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About Visionaire

Visionaire is one of the foundation writers of Eventing Nation from the very early days in 2010. She has ridden up to Advanced level and spent six years as head groom for Dorothy Crowell. After a few years in the Thoroughbred industry, she now spends her time writing for EN, riding a few nice OTTBs, and working with her husband's hay business, A.T. Acres Farm.

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Tuesday Video from SpectraVet: Getting to Know Dr. Kevin Keane

Meet the “galloping vet” Dr. Kevin Keane, as interviewed by PRO.  Dr. Keane talks about how he came to be involved in the sport through Phillip Dutton, and his first one-star event back in the long format days.  Along with the great partnership developed with the horses, Dr. Keane says that eventing is great preparation for life and has allowed him to build great friendships with riders all over the world.


What Names Do You Like to See in a TB Pedigree? Part I

Courageous Comet.  Photo by Samantha Clark. Courageous Comet. Photo by Samantha Clark.

I admit it, I am a TB aficionado.  I didn’t start that way– my eventing career began with Quarter Horses, I’m proud to say– but when my first Thoroughbred took me to the upper levels, I began to see there was something about them.  Then I spent almost five years working in the central Kentucky Thoroughbred industry, and I became immersed in them.

The great thing about OTTBs, assuming you know their registered name, is that they come with a pedigree easily researched through the Jockey Club (  Most of them also appear on as well, though it should be known that site is equivalent to Wikipedia; it’s user-entered, and can be a great source of extra info but not always accurate.

When prepping horses and working the sales at Keeneland, you get one-on-one time with a LOT of horses, from weanlings to yearlings to racers to broodmares.  You watch them stand and walk.  You handle them in the barn.  You get an idea for conformation and temperament among individuals, and for particular bloodlines.  You may not be able to pick out which ones will be good sport horses, but that doesn’t mean time spent with race-bred Thoroughbreds is a waste– an eye for athletic conformation will suit across disciplines, as will a smart, trainable brain.

When you look at enough horses, you start to pick out commonalities among bloodlines.  You recognize which sires throw this type of neck, that type of hip; which ones tend to be sprinter bodies, which ones tend more uphill.  You can’t discount the mare, though– while you may not know what she looks like, you can try to research her damsire, and what he tends to add to the mix.  In breeding, there’s always the element of the unknown, but with a big pool of statistics, sometimes you can get a little bit of predictability.


Remember your genetics course at school? Punnet squares? The most important thing to remember when reading a pedigree is early generations count most!!  Don’t get starry-eyed and expect Secretariat to stand in front of because you see Big Red back in the 6th generation.  That means very little.  Look at Mom and Dad, Grandpas and Grandmas, and then filter your way back.  Yes, you will find common ancestors back there– many horses will show some inbreeding if you go far enough back.

So, a pedigree page sits in front of you.  You don’t know what the horse looks like yet; perhaps you just received a catalog from an upcoming sale with 2000 hips.  What horses might interest you?  It’s largely a personal decision, built upon your own experiences, but here are my stand outs if seen in the first 4 generations.

Here’s Part I of names that I like to see.  These would make me underline, circle, and dog-ear the page; if two or more combined, I consider it a must-see.

A.P. Indy and sons, Pulpit (and sons), particularly when crossed with Fappiano

I’ve yet to have a bad impression with a close-up A.P. Indy descendant. Athletic, smart, balanced horses.  A.P. Indy is considered a good stamina influence; he won the Belmont (1.5mi) and is the sire of a Belmont winner (filly Rags To Riches) and a Preakness winner (Bernardini).  Most of them don’t make it to sport horse homes because they are quite successful and valuable as racing/breeding stock.  Chances are you’ll find him filtered out in a sport horse pedigree for this reason…but I’ve seen multiple instances where the 3rd/4th generation will be a strong throwback to AP Indy himself.  Very prepotent, great damsire as well.  Pulpits, in particular, seem to have a very nice uphill neck and shoulder.

Photos:  A.P. Indy, Malibu Moon, AptitudePulpit, Tapit (AP Indy/Fappiano), Bernardini (AP Indy/Fappiano), Cool Coal Man (AP Indy/Fappiano)

Fappiano and sons, including Quiet American, Unbridled, Pentilicus, Cryptoclearance, Rubiano, and others.

Fappiano is the grandsire of Courageous Comet; a little less commercially appealing than some big name sires, he can be found in many successful sport horse pedigrees.  I find them to have good balance, athleticism, can jump and move well.  The Unbridled line (particularly Unbridled’s Song) has a reputation for unsoundness in the front limbs; perhaps because they are talented juveniles, yet slow to develop structurally, they break before they mature.  I don’t discredit them– they’ll likely be fancy– but I’d vet them more thoroughly.

Photos: Fappiano, Quiet AmericanComet Shine, Rubiano,  Unbridled, Empire Maker, Unbridled’s Song

Pleasant Colony

Pleasant Colony was a big, leggy horse with a tendency to pass that on; the ones I’ve known were tall, 16.3-17h.  It’s often heritable for two or three generations beyond, too.  Good movers and jumpers, big gallop, a bit slow to mature physically, but worth it.  No huge commercial appeal, but gets a good enough racehorse you’ll see them around. I like him as a damsire too.

Photos: Pleasant Colony, Pleasantly Perfect, Behrens, St. Jovite


There are so many more!  Stay tuned for Part II.

Thoughts From a Horse Husband: 5 Things I’ve Learned

An eventer’s significant other recently shared a few things he’s learned from his horse-loving wife.  I thought the “better halves” of EN might appreciate these thoughts.

Thoughts From a Horse Husband: Five Things I’ve Learned

  1. There’s more out there than a western/cowboy saddle.  In fact, there’s one saddle for each day of a three-day event.
  2. I’ve learned many different types of jumps, and how to build them.
  3. You can never have too big of a tack room in a trailer…and you always need a bigger trailer.
  4. I know what it’s like to wake up and load horses on a trailer at 5am to get to a horse show and sit all day in the truck waiting for that four-minute dressage ride, then load up to go home by 6pm.
  5. Buy a motor bike.  Saves you from walking cross-country courses, and makes trips to the food stand much faster.


Thoughts From a Horse Husband: Let’s Start a Club

As eventers, we’re crazy. And we embrace it. But equally crazy, are the significant others who love us: the ones who put up with our horse habit, spend long hours at horse shows, and provide emotional support whether we win or lose. Thanks to a dedicated horse husband for these thoughts.

Photo by

Photo by

From a Horse Husband:

Do you husbands remember meeting that perfect woman that had you head over heels?  Well that happened to me.  When we met, we both managed Thoroughbred broodmare farms in Lexington, KY.  We shared stories of foaling, the horses you have bred and raised, and how they did or didn’t go anywhere on the track.  I now know where those horses go that didn’t win at the track: they come to my wife’s barn, supposedly “resale prospects” that always turn into “they are too nice to sell!”

But back to the point.  My wife had one (I repeat ONE) horse when we met three years ago.  It wasn’t hard with just one horse, it took an hour to ride in the evening then it was off to do something we both enjoyed.  But first we have to be at the barn, and can’t leave until she gives kisses and carrots to her best friend.

