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Why a Texas Trainer Will Make the Long Haul to the Championships at Galway Downs

One visit to Galway Downs is all it took to have Dallas, Texas-based professional Rebecca Brown chomping at the bit to return. After finishing 4th in the CCI4*-L with Dassett Choice and being part of the Adequan USEF Futures Team Challenge in 2020, Rebecca is heading back for the Eventing Championships at Galway Downs, November 1-5.

She brings two of her own horses, her relatively new Trust Pommex Z for the USEF CCI2*-L Eventing National Championships and Fernhill Quite Frankly for the Preliminary Challenge. And her student, Camryn Chung, will carry an Area V flag for the USEF Eventing Young Rider National Championships’ CCI2*-L and has a younger horse in the open 1*.

Rebecca has visited the region more recently in her role as USEA Emerging Athletes U21 coach on the West Coast, but she’s itching to be back as a competitor. Before coming to Galway in 2020, she admits to having had an “uneducated view” of the California eventing scene.

“I thought it would be softer than the East Coast. I was wrong!”

Photo by Liz Crawley Photography.

Good Experience Assured

“The courses were spectacular, Robert [Kellerhouse] runs an amazing event, and I really enjoyed my time there. Plus, it’s sunny! I loved it.”

When deciding how to close out the 2023 season, Rebecca debated between Galway Downs or TerraNova, in Sarasota, FL. Surprisingly, they’re only a few hours different in travel time from Texas.

“A big part of my decision is that I just know that I, and especially my horse, are going to have a good experience.”

Rebecca and Trust Pommex Z started their partnership in June. He has some CCI3*-S mileage, and Rebecca felt the 2*-L would be a great next step in getting to know each other. It will help with qualifications, too. The fact that it’s a National Championships was certainly a factor, she says, “but it is more important to me in the long run that ‘Troy’ get exposed to a lot of great things.”

She’s excited that her Preliminary Challenge outing with Quite Frankly will be part of the Area VI Championships. In an unprecedented move, the regional championship is open to contenders from outside areas. “He doesn’t need to do a 2*-L this fall, but I was looking for harder courses at the Preliminary Level so the Challenge is perfect. Galway Downs offers so many options. It’s perfect for pursuing different goals.”

Photo by MGO Photography.

Road Trip Ready

Rebecca purchased Troy after making the difficult decision to sell her 4* horse, Dassett Choice, who she imported as a 4-year-old. “I have terrific owners, but I mostly support myself when it comes to financial aspects. I had the opportunity to sell him to a good friend, Sherry Pound, and the outcome was that I was able to buy Troy.”

She hopes he’ll be the horse with whom she’ll return to the USEF Developing Rider roster. “He has all the attributes. He’s a great jumper and mover. He has a good brain and he seems super brave. We’ve only had two competitions together, but they were successful and I’m excited to see how things go at Galway.”

The 24-hour drive from Dallas will be well worth the trip, Rebecca says with confidence. “Being from Texas, we always have to drive long distances to get to most shows. It’s easier when you know you are showing up at a quality show. It makes the drive so worth it.”

Organizer Robert Kellerhouse sets a welcoming tone from the outset. “He sent me a personal message thanking me for our entries. It’s a simple thing, but so nice.” That’s icing on the cake of Galway’s many physical and organizational attributes, Rebecca says. “These are the events we want to support.”

Family Legacy

Rebecca continues her mother Becky Brown’s ongoing legacy as a horsewoman and coach who launched many careers and lives with horses. “She operated the School of Horsemanship for over 40 years, and lots of kids who rode there went on to compete at high levels and/or become trainers themselves.”

Rebecca didn’t intend to make a career with horses. “I went to college to get a finance degree and had every intention of being a wealthy amateur,” she says, but she graduated in 2009 to an economy in the dumps. Her mom was teaching 150 students at the time and suggested Rebecca come help temporarily. “It turned out to be something I was incredibly passionate about,” she reflects.

The finance degree wasn’t wasted. “What I learned has been hugely helpful in my developing a business successful enough that it can help me support my own horses. I’m lucky enough to have some support with my horse owning syndicate, but the reality is that I still bear a huge amount of personal financial responsibility.” Both her parents are self-employed and that helped Rebecca develop business skills from an early age. “Having the industry experience as a trainer’s kid helped, too.”

Rebecca’s business, RB Riding in Dallas, trains 25 clients competing at all levels. From schooling shows and the Starter level up to the 3*, and including amateurs and juniors. She’s long supported the Area V Young Riders and stands ready to support their Championships coach, Dom Schramm, as needed at Galway Downs. As a member of Area V’s 2005 North American Youth Championships gold medal team, Rebecca is well prepared for the role.

Welcome back, Rebecca!

Notes from the Judge’s Box with Robyn Fisher

Welcome to a new column brought to you by the team at Galway Downs in Temecula, CA! As we gear up for a full slate of fun at the Galway Eventing Championships (November 1-5), which will host the 2023 USEF CCI2*-L and USEF CCI4*-L Eventing National Championships, 2023 USEF Eventing Young Rider National Championships, presented by USEA and Area VI Championships among many other competition offerings, we’ll be bringing you more content from Galway Downs. Learn more about Galway Downs here.

Robyn Fisher and Betawave. Photo by Libby Law Photography.

Dressage is sometimes dissed as the dull phase of eventing. FEI Level 2 and “S” National Eventing judge Robyn Fisher disagrees.

And not because she’s the proverbial “DQ – dressage queen” who hasn’t experienced the thrill of galloping cross country or flying to a fault-free show jumping finalé — she has!

Robyn has done all that and more in her career as a professional rider, trainer and coach. Her R Farms in Moorpark, CA is a hub for young horse development – dressage and eventing horses — and she coaches amateur and seasoned professional equestrians.

Since starting the rigorous educational journey of earning the USEF’s eventing judge certification in 2011, Robyn has delved deeply into the art of dressage — its execution from the saddle and its evaluation from the judge’s box. She’s a regular on the West Coast eventing circuit and will be part of the Ground Jury at the West Coast eventing season finalé, the Galway Downs Fall International Nov. 1-5.

Thanks to Robyn for taking the time to share a few horsemanship tips from her judge’s perspective.

Galway Gazette: How did your deep dive into dressage come about?

Robyn: I chose to explore the judging program in 2011. Amy Tryon was a very close, dear friend to me and she encouraged me the most to move forward with getting my license. Once I did the first seminar, I was hooked.

The first seminar made it clear that there was/is so much more to learn about a sport I had been living for over 30 years. I tell people who are starting out passionately that you can end up going down a rabbit hole because there are so many fascinating facets to the sport of dressage.

GG: What is your goal for your judging career?

Robyn: My goal is to judge championships and the Olympics one day. Because of that, I have not fast-tracked getting my FEI licenses because I think it’s really important to do right by the riders.

At that level, officials have a duty to get it right for the competitors. It’s important that judges, like riders, continue to learn and have mentors to inspire and educate. I am testing for my Level 3 FEI license this fall and will then be able to officiate as president of the ground jury, at the 4* level.

GG: What are some relatively easy ways to maximize points in a test?

Robyn: It’s so important that the riders read the directives of the test. The directives are the criteria of what judges are looking for in each movement.

GG: What are some common weak points for eventers in dressage?

Robyn: I think the majority of eventers see the dressage phase as a means to an end– meaning they have to do it in order to do the cross-country. I think riders should shift that thinking into understanding that proper dressage schooling will maximize your horse’s competition longevity and soundness, as well as the rideability in the jumping phases.

GG: Can you share any unofficial tips and tricks?

Robyn: Know your test so well that you can focus on good riding rather than on remembering where you need to go. So often nerves influence, positively or negatively, a performance. If you can focus on the performance rather than remembering the pattern, you will tend to have a smoother test.

GG: What things most positively influence a judge?

Robyn: A happy horse. If I see a horse that is doing its test so willing and supple and looks like it’s smiling, usually that will leave an impression.

Also, the judges first look for rhythm and relaxation at every level. Riders need to know and fundamentally understand what rhythm and relaxation mean and how to build upon them.

Dressage is not about making a horse put its head down in a frame. Rather, it’s about getting the horse in a balance that allows for ease of movement, self-carriage, and harmony. That means a horse working with biomechanical correctness from the hind legs, pushing through the body, in an uphill balance. A rider can pull a horse’s head In and do the movements, but that won’t win.

Riders need to understand the correct biomechanics in their horse’s movements. Once they can execute the fundamentals, the points will come.

Galway Downs Gears Up for Unprecedented Eventing Championships This November

Galway Downs’ main arena boasts unique spectator seating and a backdrop of flags representing an international array of competitors. Photo by Tina Fitch Photography.

As four eventing championships come to Galway Downs Nov. 1-5, the Robert Kellerhouse-led organizing team is preparing to blow up already high expectations about what’s possible in the West.

The day after California-based Tamie Smith and Mai Baum won the Land Rover Kentucky Three Day in April, the United States Equestrian Federation announced Galway Downs’ selection as host of two major Championships on the U.S. calendar: the 2023 USEF CCI2*-L and USEF CCI4*-L Eventing National Championships and the 2023 USEF Eventing Young Rider National Championships, presented by USEA.

In addition, Galway Downs earned hosting duties for the USEA Area VI Championships, which, for the first time, are open to contenders from other Areas – making it, in effect, a regional championship.

All four championships will be staged concurrently with the Galway Downs International Horse Trials. Thanks to early enthusiasm from sponsors and donors, $50,000 in prize money is already assured and $100,000 is a realistic goal as excitement builds.

The unprecedented simultaneous hosting of these four championships is a key milestone in Galway Downs’ remarkable ascent. Kellerhouse explains that he and his team waited for the right level of readiness before submitting their bids to host.

Galway Downs hosted the 2020 USEF CCI3-L* Eventing National Championship to rave reviews from top riders, including the winner, Boyd Martin. Martin had not visited the facility in many years and was impressed with the cross-country challenges. He described the standard of competition as “just as high” as it is in Europe.

Kick for home! Photo by Sally Spickard.

Better Than Ever

Since then, things have gotten even better. In addition to hosting international eventing competitions since 1999, Galway Downs now stages international dressage shows and three multi-week circuits of innovative hunter/jumper competition organized by Ali and Francie Nilforushan’s Equisport Events. The Nilforushans’ improvements have built on those of Galway Downs facility owner Ken Smith and equestian venue operator Robert Kellerhouse to set the stage for the highest level of equestrian sport, plus elegant spectator and social opportunities for that aspect of the equestrian lifestyle.

Galway Downs’ sponsors are key to its growth. CWD/Devoucoux, Land Rover Mission Viejo, Defender, Equine Insurance, Animal Health Solutions, Auburn Labs and Shires Equestrian are longtime Galway Downs partners. Adequan I.M. is newly returned as a gold-level sponsor and ProSeries Equine is a new addition to the sponsor roster for the Eventing Championships.

Excellent footing on the cross-country tracks is now matched in the eight arenas where jumping and dressage unfurl. The Grand Prix Ring has a world-class vibe with the VIP Pavilion on one side, grandstands on the other and low-key, yet luxurious gathering spots in between.

Riders appreciate the upgrades around footing and horse and rider safety, but Kellerhouse admits the fuss over dazzling new individual restrooms is off the charts. It might seem frivolous, but Galway Downs has risen in national prominence thanks to meticulous attention to detail and that includes the restrooms.

2021 Galway Downs International CCI4*-L winner Alexandra MacLeod & Newmarket Jack (PC: Tina Fitch Photography)

Federations Support

“One thing I can easily say is that Galway can and will put on a world-class competition that should be on everybody’s bucket list,” said USEA CEO Rob Burk. Speaking specifically about young riders, he notes that aspirations to represent the U.S. in international competition should include a willingness to “get out of your element and compete in an unfamiliar Area and against the best. Many of our top athletes come from the West. If those in the East aren’t willing to travel there, they’re not going to be able to show how competitive they are.”

As a regular visitor to Galway Downs, Burk expects first-timers will be in for a pleasant surprise. “The footing on cross-country is so well prepared by the designers and builders. It is really some of the best footing to run on in the country. I almost feel like those riders are a little spoiled in that regard.

“I’m so impressed with the hospitality, the food, the VIP area and all the parties,” Burk continued. “They do a spectacular job with ‘normal’ events, so I can only imagine how great this is going to be.”

The USEF’s Managing Director of Eventing Amber Braun relayed the Federation’s enthusiasm. “US Equestrian is looking forward to Galway Downs hosting the 2023 USEF Eventing National Young Rider Championship presented by USEA, and the CCI2*-L and CCI4*-L USEF Eventing National Championships. The allocation of these Championships to the West Coast is an exciting opportunity for our athletes and sport. Spotlighting a quality West Coast venue such as this is important to support and continue to build the eventing presence in this region of the country.”

Angela and Cornwill Cormint at Galway Downs. Photo by Tina Fitch Photography.

Social Scene

Social events start early and continue through the week.

On Halloween Tuesday, Oct. 31 – Champions dinner honoring all who have earned that distinction over Galway’s 24 years of hosting eventing competition.

Wednesday, Nov. 1 – Young Riders reception sponsored by MARS Equestrian.

Thursday, Nov. 2 – Eventing Owners Task Force dinner and a cocktails and course walk with Leslie Law, USEF Emerging and Development Coach; and Clayton Fredericks, Galway Downs course designer.

Friday, Nov. 3 – Welcome Reception for all competitors, sponsored by Pro Series Equine.

Saturday, Nov. 4 – Competitors Party in the VIP Pavilion.

James Alliston and Monkey. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Young Riders Showcase

Those who completed an Area Declaration and have met the qualifications and their Area’s Selection Process will compete in their own CCI1*/2/3* USEF Eventing Young Rider National Championship divisions for team and individual honors. They also receive free stabling, compliments of the USEA. To boot, if their scores are better than Open contenders in their division, they get the prize money!

They’ll jog separately and enjoy their own spotlight in prize giving ceremonies, all features of the Championship’s origins as an international FEI event.

Angela and Cornwill Cormint at Galway Downs. Photo by Tina Fitch Photography.

Area VI Says “Bring It On!”

With the Area VI Championships happening, too, Area VI chairman Andrea Pfeiffer is excited about the opportunity for local riders and those from surrounding regions. With the unusual decision to allow out-of-Area contenders, the Area VI Championships are hoped to build into a strong regional championship.

“Anyone can try to beat our kids,” Pfeiffer says. “Bring it on!”

On behalf of all members in the Area, Pfeiffer is excited about the Eventing Championships at Galway Downs’ ability to showcase the West and one of its venue jewels. “There are so many exciting things happening at Galway, they have spent a lot of money putting the infrastructure in place, and it will be fun to show this venue off.”

Whatever level riders are contesting, “They are going to understand why we West Coasters do so well when we travel east to compete,” notes Pfeiffer. “We have amazing facilities where you can produce a horse to the highest level. Tamie (Smith) has been very clear about that. She did not travel east to prepare Mai Baum for their Land Rover Kentucky win.”

Tamie tops a long list of West Coast-based riders who rely on Galway Downs and other West Coast facilities as perfect prep for their international accomplishments. James and Helen Alliston, Bec Braitling, Lauren Billys Shady and Hawley Bennett-Awad are among many to launch national and international achievements primarily in the West.

They welcome contemporaries throughout the country to come and compete on their home turf and enjoy the region’s renowned camaraderie, beautiful backdrops and lovely weather. Thanks to wonderful on-site lodging options, all of that can be enjoyed without leaving the 242-acre Galway Downs property.

Keep up with Galway Downs as a Galway Gazette e-news subscriber. Sign up at, where you’ll also find event, venue and location information, plus competition results.

No Foolin’ Around for Smith, Hoffos and Linstedt at Galway Downs

Tamie Smith and Mai Baum. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Clayton Fredericks’ April Fools Day international cross-country track left no place for foolin’ around Saturday in the final phase of the Galway Downs International’s CCI divisions.

Tamie Smith retained her two spots atop the leaderboard — with the seasoned veteran Mai Baum edging Danito out of a lead he’d carried from dressage and after both show jumped double clear last night. While both horses made it look easy, it was not, Tamie asserted. “The course rode very difficult and technical and very reactive. There wasn’t any part where you could count on something riding like you’d planned it.”
The Bank and Double Houses at 13ABC, the Land Rover Mission Viejo Water Complex at 18 ABCD and the Brush Ditch-Pig Hut-Angle Brush at 21ABC were especially challenging.

Even with her “old, trusted partner,” Tamie admitted she was a bit nervous because Alexandra Ahearn’s 17-year-old German Sport Horse had not run since their World Equestrian Games Team Silver outing in September and the course “was riding way harder than I anticipated.”

