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Frankie Thieriot Stutes


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‘Thankful For Him No Matter What:’ Frankie Thieriot Stutes Shares an Update on Chatwin

The partnership between Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin is nothing short of magical. Their career highlights include being crowned USEF National 4* Champions at Fair Hill in 2018 followed by a fourth-place finish on one of the world’s most competitive stages, the Luhmühlen 5*. On Thanksgiving eve, Frankie shared an update on her beloved teammate. Her respect, gratitude and dedication to his well-being burn bright in every word. Thank you, Frankie, for your horsemanship, and for allowing us to share in each and every chapter of your inspiring journey.

Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin at the first horse inspection of their five-star debut together at Luhmühlen 2019. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

So many have asked so it’s time I give everyone an update on Chatwin. The last few months have been full of a great deal of the unknown & an unimaginable diagnosis.

Chatwin has a horrific hip injury — it’s an injury that is exceptionally rare in horses, almost unheard of. It’s an injury we don’t have many answers about. We don’t know when it happened, don’t know if he will ever return to work or competition, and we don’t know if ultimately his life will be shortened by it.

The pair stormed into the top three after dressage on a score of 28.8. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Here is what I do know — I know that Chatwin is tough beyond measure and that the deep passion and love he has for his work, competing, and for me may have allowed him to fool even some of the best medical minds in the world into thinking he was fine. It may have even allowed him to win by notable margins like nothing was wrong because he loves to compete more than most in the world. I do know that thanks to the truly remarkable Jim Myers who I am lucky to call not only my vet, but my friend, everything possible in regards to regenerative medicine and beyond for Chat has been done. I do know that the group of people who have stood behind us is truly remarkable (despite my inability to have answers I oh-so-wish existed), and I do know that if any horse in the world can overcome unthinkable circumstances to have his job back some day it is Chatwin.

Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin picked up 6.4 time penalties cross country, good for eighth place heading into the final phase. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

After strengthening, swimming, regenerative medicine and every possible thing known to man for his physical best interests the last several months, it became incredibly clear to me that the toll his time away and this injury was taking on my friend Chatwin mentally was significant. My responsibility to this horse as his partner is to always put his happiness and wellbeing first, no matter what. Because of this, a few weeks ago I made the decision it was time for Chatwin to come home.

There continue to be many things we don’t know about Chatwin’s condition, but I do know that he is beyond ecstatic to be out with his friends, back with his family and up to his usual trouble making ways.

Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin share a quiet moment after successfully presenting to the ground jury at Luhmühlen 2019. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Chatwin has taken me places I never even dared to dream of, and at only 12 years of age, I hope the same heart that made him a National Champion and one of the best horses in the world, gets to beat with excitement again leaving the start box. Regardless, I promise to love him every single day for the rest of his life. Whether that be as his competition partner or the person lucky enough to feed him pastries and be his best friend, I will continue to be immensely thankful for him no matter what.

Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin finish clear and with one of the fastest rounds of the day, adding 0.8 time penalties. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

I would like to thank the people who have believed in our partnership, and supported our quest to represent Team USA.

To the Chatwin Group and my Cousin Zib, thank you for making it all possible — Especially for allowing me to do everything with Chatwin’s interests always paramount, regardless of expense. Thank you for standing strong in support of us no matter what and for being our biggest, unwavering cheerleaders.

The girl’s done good: Frankie Thieriot Stutes celebrates a clear round with Chatwin. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

To my best friends and family who have and continue to live this all alongside me — THANK YOU!

To my amazing vets, farriers, body workers, coaches, and beyond who have been there for our journey from the start, but especially over the last few months, I am forever indebted to each of you.

Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin await the prizegiving. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

To the selectors, Erik Duvander, Susan Johns, the entire High Performance and USEF Staff, those responsible for the Broussard Grant, travel grant donors, sponsors and beyond, your belief in a girl with just one horse (from the West Coast no less) is not something I have ever taken lightly, and my gratitude for each and every one of you is incredibly immense.

To everybody you who has cheered us on and been so kind, I always took notice, and I’m very very appreciative.

A team effort. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

For me the most magical part of horses is truly being their partner. That is not something that stops when you leave show ring. In my eyes it extends far beyond into loving them for every single one of their days, it is my promise that no matter what the future holds, good or challenging, I will be there loving Chat for every one of his.

What If Instead, We Chose to Be Kind?


Image courtesy of Athletux.

Frankie Thieriot Stutes is not only a top rider herself but is also highly experienced in managing all aspects of business development for equestrian clients via her agency Athletux. In a recent blog entry, she addresses a disturbing trend in social media — the unnecessary attacking and tearing down of others — and suggests a simple yet revelatory alternative: What if instead, we chose to be kind? 

