Jessica Kerschbaumer
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Jessica Kerschbaumer


About Jessica Kerschbaumer

I am a 30 something Canadian who didn't have the conventional upbringing with horses. Once I graduated college and was finally able to get my feet wet in the eventing world, the bug bit me hard and it has all been downhill from there! I work at my barn nearly every spare moment around my 9-5 job, riding and learning everything I can, making up for lost time. I am currently competing at the preliminary level with the most amazing tiny redheaded ottb mare, Sunny, and have my sights set on the upper levels someday!

Eventing Background

USEA Rider Profile Click to view profile
Area Canada/Area 6 & 7
Highest Level Competed Preliminary

Latest Articles Written

Kyle Carter Shares His Knowledge in Alberta at Young Rider Clinic

Kyle stands with a group of riders aiming for the 2023 USEA Eventing Young Rider Championships, as well as High Performance and Alberta Young Rider Coach Leahona Rowland. Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer.

Last weekend, the Alberta Horse Trials Association welcomed top Canadian eventer Kyle Carter back again to Alberta for a three-day Young Rider Clinic that took place at Prentice Creek Equestrian Centre near Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. This clinic was organized and subsidized by the Alberta High Performance program, and the event also received a generous club funding donation from the Alberta Equestrian Federation.

This clinic was open to riders who are 25 years of age and under, competing at the EV75 (Pre Entry) level and above. The rider spots in this clinic were split between young riders who are attending the USEA Eventing Young Rider Championships; young riders from the Alberta High Performance/U18 program and young riders who are not on the High Performance team. Auditing was free to anyone who wanted to come out and watch and learn.

Kyle is one of Canada’s most successful riders, representing Canada multiple times at the 2010 World Equestrian Games, 2008 Olympics in Beijing, 2007 Rio de Janeiro Pan American Games, and 1999 Winnipeg Pan American Games. In addition to his personal accomplishments, Kyle is also a highly regarded coach and clinician, and has had great success bringing his students up the levels in eventing. Several of his students have gone on to compete at the 5* level, and he holds the coaching record for having the most students win gold medals in eventing at the USEA Eventing Young Rider Championships. Kyle continues to focus on competing at the highest levels of eventing and hopes to again represent Canada at the Olympics. He and his wife, Jennifer, own and run 5 Ring Stable, a successful 5* eventing barn in Citra, Florida.

The hot summer sun shone down on 22 riders who attended the clinic, as they rode in dressage, show jumping and cross country lessons over the weekend. There were many different horse and rider levels, from EV75 (formerly Pre-Entry) all the way up to EV115 and EV120 (previously Intermediate and Advanced).

In all three phases, Kyle emphasized strong basics, utilizing exercises that strengthened each horse and rider’s foundation and skills. Exercises and feedback were tailored to each horse and rider, some were more experienced combinations introducing some new concepts and challenges as they plan to move up the levels or hoping to attend the Eventing Young Riders Championships, and others focused on perfecting skills and solidifying the basics, focusing more on the developing their partnership for the future.

Kyle’s teaching style is very effective, blunt and honest, with a generous dash of comedy thrown in. Many stories were shared from his past success and failures, to help educate and explain the madness behind the methods. He has a great way of making his points clear and getting the information across, and he really takes the time to ensure horse and rider are understanding what he is explaining and the questions and exercises being asked of them.

Throughout the weekend Kyle spoke a lot about working smarter, not harder, as he explained the intricacies of training of the horse and setting them up for success using small steps and a progression that builds confidence and makes sense. He emphasized the little things, like the quality of transitions, working on the balance by transitioning down on a circle and on an uphill slope, not a downhill.

Kyle instructs a group on how to negotiate mounds. Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer.

He encouraged riders to really think about the steps and the little details, and instead of trying to force the horse to do what we want them to do, use movements and exercises that naturally help them do what we are trying to accomplish. The goal was not perfection, but to ensure that the exercises we ask the horses to do help us end up with a better horse at the end. “Don’t tell your horses NOT to do something, instead, give them something to do. SHOW them what you want them to do.” Kyle explained.

On show jumping day, each group started off with some basic pole exercises at trot and canter before moving onto some course work that included bounces, combinations, riding up and down hills, skinny jumps and lots of technical turning exercises. Each course he had the riders do required accuracy and very organized riding, and Kyle was great about pinpointing what each horse and rider needed to improve and then taking the time to really explain how to do that. Kyle included poles and technical footwork exercises not just at the beginning, but throughout the courses, to ensure horses and riders were staying organized and focused at all times.

Cross country day started very early and saw the first group warming up with the rising sun in the cool morning air. Kyle focused on using different exercises utilizing show jumps as well as terrain during each lesson to work on the education of both horse and rider. Riders warmed up over some hills and different cross country fences to practice their rhythm, galloping and balancing positions, before moving onto some exercises working on angles.

Kyle emphasized that even on cross country riders needed to still be training their horses between each fence. Then the groups moved on to some mounds where some show jumps were set up to help the riders and horses practice riding up and down terrain, and then each group progressed to adding some angled approaches to the jumps on and around the mounds as well. Kyle is a big fan of using show jumps on cross country to introduce new questions and challenges, as they are much more forgiving than a solid fence during the learning process. Riders finished at the water complex, practicing some different lines and questions that Kyle had again incorporated some show jumps into.

Kyle really took the time for each horse and rider, explaining things multiple ways until they understood, and often took more time than allotted for each group. You can tell he is very passionate and loves to share his knowledge, and he put in an incredible effort with each group from the very first in the morning, to the last group of the day.

“Knowledge is power” were some of the parting words as he wrapped each group up. He encouraged every rider to keep working hard, no matter what size their goals are, and to take every opportunity possible to keep growing and learning, and to focus on training and bettering the horse, not just winning. “Being competitive is NOT the same as being a good horseman” Kyle stressed.

Each horse and rider came away with lots of constructive criticism, encouragement and feedback, and were excited to take what they’d learned from Kyle and practice hard to keep on improving. We look forward to having Kyle back for another clinic in the future!