Tamie considered the 6:19 optimal time “unmakeable” and, indeed, she and Mai Baum were the closest to it. Their 9.2 time penalties bumped up their 22.2 dressage score and they won on a 31.4, ahead of Danito’s 34.8, which included 14 time penalties.

“I went for it with both horses and I really tried to go faster with Danito,” Tamie reported. “He’s more of a long format horse. I can ride Mai Baum a little faster because he sets himself up for the jumps so well. Danito is not quite as careful and he’s a bit strong, so that’s part of it. But, both were awesome and I’m thrilled.”

Danito Takes the #2 Spot

Tamie Smith and Danito. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Tamie’s roster of four horses in the 4* required schedule adjustments that interspersed Advanced rounds with her last two rides. Her third round, on the Elliot V Partnership’s 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood, ended badly coming out of the Land Rover Mission Viejo Water Complex. Elliot missed the 2nd angled roll-top, dumping Tamie in the dirt to her own and the crowd’s dismay. Horse and rider were unhurt, Tamie popped up and helped the fence judge replant the flag and headed back to ready Danito for his run.

Marc Grandia and Campari FFF. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Saturday’s 4* cross-country was ideal prep for Mai Baum and Danito going into the Kentucky 5* later this month, Tamie said. Whereas for Elliot V, it showed that the Kentucky 4*-S may be the better option for this stage in his development.

Marc Grandia and Team Rebecca’s 13-year-old Holsteiner, Campari FFF, moved up into 3rd with 19.2 time penalties to end on a 53.5. Katy Robinson and her own Thoroughbred Outrageous Dance had the biggest jump up the standings — their 12.8 time penalties boosted them from 9th into 4th.

Regalla Regal in the 3*

Taren Hoffos and Regalla. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Taren Hoffos’ steady progress with Regalla leaped forward when they crossed the finish line as the winners of their first CCI3*. They were victors in the 2* here two years ago, and Taren was thrilled with the performance of her mother Carolyn Hoffos’ 12-year-old Oldenburg.

The unusual circumstance of show jumping and cross-country on the same day worked out well for the pair. “She tends to get better the longer she goes, so I appreciated the format because it allowed me to leave the start box with a really rideable horse from the beginning.” Once out of the box, it was “insane how good she was,” especially in the courage and adjustability departments.

“She’s such a beast. She’s so brave,” Taren raved. “She’s really good at being bold at fences then coming back.” That adjustability was crucial in many places — the Ditch Wall at 7, the CWD Rails, Ditch and Brush at 10ABC, the Bank and House at 13AB, among them. “If I can give her a confident ride, she really trusts me. There were a lot of fences out there we’d never seen before and she was so good.”

Regalla’s show jumping and dressage were helped by a schooling show Galway Downs hosted the previous weekend, Taren said. Because of ring changes due to Thursday’s heavy rains, 3* jumping took place in the same ring they’d competed in last week, which helped. “She’s a really good jumper and she was a lot more forward than in our previous rounds at Intermediate.”

It’s All For The Horse

Megan McIver and Ellie. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

“With the switching of the arenas to get us the very best footing possible, the whole team is constantly thinking about what’s best for the horse,” she continued. “It’s all for the horse and they did a great job with communications, letting us all know what was going on.”

Just as in the 4*, nobody made the optimal time, in this case a 5:38, but Taren and Regalla’s 6:03 was quick enough to put them ahead of Tamie Smith and Kynan with the win on a 43.4. Also contesting his first 3*, Kynan answered every question and Tamie had the pedal down, but another division victory was not in the cards. “He’s so game and such a class horse,” she said of the Kynan Syndicate’s 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood.

Megan McIver and Elle made an impressive move from 13th position after dressage to third. The 11-year-old Holsteiner owned by Tally Chang was double clear in show jumping and had only 7.2 time faults on cross-country.

Linstedt & Lovely Lola Top 2*

Jordan Linstedt and Lovely Lola. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Jordan Linstedt and Lovely Lola were wire-to-wire leaders, finishing on their dressage score of 26.9 to mark a milestone in a promising partnership. “She was phenomenal” said Jordan of the 9-year-old Hanoverian mare owned by the Lovas Partnership, LLC.

After clean show jumping, Lola was bold and confident all the way around cross-country. “I had to settle her in a few more places that maybe I’d like to, but she can have a little spook in her, so I was really happy that she jumped so boldly over all those ditches and into the water.”

It was a nice pick-up after the busy rider’s day started with a slip and horse and rider fall in the 3*. She and FE Friday were the first pair on course and it happened just after sailing through the imposing 13AB Bank and House. “He’s a big gangly guy, and there was visible dew on the grass. I probably should have been more cautious. It was very unfortunate. He’s a great cross-country horse and I think he could have finished in the top 3, but that’s the sport and it didn’t rattle me too much.”

Parker Equine Insurance Inaugural Award

19-year-old Gabriella Ringer finished as 2* reserve with the pride of “having a confident, sound, freshly-minted 2* horse” with her own Get Wild. She’s had the 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding since he was 5 and she was 13 and it’s been a long, patient journey.

He started off “a bit buzzy in dressage” and ended “being brave and super over one of our biggest tracks. I could not be more proud of him.”

Gabriella was also proud to receive the inaugural Parker Equine Insurance Top Amateur Award in the 2* division, and to receive it from Parker Equine’s Donna Parker during the awards festivities.

Lauren Billys and her own Can Be Sweet, an 11-year-old German Warmblood, were third adding just .4 cross-country penalty for a 31.3.

Kellerhouse Kind Of “Fun”

At the end of the CCI phases of this event, Galway Downs organizer Robert Kellerhouse found himself in an unusual position — sitting still for a moment. “It was fun,” he concluded of an international odyssey that began with Thursday’s unforecast downpours which tested the mettle and adaptability of his staff, event officials and riders.

By “fun,” the 25-year organizing veteran means “it was rewarding to come up with a plan and have everyone trying to get to the same place, with no drama for the wrong reasons. It was a true team effort driven by focus and concentration, which is what you need to have a successful event under any circumstances.”

Robert was thrilled with the level of support shown. “Having the USEF’s technical director and eventing chef d’equipe, Robert Costello, here is huge for the riders. We don’t have big numbers, but we have a nice concentration of top horses, top professionals bringing newer horses and a top young rider like Sophie Click. They’re all benefitting from riding Clayton Fredericks’ courses. He’s a next generation guy and that’s great.

“To be doing this for 25 years and have the ability to take the next steps, to work with the next generation of people pushing to take everything to the next level… that’s my kind of fun.”

Speaking of the improvements made throughout the 242-acre property, Robert is particularly pleased with landscaping, footing and terrain upgrades on the cross-country course. They help bring that part of the venue on par with the high quality of arenas and amenities made possible in a partnership with hunter/jumper event organizers Ali and Francie Nilforushan.

“I think the tide is turning in that people across the country are talking about Galway Downs as the place to be. They’re starting to realize that our country has good things to offer on both coasts–in large part because we’ve stepped up our game on so many fronts.”

Robert assures that even bigger things are in store for the Galway Downs International in the fall. But first there’s the Spring Horse Trials May 12-14, featuring the renowned Preliminary Challenge. This showcase event is newly relocated from Northern California and sure to attract contenders from throughout the West.

National Horse Trials divisions conclude on Sunday.

Galway Downs International H.T (Temecula, CA) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer][Scoring]

Galway Downs Day 2: Tamie Smith Stays Ahead

Tamie Smith and Danito. Photo by Tina Fitch Photography.

Sunshine was Friday’s first star after Thursday’s long afternoon of heavy rain. And Tamie Smith ended the day in her same starring role with the 1, 2 and 3 spots in the CCI4*-S after show jumping.

She’s first with Ruth Bley’s Danito, 2nd with Alexandra Ahearn’s Mai Baum and third with Julianne Guariglia’s Solaguayre California. They all stay on their dressage scores of 21.8, 22.2, and 31.7 respectively.

“He was a little casual,” Tamie said of the hard knocks Danito gave the first two fences in Marc Donovan’s show jumping course. “I was like, ‘What are you doing? But, actually that’s kind of normal. Danito thrives in the bigger atmospheres and the bigger tracks.” Drawing on her work with Australian show jumper Scott Keach, Tamie added an extra stride before fence three to “get him back on his hind legs. He really jumped up and around it, and he was like, ‘Oh, okay!” Then, he was in his element and he was great.”

Tamie credits Scott for giving her the tools needed to improve each of her horses’ jumping skills, in their training and in the heat of the moment like today. Danito, Mai Baum and Solaguayre California were double clear and Elliot V, owned by the Elliot V Partnership, had only a .8 time fault.

Mai Baum was “even more spectacular than normal” and California “jumped amazing once she got over being beside herself on the way to the first jump.” Compared to her more seasoned stablemates, the 12-year-old Argentine Sport Horse struggles when show jumping comes before cross-country because of sheer excess energy.

Asked which horse’s performance she was most pleased with, Tamie named Elliot, who’s in 6th place with a 34.6. “He jumped like a million bucks. As I was jumping around, I was thinking that I could really go out show jumping with this one.”

After The Rain Has Fallen

Tamie Smith and Mai Baum. Photo by Tina Fitch Photography.

Uncertain schedules greeted the riders in the morning as the organizing team evaluated the arena surfaces following Thursday’s freak downpours.

The CCI2* dressage scheduled to start Friday’s action in the Grand Prix Arena was postponed in favor of letting the sun dry out the footing. As the day progressed, it was decided that only the CCI4* jumping would be staged. And that was moved to an adjacent arena, normally used as the warm-up for the showcase ring.

Even though both large rings have the same footing material and endured the same amount of rain, “every arena is different,” explained FEI Technical Delegate Andrew Temkin. “We recognized the Grand Prix arena was holding more water than was optimal. The best way to mitigate that was to postpone the 2* dressage, giving it more time to dry.”

Making the decision was an “evolving process,” Andrew added. “We evaluated every few hours, then made the decision at noon.”

While riders respected and appreciated the organizer’s caution, the uncertainty did “make for kind of a chaotic day,” said Marc Grandia, whose double clear with Campari FFF moves him up to 5th, on a 34.3. Owned by Team Rebecca LLC, the 13-year-old Holsteiner made easy work of a course Marc summed up as “fun” with an effective 79-second time allowed.

“I’m riding three other horses, so the changes meant I was shifting around other things, but mainly we just have to go with the flow,” Marc said. “I have a lot of praise for (organizer) Robert (Kellerhouse) for making the right adjustments so that we had the best ground to jump on. The footing is really drying out well and it was great today.”

New Looks Even For Those Based at Galway

Sitting 4th in the 4*, Emilee Libby is thrilled with Tosca, Natalie Valente’s 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare. It’s the beautiful gray mare’s first Advanced level outing, and she was double clear on a 32.9. “She’s the kind of horse that needs a challenge and I think we’re here,” Emilee observed. Today’s biggest challenge for the mare was colorful, fresh-looking new fences. “There were some very big, bright, beautiful jump designs in there that she hadn’t seen before. She was a little more backed off than usual — not as in she wasn’t going to jump, but she was big-eyed and jumped with her knees up to her chest.”

Katy Robinson and her own 11-year-old Thoroughbred, Outrageous Dance, incurred 1.8 time penalties, but the crowd cared only for the spectacular riding Katy did after a stirrup fell off her saddle somewhere around fence 4, a triple bar spread. “I didn’t realize it was actually gone until I saw it lying in the ground on my way to jump 6,” Katy said. With the crowd loudly in her corner, “I think I may have ridden better because I was so focused on staying in the middle of my horse and supporting him!”

Tamie, Emilee and Katy concurred that Saturday’s cross-country will be up to 4* snuff in every way.

2* and 3* Have Double-Duty Saturday

Getting the footing right involved pushing the 2* and 3* jumping to Saturday morning. It starts at 8 a.m. with the 3* contenders, with riders heading out on cross-country starting at 8:30 a.m. It’s not ideal, especially for those riding multiple horses, but it’s another thing the riders accepted as necessary.

Jordan Linstedt is one of those riders with multiple horses. “I’m a little stressed out about the 3* jumping and cross-country both tomorrow. With eight horses going through the day, that makes it challenging!”

After Thursday’s dressage, Jordan and FE Friday are third in the 3*, behind Tamie Smith and Kynan and Karen O’Neal and Clooney 14.

Counterbalancing tomorrow’s worries for Jordan is her joy over her CCI2* dressage test with the Lovas Partnership’s Lovely Lola. The Washington-based rider and the 9-year-old Hanoverian earned a 26.9 to lead the division.

“She was a bit nervous and tense, I think because of the lighting and the late time, but she used it to her benefit in the form of expressiveness,” Jordan explained. “She’s an extraordinary horse that I’m extremely fortunate to ride.”

Friday’s test was the latest fulfillment of predictions for big potential. Lola came into Jordan’s life at the insistence of the late Jean Moyer. “Jean found her in Europe and said, ‘You just have to buy her.'” Jordan’s 5* partner RevitaVet Capato had recently been euthanized after a pasture accident. It was not an ideal time to buy a new prospect, but the Moyers, Bridget and Kevin Brewer and Klaus and Teresa Giloi came together as the Lovas Partnership to make it possible.

Jim Moyer was on the scene Friday to witness this latest stage of the special partnership his wife had envisioned. Jim is a dedicated and much-loved volunteer on the West Coast eventing scene. Galway’s organizers hope he took a break from ring-stewarding to see Jordan and Lovely Lola’s lovely ride.

Lauren Billys and her own Can Be Sweet, an 11-year-old German Sport Horse are second in the 2* on a 28.1, and Gabriella Ringer and Get Wild are 3rd on a 29.8.

Out-of-area fans can catch all the international action on Ride On Video’s livestream, featuring excellent commentary.

Galway Downs International H.T (Temecula, CA) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer][Scoring] [Live Stream]

Galway Day 1: ‘World Class’ in the Wild, Wet West

Tamie Smith and Danito. Photo by Tina Fitch Photography.

“World class.” That’s what Galway Downs Spring International dressage judges Helen Brettell and Robyn Fisher said — in unison — of the two rides that put Tamie Smith in the one and two spots in the CCI4*-S after dressage.

Tamie’s 21.8 with Ruth Bley’s Danito edged out the 22.2 logged by Alexandra Ahearn’s Mai Baum. After open dressage and show jumping outings to warm-up earlier this year, today was Mai Baum’s first eventing competition since helping Team USA earn silver at the World Equestrian Games in Italy last fall.

Tamie was also 3rd with Julianne Guariglia’s Solaguayre California, with a 31.7, and 6th on a 33.8, with Elliot V, a Dutch Warmblood owned by the Elliot V Partnership. For good measure, Tamie’s daughter, the accomplished young professional, Kaylawna Smith-Cook, took the 4th spot with her own Passepartout, a 14-year-old German Sport Horse, on a 32.5. The Smiths head into Friday’s show jumping occupying the top 5 spots in the 11-horse division.

Outside of once at a Horse Trials some time ago, this was Danito’s first time topping Mai Baum, aka “Lexus.”

“Danito has been on the verge for a while,” said Tamie of the 14-year-old Hanoverian. “Every year he just keeps getting better, although so does Lexus.”

The conditions were wet after forecasts for a brief spot of rain became a few hours of heavy rain just as the international divisions began in the Grand Prix Arena. “Lexus probably had a few more percentage points in there because he would have been stronger off the ground,” Tamie reflected. “I had two mistakes because Lexus didn’t like the puddles. He put his foot down quick a few times, resulting in a couple of rhythm mistakes. He didn’t like getting splashed with mud.” The 17-year-old German Sport Horse, is “allowed to be a prima donna!” Tamie said.

Tamie Smith and Mai Baum. Photo by Tina Fitch Photography.

“For Danito, that was probably his best test to date. He didn’t really care about the ground at all. He’s just mowed right through it.”

The judges agreed. “Had it not been for the wet conditions, those two tests would likely have been in the teens,” Robyn said. “The horse that came out ahead never put a foot wrong. And then you have a rider like Tamie who has the experience to know when she can push and when she can’t.”

“Horses who have correct training and muscling are going to handle it,” Helen added. “Both of those horses’ tests were world class. They would be up there anywhere in the world.”

Even though she agreed the wet conditions required a conservative approach with all her rides, Tamie was “thrilled” with all four horses in the 4*. “Lexus and Danito are stronger and more confirmed in their training, and California and Elliot are greener and a weaker in their training, so I had to be more conservative with them.”

As their final prep for the Land Rover Kentucky 5* in late April, Tamie was thrilled with today’s rides and results.

Tamie Smith leads the 3*, too, with Kynan, the Dutch Warmblood owned by the Kynan Syndicate. This afternoon’s 28.8 leads a 14-horse field in this division and represents a super debut at the level for the 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood.

