Jessica Bortner-Harris
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Jessica Bortner-Harris


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About Jessica Bortner-Harris

Eventing Background

USEA Rider Profile Click to view profile
Area II
Highest Level Competed Advanced/***
Farm Name Rocky Start Stables, LLC
Trainer Bonnie Mosser

Latest Articles Written

Brother Sister Eventing Duo

Hannah Irons riding Paela and Daniel Irons riding Neda in Easton, MD.

A few weeks ago, I taught a clinic in Easton, MD at Close Up Show Stables owned by Julia Jesu.  During the clinic, I had the pleasure of teaching the brother/sister duo of Hannah and Daniel Irons.  These two are obviously naturals in the saddle, and I was very impressed with their riding and grasp of everything I had them doing.  I interviewed their mother, Polly Irons, about these two, as I think they may just be the next Doug and Holly Payne!

1. How old are Hannah and Daniel now?

Daniel is 11.  We got Neda when Daniel was 9.  He started taking lessons weekly when he was 8.  He rode Paela but we felt she was too big for him…he took some big spills and he became intimidated.  We then got him Neda.  Neda was 4 and only broke to the harness. We sent him to training for 2 months making sure he was safe/ sane.   Daniel, with the help of his sister and instructors has taken him to where he is today.  Daniel has always loved riding ponies!

Hannah is 13.  She started taking weekly lessons when she was 8.  She started with a larger pony that proved to be too large and do well suited for riding outside the ring.  Hannah originally planned to do hunter but got tired of jumping  in the ring and wanted to ride in the fields. We found her Paela (4 years old and under saddle for 3 months) , a quiet pony that was low key outside the ring.  To our surprise Paela was in foal….July we were blessed with a Gypsy cross colt.  We still have the now 3 year old gelding that Hannah hopes to do FEI pony and Eventing.

Please note, we bought young green ponies because the kids took weekly lessons and we had good instructors  that guided them along the way. Riding green ponies/horses are huge commitments especially for kids.  Hannah and Daniel have learned so much from this.  It may take them longer to reach their goals, but once they are there,  they will be masters at what they do.

3. What are their favorite things to do while riding?

Daniel – Jumping big jumps…Neda prefers the bigger jumps;  Galloping in fields and racing with Hannah and Paela,  Trail riding on Neda looking  for birds.  Daniel loves eventing, and when he sees the 3* and 4* jumps he gets so fired up. “ I can’t wait to jump those jumps!”

Hannah –  Riding and jumping bareback;  trail riding – galloping and racing Neda and Daniel,  and of course, dressage.  Hannah originally planned to focus on Eventing until I took her to the World Equestrian Games and had the privilege of watching Edward Gal ride Moorlands’s Totilas in the Dressage Freestyle.  Her focus changed to dressage that night and Paela became her Dressage partner.  Hannah will always enjoy jumping, but not at the 3*  or 4* level.  She thinks Daniel is crazy to want to jump that level.

4. What pony club do they belong to?  Eastern Bay Pony Club, Delmarva Region.  We started the club in 2010.


5. Who do they currently train with?

Daniel rides with Mogie Bearden Mueller.  While Mogie is in Aiken, he works on his dressage with various trainers.

Hannah rides with Mogie Bearden Mueller and has worked with various dressage trainers.  She has started working with Kelly McGinn at KLM Dressage and will continue to work with both Mogie and Kelly. Hannah owes much of her confidence buiding to working with Tommy Turvey and Kenny Harlow.
6. Tell me a little bit about each of their ponies.

Neda is a 7 year old Dartmoor Pony – 12.2 hands with the heart and courage of a 17 hand thoroghbred.  What a gem he is!  He is so in tune with Daniel and they are an amazing team.  Neda lovessssss to jump and go fast…he has a go button!  Daniel is realizing how important dressage is and that it makes for better scores in eventing and makes for a better jumping pony.  We have seen great improvement in Neda’s jumping from all the Dressage work.   When Daniel outgrows Neda, Hannah plans on using him for driving…she may give combined driving a try. Neda is the kind of pony you just want to hug.  We are so blessed he has come to our family.

Paela is a 8 year old Welsh / paint, 13.2 hands.  Peala would make a fabulous hunter pony…except Hannah changed her focus to dressage.   For 2 years Paela was Hannah’s dressage pony and stuck out the hard moves of dressage.  Paela does anything you ask of her and with heart.  2.5 years ago she had her first foal…a surprise to us.  Hannah has trained this foal (now a 3 year); My Lucky Charm, is a keeper.   Hannah has outgrown Paela in Dressage, and is moving up to a larger 5 year old Swedish Warmblood which she will train up the levels.  Hannah continues to ride Paela for eventing and trail rides. Paela is used in Hannah lesson program.  (Hannah has 4 little kids she gives lessons to).  Paela is the type of pony you can jump on bareback with just a halter and go for trail rides , gallop fields or pull it together for a dressage test.  She has been a huge confidence builder for Hannah.    Paela is simply amazing!

I am just the mom along for the ride and learning a bunch.  It is so important to allow children to follow their dreams and provide the structure for the dreams to become reality.  Both are homeschooled with much time focused on riding and horse management.

Tipperary’s Saturday Links

Mighty Nice and Phillip today at Pine Top. Photo via Phillip's FB.

I hope everyone is staying dry this weekend, as here, in the South, it’s doing a lot of raining.  I am exhausted from my day at Pine Top, and I’m super happy with Bug.  Show jumping is tomorrow, so I need to finish this up and get to bed!

Events This Weekend:

Pine Top: [Website] [Ride Times]


Yogi Breisner gets an assistant

Stabled horses found in three feet of feces

Updated EHV-1 Report from HITS Ocala

Jennie B’s newest COTH blog

Exciting changes in the FEH program

Equestrians turn out for Landowners of the Equestrian Preserve meeting

Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation Announces Open House for Correctional Institutional Foundation

Ways to weatherproof your competition season

Some video from Pine Top:

Phillip and Trading Aces (not sure where Boyd was?)

Micheline Jordan and Irish Diamonds


ICP Symposium: Riding Cross-Country with David O’Connor


DOC teaching away. All photos by Shelly Simpson and used with permission

I had the privilege of being a demo rider for the Ocala ICP Symposium earlier this week.  I was very excited to get a spot riding in the cross country portion with David O’Connor, our new team coach.   The only bad thing about riding in it was not being able to watch the group before me, and I could not hear all of what DOC said to the audience.  The wind was blowing, making it difficult for the riders to hear what he was saying to us, much less to the audience.  (even with a sound system).  However, I will share the knowledge that I did absorb!

David fixing my galloping position

Our first assignment was to pick up a forward canter and show off our galloping positions.  I had always been told to cruise in a more upright position and go to sitting before the fence.  David immediately brought me over and placed my foot  more in front of me, pushing my butt back and up and my face down more toward Bug’s neck.  It felt pretty awkward at first, but once I got cantering, it was actually quite easy.  He told me that around a 10 minute course, my horse and I would be exhausted from being in the first position.

Laura Borson and Shooby Doo

We moved on to some smaller fly fences.  He told us that when coming to a fly fence, the speed doesn’t need to be changed, just the balance.  I am definitely bad about slowing my horse up too much for bigger gallop fences.  We were also to be VERY focused on keeping our horses straight on take off and landing.  We were to pick a circle on the ground on the landing side and put our horses’ feet in it.  He also wanted us to stay very still with our upper bodies over the fence.

Working on the right drift

Bug has a right drift, especially over bigger fences, and when we moved on to the big table, the drift started to rear its ugly head.  David told the crowd that he wants to see a reaction from the rider when things like this happen, even if it doesn’t fix it.  He kept after me until I got it right.  My Bromont debacle was definitely my fault, and it came from a lack of keeping him straight.  Straightness is key.  The more you go up the levels, the more you find the holes in the straightness.

Ashley Leith and Tactical Maneuver

From there, we moved on to two mounds, the second had a log on top of it, and a corner about 4 strides away from the base.  We practiced going over the mounds at a trot and canter.  David was interested to see how the mounds effected our position and how the horses reacted to them.  He wanted us to stay very secure and allow the horse’s head and neck down so they could step down the mound nicely, rather than launching off of it inverted.  Bug is quite good with using his head and neck, so I could just sit quietly and allow him to do his thing.

Melissa Miller and High Finance

Next, we jumped the corner by itself.  David was adamant that with schooling, the “out” should always be jumped first, so the horses know what is coming.  It starts them looking for the next thing.  Finally, we put together the mounds by themselves to the corner, then the mound to the log on the mound to the corner.  The exercise rode quite well and was a good test of our straightness and footwork.  Footwork is the key to making a good cross country horse.