Huge thank yous go out to the Alberta Horse Trials Association, Alberta High Performance, Kathleen Ziegler for organizing, Canadian Eventing Development Foundation for their sponsorship, and Alberta Equestrian Federation‘s generous club funding donation.

We are so incredibly fortunate to have clinicians of this caliber come to Alberta, and are very thankful to the Alberta Equestrian Federation for their support in making this happen, and we hope to collaborate on more of these opportunities in the future!

If you aren’t a member yet, the Alberta Equestrian Federation provides many opportunities and benefits for all of their members. From clinicsand shows, insurance and coverage, to programs for the recreational rider, AEF has all your bases covered! Consider becoming a member of the Alberta Equestrian Federation! For more information see:

A Look Back at Lessons Learned from the 2023 ECP Symposium

Getting a chance to visit somewhere warm and sunny and escaping a bit of the frigid Alberta winter is always a great thing, but having it include horses, eventing, and education makes it even better! Many thanks to Jessica Kerschbaumer for allowing this republication of her blog from earlier this year following the USEA Eventing Coaches Program (ECP) Symposium.

A beautiful morning on day three of the USEA ECP Symposium in Morriston, FL. Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer.

It was great to see a group of familiar Alberta faces as well as other Canadians at the 2023 United States Eventing Association Eventing Coaches Program (ECP) Symposium which took place in January at beautiful Barnstaple South in Morriston, FL. The Eventing Coaches Program was introduced in 2002, focusing on safety, continuing education, commitment to classical principles, and diversity, equity and inclusion. Coaches can be certified at five different levels depending on their riding and coaching experience, as well as horsemanship and practical knowledge.

In addition to workshops and assessments, another educational opportunity provided by this program is the annual ECP Symposium which is open to the general public as well as coaches. It was held over three days and provided the opportunity for coaches, riders, judges, and others involved in eventing to gather in an educational, collaborative, and interactive setting to explore skills, techniques, learning styles and philosophies related to the sport of eventing. It was great how the symposium focused on education of not just coaches, but riders and parents of riders as well.

Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer.

A star studded line-up of speakers and ECP faculty members, as well as many notable eventing coaches and riders from across the USA and Canada were in attendance. Each day had a different focus: Dressage on day one, Stadium on day two, and Cross Country on day three.

A staple throughout the three days of the symposium was the new ECP eventing handbook By The Levels, which was introduced in 2022. This incredible resource comprehensively lays out, for Starter through Advanced, the purpose of each level, and rider and instructor expectations for each level. Each level is then broken down further by discipline, and then each discipline into three different categories:

• Position, Balance, Aids
• Rider Skills
• Exercises and Concepts

The handbook outlines a clear and structured progression through the levels which focuses on a strong foundation of basic principles, and mastery of skills before progressing to the next level. It is an extremely useful resource for coaches, riders, and parents. Attendees were encouraged to refer to the handbook throughout the symposium, and while creating the lesson plans, to ensure what was being discussed and laid out was appropriate to the level of each horse and rider.

Day one started out uncharacteristically crisp and frosty in the morning as we arrived and checked in and were assigned to our breakout groups. We were introduced to our host and faculty members, who included Karen O’Connor, Phyllis Dawson, Robin Walker, Mary D’Arcy, Bec Braitling, Jan Byyny, Emily Beshear and more. Guest speaker, dressage legend Peter Gray, started us off by discussing the new USEA dressage tests, many of the movements, as well as the nuances of training and judging dressage.

Then we divided up into our breakout groups for a brainstorming session about managing unrealistic expectations between coaches and riders/parents, which is a common problem in many sports. There was much discussion about different approaches and ideas between the group members, and each group came up with three basic strategies or ways to help coaches, riders, and parents stay on the same page. All this information was taken away by the ECP faculty to review at a later date to help them find more ways to continue to assist coaches, and it was interesting to note that every single group listed the By The Levels handbook as a helpful resource to assist with solving this problem.

By mid-morning the sun had started to thaw out our chills and we headed outside to watch the first riding session, a dressage rider being taught a demo lesson by ECP faculty member Mary D’Arcy.

After lunch we broke into our groups again and moved on to the interactive lesson portion of the day. Each group was assigned a faculty member for guidance, who rotated to a different group for each session, and in each of the sessions which covered riders from Beginner Novice through Advanced, a horse and rider were assigned to each group. The groups had the opportunity to ask questions of their assigned rider, and then observed their warm up, discussing and collaborating with their group and faculty member on what they were seeing, strengths and weaknesses, creating priorities for the pair, and referring to the By The Levels handbook.

The priorities were recorded onto a a flip chart for each group, along with possible exercises to use in the lesson, and then a lesson plan was developed. One group was chosen, and then the faculty member taught the lesson that their group had put together, and feedback, questions and comments were invited from everyone after the lesson. Many different approaches, ideas, and exercises came from the group members as they put their heads together, but the underlying theme of every single lesson was a strong foundation of the basics, focus on the training scale, and an appropriate progression through the lesson for horse and rider. One of the best parts of this interactive format, was that while one faculty member led the lesson, each faculty member assigned to the other groups remained with their group to quietly discuss and answer questions while each lesson took place.

Karen O’Connor discussing the basics of cross country riding. Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer.

Day two started out with another guest speaker, clinical and sports psychologist, Dr. Paul Haefner, who is also a rider himself. He discussed emotional behavior in riders, and his in depth presentation really helped everyone understand the difference between negative and positive emotional behavior, self regulation, and different skills and strategies that can be used to help improve them.

We then headed outside and the faculty members gave a talk on all the different facets of show jumping, including the five rider responsibilities: direction, speed, balance, rhythm and tempo. We were encouraged to keep these in mind as we formulated the lesson plans for the show jumping sessions that carried on through the afternoon. Again we broke into our groups and faculty leaders rotated through again as we were assigned horse and rider pairs and developed lesson plans on our flip charts. Appropriate exercises were chosen to link proper flatwork to the jumping, and to improve the performance of each horse and rider pair in a structured and progressive way. The importance of the rider responsibilities and proper basics shone through in each lesson taught even at the lowest levels.