The 3* upper rungs are more closely packed than in the 4*, as two Pacific Northwesters are in town to give the locals a run for their money. Karen O’Neal and Annika Asling’s Westphalian, Clooney 14, sit second on a 30.9, and Jordan Linstedt and Kiran D’Souza’s FE Friday are 3rd on a 31.8.

And, even after a two course errors, Erin Kellerhouse and her own Bon Vivant GWF lurk only a little behind on a 31.9.

Tamie Smith and Kynan. Photo by Tina Fitch Photography.

Karen O’Neal left her Washington state base to get out of the rain, only to find oodles of it in California these last several weeks. “I giggled a little bit when it started to rain just as I started my test, but after that I didn’t think about it at all.” That weather and a jaw surgery earlier in the year led to inconsistent prep before Galway Downs, but Karen was happy with their test given that “we are still trying to piece it all together and get back in the groove.”

“The footing was wet but great and he was good, but we always either nail the halt or don’t and today was a ‘don’t.’ Otherwise, I am super happy with him. He was relaxed and listening.”

Clooney’s tendency to spook didn’t emerge today, and Karen hopes that will be true tomorrow, too, over a show jump track designed by Marc Donovan. She heard it has some new looks to it in terms of fences and looks forward to seeing how Clooney will tackle it.

After FE Friday felt “full of himself” in the warm-up, and a last-minute equipment switch, Jordan Linstedt was relieved to have their test go so well. “He tried really hard in the ring and I’m still figuring out what works best for him,” she said. “He goes as a very pretty picture, but he’s not the easiest horse to ride. He’s been trying much harder lately and his lateral work at the trot, his 10m circles and his overall suppleness and thoroughness in his body are all ways that our hard work showed today.”

CCI2* dressage starts Friday morning at 8 a.m., with a field of 14 contenders.

The 2* division returns to the Grand Prix Arena, transformed for show jumping, at 3:05 Friday afternoon, with the 3*, Open Intermediate, 4* and Advanced to follow.

Out-of-area fans can catch all the international action on Ride On Video’s livestream, featuring excellent commentary.

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Galway Downs International Challenge Divisions Provide Exciting Finalé

Nov. 6, 2022: Temecula, California. The international divisions concluded yesterday but the exciting vibe lingered as up-and-coming horses and riders navigated Galway Downs’ unique Challenge Divisions. From the new Preliminary-Modified edition to the Beginner-Beginner Novice, each of the four segments supported gradual step-ups with cross-country efforts at the lower division’s specs and higher degrees of difficult in dressage and show jumping.

Novice-Beginner Novice Challenge

Professional Jennifer McFall and the 5-year-old High Five DF made easy work of every phase. The McFall family has been big fans of the Challenge format since its inception three years ago. “I love that they do this for the lower divisions,” Jennifer noted. “It’s great to expose our young horses to some atmosphere and having them have to come back and show jump on the last day after cross-country.”

High Five DF is a big boy. Jennifer hasn’t had the nerve to measure him and find out exactly how tall the Holsteiner is. “I don’t want to know! My husband (Earl) says he’s too big for me. I pretend he’s not big and, really, he’s a mama’s boy.”

Jennifer and High Five had a few time faults to spare to maintain their lead, and the pro’s priority was “taking my time so he could fit the strides in. He’s a big horse and some of the distances were tight.” In adding only .4 time penalties to their dressage score, they kept their lead to finish on a 26.9.

Tina Barclay and the 10-year-old Trakehner, Manning, adding only .4 time penalties to their dressage, finishing second on a 27.2. Erin Storey and the 7-year-old Thoroughbred WV American Pie added nothing to their 28.5 dressage to finish third.

Novice-Training Challenge

It was the perfect format for amateur rider Katherine Van Alstyne, who travelled from Kalispell, Montana, to tackle the Novice-Training Challenge with Fun And Games. The 15-year-old Thoroughbred is a veteran in eventing, but Katherine is not. Having migrated from the show jumping world, Katherine prioritizes confidence-building opportunities, and the Challenge was exactly that. “I love the higher show jumps, but I don’t love the higher cross-country.”

Their 25 dressage score was the best yet for the one-year partnership. Adding double clear cross-country and show jumping iced the cake.

A close friend of Horse Trials and Challenge course designer Alessandra Allen-Shinn, Katherine appreciated the rider-friendly flow of Saturday’s track. “It looked twisty and turny when we walked it, but then it really flowed when we rode it. I really see Ali developing as a cross-country designer,” Katherine notes. Making the time was another high point. “We’ve struggled with that because I usually don’t like going fast.”

Katherine finished on her dressage score, as did the divisions 2nd and 3rd-placed finishers. Jennifer Achilles and Excel Star Lance were 2nd on a 27.6, and Teresa Harcourt and Csonger stayed on their 28.9 for third.

She heads back to Montana with the Jarba Farm team full of praise for Galway Downs. She’d only been to the venue three years ago, and not as a competitor. “Organizer Robert Kellerhouse and his team have done a great job here with so many positive changes.”

Modified-Training Challenge

Winning this division, and on their 24.6 dressage score, were big bonuses for professional Mickayla Howard. She’s had a bumpy season with Ontario HH, a 10-year-old Irish Sporthorse and the victory marks a major move back on track. “We finally get to do our move up,” she says of this prep for Preliminary next year. “Ontario is stronger than ever and he was really with me through all the phases. That’s a great feeling.”

The Northern California professional came south with several students and enjoyed studying her own Galway courses and those of her students at various levels. “It was a course that really had a lot of positive things to teach the horses. There were tests of rideability and long gallop stretches. Great tests for all the important things: can your horse, go forward, come back, go right and left?”

Sarah Sullivan and La Copine added only a few cross-country time faults to finish second on a 25.6, and Kendra Mitchell and Calcourt Legend were third on a 30.7.

Preliminary-Modified Challenge

Professional Rebecca Braitling and Conlino PS overtook the lead to complete on their 25.8 dressage score. It was the first move up for the 6-year-old Oldenburg that she’s developed over the last two years for owner Jenny Ramirez.

“We’d been doing some 1.10-meter classes at jumper shows, and this division was perfect for his first time having to work at these speeds. I wasn’t sure what he had in him and this shows that he’s probably a top horse in the making.”

Bec and Conlino took the lead over from Jennifer McFall and Hallelujah DF, owners of the event’s lowest dressage score: an 18.9. Two surprising rails in a triple combination that troubled several contenders today and Saturday in the international divisions knocked them out of the lead. Yet Jennifer remained thrilled with the mare’s efforts.

The 7-year-old Holsteiner is the half-sister of High Five DF, both out of Columbia DF, the dam of several eventing stars. The rails were uncharacteristic for the beautiful gray, Jennifer reported. She credited tips from visiting German Olympian Bettina Hoy before the competition with producing their auspicious dressage effort on Friday. Bettina was on hand as a guest coach for the MARS Bromont Rising U-25 program, in which the McFalls’ daughter Taylor, stood out by finishing 2nd in the CCI2*-L yesterday.

Junior rider Molly Duda and Generous DHI finished an impressive third on a 30.4.

That’s A Wrap

This show is over for organizer Robert Kellerhouse and his growing team, but their quest to put West Coast eventing on true international par is just beginning.

After 25 years of staging competitions, Robert called this one the best ever. “It’s different because of the way our whole team is working on different aspects of the venue and the event.” Radical upgrades began a few years ago for two reasons. Property owner Ken Smith invested heavily in wide ranging improvements throughout the 242-acre property, now justifiably advertised as “a legend reborn.”

More recently, hunter/jumper organizer Ali and Francie Nilforushan dovetailed on those improvements to stage several weeks of competition. Robert’s team and the Nilforushans collaborated in several ways that impacted the showcase arenas, stabling, footing and overall exhibitor experience, including an immediately sold out VIP Pavilion experience. “Our competition has been a beneficiary of that,” Robert explained. “Now we are mirroring those improvements on the lower part of the property, where the cross country is, bringing everything up to the same high standard.”

Teams tackling cross-county footing, course decoration and even beautifying the landscaping bordering the tracks are “mimicking the transformation that’s happened at the top of the property,” Robert said. Major and sustained commitments from sponsors including Land Rover of Mission Viejo, Re/MAX Collection, Devoucoux/CWD and Adequan have helped make the ongoing improvements a reality.

Most of all, Robert credits the Galway Downs team for making this year’s International a success.

James Alliston, Tamie Smith Rack Up More Titles at Galway Downs International

James Alliston and Paper Jam take the 4*-L. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

The difficulty level and influence of cross-country suited James Alliston and his international horses perfectly this week. James rode Paper Jam to top the Re/MAX 4*-L and Karma to win the CCI3*-L, where he was also third with 6-year-old Monkey.

“Cross country was really challenging, particularly at the 3* and 4*. Not only did our horses jump all the jumps, they galloped really well, too. Which is an indication that they can go on and do bigger and better things. They all finished full of running.”

James Alliston and Paper Jam. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Even having the rail they had to spare in their lead, James was thrilled with the 13-year-old Hanoverian’s effort. The Grand Prix Arena is surrounded by a VIP Pavilion, a big spectator tent and grandstands, with international flags flapping on one end. “The course started with three fences going toward the end gate, which is where he usually gets a bit frantic,” James recounted. “But he was really good there and I sensed we were in for a good day.” So good, in fact, James added the Galway Downs Perpetual Trophy to his long list of Galway titles.

Kaylawna Smith-Cook and MB MaiBlume. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

The 4* field had narrowed from four to two by the show jumping phase. The leader after dressage, Kaylawna Smith, had a fall from one of two entries on cross-country yesterday and Sophie Click opted out with Quidproquo after the final FEI inspection this morning. So, it was Kaylawna on MB MaiBlume to finish second. In their first 4* Long, the pair followed clear cross-country jumping with two rails in show jumping as a solid step toward what’s expected to become a 5* partnership.

James Alliston and Karma. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

More Alliston in the 3*

James warmed up for the Re/MAX 4* win by having a good morning in the 3*. The 8-year-old Oldenburg Karma put in a double clear well within the time. That gave them the victory when overnight leaders Tamie Smith and Cheers had rail in the triple combination midway through Marc Donovan’s stout course.

Karma is both fast and careful. “She’s that ideal blend of carefulness and courage,” James said. Monkey had only 1.2 time faults to hold his 3rd rank after cross-country.

The many-time Galway Downs champion was happy about more than his own results. “I thought this year was a really good competition and sport. On cross-country, the time was very influential. It was tight and I felt the winner could have come from anywhere. Cross-country weighted very heavily, and I think that’s how it should be.”

Tamie Smith and Cheers. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Tamie Smith described Cheers’ one rail as “unlucky” in an otherwise “unbelievable” round of jumping and she was thrilled with the 10-year-old Thoroughbred’s performance in all phases.

Several special awards were presented at the 3*’s end. Karma picked up the Yogi Cup, while Monkey earned the distinction of Best 7-Year-Old. Professional Sophie Click earned the Mia Erickson Memorial Trophy as the Best Young Rider, and her 3* horse, Tarantino 54, earned Best Cross-Country round, a new distinction made possible by Devoucoux. Sophie and Tarantino 54 finished 6th in the 3*.

Also supported by Devoucoux, the Best Presented Award went to Josh Barnacle.

Tamie Smith and Crafty Don. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Smith Gets A Crafty Win in the CCI2*-L

Tamie Smith’s next string of super stars strutted their stuff in this division. The 6-year-old Irish Sporthorse Crafty Don went double clear to win in a field with three stablemates in the running. Tamie’s overnight leader, Kynan, had a rail to finish 3rd and she was thrilled with all four.

“I think all four of them could have ended up on their dressage score. I think the show jumping was quite difficult today. The distances were tight and the triple was very influential. It’s a game of fractions. Sometimes the horses jump out of their skin and you still have an unlucky rail.”

She surmised that wavy lines on the poles in the triple may have complicated the questions for the youngsters, but was happy with their overall results. “Marc Donovan is an amazing course designer. I think the results are what you want. Enough clean rounds and enough trouble,” she observed.

Crafty Don also added the Best 6-Year-Old Award to his auspicious weekend resume.

Taylor McFall and Stoneman. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Slipping into second between the World #7 ranked Tamie was 19-year-old Taylor McFall and Stoneman. In her third year of competing at the FEI levels, Taylor was happy to finish on their 31.1 dressage score, moving up from 6th after that phase.

One of five participants in the MARS Bromont Rising U-25 program, Taylor explained that her secret this weekend was taking each phase on its own. “This is a big effort and you have to focus on one thing at a time: today is dressage, today is cross-country, etc. So you don’t overwhelm yourself. It was all great, but the biggest part of the weekend for me is clear show jumping because that’s something we’ve struggled with for pretty much the whole season.”

Taylor McFall and Stoneman. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Stoneman earned the Livingstone Award as the best Thoroughbred in the division, an award created by Canadian Olympian Hawley Bennett-Awad in honor of her own Livingstone. Taylor also added the Best Adult Amateur Award to her bounty and Molly Duda received the division’s Best Junior Award.

James Alliston and Monkey. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

A Ground Juror’s Perspective

Peter Gray offered high praise for the level of riding and quality of horses he witnessed as President of the Re/MAX 4*-L Ground Jury and jury member for the 3* and 2*. The Olympic rider and coach noted that relatively small divisions in the West don’t correlate with quality in any way.

Watching cross-country from the announcer’s tower, Peter said the Ground Jury had a relatively easy time. “As officials, our most important role is on cross-country day because we have to sanction dangerous riding, stop riders on course if needed…save them from themselves. We don’t want to over-police the sport too heavily, but it is a high-risk sport.

“From my first year working out here (three years ago), we just don’t see that. We see riders going at the right speed, in the right rhythm. The overall standard of quality in all phases is high out here.

“What else is high is the quality of horses. Some are imported and I think the breeders out here are really getting a handle on what the sport requires.”

He praised Clayton Fredericks’ cross-country course for being one that educated horses and riders to help them move onto the next level. He credited the Galway organizers with doing the same by ensuring that cross-country and show jumping met the sport’s highest standards.

Peter also spearheaded the first staging of the MARS Bromont Rising U25 program to be held in the West. He was thrilled to have selected the Galway Downs International for the program’s West Coast debut and even more pleased with how well the five participating riders finished their outings with the help of guest coach and German Olympian Bettina Hoy.

With the international divisions concluded, the spotlight turns to the Horse Trials divisions and the four Challenge divisions. Starting at 9 am in the Grand Prix Arena Sunday, show jumping will determine the winners of the Preliminary-Modified, Modified-Training, Training-Novice and Novice-Beginner Novice Challenges.

Galway Downs International Three-Day Event (Temecula, CA): [Website] [Ride Times] [Scoring] [Volunteer]

Galway Downs: Cross-Country Shakes Up Standings & Silver Medal Celebration Marks a Pivotal Accomplishment

James Alliston and Paper Jam. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Cross-country shook up the standings in the Re/MAX  CCI4*-L with James Alliston and Paper Jam emerging atop the leaderboard. James continues a super year with only time faults on Clayton Fredericks’ demanding track.

“Paper Jam was very relaxed and rideable and he jumped really well,” James reports. T’was not always thus, especially on a course heavy on turns that haven’t been the 13-year-old Hanoverian’s strength. “The time was tight because you had to dial it down to make those turns, then you’d lose the gallop rhythm a bit.”

James is just back from representing the U.S. at the Military Boekelo-Enschede in October on another horse, Nemesis. He sees Paper Jam’s performance here as an indicator of his readiness for running Kentucky next year. Today’s effort bodes well for that possibility. As for show jumping tomorrow, James hopes the gelding’s tendency to get “buzzy” in Galway’s Grand Prix Arena won’t distract from their effort to add another international title to their long list of them.

James also has up-and-comers, Karma and Monkey, sitting second and third in the CCI3*-L.

Sophie Click and Quidproquo. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Overnight leader Kaylawna Smith-Cook and Passepartout were sadly eliminated in their 4*-L debut with a fall at fence 25B in the 40-effort course. Horse and rider are fine, and the young professional has the consolation of sitting second with MB MaiBlume. They, too, had only time faults over the course. MARS Bromont Rising U-25 participant Sophie Click and Quidproquo are third going into designer Marc Donovan’s show jumping challenges Saturday.

Course Enhancements

In his third year of designing for Galway Downs, Clayton Fredericks was pleased with today’s outcome. The many clear jumping efforts in all international divisions might look a little misleading to those who didn’t see the action, he noted: “Those results probably don’t represent accurately how strong the courses were. It’s a reflection of good riding.”

This year’s course is part of Clayton and organizer Robert Kellerhouse‘s long term strategy for bringing the venue up to the highest standard. “For my part with the cross-country, I’m very pleased with how it’s going. They did an amazing job with the ground and preparing the course in advance of the event. We are gradually building new fences and replacing old ones.”