A very wise woman in both horse sports and life, recently said to me, “It costs nothing to be kind.” With the role social media now plays in our day to day lives, now more than ever, we are measured by how things seem and not always what they really are. This comes in a multitude of forms, both real and fake. In the equine world, and in life, people are pretending things are a certain way be it in their relationships, riding, or otherwise, concerned with how others are viewing them. Equestrian sponsors, clients and beyond are interested in how many followers you have, the type of content you post, and your online image. Like it or not, this is the way things are in today’s world.

That being said however, you can accomplish what you need to in order to attract the right kind of attention without ever saying or doing something that might make someone else feel bad. I can assure you no one has ever said, “I can’t wait to take a lesson from that person, they go off on various social media rants all the time,” and likewise no sponsor I have ever worked with said, “We would love to work with that rider because of the degrading comments they make about their peers.”

Recently, I have had situation after situation brought to my attention where someone said something hurtful and unnecessary about someone else in the equestrian community via social media. In most cases, the people making these hurtful comments do not even know the person they are commenting about. I see it affecting the many young professionals I work with, deeply hurting their self-esteem, making them feel inadequate and a multitude of other things, and I see it with the industry professionals I work with as well. The most shocking thing to me is how people have become so quick to comment on social media about a variety of things, not stopping to think how it could make someone reading it feel.

I too am guilty of considering posting such things, but I have learned it is better to stop and think first about what good will come of my comments vs. how it could make someone feel. Don’t get me wrong, I am not for one second saying I do not have judgmental thoughts of others in my mind, that are not kind of me to have, but I make a conscious choice to keep them there, in my own mind, where they cannot hurt. We are people, we will have opinions, but we also get to decide if we let them impact others in a negative way.

A particular comment made in recent months in an online article about a top U.S. equestrian has stuck with me. In this particular comment, a person saying particularly horrific things about an athlete they confirmed they had never met, said it was their right to make judgements and say things about any equine athlete who puts them self on the public stage. This person used the comparison of how athletes in other professional sports take harsh criticism from the public every day, and the media does not protect them, so why should equine media take a stand for our athletes when comments are made. Why should an online publication remove comments citing “bullying” in equine sports when they do not frequently in mainstream ones?

As someone who married a professional athlete and has many friends who have and currently still play non equine related professional sports, I can tell you a few things. The comments the public makes about these athletes are noticed by them and do hurt. They go to bed at night sometimes, thinking about what has been said, and like it or not, it wears on them in some capacity. If they are lucky, it drives them to silence their critics, but in some ways, it also leads them to shut out the public more. Many other professional sports keep their top athletes away from the public and from fans because of this, so they can focus. I think equestrian sports are special because of the interactions any young person or adult amateur can have riding alongside an Olympic medalist, but it does open these people up to increased vulnerability.

So what if instead of saying our athletes better get used to mean things being said about them (with very little merit in some cases), we as an industry decided to choose kindness. What if instead of commenting something unnecessary on an article, post, or your social media updates, you stopped and thought, could this possibly make anyone feel bad before you did it? What is the worst thing that could happen if you did that? To me the most spectacular thing about our industry are the wonderful people in it. Maybe we should all go back to what my mother told me as a little girl — “kill them with kindness” — because like dressage hall-of-famer Lilo Fore says, “It costs nothing to be kind.”

I am sure people will have opinions about me writing this just like they do about everything else, but even if it makes one person stop and think, then that is good enough for me. What if you made a choice to be different, in a good way? The way I think of it, every unnecessary comment, could mean one more person who does not have to feel bad that day. Our sport in my opinion is full of the most wonderful, hardworking, kind people out there, so in 2020, let’s lead by example.

Big news from Athletux! The agency has recently restructured its business model to focus on three main areas: equestrian brands, athletes and events. This is a particularly exciting development for brands, who will benefit from Athletux’s wealth of industry insight to help build their image, maximize use of social media platforms and email marketing campaigns, manage sponsored riders, assist with graphic design and more. Learn more by visiting the just-launched new Athletux website here.

In Loving Memory of Don Trotter

Don Trotter at The Event at Rebecca Farm. Photo used with permission from the USEA.

Eventing lost a wonderful man Sunday as Don Trotter passed away peacefully after battling a short illness. Don was a key contributor through his volunteerism to the sport of eventing in the U.S. Together, Don and his wife Pam owned Sunsprite Warmbloods, breeding and placing many top horses.

When it came to helping riders, Don could always be found by the warm-up at competitions — not just watching his horses go, but acting as ring steward. As he explained in an Athletux Volunteer of the Month article in 2016: “As a horse show husband, I frequently found myself bored beyond belief at shows. I had nothing to do and often found myself hanging out at our rider’s barns.”