We wrapped up the day with the ECP faculty members discussing the program’s application process, workshops, and the assessment process. They also covered the expectations of the program and gave advice on what makes a successful coaching assessment, and then we finished with a Q&A session where attendees were given the opportunity to ask further questions about the program.

Alberta rider Reagan Noyes with Phyllis Dawson. Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer.

The third and final day started out with a gorgeous sunrise on the cross country course as Phyllis Dawson and Robin Walker led a demo by advanced rider Alex O’Neal, who demonstrated the different types of canters needed during different part of cross country riding, jumping, and schooling, as well as the different rider body positions.

Karen O’Connor then took over to discuss the basics of cross country riding, emphasizing that we must by very clear and systematic about everything. She discussed rider and body positioning for different parts of cross country, as well as different ways to hold the reins, and everything was demonstrated by the demo riders as she spoke. The riders then put these basics to work in some lengthening and shortening exercises, and some small jumps.

Groups gathering on cross country to create lesson plans for their assigned horse and rider. Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer.

From there Robin Walker and Emily Beshear took over and discussed how to coach horses and riders through negotiating different cross country obstacles such as ditches, banks and water, with a demonstration rider on a green horse.

Again we broke into our groups and created lesson plans for our assigned riders, with the chosen faculty leaders teaching the lesson, keeping in mind the basics of cross country that had been discussed earlier. Different elements of the cross country course, including terrain and mounds, were incorporated into each lesson to help each horse and rider improve different skills. It was exciting to have one of our own Albertans as a demo rider in one lesson, Reagan Noyes and her thoroughbred gelding, Scooby Dude. They got a lesson from Phyllis Dawson that focused mainly on the water complex, progressively adding in more technical elements to build confidence.

Some of the Albertans in attendance. L to R, Kathleen Ziegler, Jessica Kerschbaumer, Catherine David, Gemma Gerlach-Murray and Becky Staden. Photo by Maribeth Murray.

Continuing education is so important, and the symposium is a place where coaches can gather together, learn and collaborate. It provides an opportunity for coaches to ensure that even though everyone has different teaching styles, that the proper foundation and basics are being taught consistently across the board and that everyone is on the same page. Everyone who attended, whether they were a coach, rider or parent, came away more educated, inspired, and with more tools in their tool kit.
For more information on the program visit

How To Beat The Winter Blues – AlbertaEventer Style!

A friend and I hacking out around the farm.  Photo courtesy of Jessica Kerschbaumer A friend and I hacking out around the farm. Photo courtesy of Jessica Kerschbaumer
It has been ages since I last wrote, but I have been having a fantastic busy winter!  Instead of a run of the mill update, I thought I’d share a list of things I’ve done to beat the winter blues and make the harsh Alberta winters slightly more tolerable!
1. Hack Outside as Much as Possible
When we are stuck inside longing for the return of warm summer days and the oh so distant eventing season, a lot of times the last thing we want to do is bundle up and spend more time outside than we absolutely have to.
Hacking outside is great for both us and the horses, and I get out and about as much as the weather allows.  I’ll generally hack if it’s -15 C/5 F or warmer and I always use a quarter sheet, and of course appropriate temperatures vary by area, so use common sense and your own discretion!  We are pretty hardcore up here in Alberta!
A break and change in scenery from the flatwork and monotonous circles of the indoor arena is refreshing and helps keep my horses interested in their work.  Walking is also key for fitness and conditioning so I always make sure I have a good marching walk to reap the maximum benefits..  Walking through the snow is great exercise as well, just be mindful of the footing.  Avoid icy spots as well as snow with a thick crust, as the sharp edges can scrape and cut your horse’s legs.
Sunny hacking away while I'm busy taking selfies!  Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer

Sunny hacking away while I’m busy taking selfies! Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer

2. Go Back to Basics
Winter is the perfect time to brush up on your flatwork and jumping/pole work.  I have used this winter to introduce the double bridle to Sunny and we’ve been working hard to improve our dressage and especially the lateral work in anticipation of moving up to Intermediate this spring!
Because variety is the name of the game, I also love to pull out all those neat pole, grid, and jumping exercises that I always mean to do but just can’t seem to fit in during the busy summer months.  One of my favorites is the Suicide X!
3. Sign Up for a Clinic
I find it very difficult to stay motivated through the long winter months unless I make goals or have specific things to work towards.  A general winter plan of “prepare for next year’s eventing season” is far too broad for me, and I’m sure many others have the same problem!  I’ve found that signing up for a mid-winter clinic keeps me motivated and focused, and I use it as a gauge to see where we are and what else we need to improve before the spring.
My clinic this winter is a bit special, Sunny and I got accepted to ride with WILLIAM FOX-PITT!!!!  To say I am excited would be a bit of an understatement!  We don’t get many “big name” clinicians up in western Canada, so this opportunity is doubly exciting as I don’t think you could find a bigger name than William at the moment!
The clinic is just over a week away now, and I and the other Alberta riders chosen have been busy in a flurry of preparation and planning as we all are making the long 11 hour trip to Chilliwack, BC for what is sure to be the experience of a lifetime!
4. Try Something New
I heard about the Calgary Hunt Club several years ago and although it was always something I’d wanted to try, life and other things always seemed to get in the way in the busy fall months when we were wrapping up the eventing season.  Until this past fall!  Mid October, an eventer friend and I bit the bullet and made the trek down to Millarville in southern Alberta to see what it was all about!
It was a blast!!  Sunny was getting some well deserved time off, so I was fortunate to borrow my friends’ lovely gelding, who was a rock star considering it was his first hunt experience as well!  After galloping over hill and dale, and meeting a ton of lovely people that were so friendly and welcoming, we headed home thinking that this was definitely something we would have to do again!
So if there’s something you’ve always wanted to try, be it hunting, polocrosse, barrel racing, whatever!  The off season is no better time to get out there and give it a go!
5. Experience a New Horse
The off season is the perfect time to cultivate that new partnership.  Whether it’s a young horse or a project horse to ride and then flip, there’s no better time to get to know each other and put a good solid foundation on a horse than in the winter when we aren’t jetting off every weekend for an event or vacation.  Even swapping rides with a barn friend once or twice a month can be a really great experience, as there is so much to be gained from different horses, and sitting on other horses makes one very aware of just what the heck we are doing up there!
In addition to picking up several horses around the barn to ride, I am very excited to share that I have added another horse to my team!  Top It Up or “Twiggy” is a 16hh 2009 OTTB mare.  She had a fairly successful racing career, 19 starts making over $46,000.  She retired sound from racing in September 2013, spent the next 14 months hanging out in a pasture, and then I was basically told “If you can catch her, you can ride her!”
After only a few rides I was positively head over heels for this mare, she is smart as a whip but super sensible about everything.  Pretty much the polar opposite of Sunny!
Since I restarted her under saddle less than 3 months ago, she has progressed by leaps and bounds, and even though she has only jumped 6 times so far, she absolutely blows my socks off every time with her natural talent and willingness.
I am incredibly excited for what the future holds for us, and I would like to send an amazingly huge thank you to Dr. Rick Katchuik of Alberta Veterinary Center and Lorrie Jamieson of Klondike Victory Farms for making this opportunity possible!
Twiggy showing her stuff this past weekend over a small course!  Photo by Tayler Vick

