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Kate Boggan


About Kate Boggan

I've been riding since I was 4 and fell in love with eventing when I was 10. I'm the founder of the Texas A&M Eventing Team, WHOOP! I have a recently retired 2000, 17h OTTB gelding named Louisianadecision (Louie). Louie and I competed through Training level together. While Louie is your stereotypical accident prone OTTB, he is my heart horse and was an absolute machine out on the XC course! Still recovering from the torn suspensory that ended his career, I'm blessed to be able to take care of him in his retirement. Currently I am free leasing a 2009, 15.2h OTTB mare named Dashing Vixen (Vixie). A polo pony drop out, we're seeing how this sweet little girl takes to eventing.

Eventing Background

USEA Rider Profile Click to view profile
Area V
Highest Level Competed Training
Farm Name Anchor Equestrian
Trainer Amanda Merritt

Latest Articles Written

Road to Rebecca: Meet the 2018 Area V NAYC CH-J* Team

Georgia Phillips & Menue Rendevous. Photo by Brant Gama Photography.

With all the team announcements in the recent news, the 2018 U.S. WEG Team and the U.S. Nations Cup Great Meadows and Aachen Teams, it’s time to meet the recently named Area V North American Youth Championships (NAYC) CH-J* Team. Area V, made up of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, has had several gold medal teams in the past. Meet the four horse and rider pairs looking to add to the area’s history of success.

Georgia Dillard & Galileo WP. Photo by Terri Hatcher Photography.

Georgia Dillard, an eventer from Little Rock, Arkansas, had campaigned in the past for a spot on the NAYC team. It wasn’t until the purchase of her 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood Galileo WP (“Warren”) in January of this year that she was able to make that dream a reality.

“Warren has helped me gain back a lot of confidence that was lost on my previous two horses on cross country,” Georgia says. “He loves his job and is extremely honest.” A very different ride from her last horse, Georgia has had to work hard to learn to ride Warren the way he needs to be ridden.

Being on the NAYC team has been a goal of Georgia’s ever since she attempted her first one-star in 2016 at the Colorado Horse Park. “I’m very thankful for Warren who has allowed me to reach this goal,” she says. “He continues to exceed my expectations every time I ride him.” She also credits her trainer Lisa Phillips for making her the rider she is today and her loving parents who have been extremely supportive through the whole process.

Excited to compete at the beautiful Rebecca Farm, she says, “I’m looking forward to sharing this amazing opportunity with three other great girls that I know have worked so hard to earn their spot on this team.”

Georgia Phillips & Menue Rendevous. Photo by Brant Gamma Photography.

The only mare on this year’s team is piloted by Georgia Phillips, from Houston, Texas. Menue Rendevous (“Lundee”) is a 7-year-old OTTB. Georgia found Lundee for sale on Facebook as a 4-year-old off the track and has produced the mare to the one-star level herself. Originally intended as a summer resale project, Lundee “has always surprised us all with how great she is,” says Georgia. “She has the biggest heart, and has a business woman mentality.” Georgia’s favorite thing about Lundee? “We have so much trust in each other, I think she’d do just about anything for me.”

Georgia was practically born into eventing, growing up with her mother running her own eventing program. She got her first pony when she was 4 and the rest was history. This was Georgia’s last year of eligibility for the NAYC Team at the one-star level and she says she put a lot of pressure on herself to qualify. “I tried not to get my hopes up when the selectors made their decisions, but it was hard not to,” says Georgia. “I was so excited when I was officially named.” Eager to show her dynamite mare in such a huge atmosphere, Georgia is looking forward to “our team working together and making our area proud.”

McKinsey Wickman & Dassett Profile. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

McKinsey Wickman is the only NAYC veteran on the 2018 team. The rider from North Texas and her 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse Dassett Profile (“Pro”) were a part of the CH-J* team last year and took a lot away from the experience.

“Losing the first place position after cross country was heartbreaking,” she says, “but it was a wakeup call that some things needed to change.” McKinsey has changed up her training program over the last year and has been working hard to become the rider her horse needs her to be. A big believer in cross training, she has spent many weekends at dressage and jumper shows to improve those phases and become a solid overall eventing pair. One of the greener horse and rider teams at last year’s championships, McKinsey feels they have more experience under their belts heading into this year’s competition and are looking forward to redemption.

When asked to describe her horse, McKinsey said the leggy blood bay is like, “a puppy and a Ferrari at the same time.” According to McKinsey, Pro loves attention and has a very playful personality, but when it comes to work he’s all business. McKinsey bought Pro from Lillian Heard in 2015 and brought the gelding up from the Training level. “Pro has the biggest heart of any horse I have ever had the chance to ride.” Her best friend and confidant, “There is no other horse I would want to travel around the country with.”

Annah Yoder & Ernie. Photo by Brit Randolf Photography.

