Articles Written 36
Article Views 58,825

Stephanie Nicora

Achievements

About Stephanie Nicora

Latest Articles Written

The Preliminary Challenge at Woodside Tackles Ian Stark’s New Cross Country Course

Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin last year at Woodside. Photo courtesy of Sherry Stewart. Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin last year at Woodside. Photo courtesy of Sherry Stewart.

The wind blew the early morning fog out of the valley, and Ian Stark’s new cross country course got a great introduction with the Preliminary Challenge teams out on course first today at the Horse Park at Woodside in California.

In the Preliminary Challenge Horse division, our top six remain the same, with double clear rounds for Frankie Thieriot Stutes, Erin Serafini, Marc Grandia, Tamie Smith (twice) and James Alliston.

Frankie and Chatwin had a great time out on the course. “Ian’s new course was a lot of fun,” she said. “It was great doing something different and seeing how he used the terrain. Chat really wanted to run in the gallop stretches and felt thrilled to be out again.”

Chatwin suffered an eye injury a couple months ago that had Frankie and her team giving Chat eye medication every six hours, but he hasn’t taken a wrong step this weekend.

Tamie and Beth Lendrum’s Under Wraps “ate up the course with ease” – and our eyes. Tamie remains in sixth on her second horse, Fleeceworks Royal, picking up just 1.2 time, “galloping around the course with ease.” Tamie is especially pleased with Royal, who was a YEH West Coast Champion last year and is hoping for great things for her. Tamie is happy to see how much her mare filled out and grew up this year. “It’s so rewarding and so fun watching the progression,” she said.

Robin Fisher and Carol Singh's Betawave. Photo Courtesy of Robin Fisher.

Robyn Fisher and Carol Singh’s Betawave. Photo Courtesy of Robyn Fisher.

John Michael Durr and Ruth Bley’s Mighty Smart had a mandatory retirement at fence 5, the rolltop to drop, which was especially unfortunate after a lovely dressage test yesterday put them in ninth. The horse landed awkwardly off the bank and went to its knees and fell. Both horse and rider are fine.

Time was a significant factor, moving Bella Mowbray from tenth to 16th with only 9.2 time. That made room for Robyn Fisher and Carol Singh’s 6-year-old Betawave, who jumped from 20th to 10th, meaning that they will round out the top 10 in tonight’s stadium jumping Gala.

“I have been fortunate enough to have the ride on Leta since she was 3 years old. Her owner, Carol Singh, called me back in 2012 and we’ve been lucky enough to have a great working relationship with an amazing athlete,” Robyn said. “Leta is definitely an overachiever that doesn’t like making mistakes or being in trouble. I think that’s one of the reasons her dressage development has come a little slower than the jumping.”

Robyn and Leta entered the Preliminary Challenge in preparation for the CCI* at Rebecca Farms. “I wanted her exposed to more atmosphere in the dressage ring with the long court and show jump ring. We joke that the cross country courses are her playground because she really plays while she gallops around!”

Erin Kellerhouse had a spectacular morning riding double clear on both her entries to move into seventh with Bill’s Midnight Magic, owned by John Herich, and into ninth with Whitney Tucker’s Chavez Ravine.

In the Preliminary Rider division, the top six remained unchanged here as well. Tristen Hooks and Learn to Fly went double clear in cross country to enter stadium tonight with less than a rail in hand. In a really tight division, only 3.2 faults separate riders from second to tenth. This means any rail is worth some significant change and prizes in the $15,000 Challenge.

Ruth Bley riding Rodrigue Du Granit and Julie Flettner riding Ping Pong are both sitting on a score of 30.1 for second place, but Ruth finished just one second under the optimum time on cross country, so she will take the tie breaker if they have identical performances in show jumping.

Ian Stark’s course rewarded forward riding, and the new terrain didn’t appear to take too many combinations off balance. If it did, they handled it quite gracefully, with more double clear rides than not.

The riders seem thrilled with Robert Kellerhouse’s production of the event. As Tamie says laughing, “It’s an amazing class with so much loot!” The opportunity for younger horses in the Preliminary Challenge Horse division to experience the bigger atmosphere is also something all the riders have been thankful for. “This class is unlike anything else,” echoes Frankie. “It’s amazing that all these sponsors stand behind Robert Kellerhouse and the Horse Park at Woodside to make this all possible.”

Stay tuned for the final installment of the Woodside Preliminary Challenge. Show jumping will take place during a highly-anticipated evening Gala, with the competition starting at 4:30 p.m. Pacific. The top ten in the Preliminary Challenge divisions will jump in reverse order of go starting at 6:2o p.m. Pacific.

The Spring Event at Woodside H.T.  [Website] [Live Scores] [EN Coverage]

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 8.07.04 PM

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 8.06.47 PM

Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Tristen Hooks Lead Woodside Preliminary Challenge

Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin, leaders after dressage in the Woodside Preliminary Challenge Horse Division.

Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin, leaders after dressage in the Woodside Preliminary Challenge Horse Division.

Welcome back to Area VI, where the Woodside International Horse Park is bringing you the Preliminary Challenge, a special event for horses and riders who have not competed beyond the Intermediate level. Held once a year in May, it’s not just the allure of prize money that keeps competitors coming back (though we’re sure that doesn’t hurt!). With the unique format of dressage on Friday, and both cross country and stadium on Saturday, it gives less experienced riders and horses a chance to participate in an event full of atmosphere.

With record entries this year (33 in the Rider Challenge, and 24 in the Horse division) it’s clear this event is something people look forward to. Add to the equation a brand new course design from Ian Stark, including a new water complex and a track that goes into corners of the Horse Park never seen before by eventers, and you have all the ingredients for an exciting weekend.

Preliminary Challenge Horse Division

USEA Groom of the Year Sarah Braun and Crowning Event in the Preliminary Horse Challenge. Photo courtesy of Sherry Stewart.

Sarah Braun, winner of the 2014 Christine E Stafford Eventing Groom award, and Crowning Event in the Preliminary Horse Challenge. Photo courtesy of Sherry Stewart.

Dressage started off this morning at 8 am Friday continued well into the afternoon. In the Horse division, where the rider must be on a horse that has not competed above Intermediate in the past 5 years, Frankie Thieriot Stutes and the Chatwin Group’s Chatwin are our overnight leaders. Since Chatwin has been battling an eye infection, Frankie is thrilled to have him out and competing. “The atmosphere worked to our advantage,” she said, noting that Chatwin came out a bit strong. It certainly paid off. A beautiful test to put the pair in the lead on 26.5.