Twiggy showing her stuff this past weekend over a small course! Photo by Tayler Vick

6. Head South
This to me was always one of those frivolous things that only the “rich-people” did. I thought there was no way a regular person like me could ever afford to pack up and jet off down to sunny California for 3 weeks or a month in the spring.  But last year an eventing friend and I decided that it was our year!
I am very happy to report that we did it, and we did it on a budget!  I love when people ask me how much it cost, because while it wasn’t CHEAP, with a smart head, proper planning, and budgeting, it can definitely be doable for the average horse person.
This year we have planned a 6 week trip for March and part of April, and both Sunny and Twiggy will be along for the ride.  The plan for Sunny is prelim at Copper Meadows mid-march, then if all goes well, upgrading to the big I at Galway and Twin Rivers!!  Twiggy is just along for exposure, schooling and conditioning, and there is a few small shows I may possibly enter her in just to get her out and about.  I am super excited to head back down to the warm sun and sand!
So that  is what I’ve been up to this winter!  What are your favorite ways to beat the winter blues?
Got to check a major thing off my bucket list - riding on the beach!  Morro Bay - California March 2014.  Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer

Got to check a major thing off my bucket list – riding on the beach! Morro Bay – California March 2014. Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer

Short and Sweet Alberta Season Wraps Up at Alhambra

Chilling in the Red Deer river at Alhambra Stables. Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer. Chilling in the Red Deer river at Alhambra Stables. Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer.

Last weekend saw the sad end of our short but sweet eventing season here in Alberta. Alhambra Stables in Red Deer hosted the final event of the season and also the provincial championships; we had a great turnout with over 150 horse and rider pairs attending.

While the weather was gorgeous for the event on the weekend, the couple weeks leading up were a bit of a nightmare as mother nature surprised us with cold temperatures and a large dump of snow, putting a damper on the event preparation. Cross country course designer Barry Tyerman had a bit of an adventure trying to build the cross country courses in the snow, bundled up in long johns and a toque — frozen hands be damned!

After the competitor’s supper on Saturday night, Alhambra Stables sponsored a bareback competition under the lights. Essentially a “Ride-A-Buck” class, riders entered were given a ribbon they placed between themselves and the horse, and the announcer called out instructions that gradually got more difficult until only one rider remained with a ribbon in place. The winner was Kayla Noble riding She’s A Diva, who received a free entry to a 2015 Alhambra event!

Photo by Kelsey Soldan

Photo by Kelsey Soldan.

Sunny and I had a great weekend overall. Our dressage warm up was lovely, and our test was decent, but Sunny was just a little bit fussy in the ring and not as connected as we were in the warm up, so we didn’t quite get the scores I had hoped for.

Stadium went very well, except for the one fence I always seem to mess up! The first six fences I rode perfectly, and Sunny was jumping out of her skin over every fence with tons of room to spare. Then coming around to the triple combination, I lost my focus for a few seconds, and we had the first fence of the combination down. Right after I kicked myself for screwing up, and the rest of the course was beautiful.  A single rail down in an otherwise perfect round is light years from where we were a year or two ago, so I was very happy with our round overall.

Not touching those poles!  Photo by Kris Waldo

Not touching those poles! Photo by Kris Waldo.

The cross county course looked insanely fun with lots of combinations and excellent questions for the championships. While many of the fences weren’t necessarily big, everything demanded very accurate riding, and I was confident that Sunny and I could rock it out.

I basically had the cross country round of my life that day. Instead of the tiny red freight train I usually find myself on, I suddenly had a soft, rideable, listening partner that I felt was almost reading my mind! Usually Sunny is so strong and gung ho that I have to start half halting to set her up 100 to 150 feet before a fence. Well on Sunday I was absolutely shocked that she was coming right back to me in four or five strides with just my voice and a couple small half halts. I honestly couldn’t believe it.

Sunny flew over everything easily, and we absolutely rocked the bank complex with a tight jump off turn back to the corner. She was so on and with me every step of the way. I was absolutely THRILLED when I crossed the finish line, and I definitely may have had a huge lump in my throat and a few tears sneak out when I hugged her after I dismounted.

Photo by Kris Waldo

Photo by Kris Waldo.