The last exercise was the most involved.  We went over to the bank complex and started slowly working up to the final footwork drill.  He had us going up and down the bank, jumping a triple brush, then down the bank to the triple brush, then across a one stride bank.  After we did all of that, he started to set up the true exercise which was a vertical, 4 bending strides to an up bank, bounce over a rail, bounce down, 3 strides to a vertical at an angle.  It was quite a good exercise to get the horse moving his feet.  It was our job as the rider (throughout the whole session) to ride the horses forward to the distances by keeping the footwork going and not trying to find the distance with our hand.  We also needed to allow the horse to use its head and neck while we stayed strong in our positions.

As far as the coaching aspect, David told the audience that it is the coach’s job to make the rider more aware of things happening.  If you tell the rider something is happening, by the time they change it, it’s over.  However, if you keep reminding them to be aware, it will become second nature to feel it and correct it themselves.

I am not sure what I'm doing with my face here, but Bug is totally absorbing everything DOC says.

It was a really great experience, and I am quite pleased that I got to participate.  I thought it was a great school before Bug and I move back up to Advanced this weekend at Pine Top!  Many thanks to Longwood Farm and the organizers of the ICP Symposium, and thanks as well to photographer Shelly Simpson and!

(click below to view more photos)


The One That Started It All: Clifden

Every horse that we ride has a lot to teach us.  The longer we ride, the more we can pick out skills that specific horses have taught us along the way.  However, there is always one horse that starts it all for us.  The one that teaches about riding and makes us into the rider we are today.  This new series is going to tell the stories of the horses that started it all.  This week, I got to chat with Hillary Irwin about her first Intermediate horse, Clifden.  Photos are used with Hillary’s permission.

Clifden and Hillary Irwin

When Hillary Irwin was 15, she acquired a horse from her grandparents that would teach her a lot about eventing.  Clifden was a big, gorgeous bay TB bred by  her grandparents to race.  He needed to retire from the track, and Hillary needed another horse.  They were going to give him away, but after some begging by Hillary, Clif was supposed to be hers.  He got a good six months off in the field before he made the trip from Florida to NC.  Clif arrived and refused to get off the trailer for a full 25 minutes.  Once Hillary finally convinced him to unload, he proceeded to try to kick her during blanketing and refused to eat his feed.

Clif and Hillary at their first show together

For the first month of being in work, Clif decided that he was not going forward until he was good and ready.  He would stand with his legs locked and refuse to move until it was his idea.  He definitely had his quirks.  For the first few months, he wouldn’t pick up the right lead without stepping over a pole first.  He would doing a flying change to the right, but he refused to pick it up from the trot.  Clif definitely had his quirks back then, but all of Hillary’s patience and hard work with him really paid off eventually.

Clif and Hillary did a lot of growing up together.  Not only did they event through the levels together, but Clif was there with her through all of her life changes: high school, college, working student positions, official riding positions, and taking the leap into her own business.

Clif showing off his exceptional jumping skills

In 2008, Clif and Hillary made the move up to Preliminary.  They competed at that level together for awhile, and they had many top placings.  Hillary did an excellent job with Clif’s dressage training, and he often scored in the twenties and low thirties.  Finally, in October of 2009, they competed at MidSouth in the long format CCI* together.  Clif was phenomenal and ended up finishing 6th.  It was Hillary’s first time at this level.  Hillary and Clif made the move up to Intermediate and did pretty well.   Their last Intermediate together was at Five Points, and they brought home a 6th place in a big division.  Hillary was thrilled.

Unfortunately, after Five Points,  Hillary decided to retire Clif  to low level competition.  Though it was a tough decision and very hard to watch him go, he is now teaching a lovely adult amateur the ropes.

When asked what Clif taught her, Hillary said:

He taught me to be tough, (he did put both my arms in casts/slings the week of my high school graduation!), to re-think things, to take a breath, to relax, to semi-respectably sit the trot, how to properly do most canter work, and how to ride a horse that’s a bit on the odd side mentally.  He taught me to find a coach that believes in your horse, as well as you.  Looking back on all of it now, he taught me several major things; saying something louder doesn’t necessarily mean it will be heard more clearly.  He taught that effective communication is far more valuable.  He taught me to believe in myself a bit along the way.  He helped/let me ride with some of the best coaches in the world. While at Sharon White’s I was lucky enough to really ride fairly consistently with not only Sharon but also Jimmy Wofford and Linda Zang.  He taught me to make the most out an opportunity.  Most importantly, he taught me how to go XC.  I have doubts that no matter how long I ride, I will never sit on another horse as smart, careful, or with a better gallop again.

Clif and Hillary finish up a dressage test at VAHT

Clif was the horse that showed Hillary her calling in life.  After completing the CCI* with him, she knew that she wanted more.  Every horse that she sits on is always compared to the great Clifden.

Tipperary’s Saturday Links

Had to share this awesome photo of Bug and I warming up at Full Gallop. Photo by my working student, Alice VanBokkelen


Happy Weekend, Eventing Nation!  I am staring down a whirlwind week of traveling up and down the East Coast. It starts with the ICP Symposium in Ocala, and it all ends with Bug and I running our first Advanced of the season at Pine Top next weekend.  I am pretty excited!  I hope everyone competing this weekend has a safe and successful outing!

Eventing Nation would like to send their sympathies to Steuart Pittman, as his father has passed away.

Events This Weekend:

Fresno County Horse Park: [Website] [Entry Status/Times]

Paradise Farm: [Website] [Times]

Rocking Horse II: [Website] [Times]


First Ride Foibles

Woman dies while trying to capture a horse in the road

Rider fined for using illegal methods

H&H readers invited to take a laminitis survey

Professional’s Choice to provide leg protection for riders in the ICP Symposium

Fun with snow in Maine

Some fun video courtesy of the horsepesterer from Rocking Horse today:





The One that Started It All: Snooze Alarm

Every horse that we ride has a lot to teach us.  The longer we ride, the more we can pick out skills that specific horses have taught us along the way.  However, there is always one horse that starts it all for us.  The one that teaches about riding and makes us into the rider we are today.  This new series is going to tell the stories of the horses that started it all.  This week, I got to chat with Lauren Kieffer about her first four star horse, Snooze Alarm.  Photos are used with Lauren’s permission.

Snooze Alarm and Lauren Kieffer at Rolex

As a fourteen year old girl, Lauren Kieffer found the horse that would give her the taste for being a four star rider.  She was working for Susanna Lansdale, and a spunky chestnut Anglo-Arab arrived to be sold as an event horse.  His name was Snooze Alarm, and he was lovingly known as Maggot.  He was 4 years old and a bit rambunctious.  He had some dressage training, but he seemed to be more suited to the eventing world.  At the time, Susanna was pregnant, thus giving Lauren the ride on Maggot.  Lauren fell in love quickly and begged her dad to buy him for her.  “He said, ‘no.’  I was so upset.  I cried.  So, he said, ‘yes.’ ”  This set their accomplished career in motion.

Lauren and Maggot tackling a lower level course together.

Lauren and Maggot started at Beginner Novice and moved up the ranks to Preliminary.  They did a number of JYOP’s together and won quite a few.  When Lauren was 17, she asked her parents to send her to the O’Connor Training Camp as a graduation present.  She wanted to up her game with Maggot and learn as much as she could.  During camp, Lauren asked the O’Connors if they would allow her to be a working student.  They obliged.

Tigger Too showing Lauren the ropes of the upper levels. Photo by PICS OF YOU

Lauren came home, packed up her stuff, and told her parents she was taking a year off before college to pursue her riding.  One year turned into eight years.  During her time with the O’Connors, Lauren absorbed as much as she could and improved her riding greatly.  Maggot was a difficult and quirky ride, so David allowed her to ride Tigger Too as well.  Tigger was a good boy with a lot to teach her.  “Without Tigger teaching me the ropes, I never would have been able to do what I’ve done with Maggot.  Tigger was an amazing boy that just had so much to teach me.”  Lauren did her first Advanced with Tigger and went on to do her first 3 star with him.  Unfortunately, in 2008, Tigger passed away during cross country at Jersey Fresh from an aortic rupture.

Maggot was a super careful jumper, and he didn’t appreciate Lauren ever getting in the way.  His show results would go back and forth.  One show he would do really well, then the next he would have a stop.  They spent a lot of time fine tuning their partnership.  In 2009, Lauren and Maggot completed their first 3 star together at Jersey Fresh.  They placed 8th out of 29 starters.

The following spring, Lauren and Maggot made the trip to Kentucky that all US eventers dream about.  She and Maggot put in a pretty great first time four star performance to end up 29th out of 53 starters.  People asked her if she was worried going into the event.  “I told them, either he would stop out at the 3rd fence or we would rock around.  That’s just the kind of horse he was.  As long as I didn’t make any huge mistakes early on, he would be great.”

Lauren and Maggot at Rolex. Photo by Kelly List and used with permission.