Another North Texas eventer, Annah Yoder, and her 15-year-old Appendix Quarter Horse Ern More Cash (“Ernie”) are excitedly looking forward to their first team experience. Ernie is Annah’s first horse and together they have competed from the Beginner Novice to the one-star level. Annah describes Ernie as “Mr. Happy” and says, “Nothing fazes him. He’s always ready to work and he always tries his hardest.” Having only been competing since 2014, Ernie’s natural talent and positive attitude has made the journey to the NAYC a rewarding and fun one. “He’s always ready and eager to do whatever is set in front of him.”

While this will be the first team experience for Annah and Ernie, the pair made the trip to Rebecca Farm last summer to qualify for the NAYC. Annah says, “For me it was the event of the year and I can’t wait to be back!” When asked what she is most looking forward to, Annah answered, “Getting the opportunity to learn what it means to be on the team and getting to go about the experience with some of the best people I know.”

With the Event at Rebecca Farm and the NAYC only two weeks away, competitors across the country are making their final preparations for the event of the summer. Area V wishes everyone participating safe travels and a special good luck to our girls representing us. Have a great ride!

Video created by Annah Yoder.

Beating the Heat: Area V Eventers Take on the Texas Summer at the July Pine Hill Schooling H.T.

Marcella Pinell & Amplified on course in the Open Training division. Photo by Kate Boggan.

Dust from the Sahara and a triple digit heat index didn’t stop 55 tough horses and riders from sweating it out in Bellville, Texas, on Sunday. The July 1, 2018 Greater Houston Combined Training Association (GHCTA) Schooling H.T. separated the men from the boys (or the studs from the colts) with only the craziest of the crazies daring to attempt a one day horse trial in the middle of the Texas summer. Pine Hill offers levels from Green as Grass (Starter) through Intermediate/Prelim and is a favorite venue of Area V eventers.

No jackets here! Tea Pawa & A Beautiful Lark. Photo by Troy Roane Photography.

The show kicked off bright and early at 7:30 a.m. with the temperature at a cool 85 degrees. Jackets never even crossed riders’ minds and those cute show shirts we buy with fun patterns and lace cut-outs finally got to be shown off. Sun hats were the popular item of the day and the smell of sunscreen mixed with the familiar scents of fly spray and showsheen. Thanks to the incredible jump crew and the cooperation of the competitors, show jumping ran ahead of time the whole day and wrapped up 10 minutes earlier than expected.

Humans and horses seeking refuge in the shade. Photo by Kate Boggan.

The Three Bears would have been proud as Pine Hill’s not-too-big, not-too-small, but just right, Goldilocks level had the largest number of competitors for the day. Adult armatures bringing up new young horses or just cruising at the lower levels could be seen in the warm up arenas next to the adorable ponies and their young pilots. Friends and family roamed the show grounds taking pictures, toting water bottles, and stealing precious seconds in the shade wondering why their horse crazy relatives do this.

Looking pretty in pink! Avery Daigle & FR’s Check It Out Now. Photo by Kate Boggan.

Cross country went smoothly and riders with subtle navy and white colors were followed by those with pink, lime green, and turquoise. Pine Hill held a special “Go Watchless” contest for riders in the Novice, Beginner Novice, Goldilocks and Green as Grass levels. An award was given at each level for the rider that came closest to optimum time without a watch and special wristbands were handed out at the cross country start box to designate the riders participating in the fun challenge.

Between the trees, Julianna Pohoski & Miracle Save running Novice. Photo by Kate Boggan.

In an almost unheard of record the last rider finished on cross country by 1 p.m. By the end of the day bad tan lines had been made worse and everyone went home safe. Thank you to Pine Hill for putting on such a fun show. Thank you to all the competitors who came out to enjoy the sport we love. And thank you to all the volunteers who make this and all other events possible!

Sierra Rooney & Ooh La La jumping Noah’s Ark. Photo by Troy Roane Photography.

Congratulations to the following division winners! See the full results here:

Open Preliminary CT: Rene Rios & One Lark One Legend (43.1)

Open Training CT: Kennedy Wheeler & Jos Estoico (32.4)

Open Training HT: Janet Marden & Flagmount’s Top Cat (33.8)

Open Novice CT: Alexis Ellison & Lucky One’s Hailo (31.7)

Open Novice HT: Abigale Roelke & Grand Lad (30.7)

Open Beginner Novice CT: Sydney Moss & RATATATAT (36.3)

Open Beginner Novice HT A: Lindsay Holliday & Numba One Stunna (33.0)

Open Beginner Novice HT B: Anika Hawes & Silver Charm (35.5)

Open Goldilocks CT: Sierra Roney & Roman Empire (42.1)

Open Goldilocks HT A: Alexis Ellison & Parqueterie (38.9)

Open Goldilocks HT B: Hannah Lewis & Where’s My Sock? (34.4)

Open Green as Grass CT: Aislin S. McStay & Knock Your Socks Off (41.8)

The Horses That Heal Us

“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” – Winston Churchill. Photo by Kate Boggan.

