Amanda Chance
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Amanda Chance

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About Amanda Chance

Recently relocated to Ocala from Texas, Amanda has been involved in the sporthorse breeding industry for 20 years. She is the founder of Breed.Ride.Compete., a company that specializes in pedigree data services such as custom pedigree reports, breeding data for live streams and events, and sporthorse breeding consultations. Amanda is also a passionate eventer, competing with her OTTB and her second generation homebred warmblood.

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Behind the Breeding: The Mighty Magic Touch

Welcome to EN’s 2023 rewind! We’ll be resharing some of our most popular stories from the year throughout the last few days of 2023. This article first appeared on EN in March.

Liz Halliday and Miks Master C. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

I’ll be honest, when it was suggested that I write a piece about the eventing stallion Mighty Magic (thanks to the recent successes of his offspring at the top levels) I just about fell over.

This is it, folks, the role I was born for.

Finally, my years of being a breeding nerd and a Mighty Magic superfan have paid off, and I can truly say that I’m not sure there’s anyone better suited to tackle this mighty (get it? Sorry not sorry) task.

Before we get started, let me give you my resume:
1) Two of my three horses have Mighty Magic in their pedigree
2) A few years ago I traveled *mumbles incoherently* miles to his current home base in France just so I could see him in person
3) I dutifully stalk every offspring showing worldwide at the FEI levels to keep tabs on their careers, as well as all the ones I can find showing here in the U.S. at the National levels
4) I’m relatively certain Will Faudree might have a restraining order out on me at this point, I just keep showing up at random horse shows to ogle Mason (aka Mama’s Magic Way), who looks so much like my own six-year-old by Mighty Magic that it’s borderline creepy.

Anyway, you get the idea. I am, in my opinion, uniquely qualified for the task of writing about Mighty Magic, and – fair warning – this will most definitely be biased because it’s been penned by his number one fan. You’ve been warned, people. Let us begin.

Me and my own Mighty Magic offspring. Photo by Xpress Foto.

Behind the Magic

Mighty Magic (known as “Mighty”) was bred in Germany by Horst-Henning Lienau, a product of several generations of his show jumping breeding program. The elegant bay colt was born in 2003, the second foal of his dam Neika I, a career broodmare who went on to produce over a dozen offspring for Henning. In addition to Mighty, some of her other most notable sport offspring include Akela (by Acorado) who competed to the CCI3* level under British rider Nick Gauntlett, and Chlodowig (by Coriano) who show jumped to the 1.45m level with Philipp Schlaich of Germany.

Mighty’s second dam Fiona VIII, by Lavall was also a member of Hennig’s breeding program. Her most successful sport offspring was Conradin, a 1.60m show jumper by the stallion Contender. This mare line is Holsteiner Stamm (mare family) 1947, which has produced breeding stallions such as Cambridge, Clintord, and Contini, and sport horses such as 1.60m show jumpers Carella 5, Quicka, PMS Candy Girl, Cash and Go, and Cabanza. Mighty’s fourth dam, Peidra, is also the dam of Conejo, a stallion, competed by U.S. rider Karen Cudmore, that show jumped at the 2002 FEI World Equestrian Games and the 2003 FEI World Cup Finals.

The part of Mighty’s pedigree that everyone notices first, though, is the fact that he’s got a full Thoroughbred sire and damsire. His dam, Neika I, is by the famous Thoroughbred stallion Heraldik, one of the most successful sires of event horses of all time.

Born in Czechoslovakia in 1982, Heraldik’s first job was as a steeplechaser, although he wasn’t particularly successful in that endeavor. After a soft tissue injury ended his racing career he became a lesson horse, eventually finding his way to the show jumping ring. There he found his niche, competing up to the 1.50m level with rider Viliam Naštický.

Eventually Heraldik caught the eye of a German breeder, who purchased him for breeding in the hope of adding blood to their mares without sacrificing jumping scope. Heraldik was a success, eventually approved for breeding with at least 10 stud books and is the sire or damsire to over a dozen CCI5* event horses and sire of seven 1.50-1.60m show jumpers.

Mighty’s sire, Mytens, was born and bred right here in the USA. By Kentucky Derby winner Spectacular Bid and out of a Hoist the Flag mare, Mytens was bred by Elmendorf Farm in Kentucky and sold as a yearling at the 1984 Keeneland sale for $950,000.

Although his career as a racehorse didn’t pan out, he was discovered by famous Holsteiner breeder Maas Johannes Hell, who brought the stallion to Germany for use in his sporthorse breeding program. Mytens had a reputation for being a beautiful stallion that passed his elegant type as well as good jumping ability, and he produced multiple showjumpers through the 1.50m to 1.60m levels.

With almost 90% Thoroughbred blood and the rest show jumping blood, you could say that Mighty was certainly born for the sport of eventing. He also looked the part: a moderately tall, elegant, and long-legged colt with a big stride and good uphill gaits.

As we all know, though, it isn’t just what’s on paper that truly matters when it comes to making an event horse –- it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Once again, Mighty proved that he ticked all the boxes.

In 2006 as a three-year-old he completed his 30 Day Stallion Test with a final score of 8.42, with an 8.10 in dressage and 8.38 for jumping, earning high scores for temperament and rideability before moving on to his performance testing.

While his show jumping talent was not considered to be quite up to the high standard of the top show jumping-oriented stallions, given his rideability and natural affinity for the flatwork it was decided to try him as an event horse. Mighty found his way to the stable of German CCI5* rider and Olympic gold medalist Andreas Dibowski (aka Dibo), where they immediately found success in the young horse classes, ending his five-year-old season with Mighty being crowned the German 5-year-old Eventing Reserve Champion.

Even while maintaining a breeding career alongside a show career, Mighty continued to show his aptitude for eventing. According to Dibo, Mighty’s talent for the dressage phase was evident from the start, thanks to his good gaits and workmanlike demeanor. Mighty also took easily to the cross country phase, particularly with his strong gallop, his rideability, and his desire to jump.

While Dibo says that Mighty could be a bit distracted and silly at his home stable, “he was very serious at the competition. He liked to perform and knew when people were watching.” Mighty was often the most reliable of Dibo’s string for the prize giving ceremonies, sometimes ridden by his groom for awards.

With Dibo aboard, Mighty finished second as a six-year-old at the FEI WBFSH Eventing World Breeding Championship for Young Horses at Mondial du Lion in Lion d’Angers, France. As a seven-year-old they came back again, this time winning the 7-Year-Old World Championship title and besting what would become some big-time horses of the future, including FRH Butts Avedon, Quimbo, Paulank Brockagh, and Bay My Hero.

Together Dibo and Mighty competed up through the CCI4* level while also continuing to maintain the stallion’s busy breeding career, thanks to Mighty’s intelligence and generally easy-going nature. Dibo said, “he knew the difference between training and breeding and he was able to do both.”

After the conclusion of his eventing career, Mighty eventually made his way to France to Haras du Feuillard, the breeding and show stable of Valerie and Benoit Burban. There he has continued his stud duties and also served as a dressage mount for their daughter Eugenie, winning Team Bronze at the Children’s European Dressage Championships in Spain when Eugenie was only 13 years old.

Success in the Breeding Shed

Will Faudree and Mama’s Magic Way. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

As a sire, Mighty got off to a bit of a mixed start in Germany. His first foal crop was born in 2007, and initially some breeders were a bit surprised by his early offspring. Given Mighty’s high blood percentage and elegant type, it was thought that he would refine and lighten his offspring, thus over his first few years at stud he was bred to many mares that were heavier and more old-fashioned in type. Like many stallions, though, Mighty has proven to produce more closely to his damline, and did not lighten those heavy mares the way that many breeders first expected.

Indeed, some of Mighty’s highest-performing offspring have come from mares that had some “blood” themselves. His first foal crop produced CCI4* horse Plenty of Magic, whose dam was by a Selle Francais show jumping stallion and had a French Anglo Arab damsire. CCI4* horse Figaro des Concessions is out of a full French Anglo Arab mare. CCI5* horse Mama’s Magic Way is out of a Hanoverian mare whose sire is the Thoroughbred stallion Star Regent. CCI5* (possibly soon-to-be *knocks on wood* 5- star) horse Miks Master C’s dam is a mix of show jumping and Thoroughbred blood, with a full Thoroughbred fourth dam.

No shame in my crush on Mama’s Magic Way. Photo by Kate Samuels.

While Mighty has produced a variety of offspring when it comes to type, there are other traits he seems to pass on quite reliably, most notably his big personality and character.

My own Mighty Magic son is a very busy-minded, curious, and playful horse (he has two philosophies: everything goes in his mouth, and life is one big game), so temperament is one of the first things I ask about when I find someone that owns a Mighty offspring. And, conveniently enough, writing this article gave me the perfect excuse to spend hours getting people to tell me all about their own Mighty horses. Under the guise of very serious official EN business, of course. I am always super professional.

Anyway, one of my first victims was the aforementioned Will Faudree. I can’t help it, Mason is my favorite CCI5* horse and I will always start there first. Will and I have compared notes on our horses in the past, sending each other videos of them doing pretty much the same things in the crossties or in the barn. Let’s just say they’re definitely never bored or boring.

Mason was bred in Germany by Mareike Leers-Schreiber of MaMa’s Ausbildungsstall (hence the Mama’s prefix), who produced him through the CCI2* level. He was then spotted by Dibo and moved to his stable, where Mason did a couple events with Dibo in the irons before Will received a fateful phone call.

“I was competing at Fair Hill in 2018 when a friend of mine called me and told me that she had seen a horse at Dibo’s yard that would be a super match for me, but I would have to get there on Monday to try it because if not, it was going to be going to a long format the following weekend,” Will said. “The timing was good and I was able to hop on a plane after show jumping and try him Monday morning, and from the moment I sat on him, I knew he was my horse.”

Mason is known by most eventing fans for being a stunning mover and excellent in the cross country phase, but his journey has not been without its challenges. Will says, “he has been one of the toughest, yet most exciting and fun horses to work with. He has taught me the true definition of patience.”

At times Mason’s exuberance and enthusiasm have gotten the best of him, particularly in the dressage phase. “I often describe him as a three year old little boy at Disney World on a sugar high. So I have had to learn to be that kind of parent. To be honest, I think we are very similar personalities and really good friends.”

Despite sometimes being a bit tricky to ride, there is no doubt that Mason quite enjoys his job; I’m not sure you’ll see any other horse on cross country day that looks as delighted as Mason (who Will hopes to aim for Burghley in the fall). Will says, “When I’m in the warm up for Mason on cross country I’m like a little kid revving the engine.”

Mason also isn’t the first Mighty Magic offspring that Will has produced; he brought Michel 233 (who was out of an old-style Hanoverian mare with only 16% blood) up to the CCI4*L level a few years ago. While Will doesn’t see a lot of similarities between the two horses, personality-wise, he did say that they were both quite fast across the country with a good gallop.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Miks Master C. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

That quality also seems to be present in Miks Master C. “Mickey” was originally produced up the levels by CCI5* rider Maya Black, who says that even as a green youngster he always had a great gallop. While he could be a bit spooky for cross country schooling, Maya says “he was always braver at the competition.”

According to Maya it took a little time for the young gelding to gain his confidence, but as he progressed up the levels he became more and more sure of himself and his character also grew in tandem. Now, he’s described as one of the best horses Liz Halliday-Sharp has ever partnered with, and as his strength and experience grows he stands poised to make his mark on the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event in April. “He’s got a lot of power,” Liz described. “It’s a work in progress. I think when we get it polished in another few months, he’ll be unbelievable.”

Mickey is a U.S.-bred, hailing from the breeding program of one of America’s leading event horse breeders, Laurie Cameron. A self-described hobby breeder for over 30 years, Laurie founded her breeding program in 1991 with a Thoroughbred mare named Bit of Elegance. Early on in Laurie’s breeding venture she spent time in Europe taking breeding courses from the best breeders she could find, learning how they made their stallion and mare matches. There she fell in love with a lot of the Holsteiner show jumping lines, which she thought would be a good match with her hotter Thoroughbred mare.

Laurie has since produced multiple generations of upper-level event horses, including CCI3*L horse Double Diamond C, CCI4*L horse Early Review CBF, as well as Mickey’s dam, CCI2* horse Qui Luma CBF. She has bred mares to Mighty Magic multiple times, with one of those breedings also producing CCI3*S horse Maks Mojo C.

Laurie says that Mickey, along with all her Mighty offspring, has always been a people-oriented horse that enjoys his work, even from a young age. Laurie describes him as the kind of horse who “thinks all of this is just a fun game”. When asked what drew her to choose Mighty Magic for her mares, Laurie said “I always want to breed horses of good type that are rideable, adjustable, safe and want to do their job. Mighty Magic’s love their job.”

Now 20 years old, Mighty is retired to stud duty at Haras du Feuillard in France, where I was able to visit him in 2019. In person he was bigger than I expected, and it was immediately clear where my own Mighty Magic son got his personality –- Mighty strutted out of the stable with a gleam in his eye that said “You’re obviously here to see ME” and made quite the game out of trying to put anything and everything in his mouth. His cheeky temperament and desire to show off was evident, even in his more mature age.

While Mighty isn’t a fit for every mare and his offspring aren’t a fit for every rider, there’s something about the way they approach life that has to be admired. I mean, sure, there’s nothing I own that hasn’t been in my horse’s mouth by now, and sometimes his idea of a fun time is certainly not always the same as mine, but I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that I have never had a dull moment with that horse.

As more sons and daughters of Mighty climb the ranks I have no doubt that we will see more of them at the upper levels of eventing in the years to come, and I’ll be right there outside the ropes cheering them on. Don’t worry though, I’ll leave the foam fingers and the cowbells at home. Wouldn’t want to spook anyone…

Blood Percentage: We’ve Been Doing It Wrong

Ballaghmor Class, multi-5* winner for Great Britain’s Oliver Townend. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

One of the most hotly debated topics in modern day eventing centers around the subject of blood percentage: namely, how much blood is the “right” amount for an upper-level horse?
It’s one of those questions where if you ask 10 different people, you’re likely to get 15 different answers. But before you can even begin researching the answer to that question, first you have to ask: is our current standard method of measuring a horse’s blood percentage even accurate?

Historically, a horse’s blood percentage (translated, the amount of Thoroughbred or Arabian lineage found in their pedigree) has been calculated on paper, via its pedigree. To give the most simple example of how this works, let’s say you crossed a Clydesdale with a Thoroughbred. On paper, the blood percentage of the resulting foal would be 50%, because the Clydesdale parent had a blood percentage of zero and the Thoroughbred parent had a blood percentage of 100%.

With warmbloods and sporthorses, however, there are so many generations of part bred or full bred ancestors that these numbers quickly become complex math. Pedigree databases such as Horsetelex, Hippomundo, and Sporthorse Data do the math for you, based on the logged generations of ancestors and their blood percentages, and arrive at an overall blood percentage for the resulting offspring.

With most modern warmbloods and sporthorses, the average calculation tends to be between 40% and 60% blood, with upper level event horses generally trending a bit higher, closer to 50% to 70%.

The Issues with Calculating Blood Percentage

Ballaghamor Class is one horse that actually has unknown lineage on the dam side, making blood percentage calculations impossible. This is not an uncommon issue. Photo by Shelby Allen.

There are two big problems with this method of calculating blood percentage.

First and foremost, many horses – particularly those of Irish descent – have big gaps in their pedigrees where their ancestors were never recorded. Take CCI5* winner Ballaghmor Class for example: we know that his sire was the Holsteiner stallion Courage II, but the only thing that has ever been officially recorded about his dam is her name, Kilderry Place. The rest of her pedigree is not documented, therefore it’s impossible to even begin to come up with an accurate blood percentage for Ballaghmor Class. Cases like this are unfortunately not uncommon.

And then you get to the next problem, which is perhaps the bigger one: the entire basis for the way we’ve always figured blood percentage via pedigree is simply not reliably accurate.

According to Dr. Samantha Brooks, Associate Professor of Equine Physiology at the University of Florida and leading equine genetics researcher, the method for finding a horse’s true and accurate blood percentage just isn’t that simple. To understand why that is, we need to have a better understanding of how genetics work in general.

“All of you out there with a full sibling, I’d like you to picture that sibling,” she explains. “Their hair color, eye color, height, all the things that you recognize as your sibling. Now think of yourself. How many of those traits do you share perfectly with your sibling? Not as many as you might think, right? Yet you have identical pedigrees. If the pedigree told the whole story then all of our full siblings would look like our identical twins.”

With horses as well as with people, every time a parent passes on genetic material to their offspring, they provide half of their genome. However, the specific half, or which gene from each pair gets passed on, is up to chance. The pedigree calculation relies on the average that each parent shares half of its DNA with an offspring. But the real question, and the part that really matters most is: which half?

“That can be a really important detail!” Samantha says. “It comes down to a game of chance, just like a flip of a coin in each generation. Over time, with each round of coin flips, the average can drift quite a long way from that 50/50 estimate in generation 1.”

Is There a Better Way?

Blood percentage has become a critical stat when it comes to event horse suitability, but is there a more accurate way to calculate it? Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

So if simply doing the math of averages based on the horse’s pedigree isn’t necessarily reliable, is there a better and more accurate way? The answer is via genetic testing.
Blood percentage is one of several tests developed by Etalon Equine Genetics as part of their Ancestry series, which provides an in-depth comparison of a horse’s genetic make-up via ancestry and composition analysis.

This testing compares the test subject horse to a large dataset of other horses within various “breeds”, disciplines, and populations around the world, using a “reference” population, one in which the genetics and characteristics have been statistically analyzed and compared to one another for genetic similarity and difference. In addition to blood percentage, the Ancestry series also analyzes traits like genetic diversity, inbreeding, and genetic composition.

This type of genetic testing has been used in the research world for almost 20 years, and the first broad examination of global horse breeds using genetic ancestry analysis and a large set of genetic markers was published in 2013.

“Using thousands of genetic markers is the key to doing this right.”, Samantha says. “The genome is a big set of data: around 2.7 billion base pairs of code! Dozens or even hundreds of markers just can’t cover all of that genome. You need thousands of markers to really get a good picture of where each segment of the genome likely came from.”

My curiosity was especially piqued on this subject earlier this year when I had an Ancestry test done on one of my own horses, my broodmare by a Thoroughbred stallion out of a Mighty Magic mare.

On paper, she’s around 77% blood, but genetic testing showed her to be more like 67%. For this particular instance, that does seem to track – my mare’s warmblood heritage shines through pretty strongly, and she’s a bit heavier than you would expect for a horse that was 77% blood. Having an actual genetic percentage that’s lower than what’s on paper certainly makes sense in her case, and helps give me a better idea of qualities I would be looking for when shopping for a stallion to breed her to.

Several months ago while on a call with Christa Lafayette, CEO and founder of Etalon Equine Genetics, to discuss my own horse’s results, she seemed very unfazed and unsurprised by the variance. In fact, Christa said that through their genetic testing Etalon has seen variances as large as 30% between the blood percentage that’s on paper versus what the horse actually has genetically.

Other examples come from the CCI5* horses Vandiver and Tsetserleg. On paper, Vandiver has a blood percentage of 67%, but genetic testing shows an actual blood percentage of 71%, which is relatively close.

Tsetserleg, however, is a bit more interesting: his pedigree says that he’s 47% blood, but testing shows that he’s actually 62%. That’s a marked difference.

Examining an extremely popular eventing sire, the Irish Sport Horse Cruising, gives you a hint as to just how these types of variances can end up happening generationally. On paper, Cruising is around 53% blood, but genetically he’s really 66%. If you consider that every ancestor could be even just a little bit inaccurate on paper, you can begin to see how wildly inaccurate the final pedigree calculation may actually be.

What Comes Next?

Boyd Martin’s Olympic and World Championship mount, Tsetserleg, was found to have a higher blood percentage than originally thought through genetic testing. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It also made me wonder: has anyone started keeping statistics regarding the actual blood percentages of upper-level event horses? The age-old argument is “how much is the right amount”, but since we can’t really trust what’s on paper, has any sort of documentation been kept regarding current upper-level event horses?

“Ah, this is what we are all chasing! How to find a good event horse!” Samantha says. “Sadly no, I don’t yet have a comprehensive dataset to test the idea that there should be a perfect mix that will be overrepresented in the elite eventers.”