Lauren was quite pleased with her horse.  She decided after Kentucky to retire Maggot from upper level eventing.  He was not an old horse, but he was not put together very well, and she didn’t want to run him until he broke.  Instead, she gave the ride to a young rider for a bit before he ended up at home in Illinois with her mom.  Lauren’s mom and Maggot are currently training to do horse agility competitions.  She rides him around in a rope halter and they do tricks together.  Because he is so smart, Lauren was worried about just chucking him out in a field for the rest of his life.

Maggot enjoying his retirement in Illinois

Maggot is an amazing athlete with so much to offer as an eventer.  Lauren states, “So many people in the US overlook the Arab type horses, but they have a lot to offer as eventers.  They have a lot of endurance, they are super smart, and most are lovely movers.  The Polish Arab breed makes a great cross.  In Europe, the Arab cross has really done well.”  She also reminisces that Karen always really liked Maggot, but David did not start out as his biggest fan.  Before her first Advanced, David jumped Maggot in a lesson.  He got off, handed her the reins and said, “I wouldn’t take this horse Preliminary!”  No worries, though, Maggot went on to be one of David’s favorites.

On an exciting note, Lauren had the opportunity to purchase Maggot’s full brother, and they will be making their Preliminary debut together this spring.  She is currently trying to syndicate him and is really excited about his future.

Tipperary’s Saturday Links

Andrea Leatherman and the beautiful Neveah at the VAHT CCI* last fall. Photo taken by Kate Samuels

I can’t seem to think of much right now except Andrea Leatherman’s fall today aboard her mare, Neveah.  I can not imagine how she is feeling right now between her physical pain and the emotional pain of losing her partner.  We are all sending Andrea love, prayers, and jingles.

Events this Weekend:

Pine Top Farm [Website] [Entry Status/Times]

Ocala Horse Properties [Website] [Times] [Results]


$50,000 for horse therapy research

Spruce Meadows gets Olympic jump

Olympic showjumper, Steve Guerdat, injured at World Cup

Frozen lasagna almost 100% horsemeat

Riders in South England get the last call for sports funding

Behind the scenes photo shoot with Holly Hudspeth

Look out Hunter World, the OTTBs are coming!

Here is some video of Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border at Full Gallop on Wednesday.  Video is by the great horsepesterer.

Point Clear: A Story of Comebacks

Foy Barksdale and Point Clear. Photo by Brant Gamma and used with permission

We all know with horses that things can always change.  We make plans in pencil and end up erasing and re-writing about 10 times before we know it.  Some horses are just so amazingly tough, that they just keep coming back to play this game that they love so much.  

Point Clear, or Louie, is a lovely chestnut Irish TB that was born in Ireland where he steeplechased.  He was later bought and taken to England where he competed through the Preliminary level before being imported to the US by Peter Green.  Adele Baker of NC bought him with the idea that he would be her Advanced horse.  She competed him for a few years, doing a lot of long format CCI* events, as that seemed to be his cup of tea.  Unfortunately, Louie and Adele were not the best match.

Enter Foy Barksdale.  Foy was leasing a mare and things fell through.  She was heartbroken.  As she sat sobbing in her office one day, her boss, who also rides, took in the situation.  He came in the following day and told her that his wife, Adele, had a horse, Louie, for sale.  If he didn’t sell that weekend, Foy was more than welcome to come out and try him.  As the stars aligned, Louie did not sell, and Foy fell in love when she tried him.  “When I got on him, I just got this feeling like he was telling me, ‘Relax and I’ll show you the ropes.’  It was such an amazing feeling.”  Adele agreed to allow Foy to lease Louie for awhile before actually purchasing him in May of 2002.  It was the perfect situation.

In 2002, Foy and Louie did their first Novice together at Fort Bragg and finished 4th.  They continued on at Novice for a bit and ended up on the Novice Leaderboard 2 or 3 times.  They moved up to Training and were just as successful.  Louie knew his job and loved it.  Foy says, “Louie is a completely different horse when he competes.  At home, I’m constantly having to kick.  At a show, he puffs himself up to 2 or 3 times his size and just shows off.  He loves it.”

Foy and Louie at the Loudon HT. Photo used with permission

When they made the move up to Prelim, Louie had a stop on the cross country.  By this time, Foy had really gotten to know her horse, and she knew something was up.  Louie would only stop if he was in pain or Foy was sitting upside down and backwards in the saddle.  She had the vet out to do a workup on him.  Sure enough, his shoulder lit up on the bone scan.  The diagnosis was bursitis.  Foy dropped Louie back, and they set out to get his shoulder fixed.

Once things were sorted out, Louie and Foy moved back up to Prelim at Pine Top and placed 2nd.  They continued at Prelim for a bit, until wrenches started flying into the gears.  Louie seemed to have problem after problem: colic surgery, severe chokes with aspiration, kissing spine, and a suspensory tear.  Each time, Foy wasn’t sure if she would ever get to compete him again.  The vet that diagnosed his kissing spine did not think he would ever be rideable again.  After consulting with Dr. Susan Johns, Foy realized that Louie’s spine would be manageable.  Once they got that sorted, Louie tore his suspensory.  This seemed to be the last straw.  Dr. Johns was sure that Foy would never do more than hack him after this.

Foy was sad, but she wanted to do the best by her boy.  She didn’t have the money to do major treatments, as his insurance had dropped him due to all of his previous ailments.  She was boarding at Cindy DePorter’s place at the time, and they decided to give him a small paddock to hang out in rather than keeping him on complete stall rest.  Foy says, “By this time, Louie was 18.  The vet didn’t think he had any chance of competing again, and he was so unhappy in his stall.  We figured it wouldn’t be bad to let him out into a small area.”

That winter, Foy got a call from Cindy, “It’s snowing here, and I just saw your horse do a beautiful 10 meter circle at the trot in the snow.  He was completely sound.”  Foy immediately called Dr. Johns for a visit.  Sure enough, much to Dr. Johns’ surprise, Louie’s suspensory looked amazing.  She cleared Foy to start him back slowly.  By the fall of 2011, Foy decided to take him Novice at Pine Top, but Louie just didn’t feel like himself.  He wasn’t pulling her arms out like he normally would.  Again, she decided that maybe it was time to retire him.

Louie and Foy at Five Points. Photo used with permission.

Last fall, some of her friends decided to compete at in the Novice ATC’s at Virginia.  The Virginia Horse Trials is an amazing event and a lot of fun, thus being one of Foy’s favorites.  She decided to try to get Louie fit enough to do it.  She worked hard, as Louie was 20 years old, and she wanted to be sure he was the fittest he could be.  The hills at Virginia can be quite taxing, and he was an old man.

All of her hard work paid off.  Louie knocked Cindy over to get on the trailer to go.  He was ready to play again.  They went to the event and won the division as well as their team winning the ATC for Novice.  Foy couldn’t believe it.  Her boy was back and letting her know that he wasn’t ready to quit yet.  He could at least continue on at Novice.  Foy has decided to shoot for the Novice 3 Day at the Heart of the Carolinas event in May of this year.  She did her first event of 2013 this past weekend at Full Gallop.  Louie came out ready to go.  He won his division on a 25!

Foy and Louie definitely have one of those bonds that make this sport so worthwhile.  Louie’s dry sense of humor always keeps Foy on her toes.  He loves his job and doesn’t care what level he’s doing, as long as he gets to compete.  It’s been a struggle for Foy to decide when to officially retire him, as he just keeps coming back for more.  She is sure that when he is ready to quit, he will let her know.  Until then, they will keep having fun together!

Tipperary’s Saturday Links

Had to show off my boy! Bug making easy work of the Intermediate last weekend at Full Gallop Farm. Photo by Amelia Lowe.

The 2013 season has begun, and I, for one, am so excited to get things going.  Had a great outing with Bug this past Sunday at Full Gallop, and I’m looking forward to going back this coming Wednesday.  Staring down the beginning of a show season always brings about  big, positive feelings for me.  I’m sure everyone is ready to get rolling this year.  It sounds like the Under 25 Training Sessions are going well, and everyone is really excited about David’s plans and the up and coming riders.  The weather here has been cold and windy the past two days, but it looks like sun and nice weather is right around the corner!

Events This Weekend:

Galway Downs [Website] [Entry Status/Times]

Poplar Place [Website] [Ride Times]

Sporting Days [Website] [Ride Times]


Riders4Helmets Announces Speakers and Agenda for the 4th Safety Symposium

USEF Forms Search Committee for New US Dressage Team Technical Advisor and Chef d’Equipe

Explanation of Requirements from Preliminary Test A and One Star Test A

Horse-meat contamination no surprise says HSUS boss

Eventers suspended after assault convictions

New boss for Horse Sport Ireland

Canada announces Team for 2013

Best of Blogs:

Team Wallace Working Student Tells His Story from Rocking Horse HT

Another Proud Graduate of Bruce Davidson Eventing

YouTube Video:

Michael Pollard and Mensa practicing the Intermediate dressage test at Longwood Farm.