It is a phenomenon that is represented throughout literature, movies and even some country songs; horses have a miraculous ability to capture people’s hearts. I have yet to come across a person who can’t at least admit that horses are beautiful creatures. I have met plenty who are scared of their large size, or aren’t too fond of the way they smell, but I do not know a human being that doesn’t in some way appreciate horses. Equestrians are the lucky ones whose DNA programs them to go beyond a general appreciation and instead be consumed by an overwhelming passion.

This passion leads to many different avenues for horse enthusiasts. Some of us pursue professional careers within the equine industry as riders, trainers, breeders or vets. Some of us turn into weekend warriors hauling our trusty steeds to shows, events, trail rides or rodeos. And some of us simply enjoy the company of these magnificent animals as they happily graze through the years and fill our hearts with joy.

It’s hard not to smile when you have such an amazing partner. Photo by Shannon Boggan.

These horses that bring us so much happiness can also bring healing. My freshman year of high school my parents bought me the horse that was going to take me through Prelim. Natural Disaster (Nate) was an 8-year-old OTTB and was going to be my serious competition horse. Nate took me to my first Novice and then my first recognized show. We qualified for the American Eventing Championships that first year of competition. Nate was the biggest dork of a horse and didn’t have a mean bone in his body. He got angry at himself when he hit rails and one of his favorite treats was glazed donuts. Nate was everything I could have dreamed of until he wasn’t.

The summer of 2011 we learned my beautiful horse had kidney disease and the vet gave him three years to live. Nate didn’t make it to that September. As a junior in high school I experienced my first heartbreak, not from a high school boy, but from having to say goodbye to my best friend in the whole world. Everyone who has ever lost a beloved horse will know exactly what a heart shattering and painful experience it is. I cried every day for a good two months and then at least once a week for a while after that. Friends at the barn left flowers and cards at Nate’s stall and I spent a lot of time looking through pictures of Nate and me trying to wrap my head around the fact that he was really gone.

Sometime in the month or so after we had to put Nate down one of the wonderful ladies at the barn offered me a ride on her retired event horse. Handsome Ran Some was a 20-year-old OTTB and to this day is one of the hottest horses I have ever sat on. His owner Lori Sitez let me bring the tall, dark and handsome horse out of retirement so I had something to ride. While I never officially owned Ran Some, that winter he became my horse and I became his kid.

His first time swimming and he was such a good sport. Photo by Shannon Boggan.

I spent jump lessons hanging on for dear life and laughing with glee as Ran Some barreled down to each fence like he was worried the fence would try to run away if he didn’t get there fast enough. We went to local schooling shows and trail rides at the barn. I’ll never forget the day a group of us decided to take the horses swimming in the pond at the back of the property. Lori pulled up to the barn right as I was getting on Ran Some bareback and I thought Lori was going to have a heart attack. She couldn’t believe I was brave/dumb enough to ride Ran Some bareback out on the trails. Lori was sure he would lose his mind and I would have a long walk home. But he did no such thing and the only casualty of the trip was a baseball cap that I’m sure is still sunk in the mud in the middle of the pond.

In another year I once again had a horse of my own and Ran Some went back to being retired. I still gave him cookies every day when I walked by his stall and I would pull him out every once in a while to keep his mane pulled and give him a good bath or a brush. I moved off to college and our barn back home closed and Ran Some moved with Lori to the new boarding facility she and her husband opened up, Fine Print Farms.

The old man still had some moves! Photo by Shannon Boggan.

I am now entering my second year of my master’s program and have started working with a new young horse. Last night around midnight I got a text from Lori. The now 27-year-old handsome Ran Some isn’t doing too well. He’s become cushingoid over the past few years and is now having some neurological problems. My phone screen became blurry as I attempted to type a response through the tears welling up in my eyes. Ran Some and I never went to a recognized show, never qualified for any championships, we never won any huge class, and we never even jumped higher than 2’9″. I didn’t own Ran Some and I only rode him for about a year. In that year Ran Some did more for me to heal my broken heart than any person was able to. Ran Some was the first horse I loved after I lost Nate and he will always hold a treasured spot in my heart for helping me find joy in the saddle again.

I’ll be making a trip home to San Antonio, Texas, next weekend to give Lori a hug and hopefully see Ran Some one last time. I know there will be lots of tears and I’ll feel that familiar ache in my heart again — it’s the price we pay to love something so deeply. I know soon Ran Some and Nate will be happily grazing together waiting for their humans to return along with all the other beloved horses in those endless green pastures. And I know that just like Ran Some did for me seven years ago there will be a little OTTB mare waiting for me at the barn to bring me joy and healing.

You were deeply loved and you will be deeply missed. Photo by Kate Boggan.

Road to AEC: A Horse of a Different Color

Sofia Del Aguila and Highlander at the Texas Rose Horse Park Spring H.T. Photo by Kate Boggan.

The 2018 USEA American Eventing Championships will take place at the Colorado Horse Park this September. Horses and riders across the country are making their final preparations as we head into the home stretch before the event. One horse that is sure to catch your eye one the cross country field is Sofia Del Aguila’s Percheron x Paint, Highlander.

