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Lisa Thomas

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Horse Heaven Comes Full Circle at Walton Place

I have been passionate about horses my entire life and feel fortunate that I was raised in the beautiful countryside of Unionville, Pennsylvania. As a child I had the opportunity to grow up fox hunting with Cheshire Hunt and participate in the Cheshire Pony Club and at regional rated hunter shows.

I grew up on a farm located on Big Springs Road, a dirt road that dog-legs over to Thouron Road, and as a child I would ride my pony past what is now Walton Place Equestrian on a regular basis. Some of my best memories as a child are from riding down those dirt roads all alone with my pony.

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Lisa Thomas cubbing at Cheshire on Upland Flying Fish, circa 1975.

I’m now a parent, and we have been careful to encourage both of our children to work hard towards their goals and to never take for granted the exciting opportunities that surround them here in Chester County.

My daughter, Kendal Thomas, who is now 14, has trained primarily with me, but through my business she has been exposed to some of the top riders and trainers in the industry. Regardless of that advantage, we never take for granted that owning horses is a privilege which requires hard work, an abundance of energy and some serious financial resources.

My daughter, like myself, loves to experience multiple disciplines, so we fox hunt, compete at the local hunter/jumper shows, and enter a few of the area’s starter trials. She’s even raced both of her ponies at some of the area pony races.

kt-danny2016

Kendal and Danny at Ludwig’s Corner Horse Show 2016. Photo by Lisa Thomas.

This past fall, I decided it was time to loosen my maternal grip on coaching Kendal and to treat her to a birthday lesson with my new client, Grand Prix show jumper turned upper level eventer Michael Walton. What I didn’t expect was that this would turn into a regular opportunity for Kendal to ride one of Michael and Joan’s horses. Ruckus is the perfect “first horse,” as he’s competed up through Prelim level and is Mr. Consistency!

As a parent, I’m now learning to sit by the sidelines, keep my mouth shut (sort of) and enjoy watching my kid being coached by a true professional. Thankfully I have Joan’s companionship ringside to keep me in line and the best view and seat in Chester County.

I hope now I may formally retire from being that overbearing parent/coach, and I thank the Waltons from the bottom of my heart for the opportunity they have offered to my child to learn on Ruckus. May she work hard for them and always be humble and appreciative.

Kendal wanted to share her experience at Walton Place Equestrian. Here is her story:

“When I first heard I was going to get a lesson from Michael Walton for my birthday, I was ecstatic. Whenever we drove by the Walton’s amazing facility in Unionville, I would instantly tell my mom how fun it would be to soar over that Phillies jump.

“When I got there I ended up cross country schooling a small horse named Ruckus because my pony is green. I had so much fun! Ruckus is a point-and-shoot type of horse, and when he jumps, it feels like a rocket blasting off. I even jumped my first corner and angled brush on Ruckus. I had such a great experience at Walton Place, and I was so appreciative of such a successful ride.

Michael coaching Kendal and Ruckus at Walton Place. Photo by Lisa Thomas.

“Shortly after I left their farm, my mom got a call from Joan Walton saying that they wanted me to ride Ruckus in the Novice divisions at Radnor and Plantation Field. This made me very excited to go back to have my second lesson.

“Preparing for Radnor was very short. In fact, I only had a week. However, Michael made this easy by assuring me that Ruckus was educated and experienced. After a couple of lessons I felt like I was ready to compete. I went to Radnor with a game face on, and Michael and Joan were stars helping me tack up and get in the zone. I warmed up for dressage and had a satisfying ride.

“Unfortunately, the dressage ring was located right next to the port-a-potty, and the door slammed twice while we were in the dressage ring which shook us up a bit. However I made up for this in stadium and cross country, going double clear in both. I came out in seventh place, and I was proud of my accomplishments at my first USEA recognized event.

“Next I had to prepare for Plantation. This was unrecognized and a fun event since it was their Halloween season finale, however I still took it seriously. Sadly, Joan and Michael were away that weekend, so it was up to my mother and me to have a successful day.

Going into dressage I tried to imagine what Michael would say. “Eyes up, and keep a connection.” I ended up with a score of 31.5. I was very excited that I got such good a good score by myself. Unfortunately, I dropped a rail in stadium due to a bad approach, but learned that I had something to work on in the near future. I ended up in fifth place with a clear cross country.”

Kendal competing Ruckus in the Plantation Halloween Horse Trials. Photo credit Amy Dragoo!

Kendal competing Ruckus in the Plantation Field Halloween Horse Trials. Photo used with permission from Amy Dragoo.

“After these two events my mom had more exciting news for me. I was going to be able to ride Ruckus in the spring. I was so excited especially because I have outgrown my pony and it is time to sell him. I now know I have a future being able to ride at Walton Place and can’t wait for the 2017 season.

“With skills to work on after the event, I know that my family and the Waltons will support me in any way possible. I am so appreciative of what my mother has done to give me this amazing opportunity, but most importantly, I value the generosity Michael and Joan have given me.”

Stable View Merging Modern Course Design with Emphasis on Safety

A MIM clip on one of the Advanced fences. Photo courtesy of Stable View. A MIM clip on one of the Advanced fences. Photo courtesy of Stable View.

The weekend is rapidly approaching at Stable View’s inaugural Advanced horse trials, the courses are all set and the competitors are pulling into town. The event coordinators, staff and volunteers have been working tirelessly to prepare for Aiken’s first Advanced Horse Trials, which runs tomorrow along with the Preliminary divisions. Beginner Novice through Training level divisions will run on Sunday.

Stable View’s event organizer Anne Dearborn is pleased with their preparation for the Advanced horse trials, stating that Barry and Cyndy Olliff have brought together an excellent team of designers, builders, staff, officials and volunteers.

“We have stepped up our preparation by doing things like holding a training session and course review for our cross country jump judges prior to the event to familiarize them with the layout of the course,” Anne said. “We have hired a control person with four-star experience. We are spacing the Advanced riders out at three-minute intervals, so there should only be two horses on course at any time.”

Modern Course Design with an Emphasis on Safety

Course builder Eric Bull and course designer Capt. Mark Phillips worked on the new Advanced course for more than a year and have also steadily made improvements and updates to the Beginner Novice through Preliminary courses. There is an advantage to having Eric and Capt. Phillips working side-by-side for the past five years on the expansion of all the courses, as they have had ample time to strategically develop each track.

A heavy emphasis on safety has been placed on the new course, with multiple jumps incorporating frangible pins and MIM clips. There is one vertical fence with frangible pins, one reverse pinned oxer and one reversed pinned corner, as well as MIM clips on two skinny triple brushes and seven brush jumps. The Preliminary course also includes MIM clips on the triple brush.

The cross country track and footing have been carefully managed, groomed and improved. Stable View practices regular aeration and utilizes a K-Line irrigation system, which is a flexible, movable pipe that can be directed towards specific areas of the course to manage the consistency of the footing.

Photo courtesy of Stable View

Photo courtesy of Stable View

The new track is a “challenging national Advanced level cross country course, and it is a good prep for horses going to Fair Hill International,” Eric said. His team at ETB Jumps has built the course at Fair Hill for the past 18 years, so this insight comes with in-depth knowledge.

Stable View is also proud to have Safety Officer Dr. Mike Quinn, a pulmonary critical care physician who has served in the military for more than 20 years. His wife is involved with horses, and his son Brendan Quinn has competed through the one-star level.

The Quinn family lives locally at Fort Gordon, and after his last tour in Afghanistan, Dr. Quinn volunteered to work at his first show at Stable View in September 2014. Since then he has given recommendations on safety and emergency planning, as well as medical response protocols in the event of an emergency.

Parties and Entertainment

If you are at the event this weekend, don’t forget to join the Saturday morning course walks hosted by Capt. Mark Phillips, Boyd Martin and Richard Jeffery, which will be followed by the formal ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Advanced cross country course.

Throughout the weekend there will also be plenty of entertainment in addition to the actual competition. There are activities for the whole family, including Aiken Horsepower’s Fall Fling car show, a Giant Jenga competition and complimentary happy hours from Carolina Moon Distillery and River Rat Brewery.

The team at Stable View is delighted to have all of the competitors with them this weekend celebrating Aiken’s first Advanced horse trials and wish all the competitors a fun and safe event. For a full schedule of competitor and spectator information, please click here.

Stay tuned for an exclusive fence-by-fence preview of the new Advanced course, and in the meantime we’re excited to bring you a first look at the course map here. Go Stable View!

Star-Studded Entry List Unveiled for Stable View’s Inaugural Advanced

Clayton Fredericks and FE Money Made. Photo courtesy of Stable View. Clayton Fredericks and FE Money Made. Photo courtesy of Stable View.