Key word: “yet”. Samantha and Christa both would love to see some sort of metric or dataset come to fruition and be able to answer that question with certainty. The problem? As with most things, it often comes down to funding.

”I’d love to investigate that,” Samantha says. “But unfortunately there just isn’t enough funding for horse research out there right now. I can say that the availability of this test commercially has provided a fair number of notable examples now shared broadly, and the picture illustrated by those examples suggests that the magic mix might be about 2/3 blood.”

It’s also important to note that there are pros and cons to the blood percentage metric. On one hand, it gives us an idea of how much of a horse’s genome is made up of the breeds known to contribute to athleticism, gallop, and forward-thinking. On the other hand, it doesn’t tell us exactly which genes were transmitted by these blooded ancestors.

Samantha warns that it’s important to keep in mind, particularly for breeders, “These same populations can have a few undesirable traits too” such as poor hoof quality, back issues, smaller frames, or excessively flighty temperaments.

Her statement illustrates the fact that while blood percentage is inarguably a very important metric when it comes to event horses, it’s not the only one that matters. “In the end, blood percentage is also just a more accurate type of estimate. What we really need to know is not just where the genes for athleticism came from, but which genes those are, and which type of each of these genes we need in order to produce stronger, healthier, more successful eventers.”

Samantha went on to explain that the good news is, we have all the genomic technologies needed to identify these genes. The bad news is, scientific research, like most of the things we love about horses, isn’t cheap.

Graphic courtesy of Etalon Dx.

That’s not to say that significant strides haven’t been made, particularly in the last 5-10 years. Etalon Equine Genetics offers other tests that, in combination with their blood percentage testing, could potentially help give a much bigger picture of what other genes the “blood” part of your horse might be contributing. Just to name a few, there are health tests for things like kissing spine, metabolic diseases, and anhidrosis, as well as performance ability tests for traits such as temperament and endurance. These types of tests could be particularly valuable for people looking to source their next top horse, as well as breeders that are striving to produce it.

Still though, additional research is needed to get a more holistic understanding of exactly what a horse’s blood percentage is telling us and how it relates to their potential as an event horse. On that subject, Samantha seems fairly optimistic.

“I think, and admittedly I’m biased, that eventers are the likely candidates to ‘lead the pack’ when it comes to discovering and adopting new scientific technologies like genomics in horse health. We intuitively seek out adventure, know how to manage risk, and can put in the hard work it takes to do something great, be it our sport or scientific research. To all the eventers out there here’s a challenge that needs you: we’ve got to take on the responsibility of supporting and funding scientific research for the sport horse. ”
Part of supporting research and funding is utilizing the tests we already have available to us, which will only serve to increase our understanding of our horses and what traits we should be looking for. Finding out the actual genetic blood percentage of our sporthorses and warmbloods rather than relying on a potentially inaccurate estimate is a solid start in the right direction.

“Investment in scientific research will pay off, in the long term, with new ways to keep our horses healthier and performing at their best, for longer. At the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want most?”

What Makes an Event Horse? How Genetics Help Identify Key Characteristics

5* rider and Olympian Boyd Martin’s partner, Tsetserleg, is one horse that has had genetic testing done for suitability. Photo by Shelby Allen.

If you ask a group of eventers to write down a list of qualities that make a good event horse, there’s a good bet that a few things will show up on nearly everyone’s list. 

Some of these most common traits probably pop right to the front of your mind, too: a trainable temperament, bravery, good gallop, stamina, and jumping ability with a dash of correct gaits. Your exact list may vary, but the general goal and type of horse well-suited for eventing tends to be similar. 

Of course, much of our assessment of horses’ suitability is primarily visual. Do they gallop well? Do they tire easily? Do they move in a way that encourages efficient jumping and good marks in the dressage?

What if there was also a strong genetic component to many of these traits? Imagine if these genetic components could be assessed before a horse enters a sport career, or even intentionally bred from generation to generation? 

This is a concept driving Etalon Equine Genetics forward. 

Founded in 2013 in the heart of Silicon Valley, California, Etalon Equine Genetics provides in-depth genetic testing to help horse owners identify everything from color genes to health risks to ancestry testing. Etalon has built its products around performance-based research, discovering and developing tests for several performance traits, some of which may be of particular interest to event riders and event horse breeders.

There’s no doubt that Temperament is a very complex trait to generalize, partly because it can be influenced by many things, including the horse’s life experience, training, and environmental factors. Underneath all that, however, horses tend to have an innate, hard-wired tendency to think or react in a certain way.

Through its research, Etalon found that horses reliably displayed a predisposition in how they reacted to stimuli, leading to the development of a genetic test for it. The Temperament (DRD4) test identifies the genetic markers for Curiosity, defined in this instance as an interest in new or unknown objects and a willingness to approach them, and Vigilance, the tendency of a horse to examine its surroundings carefully and thoroughly from a distance before approaching. 

Tsetserleg tested homozygous for Curiosity, which seems to match his personality in the barn: “cute and cuddly” with a friendly, outgoing temperament. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Horses can either carry two copies of the Curiosity variant, two copies of the Vigilance variant, or one copy of each. Horses that carry two copies (aka are homozygous) for Curiosity tend to be more outgoing, and may sometimes be described as a bit “ADHD”; these are probably the horses in the barn that want more attention, are more interactive with their environment, and crave more mental stimulation.

Horses that are homozygous for Vigilance might be more reserved, choosy in whom they will and will not work with, aloof, and introspective. When frustrated, they can be aggressive or reactive, however they can demonstrate a laser focus often being compared to a working dog. 

Those with a copy of each are likely to fall somewhere in the middle: they probably aren’t the “class clowns” of the barn, but they are often described as “clever” and occasionally a bit passive-aggressive (typically pushing boundaries with someone who is not “their person”) may be a bit more interested and engaged than those with two copies of Vigilance. 

How do these characteristics play out in a “real life” example? In 2021, Etalon conducted a full genetic test of CCI5* horses Vandiver and Tsetserleg, both of whom were sired by the 5*-winning Trakehner stallion Windfall. 

This test revealed that Vandiver is homozygous for Vigilance, while Tsetserleg is homozygous for Curiosity. This seemed to match up quite closely with how both horses behave in the barn: Vandiver has been described as “not the friendliest horse in the barn” whereas Boyd Martin has described Tsetserleg as a “cute and cuddly” barn favorite with a friendly and outgoing temperament. 

While it’s clear that both personality types can make a good event horse, horses that are more strongly Curious may perform better under pressure or in a more chaotic environment, whereas horses that are more Vigilant may prefer a quieter or more predictable atmosphere. Knowing how your horse’s brain is hard-wired can potentially help you better understand their behavior and set them up for success in both training and competition.

Fellow 5* horse Vandiver, piloted by Doug Payne at the Tokyo Olympics, tested homozygous for Vigilance. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Through years of talking through feedback from clients, Etalon has also noticed that many riders also tend to be drawn to, prefer, and get along with the same type of horse when it comes to temperament. Some riders prefer strong Curiosity, some prefer strong Vigilance, and others prefer a nice mix of the two.

Another trait that can weigh heavily on a horse’s suitability for eventing, particularly at the upper levels, is the genetic marker for endurance. Etalon offers a test for Myostatin, the gene that regulates muscle growth in horses. Natural genetic mutations on the myostatin gene cause some breeds (most commonly Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses) to grow up to 80% more fast-twitch muscle fibers or up to 12.5% more overall muscle mass. 

This gene is the difference between a horse suited more for short bursts of speed versus one better suited for long distance galloping. The Myostatin gene is closely associated with racing distance for Thoroughbreds, with horses that have two copies of the Sprint variant having more success at distances of 8 furlongs or less, whereas horses with two copies of the Endurance variant tend to excel at races of 9 furlongs or more.

Upper-level event horses would likely benefit from having two copies of the Endurance variant, giving them more natural stamina and endurance that they need for cross country. These types of horses will likely be easier to keep fit over longer distances and recover more quickly.

Indeed, in the genetic tests for Vandiver and Tsetserleg, it was discovered that both veteran CCI5* campaigners each have two copies of the Endurance gene. Not a surprise!

While it’s easy to see how these types of tests could be helpful for riders when it comes to choosing a new partner or learning more about their current horse, breeders are also taking note of the advancements in genetic testing. 

Doug Payne and Vandiver. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

More information about breeding horses’ genetics can be of great assistance when it comes to selecting mares for a breeding program, or when looking at potential stallions to breed to.

Event horse breeder Heather Williams of Evergreen, Colorado, utilizes genetic testing in her own breeding program, and notes that the Temperament and Myostatin tests are of particular interest to her. 

I think this could make a big difference when choosing who to breed to. I would say if you’re breeding for an upper level event horse, you would want to breed two horses that both have two Endurance genes. If they both had one of each, you could end up getting offspring that does not have much endurance if they got two of the speed genes. For the temperament, if you’re looking to breed horses for amateurs, I would say you would want to be careful not to get offspring that had two Vigilance genes.”


Understanding your horse’s genetic makeup can help you determine their suitability not just for sport, but also inform the planning of training, care, and environment. Some horses may be genetically better suited towards certain disciplines, or even be better suited for certain riders and programs. 

While genetic testing certainly isn’t a crystal ball, it can help give us some insight into our horse’s potential abilities and athleticism. These tests are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to performance genetics, with new discoveries and developments happening all the time. 

Who knows what else we might be able to test for some day? There will always be environmental factors as well as training and physical factors that influence a horse’s success, but it all starts in the genes.

Additional Research Citations:

 

  • Momozawa Y et al., “Association between equine temperament and polymorphisms in dopamine D4 receptor gene.” (2005) Mamm Genome. 16: 538-44. PMID: 16151699

 






Howdy from Le Lion: Seventeen-Year-Old Quidley Kellerman Takes on a World Championship

Quidley Kellerman and Blakeneys Cruise are radiant in the rain at the first horse inspection at Le Lion d’Angers. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

While it’s not unheard of to see a junior rider make an appearance in France at the FEI WBFSH Eventing World Breeding Championships at Mondial du Lion (perhaps one of the most memorable being a then-18-year-old Cathal Daniels with his future pint-size supermare, Rioghan Ria in 2014), it’s certainly unusual to see an American junior rider on the entry list. Has there ever been one? I’m honestly not sure; my eyes started to cross after leafing through decades of past entries and Googling everyone’s age.

This year, though, America is represented by 17-year-old Quidley Kellerman of Wimberley, Texas — the youngest competitor entered this year at Le Lion and the lone US representative in the 6-year-old CCI2*-L division. While a young horse competition in France might seem like an unlikely goal for many young riders, Quidley has had her eye on Le Lion for the better part of a year, thanks, perhaps – at least in part – to a heavy dose of serendipity.

After competing through the Modified level with her previous horse, an OTTB named Stillwater King, in March of 2022 Quidley and her mother Samantha Kellerman went on the search for Quidley’s next mount. Preferring a young horse – the Kellermans had gotten Stillwater King off the track and Quidley brought him up the levels herself – and working within a budget, they found a promising five-year-old gray Irish Sport Horse in the barn of Hillary Irwin. Recently imported from Ireland, Blakeneys Cruise (FSS Correlli Bravo – Caoimhes Cruising, by Cruising), known in the barn as Poncho, was everything they’d been looking for, and the pair was an instant match.

Quidley Kellerman and Blakeney Cruise competing in England. Photo by Lottie Elizabeth Photography.

After purchasing Poncho, Quidley spent time in Virginia training and competing him at the Novice level under the tutelage of Kelty O’Donoghue. They won several events, propelling them up the USEA leaderboard and securing enough points to clinch the 2022 USEA Junior Novice Champion title. In the fall of 2022, back home in Texas, Quidley rode with Avery Klunick and the pair moved up to Training level, quickly finding the same success.

It was while riding and training with Avery that the idea of trying to aim for Le Lion first took root. Avery had recently returned to the US after spending two years in the UK riding with Kevin McNab, during which time she competed her own young horse at the Seven Year Old CCI3*-L World Championship at Le Lion. That winter Quidley learned that she had the opportunity to graduate high school a year early, and Avery suggested that Quidley might find it valuable to spend some time in Europe training and competing during her gap year.

They made the trip across the pond to meet Kevin and have some trial rides, and came home thinking that Kevin’s program would potentially be a good fit for both Quidley and Poncho. Meanwhile, stateside, Quidley and Poncho moved up to Modified over the winter season, and then to Preliminary in the spring of 2023, where they placed 3rd and 5th in their two runs at the level at Texas Rose Horse Park.

 Quidley graduated from high school in May, and within a week both she and Poncho were on their way to Europe, with the specific goal of qualifying and competing at Le Lion. Poncho acclimated quite well to being back over on the other side of the Atlantic, and by June they were back out competing, working their way up to British Novice and then to the CCI2* level. On UK soil they’ve continued with the same success, finishing with clear jumping rounds at all three of their FEI events and stamping their ticket to Le Lion.

Quidley and Blakeneys Cruise. Photo by Lottie Elizabeth Photography.

Her belief in the horse and their partnership is evident when talking to Quidley, who says, “Poncho is a super talented horse, and I feel very privileged to partner with him. I know him inside and out, which I think will give us confidence this weekend.”. And confidence can definitely be the name of the game here at Le Lion, which presents a true Championship track — and a true Championship atmosphere, too.

Known for its beautiful and elaborate cross country fences, Le Lion also has a reputation for molding future superstars. For many of these young horses, it will be their first taste of the electric atmosphere that comes with a big international event, and their first time seeing crowds of this size. It’s almost guaranteed that among this field there will be several future CCI5* horses. Just to name a few: Vassily de Lassos, La Biosthetique Sam, Vendredi Biats, Corouet, As Is, Swallow Springs, Quimbo, and Cooley Quicksilver all once contested the 6-year-old class at this prestigious event. As you would expect for a World Championship, Le Lion competitors are some of the best and most promising young event horses and riders in the world, and now Blakeneys Cruise and Quidley Kellerman have earned their place on that list.

“The main goal for the weekend is to give Poncho and myself a positive experience in each phase to carry forward to the future.” Quidley says.

Quidley and Blakeneys Cruise at the first horse inspection. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

While the original intent was to spend just her gap year abroad, Quidley has fallen in love with the European experience. Seeing the sport from a different perspective and being immersed in top-quality riding and competition in and week out has left her craving more. She’s already planning to try to obtain a two-year visa to continue her overseas adventure, with her sights set on a return to Le Lion next year for the CCI3* 7-year-old division.

“The whole experience has been a dream, honestly,” says Quidley’s mom, Samantha. “We are incredibly proud of the hard work and dedication that Quidley has shown to produce this talented young horse. Poncho is the most honest horse and has surpassed all our expectations. We have had the most amazing group of trainers who have supported them to get to this point and we are extremely grateful. It’s really a dream come true and I am so excited to support them in France and be a part of the experience!”

Quidley and Poncho in the ring at Le Lion. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Quidley’s week has begun already: she and Poncho had a bright and early dressage time this morning, and they (mostly!) managed to avoid the rein en route to a very respectable 34.9, which has them provisionally in the top 30 as things stand.

You can follow along with Le Lion this week via a free live-stream on the FEI YouTube channel – plus, we’ll be bringing you a round-up of the week’s competition right here on EN, with plenty of sights and sounds over on our Instagram, too!

Go Quidley! Go USA! Go Eventing!

Mondial du Lion links: Website | Live Scores – 6YO | Live Scores – 7YO | Live Stream

Canadian High Performance Aiming for the Top with Focused Plan, Bolstered Support and Leadership

Karl Slezak and Hot Bobo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Canadian riders have proved their mettle time and time again in international sport, and the eventing riders we’re most familiar with are well-respected for keeping their top horses competing for many seasons.

Yet, it’s no secret that Equestrian Canada and Canadian High Performance have met their fair share of challenges (and with those challenges, criticisms) over the years. With multiple leadership changes and a struggle to amass results on the international stage, particularly in the sport of eventing, the program has wanted for an overhaul.

The lack of success, whatever the definition of success you’re using, isn’t for a lack of effort or talent.

In an attempt at getting the program back on track, in January of 2022 rider representatives Mike Winter and Shandiss McDonald led the way in the creation of a new Canadian Eventing High Performance Advisory Group (HPAG), chaired by Emily Gilbert. The group was quick to hit the ground running, prioritizing areas that needed improvement as well as organizing Team Canada’s needs in advance of the rapidly-approaching Eventing World Championships at Pratoni, held last September.

Among the HPAG’s first tasks was team selection and funding for World Championships, as well as a priority on communication to the riders – something that has been one of the largest areas of criticism in the past. Emily says, “We’ve really tried as a group to improve communication with the riders, first and foremost, but also with supporters and owners to really try to rebuild the Canadian High Performance community.”.

With Pratoni looming just months beyond the creation of the HPAG, the group also had to put a high priority on what Canada’s plan for World Championships would be. “We wanted to get everything out to the athletes and make changes that affected them in a positive way as quickly as possible, that was our number one goal.” Emily says, ”So we did everything in order of what was going to most positively impact the athletes: making sure they confirmed financial support from Sport Canada, naming a selection panel, and getting the infrastructure set up around the World Championships. And then we pushed forward this effort of getting a team to the World Championships.”

Part of HPAG’s plan for getting a Canadian eventing team to Pratoni was the launch of their ‘Pratoni. Let’s Go!’ Fundraising Campaign, which succeeded in raising over $300,000. This effort served to kickstart a long-term fundraising program to help ensure the possibility of Canadian Team representation not just at Pratoni, but also thinking forward to this year’s Pan-American Games **where they are looking to qualify for the 2024 olympics** and continue to build a positive performance trajectory.

When asked about the plans for the HPAG going forward, Emily broke their “big picture” strategy down into four key components:

  • Maximizing global competitive opportunities
  • Increasing athlete education and support
  • Recognizing and building owners and supporters
  • Building a sustainable financial model

Mike Winter and El Mundo represent Team Canada and a variety of social causes at FEI World Championships for Eventing in 2022. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Maximizing Global Competitive Opportunities

With Canadian riders based across the world, having support from Equestrian Canada and the High Performance program is essential to their competitive and developmental opportunities. HPAG is aiming towards building bursaries and providing funding for Canadian participation in Nations Cup opportunities (both in North America as well as overseas) and all major Games. “This would include people based in the UK coming over here to go to Kentucky or people here being able to go over to Badminton, and making sure that we have the infrastructure there to support those experiences as a group,” says Emily.

Most recently, the HPAG announced a new initiative that will provided significant financial support to riders competing on two FEI Eventing Nations Cup teams in 2023. One team will compete on home soil at Bromont, August 11-12, while another will hop a plane to compete in the Nations Cup leg at Arville (Belgium), August 17-20. Canadians Kelly McCarthy-Maine and Shane Maine have offered robust financial support to the athletes named to each team, including a $1,000 CAD per each athlete named to the Bromont CCI 4*-S and $2,500 CAD for each named entry to the Arville CCI 4*-S Nation’s Cup teams. Additionally, North American-based athletes who declare for the Arville Nations’ Cup are also invited to apply for an additional travel grant valued between $20,000 – $25,000 CAD.

“The Nations Cup plans for 2023 are exciting. They are perfectly in line with the strategic plan of the HPAG, directly support the athletes, and help Canada prioritize and maximize opportunities for team sport, something that is fundamental to the growth of this program,”Canadian athlete representative on the HPAG and 5* rider Mike Winter commented.

Colleen Loach and Vermont. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Recognizing and Building Owners and Supporters

There is no high performance without the owners, sponsors, and financial backers, and HPAG is placing an emphasis on recognizing and building these relationships. ”I think acknowledging and appreciating the risk investment and role of owners and supporters in building the sport within Canada is an important part and something that has been overlooked in the past,” Emily explained.

Indeed, the fundraising effort for Pratoni in 2022 was spearheaded by a large donation from Kelly McCarthy-Maine and Shane Maine. “They really helped support us, we had a huge contingent of supporters at the World Championships and it certainly made a big difference that they we communicated with, involved in the team atmosphere and appreciated along the way”. The HPAG is also exploring sponsorship and partnership opportunities to provide not only financial support, but athlete and horse services as well, something they intend to build rapidly in the coming years.

Kelly McCarthy Maine and Cooley Cardento. Photo by Irish Eventing Times.

Building a Sustainable Financial Model

Another major and future-determining goal of the HPAG is building the foundation to create a financial model that extends not just to this year’s Pan-Ams or Paris 2024, but for the long-term future of Team Canada as well.

