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Chelsea Spear


About Chelsea Spear

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Meet the 2019 Stable View Eventing Academy Novice Champion, Harriet! Errr … Hank?

Stable View Farm in Aiken, SC, has been hosting its Eventing Academy Series since 2018, giving horses and riders who are new to eventing the opportunity to school all three phases on a Saturday before competing in a one-day schooling horse trials on Sunday. Chelsea Spear recently caught up with the 2019 Novice Champion Barbara Warren, who won the series with her mare gelding Hank, for an interview. Congrats, Barb!

Photo by GRC Photography.

A few years ago, I got this crazy idea to take my newly acquired 4-year-old OTTB down to Aiken. I decided to stay with my friend, trainer and mentor Ray Wheeler. None of my friends were willing to be crazy with me, so I went by myself and quickly made an amazing set of friends at Wheeler Equestrian. Ray and Beth Wheeler are transplants from Maryland, where I live, which is how I met the Wheelers. Wheeler Equestrian is this beautiful family environment of riders and horses that draws you in, makes you feel loved, and makes you laugh — A LOT.

One particular person won me over immediately with her quick wit and her adorable horse Hank: Barbara Warren (ne Stelling, as she got married last fall — congrats, Barb!). It was my first time in Aiken, with my first baby OTTB, and she was extremely welcoming and supportive when I was an absolute chicken about everything and everything. I watched her and Hank developing their partnership with Ray and Beth’s help, hoping that one day I would have that partnership with my own redheaded pony.

Fast forward and we have kept in touch over the years talking almost every few days and have become dear friends. We share our hilarious fall videos, our fails, our successes and everything in between as good long distance horse friends do. Every Friday I get sent her lesson video (complete with hilarious Ray commentary: my favorite part). Make sure you turn up the sound for his commentary on this cross country video:

I am still waiting for my video shout-out Ray!

Ray has always called Barb “Gadget” as a endearing nickname. They have this funny banter between the two of them, and you cannot help but laugh just listening to them! I asked Ray where the nickname came from and he said, “Barb’s nickname doesn’t really have an origin. It’s more connotation. A gadget is usually amusing, somewhat useful and after a while, you find it a part of your life.” Which is Ray’s way of saying, Barb is a good egg.

I spoke with Ray about Barb, and this is what he said about his dedicated student: “The way we define an ideal student is they’re dedicated to becoming better. But never at the cost of the horse. They are active around the barn and support their fellow riders. By doing these things, they move equestrian sport forward in a positive way. Barb does all that and more. She cheerfully pitches in and helps around the barn. She brings doughnuts every Friday morning. She scribes for Beth. She makes this crazy, satisfying, hard, fun, fatiguing, equestrian life that much better.”

Wheeler Equestrian folks at the awards ceremony. Photo Supplied by Barbara Warren.

I know you are wondering about the title though, right? One show, Barb and Hank finished up their dressage test with a salute, and the judge came out to talk to them. She said some very nice things about how Barb and her mare were so lovely to watch, and her mare and her had a wonderful test. So when she was leaving the arena, she reached down and patted Hank and said, “Good job, Harriet!” (Ha, see … that quick wit I was talking about?).  It stuck, and now he is affectionately called Harriet by Barb and her friends in on the joke.

This past year one of their goals was the Novice Eventing Academy Series held at Stableview. I interviewed Barb to find out a little more about Hank and the series!

Barbara and Hank with their Series Ribbons. Photo supplied by Barbara Warren.

How did you get Hank?

“When I told my dear friend Patty Merli that I was in the market for a horse, she mentioned that I should look at this gelding that a friend of hers had. Her friend, Heather Carlson (who has a great eye for a good Thoroughbred and is involved with the MidAtlantic Horse Rescue) had a handsome chestnut Thoroughbred that did not race or go to the track and that appealed to me. I had had a previous OTTB that I struggled with from the track but have always loved a Thoroughbred and knew that was what I wanted.

“I tried Hank twice and I knew he was the one for me! Heather Carlson put a fantastic foundation on him and we hit the ground running. I was very excited to get back in the eventing world after being in the hunt field for many years. We have been together for 2.5 years now and he is, without a doubt, my heart horse.”

How did you start eventing?

“I started riding around 4 years old and have been riding ever since. I grew up doing the hunters, dabbled in foxhunting in high school and discovered eventing about 20 years ago when I went to college. After college, I went home to Charleston and taught little kids how to ride for many years and eventing took a back seat. It wasn’t until I moved to Aiken in 2015 that I was able to really get back into the sport. I met Ray and Beth in 2017 when I bought Hank and have been training with them ever since. Both Ray and Beth Wheeler are fantastic horse people who can help with anything and its’ the perfect fit for Hank and I. We have made many lifelong friends at the barn too.”