We are a little more than a week away from Stable View’s inaugural Advanced Oktoberfest Horse Trials on Oct. 1-2, and the event has unveiled the entry list of riders who will compete. This is the first Advanced event to be held in the Aiken area, and the response from top level riders has been exceptional.

The Stable View organizers are sweetening the deal with some serious prize money as well, offering up to $60,000 in the Advanced division and up to $15,000 for the Beginner Novice through Preliminary divisions.

This is also an excellent opportunity for young riders to familiarize themselves with the competition venue at Stable View with the upcoming 21 Challenge Young Rider Series kicking off during the March 2017 horse trials.

Entries closed on Sept. 13 for the Oktoberfest horse trials, but it’s not too late to enter.  Entries with a late fee will be accpeted until Monday, Sept. 26. Click here for the omnibus details.

Capt. Mark Phillip's Advanced course will run through the main arena and derby field. Photo courtesy of Stable View.

Capt. Mark Phillip’s Advanced course will run through the main arena and derby field. Photo courtesy of Stable View.

Advanced Division Entries

There are 37 entries in the Advanced, and the event has split the Open Preliminary division due to the overwhelming number of entries. Here’s a look at the entry list for the inaugural Advanced, with Olympians and top riders from all across the U.S. making the trip to Aiken to compete. Who do you think will come out on top?

Emily Beshear
Jessica Bortner-Harris
Kristen Buffamoyer
Kyle Carter
Ellen Doughty-Hume
Phillip Dutton
Clayton Fredericks
Werner Geven
Jon Holling
Lizzy Jahnke
Leslie Law
Whitney Mahlock
Boyd Martin
Caroline Martin
Joe Meyer
Sara Kozumplik Murphy
Julie Norman
Doug Payne
Erin Renfoe
Julie Richards
Kate Samuels
Lexi Scovil
Jessica Schultz
Mackenna Shea
Allison Springer

Click here to see the most recent entry status for the event.

An aerial view of Stable View. Photo courtesy of Stable View.

An aerial view of Stable View. Photo courtesy of Stable View.

Course Walks

In celebration of the first Advanced horse trials, Stable View is hosting several course walks throughout the morning of the Advanced and Preliminary competition on Saturday, Oct. 1. If you plan to attend the event in Aiken, please plan to register that morning for course walks.

Capt. Mark Phillips will lead a cross country course walk at 9:30 a.m., with Olympian Boyd Martin also leading a course walk at 10:30 a.m.; both will leave promptly from the start box at that scheduled time. You can see the new Advanced course firsthand, featuring ETB Jumps on the irrigated grass track, derby field and new galloping lanes.

There will also be stadium course walks hosted by leading industry course designer Richard Jeffery throughout the morning in the outdoor stadium arena from 9 a.m.-noon. A donation of $10 is suggested to join in the course walks, with proceeds supporting a wonderful organization in the Cumbee Center to Assist Abused Persons.

Finally, a ribbon cutting ceremony to present the new Advanced level cross country course will be held at noon at the Offset Combination at fence 20. Please join us for this celebration.

The weekend is certain to be action-packed with incredible horse sport and plenty of entertainment with local vendors, sponsor parties and a bit of non-equestrian horse power as well, and we hope to see you there. Check out all of the Advanced Oktoberfest horse trials event on the Stable View website here.

Stable View Breaking New Ground with Advanced Horse Trials

Pictured with Capt. Mark Phillips, Eric Bull and Barry Olliff are Lewis Vannote, Shelley Page and Ria Burton. Photo courtesy of Stable View. Pictured with Capt. Mark Phillips, Eric Bull and Barry Olliff are Lewis Vannote, Shelley Page and Ria Burton. Photo courtesy of Stable View.

Last week EN gave our readers a sneak peek at the upcoming Oktoberfest Advanced Horse Trials (Oct. 1-2) at Stable View Farm in Aiken. While speaking to course designer Capt. Mark Phillips, course builder Eric Bull and facility owner Barry Olliff, a recurring conversation emerged: How do we keep riders in the sport engaged and investors in the game?

Both Capt. Phillips and Eric have been involved in Stable View since Barry and Cyndy Olliff acquired the property in 2010. Since then the Olliffs have gradually built out the infrastructure to capture the essence of what they envision to be “A Gathering Place” in Aiken, and they’ve stepped up in a big way. While the original facility had a solid foundation, over the past six years this equestrian destination has morphed into a world class training facility.

The USEF recently introduced the Elite Training Center Designation Program to recognize venues that have provided training facilities for a USEF sanctioned team, developing rider or horse training session. Fourteen venues in the U.S. are currently designated as Elite Training Centers, including Stable View.

Facility amenities include five separate barns for multiple trainers, a 300-by-250 covered arena with Attwood Equestrian Surfaces‘ Pinnacle footing, an outdoor show jumping arena and dressage court with Attwood GGT sand blend footing, a grass grand prix field, a large grass field for dressage arenas and the newly expanded cross country track. Capt. Mark Phillips, Eric Bull and Richard Jeffery were brought on board to oversee the build out of the stadium, derby field and cross country courses.

Making the leap to Advanced

Stable View started hosting USEA events up through the Preliminary level in 2014, and while the natural progression would be to host an Intermediate division along with the inaugural Advanced, the Oktoberfest horse trials are not offering the Intermediate level. Barry Olliff realized that if their facility improvements were to be capitalized upon, an Intermediate event was not as likely as an Advanced event to attract top riders, sponsors, vendors and spectators.

Capt. Phillips said he has enjoyed working strategically with Stable View because of Barry’s vision and ability to make calculated decisions with a long-term goal in mind. “This Advanced Oktoberfest horse trials is the first step in that vision, and Stable View will become one of the premier facilities in the U.S.,” he said.

The decision to run an Advanced horse trials was actually Plan B. In reality, Plan A was to look at running a three-star, but with all the financial obligations to run an FEI level event and no guarantee for a priority date on the calendar, the numbers didn’t add up for Barry.

“Hosting an Advanced event helps our riders get their qualifications for the FEI events. We are trying to create awareness for the sport and for Stable View by giving away substantial prize money at the Advanced level instead of hosting a three-star,” Barry said.

“We’ve actually had a lot of Plan Bs that have kept us moving in the right direction. We want to grow organically and provide useful services for Aiken, which is very neatly positioned geographically. In addition we are trying to undertake a business plan within the context of a five year commitment. We don’t want to commit to things one year and change them the next.”

Supporting the lower levels

Even though the main attraction of the Oktoberfest event is its designation as Aiken’s first Advanced horse trials, Stable View has always offered prize money for the lower levels at Beginner Novice through Preliminary. The entries for the Open Preliminary division for the October event have poured in, and it was decided that rather than close that division at 40 horses, the prize money will now be doubled and two separate divisions will run.

Barry hopes competitors see this boost in prize money as a commitment to the lower levels and the core group of riders who have supported Stable View’s horse trials from the venue’s very first event in 2014. This is the group Barry wishes to attract and support on a continual basis throughout the season.

“We have supported the lower levels from the beginning, and we have approached what we do from a bottom-up perspective. Aiken has a lot of lower-level riders a lot of events and therefore a lot of choice. Our job at Stable View is to increase the pie by encouraging those that are outside Aiken to come participate. We do that by being new, fresh, experimenting and through increased branding. We aim to provide a good product at a reasonable price, ensuring that riders are made to feel welcome,” Barry said.

“The Oktoberfest horse trials will help create a buzz for all of our other events for all the disciplines, like our recognized and unrecognized horse trials, dressage and jumper shows, and we’d eventually like to hold hunter derbies as well.”

This strategy aligns with Stable View’s overall mission statement to serve as “A Gathering Place,” not just for eventers, but for other equestrians and the greater Aiken community and beyond.

The Oktoberfest event has had overwhelming support from area businesses and organizations, and the vendor and sponsor list continues to grow. There are activities for the whole family scheduled throughout the weekend, including Aiken Horsepower’s Fall Fling car show, a Giant Jenga competition and complimentary happy hours from Carolina Moon Distillery and River Rat Brewery.

The competition closing date is today, Tuesday, Sept. 13, so get those entries in ASAP! Be sure to check out the new promo video for the event below, and click here for more information on the event.

An Exclusive Sneak Peek at Stable View’s New Advanced Course

An aerial view of one of Stable View's water complex. Photo courtesy of Stable View. An aerial view of one of Stable View's water complex. Photo courtesy of Stable View.