Besides owning that one horse at the beginning of marriage, I’m going to explain in future blogs how we ended up with more horses than we know what to do with.  We were able to go to Maui when we had one horse, but now three years later we can’t even find the time to go fishing.  I’ll be back soon to let you know how this all works after I go feed her horses for her–she’s sick today, so I have to step up my game.

I’m going to start a club called the Double H (Horses & Hubs) for us guys out there.  That way while we’re at those shows, we can have skeet shoots, card games, or maybe play horse shoes while the wives are with their “other” best friends.

Soggy and Sunny at Rocking Horse March HT

It was a soggy, sunny weekend at Rocking Horse’s March horse trial.  Saturday saw massive storms move through around lunch time, forcing the cancellation of the remaining show jumping, cross-country, and a 3-hour delay on dressage.  Novice, beginner novice, and tadpole divisions were reduced to a combined test and many competitors just went home, unwilling to sit through hours of rain, lightning and swampy conditions just to ride a dressage test later that day.  Can’t say I blame them!

Hats off to the organizers, officials, and volunteers who pulled together to save the event as best they could.  Once the storms passed, the sun actually came out and we were able to splash through our dressage tests.  There was much confusion in warm up, as no one knew who had scratched and ride times were up in the air, but everyone did their best.  My horse had some nice moments in his test, and conquered some movements he found challenging, but I know we could have had a few points more in places, too. Isn’t that always the way… walking out at A with the “IF ONLY…!” feeling.  After sixteen years in this sport, I still long to walk out on a long rein someday feeling like my horse and I absolutely nailed it from start to finish.  Maybe next time. The test wasn’t too bad, though, earning a very respectable score in the low thirties.  I’ll take it!

Sunday was a long day, but the weather was beautiful.  We ran cross-country early in the morning, and sat around for six hours until show jumping in late afternoon.  Cross-country went well; there were four combinations on course which I felt were relatively challenging for the level.  Bounce steps at Training?  A bench, turning five strides to a corner (numbered A-B)?  A half-coffin is normal…but set at one stride, with terrain?  My horse is experienced at the level, and nearly ready to move up, so I was okay.  But what about the first-time Training level horse?  I cannot imagine doing my horse’s first Training and seeing bounce steps on course…I normally wouldn’t school that question until approaching Preliminary.  Talk about unprepared!  [Side note: The USEA "suggests" that steps at Training level be one-stride or more] Nonetheless, it was an inviting set of bounce banks, and it caused no problems that I’m aware of, and there was an alternate option for “B” if your horse went up A and had a stop.  However, you *had* to attempt the direct route to accomplish A, there was no possibility of avoiding the bounce bank altogether.

Show jumping was a smooth, flowing, friendly course. Rails were uncommon, and the two-stride to two-stride triple rode well for Preliminary.  It was reduced to a double for Training, and we had the addition of a liverpool (and option) for the final fence on course.  My horse had a couple strong moments, but I was able to make him wait when necessary.  He jumped clear and finished on his dressage score.  All in all, it was a very good weekend and I’m contemplating moving my horse up to Preliminary soon.

Horses and Self-Destruction

Photo by Photo by

Have you ever heard the saying, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans?”  Along those lines, enter your horse in a horse show or put him up for sale, and watch what damage he can to do himself!

As you may have surmised from tales of a one-day event, I still have Aero, the 2009 OTTB gelding I acquired in Dec 2012.  I decided to sell him last summer, and put him on the market.  He had several interested parties and a viewing appointment lined up, and then wouldn’t you know, he did what all good sale horses do: he injured himself.  Somehow he managed to slice his right front coronary band, creating a deep gash about two inches long right at the hairline.  He was sound on it, but it definitely needed some stall rest and careful management to heal.  He had a week of stall rest, a week of turnout, and then gently back into work after a total 3 weeks off.  By then, most potential buyers had made other plans and found other horses.

The day before his first trial date, Aero sliced his coronary band.

The day before his first trial date, Aero sliced his coronary band.

Aero's foot 8-21

Aero’s foot a week later. Healing well, but still fragile, requiring bandaging and limited movement.

I did meet one person who came to try him– and liked him very much.  We worked out an extended trial/lease type agreement beginning in mid-October, where she would keep him at her barn in Georgia.  Unfortunately, the deal fell through in February and Aero came back to me.  Due to the worst winter in history, he was a bit out of work and definitely missing regular turnout.  It took a little while to get him back in top condition, but he’s been looking super lately.  And after completing his first baby beginner novice event (finishing 3rd) I knew it was time to list him for sale again.  I was just working out the ad text in my mind, and waiting for a nice sunny day for some photos, when I noticed Aero’s right front knee was swollen the size of a grapefruit.

Aero's foot injury has grown out almost completely.

Aero’s foot injury has grown out almost completely.

Horses have such impeccable timing.  Somehow Aero had sustained a puncture wound on the inside of his right knee, and the resulting infection blew up the whole inside of his leg.  Now, after two days of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and bandaging, the leg is starting to resemble its normal shape instead of a stovepipe.  He remains sound on it, and should be right as rain again within a week or so.  Maybe then I can make another ad for Sport Horse Nation…before something else goes wrong!

Isn’t it funny how a horse can be completely fine, but the instant you want to sell them or show them, suddenly they fall apart?



Total Saddle Fit: How a Girth Can Make a Difference

Shoulder Relief Girth photo via Shoulder Relief Girth photo via

Several weeks ago, a Promoted tweet popped up on my Twitter feed.  It was an informative article on saddle fitting, and I found it helpful enough to pass along here on EN.  Total Saddle Fit sells an anatomical shoulder-relief girth, but there was no mention of the product in the article; it was commercial-free advice on saddle tree sizing.

The post received over two thousand views on EN, so apparently many readers found it interesting as well.  The next day, I received a surprising email from Justin of Total Saddle Fit LLC.  He thanked me for linking to his site, and offered to let me try his saddle fit-enhancing Shoulder Relief girths.  I was impressed with the company’s reputation and customer service, so I was excited to try the product and see how it measured up.

The girths were on back order, so it took a few weeks for them to arrive: a short black dressage girth, and a long brown jumping girth.  My first impression was WOW, nice leather!  The underside padding is incredibly soft, smooth, and flexible calfskin.  The outer side is sturdy full grain bridle leather.  The roller buckles feature strong doubled elastic on both sides. And true to form, the girths did have an anatomical squiggle shape to contour forward and around the horse’s elbows, while allowing the billets to sit farther back.

The company claims that the Shoulder Relief Girth’s contoured shape allows riders to properly position the saddle well behind the horse’s shoulder blades.  On some horses with large shoulders, a normal straight girth will tend to pull the saddle forward, as the girth wants to lie in a sweet spot directly below the horse’s withers.  A saddle that sits too far forward can dig the tree points into the horse’s shoulders, making him sore.

