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Erin Tomson


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Yes, Someone Scored a 13.6 at Rebecca Farm — Here’s the Story (and Video!)

Brooke Wadsworth had a magical week at The Event at Rebecca Farm with her Friesian Sport Horse, Morpheus. The pair caught our attention after they scored an impressive 13.6 on their dressage test in the Senior Open Novice E division. No that isn’t a typo, they really got a 13.6! Of course, I had to catch up with Brooke to meet the handsome Morpheus and find out how the pair accomplished such an impressive performance.

Brooke raised Morpheus, a very handsome 17-hand, 7-year-old Friesian x Hanoverian cross (Ziare van Bluffview – Fleur de Lys), from a foal at her farm in Utah. She said her three young kids have helped her raise him and that he’s like taking the family golden retriever to a horse show. When I met up with them, Brooke and Morpheus were sharing oatmeal for breakfast before getting ready to run cross country!

Brooke and Morpheus share a morning bowl of oatmeal. Photo by Erin Tomson.

Brooke rides as an adult amateur while running her business, Wadsworth Wellness, and raising her kids and horses alongside her husband. She trains regularly with Lindsay Wagner in Utah, and with Hawley Bennett-Awad in California when she gets the chance. She told me that Morpheus didn’t initially like dressage very much because he was big and had a hard time coordinating his body.

So she took things slowly, allowing Morpheus to develop his strength and coordination, saying “just like a person, if we’re not very good at something at first, it’s frustrating. It’s not our favorite thing. But with that consistency and building that foundation, building up his strength, his balance, his understanding of the movements, his understanding of the aids, my improvement in the saddle… it’s been fun to see him start to learn to really love it and understand it, and find his happy place. He used to not think it was the best and now we’ve really figured it out!”

Brooke was generous enough to share a picture of her dressage test with us. You can see for yourself that she and Morpheus got TWO 10s and SEVEN 9s… blink your eyes and read that again! They scored a 10 on the initial entry down the centerline and right-hand turn through the corner – talk about a first impression!

Take a gander at Brooke’s test.

I asked Brooke how she prepared for her dressage test, and her response was phenomenal in its simplicity: “Before coming, I broke the test into small working sessions. I really believe horses work best like we do — break down the problem and get really good at something before moving to the next, instead of throwing it all on the table. So what’s interesting to me, and I’m proud of him for it, was that we practiced a lot coming up the centerline and just making that first right hand turn.” Brooke said the movements they got 9s on were also sections of the test that she practiced methodically. She emphasized that she didn’t drill him, but worked in short 20-minute sessions on his understanding of her aids and responses to them.

For Brooke, mental preparation is also a big part of her success. “I had a long drive all by myself to think about and run that test exactly how it was going ride. How the saddle was going to feel, how my seat was going to feel, how we were going to prepare before the movement. So I just think a lot of mental visualization helped and I believe horses see what we see in our heads and where our eyes look.”

Brooke went on to say that she has been working hard on her body language and position. “Sometimes you hear riders or coaches say ‘even though he’s not easy to ride, make it look easy’. I just want it to actually be easy.”

Readers should also know that Brooke does not have an arena at her own farm. She spends countless hours trail riding, and her horses just get to be horses most of the time. She hauls to a nearby rodeo arena to practice dressage, which she means she shares the space with the cowboys. Side note: I’ve shared arenas with cowboys and they tend to be a wild bunch, even by eventing standards!

These experiences have exposed Morpheus to a lot of different kinds of things, so that when he arrived at the big atmosphere at Rebecca Farm, it didn’t faze him one bit. Brooke said she had a lot of confidence in him, even though he is young and hasn’t been to very many events yet.

To me, Brooke is a perfect example of what I love about our sport. The time she has spent with Morpheus, and the strong relationship they have, is evident when you see her with him. He is calm, peaceful, and enjoys his job. They adore and trust each other, and their performance at Rebecca Farm showed off her horsemanship, dedication, and preparation.

Brooke said, “I’m still fairly shocked by the score. But it’s nice when you do put in a test that you feel like ‘wow, I really don’t know we could have done any better’.” She and Morpheus jumped a double-clear on cross country, and we should add that this was the pair’s first Novice! They competed Beginner Novice together at Golden Spike in Utah earlier this year. Their show jumping round added 8 penalties for dropped rails, which didn’t even come close to knocking them out of the top spot. Congratulations, Brooke and Morpheus for winning your novice division on a final score of 21.6!

And yes, there is video! We’d like to extend a very grateful thank you to Ride On Video, who provide multiple completely free live streams from events on the western side of the country each year and can always be counted on at shows to film every rider for those memories. They’ve graciously provided us early access to Brooke’s dressage video, so enjoy! If the embedded video below does not work for your browser, click here.

If you competed at Rebecca Farm, you can order your video here — I know they’ll appreciate your support!

495D Brooke Wadsworth on Morpheus SR Novice Dressage Rebecca Farm July 2022

An Extra Set of Wings and an Epic Montana Weekend for Jules Batters, Brittany Crandall

Ocala Horse Properties Flight Grant Recipient Brittany Crandall navigates a clear round with Cooley Almighty. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Two competitors at Rebecca Farm this weekend got there thanks to an extra set of wings from Ocala Horse Properties: Jules Ennis Batters and Brittany Crandall competed with support from the inaugural Ocala Horse Properties Rebecca Farm Flight Grants.

Chris and Rob Desino, twin brothers who founded Ocala Horse Properties in 2007, announced the grants at the 2021 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention in Albuquerque. The decision came after the Desinos made their first trip to the Kalispell, MT venue to support Liz Halliday-Sharp, for whom they own several horses. It was an event more riders should experience, the Desinos desicded — and the Flight Grant was born.

I caught up with Jules and Brittany during the weekend to find out more about the flight process and their experience in Montana this year.

Jules and her 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse, Cooley O, competed in the CCI4*-S, finishing their weekend in 12th place on a final score of 90.9, adding one stop — “We both got a little tired towards the end and I ended up pulling him to a stop at a table. Ooops!” Jules wrote after her ride — and some time, along with a rail in the show jumping, to their final score.

Jules, who has competed at the 4* level with Cooley O (Caricello – Lady Glebe, by Kildalton King) since 2019 but says she struggled with confidence after having a few falls. This then played into her decision to opt for the Short format here — a set-up event for the fall.

Jules Ennis Batters and Cooley O. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

This was the third year that Jules and “Oaken”, along with Jules’ husband, Sam Batters, have made a trip to Montana for The Event at Rebecca Farm. Their previous two journeys, however, were by road trip from their home in Queenstown, MD. “It’s 5,000 miles round trip. Plus a bit extra. So for most people, that’s like six months’ worth of trailering,” Sam told me.

Jules had not planned on attending Rebecca Farm this year, but she was offered the Ocala Horse Properties Flight Grant at the last minute, after the withdrawal of original recipient Allie Knowles. Jules said, regarding her experience planning and prepping for the trip, “I think my experience was probably a little bit different than everyone else’s because I had six days to figure it out.” Originally, the grant was intended for one competitor in the CCI4*-L and one in the CCI3*-L to travel to Montana from the east coast. Jules said she asked if she and Oaken could enter the CCI4*-S instead since she hadn’t prepped Oaken for a Long. With that agreed-upon, she got to planning!

The chartered flight for the horses was taken care of, but Jules and Brittany had to get the horses to Charlotte, NC to catch the flight. The cost of their own travel was also covered, but they had to arrange the details because they would be flying separately from their horses. Jules also had to find accommodations in Montana. Jules’ family stepped up to take care of her and Sam’s daughter as well as their training operation, Ennisbrook Farm.

What an amazing week!!!! Cooley O finished up the weekend strong with just one rail in the show jumping, he really gave…

Posted by Jules Eventing on Sunday, July 24, 2022

Jules and Sam love coming to Montana for the scenery, hospitality, and of course the absolutely top-notch venue and competition. Fortunately, they were able to find a last-minute Airbnb close to Rebecca Farm. Despite the last-minute nature of the arrangements, the trip wound up being quite smooth in the end!

Brittany Crandall and her 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood, Cooley Almighty, competed in the CCI3*-L, finishing in sixth place with a final score of 51.5. Brittany secured the first clear cross country round inside the optimum time, showing her competitors that the notoriously tough time could be caught.

Brittany attended college at the University of Wyoming, so she is familiar with the mountain west, but this was her first time competing at Rebecca Farm. When I asked her if The Event was meeting her expectations, she didn’t hesitate: “Oh, it far surpasses them! I was just excited to come out because I love the west,” she said. “Just flying in and seeing all the pine trees and the mountains — I’m already in heaven. I love it. And my sister lives down in Bozeman [Montana], so they came up with their camper.” It was a perfect opportunity to combine a once-in-a-lifetime horse show trip with some valuable family time.

Brittany conveyed her gratitude to Ocala Horse Properties and Rebecca Farm. “I feel very lucky to be here,” she said. “I’m an amateur rider. I do this as a very strong hobby. I have a full-time job outside of this. I work for a brewery in Virginia, so to have this sort of opportunity is just amazing and I don’t know if the word would be perks [the benefits received] have just kept coming. Ocala [Horse Properties] gave me the flight grant, which paid for my horse’s flight and paid for my flight, and then Rebecca Farm compensated entry fees, my stabling, and my camping. I’m so very grateful for it all.”

Brittany’s mom and a good friend also came out to support her, and Brittany said she has made a lot of great friends throughout the journey.

Having never flown my horses, I was very curious about the process, and Brittany gave me a great summary:

After trailering to Charlotte, NC and having a rest, they trailered the horses to the airport at about 1:30 a.m. It was a short wait for the shipping containers, which were brought over to the horse trailers. Then two of the grooms that flew with the horses arrived to get the pods ready and set up.

“Then we loaded the shipping container pod with all our trunks and hay and all that stuff. Then we started loading the horses on, three to a pod. Pretty easy process, you pull your trailer up right next to the pod, and then they put the ramp down and you just walk the horse straight on. They have their buddies right there and we sent them with hay bags and water buckets,” Brittany recounted.

The riders then headed off to the airport for their own flight, and the horses took a plane from Charlotte to Memphis, TN via FedEx. After a short wait in Memphis, the horses flew to Great Falls, MT, where they caught a horse trailer for the approximately 4-hour drive to Kalispell.

Brittany said “Kavan” seemed really happy when he arrived, and that he enjoyed his time at Rebecca Farm.

Flying horses is cost-prohibitive to most riders, and while trailering is an option for some, the fuel costs and time required to drive to and from Rebecca Farm can prevent many people from attending as well. The flight grants provided by Ocala Horse Properties gave Jules and Brittany invaluable competition experience and exposure.

Let’s all give a shout-out to Chris and Rob Desino for the idea and their generosity — and hey, you can return the favor by browsing the full catalog of Ocala Horse Properties (spoiler: they aren’t only in Ocala!) if you’re farm-shopping! We look forward to seeing the 2023 flight grant recipients at Rebecca Farm next year.

Take a look at the trip to Montana:

Big Sky Cross Country: FEI Leaderboards Shuffle, Alyssa Phillips Leads Rebecca Farm CCI4*L

Alyssa Phillips and Oskar take the lead in the 4*L. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

The FEI cross country kicked off on another absolutely beautiful morning at Rebecca Farm, where the FOMO and mountain views abound. Ian Stark’s course had a different feel to it this year, running in the opposite direction of recent years’ tracks, but also carried that distinctly, dimensionally huge feeling that likely had many riders tossing in their sleep a bit last night. It’s an Ian Stark signature, after all.

Time proved to be the most influential factor, with few pairs managing to elude time penalties across all FEI divisions and jumping penalties scattered throughout.

CCI4*-L: Alyssa Phillips Moves On Up

Alyssa Phillips and her 13-year-old Holsteiner Oskar, winners of the inaugural Lexington 4*-S in 2021, moved into the top spot in the CCI4*-L thanks to a rare double clear round to maintain their dressage score of 31.4. This was Alyssa and Oskar’s second CCI4*-L, but their first time at Rebecca Farm.

Alyssa said he was really good out there and, following advice from Jennie Brannigan, “I never took the foot off the pedal because he’s not the quickest horse of the bunch. But he did everything that I asked and I couldn’t be happier with it.”

James Alliston and Nemesis step up to another challenge. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

James Alliston and Nemesis, an eight-year-old Canadian Warmblood gelding owned by Alliston Equestrian, jumped clear and added only 0.8 time penalties. As a younger horse, this was the longest and most challenging course Nemesis has taken on so far, and James was “really happy with how he did it.” The sporty chestnut certainly has stepped up to each challenge presented to him this year: this spring, he and James finished on the podium of the notoriously-tough Lexington 4*-S — a culmination to a trip the gelding wasn’t even originally slated to be on!

Helen Alliston pilots Ebay to a clear round. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Dressage leader Helen Alliston sits in third with a score of 42.1 on her 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding, Ebay, after adding 13.2 time penalties to her dressage score. Helen jokes that she spent the morning trying not to throw up from nerves, all of which dissipated once she left the start box. She made an effort to allow Ebay to go at his own pace today because it was his first CCI4*-L in four years.

“I’m hoping the way I rode him today will kind of be a building block for next time we try this and we’ll be able to go a little bit quicker,” Helen commented. “But he answered every question beautifully and it was smooth.” Helen said she won’t be nearly as nervous going in the show jumping because “those jumps fall down,” — to which Alyssa commented, “fair point!”

Tamie Smith and the Elliot V partnership’s Elliot V were having a foot-perfect round until the combination at 17AB. Unbeknownst to Tamie, he’d pulled a front shoe and he slipped going down the hill to the B element. They made it through the flags, but Tamie had an unfortunate fall on the back side of the fence.

“I really believe in him and I think he’s stellar and an unbelievable horse,” Tamie said, open with her disappointment. “So I actually cried. I cried my little eyes out walking back to the finish. And I was so frustrated and the sport is so brutal, you know, but I just went and had a timeout, smacked myself in the head and went and got back on and had my plan. I mean, you’ve got to put it behind you and not ride different.”

Tamie — who’s also celebrating her birthday today — would regroup to secure clear rounds on her remaining rides: Julianne Guariglia’s Solaguayre California jumped clear inside the time in the 4*-S to sit second, followed closely by Ruth Bley’s Danito in third.

A quick shout to Thoroughbred That Could Unmarked Bills, who completed his first Long format cross country since Burghley in 2019 with longtime partner Chris Talley today and looked happy and fit to be back out running and jumping. Welcome back, Billy!