Because of our new found efficiency on course, we ended up coming into the last couple fences nearly a minute and a half under time. I slowed down as much as I possibly could but we still ended coming in seven seconds too fast. Those seven speeding tickets cost us the win in both the open division and the championships, but it’s just a ribbon anyways, and with the ride I had just had, there was no way I could be upset or disappointed.

Everything up to this point has been just a stepping stone on the way to something bigger; this event was not our Rolex. Winning is nice for sure, but instead, Sunny gave me a greater gift with the ride I have been working so hard for and exactly the ride I needed to know that when we move up to Intermediate next year, we are going to freaking ROCK IT. With that ride, we can conquer anything.

Sadly I am not able to make the trek south this fall, so this was the end of our eventing season for 2014. It has been an incredible year though, with lots of firsts and milestones for us. We have a few clinics planned for the fall, and Sunny will get some much deserved time off, and then we will start prepping for 2015.

Huge thanks to Ulrika Wikner of Alhambra Stables and all of the volunteers for all their hard work putting on a fabulous event, and to Sarah at Victory Tack for providing her sponsorship and great prizes yet again.

How Albertans Do Eventing: Alhambra Summer Event

Sunny and I flying over the brand new ditch brush!  Photo by Kris Waldo Sunny and I flying over the brand new ditch brush! Photo by Kris Waldo

A few weekends ago the eventing community in Alberta was out in full force for the Alhambra Victory Tack Summer Event. The three day competition hosted 170 horse and rider combinations, a slight decline in number from the record breaking 190 entries the event attracted last year.

All divisions were well represented, from Starter to Preliminary. Mother Nature cooperated for most of the weekend, with just some fog first thing for preliminary cross country, and some showers during the afternoon during the Pre-Training and Entry cross country.

Cross country course designer Barry Tyerman created fun tracks for each level that asked the appropriate questions of horse and rider.  Some new jumps were added to the courses, as well as a brand new ditch brush, which rode very well for all of the Preliminary riders.

The ditch brush is a memorial jump that was sponsored by Sandridge Stables in memory of Tricia Dahms’ upper level partner, Calling All Cars, aka “Carson”. In a touching ceremony at the competitor’s supper, a plaque was presented which will be mounted on the jump.  “He taught me how to fly…” Tricia said fondly as she spoke of her horse who had recently passed.  The jump built in his honor will help teach up and coming Alberta event riders how to fly as well, for years to come.

Congratulations to all the winners!
Open Preliminary:  Becky Farrell & Gia
Open Training: Hailey Gahan & Goodness Gracious
Open Pre-Training: Sandra Donnelly & Cutty Sark
Regular Pre-Training A: Kianna Green & Tango Papa
Regular Pre-Training B: Marlene Bieri & Buenos Aires
Open Entry: Krista MacPherson & Sahara
Regular Entry A: Lakyn Montgomery & Buffy
Regular Entry B: Kim Holt & Sky Hawk
Open Pre-Entry: Suzanne Hanley-Hawkins & Smokey
Regular Pre-Entry: Kimberly Swanson & Verdugo
Open Starter: Derek Jackson & Cosmic
Preliminary division winners, Becky Farrell and Gia.  Photo by Kris Waldo

Preliminary division winners, Becky Farrell and Gia. Photo by Kris Waldo

Sunny and I were competing in the preliminary division, and I was pretty happy with the weekend overall!  In dressage we had a great test with only a few minor bobbles, improving on our score from Rebecca Farm, so I was very happy with that.

On cross country, Sunny was an absolute rock star, we went double clear and she totally saved my butt when I didn’t see any distance to a few straightforward galloping fences.  I apologize to the jump judge at fence three, as they probably had to go change their underwear after witnessing the horribly scary flyer we took there! Our stadium was great except for a silly mistake on my part which cost us a rail.  So we finished up in 4th place just adding one rail to our dressage score!

Photo by Kris Waldo

Photo by Kris Waldo


Here is my cross country helmet cam:

Following the delicious competitor’s supper on Saturday night, the second annual Spartan Race took place, sponsored by Sandridge Stables.  8 teams entered, each with 4 human and 1 canine member.

Hilarity ensued as each team was timed as they raced to negotiate a number of obstacles, such as a mud crawl, rope climb, balance beam, etc.  It was a great turnout and great entertainment as the spectators laughed and cheered on their favorite teams, who were competing for cash prizes.

Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer

Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer

Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer

Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer

Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer

Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer

Spartan Race Final Results:
1st Place: Mudweiser
2nd Place: Minions
3rd Place: Team Simpsons, Crazy But Fun
Winners of the Spartan Race - Mudweiser! Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer

Winners of the Spartan Race – Mudweiser! Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer

Huge thanks to Ulrika Wikner of Alhambra Stables for all her hard work putting on a fabulous event, and for Sarah at Victory Tack for providing her sponsorship and great prizes!
Sunny and I have had a bit of a break the past week, and unfortunately we were not able to attend the South Peace Horse Trials going on in Grande Prairie this weekend.  Good luck and safe travels to all the horses and riders that made the trek north.
There is only a few weeks left until the Alhambra Fall Championships though, sadly our short Alberta eventing season is nearly over.  This year has absolutely flown by, soon the leaves will be turning and then planning for the epic California 2015 trip starts!!

Leslie Law Goes Back To Basics in Alberta Clinic

Leslie Law instructs a group out on cross country.  Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer. Leslie Law instructs a group out on cross country. Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer.

2014 marked the fifth year of the Leslie Law clinic here in Alberta, and also my fifth year riding with him.  Needless to say, he has seen Sunny and I through most of the tough times and struggles we’ve had together, and has helped us so much.  Since he only sees us once a year, I use his clinic as sort of a gauge to see where we are and what we need to work on.

This year, I lucked out a bit; in addition to the usual two day clinic, which consists of flat/stadium on day one, and cross country on day two, I got the opportunity to ride again the day after and have a private dressage lesson with Leslie as well, so I was very excited about that!