Girth 1

I tried the girths on three different horses, all Thoroughbreds.  I was most interested to try it on my four-year-old gray filly who has an enormously long shoulder.  Her shoulder sits very far back, and it can be a struggle to put the saddle in the proper position without a normal girth fitting around her middle like a western rear flank cinch.  Total Saddle Fit’s girth performed as claimed: the buckle ends matched up where the saddle billets wanted to be, while the center of the girth curved forward to lie in her girth groove.  Success!

Girth 5

Trying the girth on horse number two, Aero, was also productive.  Aero can be a bit sensitive with his tack, and he definitely seemed more relaxed and happier wearing the Shoulder Relief Girth.  I can’t say with 100% certainty that it’s due to the girth…but when I switched back to a regular straight Professional’s Choice neoprene girth the other day, he was unhappy and tense at the mounting block.  I swapped that girth for the contoured one, and he seemed more comfortable.  Coincidence? Maybe.  But I’ll take all the help I can get.  The short girth also has nice large billet keepers, making it easy to tighten the girth while mounted and tuck the straps in neatly (if you’ve ever tried to tighten your short girth on a squirmy youngster, you’ll appreciate this!).  

Girth 3

My training level horse is not the best individual to test this product.  He is naturally short-backed and no matter where you put the saddle, any girth will always be in its proper “zone.”  There’s simply not enough room on his anatomy to slide things back too far, it all ends up in the right spot.  Still, I tried both the short and the long girths on him.  I honestly could not notice a significant difference in his performance, but the girths seemed to fit well and did not rub him in any way.  Both the short and long girth ran true to size (24″ and 48″ in my case) and are made to last a long time.

Girth 4

Overall, I am very impressed with the Total Saddle Fit anatomical girth.  I would definitely recommend it for any horse with a big, long shoulder– and nearly any horse could benefit from a saddle sitting properly behind the shoulders.  At about $125 for the short dressage version and $150 for the long girth, they aren’t cheap.  However, the superior quality and workmanship is well worth the price, and easily comparable (or better!) than the $300+ girths sold by French saddle makers. Plus, the company provides excellent customer service, and offers a 110% money-back satisfaction guarantee if you return the girth within 30 days. I’ve never paid more than $70 for a girth before…but after trying these, I am sold– it’s well worth the investment.

Total Saddle Fit Girth, Product Rating:

  • Quality & Workmanship: Four Stars  * * * *
  • Performance: Four Stars  * * * *
  • Sizing: Four Stars  * * * *
  • Price: Three Stars  * * *
  • Overall Value:  Four Stars  * * * *
  • Buy It?  YES

A Day at Live Oak International

Saturday was marathon day at the Live Oak International combined driving event in Ocala, FL.  Hosted by the Weber family’s Live Oak Stud, the event is an awesome way to spend a weekend.  Several thousand spectators were in attendance to watch ponies and horses weave their way through a maze of obstacles as quickly and efficiently as possible.


If you’ve never experienced combined driving in person, it’s a real rush.  You can’t help but marvel how a driver and his navigator work together with their team of horses; somehow everyone seems to go in the proper direction at the right time, with only inches to spare between wheels and wooden posts.  Some of the turns are so tight, with changes in terrain and footing, it takes a substantial amount of trust, communication, and experience between the drivers and their horses to be so successful.  The singles, especially the ponies, absolutely fly around the corners like barrel racers; the four-in-hand teams are a bit more methodical, but they are fitting FOUR horses in the same pathway as a single pony!


Besides the driving competition, Live Oak hosts a CSI** FEI show jumping event as well.  Those jumps are HUGE, by the way.  I wasn’t able to stay but for a few rounds, though the course was riding tough and competitors were lucky to escape with just four faults.


The highlight of the day for much of the audience was meeting the famous Budweiser Clydesdales.  Three big semi rigs parked in the middle of the field near the trade fair– two trucks carrying ten total horses, and one truck carrying equipment, the harness and the beer wagon.  The doors were opened on the trailers, and the Clydesdales patiently gazed out at the swarming crowd.  There was no rope, no fence, nothing but respect separating the public from the world-renown horses.  Iphones and cameras held high, everyone rushed in to get photos and memories to last a lifetime.  The Budweiser crew unloaded the wagon and began polishing brass… so much brass!  Eventually a team of eight was hitched to the wagon and paraded around the main show jumping arena.  You wouldn’t think Clydesdales should be such a big deal to average horse people…but seeing them all dressed up, heads high, brass shimmering, ground shaking when they trot by…it was very cool and something to remember!



Collegiate Spotlight: Transylvania University Event Team

Collegiate eventing is growing leaps and bounds.  We’ve featured quite a few colleges, including the University of South Carolina-AikenAlabamaClemsonGeorgiaVirginiaUC-Davis, and Otterbein University.  The latest school joining the crowd is Transylvania University from Lexington, Kentucky.  Many thanks to Ivy Johnson for writing, and thank you for reading. 

Transy event team members Charlotte Pruet, Ivy Johnson, and Hannah Williams

Transy event team members Charlotte Pruet, Ivy Johnson, and Hannah Williams.  Photo by

Hey everyone! My name is Ivy Johnson and I am a senior on the Transylvania University Eventing Team. This weekend our team (all three of us–we’re still a fledging team!) came down to the Poplar Place Horse Trials for our first official outing as the Eventing Team. I am the oldest member: I grew up in Pony Club in Lexington,KY and evented through most of high school,but stopped riding for the most part when I came to college. This past summer, I learned that Transylvania had hired a coach with an eventing background to be the Equestrian Team coach,and I was convinced to get back in the saddle (after I took the LSAT in October) and join the team.

The team consists of myself and my mare Molly Malone, freshman Charlotte Pruet and her mare Flicka, and freshman Hannah Williams and her gelding Brighton Beach. Our coach is Tanya Davis.

At Poplar, Hannah and Charlotte competed at Training Level. Charlotte finished 5th and Hannah finished 9th. I competed in the Novice division (it’s been six years since my last event-I’m still a bit rusty!) and had a blast, finishing on my dressage score with two double clear jump rounds.

The hope is that we attract as many promising young student eventers to Transylvania, and establish the team early on in the world of intercollegiate eventing. We are very lucky to have lots of support from the athletic department at Transylvania, which has made a world of difference in terms of the team’s ability to actually come to fruition.

Our next event as a team is FENCE, from April 11-13. For more information about the team, visit and click “Equestrian.” You can also follow us on Twitter at @TransyUEq, and search #transyeventing on both Twitter and Instagram.

Final Results and Photos from Poplar Place March HT

Jessica Phoenix and Abbey GS finished 6th in the CIC3*.  Photo by Jessica Phoenix and Abbey GS finished 6th in the CIC3*. Photo by

The weekend is coming to a close at Poplar Place’s March Horse Trials.  Canada continued to dominate, taking home the top three places in the CIC3*.   Jessica Phoenix and Kyle Carter enjoyed a very successful event, and I’m sure they’ll be bubble-wrapping their horses on the way home as they both look forward to Rolex in a month.  Congratulations as well to Kelly Prather, who finished three horses in the top four of the Open Intermediate division.

As predicted, the CIC3* course proved to be tough.  Most riders rode conservatively and amassed quite a few time penalties.  There were only 7 clear rounds in the CIC3*, with 3 other starters having a stop, and 4 riders retiring on course.

