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: 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.