (JP-4), creates a clear progression of fence heights from the American Standard (up to 1.40m) to National Standard (1.45m to 1.50m).

Horse Welfare:
This new rule change in the Equitation chapter aims to provide awareness and focus on the commitment to the protection and welfare of equine athletes competing in Hunter/Jumping Seat Equitation sections.

Beyond rule changes, members should be aware that the US Equestrian Board of Directors recently voted to prohibit the use of Medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) in horses competing in USEF-licensed competitions effective December 1, 2019.


Additionally, farm and business entity owners should keep in mind that GR202 will now be in effect for the 2020 competition year. This rule amendment, passed by the US Equestrian Board of Directors at the 2017 USEF Annual Meeting, states, “If a horse(s) is owned by a farm or any other entity, at least one of the horse’s owners, either Farm/Business or Individual, must also obtain an exhibitor registration pursuant to GR1106.” The USEF provided members with a two-year transition period for compliance with this rule. If members have any questions regarding this rule and its implementation, they may contact USEF Customer Care by email at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  or by calling 859-258-2472 during business hours.

Please note this listing is not a comprehensive list of all rule changes effective Dec. 1, 2019. All rule changes can be found on

Article provided by the USHJA. For more information, visit

January 2020 - Industry News Round-Up
Written by CRM
Tuesday, 31 December 2019 21:54
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New Dressage CDIs

Pacific Coast CDI announces that it will hold its first CDI*** at El Campeon Farms in Thousand Oaks, California, on March 5-8, and a CDI-W Nov 12-15 of 2020. The new all-volunteer show organizer group, Pacific Coast CDI, is spearheaded by Barbara Biernat with hired show management provided by Centerline Events’ Debra Reinhardt. It will work to create a smaller, financially sustainable CDI offering for the West Coast. “We have been running CDIs since 2002, and are looking forward to bringing our customer friendly style to El Campeon for this revitalization of the West Coast CDIs,” says Reinhardt.


Visit www.centerlineevents.comfor more info.

Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act


On Nov. 25, 2019, President Donald J. Trump signed the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, H.R. 724, into law. The bill, led by U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL) passed the House and Senate in recent weeks without dissent. The PACT Act establishes the first federal anti-cruelty law in American history.

Animal Wellness Action’s executive director, Marty Irby attended the signing ceremony in the Oval Office along with U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan.

“We’re thrilled to see the first anti-cruelty statute in American history signed into law and applaud President Trump and the Congress for providing the voiceless with a level of protection never seen before,” said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action. “The PACT Act will allow federal authorities to crack down on the most egregious of animal abusers and help keep American pets safe from harm.”

Animal Wellness Action is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(4) organization with a mission of helping animals by promoting legal standards forbidding cruelty. The Animal Wellness Foundation is a Los Angeles-based private charitable organization with a mission of helping animals by making veterinary care available to everyone with a pet, regardless of economic ability.

For more information, visit
West Palms Events & Langer Equestrian Group Partner in Woodside

Langer Equestrian Group is jumping into 2020 with a management team for its popular Woodside Spring and Summer Series shows at the Horse Park at Woodside. “Dale Harvey and his West Palms management team are going to manage our five-show series,” stated LEG Managing Director Marnye Langer. “I am really excited about the synergies our two management groups can achieve, and I believe the trainers and exhibitors are really going to benefit by this collaboration.”

Langer Equestrian Group has a 20-year history of producing shows at the Horse Park at Woodside and was instrumental in the development of the facility as a top-notch horse show venue in Northern California. West Palms produced its first show at the Horse Park in 2017 and added a second week in 2019.

“The West Palms team is really excited to manage the full series of shows for the 2020 Woodside show schedule. We look forward to working with Langer Group and The Horse Park at Woodside to deliver the best show season yet,” stated Dale Harvey, CEO of West Palms Events.

American Horse Council Internships

In 2020, the American Horse Council will again offer internship programs available to both high school and college students. Students are eligible to apply for one internship per year in the AHC Internship Program. Three programs range from one to two weeks, one to two months or full semester internships, with stipends to help defray expenses. Focus areas include policy and legislation, marketing and communications, equine disease communication (with the American Association of Equine Practitioners), equine welfare, and health and regulatory.