[Live Scores]


1. Jessica Phoenix / Patras VR  69.6

2. Kyle Carter / Madison Park  73.10

3. Jessica Phoenix / Exponential  76.3

4. Darren Chiacchia / Amendment 15  91.3

5. Jessica Phoenix / Abbey GS  95.1


1. Libby Head / Sir Rockstar  49.8

2. Dana Widstrand / Relentless Pursuit  71.3

3. Jamie Price / Overdraft  106.3


1. Jennie Brannigan / Indie  64.4

2. Autumn Schweiss / Oakport Strauss  66.9

3. April Simmonds / Sunday Best  68.9

4. Julie Richards / Fernhill Hustler  71.9

5. Katie Resnick / The King’s Spirit  72.4


1. Kelly Prather / Flagmount’s Nightcap  37.5

2. Ashley Adams / Da Vinci Code  43.8

3. Kelly Prather / Truly Wiley  44.5


Many thanks to for these photos from Poplar Place!

Allie Knowles and Sound Prospect in the CIC3*.  Photo by

Allie Knowles and Sound Prospect in the CIC3*. Photo by

Werner Geven and Vilas County in the CIC3*.  Photo by Ivegotyourpicture

Werner Geven and Vilas County in the CIC3*. Photo by

Mary Peabody Camp and Rave Review in the CIC2*.  Photo by Ivegotyourpicture

Mary Peabody Camp and Rave Review in the CIC2*. Photo by

Katie Resnick and The Kings Spirit in the CIC2*.  Photo by Ivegotyourpicture

Katie Resnick and The Kings Spirit in the CIC2*. Photo by

Calvin Ramsay and Hoodwink in the CIC2*.  Photo by

Calvin Ramsay and Hoodwink in the CIC2*. Photo by

Dorothy Crowell and Hennison in Training Horse division.  Photo by

Dorothy Crowell and Hennison in Training Horse division. Photo by

Boyd Martin Injured at Carolina International [UPDATE: Boyd Breaks Leg]

Photo by Samantha Clark. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Boyd Martin had seven horses entered in the national horse trial divisions this weekend at the Carolina Horse Park.  We’ve just learned via Boyd’s facebook page that he suffered a fall from Steady Eddie on cross-country today and was taken away in an ambulance.  We’ll update this post as more information becomes available.  Get well soon, Boyd!

boyd fall facebook

[UPDATE: 8:55 pm]

Disclaimer: The photos posted on Boyd’s blog post are a bit graphic, so please proceed with caution!

Boyd has just posted an update on his blog, and it looks like he has suffered a broken leg. Boyd appears to be in as good of spirits as you can be with the month the Martins have had, and gave some more details on what happened at Carolina International today:

From Boyd’s blog:

“Steady Eddie is one of my top young horses, and he made the leap to advanced this year. He’s a very careful jumper so I decided to be competitive on him and really go for it at the Carolina International. About half-way around the course, at the Ruins jump — a vertical to a forward three to a very wide corner — I was moving along and decided to carve my turn and jump the fence at pace; unfortunately due to Eddie’s greenness it came as a surprise to him to see the corner and at the last moment he ducked out. My leg hit the edge of the corner at high speed which knocked me off the Eagle. Right away I knew my leg was broken – the medical staff thew me in the back of the meat wagon and took me to the local hospital for X-rays to confirm that my shin bone took a beating.”

We all know that Boyd is as tough as they come, so although there is no official word on how long he will be sidelined, you can bet that Boyd will be back in the saddle just as soon as he can.

Best of luck to both Boyd and Silva as they both recover from their respective injuries. You can stay updated by checking out Boyd and Silva’s blog here.

Results from Fontainebleau CICO3*

Elaine Pen and Vira.  Photo by Samantha Clark. Elaine Pen and Vira. Photo by Samantha Clark.

The first 2014 FEI Eventing World Cup event has wrapped up at Fontainebleau, France.  American Liz Halliday-Sharp rode both her top horses, Fernhill By Night and HHS Cooley.  Unfortunately both horses picked up 20 penalties on cross-country, moving her far down the results list after promising dressage scores.  Better luck next time, Liz!

The CICO3* division was won in thrilling fashion by Elaine Pen (NED) and her Dutch chestnut mare, Vira.  Elaine just barely beat out Italy’s Vittoria Panizzon and the fabulous gray mare Borough Pennyz; while leading after dressage, Vittoria was three seconds slow on cross-country to tie with Elaine. Elaine was only one second over the optimum time, breaking the tie to take home the win (and 3800€). Home country France took six of the top ten placings.  [Results - PDF]

I do have a question, though– why is it that Fontainebleau gets to run its CIC in the traditional dressage, cross-country, then show jumping format; while other CICs are forced to run show jumping first and cross-country last?  Why did the FEI have to make this schedule change, when it seems it should be left up to the individual event organizers; and what makes Fontainebleau special enough to run the standard format?

fontainebleau results 2014Fontainebleau Full Results (PDF)


Score Update and Photos from Poplar Place March HT

Kyle Carter and Serengeti lead the CIC2* after show jumping.  Photo by Kyle Carter and Serengeti lead the CIC2* after show jumping. Photo by

Yesterday was a busy day at Poplar Place Farm, running their annual spring horse trials from beginner novice through CIC3*.  The upper levels show jumped on Saturday, and will do cross-country today.  Some of the levels ran cross-country Saturday and will show jump on Sunday as the organizers scheduled nearly 400 horses this weekend.

Here are a few scores from Saturday.  Show jumping proved very influential, with rails common in the FEI divisions, Advanced, and Intermediate.  Kyle Carter is having an excellent weekend, with horses in the top 3 of each CIC division.  Jessica Phoenix is dominating the CIC3*, sitting first, second, and sixth going into cross-country.  Good luck to all competitors today!

[Live Scores]


1. Elisa Wallace / Corteo  42.8

2. Alyssa Phillips / Bliss III  43.0

3. Kyle Carter / My Mexico  45.0


1. Kyle Carter / Serengeti  53.9

2. Jennie Brannigan / Indie  54.8

3. Pedro Gutierrez / Racques Biats  55.2


1. Jessica Phoenix / Patras VR 48.8

2. Jessica Phoenix / Exponential  56.3

3. Kyle Carter / Madison Park  61.1


1. Katie Frein / Houdini  32.5

2. Libby Head / Sir Rockstar  36.6

3. Erin Renfroe / DeCordova  45.1


Many thanks to for these photos from Poplar Place!