Erin Serafini, of Reno, Nevada, and her own Another Star are in second with a lovely test. Erin and this Holsteiner mare have competed together from Novice and are looking forward to a successful weekend. Less than one penalty point behind Erin are Marc Grandia and Indio BMW. This Oldenberg gelding, owned by the Beamer Syndicate LLC,  competed last fall back East, coming in third at the Virginia CCI*. Marc is a 2013 graduate of the Under 25 Developing Rider Training Sessions and hails from Washington State.

In fourth we have Tamie Smith, who must be racking up massive amounts of bonus miles flying from coast to coast after being named as an alternate to the Pam Am games with Alex and Ellen Ahearn’s Mai Baum. This weekend she is competing Beth Lendrum’s “Under Wraps,” a Dutch Warmblood gelding (this one is for sale, people!).

PCH 2015 D Scores

 Preliminary Challenge Rider 

Ruth Bley and her own Silver Sage in the Preliminary Rider Challenge at Woodside Horse Park. Photo Courtesy Sherry Stewart.

Ruth Bley and her own Silver Sage in the Preliminary Rider Challenge at Woodside Horse Park. Photo Courtesy Sherry Stewart.

Leading the Preliminary Challenge Rider division is veterinarian Tristen Hooks and her own Learning to Fly. These two have an impressive record, never finishing lower than fourth in Preliminary divisions since 2012. A long-time member of Area VI Adult Riders, Tristen was part of the winning Adult Team Challenge Team at Training Level this year at Twin Rivers.

Julie Fletner and “Ping Pong” are less than a rail away in second with a 30.1, ensuring this is not going to be a dressage competition. Another long time team, Julie and Ping have never finished below seventh, including multiple CCI* competitions. Tied with Julie for second is Ruth Bley and “Rodrigue Du Granit.” Last year, Ruth came in second on this horse in the Challenge, and would love to win it this time around.

Junior rider Holland Garrett is in fourth with an impressive 30.9 on David Garrett’s Irish Sport Horse, LA Lux.

PCR 2015 D

With a new cross country course to tackle tomorrow, and a Sarah Dubost show jumping course later in the day that will be seen in reverse order of standings, things are sure to be exciting. The top 10 from each division (Rider and Horse) will begin at 6:20 pm Pacific, with a ringside Gala dinner to benefit the Woodside Horse Park.

Stay tuned for more exciting coverage of the Woodside International Preliminary Challenge on EN!

The Spring Event at Woodside H.T.  [Website] [Live Scores] [EN Coverage]

Enjoy these highlights from the dressage competition thanks to our friends at Ride On Video!

Who Will Win the West at Rolex? Presented by Ride On Video

When it comes to Rolex, the Pacific Coast is ready to make a huge splash. Pay attention, EN readers, this year we’re making sure they will! Not only are we incredibly proud of everyone competing this year, we also have a record number of West Coast riders making the trip.

In honor of that, EN is teaming up with the incredible Ride On Video team to offer a prize package! Area VI riders are familiar with Bob and Debi Ravenscroft and their company, which proudly proclaims, “We Film Every Ride!” Not just a great way to remember your weekend and all the hard work you put in, the videos also serve as wonderful training tools (with rocking music!).

The chandelier makes its way across the West as well - Taj is a welcome sight to all Area VI competitors!

The chandelier makes its way across the west as well. Taj is a welcome sight to all Area VI competitors! Here they are at Rebecca. Photo courtesy of Ride On Video.

Last year Bob, Debi, their daughter (and rider!) Tayler, and their film crew hit the road for Montana and filmed The Event at Rebecca Farm (AKA the Rolex of the West). Do you want a chance to remember those gallops on the green grass, look back fondly on you and your horse dancing in the sand in Big Sky country, and show everyone just exactly what those clouds looked like as you had your best stadium round to date?

You’re in luck! Ride On Video is generously donating a full video package (dressage, cross country and stadium) at The Event at Rebecca Farm 2015 to the winner of EN’s Who Will Win the West at Rolex Contest!

Mackenna Shea and Landioso. Photo Courtesy Mackenna's FB page.

Mackenna Shea and Landioso. Photo by Jenni Autry.

So what do you have to do to win this one of a kind prize? Let us know who the top placed West Coast pair will be and the score you expect them to finish on. Crunch some stats, read some articles and go with your gut.

Jolie Wentworth and the Good Knight. Photo courtesy Sherry Stewart.

Jolie Wentworth and GoodKnight. Photo courtesy Sherry Stewart.

Here’s a quick rundown of our West Coast warriors in order of appearance:

James Alliston and Parker

Barbara Crabo and Eveready

Bobby Meyeroff and Dunlavin’s Token

Bunnie Sexton and Rise Against

Jolie Wentworth and GoodKnight

Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair

Mackenna Shae and Landioso

Anna Collier and Gleaming Road

Jordan Linsedt and Revitavet Caputo

John Michael Durr and Esprit de la Danse

Gina Miles and SVR Ron

James Alliston and Tivoli

How to enter: The contest is open to all! Email the name of who you think will be the highest-placed West Coast rider and their final score to [email protected] no later than Thursday at 8 a.m. EST before the first horse completes dressage. One entry per person please!

What you’ll win: A full video package (dressage, cross country and stadium) at The Event at Rebecca Farm 2015 courtesy of Ride on Video

Go West Coast. Go Rolex. Go Ride On Video!

Heather Morris and Kimmy Steinbuch Lead from Start to Finish at Twin Rivers Ranch

Heather Morris and Charlie Tango. Photo courtesy of Sherry Stewart

Heather Morris and Charlie Tango. Photo courtesy of Sherry Stewart

Paso Roblos is known for many things in California – gently rolling hills, wine, and Twin Rivers Ranch, the Baxter family owned and operated equestrian eventing venue. Twin Rivers is also one of the few venues on the West Coast with enough land to make CCIs possible.

While entries in the upper divisions are down from last year, it’s for good reason; most of the West Coast’s top partnerships are headed east for Rolex or Jersey Fresh. With the Pan Am Games this year, the West Coast is more than ready to do its part in securing a win for Team USA, which made for an exciting weekend at Twin Rivers Ranch

CCI2* Stadium Shakes Up the Scoreboard

A combination of freshly painted stadium fences sparkling in the sun and a Jose Nova course caused shake ups in all divisions, the CCI2* included.

Nothing seemed to phase Heather Morris and Company Team Express’s Irish Sport Horse Charlie Tango, who led from start to finish. They have made quite a name for themselves this spring on the West Coast, placing in the top three in four out of his five events this spring, including a win in the Open Intermediate here at Twin last month. Despite one rail in stadium today, Heather and “Chuck” finished solidly on a 46.5. Not bad for their first CCI2*!