This horse turns heads everywhere he goes. Photo by Kate Boggan.

In a sea of bays, chestnuts and grays the 15-year-old black and white paint stands out from your typical eventing warm up arena, not to mention above it. The 17-hand gelding was originally bred to foxhunt but found his calling in eventing with owner Julie Lobaugh. Julie and Highlander competed through the Preliminary level and made appearances at several AECs of their own. Highlander became a familiar face and gained celebrity status in Area V. When Julie’s life became busy with children and young horses, it was time for Highlander to find a new partner to continue his eventing career.

Sofia Del Aguila learned the ropes of eventing on her Trakehner x Thoroughbred mare, Rumor Has It (Adele), and the pair competed from the Starter level through Novice. In 2017 they made the trip to the Bluegrass State to compete at Pony Club Championships at the Kentucky Horse Park. “I could not have asked for a better first horse,” says Sofia. But the 19-year-old mare had reached her limit at the Novice level and Sofia needed a new horse to move up the levels on.

Wanting to find a horse with experience at Prelim, Sofia struggled to find something she could afford. Life has a funny way of working out and the trainer of the family that bought Sofia’s mare knew Julie Lobaugh was looking for someone to lease her Prelim horse Highlander. Sofia called her own trainer to ask her opinion on the horse and her exact words were: “Call right now! You NEED Highlander, Sofia … hang up the phone and call NOW!” A few weeks later Sofia and her mom were driving to Dallas, Texas, to bring Highlander home to Houston.

Highlander looking less dragon like in his dressage. Photo by Kate Boggan.

Sofia and Highlander have spent the last year getting to know each other, and as all partnerships do it has taken time for the pair to figure each other out. Sofia has been working to calm Highlander down in dressage where he “literally turns into a fire breathing dragon,” and adjusting to having so much horse underneath her. “The biggest challenge I’ve faced with him so far has been keeping control of his outside shoulder and keeping him straight. For such a big horse he is super flexible,” says Sofia.

Learning curves aside, so far the beautiful gelding has been exactly what Sofia had hoped for. “Most of my goals are to improve myself,” she says. “That’s the whole idea behind getting a horse with experience that you know is going to take care of you. That’s why Highlander has been great for improving my riding.” While Sofia is still learning how to manage Highlander’s excessive energy in dressage, she says the horse is an absolute beast on cross country.

Highlander doing what he does best. Photo by Kate Boggan.

The pair moved up to Training level this past January and will be traveling to Georgia for the Chattahoochee Hills Horse Trials in July. Sofia and Highlander competed at both the spring and summer Texas Rose Horse Trials to qualify for the AEC and went to several schooling shows in the area to polish up their performance. Never having competed at an AEC herself, Sofia wants to feel that she has worked all the kinks out and that she and Highlander will make their AEC debut as a really competitive pair at Training level.

“He tolerates my goofiness.” Photo by Sarah Bonnaure.

When asked what her favorite thing about Highlander is, Sofia says: “His character. He’s such a goof and he tolerates my goofiness.” Sofia hopes to move up to Prelim within the next year and is grateful for the chance to learn from a horse with a “been there, done that” attitude. According to Sofia, “If Highlander could talk, on the daily I would get a ‘Dude, what are you even doing? Chill! I know what to do.'”

In a little over two months competitors from across the country will be arriving at the Colorado Horse Park for the 15th annual AEC. While enjoying the beautiful views and spectacular displays of horsemanship, make sure to keep your eyes peeled for Highlander and Sofia. She’ll be on the big black and white paint, wearing the biggest smile out there.

Definition of a Heart Horse

Louisisansdecision “Louie” aka my heart horse

If you stay in the horse industry long enough eventually you will hear someone use the term “heart horse.” It’s passed around in conversation and floats around on social media as a hashtag. The term is typically meant to distinguish one horse in particular over all the others an individual has had a partnership with during their riding career. But going back and looking at the horses that have received this honor, my recently retired event horse included, there’s a great deal of variation in the horses themselves. So my question is: what is the definition of a heart horse?

When you search #hearthorse on Instagram or Facebook the results flood your screen with pictures of everything from backyard trail partners to four-star eventers. Some of these horses are running barrel patterns while others are prized pasture ornaments. Many have lots of ribbons and awards to their name and just as many seem to have never set foot in the show arena. Occupation or performance doesn’t seem to play much of a role in a horse earning this title.

They aren’t often what we expect, but they’re what we need. My friend Kendall Baker on her heart horse Demi.

Perhaps a horse’s personality makes them a heart horse. While it would be easy to expect a heart horse to be sweet and loving and look at you with adoring eyes each time you set foot in the barn, I can use my personal experience to prove that is not necessarily the case. There were days that my horse would be personable and affectionate, but more often than not he was your stereotypical OTTB with sensitive skin and enough personality quirks to make up for every mild mannered horse I’ve ever come across.