A common theme in Leslie’s teaching for both dressage and jumping is the training scale. You can’t accomplish much without first having relaxation and a rhythm, and with Sunny lacking in that department, I have found out first hand exactly just how important both of things are. He starts with the basics and then works up from there with each horse and rider.

Leslie looking on as a rider negotiates the bank.  Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer.

Leslie looking on as a rider negotiates the bank. Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer.

On the first day of the clinic, we warmed up with some flat work with the emphasis being on the training scale, no surprise there! Leslie put us through our paces: walk, trot, canter, and leg yield. Then, because our group was the “Intermediate” level group, we also worked on some shoulder-in and haunches-in, with Leslie adjusting our position as needed and giving each of us tips to improve our horse’s way of going.
We then got into the jumping with some grid work. First, we trotted line of poles, and then cantered them, all the while concentrating on rhythm and relaxation. We quickly built up to a simple grid of three verticals one stride apart with placing poles, focusing on suppleness and keeping our horses straight and uphill throughout. Leslie also had us canter a figure eight pattern over an oxer, making us use our eyes, weighting our stirrups, and using an opening rein to ask the horse to land on the proper lead.
From there we moved on to a short course of jumps, putting everything together. Sunny was a rock star for the jumping, and our flatwork is definitely coming, although still very much a work in progress.
My helmet cam from day one:

On day two, everyone was excited for the fun stuff: cross country! Leslie likes to incorporate a lot of stadium fences into cross country schooling. He explained that it is a great way to introduce things and ask different questions of the horse and rider in a forgiving way, before they tackle the question over solid obstacles.

Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer

We warmed up doing a mini course over some smaller straightforward fences, before moving on to the ditches and the coffin. Next was the water complex, and we did several different lines through, both forward and backwards to test us over different questions.
For our final exercise at the water, Leslie built a large airy corner out of stadium jumps coming out of the complex.  He had us drop down into the water over a log, and then we had to make a sharp right hand turn to exit out up the ramp and over the left pointing stadium corner, testing our line and accuracy.
We then moved over the bank complex, and did a fun bending line: A roll top, three strides to a one stride bank up and down, then another three strides to the large corner. After we mastered that, Leslie had us gallop a trakehner, then immediately come back to a skinny chevron.
We ended the session with another coffin exercise, this time with narrow stadium jumps on either side of the ditch simulating skinnies, and we played with a few different lines of varying difficulties.

Leslie explains how to ride a line through the water complex. Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer

My helmet cam videos from cross country day:

I was very excited for my dressage lesson the next day. Mother Nature started off my session with an insane hail storm,  but luckily we escaped to the indoor and had the lesson in there.  Once again we went back to basics and the bottom of the training scale.
Right off the bat Leslie had me riding Sunny more forward that usual, concentrating on the rhythm. Once Sunny started to relax into the tempo, we worked on suppleness. Turns out all this time I’ve been asking her either for forward or bend, and haven’t really asked for both at the same time, so there was definitely a big hole!
It was excellent to work through, with Leslie right there guiding me and talking me through everything. We did a lot of spiral in and out, and leg yield on a circle to activate the inside hind leg and transfer more weight back to the hind quarters, and that also helped keep the hind quarters active in downward transitions.
Over the course of the ride Leslie had me gradually shorten my reins as Sunny moved into a more uphill, shorter frame. There were so many little things he had me do that made such a big difference, I couldn’t possibly list them all here.
We ended the intense session and I had a huge smile on my face, and a brand new game plan for my dressage work. It’s all about the basics and the training scale! The more I learn, the more simple and methodical everything becomes. Sure you have to tailor things to each individual horse, but the basics are all the same. Leslie is great at breaking everything down, and making it easy to understand for all levels of riders.
All in all it was another great clinic, and I can’t wait till next year! A huge thanks to Kathleen Ziegler and the Alberta Horse Trials Association for bringing Leslie in yet again, and to Ulrika Wikner and Alhambra Stales for hosting everyone at her great facility.

My First Trip To Rebecca Farm

Sunny taking it all in.  Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer Sunny taking it all in. Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer
Competing at Rebecca Farm has been on my bucket list ever since I started eventing.  Every year I would watch my fellow Alberta eventers excitedly plan, pack up and head out, and I would be cheering them on from home, glued to the computer obsessively refreshing Startbox and watching social media like a hawk.
The frequent question “Are you going to Rebecca this year?” was always met with a quiet “No.”  There was lots of different reasons why I didn’t go.  The distance, the cost.  The fact that up until not that long ago, Sunny and I were still majorly sucking at dressage.  Rebecca Farm was a big deal.  It is the premier event on the west coast.  I didn’t want to just GO to Rebecca Farm.  I wanted to compete and do WELL.
Somewhere along the line, I decided 2014 was going to be my year.
I couldn’t believe the sheer size of the place when we pulled in.  Everything was absolutely gorgeous and decorated, flowers everywhere, grass perfectly manicured.  You can tell that there were no shortcuts taken, no detail missed in the preparation of this event.
As we drove in and saw the first bits of the absolutely amazing cross country course, the excitement hit me full force and I was literally up on the dash of the motorhome freaking out and yelling like a crazy person about how awesome all the jumps looked!
What an amazing place!

What an amazing place!