James Atkinson and the Selle Francais gelding Nabouco De Lessay moved into second. Sarah Broussard and Martha McDowell’s lovely bay steadily climbed the ranks this weekend as one of the more experienced horses in the field. Patience paid off with only one rail to add to their dressage score to give them their personal best finish in the CCI2*.

Jennifer Wooten and Martha McDowell had the ride previously on this talented horse, and James’ plan to bring Hugo to back to Rebecca Farms to contest the first inaugural CCI3* there seems right on track.

Canadian Nikki Ayers and Andee Stow’s Rubicon jumped two spots to finish third in their very first CCI2*. “Rubix” was foot-perfect yesterday, and while his toes touched two rails, Team Red kept their momentum going. Rubicon is a striking Swedish Warmblood that captures hearts everywhere he goes, and it’s a genuine pleasure to watch this partnership in action. Their respect and care for each other is evident, with Nikki always saying she just wants to do her best for Rubix because he deserves it.

Megan Lepper’s DeMello and rider Tamie Smith finished in fourth. Tamie is happy that DeMello has “proved he’s a very solid 1* horse that can teach a kid good stuff.” I don’t doubt there will be a list of riders eager to partner up with this beauty! Hawley Bennett-Awad and Jan Hawthorne’s OTTB Bodark put in a solid performance in their first CCI** to round out the top 5.

A special shout out to Erin Murphy and Savid Murphy’s Athlone Travel On who were the only pair go double clear today.

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 8.45.31 PM

Durr Eventing goes 1 and 2 in the CCI*

Kimmy Steinbuch and Ruth Bley's Spartacus D'L'Herbage make easy work of the CCI*, leading from start to finish. Photo courtesy Sherry Stewart.

Kimmy Steinbuch and Ruth Bley’s Spartacus D’L’Herbage make easy work of the CCI*, leading from start to finish. Photo courtesy Sherry Stewart.

With only three double clear rounds in the division, the scoreboard was set to be shaken. But your leader after dressage could not be caught this weekend, splashing onto the FEI stage with a statement making event. Kimmy Steinbuch held the lead from the start aboard Ruth Bley’s Sparticus D’L’Herbage and never looked back.

“Sparty,” a recent import from France, jumped to the top of the standings with an impressive 45.6 in dressage and a double clear over James Atkinson’s cross country track. With one rail on Jose Nava’s stadium course, they managed to hold onto for the win.

Even more impressive is how new this partnership is. Twin is only this pair’s fourth rated event together, as they started out at Training in February at the Fresno County Horse Park. Knowing Kimmy will be under the tutelage of Eventing 25 coach Leslie Law and occasional lessons with DOC, we are all excited to see what happens when this partnership really blossoms.

Ruth Bley and Silver Sage stand next to Kimmy Steinbuch and Sparticus D'L'Herbage - your top two in the CCI*. Photo courtsey of Durr Eventing FB.

Ruth Bley and Silver Sage stand next to Kimmy Steinbuch and Sparticus D’L’Herbage, your top two in the CCI*. Photo courtesy of Durr Eventing FB.

Ruth Bley rode her own Holsteiner gelding Silver Sage to capture second. Ruth and “Sage” have been partners since 2012, competeting at the Preliminary and 1* level together with great success. Ruth is not only a great presence as rider, but as an owner as well. Her “Espirit de la Danse” is headed to Rolex with John Michael Durr this year, and neither could be more pleased.

Ruth also took home the blue in the YEH 5-year-old competition with her own Solo Key, a black Hanoverian gelding that came in third in the YEH 4-year-old class at this same event last year.

Heather Morris, Elizabeth New and Fleeceworks Mystere du Val celebrate with their yellow ribbon in the CCI 1*. Photo courtesy of Heather Morris' FB.

Heather Morris, Elizabeth New and Fleeceworks Mystere du Val celebrate with their yellow ribbon in the CCI*. Photo courtesy of Heather Morris’ FB.

Fleecework’s Mystere du Val has found his forever home with the New sisters, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to stop competing! “Bean” and young rider Elizabeth New also finished on their dressage score to secure a third place finish, seemingly having no trouble with anything this weekend.

Sonya Bengali and Leah Feliz’s Gershin H.H. also jumped clear to move into fourth, while Julie Flettner and Ping Pong had an unusual rail to move them down to 5th.

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 8.46.15 PM

Twin Rivers H.T, CIC, & CCI  [Website] [Omnibus] [Entry Status/Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Adult Riders Show Off Spirit at Area VI Twin Rivers Team Challenge

Area VI Adult Riders

The West Coast has a secret – we’re spoiled.

Sure, we might not have one-day events every weekend or Advanced divisions that need to be split into two (at least, not yet!), but to steal a line from taunting high school cheerleaders everywhere – we’ve got spirit, how ‘bout you? From summer camps to trailer caravans that start in the dark and end in the even darker, not only are we “fine, fresh, fierce” – we love to have fun.

The Area VI Adult Team Challenge is just one of the ways the West Coast gets all its members involved. For those that have aged out of eligibility for Young Riders, there is the ATC – an event scheduled and designed for maximum accessibility, learning, and celebrating the sport of eventing, with all its ups and downs.

At the heart of the program, and this event, is the knowledge that adult amateurs are what keep the USEA going. Celebrating the fact that it’s perfectly normal to walk your Novice course and look over at some of the bigger obstacles and just shake your head, the Team Challenge gives those populating the lower levels a chance to compete for big ribbons.

Annie Desmond arrives at Twin Rivers to give new meaning to "Horse Driving". Photo courtesy Annie Desmond.

Annie Desmond arrives at Twin Rivers to give new meaning to “Horse Driving”. Photo courtesy Annie Desmond.

Dawn Robbins, the Area VI Adult Riders co-coordinator, started prepping for the 2015 season early. In the winter, members were polled on various venues for the ATC to increase participation. In January, teams were already starting to form.

Since Area VI Adult Riders also helps teams head to the AEC upon qualification, it was important to have the event earlier in the year (in addition, the summer calendar was already quite full with Adult Rider activities, like the ever popular camps!). The beautiful Twin Rivers Ranch was chosen for its more central location, allowing riders as far as Washington an opportunity to participate.

The Adult Team Challenge rules are as follows: Each ATC team has a maximum of four riders and all must be over the age of 21. One member is allowed to be a professional, but the remaining members must be amateurs (Got to love ATC Training Team “We’ve Got a Ringer!!”’s honesty!).