I’ve watched a friend and their heart horse begin to reach for the upper levels of competition only to be met with set back after set back and struggle to regain confidence at the lower levels of their sport for the past several years. But the horse remains my friend’s heart horse whether they finish in the ribbons or they finish on a letter. This same person just before they acquired their prized pony was competing and winning all over the country on a different horse and yet that one never earned the title of heart horse.

A heart horse isn’t always the obvious choice. No one else may understand the connection; as my mom always told me “It’s a good thing you love Louie, because no one else would.” But these horses that earn the title of heart horse are perhaps a different creature than the horse you might call your best horse. They aren’t necessarily the horse you can trust with your life or put even the smallest child on for a hack. A heart horse doesn’t always give you piles of ribbons or make all your riding peers envious (sometimes they make them pity you). They aren’t always the most consistent horses and heaven knows they aren’t always the bomb proof ones.

The flip horse that just never went up for sale. Amanda Chance on Henry.

A heart horse may not always give you an easy ride, but when they do they are the sweetest experiences to revel in. Many times a heart horse is intentional, purchased to be your next great partner and selected with the upmost care out of hundreds of others. But I’ve also seen many heart horses that were accidents: a horse to ride while you’re in between horses, a flip project you just couldn’t bring yourself to sell, a horse someone gave you because they had nowhere else to go.

So what is a heart horse? As best as I can understand and put into words, a heart horse is a horse whose soul compliments your own. When you are in sync they make you feel like you can conquer the world. When you walk out to the barn they are the first pair of ears you want to see. They may not be the easiest horse in the world, but when the chips are down they will give you everything they have. I find it easy to fall in love with horses, I always have. But the heart horses are the ones that give you their heart in return and those are the horses we cherish above all others.

My heart horse giving me his all.

Do you have a heart horse? Tell us about them in the comments!

Adventures in the Real World: Laundry Day

The adventure begins. Photo courtesy of Kate Boggan.

Every eventer, four-star riders to starters, has at least one thing in common: copious amounts of laundry. It’s inevitable that you’ll have saddle pads, blankets, wraps, etc. that will be soaked in sweat, feces, urine, mud, or more likely a combination of all of the above. Some of you may be methodical and on top of your laundry, but if you’re like my friends and me, you’ll have put off laundry day week after week until you’ve acquired a pile so fragrant and foul it puts even the smelliest boys’ locker room to shame.

At this point you’re faced with a dilemma. Do you wash the smelly, hair covered pads and blankets at home and risk angering all the non-horsey humans you live with? Or do you brave the normal human world and try to find a laundromat that won’t kick you out as soon as the first bit of shavings hit the floor? My friends and I gathered our courage and opted for the later. Living in a college town does come with its perks. College Station, Texas is home to an establishment called Harvey Washbangers. Half laundromat, half bar and grill, Harvey Washbangers has a very tasty menu including some of the best burgers in town and even made the Texas Bucket List.

There was a very distinct smell coming from our corner of the room. Photo courtesy of Kate Boggan.

We arrived at our destination and tried to walk in without being noticed. No such luck. The manager held the door for us as we lugged our hampers of horse laundry inside. We chose the washing machines in the back corner of the laundromat and attempted to be as discreet as possible while frantically stuffing winter blankets in the front loaders. But living in Texas with all our dang southern hospitality makes an outing without human interaction next to impossible. A friendly employee walked over to us to make sure we knew how to work the machines properly and spotted our contraband. My heart dropped into my belly when he said, “Oh horse laundry,” and I was ready for the boot. But all he said was “I wondered what that earthy smell was.” I was so relieved I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that wasn’t an earthy smell; it was ammonia from horse urine.

You don’t even have to get up to check on your laundry. Photo courtesy of Kate Boggan.

Four washing machines full and our anxieties relieved, we headed to the grill part of the building. The chorizo burger (only in Texas) was to die for and the sweet potato fries are top notch. At the end of the bar there’s a light board with blue and red bulbs numbered in correspondence to the washers and dryers in the back room so you can watch for your machine to be done. Harvey Washbangers likes to tell its patrons they can “Eat and drink ‘til your lights go out,” a welcome invitation to eventers!

Every horse person knows this struggle. Photo courtesy of Kate Boggan.

By the end of lunch our laundry was done and all that remained was to untangle my knots of polo wraps. We weren’t kicked out of the laundromat and we only got a few weird looks and wrinkled noses. It was actually a pretty fun day. Everything, even laundry, is better when done with friends (especially is food is involved). While you’ll have to travel to College Station if you want to visit Harvey Washbangers, I think some entrepreneurial minded horse person needs to take this business model and run with it. I want a chain of sports bar/laundromats across the country with cross country live streams on the TVs and “horse laundry welcome” signs on all the doors!

How to Throw the Ultimate LRK3DE Cross Country Watch Party

Stay properly hydrated while watching cross country. Photo by Kate Boggan.