For more information, visit

January 2020 - And The Winner Is…
Written by CRM
Tuesday, 31 December 2019 20:17
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Association gatherings see people, horses and programs celebrated for accomplishments and contributions.

Super Year for Suppenkasper

The United States Dressage Federation™ congratulates the 11-year-old 18 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 2019 Adequan®/USDF Grand Prix Horse of the Year. Suppenkasper›s median score of 75.696 percent made him the top horse in the United States competing at this level and the recipient of USDF’s highest honor.   

Steffen & Suppenkasper. Photo: Kim F. Miller

Suppenkasper was recognized at the 2019 Adequan®/USDF Salute Gala and Annual Awards Banquet with a commemorative personalized plaque, an embroidered cooler, and a gift certificate provided by Dressage Extensions.

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 the 2019 competition season.  We also congratulate Akiko Yamazaki, Four Winds Farm, Steffen Peters, and the entire Suppenkasper team,” stated USDF Executive Director Stephan Hienzsch.

Charlotte Robson-Skinner, middle. Photo: Tricia Booker / USHJA

USHJA Awards

The United States Hunter Jumper Association held its annual meeting in early December in Denver. Along with educational presentations, committee meetings and rule change proposals and decisions, the gathering included year-end award presentations. Kudos to the many recipients from the West Coast:

The President’s Distinguished Service Award was developed to recognize and honor the dedication and service by members and volunteers to the USHJA and the sport. This year’s recipients of the award include Charlotte Skinner-Robson and Robin Rost Brown, as well as the Horsemanship Quiz Challenge Committee. Skinner-Robson works with the Langer Equestrian show management group and has long served on various committees.
Larry Langer and Bob Cacchione, two exceptional innovators in the sport, were awarded the William J. Moroney Visionary Award during the evening. This honor is awarded to an individual or group deemed as inspirational, influential and integral to furthering the Hunter and Jumper disciplines.

Both Langer and Cacchione have impacted the sport putting their dreams and ideas into action. Langer has been committed to creating opportunities for riders to advance in the sport including the development of the Emerging Jumper Rider Program and Show Jumping Athlete Pathway, which he has worked tirelessly to bring to life.

Exceptional horse show staff were recognized for their invaluable role in delivering the very best hunter/jumper competitions. Julie O’Connor, of Riverside County’s Corona was awarded the West Coast Vital Horse Show Staff Award.

Larry Langer with Bill Maroney. Photo: Tricia Booker / USHJA

Wild Turkey Honored

US Equestrian Barbara Ellison and her Wild Turkey Farm sporthorse breeding program in Wilsonville, OR. were announced as the winners of the 2019 US Equestrian Ellen Scripps Davis Memorial Breeders’ Cup Award.

The Ellen Scripps Davis Memorial Breeders’ Cup Award recognizes an individual and/or breeding enterprise who consistently breeds outstanding performance and show horses. The award honors the role that good breeding plays in the development and improvement of performance and show horses.

“I am speechless and very honored,” Barb said, upon receiving the news. “And honestly this is an award won by a team: my staff at the farm, Mandy Porter, my vets, Ryan Ferris, Columbia Equine, my farrier, Jason Smith, etc. As they say, it takes a village. Thank you!”

For West Coasters honored in US Eventing Association gathering, see story, this issue.

January 2020 - 2020 Sport Focus
Written by CRM
Tuesday, 31 December 2019 20:05
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Building the base and promoting WestCoastBestCoast are priorities in the New Year.

As the new decade begins, we chatted with leaders in the hunter/jumper, eventing and dressage worlds about their biggest concerns for their disciplines. Hunter/jumper advocate Kathy Hobstetter and eventing’s Lisa Sabo weigh in here, while Dressage News & Views columnist Nan Meek and California Dressage Society president Ellen Corob address top concerns (this issue).

Kathy Hobstetter: USHJA Zone 10 co-chair & founder Equestrian Sport Advocates.