The One That Started It All: Killian

Every horse that we ride has a lot to teach us.  The longer we ride, the more we can pick out skills that specific horses have taught us along the way.  However, there is always one horse that starts it all for us.  The one that teaches about riding and makes us into the rider we are today.  This new series is going to tell the stories of the horses that started it all.  This week, I got to chat with Sinead Halpin about her first three star horse, Killian.  Photos are used with Sinead’s permission.

Sinead Halpin and Killian

When Sinead was 18 and naive, she had big dreams of going to the Olympics by the time she was 21.  In her own words, she was too big for her britches and had no clue what she was doing.  At the time, she was riding and working for Stuart Black and owned a horse named Adrenaline Rush, or John.  John was an athletic horse that later went on to do big things, but he was too much horse for her.  Stuart was riding him for her, and he took John and another horse, Killian, to the Radnor 2 star.  Killian was gotten off the track by Ashley Leith and ended up with Stuart.  He had competed through the 2 star level.

That weekend, John coasted around the 2 star course with no problems, while Killian stopped at the 5th fence, where Stuart pulled up and decided the horse needed more work.  Sinead really enjoyed Killian’s personality in the barn, and she liked him much better than her own horse.  About two weeks later, Sinead and Stuart decided to do a straight trade.  Looking back, it seems almost crazy to have done such a thing, but it ended up being a great decision that would teach Sinead a lot about the eventing world.

Killian was soon referred to as “Killer” in the barn.  He had a bit of a crazy side and was known for rearing and falling down while being ridden.  It was always random and he always fell down left to right.  Sinead would just get up, dust herself off, and get back on.  Killer was half amazing athlete and half crazy.

She took him to his first Preliminary, which he rocked around.  She was so pleased.

“I thought, ‘Sweet!’.  I’ll move up to Intermediate, and then do a two star, and then a three star next spring and a 4 star the following spring.  I’ll be ready to qualify for the Olympics by the time I’m 21.  I just had these crazy ideas.  I was so sure that my plan would be easy to achieve.  Killian had other ideas.”

On their next outing, Sinead decided to move up to Intermediate.  She did her dressage and moved on to show jumping.  They jumped the first fence and he stopped at the 2nd fence, where she promptly fell off.  She dusted herself off and got back on.  She made it around to the 5th fence, where he promptly stopped again and she fell off.  This was embarrassing, but rather than moving back down, she figured they just had a bad day.

Red Hills was next for yet another Intermediate.  Again, they did their dressage and went on to show jumping.  Killian cantered around and came to the first fence.  He slammed on the brakes, and Sinead flew over the fence to the other side.  She was mortified.  She lay there and would not get up.  She distinctly remembers seeing David O’Connor at the side of the ring as she was lying there.  She didn’t know him at the time, but she remembers that he gave her this raised eyebrow look like, “Kid, you have no idea.”

Finally, Sinead had the realization that they needed to take a step back.  She worked very hard and competed at the Preliminary level that spring and did very well.  They went on to do the CCI* at Bromont that June.  She was winning after the dressage and had an amazing XC round.  She went into show jumping with quite a large lead and had two rails, which kept her in the winning position.  She was ecstatic.

At their first two star, she was in 13th after dressage and went on to XC.  Killian was dragging her around the XC, and her arms were so exhausted from pulling.  These days, she would have been pulled up for dangerous riding, but he was such a good jumper, that no one said anything to her.

“I remember going around the course and hearing Brian O’Connor announcing.  Killian was pulling and pulling, and I was basically just pointing him at the fences and letting him do whatever.  As I crossed the finish line, I heard Bryan announce that I had just moved up from 13th to 6th.  Everyone was so excited.  However, I was so exhausted from my round, that I didn’t have the energy to celebrate.  He had been completely out of control.”

The following spring, she was set to do her first three star and was feeling a bit big for her britches again.  Somewhere during the spring, she had missed a horse trial qualification, so she requested to run on special permission.  At the time, this was pretty common.  The officials from Foxhall called and said they would allow her to jog up, and the ground jury would discuss whether she would run or not.  She thought, “I am 19 and a bit behind in my plan, but if this goes well, I should be able to catch up!”

Killian trotted up and was given permission by the ground jury to compete.  They did their dressage, and it was not anything to write home about.  Sinead says, “It was so bad, I have blocked it from my memory.”  The ground jury had warned her that she could run XC, but she needed to be sensible.  All eyes would be watching her, as she was riding on special permission.  Sinead came out of the box with the pedal to the metal.  There were only 10 horses inside the time, and Killian was one of them.

Later that day, David O’Connor said to her, “Girl, you have to slow down.”  She had no idea what he was talking about.  She had rocked around clean and under the time.  What was his deal?  That day also brought Capt. Mark Phillips up to her requesting that she jog the horse up for the team after show jumping.  Sinead was thrilled.  What was DOC’s problem?  She was going to jog up for the team!

Show jumping day arrived, and Killian entered the arena.  Unfortunately, he completed the course with 5 rails down.  This disappointment came with Capt Phillips returning to Sinead.  “He said, nevermind, we don’t want you to jog up for the team.  You have a lot of training to do, and he suggested a few people I should ride with.”

Sinead realized that she had learned a lot from Stuart, but there were just too many distractions at his farm with working and riding.  She decided that she needed to go somewhere that she could be selfish with her education.  She, Rebecca Howard, and Hawley Bennett all picked up and went to work and ride for the O’Connors.

Killian was the first horse that she rode with David, and he thought Killer was nuts.  However, they trained hard and were aiming for the three star at Fair Hill.  Unfortunately, he came up with a small tendon tear after Morven and had to miss Fair Hill.  At this point, Killian was 14 years old.  He had never had a vacation from work in his time off the track.  Unfortunately, due to this, Killian’s body did not adapt well to the downtime required for the tendon to heal.  It did heal eventually, but he never really got back to his former self.  Sinead laughs and says,

“The vets were practicing with new equipment at the time.  They told me that if they could use Killer as an experiment horse, they wouldn’t charge me.  They x-rayed all of his feet and pasterns.  The vet couldn’t believe this horse was ever sound.  He told me it was a good thing I hadn’t had the horse vetted, as he never would have passed.  He had chips everywhere.  He should have been a lawn ornament when he was 7! His x-rays were like swiss cheese. I never iced him in all of the time I had him.  I saw other people doing it, but I had no clue why they were doing it.  He was lucky if he got standing bandages on after an event.  I was just clueless.  I remember saying to the vet, ‘Can’t you guys just fix him up for a few years?  I should be able to qualify for an Olympics or a World Games in 2 years.'”

Retired Killian

It was decided then that Killian should retire.  He still lives in the first field on the right at The Fork.  He comes trotting up when people come to the fence, but he really only wants a carrot.  He could care less if anyone pets him.  Sinead’s mother takes care of him, and he is sound and happy at 24 years old.

Sinead believes that Killian taught her the most about coming up through the ranks in the sport.  He gave her a taste of the upper levels and what it meant to have the team interested in you and then changing their mind.  He gave her the hunger to continue in the sport and to achieve big things.

Tipperary’s Saturday Links

Phillip and Ben getting things rolling with a Michael Barisone clinic. Photo via Phillip's FB page.

It is hard to believe that I am heading to Aiken for my first event of the season as the ground here is covered with a snow/ice mix.  I am ready to head south for the warmer weather to get 2013 rolling!  I hope everyone is staying warm during this cold front.

Nicola Wilson Clinic in Charlottesville, VA:  The clinic is taking place 2/2-2/3 and there are spots still available!  If you didn’t get to make the drive down south for the winter, this is a great way to get ready for the upcoming show season.  The clinic is taking place at Plain Dealing Farm.  Please contact Liz Riley for more information at  [email protected].

Press Release from Copper Meadows:

Copper Meadows Eventing Adds Spring Horse Trials
    With the unfortunate loss of an excellent Area VI Event, the Event at 3-Day Ranch, Copper Meadows Eventing has been granted approval to run a horse trials on March 15 – 17, 2013.  The Copper Meadows HT will host A/I – Intro, with the possibility of adding an Advanced section if there is approval through the USEF Technical Committee.
     The March date is an important marker in the Area VI calendar which was successfully filled by 3-Day Ranch for a number of years.  Two weeks before Galway Downs’ spring Event and three-day, the HT now at Copper Meadows will provide a preparation for riders looking to ready themselves for FEI competition at Galway, or gain one more qualifying score as they prepare for the upcoming FEI season.  James Atkinson, course designer at Copper, says of the future Advanced course, “It will be technical but not huge – a good prep for horses and riders looking to run the CIC 3* at Galway.”  Along with the addition of an Advanced track, the existing courses will be slightly changed for the 2013 season.
     Copper Meadows Eventing is excited and honored to run this spring Event, and hopes that it will be useful for not just California riders, but also riders from surrounding states and barns wintering in California.  Please visit to stay updated on any news concerning the Event, and contact Margie Davis at [email protected] to sign up as a volunteer for the Event.