Stable View’s Advanced Oktoberfest Horse Trials is fast approaching on Oct. 1 and 2, and we’re bringing you a bit of a sneak peek at this expansive multi-discipline facility and brand new Advanced cross country course located in Aiken, South Carolina.

Barry and Cyndy Olliff, the owners of Stable View, purchased the facility in 2010 and since then have steadily created one of the most preeminent international equestrian facilities in the United States. The property is the winter base for Will Coleman, as well as Boyd and Silva Martin, and hosts year-round clinics, events and horse shows for dressage, eventing and show jumping.

There have been numerous infrastructure improvements to the property since the Olliffs purchased it, include lodging and apartments (click here to see photos), barns, outbuildings, arenas and the newly constructed Advanced cross country track. If you haven’t already visited Stable View, the Oktoberfest event is an ideal time to tour the grounds.

An aerial view of the covered arena, main arena and main barn. Photo courtesy of Stable View.

An aerial view of the covered arena, main arena and main barn. Photo courtesy of Stable View.

You’ll find four different barn areas on the property, which allow independent trainers to operate side-by-side but with their own distinctly separate space. The Main Barn has 15 stalls, with six stalls in the Kennels, 11 stalls in the Work Shed and 12 stalls in the East Barn.

A 300-by-250-foot covered arena is one of the largest in Aiken and features Attwood Equestrian Surface’s “Pinnacle” dust-free footing. The 300-by-250-foot outdoor arena, which has Attwood GGT sand blend footing, enables Stable View to host large shows featuring different disciplines. The new dressage arena also has Attwood GGT sand blend footing.

The expanse of the rings and the layout of the entire facility is definitely impressive, with the footing in particular making the rings some of the best you’ll find throughout the region and the country. These rings are used for regular training and schooling, as well as numerous dressage and jumper shows that Stable View hosts throughout the year. Click here for more photos of the facilities.

The new elephant trap on the Advance course. Photo courtesy of Stable View.

The new elephant trap on the Advanced course. Photo courtesy of Stable View.

The Birth of Aiken’s First Advanced Cross Country Course

The Olliffs’ vision for the property always included an Advanced cross country course, and Capt. Mark Phillips has collaborated with Stable View as the course designer and strategic advisor from its inception. His input and invaluable experience in the international sport of eventing, coupled with Eric Bull’s expertise in jump building, has brought Aiken’s first Advanced cross country course to fruition.

“In 2011 we started construction of our cross country course,” Barry Olliff said. “From the beginning we were advised by Mark Phillips that we should provide irrigation. As a result, we drilled five wells, which collectively produce 250 gallons per minute distributed by over a mile of underground pipes, which run a K-Line portable irrigation system.”

A look at the irrigation system. Photo courtesy of Stable View.

A look at the irrigation system. Photo courtesy of Stable View.

The initial design and layout of the course had to take into account the area’s topography, as well as the need to ultimately expand the track to the Advanced length of 3,500 meters. It was necessary to consider the footing and the topography years before the Advanced level fences were ready to be built, and the Olliffs listened closely to what Capt. Phillips advised.

Not only did the Olliffs make an investment in the irrigation system, but they also extended the course behind the main barn, connecting the cross country schooling field to the original cross country course with permanent Advanced level jumps like ditches and banks.

Capt. Phillips describes the the new Advanced course as crossing three major sections of topography: the Derby Field; the Pine Barons with portable jumps; and the Alley Way with new open grass galloping lanes and fixed fences, ditches and a water complex.

Richard Jeffery, who designed the Derby Field, was also instrumental in determining the positioning of the outdoor dressage ring, as well as how the Derby Field was integrated into the cross country course. Capt. Phillips and Richard closely collaborated on the overall course build, which culminated in a track with an excellent variety of fences and flow.

In addition, Stable View promises that all of the newly added technical questions on the Advanced level course will be challenging yet fair for a competition at this level.

A new permanent fence on the Advanced course. Photo courtesy of Stable View.

A new permanent fence on the Advanced course. Photo courtesy of Stable View.

Course Overview with Jump Builder Eric Bull

Eric Bull of ETB Construction has also been on board from the start, building out the lower level course to suit the longterm strategy of Capt. Phillips. Eric is quick to point out the Capt. Phillip’s main objective in his course design is to produce horses to the top level of the sport, with the ultimate goal of getting horses to major events like Rolex and Burghley.

“The lower level courses at Stable View were designed as part of a system to get horses to that next level,” Eric said. “That is Captain Mark’s ultimate goal.”

Additionally, all the portable jumps are built to complement the permanent fences. “This is a really diverse cross country course with all the traditional elements of a big cross country course, but being built in a modern way so that the permanent fences are built in a way to play off the portables,” Eric said.

Each segment of the course — the Derby Field, the Alley Way and the Pine Barons — has a different variation in the topography, as well as permanent features: mounds, banks, ditches, sunken roads, three water complexes, a dry river bed and a grob (or Devil’s Dyke) that funnels down into a coffin.

The portable jumps will be altered to offer new questions at each horse trials and include a variety of tables, logs, corners and skinnies. EN will divulge more details on the Advanced course as we get closer to the event, so stay tuned!

Who's excited? Photo courtesy of Stable View.

Who’s excited? Photo courtesy of Stable View.

Stable View Building ‘A Gathering Place’

Stable View’s longterm plan for further expansion will allow the facility to host an even greater variety of clinics and shows in the near future. Thus far Stable View has focused on USEA recognized horse trials and a series of dressage and jumper schooling shows, and the plan is to add more hunter competitions and host hunter derbies on the grass field as well.

All of these events will soon be viewed and enjoyed from within the new pavilion, which is slated to be finished in 2017 and will accommodate up to 300 spectators. The pavilion will feature three levels, with a ground floor area for spectators that will include offices and restrooms; a second floor VIP observation area, owners club house and conference center; and a third floor level with a media center.

The center of the new pavilion will also feature a tunnel with a glass roof, allowing spectators in the observation area to watch horses travel back and forth between the outdoor arena and the Derby Field.

Another view of one of the new permanent fences. Photo courtesy of Stable View.

Another view of one of the new permanent fences. Photo courtesy of Stable View.

The future expansion of the equestrian facility and the construction of the new pavilion is part of a larger strategy centered on the Aiken community. The enthusiastic response from riders, sponsors and local vendors for the first Advanced Oktoberfest horse trials has enforced the Olliffs’ vision to build Stable View as “A Gathering Place” for locals, tourists and seasonal residents alike.

Equestrian sport is clearly the focal point of the upcoming Oktoberfest horse trials, but there are so many other activities this year to draw in spectators, which EN previewed here. Aiken Horsepower will host a car show, prize money will be offered in a Giant Jenga competition, and the vendor list keeps expanding with a slew of equestrian and non-equestrian based local businesses.

Keep it locked on EN as we continue to bring you the back story on Stable View, reflections from Capt. Mark Phillips and Barry Olliff, and how Stable View plans to play a key role in equestrian sport in the community of Aiken.

Click here for the omnibus listing for the Oktoberfest event and here for more information on Stable View’s website. Entries close on September 13. Go Stable View! Go Eventing.

Side Saddle Eventer to Ride Aside in New Point to Point Race

Photo courtesy of Jim Graham.

Photo courtesy of Jim Graham.

If you’re a fan of racing, eventing, fox hunting and all things horse sport, you’re in for a treat. Smack dab in the heart of Cheshire Hunt Country, the 71st running of the Cheshire Point To Point Races will take place Sunday, March 27 on the same property where the Plantation Field Horse Trials are held. The races are a strong tradition to the Unionville community, marking the end of the fox hunting season and the beginning of the spring race series.

This year promises to be even more exciting, as The Mrs. Miles B. Valentine Memorial Side Saddle Race has been added to the day’s race card, marking a resurgence of interest in side saddle competition. The Cheshire side saddle race will kick off a three-race series, and the entry list includes not only Amy Magee, a local Pennsylvania competitor who has competed aside at the American Eventing Championships, but also Susan Oakes, an international world record holder from Ireland.

The ladies side saddle race is expected to be a huge spectator draw, being the first side saddle race held north of the Mason Dixon Line since the 1930s. A display of tradition, elegance and bravery, this year’s race is run in honor of Mrs. Miles B. Valentine, who graced many hunt fields with her style and unmatched horsemanship.

Amy Magee: An Eventer Aside

Amy Magee started her eventing career the conventional way — that is to say, riding astride. She competed her own homebred Aaspen’s Black Diamond, reaching her goal of competing in a CCI* at Morven Park in 2003. On the side, Magee dabbled in sidesaddle, competing aside a few times at the Devon Horse Show.

