Articles Written 97
Article Views 88,927

Kim Miller


Become an Eventing Nation Blogger

About Kim Miller

Latest Articles Written

Tommy Greengard and That’s Me Z Top Galway Downs Preliminary Challenge

Tommy Greengard and That’s Me Z. Photo by Tina Fitch Photography.

Young professional Tommy Greengard and That’s Me Z added this year’s Galway Downs Preliminary Challenge title to their two years of ongoing successes in the sport.

Launched in 2009, the Challenge is a West Coast fixture on the spring eventing circuit – giving horses and riders a step-up opportunity with slightly more difficult dressage and show jumping demands.

Equally important, the Challenge showcases its stars in front of a full VIP Pavilion in the buzzy party atmosphere of the Grand Prix Arena. It’s great for testing horses in an exciting environment and it’s festive and fun for exhibitors and fans.

The Preliminary Challenge ran concurrent with the Galway Downs Spring Horse Trials, May 10-12 at the Galway Downs Equestrian Center in Southern California’s Temecula Valley Wine Country. A lovely Mothers Day brunch carried the celebratory vibe into Sunday.

Tommy rides for Chocolate Horse Farm and he and Chocolate Horse’s owner Andrea Pfeiffer own “Z” together. The pair splashed onto the scene in 2022 as the top scorers, nationally, in the USEF Young Event Horse 5-Year-Old Championships and haven’t looked back.

With Intermediate mileage under Z’s belt already, the Challenge’s questions were easily answered in all three phases. After their 27.7 dressage start – from judges Michelle Henry and Carolyn Lindholm – the pair was flawless the rest of the way over cross-country designed by Rob Mobley and Alessandra Allen-Shin and show jumping designed by Chris Barnard.

The bigger priority was giving the Zangersheide 7-year-old more exposure to the Saturday night lights and atmosphere of the show jumping finalé. Neither that, nor the first time show jumping after cross-country, phased the talented horse. “He’s always been a very confident, special horse to bring along,” Tommy said of their two years together.

The Challenge has consistently offered $15,000 in cash and prizes and emphasized special awards presentations and parties to mark the achievements of all.

This year, exhibitors received gifts from Devoucoux, RevitaVet and the Arma line from Shires Equestrian. Devoucoux and CWD provided the top horse and rider a generous basket of approximately $1,500 worth of bridles, reins, martingale, show boots, etc…

Tommy’s Third Win

Tommy first rode in the Preliminary Challenge four years ago, and this year marks his third win. His own 4* partner, Joshua MBF, was his first winning ride. And another Young Event Horse superstar owned by the Chocolate Horse partners, Leonardo Diterma, was also crowned champ with Tommy in the irons.

This year, Tommy also finished 6th with I’m All In, a 6-year-old German Sport Horse that is newer to the level.

“It’s huge to get this level of atmosphere,” Tommy remarked. “It’s great for any event horse. We love the Preliminary Challenge and we encourage everybody to do it.”

Tommy refuses to “get all balled up about” about future plans, but the hope for Z is the FEI World Championships for Young Horses in France this fall. It’s a long ways off, he emphasized, but next steps include additional 3* mileage in Washington state and at Rebecca Farms, Montana, this summer. Receiving the USET Foundation’s Amanda Pirie Warrington Grant this year is making extra preparation possible.

Chocolate Horse Farm’s enthusiasm for the Challenge led to six stablemates entering the line-up. One of them is 2023 USEF Eventing Young Rider Championships team silver medalist Greylin Booth, who finished third overall and as the Top Rider.

Greylin and Quick Quinn, a 7-year-old Holsteiner, stayed on their 33.8 dressage score. (Greylin and professional Bec Braitling tied on that final score, with the closest to optimum cross-country time breaking the tie in Greylin’s favor.)

“It was so fun,” said Greylin, a high school junior who also finished 11th with Modesto RE. “Both of my horses are coming 7, and we picked the Preliminary Challenge for its format. We knew it would be a good experience to show jump in that amount of atmosphere and the dressage test is harder than anything I’d experienced.”

She loved the “incredibly fun, open” cross-country track. “Quinn is so brave and honest and I was able to let him go in some of the stretches, and he still had energy for show jumping. I am really pleased with how well he handled the atmosphere and focused on his job.”