One of those new fences was a new rails-ditch-skinny combination featured in all the international divisions. “I saw it as like a gymnastic,” Clayton explained earlier. Even though everyone was tackling it for the first time, it wound up causing few issues. Asia Vedder and Isi lost their CCI3*-L lead after triggering a frangible pin release at the combination and some of the passages had awkward moments. However, it provided one of many opportunities to ride what came up in the moment. It also typified Clayton’s desire, as an active international competitor himself, to “design jumps that I’d be happy to jump myself,” he noted. “My intent is to design courses that encourage good riding.”

Cheers to Moving Up in the CCI3*-L

Tamie Smith and Cheers cruised through the finish timers with no jumping or time penalties. It was a nice follow-up to their dressage test in which an off-course goof contributed to a 35.6 score that put them 7th. Tamie considers the 10-year-old Thoroughbred to be Badminton and Burghley material and was pleased with his work in the sandbox. “I feel like he’s kind of been knocking on the door,” Tamie says of the half-brother to Gin & Juice, an international star for Cheers’ owners Terry and Linda Paine.

Announcer Ed Holloway refers to Tamie and James as the “King and Queen of Galway” and the royal pair are indeed closely aligned in this 3* division. James Alliston is hot on Tamie’s heels with two youngsters, Karma and Monkey. Both sired by Escudo II, these very different-looking and -behaving horses are part of a growing string of solid mounts for James and Helen Alliston’s Northern California program.

“Karma is a really exciting horse,” said James of the 8-year-old Oldenburg, who was the only other horse to make the 3* time. “She’s probably the fastest horse I’ve had and she’s a really good athlete, though dressage can be a bit tricky. Despite our score yesterday (a 37.2), I was very pleased with her because she was settled in her mind and walked well.”

James sits third with Monkey on a 40.7, including 5.2 time penalties. The handsome grey 7-year-old Oldenburg owned by Golly Martin has moved up the ranks with apparent ease under James’ hand. “He’s done a lot quickly.”

Tamie’s Tough to Beat In the CCI2*-L

On Thursday, Tamie acknowledged she was so new to Kynan, a 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood, she had no idea what to expect of him on cross-country today. Double clear is what he delivered on a track Tamie appreciated as a significant step up in size and technical questions from past years. Staying on their 27.1 dressage effort, Tamie retains her lead in this division and sits 3rd, 7th and 8th on three more hot prospects: Crafty Don, Mameluke and Fleeceworks Quinn.

“They were all double clear and fantastic,” she summarized. “They are all different types of horses, but I didn’t have one situation where I felt like one of the horses was green or that they didn’t understand what the questions were.”

Riding a horse that was bred for her by owner Liz Jenner of GWF, Erin Kellerhouse is in second on Bon Vivant GWF. She’s had the 7-year-old Oldenburg in her Galway Downs-based training program since he was 4. Every event and every year, he keeps “rising to the challenges,” she says. “He’s one of those solid citizens where everything seems easy for him.” At one point, he was so nonchalant about jumping, Erin questioned his scope. But as the jumps got higher, his athletic abilities became clear. “He needs a little atmosphere and difficulty to be impressed.”

Being based at Galway Downs was no advantage in facing cross-country’s new twists, turns and fences. “It’s weird to be here and not know where I’m going,” Erin said. She was uncharacteristically off her pace the first 5 minutes of the course while navigating those new challenges, but found plenty of galloping stretches to make it up to finish on a 28.9.

Silver Medal Celebration

As the ring crew set jumps for Saturday’s show jumping finalé, the VIP Pavilion filled with exhibitors, fans and friends for a Silver Medal Celebration of Team USA making the World Championship podium for the first time in 20 years. Sponsored by Land Rover of Mission Viejo, the lively evening featured team member Tamie Smith and her medal, plus video messages from her teammates Boyd Martin, Lauren Nicholson, Will Coleman and Ariel Grald — all sending their best to Galway Downs and its supporters.

Organizer Robert Kellerhouse eschewed the spotlight, but Tamie called him out as “the guy who’s made West Coast eventing exist. And, if you could have seen Robert in Pratoni, I think you’d have to vote for him as our team mascot!” Tamie asked all to share her pride in being able to reach the sports’ international stage without giving up her home base here.

“It was 20 years ago that I watched our team get gold at Jerez,” said Robert. “A million gray hairs later, we got back to the podium. This World Championships team has unlocked all kinds of doors for everyone in our country. We don’t even know all the impacts yet.”

Show Jumping Saturday.

Marc Donovan’s show jumping courses in the Grand Prix Arena offer the final test to determine Galway Downs International’s champions on Saturday. The FEI jogs start at 8 a.m., then 2* at 9:30; 3* at 11; and 4* at noon, all going in reverse order of their standings.

Galway Downs: Two Smiths and a Vedder Lead CCI Divisions After Dressage

Kaylawna Smith-Cook and Passepartout. Photo by Tina Fitch Photography.

World Championship team silver medalist Tamie Smith is getting a lot of well-deserved attention since returning to her California home turf. But it was her daughter, young professional Kaylawna Smith-Cook, who took the Re/MAX CCI4*-L spotlight today at the Galway Downs International Three-Day Event.

The vibe in the Grand Prix Pavilion felt a bit like a baseball stadium in the 7th inning of a no-hitter as Kaylawna and her German Sporthorse Passepartout flowed through the second half of their dressage test. Conversations stilled as the pair gracefully executed each of the test’s challenges, then her sizable fan club exhaled and applauded loudly.

A ride that ended with a division-leading score of 32.2 began with the distraction of a chair outside the court falling over during the warm-up. “I said ‘Come on buddy, let’s go forward’,” Kaylawna explains. “I felt him take a deep breath and from there he went on to be super on the aids. That was definitely one of our better tests.”

Those deep breaths have come more often over the last year of working with German master Johann Hinnemann. “Pasco is a long horse,” Kaylawna explains. “He has a long back and it’s a little tricky getting him to sit with his nose lined out and create that picture you want. Jo has really helped us dial everything in. With Pasco, he has been a really big help in getting him to be quiet, supple and submissive. He’s a big strong horse and it’s been a matter of getting him to stay relaxed.”

Sophie Click and Quidproquo. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Twenty-three-year-old Sophie Click and Quidproquo stand second on a 35.9 and James Alliston and Paper Jam in third on a 36.1 from the judging panel of Robyn Fisher, Peter Gray and Marilyn Payne.

James Alliston and Paper Jam. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

“There’s a lot to do out there,” said Kaylawna of Clayton Fredericks’ cross-country course.  “It’s my first 4*-Long. I’m excited to be out there and to have my A game on.”

Isi Ices the CCI3*-L

Asia Vedder and Isi. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Asia Vedder and Isi lead this field on their 29 score from Peter Gray, Bea DiGrazia and Marilyn Payne. Asia was particularly pleased with the Holsteiner’s throughness, along with his elevated medium canter and a particularly nice half-pass. “I was hoping for a little more spark and brilliance today, to get those 8s and 9s, and especially after his antics during the (windy) jog yesterday.”

She’s looking forward to a Friday cross-country course she describes as gallopy and in need of attacking. Highlighted by a new coffin complex that “everybody’s talking about,” the course offers questions that typify a current theme with many course designers, Asia notes. “The idea that we can’t get stuck on a stride count. That we have to ride what comes up.” When relaxed, Isi has a big stride combined with quick footwork when needed. Asia plans to capitalize on those traits tomorrow.

Emilee Libby and Tosca. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Emilee Libby and Toska stand in second position on a 31 and Lauren Billys and Can Be Sweet are right behind on a 32.1.

Tamie Smith Atop Home Turf

Tamie Smith and Kynan. Photo by Tina Fitch Photography.

Tamie Smith started the festivities surrounding Team USA’s World Champs silver medal a bit early. She kicked off the CCI2*-L division on her first of four horses in the field, Kynan.

“It was flawless,” said Tamie of the Dutch Warmblood’s 27.1-scoring test. That stayed ahead of the rest of the 27-horse field to ride in front of Ground Jury members Peter Gray, Marilyn Payne and Michelle Henry on a cool morning in Southern California’s Temecula Valley Wine Country.

“He was so with me, and through and connected moving through the whole test. Usually, you come out of the test and say, ‘I think I could have done this or that better,’ but this was just fantastic.”

James Alliston and Keep Calm. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Long hot-streaking James Alliston hasn’t given Tamie any room for error in her lead with Kynan. He and Keep Calm are sitting on a 27.5, and another of the region’s most dominant riders, Erin Kellerhouse, is in third on a 28.9 with Bon Vivant GWF.

Erin Kellerhouse and bon Vivant. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Of course, anything can happen tomorrow on cross-country.

“It’s big and bold,” said Smith of the 2* and 3* tracks. “I think Clayton [Fredericks] has definitely stepped it up in size and technicality since last year.”

With a relatively light load of campaigning only five horses this weekend, Tamie reflected on how it feels to be home after the globe-trotting that took her to the World Championships podium in Italy in September. “Oh my God, I’m so happy to be home. I’m trying to keep my focus on and not let down too soon. It’s a little hard to do that when we’ve been to the places we’ve been these last few months.”

With horses in the 1, 4, 11 and 12 spots after 2* dressage, she seems to be accomplishing that.

MARS Bromont Rising U-25

Taylor and Jennifer McFall with Bettina Hoy. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Taylor McFall, Sophie Click, Anna Rekrutiak, Julia Beauchamp-Crandon and Reece Blinks earned spots in the MARS Bromont Rising U-25 program, which makes its West Coast debut this week. Along with a $2,500 grant, the riders had the chance to review dressage tests with German Olympian Bettina Hoy and to sit with sport advocate and eventing father Jim Wildasin. Working alongside each rider’s regular coach, Bettina offered her input in the warm-up ring and ringside reviews after their tests. Jim spoke on developing the character traits needed for long term success in the sport (and life!)

Among his tips:

  • Give back to the sport
  • Build on incremental progress “It compounds!”
  • Learn to ride well: be a student of the sport.

Two-Star competitor Taylor McFall acknowledged that working with Bettina is a perfect step in advancing her riding skills. “She’s a world class rider – classically trained and with a lot of knowledge and experience. Riding with people like her is how you get better. Within five minutes, she pointed out things I was doing that I’ve been working on forever!  I am super stoked to be part of this program and I’m grateful that it exists.”

The CCI4*-L track.

International competition continues with cross-country on Friday. CCI3*-L starts at 9:30; Re/MAX 4*-L at 10:50 and 2* at noon. For the national and Challenge divisions, it’s dressage day. We’re loving the sunny vibes and creative fence-dressings on Clayton Fredericks’s cross-country course — and you can walk the CCI4*-L via the CrossCountry App!

Galway Downs International Three-Day Event (Temecula, CA): [Website] [Ride Times] [Scoring] [Live Stream] [Volunteer]

A Festival of Firsts at Galway Downs International

2021 Galway Downs International CCI4*-L winner Alexandra MacLeod & Newmarket Jack (PC: Tina Fitch Photography)

The Galway Downs International is a festival of firsts this year.

It’s the first time Land Rover Mission Viejo joins the impressive sponsorship roster, extending the brand’s proud international equestrian alignment in the West.

It’s the first time the MARS Bromont Rising U-25 Program stages a West coast edition of its big boost to talented young riders. The first time a 2022 World Championships Team Silver medalist will be in the competition field and the VIP tent for festive purposes. And the first time contenders will face a new coffin complex on Galway Downs’ ever-evolving cross-country course.

This season finale for eventing in the West runs Nov. 2-6 in Southern California’s Temecula Valley Wine Country. Top competitors from throughout the region are on their way. Among all these firsts are favorite familiars.

“I’ve now travelled all over the world competing, but Galway Downs holds a special place for me,” notes Tamie Smith, the above-mentioned Pratoni team silver medalist.

“Competing here helped launch my own career and that of many of my top horses. Under Robert Kellerhouse and his team, the venue has become first class in every aspect of preparing and showcasing our horses. Mai Baum’s and my contribution to Team USA’s World Championships silver medal this year has its roots right here.”

With her most seasoned equine partners on holiday, Tamie will compete in the 2* and 3* and will be feted during a Friday night soiree celebrating Team USA’s remarkable return to the international championships podium.

Organizer Robert Kellerhouse and his Kellerhouse Presents team are dedicated to supporting and celebrating horses and riders competing at every level of the sport. The immediate and growing popularity of Galway Downs’ Challenge divisions illustrates their gift for giving exhibitors what they want.

This year, the Challenge is offered in four divisions: Preliminary/Modified joins the agenda of Modified/Training, Training/Novice and Novice/Beginner Novice Challenges.

These ground-breaking divisions offer a stepping-stone for those moving up the levels. Along with excellent footing, fences and course designs, the Challenges provide the same level of celebratory acknowledgement as that given to the international divisions.

The Challenges culminate on Sunday with show jumping in the amped atmosphere of Galway’s beautiful Grand Prix Arena. Fans filling the surrounding VIP Pavilion, grandstands and shaded berm cheer as loudly as they do on Saturday for the international finalés.

The International divisions include three Long formats, the 2*, 3* and the Re/MAX 4*-Long.

Entries are solid in all divisions with competitors coming from throughout the Northwest and Arizona to contend with Area VI’s deep roster of talented horses and riders.

Land Rover Joins the Roster

Land Rover has a long history with equestrian sport and Land Rover Mission Viejo’s Steven Rudkin believes it’s high time to enhance that the West. His daughter Adelaide is a talented Modified division competitor and the Rudkins have first-hand experience with Galway Downs and its many amenities for horses and riders.

“Robert Kellerhouse has done a great job with this venue and we think it’s a great fit for us,” says Steve. Land Rover and Land Rover Mission Viejo’s commitment to equestrian sport extends the brand’s values-based alignment nationally and internationally. “A desire to go above and beyond is required to succeed in the equestrian space,” Steve relays. “Land Rover’s commitment to this sport includes sponsorship of world class competition and the engineering of refined and capable vehicles, which enable the equestrian community to make more of their world.”

Look for some of those vehicles on site over the five-day competition.

MARS Bromont Rising U25 Program

$2500 scholarships begin the benefits awarded to participants in this unique young rider development program founded in 2019. Coaching, course walks, ride reviews and educational talks round out this program in its West Coast debut.

Bringing the MARS Bromont Rising Stars out West was the idea of long-time industry supporter and committee member Dr. Mark Hart of Oregon, explains the program’s director Peter Gray. “We want this to be available for all talented young riders, and Robert Kellerhouse is so enthusiastic about hosting it. Galway is the destination event of the fall calendar, and it culminates the season, so it’s exactly the kind of competition we want to be involved with.”

German Olympian Bettina Hoy will coach participants in all phases, and the Centerline Workshop will help young riders get a jump on ringsmanship, horse presentation and attracting owners and sponsors.

Sponsors and volunteers make every aspect of the Galway Downs International possible.

Galway Downs and its exhibitors gratefully acknowledge the support of the following supporters. Most will be on site throughout the competition to meet, mingle and share their commitments to excellent sport, sportsmanship and horsemanship.

Presenting Sponsors:

Silver Sponsors:

Bronze Sponsors:


Volunteers are the lifeblood of eventing competition. Help is needed in a variety of positions, from event prep on Wednesday to cross-country finish line timers for the Horse Trials on Sunday. Many roles require zero prior experience and all provide the reward and fun of contributing to something special. Most include a free front-row seat to various phases of this always exciting competition.

VIP Experience

The all-inclusive VIP Experience in the Pavilion next to the Grand Prix Arena is a terrific way to enjoy the show. Enjoy a full breakfast bar, filet mignon lunch buffet, refreshments, beer and wine and unlimited live feed coverage of all the events.

Galway Downs International: [Website] [Volunteer]

Lauren Billys Shares Her Respiratory Health Routine

Lauren Billys (Puerto Rico) and Castle Larchfield Purdy. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Two-time Olympic eventer Lauren Billys learned about equine respiratory problems the hard way.

The rude awakening occurred when her 2016 Rio Games partner Castle Larchfield Purdy was coming back to work after a serious colic in 2018. “After his first cross-country run, I noticed that his breathing sounded really different. Almost like he was roaring.

“That took us down the whole rabbit hole looking into respiratory health,” she recounts. Long story short, Lauren developed a management routine so effective that Purdy was able to condition for and compete at last summer’s Tokyo Olympics – at 19, no less.

Along with getting a second Olympics with Purdy, Lauren gained knowledge and experience that now help protect the respiratory and overall health of all the horses in her training program in Northern California.

Lauren Billys and Castle Larchfield Purdy. Photo by The West Equestrian.

Happy to help others benefit from what she’s learned, Lauren shares these tips for minimizing respiratory risks in our horses’ environments—the #1 veterinary recommendation for this area of equine health.