When respiratory issues forced Amy to drop Aaspen down to a more manageable level, the idea to attempt eventing aside took root. Amy actually found riding aside to be more comfortable after she suffered a riding accident in 2001 which broke her pelvis, back and left hip — as the left leg does little work when riding sidesaddle, the position was a logical fit for Amy who is still weak in her left leg to this day.

Photo courtesy of Amy Magee.

Photo courtesy of Amy Magee.

In their first attempt competing aside, Amy and Aaspen placed at Training level at Fair Hill in 2004. This first experience was followed by two wins at Plantation, more placings at other events and ultimately a fourth-place finish out of 66 competitiors at the AECs in 2005 — all while competing sidesaddle. Aaspen was named the USEA Area 2 reserve champion for Training level as well as the Zone 2 and National USEF reserve champion for ladies sidesaddle.

Photo courtesy of Amy Magee.

Photo courtesy of Amy Magee.

Aaspen went on to compete in sidesaddle hunters and then evented in Beginner Novice and Novice with teen riders. Amy had two children while training and competing a new horse. The idea of sidesaddle riding fell by the wayside, a special bond she had shared only with Aaspen. It took introducing a new rider, a friend of Amy’s, to the art of riding aside that rekindled the idea of taking up sidesaddle again: Amy went hunting aside for the first time since 2005 at Thanksgiving of last year.

Photo courtesy of Amy Magee.

Photo courtesy of Amy Magee.

Amy now has plans to compete this season at Novice riding aside, with hopes to move to training at the end of the season — as well, of course, as The Mrs. Miles B. Valentine Memorial Side Saddle Race at the Cheshire Point to Point Races.

“I love helping others take up riding aside,” Amy said. “I love riding aside and it is my preferred method: I always sit a little straighter and smile a little wider when aside. It just makes me feel elegant and feminine. I feel very secure and safe and hope to show others that it is an option for those that wish to pursue it.”

Susan Oakes: The Flying Irishwoman

Susan Oakes gained notoriety for hosting the world record-setting most ladies riding aside to hounds and for setting another world record by jumping a 6’8″ puissance wall side saddle. World records aside, Ms. Oakes of Navan, Ireland, is a horsewoman through and through.

Susan Oakes was born into a horse-loving family. Both of her parents rode and embraced her desire to ride side saddle, which began at the age of 4. She hunted with her family and was a member of the Meath Hunt Pony Club in Dublin, with whom she competed nationally and internationally in show jumping, eventing and in triathlons.

Susan also had a keen interest in showing her mother’s Connemara ponies and show horses and has won at the Royal Dublin Horse Show on numerous occasions, both astride and aside. She became the youngest RDHS judge at the age of 16, and now judges in-hand, astride, working hunters and side saddle classes.

She graduated from Trinity College in 2004 and currently has two dental practices in Ireland. Before work, she spends her mornings exercising and training her yard of point-to-point race horses, which she races on the weekends. Her future goal is to set a new side saddle jump record of seven feet or more over a puissance wall in the USA.

Mrs. Miles B. Valentine Memorial Side Saddle Race

Located in the heart of the Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds hunt country, this year’s day of racing promises to be even more thrilling with the addition of the inaugural running of The Mrs. Miles B. Valentine Memorial Side Saddle Race.

The ladies will impress race fans by negotiating 1 1/8 miles of brush, timber and coops typical of inviting hunt country. Riding aside whether for pleasure, hunting, showing or racing is making a worldwide resurgence, perhaps due to the popularity of Downton Abbey, making it a natural addition to 2016 schedule of junior, timber and flat races.

Race and Best Dressed Sponsors for this years race are Middy N Me (who makes the most beautiful American made ladies clothing and sponsors Silva Martin) and Chasing A Fox in A Little Black Dress. The day will not only be thrilling, but will certainly be a celebration of equestrian fashion.

In addition, this race will be the first in a series of three races, including the The Mrs. George C. Everhart Memorial Invitational Sidesaddle Race at Loudoun Hunt April 17 in Leesburg, Virginia and the High Hope Ladies Side Saddle Race May 22 in Lexington, Kentucky. An overall championship will be awarded at the end of the series to honor the season’s high point ladies side saddle rider.

Photo courtesy of Jim Graham.

Photo courtesy of Jim Graham.

About The Cheshire Races

Founded in 1946 by Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds, the Cheshire Races is located at the Averell Penn Smith Walker Memorial Course at Plantation Field in Unionville, Pennsylvania. In addition to the side saddle race, the day’s schedule features pony races, a junior field master’s chase, a flat race and multiple races over timber including the Cheshire Bowl.

Used as a prep race for the Maryland and Virginia timber racing circuit, many past Cheshire Bowl winners have gone on to win the Maryland Hunt Cup. 2015 winners Mark Beecher and Grinding Speed (trained by Alicia Murphy and owned by Michael Warton) retired the bowl after their third consecutive win. Grinding Speed also went on to be the 2015 National Steeplechase Association’s Horse of the Year.

The first horse to retire the Cheshire Bowl was in the late 1940s was Our Hobo, owned by Mr. & Mrs. Plunkett Stewart, ridden by John B. Hannum III and trained by his wife, Nancy Penn Smith Hannum who was the Master of the Hunt having succeeded her stepfather, Plunket Stewart, who founded the Hunt in 1912. Current race chairman “Jock” Hannum continues to keep this wonderful tradition of the Cheshire Point to Point Races alive for many generations with an eye to the future.

The race committee is grateful to all of their sponsors and supporters, including Glenmede Wealth Management, returning as Presenting Sponsor and to Middy N Me, sponsors of the inaugural Mrs. Miles B. Valentine Memorial Side Saddle Race! Proceeds from the Cheshire Point to Point Races benefit the Cheshire Hunt Conservancy.

For more information about the Cheshire Point to Point Races such as tickets and race day information see the website at www.cheshirepointtopoint.com. Reserved parking and tickets are available through the Hunt Office, which can contacted at 610-347-1918 or [email protected], or at the main gate on race day off of Route 82.

Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club Brings Horse Community to Philadelphia

The Ferrell family and Dan Aquilante. Photo courtesy of Lisa Thomas. The Ferrell family and Dan Aquilante. Photo courtesy of Lisa Thomas.

Traveling into downtown Philadelphia to visit the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club is a far cry from the preserved open space in Chester County that is just a short hour’s drive from the city.

Juxtapose the bucolic rural equestrian countryside that surrounds the city which is home to many world class riders, trainers and breeders … to the backdrop of this urban riding club.

The city streets of Strawberry Mansion in North Philly are scattered with litter, graffiti, and abandoned homes, and this is where residents live at the poverty level.

The community has fallen victim to unemployment, inner-city violence, and increased drug trafficking. This isn’t where one would expect to find a counter culture of families and individuals who come from several generations of devoted horsemen.

The History of Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club

For decades, the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club has offered local youth the opportunity to learn positive life lessons through caring for and riding horses that live in this urban environment.

The Club gives children and young adults the alternative to a life dominated by drugs and crime, the pervasive socio-economic situation that plagues the area.

Everyone here is drawn together by their love of horses and their passion to preserve the legacy of this urban riding culture created by previous generations. It is rumored that riding clubs in this area have existed for 100 years, and city land maps show stables dating back to the 1940’s.

There is an interesting backstory and unique history on the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club. Ellis Ferrell is the Grandfather of the club, and he and his family have been championing the cause for this group for the past several decades.

He is a large man with an even bigger heart, who has often saved many horses from the kill pen at New Holland in order to provide partners for these kids in need. This is truly a story of horses and humans saving one another.

Philanthropic Spirit to the Rescue

Susan Jordan, who literally stumbled across the area three years ago while researching information on the city, was shocked to see a horse stable and riders on the streets of Philadelphia.

She became emotionally drawn to understand more about Fletcher Street, and began to look for more information on the history of inner-city riding clubs.

In 2011, Ellis was forced to move out of his old stable on Fletcher Street into an open garage around the corner due to increased building rental costs. She approached Ellis wanting to get involved and to spearhead efforts to save the club.

Susan began researching property ownership information on the community riding area (nicknamed “Fletcher Field”) where all the surrounding stables exercise and turn out their horses.

At that point, Susan coordinated the approval of the 501C3 and their official fundraising site. She also helped negotiate the donation of the open building lot on Fletcher Street after it was purchased by someone at Sheriff’s auction, so Ellis could have a place to rebuild.

They were able to get the building lot donated in 2014, and that land was officially deeded to Ellis Ferrell in the name of the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club’s 501C3. She worked with Sean Eisele, a young filmmaker who produced the short featured film on Rally.org, and Susan and Sean also created the Club’s Facebook page to raise social awareness.