As for her own nerves in that environment, Greylin said she benefited from a similar experience during last fall’s USEF Eventing Young Riders Championships, presented by USEA. Breath work and visualization techniques have been a big help, too. Above all, Andrea Pfeiffer and Tommy Greengard and the Chocolate Horse team have prepared her and her horses for confident progress.

The Galway Downs CCI 2*-L this fall is penciled in for both of Greylin’s horses. “I’m super excited about that and I also believe in letting the horses tell me what they want to do so we ensure good experiences.”

Bec Braitling, the California-based Australian international rider, took 4th place overall with Elliot V, one of two horses she rode in the Challenge for friend Tamie Smith.

A Warrior Rises

Southern California professional and Galway Downs regular Auburn Excell Brady rode the 7-year-old BSP Boudica to top horse honors. Like all three top finishers, they added nothing to their dressage effort – in this case a 29.5.

Auburn was thrilled with the KWPN mare’s outing – from the sand box to show jumping.

“This dressage test is more stop and go and for a horse like her, it’s kind of ‘in your face.’ Except for not working on the rein back enough, I’m pleased that I’d actually gotten her to where she knew what things were happening. She was confident and not put off by me.”

This pair has come a long way since Boudica came to Auburn in the fall of 2022 as a sales horse. “She was never an easy ride, but I finally started getting along with her.” A “come to Jesus” lesson with Ian Stark last summer helped turn the tide, she reported.

At the suggestion of Auburn’s husband, the mare’s name was changed to that of a notorious Celtic warrior. “Maybe I’m superstitious, but I think that might have helped, too!”

Competing regularly at Galway Downs helped put the mare at ease. And, fellow professional Taren Hoffos gave advice — “stop pulling on her” – that paid off over cross-country, Auburn added.

The Shows Go On…

Eventing competition at Galway Downs resumes with the he next recognized event, which will be the Oct. 30-Nov 3 Regional Championships and CCI-L that headline another fixture in the West – Galway Downs’ fall international competition.

Nilforushan Equisport Events stages high-level hunter/jumper competition, going on now through early June, then again in October. Shows in various disciplines keep the Galway Downs calendar full, with the June 14-16 Cheers to Summer dressage competition as a new highlight.

Visit for more information, and sign-up for the monthly Galway Gazette newsletter to stay abreast of news from this premier equestrian venue.

Smith, Hoffos, McIver and Holland Win FEI Divisions at Galway Downs International

Tamie Smith and Mai Baum. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Horses and riders were undaunted by the condensed schedule mandated by Saturday’s heavy rain forecast. They embraced an unusually busy day of competition to close out the Galway Downs International Horse Trials with super sport and high spirits.

The CCI4*-S concluded as predicted. Tamie Smith and Mai Baum jumped clear and careful, with only a few time faults on cross-country. They retained their dominant lead after a 23 dressage score and double clean show jumping on Thursday.

The 18-year-old German Sport Horse was raring to go. “He was happy to be out of the start box, and pretty wild out there,” Tamie said of her longtime star owned by Alexandra Ahearn. The finish was perfect prep for the next phase in their hopeful Paris Olympic journey – the CCI4*-S at the Defender Kentucky Three Day Event in late April.

Young rider Molly Duda and Disco Traveler continued an impressive ascent in the sport, finishing 2nd in their 4* debut. They were third after dressage, dropped a rail in show jumping, then roared across cross-country as the only pair to make the time over Clayton Fredericks’ track.

A freshman at UCLA, Molly left the gate determined to make the time. “He’s the best cross-country horse I’ve ever ridden and I know I can open him up out there and have him come back to me. We’re both very competitive and we had a blast out there.”

Doing the U21 and U25 training camps over the winter built on the super successes this pair had last year. Molly also credited show jumping work with Tamie Smith and dressage coaching from Robyn Fisher as key to their continued rise.

Molly was also 4th in the 3* with a newer horse, Carlingfords Hes A Clover, a 12 year old Irish Sport Horse. “Tommy” lives in the Bay Area with Mickayla Howard, who brought Molly up to the 3* level. Juggling a pre-med academic track, Molly is a time management master. “I compete and go to college full time. Both are really important to me. It’s a lot, but I love it!”

Rebecca Farm CCI4*-L is the next big goal for Molly and Disco Traveler, a 15-year-old Swedish Warmblood.