Then in 2009, Don was offered a job he couldn’t refuse: ring steward. He enjoyed volunteering so much that he reached out to event organizer and friend, Robert Kellerhouse, asking if he could try out a few other volunteer positions. Kellerhouse let Don experiment with different jobs from cross country control to jump judge, but he always found his way back to ring steward, his favorite.

Don said his satisfaction with his favorite job was simple: “If my presence in warm-up makes a rider more relaxed or an organizer more confident the show will run on time, then I’m doing my job to contribute to the sport of eventing. That’s rewarding to me.”

His presence was calming and nice to find in a sometimes crowded and hectic warm up. Many riders are notoriously tense before competition, and you can bet Don was always there with a subtle joke to make them laugh or a few kind words to relieve any nerves.

Don made an impact in whatever he did. Originally working for the United Nations, in addition to Sunsprite and his volunteer work, he excelled in crafting breathtaking show jumping fences with his business Jumpwerks, and was a passionate horticulturist of exotic plants.

Together with his lovely wife Pam, Don also helped spearhead new volunteer recognition software, created several awards to recognize volunteers and received numerous awards himself for his dedication to the sport.

Pam has suggested the best way to honor Don’s memory is to go volunteer. Volunteering is the heart of the sport, and volunteering brought Don great joy.

At this time, arrangements are being made for a Celebration of Life. Details will be made available as soon as they are known. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the USEA Foundation’s Volunteer Incentive Program at

Horse Travel: There Are More Options Than You Think

Chatwin’s chariot back home to California. Photo by Frankie Thieriot Stutes.

I will never forget the look on Phillip Dutton’s face in 2013 when he realized I would be driving alone from Pennsylvania to Montana (not counting my trusty dog of course). He must have asked me four times where I was heading to get whoever was driving with us.

I was taking Phillip’s horse for him to Rebecca Farm along with the mare I was riding at the time, Uphoria. I had not found someone to go with me on the way there, but for me, a girl from California who drives the 11 hours south to Galway Downs several times a year alone from my home in Northern California, a couple of 12-hour days with nice layovers at night for myself and the horses along the way did not seem like too big of a deal.

I think Phillip was equally shocked when he arrived in Montana to find the horses had not lost any weight along the way and looked great and ready to compete. I remember him saying, “Wow, they look so good I would send them along with you on the drive any time.” Again, to me it was just a fairly normal thing we had done, but out east these long drives are few and far between.

To me these drives allow you to get to know your horse in an entirely different way, which can be important for your partnership together. Do they travel well? Do they drink when you stop? Is it normal for them to not pass manure for 10 hours while on the rig? How do they eat in the trailer? Are they easy travelers or do they get claustrophobic and want to take the walls down like my old horse, Fric Frac Berence, would if he did not have enough room?

These things all help you to know them and I think strengthen your relationship with them. Yes, it is ideal to have all of your events right in your backyard, but I strongly disagree with the fact that if they are not, it should prevent you from going to an event or experiencing something as amazing as The Event at Rebecca Farm for example.

Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Recently, my eyes were opened to another option for transporting my horses as well. In April, my current horse Chatwin left for an East Coast adventure in which he would truly be a traveling gypsy before returning home. Chatwin has traveled a great deal for only being nine years old. Originally from Germany and imported by Clayton Fredericks, Chatwin flew over to the United States.

When I, with the help of my cousin Elizabeth Thieriot, purchased Chatwin in 2014, he flew to California since I had fortunately won a one-way flight in the USEA Convention auction that year. Since arriving in California, he has driven east and back with my good friend Tamie Smith last year to go to Jersey Fresh and he has traveled up and down the coast countless times, logging many hours on the road. He is what I would call a great traveler, yet of course as his partner, I still worry about him when I am not the one hauling him myself. Due to my work schedule and having to care for my son, I was not able to take Chatwin east on my own this year, and as a result had to find him rides to make the trip possible.

Fortunately, I had many amazing friends headed east, some to Kentucky for Rolex whom Chat tagged along with and then others continuing on to the East Coast. After Chatwin unexpectedly overreached prior to dressage at Jersey Fresh and had to be scratched before the jumping phases of competition due to an infection in his foot, our time on the East Coast was extended much longer than expected.

He was able to get rides back to Pennsylvania from Jersey again thanks to wonderful friends, another ride for me to compete him at Virginia Horse Trials and yet another to Bromont. When the time came for me to decide how he would get back to California, I had the option of sending him back to the southern end of the state with my good friend Tamie Smith, but this would still leave him about 12 hours from home.

