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!
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.”
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!
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!”
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!”
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