Sweden Sweeps World Dressage Masters

EHV-1 Outbreak in NJ

Jennie B’s newest blog on COTH

Nick Turner is Ireland’s new eventing manager

Simon Cowell buys into a racehorse

Cargill buys the Pennfield Corporation


Check out this video of Clayton Fredericks and Waltersdown Don:


The One That Started It All: Nirvana

Every horse that we ride has a lot to teach us.  The longer we ride, the more we can pick out skills that specific horses have taught us along the way.  However, there is always one horse that starts it all for us.  The one that teaches about riding and makes us into the rider we are today.  This new series is going to tell the stories of the horses that started it all.  This week, I got to chat with Jill Henneberg about her first Advanced horse, Nirvana.  Photos are used with Jill’s permission.

Jill Henneberg and Nirvana

For many little girls, the world revolves around horses.  Getting one’s first horse is a major milestone in life.  For Jill Henneberg, getting her first horse would put her on the path to achieving big things.

In 1988, at the age of 14, Jill saw a picture of a horse for sale on the wall of a tack shop.  She went to see the horse, and though many tried to steer her away from the “crazy” 3 year old OTTB mare, Jill saw something special in that $600 horse.  Jill had only been riding for about 2 years when she brought Nirvana home, but she was determined to make it work.  Nirvana was very tolerant to the many mistakes that Jill made along the way, and they formed a very strong relationship.  The barn was 10 miles from Jill’s home, and she rode her bike there every day to ride her horse.

Jill with a 3 yo Nirvana

Finally, they were ready for their first event at Snipe Hunt.  They competed in the Chicken Little division and brought home their first blue.  They continued to progress through the levels, and when they reached Training level, Jill decided to take things a step further.  She became a working student for Jane Cory of Pleasant Hollow Farm.  During her time there, Jill learned a lot.  One day, as a treat, Jane took Jill and Nirvana to Bruce Davidson’s for a lesson.  Bruce took them out on the cross country field at Chesterland and tested their skills.

“He had us out there jumping some pretty serious fences.  It was a very defining moment in my life.  The more we asked of her, the more she stepped up to the plate.  I realized then that I had a horse that was seriously nice and didn’t seem to have any limitations.  After that, we put her into a very specific program.  She would only tolerate about 20 minutes of real dressage work a day, so we did that daily followed by fitness work or jumping.  Dressage was our weakest phase, but back then, you could be in 60th after dressage and still finish in the top 3.”

Jill and Nirvana, the early years

After Bruce’s, Jill and Nirvana moved up to Prelim.  In 1992, They competed at the CCI* Long Format at Essex and finished 4th and received the Best Conditioned Horse Award.  They went on to compete on the Young Rider Team at the Preliminary level.  The team won the competition, and Jill placed 4th individually.  They went on to complete 3 or 4 Intermediates before moving up to Advanced in the spring of 1993 at North Georgia.  They competed in the Advanced Horse Trials at Rolex later that spring and finished 2nd and received the JD Reeves Trophy for being the highest placed Young Rider.  That fall, Jill completed her first CCI*** at Fairhill and was the highest placed Young Rider.

The following spring of 1994, Jill and Nirvana set off for the three star at Rolex.  They finished 8th and, again, received the Best Conditioned Horse Award.  Jill was only 18 at the time.  It was the year of the World Equestrian Games, and she and Nirvana were alternates for the short list.  They continued on in the season, only to have Nirvana fracture her splint bone.  Jill opted to  have the surgery to remove the splint, as she thought it would make the recovery process faster.  They were short listed for the Pan Ams in 1995, but they had to withdraw, as Nirvana was taking longer than expected to recover.

Nirvana was back and better than ever in the fall of 1995 and ran around Rolex in 1996.  They placed 10th there and were short listed for the Olympics.  They ended up making the trip to Atlanta for the Summer Games and were part of the silver medal team consisting of Karen O’Connor, David O’Connor, and Bruce Davidson.

They were chosen to be on the winter training lists following the Olympics and were planning to attend Badminton in the spring of 1997.  After running their first horse trial of the season, Nirvana injured a tendon.  Following that injury, Jill decided it was best to retire her.  She had nothing left to prove.

Nirvana at 28 and retired

Following her retirement, Nirvana was bred to Espiritu and had a colt named First Mark who went on to compete at the Advanced level with Heather Morris.  She was also bred to Cruising, and the foal went on to compete in the jumper ring.  Nirvana had some trouble with the pregnancy and birth of the second foal, so Jill decided not to breed her again.

“I would not have been able to live with myself if something had happened to her during pregnancy.  She deserved better than that.  I ended up leasing her to a student of mine that took her to some events at the Preliminary level.  What fun it was to watch them.  That student was so lucky to ride that horse and have her teach her everything she knew about riding cross country.  I don’t think I will ever own a horse that I would rather be sitting on in the start box.  She was just an amazing horse, and it was unfortunate that her career got cut short.”

When Jill made the move back to Virginia from Florida, she was worried about how well Nirvana would deal with it.  The mare didn’t ship well, and that was quite a big change.  Sonny and Martha Little offered to keep Nirvana for Jill until she was ready for her.  They ended up keeping the mare for 2 years, and they took amazing care of her.  Jill says she will forever be grateful to them.

Nirvana is now 28 years old and as feisty as ever.  She wants for nothing and has her life  made.  Jill is very thankful to her parents for giving her a budget, as she is sure she wouldn’t have looked at a $600 horse otherwise.  On a fun note, Jill lives on the same road as the O’Connors in The Plains, Virginia.  They were talking over dinner one night and realized that 4 of the horses from the 1996 Olympics are retired on that road and living the life they deserve.


Tipperary’s Saturday Links

This is awesome. Photo via Second Start Thoroughbreds FB page.


The rain and snow have finally finished falling.  I think we got about 4″+ of rain this week where I live.  I’m thinking of starting an aquatred therapy center at my farm until the water recedes.  These are the times where I really wish I had an indoor!  Hopefully, for those attending Poplar Place this weekend, the footing and weather will be amazing!

Event this weekend:

Poplar Place January HT: [Website] [Live Scores]


Two men fined for illegal farrier work

More beef burgers test positive for horse DNA

HSUS forms Responsible Horse Breeders Council

Canada’s odds shorten to host the 2018 WEG

Boyd and crew have arrived Aiken

Lamplight Equestrian Center has been sold

David Broome is new president of British Showjumping




The One That Started It All: Prairie Schooner

Jon Holling and Prairie Schooner

Every horse that we ride has a lot to teach us.  The longer we ride, the more we can pick out skills that specific horses have taught us along the way.  However, there is always one horse that starts it all for us.  The one that teaches about riding and makes us into the rider we are today.  This new series is going to tell the stories of the horses that started it all.  This week, I got to chat with Jon Holling.  Talking with Jon, one can tell how much he truly loves his horses and this sport.  All photos used with Jon’s permission.

After graduating from high school in Wisconsin, Jon Holling went off to university as his parents wished.  He showed up at 7 am for his first class, walked in, and realized that he was supposed to be there at 7 pm.  He turned around and walked outside.  “I decided that it must be a sign.  This was not for me.”  I went home and told my parents that I was going to move to Florida and be a working student for Peter Grey.  They were horrified, but I was sure that this was what I wanted.”  In the autumn of 1996, Jon started his life in the eventing world.

As the months passed, his parents warmed up more and more to the idea of Jon living the equestrian dream.  About 5 months after Jon arrived in Florida, his parents took his college fund and told Jon that they were going to buy him a horse.  “I am so grateful to my parents for doing that. I was just so lucky.”

Jon and Schooner in their first Intermediate show jumping together

After searching for a horse, they discovered Prairie Schooner at Denny Emerson’s farm.  Schooner had gone Advanced with Lynn Coates-Holmes, and he was to show Jon the ropes.  Jon had never competed above Prelim, and he was ready to take the next step with his new horse.  Three weeks later, he and Schooner did their first Intermediate at the North Georgia Horse Trials.  Before the cross country, Peter walked up to Jon holding a Kimberwicke bit, and said, “Have you ever ridden with one of these?  You’re going to learn today.”  Jon took the bit and went to warm up.   This event was known as one of the toughest courses, and he and Schooner ended up second.  Captain Mark Phillips talked with Jon after the event.  It was surreal, and Jon was so happy.  Schooner was an amazing horse and had really taken Jon around the course.

After that, Jon took Schooner to Bromont for the CCI*.  The horse was foot perfect, and they won the event.  It was Jon’s first one star of his career, and he was thrilled.  This finish qualified him to do the two star at Young Riders later that year.  He went on to Team Silver with Buck and Nancy Davidson and Ursula Brush.  It was surreal for Jon, as he had gone from Prelim to the YR 2* in his first year of owning the horse.