Emily’s vision for the group is far-reaching: “We have to be building a sustainable financial model so that we can continue to build a program instead of being in a position where we’re having to fundraise for years. We want something that is long-lasting, and we want there to be a legacy for the passion that we have for the sport in Canada so that in 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, there are resources for up-and-coming riders to be at the height of the sport, representing Canada. This year we’re focused on a broader fundraising initiative to make this happen.”

All donations received are tax-deductible in both Canada and the USA and go directly to the High Performance Group by donating to the Canadian Olympic Fund (click here to access the donation page) — be sure to select “Horse Power – Eventing” from the dropdown menu.

Kendal Lehari and Audacious. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Increasing Athlete Education and Support

Equestrian Canada and the High Performance program garnered criticism in the past for a lack of support for the athletes – something that this HPAG is determined to change. They’re placing an emphasis on educational opportunities, helping riders build syndicates, enhancing horsepower, social media support, or any other needs that the rider’s bring forth.

The HPAG has also brought on a nutritional partner to advance their sport science, Mad Barn, who are leaders in the equine nutrition industry with an emphasis on developing state of the art equine nutrition technology, funding equine nutrition research and most importantly for horse owners, and in particular high performance athletes, providing support on best nutrition practices to optimize performance and well-being for the horses. Mad Barn’s MSc and PhD nutrition team have been working directly alongside the athletes and their horses to keep them in top form throughout the season and will continue to provide this customized support to the entire squad.

Beyond this, “The HPAG as a collective has a really diverse skill set,” Emily says. “I’m a scientist. We have a lawyer on the panel. We have Rebecca Howard, our chef d’equipe who has incredible competitive experience and Matt Ryan who is a triple-gold medalist in the sport for Australia as well as many more incredible individuals, so we’re really taking all of that together to improve athlete education and planning comprehensive support.”.

Several of HPAG’s ideas are already in-progress, including their expansion of educational opportunities for Canadian riders. To that end, HPAG hosted a clinic with world #2 rider Jonelle Price (NZL) in Ocala, FL for Canadian riders, comprised of one show jumping day and one cross country day.

Jonelle Price works with Team Canada during an off-season clinic in Florida. Photo by Mipsy Media.

Jonelle’s Advice

On show jumping day, riders were treated to a nice deluge of rain to accompany their focus on adjustability. Jonelle set up an exercise comprised of poles and small fences to be ridden back and forth on a serpentine, asking riders to practice discipline and precision. She was complimentary of many of the horses and their training, but reminded riders to continually “raise the bar” and hold themselves and their horses to a high standard.

Her exercise proved challenging, but beneficial, for all the horses and riders, and left the spectators with some excellent one-liner quotables, including “Straightness is kingpin”, “Train your weakness”, and “Margins are small, so small mistakes matter”.

From the warm-up exercises, the riders then moved to course work, where Jonelle placed a heavy emphasis on pace, reminding riders that “you’re better off to start your course with too much canter than too little” and “always make sure you have enough canter – you shouldn’t be pushing to the base of the fence.” The attention to detail under Jonelle’s tutelage created noticeable improvements for the horse-and-rider pairs.

Moving into cross country day, several of Jonelle’s main points stayed the same. Riders warmed up over lines of poles, working on adjustability between them and the ability to make quick adjustments both forward and back. There were three poles in a line, equidistant, and riders were asked to first ride it in two strides to two strides, then three strides to three strides, then three to two, and finally two to three.

This exercise, the simplest one of both days, was one of the most challenging aspects for some riders – something that Jonelle seemed to expect, proclaiming, “it’s much harder than it looks!” with a wry grin, before showing the group a video of Chris Burton doing a seamless two strides to four strides in the same exercise. Her point? This is the level of riding that you must aspire to in order to compete with the best in the world.

From the pole exercise she moved on to angled planks, making the angle more and more impossible-looking as the riders went along. A few struggled, mostly because they weren’t committed to the line, earning a quick “always fight your way to the other side!” reminder from Jonelle.

Photo by Mipsy Media.

As the riders moved to course work you could again see the confidence grow under Jonelle’s guidance, which was always encouraging and positive, but certainly not lax. There’s a reason she’s ranked world #2. Her main takeaway for the Canadian riders was simple: “You have to expect yourselves to ride like top class riders and believe in your ability to get the job done.”

Also in attendance at the clinic was James Hood, the High Performance Director for Equestrian Canada. Enthusiastic and certainly patriotic, James is also excited about the future of Team Canada and the HPAG plans.

“We had to figure out how to upskill and provide world educational opportunities and training opportunities for the riders, which was part of the genesis behind the clinic,” James said. “These are training enhancement components that will help the athlete, the horse, and the coach to be able to improve the level of focus on our skill sets. And certainly the commentary from Jonelle Price was on spot-on as we look at where we were. We have some very talented riders, we have some great horses, and we need to move the whole program further forward”.

Team Canada, helmed by chef d’equip Rebecca Howard at FEI World Championships for Eventing, Pratoni del Vivaro, Italy. Photo by Cealy Tetley.

Putting the Pieces Together

In addition to the riding aspect, Equestrian Canada is also placing an emphasis on the mental health and well-being of their athletes, with plans in the works for resources to help athletes both on and off the horse.

James explains, “This is an area of focus in the Canadian government and the Canadian Sport system, but also from the organization itself as we look at reframing wellness plans, looking at the support mechanisms in our system for athletes and coaches for mental health and moving those dynamics forward. And that it truly is the mental health perspective, not just the mental performance, which is another add-on which is in the works where we also help the athletes advance and be able to look at their skills for competition.”

While Emily and James are clearly both focused on Team Canada’s goals and have been busy outlining what the path to success may look like, they’re also both quick to say that this is only the beginning.
One of their biggest shared concerns is the financial aspect, with being able to fund the teams adequately to ensure that all these big plans actually stand a chance of coming to fruition. When asked what they consider to be the biggest challenge facing the High Performance program today, they both had the same answer: finances.

“Number one is the financial aspect,” James reiterated. “With money comes the opportunity to create additional programs and enhancement programs, because the goal of equestrian Canada is not to replace their daily training, it’s to be able to support and create interesting initiatives that do that. Those things all require financial backing.”

When posed with the same question Emily was even quicker and more decisive: “The financial side is definitely the biggest challenge. In light of our growing dreams and the positive trajectories of our athletes, we want to continue to deliver and our number one challenge is funding.”

The HPAG has goals and ideas around continued fundraising efforts and is dedicated to continuously looking for more opportunities and supporters. “Our goal is to be able to fundraise what we need in collaboration with Equestrian Canada to deliver technical leadership, rider development, have the selection panel at event, build a world class sports science team, compete at Nations Cup, have owner and supporter infrastructure, and keep building for the future including putting money aside so that we can grow the program in the long term.”

While there is still much work to do, and plenty that is already underway, there is no doubt that the level of enthusiasm among this current Canadian Eventing HPAG and the entire High Performance team in Canada, including the athletes seems to be at an all-time high.

It’s easy to find yourself hoping that this dedicated group of people will help put Team Canada back on track – back onto the podium.

Already we’ve begun to see some results, particularly with a decisive win from Canadian rider Karl Slezak in the CCI4-S at Kentucky this spring with his rising star Hot Bobo. Karl followed up that effort with a fourth place finish at the Tryon CCI4-L, adding only one rail to their dressage score. Canadian riders, both veteran and junior, had strong showings at MARS Bromont CCI this month, with Colleen Loach best-placed in the 4*-L with her own and Amanda Bernhardt’s FE Golden Eye, Kendal Lehari hit the podium in the 3*-L with her own Mitchell, and several other Canadians had banner weekends and gained valuable experience at one of North America’s toughest events.

Lindsay Traisnel and Bacyrouge impress at Bromont’s 4*-L in June. Photo by Abby Powell.

When asked how she’s feeling about the future of Team Canada, Emily didn’t hesitate. “I’m excited. Already, I think it’s incredibly inspiring for us. Every single one of us on this committee is dedicated to making decisions that are right for the athletes as a collective and we all love to sport and will keep pushing to move things in the right direction”.

On the subject of this year’s Pan Ams, her enthusiasm didn’t wane. “We are excited for the Pan American Games. Our goal there obviously is to get that Paris qualification. And then the goal for Paris will be the same, to just continue on a positive trajectory. Instead of focusing exactly on the numbers, we’re really focusing on finishing on your dressage score, that’s our goal. The concept being to push for excellence. We’re in a growth phase, but we’re in a growth phase on a positive trajectory. We recognize that. Positive trajectories are really what we have to focus on, with the goal of really being within striking distance at the podium for 2028 in LA.”

James shares a similarly positive sentiment. “I am hopefully optimistic. This is going to be a very different Pan American Games for most of our disciplines. We have very few North American teams that have qualified for the Olympic Games in Paris for 2024, which means the discipline to get those valuable qualifying slots is going to be a challenge. This is not going to be an easy Pan American Games, and not that they ever are, but vying for those important spots for Paris is going to be a fight. We have good riders across all of our disciplines. I am hopeful and optimistic that we will be able to get the slot that we’re looking for but it’s not going to be easy. It is going to be a fight.”.

While it’s true that Equestrian Canada and the HPAG have a lot of work ahead of them, it’s hard not to want to pick up a red and white maple leaf flag and root for them. With everything they’ve been through in the past, what a true “Rising from the Ashes” story it would be. The country hasn’t seen the Olympic podium since taking bronze at the 1956 Stockholm Olympics… given the quality of horses and riders that have competed under the Canadian flag since, that just doesn’t seem right.

Canadian Eventing is long overdue for their turn in the spotlight on the international stage, and we’ll be right there cheering them on. Go Canada! Go Eventing!

Liz Halliday-Sharp Gallops to the Win in The Event at TerraNova CCI4*-S

The question everyone had heading into the cross country phase of the CCI4*-S class at TerraNova was, “Will he or won’t he?” (or if you’d rather – Will Will or won’t Will?).

Will Coleman and Hyperion Stud LLC’s Chin Tonic HS (Chin Champ x Wildera, by Quinar Z) led the field on a 19.6 after dressage and show jumping, giving the pair a seven point margin over second place Liz Halliday-Sharp aboard Ocala Horse Properties’ and The Monster Partnership’s Cooley Be Cool (Fortuna x HHS Carlotta, by Cavalier Royale).

But there was much speculation over whether or not Will would actually leave the start box aboard “Chin”, an 11-year-old Holsteiner bred in Germany by Inken Von Graefin Platen-Hallermund, who won the CCI4*-S at Carolina two weeks ago and is aimed at the Land Rover Kentucky CCI5* later this month.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Be Cool. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

We finally had our answer this morning when Will withdrew, choosing to use his weekend as a big-atmosphere combined test instead. That left the door wide open for the next five top-placed competitors, who were separated on the leaderboard by only two penalties. Several other pairs also withdrew before the cross country phase, including Buck Davidson’s Sorocaima (Rock Hard Ten xx x Sankobasi xx, by Pulpit xx) and Erroll Gobey (Cassini II x Ulla II, by Contender), both of whom are also aimed at Kentucky.

Will’s withdrawal of Chin Tonic left Liz occupying two of the top three spots, moving her to the top of the leaderboard with Cooley be Cool and putting her into a tie for second place with  Shanroe Cooley (Dallas x Shanroe Sapphire, by Condios), who sat on a 28.1 alongside Caroline Martin‘s mount HSH Blake (Tolan R x Doughiska Lass, by Kannan). It also shifted everyone’s favorite amateur event rider Dan Krietl into third position on a score of 28.3 aboard Kay Dixon’s Carmango (Chirivell x Taramanga, by Templer xx).

There was plenty to do out there today on Capt. Mark Phillips’ CCI4*-S track, one that featured quite a few twists and turns that all but guaranteed that the optimum time would be difficult to make.

Dan Kreitl and Carmango. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Originally the 4*-S was slotted to begin around mid-day, but due to a projected high temperature around 90 degrees the decision was made to shift the class forward to the morning, allowing for cooler temperatures, with the first horse leaving the start box at 8:45 a.m.

While 38 of the 46 riders that started cross country came home with zero jump penalties — an 82.6% clear rate for what several riders described as a “fair and friendly” track (check out the course preview here) — the course did cause problems for a few pairs, including two that are on the entry list for Kentucky.

Lexi Scovil and Chico’s Man VDF Z (Chico’s Boy x Chardonnay Z, by Caretano Z) had their first bit of trouble with a runout at 12b, the very skinny open corner out of the first water complex. A few fences later the pair parted ways at 15a, the angled brush. Hawley Bennet-Awad and long-time partner Jollybo (Jumbo x Polly Coldunnell xx by Danzig Connection xx) had an uncharacteristic miscommunication at the B element of the table-to-brush corner combination at 9AB, which resulted in fall for Hawley. Jamie Kellock also had a fall at fence 5, the collapsible picnic table. All horses and riders are reported to be fine and back at the barns.

As suspected, the open oxer at 12B proved to be the bogey fence of the course, causing two other runouts and an activated MIM-clip. Almost all the jump penalties recorded today were at one of the course’s four corners, with problems also seen at 20b, a left-handed brush corner, and 6b, a right-handed brush corner.

Time penalties proved to be by far the most influential element of this phase, though, with no horse and rider pairs logging a double clear round. The two fastest rounds of the day belonged to Liz aboard Cooley Be Cool and Dan aboard Carmango, both stopping the clock with only four time penalties.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Nutcracker. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Liz’s clear, fast round secured her spot atop the leaderboard, finishing on a score of 30.6 penalties with Cooley Be Cool. She had three horses in the class, all finishing in the top 10: Cooley Nutcracker came home in 6th place position, and Shanroe Cooley finished in ninth, both adding only time penalties to their dressage scores. Cooley Be Cool, a 10-year-old Irish Sporthorse Gelding bred in Ireland by Marion Hughes, is on a bit of a hot streak this spring, having also just won the CCI3*-S at Carolina two weeks ago.

“I had sort of my slightly younger, less experienced four-star horses here, and I thought it was great for that,” Liz said. “I sort of planned to not run my other two that quickly and just give them a really good confident first four-star of the year, and everything went to plan.”

When asked what’s next for Cooley Be Cool, known in the barn as “Dave”, Liz chuckled and said “The plan is for Dave to do the Ocala four-star and then he’ll have one more little prep run, and hopefully he’ll be going to the five-star at Luhmühlen.”

Dan Krietl, no doubt a crowd favorite here at TerraNova despite being over 1,000 miles away from his home base of Muncie, IN, crept his way up the leaderboard after each phase of this weekend’s competition. He and Carmango were ninth after dressage on a 28.3, a clear show jumping moved them up to fifth, and today’s fast trip across the country had the pair finishing on a 32.3 for second place.

“He was great,” Dan said, “He started out well in the dressage, it was one of our better tests for sure.”

The most exciting part of his weekend though, if you ask Dan, was his clear show jumping round. Just last month Dan and Carmango saw their weekend ended early at the Eventing Grand Prix at Bruce’s Field, where five rails resulted in the pair’s first compulsory retirement.

“Show jumping has been my weakness for far too long, so it was probably the highlight of the year for me getting a double clear show jumping round, especially because I kind of did a faceplant at the Aiken showcase and had a bunch of rails down.”

He was quick to thank Bobby Costello for his help with that phase, saying Bobby “took the time to call me after my show jumping results were going the wrong direction and gave me some great advice.”

Caroline Martin and King’s Especiale. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Dan and Carmango, who was bred in Germany by Heinrich Bergendahl, seemed to be out for a merry jaunt across the country this morning. “For the cross country he was right there with me and had a nice open gallop over the course. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it.” Dan is next headed to Kentucky, where he’ll look to finish strong in the Lexington CCI4*-S.

Caroline Martin brought two CCI4* first timers to TerraNova in HSH Blake and King’s Especiale (Connect x Cha Cha Cha Special, by Vittorio), both only 8-years-old. HSH Blake in particular made his debut an impressive one by securing a third place finish, adding only eight cross country time penalties to his dressage score.

“Over the moon!” Caroline said about her weekend with both of her young superstars. “My two four-star horses, HSH Blake and King’s Especiale, they’re unbelievable. Blake obviously shined this weekend and placed third, but I’m really excited to have two eight-year-olds, I think the world of them.”

Caroline was also pleased with the course for her two young horses in particular. “I thought it was quite nice for young horses. I wouldn’t say it was the most challenging four-star out there but I thought it was fair.”

Leslie Law and Voltaire de Tre. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Of the 11 Kentucky-bound pairs that contested TerraNova this weekend, the top placed finisher was Voltaire de Tre (Gentleman IV x Jasmina du Fresne, by Socrate de Chivre), expertly piloted by Leslie Law to add just 8.4 time penalties to his dressage score, finishing in 8th place. The big flashy Selle Francais gelding, bred in France by Roland Bazire, will be seeking to make his fifth CCI5* start later this month.

That wraps up our CCI4*S coverage from TerraNova! Go Eventing!

This article will be updated with more photos — stay tuned!

The Event at TerraNova: [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Live Scores] [Schedule] [EN’s Coverage]

A Game of Would You Rather on the TerraNova CCI4*-S Cross Country

     

It’s not very often you find a reason to compare Florida to France, but walking The Event at TerraNova CCI4*S cross country course I found myself thinking “Is it just me or does this have shades of mini-Pau, with all the twists and turns?”.

Granted, the profuse amount of sweat rolling down my back kept my brain solidly anchored on the fact that we’re in Florida, but you get what I mean.

Capt. Mark Phillips has certainly left our 50+ entrants with plenty to do. With 26 numbered jumps or combinations totaling 35 jumping efforts, most of these fences are going to come up rapid-fire, giving riders a feeling that could be akin to a show jumping course.

The time also might prove influential, given the heat down here in Myakka City (the projected high temperature on Saturday is forecasted to be 90 degrees) and the fact that there aren’t very many long gallop stretches to get ahead of the optimum.

Hopefully riders are also sat on horses that are quite genuine to corners, with four here on this CCI4*-S track, including one out of the first water that will probably live eternally in my nightmares. While there isn’t much in the way of terrain, the footing is lovely, with a thoroughly watered and aerated track that feels quite nice underfoot and should make for some prime galloping.

THE SPECS:

Distance: 3421m

Optimum time: 6:00

Efforts: 35

Fence one is an immediate no from me dawg, but I’m sure these horses and riders won’t have any issue with it. In theory, it’s a reasonably sized, inviting cabin. In execution, they set the dang thing over top of a ditch. Can you see the ditch? Not really. Do I know the ditch is there? Yes indeed I do. The profile is friendly though, and the size is reasonable. You know, for a 4* horse and rider anyway.

After the first fence they’ll head straight towards stabling and the dressage/show jumping rings, giving a lot of “background noise” for potential distraction as they jump the simple and straightforward brown barn at fence two. Captain Phillips has left the first several fences friendly, to help the horses get into a good rhythm early on.

They’ll continue on a right-handed track as riders turn to travel alongside the road, jumping a big diamond brush table at fence 3. Here is where we see the first of several uses of frangible technology on this course, with this collapsible table.

This is also the first of many fences that could probably also be considered a legitimate shelter for a family of four. Giant tables… there are plenty more of those coming *shudder*.

Riders will continue galloping along the road, coming up alongside the show jumping arena to the deer feeder at fence 4. Greener horses will have to make sure to keep their eyes on their job, but otherwise there shouldn’t be any issues at this point. They do have to pass the food vendors here though, including the lovely woman with the fruity push-pops, but apparently it’s frowned upon to stop for some icy goodness whilst on course, no matter how hot it may be.

Fence 5 is where things start to get fun (for spectators anyway… riders, your mileage may vary). If I thought the first table was wide, this one is WIDE – it might accommodate a family of six – and very quickly afterwards you come up to your first combination. Riders will still be cruising to fence 5, but very soon after we’ll see them start pumping the brakes.

Here we go with our first letters on course at 6AB, a brushy rolltop down to our first corner, this one of the right-handed and brushy variety.

We ran into Will Coleman here during the course walk, and he very confidently said that it was pretty simple and you should be able to stay on an inside track on the approach to the A element. Okay Will, you go on with your bad self.

I personally would prefer the very long approach, like all the way around it to just canter right back to the barn, thank you. Still though, for the pairs in this division it shouldn’t be too complicated – Capt. Phillips is easing you into the corners to come.