Katie Frei and Houdini lead the Advanced division.  Photo by

Katie Frei and Houdini lead the Advanced division. Photo by

Jennie Brannigan and Indie, second in the CIC2*.  Photo by

Jennie Brannigan and Indie, second in the CIC2*. Photo by

Holly Malcom and Amcor, second in the Junior Training A division.  Photo by

Holly Malcom and Amcor, second in the Junior Training A division. Photo by

Sarah Spagnol and Grand Design in Junior Novice B.  Photo by

Sarah Spagnol and Grand Design in Junior Novice B. Photo by

Mary Marshall Haugh and Song Trick in Open Beginner Novice.  Photo by

Mary Marshall Haugh and Song Trick in Open Beginner Novice. Photo by

Emily Rusinyak and Fernhill Rip Tide in Open Novice.  Photo by

Emily Rusinyak and Fernhill Rip Tide in Open Novice. Photo by

Lara Borson-Knight and My Noble in Beginner Novice Horse.  Photo by

Lara Borson-Knight and My Noble in Beginner Novice Horse. Photo by

John Crowell and Little Hail in Beginner Novice Horse.  Photo by

John Crowell and Little Hail in Beginner Novice Horse. Photo by

Prize Money At Horse Trials? Or Not? [Update: Doug Responds]

Doug Payne and Running Order at Rolex 2012, photo by Heather McGreer Doug Payne and Running Order at Rolex 2012, photo by Heather McGreer

The Chronicle of the Horse published an interesting article yesterday written by Doug Payne: “Eventing Needs New Bones Under A Facelift.”  Doug laid out a proposal for a three-tiered system of events, at C, B, and A levels to help the sport grow and thrive.  The lowest-tier events would be made up of largely unrecognized-esque horse trials, while the A level events would offer more prize money and other incentives.

This concept has been met with vocal opinions, including on the COTH Eventing forum, where commenters are largely criticizing Doug’s ideas.  Some of the opposition rests with the notion that “the rich get richer,” as those who can afford top horses, elite training, and hefty competition schedules are likely those who will end up with prize money; while the average adult amateur or pony clubber on a backyard mount will spend the same entry fee and go home with nothing.

There is also the fear of becoming “hunterized:” increasingly elitist and prohibitively expensive as the hunter/jumper industry has done. Sure, professional riders would love to earn prize money at their sport– it would help finance their business and encourage owners to participate if there was some tangible return on their investment.  However, no one is guaranteed to make a living in eventing, at least not directly from competition success.

The Chronicle published a rebuttal article today, from an adult amateur’s perspective.   Sara Gonzalez-Rothi raises some interesting arguments against Doug’s proposal.  Ultimately, she concludes, that the spirit of eventing is fundamentally different from any other equestrian sport.  The culture of “inclusion, horsemanship, and sportsmanship” is what draws so many participants to eventing, and makes us different from the other disciplines.  The added expense of prize money must be distributed across all competitors, not just the lucky few who win.

While I think it would be cool if division winners could receive some sort of prize– other than a $2.50 ribbon– I know that event organizers’ budgets are already stretched thin.  Any leftover money should probably go towards reducing entry fees, not into a prize money fund.  It would be neat if the sport could grow enough sponsorship to both reduce entry fees *and* allow for prize money, but that’s just not feasible at this point in time.  And there is always the fear that the love of money will become a root of evil in the sport…gunning for prize money could weaken the values of horsemanship and sportsmanship we are founded upon.

Update 11:24pm — Doug reached out to EN with the following thoughts.  They are posted with thanks to Doug for his ever-willingness to address eventing’s tough issues, however we each might stand on any given topic.  From Doug:

“Everyone seems to be focusing on the upper level prize money as my primary motivation for writing this piece. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. I open the COTH article explaining that I’ve found it cost prohibitive to compete at the lower levels, in searching for alternatives for our horses I chose to limit my events in favor of jumper shows. This allowed me to gain much needed experience for the horses under my care at a much more reasonable cost due to add back money.

It’s only logical that more riders are choosing to go to other disciplines or unrecognized competitions which offer a welcoming competition for reasonable fees. As a judge, TD, rider and a member of the organizing committee of the Carolina International I have a unique perspective on this topic. I have spoken to multiple organizers who said that running unrecognized events costs them half as much and offers the same profit margins.  If the USEA became more flexible with their fee structure and rules, organizers would have more flexibility to price their events reasonably.  It’s crucial that we drop the barriers to entry at sanctioned events, allowing more participants at the grassroots levels. We have a great sport comprised of a great breath of people. I wrote this looking to allow more to participate at reasonable fees, as well as support our team members and owners to help our country succeed on the international stage!

One quick side note with regards to prize money, Carolina International this weekend is a great example of what we need for ‘A’ class events.  Entries cost about as much as other events and horses finishing in the top placings will be able to pay for their weekend or more. These funds were raised under the great leadership of Jane Murray at the CI not on the back of other competitors!

I want our sport to thrive and it’s not going to happen by pricing competitors, owners, riders or organizers out of the market!”

Wednesday Video from Kentucky Performance Products: Dramatic Air Rescue

A woman and her Tennessee Walking Horse, Dakota, were trail riding in southern California when the footing gave way beneath them.  Dakota fell some 300 feet down into the canyon and had to be rescued by helicopter.  Veterinarian Rachel Sachar was flown in to help stabilize and sedate the pinto gelding for transport.  Dakota is believed to have suffered a fractured skull, but Dr. Sachar believes he will make a full recovery.  Read the full story on



Unseasonably Late Snow Affecting Opening Dates

Hopefully Area IV riders can dig themselves out of the snow! Across the country, competitors are worrying about upcoming opening dates and how they’ll ever get their horses ready in time. But riders aren’t the only nervous ones — organizers are too! Katie Lindsay, organizer of the Wayne Eventing Derby in the suburbs of Chicago, sent us a brief note and the photo above.

This may embody winter in Chicago on St. Patrick’s Day weekend. The Wayne Eventing Derby (April 11-13) opens on Tuesday. Today, several of the new Jon Wells Derby jumps were relocated from their winter hibernation spot prior to being moved next month to Lamplight, the Derby site. Please note the enormous pile of snow behind it — with more predicted this week. Why organizers get nervous!

 How is this unseasonably late snow affecting your spring schedule, EN? 

From the Blood-Horse: The Fastest Horse In the World

Photo by Lauren Nethery. Photo by Lauren Nethery.

The is opening itself up to new stories– a new section titled Racing Voices is dedicated to storytelling in the words of horse racing’s active figures—breeders, owners, trainers, jockeys, bloodstock agents, and more.  The series began on Friday with an essay from Florida Thoroughbred breeder Bill Killeen about one of his promising two-year-olds, “Puck.”