Bec Braitling was thrilled to finish third with Arnell Sporthorse’s Caravaggio II, a 13-year-old British Sport Horse. They are prepping for the Defender Kentucky CCI5*-L after gathering useful experience campaigning in Europe last summer. Today’s finish adds to their reserve champion result in the CCI4*-L at Galway Downs last fall.

Pace was Bec’s priority on cross-country. Incurring only 1.6 time penalties allowed them to move up from 6th after dressage to third. And that was even with a new noseband that gave the California-based Australian “more whoa than I wanted.”

Bec loved the track built by fellow Aussie, Clayton Fredericks. “I thought it would ride more twisty. But it was smooth and really fun to ride.”

She liked the re-shuffled schedule, too, with 4*-S dressage and show jumping on Thursday. “It makes it busy, but I loved being able to work on the fitness aspect of it for him.”

Emilee Libby and Toska added 10.8 cross-country time penalties to their dressage score to land 4th overall.

A rising star in Tamie Smith’s string, Kynan, finished 5th and felt “incredible, strong and so rideable,” she said. Another of Tamie’s mounts, Elliot V, had a tougher day — falling from 4th after show jumping, to elimination with three cross-country refusals. At the end of the day, Tamie said the 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood is probably telling her that 3* is his happy place.

Hoffos & Regalla Top the 3*

Taren Hoffos and Regalla. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Taren Hoffos and Regalla accomplished important goals in logging a wire-to-wire win of the CCI3*-S. This pair won the CCI2*-S in 2022, the CCI3*-S last year and this year they defended their title by finishing on their dressage score — a 32 — and under the cross-country time allowed for the first time at this level.

“Riding a smooth track, taking good lines and trusting her that I don’t need to set her up as much as I might think I do,” were keys to their winning effort, Taren said.

The forward mentality started with dressage. “Bec Braitling and I have been talking about FEI trends toward judges really wanting to see you ride forward – to put your hands forward and go. And I think that carries over.”

Show jumping has been “a struggle” in the past, but it was double clear over Marc Donovan’s route today. Taren had ridden in the Ingrid Klimke clinic here in December, where a crowd of 800 auditors buzzed the already electric Grand Prix Arena vibe. Taren thought the exposure contributed to Regalla’s focus in the same ring this morning for show jumping. “It was really valuable to ride in that atmosphere and that kind of pressure, but in a fun and positive way.”

Next on the 13-year-old Oldenburg mare’s agenda is moving up to Advanced at Twin Rivers in April.

Megan McIver and Elle, a 12-year-old Holsteiner, stayed on their 32.7 dressage to finish second. Bred by owner Tally Chang, the 15.3-hand mare is 70% Thoroughbred and “loves” cross-country, Megan explained.

“I could barely keep her in the start box she because was bouncing around with excitement,” said Megan. Once out of the box, they easily made the time to finish a close second. Elle goes in a snaffle, and “barely needs a touch to bring her back,” Megan said. “I never have to look at my watch to know she’s making the time.”

Elle’s sensitivity made dressage a challenge in the early days of their partnership. Megan credits Tamie Smith with coaching that clicked for the dressage court, plus ongoing work with Anke Herbert at her Northern California base. The Advanced Combined Test at Twin Rivers will be next for Elle. “She’s feeling like the 3* is too easy!”

Auburn Excell Brady and Galliard Lancer proved themselves a new pair to reckon with. They stayed on their 34.2 dressage to finish third.

McIver & Igor B Top the Parker Equine Insurance CCI2*-S

Megan McIver and Igor. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

All three phases of the Parker Equine Insurance CCI2*-S and the CCI1*-S took place today.

After two phases in the 3* with Elle, Megan McIver turned to a newer ride, Igor B, an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood, for this division. They moved up one rung with each phase to win on a 31.7.

Igor came from the U.K. with 4* experience, purchased by Leo Wang help Megan pursue her international goals. They first ran Training Level at Twin Rivers three weeks ago, then felt fine to advance to the 2* here. “But I didn’t expect to win!”

Young rider Hanni Sreenan and Ebenholtz were tied for 6th after their 28.4 dressage, then went clear in stadium and added 3.6 time penalties to finish 2nd. The result keeps this pair in the news after their USEF CCI2*-L National Championship and USEF Young Rider CCI2*-L National Championships at the Eventing Championships at Galway Downs in November.