Building Chatwin’s box stall around him. Photo by Frankie Thieriot Stutes.

I decided at the urging of a friend to look into some commercial transport options and was surprised at how many people I really trusted were recommending the same company to me: Brook Ledge Horse Transportation. A surgeon vet friend from Kentucky, my cousin who takes such good care of her horses that I hope to be one in my next life, another coach of mine who is not easily impressed with these sorts of companies … they all had rave reviews so I decided to look into it more.

After exploring my options, I realized how much commercial hauling really has changed since I last used it. Brook Ledge is even used by some for common transport to and from large events. Honestly, I had not even considered that people did this and was very surprised. After speaking with a rep from the company and asking for a box stall/double stall quote, I was pleasantly surprised to learn they only ship cross-country in box stalls in order for the horses to be properly cared for.

My last experience with commercial hauling was in 2004 when I shipped that previously mentioned claustrophobic horse to Colorado with a different large commercial company, paying for two spots for him, only to have him arrive squished into one. As I had told them he would in that situation, he panicked which resulted in his hip being badly torn apart. Since then I have stayed away from any commercial hauler and would not have considered sending Chatwin with one had so many not had rave reviews of their experiences.

This hauling experience has completely blown me away. For a comparable price, Chatwin was able to come home from the East Coast in a huge box stall, complete with fans. The shavings on his rig were literally impeccable, the drivers gave me updates along the way. He had access to water and hay the entire time, I was sent photos of him and I truly felt as if he was in top care.

Almost ready!

I cannot say enough good things about this company. It was incredibly apparent to me that the two drivers who traveled with him were horse people, even able to give him UlcerGard daily. Best of all, this option allowed for me to be home to work and not have to make the trip south to pick him up upon arrival back to California, and it allowed Chatwin to come straight back to my house for his deserved time off rather than logging any extra hours of travel.

I have to admit my view of commercial horse transport has completely changed thanks to my experiences with Brook Ledge. Chatwin arrived looking terrific, all of my things were able to come with him, and I can not say enough good things about the drivers or care he was given on his way home.

My first choice would be to drive my horses myself but even in my trailer, Chatwin does not have a giant box stall with access to water and shavings so clean that if you dropped your lunch in them you would consider still eating it. This experience got me thinking that if trainers felt confident in this option, they could maybe stay behind to coach a few extra days while client’s horses and their own made the journey to shows such as Rebecca Farm.

With the wear and tear on rigs, gas and all the other expenses, maybe commercial hauling with reputable companies such as Brook Lledge is a more appealing option than I had anticipated. If nothing else, it will certainly be an option I always consider heading from coast to coast or on any long journeys and one I hope people will consider rather than missing out on events they dream of attending.

A Day in the Horse Show Life as an Amateur Upper Level Rider, New Mom and Business Owner

Frankie Theriot Stutes is all smiles on the Chatwin Group's Chatwin to lead the CIC2*. Photo by Anita Nardine. Frankie Theriot Stutes is all smiles on the Chatwin Group's Chatwin to lead the CIC2*. Photo by Anita Nardine.

It is 5 am. The sound of your alarm will go off. You think to yourself, “there is no way it is already time to get my carcass out of bed.” Your tiny human is asleep but now he is too big to leave in bed unattended because if he does wake up while you are peeing he can crawl off the bed in a matter of seconds. You think about going and risking it because you really have to pee, but then you think, nope no time to go to the ER if he lands on the hardwood floor of the house you are staying at.

So you wait. You get out of bed despite having slept only a few hours because somehow the tiny human you are sharing the bed with at the show takes up the majority of the bed and you sleep in an awkward position to avoid waking him. You realize your shirt is up around your neck because you have nursed while sleeping the majority of the night. You pull your shirt down and with the light off, again trying to keep your tiny human asleep for a bit longer, find your attire for the day and put it on. You never tuck your shirt in because you know you have to feed your human before you leave for the show that morning anyways.

You go into the bathroom as fast as you can to grab your toothbrush, all while looking around the corner, until your good friend surfaces from the next room over to brush her teeth and you are relieved to see her because she can now watch the tiny human while you pee. You brush your teeth and wash your face as fast as you can. Next you grab his clothes and start undressing him while he makes such cute stretches and faces and you remember how special it is to be a mom.

He is awake enough to nurse now so you lie back next to him and feed him and start checking emails on your phone. Only 15 emails since last night you think . . . WIN! Once those are taken care of and you have attended to your work needs while still nursing, you start thinking of your course over and over in your head trying to visualize the other part of your day besides being a mom and business owner.