Next we come to our first pass through the first water complex on course, a couple of beach-themed benches at 7AB. Just in case you forget that you’re less than 45 minutes from the coast, these fences really bring the beachy vibes. Riders will jump in over a big red bench and have a stride or two before getting their feet wet in the water.

Once they’re in the water it’s a sharp right turn out of the water, up a bit of a mound (nobody tell me Florida doesn’t have terrain – we can build a mean mound) to a matching bench, this one painted green.

Leaving the water behind for now, they’ll have a short gallop stretch into an adjoining field, popping over a MIM oxer as a bit of a “let-up” fence. It’s extremely wide and I personally would much rather limbo through it on foot than jump over it on a horse, but you know, po-tay-to po-tah-to.

Making a left hand turn towards the back of the field, they’ll come to their next combination at 9AB, a big wide blue table (also frangible) with another right-handed corner. The angle to the corner is steep, but it’s well-decorated with a very clearly defined face that makes it feel a bit more forgiving. Still, it’s very possible that we could see some drive-bys at this one.

From there they’ll continue their loop back out of this field to hop over the bridge oxer, which in theory is a relatively simple skinny-faced MIM oxer that shouldn’t cause any trouble. It does have a blue water tray along the bottom of it that I personally found spooky, but it’s possible that I need to re-up my Ulcergard.

After the oxer it’s a relatively simple pop over the TerraNova Barn fence to jump into one of the arenas – this one located next to showjumping warm up. The jump itself is relatively simple and up a small mound so it should jump well, but there’s a lot of distraction in the background with arenas and flags and tents, so riders will be looking to keep their horses focused here, especially with what’s to come [cue intense foreshadowing].

Here at 12AB they’ll make their second pass through the first water complex, first jumping over a house with a drop down into the water, then landing and making a right turn to a very skinny left-handed corner that I honestly didn’t even notice the first time because it was hiding behind a large bush.

This one is a legit question for sure, and Capt. Phillips has given the riders an option here for the B element. That option will be very costly though, time-wise, because it has them looping way back to jump over a simple hanging log on a mound then circling back again before continuing on their way. I don’t think that will be Plan A for anyone, but it may get utilized for those who run into trouble at the corner.

From the water they’ll continue on to the next field, jumping over a Trakehner in the treeline that sports a pretty massive ditch under it. Did I stand in the ditch and stretch my arms overhead to touch the log? Yes, yes I did. I was barely able to reach it with my fingers. Trust me, it’s a big ditch. By this level though, a question like this should be old hat for these combinations.

Up next they’ll have a legitimate let-up fence with a simple pheasant feeder, and theoretically there’s a bit of a stretch to gallop too. Of course, during that stretch you have to turn a couple times, so there’s probably not as much opportunity to step on the gas pedal as the riders would probably wish.

The next question is all about angles, with a couple of offset brushes. This question too should be old hat by now for these horse and rider pairs and they should be able to keep a bit of forward momentum after jumping these.

Passing through another treeline will see them meeting another big blue table, which most riders will probably be happy to see by now. I wouldn’t be, because it’s yet another one that’s eligible for family-of-6 status, but these folks will probably be yawning in the air or taking a quick siesta or something (“insanity in the middle” is right).

They might even take a quick nap as they pop over the wagon at 17, which admittedly from the front looks quite lovely doesn’t it? Trust me, it isn’t. It’s very very very wide, but should be a nice cruising fence especially after the table.

By then the break is over and they’ll be at their next combination at 18AB. The A element is up on a mound and has a very very vertical face, which is sporting a MIM clip. It’s a friendly enough fence, but certainly one that demands respect.

After jumping A they’ll land, go down the mound, and head straight to B, which is also on it’s own separate mound (told you we make a mean mound in Florida, and so many of them). The B element should also be filed into my drawer of nightmares in all of its skinny MIM log glory. Still, I feel like this one should ride pretty well (did I just jinx it? Knocking on wood ASAP).

From there they’ll hang a right and pop over another very large table at 19, this time with brush on top for extra oomph. I hope there’s a photographer at this one, I bet it’s one of those that would make for some great photos.

After the giant table of doom (that’s what I named it anyway, they’ve just got it down on the course map as “double brush” as if it’s cute or something) riders will hang another right and come to the first and only ABC combination on course. The A element is set up on top of quite a big and steep — you guessed it — mound with a MIM-clipped hanging log.

They’ll land from that and go down the mound to a left-handed brush corner at B and then a brush wedge at C. This one potentially could prove a bit tricky and should make for some good spectating. Riders are also given an option here if they’d prefer to not tackle the mound at the A element – instead they can go the long way around it to jump a similar hanging log on flat ground, but it will prove costly for time.

If they make it through that one unscathed, it stands to reason that they’ll be largely home free. That doesn’t mean they’re done though. They’ve got another gigantically massive MIM Oxer at 21, for funsies.

And then it’s over the again cutely named “log pile” at 22. This fence is also extremely wide in the family-of-six type of way.

They’ll then dip their feet into the second water jump on course, although this one is considerably more simple with only a cabin in the water. It’s a decent size fence, but not particularly tricky, and I can personally attest to the fact that the footing in the water jumps feels fantastic (will do anything to get these course walk pics, including strip off my shoes and socks and go for a wade).

Coming up toward the end is the last super butt-clenching fence of the course, with a large ditch and wall. Again, something that these horse and riders should be quite adept at by now at this level, but since it’s my own personal least favorite type of fence, it seems massive to me. I’ll find it very insulting when everyone just hops right on over as if it’s nothing.

Riders (who I have a feeling will be galloping home at a good clip by this point) will then hang a right and jump over the hayrack…

…followed relatively quickly by a massive step table. Again not complicated, but a big legitimate 4-star table.

The last jump is a quite cute (even to me) ramp with the TerraNova name on it. Which might be nice to remind the riders of where they are, if they’re feeling shades of heat stroke by the end. In all seriousness, it should be a nice positive way to cap off the course and have everyone wrapping up their 4* course feeling positive.

Cross country for the FEI divisions gets underway Saturday with the 3* first at 8:45 a.m., followed by the 4* at 12:15 p.m. and the 2* at 3:30 p.m. The full schedule and ride times can be found in the link list below.

The Event at TerraNova: [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Schedule] [EN’s Coverage]

Will Coleman and Chin Tonic HS at the Helm of TerraNova CCI4*-S

Deja vu: Will Coleman and Chin Tonic HS are in control of another stop en route to Kentucky. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

We’re two phases in to competition in the CCI4*-S at The Event at TerraNova, situated south of Tampa in Myakka City. There’s plenty to catch up on, so let’s dive right in!

Click here to catch up on scores from all divisions.

DRESSAGE

While most of the CCI4* competitors at TerraNova took their turn between the white boards on Thursday, this morning’s session saw 12 more horse and rider pairs logging their first phase.

Will Coleman and Chin Tonic HS. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

The best – or at least two of the three best – were saved for last, with Will Coleman and Hyperion Stud LLC’s Chin Tonic HS (Chin Champ x Wildera, by Quinar Z) taking a commanding lead on a 19.6, and Caroline Martin slotting into the third place position on a 26.7 with Redfield King’s HX Group’s young phenom King’s Especiale (Connect x Cha Cha Cha Special, by Vittorio). Liz Halliday-Sharp remained near the top of the leaderboard from Thursday’s session, sitting in second place just .1 ahead of Caroline, laying down a score of 26.6 aboard Ocala Horse Properties’ and The Monster Partnership’s Cooley Be Cool (Fortuna x HHS Carlotta, by Cavalier Royale).

Will’s dominating dressage lead comes fresh on the heels of his stand-out performance two weeks ago, where he scored a 19.4 at Carolina CCI4*S with “Chin”, an 11-year-old Holsteiner bred in Germany by Inken Von Graefin Platen-Hallermund. The gelding is also on the entry list for the upcoming CCI5* at Kentucky at the end of April, which will be his first start at the level.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Be Cool. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Will describes Chin as a “very good horse on the flat”, noting that he has been improving year over year. “That’s sort of the idea with all these horses, that you just keep trying to strive for a little bit more, and he’s giving us really good effort.”

There’s no doubt that the horse has secured his place as one of the best dressage horses in the country at this level, with two very solid sub-20 performances back-to-back. Of today’s effort, which was just .2 off of his score at Carolina, Will says, “It’s hot here, and I would say he was a little flatter here than maybe he was at Carolina where it was quite cold and windy, but sometimes that’s not such a bad thing. He was very pleasant.”

Liz was also happy with the performance Cooley Be Cool, known in the barn as “Dave”, who is making his debut at the level after a win in the CCI3*S division two weeks ago at Carolina.

Caroline Martin and HSH Blake. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

The 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, bred in Ireland by Marion Hughes, has seen consistently improved dressage scores as he’s become more confirmed at the level. “He was very professional in the ring,” Liz said. “He is a good mover and he’s very correct. Now that he’s sort of grown up a bit more, he doesn’t get marks taken away from him, which is good. This test should be tough for him because he doesn’t have the biggest medium trot and there’s a lot of medium trot. I was thrilled with him and I think he’s progressing all the time.”

Caroline Martin brought two of her talented 8-year-olds to TerraNova, with HSH Blake and King’s Especiale both making their debut at the CCI4*-S level. She was especially pleased with the performance of “King”, a nearly 18-hand Dutch Warmblood gelding bred in the Netherlands by C.M.L Delissen- Verstappen, saying “It’s a lot to ask for a young horse, especially given his size, but I’m very happy with how he went today.”

SHOW JUMPING

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Be Cool. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

With dressage done and dusted, competitors didn’t have to wait long for the show jumping, with 53 horse and rider pairs facing down Michel Vaillancourt’s substantial track this afternoon.

Of those 53 pairs, a whopping 11 are on the star-studded entry list for the Kentucky CCI5*, making TerraNova the most popular spring CCI4*-S prep run this year for Kentucky entrants.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Shanroe Cooley. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Will Coleman once again proved hard to catch, though, maintaining his lead with a stunning double clear. Liz Halliday-Sharp gave it her best effort, holding onto second place with a double clear round aboard Cooley Be Cool. Liz also benefitted from an unfortunate rail and 1.2 time penalties for Caroline Martin aboard King’s Especiale, which pushed them down to 10th place. Those penalties allowed Liz to slot into third position on Ocala Horse Properties’ 8-year-old Irish Sporthorse gelding Shanroe Cooley (Dallas x Shanroe Sapphire, by Condios), bred in Ireland by Anthony Smyth, on a score of 28.1, leaving her in a tie with Caroline aboard her other mount, HSH Blake (Tolan R x Doughiska Lass, by Kannan). HSH Blake is owned by Mollie Hoff, Sherrie Martin, and Caroline, and was bred in Ireland by Justin Burke.

No stranger to all these post-ride interviews at this point, Will said of his show jumping round with Chin, “He left the rails up, which is always the most important part. But I was pretty pleased with how he read everything, and I thought he tried really hard. He’s very careful, and that’s about all we can ask for.”

Caroline Martin and HSH Blake. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

The class was held in the late afternoon, with the light changing quite a bit from start to finish of the division. “I wouldn’t say it changed my plan or anything like that,” Will said, “but it’s just something that you kind of noticed. But I thought overall the course rode according to plan, it was a good course I thought. You know, [Michel] had rails kind of everywhere, which I think is sort of a good sign from a designer. And anyways, Michel, we all have a lot of respect for and I think it was great to see him here making today influential.”

Indeed it did prove to be an influential phase: overall there were 19 double clear rounds, or 36% of the field.

Of the 11 Kentucky-entered pairs, only four added nothing to their dressage score: Will and Chin, Leslie Law and Voltaire de Tre, Zach Brandt and Direct Advance, and Meghan O’Donoghue and Palm Crescent. After show jumping Leslie, Zach, and Meghan are sitting in 15th, 16th, and 17th places respectively.

PLENTY LEFT TO DO

Dan Kreitl and Carmango. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

While Will and Chin hold a decisive lead after the first two phases, there’s still plenty left to do here in the TerraNova CCI4*S on Captain Mark Phillip’s twisty-turny cross country track tomorrow morning (stay tuned for our course preview first thing in the morning).

Much speculation has occurred over whether or not Will will choose to run Chin, something that he himself says he has yet to decide. Will he or won’t he? I guess we’ll all find out tomorrow.

When asked if he’s at least had a chance to walk the cross country yet Will said, “I did, I took a peek at it this afternoon. It’s good. It’s a long way, you know, a lot of jumps out there, and they’re working very very hard on the going here. So that is always, as a rider, something that we really like to see, and the owners and everybody involved in these horses. We always really appreciate the huge efforts made by events like this.”

If he does leave the start box Will has seven points in hand, which would give him a comfortable amount of breathing room as far as time penalties go around a course that could potentially not see too many rounds inside the time. The event did move the CCI4*S start times up several hours to start at 8:45am EST, which will help with the heat here in Florida on a day that is projected to be around 90 degrees.

Stay tuned for much more from TerraNova!

The Event at TerraNova: [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Live Scores] [Schedule] [EN’s Coverage]

William Fox-Pitt Does Ocala: Simple, Succinct Principles Applicable to All Riders

William Fox-Pitt teaches at Liz Halliday-Sharp’s winter base, Horsepower Equestrian in Ocala. Photo by Lisa Madren.

The man, the myth, the legend William Fox Pitt is back in America and this past weekend took another swing at the Eventing Grand Prix at Bruce’s Field. While stateside, he’s also been imparting some of the wisdom that has helped him earn three Olympic medals. Before heading up to Aiken, William taught three clinics in Ocala, with participants ranging from Beginner Novice up to 5* level.

I was lucky enough to get to sit in on one of the cross country days which included everything from young, promising six year olds to solid Advanced horses. While the exercises may have varied depending on the horse, the rider, and their experience, a lot of the main fundamentals of what William was teaching stayed the same throughout.

After taking a quick look at everyone and their stirrup length –- William stressed that he thinks “a shorter leg is a stronger leg” –- he mostly left it up to each rider to choose what they felt most comfortable with. He was quick to point out that while he personally likes a short stirrup, there are riders like Piggy March who have found more success riding a bit longer than what might be considered average for cross country.

For each group he wanted to see loose, relaxed horses during the warm-up. Riders were tasked with making sure their horses were easily adjustable, and that “when you’re happy with how they’re feeling and listening, stop.” There’s no need to spend all your energy in warm-up, he advised.

Once the riders were ready to go, they started out by trotting logs –- even the Advanced group. If you’ve ever ridden or watched a clinic with the British Olympian, this will be a familiar concept to you — and perhaps one we all grit our teeth for a bit! William likes to trot a few jumps to make sure the horse is thinking and paying attention to its footwork, and that the rider is reacting to the horse underneath them. It can feel awkward and uncomfortable, but it’s excellent to practice at home.

Sierra Lesny rides cross country in front of William Fox-Pitt. Photo by Lisa Madren.

Once everyone was sufficiently warmed up, they moved over the to bank questions, having the horses trot up and down them first before putting the banks in combination with other jumps. He stressed that for banks, the canter should stay short and bouncy, and that the rider should practice staying in balance down a bank without completely throwing the reins away –- prep for more complex questions where you might have a jump shortly after the bank.

After practicing the bank questions, the exercises varied by group. Some did complex corner and skinny questions, while others did more simple lines. No matter the level of horse or rider, though, there were some concepts that seemed to get repeated over and over again, particularly:

  • Good cross country riding is about having quick reactions, and being able to change your plan according to how your horse is going or what happens on course.
  • Balance and rhythm. If you have balance and you have rhythm, the horse is more able to easily adjust to a distance that might not be perfect.
  • When in doubt, close your leg, put the horse down the rein, and “get on with it”

William was also big on making sure that the horses stayed crisp but not frantic in their reactions –- something that is brought forward from the flatwork.

Lexi Scovil jumps in the Advanced group with William. Photo by Lisa Madren.

When the Advanced group was tackling some of the skinner questions, William got to opine a bit, discussing his thoughts on a proposed rule change that would assess penalties for knocking down a flag (“Please god no”) and saying that top level courses are “all about mounds and lumps and bumps nowadays”.

He stressed that connection and intention was key –- your distance could vary and still work out okay as long as you kept the connection, kept the power, and rode with intention. What wouldn’t work, he said, was if you came in loose and floppy –- “don’t be a stride less and loose. Come in beefier, not faster”.

Throughout the day William was encouraging and succinct in his teaching, and made sure to keep the questions (and how they were presented) fair to the horses.

While chatting in between groups he also discussed some of his spring plans… hint, hint, if you haven’t already gotten your Land Rover Kentucky tickets, now would be the time!

Thank you to everyone involved with setting up these fantastic clinics, and if you missed out in Ocala, William is teaching in Aiken at The Vista Schooling Center, presented by CannaHorse and Aiken Saddlery, this week.

Pam Fisher Lives On in the Legacy of ‘Equine Soulmate’ Sea Lion

Pam Fisher and Sea Lion. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Last October, the eventing world lost one of their own when California-based trainer and rider Pam Fisher passed away unexpectedly due to an undiagnosed medical condition.

Originally from the East Coast, Pam spent several years working as an assistant to steeplechase trainer Taylor Jackson. During her time there, she also exercised racehorses at Fair Hill Training Center and worked as a stable manager under Jack LeGoff for the U.S. Equestrian Team.

Eventually, Pam made her way west to Colorado, starting her own Ruffian Stables, where she trained horses in multiple disciplines and provided rehabilitation services for horses recovering from injuries.

Pam also produced several horses to the upper levels, finding particular success with — and love for — off-the-track Thoroughbreds. Her background in the racing industry gave her plenty of experience with the breed as well as an appreciation for their talent as sporthorses. In 1994, Pam and her Thoroughbred gelding, Lancelet, competed to the Advanced level, and the following year were long-listed for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

Fast forward to 2004, when Pam was contacted by JoBeth Kemp about sending an off-the-track Thoroughbred named Sea Elephant to her for training. It was a connection that –- unbeknownst to all of them at the time — would end up being the equine partnership of Pam’s career. She had trained and loved the horse’s brother, Out to Sea (aka “Sailor”), and JoBeth Kemp told her, “If you love Sailor, you’ll really like his brother!” JoBeth sent him to Pam sight unseen, with the understanding that he would not be gelded and if, for whatever reason, Fisher no longer wanted him, she would send him back.

Pam Fisher and Sea Lion. Photo courtesy of Katherine Boone.

That never came to pass, as it was love at first sight for Pam the moment the horse unloaded from the trailer.

A 16.1h bay stallion, Sea Lion was originally registered and raced under the name Sea Elephant. But, according to longtime friend Katherine Boone, the registered name just wasn’t going to cut it for his sporthorse career. “Pam didn’t care for that name, saying, ‘I just couldn’t get my head around galloping an elephant over Advanced level obstacles on a cross country course!’” He was re-named Sea Lion, a nod to his boldness and bravery, and a name that seemed to suit him much better in his new career.

It was clear from the beginning that their partnership would be a strong one. Pam and Sea Lion made their recognized eventing debut in 2007, quickly moving up the levels together thanks to a combination of her experience and Sea Lion’s natural aptitude for the job.

Pam Fisher and Sea Lion. Photo by Samantha Clark.

By 2010 they had reached the Advanced level, and in 2012 made their now-5* debut together, competing at the then-monikered Rolex Kentucky. Katherine described their partnership with one word: fearless. “Sea Lion would carry Pam over anything, and I do mean anything… navigating the most challenging obstacles, always with his ears forward, eager for the next one.”

One of Pam’s favorite stories, which she often recounted to Sea Lion’s fans, was how she promised Sea Lion that if he took her to Rolex, she would let him start breeding -– a promise she upheld. His first foal, Seacret Agent, was born the very next spring.

Pam later relocated from Colorado to a 400-acre ranch near Santa Ynez, CA, and Sea Lion continued his breeding career alongside his performance career, quickly finding a balance between the two. He continued competing at the upper levels of eventing but also branched out to hunter derbies and 1.20m show jumping, further showcasing his versatility as a sporthorse.

Katherine remembers, “Pam was so very proud of Sea Lion’s consistently strong work ethic, his outstanding athletic ability, and the fact that he retired sound from eventing then went on to compete barefoot (and win!) in hunters and jumpers. But more than anything, she admired and appreciated his temperament and disposition. He was a stallion through and through, but she could still take him on trail rides with mares and geldings… as long as Sea Lion was in front!”