They were perched to clear the lot and to start rebuilding, but fundraising had stalled. With funds dwindling, Ellis was forced to move the horses to another part of the city, and the future of the club was looking bleak.

The Next Chapter of Giving

The next chapter of help began when a documentary film maker connected with Karen Raach, owner of Rock Solid Stables in Limerick, PA., in need of hauling horses during the film shoot.

Discovering the plight of the club and their horses, Karen quickly started organizing efforts to help Fletcher Street, and through tireless efforts and updates via social media, a core group was formed.

Dominique Damico of Ramble On Farm in Berwyn joined forces with her boyfriend Dan Aquilante of Aquilante Construction, who quickly organized a work crew to go into the city to level and clear the lot so there could be a new location for the stables.

Aquilante, who comes from a family of 16 siblings, understands the meaning of giving back to those less fortunate. When he originally contacted Ellis Ferrell and his family, the Ferrells were skeptical of the community outreach because they had been let down in the past.

Aquilante, anxious to prove his sincerity, delivered Thanksgiving dinner with his mother to serve 25 members of the Ferrell family on Thanksgiving Day! Due to his large family upbringing, he lives by the motto “Invest in yourself and don’t forget to give back”.

Raach made a call to 6 ABC Action News about the efforts being made over the holiday, and they were on site on Saturday, November 28th to report on the initial rehabbing efforts of the club’s donated lot.

Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club Is An Island of Hope and They Need Our Help

Lisa Thomas, founder of Mid-Atlantic Equestrian Services, had previously read about Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club through an article on Horse Nation that was published back in 2014.

Thomas, who is a friend of Karen Raach’s, saw her outcry for support on Facebook, and volunteered to coordinate the current fundraising efforts and PR with national equestrian media outlets. The following video is from her visit to Fletcher Street this past weekend:

The club is an approved 501C3 (EIN # 46-3515556) and donations (monetary, services and in-kind) are tax-deductible.

Funds need to be directed through their official 501C3 fundraising site, where you can view the video interview with Ellis which is very informative.

The lot clearing and stone base will be completed within the next week through the generosity of Aquilante Construction. The next step is to raise funds to buy supplies for the club to build their stalls, shelter and storage areas. During this season of giving, please consider donating to this worthy cause.

Please also show your support by liking the riding club through their Facebook page.

Celebrating the Thoroughbred Competition Series at Plantation Field

This is a story about an unusual alignment of relationships within a Pennsylvania horse community and one particular retired racehorse who has flourished as a result of these connections. Perhaps this wasn’t the path that his breeder envisioned, but it is the beginning of his promising future.

Molly and Bryce Kinnamon’s MK’s Concord Dawn, became the first winner of the Plantation Thoroughbred series. Presenting the $5,000 check to Molly and Bryce is Kathleen Crompton with (pictured left to right) Janet Ritchey (breeder), Kathleen Crompton, Molly and Bryce Kinnamon and Hannah Metz. Photo by Amy Dragoo. Molly and Bryce Kinnamon’s MK’s Concord Dawn, became the first winner of the Plantation Thoroughbred series. Presenting the $5,000 check to Molly and Bryce is Kathleen Crompton with (pictured left to right) Janet Ritchey (breeder), Kathleen Crompton, Molly and Bryce Kinnamon and Hannah Metz. Photo by Amy Dragoo.

MK’s Concord Dawn, registered with the Jockey Club as Mason, was born in 2009 at Tim F. Ritchey Racing Stables. Tim, who previously evented at the top level of the sport in the 70s, is a five-time leading race trainer at Delaware Park. He and his wife Janet have a well-known training and bloodstock business, making headlines in 2005 for training  Belmont and Preakness winner Afleet Alex.

Janet shared a bit of history on Mason’s racing career: “Mason was bred to be a racehorse. His mother, whom we also bred, Della Street, had earned over $100,000 for us, and his daddy Smart Guy was bought by us for $10,000 as a yearling and went on to earn over $500,000, including the Pennsylvania Derby. Mason was always very friendly, good with other horses, easy to break and to train, so when he won his first race quite easily we really were not surprised.”

Mason's big win! Photo by Hoofprints Inc.

Mason in his racing career. Photo by Hoofprints Inc.

Mason’s Big Win

Janet went on to say that “what did surprise us was his subsequent racing career through 2012 and part of 2013, which can only be described as lackluster. He trained well but went through the motions in his races, but never returned tired. We decided he was not the racehorse we had hoped he would be, but he was handsome and his attitude pointed to being a useful show horse in the right hands and luckily that’s what he found. Although financially it’s not what we had planned, we couldn’t be happier to see our ‘Mason’ flourish.”

The Connections

Two years ago one of Molly’s long time working students, Hannah Metz, was rising up through the levels of eventing at the age of 18. She and her horse Zhen were competing at the one-star level when Zhen was injured. Dr. Kathy Anderson, who was the primary veterinarian for MK Equestrian, was involved in the treatment of Zhen. She was also a vet for the Ritchey’s race stable and knew of Mason’s potential retirement from the track.

Since Tim had a background in eventing, he favored his horses being repurposed into quality eventing programs. Knowing that Molly’s young rider was in need of a potential project horse, Dr. Anderson made the initial introduction.

Dr. Anderson thought MK Equestrian could be the perfect retraining facility for Mason. Molly had previously re-trained many OTTBs in California and spent considerable time breaking and exercising race horses once she came east. Molly felt her time working with these young horses gave her a better understanding of how to bridge the gap from track to the cross country course. Having gained so much from the experience, she encouraged many students, including Hannah, to gallop race horses.

Break Away Farm, located near Molly’s facility in Kirkwood, Pennsylvania, was Molly’s starting point with race horse training on the East Coast and where many of her students have gained experience as well. Luck would have it that Mason was initially backed at Breakaway Farm by the owner and trainer Travis Kinnamon, who is also the brother of Molly’s husband, Bryce.

The Kinnamon brothers clearly gravitated towards horse women, as Travis is married to Wendy (Houghton) Kinnamon, whose family has a long history of training race horses for steeplechase and flat racing in the area.

Hannah Metz and Mason. Photo by Steve Berkowitz.

Hannah Metz and Mason. Photo by Steve Berkowitz.

The Decision

Hannah Metz did a wonderful job working with Mason during his first year off the track, introducing him to the sport of eventing at some starter trials while working and training with Molly. Ultimately, she made the decision to sell Mason, as she recognized his great talent and knew she didn’t have the resources to take him to the top of his potential.

The opportunity presented itself for Molly and Bryce to buy this rising star and to keep him within the program at MK Equestrian. Hannah was thrilled with this next step for her horse. Months later it became a clear choice to use this break from riding to pursue a degree in nursing.

The Thoroughbred Series

The timing was perfect for Molly and Mason as Plantation Field Equestrian Events announced a $5,000 Thoroughbred Competition Series for the 2015 eventing season. Sponsored by Kathleen Crompton, more than 90 horses competed for this prize awarded to the owner of the Thoroughbred earning the most points during the season.

Points were accumulated in the recognized and starter horse trials in the Beginner Novice, Novice and Training divisions. In addition, this program also rewards the original breeder of the horse by awarding a $500 breeder incentive. For Molly, this has been an exciting addition to the program, as she’s been able to stay actively involved with the Ritcheys as Mason has progressed through the levels of eventing.

Mason began his 2015 eventing career with a win at Sporting Days Horse Trials and then several other top finishes before coming back from Aiken last winter. He finished second at his first recognized competition at Plantation in the Novice division and was awarded points for being the top OTTB for that division.

He continued to accumulate points by winning his Novice divisions in May and June before moving up to Training level over the summer and then eventually winning his Training level division at the October starter trials as well to win the $5,000 Thoroughbred Competition Series.

The Future

The continuation of the series has already been announced for the 2016 season, with hopes that this will encourage area equestrians to continue to seek partnerships with talented young Thoroughbreds. Denis and Kathleen are hopeful that the program will grow in popularity to the point that they can have entire divisions dedicated to off-the-track Thoroughbreds.

The Unionville community has long been a region dedicated to breeding, racing, fox hunting and producing top Thoroughbred sport horses for multiple disciplines. This new incentive will certainly help support that purpose within the eventing community, and Molly is honored to be the first recipient.

“Kathleen Crompton had a vision a year ago, and from her idea and generosity along with the help of Denis Glaccum and his generosity … The Thoroughbred Challenge at Plantation Field was developed,” Molly said.