Area VI membership is not required. In fact, ATC Team “Area VII Yahooligans” are currently leading the Preliminary division! Scratch teams are also made so that everyone can participate. While the Team Challenge goes from Beginner Novice through Preliminary, this year the adult one-star riders will also receive prizes for top finishes.

That’s right, there are prizes! In addition to ribbons, there are custom embroidered coolers, gift certificates from Devoucoux and bottles of Auburn Labs’ APF Pro up for grabs. For the one-star riders, Area VI’s own Ride on Video is pairing with Athletux and Area VI Adult Rider Frankie Theriot-Stutes to interview the top finishers.

ATC Training Team "Fearsome Foursome" of Ronnie Thielmann, Kari Scoggins, Leslie May-LaBraque and Tristen Hooks. Photo courtesy of Dawn Robbins.

ATC Training Team “Fearsome Foursome” of Ronnie Thielmann, Kari Scoggins, Leslie May-LaBraque and Tristen Hooks. Photo courtesy of Dawn Robbins.

With over 30 teams entered, the fun began on Thursday night, with a wine and cheese party for all participants. Dressage day was possibly actually fun on Friday, as teammates watched each other’s rides, gave high fives and planned for the next day.

BN Team “Officer Simmons and the Pot Pies” may not have had their finest day yesterday in stadium, but had a blast nonetheless. Made up of Annie Desmond, Theresa Simmons, Aine Minihane and Maayan Schoeman, this team hails from the barns of David Adamo, their “long suffering and beloved trainer.”

According to Annie, Aine’s and Maayan’s mounts were rather “shocked and awed to find themselves in the middle of a show jump course.” Theresa is riding a borrowed horse she’s only ridden maybe seven times, and Annie had a clear round to trade places in the standings with Theresa.

Their spirits are flying high. “We are having SO much fun!” Annie said. Currently in second place, they are ready to move up and win their coolers!

ATC members at all levels: Coach David Adamo, David Tarpinian, Aine Minihane, Maayan Schoeman, and Heather Bo supporting all the athletes. Photo courtesy Annie Desmond.

ATC members at all levels: Coach David Adamo, David Tarpinian (T), Aine Minihane (BN), Maayan Schoeman (BN) and Heather Bo (N) showing support on dressage day! Photo courtesy Annie Desmond.

Dawn says the goals of the ATC are “to provide a high quality adult amateur focused competition, provide a location to focus and recognize our adult riders for their skills and dedication to the sport and to have fun – all at an international venue.”

This year’s event has certainly exceeded expectations, with many riders on wait lists. So if you thought your junior years of competition were over or found the joy of eventing later in life, have no fear. The Adult Team Challenge is going strong, and remember the Area VI Adult Rider motto -“If  you’re 22, we want YOU!” (I think the “and older” is implied!)

Go Adult Riders, Go West Coast, and Go Eventing!

Twin Rivers H.T., CIC, & CCI  [Website] [Omnibus] [Entry Status/Ride Times] [Live Scores]

James Alliston Gets the Win in the CIC3* at Galway Downs

James Alliston and Tivoli make easy work of Ian Stark's course. Photo by Stephanie Nicora. James Alliston and Tivoli make easy work of Ian Stark's course. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

It’s a beautiful spring day here in southern California, the kind we wish we had in the summer! There’s a wonderful breeze this afternoon, bringing the break in the heat all the riders were hoping for. It’s still 88 degrees, but it’s not as scorching as it could be. Honoring the riders’ concerns about hard ground, the water trucks are still in motion, getting all the tracks in between the 2* and 3*.

As predicted, Ian Stark’s course rode well, rewarding forward horses who were able to come back after long gallop stretches. Every rider chose to take the bounce into the water option at 8. Considering most are going on to bigger courses at Kentucky and Jersey, it wasn’t a surprise. A huge shout out to the water truck crew who have been working non-stop to keep the footing perfect.

James Alliston and Tivoli having fun in the final water complex on course. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

James Alliston and Tivoli having fun in the final water complex on course. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

Our winners are James Alliston and Tivoli, who ended on their dressage score of 49.5. Yesterday James said that if the ground was alright, he was going for time. Tivoli found the footing agreeable as well, with the pair definitely riding at speed. For such an early event in the season, it was invigorating to see the pair gallop with perfect control throughout the course. Tivoli didn’t look twice at the water, clearly aware of what his job was. If he was tired, he sure didn’t look it!

John Michael Durr and Esprit de la Danse. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

John Michael Durr and Esprit de la Danse. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

Another Rolex pair, John Michael Durr, also went for time and finished his best weekend with Ruth Bley’s mare, Espirt de la Danse, to date. This pair also finished their weekend on their dressage score, a 52.4. These Rolex Rookies are now heading to Kentucky brimming with confidence from a successful weekend. What a wonderful time to have your partnership really cement together!

Jolie Wentworth and GoodKnight making easy work of the bounce into water. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

Jolie Wentworth and GoodKnight making easy work of the bounce into water. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

If you looked closely at the overnight standings, it was clear time was going to be a factor. Yet another Kentucky bound pair, Jolie Wentworth and Tracey Bowman’s Goodknight, took advantage of the great footing and also rode for time, making it easily. This moved them into third place, a fantastic final prep before the rolling hills of bluegrass.

Jolie and GoodKnight finished with one rail added to their dressage score for a final of 53.6. They edged out Matt Brown and Happenstance, who recorded two time in their first CIC 3* outing to finish on a 54.8 — a showing Matt will certainly be thrilled with.

For those of us lucky enough to watch the competition today, we saw quite a show. It’s been a while since we’ve seen such a tight and important competition this early in the season, and Galway Downs was definitely the place to be. With more divisions to come, this is definitely a destination event — not just a stop on your way to East.

We wish all our West Coast teams the best of luck and the safest of travel as they head East for the rest of their spring plans.

Galway Downs H.T. & CIC  [Website] [Omnibus] [Live Scores]

Screenshot (60)

Show Jumping Proves Influential at Galway Downs CIC3*

Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 go double clear in the CIC3* show jumping. Photo by Stephanie Nicora Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 go double clear in the CIC3* show jumping. Photo by Stephanie Nicora

With such tight scores after dressage, Sarah Dubost’s course proved very influential in yesterday’s show jumping at Galway Downs. Six clear rounds shook up the leaderboard, as Matt Brown’s Super Socks BCF and Jennifer McFall’s High Times had an unusual number of rails. The CIC3* ran last in the FEI divisions, meaning the sun was out and everything looked quite bright in the blazing Temecula sun.