Photo courtesy of Katherine Boone.

While she had always appreciated Sea Lion as a competitor, Pam soon discovered that she got just as much joy and fulfillment from his breeding accolades. He quickly earned his breeding approval from multiple warmblood registries, including the American Hanoverian Society, Oldenburg North America, and the American Trakehner Association. The Hanoverian Verband thought so highly of him that he was even invited to spend a year standing at stud in Germany – a rare offer for any North American based stallion. Through frozen semen, Sea Lion has been made available for breeding overseas and now has foals in five different countries, proving his popularity as a sire.

No matter how many foals Sea Lion sired, though, Pam never failed to be excited about each and every one. According to Katherine, “every single time she heard a mare was in foal with a Sea Lion baby, she was ecstatic. Then, when she got photos of her ‘grandbabies’, she was over the moon! She loved that Sea Lion attracts such a wide variety of breeds…. Irish Sport Horse and Irish Draught, Quarter Horse, Arabian, Trakehner, Hanoverian, Paint Horses, Canadian Sport Horse, Dutch Warmblood, even Clydesdale.”

Losing Pam so unexpectedly was devastating to all who knew and loved her, and came with some uncertainty about what would become of her beloved Sea Lion and the two Sea Lion offspring she owned. Luckily, Katherine was able to help, and Pam’s family has signed over the horses to her on the premise that she will retain ownership of Sea Lion and find appropriate homes for the others. Thanks to the efforts and dedication of Pam’s family and friends, now 25-year-old Sea Lion will continue to live out his golden years in California, just as Pam had always envisioned.

Katherine has decided that Sea Lion will now be retired from active breeding duties, but he will still be available via frozen semen. All proceeds from Sea Lion breedings will be used to pay for his continued upkeep.

Pam often described Sea Lion as her “equine soulmate” and became dedicated to preserving his legacy via his offspring. In doing so, she also tied her own legacy to his. After her passing was announced on Sea Lion’s Facebook page, an outpouring of his fans honored her by posting photos and updates of their own Sea Lion foals. In a way, she and Sea Lion became synonymous, and her memory will continue to live on both in the horse that knew no limits, as well as his offspring.

In honor of Pam, could everyone who has a Sea Lion baby post a current photo in the comments below and tell us a little about him/her?

Posted by Sea Lion on Tuesday, January 17, 2023

The US Event Horse Futurity: A Patriotic Dream

If you want to start an argument in a room full of riders, all you really have to do is mention importing horses from overseas vs buying them in America. On one side you have those who believe that the horses are better in Europe, or that it’s easier to shop there, or that there are more “good deals” to be found. Whether those opinions are right are wrong (I’ll get to that in a minute) what I do know for sure is that at their core Americans are some of, if not the, most patriotic people on the planet. You have to admit, if it was possible to sit every US Team rider on a US-bred horse, it would make our star-spangled hearts grow three sizes.

The old-fashioned belief that US breeders aren’t producing the same quality of horse has certainly been disproven. Two of the three horses on our last Olympic team and two of the four horses on our last World Championships team were bred right here in the USA. In recent years US-bred horses have permeated the ranks at all levels, with some of the best young talent in the country having come from domestic breeding programs. While that sounds like a win, and on some level it certainly is, if you dare to dream bigger, it’s really just the beginning.

Breeding, buying, and raising young horses in this country is not without its challenges. We’re a much larger country geographically than any of our European counterparts, which means everything is further apart. The cost to raise horses here can be more expensive. And perhaps most poignantly, many people don’t believe in, promote, or support domestically bred horses as much as they do in other countries (you have not truly lived until you’ve been held captive in a pub listening to an Irish rider tell you 101 reasons why an Irish-bred horse is superior to any other). We also have a bit of an ingrained social belief that anything imported is better by default, a notion that facts and data just don’t support.

What is perhaps our biggest and most difficult challenge is that we don’t have a tried-and-true system to connect our breeders, young horse trainers, and riders the way that many other countries do. After all, people can’t buy US-bred horses if they don’t know where to find them. Insert: The US Event Horse Futurity.

The US Event Horse Futurity is working to connect US breeders, young horse trainers, and riders.

Founded in 2018 by leading US eventing breeders Elizabeth Callahan and Laurie Cameron, The US Event Horse Futurity’s purpose is to support and reward the breeders, trainers, and riders of US-bred young event horses. They believe that there are many distinct advantages for riders to purchase US-bred horses, advantages that they try to highlight within The Futurity. “There is a degree of transparency here in the US that you might not find oversees, both in the horse’s background, training, and health as well as in the vetting process.” Callahan said, “There is also the opportunity to develop the horse from the very beginning so that you know that horse inside and out.”.

Bringing a horse along from the beginning, directly from its breeder, offers the opportunity for riders to know their partners thoroughly.

With decades of experience in the breeding industry (and multiple 5-star horses) between them, Callahan and Cameron recognized that one of the biggest issues we had here in the US was the lack of an established pipeline. Callahan said, “We had no way of connecting the breeders to the people who develop these young horses into our future superstars.”. Their solution was to quite literally put their money where their mouth is and start a program to do just that.

The Futurity, which is run entirely on volunteer efforts, is a competition that follows Young Event Horses from the beginning of their 4 or 5-year-old year to the culmination of their competition season at the YEH Championships in the fall. Breeders or trainers of US-bred horses can complete the application on the Futurity website and pay a one-time entry fee into the Futurity. From there trainers are asked to submit regular social media updates (of varying content) that is shared widely on the Futurity’s platforms so that fans can follow along with these young horses as they progress through the year. Most of these horses will be aimed at USEA Young Event Horses classes, with the goal of making it to YEH Championships in the fall. For those that do make it, there’s $10,000 of Futurity prize money up for grabs, a cut of which also goes to the breeder, as well as several other special awards (including the ever-popular Fan Favorite).

The program offers prizes, including $10,000 of Futurity prize money.

The Futurity encourages trainers to not only chronicle the successes, but also the trials and tribulations we often see with young horses – as we all know, it certainly isn’t always a linear path. Futurity trainers get the chance to show us how they address common problems, let us follow along with the highs and lows of young horses, and give us a behind the scenes look at their training programs and skills. The breeders get exposure for their horses and their breeding program, with the goal that long-lasting connections will begin to form between both groups. For fans and followers of the Futurity, it gives a unique educational opportunity to learn from some of the best riders and trainers in the country.

Since 2018, The Futurity has awarded over 40k in prize money, with more added each year, and has already seen results: several of the inaugural Futurity class have progressed to the 3*L level. While the first few years of the Futurity focused purely on 4-year-olds, this year they will be expanding to include 5-year-olds as well as West Coast entrants. The Futurity features each horse, trainer, and breeder on their website and social media and also offers a public database of breeder and trainer links, to help potential Futurity trainers and horses make a connection.

When asked why she’s so passionate about the Futurity and it’s mission, Callahan said “I bred a horse, Quantum Leap, that was selected to represent the US at the World Championships for Young Event Horses at Le Lion d’Angers in France, and was lucky enough to attend. The best young event horses in Europe were there, as were the best riders. And at the end of the day, my US-bred horse, the only US bred in the over 100 horses that were there, was just as competitive as the best Europe has to offer. There are many more of these horses in the US – we just have to get US riders to find them and get breeders to find the trainers and riders. It’s simple, it’s just not easy!”.

Callahan and Cameron believe that working together and creating a community to source and develop US-bred young horses can only strengthen our position for future upper-level success for the US in Team competitions. The US Event Horse Futurity is the first big step toward making that dream a reality.

If you’re a trainer or breeder interested in entering the 2023 US Event Horse Futurity, check out their website or Facebook page. If you have questions, are interested in sponsoring an award, or would like to be added to their breeder and trainer database, contact [email protected] .

A Delightful Weekend at TerraNova + Everyone’s New Favorite Emotional Support Mini

I have good news and bad news about my second day at TerraNova. The bad news is: the poutine food truck was not in attendance today. I know, no one’s dreams have been crushed more than my own. However, the good news is that I found an emotional support miniature horse named Nugget in the barn of John Michael Durr and immediately forgot about all my poutine woes. And boy, what a story little wry-nosed Nugget has. Don’t worry, we’ll get to that. First, let’s talk about Sunday’s competition.

The schedule kicked off with show jumping for the lower levels, which featured all the atmosphere and grandeur that had been present for the FEI divisions. It also featured something you rarely see in this sport outside of Championships: prize money and serious satin.

In addition to a total of $40,000 worth of prize money up for grabs in the FEI divisions, each horse trial division also offered $1,500 of prize money split between the top three placings. Plus, they gave ribbons (and when I say ribbons, I mean ribbons as big as a toddler, as well as neck sashes for first and second) through 8th place in the horse trial divisions and through 12th place for FEI divisions. Satin lovers, rejoice, TerraNova certainly delivers on that one.

I was able to watch most of the Training and Novice show jumping before the 3*-S cross country began. Not only were there enormous ribbons and prize money up for grabs, they also had victory gallops for every division. I’m a nothing if not a sucker for a good victory gallop (just me or does it always bring a bit of a tear to your eye?), and it gave the whole event more of a championship type feel.

Once the 3*-S was underway I headed over to see how the course was riding and scope out some of the fences. For spectators it’s very easy to go back and forth between the two areas since they’re so close together, and that’s what I tried to do as much as possible. The FEI divisions are fun, for sure, but there’s just something about the variety of horses, riders, colorful attire, and fun relationships between horse and rider at the lower levels that just cannot be beat. I mean seriously, I didn’t see a single FEI horse rocking a full glitter saddle pad, where I saw more than one at the lower levels. I rest my case. These folks are here to party, and I’m here for it.

Let’s hear it for this weekend’s top finishers!

CCI4*-S: Jacob Fletcher and Fabian (45.0)
CCI3*-S: Leslie Law and Castle Howard Romeo (30.2)
CCI2*-S: Buck Davidson and Stracathro Solitary Minstral (28.6)
CCI1*-S: Leslie Law and Fernhill Lottery (28.6)
Open Intermediate: Autumn Schweiss and Global Quarycrest (49.8)
Open Preliminary: Autumn Schweiss and Bamford CF (24.8)
Open Training: Alex O’Neal and Hardwired (23.6)
Training Rider: Amy Etheridge and Royal Lufftanzer (37.3)
Novice Rider: Maggie Shuman and Zach Eyed Pea (28.3)
Open Novice: Ben Noonan and Kay-O (24.7)
Beginner Novice Rider: Susan Cerbone and Seattle Sangaree (31.2)
Open Beginner Novice: Krista Wilson and Stella (21.8)
Intro: Terri Miller and Beau Regard (25.3)

After that it was back up to the food trucks for lunch (Hawaiian food truck to the rescue) before slathering on more sunscreen to head out for the 4*-S. By the way, it still wasn’t enough sunscreen to keep the Florida sun at bay, but was it even a horse show weekend if you don’t end up with a wicked sunburn?

No worries though, because this is where I finally encountered what was to be the ultimate highlight of my day. There I was, waiting by fence 1 for the 4*-S to begin, when I see John Michael Durr coming down from the stabling on Blue Rodeo (known in the barn as Stanley). But it wasn’t just JM and Stanley… they were accompanied by what might possibly be the most adorable animal I have ever seen on four teeny, tiny little hooves: Stanley’s very own miniature horse, Nugget.

Naturally I did what any responsible, professional reporter would do: I immediately ran away from fence 1 to video the trio as they trotted past (and ok, to be fair, there may have also been some equally professional squealing). At least I (barely) resisted the urge to abandon my assignment completely and follow after them. I did, however, immediately start scheming on how I would find the mini once he was back in the barns so that I could introduce myself properly.

Back to the task at hand. During the 4* cross country I moved throughout the first half of the course so I could see how everything was riding. All looked well from my perspective, although the first water was enough to cause some slight “bum-clenching” (to borrow a phrase from EN’s Tilly Berendt) a few times at the bounce bank. I’m willing to admit that could just be because I myself would rather jump through a keyhole made of lava than a giant up bank. Details.

Now there’s a cross country warm-up I can get on board with. Photo by Amanda Chance.

After the cross country was finished I had one mission: track down JM, Stanley, and my new favorite mini, because that was a story I knew I just had to hear. I caught up with JM at the finish line of the 2*-S cross country, where I was able to talk to JM about Stanley and find out how exactly this whole situation began.

Blue Rodeo aka Stanley is a Dutch Warmblood cross, bred in the USA by JM’s vet, Anne Baskett. He is by 1.60m showjumper stallion Peter Pan out of Sophie, who has show jumped to 1.30m herself (also with JM Durr).

Stanley was originally meant to be a mount for Baskett, but proved to be a bit too much of anxious, spooky, and worried type. JM admits that originally the horse was not his favorite, but says “now in a lot of ways he’s really become my favorite horse.”

It turns out that what Stanley needed was a bit more of a challenge, and as he came into his first year of competing at the Advanced level, he finally started to settle into his job. “The fences finally got his attention enough that he wasn’t spooking at everything like he did at Novice and Training,” JM said.

Even as he moved up the levels, though, things didn’t always look so certain for Stanley. After a particularly difficult show at Tryon, where the horse took exception to a very slightly misplaced dressage arena board and “melted down”, JM knew it was time to try something different. Stanley has always been an anxious horse at shows, not wanting to eat and sometimes even attempting to scale the stall walls. It was to the point where they either needed to find a way to help him mentally, or find him a new career. “It was either the pony, or we were going to stop. He’s always loved the job, but he just couldn’t get out of his own way.”

A match made in heaven? JM and his crew sure think so. Photo by Amanda Chance.

Enter: Nugget.

Nugget accompanies Stanley pretty much everywhere he goes both at home and at horse shows. The warm-up ring, AquaTred, trot and gallop sets (Nugget supervises those more than participates, because Short King legs), hacking – you name it, Nugget is there. They live in the same stall and for all intents and purposes are perfect BFFs. It’s a friendship that’s made all the difference in the world for Stanley, who now happily stands in his stall at shows with his best friend Nugget, both of them dozing together or munching on food.

After our chat, JM invited me down to the barn to meet the mini, so I hopped on the back of his UTV and off we went (note to anyone that might want to kidnap me: this is how). Once there, JM’s groom, Mackenzie Moran, was more than happy to introduce me to Nugget. By the way, his FEI passport has his show name as “Rodeo Clown”… get it? Blue Rodeo, Rodeo Clown? There may have possibly been another very professional squeal on my part when that was revealed.

It’s obvious that Nugget is truly a loved and valued part of the Durr Eventing team, and #supergroom Mackenzie even braided him for dressage this week. Can’t go down to the warm-up ring looking anything less than his best!

What makes Nugget even more heartwarmingly adorable is the fact that he’s got a wry nose, a congenital abnormality that causes his nose to be crooked. If you ask me (and probably Stanley), it just adds to his charm.

While JM and Stanley had an unfortunate blip on cross country today when Stanley got a bit distracted by a tent and just didn’t get his eye on a corner until it was too late, JM still says “this and Morven are probably the two best runs he’s ever had. That was my mistake today, the horse feels great.”

One more nugget of nugget, for posterity. Photo by Amanda Chance.

When asked why he chose TerraNova over other possible options this fall, he was quick to credit the layout and the venue. “This is similar to what we’re seeing for Championships, and you’ve got to support these venues that are going to get us ready to send teams to Championships. You also need tracks like this to support the ticket sales, where people can see everything. It’s a wonderful compliment for the fall calendar that I think is really important and unique, and we’ve got to support it.”

Having now experienced my first event at TerraNova, I can now see what he’s saying. It’s a class venue that puts on a very good event, with all the atmosphere and bells and whistles to put them in the top tier. It was my first weekend at TerraNova, but it won’t be my last. Especially if Nugget and Stanley are coming back… new #1 fan.

The Event at TerraNova (Myakka City, FL): [Website] [Final Scores]

The Experience Does Not Disappoint at The Event at TerraNova

Sara Kozumplik and Rubens d’Ysieux lead the way in the TerraNova 4*-S. Photo by Al Green Photo.

There are eventing shows, and then there are events. When they named the TerraNova fall horse trials “The Event at TerraNova”, they weren’t joking: this, dear reader, is an event.

This weekend was my first time checking out the relatively new facility in Myakka City, FL, about two hours south of Ocala. Like many of you, I’d seen the photos on social media, and it looked nice, but I didn’t really have any pre-conceived notions. I rolled up this morning with my phone, my camera, and my appetite (look, I am a sucker for a good food truck) ready to check out the show jumping for the FEI divisions.

The Event at TerraNova Saturday Show Jumping

Show jumping day one of two. 💥

#TerraNovaEquestrain #TheEventAtTerraNova #ShowJumping #ShowJumper #Eventing #Eventers #FloridaEquestrian

Posted by TerraNova Equestrian Center on Saturday, October 22, 2022

That part did not disappoint. While the 4* field is only 12 entries deep, there are some quality horses among them. Despite having one rail down, Sara Kozumplik and everyone’s favorite unicorn, the Selle Francais gelding Rubens D’ysieux (Balougran Z x Davidoff Silver Shadow, by Mr Blue), are leading the 4* on a score of 35.7. There was only one clear round in that division, logged by Mary Bess Davis and her Anglo European Sporthorse, Imperio Magic (Cassander C x Khadija des Hayettes, by Banboula du Thot), which helped propel them up the leaderboard from 7th place to now be sitting in second position heading into the cross country tomorrow on a 36.7.

Leslie Law and Castle Howard Romeo lead the 3*-S. Photo by Al Green Photo.

Clear rounds proved equally hard to come by in the 3* division, with only five riders adding nothing to their dressage score, now all occupying the top five positions on the leaderboard.

While the FEI divisions were busy show jumping, the lower levels (this event also runs national divisions from Intro on up) were doing the fun stuff out on cross country.

We’re all here for the running and jumping part, am I right? The finish line for the cross country was across the driveway from the show jumping warm-up, and my attention was quickly captured by the cheers and enthusiastic “Good Boy!” and “Good Girl!” coming from that side of the road.

Plenty of room to move about, but an easy enough area to navigate for wanderers. Photo by Amanda Chance.

Luckily the design of TerraNova makes it easy for spectators to see multiple things at once. The show jumping and dressage arenas are centrally located around the VIP pavilion/Rider’s Lounge, with the barns (omg the barns, we’ll get those) on the periphery of that, and then the cross country start box just a bit farther down the road.

In the interest of giving myself a better idea of the lay of the land, I did what any intrepid explorer does -– I started wandering. First down to the cross country warm-up, just in time to catch some of the Training division leaving the start box. Then I walked around part of the cross country track to check out some of the 4* track before heading back in to check out the stabling.

I had heard that the barns were pretty incredible here, and they lived up to the hype: this definitely isn’t your average horse show stabling. The barns are beautiful, with 250 permanent 12 x 12 stalls, each fitted with a stall mattress system along with its own fan and light, operated by individual switches. There are even large TV monitors in each barn aisle, one at each end.

While I was back in the barns I was able to catch up with competitor Amy Etheridge, leader of the Training Rider division, who came all the way to TerraNova from Texas to compete with Oldenburg gelding Royal Lufftanzer.

“I am here on my friend Kathy Rivera’s ex-Advanced horse, Lofty,” Amy described. “He’s 20 this year and I am having a blast and learning so much.” I was there when she left the start box and can attest that the smile was a full 1000 watts.

When asked why she chose this event, over 1100 miles from home, Amy said, “My friend came to the inaugural event last year and raved about the beautiful facilities and wonderful organization. We jumped at the chance to make the trip this year, and the event is even better than I imagined. The attention to detail is amazing in all aspects.”

As for the courses, “They were challenging works of art and a blast to ride! The footing was the most cared for and forgiving ground that I’ve had the opportunity to compete on.”

The amenities here can’t be beat! Photo by Amanda Chance.

On that note, I have to say that you can certainly see where the priorities lay when they were developing this facility. The ground indeed does feel fantastic, and at one point I started trying to count how many sprinklers were situated around the course, but quickly gave up on that venture when I got into the dozens. The jumps and the footing are immaculate.

The more I wandered around the grounds, the more I started seeing all these little things that let you know it was designed with horses and their comfort in mind. The roads between all the barns and rings have a path of looser, softer dirt for the horse traffic, and harder packed dirt for vehicles. There is very little concrete here, with ample space and grass for hand-walking or hand-grazing.