CCI4*-S: A New Partnership On the Rise

The budding partnership of Liz Halliday-Sharp and Miks Master C, owned by Debbie Palmer and Ocala Horse Properties, was put to its biggest test to date today; Liz and the 10-year-old Swedish Warmblood bred in the U.S. by Laurie Cameron and formerly piloted by Maya Black had just two previous runs under their belt. An easy win in a “get-to-know-you” run at Bromont’s 2*-L in June set Liz up to comfortably step back up to the gelding’s current level, and by the end of today’s cross country Liz looked to have learned a lot about a very exciting-looking horse for the future.

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

“He’s just brave and he’s fast, and he’s careful and he just knows his job,” Liz described. “And he has such a big, giant, amazing stride that you can just cover the ground. I really enjoyed it today. I’m very excited about our partnership.” Liz is hopeful for a clear show jumping round on Sunday. “It’s just great to get the four-star under our belt and be learning a little bit more about each other and just solidifying our partnership.”

After those two stellar rides today, Tamie Smith sits in both second and third place. Solaguayre California, an 11-year-old Argentine Sport Horse owned by Julianne Guariglia moved into second with a score of 30.7 after a double clear round. Tamie said that “California” has been somewhat green as she moved up the levels, “but knows her job now. So I was absolutely thrilled.”

Tamie Smith and Solaguayre California. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Ruth Bley’s Danito, a 13-year-old Hanoverian had zero jump and 5.6 time penalties. Danito and Tamie sit in third on a score of 33.8. Danito injured his withers in a freak accident in the cross ties this past winter, so Tamie was initially hesitant about entering him in the 4*, but had confidence in him as seasoned horse. “I’m glad to have my little friend back,” Tamie said. “He’s such a cool horse.”

CCI3*-S: A Change-Up and a Rising Star

Ian Stark’s course presented challenges that resulted in a total change-up of the top standings: Taylor McFall stands in first place with a score of 42.2 aboard Stoneman, an 11-year-old Thoroughbred owned by Cheron Laboissonniere. Taylor praised her horse saying, “We totally killed it in the downhill combos, something that really was scaring me, just because I hadn’t done that big of a drop before.” Taylor joked that she stole the ride on Stoneman from her mom, Jennifer McFall.

Mikayla Hoffman and her own 15-year-old Thoroughbred Eli currently stand in second on a score of 43.2. Mikayla particularly enjoyed the water complexes on the course, saying “definitely the first water was a highlight for me… he just went through and nailed that one stride out.” Eli has come a long way from his time on the racetrack. When Mikayla and her mom first got Eli, he was malnourished, but they worked diligently to get him healthy – now he’s a contender for the Young Riders three-star team this year!

Taylor McFall and Stoneman. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Borasco, a 13-year-old Oldenburg, owned and ridden by Kerry Groot, is standing in third place on a score of 43.9. Kerry is one of several Canadian riders at Rebecca Farm this year, as is Mikayla Hoffman.

CCI3*-L: Liz Halliday-Sharp Shines with Cooley Nutcracker

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Nutcracker had zero jump and zero time penalties, to hold their lead in the CCI3*-L with a score of 29.4. The 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse is owned by Deborah Halliday, Renee Lane, Ocala Horse Properties, and the rider. Cooley Nutcracker is a relative newcomer to Liz’s string, having formerly been piloted through this level by French rider Asiter Nicolas. Last year, the gelding contesting the FEI World Young Horse Breeding Championships, finishing in the top-20 in the seven-year-old division.

Liz said she had a fantastic ride and was complimentary of Ian Stark’s course. “It was a good track. I really thought the coffin was a super question. The back end and just the whole track was well designed. I thought it was a real good test for the three star long.”

Meg Pellegrini and RF Eloquence. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Meg Pelligrini and her 17-year-old Holsteiner, RF Eloquence, also had a double clear round to move up a placing into second on a score of 31.9. “I was a little bit nervous going out of the box… but I got to see a couple of people go before me and everyone made it look easy. So he’s amazing, it was beautiful,” said Meg.

Brittany Crandall and her 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood, Cooley Almighty made an impressive jump from ninth into third as they held their dressage score of 39.5. Brittany and “Kavan” are recipients of the Ocala Horse Properties Rebecca Farm Flight Grant.

Ocala Horse Properties Flight Grant Recipient Brittany Crandall navigates a clear round with Cooley Almighty. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Brittany describes Cooley Almighty as “…a cross country horse. He lives and breathes for it, and he’s got a huge gallop. And he’s super, super brave. He took on everything.” Brittany wouldn’t have been able to compete at Rebecca Farm this year without the flight grant from Ocala Horse Properties. She competes at the FEI level as an amateur and maintains a full-time job, which I have to say is incredibly impressive!

CCI2*-L: Taren Hoffos Enjoys the Ride with Regalla

Taren Hoffos and Carolyn Hoffos’ 11-year-old Oldenburg mare, Regalla — “The Queen”, as the Hoffos family likes to call her — jumped a double clear in the CCI2*-L to move from third into first on their dressage score of 30.5. “She was amazing. She was incredible,” Taren said. “She’s so fast — she doesn’t pull at all. She’s always in a good balance. So I can be so quick and efficient.”

Taren’s husband, Ken, is here with her in Montana and he opted for the hard-hitting question in this afternoon’s press conference: waffles or pancakes? Taren prefers waffles, so we hope she fuels up on Sunday morning before her show jumping round!

Cristina Rennie moved into second place after a double clear ride with her own Flight of the Arabesque, strong positioning at just their second 2*-L event. At 18 hands, Flight of the Arabesque is hard to miss out there and had no trouble making the time on Ian’s track. “He was really good,” Christina said. “I couldn’t ask for anything else.”

Loughtown Cici ZA, a 6-year-old Irish Sport Horse, owned and ridden by Chris Talley maintained a dressage score of 31.2 to move into third place.

The FEI horses will trot up for the ground jury tomorrow at 7 a.m. MST, and FEI showjumping begins at 9:00 a.m MST. The jog as well as all FEI show jumping will air live on

We’ll be back with much more tomorrow, and keep an eye on this post as we’ll be updating it with more photos!

The Event at Rebecca Farm (Kalispell, MT): [Website] [Entries/Times/Scoring] [Volunteer] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage] [EN’s Instagram]

From Horse Show Dad to Competitor: Clay Sanders’ Journey to Rebecca Farm

Image courtesy of Clay Sanders.

Clay Sanders got his introduction to eventing like many other horse show dads – his daughter Libby joined Pony Club, was then introduced to the sport, and came home one day full of enthusiasm to become an event rider. Libby’s first attempts at eventing with her Haflinger left something to be desired … so the family purchased an off-track Thoroughbred with the help of Libby’s trainer, Erin Storey of Storey Tails Eventing in Boise, Idaho. The tall, dark brown gelding named So Gone never knew what was in store for him when he joined the Sanders family!

Libby and So Gone evented successfully in Area VII for a few years, and Clay was the ultimate horse show dad and volunteer. Then Libby paused riding to attend college. For a short time, Libby’s sister rode So Gone (he never did get a barn name, by the way), and then the family leased him to another young rider, but ultimately, he was hanging out in the pasture. Clay, who is an avid mountain biker and had ridden horses while hunting wildlife, had no experience with dressage or jumping. Naturally, it made sense for him to take up the ride on So Gone himself … (did it though??). Clay was matter-of-fact when he told me, “So Gong was languishing now in a in a pasture. How do you make the temperature of a room decrease by 40 degrees just like that? You tell your wife … I’m going to be a three day eventer. I’m riding that horse. At Rebecca Farm.”

Clay & Libby with So Gone. Photo by Erin Tomson.

Clay went on to say, “I hunted with that Haflinger for five or six years… now there is walking on a horse, and then there is riding on a horse. I didn’t understand the difference when I said I’m going to be an eventer and ride at Rebecca Farm.” Clay decided to take a lesson with Gary Mittleider because he felt like he could connect with another guy who rides. “I walk out there and tell him I want to ride at Rebecca next summer …it was like October so it would have been another seven months [until the event]. And I went out there in jeans. And that man kept a straight poker face. And me … it took me a little while to realize that it was gonna be a while to get here [to Rebecca Farm]. And a lot of pain. And a couple hundred dollars in those CO2 cartridges.”

With the goal of completing The Event at Rebecca Farm, Clay began training in earnest. I don’t think anyone really kept track, but Clay fell off … a lot. And he continued to get back on and try again. With his hunting background, it made perfect sense for Clay’s cross country color theme to be hunter orange. The Storey Tails team jokes that Clay is an “orange-ologist” because he has collected so many bright orange items of clothing, saddle pads, helmet covers, etc.

They also regaled me with the hilarity of Clay’s first recognized event at Spokane Sport Horse Farm in Spokane, WA. During his cross country warm-up, he promptly fell off at the first jump he attempted, so they quickly sent someone back to the trailer for a new CO2 cartridge for his air vest. A few minutes later, another incident resulted in Clay touching down again, just minutes before he was due on course. But he managed to get back on and out of the start box, and ride successfully around the course! Although he wasn’t seriously or permanently injured, Clay was certainly feeling it the next day, but completed his stadium jumping round thanks to sarcastic cheers from him team.

Clay at Golden Spike. Photo courtesy of Clay Sanders.

Joking aside, the Storey Tails team members are incredibly tight and supportive of each other. They have helped Clay throughout his road to Rebecca Farm and are incredibly proud of his hard work, determination, and improvement. It has been approximately four years since Clay decided he wanted to ride at Rebecca Farm and he’s had his coach and team behind him all the way. Clay puts orange duct tape on So Gone’s boots for cross country, and the team all signs their names on the tape before he goes on course. His daughters aren’t typically with him at the events these days, so Clay writes their names on the tape himself. However, Libby was able to make the trip to Rebecca Farm this year to cheer on her dad as he went for his ultimate goal.

Photo by Clay Sanders.

Clay also has another horse coming along now, and he was absolutely thrilled to compete alongside Libby in the same division at Golden Spike Horse Trials in Utah. “Libby hadn’t ridden for six years or done a recognized event [in a long time]. She and I were in the same class, and she was on So Gone; I was on my other horse. Kid wins it!” The two horses look very similar to each other, and with Clay and Libby both decked out in bright orange, it’s hard to tell them apart! Clay spoke very proudly of his daughter and the fact that the two of them could do the same sport together after so many years. He also advocates for how our sport provides an opportunity for young people to develop confidence and resilience.

Libby over the same jump at Golden Spike. Photo provided by Clay Sanders.

I’m extremely happy to report that on Friday July 22, 2022, Clay reached his goal of completing The Event at Rebecca Farm! He and So Gone finished in 13th place on a final score of 72.6. Congratulations, Clay, on working hard and making your dream come true!

Clay encourages other dads to try it out (he says he needs more old dudes to hang out with) and that if he can do it, so can others. “I guarantee you, there are a lot of dads out there that have watched their daughters kind of go through what I did. And then all of a sudden they’re stuck with a horse. Give it a try, Dad. Yeah. Live life with your leg on! Give it a try.”

The Event at Rebecca Farm: 
WebsiteRide Times/Live ScoresLive StreamEN’s Guide to Rebecca Farm, EN’s CoverageEN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram

Rebecca Farm Dressage Completes: Helen Alliston Leads CCI4*-L

Photo by Hope Carlin.

The FEI competition at Rebecca Farm continued today with CCI2*-Long, CCI3*-Long, CCI4*- Short and CCI4*- Long dressage.


An overcast, cool morning kicked off with the CCI2*-L division. Grace Walker Alonzi and her self-owned horse, Frantz, a 16-year-old Westphalian, scored a 29.9 to lead the division. Grace said her horse was a bit spooky with the cool morning weather, but that he settled into his job and “going up centerline, I felt like he was with me.”

Helen Alliston and Alliston Equestrian’s Flinterro Z stand in second place with a score of 30.3. Helen started riding the 7-year-old Zangersheide in June after her husband, James Alliston, produced him as a youngster. “He’s a lovely horse. He’s young. But his temperament is amazing. He’s very quiet in dressage and quite hot to jump, which I like. He’s got a lot of energy. Normally, my goal for the jumping is just to not get bucked off because he’s … pretty playful. But yeah, I love him … especially for such a young horse. He’s just all business went in there, like a pro.”

Currently standing in third place with a score of 30.5 are Taren Hoffos and Regalla, an 11-year-old Oldenburg mare owned by Carolyn Hoffos. “The Queen” aka Luna is a homebread for Taren, who said it is “pretty special to have ridden her throughout her whole life and produced her up to the level and she’s just wonderful. She’s the nicest horse I’ve ever sat on. She’s lovely. She was a bit tense at the beginning, but she got better and better as we went along and relaxed into it. And I’m really proud of her.”


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Lucienne Bellissimo and Caitane Z. Photo by Erin Brinkman for Shannon Brinkman photo.


The CCI3*-Short competitors completed dressage on Thursday. Lucienne Bellissimo holds the lead in the division with a score of 32.3 on Tremanton, a 10-year-old Trakehner owned by Horse Scout Eventing, LLC. Sitting in second with a score of 33.7 is Cinzano, an 11-year-old Holsteiner owned by Cellar Farm Corp and ridden by Amber Birtcil. Amber has been coming to Rebecca Farm for over 10 years and commented that “it’s such a destination event. And it’s always stunning … they always do such an amazing job here.”

Kaylawna Smith-Cook and AEV Above Authority follow in third on a score of 35.4. The 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse is owned by Marcella Ashton. Kaylawna said “it’s amazing here. I love the event.” She also praised her horse, saying “he’s done a couple of Intermediates so he’s new to the level and he really stepped up and just tried really hard for me so I’m super proud of him. I’m excited to get out there tomorrow.”


The scores in the 3*-Long division are very close. Liz Halliday-Sharp leads the group with a score of 29.4. Cooley Nutcracker is an Irish Sport Horse owned by Deborah Halliday, Renee Lane, Ocala Horse Properties and the rider. Liz was very complimentary of him, saying “this still a relatively new partnership for me with this horse. But he’s one that I think is a real one for the future. I really think the world of him he’s only an eight-year-old this year, and he’s still getting a lot stronger.”