“I am so honored and thankful to be riding MK’s Concord Dawn. He is all class, and this award means so much to myself, my husband and my team at MKE. There are so many great Thoroughbreds out there. I hope this program will encourage people to find these shining stars and develop them into their second careers. Thank you Tim and Janet Ritchey for helping source Mason into eventing as his second career.”

Molly would also like to thank her supporters and sponsors who have been involved throughout Mason’s retraining and development: Phillip Dutton, Dr. Kathy Anderson, Steve Teichman, CWD, Nunn Finer, EcoGold, Charles Owen, Omega Alpha and Triple Crown.

The Future of NAJYRC: Creating a Formula for Success

The gold medal CH-J* Area II team at NAJYRC 2015. From left: Skyler Decker, Camilla Grover-Dodge, Amanda Beale Clement and Morgan Booth. Photo by Brant Gamma for the FEI. The gold medal CH-J* Area II team at NAJYRC 2015. From left: Skyler Decker, Camilla Grover-Dodge, Amanda Beale Clement and Morgan Booth. Photo by Brant Gamma for the FEI.

Since the FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships began as an eventing competition between the U.S. and Canada in 1974, competing at NAJYRC has continued to be a pinnacle goal for young eventers between the ages of 14 and 21. Numerous NAJYRC graduates go on to compete at the highest levels of the sport and ultimately represent their countries on the world stage.

While the 2015 NAJYRC showcased the top young riders in North America at the one-star level, the two-star championship ultimately had to be canceled at the last minute due to “insufficient international entries.” Under FEI rules, this year’s two-star could only run as a non-championship Under 21 division and ultimately saw just four horses and riders compete.

Why is a program that has seen so much success over the past four decades now struggling to fill entries? What other challenges is NAJYRC facing? What is the future of this important program? We’ve reached out to the riders, their trainers and their NAJYRC team coaches to take an in-depth look at NAJYRC, starting with how to create a winning formula for qualifying riders.

Camilla Grover-Dodge and Remington keep their lead going into the show-jumping in the CCI* at NAJYRC after a fast, clear XC round

Camilla Grover-Dodge and Remington XXV at NAJYRC. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Molly Kinnamon and Camilla Grover-Dodge

This year’s CH-J* individual gold medalist Camilla Grover-Dodge began training with Molly Kinnamon about two years ago, when she joined MK Equestrian’s program with her Mustang pony, Tuesday. At that point in Camilla’s riding career, she had competed up to Training level on her pony, but a bad fall at Loch Moy really rocked their confidence.

According to Camilla, she and Tuesday were scared over jumps and “awful at dressage,” so Molly had her work cut out for her with this tricky partnership. As Molly helped Camilla regain her confidence with Tuesday, a new and exciting relationship also began to form with four-star favorite and toe-flicker extraordinaire Remington XXV, who had been retired from the upper levels after competing with Boyd Martin and Caitlin Silliman.

Owned by Camilla’s grandparents, Ron and Densey Juvonen, “Remi” wasn’t quite ready to spend the rest of his days turned out in a field in Unionville, so the next horse for Camilla was obvious. Camilla and Remington began to get to know each other in June 2014 with the goal of competing at Training and ultimately the Preliminary level.

Area VI at NAJYRC in 1998! From left, Suzanne Andreotti and Buehler, Katie Weil, Molly Kinnamon with Sweet William, and Heather Morris and Rebel Express. Photo courtesy of Molly Kinnamon.

Area VI at NAJYRC in 1998! From left, Suzanne Andreotti and Buehler, Katie Weil, Molly Kinnamon and Sweet William, and
Heather Morris and Rebel Express. Photo courtesy of Molly Kinnamon.

Training and Preparing for NAJYRC

Once Camilla and Remi made the successful transition into Molly’s program, they designed a plan to take it slow and stay at the Training level all year, which culminated in taking the top prize at the 2014 Area II Championships for Training level.

Molly, who rode at NAJYRC in 1998, believes the best-laid plan for getting to Young Riders is to make a road map once you’re comfortable at the Preliminary level. They key is to have a short and longterm plan, she said, and not to rush the decision to aim for Young Riders.

The best case scenario in Molly’s mind is to base your competition plans off of success at the Preliminary level, and when your trainer feels it’s appropriate, then make a longterm plan to compete at NAJYRC. The recurring theme she emphasizes for both one-star and two-star level riders is to allow plenty of time to prepare and qualify.

From Camilla’s point of view: “Molly helped me through being terrified at Sporting Days and helped me with my eye a lot. I learned how to see a distance through simple exercises. Equitation and the hunters had been my thing until I was 10, and then I quit riding for a couple years. I didn’t started eventing until eighth grade. But Molly made it super fun and not scary. She helped me with my confidence.”

Molly herself rode on the Area VI NAJYRC CH-Y2* team in 1998 while working for Jil Walton, who was Area VI’s coach at the time, for three summers leading up to the event, learning about the preparation that goes into competing at a major three-day event. “NAJYRC gave me a real-life experience of being on a team and taught me that excellence comes from the whole group, not just an individual,” she said.

Molly took her own past experiences and applied them to Camilla and Remi’s training and fitness program. “The relationship between Camilla and Remi has been amazing,” she said. “Camilla’s past equitation experience gave her a lovely, well balanced and soft way of riding; Remi really appreciates that. Remi has in turn shown Camilla how to coordinate her aids for lateral work. It has been a win-win situation for both Remi and Camilla. He has flourished in his 3rd career.”

Molly and Camilla worked together to create a successful formula for qualifying for Young Riders, but even though Camilla was coming into the game with a seasoned campaigner, it was not a forgone conclusion — getting there was going to take hard work. Molly, who trains with Phillip Dutton, practices his theory of training a horse up the levels: the fastest way to get somewhere is to go slowly.

Molly sticks to Phillip’s philosophy for positive training, fitness and results. Every horse goes out on a long hack at least once a week walking hills as part of Phillip’s long, slow distance program. Once winter hits, and as long as there’s safe footing, they continue with a hack day and/or conditioning day, but build up their interval canter work as well.

As fitness progresses so does the training schedule, which typically includes two or three days of dressage work, a day of jumping/flat work over smaller fences or logs, and a day of proper jump schooling. Camilla and Remi also used this model in preparing for NAJYRC.

Molly also recognizes that beyond the trainer and student relationship, the key to successfully qualifying for Young Riders also requires hard work from a team of dedicated parents, flexible teachers, a great vet and a master farrier. “Camilla was very humble and worked very hard to reach her goals, but always made the right choices for Remi,” she said.

Camilla Grover-Dodge and Remington lead the CCI* at NAJYRC after the dressage phase at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Camilla Grover-Dodge and Remington XXV at NAJYRC. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Molly’s Tips for Young Rider Success

  1. Get in a good program and find a seasoned trainer that works well with you.
  2. Spend a summer or a few days a week as a working student.
  3. Set jumps, observe top riders training, engulf yourself in a program, work on conditioning, devote yourself as a student.
  4. Keep your horse sound and happy. Don’t be so caught up in getting qualified that you forget about your horses well-being.
  5. Use common sense in your training program to keep your horse sound.
  6. Find a role model and emulate that person!

NAJYRC exists to educate and produce riders to the top of the sport, providing a platform for young athletes to learn the ropes of preparing and competing at a major FEI championships. The goal remains for that experience to stick with them throughout their lives, both in and out of the tack.

The program clearly has been very influential on Molly’s career progression as a rider, a person and an industry professional, and she has now been able to use those experiences to help produce an NAJYRC gold medalist in Camilla. So what is the key to keeping the NAJYRC program a flourishing one so people like Molly and Camilla can continue to reap the benefits?

Join us next week when we discuss NAJYRC’s cancellation of the two-star championships this year as well as gain feedback from more NAJYRC graduates: David Ziegler, 2014 NAJYRC CH-Y2* individual gold medalist, and his coach Missy Ransehousen, who won a gold medal at the 1988 NAJYRC.

Gigi McIntosh Sets Sights on 2016 Paralympic Qualification

Gigi McIntosh and Rio Rio. Photo by Lindsay Y. McCall. Gigi McIntosh and Rio Rio. Photo by Lindsay Y. McCall.

Margaret McIntosh, better known as “Gigi,” is an international para equestrian who trains out of Missy and Jessica Ransehousen’s Blue Hill Farm in Unionville, Pennsylvania, alongside numerous eventers. You might remember when EN posted a link to Fork in the Road, the documentary about her life.

Cindy Connors and Brian Troy, the producer/writer and cinematographer team that produced this short film, worked together with the cast and crew at Blue Hill Farm and Chesterland Farm to create the documentary, which has been chosen as an official selection of the 2015 Equus International Film Festival in Missoula, Montana.