Thoughtful design is evident throughout the rest of the facility as well. From the parking area spectators enter vendor row (I’m always excited to see vendors at horse shows, even if my wallet isn’t), followed by an area for food trucks (the Italian ice is a 10 out of 10), and even an art show. The VIP pavilion sits in between two large arenas, and since there’s also a dressage show happening this weekend, that meant we had dressage on one side and show jumping on the other.

On the other side of the vendors was a “Tiny Town” – a play area for kids (both enclosed and staffed with volunteers, for parents that need a bit of a break from child-wrangling, of which I saw many), to keep them entertained on these long show days.

TerraNova is still in the process of adding on to the facility, but the infrastructure in place so far makes for a great experience for both spectator and participant. Well, except for the fact that I couldn’t find the poutine food truck today… I suppose that’ll be a quest for tomorrow.

Cross country can be viewed live on the Horse & Country live stream here. Take a look at some of the questions Capt. Mark Phillips has laid out for the 4*-S riders below:

The Event at TerraNova (Myakka City, FL): [Website] [Entries] [Live Stream] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Live Stream]

The Breeding Breakdown: Variety is the Spice of Life at Maryland 5 Star

Breeding a quality event horse capable of winning (or placing competitively, or in some cases even finishing!) a modern five-star is a feat that requires skill, creativity, bravery, and a little bit of luck. In her latest column, owner of Breed.Ride.Compete and bloodstock advisor at Willow Tree Warmbloods Amanda Chance breaks down some facts on this year’s Maryland 5 Star podium-finishers. Want more Breeding Breakdown? Click here!

If you’ve studied the pedigrees of top event horses at all in the past couple decades, you’ve probably seen a wide variety of ancestries and breeding. There isn’t just one magical formula to produce a 5* horse, and that fact is particularly evident when you dive into the pedigrees of the top 3 finishers at this year’s Maryland 5 Star.

Tim Price and Coup de Coeur Dudevin. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Coup de Coeur Dudevin
2012 Selle Francais by Top Gun Semilly out of Tiebreak Combehory (by Leprince des Bois)

Bred in Switzerland by owner Jean-Louis Stauffer, this Selle Francais has eventing in his blood. Coup de Coeur Dudevin’s dam, Tiebreak Combehory, is a lower-level eventer herself. Her sire Leprince des Bois reached the 5* level with German rider Kai Rüder, competing at Burghley, Badminton, Luhmühlen, and Pau.

Leprince des Bois’ sire was the Trakehner stallion Yarlands Summer Song, who competed in eventing at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games (finishing 4th individually) as well as the 1994 and 1998 World Equestrian Games.

Yarlands Summer Song’s sire, Fleetwater Opposition, was also an eventer, winning individual and team gold medals at the Junior European Three-Day Event before going on to compete Grand Prix level dressage. Tiebreak Combehory’s dam, Filing des Plaines, was an eventer as well, competing through the 2 Star level. There’s no doubt that the dam’s side of Coup de Coeur Dudevin’s pedigree is absolutely jam-packed with eventers.

His sire, Top Gun Semilly, competed as a show jumper through the 1.45m level. His oldest crop is only 10 years old, but Top Gun Semilly has already produced several eventers through the FEI levels, with Coup de Coeur Dudevin being the first to reach 5* level. Quaprice Bois Margot, Top Gun Semilly’s sire, showjumped through the 1.60m level.

Top Gun Semilly’s dam, Tati du Palis, has been an extremely strong producer in France. She is the dam of one 1.50m showjumper and two 1.60m showjumpers, and has produced four approved stallions, including Andiamo Semilly (by Diamant de Semilly).

Coup de Coeur Dudevin hails from a French Trotter mare family, and has a 12 generation blood percentage of 51%.

Tamie Smith and Danito. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Danito
2009 Hanoverian by Dancier out of Wie Musik (by Wolkenstein II)

This little firecracker of a horse was bred in Germany by Herbert Schuett, and in sharp contrast to Coup de Coeur Dudevin, it’s safe to say he was not originally intended for top level eventing.

His pedigree is jam-packed with horses that are more typically seen in high level dressage, although it’s important to note that if you look more closely there are also several horses in there that were more dual-purpose. The jumping ability in Danito’s pedigree is less evident than most other 5* contenders, but it did not come out of nowhere.

Danito is by the stallion Dancier, who competed to PSG/Intermediare level dressage in Germany. Although Dancier’s sire, Donnerhall, was also a dressage stallion (competing to Grand Prix), Dancier’s dam, Larcana, came from a fairly versatile line –- her direct mare family produced everything from Grand Prix dressage horses to 1.30m show jumpers to a 4* eventer.

On the dam’s side of Danito’s pedigree, it’s still largely ruled by dressage lines. His dam, Wie Musik, is by Wolkenstein II, who was used heavily for dressage breeding. However, Wolkenstein II was not a “jump killer”, and managed to produce some show jumpers that were successful through 1.50m.

On Danito’s dam side you also see the French Anglo-Arab stallion Matcho, who helps bring a bit more blood to the pedigree. His direct mare family has produced, within the last five generations, 11 horses that have show jumped from 1.40m to 1.60m, as well as two international eventers and ten Grand Prix dressage horses.

Danito is from Hanoverian mare family 1189006 and has a 12-generation blood percentage of 41%. His dam Wie Musik also produced the very successful Grand Prix dressage stallion Desperados FRH (by De Niro, another Donnerhall son), who won Team Gold and Individual Bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics with Kristina Bröring-Sprehe.

Oliver Townend and As Is. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

As Is
2011 Spanish Sporthorse by Meneusekal xx out of Paraca (by Lacros)

And just like that, we’re back to the purpose-bred, but arriving at the end product of As Is was done a bit differently than Coup de Coeur Dudevin. As Is, who was bred in Spain by Ramón & Ana Beca (breeders of multiple 5* horses including former Andrew Nicholson rides Nereo and Armada), has a full Thoroughbred sire — in sharp contrast to Coup de Coeur Dudevin’s Selle Francais show jumping sire.

As Is’ sire is French-bred Meneusekal, and although he was a racehorse, he does have a good pedigree for sport as well. Meneusekal’s pedigree contains names that will be familiar to any sport Thoroughbred enthusiast, including Caro, Blushing Groom, and Never Bend. Meneusekal’s sire Kaldounevees is sire, second sire, or damsire to several FEI-level eventers as well as show jumpers up to 1.40m, and Meneusekal himself has produced several international eventers.

The dam of As Is, Paraca, is by the Holsteiner stallion Lacros, by show jumping legend Landgraf. Lacros himself was a 1.60m show jumper, representing Team Germany and earning almost a quarter million Euros in the 1990’s with Dirk Schröder. Paraca has also produced a full sibling to As Is, Damaso, who so far has competed through the 3*-L level with Swiss rider Robin Godel.

The 12-generation blood percentage for As Is comes in around 73%, although it could be higher –- there are only four generations recorded on his damline. Even with a relatively short history, this mare family has been quite successful; within just those four recorded generations, they have produced four 3* eventers, one 4* eventer, one 5* star eventer, and one 1.50m show jumper.

As Is certainly is a good example of combining jumping prowess with the stamina, athleticism, and gallop of the Thoroughbred, and in this case, it undoubtedly worked for producing 5* event horse.

There you have it: three very different horses, yet three very good eventers — from dressage lines to show jumping lines to eventing lines to Thoroughbreds, and ranging from 41% blood to 73% blood. Many roads can indeed lead to Rome, or in this case, many pedigrees can lead to a Maryland podium.

Behind the Breeding: Banzai du Loir

France’s Axel Coutte with a young Banzai du Loir. Photo courtesy of Pierre Gouyé.

When you think about what a top event horse must have looked like as a foal, it’s easy to imagine that surely they must have always looked special — that this caliber of horse is just born beautiful, the crème of the crop, with fantastic gaits and obvious talent from the word go. That they came out of the womb with an air of greatness, obviously marked with a bright future. In reality that isn’t always — or perhaps rarely is — the case.

Indeed, if someone had asked you to choose in 2011 which French-born foal was destined to wear the future title of World Champion, it’s highly unlikely that you would have chosen Banzai du Loir. He was a skinny foal with an umbilical hernia, and in the words of his breeder Pierre Gouyé , “he didn’t make you dream”.

Axel Coutte and Banzai du Loir. Photo courtesy of Pierre Gouyé.

Looking at Banzai’s pedigree though, it’s easy to see how he eventually grew into a quality athlete. His sire, Nouma d’Auzay (by Carthago out of a Quidam de Revel mare), was an exceptional showjumper, competing to 1.55m international Grands Prix. Nouma’s sire, Carthago, was himself was an Olympian, competing in the showjumping at both the 1996 Atlanta Games and the 2000 Sydney Games.

Nouma’s damsire, Quidam de Revel, is one of the most successful modern show jumping sires (if not THE most successful) and also an Olympian, earning 4th place individually with Herve Godignon at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.

But what really drew Gouyé to Nouma d’Auzay, and his reason for choosing the stallion to breed to his mare, was Nouma d’Auzay’s exceptional mother line. His second dam, Via d’Auzay, as well as his third dam, Kysra d’Auzay, both jumped to the 1.60m level (also with Herve Godignon). They hail from Selle Francais mare family 52, one of the most successful and proven sport families in France. Just within the last 5 generations, Nouma d’Auzay’s direct mare family has produced two 1.55m jumpers, two 1.60m jumpers, two 1.65m jumpers, two 4-star event horses, and a 3-star horse.

While Banzai du Loir’s sire is certainly impressive, so too is his dam. Gerboise du Cochet was an event horse herself, competing to the 2-star level in the early 2000s. She was by the stallion Livarot, a Selle Francais who had ample Thoroughbred blood in his pedigree via the stallions Furioso xx, Red Star xx, and Rantzau xx.

Gervoise du Cochet’s dam was a full Thoroughbred, Passera xx, from the TB mare family 2-i, which has produced multiple show jumpers through 1.60m and eventers through five-star. Passera xx was also the dam of Tresor du Cochet, who — in a twist of kismet — competed in the 1998 World Equestrian Games in Pratoni with Cadre Noir rider Pierre de Bastard. Turns out Pratoni runs in Banzai’s family!

All that Thoroughbred blood on his dam’s side helps make up Banzai’s blood percentage of over 66%, and likely contributes to his speed, stamina, and athleticism on the cross country course.

Yasmin Ingham meets Banzai, Pierre, and Axel on a fortuitous shopping trip to France. Photo courtesy of Uptown Eventing.

While Gervoise du Cochet did have two more foals for Pierre Gouyé’s breeding operation, Elevage du Loir, neither of them have yet reached the success of their brother. Nine-year-old Divine du Loir (by Kalaska de Semilly) has competed through 5 and 6 year old eventing classes in France with an amateur, despite breaking her jaw in a pasture accident as a 4 year old. Eleven-year-old Aspro du Loir (by Quinoto Bois Margot) was sold to the UK, where he competed through the BE100 level and in Pony Club events.

Despite being a perhaps not-so-promising foal, Banzai’s pedigree along with his excellent training certainly helped pave the way for his future success. Gouyé is quick to credit both Yasmin Ingham as well as French rider Axel Coutte for helping the horse realize his full potential. As a young horse, Banzai was competed by Coutte through the 3* level, including a trip to Le Lion d’Angers Breeding World Championships in 2018 where they finished 26th in the 7 year old class.

When asked how it felt to be the breeder of a World Champion, Gouyé replied with what I can only imagine is the most perfect answer: the Star Eyes emoji. Perhaps the only adequate and appropriate way to sum up what has turned out to be a truly fantastic superstar of a horse. Trust us, Monsieur Gouyé, we’re all starstruck for Banzai too.

The Breeding Breakdown: Pratoni 2022 Edition

Breeding a quality event horse capable of winning (or placing competitively, or in some cases even finishing!) a modern five-star is a feat that requires skill, creativity, bravery, and a little bit of luck. Breeding one that will make it to World Championships? A whole new challenge. In her latest column, owner of Breed.Ride.Compete and bloodstock advisor at Willow Tree Warmbloods Amanda Chance breaks down some facts on this year’s World Championships field.

Note: In this column, xx = full Thoroughbred, “second sire” = the sire’s sire

PS: Want your own guide to breeding at Pratoni? Download the full guide from Breed.Ride.Compete here.

Andrew Hoy’s Vassily de Lassos is one of five horses in this year’s World Championships field sired by Jaguar Mail. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It might be FEI Eventing World Championships week in Pratoni, but if you look at the pedigrees of this edition’s entrants, you might also say that it’s looking like a bit of a family reunion.

There are a handful of sires that have multiple offspring representing them this week in Italy, with Selle Francais stallion Jaguar Mail leading the charge. He’s the sire of five horses competing at this Championship:

  • Vassily de Lassos (Andrew Hoy)
  • Colorado Blue (Austin O’Connor)
  • Ferreolus Lat (Miroslav Prihoda Jr.)
  • Box Leo (Frida Andersen)
  • Joystick (Aminda Ingulfson)

Though he was a 1.60m show jumper himself, Jaguar Mail has proven to be a very successful sire of event horses — something that perhaps is not at all surprising if you look at his pedigree.

I had the lucky privilege of meeting Jaguar Mail in the flesh, pictured here at his home in Normandy, France in 2019.

He’s 82% blood, by the full Thoroughbred stallion Hand in Glove xx, and also has a full Thoroughbred damsire in Laudanum xx. Hand in Glove xx had a remarkable career, starting out on the racetrack as a two-year-old before transitioning to a dressage career that took him all the way up to Prix St. Georges before transitioning again to a jumper career where he competed to World Cup level.

Laudanum xx was no slouch either, having also show jumped to the 1.60m level. Jaguar Mail lived up to his pedigree, competing in the 2008 Hong Kong Olympics for Team Sweden under the saddle of Peter Eriksson. Given his jumping ability and his high percentage of Thoroughbred blood, he’s been a popular stallion for eventing breeders, and well… it seems to be working.

If that isn’t enough to convince you that it is indeed possible to purpose-breed for eventing, the Trakehner stallion Birkhof’s Grafenstolz is the next most-represented stallion in the field, with four offspring:

  • Lordships Graffalo (Ros Canter)
  • Candy King (Holly Jacks)
  • Shjabrina (Mia Hastrup)
  • Absolut Gold HDC (Nicolas Touzaint)

Some of you may remember Grafenstolz from his eventing career in part because he was competed by a wee German lad (who at that time was only in his early 20’s) by the name of Michael Jung (pics or it didn’t happen). Together they won the six-year-old Young Horse World Championship title at Lion d’Angers in 2004, and Ze Terminator (was he Ze Terminator yet, back in those days?) took him up through the four-star level. Grafenstolz is a well-utilized stallion for producing eventers, and again, it’s easy to see why.

There is one more eventing stallion who shows up multiple times in the field – Yarlands Summer Song, sire of two entries.

  • Toblerone
  • Alertamalib’or

A World Championships horse himself with a 1994 silver medal and a 1998 silver medal to his credit, Yarlands Summer Song finished fourth individually at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He was also a very good producer despite getting a later start to his stud career, siring six 5* horses. In addition to the two direct offspring here at Pratoni, Yarlands Summer Song also appears in the pedigree of one other horse: he’s the second damsire of Spanish rider Gonzalo Blasco Botin’s Sij Veux D’autize.

A few other stallions also make appearances in the pedigree of multiple horses. Jumper phenom Diamant de Semilly, who himself competed to 1.60m level show jumping, is the direct sire of two entrants (Toledo de Kerser and Viamant du Matz) and his son Pacino is the sire of two more (Ballypatrick SRS and Monbeg by Design). Diamant de Semilly is also the second sire of Mahalia (by Elvis ter Putte).

One dressage stallion is also making his mark on this group here in Pratoni (perhaps trying to add a bit of propriety and civility to all this aforementioned “insanity in the middle”) – Fidertanz is the sire of both Fallulah and Fifty Fifty. Despite being bred for dressage (and indeed he competed through Grand Prix himself) Fidertanz does have some “jump” on the dam’s side of his pedigree, something that has probably helped him be a fairly successful sire of eventers. Thus far Fallulah is his only offspring to have made it to five-star level, but he has a handful currently competing at four-star as well.

While he doesn’t have any direct offspring in this field (fair enough, he was born in 1984) I would be remiss to write any type of article about eventing families and not include Contender. Looking at the Pratoni field he is the second sire of four horses (Goliath by Chello III, Fernhill Wishes by Chacoa, fischerChipmunk by Contendro, Calle 44 by Cristo), the damsire of one horse (Canvalencia by Verdi TN), the third sire of one horse (Swiper JRA by Contenda), and second damsire of one horse (Cartania). Contender, Contender everywhere.

If we look at the mother’s side of the pedigree (this is where things always get more fun, if you ask me) we have a couple of stallions that show up in the damsire position more than once.

Rock King, who was himself an Advanced/4* level eventer, is the damsire of three horses, all three of whom are British-bred and registered with SHBGB.

  • Lordship’s Graffalo
  • Colorado Blue
  • Menlo Park

Selle Francais stallion Bayard d’Elle, who competed to 1.60m level showjumping, is the damsire of two horses.

Fidgy des Melezes
Toubleu de Rueire
Toubleau de Rueire is registered Selle Francais, and Fidgy des Melezes is registered sBs (Belgian Sporthorse – not to be confused with BWP, which is Belgian Warmblood)

The most popular type of mare family in the field is Thoroughbred, with 24 horses hailing from a Thoroughbred mare line. The most represented are family 14 and family 1, with five horses from each. The only subfamily that shows up more than once is 14-b, with Virgil and Colorado Blue.
We also see two warmblood mare families with multiple appearances.

Selle Francais 20/21, descending from the mare Camera, has two entrants in Hermione d’Arville (Camera is her 5th dam) and Darmagnac de Beliard (Camera is his 3rd dam). This has proven to be a remarkable mare family, having produced dozens of 1.60m show jumpers and several 4* and 5* horses, including 2018 Pau winner Siniani de Lathus (ridden by France’s Thibault Fournier).

Holsteiner Stamm 4847 has two horses: Imperial van de Holtakker and Meyer’s Happy.

To sum up? When you’re sitting there sipping your coffee at 5 a.m., squinting at the Pratoni live stream and muttering something to yourself about how all these dang horses look the same… well… welcome to the family reunion.

The Breeding Breakdown: Mare Families Shine at Burghley

Breeding a quality event horse capable of winning (or placing competitively, or in some cases even finishing!) a modern five-star is a feat that requires skill, creativity, bravery, and a little bit of luck. In her latest column, owner of Breed.Ride.Compete and bloodstock advisor at Willow Tree Warmbloods Amanda Chance breaks down some facts that caught her eye as we look at Burghley in the rearview.

Note: In this column, xx denotes a full Thoroughbred horse

Every time a big event is done and dusted I like to take peek through the breeding of the top 10 to 20 finishers to see if there’s anything interesting or noteworthy. Spoiler alert: there almost always is, and the 2022 Burghley field was no exception.

This year the top spots were dominated by mostly higher blood horses, with at least four of the top 10 (there’s some debate as to the pedigree of a couple horses –- more on that later) having one full Thoroughbred parent, and every single one of the top five finishers having a Thoroughbred damsire.

The real story for me though, when you dig a bit deeper, is in the incredible depth of the mare families of most of these horses.

The term “mare family” is used to refer to the female line of a horse’s pedigree (also called the tail-female line) and the offspring of the mares within that line. Most breeders will agree that when it comes to producing good horses, the mare is the more important part of the equation. Of particular interest to most breeders, aside from the particular mare at hand, is her entire mare family in general. What have they done performance-wise, and what other horses have they produced? This is something that is tracked almost obsessively by many breeders, and argued about extensively around dinner tables and online. Different mare families are even assigned numbers by many studbooks in order to make them easier to track and reference.

If we take our top 10 Burghley finishers and take an in depth look at their mare families, this is how they break down.