The #BestWeekendAllYear is almost here! Here’s how to maximize your cross country day live stream goodness:

  1. Come to terms with the fact that you can’t fit in your trainer’s suitcase and actually go to Kentucky (*ahem* Amanda Merritt).
  2. Remind yourself that it is no longer Rolex. Write Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event 100 times on a chalkboard.
  3. Decide to throw a cross country watch party and create a Facebook event accordingly.
  4. Invite all your horsey and non-horsey friends knowing full well only your fellow equine enthusiasts will come.
  5. Realize your TV is much too small to do the cross country awesomeness justice and make arrangements to borrow/steal your neighbor’s flat screen for the day.
  6. Call the USEF and re-activate that account you made back in middle school, when you thought you would have done your first one-star by now … *sigh.*
  7. Confirm you have a thorough understanding of North American time zones so you don’t miss a single second of the amazingness.
  8. Decide the mid-morning cross country phase start time makes your party the perfect event for a brunch, complete with mimosas.
  9. Contemplate LRK3DE themed decorations, but decide dog hair, muddy barn boots, and tack waiting to be cleaned gives it a more authentic feel.
  10. Reschedule your carefully planned college finals studying to be crammed into Sunday afternoon once the awards ceremony is complete.
  11. Download the LRK3DE app (click here for iOS or here for Android) so you can brush up on horse and rider stats and keep track of dressage live scores while you’re in class or at work Thursday and Friday.
  12. Obsess over every LRK3DE article and news release for maximum hype build up.

#LRK3DE Links: WebsiteRide TimesScheduleLive StreamLive ScoresCourse PreviewEN’s CoverageEN’s Ultimate GuideEN’s InstagramEN’s Twitter

Cross Country and Cow Sense: An Eventer Tries Her Hand at Reined Cow Horse

My sweet ride Shiny Sugar Shaker.

Firsts are always memorable. Reading a hunter’s account of their first event, or watching a reiner ride a show jumper gives you a sense of anticipation. Will they be successful? Will they enjoy their experience? Watching others experience eventing for the first time renews my passion for the sport. So when I wound up in grad school and became close friends with a rider whose equine sport of choice is Reined Cow Horse, I decided to flip the script. Heels down and grab mane for: An Eventer Tries to Be a Cowgirl.

Reined Cow Horse is truly the western counterpart to Eventing. In competitions run by the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA), horse and rider compete in three events. Reined work tests the horse’s ability to be willingly guided through a pattern. Herd work, or cutting, shows a horse and rider’s ability to select a cow out of the herd and keep it out. Fence work demonstrates the pair’s ability to work a single cow in a series of maneuvers and maintain control of that cow. In the cow horse world they refer to this as “maintaining a working advantage.” Cow horses must be versatile enough to take a variety of training and athletic enough to excel in events that each require a very different set of skills. Sound familiar?

Just like in the English world where dressage and show jumping are standalone sports, reining and cutting are also their own respective sports with the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) and the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA). But just like cross country, fence work only exists in reined cow horse shows. “Going down the fence” is what draws people to the sport. It’s high intensity, high adrenaline and can make or break your show. Unlike eventing, each event in a cow horse show is scored by a panel of judges. The scores from all three events are added up and the total highest score wins.

When I started my Equine Industry Management graduate program at Texas A&M University in the fall of 2017, I had the pleasure of meeting Brooke Wharton. A fellow grad student and horse enthusiast, Brooke introduced me to the sport of Reined Cow Horse by inviting me to the 2017 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity at the Will Rodgers Memorial Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas. Among the attractions at the event was a special showing of the documentary Down the Fence, which followed the stories of several professional reined cow horse trainers on their road to the Snaffle Bit Futurity. The movie brought me to tears, and I was hooked.

I opted for my Charles Owen instead of a cowboy hat. #mindyourmelon

I’m fortunate to live in Texas, where Reined Cow Horse is one of the more popular equestrian sports. Through some of Brooke’s connections, I was introduced to Matlock Rice, the head trainer and owner of Matlock Rice Performance Horses. He graciously allowed Brooke and me to come out and ride some of his cow horses. Matlock introduced me to my horse, Shiny Sugar Shaker. An adorable little “sorrel” mare, Matlock told me “sometimes she bucks” and I swung my leg over with a little less confidence.

We rode into the large arena, and Matlock guided me through some different reining maneuvers. Spins were pretty fun and easy to get the hang of, flying changes aren’t that different from ours, but the stops … that was a different story. As I explained to Brooke and Matlock the only time our eventers slide to a stop like that is if something has gone wrong. We never do this on purpose. Slouching in the saddle was also a new concept to me. After years of being told “Shoulders back!” it was hard to train my upper body to sink into the saddle and let my shoulders hunch and follow the motion of the horse. This is essential however if you don’t want to get thrown over your horse’s head when they tuck their butt and stop.

This is what you don’t want to happen:

But then I got the hang of things:

Once Matlock was comfortable with my reining skills it was time to get a cow. We rode out into the adjoining field and actually drove the cattle into the arena. I was beaming when Matlock told me I “made a pretty good hand” when, with little fuss, all the cattle were successfully in the pen. Matlock went in on his own horse and cut a cow out of the herd and into the arena for me. He gave me the basics, “Always ride parallel to the cow; stop straight, and watch their eyes to read what their next move will be,” and turned me loose to experiment.