The following spring, Jon and Schooner made the big move up to Advanced at Pine Top.  Jon was nervous cantering around in the cross country warm-up, but Schooner was so relaxed and confident.  Jon remembers looking down at him and thinking, “If this horse is relaxed and confident and knows his job, then we will be just fine.”  Schooner rocked around the course and was amazing.

Later that spring, they headed to KY for Rolex CCI***.  Schooner was 11th after the dressage, and Jon headed into cross country with a lot of nerves riding along.  In Jon’s own words,

“I rode horribly.  However, about three quarters of the way around, I remember looking down at my horse and making the conscious decision that this was what I wanted to do with my life.  Up until then, I was just trying out that life.  I didn’t want to get to my mid-thirties knowing that I had never tried.  In that moment, I knew that I had what it took to do it.  I had a lot of work to do, but I knew that’s what I wanted.  Even though I didn’t get the result I was hoping for at Rolex, that’s when it all came together for me.”

Unfortunately, Schooner hurt himself on cross country and could not show jump on Sunday.

Schooner came back the following spring better than ever.  They were on track to run Rolex again that spring when Jon broke his ankle and had to have several surgeries to repair it.  Jenn Holling kept Schooner going during Jon’s time off, and they came back together to compete in the Advanced at Checkmate in Canada.  They won the division from start to finish, and Jon was thrilled to be back on his horse.  They continued to compete well together.

Schooner in retirement

Later that year, Schooner re-injured himself and had to be retired from eventing.  Jon wanted to make sure that he got the best life possible in retirement.  A close family friend from Wisconsin took him to do dressage.  Schooner is now about 27 years old and is living his life out in a field with his own herd of mares.  He looks just as good now as he ever has.

Schooner taught Jon the ropes of riding in the big time.  He taught him how to be competitive in the dressage, how to be brave cross country, but most of all, he taught him how to deal with the pressure of riding in the big leagues.  People can teach you how to ride, but they can’t teach you how to deal with the pressure of it all.  Jon says of Schooner,

“Schooner was so special.  I owe so much to him.  He was such a great horse.  You worry with special horses that they won’t feel so special once they retire.  Not Schooner, he still knows he’s special.  That makes me very happy.  I think every good young rider should have an experienced horse to teach them the ropes.”

Jon also says that he felt very confident taking Downtown Harrison to Bromont in the spring of 2012 after having won the CCI* there with Schooner.  He went on to win the CCI*** (and went streaking).  Jon feels very fondly about Bromont, as it is the only place where he has won international CCI’s.


Tipperary’s Saturday Links

Tipperary's booth at WESA. Trade Fairs are pretty common in January. That means new product lines will be hitting the shelf soon! Photo via Tipperary's FB.


Happy Weekend, Eventing Nation!!  It’s supposed to be a weekend of 70 degrees and sun here in North Carolina.  I’m going to get in as much pony time as I can before the week of rain comes next week.  From the look of my Facebook friends’ posts, a lot of people are in the process of making the move south.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous!

The next Bonnie Mosser Clinic is scheduled:

The following came to me from my sponsor, Snider’s Elevator:

Ja-Lin-Bar horse rescue @ 10421 Back Rd. Fannettsburg, PA 17221 had a bank barn fire. It destroyed one of the oldest barns in the valley and is a loss to the rescue. No animals were lost in the fire. They usually have 15 horses on average. The Wineman sisters who run the barn have been customers here for years. They did not solicit donations from us, but I feel compelled to pass their info alo…ng. Their barn manager came in to purchase some things and told us that they lost all of their hay and meds. They still have feed. They lost most of their other supplies like pitch forks, shovels, leg wraps, etc. if you want to contact them here are their numbers:

Barb 717-552-6087 10228 Wineman Road, Ft. Loudon, PA 17224

Ashley 717-369-4210

Amanda 717-504-9925

or you could come in and give them a Sniders Gift certificate, several people have done that. Anything will help these kind souls who help the animals. Thank you.

If you are interested in helping through the store, the number to Snider’s Elevator is 1-800-C-SNIDER.



Horse dies after Amish buggy crash

Badminton is back!

Take2: More Opportunities for Second Careers for Racehorses

Riders4Helmets to host 4th Safety Symposium

Rolex reiterates commitment to Equestrian Sport

Rodrigo Pessoa wins first SSG bonus of 2013

FEI withdraws World Cup Finals 2015 from Guadalajara

Thoroughbred Alliance Show Series Announced

Tips for Grooms and Barn Managers by USEventing TV

Funny Things that Non-Horsey People Say

Farewell to Horse Trials Pioneer, Peggy Maxwell

And I leave you with more of Fledge, the Mustang, and Elisa Wallace.  They are working on their Liberty routine.  Lateral work with just a dressage whip and no rider.  I’m impressed.


The One That Started It All: Ultimate Trial

Rick Wallace and Ultimate Trial

Every horse that we ride has a lot to teach us.  The longer we ride, the more we can pick out skills that specific horses have taught us along the way.  However, there is always one horse that starts it all for us.  The one that teaches about riding and makes us into the rider we are today.  This new series is going to tell the stories of the horses that started it all.  This week, I thought it would be fun to chat with Rick Wallace, Elisa Wallace’s father, about his first Advanced horse, Ultimate Trial.  All photos and videos used with Rick’s permission.  

Rick Wallace became a father at 18, finished high school, and decided to  make a name for himself as a rider.  He bought a 10 acre farm with a 5 stall barn and moved his family there (his wife, and daughter, Elisa).  In 1985, at the age of 21, Rick  found the horse that would take him up the levels.  He was riding with Nancy Gosch of Wood N Horse Stables in Newnan, GA back then.   Nancy was known for breeding nice thoroughbreds, and many came to her looking for their next mount.  Rick was no exception.  Nancy was an integral part of his riding, and he wanted her to be involved in his choice of horses.  He ended up choosing a lovely chestnut gelding from a field of unbroken 3 year olds.  Nancy said to him,

“It is funny that you chose that horse.  He was born in 1982, the year of the Olympic Selection Trials.  That year, they were held in Lexington, KY at Rolex.  Many said that the event was the ultimate trial of horse and rider.  Thus, I named the colt “Ultimate Trial” and his barn name became Lexy, after Lexington, KY.”

Rick and Lexy came up the ranks quickly.  In 1989, Rick and Lexy competed in their first long format CCI** at Radnor.  Rick flew Nancy up to coach him, and he and Lexy ended up finishing 17th.  Lexy wasn’t the fanciest horse, but he was usually midpack after the dressage.  His forte was the cross country, however ,and he usually moved up to the top 5 afterward.  He was known for being fast and making time, as Rick never had to touch the reins.  That year, he was the Intermediate Horse of the Year in Area III.  The following two years, 1990 and 1991, he was the Advanced Horse of the Year in Area III.

In 1990 and 1991, Rick and Lexy did a few 2 and 3 stars and did well.  Rick decided to shoot for the Selection Trials for the Pan Ams in 1991.  He started riding with Jimmy Wofford and Peter Green.  Rick was best friends with John Williams at the time, so they did a lot of riding together as well.  Unfortunately, Lexy and Rick had an unfortunate fall at Fence 17 at the Selection Trials .  Lexy chested the jump and Ricky jumped it without him.  Rick decided to call it a day and head home.

Rick and Lexy show jumping

In 1992, Rick set his sights on going to Rolex (which was still a 3* at that point).  He started working with Peter Grey in addition to Jimmy Wofford and Peter Green.  Rick really wanted to make the ’92 Olympic Team, so he was training hard.  They went to Rolex feeling great.  They were sitting in 17th or 18th after dressage going into their best phase.  Lexy rocked around the steeplechase and onto Phase C.  Unfortunately, he was spun in the vet box before cross country.  It later came to Rick’s attention that he had a tear in his superficial flexor tendon.  Rick was so disappointed.  Lexy was his only big time horse then, and he had put all of his eggs in that basket.

Elisa Wallace at age 4 showing Lexy in-hand

At the time, Elisa was eventing as well.  She was competing at Training level at the age of 10.  Because the age limit on Preliminary was a few years down the road for her, Rick decided to switch their riding over to the hunter/jumper world for awhile.  When Lexy was healed, he was Elisa’s first Medal/Maclay mount when she was 11.  He also went on to be the first horse Grand Prix jumper rider, Callen Solem, rode in the jumper ring at HITS Ocala in 1993.  Lexy taught many riders how to ride before he retired to a field at Rick’s.

Lexy enjoying retirement at age 18

At the age of 18, Lexy and one of Rick’s training horses, Leap of Faith, were best friends in the field.  Leap of Faith was a bit of a rogue mare and difficult to handle.  One weekend, Rick was away teaching  a clinic, and he got a call that Lexy was badly injured.  He rushed home to find out that Lexy had broken his leg.  Leap of Faith would not leave his side.  They knew that Lexy would have to be put down, but they could not get his friend to leave his side.  Finally, they tranquilized her and took her to the barn and laid Lexy to rest.  Following Lexy’s passing, Leap of Faith suddenly became easier to handle and started coming along quickly.  She went on to be one of Elisa’s top event horses.