From The Blood-Horse:

After working an eighth of a mile on two occasions 10 days apart, Puck went his first quarter-mile in :26 seconds flat, exactly what Barry wanted. He looked to be doing it easily, which you would certainly hope since that should be well within the capacity of anyone pretending to be a racehorse. His gallop out (slowing down) time was :38 1/5, about what one would expect. We thought his work 10 days later would be as much as a second faster, a very good time at Eisaman Equine.
On work day, we were surprised to see Puck out by himself. He would go solo, an experiment which could go one of two ways: He could fly off unrestricted by a slower horse or, as happens most of the time, run slower due to the lack of competition. Barry feels it’s important, however, not to let his charges get the idea that they are always supposed to arrive at the finish together. If this didn’t work out, well, there’s always next week.
We could tell Puck was moving pretty fast when he hit the starting pole. He runs evenly and determinedly, with a longer and smoother stride than you might expect from a horse his size, not particularly long or large. I thought he might have shaded 25 seconds when he hit the wire, but it’s difficult to tell when you’re looking straight down the track; the angle is poor.
Barry looked at his watch. He looked at it again. Then, he called me over.
How fast did Puck go?  Faster than anyone expected.  But Bill tempers big dreams and expectations, knowing that one fast work does not a racehorse make; like all equine athletes, there are many hurdles to overcome to make it to the top.
There have been so many promising failures that the phrase “Fastest Horse in the World” is more often delivered with sarcasm than with a straight face. Horses that have had spectacular works in sales and sold for millions often have not delivered on the racetrack. Why? Tons of reasons, the main being injuries. You’ve got a large body bouncing along up there on pretty spindly legs. The wear and tear of racing erodes talent over time, in most cases. Some horses just don’t have the mental strength to perform. It’s pretty intimidating to break from a starting gate, bells blaring, jockeys hollering, horses knocking you left and right, and perform the task.
At the end of the essay, Bill provided an update to Puck’s story.  After winning his first race, Puck faced a few niggling injuries that kept him out of the starting gate. However, he’s on the comeback trail this spring and looks forward to another start at Gulfstream Park soon.  Bill finishes with a great quote that I think all horse owners would appreciate: F. Scott Fitzgerald famously told us there are no second acts in American lives. Hopefully he wasn’t talking about horses.”

How Does Riding Three Horses at a One-Day Event Work?

The feeling as you cross through the finish flags makes it all worthwhile.  Photo by The feeling as you cross through the finish flags makes it all worthwhile. Photo by

You may have read my post yesterday, 5 Things I Learned Riding Three Horses at a One-Day Event.  I took three horses: a four-year-old filly doing her first event at Entry level; a five-year-old (Aero) doing his first event, at BN; and a six-year-old with several training level events under his belt.  I definitely confirmed one thing: I am NOT Buck Davidson!  I’m glad I survived, I’m glad my horses gained experience and confidence, but I don’t think I’ll ever try that many rides in a day again.

Ride times:

  • Entry level–  8:14, 9:00, 10:36.
  • Beginner novice– 9:32, 10:10, 11:30.
  • Training level — 10:55, 1:12, 2:25.

Here was my schedule for Saturday:

4:30am:  Feed horses. Quickly go over them in the barn lights and clean up any stains; Showsheen and brush tails, touch up braids if needed.

5:25am: Put shipping boots on.  Watch the “experienced” training level horse run around like an idiot in his stall, excited to go on a car ride.

5:30am: Load and leave.

6:15am: Arrive at show grounds, in the dark.  Lunge the Aero the toddler in the moonlight to settle him a bit, knowing he won’t have enough warm up time later for dressage. He was fresh and a little distracted, but reasonably obedient.

7:00am: It’s almost daylight.  Get packets.   Clean up the baby four-year-old gray filly.  Give her a light spin on the lunge line, instead of letting her “lunge” herself tied to the trailer.

7:25am: Get on the baby gray filly for dressage.  Jig sideways to warmup area.  Trot around warmup at breakneck speed, head held higher than a giraffe.  Canter; get both leads (success!) and try to remind her how to steer. Try not to kill kids on ponies concentrating obliviously on 20m circles. Avoid obvious stares of “Why is she here on that crazy thing?”

8:12am: Filly finally settles a little bit.  Almost trotting with some sense of two-beat rhythm, and I can see over her ears now.  Ring 2 is running early; may as well go ahead and get it over with, another two minutes of warmup isn’t going to fix anything.  Go into the main arena and the filly is completely overwhelmed.  Ears in my face, body wiggling sideways, incapable of moving in a straight line or performing a transition anywhere near a letter.  At least she sort of maintained the intended gait, and more or less completed the pattern in the proper order.  Geometry be damned.  The judge was incredibly nice, smiling and laughing, and congratulated me for staying on.  Well, there’s that.

8:25am: Tack for show jumping.  Go ahead and put cross-country boots on now, there won’t be much time to change into them later.

8:35am: Get on baby gray filly for show jumping.  She’s slightly more settled now and our steering has returned.  Hopped over a few warmup fences like no big deal, stood quietly to watch kids on ponies wobble around the 18″ jumper class.

9:05am: Jumper ring is running a bit late, the gray filly was the first one to go in the two-foot class (Entry three-phase division).  We trotted the first fence, awkwardly wiggled over the second, and then she locked into a beautiful canter rhythm and loped her way around the rest of the course quite happily.  For her first ever show jump course, I was very proud.  Good girl!

The four-year-old gray filly did well in her first show jumping course.  Photo by

The four-year-old gray filly did well in her first show jumping course. Photo by

9:08am: Hurry back to the trailer, untack as fast as possible.  Unload Aero and tack him for dressage ASAP.

9:15am: Get on Aero and head to dressage warm up.  He felt fairly calm and confident until he saw 25 horses and ponies milling around in a confined space.  While he’s been on field trips off the farm before, it’s only been with one or two other horses.  A show environment was entirely new and he was completely unwound.  All his progress at home was for naught.

9:32am: Time for Aero’s dressage test. Same arena, same judge.  Different horse looking wild and insubordinate.  Wow, I feel like a crappy rider.  Not much I can do except patiently struggle through it, trying to rub his neck and reassure him, bitterly thinking this horse is capable of scoring in the low 30s on a good day and here he is acting like a jackass.  Today is not a good day.  He ended the test with a crooked halt (but immobile, at least).  The judge again smiled knowingly and praised me for my patience with him.  I thanked her for her time and apologized for the pitiful display of incompetence.  I couldn’t forget that test (or the first one) quickly enough.

9:40am: Swap Aero’s dressage tack for jumping tack.  Despite his anxiety attack in dressage, he was very mellow and well-behaved at the trailer all day long.  Plus one for moral victories?

9:50am: Get on Aero to warm up for show jumping.  Unfortunately, show jumping warm-up was in a very small, crowded space, making for tight slick turns.  Aero continued to feel a bit claustrophobic.  He had moments where he would try to relax, but it was difficult.  I kept thinking “soft hands, leg on” but it’s not easy when you feel like you’re on a time bomb.  Green horses can be so unpredictable; at home they’re quiet and confident, at a show they can turn into a frantic puddle of jell-o.  All you can do is take a deep breath, roll your eyes, and know it will get better eventually.

10:15am: Aero was supposed to jump a few minutes ago, but the show jumping ring is just a bit behind.  The longer warmup time did not help, he was just more wound up.  When he got into the ring, he spooked at four-wheelers on the nearby cross-country course.  Then he shied at photographers.   The judges stand in the corner sent him skittering sideways.  Thankfully, he wasn’t concerned about the jumps whatsoever– that was the easy part.  Poor immature horse just overwhelmed by the environment.  He should get better as he gets out more.  I made a mental note, though, not to be early to cross-country warmup!

Aero overcame his anxiety enough to jump a clear round for his first time at a show.  Photo by

Aero overcame his anxiety enough to jump a clear round for his first time at a show. Photo by

10:20am: Yank the jump saddle and breastplate off of Aero and throw it on the gray filly for cross-country.  Also, tack up the training level horse for dressage and load him back on the trailer for later.