1. Building the Base
Our sport on the West Coast can’t be only about the big multi-ring shows. We are losing the base of our sport by being focused on how many rings, how many divisions and how many horses can be fit into one show. In the process, it’s taken away focus on the grass roots – on growing the base of our sport and the beautiful shows where riders can begin their competitive education. Our specialty, unique, marvelous horse shows and managers are dropping by the wayside one by one.
Managers, trainers, owners and exhibitors can take action by deciding on personal priorities. Not everybody has to fit into a premier show barn or show – not everybody can afford that, especially new riders just getting into showing. There’s great personal satisfaction to be had in being the instructor that taught that beginner who just got their first ribbon, or jumped their first jump. Helping build the base and being sure growth starts at the bottom is the heart of competition and the base of any healthy sport. It is important we have a wide group of professionals (instructors) and lesson barns focusing on the ladder with which people ascend our sport.  The ground and education on which that ladder stands is of vital importance to the future.
2. Nurturing Young Professionals
We need to focus on what the next generation of professionals is going to do and on how we can build professionals who are hard core horsemen, not just winners. My fear is the sport is becoming so focused on winning, that we are a little short on creating horsemen and real trainers.
There are some bright spots. USEF Youth Chef d’Equipe DiAnn Langer is developing a rider pipeline, and Julie Winkel’s Horse Industry Training School at Maplewood Farms in Nevada are vital to sport and horseman development. I also like the idea implemented by Chenoa McElvain, and Rancho Corazon in New Mexico, with their summer scholarship opportunity for young riders to learn the ropes through hands-on experience.
Ideas like these need to be expanded and supported and discussed in-depth with experienced professionals giving back to the sport. Established professionals should be open to giving back by either developing a program of their own or being part of an existing one, rather than being critical of them, which is often the case.

3. Mentoring
This point is intertwined with the above point about helping professionals and individuals at all levels of horse sports, but we need to support it across the board: with trainers, show managers, breeders, barn managers and those involved in all aspects of the equestrian business. There should be an intricate, detailed program for mentoring people in a way that tangibly prepares the mentee. Too often, internships and working student positions become free or cheap labor for the mentor’s business, instead of stepping-stones to a viable career in our industry.

4. Customer Service
I personally believe everybody should be a restaurant wait person for two years - to understand the concept that the customer is always right, even when they’re not! Professionals don’t always recognize the right of the customer to ask questions, be interested and ask for education and help. At the same time, the biggest part of customer service is educating our clients, helping them understand: why it’s so expensive, why footing is important, why the programs funded by show fees matter; why preventative veterinary care is critical, etc.

5. Safety
Not enough attention is paid to safety in general, and especially on some show grounds. There’s a lack of attention to the preventative measures to address problem things that can happen. For example, there is typically no protocol for load-in and load-out days at most shows. People drive where they want, park their trailers wherever it’s convenient, with no thought to what or who they’re blocking. Even if there were such protocols, possibly trainers would likely not heed them. That’s not only rude: it’s dangerous.
Dogs are another example. I understand it’s fun to have your pet at the show grounds, but they don’t always belong at the show, especially off the leash. It is only my opinion, but family dogs have no business at shows. And all dogs need to be leashed and attached to their owner.

Lisa Sabo: Area VI Eventing; owner Sabo Eventing & the Newport Mesa Riding School

Embarking on her second year as chair of US Eventing’s Area VI (California & Hawaii), Lisa says the membership’s focus should be on promoting the region by emphasizing why the West Coast is indeed the “Best Coast.”
There is plenty to promote!  

1. The Best Weather
Yes, it gets hot sometimes, but we never have the humidity that other places have. Horses do well in our weather. We should especially be promoting our Spring calendar of events, when the weather is horrible everywhere else and our events are beautiful.

2. Good Competition
We have good competitions at all levels and a virtually year-round schedule. They are great places for professionals to bring their amateur riders, juniors and young horses, along with their top horses. We are light on entries in the top divisions, but even so, the internationally focused riders we do have are increasingly acknowledging that going East is no longer mandatory as a means of preparing for team consideration. USEF eventing chef d’equipe Eric Duvander loves the West Coast and is regularly visiting to coach and evaluate our riders for all levels of the international pipeline.
Look at the recently-released USEF Training Lists: Tamie Smith and Frankie Thieriot Stutes remain on the Pre-Elite List. And the Federation’s 2020 Eventing 25 Program includes Area VI-ers Mia Farley, Mallory Hogan, Sophie Hulme, Kaylawna Smith-Cook and Maddy Temkin. Tamie and Mai Baum did all their Pan American Games team gold medal prep here in Area VI. So did Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 for their great run at Burghley up against the world’s best.