Rick gives Lexy all of the credit for teaching himself and so many others how to ride.  He believes that Lexy was instrumental in bringing Team Wallace into the eventing world.  Lexy lives on for Team Wallace in two ways.  Rick names all of his event horses with the word “Ultimate”.  He currently has Ultimate Victory (who will move up to Advanced this spring), and a new horse, Ultimate Decision.  Elisa is keeping Lexy alive by bloodlines.  Her stallion, Cor Magnificent, is closely related to Lexy.  Lexy’s sire is Cor Magnificent’s grandsire.  Lexy lives on in name and blood for the Wallace family.


Balancing on the Hills: Bonnie Mosser Clinic Recap

The winter season is a wonderful time for clinics!  We love clinic reports here at Eventing Nation.  If you’ve attended a good one lately– whether with a “big name trainer” or someone new!– send us a write-up and we’ll share it on the site.  If you can, please include photos, videos, or diagrams of exercises.  Email us at [email protected]  Go eventing, and go clinics!



On December 30th, Bonnie Mosser taught a cross country clinic in Mooresville, NC at David Mesimer Stables.  Bonnie is one of 5 US Riders listed in the FEI’s Category A.  She has quite a list of accomplishments under her belt, and she is a very intuitive instructor. David Mesimer Stables has a nice little cross country field that is filled with terrian and a variety of cross country fences.   Bonnie had added quite a few extra jumps and exercises to the field, making it a great place to learn.

The purpose of the clinic was exactly what the name entails, balancing on the hills.  It was a test of how well you knew your horse and could navigate the exercises on the terrain.  So many of us spend a lot of time in a flat arena doing our flatwork and jumping, that our horses aren’t always balanced when we start adding hills.  It is one thing to just gallop up or down a hill, but can you do a set of 4 canter poles then down a hill to another set of four canter poles in balance?

Hotty and I tackling the coop

I took two of my new horses: PrettyHippHopHotty (Hotty), a 5 yo barely off the track TB mare, and Forever West (Cole), a 9 year old Hanoverian dressage horse that is making the switch to something more fun.  I thought that this would be a great learning experience for them, and I was more than right.  The groups varied in rider and horse levels, but every single person took something valuable away from the clinic. Bonnie was very in tune with what was going on with each horse and rider combination.  She could see what was going wrong and always seem to articulate what she wanted to the rider to do to fix it.

Samantha Hay and Tre Jolie practicing their trotting on the hill

Each group starting by trotting and cantering in a circle up and down a hill.  Seems easy, right?  Bonnie wanted each rider to feel where on the hill going up and down their horse changed their footwork.  Did they slow as they crested the hill?  Did they speed up in the middle of the hill on the way down?  Did they stay balanced the whole time?  It was very interesting to watch how each horse dealt with the hills.  They did not all do the obvious, i.e. speeding up by the time they were at the bottom of the hill or getting slower by the time they got to the top of the hill.  For my two, Hotty (who is a Diva redhead) actually stayed quite balanced both up the hill and down the hill.  I thought she would lose her balance a bit going down, but she really handled herself well.  Cole, however, tended to get a bit quicker at the bottom of the hills and definitely lost forward motion at the crest of the hill.

After each of us figured out where our horses liked to change their balance, Bonnie had us halt in different spots on the hills to see where we had difficulty.  Sometimes we would halt in the top third of the hill, other times at the bottom, other times in the middle.  Again, it was interesting to see how each horse dealt with this change in their balance.  Some found it quite easy to halt in both directions anywhere on the hills, while others found certain places more difficult.

Amelia Lowe and Mingo tackling the raised canter poles

When we all thought we had figured our horses out, Bonnie threw another wrench into the gears.  As we were going around on the hills, we had to drop our stirrups.  The looks of distress on the riders’ faces (including mine!) were quite comical.  There were quite a few young horses in the clinic, and the thought of dropping stirrups on the terrain was a bit disconcerting.  However, we all managed to do it without any accidents.  As with the other two exercises, what you thought would happen was not always what took place.  Some horses stayed much more balanced and in a rhythm, while other horses were less balanced and rushed more.  It was very educational to both feel and watch the differences in the horses and riders.

Cole and I tackling the canter poles

Taking back our stirrups, we then began the pole exercise.  Bonnie had a set of four telephone poles on the ground in canter striding at the bottom of one hill on the flat and another set of raised telephone poles set in canter striding at the top of the hill on the flat.  One might tend to think that canter poles are pretty innocuous.  However, if you have ever ridden a set of 3 or 4 in an arena, you know that the poles can go flying pretty easily.  Now, add that idea with terrain.  We first had to canter through the ground poles, then up the hill to the raised poles.  It was interesting to see how riders got drawn into their own worlds and didn’t really look where they were going.  Also, if you rode very backward up the hill, it was very difficult to get your horse up to and into the set of raised canter poles at the top of the hill.

Bonnie discussing things with Amelia Lowe

If you had trouble with that exercise, turning around and going through the raised poles and then down to the ground poles was even harder.  Getting your eye on your poles was the key to success.  No matter what happened with your horse, you could never waiver your eye, or you were in trouble!  One could tell so much about your horse by the way they learned as they went through.

Savannah Smith and Wallaby tackling the raised canter poles

After that, Bonnie started to add the other jumps in the field interspersed with the poles.  It was amazing how the poles could change the way a horse might normally go.  The change in the horses’ balance as they maneuvered around the field was quite obvious.

Brenna Flaherty and County Clare tackle a downhill table.

The clinic was a huge success, as every rider learned a lot about their horse and themselves.  I felt like my two horses grew up a lot in the course of an hour and a half.  Bonnie has a way of putting together exercises that might look simple, but they end up being quite challenging.  They test both the horse and the rider without pushing them past their stress limit.

As with all things Bonnie, you learn a lot and have a lot of fun doing it.


Bonnie is going to be doing a series of clinics in the Charlotte area this winter/spring.  The next will be “What’s Your Speed Limit” and will again be hosted by David Mesimer Stables.  Stabling can be arranged if anyone wishes to trailer in from out of town.  I believe it is WELL WORTH IT.  Contact Jordan Lambert at [email protected] for more information!


Thursday News & Notes from Devoucoux

The little cutie featured in Smartpak's FB caption contest.


With my first event only 4 weeks away, this mud is really putting a damper on my life.  I am getting very creative in ways to get my horses ridden.  I hope everyone else is getting some time in the saddle.  2013 is upon us!

The First Event of the Year is this weekend:

Ocala Horse Properties Winter I HT  [Entry Status] [Website]


The USEA Salutes their family of sponsors from 2012.  It’s quite a list, and I, for one, am excited that US Eventing is starting to have more prizes. [USEA <3’s Sponsors]

The Dressage Foundation has awarded $10,000 in scholarships to dressage instructors through the Major Anders Lindgren Scholarship program. [Big Scholarship for Dressage]

Riders saddle up for 2013-2015 World Class Development Program.

I know we mentioned it before, but it deserves another nod:  Mark Todd is Knighted [Check It]

Margaret “Peggy” Maxwell MBE passed away

SmartPak is partnering with USEF to offer video of the George Morris Horsemanship Training Session

I leave you with a flashback to 2006 and Burghley.  Bonnie Mosser (one of the few on the FEI A-List for this country) and Jenga were amazing.  This is a video to study and learn from!




The One That Started It All: Jackson

Elisa Wallace and Jackson rocking around XC.

Every horse that we ride has a lot to teach us.  The longer we ride, the more we can pick out skills that specific horses have taught us along the way.  However, there is always one horse that starts it all for us.  The one that teaches about riding and makes us into the rider we are today.  This new series is going to tell the stories of the horses that started it all.  This week, I got to chat with Elisa Wallace about her first Advanced horse, Jackson.  Photos are used with Elisa’s permission.

In the fall of 2000, Elisa found an ad on the internet for a yearling TB gelding in Kansas.  The owner sent her a picture and a video, and Elisa decided that she and her mom would travel to check him out.  Her father, Rick, was not happy about her getting a yearling, as she had just graduated from high school and was moving on to college.  He was sure that she would not have time to bring along a youngster.  He would later eat his words.

Jackson as a yearling, Elisa says, "He was scrawny and hairy, but there was just something about him that I knew I wanted."

Elisa had always been the trainer’s kid taking over horses of her father’s, so paying $700 for a yearling from Kansas was quite a big deal for her.  She took things very slowly with Jackson as she brought him along.  She didn’t start jumping him until he was 5 years old.  They did 6 Novices before moving up to Training and 4 Trainings before moving up to Prelim.  Once they hit Prelim, they did the minimums to keep moving along.  When Jackson got it, he was on a roll.  The harder the questions, the more he loved it.  He was a horse that loved his job and knew how to do it.  His scope was untouchable, and he never found anything difficult.