As I let Sunny graze on the lush grass later that day, still looking around in awe, I got a big lump in my throat.  I had waited for so long.  I still couldn’t quite believe it, but I had arrived.  I was at Rebecca Farm.
Having a few days to settle in before the event, Sunny and I took full advantage of all the space to roam!  Riding on the roads and tracks in the canola field was amazing, a long format 3-day is definitely on my bucket list as well!
On dressage day, I was hoping we could pull off a decent test.  That is our Achilles heel, we school great at home, can have a nice warm up, but things fall apart in the ring.  Sunny surprised me by mostly keeping it together during our test!
Cute leg yield! Photo by Kris Waldo

Cute leg yield! Photo by Kris Waldo

Sure we had some tense parts, and some classic Sunny flailing but nothing too major.  We had a lot of nice moments in there as well, and it was by far our best test so far this year!!  I was absolutely thrilled with a 40, which had us in 23rd place, just 14 points off the lead in a very close pack.
Nailed that halt!!  Photo by Kris Waldo

Nailed that halt!! Photo by Kris Waldo

The cross country course looked SO FUN, I was ridiculously excited!  I was very happy to see it wasn’t just a straightforward course, Ian Stark had included lots of excellent questions for the level, really testing the accuracy and boldness of horse and rider.  This definitely wasn’t going to be a dressage show!!
Sunny came out on cross country day breathing fire! Our warm up was a bit exciting, she was broncing and bolting after each fence in protest as she just really wanted to get going already!
After we left the start box, Sunny was strong and raring to go, and once we had a small discussion after fence three and established some politeness and a better rhythm, we were rolling.
The course was amazing!!  Sunny was so brave and bold, and was with me every step of the way.  She made everything feel so easy, and even when I messed up a little and didn’t set her up quite right, she was like “I got this!” and on we went.
Over the bar jump! Photo by Kris Waldo

Over the bar jump! Photo by Kris Waldo

We came in just four seconds over optimum time, it was so hot I didn’t want to push too much, and I was having so much fun I forgot to check my watch until the end of the course anyways.  So we added just 1.6 penalties to our dressage score, and I was positively shocked and over the moon to see that after cross country we had rocketed all the way up into fifth place!

I was excited for show jumping.  The scores in my division were very close, really putting the pressure on, and I was confident we could do well if I kept my head and rode well.  We had an amazing round, with just one silly mistake on my part, I didn’t balance back enough to the final combination and we got in tight and had the last fence down.  I was still SO happy though, and it was good enough for us to hold our placing and finish in fifth!
Photo by Kris Waldo

Photo by Kris Waldo

I definitely had a lump in my throat during the presentations, and during the victory gallop, hearing my friends that had driven down from Alberta to watch, cheering for me.  I was so proud of Sunny, she was an absolute rock star and always tries her heart out for me.  And proud of myself, for riding like I know I can and finally having all 3 phases come together.  I was even more thrilled to learn later that we had placed first in prelim for the team competition, and Sunny also received the TIP award for the highest placing OTTB in the preliminary divisions!

So happy! Photo by Kris Waldo

So happy! Photo by Kris Waldo

My goal for the event was to come away with a qualifying score.  To have such a great showing in my division was incredible all by itself, but to come away from my very first competition at Rebecca Farm with THREE ribbons??  It’s like a dream, I still can’t even believe it.
Pretty ribbons! Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer

Pretty ribbons! Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer

Other highlights during the week included tagging along on a course walk with Ian Stark, which was absolutely amazing.  Max Corcoran gave a stable management presentation at the Red & White Party, which was an abbreviated version of the talk she gave at the USEA convention, which was so educational and included a ton of information that it left everyone wanting more.
Watching the FEI levels was another highlight.  I haven’t had the chance to see much of the FEI stuff because we do not have any in Alberta, so it was absolutely fascinating to see all the jogs, the different horses and riders, and see the amount of work and attention to detail that goes into everything when you ride at those levels.  It makes me want to go home and dig in and work even harder to get there someday.
Sunny is currently at home in her big pasture enjoying a well deserved week off before we get back at it to prepare for the Leslie Law clinic and our last 2 events of the season.  This year has absolutely flown by!
Sunny loves her big pasture.  Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer

Sunny loves her big pasture. Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer

It was such an amazing week.  I’m already excited for next year!!  See you next year Rebecca Farm!

Hawley Bennett-Awad Makes Amazing Save at Rebecca Farm

Holy save! All photos by Jessica Kerschbaumer. Holy save! All photos by Jessica Kerschbaumer.

Hawley Bennett-Awad and Gin & Juice went clear cross country with just some time yesterday, and they also managed to make this amazing save at the very last water complex. Kudos to Hawley for her stickability and Ginny for her incredible athleticism, and best of luck in show jumping today. Click here for the full report on cross country at Rebecca Farm.

Rebecca Farm Links: [Website] [Live Scores] [Rebecca Farm on Facebook] #RF


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 Go Eventing.

Sneak Peek of Rebecca Farm CIC3* Cross-Country Course

Sunny and I at the top of Notch Trail, overlooking Foy's Lake. Sunny and I at the top of Notch Trail, overlooking Foy's Lake.

Sunny and I arrived in Montana on Saturday and spent an amazing few days at Herron Park near Kalispell. What a beautiful facility, and Sunny and I couldn’t get enough of the trail system there. We pulled into Rebecca Farm yesterday afternoon, and I cannot get over how gorgeous this facility is. I have waited a long time to come here, and it is definitely everything I thought it would be — and more!

What an amazing place!

Big sky country! Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer.

Yesterday afternoon, I got the chance to tag along with Ian Stark on a course walk of the Rebecca Farms CIC3* cross-country course. It was very cool and incredibly educational to hear things from the course designer’s point of view. Ian Stark says this year’s course is definitely a notch above from the previous years’ courses.

Ian Stark explains the first combination on the CIC*** cross country course.

Ian Stark explains the first combination on the CIC3* cross country course. Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer.

Ian introduced some exciting new changes to the track. Some of the crops that have been present in the previous years have been removed, allowing more bend and flow to the course instead of lines cut straight through. According to Ian, this will make the course more rideable, especially for the lower levels, allowing horse and rider to balance better on the approach and find a better distance through the turns versus a straight approach to the fences.

New feature fence early on course, the keyholes.

New feature fence early on course, the keyholes. Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer.

More terrain is featured on the course this year. Ian has used every hill and dip he could to make the course more demanding. He says this use of terrain will test the riders as they progress through the course; the riders will have to make sure they save some horse for the end of the course.

The hanging brushes have been slightly modified from last year.

The hanging brushes have been slightly modified from last year. Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer.

Some of the cross country takes on a new theme this year. Named after Bayou Teche, where organizer Sarah Broussard’s parents grew up in Louisiana, this large water complex was revamped and features new questions for the levels. Also new are more amazing carvings by Bert Wood.