10:25am: Warm up the gray filly for cross-country.  She’s quiet, settled, relaxed and responsive.  She’s got this showing thing all figured out now.  We popped over the little logs in warmup and she was good to go.

10:40am: Cross-country is running behind.  We were supposed to go a few minutes earlier.  I asked the xc starters to radio the dressage stewards and tell them I’d be late on my training horse.

10:41am: “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Have a Good Ride!”  The gray filly trotted out of the start box and boldy over the first tiny two-foot fence.  We loped around the whole course in a fantastic rhythm, like a hunter derby.  She hesitated slightly at the water, but trotted on through and jumped the entire course with ease and confidence.  I smiled the whole way and was basically a passenger needing only to steer toward the next set of flags.  Baby’s first cross-country was a huge success.  What an awesome girl!

Finishing the entry level cross-country course.  She's officially an event horse now!  Photo by

Finishing the entry level cross-country course. She’s officially an event horse now! Photo by

10:50am: Hurry back to the trailer, swap bridle from gray filly to training level horse, get on him and trot to dressage warm-up.  Thankfully my friend was a huge help and cooled out the filly for me.

10:55am: Dressage stewards tell me they thought I had scratched since I hadn’t showed up…I tried to explain the conflict with cross-country and show jumping running late (apparently the xc starters hadn’t radioed them). My dressage time was 10:55, and I was to get in Ring 1 immediately, no ifs ands or buts.  I managed to canter one circle in warmup and then went directly to the ring.

10:56am: My poor training level horse usually needs a good long warmup, with at least 15 minutes of patient walking lateral work to settle into a soft, relaxed, obedient mindset.  He got none of that.  Considering he went right from the trailer to the ring, he did his best.  He had some nice moments, but also some resistance and tension (that probably would have been greatly helped with adequate warmup time).  It was far from his best test, but it wasn’t a disaster; I can’t blame the mistakes on him, as it was largely due to my mad rush with multiple horses.

 11:03am: Untack the training level horse, give him a peppermint, and take a deep breath.  I actually had a moment to sit down, drink a bottle of water, and think about my upcoming beginner novice course.

11:45am: Unload Aero and tack him for cross-country.  Dawdle around and waste time…normally I get on about 25 minutes before my ride time, but I didn’t want Aero to be stressed in warmup a minute more than necessary.  It’s hard making yourself be “late” on purpose.

12:05pm: Get on Aero and head to cross-country warmup.  He was still a bit on the muscle, but the ticking time-bomb feeling was gone. We jumped a few warm up fences and tried to keep moving until it was our time.

12:15pm: Another “Have a good ride!” and we leave the box.  He trotted nicely over the first fence and landed eagerly with a bouncy, forward canter.  Approaching the second, he took one look at it surrounded by other levels’ jumps and (gasp!) jump judges, and he propped/spun sideways.  I don’t think he even saw the jump in front of him, his eyeballs were completely going east-west.  I stuffed him over the fence awkwardly, I’m not sure if they counted it as a stop or not.  I let him trot the next several fences, so he had time to process all the extraneous stuff and focus on his intended target.  By about fence 7, he was getting the hang of it and I let him canter.  He jumped bravely over the beginner novice “coffin,” and went into the water with just a bit of suspicion. We trotted the last few jumps and he walked back to the trailer feeling pretty proud of himself.  I was humbly reminded that most green horses are not as easy as the gray filly!

Aero gallops around his first full cross-country course at Beginner Novice. Photo by

Aero gallops around his first full cross-country course at Beginner Novice. Photo by

12:20pm: Untack and cool out Aero.

12:30pm: Swap bits on the bridle and tack up the training level horse for show jumping.

12:50pm: Get on the training level horse and head to show jumping warmup.  Show jumping is again running behind, but not sure how much.  I jump a warm-up fence and realize that a waterford, his normal show jumping bit, was not going to work today.  I debated going back to the trailer to change it, but didn’t know when my turn would come.  I decided to tough it out.

1:20pm: Suffer through the training level show jump course.  Big mistake to stay in the waterford.  Show jumping in the large open field, right next to cross-country, had my horse thinking other ideas about control.  He ran past several distances and I struggled to hold him together.  We had a disappointing two rails down (the first rails he’s ever had) and I rode like crap while he pulled my arms out.  I was feeling pretty tired by this point; three hours of sleep, waking up at 4am, and seven previous rides was taking its toll.

The last fence on the training level show jump course.  Photo by

The last fence on the training level show jump course. Photo by

1:25pm: Strip off the show jumping tack, sit down and try to recover before cross-country.  Pray that the new cross-country bit will help; decide that if he feels too strong at any point, I will pull up and retire.

1:45pm: Tack the training level horse for cross-country.  I was trying a three-ring gag on him for the first time in competition, and I had planned to use the second ring just below the snaffle.  After the show jumping debacle, I moved it to the third ring for extra leverage. (I also ride with a snaffle rein.)

2:05pm: Get on for the last time, to warm up for training level cross-country.  Test out the new brakes: working great.  I used to ride him in a pelham, but he started backing off it too much, curling and diving on his forehand.  I tried a variety of snaffles, twisted, Myler, but none were quite right.  The three-ring gave me enough leverage for control, but he’d still take contact and keep his balance up.

2:25pm: For the last time, “three, two, one, have a nice ride!”  We started off immediately into a great rhythm, and kept it the whole way around.  I was able to half-halt effectively for each fence, and my horse felt super.  It was the best round he’d done; he never lacks for confidence or boldness, but his enthusiasm can make him a tough ride.  Today was a walk in the park.  I still felt like I was on a high-powered rocket, but I had full control of the throttle.  We had an odd distance or two near the end– I think my eye was worn out!– but he jumped safely and comfortably and we both had a great time.

Had a fun time on the training level cross-country.

Had a fun time on the training level cross-country.

2:32pm: Cool him out, take his braids out, try to sort through the mess of tack and sweaty saddle pads thrown all over the bed of the truck.

2:45pm: Load up and head home.  Thank husband and friend profusely for their help, feel satisfied that all horses finished the day on a positive note.  Reflect on how nice the gray filly is and will be, how much farther Aero has to go, and be thankful that the last horse took care of me when I needed it (for once).  Proclaim that professional riders like Buck Davidson are super human and vow never attempt to show three horses in three phases in one day ever again!


Ashley Leith: PRO Derby Cross Demo a Success

Overall winner Ashley Leith.  Photo by Sara Lieser Overall winner Ashley Leith. Photo by Sara Lieser

From Ashley Leith:

On Saturday, March 15th there was a day of polo and PRO Derby Cross at Longwood Farm in Ocala, FL.  The weather was glorious and many people came out to tailgate during the day and enjoy the live band and pulled pork later in the afternoon.  The Professional Riders Organization hosted a Derby Cross demo to promote the return of PRO Derby Cross to Ocala in 2015.  Between polo matches, three teams of two PRO riders competed over a ten jump course that ran out into the middle of the polo field and then up the berm into the crowd.  The times were close, but Caroline Martin and Ashley Leith pulled out the winning score, with Ashley Leith finishing as the top individual rider.  Sarah Murphy and Bobby Meyerhoff placed second and Jennie Brannigan and Hannah Sue third.  Nate Chambers did a masterful job announcing and with music playing and the crowd jostling to follow each ride it was a fun afternoon!