Gathering the cattle.

Now, when a horse has a lot of “cow sense” they’re described as being “cowy” and man was my little mare cowy! All of us eventers can relate to that amazing feeling of being on course with your cross country machine and feeling your horse lock onto their fence and land searching for the next set of flags. There’s nothing better than being on a game horse! It’s the same with the cow horses.

As soon as that cow loped into the arena, Shiny Sugar Shaker was taking me to her. Matlock would try and coach me through the ride: “Get in front of her, go with the cow, use your outside rein to stop, kick her forward!” But Sugar was doing it all for me. I was just along for the ride. She had begrudgingly gone through the reining maneuvers with me and was gracious enough to not buck me off, but when we got in the pen with that cow her whole attitude changed. That little mare’s ears perked up and she was locked on that cow! I just had to keep my balance, and let her do the work. Much like a good jump, you set your horse up for success, and then you get out of their way.

My short ride on the cow raised my respect for this sport to a whole other level. When done well, it looks so easy. You just move the cow up and down the fence and push it in a circle each way. This experience gave me a whole new insight and appreciation to the difference in working a cow and chasing a cow. Sugar and I were more reacting to what the cow would do than actually controlling where she went. Horseback riding is challenging enough dealing with an animal that has a mind of its own, but in the cow horse events you have to factor in a second animal that doesn’t speak English!

With my interest in the sport growing, I contacted Morgan Moreno, the coach for the Texas A&M Stock Horse team. The 2017 American Stock Horse Association (ASHA) National Champions, the stock horse team is an inviting, club team that welcomes riders of all experience levels. Much like the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing program, collegiate stock horse teams have divisions for those new to the sport and divisions for those who have been competing in cow horse, ranch versatility and other western disciplines their whole lives. Morgan invited me out to the Texas A&M Team’s practice at Still Creek Ranch in Bryan, Texas, to learn a bit more about how the sport works at the collegiate level.

Texas A&M Stock Horse Team member Jaci Marley and her gelding Hickory’s Chic Olena working a cow

The Texas A&M Stock Horse team holds tryouts in both the fall and spring semesters. Students can compete with their own horses or ride horses provided by the school. Riders are paired up with one horse that they will show for that semester with the team. Based on their experience level and show record, riders are put into one of three divisions: Novice, Limited Non-Pro and Non-Pro. Once a student wins an event at their current level, the next calendar year they are required to move up to the next level.

Texas A&M Stock Horse Team member Nolan Self and his mare Light Dots demonstrating a proper sliding stop.

I spent the afternoon watching team members run through their reining patterns and work cattle. Towards the end of the evening, Morgan let me get on her young horse, TAMU Itsa NuDeelight, and sort cattle in the back pens for team riders to practice on. Just starting out in her career, Deelight didn’t have the same refined skills with the cattle that Sugar did, but just like the rest of the horses on the team she knows her job is to move those cows and she loves it!

All in all, I had a pretty great time getting to try a new sport and check another thing off my equine bucket list. Reined Cow Horse is a demanding event – my abs were hurting in ways I didn’t know they could – and for an adrenaline junky eventer like me, it was right up my alley. I am definitely going to continue taking all the opportunities I can to learn and ride some more cow horses. Who knows, maybe I’ll even go out for the Stock Horse team this fall!

Thank you so much to Brooke Wharton, Ben Baldus, Matlock Rice, Morgan Moreno and the Texas A&M Stock Horse Team for helping this eventer be a cowgirl for a few days!

Flags, Frogs, Ponies and Pooches: A Report from Texas Rose Horse Park H.T.

Sarah Goodyear and Flagmount’s Harmony on course in Senior Training Rider. Photo by Kate Boggan.

When people say everything is bigger in Texas, they aren’t kidding. The Texas Rose Horse Park held its March horse trial this past weekend, March 29-31, in Tyler, Texas. Riders from the Starter level all the way through Intermediate were welcomed by newly redesigned courses and a plethora of additional events and activities to enjoy.

A Big Weekend for Ponies, Pups …

Thursday featured USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) and Future Event Horse (FEH) competition while the horse trial ran Friday and Saturday. Texas Rose also hosted its first Intercollegiate Challenge with the TCU Horned Frogs and the Texas A&M Aggies facing off. Friday evening’s headline event was the Pony Challenge, wherein teams of one pro, one adult rider and one young rider donned crazy costumes and competed for crowd approval to benefit Area V rider programs.

If all of that wasn’t enough to keep you entertained over the weekend, the United States Dog Agility Association hosted an agility trial in the Horse Park’s indoor arena Friday and Saturday. Check out the local paper’s report on that here.