James Alliston remains the only score under 50, after putting in a foot perfect round on his own Tivoli. James was certainly pleased with his results, saying Tivoli was “really good.” Alluding to the fact that we will next see James and Tivoli in Kentucky, he remarked, “I haven’t shown him a lot recently, and it’s nice to know he can be tired and still jump carefully. In this format, you always worry if they can do that.”

James Alliston and Tivoli jump cleanly into first. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

James Alliston and Tivoli jump cleanly into first. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

Sitting in second after a clear round is another Rolex bound pair, John Michael Durr and Ruth Bley’s Esprit de la Danse. John wasn’t afraid to withhold praise for his mare, who really stepped up to the plate. “The mare was super,” he said. “My buddy Jimmy (James Alliston) told me there were some time penalties out there and to hustle.”

And hustle he did! They took all the tight turns and made sure not to lose steam in the corners. JM wasn’t afraid to take some risks with angles, and it paid off wonderfully with a gorgeous clear round.

John Michael Durr and Esprit de la Danse. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

John Michael Durr and Esprit de la Danse. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

“With the course being tighter and me riding that way, she was getting better and better,” JM said. “She was amazing; she more rideable than she’s ever been. Today was her biggest leap forward ever, outside of cross country.”

JM and his mare appear to be peaking at just the right time, similar to another Rolex bound pair in Jennifer McFall and High Times. Initially planning on only completing the dressage, Jen and her team decided it would be good for both her and Billy to ride a little tired with some pressure. “Billy was so good,” Jen said with a smile. “He’s where he needs to be. I’m just thrilled with his progression.” She withdrew after her round, and their next outing will officially be Rolex Kentucky.

Matt Brown and Super Socks BCF. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

Matt Brown and Super Socks BCF. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

Matt Brown found himself with a different horse at top of the leaderboard; Happenstance had only one unlucky rail down to stay in third. “There was one I didn’t ride very well, and unfortunately I saw not a good spot out of that turn, but he’s just been jumping out of his skin.”

Hap definitely doesn’t look green out there, even though he is the least experienced in the division. “He was really putting his whole heart out there, which what he does every day that he is jumping,” Matt continued. He remarked that all his horses were jumping well, admitting he was a bit off his show jumping game.

Barb Crabo and Eveready. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

Barb Crabo and Eveready. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

With less than a second between Matt on Happenstance and Jolie Wenworth on Goodknight, and just .2 seconds between Barb Crabo and Bunnie Sexton, tomorrow will all come down to time.

Since this is the CIC format, cross country will run in reverse order of standing. The top three riders commended Robert Kellerhouse and his crew for putting so much effort into the footing. While they may not be helping California’s drought, they are definitely helping our horses’ legs.

Eight horses started yesterday with plans for a trip to Kentucky this year, and two are off to Plantation Field and Jersey Fresh. Hopefully we’ll see them get the rides they need to go confidently east. West Coast, represent!

Galway Downs H.T. & CIC  [Website] [Omnibus] [Live Scores]

CIC3Star scores after SJ

Galway Downs CIC3* Cross Country Course Preview

No stranger to Galway Downs, Ian Stark has redesigned the CIC3* course a bit for this weekend. Robert Kellerhouse and his crew have been watering and dragging all the tracks throughout the day, and were still going at 8 p.m. last night – only to resume this morning at 5 a.m. Temecula is known for its great weather, but that can sometimes mean hard dry ground. With temperatures expected to reach 90 or above tomorrow, many of us are wondering what happened to spring.

Heat will play a factor in how the riders choose to ride the course. With many of the CIC3* teams headed to Kentucky in a few weeks, ideally they would like to go at speed. At the same time, all the riders have expressed their commitment to listening to how their horses are feeling with the heat and the ground.

Ian Stark's course opens with some inviting gallop fences. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

Ian Stark’s course opens with some inviting gallop fences. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

Three gallop fences before 4AB, which has a lovely hollow out over a large fence on a mound. Ian wants to see forwardness, but “It should just be a nice rhythm. I want to see the horses showing a bit of their scope and their exuberance and ‘Wow we’re on cross country and hoorah!’ – but I don’t want to see bad riding.”

The coffin complex, 6ABC, is the first real technical challenge on the CIC3* track. It comes on a long downhill gallop approach. Ian remarked that usually it is the riders that make the mistakes at this complex, not the horses. I will say that ditch is down a steep hill, and “If they do have a 20, they need to put that behind them and ride on.” I, personally, have bad coffin juju, and Galway’s complex is about sixteen times the size of my nemesis coffin at Twin. In honor of that, I won’t be standing anywhere near 6abc!

Standing at 6A, looking at B and C, - now that is a coffin!! Photo by Stephanie Nicora

Standing at 6A, looking at B and C, – now that is a coffin!! Photo by Stephanie Nicora

At Lake Galway, the riders will face a bounce jump into the water. Ian says he chose this because it focuses on being bold without being too technically difficult. There is an option for those that choose not to do the bounce. I haven’t heard many people considering the option, or thinking the bounce is too difficult of a question. Everyone does agree, however, that it’s better to be safe than sorry.

The next technical questions is at 12AB, a large drop to a chevron. Though it’s definitely a substantial drop, it’s not quite Head of the Lake status. Ian has really taken into account how many West Coast riders are doing their final prep for Rolex here, and all the riders appreciate it.  According to Ian, “If they have a problem here, I would be hesitating about going to the Bluegrass state. It’s too late to do the training for Kentucky, so it’s keeping the confidence in the horse and rider and making sure they aren’t ring rusty.”

The CIC2* actually has the more challenging  lower water complex — they have to jump the strangely intimidating Shamu. The orca has been a fixture on course for years, and Ian has no plans to remove it any time soon. He’s not quite sure why it causes the horses to look so much — perhaps it’s plain black and white coloring — but look they do!

I spy Shamu . . . Can you? Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

I spy Shamu . . . Can you? Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

Galway Downs has a full track, with over 150 racehorses stabled here for training. Usually the infield and the track are used as the gallop stretches, but because there is so much galloping going on outside, the track is used a bit differently this time.

Instead of approaching the brush chevron down the hill from the announcer’s tower, they will actually be riding up to it, directly underneath the tower. Ian thinks it will ride well, with it coming later in the course, so the horses will be a bit more tired and the tower will help frame the chevron.

He admits some of the greener horses might take a second look — I sure did! In fact, I missed the fence on my initial coursewalk, thinking the jump had just been moved aside. Silly me! Clearly I have to start working on my course design creativity…

Ride a horse, save a bull. Or something like that . . . Final combination on course! Photo by Stephanie Nicora

Ride a horse, save a bull. Or something like that . . . Final combination on course! Photo by Stephanie Nicora

Most of the CIC3* riders are planning to go for time. John Michael Durr, currently in second on Ruth Bley’s Esprit de la Danse, laughingly said that he’s going for time — and for a good reason! “My wife told me if I don’t go fast I won’t be able to go to Rolex!”  He said laughing. His plan is to “get out and run through the gear box, operating at a pace.”