3. Good Footing
Our organizing teams have done a great job improving the footing. The Horse Park at Woodside and Shepard Ranch, for example, have “aggravators” that make the track soft without ripping it up. We are sometimes criticized for not having more grass tracks, which are the norm back East. They look pretty, but that can be a very hard surface. Our organizers and course builders have really worked hard and invested a lot in creating and maintaining good footing. They’ve really become experts at it and we now have some of the best footing in the country.

4. Best Trainers
Area VI has more trainers certified by US Eventing’s Instructor Certification Program than any other area. And it shows. If you watch Preliminary riders at an Area VI event, 90% of them ride super well.
I firmly believe we have the best trainers and training programs anywhere in the country. It’s the result of a rising tide effect that is lifting all boats. For many years, people like my husband Brian Sabo, Yves Sauvignon, Derek and Bea DiGrazia and Dana Lynd-Pugh developed many students who became trainers themselves. Now in some cases, it’s their children.

5. Friendliest Atmosphere
There’s a real team atmosphere out here. The eventing community in general is known for this, but it’s very pronounced in Area VI. We lend a hand whenever a fellow competitor needs it and root each other on in a way that’s unique to our region. While we are a close-knit community, we also welcome those who travel from afar to be part of it and embrace them as our own. Like Galway Downs CCI4*-L winner Sara Mittlieder, who travelled from Idaho this past fall for a big career win that preceded her receipt of a Rebecca Broussard Travel Grant at the recent USEA Awards Banquet. Horses and riders from Arizona and throughout the Northwest are regulars at our competitions and we’d like to spread our reach to the Midwest and the South. Along with advancing our skills and experience out here, we are having a great time!
#WestCoastBestCoast all the way!


December 2019 - ASPCA Takes on The Right Horse Initiative
Written by CRM
Sunday, 01 December 2019 09:39
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Initiative is now an official program of the ASPCA, in an effort to increase equine adoption efforts nationwide.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is expanding its equine welfare efforts by welcoming The Right Horse Initiative as an official program of the organization. As a program of the ASPCA, the Initiative will remain focused on massively increasing the number of successful horse adoptions in the United States and improving the number of positive outcomes for horses in transition as they move from one home, career, or owner to the next.


Established in 2016, The Right Horse Initiative hosts a collective of industry professionals, equine welfare organizations, and advocates working together to reframe the conversation around equine adoption and improve the lives of horses in transition through a dialogue of kindness and respect. In collaboration with over 60 industry and adoption partners, the Initiative has launched innovative programming focused on shattering the stigma surrounding horses in transition, who frequently end up at risk of inhumane treatment as they move between careers or owners.


“With a shared vision for increasing adoptions and elevating the welfare of all equines, we are thrilled to combine forces with The Right Horse Initiative to help even more horses across the country,” said Matt Bershadker, ASPCA President and CEO. “The Right Horse Initiative has been pivotal in bringing together leading voices from all corners of the equine community -- an approach the ASPCA employs in our own equine welfare work -- and together we will continue to improve the lives of countless horses through innovative adoption programs, training, and increased public awareness.”    

ASPCA research suggests there could be at least 2.3 million adults in the U.S. with the resources and desire to adopt a horse in need. The ASPCA is committed to reaching these potential adopters through The Right Horse Initiative’s online adoption platform, My Right Horse.

The ASPCA is focused on ensuring horses nationwide have good welfare by helping horses find homes, supporting equine safety net programs, combating cruelty and responding to disasters. As part of the ASPCA, The Right Horse Initiative will further develop positive systemic change for at-risk horses by continuing to innovate best practices in adoption, promoting adoption among horse-seekers, and fostering collaboration within the equine industry including adoption agencies, rescues, breed and discipline associations.