Amber Birtcil and the 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood Mississippi went double clear on show jumping and cross-country to leap into 3rd place.

Holland and Joshua Tree Win the CCI1*-S

Fiona Holland and Joshua Tree. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Fifteen-year-old Fiona Holland and Joshua Tree, a 10-year-old Holsteiner, continued to establish themselves as a pair for the future. They won their first 1* by staying on a 27.5 dressage score.

Fiona aspires to the top of the sport and credits work with Tamie Smith, Kaylawna Smith-Cook and Bec Braitling for her auspicious outing today. That’s on top of riding on her own and weekly lessons with Julie Corlett in her Santa Ynez home area.

“We are both learning and I am stoked that we were able to take this step up together,” Fiona said.

Lauren Billys Shady and new ride Kingston 60 followed on a 29.6, and Grace Brownrigg and Dhaulagiri were third on a 31.2.

Ready For Rain

With the FEI divisions completed, the Horse Trials continue Saturday rain or not. The footing for all three phases of Galway Downs competition has proven its ability to withstand Mother Nature’s worst many times in recent years.

A festive dinner and awards ceremony closed out the international competition. Galway Downs organizer Robert Kellerhouse thanked exhibitors for their flexibility with the tightened-up schedule.

He expressed gratitude for the year-round support of Galway Downs’ sponsors. Robert welcomed Adequan’s Kat Kilcommons and Parker Equine Insurance’s Cheri Hubbert to help present the night’s awards.

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

Tamie Smith The Star So Far in Galway Downs CCI4*-S

Tamie Smith and Mai Baum. Photo by Sherry Stewart. Tamie Smith and Mai Baum. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Tamie Smith and Mai Baum. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Mai Baum is 18. He’s hot. And he knows it.

The German Sport Horse and his 2023 Land Rover Kentucky 5* champion partner, Tamie Smith, established a distant lead in dressage — scoring a 23 — in the Galway Downs International Horse Trials CCI4*-S.

With a rainy weekend forecast causing dressage and show jumping to be held on the same day in this division, the pair held that lead by easily clearing the jumps within the time allowed.

Emilee Libby and the Dutch Warmblood Toska sit second, also clear in stadium jumping, to retain their 32.2 dressage score.

Tamie occupies two more top 5 spots going into Friday’s cross-country finalé. Kynan is third after today’s two phases, with a 34.7, and Elliot V, is fourth on a 36, after 1.5 time faults in show jumping.

Best Ever

“I think that was his best dressage ever,” Tamie said of Mai Baum’ effort.

Ground Jury president and judge Sandy Phillips concurred. “It was wonderful to see,” she said of their test. “That is the picture we are looking for, with uphill self-carriage and in balance. When I talk about balance at the 4* level, we want to see engagement of the hindquarters, so the horse can lift the front end.”

Mai Baum’s performance reflected both a continuation of Tamie’s program – in which she works with several dressage luminaries — and an extra dose of forward emphasis, courtesy of British eventing legend Ian Stark. “I know not everybody would think of Ian for the flat work, but he really helped with the forward for all my horses.”

“I have a dressage background and I think we can tend to ride almost with a little bit of a backwards feeling,” Tamie continued. “Today Lexus was really forward and in front of my leg.” In short, “We’re just right with each other.”

That was true for show jumping, too, over Marc Donovan’s stout track. This was Mai Baum’s first eventing competition after earning individual third and team silver at CHIO Aachen last July. He prepped at show jumping and dressage competitions this year, and “was happy to be out here and running around” back in the eventing realm.

Mai Baum goes next to the Defender Kentucky Three Day Event in April, to run the CCI4*-S as a prep to peaking, hopefully, in Paris for the Olympics. “It’s about doing whatever is best for each horse,” Tamie explained. “Paris is going to be a very big test. I think some horses need to run a long format before and some don’t. I think it’s best for Lexus not to.”

Tamie was equally thrilled with Kynan, and Elliot V, both Dutch Warmbloods, and with two new horses. The Irish Sport Horse, Sumas Tina Turner, and the Selle Francais stallion, Pierre’s Farceur du Bochard, are 2nd and 4th in the CCI3*-S after dressage.

Asked about her deep string of high-quality horses, Tamie said, “I’m just going to keep enjoying it! It was a longer time that I had really difficult horses!”