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Lucienne Bellissimo and Caitane Z, an 11-year-old Westphalian owned by Horse Scout Eventing LLC, follow closely behind with a score of 30.8. Meg Pellegrini and her own RF Eloquence, a 17-year-old Holsteiner gelding, follow in third with a score of 31.9. Meg said this is her fourth season with the “old pro” and that she is “very lucky to get to sit on this horse, and to be able to be at this event is a huge honor … He knows what to do and he really gave it his all.”

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Miks Master C. Photo by Hope Carlin.


The top three placings after the 4*-Short dressage are held by Liz Halliday-Sharp and Tamie Smith. Liz is standing in first place with a 26.3 on Miks Master C, the 10-year-old Swedish Warmblood owned by Ocala Horse Properties and Deborah Palmer, and third place with a 29.1 on Deniro Z, the 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood owned by Ocala Horse Properties, LLC. When reflecting on the horses’ performances today, Liz said, “It’s my first four star with the Miks Master C horse … I think he is totally world class. He’s an incredible horse. I’ve only been riding him for two months, just getting to know him.”

Liz was happy with Deniro’s test today, saying “You know, we’re very good friends me and Deniro. And we have a long history together … and I figured we’d have amazing grounds here at Rebecca Farm … he was very, very excited to be here.”

Tamie Smith and Danito. Photo by Hope Carlin.

Tamie and Danito, a 13-year-old Hanoverian, sit in second with a score of 28.2 in the CCI4*-Short.

Helen Alliston and Ebay. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.


The FEI dressage concluded on Friday with the CCI4*-Long. 13 looks like a lucky number for this division, as the top three horses are all 13 years old! Helen Alliston sits in the top spot with her Oldenburg, Ebay, on a score of 28.9. Helen said “he was really wonderful” during his test and that Ebay always comes out as a professional.

Oskar, a Holsteiner owned and ridden by Alyssa Phillips, is currently in second with a 31.4. “He was really good” especially in the trot work and Alyssa said the canter work got a bit spicy, so she is excited for the cross country tomorrow. Tamie Smith and Dutch Warmblood Elliot V, owned by the Elliot V Partnership, sit in third place with a score of 32.7.

Helen Alliston and Ebay. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

The sun came back out by the end of the day and the gorgeous Montana skies are looking clear for FEI cross country on Saturday. Best of luck to all the horses and riders!


The Event at Rebecca Farm: 
WebsiteRide Times/Live ScoresLive StreamEN’s Guide to Rebecca Farm, EN’s CoverageEN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram

On Course With Ian Stark at Rebecca Farm: 4*-L XC Course Preview

Photo by Erin Tomson.

Ample rainfall this year has made for clear, smoke-free skies, and beautiful footing on the cross country course at Rebecca Farm. Riders can expect a characteristically challenging but fair 4*-Long course from FEI course designer Ian Stark. I gathered some super cool insights and only bounced off the back of the golf cart once as we toured the course today.

The original course, designed by Mark Phillips, went counterclockwise around the property, and ran in that direction for approximately a decade. Ian Stark changed the direction and design of the course when he took over as designer and it has run primarily clockwise around Rebecca Farm for the past decade. This year, Ian has changed up the direction and design of the course again and created quite a few new challenges for horses and riders.

After an inviting first fence, Ian sends the horses up and over the large mound for fence number two. It’s not an especially hard question, but it does make the horses and riders start thinking and making decisions very early in the course. Ian said it keeps them from “mucking around” and “I need them to concentrate and focus from the get-go.” In other words, no wasting time! Ian introduces quite a bit of terrain very early in the course, and the first combination presents at 3AB. “It’s not horrifically difficult, but it is pretty testing for horses that have just started. So it’s important that the horses and riders are warmed up correctly.” The horses will come galloping up the hill to 3A and there is very little time to line up and find the correct line to the narrow brush at 3B.

The riders have a bit of a breather at fences four and five, and then into the Ogopogo water at 6ABCD. They jump in over an alligator and then take a bending line left through the water and over the “gator bait” which is a roast chicken. Then the horses will travel over the island and through the trees to jump a log drop back into the water, and finally continue up the hill on a sharp bending right line to jump a narrow tabasco sauce bottle. “Hot stuff,” as Ian cheekily says.

Photo by Erin Tomson.

I asked him what the most challenging part of this question would be, to which he replied, “I think the first two elements are fine, but if they’re a bit sticky at the third element – and it’s a big drop – then it might muck up the striding to the angled tabasco sauce bottle and there’s a real risk of running out or chipping in a little stride.”

Fence 7 is a big solid gallop fence, which Ian set on a curved line of approach. He explained that on a long straight gallop it’s quite difficult to get both the speed and the balance right, “so by putting the bigger classes on a turn, it forces them to slow down… and it stops them from running the risk of galloping like nutcases at a big table.”

8AB presents some gnarly terrain if I do say so! 8A is a narrow, angled brush and on landing the terrain takes the horse down a deep hollow, and back up to part B in just four strides. “When you’re in the bottom looking up at that, it looks like a massive wall. And then you’ve got to hold onto your line and jump the B element. It looks horrific … but it should ride really well. He says because he’s not riding hahaha – I’m now an armchair event rider!” Oh Ian, you have quite the sense of humor!

A quick reprieve from technical fences at number nine is quickly followed by an interesting choice at 10AB. Ian has flagged the entire, wide face of 10A, allowing the riders to choose one of two very different lines. If riders choose to approach part A on the far left, they save quite a few strides (and thus time) but run the risk of a runout at part B due to the severe angle they will be jumping on. If they choose to approach part A of the far right, they have a much straighter approach to the B element but add quite a few strides on the approach. “It will be interesting to see what they do. They have a choice, and I love to give riders a choice and make them think… and then they usually screw up when they’re thinking too much,” he said with good humor.

Photo by Erin Tomson.

The second half of the course continues in the same pattern of challenging, technical combinations alternating with galloping type fences. Ian tasks riders with having the right combination of speed and balance throughout each element on the course. Fences 13ABC take the horses through the main water complex: a big jump into the water at 13A is followed by an up bank and bounce for elements B and C. The horses will need to maintain a significant amount of power to successfully jump up the bank and bounce over part C, then continue up the hill toward the VIP tents before they “take a deep breath, turn, and launch into orbit” at number 14. The massive drop is followed by 15AB, back into the water at the bottom and a right-handed bending line out over an angled corner. I can barely breathe just thinking about it!

Ian said he really likes fences 17AB because “it’s all about the horse staying on its line and the rider being in balance. With long reins.” The last combination on the course is “tough enough” according to Ian. A big galloping fence at element A is followed by a six-stride line to quite a challenging angle over elements B and C in two strides. “But if they’re a bit tired, they can swing out and add a bit more time and distance to it. So that’s why you’ve got to be agile and adjustable to turn in the air and then still hold the line.”

The final three fences are all big, solid galloping fences. However, Ian set all of them on curved approaches to keep the riders thinking and to prevent them from going too fast at the end, particularly if they’re trying to make up time. “The 4*-L course is 5,710 meters, which makes it 10 minutes and about 3 or 4 seconds to ride.” Ian said it’s only a smidge over minimum length, but he takes into account the higher elevation here in Montana. Many of the horses running at this level are used to training at or near sea-level, so an increase in elevation makes a difference in how easily they can tire on course. He emphasized several times during our tour today that horse welfare is the number one concern. The last jump is brightly painted in blues and greens to make it stand out visually to the horses, so they jump sharply at the end.

Best of luck to all the horses and riders out there on Saturday – we’ll be cheering you on!

The Event at Rebecca Farm: 
WebsiteRide Times/Live ScoresLive StreamEN’s Guide to Rebecca Farm, EN’s CoverageEN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram

Finding the Message in the Mess with Daniel Stewart

Athletic endeavors are hard, no matter the sport; however, all of us that ride and enjoy horses
know they also add challenges that simply don’t exist in any other sport. Eventing is
complicated, full of unexpected situations, and honestly most of the factors at a competition
are out of our control. Coach and Clinician Daniel Stewart is spot on when he says, “Skis don’t spook at snow! There aren’t any chestnut mare tennis rackets that refuse to load in the car!”

We train and train on the physical aspects of riding but spend much less time focusing on the mental challenges that our sport presents, which is ridiculous when you think about it. In addition to the sometimes unpredictable nature of our equine partners, we riders also put a tremendous amount of pressure on ourselves – not only to perform well for ourselves and others, but to do right by our horses. That pressure can fill our brains with destructive thought processes and severely limit our ability to ride well.

I spent the 4th of July holiday participating in a clinic with Daniel Stewart, which was organized by Julie Stephens of Leading Edge Equestrian in Spokane, WA. Julie met Daniel at the United States Pony Club annual meeting in Sacramento many years ago and has been hosting his clinics for twenty years. “I keep having him back because the affirmation of his positive approach is amazing,” Julie said. She uses many of Daniel’s exercises in lessons with her riders and said, “we practice tough, which is why I believe our horses jump so well.”

Coach Daniel Stewart provides clinics to equestrians in order to “pressure proof” their riding.
Photo by Erin Tomson.

Under Julie’s leadership and instruction, the Leading Edge riders are incredibly supportive and encouraging of other riders (from their own and other barns), which is wonderful to see. Daniel rightfully says that “riding is like juggling a chainsaw, a hotdog, a kitten, and a cactus!” Our sport is hard, challenges are inevitable, and we all do better when we cheer for each other. If you top a positive attitude with good practices for both the mental and physical aspects of riding, you might just have a “BOOYA-CRACKALACKA” moment where it all comes together!

Participants Cheyenne and Karlynn demonstrate the positive and supportive atmosphere developed.
Photo by Kelsey McCarty of KMC Equine.

Daniel’s clinics are unique. The jumps stay small and simple, but don’t be fooled… the challenge
comes in the rules of the game. He intentionally gives riders too many directions to follow, so
everyone is guaranteed to make mistakes, no matter how good or experienced a rider they are.

For example, he might give you instructions to jump a course of 6 fences beginning with #2 and
ending with #4 (the fences are numbered, and all can be jumped from both directions), no
repeating jumps, two changes of direction, count your strides out loud (e.g. three strides before each fence), and an optimum time of 45 seconds. You receive these instructions while you
canter a courtesy circle, and then you immediately begin your round, which means you have no
time to process the information and make a plan. He times you and you get penalties for being
under or over the optimum time, as well as making mistakes on the directions, and chipping in
or jumping long. If you have more than 7 penalties in one round…. Get off your horse and do 50
sit-ups! Doesn’t that sound fun?! With Daniel, it is as fun as it is challenging! Among the primary reasons for these exercises are to practice under pressure and learn to be okay with making mistakes.

We put so much time, energy, money, etc. into preparing for competitions, and when we get
there, we feel nervous and might have performance anxiety. Daniel’s unmounted sports
psychology seminars help riders learn what causes these show jitters and learn strategies to
combat them. In the seminar portion of his clinic, we learned that the fear of failure can top
that list. We all have imperfections, which we prefer to keep hidden, so when we put ourselves
on display, we risk others seeing our flaws or mistakes. The fear of letting someone down is also common — what if I let my HORSE down by not riding well or making a mistake? What will my parents, coach, friends, teammates, or sponsors think of me? Daniel addresses this by saying that we typically define our horses and the people in our lives based on effort, but we usually define ourselves based on outcomes.

Everyone is bound to make mistakes. But working to better understand how to cope and move forward is critical to an athlete.
Photo provided by Daniel Stewart.

There is power in realizing that you and only you create pressure. That means you can also
remove that pressure. Daniel pushes riders to practice under pressure so you can learn to stay
calm and make good decisions. He says, “Equestrians don’t make mistakes, mistakes make
equestrians. It makes them bolder and braver and brighter.” The only guarantee is that you are
going to make mistakes. Learn to be okay with that because messing up is how we learn. The
key, however, is to find the message within the mess.

Remember that mistakes are outcomes, so we shouldn’t focus on them. Whereas finding the message in your mistake takes effort. I really like this strategy because it gives me permission to be human! Humans are imperfect, just make an effort to learn from the mistakes and not repeat the same ones – that’s progress.

That’s not to say that mistakes don’t hurt or that you shouldn’t feel bad about them. Daniel
says you should feel bad about making a mistake and allow yourself a moping period to process
the error. However, your moping period should be proportional to the severity of the mistake.
He recommends three seconds to three minutes. Three seconds is a long time when it occurs
after you pull a rail in your 1-minute stadium round! Three minutes may not be long enough to
process the error if you pulled on the reins, took your leg off, caused your horse to drop a rail on the last fence, and knocked yourself out of first place… but the idea is to allow yourself to feel those emotions and then tell yourself “OK move on!” You can choose to come back into the present moment and not continue to dwell in the moping zone.

Personally, I find that cheering on my friends and fellow competitors helps me move out of the moping zone. Root for each other, enjoy other people’s successes, and remind yourself “I did my best” even if your best was messy and imperfect. In most cases, we did do our best and we should be proud of that. Keep practicing and next time your best can be even better. As Daniel says, “Riding is tough, but so are you.”

As Daniel Stewart says, “Riding is tough, but so are you.” And we are better when we cheer each other on.
Photo by Erin Tomson.

If you coach other riders, you might be interested in Daniel’s Instructor Certification Program,
which he is relaunching in Fall 2022.

Nora Huynh-Watkins Named Third Ever So Sweet Scholarship Recipient by Strides for Equality Equestrians

Photo Courtesy of Nora Huynh-Watkins.

Strides for Equality Equestrians (SEE) is delighted to announce that Nora Huynh-Watkins of Oregon has been selected as the Summer 2022 recipient of the Ever So Sweet Scholarship. The education and network that Huynh-Watkins will develop over two months at Sara Kozumplik’s Overlook Farm will be influential as she navigates her way in the horse industry.

Huynh-Watkins is the third recipient of the scholarship which covers expenses for full board and training costs for Huynh-Watkins’ horse, several lessons per week, housing, a stipend to cover living expenses, competition fees, and coaching at competitions.

Huynh-Watkins is a 25-year-old self-professed lifelong “horse-girl” who is looking forward to expanding her knowledge both in and out of the saddle. Her current horse is a 9-year- old OTTB that she is competing at Novice and hopes to continue up the levels as they are ready.

Huynh-Watkins would also like to be more involved with expanding grassroots level events in the Pacific Northwest to increase competition opportunities. She was on her Intercollegiate Eventing Team that encouraged those with interest in horses, but who didn’t have access to a horse of their own to come out and gain experience. This may turn into an exciting model for SEE to explore!