Congrats to the following horse trial division winners! See complete results here:

Open Intermediate: Ryleigh Leavitt & MoonLight Crush (35.0)
Open Preliminary: Kadi Eykamp & Ole Boy (31.7)
Preliminary Rider: Georgia Dillard & Galileo WP (25.9)
Junior Training Rider: Harper Petty & Obi-Wan Kenobi (29.1)
Open Training: LeeAnn McQuade & Corp Trip (35.5)
Senior Training Rider: Rebecca Hunt & Snowflake Lane (26.7)
Training Horse: Angela Bowles & Rocktop Dreamer (29.1)
Junior Novice Rider: Vienna Allport & Caramel Macchiato (31.0)
Novice Horse: Tayler Owen & Joint Ventures Remy Martin (27.6)
Open Novice: Nicole Hatley & Fernhill Fearless des Terdrix (27.6)
Senior Novice Rider-A: Angie Mitchell & Smiling’s My Favorite (34.0)
Senior Novice Rider-B: Katie Grace Bond & High Class (32.9)
Junior Beginner Novice Rider-A: Makenzie Lowe & Addie Okie (36.4)
Junior Beginner Novice Rider-B: Miriam Copeland & D’Stinctive (22.8)
Open Beginner Novice: Angela Bowles & Woodstock Classic Rock (28.6)
Senior Beginner Novice Rider: Janet Taylor & Zarpazo (26.4)
Starter: Elle Snyder & You Have A Friend In Me (26.1)

The lowest finishing score in the country of the weekend belonged to Miriam Copeland and D’Stinctive, who scored a 22.8 in the Junior Beginner Novice Rider B division.  Well-done, Miriam!

… and Frogs!

TCU White Team rider Hannah McKee and Ultimate Element. Photo by Kate Boggan.

The Texas Rose Horse Park’s first Intercollegiate Challenge brought in three teams of collegiate riders, two from TCU and one from Texas A&M. The TCU White Team — Clara Cargile (I), Caroline Madden (P) and Hannah McKee (T) — led the competition from start to finish ending on a combined score of 101.3. #GoFrogs! The TCU Purple Team took second and the Texas A&M Team took third.

Flagmount Babies Abound

Janet Marden and Flagmount’s Top Cat. Photo by Kate Boggan.

Many of us saw Doug Payne’s helmet cam video of the lovely mare Flagmount’s Mischief at the Carolina International. While “Missy” enjoyed her CIC3* debut last weekend, several of her siblings were competing at Texas Rose over Easter weekend.

Natalie Lester and Flagmount’s Patronus Charm. Photo by Kate Boggan.

The Flagmount babies come from Dr. Janet Marden’s ISH stallion Flagmount’s Freedom. Janet had always wanted to breed an Irish horse, as she admired them for their big bones and soundness. After vet school she shipped frozen semen from Ireland and bred one of her own Thoroughbred mares. Flagmount’s Freedom was the result.

“Flag” and Janet competed through the two-star level and the grey stallion then went on to take Janet’s daughter, Natalie Lester, through her first Intermediate as a barefoot 17-year-old. Flag has been a breeding stallion since he was four and has produced upper level professional mounts as well as horses suitable for amateurs to move up the levels on. At any given show in Area V you’re sure to see at least one Flagmount horse entered and more often, like at Texas Rose, there will be a whole list of Flag babies in the field.

Flagmount’s Allstar has got some hops! Photo by Kate Boggan.

Janet and Natalie were both aboard Flag babies this weekend. Janet competed Flagmount’s Allstar in the Open Intermediate and Flagmount’s Top Cat in the Training Horse Division. Natalie, who has started her own training and coaching business named after their wonder stallion – Flags A’Flying Equestrian – competed Flagmount’s Patronus Charm in the Open Intermediate. Flagmount’s Harmony and Flagmount’s Rebel both competed in the Senior Training Rider division with their respective riders, Sarah Goodyear and Clarissa Bliss. Even the FEH competition had a Flagmount horse.

Flagmount’s Rebel and Clarissa Bliss. Photo by Kate Boggan.

Flagmount’s Worth the Wait is appropriately named, says owner Alexandria Larue. Alex purchased the breeding five years before they were able to get a live foal. The black yearling filly is everything she could have dreamed of and Alex plans for “Saoirse” to be her next upper level mount. She competed against Flag when he was going Intermediate and fell in love with him: “He was always easygoing, always easy to handle at shows, he was always competitive and from there we knew we wanted a Flag baby.” Saoirse’s dam is a spicy Irish Thoroughbred who has a tendency to be a little hot, so Flag’s easygoing attitude was the perfect complement to produce an upper level event prospect with a lot of blood and a great brain.

Flagmount’s Worth the Wait competing in the FEH division. Photo by Kate Boggan.

Texas Rose Horse Park hosts two more USEA events this year: its Summer H.T. May 11-18, featuring Starter through Advanced-Intermediate horse trials as well as a CCI1* and CIC2*, and its Fall H.T., featuring Starter through Intermediate horse trials.

Go Area V Eventing!

Texas Rose Horse Park H.T. [Website] [Results]