You head out to the truck, strap in the child who has come to hate car seats due to excessive time driving to shows and as he arches his back say, “it’s okay, go back to sleep, love.” You are relieved when he does and you consider calling a client on the east coast to address some of their needs on your way to the show ground. You weigh the issue that the phone over your truck speaker may wake the human but decide to risk it.

You put on your breast pump while driving at a red light hoping the guy next to you didn’t see all of your boobs and proceed to go through the Starbucks drive thru like that because YOU NEED COFFEE! You get your horse a croissant, order yourself a Venti and wonder what the man at the drive thru window must think of the weird sound coming from under your shirt…but the truth is you don’t really care because you are more than comfortable by now with the fact that you are a milk cow and in order to ride, your son needs milk.

You have committed to breastfeeding for at least a year because of the health benefits for your son, and despite feedback from even strangers about your choice, you are sticking to it! You respect people who do not make the same choice, but this is the one you have made.

You arrive at the barn, and the child is asleep. You park the truck, hustle to get the wheel barrel, leave the truck on and the window down. Luckily by now all of your friends are used to your new way of life, as it has also by default become theirs, so you know that if anyone hears him cry when he wakes up, they will get him out of his seat or let you know right away.

You open the stall door, kiss your horse good morning and speed-clean his stall. As you are emptying the wheelbarrow you hear someone talking in your truck . . . he is awake. You quickly put the wheelbarrow back and go get him from his seat. You carry him in one arm and return back to the stall where your horse is now banging on the door wanting your attention. As you approach the door, your half-awake kid starts screaming with excitement. You put him on the horse that kindly turns around to see his small rider and stands very nicely as your kid kicks him with his tiny feet and smiles ear to ear. You think we are a trio, this horse, small human and I and we all have to work together for this to work.

You take the kid back into one arm and with the other put on a halter (harder to do one-handed than you would think). You take the horse for a walk with the kid in one arm and the lead rope in the other. The kid helps too by holding one end of the rope. You don’t have much control over the horse, but he somehow knows that his little friend requires that he behave better than usual on walks and not pull you to every single patch of grass, just some.

You finish your walk, put your horse back, sit down and feed the kid on your tack trunk while finishing your coffee. Again you go over your course in your head for later in the day, and then look back at your phone to again respond to some work emails.

An hour or so passes and you are grateful that you have such amazing friends and a mom and husband who are so helpful! Your mom arrives and you think HORRAY! She takes your kid and now it is time to focus. You start to tack up and once the saddle is on before you get dressed, you know that you either need to pump again or find that kid. Your mom appears with him again and you nurse once more, while of course checking email again. Your assistant has texted you about a marketing matter for a client that needs to be addressed immediately. You call her and sort it out then hand your kid back to your mom and get back to the horse to put on his bridle.

You give the kid a kiss and tell him you love him and kiss your mom, too. You throw one leg over the saddle and the horse is full of run today, you can already tell. From that moment you are not a mom, you are not a business owner, you are a an upper level rider moving a horse up to Advanced, fully focused on the task at hand. You are excited, nervous and all the emotions that come with leaving that box. For a moment in warm up you think about how lucky you are.

You leave the box and pure thrill and excitement run through your veins. About half way around you think about how much fun you are having. You see some friends screaming for you out of the corner of your eye. You get to the end of the course and think, just get him home only 3 more fences. You do and you can’t believe you have an Advanced horse!

Your friends are again there to help you cool the horse down and the second the kid sees you he starts crying . . . he wants his momma. So in one hand you walk the horse and in the other you hold him. Everyone is happy and your mom is relieved that it all went well, because of course just like you worry about him, she worries about you!

The horse cools out and before you rinse him off a final time and begin icing, you quickly feed the kid. You check the phone to see the marketing issue has been laid to rest and that you have 33 new emails that have surfaced since you started tacking up this morning. You will address those after the horse has been completely cared for . . . After all it is Saturday.

The kid wants his mommy so you hose off the horse a final time with the kid in hand. Luckily the horse is a saint and you remind him that you appreciate him being such a good boy.

The horse stands in ice, you play with the kid and the kid sits on his horse again screaming with enthusiasm. You think maybe you should like baseball like your dad rather than ride horses, because it will be much more cost efficient. You give the horse that croissant you bought this morning because he has earned it and he thinks it is better than any food intended for a horse to eat.

One of the kid’s “aunties” comes around the corner in her full riding gear about to get on one of the five horses she will compete that day and she takes the kid for a second and loves on him. You think, “wow, he is lucky to have so many amazing people who love him.” You also wonder how the heck she competes five or more horses in a single day!

You get the horse out of ice and wrapped while the kid screams for you until your mom puts him in his stroller to take him for a walk so he can take a nap. You feel a quick sense of relief and realize you are tired! You take a photo for a client to post on their social media and finally go get some lunch. The horse is sleeping now and so is the kid.