SEE with the help of Sara Kozumplik & Edy Rameika is thrilled to offer the Ever So Sweet scholarship, a life-changing opportunity to deserving individuals in the horse world. Our Professional Pathways program is helping realize the goal of increasing Diversity, Equity & Inclusion within horse sports. We are so appreciative of the USEA & the USEA Foundation for their continued support.

SEE the Change, Be an Ally!

You can follow along for updates on the SEE website at

For more information please contact Erin Tomson, Ph.D., Strides for Equality Equestrians at 509.332.9486 / [email protected]

Celebrating the 2021 USEA Annual Award Winners

Saturday’s awards dinner at the 2021 USEA Annual Meeting and Convention featured Jim Wofford and James Wolf as Masters of Ceremonies. They teamed up well to announce a wide range of awards and honors throughout the evening. Starting with the awards for Beginner Novice, join us in congratulating all of the winners!

Beginner Novice

  • Carla Lindsay: Junior Beginner Novice Champion
  • Nicole Carlone: Intercollegiate Beginner Novice Champion
  • Cami Pease: Adult Rider & Adult Amateur Rider Beginner Novice Champion
  • Stephen Fulton: Master Rider & Master Amateur Rider Beginner Novice Champion
  • Maya Chinana: Young Adult Rider Beginner Novice Champion


  • Samantha Schwartz: Young Adult Rider Novice Champion
  • Katie Szewczyk: Intercollegiate Novice Champion
  • Jamie Allison: Adult Rider Novice Champion
  • Maddie Lichten: Adult Amateur Rider Novice Champion
  • Nancy Wilson: Master Amateur Rider Novice Champion
  • Madeline Bletzacker: Master Rider Novice Champion


  • Shelby Murray: Junior Rider Training Champion
  • Ghislaine Homan-Taylor: Adult Rider Training Champion
  • Cora Severs: Intercollegiate Training Champion & Young Adult Rider Training Champion
  • Brooke Kahl: Master Rider & Master Amateur Rider Training Champion
  • Francesca Broggini: Adult Amateur Rider Training Champion


  • Audrey Ogan: Junior Rider Modified Champion
  • Julia Fanello: Young Adult Rider Modified Champion
  • Morgyn Johnson: Intercollegiate Modified Champion & Adult Amateur Rider Modified Champion
  • Stephanie Sills: Adult Rider Modified Champion
  • Master Rider & Master Amateur Rider Modified Champion


  • Alexis Larson: Junior Rider Preliminary Champion
  • Caroline Martin: Adult Rider Preliminary Champion
  • Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp: Master Rider Preliminary Champion
  • Jackson Dillard: Young Adult Rider & Intercollegiate Preliminary Champion
  • Arden Wildasin: Adult Amateur Rider Preliminary Champion
  • Lisa Borgia: Master Amateur Rider Preliminary Champion


  • Stephanie Cooper: Master Amateur Rider Intermediate Champion
  • Benjamin Noonan: Young Adult Rider Intermediate Champion
  • Ariel Grald: Adult Rider Intermediate Champion
  • Arden Wildasin: Adult Amateur Rider Intermediate Champion


  • Cosby Green: Intercollegiate Advanced Champion
  • Madeline Scott: Adult Amateur Rider Advanced Champion
  • Kevin Keane: Master Amateur Rider Advanced Champion
  • Boyd Martin: Adult Rider Advanced Champion


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Horses of the year were awarded at the beginner novice through advanced levels, with a few special awards as well.

  • Drummer Boy: Novice Horse Champion
  • Reverie GWF: Training Horse Champion
  • Mr. Panda: Modified Horse Champion
  • Shanroe Cooley: Preliminary Horse Champion & Preliminary 6-year-old Horse Champion
  • Lady Chatterley: Intermediate Horse Champion
  • Nemesis: Intermediate 7-year-old Horse Champion
  • Isselhook’s First Sight TSF: SmartPak USEA Stallion of the Year
  • My Valentine: SmartPak USEA Pony of the Year

The USET Connaught Grant is awarded to a horse – the recipient this year was Chin Tonic, a 9-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Hyperion Stud and ridden by William Coleman.

The Standlee Premium Western Forage USEA Horse of the Year went to On Cue, a 16-year-old Selle Francais mare owned by Christine Turner in partnership with Boyd Martin and Tommie and TJ Turner. On Cue was also the Bates USEA Mare of the Year and the Advanced Horse Champion.

After the division awards, the night moved on to special awards, grants, and honorable mentions. Alexandra Baugh received both the Revitavet USEA Young Rider of the Year Award as well as Young Adult Rider Advanced Champion. Katie Lichten was the Intercollegiate Intermediate Rider Champion, as well as USEA Adult Amateur of the Year. The Bates USEA Lady Rider of the Year went to Tamra Smith. World Equestrian Brands USEA Rider of the Year went to Boyd Martin.


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The USEA Volunteer of the Year Award, presented by Sunsprite Warmbloods, went to Cynthia Smith. Let’s give a big shoutout to Cynthia, who logged over 500 volunteer hours in 2021! Susan Watson received the Above & Beyond Event Personnel Award. The Amateur Impact Award went to Liz Messaglia. Stephanie Simpson won the Liz Cochran Memorial Groom’s Award.

Tawnie Anderson was awarded the Courtney Reeves Memorial Trophy. The Vintage Cup recipient was Holly Covey. Mellisa Warden was the recipient of the Ironmaster Trophy. Two Cornerstone Instructor Awards were given out this year, to Andrea Pfeiffer and Alison Eastman-Lawler. Kathleen Russell won the Sue Hershey Award. Alice Sarno of Area X, which hosted this year’s convention, was given the Andrew H. Popiel Memorial Trophy.

Caroline Martin was the recipient of the Wilton Fair Fund. Heather Thomas was awarded the Worth the Trust Scholarship. Sharyn Antico and Beth Perkins were each awarded Haller Educational Scholarships for officials. Cole Horn was the recipient of the Essex Horse Trials Grant. Rebecca Roth was the recipient of the Seema Sonnad Junior Rider Grant. Rebecca Braitling took home two big awards: the Captain Mendivil-Yucupicio Award and the Mike Huber Award.

Sarah and Jerome Broussard took the stage to announce the winners of the Rebecca Broussard Developing Rider Grants. Marc Grandia was awarded the “Little Becky” aka the Rebecca Broussard National Developing Rider Grant. Maya Black was awarded the “Big Becky” aka the Rebecca Broussard International Developing Rider Grant. Sarah also announced that the grants will continue for another three years, which was terrific news!

Jacqueline B. Mars was awarded two big honors, which included the As You Like It Owner’s Award and the Wofford Cup. Lauren Nicholson took the stage to read comments on Ms. Mars’ behalf and Ms. Mars also pre-recorded a video message to the USEA expressing her extreme gratitude. She said she didn’t feel deserving of such awards and is happy she can contribute to a sport that she loves so much. The crowd present at the banquet gave her a standing ovation.

Finally, USEA President Max Corcoran finished out the night by giving a USEA President’s Lifetime Achievement Award to Dougie Hannum. Dougie has spent countless years traveling to events all over the world to support and care for our equine athletes and has been an integral part of the high-performance teams. Max raised a Heineken to Dougie, who is well deserving of this award.

Congratulations to all of the award winners in 2021 – keep up the great work and Go Eventing!

Winter 2022 ‘Ever So Sweet’ Scholarship Awarded to Sierra Lesny

Sierra Lesny, recipient of the Ever So Sweet Scholarship for winter 2022. Photo courtesy of SEE.

Strides for Equality Equestrians and the United States Eventing Association Foundation are proud to announce the recipient of the Ever So Sweet Scholarship for winter 2022. The scholarship, which is the first of its kind, is fully funded by Edy Rameika and provides an opportunity for riders from diverse backgrounds to train with Sara Kozumplik for two months in Florida. Sierra Lesny is the second recipient of the bi-annual scholarship.

The scholarship covers expenses for full board and training costs for Sierra’s horse, several lessons per week, housing for Sierra, a stipend to cover living expenses, competition fees, and coaching at competitions. Sierra got her start riding at her grandmother’s lesson barn when she was two years old. She has spent most of her life catch riding any horse that was available at the time, which has taught her a lot about patience and flexibility.

“This opportunity will allow me to grow as a rider,” Sierra says. “I have been riding since before I could walk and horses have always been a part of my life, but since I financially have not always been able to go full force into the horses, I have worked really hard and been a groom and a working student. I have loved it and it’s taught me so much and definitely made me a better horse person, but I haven’t had as much time to devote to just my riding skills.”

Photo courtesy of SEE.

Sierra is excited that she will be able to dedicate two months entirely to her riding and development as an up and coming professional. Sierra is eager to get her foot in the door and find her place as a trainer. She says, “This is definitely an opportunity that anyone in my position dreams of, and I have dreamed many times about going down to Florida and getting to work with an amazing trainer in the hub of the horse network during the winter … being able to be a part of that is absolutely incredible!”

Sierra will be an ambassador for the ESS scholarship, which is part of the Professional Pathways programs SEE is developing. She will play an essential role in fostering a more inclusive environment within equestrian sports: “For all of us in this world with a darker skin tone, it can be scary and lonely at times. But the only way to change that is to take up space. Be here, be proud, and support one another.”

The scholarship will provide Sierra with the opportunity to make professional connections, which will not only help her as an individual, but will contribute to improving access and opportunities for other BIPOC riders.

“For me growing up, not seeing many people that look like me in the horse world was disheartening,” Sierra says. “Putting people in this space so that younger kids grow up seeing someone that looks like them, doing the things that they want to do is the most important.” You can follow along for updates on the Strides For Equality website and Facebook and Instagram pages.

Graphic courtesy of Strides for Equality Equestrians.

A Conversation with FEI Course Designer Adri Doyal

Adri Doyal and William Robertson. Photo courtesy of Cyra Carlson.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down for a conversation with FEI course designer, Adri Doyal. Our conversation took place at the end of long, successful weekend at Spokane Sport Horse Farm Fall Horse Trials in Spokane, WA. Adri, who was born and raised in East Texas, has been building and designing courses since she was a teenager. She added the venue at Spokane Sport Horse Farm to her roster earlier this year and spent many long hours designing and preparing the debut CCI2*-Short and CCI3*-Short cross courses, as well as designing new fences and tracks for the Intro – Intermediate courses.

Female course designers are few and far between, which makes it that much more important to hear their stories, promote their successes, and encourage other young women to consider a path in course design. I began by asking Adri to share her origin story, as her puppy Tallulah played nearby.

Photo courtesy of Cyra Carlson.

EN: How did you get started in course design?

A.D.: Well you could say I am a legacy case. I was counting it up one time and I think the least amount of horse trials I’ve ever been to in one year is eight, in my entire life… and that would be considered my break from eventing. My mom was the trifecta – she was a judge, course designer, and T.D., and my dad was a course builder and then designer. I took over the chainsaw from him and started a lot more on the course prepping end of things. Especially because I hit a rough patch on horses and I wasn’t sure I wanted to pursue the pro rider thing. And once you start working horse trials you fall into a rhythm with it and… you either stick with it or not!

I started with course prepping and doing little bits of building here and there, and then figured out that I was a lot more passionate about all the fun of the course design and that side of it than I ever was about competitive riding. For me the horses were always more of the hobby… I could go out and play with a baby horse for three hours in a round pen and I was happy. I didn’t really care if I came home with blue ribbons, but I could just devour books upon books on building and design and why we do things that make horses do certain things over jumps. To this day I am still a huge nerd! So I stepped into that role and took over a few events on the prep end, and then I slowly started poaching all of my mom’s course design jobs, and doing more and more with that.

I did a couple of the educational seminars here in the U.S. back when I was in my late teens and early 20s. Around that same time we had a lot of involvement with the Mexican Cavalry and the federation down there – I have my dual citizenship because when I did occasionally compete, I was riding for Mexico. One of the colonels and other military members who were really involved with the federation down there invited me to an FEI seminar. I never really attended with any thought that I would walk out with an FEI license… but then I did! So that started it off and it’s been a little bit interesting to work with the education system of the FEI and the USEA all at the same time.

I’ve gone through a lot of learning curves, and I definitely started off a lot younger than most people did. That was really beneficial to me on one hand, and probably not so much on the other, but it did give me an opportunity to get mileage – lots and lots of mileage – working small events and really unique situations, to where I could start looking at things from a different perspective and deal with restrictions on resources and things like that. I tend to thrive in those situations more – I don’t really know what to do with unlimited resources! I like any opportunity I have to go out and see how things are done, and FEI has been really great for me in that aspect because I’ve gotten to travel to 14 countries now and stomped around cross country courses. Between workshops and seminars and just knocking on doors and finding opportunities to pay my own travel to be able to go and work somewhere, I’ve tried to do as much of that as I can.

Photo courtesy of Cyra Carlson.

EN: Who are some of your mentors and inspirations, aside from your parents?

A.D.: I’d say one of my biggest mentors for a long time was Tremaine (Cooper). Tremaine was one of my big supporters. He was always a really good voice of reason for me and very encouraging, especially considering my unique step into course design. He was one of the ones that actually got it, that course design was more for me than the riding was. To this day I still love to go school around cross country, but the competing just wasn’t for me.

On the building side of things, I had Dan Stark. Both Dan Stark and John Williams are rock solids that I have known for years, and they’ll always answer a phone call and put up with my questions. Also, Sylvia Roberts has been one of my FEI mentors recently. I’ve gotten to go down and work with her in Australia a couple of times and be with the Adelaide crew, and it was very cool to get the opportunity to work with a female 5* designer and somebody who got it on the same level – you know, understanding that girls want to play with chainsaws too!

EN: If you could give advice to aspiring course designers what would it be?

A.D.: Try to expose yourself to as many influences as you can. And that includes builders as well as designers. Because at least for me, I feel like you need to have an understanding of all of the prep and all of the construction that goes into it to be able to come in and design it. Spend lots of time behind the scenes and do lots of grunt work. I think you’ll notice that different designers all have different styles and we’re all very big personalities. Same thing with builders – the builders have different styles and are all very big personalities. Everybody has an opinion that their way is the right way. It’s the same thing as riding – if you want to be a great rider, expose yourself to riding as many different horses as you can. If you want to be a great designer, go out there and work with as many people as you can. Go as many places as you can. And you start collecting your own little library of tips and tricks, and things that work everywhere.

Local artist Janene Grende. Photo courtesy of Cyra Carlson.