Press release provided by the ASPCA. For more information about the ASPCA’s efforts to help horses, visit

December 2019 - The Power Of Hope
Written by by Dr. Suzi Lanini, DVM
Sunday, 01 December 2019 09:26
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Riding in the Rose Parade represents realized childhood dreams from the back of a remarkable Arabian, Just In Kayce.

by Dr. Suzi Lanini, DVM

Horses have always been my inspiration and my motivation through life. I grew up in a disadvantaged household; we barely had enough money to get by. I dreamed as a child of becoming a veterinarian. I also dreamed of having enough money to own a prize-winning Arabian horse. A dream that was big enough to have a horse that was worthy of being in a magazine. I stayed focused on my dreams even when the dreams seemed too big.


Once I graduated vet school and had the opportunity to ride horses again, I realized there is no better experience than being in the presence of a horse. I purchased Just In Kayce, known as “Justin”, a purebred Arabian gelding in 2008, about a year after finishing veterinary school. I had no idea the impact one single horse could have on my life and others in the community.

Justin has become that show horse that I always dreamed of as a child. He and I have won hundreds of awards over the past 11 years of showing him. He has won 29 Horse of the Year Awards, over 27 Regional Championship Awards, three United States Dressage Federation All Breed Awards, and achieved over 50 rosettes from the California Dressage Society. He has been showcased in multiple publications over the years for his achievements. We have competed at some of the top competitions in the nation. In 2013, Justin was awarded the Arabian Horse Association Ambassador Award. He has touched the hearts of many with his personality and presence in the show ring competing in dressage through the international levels and working with international instructors.  

The Rose Parade: From the Scaffolding to the Saddle

Justin made another childhood dream come true when I participated in the 2013 Tournament of Roses Parade. My aunt lived on Alta Dena Drive in Alta Dena when I was a child. We would stay at her house overnight and push a scaffolding down the street to the school yard where my uncle used to teach. We would sit on the scaffolding and watch the Rose Parade. I dreamed of one day owning a horse that was good enough to be in the Rose Parade. Well, Justin made that dream come true when we participated with the Costumed Arabians of Region One. It was a dream to ride him down the parade route waving my hand and making eye contact with the spectators. The entire time, I hoped I was giving just one child the ability to dream as I had done as a child.  

Justin and I have volunteered for the San Bernardino Sheriff Department since 2011. We became members of the Equestrian Patrol Unit out of the Rancho Cucamonga Station. We volunteer our time to patrol the trails of the city, participate in community events and attend the Annual Sheriff’s Rodeo in Devore. In 2018 we joined the West Valley Mounted Posse out of the Fontana Station and participate in Search and Rescue efforts for the county as well as participating in community events.

Dr. Suzi Lanini & Justin in the 2013 Rose Parade. In January’s Rose Parade, they’ll ride with the Arabian Horse Association’s unit, helping to represent the breed’s versatility. They’ll be outfitted as the dressage stars they are.

When we are out in the community, it has been truly rewarding because Justin loves to get petted. I try to interact with the public as much as possible and give every child or grown person the opportunity to feel the horse hair between their fingers and the softness of Justin’s nose. For me, the feel of the horse gave me the biggest hope that life would eventually work out. I would love to find out that I kept one child’s dream alive or had an impact on one person’s life with the touch of Justin’s hair or his soft nose. I would love to find out by giving my time to the community that I had given hope to just one person’s life.

Justin has also now become a Warrior Horse, a designation for horses capable of bringing new focus to kids battling cancer. ( Justin is a well decorated horse with all of his winnings and his work in uniform. This, combined with his calm demeanor, makes him the best horse to give hope to someone who may have lost all hope. It is amazing how much a single interaction with a horse can change your outlook on life.

Justin truly represents the theme for this year’s parade “The Power of Hope.”

Author Dr. Suzi Lanini is a small animal veterinarian in San Bernardino County’s Rancho Cucamonga. In addition to her community activities, she is an active dressage competitor. She and Justin ride in the Rose Parade as members of the Arabian Horse Association’s entry.

Meet Justin and “Dr. Suzi” and all the riders and horses in the EquestFest presented by Wells Fargo, Dec. 29 at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center.

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