James Alliston, our overnight leader, said that if the ground isn’t too hard, he will be pressing for pace. “With the older horses, you have to be a bit more careful,” he said, saying that foot soreness will be the only thing that could stop Tivoli from heading to the Bluegrass state. “I don’t have a billion horses at this level,” he said, so he plans run near the speed riders will need for Kentucky. “Go and get your eye and go fast because little mistakes aren’t so little at speed.”

Third place pair Matt Brown and Happenstance will see how they feel. This is Hap’s first CIC3* and it’s all about confidence building for him for the rest of the season. However, Matt won’t be holding any of his horses back, if they feel good. His goal is to increase fitness for all three of his horses, and he plans to be paying very close attention to what the horses are telling him.

Because of the CIC format, the cross country will be run in reverse order of go. This means James and Tivoli will be the last pair to take the course for the CIC3* division. Many think this adds a bit of pressure to the cross country — something the riders think will help them prepare for the pressure of both Kentucky and Jersey in the coming weeks. With the scores so close, time will really play a factor.

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion to the FEI divisions at Galway Downs, in Temecula, California.

Galway Downs H.T. & CIC  [Website] [Omnibus] [Live Scores]

Check out Ride On Video’s course preview with Ian Stark here:

Matt Brown Tops Galway Downs Dressage

Matt Brown and Super Socks BCF. Photo by Sally Spickard. Matt Brown and Super Socks BCF. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Welcome to the first West Coast International Event of 2015! While Galway Downs has always been an destination event, things are especially exciting this spring. As a final prep before Rolex for over half the 3* division, there’s a sense of purpose for everyone here.

Matt Brown is your leader in the CIC3*, this time on Super Socks BCF. “Flaxen” received a 46.9 after making the test look like a Novice round. Matt and Flaxen both seemed to relax more in the second half of their test, which again makes you wonder how much higher these two can go. Scoring below his average on this test, it’s clear Matt and Flaxen are looking to improve on their last East Coast outing at Fair Hill’s CCI3*. Look out Jersey Fresh, the West is coming!

Jennifer McFall and HIgh Times. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

Jennifer McFall and HIgh Times. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

Jennifer McFall and High Times are continuing their excellent Rolex prep with her best dressage score to date, putting them in second. Billy couldn’t resist showing off a little in one of his flying changes, but otherwise the pair looked brilliant. Jen was only planning to complete the dressage here this weekend with Billy, who has had lessons from David O’Conner and Clayton Fredricks this week, but they decided to go ahead and show jump this afternoon. “He was so good,” she said with a smile.

Billy’s half-brother, Happenstance, sits third. Both High Times and Happenstance are by the Holsteiner stallion, Hunter xx, a son of the brilliant sport horse sire, Heraldik. Matt Brown has the ride on Mary McKee’s dark, elegant gelding, who finished the dressage on a 48.8 in his first CIC3*.

Matt Brown and Mary McKee's Happenstance. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

Matt Brown and Mary McKee’s Happenstance. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

Matt again rode quite relaxed, making some of us wonder if he ever breaks a sweat! Hap didn’t seem to mind the atmosphere, staying focused throughout his test.  “If he (Happenstance) doesn’t think he’s doing the right thing, he tends to get a little tense. I think my job is to keep him. Hap internalizes everything because he wants to please so much he gets a little tight, where Socks sort of reacts to the things around them. So I have to quiet them both down, but in very different ways.

You still make it look easy, Matt.

James Alliston and Tivoli show off their lateral work. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

James Alliston and Tivoli show off their lateral work. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

Just behind the top three are a list of names found on the Rolex entry list: James Alliston and Tivoli (49.5), Jolie Wentworth and Goodknight (49.6) and Barb Crabo with Eveready (51.5). With one rail between the top five, Sarah Dubost’s stadium course is sure to be a factor, possibly causing a lot of movement on the leaderboards. John Michael Durr left points on the table when he forgot his rein back in an otherwise stunning test. Of his partner, Tivoli, James said, “I did an extra flying change, which is what Tiv often does, and that hurt the score. But his walk was good. I think if I hadn’t had that mistake it would have been a really good score.”

Bunnie Sexton and her OTTB Rise Against. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

Bunnie Sexton and her OTTB Rise Against. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

 

Screenshot (59)

Matt Brown also leads the CIC2* with BCF Belicoso put down the test to beat with a 44.5 in the CIC2*.“Holden” was relaxed and seemed to go through the test with little difficulty. Their partnership is truly something to watch. It takes talent to make this test look easy!

Matt Brown and BCF Belicoso make dressage look fun. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

Matt Brown and BCF Belicoso make dressage look fun. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

Second and third place are divided by .01 — just another example of how everyone came out to work today in the sand box. Andee Stow’s Rubicon and rider Nikki Ayers had their hard work pay off with a 48.8. The Canadian from Langley, BC and the striking red-and-white Rubicon made a statement today in their first CIC2*.

Nikki Ayers and Andee Stow's Rubicon. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

Nikki Ayers and Andee Stow’s Rubicon. Photo by Stephanie Nicora.

It was at Galway’s Fall Event that Nikki and “Rubix” moved up to the one-star level of competition, and they haven’t looked back. Nikki was especially happy with the test, as the things she worked on with Clayton Fredericks have paid off. “Imagine what he’ll be like when we get it all sorted!” Nikki said with a smile.

Just behind Nikki is Barbara Crabo and Over Easy, who also put in a very nice test for a 48.9. Heather Morris and Charlie Tango sit in fourth on a score of 50.8. Show jumping is sure to  make a difference going into tomorrow! The CIC2* starts jumping at 3:30 Pacific time.

More to come from Robert Kellerhouse’s beautiful facility including show jumping from all the FEI divisions, more photos and interviews. Go Galway!

Screenshot (58)

Galway Downs H.T. & CIC  [Website] [Omnibus] [Live Scores]

Tamie Smith and Jen McFall Reach New Highs at Copper Meadows

Tamie Smith and Mai Baum. Photo courtesy of Bill Olson. Tamie Smith and Mai Baum. Photo courtesy of Bill Olson.

It’s been a very exciting weekend at Copper Meadows, with all the divisions ending up incredibly close. It certainly served to remind me why I love eventing so much — it’s not just being a jack of all trades, it’s about being competitive in all three phases.