Piggy March and 2019 Badminton winner/2022 Burghley winner Vanir Kamira. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

1: Vanir Kamira (Camiro de Haar Z x Fair Caledonian by Dixi xx) / ISH / bred by Kathryn Jackson / between 48% to 74% blood

Vanir Kamira is by the 1.60m showjumping stallion Camiro de Haar Z (Challano Z x Ramiro Z) who has one other 5* horse to his credit in Fiona Kashel’s Creevagh Silver de Haar. Her dam, Fair Caledonian, was by the Thoroughbred stallion Dixi xx, out of a mare called Fair Words. Unfortunately the pedigree and breeding of Fair Words is not known for certain (she was purchased for £200 from a Horse and Hound ad) but she was believed to be full Thoroughbred. Without knowing the breeding of Fair Words, Vanir Kamira’s provable blood percentage is 48%. If we assume that Fair Words was full Thoroughbred, that means she’s more like 74%. Big difference!

While Fair Caledonian herself was described as “slightly underwhelming” (indeed she finished only 15.1h at maturity) by her breeder Kate Stevens, she has proven her worth as a broodmare. In addition to Vanir Kamira she also produced two other mares: Vanir Silver River (by Golden River) and Camacazy Diamond (by Mount Diamond Flag). Vanir Silver River is the dam of the aforementioned Creevagh Silver de Haar, Camiro de Haar’s other 5* offspring. Camacazy Diamond produced an FEI horse in Fernhill Fine Diamond, who competed to 3*-L in the U.S. with Mia Farley.

Tom Jackson and Capels Hollow Drift. Photo by Libby Law.

2: Capels Hollow Drift (Shannondale Sarco St Ghyven x Lucky Crest by Lucky Gift xx) / ISH / bred by Jeanette Glynn / at least 52% blood

Capels Hollow Drift is by popular Ireland-based stallion Shannondale Sarco St Ghyven, who is also the sire of 5* horse Woodstock Bennett (Ryan Wood). While the documented mare line of Capels Hollow Drift’s pedigree only goes back four generations to the mare Cotton Ginny (whose dam was unrecorded) his dam, Lucky Crest, has proven to be an excellent producer of event horses. In addition to Capels Hollow Drift she also has two 4* horses to her credit: With Love and Triple Point, both by Beau Royale xx.

Tim Price’s Vitali steps up to the plate and grows in confidence around his first Burghley. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

3: Vitali (Contender x Noble Lady I by Heraldik xx) / HOL / bred by Guenther Fielmann / 56% blood

Vitali’s sire, Contender, has proven to be an excellent line for eventing, particularly through his son Contendro. Vitali’s dam, Noble Lady I, is by the full Thoroughbred stallion Heraldik xx, and it’s not a surprise to see a horse from the Contender/Contendro x Heraldik xx “nick” on the podium at a big event — it’s a popular one for producing event horses (fischerChipmunk ring a bell?).

Vitali’s dam, Noble Lady I, has a couple other performance horses to her name with a 1.30m show jumper and a 1.40m show jumper. She also produced a mare named Tessa (by Cassini) that is the dam of 1.50m showjumper Malin 21, by Mylord Carthago. Vitali is from Holsteiner mareline (also known as Stamm in German) 3317, which has also produced WEG show jumper Dominator Z (Christian Ahlmann).

Jonelle Price and Classic Moet: full of gumption in the final phase. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

4: Classic Moet (Classic xx x Gamston Bubbles by Bohemond xx) / SHBGB / bred by Elaine Hepworth / 88% blood

Classic Moet is another one with a partially undocumented pedigree, but we do know enough to prove that performance runs in this mare family. Her dam, Gamston Bubbles, competed to Advanced with Classic Moet’s breeder Elaine Hepworth. We know that Gamston Bubbles was 1/4 Shire, so by crossing her to a full Thoroughbred stallion in Classic xx, the resulting offspring is 7/8 TB. Classic Moet also had a full sibling, Classic Piper, who competed to 4* (Elizabeth Hayden and Michael McNally). Time will tell if Classic Moet passes on the family talent –- she has two four-year-old Upsilon foals produced via embryo transfer.

Alice Casburn and Topspin celebrate a classy clear. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

5: Topspin (Zento x Capriati by El Conquistador xx) / SHBGB / bred by Caroline Casburn / 70% blood

I will admit that tracking down the pedigree of this one led to me sending a perhaps somewhat stalker-ish WhatsApp message to the breeder (#sorrynotsorry), who is also rider Alice Casburn’s mother. Topspin is a second generation homebred from the Casburn breeding program, out of their Thoroughbred mare Capriati xx, who is by the stallion El Conquistador xx, by Shirley Heights xx. Capriati’s dam is a mare named Spangle that Caroline competed to Advanced.

Kitty King and Vendredi Biats. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

6: Vendredi Biats (Winningmood x Liane Normande by Camelia de Ruelles) / SF / bred by Phillippe Brivois and Sophie Floquet / 52% blood

Lest you start thinking “Aha! We’ve found one without a close Thoroughbred relative!”, you should sit back down because Vendredi Biats’ second dam is by Count Ivor xx — a Thoroughbred sire who is quite common to see on the dam’s side of modern event horses. Vendredi Biats’ sire, Winningmood, show jumped to 1.60m and has mostly sired show jumpers, with Vendredi Biats being the only event horse so far to have made it past 3* level.

The mare family of Vendredi Biats has considerable depth with it comes to performance: in addition to Vendredi Biats it has produced 5* horse Jacquet (by Amarpour xx), 4* horse Trappeur Norman (by King’s Road xx) , 4* horse Nova V (by Starter), and 3* horse Garaut (by St Brendan xx). It can also lay claim to three 1.60m show jumpers.

Richard Jones and Alfies Clover. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

7: Alfies Clover (Tajraasi xx x Aoifes Clover by Clover Hill) / ISH / bred by James Hickey / 72% blood

The sire of Alfies Clover, Tajraasi xx, is a full brother to Group 1 winner and successful National Hunt Cup sire Germany xx. So far at the top levels of eventing Tajraasi xx has produced Alfies Clover and 4* horse Kilballyboy Bob. On the dam’s side of Alfies Clover’s pedigree we unfortunately only have five generations before we again come to an unrecorded mare. While his mare family is not as extensive as some, his dam Aoifes Clover has also produced two 1.30m show jumpers.

2019 Burghley champion Pippa Funnell with Billy Walk On. Photo by Libby Law.

8: Billy Walk On (Billy Mexico x Shannon Line by Golden Bash xx) / SHBGB / bred by Donal Barnwell / 69% blood

Billy Walk On’s sire, Billy Mexico, show jumped to 1.50m and is also sire to three 4* horses. In addition to 5* horse Billy Walk On, his dam, Shannon Line, has also produced two 4* horses and a 3* horse. This mare family has been particularly effective at producing show jumpers: one of Shannon Line’s daughters, Shannon Bells (by Animo), has produced 6 (six!) horses that have show jumped from 1.30m or higher, including 1.60m horse Billy Bella, by Vechta. Shannon Line herself was 7/8 Thoroughbred and 1/8 Irish Draught.

Tom Crisp and Liberty and Glory. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

9: Liberty and Glory (Caretino Glory x Little Runnymede xx by Ginger Boy xx) / SHBGB / bred by Patricia and Robin Balfour / 67% blood

Liberty and Glory is another homebred out of a high performance mare; her dam, Little Runnymede xx, is a full Thoroughbred who ran Advanced with Tim Crisp’s wife Sofie Crisp (née Balfour). She is from the Thoroughbred mare family 1-j, the same as 5* eventers Superstition, Global Fision M, Calico Joe, and Landmark’s Monte Carlo, just to name a few.

Liberty and Glory’s sire, Caretino Glory, show jumped to 1.60m and has yet to produce any other 4* or 5* event horses.

Cornelia Dorr delivers a masterclass in tactful riding with Daytona Beach 8 (Duke of Hearts xx x Sandance by Santander 8) in their Burghley/5* debut. Photo by Libby Law.

10: Daytona Beach 8 (Duke of Hearts xx x Sandance by Santander 8) / OLD / bred by Dr Rolf Lück / 67% blood

I will admit that I’ve been following this horse for years, partly because she’s just plain fun to watch and partly because I love her sire. Duke of Hearts xx, a full Thoroughbred stallion by Halling xx out of a Keonigsstuhl xx mare, was not very heavily used early on in his stud career, but despite having a fairly modest number of offspring over the age of 10 has so far managed to produce four 4* horses in addition to the newly-minted 5* horse Daytona Beach 8.

Another notable up and coming Duke of Hearts xx offspring can be found in the barn of Laura Collett. Outback finished second in the 7-year-old Championship at Le Lion d’Angers in 2021 and won the 3*-L at Millstreet this year.

Daytona Beach 8’s dam, Sandance, show jumped to 1.20m herself, as did her dam Sweet Iris. So far Sandance has been the best-producing mare of her family, particularly when crossed with Duke of Hearts xx. There are several full siblings from this pairing, including a 1.30m show jumper, a 1.20m show jumper, and a 2* eventer.

Okay I swore I was going to stop at 10 (is anyone still alive out there?) but the 11th place horse might be the most interesting mare family of all, so I just can’t resist including her.

Ros Canter and Pencos Crown Jewel. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

11: Pencos Crown Jewel (Jumbo x Cornish Queen by Rock King) / SHBGB / bred by Pennie Wallace / 61% blood

By the Advanced level eventing stallion Jumbo, Pencos Crown Jewel might be a 5* horse but she’s already proven her value as breeding stock as well, having produced two foals via embryo transfer when she was 3 and 4 years old. Her first foal, a 2012 mare named Jamakin Faer Trial (by Mill Law), has competed to 3* level with British rider Gracie Lovett Brunt.

Pencos Crown Jewel is continuing the legacy of what has proven to be a fairly remarkable mare family. Cornish Queen, the dam of Pencos Crown Jewel, is also the dam of 5* horse Lordships Graffalo (who was tapped to rep Great Britain with Ros at this week’s FEI World Championships) and up-and-coming 3* horse Lordships Parc Royale.

Cornish Queen is at least 84% Thoroughbred. Her second dam, Cornish Faer, was a 5* horse, completing Badminton and Burghley. Cornish Faer’s dam Tregea, a full sister to 1972 Olympian Cornish Gold, produced five Advanced level eventers. Tregea’s dam, April The First, produced two 5* horses and a Grade A show jumper. She was also a Grade A show jumper herself, known for having cleared 7’ in the Puissance at the Horse of the Year Show in the UK. Not only is this mare family full of high performance horses, they’ve also more than proven their worth through their offspring as well.

Girl power, indeed.

The Ride of the Century: An Olympian and a USDF Gold Medalist Earn Their Place in the Century Club

Cheryl and Windfall strike a pose with Tim Holekamp. Photo by Amanda Chance.

Most eventing fans or sport horse breeding enthusiasts worth their salt have undoubtedly heard of the Trakehner stallion Windfall (Habicht x Wundermaedel xx – Madruzzo xx), owned by Tim and Cheryl Holekamp of New Spring Farm.

Not only was the Trakehner stallion Pan-Am double gold medalist and Olympian under the saddle of U.S. rider Darren Chiacchia, Windfall was also a Grand Prix level dressage horse and has enjoyed a successful breeding career, siring two Olympic eventers in Boyd Martin’s Tsetserleg and Doug Payne’s Vandiver.

While that may seem like more than enough accolades for any horse, last week he and Cheryl Holekamp added yet another to the list: The Dressage Foundation’s Century Club.

While Windfall’s resume looks impressive, so too is Cheryl’s. She is a USDF Gold Medalist and “S” judge, and together with her husband Tim has been a long-time Trakehner breeder. They are also both staunch supporters of eventing and the USEA Young Event Horse program, co-sponsoring the Holekamp-Turner YEH Lion d’Angers Grant for the FEI World Young Horse Breeding Championships in France. The Holekamps were also named Trakehner Breeders of the Year in 2019 by the German Trakehner Association — the first time American breeders had ever earned the title, an honor credited in large part to Windfall.

On what was a beautiful (albeit a bit warm) afternoon in Ocala, Florida, 30-year-old Windfall trotted up centerline one more time with Cheryl — on her 70th birthday, no less! In order to be eligible for the Century Club the horse and rider’s combined ages must equal at least 100, and they must perform a test at any level, scored by a dressage judge or professional. Since the Holekamps do nothing by halves, especially when it comes to Windfall, they had the ride panel-judged by “S” judges Natalie Lamping and Jodi Ely.

My first impression upon arriving for the event was that Windfall looks absolutely incredible. He’s still moving well and is in fantastic condition, a feat for any 30-year-old horse, but particularly one who had a lengthy career at the upper levels of eventing followed by a busy FEI-dressage and breeding career.

As Cheryl and Windfall entered the arena you could see that Windfall knew exactly what type of business was at hand, and being the seasoned professional and showman that he (still) is, he puffed up and added a bit more spring to his step. He seems to still enjoy his work, something he was known for throughout his eventing and dressage careers.

30 and still rocking it! Windfall and Cheryl Holekamp at their Century Ride. Photo by Amanda Chance.

The ride was lovely, with the pair exhibiting certainly more than enough proficiency and harmony to earn their way into the Century Club. The judges agreed, and after their final halt Windfall and Cheryl passaged and piaffed their way around the arena one last time to the applause of their friends, family, and fans before receiving their official Century Club accolades.

Cheryl and Windfall completed their ride at Autumn Schweiss’ picturesque Ocala farm, which is across the street from the Holekamps, where Windfall offspring could be seen in the distance galloping across the lush green fields as their sire and Cheryl made yet more history.

The occasion felt significant — as it should — and it’s safe to say that everyone in attendance was moved and inspired to be part of such a special occasion. While this was not the first time Cheryl and Windfall have trotted up centerline together – after he retired from his eventing career she rode him through Grand Prix level dressage – it was most likely their last. In a moment that could have felt bittersweet, it instead felt like a celebration, one worthy of a horse that has accomplished as much as Windfall with the owners that have loved him so dearly.

Cheryl and Windfall accept their Century Club prizes with Natalie Lamping and Jodi Ely. Photo by Amanda Chance.

When asked what he was like to ride these days, in his golden years, Cheryl exclaimed, “He’s always been sassy and he’s still sassy!” While Windfall has been enjoying his retirement for the past several years, he was also more than happy to come back to work. Earlier in the year when the Holekamps first decided to plan the Century Club ride, the first step was to determine if Windfall could do it. He answered that question quite clearly when, upon putting him in the round pen to watch him move, he showed just how proficient he still was at performing some very impressive airs above the ground.

Windfall spent a few weeks in the round pen until his excitement at being brought out of retirement settled down a bit, and then Cheryl started riding him a few days a week, with mostly short rides of only about 15 minutes. When she was out of town for various judging obligations Windfall also went on road hacks, one of his favorite activities. He often greets Cheryl in the barn with his head hanging over his stall door, ears pricked, interested to find out what’s happening that day.

Photo by Amanda Chance.

Windfall’s indomitable spirit might be credited in part to his breeding – Windfall is ¾ blood thanks to his full Thoroughbred dam Wundermaedel xx (who competed to the 4* level herself) and his second sire Burnus, an Anglo Arab. His sire, Habicht, was also a successful eventer, competing for Germany through the 5* level.

Windfall’s eventing career began as a four-year-old with Ingrid Klimke, who took him all the way from Young Horse Championships through former-CIC3*, earning a Horse of the Year title in Germany along the way. With Ingrid he was long listed for the 2000 Sydney Olympics before being purchased in 2000 by the Holekamps, who have always seen something extra-special in him.

Speaking with the Holekamps about Windfall, it’s immediately apparent that he is an integral part of their lives. As soon as you mention his name you can see the softening of Cheryl’s eyes accompanied by the hint of a smile, or the fierce pride that seems to light up Tim’s face.

When asked to describe how much Windfall means to them, Cheryl said, “Everything. He means everything. He’s taken us around the world to so many places, we’ve met so many amazing people, and gotten to do so many incredible things. It’s been an amazing journey. It’s been an honor to have him in our lives. He’s truly one of a kind, definitely the horse of a lifetime.”

And yes, there’s video!

Many congratulations and a sincere thank you to the Holekamps on their accomplishments and for the unwavering support of our sport through their work.

Thoroughbred Influence is Alive and Well at LRK3DE

Each year, we’re always happy to partner with the Retired Racehorse Project to spotlight the versatile, sporty Thoroughbreds that are so adored as eventing partners. EN breeding columnist Amanda Chance checks in with her observations on the Thoroughbred influence found in this year’s field for the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event. Be sure to stop and say hello to RRP at the LRK3DE Trade Fair

While the full Thoroughbred doesn’t quite dominate upper-level eventing the way it did in the days of the long format, the importance of Thoroughbred blood and the ability of the full Thoroughbred to still compete amongst the world’s elite is undeniable. That includes, of course, the field at this year’s Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, presented by MARS Equestrian.

As of publication, the field for the 5* is 46-strong, including eight full Thoroughbreds and an additional nine horses who have one full Thoroughbred parent. The eight full Thoroughbred entrants are as follows:

Jessica Phoenix and Bogue Sound. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Bogue Sound – bred in KY by James Herbener
Bloodlines: Crafty Shaw (Crafty Prospector) x Carolina Blue (Victory Gallop)
Race record and earnings: 7-1-1-1, $11,358

Phillip Dutton and Sea of Clouds. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Sea of Clouds – bred in KY by Betz Thoroughbreds
Bloodlines: Malibu Moon (AP Indy) x Winner’s Ticket (Jolie’s Halo)
Race record and earnings: 2-0-0-0, $200

Elisa Wallace and Let It Be Lee. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Let it be Lee (JC: Leerider) – bred in KY by Nursery Place & Partners
Bloodlines: Bernstein (Storm Cat) x Sugaree (Broad Brush)
Race record and earnings: 12-1-2-1, $12,913

Leah Lang Gluscic and AP Prime. Photo by Shelby Allen.

AP Prime – bred in KY by Dixiana Stables
Bloodlines: Aptitude (AP Indy) x Czarina Kate (The Prime Minister)
Race record and earnings: 31-2-4-5, $20,175

Buck Davidson and Sorocaima. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Sorocaima – bred in KY by Machmer Hall & Poindexter Thoroughbreds
Bloodlines: Rock Hard Ten (Kris S) x Sankobasi (Pulpit)
Race record and earnings: 43-4-8-2, $82,396

Meghan O’Donoghue and Palm Crescent. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Palm Crescent – bred in NY by Eugene Melnyk
Bloodlines: Quiet American (Fappiano) x Edey’s Village (Silver Deputy)
Race record and earnings: 12-1-0-0, $9,462

Jessica Phoenix and Wabbit. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Wabbit (JC: Molinaro Kissing)– bred in Ontario, Canada by Molinaro Stable
Bloodlines: Line of Departure (AP Indy) x No Kissing (Great Gladiator)
Race Record and earnings: 5-0-0-0 $2,217

Mike Pendleton and Steady Eddie. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Steady Eddie (JC: Big Jet) – bred in New Zealand by Seven Creeks Estate
Bloodlines: Jet Ball (Marscay) x Tuonela (Chief’s Crown)
Race Record and earnings: 36-7-2-3, $30,352

Among these full Thoroughbreds we see some sires with multiple representations within the first few generations of the entrants’ pedigrees, most notably with three of the eight horses having been sired by different sons of AP Indy. We also see another AP Indy representation in Sorocaima via his damsire Pulpit, meaning that half of the full Thoroughbred entrants in this LRK3DE field have AP Indy within the first few generations.

While AP Indy is quite prevalent in a lot of Thoroughbred pedigrees these days, other stallions who are just as prevalent (such as Storm Cat) do not have as many representations in this field as AP Indy does. The other stallion seen on repeat relatively close-up in the pedigree is Deputy Minister, who is the sire of two of the entrants’ damsires: AP Prime’s The Prime Minister and Palm Crescent’s Silver Deputy.

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Of the nine entrants with one full Thoroughbred parent, seven of those are out of full Thoroughbred mares. These horses include Jollybo, Paper Jam, Covert Rights, Honor Me, Harbour Pilot, Landmark’s Monte Carlo, and Quantum Leap. Jollybo was bred in Ireland, Honor Me was bred in Canada, and the other five were all bred in the United States.

Kimmy Cecere & Landmark’s Monaco. Photo by Abby Powell.

Among these full Thoroughbred dams, we have a few that have already made their mark as notable producers. Landmark’s Monte Carlo’s dam Glamour (by Flash Tycoon) has also produced a 4*L horse in Landmark’s Monaco, a full brother to Landmark’s Monte Carlo who competes at the 4* level with Kimmy Cecere. Quantum Leap’s dam Report to Sloopy (by Corporate Report) has also produced a Grand Prix showjumper. Honor Me’s dam Dream Contessa (by Royal Chocolate) has also produced a 4* horse, Smart Moves, a full sibling to Honor Me.