Lauren recently purchased her own property and has complete control over the horses’ management. Respiratory health is a top priority. “It’s part of the way we live and breathe.” The ability to manage all horses is an advantage. “It’s hard to treat or manage just one horse,” she notes. “It’s best when the whole barn lives the lifestyle.”

Paddocks covered in wood chips help tamper down dust. Photo courtesy of Lauren Billys Shady.

Lauren’s Dust Busting Tips:

1. In our part of Northern California, we have a lot of silica in the soil. That is bad for horses’ breathing, so we really manage the whole property to keep it as dust free as possible.

2. We cover our paddocks in wood chips. I found a local tree trimming company that needed a place to dump their chips. I specified no holly, elderberry, poison oak or other trees that can be harmful to horses. We have virtually no dust in our paddocks.

We also spread a little bit of wood chips onto our dirt roads, then compress them into the surface. Some properties water their roads, but with California’s drought situation I didn’t want to do that. The chips are a little labor intensive, but otherwise very inexpensive to do and it really helps keep the dust down.

3. Every turn-out has a mat under the feed bucket, which cuts down on the amount of dust our horses inhale when they eat off the ground. It also reduces the risk of sand colic.

4. We feed our horses Haygain Steamed Hay. That was a game-changer for Purdy when he was diagnosed with Inflammatory Airway Disease in 2019. Now all of our high-performance horses get it as a preventative measure. We have the full-bale steamer at home, which our guys find very easy to use. And we go to shows with the travel size models: we used the smallest model, the HG ONE, at Tokyo.

5. We chose Footing First’s dust free arena footing when we had to re-do the formerly Western arena at our new property. Their product is a geo-textile blended with silica sand, which is OK because it’s treated with a binding agent that contains the dust.

6. Our horses live outside at least half the time. That’s good for their mental and physical health and it’s good because a lot of dust inhalation happens when they’re in the barn. We keep them inside at night, when there is less activity in the barn that could stir up dust.

7. We don’t use blowers when horses are inside the barn. That’s bad for anybody’s breathing. In fact, our maintenance guys have worn masks in the barn for that reason – well before COVID.

8. We wipe down all the flat surfaces in the barn at least once a week. It keeps things looking nice and helps remove dust.

9. We brush back the shavings in the stalls so the horses eat off their mat, not the shavings. That keeps their stalls cleaner and cuts down on the amount of dust they inhale because bedding, like hay, is a main source of respirable irritants in the equine environment.

10. We monitor all our horses for respiratory issues because I know from experience how often and easily these conditions can go undiagnosed. For one horse, coughing once or twice at the beginning of a ride was the only sign to what wound up being diagnosed as Inflammatory Airway Disease.

11. We also monitor carefully for allergies. Whenever a horse gets diarrhea, coughing or hives, we run an allergy panel on them. The best company we’ve found is Spectrum. We’ve found their serum testing and allergy relief sprays very helpful.

Brushing back shavings means horses eat straight off the mat and don’t ingest or inhale bedding. Photo courtesy of Lauren Billys Shady.

After Tokyo, Purdy stepped down from the international level and is helping one of Lauren’s students learn the ropes at Preliminary. “He is good and happy and I am so grateful to have him at the barn,” Lauren says. “One of the many things for which I’m grateful to him is learning the respiratory health routines that I now apply proactively to all our horses.”

Be Your Horse’s Hero: The Haygain Way, Holistic Care, Optimal Health

Karen Laidley, DVM

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Karen Laidley, DVM, would like to put herself out of business.

“I want to give owners the tools to need me less,” says the equine veterinarian whose Central Oregon facility is a hub of holistic horse care and training. A lifelong equestrian, Dr. Laidley has been learning and leaning more into whole-horse thinking in recent years.

She’s not alone.

“There is more of a movement in the equine industry where owners are going to speak up more and want better for their horses,” says Dr. Laidley, a 1998 graduate of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “People are asking why their horse only has three to five years at the top of their career. Why are they breaking down earlier? The more we can empower owners and trainers to look deeper into those questions, the more we are going to have these needed discussions.”

The pandemic pushed this trend. “People have more time to spend with their horses: they are starting to trust themselves and ask questions. For so long, people were almost intimidated to ask questions. The fact that everybody was doing something one way does not mean it has to continue that way.”

After many years serving the community at a mixed animal veterinary practice, Dr. Laidley narrowed her focus to horses only. She then opened her scope of study to all aspects and ideas regarding their optimal physical and mental health.

Filling A Knowledge Void

Saddle fit, podiatry and dental care are a few of the many paths she’s pursuing. Being a rider is an advantage. “It helps me see and feel the holes that exist for horses and the ways that we can help to round out their education and improve their health and well-being.  That is a void in veterinary medicine that I’d like to fill.”

Saddle fit was the crux of an early eye-opener for Dr. Laidley. It involved Buzz (aka “Snow Globe Effect”), an eventing partner the 3* rider hoped might take her to the Kentucky Three-Day Event and beyond. That dream was nixed by an injury that eluded diagnosis.

While seeking to help Buzz, Dr. Laidley was recommended to a session with Master Saddle Fitter Jochen Schleese, founder of Schleese Saddlery Service and the Saddle Fit 4 Life education programs. She was sponsored by another saddle maker at the time, yet she agreed to a fitting and trialed a Schleese saddle. “My horse went from being a little off to a lot off,” Dr. Laidley recalls.

While that was the opposite of what she’d hoped for, it illustrated “what happens when you free up the horse’s back: it allows them to blossom into their real self. And it shows how much they try to hide from us because they are prey animals.”

Buzz’s injury was eventually diagnosed as a proximal suspensory tear. It was treated appropriately and has healed completely.  He is now integral to Dr. Laidley’s drive to achieve her US Dressage Federation medals, and Dr. Laidley is now a certified Schleese saddle ergonomist herself and utilizes that knowledge as part of an ever-bigger tool kit to evaluate and tend to horses in her care.

Bringing These Ideas to the Barn

Fruition Farm was conceived as a facility for the veterinarian’s own horses, not as a boarding or training business. “I was doing it for our own horses, and I did a ton of research on every aspect of the barn.”

Like many savvy horse people, she prioritized flooring in the early design and budget phases.

In the flooring and bedding realm, Dr. Laidley searched for a solution to improve barn air quality from a respiratory health perspective. She also favored flooring that could be easily cleaned and sanitized. All those searches led Dr. Laidley to ComfortStall Sealed Orthopedic Flooring, by Haygain. “In doing the research, I found out about the quality of ComfortStall and that’s how I ended up with it.”

That was 15 years ago. Fruition Farm’s five 14’ x 20’ stalls are still “beautiful,” the veterinarian states. “They are as perfect now as when we put them in!”

It has fulfilled Dr. Laidley’s various objectives in purchasing it: providing comfort for horses on stall rest or recovering from sedation and foaling mares. Sanitization has been as easy as advertised.

Even though Fruition Farm’s horses live outside with individual shelters and heated waterers, Dr. Laidley wanted them on supportive flooring for whatever hours they were indoors. “I wanted them to be on something that I’d want to be on.”

ComfortStall’s layer of orthopedic foam provides cushion for deep rest and sleep, without the need of bedding. Only enough bedding to absorb urine is required. Reducing bedding improves stable air quality because most bedding is loaded with respirable irritants. Bedding and hay are the biggest sources of these microscopic irritants that are the main cause of surprisingly common respiratory challenges, including inflammatory airway disease (IAD).

The respiratory benefits of ComfortStall are furthered by a single-piece durable rubber top cover that seals to the stall wall. The impermeable surface prevents urine from seeping to the stall floor, where bacteria and unhealthy ammonia off-gasses can otherwise accumulate.

Setting Stage for Respiratory Health

Triggering proprioception is another benefit Dr. Laidley loves. The flooring’s slight give prompts horses to make tiny muscle movements for balance. This encourages blood flow that helps muscles, tendons and joints recover. She likens the ComfortStall surface to a full-time version of Sure Foot Stability Pads that encourage horses to find their own balance during short sessions.

ComfortStall is a perfect fit with Fruition Farm’s arena footing: Travel Right Footing. Dr. Laidley choose it for its rebound, traction, and no-dust qualities.

Haygain’s High Temperature Hay Steaming is an important part of Dr. Laidley’s effort to reduce respirable irritants in the horse keeping environment. The patented steaming technology reduces up to 99% of the dust, mold, bacteria and other allergens found even in hay of desired nutrient content.

She also has a Flexineb Equine Nebulizer that enables her to treat various inflammatory airway conditions, including inflammation caused by regional forest fires.

Dr. Laidley’s horses and boarders’ horses benefit from steamed forage thanks to Fruition Farm’s half-bale Haygain. “One client kept her horse a different facility where she developed some serious Inflammatory Airway Disease symptoms,” the veterinarian relays. “Her owner needed a place where the environment supported respiratory health to every extent possible. That’s why she tracked me down. Since her horse arrived at Fruition Farm, she is doing really well and is no longer coughing when she starts to work.”

Most recently, Dr. Laidley added the third “Haygain Way” product: the Forager Slow Feeder. The Forager appealed to Dr. Laidley because of its ability to provide a safe slow-feeding option, even for shod horses, and one that mimics normal grazing posture. Its durability and its ability to withstand significant variations in temperature were also a great selling point. “An added benefit is not having to worry about it being blown away with the blustery winds that Central Oregon can be known for, especially in the cold and dark winter months.”

Your Horse’s Hero 

Providing and sharing holistic and cutting-edge care and training methods is gratifying work. “Shut down” is how the veterinarian describes the state of several horses that find their way to Fruition Farm. “You look in their eyes and nobody’s there. They have their head down, nose to the ground and are just getting by.”

Delivering thoughtful, whole-horse care starts a rewarding path of discovery. “The horses start to show more personality, to show you what they like and don’t like,” Dr. Laidley explains. She wants all owners to embody Fruition Farm’s motto: “Be Your Horse’s Hero.”

“Owners start to discover that there are so many other things going on with their horses.” That’s true of care and training. “I firmly believe that horses are not innately bad. If they exhibit behaviors that we consider ‘unfavorable,’ it’s likely because they don’t understand what we are asking or because they are painful or uncomfortable.”

The vast realm of information can be overwhelming. Reflecting on her own horses’ injuries over the years, Dr. Laidley still feels “Oh my god, there’s so much more I could have done for them. That makes me sad, but it was also the catalyst for me to learn all that I’m learning now and to think of things on a bigger scale.”

How ‘The Haygain Way’ Can Lower Horsekeeping Costs

Photo courtesy of Lindsay Beer-Drury/Haygain.

In an ideal world, we could all care for our horses without worry over the costs. That planet, however, is not well populated. Most of us need to manage our horses on some sort of budget.

Haygain can help.

The global horse health company is well known for how its Haygain Way products support equine respiratory, digestive, joint and overall health. How it helps the budgeting side of the horse management ledger is also important, especially now with the escalating price of everything.

Here are Five Ways the Haygain Way can help save costs while improving health.

More nutrients: Nutrient preservation is one of many reasons Haygain High Temperature Hay Steaming is replacing soaking for reducing dust and other respirable irritants and allergens in hay. Research results establish that the only nutrient decreased in a standard steam cycle is water soluble carbohydrates: by an average of 2.3%. (This varies based on hay type, harvest location and other factors.)

Conversely, soaking hay depletes nutrients. Feeding soaked hay often requires that lost nutrients be replaced with supplements that bump up the feed bill.

Less Waste: Studies determine that horses prefer steamed hay over dry or soaked forage. That means less waste. The Forager Slow Feeder by Haygain contains hay off the stable floor. Forage is not ruined by being trampled into bedding, manure and urine.

Less Bedding: ComfortStall Sealed Orthopedic Flooring has built-in cushion for the horse’s comfort and joint support. Only enough bedding to absorb urine is required. Less bedding hauled into the stable equals less soiled bedding that must be removed and hauled away. Horse owners report quickly recouping their ComfortStall investment in bedding and labor savings.

Less Water: Hay steaming uses far less water than hay soaking. A steaming cycle requires 4 litres of water, compared to approximately 60 to 100 litres to soak the same quantity of hay. Most of the water used in soaking hay is wasted and, worse, at a considerable cost to the environment because it is loaded with pollutants.

Fewer Vet Visits: Prevention always beats a cure and Haygain is all about that.

Respiratory irritants are the biggest cause of respiratory disease, and hay is the biggest source of respiratory irritants in the horse’s environment. Reducing them by up to 99% with Haygain Steaming is an effective step in prevention and management of conditions on the Equine Asthma Spectrum.

The Forager Slow Feeder enables horses to eat as nature intended: slowly, in small bites and over several hours. That results in constant chewing, which produces a constant steam of saliva. The saliva helps protect the lining of the stomach from ever-present gastric acid to reduce ulcer risk.

Haygain Steamed Hay has up to triple the moisture content of dry hay. The added water in the diet helps keep forage moving through the digestive tract, reducing the risk of colic. More moisture in the diet means more hydration, too.

ComfortStall Sealed Orthopedic Flooring provides comfort and support for deep rest and sleep. While research on sleep and rest for horses is light, it makes sense that it would impact equine immunity and overall well-being as much as it does for people.

With the cost of living increasing for people and their horses, savvy yard managers recognize the return on investments in their horses’ health. Haygain High Temperature Hay Steamers, the Forager Slow Feeder and ComfortStall Sealed Orthopedic Flooring are embraced worldwide as among the best investments a horse owner can make. Dividends include healthier horses and bank balances.

Welcome Back Ram Tap: The Shows Go On and Then Some at Beloved Central California Venue

Alice Chan and Quintessa. Photo by Ride On Photo.

For riders of a certain vintage, the name “Ram Tap” evokes the wild wooly 70s of West Coast eventing. Amateur Alice Chan isn’t one of them. She wasn’t competing in that era, hence has given little thought to the Fresno County Horse Park’s rechristening to Ram Tap, its name on launch in 1957.

Alice did give a lot of thought to the venue’s cross-country course, especially the addition (or re-introduction) of the big hill near the announcer’s tower, aka “Punchestown.”

“I’m going to have go out there and really ride!” Alice observed while listening to the Beginner Novice Three Day play-by-play before heading out herself on Quintessa last fall. “Normally you’re going to win on dressage, but here cross-country did what it was supposed to do. It was exciting and fun!” The pair moved up six places after cross-country and finished as reserve champs.

Excitement and fun are exactly what organizer Terry Hilst has been going for since she took over the Central California venue late in 2020. Ram Tap has always been valued for its riverbed footing that enables the show to go on in almost any amount of rain. Terry wants it to be known for more than that. She wants everyone to experience the thrill of advancing toward their equestrian goals on a safe stage and to encourage the fun and joie de vivre for which eventing is famous.

Terry Hilst the Aggravator! Photo by Kim Miller.

Ram Tap Is Back

Terry sought permission to revive the Ram Tap name to honor that era’s spirit and those who developed it. “I want to go back to the roots of eventing: to put back some of the camaraderie and celebration that we used to have.”

In stepping in when it seemed the venue might be lost – again — she followed the lead of John Marshall, an amateur eventer and fan. He’d stepped in to save and rejuvenate the equestrian property in 2012, much to the relief of riders throughout the region. He made many improvements, including the Pavillion gathering area, and staged Horse Trials and competitions in other disciplines. “John built such a beautiful place,” Terry comments.

John is lauded for continuing a proud tradition begun by original owners Pat and Marian Humphries. The Ram Tap name comes from the first three letters of Marian and Pat’s names, spelled backwards, and the Humphries name is synonymous with supporting high quality West Coast sport. Their former stable boy, longtime friend, employee and competitor Bill Burton picked up the torch when the Humphries retired.

Bill is renowned for carrying on the Humphries’ dedication to horse sport. So much so that Terry was worried about the course changes builder and designer Bert Wood and Jay Hambly proposed and implemented last fall.

Alice Chan and Quintessa. Photo by Ride On Photo.

“Bert and Jay did an amazing job with course changes between our October and November events last year,” Terry explains. “They revised everything from Training to Intro because we all need a little change up now and then.” By removing jump arenas and containers from spots they’d long occupied, the dynamic duo had a clean slate to work with.

As Alice Chan notes, the changes were well received by competitors. Yet when Bill Burton came to visit, Terry wondered: “Oh, my god, am I destroying history?,” she shares. “Bill walked up and said, ‘I’m so glad you did that: that all that stuff is gone!’”

Of the return of the aforementioned Punchestown hill, Terry recalls one rider raising her hand in the air and shouting after cresting the ridge, galloping down it “Man From Snowy River style.” Within the range of what’s safe, that was exactly the kind of fun Terry wants to see more of: on course, during exhibitor dinners, hanging out in the barns with friends, etc.