Drilling The Dressage

Emilee Libby described Toska’s test as crossing a new threshold in rideability. “We’ve been drilling the dressage more this last month. I realized she can do 3, 4, 5 days of dressage in a row and get better. Sometimes a horse can get annoyed or tired of it, but she’s getting stronger and we’re putting those pieces together. She is starting to mentally come back to earth for me.”

Clean show jumping looked to be a breeze for the 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood. Emilee hopes that Toska will retain her new level of rideability over Clayton Fredericks’ cross-country course tomorrow. “Basically, though, she knows her job. I just need to point her in the right direction.”

Organizer Robert Kellerhouse’s crew, Galway’s officials and exhibitors are adept at working around the weather. With rains forecast to hit Saturday, this year’s CCI-Short became even shorter. The 3* and 4* were condensed to Thursday and Friday and the CCI1* and Parker Equine CCI2* will hold all three phases on Friday.

The 14-horse CCI3*-S field did dressage this afternoon, with Taren Hoffos and Regalla, an Oldenburg, sitting first on a 32 score. The pack is close. Tamie Smith and Sumas Tina Turner are second on a 32.6 and Megan McIver and Elle, a Holsteiner, sit third on a 32.7.

Cross country for the 4*-S begins today (Friday) at 9:30 am PST / 12:30 pm EST and will be live streamed here.

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

West Coast Eventing Spotlight: Meet Course Designer Alessandra Allen-Shinn

Photo courtesy of Alessandra Allen-Shinn.

Alessandra Allen-Shinn is outstanding in her field.


As in, she’s happiest while out standing in the field – ideally, a cross-country field. Designing the course, building the obstacles, working the ground or galloping across it, the 3* eventer and USEF and FEI certified course designer and course builder is a rising star in the West Coast eventing world. She’s set on building 5* tracks and has the talent, determination and industry respect to get there.

“Ali” lives in Kalispell, Montana, where she is assistant trainer for Olympian Jil Walton. Jil’s stable, JARBA Farm, winters at Galway Downs and Ali comes with, caring for the horses, including her own. When she’s not riding or tending to them, she’s plotting new tracks, building new obstacles, and helping horse and property owners with range of small construction tasks.

Building jumps and related materials falls under Ali’s Ride-Sharp enterprise.

While based at Galway Downs, Ali loves her daily mix of running the barn, then hopping out onto cross-country with venue manager and competition organizer Robert Kellerhouse to plot next steps and possibilities.

Having earned her small “r” course design license from the US Equestrian Federation in 2018, Ali has been creating Preliminary and lower-level courses for Galway Downs for three years. Last fall, she earned her FEI Level 1 credentials, allowing her to design at the CCI1* and 2* levels, too.

She’s a regular in USEA Area VII, too, where she builds and designs for Arrowhead Horse Trials, Herron Park and private facilities. The Spring Gulch Horse Trials in Colorado and the Mill Creek Pony Club Horse Trials in Missouri are more events for whom Ali is designing courses.

At Galway Downs, Ali is excited about new fences for the lower-level tracks. The FEI routes have undergone constant additions and upgrades in the look, type and construction of the fences and now it’s the lower levels’ turn. Look for horse head rolltops to match those on the Advanced and Intermediate tracks this season and more nice additions.

One of Galway Downs’ ongoing missions is to make the “lower part” of the property – the cross-country course – as nice as the “upper part,” the Grand Prix Arena, VIP Pavilion and surrounding amenities. Ali’s ongoing work is a big part of that transformation.

How It Started

Ali in competition mode. Photo courtesy of Ride On Photo.

Course design and building doesn’t often arise as a career dream for kids. However, Ali knew what she wanted to do even before she knew it was a professional option.

She traces the earliest inklings for her career path to tagging along with her mom who volunteered as a steward. “I often went with her, putting out flags, whacking weeds and all that stuff. I loved that part of it, but I didn’t realize courses were actually planned. I kind of thought you just threw jumps out in a field and went and jumped them.”

As her riding advanced through lessons and clinics, she began to see the rhyme and reason behind the placement of fences, the tracks between them and the construction, materials and look of the obstacles. “Especially riding with course designers and others who were serious about it, it all started to make sense.”

As she realized that “This was a thing!,” Ali investigated the educational and certification path to becoming a course designer. The more she pursued educational tracks, “the more I got into it.”