You reflect on what a great day you had. You get a sandwich and sit in the grass addressing your 33 emails that have some how turned into 60. You think, “don’t people know it is Saturday?” You get through them all before the kid wakes up.

You take the horse for a walk and kiss him. He is a good horse! You say to a friend that in order for this to all work, the kid, the horse and you must all work together. The reality of it all is that in order to do this, it takes a full village of people to help you, but that you wouldn’t trade any of it. You wonder for a brief second why you do this, and then look over to see one of your friends laughing with your mom and kid and think to yourself, “I do this because of how wonderful all the people in this sport are.” You worry about how you will ever thank them enough.

You drive home and again reflect on the people who support you . . . your cousin who believed in you enough to get the horse, your friends, coaches, family, husband and the kid. Wow, are you lucky. As you drive down the road with your breast pump on, you think being a milk cow is hard work, but as you glance in your rear view mirror at the kid you think that if it is beneficial to him, you will do it. You wonder what people with twins do, and you realize that somehow because of all the people you are blessed to be surrounded by, even though you are an amateur with just one horse, a full time business and a kid, it all works in madness together somehow.

Again you wonder how you can ever thank those around you enough. You are grateful even though you are tired and you have baby food in your hair, horse slobber on your pants, and milk on your shirt. You are an eventer, you are a mom and you are a business owner who is blessed to be all three simultaneously.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About Horse Syndication

With more and more riders syndicating horses, EN is partnering with Athletux Equine and the Event Owner's Task Force to answer your most frequently asked questions about the syndication process. You can contact Athletux with any specific questions, and be sure to visit Athletux Equine for all of your equestrian business needs.

Congratulations to Boyd Martin and the Blackfoot Mystery Syndicate! Photo by Jenni Autry.

One of the biggest perks of syndication? More people to celebrate when you win! Photo by Jenni Autry.

Athletux Equine is here to help you answer 10 frequently asked questions in regards to syndication. Yvonne Ocrant, an equine attorney, is also available to answer any legal questions regarding syndicates at no charge at [email protected]. What other questions do you have about syndication? Let us know in the comments below!

1. What is syndication? In a horse ownership syndication, a group of people comes together to purchase ownership in a promising horse for a professional event rider. The ownership not only covers the actual cost to buy the horse, but also the annual costs needed to maintain the horse.

For example, if you are joining a horse syndicate offering 10 ownership interests, then you and nine other people will own that event horse (through your ownership in the syndicate) and help maintain the costs of your event horse on an annual basis. The good news is that all of these costs are usually predetermined, and syndications come in many affordable price ranges!
2. Why would someone create a syndicate? As a rider, creating a syndicate allows you to afford to purchase a horse and share in the experience of competing a horse with a group of supporters. Additionally, creating a syndicate allows you to offset the annual expenses of competing and keeping a horse going in the sport.

3. I want to create a syndicate; what should be my first step? Your first step in creating a syndicate should be to decide on a specific horse, or to determine what criteria you will look for in a potential horse such as age, price range, etc. Once this has been completed, you should then determine what the total amount you will need to raise through your syndicate would be (see number 4 for further information on price).

Once you have done this, you will want to contact an equine lawyer to create a limited liability company (LLC) for your syndicate and draft the syndicate agreement (known as the Operating Agreement) specifically for you, your horse and your owners. You can then present the terms of the Operating Agreement to your owners and promote the benefits of your syndicate.

4. How do I set the ownership interest purchase price? When determining the ownership interest purchase price, you should include cost to create the LLC (including legal fees and state filing fees, which the attorney can provide); vetting; transporting the horse from current owner to you (if, for example, the horse is overseas); insuring the horse for one year; commission and any other potential fees, including the actual purchase price of the horse, which would be required for the syndicate to acquire the horse.

5. What is an annual maintenance fee? An annual maintenance fee is split between all syndicate members and is put into an account annually in order to cover the expenses related to the horse. You need to determine this fee and discuss it with potential owners so that they understand their annual financial obligation, in addition to their one-time ownership interest purchase payment.

You can also suggest that the annual maintenance fee payment may be tax deductible for individual owners if their payment is made through one of two available 501(c)(3) organizations, such as the American Horse Trials Foundation or Southern California Equestrian Sports provided for this purpose.

6. What do I need to do in regards to legalities for my syndicate? You should always have a contract drawn up by an experienced equine attorney to be signed by each syndicate member. This is incredibly important to protect both you and your syndicate members.