What was your most difficult obstacle to overcome with Hank?

“I’d say the hardest part for us is the stadium. We both get a little tense still but he will jump and mostly leaves all the poles up! On course, the two-stride will most likely be a three-stride but we are working on it! Hank is honest as the day is long and we both really love the cross country! He enjoys the dressage too and I am learning to really like that phase as well. I really hit the jackpot with him!”

Photo by Kate Antrim Sparky Photography.

What is your favorite part about the Eventing Academy?

“I really loved the whole concept of the Eventing Academy. How cool is that you can go and school all three phases the day before the show? What a wonderful way to build confidence in the younger horses and riders and to help people getting back into the sport. The shows are always very well run and organized and they have a wonderful and knowledgeable group of volunteers every time. Stable View also listens to the competitors as well and are happy to make the experience better. The stadium was being run on the grass for the first few shows but the competitors spoke up and asked to move it into the all-weather footing ring so they did! They have an impressive list of sponsors and prizes and the year end prizes were a fun goal for the year.

“Hank and I competed in seven of the eight shows for the 2019 series. We only had three rails over the series year and no cross country penalties! My goal for the year was to do well in the Novice division and somehow we found ourselves winning the Novice division and finished as overall reserve champion for the series too. We finished with three wins, two seconds, a fourth and a fifth.”

Favorite piece of tack?

“I know, without a doubt, that my favorite piece of tack is my Black Country saddle. It is the most comfortable saddle ever and fits Hank and I really well. It helps that one of our biggest fans, Patty Merli, is a fantastic saddle fitter who happens to live right around the corner from me in Aiken! When someone decides to occasionally be a spicy redhead, I am able to keep my balance and kick on!”

Back at Wheeler Equestrian with their ribbons. Barbara and Hank. photo supplied by Barbara.

Any quirky things about Hank we should know?

“Hmmm … I am struggling with this one! He’s a pretty solid citizen actually! He does prefer the company of others, sometimes is a bit over reactive, sometimes has to tinkle before he gets on the trailer, sometimes spooks at a cricket farting, and sometimes gets really wiggly in the wash rack. I’d have to say his biggest talent though is he can hear a peppermint wrapper from miles away and that will stop him dead in his tracks!”

Congrats to Barbara and all the 2019 Stable View Eventing Academy Champions!

Champion: Hannah Gamble & Perfect Remedy
Reserve Champion: Charlotte O’Neal & A Mid Summer Nights Dream

Champion: Ann McAllister & Top Hot Rod
Reserve Champion: Emma Dormus & Simon Says

Champion: Dawn Johnson & Broadway Bobby Z
Reserve Champion: Kailey Burack & Gimlet

Champion: Barbara Stelling & Holy City
Reserve Champion: Kathleen Parker & Picture In My Head

Champion: Lawlor Brown & Ulysses
Reserve Champion: Whitney Pierpont & Indie

Champion: Samantha Erwin & Conquistadora
Reserve Champion: Heidi White & Captain Fernhill

Check out this year’s Eventing Academy Series Dates, and view a full calendar of Stable View events and activities here.

Feb. 17 – President’s Day Eventing Academy Schooling Horse Trial
Feb. 18 – Eventing Academy Schooling Day

May 16 – Eventing Academy Schooling Day
May 17 – Eventing Academy Schooling Horse Trials

July 18 – Eventing Academy Schooling Day
July 19 – Eventing Academy Schooling Horse Trials

Aug. 8 – Eventing Academy Schooling Day
Aug. 9 – Eventing Academy Schooling Horse Trials

Oct. 17 – Eventing Academy Schooling Day
Oct. 18 – Eventing Academy Schooling Horse Trials

Nov. 14 – Eventing Academy Schooling Day
Nov. 15 – Eventing Academy Schooling Horse Trials

Dec. 12 – Eventing Academy Schooling Day
Dec. 13 – Eventing Academy Schooling Horse Trials

Cross Country Costume Party! Plantation Field Halloween Starter Horse Trials Photo Gallery

Seriously, SERIOUSLY guys!! The Plantation Field Halloween Costume Starter Horse Trials is a no-miss holiday tradition. Held on Saturday, Nov. 2, it was a complete blast to see people out there dressing up and getting things done. Halloween costumes were encouraged, and while some people chose not to dress up, those that did … wow!