Earning certification is not for the faint of heart or the impatient. “It takes a long time because you have to get apprenticeships with different people,” Ali explains. “You ask if you can follow them around while they’re working and ask them questions, and they must fill out paperwork afterward.” In the early days, Ali was sometimes mistaken for a not-very dedicated applicant looking to pad their resume. A few apprenticeships in, however, word got round that she was the real deal and getting “yes” from licensed designers became easier.

Over The Hump

“I feel like I might be over the hump,” says Ali with her characteristic self-effacing humor. “The course designer I’ve ask to apprentice with might call a contemporary and ask, ‘This annoying girl is bugging me. Is she worth it?’ Now, they hear, ‘Yes, let her hang out with you.’”

Adri Doyle is one of Ali’s favorite mentors. “It’s nice to have another girl to talk to and it’s unusual.” Adri is also a technical delegate, which increases the odds of working together. “We help each other setting stuff up and that’s fun. And she’s always honest with me.”

Rob Mobely, FEI course builder, USEF licensed designer and Galway Downs builder, is another favorite mentor.

Shadowing Olympic course designer Derek DiGrazia at the Land Rover Kentucky 5* last year was a learning curve high point for Ali. Given the option of tagging along several weeks before the event or during the week before set-up, Ali chose the latter and was thrilled with the experience.

“That week before, they are adjusting things just a tiny bit. Like the placement of trees as a visual element on the course. Even just by a couple of feet. It’s awesome to know all that information, then watch what happens during the competition.”

A View from the Saddle

Alessandra Allen-Shinn and Fool Me Once. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Like most of her course design colleagues, Ali rides and competes herself. So she has no problem when riders inquire about some of her decisions. “They always say, ‘Why the heck did you do that? How could we ever make it from here to there?’ But actually, it’s often the case where I’m setting the course up to do something for them. When I set something off a turn, that is just balancing the horse for you. If you are going to a coffin jump, you need a packaged canter, so that turn has stopped you from having to haul on your horse’s mouth. I did that for you.”

Ali began plotting her tracks for the Kick Start Horse Trials this weekend back in November, during the Eventing Championships at Galway Downs. At every competition, she prioritizes changing things up. “I don’t want anybody – horses or riders – to think, ‘Oh, I just did that three months ago.’”

She happily puts plenty of thought into every detail – especially during the months based at Galway Downs. “I know the property well and I think about it a lot. I spend a lot of time on the tractor working on the footing, too. Between that and visualizing everything, I like to change my plans for each event as it gets closer. Sometimes riders try to find out what’s in store for an upcoming course, but until I’ve set it and it’s staked, it could still change.”

In her own riding, Ali’s main horse now is 7-year-old Banksy, who she is prepping for his first CCI2*. As a course-designer, builder and rider, it can be hard to focus on riding while competing, especially over a track designed by someone else. “Sometimes it makes me crazy because I over-analyze elements of the course as I’m going around.”

On balance, however, Ali loves her life of juggling related activities. It keeps her beyond busy, which reflects the constant demand for her many talents.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for the Galway Downs Gazette, delivered to your email inbox each month, here. 

California Eventing Spotlight: Meet Harper Padgett

Photo by Tina Fitch Photography.

When 15-year-old Harper Padgett arrived at the USEA’s U21 Emerging Athlete national camp this week, she didn’t know what horse she’d be riding. The Seattle-based rider’s three horses are in Florida for the winter, so she’ll be participating in the session with US Olympic gold medalist David O’Connor on a catch ride.

“It’s kind of fun!” said Harper of the awaiting surprise. Plus, she believes that the more experiences she has, the better ride she can give her own horses and the better prepared she’ll be to attain her long-term goal of representing Team USA.

Catch riding is part of Harper’s plan, as is competing on the jumper circuit and taking lessons with dressage and jumping experts.

This past summer, Harper competed jumper division catch rides at Thunderbird Show Park in British Columbia and loved it. “I think it’s an important part of improving and getting a feel, not just for my main horse, but for riding and developing younger horses.” Along with eventing work, she’ll be contesting the Winter Equestrian Festival jumping circuit in Florida this season.


Even without catch rides, Harper enjoys plenty of variety in her own horses. As her longest time partner, Captivate has been Harper’s best coach. Formerly her mom Leonie Padgett’s horse, Captivate passed to Harper when she was 12 and helped her rapid ascent from Novice and Training to Preliminary and 2* in their first year together, at only 13. “Being able to trust him and having him be so steady at the level has helped me feel so confident in bringing up a young horse to that level.”