Adri also shared that she loves to scrounge through piles of wood that others might consider scrap – that’s where she finds a lot of treasures to add character and artistic qualities to her jump designs. To her, understanding the building and construction process is equally important to understanding the design. Understanding and using the terrain is also key to good course design.

Ultimately, Adri looks at the big picture: what sort of style and context suits each venue? Cottages appropriate to Badminton don’t belong in the Southwest desert of the U.S. Instead, she designs and builds courses that fit into the surrounding landscape and culture, right down to how the jumps are dressed and accessorized for competition days.

The new courses at Spokane Sport Horse Farm are a beautiful demonstration of this – Adri worked with local artist, Janene Grende, to dress the fences with geometric artwork of wildlife that is native to Eastern Washington State. Although the horses may not notice, the riders certainly appreciate the thought, time, and effort that goes into Adri’s course designs!

Distance, Wildfires and the Occasional Moose Can’t Keep Area VII Eventers Down

A beautiful sunset in Area VII. Photo by Kimber McKay.

The Area VII 2021 eventing season finished up in superb fashion at Spokane Sport Horse Farm, September 30 – October 3. Area VII, which includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska, has a unique vibe to it. For starters, a moose casually passed by the dressage arenas on Friday morning in Spokane. A few competitors were worried about how their horses would react, but the moose was unimpressed and continued on his journey into the woods. Take a look:

Aside from wildlife appearances, we also have a short window of (sometimes) decent weather (May – early October), long travel distances, and an active wildfire season. Northwest eventers rise to the occasion, despite these challenges. Area VII member Kimber McKay put it well: “We have lots of long-distance travel which can be tough or prohibitive on amateurs who work and for junior riders during the school year. Yes, everyone knows that smoke and long winters can shorten the already-short season, and that can be a challenge. In the Eastern part of Area VII we don’t get our footing until mid or even late April, so the first few events of the season can be a little hard to prepare for… but we have awesome venues, wonderful clinicians, many incredible pros, and an overall friendly and supportive vibe.”

Area VII has a total of eight venues that host recognized events, three of which host two per year, for a total of only 11 events on our yearly calendar. Despite a short season and relatively few venues, we have three events that host FEI level competition: Aspen Farms in Yelm, WA, Rebecca Farm in Kalispell, MT, and most recently, Spokane Sport Horse Farm in Spokane, WA.

Chistel Carlson, M.D. is the property owner and event organizer at Spokane Sport Horse Farm. She, her daughter Cyra Carlson, and Gail Mackie have worked tirelessly to develop the property since they began running USEA recognized events in fall 2015. With the addition of CCI2*-S and CCI3*-S courses this fall, Spokane now offers an FEI destination in the fall that is much more doable for most Area VII riders aiming to compete at that level (previously, competitors would have to travel to Southern California for a fall FEI event). The new FEI courses, designed and built by Adri Doyal, proved challenging but successful for riders. Ella Kurtz and Sportsfield Harley Davis won the CCI2*-S with a final score of 37.7, while Stephanie Cooper and Sketchy Past won the CCI3*-S with a final score of 46.2.

Home for the weekend at SHHF! Photo by Sarah Haff.

One of the most amazing things about Spokane Sport Horse is that, in addition to FEI levels, the event also offers basically everything else: Future Event Horse 1 – 4-year-old divisions, Young Event Horse 4 and 5-year-old divisions, Intro through Intermediate horse trials, and Beginner Novice, Novice, and Training Level Classic 3-Day Events!

Kady Ellifritz and Yankee Bay won the Beginner Novice Classic 3-Day Event with a final score of 29.7. Kady expressed her gratitude to Christel and the SSHF team for providing the opportunity to compete in the long-format event at the Beginner Novice level. She said it was an incredibly unique experience to condition and prepare for, and then complete the endurance phases in partnership with her horse. Typically, Kady walks her cross country course a minimum of three times to be sure she is fully prepared for her ride, but with the additional length of the roads and tracks and steeplechase phases, she wasn’t able to commit the time or mileage to that much walking. That put her out of her comfort zone, but her coach, Kelsey Horn of Pinnacle Equine Training, told her “Kady, you need to trust your training.” It turns out that was excellent advice because Kady and Yankee had their best cross country ride ever and both ended the weekend with more confidence than they began with.

Kady Ellifritz and Yankee Bay compete in the Beginner Novice Classic Three-Day. Photo by Kim Johnson.

You won’t find basic logs at Spokane Sport Horse — the Intro and Beginner Novice cross country courses look like miniature versions of the upper-level courses! Competitors love the challenge provided by open oxers, corners, and trakehners even at the lowest levels. For horses and/or riders hoping to move up, the courses provide experience with the types of questions they’ll see later, so they aren’t a surprise. For riders who intend to stay at the lower levels, the courses provide enough of a challenge to keep things interesting!

Krista Rexin described her experience, “I love Area VII because everyone is so welcoming, and the atmosphere is about having fun! Christel Carlson and her crew at SSHF have worked tirelessly to build an amazing event. I have come here almost every year (barring horse injury and one year there was too much smoke in Montana to prepare) for about 6 years. This year I brought my baby OTTB Hurricane Gisselle and had a great experience running Beginner Novice… I was worried that I would be disappointed after running Training and Prelim with my other horse for several years but I was pleasantly surprised that the course was challenging and super fun for the level! I love the environment and the camaraderie that surrounds Area VII events!”

Tacos, please! Photo by Cindy Covington.

Christel and her crew maintain a good sense of humor too. By the end of our season in early October, the days are short. The mornings are cold and foggy, but absolutely beautiful. Stunning sunsets lead to full dark by 6:30 p.m. Christel, show jumping course designer William Robertson, and a small group of dedicated volunteers set most of the stadium course by moonlight to prepare for an early morning of jumping!

In the northwest we’ve traditionally had four distinct seasons, as the weather varies a lot throughout winter, spring, summer, and fall. Over the past few years, people have started referring regularly to our unfortunate fifth season… smoke season. Increasing annual temperatures and decreasing precipitation have led to drought and severe wildfires year after year, which threaten the homes and livelihoods of many people. The smoke from the fires also drifts long distances and often settles into a holding pattern for days or weeks at a time.

Personally, I didn’t know what “AQI” was three years ago. I learned that it stands for Air Quality Index, and that a number below 50 is considered “good.” Many people now have AQI monitoring apps on their phones, which can be used to track the smoke forecast as well as determine how unhealthy the air is. The AQI levels fluctuated from “unhealthy for sensitive groups” (101-150) to “unhealthy” (151-200) to “very unhealthy” (201-300) for several weeks in 2020 and again in 2021. There were bouts of air in the “hazardous” range above 300, which led many riders to withdraw from fall competition in 2020. I expect smoke season to present a continual challenge from here on out, but Area VII eventers are nothing if not adaptable and able to pull together as a community!

The night shift! Photo by Brian Smentkowski.

The long distance we travel for events helps contribute to our sense of community. People don’t haul in and out. We don’t have one-day events (except local unrecognized events in some places). We typically commit at least five days to attending one event. As Erin Storey of Storey Tails Eventing in Boise, Idaho put it, “our closest event is 7.5 hours away. That is two full days of travel and three for competition. It takes planning from the beginning of the year to get to the events you need for experience/MERs. Not to mention the added cost of the travel.” Many people camp on-site, which makes for festive evenings filled with happy hours, cook-outs, and tales told under the stars. Horses visit the taco truck and order their own coffee.

These fond memories will remain in our hearts as most of us prepare for a long, dark winter of indoor riding. We’ll come together again in May at Spokane Sport Horse for the 2022 season-opener. Until then, Area VII!

James Alliston Pulls Off Three Top-Two Finishes at Rebecca Farm

James Alliston and Paper Jam. Photo by

James Alliston was the big winner of the weekend at The Event at Rebecca Farm, with 3 top 2 finishes in the FEI divisions. James won first and second in the CCI4*-Short, as well as first place in the CCI4*-Long.


James Alliston and Paper Jam jumped a double-clear in showjumping to win the CCI4*-Long on Sunday with a final score of 38.8. James said the 12-year-old Hanoverian “was really awesome – honestly I wasn’t expecting to win because I had some time penalties yesterday. But he’s a really sweet horse and a real tryer, and I am excited for him going forward.” James will run Galway with “Jammers” at the end of the year. He also said, “He’s a fast horse, he doesn’t get tired. I’m hoping he can go 5*. He’s got all the pieces.”

James, who is based in California, loves coming to Rebecca Farm and says that “riding is one of those sports that’s all about experience.” Coming to The Event is quite eye opening because of the natural terrain, as well as the atmosphere. It prepares horses and riders for other big venues away from home.

Caroline Martin (USA) and Islandwood Captain Jack. Photo by

Caroline Martin and Islandwood Captain Jack added 4 jump penalties to finish in second place with a score of 38.9. The 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse who goes by “James” is owned by Caroline’s mom, Sherrie Martin. “I am really pleased with him. I wanted to come out here and practice going fast on cross country – fast but under control. He’s an amazing horse… and I am quite lucky to have a horse like him. He’s a horse of a lifetime for sure,” said Caroline.

She and James will probably be heading to the Maryland 5* this fall. Her advice for riders who hope to compete at the FEI level is to “Watch. Watch everything. Being here, even though you’re still in the U.S., it’s a little like being in Europe.” Caroline was also very genuine when she encouraged riders to strike up conversations with their role models and reminded us that “we all just ride horses for a living, and we care genuinely about each other.”

Jennie Brannigan (USA) and Twilightslastgleam. Photo by

Jennie Brannigan and Twilightslastgleam had 8 jump penalties to finish in third on a score of 41.0. “Grampa” is an 11-year-old Thoroughbred owned by Tim and Nina Gardner. Jennie said she was hoping to be third this weekend, and she was happy to be in the [press] tent on Sunday. “That little horse has to try his heart out to compete at this level… I am just thrilled he tried as hard as he did because he has to overcome a lot to compete at this level.”

Jennie’s advice for aspiring FEI riders was to “Stay realistic about what we’re doing. Don’t take yourself so seriously that you don’t enjoy it.” She went on to say that it’s important not to let the highs take you too high, or the lows too low.

At the end of the day, this is a very challenging and dangerous sport and it’s all about keeping it fun and staying safe. Jennie spoke about the tragic death of event rider Annie Goodwin on July 14th and emphasized that it should serve as a reminder to all of us to be good to each other, and to help and care for each other.

Maya Black (USA) and Miks Master C. Photo by


The final placings for the CCI4*-Short remained the same from cross country until the end of competition on Sunday. Maya Black maintained the lead to win first place with Miks Master C, a 9-year-old Swedish Warmblood owned by Laurie Cameron. Maya and Mickey added 4 jump penalties for a final score of 33.8. Giving advice for up-and-coming riders who have the goal of competing in the FEI divisions at Rebecca Farm, Maya said to be prepared. Practice and prepare, and understand what is expected.

Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp (USA) and Cooley Quicksilver. Photo by

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver added 4 jump penalties to finish in second place with a score of 43.6. The Monster Partnership owns the 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse. Liz, who was happy with her choice to come to Montana, said “What a great event this is, oh my gosh we had so much fun. It’s been an absolutely great event for the horses – beautiful weather, perfect ground, and a lot of atmosphere for them.” Speaking about The Monster’s show jumping round today, Liz said “I thought he jumped really well – he’s a bit out of practice. He was a good boy to just sort of pony up and come here.” In terms of next steps, Liz and The Monster will be heading to Pau for the 5*.

Rebecca Braitling and Caravaggio II. Photo by

Rebecca Braitling and Caravaggio II, a 10-year-old British Sport Horse, jumped clear and added .4 time penalties, for a third-place finish with a score of 58.7. “Ernie” is owned by Arnell Sporthorses.

“He was so good! I was sort of thinking I want to take him to Morvan [Park] – take him east. He’s green and he needs experience.” Bec said that coming to Rebecca Farm in comparison to other venues is “off the chart. You come with really high expectations a lot of the time. There’s a lot more going on at an event like this… there are a lot more variables.” The additional variable make it an amazing learning experience for horses and riders.

James Alliston and Nemesis. Photo by


James Alliston and Nemesis, a 7-year-old Canadian Warmblood owned by Alliston Equestrian maintained their lead in the CCI3*-Long with a double-clear round for a final score of 33.1. “He was really good, really good. He is young but he has been a big winner already. His mind is excellent. He keeps a really level head and has the talent, but also “strength of mind” to come out on day one of competition and do a good job.”

Nemesis is a young horse and James commented that “It’s early in his career to do this, but they learn so much from coming here and going on the grass. Rebecca Farm really exposes them to how it’s going to be when they go to somewhere like Kentucky.”

James also grabbed the second-place finish in the CCI3*-L with Alliston Equestrian’s RevitaVet Calaro. The 9-year-old Holsteiner put in a double-clear round for a final score of 34.3. James said that Calaro and Nemesis have come up together. He used to always beat Nemesis at prelim, but at intermediate they switched that up. Calaro is a really talented horse, but his mind can be a bit trickier: “When he comes to a show he gets really excited. He learned a lot from this show – he got a bit tired on cross country, but I think that was good for him because he came out more relaxed today.”

James also wanted to send a “Big thank you to his owner and to Garyn [Heidemann],” who had him previously as a dressage horse, “because they gave him to me and allowed me to whatever I wanted with him.”

Lucienne Bellissimo and her self-owned Atlantic Vital Spark added 4 penalties for a rail and a third- place finish with a score of 38.1. The 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse who goes by “Ted” in the barn, did well in Montana on the “fabulous ground” and Lucienne was very complimentary of the excellent, consistent footing.

They made the long journey from South Carolina for the first time this year, and she plans to make The Event at Rebecca Farm an annual destination. Lucienne spoke highly of her entire experience in Montana, including a trip to nearby Glacier National Park. She also finished 7th in the CCI3*-L on her mare Tremanton (aka Ting Ting), a 9-year-old Thoroughbred owned by Horse Scout Eventing, LLC. Lucienne is planning to give the horses a holiday now, and then go to Octoberfest at Stable View this fall.

Tommy Greengard and Joshuay MBF. Photo by


Tommy Greengard and self-owned Joshuay MBF maintained their lead to win the CCI2*-Long. Adding only one rail to their dressage score of 25.4, Tommy and Josh, a 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood, finished with a score of 29.4. “It’s been amazing… it was so great to bring him here. The goal was to get him here and I wasn’t sure it would happen… but he came and showed up for me in a big way. I really couldn’t ask for him to be any better. He jumped higher and higher, and worked harder and harder all weekend.”