New Alligator fence featuring intricate carvings at the Bayou Treche water complex.

New Alligator fence featuring intricate carvings by Bert Wood at the Bayou Teche water complex. Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer.

The Young Event Horse competitions got underway yesterday, and I am very excited for everything else to get going today.  My dressage isn’t until Friday, so Sunny and I get one more day of hacking and schooling before getting to work.

The horses pulling this wagon in the Western town are also new this year.

The horses pulling this wagon in the Western Town are also new this year. Photo by Jessica Kerschbaumer.

I also took some video of the course walk; I apologize for the sound quality and shakiness.

Go Rebecca Farm. Go Eventing.

An Introduction…

Chase Creek Clinic June 2013. Chase Creek Clinic June 2013.
I am extremely excited to have been given the opportunity to blog for Eventing Nation, so I thought my first post should be an introduction of sorts.
I am Jessica, but I am better known online as AlbertaEventer.  I am 31 years old, and grew up in a very small town in northern Alberta.   I am probably best know for my helmet cam videos:

I definitely didn’t have the conventional upbringing with horses, mostly due to my family’s isolated location and a great lack of organized riding or lesson programs in the area. While other children my age probably attended pony club and took weekly lessons, the majority of my early equine education was learned through trial and error and the school of hard knocks.
No helmets, no saddles, just me on my pony, galloping through the brush and jumping anything I could find.  I rode everything I could get my hands on.  Big, little, broke, unbroke, I couldn’t get enough.  I am sure I gave my mother many gray hairs with all of my crazy antics growing up!
Aside from a very short stint of jumping lessons when I was 12, and a handful of informal lessons while volunteering at a therapeutic riding center after I graduated high school, I didn’t receive any formal riding instruction until I attended Olds College in 2003.
A riding test was part of the selection process, and I was chosen as one of the 10 they invited into the program, so I guess I must have been doing alright for myself all those years yahooing around our farm!
Once I started learning, I couldn’t stop.  I graduated college and headed out into the real world.  Over the years I have floated in and out of the horse world job-wise, but I always rode and had horses in my life.
Growing up, I had read about eventing in books, and after waiting for so many years, I finally got the chance to try eventing after college.  I was instantly hooked.  My horse at the time tried hard for me but his heart was just not in it, and once I came to terms with it, I started horse shopping.  That’s when Sunny entered my life and turned everything upside down in a tornado of tiny red OTTB mare, Fury.
Sharing a quiet moment, spring 2008.

Sharing a quiet moment, spring 2008. Photo credit: Kris Waldo

She wasn’t at all what I had pictured myself ending up with.  She was tiny, just 15.1, red, track broke, and had never jumped. And a MARE. During the test ride she ran away with me and tried to buck me off, but I went home and couldn’t stop thinking about her.
Against my better judgement, I brought her home.  I had worked with lots of problem horses and trained several from the ground up, but everything I thought I knew about horses and training went right out the window.  Sunny was writing her own book on the subject, and I was just along for the ride.
The ever present red headed attitude at a clinic, 2011,

The ever present red headed attitude, at a clinic, winter 2011.  Photo credit: Kris Waldo

Everything was a fight.  Sunny had opinions on absolutely everything and was not afraid to express them!  Bucking and bolting were her specialties.  Dressage, in her opinion, was a waste of time, although she was very cute when she felt like playing.  Stadium was a game to her of how fast she could make it over each fence, rails be damned.  Cross country is where she shone.  All of a sudden she was like a different horse, relaxed, focused, eating everything up.
I struggled for so many years.  It felt like it was always one step forward and two steps back, making no progress, going nowhere.  Negativity from those around me started to get to me.  We got eliminated for dangerous riding at one event.
There were many days I left the barn in tears and wondered if things were ever going to turn around.  For some reason I kept pressing on though.  There was something about this horse.  I desperately hoped that I wasn’t making a huge mistake, being that person who doesn’t know when to throw in the towel.  Then somewhere along the line, things slowly started to click.
Fast forward to today, where things have finally started to pay off for all those years of hell, and Sunny and I have become an unstoppable team.  Dressage is still our weak link, and probably will always be, but we work hard anyways and focus on the small victories.
Sunny has turned into an amazing jumping machine.  She is all heart and never says no.  She skips over preliminary questions with ease and looks for more.  Every time I think I that I may be reaching the end of her talent and scope, she kicks it up a notch and tries harder, goes faster and jumps higher.  The bigger and more technical the question, the better she jumps, and she makes it all feel so easy.  Ever the opinionated redhead though, a day rarely goes by where she doesn’t keep me on my toes!
We are currently competing at preliminary which is the highest level currently offered in Alberta. A friend and I took a three week trip down to California to event this spring and actually seeing what else is out there has opened up a whole world of possibility for Sunny and I. I have a full time job, and I work evenings and weekends at my barn, riding everything I can get my hands on.  I want to keep learning, I want to keep getting better.  I want this so badly.
Schooling intermediate at Copper Medaows March 2014.

Schooling intermediate at Copper Meadows March 2014.  Photo credit: Jenn Smart

My plans for the next year include going back to California and being a working student, doing a one-star, and moving up to Intermediate.  I’m not sure how I’m going to swing it all with a house, a boyfriend, dogs, and a full time job, but I am determined to somehow find a way.  I don’t know how other riders have done it all by themselves, but I am sure willing to work hard and give it my all.  I was never the one to take the easy road anyways.
And for the future, who knows?  All I know is that I have an amazing partner that came in the most unexpected package, she has taught me so much and makes me feel like we can conquer absolutely anything when I am on her back.
Rocking prelim cross country, 2012.  Photo credit: Kris Waldo

Rocking around prelim cross country, Alhambra Stables, August 2012. Photo credit: Kris Waldo

The sky is the limit for us, and I am very excited to be able to share our adventures with Eventing Nation!