Volunteer Lani Sutherland repaints the Kris Belford Memorial Horse Shoe jump. Photo courtesy of Terry Hilst.

A Whirlwind Year

Seeing the Ram Tap traditions brought to life, Bill Burton and his wife Margaret Burton were happy to grant Terry permission to adopt the name. That capped what Terry describes as a “whirlwind” year operating the venue. Five Horse Trials, one Combined Test, Area VI adult rider camps, clinics and a New Year’s party kept her busy.

She had plenty of experience for the position. A long-time eventer, Terry had organized events at the Camelot Horse Park in Northern California’s Butte Valley until they ceased in 2019. In the interim she indulged her passion for designing cross-country courses and for dirt: the kind that’s ideal for horses to gallop over on cross-country.

She’s now licensed to design courses up to Training level and she’s an expert on dirt at every level.

“My passion is providing good footing,” she explains. So much so that she purchased her own tractor and the “aggravator” attachment that she describes as “causing a minor earthquake” six inches below the surface. The effect is to quickly create safe, cushioned footing. Under the tutelage of longtime West Coast course builder and footing expert Bert Wood, Terry’s been in the driver’s seat aggravating the tracks at Galway Downs and Woodside Horse Park for the past few years, along with prepping the tracks at Ram Tap.

In fact, she was doing exactly that in preparation for the Galway Downs International in late 2020 when she got the news about John Marshall ending his run at Fresno. “Bert (Wood) got the call from John, and Bert turned to me and said, ‘Terry, you should buy it!'”

Since doing as Bert advised, Terry has been grateful for a tremendous amount of help from day-one. John Marshall signed on to help organize shows and continues to support the Ram Tap efforts in various ways, along with maintaining an on-site tack store.

New divisions are part of Ram Tap’s present-day appeal. Terry staged Modified divisions at three Horse Trials last year. By popular demand, they’ll be back this year, as will the full format Three Days in November. New in 2022 is the Grasshopper division with fence heights maxing out at 18”. “The idea is to give people a level where they can come and get introduced to the sport,” Terry explains. “This is the division where we are not going to scare you!”

James Alliston and Golly Martin during the January schooling at Ram Tap. Photo courtesy of Terry Hilst.

Real Fun & Real Challenges

Tommy Greengard was the big winner of January’s Combined Test’s Open Intermediate, Preliminary and Intro Senior divisions. The young professional and Chocolate Horse Farm rider has been competing at Ram Tap since he was 10, rain or shine. “It’s been amazing to see all the changes to the place,” he observes. “It’s one of those facilities you can count on regardless of what you have weather wise, the footing is always amazing. Since Terry has taken over, we love how she is so invested in all the riders having a good time.”

Ram Tap’s riding challenges are real, he corroborates. “You can expect all the serious elements: the water complexes, sunken road, everything you would want on a course. And it’s a place where you can bring a big group of people and everyone can have fun at all the levels.”

February 18-20 is the first of five recognized Horse Trials at the Ram Tap Horse Park this year. In late March, it’s a clinic with Jock Paget, a popular annual tradition at the venue. Schooling HTs, clinics and United States Pony Club certifications fill in an exciting calendar. Whatever the level and whatever the event, it’s sure to be exciting and fun with Terry Hilst at the helm.

To learn more about Ram Tap and view the calendar of events, click here.

Haygain’s Five Tips for a New Year of Horse Health

Liz Halliday-Sharp, shown here with Cooley Quicksilver, is a Haygain devotee. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The New Year is a great time to make resolutions about our horse’s health. Toward that end, here’s five management tips based on how our horses’ bodies are affected by aspects of their management routine and environment.

Feed Slowly: Because Mother Nature designed horses as grazing animals, their digestive systems are built to process small quantities of forage over several hours of the day. They secrete acids to ferment fibrous plant material whether there is fibrous plant material in the digestive tract or not. Because it’s convenient to feed twice or thrice daily, most horses spend only about two-and-a-half hours of their day eating. It should be at least eight to 10 hours.

Encouraging our horses to eat as nature intended is a great way to prevent those acids from causing ulcers that affect a huge percentage of the equine population. More time eating also lessens boredom and related behaviors like stall weaving and cribbing.

 The Forager Slow Feeder enables horses to eat slowly and without frustration.

Be Nosy: A meticulously raked barn aisle and a neatly organized tack room are nice indicators of a well-kept barn, but neither have any impact on our horse’s health. Better to spend time on our hands and knees in the barn, putting our nose where our horse’s nose is and inhaling deeply. Is something tickling my throat? Do I feel a sneeze coming on? Weird as we might feel doing this, it’s a great way to monitor for respiratory risks that are virtually everywhere in the barn.

As we said above, it’s ideal that horses spend much of their day eating forage.  The catch is that even freshly harvested hay of top nutrient quality can be loaded with respirable particles. The particles we can’t see are the most harmful to our horses. At under 5 microns in size, they can slip past his respiratory defenses to infiltrate and inflame the lining of the airways and lungs.

Reducing the respirable irritants in hay is a savvy, simple step toward maintaining respiratory health. Haygain Hay Steaming reduces up to 99% of the respirable irritants commonly found in hay.

Clean Underneath: By the time we can smell ammonia odors, there is already an unhealthy accumulation of this caustic gas in the stable. Even in well-maintained barn, ammonia accumulates when urine and other fluids seep through cracks in the flooring material and pool at the sub floor. Along with ammonia that irritates sensitive tissue in the eyes, respiratory tract and elsewhere, these pools of fluid are bacteria breeding grounds.

ComfortStall Sealed Orthopedic Flooring prevents such accumulation because its one-piece durable TopCover™ is sealed to the stall wall.

Encourage Rest & Sleep: The importance of physical and mental recovery is well documented in human sports medicine and deep sleep and rest are critical to that. While research on sleep and rest’s effect on equine performance and well-being is light, common sense suggests it’s equally beneficial.

Yes, horses can rest and sleep while standing, but they can only achieve deep REM sleep while lying down with their nose resting on the floor. The average adult horse needs at least an hour of REM sleep every day.

ComfortStall’s layer of orthopedic foam provides cushion and comfort that encourages lying down to get that deep rest. Horse owners regularly report their horses spending more time napping and lying down on the unique flooring.

For the many hours horses stand in their stall, ComfortStall has a unique combination of traction, give and cushion to support joints, provide energy rebound and prompt blood flow that has a natural healing effect.

Hydrate: As with people, adequate hydration is critical to every aspect of physiological function in the horse, especially digestion and thermoregulation. According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners, an idle 1,100-pound horse in a cool environment will drink six to 10 gallons of water every day. There are many variables, including external temperature, exertion level and how much water is in their food source.

Horses on good quality pasture grass, for example, can drink less water because of the moisture in the grass. Conversely, a diet of dry hay provides little moisture and requires more moisture to help with digestion. Haygain Steamed Hay has up to 3X the moisture content of dry forage, and its proven palatability helps ensure our horses get enough of this critical nutrient.

Here’s to a happy, healthy 2022 for all our horses!

Clear View Equestrian Finds Surprisingly Simple Approach to Allergy Management

Alexa Ehlers and her head girl/assistant, Hannah Warner, with the two homebred kids.

As a registered nurse who worked in an intensive care neurology unit, Alexa Ehlers is accustomed to health care miracles made possible by modern technology. Yet she was “mind blown” by how quickly Haygain Steamed Hay helped a 5-year-old horse get rid of a cough that got so bad she’d had to pause his jumping training. “I was shocked that such a simple measure could do so much good.”

The owner and trainer at Clear View Equestrian in Lexington, Kentucky is now a full-time equestrian professional. The facility is home to about 25 horses, the majority client-owned and a few of her own that are progressing at various levels of eventing.

The youngster with the bad cough is one of two Clear View homebreds, out of Alexa’s now-retired junior partner, Crystal Clear. The gelding, Clear Candidate, and the young mare Parlez Clear, both struggle with allergies.

Spring Struggles

Initially, their issues presented only in the springtime as occasional coughs. But when the horses’ workload intensified as they matured, the coughs became more frequent, severe and, especially in Clear Candidate’s case, debilitating. He’d start coughing when they began canter work. “It wasn’t fair to jump him,” she recalls. An endoscopic exam did not find anything worrisome in his upper respiratory tract, Alexa relays. The coughing and occasional runny nose was attributed to extreme sensitivity to allergens that are especially bad in the spring.

“We tried the (chelated) silver spray through the nose and a bunch of other things, but they felt relatively invasive,” Alexa explains. “Someone mentioned the Haygain as a useful tool and I’d been around enough to see professionals using them at events and to know that the steamed hay smelled really good.”

That’s when a former client offered to loan an older Haygain unit. “Within two days of being on Steamed Hay, Clear Candidate stopped coughing.”

Parlez Clear’s coughing was more sporadic, but no less concerning. Competing in a Young Event Horse qualifier, Alexa recalls landing after the final show jumping fence and asking for a stride opening. What she got instead was a massive cough. “We thought it was shipping fever and we initiated a lot of preventative measures when we got home from the show.” That was before starting on Haygain and, since then, the mare’s issue seems to be resolved.

Alexa Ehlers and Clear Candidate. Photo by JJ Sillman.

“I was shocked that doing such a simple thing as feeding Steamed Hay helped so much,” Alexa says. The science behind Haygain explains why Steamed Hay helps horses. The patented process attains and retains temperatures of 212°F in steam injected evenly through hay inside a thermally-sealed chest. The high temperature enables reduction of up to 99% of the inhalable irritants — including mold, bacteria and other allergens — commonly found even in hay of good nutrient quality. These microscopic particles are major causes of allergies and conditions on the Equine Asthma Spectrum.

An Ounce of Prevention

Alexa wound up buying the unit from her former client. While it has some mileage on it, the High Temperature Hay Steamer still does its job. “We arrived at Haygain in a bit of a trial by fire, but now all these horses’ hay gets steamed as a preventative measure.”

Now able to train and compete at increasingly high levels without interruption, both Clear View homebreds are excelling in competition. Both have proven their potential in USEA Dutta Corp Young Event Horse competitions and Clear Candidate recently won his first Preliminary.

Along with developing these young horses and helping her clients advance toward their goals, Alexa is an up-and-coming FEI level contender. She and Just To Be Clear recently completed their first Intermediate and were targeting the Morven Park CCI3*-S in October.

This post is brought to you in partnership with Haygain.

The Galway Downs International Challenge Events End on a High Note

Jordan Taylor and Dartmouth. Photo by Kim Miller.

Creating an excellent experience for every stakeholder in the sport is the modus operandi for Robert Kellerhouse and the crew behind this week’s Galway Downs International. It’s a mentality that translates to the lower-level horses and riders getting the same showcase as those in the international divisions, which concluded with Saturday afternoon’s 2*, 3* and 4* Long format competition.

The innovative “Challenge” format took center stage today with show jumping in the Grand Prix Arena. Now on its second year at this US Eventing Association Area VI season closer, the Challenge was a hit last year and even more so this year. The Modified-Training, Training-Novice and Novice-Beginner Novice Challenges serve as a gradual steppingstone to promote and celebrate advancing up the levels.

“I think it’s a really cool concept that I hope to see take off at other places around the country,” commented US Eventing Association Executive Director Rob Burk. “The majority of our sport is not competing at the FEI levels. For me, having really fun, rewarding opportunities like this to step up through the divisions is something we should be focusing our efforts on.”

Jordan Taylor and Dartmouth celebrate their finish. Photo by Kim Miller.

Taylor Takes Modified Training Challenge Blue

Jordan Taylor agreed with Burk wholeheartedly. The Temecula equestrian won the Modified Training Challenge with her 6-year-old homebred Thoroughbred, Dartmouth. The gelding is out of Taylor’s now retired Advanced mare, Cambridge. The pair were in the hunt from Friday’s 25.2 dressage score. Fault-free over Allessandra Alexander-Shinn’s cross-country and Marc Donovan’s show jumping, the pair moved up from third to win the division.

The Challenge served exactly the intended purpose. “Dartmouth is right in between moving up from Training to Preliminary. So this was a great ‘where is he?’ test,” said Taylor. Taylor is coached by Emilee Libby with help from Katy Robinson.

Young professional Tommy Greengard is another fan of the Challenge format. “I always try to have a horse for the Preliminary Challenge at Woodside,” he said of the first manifestation of Kellerhouse’s innovative idea, which started in 2009 at the Horse Park at Woodside. Greengard’s enthusiasm was enhanced by finishing 2nd and 4th in the Training-Modified division, with Sandra Donnelley’s Belshazzar and Andrea Pfeiffer’s Leonardo Diterma, respectively.

“I love the Challenges. I love the Challenges. I love the Challenges,” he exclaimed. “To do a big course in a big ring like that: that’s a lot of atmosphere.” So much so that “Leo (Diterma) started jumping bigger and bigger!” Having entered the stadium standing second, Leo had a rail at fence 2, slipping to 4th on a 29 for the 5-year-old 2020 Young Event Horse star. Belshazzar has campaigned to 4* with his owner, and he’s on loan to Greengard to help him navigate the upper levels. The partnership is new, so they entered the Challenge to get to know each other. “I’ve only jumped him twice before and this was the first time I coursed him in the ring,” said Greengard of his partner in the reserve finish on a 27.3. “He was phenomenal.”

A mid-course rail dashed leader Sarah Ertl’s hopes for a win with Vive Le Balladeer. She and the 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse saw their 23.9 dressage score grow to a 27.9 third place finish. Still very respectable in the 29-pair field filled with talented amateurs and professionals on young horses.

Olivia Loiacono Putrino and Cabela. Photo by Kim Miller.

Olivia Loiacono-Putrino Tops Training-Novice Challenge

Southern California professional Olivia Loiacono-Putrino had a good day at the office. She won the division with Leslie Roberts’ striking Tobiano-colored Dutch Warmblood, Cabela, and her student Justine Kiosoglous and Record Year finished in reserve.

Cabela has Training level experience and made easy work of a course Loiacono-Putrino described as characteristically good Marc Donovan: “His courses are always good, with related lines that keep you on your toes and require the horse to react quickly.”

As a trainer, she loves the Challenge as a fun and constructive event for her students. “The organizers put a ton of work into all the levels this year. Spicing up the courses like they have makes it exciting for them.”

Her student Kiosoglous is looking to move up to Training and “this gave her good prep for that,” said Loiacono-Putrino, who also had students contesting the Novice-Beginner Novice Challenge. “The fact that it is a challenge and fun is great.” Trainer and student both finished on their dressage scores of 25.2 and 33.1, respectively.

Third place finishers Dana Carbajal and Maximus del la Tombe had .8 cross-country time penalties and one show jumping rail to end on a 36.7.

Devin Robel and Gillou. Photo by Kim Miller.

Robel Takes Novice-Beginner Novice Title

Oregon-based professional Devin Robel had not been to Galway Downs before and she ended her California tour on a high note by topping this division on her own 5-year-old Holsteiner, Gillou. “Our goal was to break a 20, and he did it,” said Gallou of sticking to their 19.8 dressage score over the three-day event’s three phases. That gave them a 5-point lead in the division, followed by double clear jumping phases to secure the victory.

Robel has had Gillou since he was a yearling and their dressage performance reflects a two-year break Robel took from eventing to focus on dressage. The United States Dressage Federation silver medalist said her whole weekend at Galway Downs was a win-win. “The food, the many rings, the views, the smooth running… Everything!”

Galway Downs-based professional Erin Kellerhouse and Gail Brackett’s 5-year-old Warmblood mare, Genesis, started and finished in second place on a 24.8. Amera Duran and her 6-year-old German Sport Horse Quinn also stuck on their dressage start, for third on a 26.4.

The Experience is Everything

The experience Robel and riders at all levels described throughout the weekend is exactly what Kellerhouse is going for with the Galway Downs venue and its competitions. From hand-pulling 60 acres of pesky “goat head” weeds off the cross-country course to arranging for first-class food in the VIP Pavilion, the improvements represented a major investment of time, thought and money. Although the payback is expected over many years, Kellerhouse said it’s “already very rewarding the support we’ve seen from top riders to those in the Novice-Beginner Novice Challenge and all the Horse Trials divisions. “We want to make it a better experience for everyone.”

Kellerhouse credits Ali and Francie Nilforushan with inspiring, sharing and guiding his big vision for Galway Downs, along with the support of property owner Ken Smith. The Nilforushans launched the Temecula Valley National Horse Show hunter/jumper series a few years ago to ground-breaking success. Their contributions started with improvements to footing and arenas and have progressed to amenities for exhibitors, their families, and fans.

“I learned a lot from Ali and his team and a lot of the things they’ve done and gotten recognition for have crossed over to our events, as has national awareness of our facility and its appeal. Ali and Ken (Smith) are like-minded individuals in respect to making it a great experience for everybody. It’s been super fun working with them.”