Josh will stay at the prelim level for a while, although Tommy hasn’t decided exactly what’s next. He said, “I want him to feel like King Kong at the end of the year. He hasn’t put a foot wrong all year and I want him to feel his absolute best self before moving him up.” Tommy also won the Sr. Open Training A division on his dressage score of 23.9 on Andrea Pfeiffer’s Leonardo Diterma.

Maya Black and Laurie Cameron’s 6-year-old Hanoverian, Double Diamond C, also added just one rail on Sunday to finish second on a score of 31.0. “Overall, I was really pleased with him. He’s been a pretty consistent horse all along. I am personally a little bummed that I had a rail, but I was very pleased with him overall, all weekend.” Maya said “Petey” shows so much promise as a young horse and will stay at the preliminary level for a while. “He is entered right now for the AECs and then we’ll see what the fall holds. Maybe he’ll do another 2-Long in the fall, but otherwise we’ll keep chugging along.”

Alexis Larson and PL Diamond’s Inspiration maintained their dressage score throughout the weekend and consistently moved up the placings from 14 th after dressage, to 6 th after cross country, and into a third-place finish on Sunday. The 9-year-old Irish Draught, who goes by “Izzy” has been coming to Rebecca Farm with Alexis for four years now.

“She’s a jumping beast… picks up her feet, and is everything you could ask for in a good mare.” Alexis commented that “competing out on the toughest course with some of the best riders is really exciting. Have fun, and really ride what you have been practicing. Think about all of that stuff you have been preparing for – this is the moment!” Alexis is based in Carnation, WA and trains with Marc and Erin Grandia of Full Gallop Eventing.

Congratulations to all of the riders and horses – it was a fun and safe weekend at Rebecca Farm, and we look forward to more action in 2022!


The Event at Rebecca Farm presented by Montana Equestrian Events is held every July in Kalispell, Montana. One of the largest equestrian triathlons in the United States, The Event is also considered to have some of the world’s finest scenery. Each year it draws hundreds of riders of all levels, from amateur to Olympians. The 2021 Event celebrates the 20th anniversary of Rebecca Farm.

The Event at Rebecca Farm features thirteen courses ranging from novice to Olympic qualifier, which were originally developed by world-renowned course designer, Mark Phillips. In 2012, Scottish equestrian Ian Stark redesigned the Rebecca Farm courses. Known for his immense
contributions to eventing, Stark has won multiple Olympic medals and was inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.

CCI4*-L Final Results: 

CCI4*-S Final Results: 

CCI3*-L Final Top 10: 

CCI2*-L Final Top 10: 

The Event at Rebecca Farm: WebsiteRide TimesLive ScoresVolunteerHalt Cancer at XLive StreamShow PhotographerEN’s Coverage

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It Takes a Village – or a ‘Pinnacle Posse’ – for Kelsey Horn at Rebecca Farm

The “Pinnacle Posse” featuring Ali Johnson, Tarra Gakstatter, Kelsey Horn and Kim Johnson. Photo by Erin Tomson.

Every eventing enthusiast knows how challenging the sport can be. To train and compete successfully requires perfect alignment of so many factors that are out of our control. Riders often have to overcome setbacks, challenges, and disappointments, but that also makes the wins that much more exhilarating. We often hear “it takes a village!” to be successful, which is particularly true in the context of Rebecca Farm because it’s a week-long destination event.

The FEI levels get a lot of attention because they’re exciting to watch and the riders and horses become household names. However, the foundation of our sport is in the lower and mid levels. There are many trainers who specialize in bringing along young horses, developing good lower-level riders, and introducing the next generation of competitors and trainers while striving to reach the upper-most levels themselves. I sat down with one rider and her village for a look behind the scenes of a successful operation.

Kelsey Horn is the head trainer at Inavale Farm in Philomath, Oregon. Her business, Pinnacle Equine Training, focuses on teaching her students and horses good dressage and horse management basics as a foundation for success. Kelsey is an accomplished FEI 2* rider and has successfully brought multiple horses from beginner novice through preliminary. Her ultimate goal is to be successful at the 5* level, although she knows that is incredibly challenging to do. For the time being, she is happy to put in the hard work so she and her students can meet their goals.

It cannot go without saying that Kelsey and her husband, Brian, had their first baby just four and a half months ago. After two months of maternity leave, Kelsey was back in the saddle and leading the “Pinnacle Posse” to success at Area VII events. Her village came together to bring six horses to The Event at Rebecca Farm this week.

Kelsey and Skylar. Photo by Erin Tomson.

The drive from Inavale to Rebecca Farm takes about 15 hours, with an overnight stop in Spokane. Kelsey’s mom, Kristin Tetrick, came on the trip to help take care of Kelsey’s daughter. At four months old, Skylar needs frequent meals, naps, and diaper changes! As Kelsey said, she couldn’t possible do this without a lot of help. Fortunately, Skylar has five grandparents – all of whom have offered to go along to events to help with childcare. Kelsey speaks with extreme gratitude for the help offered by her family members and friends so that she can continue to ride, compete, and coach her students. Rebecca Farm is a particular goal for the Pinnacle Posse each year.

Kelsey said she loves coming to The Event because “it’s an amazing venue, but it’s also the grandness of it all. You want to be a part of it! You also get great exposure – because of the upper levels, you see people from outside of your area.” Kelsey went on to say that she really enjoys watching other trainers coaching their students in the warm-up arenas because it gives her new ideas and opens her mind to approaches she might not have considered. “It helps educate you – whether it’s the dressage or jumping warm-up, you learn so much about other ways to do things that you didn’t think of. It helps you get outside of your routine.”

Kelsey’s main goal with her students is to teach them how to ride correctly and make smart, independent decisions. Once a rider leaves the warmup, it’s just them and their horse and, as we all know, anything can happen out there – especially on cross country. She encourages her riders to establish confidence and competence at each level before moving up.

Ali Johnson is one of Kelsey’s riders. Soon to be 13 years old, Ali has been riding with Kelsey since she was 8. Ali described Kelsey’s coaching style as “amazing… she is very calm, technical, and analytical. Which is perfect for me.” Ali’s mom, Kim Johnson, agreed with that assessment and said she loves Kelsey’s approach because she spends the time to make sure all of the basics are in place and the horse/rider pairs are ready to compete or move up a level.

Kelsey and Cleared for Takeoff. Photo by Erin Tomson.

Tarra Gakstatter is the assistant trainer at Inavale, and a key member of the Pinnacle Posse as well. Between Kelsey and Tarra, they teach dozens of lessons each week including basic “up/down” lessons with beginner kids and adults, as well as dressage and jumping lessons with more experienced adult amateurs. Tarra’s philosophy is to keep riding fun. Tarra and Ravaye, an eight-year-old Holsteiner owned by Katherine Merkle, won first place in the Sr. Open Training B division here at Rebecca Farm today. They finished on their dressage score of 23.9 – way to go Tarra!

For every successful event, there are key members of the village that stay behind to keep things running at home. They miss out on all the fun of traveling to events! Kelsey said she is “incredibly proud to be here representing Inavale Farm and the amazing people there.”

Owned and run by Caroline and Luigi Meneghelli, Inavale is a staple in Area VII in its own right. Not only do they manage a very large and successful boarding operation and lesson program, Caroline and Luigi (and an amazing group of hard-working volunteers!) put on a USEA recognized event in June each year. Kelsey is grateful for Caroline, Luigi, and all of her riders and cheerleaders at home in Oregon.

Event riders love the thrill of cross country, there’s no doubt. We also love the community, the friendships, and the support we provide for each other. We all have a village, and it really does take the support of everyone around us to make dreams become reality. Go Eventing!

Recapping a Picture Perfect Cross Country Day at Rebecca Farm

Jennie Brannigan and Twilightslastgleam. Photo by

Cross country day for the FEI competitors at Rebecca Farm resulted in big changes in the top three standings in the 4*-L division. The current top three riders all put in impressive double-clear rounds and head into show jumping on Sunday on their dressage scores.

Moving up from fourth to take the lead in the CCI4*-L, Jennie Brannigan and Twilightslastgleam stand on a score of 33.0 going into show jumping on Sunday. “Grampa” is an 11-year-old Thoroughbred owned by Tim and Nina Gardner, who love The Event at Rebecca Farm. Jennie said, “Thoroughbreds try so hard and that horse tries so hard for me … I’m shocked to be leading and I am so happy for today.” Regarding the difficulty of the course, she said “I really had to work today … more than I thought I would. But at the end of the day that’s what a 4*L is all about.”

Hawley Bennett-Awad and Jollybo. Photo by

Hawley Bennett-Awad and her self-owned Jollybo moved from fifth after dressage into second place, maintaining their score of 34.5. Jolly, also known in the barn as “J-Bizzle” is a 17-year-old British Sport Horse. Hawley said, “I’m super psyched. Thanks to the Broussards – this is a world class event.”

Hawley has been coming to The Event for many years, usually with her husband in tow. He is such an integral part of her team that he attended participated in the press conference this afternoon. When asked about her ride today, Hawley’s husband Gamal (aka SBM) said, “It couldn’t have gone better. I mean it could have had more cowbell.”

Caroline Martin and Islandwood Captain Jack. Photo by

Currently standing in third place with a score of 34.9 are Caroline Martin and Islandwood Captain Jack. The 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse who goes by “James” is owned by Caroline’s mom, Sherrie Martin. “He was quite good … from beginning to end he felt like a proper 4* star horse. It was nice and fast ground.” Caroline’s fiancé, Deniz, is also a supportive horse partner and attended the press conference as her cheerleader. Deniz said “everything went great out there today” and he also wanted to pitch an idea that Ian Stark had — to run the course through the middle of the VIP tent. Perhaps that would make things even more exciting at Rebecca Farm.

Maya Black and Miks Master C. Photo by


The CCI4*-S didn’t result in as many changes in the standings, with the top two staying the same after cross country. Maya Black maintains the lead with Miks Master C, a 9-year-old Swedish Warmblood owned by Laurie Cameron. Maya and Mickey added only four time penalties for a current score of 29.8. “He’s great – this is the second season at advanced with him. He went out and galloped around – it was a short course and I galloped where I could, but it was hard to make the time.” Because they drove out from the east coast, Mickey hasn’t schooled cross country for three weeks. Maya decided he didn’t need to because he is a good, solid horse, and she ended up being happy with that choice.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver. Photo by

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver added 10.8 time penalties to maintain second place with a score of 39.6. The Monster Partnership owns the 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse. When reflecting on her ride, Liz said “The Monster was a good boy. I know him really well and he’s an extremely brave horse. All the jumps rode exactly how I’d planned. I was pleased him – it was a good course and I said that to Ian. The Monster is excited to be back out running again.”

Liz, who was slated to ride for Team USA in Tokyo, changed her plans two weeks ago when Deniro Z was withdrawn from Olympic competition. Despite the disappointment, Liz said “This has been healing for the soul for me and for my owners and my family, coming here. That was partly why we did it. Just plugging away at home … was not great. So it was sort of on a whim that we came here, and I’m really glad we did.”

Liz also said she’s already booked her Airbnb for next year and will plan to make Rebecca Farm an annual destination. “If there was anywhere else in the world I’d rather be than Tokyo, it’s probably here.”

Rebecca Braitling and Caravaggio II. Photo by

Rebecca Braitling and Caravaggio II, a 10-year-old British Sport Horse, jumped clear and added 16.4 time penalties, which moved them from seventh into third place. “Ernie” is owned by Arnell Sporthorses. “He was spooky and impressed with the waters – he’s pretty green still [at the level] but he’s a really good jumper,” Bec said about her ride. “For me the two water complexes were the most surprising to him but it’s always fun here – if they’re out in front of you, you can keep kicking on. And you know Ian always wants you to keep kicking on.” Bec, who has won the 2* a couple of times and coached the young rider teams in the past, is excited to be back at Rebecca Farm on a 4* horse.

James Alliston and Nemesis. Photo by


James Alliston and Nemesis, a 7-year-old Canadian Warmblood owned by Alliston Equestrian maintained their lead in the CCI3*-L. They added 2.8 time penalties for a score of 33.1. Lucienne Bellissimo and her self-owned Atlantic Vital Spark put in a double-clear round to move up from eight place into second with a score of 34.1.

Dani Sussman and Jos Bravio added only 1.2 time penalties for a score of 34.2 and a move into third place. The 10-year-old Argentine Silla is “a little horse with a big heart.” Dani said it went “super well and I want to thank my owner, Carol.” Dani traveled from Colorado for the event and said, “I’ve been here maybe 18 of the 20 years and I have watched it grow – it’s pretty spectacular.” When reflecting on the course, she said “I had to keep my gas pedal on the whole time. The combinations rode fantastic … I had to add a couple strides in two of the combinations, but he jumped so well and was so rideable.”

Tommy Greengard and Joshuay MBF. Photo by


In the CCI2*-L, Tommy Greengard and self-owned Joshuay MBF maintained their lead on their dressage score of 25.4. Josh is a 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood who “was spectacular and gave me the best ride I’ve ever had on him. He really got into a rhythm and was able to gallop. The tables just came to him, and he pricked his ears at the corners.”

Maya Black and Laurie Cameron’s 6-year-old Hanoverian, Double Diamond C, also put in a double-clear to stay in second place with a score 27.0. “He’s still green but we know each other so well. He galloped around and jumped everything as expected. By the end he was like … OK just keep jumping. It was nice to have a little bit longer course, to not have to rush between the jumps.”

After a double-clear round, Chloe Smyth and Flyin Huckleberry moved into third place with a score of 31.7. Michelle Cameron Donaldson owns the 7-year-old Thoroughbred. “This is his first 3*L and this was his first time running on grass. He was really good at all the options … a little looky at the crowd” but Chloe said it was a very successful ride and she is happy to be here.

The FEI divisions begin show jumping on Sunday at 10:30am local time with the CC2*-L followed by the CCI3*-L. The CCI4*-S begins at 2:00pm, followed by the CCI4*-L. With the scores very close together, it should make for a very exciting Sunday in Montana! For the complete schedule and results visit

Admission for this family-friendly spectator event is free, with full concessions and a large multi-interest shopping fair, as well as a free Kid Zone that includes pony rides, PonyUp! (Horsemanship 101 classes for kids), face painting, arts and crafts, and more. A one-time, recommended $10 parking donation per car to support Halt Cancer at X and a full weekend pass is available with a $25 donation.