In 2006, Elisa and Jackson did their first CIC*** at Maui Jim as a qualifier for their fall CCI***.  Elisa just wanted to get a qualifying result, but they ended up winning it.   Jackson was always in the top 10 after dressage and usually ended up in the top 5 at most events but bringing home the blue from their first three star was pretty awe inspiring.

That fall, Elisa and Jackson set off for Fairhill.  They were in the top 15 after dressage and Jackson cruised around the XC like it was cake.  Unfortunately, during his round, he pulled a tendon, and Elisa had to withdraw him before show jumping.  Disappointed, Elisa took him home to rehab.  The following spring, he was back and feeling better than ever.  They had made the Developing Riders List and were set to travel to Jersey Fresh for the Pan Am Selection Trials.  They had a great weekend and finished up 18th.  The vets were thrilled with how well Jackson’s tendon was coming along.

With the selectors eyes on them, Elisa decided to shoot for Blenheim that fall.  In the lead up, they were to run Advanced at the ever popular Millbrook HT.  They were first after the dressage and put in a great XC round, though they took it slow due to the boggy footing.  In the show jumping warm-up, Elisa thought Jackson felt a bit odd, but she wasn’t sure if it was the footing or not.  He went in to jump a double clear round and jigged back to the barn, so she didn’t worry further.  They ended up 4th in the Advanced division.

Unfortunately, the next morning, Jackson was just not right when she brought him out of his stall.  Once again, Elisa made the trek home with a feeling of dread.  Her vet scanned the leg and could not find anything wrong.  However, after an MRI, it was found that Jackson had torn the deep digital flexor tendon to his hoof.  This all happened a week before they were supposed to leave for Blenheim.  Elisa was beyond disappointed.  Unfortunately, a month later, her other Advanced horse injured herself as well.  This put both of Elisa’s big horses into retirement.  This sport can truly be gut wrenching at times.

Jackson loving life in retirement.

Elisa says that she is always looking for Jackson’s traits in young horses.  He always seemed to have a smile on his face when he was running cross country.  She could run around on a loose rein and just kick.  She never had to pull, so he found it easy to make time.  He was an incredible athlete that never stopped wanting to do his job.  Jackson is only 14 this year and living life in the field with his herd.  Elisa says she can still get on him bareback in the field and show off some of his tricks.

Jackson taught Elisa about a lot of things: patience, disappointment, the thrill of going Advanced on an amazing horse.  However, what he taught her most was how to manage her horses’ injuries.  Hindsight is always 20/20, but she says that the trick to having an Advanced horse is learning how to keep them sound.

It was great talking to Elisa about her special, once in a lifetime horse.  Her love for Jackson was very evident in everything that she said, and it sounds like a partnership that was truly amazing.



Tipperary’s Saturday Links


Love that ULRs spoil their ponies too. This was Christmas dinner for the ponies at Will Faudree's Gavilan Farm. Photo via Nat VC's FB.

I am finally home from Christmas vacation, and I am so happy to be back on my horses!  I hope everyone is having some good weather to get cracking for 2013!  I don’t know about everyone else, but I am ready for 2013 to start and the show season to start!

With show season right around the corner, it’s important to mention that Ocala Horse Properties will be holding their eventing show series again in 2013.  There will be fun for the family at $10/person at each of the events including bouncy houses and miniature golf.  The first event is January 5-6.



Mary King’s Keynote Speech now on US Eventing TV

The Year in Review from Lauren Sprieser

Boyd and Silva are looking for a working student

Longines Becomes FEI Partner

The Barteau Family Makes Christmas a Production


And here is an entertaining video to waste a little time:


Tipperary’s Saturday Links

Love this. Via Smartpak's FB.


After making the trip from NC to PA with intermittent snow and high winds, I am just ready to relax and hang out with my family for Christmas.  Of course, I am already missing my ponies and wishing they could come home for Christmas too!  I hope the rest of Eventing Nation is surrounded by good friends, family, and ponies for the holidays!


Class Action Lawsuit over Australian Equine Flu Outbreak

New App helps with Showjumping Striding

Canada hosting 4 Day Cross Country Design Course Being Offered

Ben Maher Wins Olympia Puissance

Recognizing the Equine Heroes Among Us

An Interview with Eric Lamaze Part 3
I leave you with this video…Fledge’s training continues! 


The One That Started It All: Blitzen

Photo via Smartpak's FB page

Every horse that we ride has a lot to teach us.  The longer we ride, the more we can pick out skills that specific horses have taught us along the way.  However, there is always one horse that starts it all for us.  The one that teaches about riding and makes us into the rider we are today.  This new series is going to tell the stories of the horses that started it all.  This week, I got to chat with Santa Claus about his eventing reindeer, Blitzen.  Unfortunately, photos of Santa and his reindeer are all copyrighted, so we don’t have any to share.

Eventing is a sport that goes on around the world.  However, it is not widely known that there is a North Pole Eventing Association.  Because the conditions vary so much from the rest of the world, it is difficult for the participants to go international in their competing.  Reindeer are the primary mounts, although, in some cases, polar bears can be used.

A few hundred years ago, Santa decided that he wanted to try this sport, but he knew that he would need a very special mount.  He had no desire to mess around with taming a polar bear, as his job took up a lot of his time.  He needed a mount that would be easy to bring along.  At the time, Santa had 9 reindeer to choose from, all cows.   (It is a little known fact that all of Santa’s reindeer are cows.  Bull reindeer have no antlers in winter.) Santa had a preference for a cow named Blitzen, which is derived from the German word for lightning.  He loved her personality and her ability to be very quick on her feet.  One could say she was lightening fast.  North Pole Eventing is very similar to our sport, but due to the snow and ice, things can get a bit precarious at times.

Santa and Blitzen’s training started off great.  Blitzen really seemed to take to eventing, especially the cross country.  She didn’t always score well in the dressage, as she could have some “redhead moments,” but she always came through in the jumping phases.  Santa says,

Blitzen and I didn’t always see eye to eye in the dressage arena, but my girl always pulled through in the other phases.  Being such an important figure around the world, I had to make sure that I was sitting on a mount that would take care of me in the jumping.  Those ice flows and the pull of the full  moon can really make cross country courses interesting.  You just never know what you’re going to get.  You need a mount that is brave and quick on the draw.

Santa and Blitzen soon began moving up the levels together.  They were consistently in the top 3 at every event.  Always aweing the crowd with their fluidity over the fences.  As time passed, Blitzen started to accept the dressage phase, and the pair became unstoppable.  They became #1 at the Advanced level, and were getting ready to compete in their first three star.  Unfortunately, a month out from the event, a rouge bull reindeer got into Blitzen’s lot.  Santa immediately called out his vet.  Blitzen had suffered some injuries during the scuffle.  The vet was also worried that she might be pregnant.  Santa was devastated.  He had been really looking forward to his event, but it just didn’t look like it was in the cards for them.  Seven months later, Blitzen gave birth to Jingles, a bull calf.

After the heartbreak of missing out on his first three star, Santa decided to retire from eventing to focus more on his career.  However, Santa says,

Eventing Blitzen taught me a lot about myself and my reindeer.  You have to give yourself 100% to this sport at the upper levels, or it is just too much.  Patience and perseverance are very important in eventing and life.  Blitzen has a  heart of gold, and she gave me 110% in everything.  I am so blessed to have her in my life.

Blitzen has had a few more calves since then, but she is still brought out on Christmas Eve to help pull that special sleigh.   She is as spry as ever and is always lightening fast at dinner time.



Tipperary’s Saturday Links

Our hearts go out to those affected by today's shooting in CT. Photo via Smartpak's FB page.

Today, the things that seem like a big deal in my life, seem relatively inconsequential compared to the tragedy in Connecticut.  I think I speak for all of Eventing Nation when I say that our thoughts, love, and prayers go out to all of the victims’ families as well as the survivors.  Words simply cannot do the tragedy or our condolences justice.  This is such a heartbreaking story.


The PagePlay Equestrian Social Media Awards Nominations Are Open

If you missed it on Friday, Manoir De Carneville is up for syndication

USEF Revamps Eventing Developing Riders List

USEF Announces Show Jumping Eligible Athletes and High Performance Committees

Britain’s Best Inducted into Equestrian Hall of Fame

Eventing Trainer, Kenneth Clawson, dies at 63

Horse Breeder Sentenced to Jail on Five Charges

COTH Talks with Kelly Prather about working for Fox-Pitt


Now is the time to get ourselves tuned up for the upcoming show season.  Here is a great clinic opportunity to get you on the road to 2013!


I leave you with this video of the Plantation Bareback Puissance.  Winter is always a good time to sharpen up your no stirrup work.