Clayton Fredericks’ second year of designing the international cross-country courses dovetails with landscape design and investments to bring the aesthetics on par with the athletic abilities demanded of horse and rider. Everything going on here — from the obvious improvements like all-weather footing and new arenas to the unseen infrastructure upgrades –serves the purpose of enhancing everybody’s experience, he explained. That’s already attracted notice. Having the United States Equestrian Federation stage the inaugural Adequan USEF Youth Eventing Team Challenge West Coast Finals is one of many examples of Galway Downs being viewed as a premiere competition site.

“And there’s more to come,” Kellerhouse concludes. “We’ve learned of our audience that, once you get them hooked on something new, like our amazing VIP Pavilion, they’ll realize ‘Wow, this is a great event!’ and keep coming back.”

Thank You Sponsors!

The Galway Downs team thanks its generous sponsors for enhancing the Fall International, including Adequan for making the Adequan USEF Eventing Youth Team Challenge West Coast Finals a special event for tomorrow’s stars.

Galway Downs’ sponsors are Auburn Laboratories, Shires, Kerrits, Uvex, Equifit, Zarasyl, Ride On Video, San Dieguito Equine Group, Stotz, Temecula Creek Inn, Symons and Geranium.

Galway Downs International (Temecula, Ca.): [Website] [Results]

Alexandra MacLeod, Tamie Smith, Taren Hoffos Top Galway Downs FEI Divisions After Exciting & Emotional Show Jumping Finale

Alexandra MacLeod and Newmarket Jack. Photo by Kim Miller.

Emotions ran as high as the show jumping fences in Saturday’s conclusion of the Galway Downs Fall International FEI divisions. First time 4* Long contender and new California resident Alexandra MacLeod won with Newmarket Jack, far surpassing her goal of simply making the time on cross-country. That double clear yesterday put Alexandra in third, and she repeated the double clears over Marc Donovan’s stadium course in front of a full house of fans. Clear show jumping is a norm for the 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse, but what came next was brand new for Alexandra.

Quiet fell as James Alliston and Paper Jam dropped two rails, while overnight leader and Tokyo Olympic reserve rider Tamie Smith watched from the in-gate aboard the seasoned superstar Fleeceworks Royal. They had one rail in hand, but not two, and that one fell at the first element of the 8ABC triple combination. Tamie had just won the 3*-L on MaiTänzer and her dominance out West, on multiple horses, is so long standing it was a shock.

Alexandra MacLeod and Newmarket Jack. Photo by Kim Miller.

Suddenly, Alexandra’s name was on everybody’s lips, especially as word circulated that she’s achieved this level of the sport while earning her veterinary degree and entering practice. She’s had Jack for seven years, starting with him while based with Phillip Dutton back East. Jack is “part of the family,” chimed in Carla MacLeod, Alexandra’s head groom while visiting from their family farm in Virginia.

As a veterinarian, Alexandra said Jack’s victory reward will be plenty of time outdoors, on grass and “just being a horse,” at his new barn in Malibu. “That’s what I always think is the best.” As for juggling a major career with high level equestrian sport, Alexandra says prioritizing is critical. So is loving it, “because you do sacrifice a lot.” It also helps having the horsemanship base she developed during several years focused seriously on horses and working with Dutton and his ilk. Not needing much sleep is handy, too.

Tamie and Fleeceworks Royal finished second. She was dashed over rails in what looked like a very smooth round and unhappy not to deliver a win for the mare who’d been waiting in the wings during her Olympic odyssey. Tamie praised the winner’s performance. “Maybe I shouldn’t have helped her,” she joked of giving Alexandra some lessons and cross-country insights earlier in the week.

James and Paper Jam also had two rails to finish third. Rebecca Braitling and Caravaggio II finished fourth and young rider Sophie Click and Quidproquo’s double clear moved them from 8th to 5th in their impressive debut at the level. Canadian Pan Am team bronze medalist Dana Cooke and FE Mississippi had an uncharacteristic four rails to finish in 6th place.

The original field of 11 was whittled to six by the final day after two falls and two eliminations on cross-country, and James Alliston’s withdraw of his second 4* entry, Czechers.

Tamie Smith and Mai Tänzer. Photo by Kim Miller.

CCI3*-L: Smith, Alliston & Sanborn Stay Atop The Standings

Tamie Smith always wants to win, so two rails in the 4* may not have been offset by winning the 3* with MaiTänzer. It was a wire-to-wire cruise for the pair who stayed on their 31.9 dressage start. They tackled the stout jumping track as elegantly and efficiently as equitation medal finals winners from the hunter/jumper world. As on cross-country, the 8-year-old German Sport Horse locked in on each fence and cleared them with little apparent effort.

“I don’t feel he could have jumped any better today,” Tamie said. “He’s always been a very naturally good jumper. I’ve worked with (Australian Olympian) Scott Keach this past year a ton to become a better show jump rider and be better in my distances. I think it showed today. He jumped in a good shape and was still very relaxed and with good power.”

James Alliston and the 7-year-old Canadian Sport Horse, Nemesis, also jumped double clear to retain their second spot, finishing on their 32.4 dressage score.

Young Rider Audrey Sanborn and OBOS Quality Time closed out a terrific competition in third place overall. They also topped the Adequan USEF Youth Eventing Team Challenge West Coast Final in this division and earned the Mia Erickson Memorial Trophy as the top placed 3* Young Rider.

In a mock press conference that is part of the Youth Team Challenge program, Audrey said she was especially pleased with how “Diesel’s” bold nature helped them out over Friday’s tough cross-country course. “Being new to the 3*-L, I was really happy with how he came out.” Audrey praised the YTC as an excellent program for those with the right horse for it. “It was super fun and really added to the atmosphere here.”

Taren Hoffos and Regalla. Photo by Kim Miller.

CCI2*-L: Hoffos, Smith-Cook & Grandia Finish Top 3

Professional Taren Hoffos could not contain her emotions as she crossed the timers knowing she and Regalla had just won their first CCI2*-L. Just as in dressage and cross-country, the 10-year-old Oldenburg did as she was asked with enthusiasm and talent. “She really listens and always asks me what’s next,” Taren said. Regalla was purchased in utero by Taren’s mother, Carolyn Hoffos. “We’ve had our eyes on her her whole life and nothing bad has ever happened to her,” Taren explained of one reason for the horse’s trust. “We also have a really good relationship on the ground, which we work on all the time. I think that translates to when I ride her. I think it helps that I am in charge of her and I also work with her a lot.”

An eventing organizer herself, at the Hoffos’ Copper Meadows in Ramona, Taren appreciated the electric atmosphere of show jumping in the Grand Prix Arena ringed with VIP tents and grandstands. “Regalla wasn’t fazed by that, but that stuff tends to light her up in a good way.” One of her coaches, Buck Davidson, had advised her to try to get a rub in the warm-up arena, but the atmosphere was such that “there was no way that was going to happen,” Taren recounted with a laugh.

Taren credited a month spent at Buck’s Pennsylvania base with “kickstarting the whole fall season to be so successful.” The local support of Canadian Olympian Hawley Bennett-Awad has been equally important.

Taren and Regalla were flawless over three days to win on their 26.1 dressage score. Kaylawna Smith-Cook and AEV Above Authority, an 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse, were second on a 27.4 and Marc Grandia and Hyacinth, a 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood, were third on a 27.8.

California: Primed For Growth

United States Eventing Association president Rob Burk has been on site since opening day Thursday. Not kicking back in the VIP area, but in the field volunteering as a dressage scribe and all day Friday as ring steward for cross-country at the FEI and other levels. As a California native, he’s always been fond of the West Coast eventing scene. His current appreciation for what’s going on in the region is drawn from its positive influence on the national eventing scene.

“California has the most USEA members of any state, so it’s always been important to USEA. Plus, with the right infrastructure, it’s one of our areas that is most primed for growth. I think Galway Downs creates that lynchpin in that it’s a premier facility as we are looking toward the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. I think it is going to be a proving ground for probably a fair number of athletes. I think some of the smarter riders from other countries will see it as a good place to get acclimated to the West Coast scene: the footing, the weather, etc.

“Robert and his whole team have put their heart, soul and dollars into the facility and the events,” Rob continued. “It shows.”

What’s Next:

The Grand Prix Arena and heightened atmosphere are turned over to show jumping in the three special Challenge divisions Sunday, starting with Modified Training at 9 a.m. The new Challenges are an evolution of the Preliminary Challenge first staged by Robert Kellerhouse in 2009 at The Horse Park at Woodside. Now in their second year at the Galway Downs Fall International, the Modified-Training, Training-Novice and Novice-Beginner Novice Challenges are designed to develop, encourage and celebrate horses and riders gradually advancing up the levels. They were popular out of the box here last year and even more so this year.

Thank You Sponsors!

The Galway Downs team thanks its generous sponsors for enhancing the Fall International, including Adequan for making the Adequan USEF Eventing Youth Team Challenge West Coast Finals a special event for tomorrow’s stars.

Galway Downs’ sponsors are Auburn Laboratories, Shires, Kerrits, Uvex, Equifit, Zarasyl, Ride On Video, San Dieguito Equine Group, Stotz, Temecula Creek Inn, Symons and Geranium.

Galway Downs International (Temecula, Ca.): [Website] [Entry Status] [Schedule] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Tamie Smith Leads CCI4*-L, CCI3*-L, Taren Hoffos Leads CCI2*-L After Rigorous Cross Country Test at Galway Downs

Tamie Smith and Fleeceworks Royal. Photo by Sally Spickard.

“It’s all about what happens in the moment,” said Clayton Fredericks of how yesterday’s international cross-country tracks could be successfully navigated. There were many moments with many things happening on courses that fulfilled Fredericks’ mandate to build them fully up to the international standard.

Seven of 11 starters finished the CCI4*-L track successfully, with two falls and two eliminations. Even though the West Coast has fewer entries than elsewhere, those in the hunt are seeking World Championship and/or 5* qualifying scores and experience, Clayton noted. As such, it’s not right to make the courses anything less than what they’d face should those ambitions pan out.

Judith McSwain’s Fleeceworks Royal is fully back on form, reported a happy Tamie Smith after finishing the big and technical 4*-L route with only a few time faults. “It was a bit relentless,” she reflected. “You needed a horse that loves her job and is experienced at it.” Tamie has brought the now 12-year-old Holsteiner along since she was 3. Even with a gap in their time together the last 18 months as Tamie went to the Olympics and Europe, their partnership made relatively easy work of efforts that required setting a line and sticking with it and positive approaches to imposing obstacles from start to finish.

In the lead after a 24.9 dressage test, Tamie had some potential mental challenges before setting out with her second ride in the division. She and the promising star Elliot-V had a fall at the angled 4AB Pony Pond, an early challenge Clayton described as a wake-up call for what was ahead. Then, she and Fleeceworks Royal had to hold in the start box when Amber Birtcill and Cinzano took a spill at another difficult angled water obstacle, this one at 9AB. (Amber and Cinzano are OK.)

Their own pass through the Pony Pond was a bit rough, but otherwise Fleeceworks Royal handled everything like the World Championships candidate Tamie considers her to be. The time penalties were right where Tamie expected. “She needs more runs,” the rider explained of not putting pedal fully to metal this time out. “There’s no substitute for competing.” The resulting time faults brought their score to a 30.5, with a rail in hand for show jumping.

James Alliston and Paper Jam. Photo by Sally Spickard.

James Alliston and Paper Jam jumped up from 6th to 2nd by picking up only a 2 time penalties on cross-country. Steering can be an issue with the 12-year-old Hanoverian owned by James’ wife Helen Alliston. That added degrees of difficulty to a route with many bending turns, but James appreciated the practice and Paper Jam’s honest nature. “If I can line him up right, he’s honest and he’s a fast and a good jumper.”

Echoing comments of his fellow riders, James described the course as tough to the very last. In fact, at the 23AB Skinny Hedge and Corner (of 26 obstacles), Paper Jam nicked a flag at the B element, but it was cleared on review for no jumping faults. They go into show jumping on a 35.2.

The 23B element was also a bugaboo for Czechers, James’ second mount in the division. This rising star, another of James’ many chestnuts, had an uncharacteristic run-out.

Alexandra MacLeod and Newmarket Jack were the only pair to finish under the course’s 10-minute time limit, helping them move up from 7th to 3rd on their 37 dressage score. The new-to-California rider from the East is thrilled with today’s effort, especially as they’ve attained this level while she earned her veterinary degree. She and Jack are a seven-year partnership that began when she was a working student for Phillip Dutton. Now based in Los Angeles, she appreciated recent fine tuning and a course walk with Tamie Smith.

Alexandra’s only disappointment was assuring her visiting mom that the “courses out here will be softer than what I did at Fair Hill in Maryland. Instead, it was right up to that level!” Alexandra and Newmarket Jack stand 3rd.

Smith, Alliston & Sanborn lead the CCI3*-L

Double clears today moved Tamie Smith and James Alliston into one-two standings in this division, too, but there’s less wiggle room than in the 4*-L.

“We weren’t in the market for another horse,” Tamie says of MaiTänzer. “But because of COVID, he happened to be on a bit of deal, so we got him. He’s a bit green, having just done his first CCI3*, and I’m a little rusty on riding him, but he made the course feel easy. He reads the jumps well and he just zips around.”

Alliston Equestrian’s 7-year-old Canadian Sport Horse, Nemesis, has been “part of the family” since he was a yearling, James explains. After winning his first 3* at Rebecca Farm this summer, Nemesis continues to fulfill early promise as the pairs moves up from 9th to 2nd.

It’s close, though. Tamie and MaiTänzer have a 31.9. James and Nemesis have a 32.4, and Audrey Sanborn and OBOS Quality Time added only 2.4 time penalties to be third on a 33.3.

Even after excelling on today’s tough tracks, there’s no big sigh of relief, Tamie explains. “Show jumping is where it’s all won and lost,” she said of her standing in the 4* and 3*s. “I never take anything for granted.”

Taren Hoffos and Regalla. Photo by Kim Miller.

Hoffos, Gorin & Smith-Cook Atop the CCI2*-L

With less than one rail separating the top six contenders, nobody will be taking anything for granted in this division either as they head into the atmospheric Grand Prix ring for show jumping. The top three are the same as after dressage: Professional Taren Hoffos holds the lead with her mother Carolyn Hoffos’ 10-year-old Oldenburg mare Regalla; 16-year-old Rhiannon Gorin and CSF Handsome are second on 26.7 and professional Kaylawna Smith-Cook and AEV Above Authority are third on a 27.

A Rider’s Perspective on Course Design

A 5* competitor himself, Clayton Fredericks said he was happy with how the courses rode and felt they posed the right tests at each level. “I always ask myself, ‘If I was on a horse at this level, would this be fair to me?” Today’s courses were exactly that, he said. “As a course designer, we are always trying to create situations where the horse jumps well and safely.” He was gratified to see riders take a variety of striding and track options in several places — “reacting to what’s happening in the moment.”

What’s Next: After an 8 a.m. trot up, the international divisions conclude tomorrow with jumping in reverse order of their standings. The 2* is at 10:25; the 3* at 12:45; and the 4* at 2:15. Horse Trials and Challenge contenders continue with cross-country and finish with show jumping on Sunday.

Thank You Sponsors!

The Galway Downs team thanks its generous sponsors for enhancing the Fall International, including Adequan for making the Adequan USEF Eventing Youth Team Challenge West Coast Finals a special event for tomorrow’s stars.

Galway Downs’ sponsors are Auburn Laboratories, Shires, Kerrits, Uvex, Equifit, Zarasyl, Ride On Video, San Dieguito Equine Group, Stotz, Temecula Creek Inn, Symons and Geranium.

Galway Downs International (Temecula, Ca.): [Website] [Entry Status] [Schedule] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Galway Downs International: Smith, Turner & Hoffos Lead FEI Divisions After Dressage

Tamie Smith & Fleeceworks Royal. Photo by

It wouldn’t seem a California competition without Tokyo Olympic reserve rider Tamie Smith leading at least one international division. With four horses in the event, Tamie’s final ride of the day, Judith McSwain’s Fleeceworks Royal, was the one to put her atop, in this case of the CCI4*-L.  Their 24.9 score from Ground Jury Christina Klingspor of Sweden and the USA’s Marilyn Payne is a substantial lead heading into a Clayton Fredericks’ cross-country track that’s described as big, rigorous and fully up to the level.

Amber Birtcil & Cinzano. Photo by

Tamie is followed by Amber Birtcil, who continues a stellar season with Cinzano on a 28.1.

Dana Cooke & FE Mississippi. Photo by

Behind these two familiar California professionals, Canadian Dana Cooke and FEI Mississippi are third on a 29.2.