There were angels, devils, sports teams, monkeys, skeletons and, my personal favorite, a Christmas themed outfit. The horse had bells everywhere, and you could hear it throughout the cross-country course like Santa’s sleigh in the night sky. What an awesome sport that pony was!

Monica Fiss Burdette’s elf is named Valentino. No knowledge of his ability to sit on a shelf. Photo by Amy Dragoo Photography.

One of the other talks of the event was the spotted lantern fly costume. Those invasive creatures have been seen at Plantation on more than one occasion.

Natalie Haggard was the talk of the show with her spotted lantern fly! Photo by Amy Dragoo Photography.

The school bus costume was also a huge hit!

Sarah Bryan and The Magic School Bus that is Indian Outlaw. Photo by Amy Dragoo Photography.

The course was inviting, with stadium held in a lower field this time, and people had a ton of fun. People’s imagination really showed through their costume designs. You could also tell there was a balance of costume must-haves vs. what may or may not cause your horse to not be a happy camper. Hmm … if I wear these wings, will they stay on through cross country?

Rylie Nelson and Donaghy prove feathers & wings should be standard attire. Photo by Amy Dragoo Photography.

Jessica Werner knows is tis the season for Chia Pets!

Lynn Kundravi and her fluffy Popcorn. Photo by Amy Dragoo Photography.

Lila Rhodes was top of the pecking order! Photo by Amy Dragoo Photography.

Even spectators got into the Halloween spirit.

Release your inner dragon. Photo by Amy Dragoo Photography.

They had hot cider at the food truck, which was also a big hit, as the show started out a little windy and chilly! I was supposed to be competing, but alas my horse messed up a shoe the night before the show, and I did not get to debut my little red riding hood and the big bad chestnut wolf out on the Beginner Novice course. Until next year ….

I got a chance to chat with Amy Dragoo, one of area II’s favorite event photographers. She said, “The first year we had only one person, who made her bumble bee with black tape and a crop stuck to her butt. This year my dad has been gone 12 years. It is such a fun way to honor my dad. Halloween was a favorite of his, and he died on Día de Muertos so it is my way of honoring him.”

Regina Turner nailed the Día de Muertos theme beautifully. Photo by Amy Dragoo Photography.

Thanks so much to Plantation Field for hosting another special event, and to Amy Dragoo Photography for the amazing photos and very punny (haha) captions!

Learn more about Plantation Field here.

Snapshots and Tidbits from Waredaca’s 15th Annual Classic Three-Day Event

Photo by Chelsea Spear.

Last weekend Waredaca ran its 15th Annual Classic Three-Day Event, along with corresponding horse trials. Event organizer Gretchen Butts said that they have been running events there for 40 years.

It’s always a treat to see everyone turn out for trot ups at the lower levels. This gives riders an awesome goal to aim for and a taste of the upper level events.  Colleen Rutledge and her two daughters were all competing together in the Hylofit USEA Classic Series Training Three Day. Brian Rutledge explained that Colleen and her daughter, Cassie, were both competing in the Training Three-Day, and their other daughter, Ciana, was doing the Novice Three-Day. #familygoals.

I asked Colleen how it felt to compete with her daughters. “It is fun but very exhausting, and I have to let go a little bit because I can’t be there the whole time coaching them because I am competing at the same time,” she explained. “I am proud of them for getting qualified and working so hard this year.”

Busy vet box. Photo courtesy of Gretchen Butts.

Leaving few details untouched, Waredaca also hosted a raffle benefitting Hopkins Breast Cancer Research. The winner received a generous prize pack, and division winners were handed prizes ranging from coolers to grooming supplies and even some paid entry fees for 2020.

When I got to the event, it was hard to miss the horse trailer turned pouring station for Waredaca’s own brews — of course, I had to try one. Andrea Lang was there to greet me, and gave me a few samples to try before deciding. I picked one that tasted good and she told me that every beer has something that they grow on the farm.

The beer I had chosen was made with honey from Waredaca’s own bees. Andrea explained that when the family looked at the farm in its recent history, they wanted to find a way to really make the farm viable and that is when the Waredaca Brewery came to life. I asked her what her favorite thing was about the farm, and without hesitation (and a huge smile) she said “family, it feels like family.” This is the way that the events always feel, with the family hometown charm.

Photo by Chelsea Spear.

Photo by Chelsea Spear.

Chelsea Eldridge of Destination Farm shared an awesome tidbit of advice for riders competing in events with trot ups. That weekend, trot up weather was quite windy, and Chelsea had worked some weights into the dress of one of the Destination competitors to help with the wind. Who has weights on hand? Chelsea does. Maybe she’s available for hire?