It seemed personal bests and smiles abounded in all the divisions. That’s the kind of weekend we love to have!

Less than a rail separated the top three in the Advanced division. Keeping in the theme of this weekend, the top three went double clear.

It was Tamie Smith and Mai Baum who led after dressage and never looked back. Lexus indeed didn’t look or act like his move up to Advanced was anything to worry about — if you didn’t know it was his first time out, you’d swear he’d been doing it forever.

Tamie also has another new Advanced horse with Twizted Syster, who also went clear in both her jumping phases, only adding time on cross country to her dressage score. “They were both incredible!” Tamie exclaimed. “Rideable and careful. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

As both get in the trailer to show off on the opposite coast, Copper Meadows seems to have given them the confidence Tamie was looking for in their move-up, and Team Next Level Eventing is firing on all cylinders and has everyone excited for the future.

Jen McFall and High Times. Photo courtesy of Bill Olson.

Jen McFall and High Times. Photo courtesy of Bill Olson.

In second, Jennifer McFall and High Times, an 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding she purchased as a five-year-old, certainly had a weekend to remember. Having started together at Novice, they have steadily moved up the levels together.

Last year they completed their first Rolex — quite an accomplishment. This year Billy is really stepping up his game, ending the weekend with only 1.2 time added to their personal best dressage score. This consistency is something that Jen always knew Billy was capable of, but of which Billy sometimes wasn’t too sure.

“Billy has matured in all three phases and has really come into his own. He is confident, willing and capable, and seriously fun to ride!” We can’t wait to see how this new confidence in their partnership will pay off at Galway in two weeks, and then it’s on to Rolex.

Mackenna Shea and Landioso. Photo courtesy of Bill Olson.

Mackenna Shea and Landioso. Photo courtesy of Bill Olson.

Mackenna Shea and Landioso didn’t leave any breathing room for the top two when they also put down a perfect round. As she leaves the West Coast for her final prep at The Fork before heading to Kentucky, her weekend here at Copper certainly reinforced the fact that they are ready for the challenges ahead.

In other words: East Coast beware, the West is coming, and they are prepared!

Screenshot_5

Going into stadium for Intermediate, the top three had a score of 30 – mere tenths of a point separated them.

Elizabeth New and Fleeceworks Mystere du Val moved into first yesterday with a quick cross country round. Tamie Smith and Fleur de Lis, aka Milton, sat happily in second.

“Milton was foot perfect,” Tamie reported. “I just worked on all the horses staying the same in their rhythm.” Her plan seems to have worked quite well, since all four of Tamie’s horses went clear.

Canadian Nikki Ayers, riding Andee Stowe’s Rubicon, second after dressage, said, “I had a big wake up at the second water at the corner out where I missed and Rubix absolutely saved my bacon. The course was challenging and time was tough to make.”

Margaret Stocker and Second Hand Rose were the only double clear cross country round, which moved them up 5 places into the top four.

This morning, it was all about leaving the rails up. Elizabeth New cemented her win, going double clear with a gorgeous round on her Selle Francaise chestnut gelding. This was their best outing at Intermediate also.

Tamie Smith and Milton also left everything up, leaving them in second by only .3 point. It’s hard to be disappointed when the competition is that close!

Nikki Ayers and Rubicon had an unusual two rails to move them into fourth, and Dani Sussman and her own Kaptain America took over third with a double clear round.

We’re positive Nikki’s sentiment is being echoed by all the competitors: “A huge thank you to Taren, her family and everyone who made this an amazing event!

Go reaching new highs, Go eventing, and Go Copper Meadows!

Copper Meadows HT: [Scores]

Screenshot_6

Tamie Smith Maintains Copper Meadows Advanced Lead

Tamie Smith and Mai Baum. Photo courtesy of Lisa Davis. Tamie Smith and Mai Baum. Photo courtesy of Lisa Davis.

In the desert (well, not quite) at Copper Meadows, the competition is heating up in both the Advanced and Intermediate divisions. Jen McFall had the fastest time of the day, moving her into second place, right behind Tamie Smith and Mai Baum.

“Lexus got better throughout the course, “ Tamie said, leaving some of us to wonder exactly how much he’s going to take the eventing world by storm, as this is his first Advanced.

“I didn’t go for time today,” Tamie admitted. “They were surprisingly fast as their gallops were all opened and relaxed.” As Copper Meadows is serving as both a move-up and a final prep before going east for Tamie, she’s understandably excited about how her horses are doing.

Jen Mcfall and High Times. Photo courtesy of Lisa Davis.

Jen Mcfall and High Times. Photo courtesy of Lisa Davis.

Jen McFall’s High Times’ Rolex prep seems to be right on track. Jen, of Dragonfire Farm, is just thrilled with her personal “dragon” today. “Billy feels stronger than ever and is no longer over jumping, wasting time in the air, and he’s not looking hard at the ditches.”

Early in their career, ditches were a source of anxiety for Billy, but that no longer seems to be the case. “I think he’s telling me he’s ready to be a boss and I should just come along for the ride!”

MacKenna Shea and Landioso. Photo courtesy of Lisa Davis.

MacKenna Shea and Landioso. Photo courtesy of Lisa Davis.

Mackenna Shea and Landioso had a great trip around Copper Meadows today, as they also worked on their Rolex prep, and 3.6 time was enough to move her to third. It’s hard to say that you had a bad day when a couple of seconds is all that makes the difference.

Cori Davis and A Golden Effort. Photo courtesy of Lisa Davis.

Cori Davis and A Golden Effort. Photo courtesy of Lisa Davis.

Random but interesting fact: Two Michele Pestl sourced horses are in the top four — Alex Ahern’s Mai Baum and Dan and Sue Shea’s Landioso — as well as two members of Team Dragonfire, Jen McFall’s High Times and Cori Davis’ A Golden Effort. Good things come in pairs this weekend!

Tomorrow will be the deciding factor, as there is less than a rail between the top three. Time for the nail-biting to begin!

Go cross-country, Go Eventing, and Go #copperstrong!

Copper Meadows H.T. [Website] [Omnibus] [Live Scores]

Screenshot (33)

Personal Bests Abound in Copper Meadows Advanced

Mackenna Shea and Landioso at Galway Downs. Photo by Jenni Autry. Mackenna Shea and Landioso at Galway Downs. Photo by Jenni Autry.

It’s a beautiful day in Ramona, California: Blue skies, warm weather, West Coast eventing — it’s a perfect recipe for dressage at Copper Meadows!

For those of you who may be shivering in your boots,  still dealing with blankets with over 250 grams of fill (heck, blankets in general!), and being happy you have an indoor arena — we’re keeping you warm in our hearts.