To access Rebecca Farm, from the junction of Highways 93 & 2, travel two miles north on Highway 93 to Reserve Loop and go west two miles, then south on W. Springcreek Rd. The entrance is 3/4 mile on the right.


The Event at Rebecca Farm presented by Montana Equestrian Events is held every July in Kalispell, Montana. One of the largest equestrian triathlons in the United States, The Event is also considered to have some of the world’s finest scenery. Each year it draws hundreds of riders of all levels, from amateur to Olympians. The 2021 Event celebrates the 20th anniversary of Rebecca Farm.

The Event at Rebecca Farm features thirteen courses ranging from novice to Olympic qualifier, which were originally developed by world-renowned course designer, Mark Phillips. In 2012, Scottish equestrian Ian Stark redesigned the Rebecca Farm courses. Known for his immense contributions to eventing, Stark has won multiple Olympic medals and was inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.

CCI4*-L Scores After Cross Country

CCI4*-S Scores After Cross Country

CCI3*-L Top 10 After Cross Country

CCI2*-L Scores After Cross Country

The Event at Rebecca Farm: WebsiteRide TimesLive ScoresVolunteerHalt Cancer at XLive StreamShow PhotographerEN’s Coverage

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Woods Baughman, Maya Black and James Alliston Lead 4*/3* Divisions at Rebecca Farm

Woods Baughman and C’est La Vie 135. Photo by Hope Carlin.

The FEI competition at Rebecca Farm continued today with the CCI3*-Long, CCI4*- Short, and CCI4*- Long dressage. With scores ranging from the mid 20s to the low 30s, the standings in all divisions are tightly packed.

Woods Baughman & C’est La Vie Lead CCI4*-L

Woods Baughman and his self-owned horse, C’est La Vie 135, a 13-year-old Hanoverian, scored a 31.1 to lead the CCI4*-L. Woods said that his horse “felt pretty good all the way around. He was a little in my hand too much but had a good test.” Woods also said that his horse is a cross country machine and the cross country course looks really solid for the level.

Woods, who trains with Sharon White on the east coast, is enjoying his first trip to Montana. He said he’s been enjoying seeing a new mountain each day because the wildfire smoke has been clearing and revealing more of the peaks. Woods also found some fame on Instagram today when Hope Carlin turned one of her photos into a faux-GQ cover page featuring Woods and his horse at the first horse inspection. “The Eventing Issue” featured the tagline “Look sharp and ride smart.” Woods certainly has both things covered!

Erin Kellerhouse and Woodford Reserve. Photo by Hope Carlin.

Erin Kellerhouse and her self-owned Woodford Reserve, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse, stand in second place with a score of 31.3. Erin was happy with “Woody” today because he often “warms up really well and then gets super revved up in the ring” but today he stayed really relaxed. When talking about the cross country course, Erin said that riding at this level always makes her a bit nervous because “anything can happen … you have to be on it.”

James Alliston and Paper Jam. Photo by Hope Carlin.

Currently standing in third place with a score of 32.8 are James Alliston and Paper Jam, a 12-year-old Hanoverian owned by James’ wife, Helen Alliston. James said “Jammers” can “get a bit lit up [in the dressage ring] but he likes it here and stayed relaxed in the ring today.” When asked if the name Paper Jam is a nod to the 1999 film Office Space, James said he didn’t know and had never seen the film, but wants to watch it after he returns home to California. Eventing Nation will be waiting for his film review and follow-up.

Maya Black & Miks Master C Have Edge in CCI4*-S

Maya Black and Miks Master C. Photo by Hope Carlin.

The top three after dressage in the CCI4*-S are all well-known names within the eventing community. Maya Black and Miks Master C lead the division with a score of 25.8. “Mickey” is a 9-year-old Swedish Warmblood owned by Laurie Cameron. Maya said he was a good boy and that, even after a long haul from the east coast, he “went in and stayed really relaxed and obedient.” Maya is hoping to run a CCI4*-Long this fall with Mickey, and the course here at Rebecca Farm should be a good test for him at a new (to him) venue.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver. Photo by Hope Carlin.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and The Monster Partnership’s Cooley Quicksilver stand in second place with a score of 28.8. Liz said “The Monster” is a bit out of practice because this was his first test since Land Rover Kentucky in April. “He is quite wiggly and quite cheeky, but actually all in all the movements were quite good.” Liz was slotted to ride for Team USA in Tokyo, but changed plans to attend Rebecca Farm when Deniro Z was withdrawn from Olympic participation. Despite her disappointment, Liz said she is enjoying Montana and will plan to return next year with several horses.

Andrea Baxter and Indy 500, her 16-year-old Thoroughbred mare, are veteran competitors at Rebecca Farm, as they have been competing here together for about nine years. After scoring a 33.1, Andrea said “she [Hundy] is an old pro these days, but really is learning the game and the drill and is trying hard… and I finally got a good test out of her here.” Andrea joked that she needs to remind herself that she’ll be riding Hundy on the CCI4*-S course, while Hundy’s son, Laguna Seca, will be running the CCI4*-L.

James Alliston & Nemesis Out Front in CCI3*-L

James Alliston and Nemesis. Photo courtesy of Hope Carlin.

In addition to his third place standing in the CCI4*-L, James Alliston also stands in first place in the CCI3*-L with Nemesis, a 7-year-old Canadian Warmblood owned by Alliston Equestrian. Commenting that Rebecca Farm can be quite a “buzzy” atmosphere, Nemesis is a relaxed sort of horse. “He could have gone a bit more forward, but he made no mistakes.” He’s a young horse and this is his first CCI3*-L, so James was quite happy with a score of 30.3. Nemesis is half Thoroughbred, so he should handle the galloping well, although the jumps will be a challenge for him as a young horse that is inexperienced at this level.

Auburn Excell Brady and BSP Tuxedo. Photo courtesy of Hope Carlin.

A score of 32.3 puts Auburn Excell Brady and her self-owned BSP Tuxedo in second place. “Tuxy Buns” is a 12-year-old Oldenburg and Auburn said it “was actually a bit surprising that he was so relaxed.” Auburn is excited to be here – her horse is “keen but can be a bit spooky,” although “he is capable” of doing well on the challenging course.

Jennifer McFall and Stoneman. Photo courtesy of Hope Carlin.

Rounding out the top three, Jennifer McFall and Stoneman, a 10-year-old Thoroughbred owned by Cheron Laboissonniere, scored a 32.7. Jennifer said they have “been working through some tension and performance anxiety” but that “Stoney” was really good and relaxed today. She is looking forward to cross country, but commented that “the first water is the hardest thing on the course – it’s big jump in, you have the crowd on the hill, and a vertical gate out.” The other riders agreed with that assessment and noted they will need to ride with precision on Ian Stark’s course on Saturday.

The FEI divisions begin cross country on Saturday at 9:50am local time. For 2021 ride times and results throughout the weekend, please visit the website here.

Admission for this family-friendly spectator event is free, with full concessions and a large multi- interest shopping fair, as well as a free Kid Zone that includes pony rides, PonyUp! (Horsemanship 101 classes for kids), face painting, arts and crafts, and more. A one-time, recommended $10 parking donation per car to support Halt Cancer at X and a full weekend pass is available with a $25 donation.

To access Rebecca Farm, from the junction of Highways 93 & 2, travel two miles north on Highway 93 to Reserve Loop and go west two miles, then south on W. Springcreek Rd. The entrance is 3/4 mile on the right.

The Event at Rebecca Farm: WebsiteRide TimesLive ScoresVolunteerHalt Cancer at XLive StreamShow PhotographerEN’s Coverage

This week’s coverage is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products – and you can win some cool KPP swag and receive a discount on product all year long just by entering through this simple survey. Good luck!

Flying High in Big Sky Country: Rebecca Farm CCI4*-L XC Course Preview

Photo by Erin Tomson.

Riders heading out on the CCI 4*-L cross country course on Saturday will face a challenging track and set of fences designed by Ian Stark. The course begins with an apt salute to Team USA as they prepare to run the course at the Tokyo Olympics next week.

Photo by Erin Tomson.

The riders have two big, solid gallop fences to start them off, but things become more challenging quite quickly at #3 and #4. #3 is massive solid table on frangible pins. Ian explained that he didn’t want the riders coming at it too fast, so he placed it to be at a related distance to #4 – a path that includes downhill terrain and a bending line to a narrow table. Ian’s intention was to get the riders thinking early in the course, although he says he decided to be nice by numbering them separately rather than presenting it as an A/B combination. If the horses fly over #3, the rider can choose to circle and rebalance before presenting to #4.

Photo by Erin Tomson.

After going through the gulley, the riders will navigate the first combination on course at #5ab, and then take a long run all the way around the back corner of the property and over a brush table at #6. While the combination at #7ab might look straightforward, Ian demonstrated the best line to take for optimal striding. Ian provided a reminder that “the horses are so used to jumping skinny and narrow fences, it’s really no problem for them. But it is up to the rider to get the line right.”

Photo by Erin Tomson.

Ian Stark has a reputation for designing cross country courses that are horse-friendly, but rider frightening. #11ab, which is a bounce drop into water, certainly fits that description! An impressive new brush fence in the center of the water follows immediately at #12. Ian has given the riders an alternate line, which includes a one-stride drop into water and an easier fence out; however, he said it would eat up quite a lot of time. The riders then make a left hand turn up and back down the hill to jump the hanging brush at #13, followed by a big log drop back into the water at #14. Spectators watching from the hill on Saturday will be in for a treat as they watch these skilled horses and riders navigate Ian’s questions at the main water complex!

Photo by Erin Tomson.

Photo by Erin Tomson.

Photo by Erin Tomson.

The second half of the course takes riders out around the far corner of the property again, before galloping back to jump into water again at the bayou, #22abcd. Ian said the combination should ride easily, but the horses may be tired by this point in the course, so it is up to the riders to keep the energy rolling. The bayou is followed immediately by another challenging combination at #23abc, the log table followed by brush to brush skinnies.

Ian said he originally considered placing an A/B combination there, but then thought to himself and said “no I think I need to make this tougher” (for the 4*L). Because the log table is so big and downhill, “it tends to make them take a massive jump.” They should land balanced and continue straight “in four and then two committed strides” to the brush fences. “If I was being really nasty and this were a 5*, then this second brush would be on the same angle as the first one. Then they’d have no choice but to ride this on a four to a two [strides]. Then that would be a 5* question.” About the 4*-L line he set, Ian said “You need a really reliable horse” to ride the line exactly as it’s designed, but Ian also showed how to use bending lines to make more space between each element.

Photo by Erin Tomson.

The final three fences on course provide a straightforward and simple finish, although Ian cautioned riders to never take the last fence for granted! His advice is to be prepared and to ride equally smart from start to finish. We look forward to seeing how the course rides on Saturday!

The Event at Rebecca Farm: WebsiteEntries & Ride TimesVolunteerHalt Cancer at XLive StreamShow PhotographerEN’s Coverage

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Tommy Greengard Sets the Pace in Day 1 CCI2*-L Dressage at Rebecca Farm

Tommy Greengard and Joshuay MBF. Photo by Hope Carlin Photography.

The FEI competition kicked off to a strong start today with the first day of CCI2*-L dressage, which continues on Friday. The top three riders are veteran competitors at Rebecca Farm, although their horses are all fairly new to the level.

Tommy Greengard and his self-owned horse, Joshuay MBF, a 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood, scored a 25.4 to lead the division. Tommy said that his horse was super today and that, although Josh isn’t really a “natural dressage horse, he really lights up in the ring in all the best ways. He is naturally very relaxed and he allows me to show him off in the ring. And he doesn’t get too bothered by atmosphere.” Tommy also said they’ve been working hard for a long time to improve the suppleness that’s introduced in the lateral work at the 2* level, and Josh was really with him all the way today.

Tommy, who rides and trains in California, enjoys the change of scenery, terrain, and footing here in Montana. He said they essentially run the same four events over and over again in California, and the footing is primarily sand. It’s really good for the horses to come here and be able to hack, exercise, and run cross country on grass.

Maya Black and Double Diamond C. Photo by Hope Carlin Photography.

Maya Black and Double Diamond C, a 6-year-old Hanoverian owned by Laurie Cameron, stand in second place with a score of 27.0. Maya was proud of his performance today saying, “He’s a young horse – he’s six – and he was as good as he could be for where we’re at right now.” Maya drove her horses out from the east coast and was thrilled with how well he traveled and settled in after arriving in Montana on Saturday, particularly because this is only his third event that is a long distance from home.

Although Maya trains in Virginia now, she is originally from Washington State and still considers Rebecca Farm to be a local event. One of her favorite things about competing at The Event is spending a week with her friends from home. She said Rebecca Farm has a different feel and
atmosphere than any other event she has been to and there is nothing quite like the homecoming feeling for her. In addition to riding her two FEI horses, Maya has been enjoying some evening swims at nearby Foys Lake.

Lauren Burnell and Freedom Hill. Photo by Hope Carlin Photography.

Currently standing in third place with a score of 30.9 are Lauren Burnell and Freedom Hill, an 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse owned by Arnell Sport Horses. Lauren said he is normally quite spooky at the judges’ boxes and cameras, but “today he really held it together.” She said she was nervous- heading into the ring because the warm-up didn’t go as well as she hoped, but ultimately he tried really hard and “it was one of his better tests.” Lauren thought perhaps he enjoyed being first in the ring, or maybe he just knew it was an important ride.

Lauren agreed with Maya’s comments about The Event at Rebecca Farm being a unique and special venue. She loves the atmosphere and people here in Montana, and that The Event feels special. Lauren is also particularly looking forward to having more open space and time to roll on cross
country. Her horse can come out of the start box a little strong, so this should be a good course for him with plenty of room to open up his stride.

All three riders are feeling good and looking forward to cross country. Tommy said his horse is “a phenomenal jumping horse … I just want to get in a good rhythm and try my best to support him but not interfere with him. He’s ready to do the job and it’s just fun to be back up here and to let him run on the grass.”

Maya and Lauren both agreed about being excited to run on excellent grass footing this year, as well as having a longer course that allows more room to gallop in a steady rhythm and jump out of stride. All three riders have experience competing on courses designed by Ian Stark, so they know to expect some “rider terrifiers” out there. Maya noted that they jump through the saloon in the old west town at the very end of the course, which is potentially tricky on a horse that might be a bit tired as well as looky at key-hole type jumps.