While the focus of this year’s festival is on the relationship of horses to Native Americans, Janet Rose, director and founder of the festival, told Gigi, “Your story is inspiring and heartfelt! You give hope to many. We are honored to share it.” The documentary will air at the festival on Sept. 19.

The film’s inclusion in the festival brings awareness to para equestrian sports, as well as Gigi’s own journey to qualify for the 2016 Paralymic Games in Rio de Janeiro, which she hopes to do at the Global Dressage Festival CPEDI3* in January with her RPSI mare, who is appropriately named Rio Rio. Missy Ransehousen, who is based out of Ocala in the winter, will coach Gigi in Wellington, which serves as one of the qualifiers for the 2016 U.S. Paralympic team.

As a refresher on Gigi’s story, she began her formal riding career in the late ’70s as a working student for well-known event riders May and Denny Emerson before becoming the barn manager for dressage trainers Gunnar Ostergaard and Ellin Dixon. She then moved to Germany to apprentice with George and Inge Theodorescu and their daughter, Monika, who was recently named coach of the German dressage team.

After returning to the U.S. in 1983, Gigi competed in eventing at the international level for many years, first making the United States Equestrian Team long list for the Pan American Games in 1990 and being invited to the USET training sessions in 1997 and 1998.  She completed the Fair Hill International CCI3* in 1997 and the prestigious Rolex Kentucky CCI4* in both 1997 and 1998.

In the spring of 1999, Gigi was injured in a riding accident, resulting in incomplete quadriplegia and being initially paralyzed from the chest down.  After years of hard work, Gigi now walks with a cane, rides and skis. She qualified for the Paralympics in 2012 but missed making the team by a narrow margin. She was the National Reserve Champion at the 2014 Para Selection Trials in Gladstone, New Jersey, and is ready to make her Paralymics dream a reality.

If you missed watching the documentary the first time EN posted it, you can scroll down to watch. You can learn more about Gigi on her website.

[Para Equestrian Sets Sights on 2016 Paralympic Qualifications in Wellington]

Martin and Dutton Educate, Entertain at Eventing With The Stars

Boyd Martin and Phillip Dutton lead the spectators out to the cross country course. Photo by Cindy Lawler.

Boyd Martin and Phillip Dutton lead the spectators out to the cross country course. Photo by Cindy Lawler.

Boyd Martin and Phillip Dutton hosted an educational symposium this past Sunday at Windurra USA in Cochranville, Pennsylvania, teaching a crowd of more than 100 people in an action-packed day of riding demonstrations they dubbed Eventing With The Stars.

The day began at 10 a.m. with an introduction to the schedule, which included a series of six mounted and teaching demonstrations with Boyd, Phillip and Silva. The audience was enthusiastic and the subject matter was world class, sprinkled with a bit of good-natured Aussie humor. Here’s a glance at the mounted topics that were covered throughout the day.

Boyd Martin and Rosa Cha W during the dressage demonstration. Photo by Cindy Lawler.

Boyd Martin and Rosa Cha W during the dressage demonstration. Photo by Cindy Lawler.

Improve Your Dressage Scores with Silva Martin

This session was a real treat, as Silva, who is due to have her first child next month, coached Boyd aboard her Intermediate II dressage mare Rosa Cha W. Her emphasis to the audience on schooling dressage movements was to focus on the importance of the basics, to utilize exercises that prepared the horse for the movement and to not add pressure to the training routine by setting time limits.

Boyd noted the evolution within the sport of eventing that places an increased emphasis on the dressage phase, commenting that marrying a German dressage rider was his secret weapon. There was definitely some teasing involved as Silva coached Boyd through a series of lead change movements, retorting, “Good job, you didn’t ruin her!”

Schooling Cross Country Style Obstacles in Your Arena

Phillip and Boyd then took center stage on two of their mounts currently competing at Preliminary level, with Phillip on Fernhill Singapore, a 6-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Sue and Shawn Foley, Tom Tierney and Annie Jones, and Boyd on Santos, a 6-year-old Thoroughbred gelding owned by Gloria Callen and Ron and Densey Juvonen (and featured on EN’s Got Talent earlier this year!).

Boyd Martin and Santos. Photo by Cindy Lawler.

Boyd Martin and Santos. Photo by Cindy Lawler.

Phillip and Boyd set a course of bounces, offset lines, unrelated distances and corners to show how to work on cross country-style elements in the ring. This session was designed to show the audience how to take advantage of jumping in the ring in order to create a good pace, develop skills to adjust strides and properly execute turns required on the cross country course.

Both Boyd and Phillip did a wonderful job of demonstrating and lecturing while they were riding through the exercises, thanks in large part to Brian O’Connor providing microphones and radios to ensure everyone could easily hear. Thank you, Brian, for supporting the symposium — just another of the many ways he gives back to the sport.

Addressing Safety in the Sport

Now this was a fun demonstration introduced by our friend Lindsy Gumbiner from Charles Owen. Boyd’s right-hand man Mike Pendleton took one for the team, demonstrating a fall over a stadium fence while wearing a Charles Owen AyrVest in order to show how an air jacket activates. This great sequence of photos from Cindy Lawler shows exactly what happened:

Training OTTBs For A New Career in Eventing

Phillip and Boyd enthusiastically showed off the extensive athletic capabilities of the Thoroughbred horse by presenting their OTTB superstars. Phillip rode Graham and Anita Motion’s Icabad Crane, who won the Retired Racehorse Project’s America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred Contest last year and is getting ready to do his first CIC1* at Plantation Field next month. Boyd rode his newest syndicated mount Blackfoot Mystery, an 11-year-old Thoroughbred gelding that Kelly Prather produced through the CCI3* level.

Phillip Dutton and Icabad Crane. Photo by Cindy Lawler.

Phillip Dutton and Icabad Crane. Photo by Cindy Lawler.

The crowd loved watching both Icabad Crane and Blackfoot Mystery, who both serve as excellent examples of the talent and versatility of the American Thoroughbred. Everyone especially loved Phillip and Icabad demonstrating their “party trick” that won them the America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred title last year: fitting four, fix, six and seven strides in a line of two verticals. Click below to watch!

Cross Country Warm Up: Rider Position & Technique

The audience boarded a hay wagon or walked on foot out to the cross country field to listen and observe as Phillip and Boyd properly demonstrated a good warm-up for riders and horses at the lower level of the sport. Boyd rode Barry, a 6-year-old gelding out of Peter Barry’s Freespirit, who Colleen Loach currently competes at the three-star level. Phillip rode Sea of Clouds, a 4-year-old Thoroughbred gelding that last raced in November and is currently competing at Training level.

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Phillip Dutton and Sea of Clouds. Photo by Cindy Lawler.

They placed an emphasis on rider position and then demonstrating how the exercises they demonstrated in the ring transferred out to the cross country course. Those exercises included proper adjustability in stride to the fence; riding fences out of stride at the gallop; and introducing your horse to different types of fences on the course, such as ditches, trakehners, brush, skinnies and corners.

Cross Country Questions: Demo Over Upper-Level Jumps

Boyd and Phillip then took their demonstration one step further by stepping up their game on a couple of their upper level horses. Boyd rode Craig and Gloria Callen’s Welcome Shadow, a 10-year-old Thoroughbred cross mare that just won the James Stamets Memorial Perpetual Trophy at Millbrook Horse Trials for finishing as the highest placed Advanced mare. Phillip rode Mr. Candyman, an 8-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Caroline Moran, Annie Jones and Bridget Colman that is aiming at the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International.

Boyd Martin and Welcome Shadow during the cross country demonstration. Photo by Cindy Lawler.

Boyd Martin and Welcome Shadow during the cross country demonstration. Photo by Cindy Lawler.

They impressed the crowd by riding more technical questions through the bank and water complexes. Even though theses horses have been exposed to many challenging courses, Boyd and Phillips emphasized the importance of a positive and relaxed schooling session at home to encourage continued willingness and confidence in their Advanced level horses. Once again, their advice returned to schooling the basics in proper sequence as to reward a forward and positive ride.

Phillip Dutton and Mr. Candyman on the cross country course. Photo by Cindy Lawler.

Phillip Dutton and Mr. Candyman on the cross country course. Photo by Cindy Lawler.

The beauty of the professionally constructed Eric Bull course at Windurra USA is that it has a huge variety of fixed and movable jumps for every level of event horse. Boyd and Phillip were able to use a number of different types of fences during both the lower level and upper level portion of the cross country demonstration, and everyone had a great view of the action.