Tamie’s world travels and Fleecework Royal’s recovery from an unusual condition — an airway obstruction — have had the experienced Advanced mare out of the spotlight for much of the last 18 months. But “Rory” came roaring back today with a characteristically lovely dressage test.

Having recently seen the world’s biggest courses — Tokyo, Aachen, Boekelo, for example — Tamie has a worldly perspective on the route she and the 4*’s 10 other contenders will face tomorrow. “You do look at ‘home’ with different eyes because you’re more experienced with championship courses,” she says.  “I can tell you, this one is right up there.” She’s confident of Fleeceworks Royal’s ability to navigate it. She’s also confident of last year’s National 3*-L Champion, Elliot-V, her second ride in the division, but this is their first outing in the division and she’ll need to give the relatively green horse a different ride.

Galway Downs’ ascendance in the national eventing realm is drawing entrants from far and wide, but most likely it’s Canada’s Dana Cooke who’s traveled the farthest. Dana and her 2019 Pan Am Games team bronze medal partner FE Mississippi made the three-day haul from their North Carolina base and already consider it worthwhile. “We’ve been working on dressage: trying to break into the 20s consistently and clean things up,” she explains. “I was really happy with her today.”

Dana sourced the 11-year-old Pinto Wurttenberg from course designer Clayton Fredericks but doubts that will give her any edge tomorrow. “It’s quite a technical track and there is a lot of work to do all the way around. I think we’ll be good, but we’ll have to keep riding from start to end.”

Dana was last at Galway Downs about 15 years ago and is “highly impressed. They have definitely upped the standards of how it looks. It’s beautiful and Clayton has done a fabulous job designing.”

Haley Turner & Shadow Inspector. Photo by Leslie Potter/USEF.

Turner Tops 3* Leaderboard

This year’s Galway Downs International proudly hosts the Adequan USEF Eventing Youth Team Challenge West Coast Finals, so it’s appropriate that two of its contenders — Haley Turner and Audrey Sanborn — are in the top three of the 21-pair CCI3*-L field after dressage.

Nearly 19-year-old Haley and Shadow Inspector extend their long hot streak with a 25.3 test to lead the pack.

Audrey Sanborn & OBOS Quality Time. Photo by Leslie Potter/US Equestrian.

Idaho-based professional Stephanie Goodman and Drs. Resolute stand second with a 28.8, and California amateur Audrey Sanborn and OBOS Quality Time will start tomorrow’s cross-country sitting third on a 30.9.

The 3* Ground Jury is President Christina Klingsport of Sweden and Marilyn Payne of the USA.

Kayleen Crowley & Whiskey Up in the CCI3*-L. Photo by

A student of Bea and Derek DiGrazia in Northern California, Haley says she hasn’t yet gotten tired of answering questions about her long string of successes. “I’m grateful for it all!” she says. Haley and the 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse have tackled all the FEI levels together and this is their 3*-L debut. “We’ve been working at having a breakthrough at the FEI level and this was the best he’s ever felt in a test. He was very responsive to my leg through the entire test and had more expression in his extensions, which we’ve been working on.”

Haley is also grateful to have international eventer Lauren Billys coaching her this weekend. She also credits work with Volker Brommann as a big contribution to the team effort that’s helped her reach the dressage goals on display today.

Being part of the Adequan USEF Youth Eventing Team Challenge West Coast Finals is another source of appreciation, says Haley. That includes the qualifiers that preceded it at the Aspen Farms Horse Trials and Twin Rivers Fall International. “It’s a great way to meet other riders, have that extra level of competition and national recognition. Along with all of Galway Downs’ sponsors, I really appreciate Adequan sponsoring the event.”

Taren Hoffos and Regalla. Photo by

Hoffos Leads Two-Star’s Tight Leaderboard

Taren Hoffos and the 10-year-old Oldenburg mare Regalla inspired “ohs and ahs” from the railbirds as they laid down a 26.1 to trail blaze the 35-pair CCI2*-L division in front of Ground Jury Robert Stevenson and Amanda Miller, both of the USA.

Rhiannon Gorin & CSF Handsome. Photo by

Hot on their hooves is Rhiannon Gorin and CSF Handsome sitting second on a 26.7. Kaylawna Smith-Cook and AEV Above Authority are third on a 27.

Purchased in utero, the Sir Donnerhall mare Regalla won her first outing at the level, the CCI2*-S at Woodside in October.  “It’s really special to be riding her having had her in the family since before she was born,” says Taren of the horse owned by her mother Carolyn Hoffos.

The mare’s breeding suggests a dressage career and two years of dressage specific training reinforced that. However, at a certain point, “she got bored,” Taren explains. “So we said, ‘Let’s see if she can jump.'” Friday’s course will require that of her and Taren is confident. “She is ridiculously brave and a great jumper, so cross-country is really fun. She attacks the course and wants to go fast. She’s so responsive, it’s easy to go fast because I know she’ll come back.”

The Hoffos family owns the Copper Meadows training and show venue in nearby Ramona, giving Taren a unique perspective as a fellow USEA Area VI event organizer. Galway Downs organizer Robert Kellerhouse was Area VI’s “Organizer of the Year for a reason,” Taren observes. “He is constantly improving Galway Downs and the changes that he makes and the vision he has for it are amazing. I’ve been coming here since I was 12 years old and it’s unrecognizable.”

The venue’s amenities and the competition’s quality improvements are rising tides that lift all boats on the West Coast eventing scene, Taren notes. “You come to an event like this and you get the atmosphere and the presence of being somewhere fancy and intimidating. That’s good because you can feel how you and your horse react with that. It feels very big time.”

Marc Grandia & Hyacinth. Photo by

            Friday Action

FEI cross-country starts with 3* at 9:30, followed by 4* at 11:20 and 2* at 12:30, while  competition starts or continues in all Horse Trials and the special Challenge divisions that have become very popular.

            Thank You Sponsors!

 The Galway Downs team thanks its generous sponsors for enhancing the Fall International, including Adequan for making the Adequan USEF Eventing Youth Team Challenge West Coast Finals a special event for tomorrow’s stars.

Galway Downs’ sponsors are Auburn Laboratories, Shires, Kerrits, Uvex, Equifit, Zarasyl, Ride On Video, San Dieguito Equine Group, Stotz, Temecula Creek Inn, Symons and Geranium.

 Galway Downs International: WebsiteEntry StatusRide TimesLive ScoresLive StreamSchedule, Volunteer

CCI4*-L results after dressage: 

CCI3*-L Top 10 after dressage:

CCI2*-L Top 10 after dressage:

Combined Hosting of USEA FEH & YEH West Coast Championships Kicks Off at Twin Rivers

Janine Jaro’s Trilogy: 2020 USEA Future Event Horse West Coast Champion. Photo by Tina Fitch Photography.

The first combined staging of the USEA Future Event Horse Championships and the USEA Dutta Corp. Young Horse West Coast Championships last year was a big success. This year’s Championships, set for Oct. 28 and 29 at Twin Rivers, reflects that success in greatly increased participation. In addition to strong turnout from USEA’s Area VI, Wyoming, Washington, Utah, Arizona and Oregon are among the further flung regions represented in the Championships.

Over 40 Future and Young Event Horses will demonstrate their potential and developing skills, not counting those who earn a spot in Thursday’s “last chance” qualifier.

Super Showcase

Over two days, the contenders will compete in age-appropriate tests: from being trotted on the triangle and observed under saddle and free jumping in a chute to dressage and jumping.

After three years hosting the USEA Future Event Horse West Coast Championships as a stand-alone competition, the Baxter family organizers understand the fine art of exposing youngsters to an international atmosphere without overwhelming them.

“We have decorations and banners up to expose them to what’s up with this level of competition,” says Andrea Baxter. Yet the stimuli exist in spaces that allow the horses to absorb them. Dressage, for example, will take place in Twin Rivers’ beautiful “Flag Arena,” which sits atop a hill and is surrounded by segments of the cross-country course and hilly vineyards in the distance. “It’s a big arena, so that should help them take it all in,” Andrea says.

As venue owners and competition organizers, the Baxters have always had a mission to provide a place to develop and showcase horses and riders bound for the sport’s highest levels. “We are really excited to finally have a chance to promote all the young horses in one spot,” Andrea explains of holding these championships concurrently for the second consecutive year. “We are looking for this to be a real showcase and we hope it will keep gaining momentum for years to come. Last year was a huge success and we are really excited to see so many more entries this year.”

Andrea has her new mare Liefhebber entered in the Young Event Horse Championships. Fresh from the Fair Hill International CCI5*-L with her veteran partner, Indy 500, Andrea will present future equine stars alongside fellow high-level competitors including Amber Birtcil, Rebecca Braitling, Joseph McKinley, Tamie Smith and Kaylawna Smith.

Chris Ryan of Ireland and Susan Graham White of the USA are judging the FEH Championships.  Ryan and the USA’s Debbie Adams will officiate the Young Event Horse Championships.

Debbie judged the YEH West Coast Championships at Twin Rivers last year. “I was just blown away by what a good job they did,” said the New Jersey-based official at the show’s close in 2020. “I had no idea what to expect and, you know, you hear things: like the West Coast is not at the same standard as the East. But as soon as I walked the course and saw how the jumps were built, Peter (Gray, fellow judge) and I looked at each other and said, ‘This is amazing.’

Adri Doyal is on tap to design the courses.

            Halloween One Day Schooling Show

Sunday’s One Day Halloween Schooling Horse Trials is a proud West Coast tradition poised for another busy day of horse and rider development and fun.

              Sponsors & Volunteers

Twin Rivers is proud to host the USEA Future Event Horse and USEA Dutta Corp Young Horse West Coast Championships as part of its 2021 season. Presenting sponsors of the season include Professional’s Choice, manufacturers of sports medicine boots for equine athletes; and Auburn Labs, manufacturers of the adaptogenic APF Formula for horses, people and dogs; Best Western PLUS Black Oak, which offers exclusive discounts for exhibitors; and Get Away RV Rentals, which delivers fully-outfitted RVs to the venue for those who want to stay on site.

Supporting sponsors include Riding Warehouse, the horse gear and apparel supplier;  Chubby Cov, makers of beautiful custom stock ties; and RevitaVet, a leader in preventative maintenance and rehabilitative infrared therapy devices.

Twin Rivers has a full slate of competition set for 2022, highlighted by the second running of the Spring International CCI4*-L in April. For 2022 sponsorship opportunities, contact Christina Gray of Gray Area Events at [email protected].

Volunteers will be a huge part of this weekend’s Championships, as they have been throughout the year from the CCI4*-L to the One Day Horse Trials. Twin Rivers’ generous incentive program includes vouchers for show stabling and credits for schooling between events at the beautiful 500-acre venue. That is in addition to the genuine appreciation of the Baxter family and the entire Twin Rivers team.

To sign up, please visit www.twinrivershorsepark/volunteer.

Baxter, Smith & Smith-Cook Earn FEI Victories at Twin Rivers Fall International

Andrea Baxter & Indy 500. Photo by Ride On Photo.

When Andrea Baxter won the CCI4*-S at Twin Rivers this past April, she explained that there is no such thing as a “home field advantage.” Andrea’s family owns the competition venue and she bases her training business there. Yet, her long-time mount Indy 500 had no trouble sizing up the Sept 24-26 weekend as “show time” for the win.

Sitting second after a dressage test with which Andrea was very pleased, Indy had one rail and a quarter time fault in show jumping, then “cruised” across Hugh Lochore’s “big” cross-country track with 9.2 time penalties, the fewest in the division.  “Indy has one speed,” the rider said. “You kind of put a quarter in the slot and off she goes.”

Having anticipated that others would beat her on time, Andrea opted for an inside track in the five strides between the ditch wall to a corner. “I think the others may have seen me ‘chicken out’ on that with my first horse, (Indy’s son Laguna Seca). Nobody else tried it. When we landed from that, I said, ‘That’s my Burghley horse!’,” referencing her and Indy’s 2019 outing at the notoriously gnarly 5* in England.

Coming back from a bit of foot soreness, Indy had a game attitude throughout all phases that spoke well of the ground crew’s preparation and maintenance. “I was really pleased about that,” Andrea said. “It was like they rolled out the red carpet.”

Andrea and Indy head to The Fair Hill International 5* in Maryland in mid-October.

Fresh from Tokyo Olympics and the CHIO Aachen Nations Cup for Team USA, Tamie Smith finished second with Luisa Southworth’s Elliot-V and third with Judith McSwain’s Fleeceworks Royal. Her globetrotting seemed to underscore her appreciation for this home-turf venue: “They really put on a top-class event,” Tamie told her Instagram followers. “The footing, the presentation and organization were super and we should all be grateful to have a venue that tries to keep improving as our sport grows.”


With more gratitude for those on her Next Level Eventing crew who’ve kept her deep string of horses going, Tamie Smith won this division on the MB Group LLC’s Mai Tanzer in his debut at the level. “So proud of this boy and how smart and athletic he is,” Tamie said. “It’s not easy to just show up and ride, not on me or on my horses. But I’m lucky they trust me and try so hard. Everyone who is keeping them trained for me is doing one hell of a job!”

Also debuting at the level — horse and rider — Audrey Sanborn and OBOS Quality Time finished second. “All the pieces really came together,” said the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student of her partnership with “Diesel.” Some of those “pieces” got refined over the summer working for Andrea Baxter and Rebecca Braitling, both based at Twin Rivers. “It was nice to be at the barn all day, have the opportunity to ride a lot more horses and shadow how they handle their horse’s fitness and training plans. They are the best.”

USEA Area VI Youth Team Challenge Contenders. Photo courtesy of Twin Rivers.

USEA Area VI Youth Team Challenge Contenders

With the reserve 3* finish, Audrey was the highest finishing contender in the Adequan/USEF Youth Team Challenge Paso Robles. Evolved from the North American Youth Championships, the Challenge was a “super fun added element to have the feeling of being on a team,” Audrey reported. “All of the (five) girls competing kind of knew each other and it was a great chance to build relationships.”

Fellow Youth Team Challenge contender Madison Temkin and MVP MadBum finished third.  The young professional was thrilled with her mare’s debut at the level, citing a “lovely” dressage test despite a few pilot errors that affected their score. She’s had the now 8-year-old mare for six years and expressed great pride in her development. Madison’s finish put her 2nd in the Youth Team Challenge, too.


Kaylawna Smith-Cook and her own AEV Above Authority had 2 show jumping penalties and clear cross-country to advance from second after dressage into first place. Youth Team Challenge contender Taylor McFall and Stoneman, owned by Cheron Laboissonniere, were second after one rail in the stadium and double clear on the cross-country course designed by Adri Doyal of Mexico. Twin Rivers-based professional Rebecca Braitling and Arnell Sporthorses’ Right Above It were third.

            Young Horse Excitement

Excitement is building toward the increasingly popular USEA Future Event Horse and USEA Dutta Corp Young Event Horse West Coast Championships staged at Twin Rivers Oct. 29-30. The Fall International’s qualifiers identified rising stars: Julie Murray’s Mannoury vd Watermolen won the FEH 4-year-old on a 76.70 with Erin Kellerhouse; and Rylin Clarke’s NSF Cassiopeia scored a 79 to top the FEH 3-year-old standings.

Anita Nardine’s Quinn HSR scored an 81.80 with Kaylawna Smith-Cook to top the YEH 4-year-old ranks; and Julianne Guariglia’s Crafty Don led the 5-year-old YEH division with an 84.90 under Tamie Smith’s hand.

Excellent participation in the debut of this combined championships last year bodes well for even bigger attendance this year. There is a last-chance qualifier for the Championships Thursday, October 28. On Sunday, October 31, Twin Rivers hosts its popular Halloween Schooling Horse Trials

            Sponsors & Volunteers

The Fall International was made possible by generous sponsors: Presenting sponsors include Professional’s Choice, manufacturers of sports medicine boots for equine athletes; and Auburn Labs, manufacturers of the adaptogenic APF Formula for horses, people and dogs; Best Western PLUS Black Oak, which offers exclusive discounts for exhibitors; and Get Away RV Rentals, which delivers fully-outfitted RVs to the venue for those who want to stay on site.

Supporting sponsors include Riding Warehouse, the horse gear and apparel supplier;  Chubby Cov, makers of beautiful custom stock ties; and RevitaVet, a leader in preventative maintenance and rehabilitative infrared therapy devices.

For sponsorship opportunities, contact Christina Gray of Gray Area Events at [email protected].

As always, volunteers were critical to the Fall International’s success and were much appreciate by exhibitors and organizers alike.

            Up Next

  • USEA Future Event Horse & USEA Dutta Corp. Young Event Horse West Coast Championships (and an FEH qualifier Oct. 28), Oct. 29-30.
  • Schooling Halloween Horse Trials: Oct. 31

For more information, visit Twin Rivers Horse Park here.