However, these riders also appreciate the care and planning Ian puts into his courses to make them horse friendly. The CCI 2*- L division begins cross country at 1 p.m. local time on Saturday.

CCI2*-L Photo Gallery by Hope Carlin Photography:

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Rebecca Farm Day One: Pearls of Wisdom from Valerie Pride and Ian Stark

Course designer Ian Stark shows us the right line on the CCI4* track at Rebecca Farm. Photo by Erin Tomson.

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The 2021 Event at Rebecca Farm kicked off to a great start today. Although the mountains surrounding the beautiful Flathead Valley in Montana are somewhat obscured by wildfire smoke, the air quality itself remained acceptable and partly cloudy skies offered a break from the ongoing heat wave. Day one was the dressage competition for 10 Novice divisions. With four arenas running, it was a busy day for the volunteers, organizers, and officials.

I had the unique opportunity to spend most of the day today with two of the officials. My morning was spent volunteering as a scribe for Valerie Pride of Maryland. Scribing is my favorite volunteer job because you gain amazing insight from experienced judges and there is nothing quite like seeing the dressage tests from the judges’ perspective! I learned precisely what the expectations are for the Novice level – the judges are looking for the horses to be freely forward with soft and consistent contact, and for the riders to be as accurate as possible. Riders should strive for accuracy at all levels, but it’s really a place to gain extra points at the Novice level because many riders are not as precise as they could be!

The best seat in the house! Photo by Erin Tomson.

And what are the judges looking for in those stretchy trot circles and free walk? More stretch! Valerie’s comments today often included phrases such as “allow more stretch”, “maintain forward during stretch” (mostly in the trot), and “horse should stretch down as though grazing” (in the free walk). For me it was an excellent reminder that horses need to learn to be forward within relaxation in order to jump well – good basics on the flat are the foundation for good jumping!

Overall, Valerie was very positive, supportive of riders, and wanted everyone to be successful. She said she loves being asked to judge here in Montana. When I asked her what her favorite part about judging at Rebecca Farm is she spoke with enthusiasm, “It’s a destination event – a dream and goal for so many people to compete here. People have prepared so long and hard to get here, it’s fun to be here and be a part of something that’s so important to people at all levels. I love to watch the riders try so hard.” I completely agree – there is something incredibly unique and special about spending a week in Big Sky Country doing what we love.

After a great morning, my afternoon did not disappoint! I had the extremely rare opportunity to go on a tour of the 4*-L course with none other than Ian Stark – eventing legend and FEI cross country course designer. After spending 1.5 hours on a golf cart with Ian, I can tell you that he is incredibly nice, funny, and generous with his time and knowledge. He regaled us with tales of his own mistakes, such as galloping past the last fence and narrowly missing the finish line before expertly backtracking in the nick of time (50 time penalties are way better than a big fat E!).

Ian also explained the design, use, and purpose of frangible technology. When discussing the frangible fences he said, “I’m going to be quite controversial here… it’s a great idea, and I hate them with a vengeance.” He followed up this comment by saying that frangible fences are very useful when horses hit the jump straight on because they give way and can prevent a rotational fall. However, if the horse banks the jump (lands on top of a big table for example), and the jump gives way, that can actually cause a fall that wouldn’t otherwise happen.

“Anything that is going to avoid a nasty accident, of course it’s a great idea,” Ian added. He agrees, after attending a safety seminar, that the 11-point penalty for activating a frangible device is appropriate because riders should be cautious and should ride as well as possible (and if there was no penalty for activating the frangible device, riders would be more likely to take these jumps for granted and ride less carefully than perhaps they should).

Ian Stark discusses frangible technology. Photo by Erin Tomson.

Ian explained his approach to course design as being horse-friendly. His goal is to design jumps, lines, and use terrain in such a way that horses will understand the questions (if trained appropriately for the level) and should be successful if given a good ride. He fully admitted to finding some enjoyment in scaring the riders! Perhaps scaring is too strong a word – his goal is to make riders think and ride carefully, with precision.

His advice for being successful on his courses is to be prepared. He said there is absolutely no shame in dropping down a level if your previous run didn’t go as well as you’d hoped. Riders become too focused on moving up and competing at a high level that sometimes they attempt courses they or their horse are not ready for, and that’s asking for trouble. “The rider has got to be fit enough, the horse has got to be fit enough, and the preparation has got to be good. You can only push your luck to a certain limit. And you make your own luck – you make your own luck by being prepared.”

Ian also gave an apt reminder to give equal attention and effort to the first fence and the last fence on course – don’t get lazy and fall prey to “last jump syndrome!” While Ian’s advice and insight is certainly helpful for the riders heading out on the 4*-L and S this Saturday, it holds true for every single level. I know I will be thinking about these words of wisdom the next time I’m preparing my horse and myself for a competition.

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Learning from the Best Out West: Area VII Adult Riders Camp

Covid Chaos Campers. Photo courtesy of Erin Tomson.

For most of us in the Pacific Northwest, our Eventing season is just beginning to gear up. Just a week after our season opener at Spokane Sport Horse Farm, Area VII Adult Riders returned to the beautiful facility in Spokane, WA for camp. It was dubbed “COVID Chaos Camp” because, after a year off from most of our events and regular activities, everyone was equally excited and prepared for the unexpected! The fabulous organizers brought together 56 campers, 12 staff people (who also rode), and four top notch instructors for three days of riding, learning, comradery, and a few shenanigans.

The camp instructors this year included three very successful 5* riders: Sharon White, Rebecca Braitling, and Melissa Beardsley. Area VII legend, Liz Tukey, winner of the USEA Cornerstone Instructor Award in 2020, rounded out this amazing group of dedicated and knowledgeable instructors. They all taught long days and never missed a beat, and then still had enough energy left for a really interesting discussion on Saturday evening about the evolution of our sport from the days of long-format three-day eventing to what it is now.

Photo courtesy of Erin Tomson.

Although I wish had notes from all four instructors, my time was primarily spent with Sharon and Bec, so I have compiled their wisdom for all to benefit from. I was very excited to ride with Sharon, fresh from her most recent Kentucky run and full of experience to share. Sharon’s teaching style is energetic, enthusiastic, and encouraging while holding riders to high standards. Throughout the weekend, she reminded riders that “horses go the way they’re ridden” and that it is the rider’s responsibility to mind their position, as well as their intention, because most of the time horses do exactly what they’re asked to do. If your horse stops at a fence, it’s probably because you asked them to … either in your mind or body. Sharon wanted riders to take responsibility for their mistakes, but also take credit for riding well. She also encouraged us to take responsibility for our pace and rhythm, and to always “trek true” which is my new favorite way of reminding myself to hold the line!

Despite the level of responsibility that riders carry, our sport is unique because it’s a partnership between a human and equine athlete. Horses certainly have their strengths, weaknesses, and individual personalities, which is part of what makes eventing so exciting. One of Sharon’s catch phrases is to “water the flowers, not the weeds.” In other words, play to your horse’s strengths, rather than focusing or dwelling on their weaknesses. She also promotes repetition -– riders and horses learn from repeating jumps and exercises, and making improvements throughout the process. It was inspiring to hear Sharon say that she has made many mistakes over the years and that often it is “only through failure that you learn how to get things done.” Eventers are adrenaline junkies, and many of us are perfectionists as well.

Cyra Carlson. Photo courtesy of Erin Tomson.

Sharon’s advice was to NOT overdo things or try too hard to be perfect, but to “do less, better.” Learn from your own mistakes, move on from them, and learn from other’s mistakes as well. Sharon told one of the groups, “I just try to help people with what I didn’t know.” It was clear throughout camp that she wants to see every horse and rider succeed.

I had the pleasure of taking a stadium jumping lesson with Bec, during which she taught a fantastic balance of theory and applied skills. Her focus was on each rider finding the best competition canter for their horse and we did a progression of exercises to help us find and maintain the quality of canter. Bec made a delightful game out of challenging everyone to gallop forward to see how few strides we could get between two poles on the ground, and then come back around to compress the stride to see how many strides we could add. She explained that, as horses go up the levels, the expectation for how adjustable they need to be increases; however, maintaining the appropriate speed, line, and balance around your entire course is the goal for all horses at all levels.

Photo courtesy of Erin Tomson.

Regardless of level, we have to teach horses relaxation within the forward stride. Bec reminded us that in order to compress the stride, you have to ride forward first because you need impulsion (what Eric Smiley would call “available energy”) to maintain a good quality shorter stride. She also related this concept to making time on cross country and said “You never make time on strong horses” because they take too long to bring back, which wastes time and energy (theirs and yours). You learn to be quick by being able to go forward and come back immediately and within relaxation.

Bec argued, rightfully so, that event riders do not have nearly enough opportunities to practice our show jumping. This is especially true in Area VII where we are geographically spread out and most of us have to travel several hours to any and all horse shows. We simply do not have access and/or time to attend additional jumper shows or practice opportunities to ride full courses under pressure. That makes it really challenging to keep your calm and focus in the stadium ring at events. However, much like Sharon, Bec inspired us to focus on what we can practice at home and do it well — i.e. find and keep the quality of canter you need for the level you are riding! Work on your horse’s adjustability and responsiveness, and challenge yourself to always ride in your competition canter so that it feels normal when you do get the opportunity to go on course. I appreciated how Bec provided realistic advice for the average AA and worked with everyone to achieve the absolute best for them and their horse!

Photo courtesy of Erin Tomson.

As a USEA educational activity, Area VII Adult Riders Camp was a terrific opportunity to learn new things, practice tried and true skills, and shake off a year’s worth of pandemic dust. In addition to the four amazing riding instructors, we also have a wealth of knowledge among our members –- Heidi West led flexibility for riders classes early each morning, and Natalie Sullivan of On Course Equine Nutrition gave a really informative and interesting talk about equine nutrition (did you know you are probably reading your feed labels wrong?!). If you’re interested in learning more or inquiring about a nutrition consultation, you can check out Natalie’s website here: On Course Equine Nutrition

A big shout out to our swag sponsors, Kerrits and Gallops Saddlery! Thank you to Christel Carlson for opening her wonderful facility for our use and continuing to provide opportunities for our sport here in the Northwest. Thank you to Catie Cejka and Liza Linde for organizing, with help from veterans Maggie Rikard and Lou Leslie! Events such as these (in every area!) cannot run without countless volunteer hours by adult rider members – thank you to everyone who organizes, provides food, wine, and fun activities! Did I mention we have an annual puppy steeplechase here in Area VII?? Proceeds go to support Spokanimal, a local animal shelter. It’s hilarious, ridiculous, and an excellent way to support a good cause – think about ways to do the same in your own area. To all who enjoy our sport, remember to thank a volunteer, get out there and volunteer, support each other, appreciate your horses, and continue to make eventing the best sport of all!

Eventers for Equality: A Show of Support from Area VII Eventers

Prince and Jasper. Photo by Kate Mills.

Like many people, I have spent the past couple of weeks negotiating a range of emotions. Several truths coexist for me: I am outraged at continued incidences of police brutality toward black Americans. I grew up in a law enforcement family, which has placed me in a position to know and love many great officers throughout my lifetime, so I generally support law enforcement and have a great respect for what they do. Implicit bias, systemic racism, and white privilege are real, and they affect decision making whether we realize it or not. And… I compete in one of the whitest, most elite, and inaccessible sports that exists. As someone who feels strongly that all people deserve equal treatment and an equal chance in this world, I began to experience an internal conflict unlike any I have previously experienced.

Sky the dog! Photo by Erin Tomson.

I honestly considered my own white privilege in a way I hadn’t before and I decided that, as someone with privilege, I have a responsibility to use it for good and do what I can to contribute to changing a broken system. I spent several days struggling with the desire to DO something – anything that would help! – while simultaneously feeling guilt over my excitement for an upcoming outing to a clinic (which would be the first outing of 2020 due to winter followed by the quarantine). I was really excited to finally get off the farm, take lessons, and see friends! But how could I possibly take my horse and go gallivanting around the cross country course while others were out on the streets literally protesting for their lives?

Gail, Dee and Kenzie. Photo by Erin Tomson.

I called up one of my closest friends, who isn’t a horse person, but does happen to be a professor of intercultural communication and a black woman – this is relevant to point out because her advice was framed by both an academic understanding of the issues as well as first-hand personal experience living as a black person in America. Her advice was relatively simple: start a conversation in your community. Change begins with awareness and education, which requires communication. I felt incredibly empowered by her advice. I said, “I can do that!” And I set out to make my clinic weekend one in which I could enjoy my horse and my friends, AND recruit allies within my circle to speak out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Lois and Sarah. Photo by Erin Tomson.

I took poster board with me and a friend brought the markers. Throughout the day on Saturday, I asked people who were gathered about watching lessons if they would like to make a poster and take pictures to help me show that our community of eventers supports equality. I was really pleased with the positive response I got from people! Due to the difficulty of scheduling and the need to maintain COVID safety measures, we didn’t gather as one large group, but instead opted to take multiple small group pictures throughout the weekend. It was a really empowering addition to the weekend of riding, and we all felt like we were taking one tiny step toward a better world. Looking back at the pictures, I realized most of us are smiling, and I had the realization that happy expressions on our faces might be perceived as dismissive of the movement, insincere, or just inappropriate. In reality, we felt genuinely good about what we were doing, and that came through in our expressions. We obviously can’t go back in time and re-take the pictures, so I want to acknowledge this and simply state that I am learning as I go. And my efforts should NOT stop here!

Photo by Erin Tomson.

With more clinics and events starting back up, it’s a perfect opportunity to encourage people to consider their privilege and how to use it to do something good. The more voices of allies that speak up, the more we drown out those who perpetuate racism. The black community needs us to speak up to know they are welcome in the horse world and that they have our support. Voicing support doesn’t break down the structural barriers that prevent people from accessing horses, but it’s a first step in the right direction.

Photo by Erin Tomson.

I encourage all who are reading this to participate – when the eventing community sets its mind to something, we can accomplish great things! Let’s be leaders in the broader world of equestrian sports and stand up in support of the black community (we need to stand in support of all communities, but the BLM movement takes priority at the moment). If a small group of Area VII Eventers can make posters, take pictures, and voice our support for equality, you all can do it too! This is not the time to stay silent. Silence indicates compliance with the status-quo. Speak up for what you believe in – our voices together have power.


Erin Tomson. Photo by Lois James.

About the author: I am a Communication Professor in the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. I got my start riding with Palouse Hills Pony Club and have been an active rider and volunteer in Area VII throughout my adult life.