7. How should I approach people about joining a syndicate? This should be determined on a case-by-case basis, but you should be prepared to answer any potential questions they may have about the opportunity; why they should support you or join in on your syndicate; and how things such as annual maintenance fees, event passes and other items will be handled. The Operating Agreement will answer these questions, and the equine attorney can assist with summarizing these points.

8. What should I be doing to maintain my syndicate? You need to be sure you are regularly updating all syndicate owners about your horse and including them on exciting things that are taking place. You should also remind your owners about annual maintenance fees and making sure they feel involved so that they have a positive experience as a syndicate owner. Additionally, you need to work with your accountant to be sure the LLC is filing the required returns and providing your owners with the required tax documents.

9. What happens if I don’t sell all the shares in my syndicate? As the syndicate is an LLC, ownership of the entire company has to be accounted for by assigning 100 percent of the ownership interests. If not all the ownership interests are sold, the previous owner of the horse who is selling it to the syndicate (or you, as the Manager) can hold that unaccounted-for ownership until it is sold to a new member. When new owners are found, the person who has the additional available interests will assign those interests to the interested new owner. The equine attorney can assist with documenting the ownership transfer. 

10. What financial documents should I be giving my syndicate members annually? The Operating Agreement may require that you provide regular budgeting reports and other accounting of the company finances from time to time. Work with your accountant to understand the financial documents required to provide your syndicate owners each year.

How My Horse Proved Anything is Possible, Presented by OCD

Last month, we launched a contest from our sponsor, OCD and Doc’s Products Inc., inviting you to share your rehabilitation stories with us. We’ve had some wonderful entries so far, and we’ve decided to start sharing them this week. Entries are still open, so don’t forget to send your story to [email protected] for your chance at a great prize pack from OCD!

Frankie Theiriot and Fric Frac Berence. Photo by Josh Walker.

Frankie Thieriot and Fric Frac Berence. Photo by Josh Walker.

I will never forget the day I met him. I was 13 years old and, at 17.2 hands, he was the biggest horse I had ever handled. He was 6 years old, and that day would mark the start of a relationship that would change my life and leave me wondering how life ever existed before him.

Together, “Fric” or “Gooby” (professionally known as Fric Frac Berence) and I would quickly develop a great partnership. As two youngsters, we competed together in just one Training event before moving up to Prelim. That same year (2001), we did our first CCI* at NAJYRC, a full phase back in those days, and brought home the silver medal for Area VI.

We continued our success together and when time came made the move to Intermediate with the same success we had seen at Preliminary. Mid-season our first year at Intermediate, I went out to the pasture to get Fric and noticed he had a very strange white squiggly line through his eye, and he was squinting a great deal.

I immediately called the vet and a few days later we were in the trailer headed to see an optometrist a few hours away. After examining Fric, I was told there was good news and bad news. The good news was that his left eye was clinically normal, meaning that his situation was not from genetics, and he would most likely always have vision in his left eye.

The bad news however, was that his right eye had sustained trauma, most likely from hitting it in the field or having a bug fly into his eye just right, slicing his cornea, which would eventually cause a cataract to form. His right eye would in time be blind, more likely than not. I was told that day that he had 70 percent vision in his right eye and that how quickly it would deteriorate was hard to say. It could range from a few months to a few years.

Three months later, Fric had lost all vision on the right side. I was told that jumping Fric was something they could not advise and that with limited vision, the danger of competing was increased greatly. Maybe it was because I was a clueless kid, but for some reason I never gave up hope that he would be able to continue competing.

By this time in our career together, Fric and I had built a special partnership, and with the support of my then trainer Yves Sauvignon, we tried jumping. During those three months when he was losing vision, it was clear that Fric was struggling to see a distance. However he was so honest, he would try to jump anyway — sometimes from very far out, therefore making it very dangerous.

We waited and decided to give him time and try again. Once his vision was completely gone in that eye, we jumped. Fric did not miss a beat! The blurriness in one eye and clarity in the other made things hard during the time the vision was deteriorating.

Photo by Josh Walker.

Photo by Josh Walker.

We learned to make some minor adjustments, doing things like turning his head so he could see if we were coming around a turn, or coming into combinations very still with my hands and not moving so he could turn to see the whole line, and it quickly became like second nature for us.

His biggest struggles once he lost full vision were actually in the barn. For example, if you called his name on the side he could not see you on, he would turn into his door or hit his head accidentally. Over time without even knowing it, I learned to protect him, and it became something I just did without even thinking.

We began competing again after a few months off once the vision was gone completely from Fric’s right eye. His eye was white and looked noticeably different, also requiring special medication in it twice a day. He required a steroid drop in his eye to keep it from becoming too painful due to the pressure. This had to be approved for use at every single FEI competition he did, which meant the FEI vet had to present the situation to them.