Cosequin Wine & Cheese Party Under the Tent

The day wrapped up with the Cosequin Wine & Cheese Horsemanship Demo with Phillip’s head groom and barn manager Emma Ford while spectators relaxed under the shade of the tent. Emma, who recently published World-Class Grooming for Horses with Cat Hill, focused on proper preparation and cool down after cross country, with Olivia Dutton and Amy Ruth Borun’s Santa’s Playboy assisting with the demonstration.

Olivia Dutton and Santa's Playboy assist Emma Ford with the grooming demonstration. Photo by Cindy Lawler.

Olivia Dutton and Santa’s Playboy assist Emma Ford with the grooming demonstration. Photo by Cindy Lawler.

Silva, Boyd and Phillip then welcomed questions from the crowd before the raffle drawing for a number of generous prizes from Charles Owen, Ariat, SmartPak and Horseware Ireland. And, last but not least, the day ended with all of the spectators getting up close and personal with the team gold medals Phillip and Boyd won at this year’s Pan American Games in Toronto.

Thank you to the sponsors and everyone who helped make this such a successful day: Cosequin, Charles Owen, Purina, Triple Crown Nutrition, Attwood Equestrian Surfaces, Antares, Ariat, SmartPak, Horseware, Retired Racehorse Project, Brian O’Connor and SpeakEasy Ltd., Cindy Lawler, Rob Bowersox and the other super volunteers, as well as the staffs at Windurra USA and Phillip Dutton Eventing.

Spectators enjoying the beautiful Pennsylvania day during the symposium. Photo by Cindy Lawler.

Spectators enjoying the beautiful Pennsylvania day during the symposium. Photo by Cindy Lawler.

The entire day ran so smoothly, and we were just thrilled with the turn out and response from the crowd. Thank you to everyone who came out and attended the event. Boyd and Phillip plan to make this an annual symposium, so we hope you’ll plan to join us next year for Eventing With The Stars!

Cheshire Hunt Campers Relish in a Day with Bruce Davidson

Scarlett Davies jumps under Bruce Davidson's watchful eye. Photo by Lisa Thomas. Scarlett Davies jumps under Bruce Davidson's watchful eye. Photo by Lisa Thomas.

A group of lucky kids from Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds learned from the sport’s finest at Cheshire Hunt Camp earlier this month in Unionville, Pennsylvania, when Bruce Davidson treated the campers to an extraordinary morning at his Chesterland Farm.

After the campers spent the morning spent walking hounds, they trotted across the street to Chesterland, where they learned from an eventing icon who happens to take a great deal of pleasure from teaching our next generation of eventers, fox hunters and race jockeys.

The week-long Cheshire Hunt Camp held a bit of a different format this year, which was a huge success. Organized by one of the Joint Masters, Sanna Neilson Hendricks lined up an action-packed week that included 7 a.m. hound walking, followed by days of training with the Unionville area’s experts in fox hunting, eventing, horse showing and steeplechasing.

At Bruce’s, there was a full house of kids on ponies, with parents, hunt staff and BDE clients as spectators who wanted to take in the great experience of watching Bruce teach young riders of every level. The kids were divided into groups by either kid or pony experience, and each group had their first introduction to the Normandy Bank learning proper position riding a drop.

All of the kids followed in line over various jumps, with those who were brave and game even jumping the infamous three-railer log, which stood taller and wider than some of the ponies.

My favorite quote of the day from Bruce came after one of the young jockeys popped out of the tack after a jump. Nina McKenna immediately sprang up to go chase down her pony, and Bruce noted, “Did you see her? She didn’t wait for someone else to go get her pony; she jumped right up herself. This is why I wanted my kids to ride, so they could learn in life you get up, dust yourself off and get back at it!”

My daughter, Kendal Thomas, summarized her experience perfectly: “He pushed our limits, but it was amazing because it gave me such confidence afterwards!”

All of the kids had such a positive experience, and if you note in the pictures with Bruce, he is grinning like a cheshire cat throughout the morning. It was an honor and a thrill for the kids, parents and hunt staff to spend the morning at Chesterland.

Now to make readers green with envy, here’s a sample of the camp schedule that Sanna arranged for the week:

Tuesday: 7 a.m. hound walking followed up by cross country schooling with Cheshire Hunt’s Ivan Dowling, Steph Boyer and Paddy Neilson at Laurel Hill Farm (Neilson’s Hill)

Wednesday: 9 a.m. hack from kennel lawn to Janice and Vince Dugan’s for show jumping

Thursday: 7 a.m. hound walking followed by instruction from Bruce Davidson at Chesterland Farm

Friday: 9 a.m. instruction over hurdles at Sanna’s, led by Paddy Young

Saturday: 7 a.m. hound walking followed by a mock hunter trial over the Cheshire course followed by pony mounted games in the arena at Plantation Field

Each day the kids spent the afternoon swimming either at Joint Master Ann Moran’s pool or tearing up the zip line at Rush and Phoebe Fisher’s. The kids even got to swim their ponies at Sanna’s pond, an experience that many of the moms relished when they were kids growing up in Unionville.

The week of festivities was capped off by a party Saturday night at Sanna’s farm, where hunt staff, kids, instructors and parents all celebrated a week that will be engrained into our memories for a lifetime.

There were so many pictures that I couldn’t possibly get them into this post, so please check out all the kids and their photos in this Facebook photo album.

George Morris Doesn’t Disappoint at Windurra Clinic

Photo by Lisa Thomas, Mid-Atlantic Equestrian Services.

Photo by Lisa Thomas, Mid-Atlantic Equestrian Services.

“That’s it. That’s it.” I will have the sound of George Morris’ voice ingrained in my head, repeating this encouragement as his clinic participants followed his instruction and earned his praise.

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to attend a George Morris clinic, you will identify with that tone of voice, knowing that the master of hunt seat equitation is known for his sayings, quips and occasional sharp tongue. Yesterday was no exception, as he came to Windurra USA for the second year in a row and did not disappoint the spectators or riders who took part in today’s education.

As always, George’s teaching style continues to be clear, straight forward, demanding and consistent. He requires repetition of the basics and has high expectations of his students. No room for the unmotivated in a George Morris clinic, and if you come with less than your A game, expect to hear about it.

There were three groups of riders who took part in his instruction today, and attendees ranged in rider and horse experience levels. There was representation from our local upper level celebrities (Boyd Martin, Phillip Dutton, Erin Sylvester, Kate Hicks, Molly Kinnamon and Amy Ruth Borun), while Matt Brown showcased why he’s become the talk of the West Coast.

All the groups had a nice mix of talent with up and coming event riders and fortunate working students who held up well under the pressure of riding in front of the Father of Hunt Seat Equitation. The dark horse of the day was jump jockey extraordinaire and Maryland Hunt Cup champion, Mark Beecher.

Here are a few snippets of “George-isms” that bear repeating and repeating.

George on contact:

“Constantly check that the horse accepts contact with a short rein and closed fingers.”
“Shorten the rein, close your fingers, raise your hand till he starts to accept the aid.”
“If the horse raises his head, raise your hand.”
“If the horse lowers his head, lower your hand.”
“Raise and close your hand if the horse gets heavy.”
“Subtle him. It’s leg/hand, leg/hand, not hand/leg.”
“Your horse’s mouth should be white.” :)

George on transitions:

“It’s the frequency of the transitions.”
“Canter/walk transition every eight strides if your horse is too fast.”
“It’s supposed to be active but slow.”
“Your horse should sit into the walk.”
“To halt, sink, stretch, leg on, then hand.”

Back to contact:

“Raise your hand.”
“Raise your hand.”
“Raise your hand.” (you get it)

George on jumping:

“Do not worry about your horse’s head being too high.”
“Once you see your distance, lower your hand.”
“Allow your horse to hit the poles. Don’t carry him over the jumps.”
“If you fall off, don’t pet him. Get back on quick and ride!”
“I love to stop in a straight line.”
“Horses hate corners, so stop in the corner.”
“Jump crew, hurry up!”

George on use of stick and spur:

“Make it quick, don’t nag or repeat.”
“Don’t be too intense. You’re not the Statue of Liberty!”

It goes without saying that having George Morris as a guest clinician at Windurra USA is always a true privilege for the riders and the spectators. His pension for blatant honesty is always balanced with proper praise and brilliant assessment of each horse and rider. We are thankful to everyone who took part in today’s clinic, including all the auditors and our sponsors from Purina and Stubben North America.

The clinic continues today, and auditors are welcome. Click here for more information and to see the full rider schedule. You can view a full gallery of photos from Day 1 on Boyd Martin’s Facebook page.