Enough about the weather – and on to the horses!

A common theme today with our Advanced pairs was reminiscent of “How to Train Your Dragon” (perhaps the horses have had discussions about this other horse, Valegro?), as everyone put in competitive scores, and the top four all received their best scores to date. Note to self: Hard work in the dressage court really does pay off.

While this is Mai Baum’s first Advanced, our numbers expert Maggie Deatrick reminded us that “anything Tamie Smith is riding” should be considered as a threat.

Sure enough, it is Tamie and Alex Ahearn’s Mai Baum who are our dressage leaders for the day, with the black German Sport Horse gelding showing off his homework with David O’Connor for a score of 22.8. With The Fork and Jersey Fresh on his upcoming schedule, “Lexus” is letting us all know he’s a horse ready to make a huge splash.

Mackenna Shea and Landioso are also preparing for their trip east, but their end goal includes a trip to Kentucky for this long time partnership. Putting in a great performance and a score of 25.7, they are ready to tackle cross country course tomorrow. This is their best Advanced dressage score to date, which is definitely cause for a smile or two.

Jen McFall and High Times, otherwise known as Billy, played brilliantly in the sandbox today, also resulting in their best score in Advanced to date for 27.4. With Rolex on the horizon, this talented duo is clicking at all the right times.

“I’m extremely pleased with Billy’s progress in his dressage work,” Jen said after the test. “I’ve changed my approach with him, and I feel right on track for solid performances at Galway’s CIC3* and Rolex.”

Cori Davis, who has brought her bay Thoroughbred gelding, A Golden Effort, up the levels with her, is sitting in fourth with a 32. 7 in their third outing at Advanced.

This pair was part of the 2014 Eventing 25 training list, and Cori said she is thrilled with the performance, as it shows a real breakthrough in their efforts on the flat.

“We have been working to really just be able to keep the connection in the ring. I’ve struggled a bit to keep him from breathing fire in the dressage ring,” she said. “Today we were actually able to apply all we have been working on at home in the test. So I’m super excited for that.”

Expect them to eat up the course tomorrow — Cori and “Ty” won the CIC2* here at Copper last summer and haven’t had a blip to date.

While the cross country course tomorrow will certainly have challenges, expect the standings in this division to be close until the last stadium round on Sunday. Stay tuned for updates from the other divisions. Go Copper Meadows!

Copper Meadows H.T. [Website] [Omnibus] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Screenshot_4

Why Riders Can’t Get Enough of Hawley Bennett-Awad’s Clinics

Hawley Bennett-Awad even comes bearing gifts at her clinics! Photo via Hawley's Instragram. Hawley Bennett-Awad even comes bearing gifts at her clinics! Photo via Hawley's Instragram.

Area VI is home to many wonderful things, but when it comes to this past weekend, I’m focusing on two in particular: perfect “winter” weather and Hawley Bennett-Awad.

I apologize to basically the entire rest of the country, but Area VI does include Hawaii, so clearly we are have some serious weather karma. Dragonfire Farm opened its gates for its two-day February clinic, and with the fog burning off by early morning, I was definitely glad I was wearing IceFil and tights!

On Saturday, Hawley took the time to teach one of Dragonfire’s youngest academy riders, Felicity. Not only did Felicity conquer riding in the dressage court for the first time, she worked on her two point and then had a little selfie session with the approachable Olympian. As her mom, renowned equine nutritionist, Clair said, “I don’t think there are many international riders who can switch as effortlessly from teaching four-star riders to teaching up-downs, but Hawley Bennett is one of them.”

There are always time for selfies at Hawley's clinics. Photo via Facebook.

There are always time for selfies at Hawley’s clinics. Photo via Facebook.

One of the many things that Hawley brings to her clinics is a willingness to work with not only the horses and riders that are competing at rated shows, but also with the greenies. Meghan Slusher, owner of Wilton Rain DF, was thrilled to have “Charlie” be part of this experience.

“Hawley pushes the young horses and riders to the perfect point without overloading either of the two. She has a keen sense for knowing when a young horse has learned its lesson for the day,” Meghan said. “Without even being on the horse, she senses when the horse is making a mistake because it is tired instead of attributing a mistake to a lack of cooperation.”

Nancy Dein, owner of her homebred 4-year-old Tropic Star, echoed this sentiment, saying she loves watching Hawley because “she takes such time to show them how to jump the questions,” which gives these youngsters such confidence.

Confidence is key for Hawley’s clinics. Even if you are having an off day (and we’ve all had them!), Hawley is a wonderful combination of coach and cheerleader. She listens to the riders about where they are and how their horse feels, and while she encourages you to challenge yourself, you never worry that she will push either of you too far.

There’s nothing quite like hearing Hawley clap for you at the end of a nice line, saying, “That’s it! You’ve got it!” Smiles and laughter aren’t out of place at her clinics, and this time, everyone escaped without having to do pushups, cartwheels or bareback ditches on Tucker the pony!

Even though there’s fun, there’s also a lot of learning. With Twin Rivers coming up next weekend, Hawley’s course had liverpools, tarps and plastic-barreled skinnies that made even the most seasoned horse take a second look. From a line of five one-strides with poles to corners and skinnies, the focus was on footwork, forwardness, confidence and, of course, riding your line.

The one-strides asked the horse to rock back and stay in rhythm before the course turned to the corner. This allowed both horse and rider to be prepared for the jump, instead of falling prey to the instinct to let the horse drift and lose power coming to the fence.

One of the many things I have found fulfilling about working with Hawley is her understanding of the basics of horse and human behavior. She isn’t afraid to point out holes to work on, but she gives you the tools to fill the gaps. Hawley constantly reminds you to ride your rhythm, ride your line and ride the horse you have. She stresses fairness and positive reinforcement. Her enthusiasm is contagious, and every one really seems to step up their game.

Amanda Black and Tahoe tackle the corner. Photo via Facebook.

Amanda Black and Tahoe tackle the corner. Photo via Facebook.

Many of the riders participated in the clinic Dragonfire offered in January with Hawley. Not only do they get to take advantage of a large arena with great footing, but Hawley also never fails to point out the positive, leaving both horse and rider with a better sense of teamwork, harmony and homework.

Hawley is also one to notice the work what you’ve done in between clinics — something that I know definitely encourages me to do my homework! Dana Todd brought her horse Jax, who met Hawley at last year’s clinic, and it was awesome to see the changes and growth in their partnership.

I know I can’t wait until Hawley’s next clinic — and I know lots of other people (and ponies!) who agree.