We were fortunate to have some unbelievable people fight on our behalf, and as a result I have some wonderful friends I never would have come to know otherwise.

We moved up to the Advanced level and things seemed to be going great. Then, in our second season of Advanced together, Fric sustained a horrific tendon injury. He was and is to this day the most stoic horse I have ever met, so knowing he is injured is very hard at times.

He came off cross country perfectly at this particular show and went on to jump a double clean show jumping, winning the event. He was sound when I put him away after cross country and sound again the morning of show jumping. However, when I got him home, although he was sound, his left front tendon did not seem quite right to me and had a bit of heat.

After getting him scanned as a precaution, I found out he had torn the left front tendon. We decided to splice the tendon and send him up to one of the major vet hospitals in my area for the surgery for the best chance of recovery. Right before we took him, my mom was looking at his scan with our vet.

The vet showed her his right front so she could see what a good one looked like, and to our shock that one, with no outside signs from stoic Fric, was also torn! He ended up having the procedure done on both front legs and would need a long recovery and rehab.

I rehabbed Fric back and competed him at Advanced at Rebecca Farm. He won the event and felt better than ever! Then, to my heartbreak a few weeks later, the leg just didn’t look quite right and somewhere deep down I thought something might be wrong.

Again, in Fric fashion, he showed very few signs of a problem and of course trotted out completely sound. Over the years when I would have a vet out to scan him, I am sure they thought I was completely nuts — that is until they saw his scans and each time I was right. He had reinjured his left tendon, not as extremely as before, but he would again require rehab.

After rehabbing for several months, his scans were not improving how we had hoped and my vet told me the bad news that he felt he would need many more months of rehab before he should jump. Rehab was starting to take a toll on my friend Fric, and so I made a decision that I knew could end in retiring him, but at the same time I knew would make his quality of life what he deserved.

Rather than keep him in a stall, locked up with his spirit dwindling, I elected to turn him out in my pasture at home for six months. I knew that he could make the leg worse and was advised not to, but my love for Fric has always made me want the best for him as a horse first and foremost.

He had become miserable in his stall all day every day. When I turned him out, he looked so refreshed. My vet came to look at him two months later and told me that the leg in fact looked much better and I could put him back to work, although he would have a very hard time staying sound with the wear and tear of the upper levels.

I decided to wait and continue letting the leg get strong rather than rushing him. At the six month mark, we scanned Fric and he looked great. I brought him back to work and slowly began the rehab process, knowing only he could determine how long he would be able to sustain himself competing.

Photo courtesy of Frankie Theiriot.

Photo courtesy of Frankie Thieriot.

After a few months, Fric was jumping again, and I decided that I would compete him and see how things went. Worse case, if he got hurt again, he could have a wonderful life in my pasture. The thing about Fric was he was never very well behaved if the jumps were small. In fact he was a bit rude and horrible if things were under Intermediate height.

I competed Fric at the Advanced level for five more years after that before a completely separate injury two weeks before Rolex in 2011, which was set to be our last competition, would send him to my field a few weeks early.

Fric’s eye was removed prior to his final season competing because the pressure in it had become too high, and despite it all, the amount of heart he showed and his love of cross country was something I have never seen or felt with any other horse.

Fric never had a cross-country jump penalty in any FEI competition he did. Together we did the three-star at Bromont, Rebecca Farm, and several others, including the inaugural Galway Downs CCI3*.

At every FEI event I competed him in, regardless of how tough the terrain or course, he always looked like a million bucks come Sunday morning jogs. Even those times I would later find out he had hurt himself, he never showed it and always took care of me in every situation.

Nothing seemed to be too much for him to overcome, and he certainly had his share of odd things happen. He even had a growth somehow form in his thyroid gland that grew to be the size of a grapefruit, so he now has just one thyroid gland, of all things.

Photo courtesy of Frankie Thieriot.

Photo courtesy of Frankie Thieriot.

Many people have said that Fric’s love for me is very special and rare and that he kept going because of our bond. I cannot explain him, nor can I say why he is so stoic, but he is a remarkable example of overcoming the unthinkable time and time again.

Fric taught me to appreciate the small moments. When someone tells you that your horse should never jump again, or when you know that they could be permanently injured at any moment, you learn to appreciate every single ride, and every single day you sit on them.

Fric and I have more wonderful moments together than I can count, and every day I still get to enjoy his company as I go to my pasture to feed him at the age of 22. We even go on the occasional beach ride together still, and he insists on walking straight into the water to play without hesitation — his very favorite thing.

I just wish they made horses today half as stoic as he is, but at the same time I know that is part of what makes him so special.