Sara Murphy, PRO Derby Cross.  Photo by Sara Lieser

Sara Murphy. Photo by Sara Lieser

PRO Derby Cross.  Photo by Sara Lieser

PRO Derby Cross participants. Photo by Sara Lieser

Jennie Brannigan, PRO Derby Cross.  Photo by Sara Lieser

Jennie Brannigan. Photo by Sara Lieser

Hannah Burnett at PRO Derby Cross.  Photo by Sara Lieser

Hannah Burnett. Photo by Sara Lieser

Caroline Martin, PRO Derby Cross.  Photo by Sara Lieser

Caroline Martin. Photo by Sara Lieser

Bobby Meyerhoff, PRO Derby Cross. Photo by Sara Lieser.

Bobby Meyerhoff. Photo by Sara Lieser.

A Mid-March Cross-Country Schooling Day

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of cross-country schooling at Longwood in Ocala, FL.  I know, all you snowed-in northerners are completely sick of reading stories about the Lucky Few down south enjoying the sunshine, while your first-of-the-year outings are still weeks (or months) away.  I’m sorry…I know your pain, I used to be one of you!

Nonetheless, I enjoyed cross-country schooling yesterday with my three horses.  One of them has already competed twice this year; the goal with him was to test out a different bit for better brakes.  But it’s Longwood, it’s like Disneyworld for eventers, so you know he had some fun jumping a few things!  He felt excellent, very bold and brave, yet responsive in a three-ring gag.  He formerly went in a rubber mullen pelham, but it became too much bit and caused him to curl, despite the snaffle rein.  For two cross-country outings I used a slow-twist Dr. Bristol…it worked okay the first time, and then was an utter failure at the second event.  The three-ring gag, with reins on the snaffle and second ring, seems to earn enough respect to half-halt effectively, while keeping him elevated and not rolled up.

We practiced a few things that he hasn’t yet seen in competition at Training level– a trakehner, a double bank question in and out of water, mounds and skinnies.  Longwood is so fantastic because all these “upper level” questions are presented at low, inviting heights.  It builds great confidence in the horses, while exposing them to situations they will see later in their careers.

So that was the easy horse.  The other two on the trailer were much greener.  You may remember Aero, from last year’s stories.  Now five years old, he’s still with me after a short term lease/purchase didn’t work out this fall.  I just got him back in February, and he needed a bit of weight and reschooling.  He’s coming back into fine form, and was ready for his first cross-country school since last September.

The vast array of jumps scattered in the schooling field were a bit overwhelming to poor Aero, so we trotted a lot of small things to let him settle.  As we went on he got into a good rhythm and began looking for jumps to do.  He’s really a horse who loves to be challenged; the more you throw at him, the better he focuses and tries.  He jumped banks, water, and the ditch with boldness by the time we finished.  He’s a quirky little horse, a bit of a mental workout, but he has the physical parts to grow into a very nice horse someday.  His first competition is coming up this weekend; I don’t have high expectations for scoring well, but the experience will be very good for him.

The other green horse is REALLY green– like fluorescent lime green.  A four-year-old filly, she’s been off the track for about three months.  She has an incredibly mature mind, however, and I’m very excited about her for the future.  She has taken to jumping like a duck to water, and naturally canters around on the lightest rein in great rhythm.  With the way she snaps her knees over fences, she could make a hunter, if this cross-country thing doesn’t work out….

So yesterday was her introduction to Jumps That Don’t Fall Down, a variety of logs, bushes, tiny banks and baby ditches.  While it felt like she would rip my arms out at a trot going crooked in all directions at once, as soon as we picked up a canter she settled into her loopy rein contact, balanced and straight.  Thoroughbreds– they’re bred to canter and gallop, remember, not trot!  She hopped over some small logs, wiggly as most green horses are, but with bravery and willingness.  She cantered some bushes, jumped me out of the tack, and enjoyed herself greatly.

Ok, so she could jump natural jumps.  What about the real stuff, water and ditches and banks?  We stayed at the small end of the ditches, but she didn’t even blink once.  The baby bank was nothing more than a simple step, which made complete sense to her.  And then she sealed the deal, barely hesitating on her first ever approach to water.  At home, she’s like a fish…she plays in her water tank up to her eyeballs, and willingly splashes through any available puddle.  A water jump is just an excuse to get wet!  By the end, she was hopping up and down the tiny bank in water with her ears pricked.  Success!

You can pick out some really nice eventing prospects– good conformation, good mover, good jump– but you never know if they’ll hate ditches, or water, or galloping alone away from the group.  That first cross-country school is a glimpse into the horse’s future: can they make it in this sport?  Do they have what it takes, the desire to jump crazy obstacles between the flags?  While a 2-foot log and trotting into water is no indicator of Advanced potential, it can give you insight into the horse’s innate willingness and natural enthusiasm.  It looks like I’ve found another one who wants to play the game– and I’m so excited to see where she goes.


Sunday Video: Lord Windemere Wins the 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup

In a thrilling finish, Lord Windemere stayed on to win the 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup by a short head over On My Own on Friday, March 14.  Heavy favorite Bob’s Worth, the 2013 winner, finished fifth.  Lord Windemere started out the race in last, jumping early fences at the back of the pack.  It goes to show, it’s not how you start but how you finish!  He is trained by former three-time Gold Cup winning jockey Jim Culloty.

Weekend Score Update

Matthew Brown and BCF Belicoso, FCHP CIC** winners. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Matthew Brown and BCF Belicoso won the Advanced division at Copper Meadows, shown here winning the CIC2* at Fresno County Horse Park. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Three events are on-going this weekend: Pine Top Spring HT in Georgia; Feather Creek HT in Oklahoma; and Copper Meadows HT in California.  Here are a few results from divisions that have completed so far.

Feather Creek Farm HT

Preliminary: Out of six starters, only one rider finished.  Two withdrew before cross-country, and no thers made it around.  The detailed cross-country results show many problems at fences 9 and 10.  I’m not sure what happened out there, but congratulations to Nicole Hatley and Ace for making it around!

1. Nicole Hatley / Ace  62.6

Pine Top Spring HT


1. Skylar Norman / Ramble On  49.9

2. Sophie Ochocinski / Pog Mahome  63.2

3. Emily Thompson / Sawyer  88.1

Open Preliminary 1

1. Boyd Martin / Callisto  33.6

2. Ryan Wood / Woodstock Bennett  35.0

Phillip Dutton / Good Enough  39.1

Open Preliminary 2

1. Boyd Martin / Ballyneety  19.6

2. Ryan Wood / Woodstock Wallaby 36.8

3. Sarah Cousins / Folk Hero  40.7

Copper Meadows HT 


1. Matthew Brown / BCF Belicoso  43.7

2. Jennifer McFall / High Times  53.3

3. Jolie Wentworth / Goodknight 62.0