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Erin Tomson


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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

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!

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.