From L to R, riders are Caroline Kilday, coach Steph Kohr and Julia Dionisio with support team Send Hellerman, Jacque Lopour, Alex Dupont and Lisa Dioniso. Photo by Gretchen Butts.

Destination Farm had a successful weekend, and many congratulations are in order for Ella Lucas and Truthful Saint. This pair may have been the pair to receive every prize Waredaca had to offer! Ella and Truthful Saint finished on their dressage score to end up second in the Novice Three-Day, receiving TIP champion, Road to the Three Day Champion, top placed young rider, and fourth placed team. 

Ella Lucas and Destination Farm crew after clear Endurance round. Photo by Chelsea Spear.

“The entire week flew by in a flurry of early mornings, course walks, and outfit changes,” Ella reflected. “The atmosphere was really welcoming with it feeling like everyone really wanted to see you jump the final show jump on Sunday and would help you however they could — organizers, clinicians, and competitors alike. It was an amazing experience for Saint and I.”

“The classic format does something different for horse and rider,” Ella continued. “I really feel like the experience has made my relationship with Saint that much closer. After a difficult fall season finishing on our dressage score was amazing and moving from 11th after dressage to second after show jumping really was the cherry on top of the cake from a class horse. A big thank you to the organizers for offering so many prizes with Saint!”

Training Three-Day Event winner Emily Tincher with Photo courtesy of Emily Tincher.

Emily Tincher, winner of the Training Three Day, is also a small animal vet. “It was a blast, I am so proud of my amazing horse,” she said. “He is only seven and we moved up to our first recognized Training this spring and he has been a machine on cross country. He loves it. I said my ‘pie in the sky’ was maybe we could do a Training Three-Day one day. We gave it a try and absolutely never would have imagined we would come out with a win, so it was super exciting.” 

“Balancing small animal emergency vet 12-hour shifts, I would ride him and then shower at work, and then work that shift,” Emily said of her busy schedule. “I can’t thank my trainer Jocelyn Gentry, owner of Gentry Sport Horses, enough. We have been with her for a year and a half. She really helped us get to where we are — happy and confident.”

Plenty of riders were thrilled to see RF Scandalous out and about again as she and Marilyn Little aim for the CCI4*-S at Ocala Jockey Club later this month. They took home the win in the Preliminary division, finishing on their dressage score of 27.50.

Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous. Photo by Chelsea Spear.

Go Waredaca, and Go Eventing!

Waredaca 3DE & H.T. [Website] [Final Scores]

Training Three-Day: Emily Tincher and Bluegrass Baron (39.1)
Novice Three-Day: Christina Feaga and In the Mick of Time (33.8)
Open Preliminary: Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous (25.7)
Modified: Erin Sylvester and Warren LVS (29.6)
Open Training A: Kaelen Speck and BSF Liam (37.1)
Open Training B: Kaelen Speck and Charmed Victory (31.5)
Training Rider: Jebb Simpson and Matisse (36.8)
Novice Rider A: Catie Meehan and Arrowbee (33.0)
Novice Rider B: Susan Ballek and Jitter Bug (22.9)
Open Novice: Victoria Miller and Hacker (30.7)
Beginner Novice Rider: Vanessa Miller and Obvious Diamond Article (23.0)
Open Beginner Novice: Jordan deButts and Thirsty for Gold (37.5)

Special Awards: 

Best Conditioned: Jaclyn Burke & Chance of Hidden Heights
Special Conditioning Award: Mary-Cooke Catlett & Luck of the Draw
Best Turn-out/Groomed: Jaclyn Burke & Chance of Hidden Heights
Top Amateur & Brown Betty Award: Emily Tincher & Bluegrass Baron
T.I.P. Champion: Emily Tincher & Bluegrass Baron
T.I.P. Reserve: Amanda Ruane & Castle’s Boy
Road to the Three-Day: Emily Tincher / Bluegrass Baron


Best Conditioned: Sara Druffner & All That Jazz
Best Turn-out/Groomed: Julia Dionisio & The Last Call
Top Amateur & Zeke Award (top amateur riding a gelding): Christina Feaga & In the Mick of Time
T.I.P. Champion: Ella Lucas & Truthful Saint
T.I.P. Reserve: Caroline Kilday & Coincidentally
Road To the Three-Day: Ella Lucas & Truthful Saint
Jim Baker Sportsmanship Award: Katharine Clarke & Kay’s Replica