Additionally, Paper Jam’s dam Reely Jamin had a long racing career of her own before becoming a broodmare, with 62 starts to her name including 11 wins and $62,014 in earnings. Covert Rights’ dam Let’s Get It Right made three starts on the track, and Landmark Monte Carlo’s dam Glamour made six starts in Australia before retiring from racing and being imported to the U.S. Quantum Leap’s dam Report to Sloopy was technically a racehorse as well, having made one start.

Pippa Funnell and Majas Hope. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

This leaves two entrants with a full Thoroughbred sire: Majas Hope and Galloway Sunrise. Majas Hope is by racing stallion Porter Rhodes, who is by Hawaii, a name that some of you may remember as the sire of Dorothy Crowell’s great 4* horse and USEA Hall of Fame Inductee Molokai. Like his sire, Porter Rhodes has proven to be a good sport producer in his own right, with several top-level eventers and Grand Prix showjumpers to his name. Galloway Sunrise is by Kentucky-bred stallion Duty Officer (by Polish Navy).

In addition to those horses, if we go one generation further back in the pedigrees there are also seven more LRK3DE entrants with a full Thoroughbred damsire: Vandiver, Morswood, Capitol HIM, Millfield Lancando, C’est la Vie 135, Calmaro, and Fischerchipmunk FRH. There are also three others with a full Thoroughbred second sire: Voltaire de Tre, Landmark’s Monte Carlo, and Maybach. Some Thoroughbred sires we see in the pedigrees of the warmblood and sporthorse entrants are Heraldik, Hand in Glove, Laudanum, and Mytens.

Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Basically, it’s pretty common to see a full Thoroughbred within the first few generations of a top-level event horse’s pedigree. But if these aren’t enough to convince you of the continued relevance of the Thoroughbred in modern eventing, let’s take a look at the rest of the field.

One of the hottest topics with both event breeders and riders alike is blood percentage, especially with regards to determining the right or necessary blood percentage for an upper-level event horse.

What do we mean when we say “blood percentage”? The modern warmblood descended originally from farm horses, cart horses, etc. mixed with blood horses (often from racing breeding) to create something more athletic, sportier, and more suitable for riding. In simplest possible terms, “blood percentage” means the amount of “blood” (usually via Thoroughbred, sometimes via French Anglo Arab or Arabian) in a warmblood or sporthorse.

Think of it a bit like the horse version of Ancestry.com. This percentage is determined by the accumulation of all the horses throughout the entire pedigree. Many believe that a higher blood percentage equals more stamina, more speed, better agility, etc – all the things a Thoroughbred is typically known for. Others will argue that different factors come into play just as much as the blood percentage.

As far as how much blood is the necessary amount…ask five different people and you’ll probably get 10 different answers. That hotly contested topic is a discussion for another day. In reality, it depends on a lot of things, but what we do know for sure is that having blood in the pedigree seems to be key in a sport that involves galloping and jumping.

If we look at this LRK3DE field in particular, the overall average blood percentage of all the entrants is 64%. If we exclude all the full Thoroughbreds (which are of course 100% blood) the average blood percentage of the field is still about 55%, although keep in mind that this number is likely a bit lower than reality due to a few horses having unrecorded parts of their pedigree. So the average non-Thoroughbred horse in the field is still more than half “blood”. We do have some extremes at both ends, too, ranging from 33.98% (5* first-timer Fortuna) to 88.5% (the typically fairly speedy Landmark’s Monte Carlo).

Whether you’re sat on a full Thoroughbred or not, the influence of the Thoroughbred in eventing, and especially in this field here at LRK3DE in 2022, is certainly alive and well in every horse.

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The Blood Mare: America’s Overlooked Advantage

Doug Payne and Quantum Leap. Photo by Shelby Allen.

I will never forget what French 5* rider Maxime Livio said at a Young Event Horse seminar I attended a few years ago, when asked which horse of the group he would choose to take home for himself. He slowly surveyed the group of horses, looked back at the person who had posed the question, and said “Which one has the most Thoroughbred blood? I’ll take that one.”

There’s no doubting the importance of Thoroughbred blood in the modern event horse. Even though the sport has veered away from the original long format and its heavy emphasis on stamina, it’s still a sport deeply rooted in jumping, galloping, lightness, speed, and stamina. While the full Thoroughbred event horse has perhaps fallen by the wayside a bit in favor of the flashier movement and jumping prowess of the European warmblood, for as long as cross country exists, a healthy infusion of Thoroughbred blood will still be vital to our sport.

It isn’t just eventing that has felt the importance of the Thoroughbred. Modern warmbloods as a whole — especially Holsteiners, some of the best show jumpers in the world — would not exist as we know them today without the influence of some key Thoroughbreds along the way.

Lauren Nicholson and Landmark’s Monte Carlo. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Ladykiller (the sire of Landgraf and Lord), Rantzau (the sire of Cor de la Breyere), Furioso (the sire of Furioso II), Laudanum, Cottage Son, Hand in Glove, Mytens…almost every modern jumping horse can trace their lineage back to at least one, if not more, of these influences. The introduction of Thoroughbred blood was absolutely crucial for the development of the warmblood, so why do we sometimes have a negative view of it today?

But it’s not just the full blood stallions that have had an impact, especially when we look at eventing in particular. At the 2021 Olympic Games there were nine horses in the eventing competition that had a full Thoroughbred parent, and five of those were out of a full Thoroughbred dam. At Bicton 5* in 2021, 11 horses had a full Thoroughbred parent, with six of them being the dam.

These numbers are even more impressive when you consider that in Europe it is much more common to use a Thoroughbred stallion rather than a Thoroughbred mare, given that their mare base is mainly warmblood and sporthorses. The numbers prove that there’s no doubting the success and legitimacy of producing a top level event horse from a full Thoroughbred dam.

Joe Meyer and Buccaneer. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

More recently, your 2022 Red Hills 4* winner Landmark’s Monte Carlo is a U.S.-bred out of a full Thoroughbred dam, and the third place horse in that class was Buccaneer, out of a full Thoroughbred dam.

When breeding top class event horses the old European adage of “blood on top” does not seem to apply. Indeed, the results seem to show that it doesn’t particularly matter what side of the pedigree the blood comes from for an event horse, just so long as it’s there. In Europe it’s more practical to add the blood via the stallion, given that they have very few Thoroughbred mares. But here? We have plenty of Thoroughbreds. And if we know one thing by now, it’s that “blood on bottom” is proven to work just as successfully.

As American breeders and horse buyers, this is something we should see as an advantage. We face a lot of issues that Europe does not: geographic size, the higher cost of raising horses, a more limited number of quality stallions, etc. But what we do have, in spades, are good Thoroughbred mares to choose from. In 2015 America produced almost 21,000 registered Thoroughbreds, compared to Britain’s 5,500. If your goal is to find a quality blood mare suitable for producing event horses, we certainly have a much wider selection to choose from than anywhere in Europe — one of our few advantages.

Yet for some reason in America foals out of full Thoroughbred mares have historically been seen as “lesser than”, a mindset that many American buyers still carry. That, in my opinion, is a mistake for anyone to make — especially if you’re shopping for an event horse. Not all Thoroughbred mares are created equal, but a foal out of a high quality Thoroughbred dam should be valued just as highly as any other, if not even more so when your end goal is to run and jump.

Quantum Leap’s dam, the full Thoroughbred Report to Sloopy. Photo courtesy of Bill Alphin.

Someone who understands the value of a good Thoroughbred mare as much as anyone is breeder Elizabeth Callahan of Cool na Grena Sporthorses in Oxford, Md. Her breeding program has produced four Advanced horses out of full Thoroughbred mares, including a 4* horse and 5* horse. Doug Payne’s young up and coming 5* horse Quantum Leap is a product of the Cool na Grena breeding program, out of her Thoroughbred mare Report to Sloopy.

Elizabeth says, “I have been told by multiple German breed inspectors that they wish they had the Thoroughbred mare base that we do in terms of numbers. Personally, I think we have a huge number of quality Thoroughbred mares that we should be using, but unfortunately they are perceived as inferior automatically because they are Thoroughbreds. I think they lend athleticism, heart, and the speed and endurance required for the upper levels. They may produce a horse with a less spectacular trot, but you aren’t going to make time cross country by trotting, so the gallop and endurance is really important. At the end of the day, an athlete is an athlete.”

Two foals in Michelle Beck’s program, both out of the Thoroughbred mare A Firm Question. Photos courtesy of Willow Tree Sporthorses.

Breeder Michelle Beck of Willow Tree Warmbloods in Reddick, Fl. also shares a similar view, saying “To me the strength of America has always been our thoroughbreds, and I think it would be remiss to not utilize them to our full advantage. Part of this is educating buyers; many seem to expect a foal from a Thoroughbred mare to be lower quality, but that simply isn’t the case.”

“Some of my best, most athletic foals are out of my full Thoroughbred mares and should be considered and valued as strongly as any other,” Michelle continued. “I think sometimes we look at Europe and automatically think that what they have is better, or that we should just try to copy their model, but in reality we should play more on our own strengths and utilize our own advantages. When it comes to breeding event horses, our base of Thoroughbreds is probably our biggest asset. My European breeder friends are always most interested in our Thoroughbreds and half-breds –- sometimes I think they see the value more than we do.”.

All of these factors combined together lead me (finally) to my point. By sheer numbers alone, American event horse breeders have a clear advantage with the availability of Thoroughbred mares to be had here. The key is in getting people to value them as clearly as they should, and realize that they are indeed a strength, not something that makes us lesser.

Blessed are the broodmares… especially when they’re a good Thoroughbred.

A Valentine’s Match: Three Chocolate-Colored U.S.-Based Stallions to Check Out

We are pleased to introduce our new breeding columnist, Amanda Chance! Amanda Chance is an amateur eventer working the corporate 9-5 also working as a bloodstock advisor for Willow Tree Warmbloods (Midland, TX/Ocala, FL). Amanda has an OTTB, Henry, that has competed to the Preliminary level, a second generation homebred warmblood by Mighty Magic named Presto, and a Thoroughbred mare named Gemma. She has written mostly on her blog BreedRideEvent, as well as for U.S. Eventing magazine. Amanda is an eventing fan, competitor, and very interested (and perhaps overly enthusiastic) about breeding event horses in the USA. She’ll be joining EN to promote U.S. breeding and take some deep dives into sporthorse lines.

We’ve all heard the saying “love comes in all shapes and sizes”, and the same can also be said of event horses. Short, tall, lean, stout, warmblood, Thoroughbred, pony, spicy, lazy, fancy, plain – you name it, someone is out there eventing it and having a blast in the process. That’s one of the things that makes our sport so fun and inclusive… everyone can ride, breed, buy, own and love whatever type of horse they prefer and still find success in our sport.

On Valentine’s Day, the holiday of love and romance (and of course chocolate, hopefully), we couldn’t think of any better way to celebrate than by showcasing three very different but equally successful breeding stallions that are currently out there competing at U.S. events. These stallions are all very different shapes, sizes, and breeding, but are also all successful eventers.

If you have a special mare looking for a baby daddy, are thinking about taking on the adventure of buying a foal or young horse, or if you just plain enjoy looking at a handsome horse, you’ve come to the right place. Love is definitely in the air here today! Any of these three boys could be your (or your mare’s) Valentine this year. Coincidence that they’re all chocolate colored? Um… no. Definitely not.

Photo by Victoria DeMore Photography.

Saketini – 2009 Thoroughbred stallion

The first chocolate to unwrap is a full Thoroughbred stallion named Saketini, by Bernardini (AP Indy x Mr Prospector) out of Mining My Business (Mining x Believe It). Despite being a race sire himself, Bernardini has also proven quite capable of siring good event horses too, having produced 4*L horses Humble Glory and Global Victory. Saketini is yet another successful event horse in the family, having competed so far through the I/P level with owner/rider AJ Dyer. While Saketini is obviously easy on they eyes, according to Dyer the best part about him is his easy going nature and rideability.

“Personality-wise, he’s very kind and smart, dignified and classy. He loves going to horse shows, schooling, anywhere. He seems to like being a show horse and leaving stallion responsibilities at home, which makes him a joy to compete. Under saddle he’s very rideable and straightforward. He’s careful over fences, and really easy to adjust to any distance. Beyond ‘work’ he is a lovely horse to hack out, he loves trail riding and won’t flinch at traffic. He’s quiet and trustworthy, making him a good guest horse. I’ve even ponied his yearling sons off him, prepping them for FEH Championships.”. Having a full blood stallion like Saketini, with a great thoroughbred type and good sporthorse bloodlines – especially one that is proven in sport himself – make him a fantastic asset for U.S. eventing breeders.

Photo by Liz Crawley Photography.

Coud’Poker Tartifume – 2012 Connemara stallion

Next up we’ve got a fun-size chocolate, because we all know that sometimes the best things come in the smallest packages. Coud’Poker Tartifume, better known as Cooper, is a Connemara stallion by Westside Mirah II out of Quitus de la Loue (by Dexter Leam Pondi) that was originally bred in France. Both his sire and damsire were known for producing excellent pony jumpers successful through the 1.30m level.

Cooper definitely inherited those jumping genes, and despite being relatively pint-sized at 14.2, Cooper is an absolute powerhouse on the cross country course, having competed through the Preliminary level with owner/rider Donna Miller and eating up courses that are definitely bigger than he is.

To go along with his sportscar exterior, Donna says, “Cooper is a very kind, big-hearted pony. He always tries his hardest and is very confident in himself. He is so easy that he tends to be the babysitter for our other horses and has been known to make long trips just to keep others company. Cooper’s favorite thing is to follow you around his stall until you let him put his head in your chest so you can scratch and rub his face, head, and ears. Once he has you there, it is very hard to leave or finish what you went in there for!”. Big time athleticism in a smaller package, topped off with a stellar temperament make Cooper a perfect choice for breeding event horses for all types of riders.

Photo courtesy of Alex Green-Kerby.

Isselhook’s First Sight TSF – 2014 Trakehner stallion

Last but not least to round out our little variety pack we’ve got the German chocolate, er… Trakehner, Isselhook’s First Sight TSF (by Lissow out of Funflinden, by Hibiskus) better known as Goody in the barn. Born and raised in Germany, Goody was the 5yr old Bundeschampion and then went on to finish in the top 10 at the Eventing World Championships at Le Lion D’Angers as a six year old with Sophie Leube.

Goody was imported to the U.S. in 2020 and is now owned by Janine Hill and ridden by Alex Green-Kerby, so far competing through the 3* level. I guess you could say that their partnership has gotten off to a pretty good start, as Goody was also named the 2021 USEA Stallion of the Year.

In addition to being a superb and very promising young event horse, Goody has also made himself a reputation for his kind temperament and quiet demeanor, trailering and competing side by side with mares with no fuss. While most of the horses in his pedigree have been known largely for their aptitude in dressage, Goody has certainly displayed plenty of talent for eventing, and according to Alex has heart to spare on the cross country course. His Trakehner lines are particularly hard to come by, which makes it even more exciting to have him available for breeding here in the U.S..

I think it’s safe to say that love does indeed come in all shapes and sizes, especially when you love event horses. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Where Do We Go From Here?

The eventing community continues to reel after the loss of Philippa Humphreys at Jersey Fresh. EN guest writer Amanda Chance asks some of the poignant questions we're all thinking, including: What can I do to help? EN is asking all eventers to donate to the USEA's Collapsible Fence Study, which seeks to explore and develop other technologies to expand the type of fences that can be made collapsible to reduce the occurrence of rotational falls. Click here to donate.

Phillipa Humphreys and Rich N Famous at the Jersey Fresh first horse inspection on Wednesday, May 11. Photo by Jenni Autry. Phillipa Humphreys and Rich N Famous at the Jersey Fresh first horse inspection on Wednesday, May 11. Photo by Jenni Autry.

On Saturday evening after Jersey Fresh, I was chatting with a few different people about the tragic accidents that had occurred that day. Everyone I talked to had opinions, which varied both in intensity and subject matter, but when they asked me for my own thoughts I really struggled to put them into words.

It’s easy to know how I FEEL about it; I’m completely devastated and heartbroken for the family and friends of Philippa Humphreys and for the owners and connections of Ouija (Inoui Van Bost). But feelings are one thing and thoughts are another.

My honest answer at the time was a very dejected “I just don’t know.” Two lives were lost on the same cross country course in one day; one equine, one human. That’s as bad as it gets, truly the darkest kind of day for any sport. But at the same time, it’s my sport, the sport I live and eat and breathe. Your knee jerk reaction is to defend it to its critics, but this day was pretty indefensible. I spent the whole weekend mulling it over.

I believe that having horses and riders die on course on a regular basis is totally unacceptable. I can’t comfortably stand beside the people saying “at least she died doing what she loved.” While I don’t disagree with the sentiment, to me the words feel a bit empty and somehow seem to lessen the enormity of exactly what was lost.

Don’t get me wrong, if it’s my time, I’d rather go out doing something I love. But that doesn’t mean I want to die at a competition in a rotational fall that could also kill my horse and would undoubtedly leave permanent scars on the psyche of everyone unlucky enough to witness it. On the other hand, I also can’t join in with the people that are lambasting eventing in general, saying that it’s too dangerous and the sport — especially the cross country — needs to end.

I truly love and believe in the sport of eventing. Call me an optimist, but I think there is a middle ground here. There is a way to keep the sport intact and true to its roots, and still make it safer. I don’t know what that is, obviously none of us do yet, but I have 100 percent faith that it exists. I also have 100 percent faith that we can find it.

Note that I said “safer” and not “safe.” This sport will never be safe. No horse sport will ever be safe. There is an inherent risk involved any time we choose to be around or throw a leg over the back of a very large animal with a mind of its own. There is simply no way to prevent every single accident, and that’s something we have to recognize. But we certainly can make improvements to minimize the occurrence of them and the severity of them when they do occur.

I have seen a lot of comments on Facebook and horse forums saying that the “powers that be” in eventing, specifically the USEA, have continually turned a blind eye to the fatalities. Setting aside the fact that Jersey Fresh was an FEI event, I still don’t think that’s a fair statement. Studies, reports, and data-gathering have been happening for years. Most recently, the USEA has been raising funds to renew the Collapsible Fence Study.

The first question is “Has any of it made any difference?” In some ways no, obviously people and horses are still dying. In some ways yes, we’ve seen frangible pins help prevent countless possibly serious accidents. The next question is “Are we doing enough?” Personally, I don’t think so. But I also recognize the fact that a lot of it comes down to funding, and the fact that studies take time. So do solutions. Changes take even longer.

This is a multi-faceted problem; finding the answer is going to be incredibly difficult and ongoing. In order to fix the problem, first we have to understand what’s happening. No small task when every single fall has a completely different set of circumstances surrounding it and completely different things that possibly could have been done to create a different outcome. I don’t think there is only one answer; I think there are several. We just have to find them and put it all together.

That brings me to the next line of thought: What can I do to help? I’m not a scientist, I’m not an engineer, I’m not an upper-level rider, I’m not a course designer. I personally can’t fix this problem. But I do know one thing: change requires money, and I’m 100 percent capable of controlling where mine goes.

Really want to help the sport of eventing? Let’s support the organizations, the events, the venues, the officials, the course designers, and the course builders that are dedicated to making everything safer for horses and riders. Let’s give constructive feedback to our governing bodies. DONATE TO THE STUDIES. If we really want to save our sport and help make it safer, let’s figure out what we can do to help, educate ourselves and put our money where our mouths are.

There are a lot of people out there screaming that something has to be done. Unfortunately, that’s all most of them are doing — screaming. If all the people screaming and arguing on social media were willing to donate even just $20 to a safety study, how much better off would we be? How much more could we accomplish?

To those who look at the tragedies of this weekend, or really this whole year so far, and say “never eventing” — I get it. Once the fear of something overcomes your love for it, it’s no longer the right thing for you. This isn’t the right sport for everyone. Horse sports are already risky and this is perhaps the riskiest one. But I still love it, my horse still loves it, and I’m not ready to give up on it. For everyone out there who feels the same way, I ask you — what are we going to do about it?

Click here to read more on Amanda’s blog.