He’s a relatively calm character. “It’s nice having a horse that can make the time in Prelim but you don’t feel like he’s running away with you.”

Harper is “super excited” about that younger horse, Cooley Starship, who is the opposite of Captivate personality-wise. “He’s a fiery, super sensitive hot horse,” says Harper. “I’m learning how to ride him and calm him down.”

At the Eventing Championships at Galway Downs last November, this pair was 2nd in the USEF Eventing Young Rider Championships at the CCI1*-L level, and third overall in the division. “I think he is going to be one of my long-term horses,” Harper shares. “I haven’t wanted to rush anything with him. The Young Rider Championships were easy for him and I’m very excited for Preliminary and 2* with him this year.”

Harper also has a newer and more seasoned horse in Cooley Co-Presenter. Her first few months at home with him have been encouraging. So much so that she expects him to be her Intermediate and 3* partner now that she’s entered her 16th year and is eligible for those divisions.

At-Home Horsemanship

Photo by Kim Miller.

Harper keeps her horses at the family’s Seattle area farm. With academics an equal priority to riding, Harper has help with barn chores during the week. She enjoys doing all the conditioning work in the afternoons and handling the horse care responsibilities on the weekends.

Their property has hills for stamina and strength building and Harper uses the time riding on her own to absorb and apply lessons learned from her coaches. “Obviously, horsemanship is not just about the riding,” Harper observes. “Being with the horses 24/7 helps build our bond and developing their ground skills is important to producing our partnerships.”

When she’s home, Harper works with jumping professionals Lauren Crooks and John Turner and dressage coach Debbie Dewitt. This winter, she’ll compete one of her horses on the Winter Equestrian Festival jumping circuit in Florida under Lauren’s watch. She admits the jumper world is tempting. “I love the jumping and there are a lot more girls my age on that circuit. But I love eventing, too, and I wouldn’t want to give up the momentum I have there. Plus, I love the people in eventing. Everyone is so supportive.”

US Olympic eventer Phillip Dutton is Harper’s coach when she’s in Florida. She’s been working with Phillip since meeting him at a clinic at Galway Downs three years ago. Phillip and Liz Halliday have helped source Harper’s horses.

Emerging Athlete

Last year’s accomplishments align perfectly with Harper’s big goals. She was the top Junior Preliminary rider in the country and in USEA Area VII.

Earning a spot in the Emerging Athlete national camp enhances those competitive accomplishments. The 18 participants for the January national camp are drawn from a larger pool selected for five regional camps held earlier in the year. The Jan. 2-6 camp at Kings Way Farm, across the road from Galway Downs, marks the USEA’s second staging of the session and Harper was selected both times.

She appreciates the camps’ half riding and half lectures format. Harper has referenced notes taken in last January’s deep dives on dressage, jumping and cross-country throughout the year. She’s pleased that the USEA offered that depth of education at the regional and national camps, so that more up-and-coming riders can benefit from it.

Networking was another focus of the non-riding sessions. “They talked about the publicity aspect of getting your name on those lists when it comes to grants and being able to advocate for yourself. Building your own connections was a big topic last year.”

Above all, the camps’ focus on training and development basics — including the German training scale — are invaluable as she ascends the levels, Harper says.

Harper recalls being passionate and driven from the start. Her mother Leonie Padgett had evented while growing up in New Zealand. She steered Harper in the eventing direction early on and continues to be a super supportive horse mom and an amateur competitor herself. Harper enjoys sharing the sport with Leonie and having a daily brain storming partner when it comes to training challenges, highs and lows of life with horses and career goals.

Harper started riding a pony at 8 and “I just loved the competition and wanted to do my best all the time.” Prioritizing high school and riding, and maintaining a healthy balance between the two, is an intense juggling act, she acknowledges. But she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for the Galway Downs Gazette, delivered to your email inbox each month, here. 

Meet Galway Downs Fundraiser Clinician Ian Stark

Ian Stark teaches at Galway Downs. Photo by Kim Miller / The West Equestrian.

As a six-time Olympic silver medalist and renowned international course designer, Ian Stark has seen a lot. One thing he hasn’t seen is another equestrian venue stage a clinic anything like the Galway Downs fundraising affair set for Jan. 19-21.

“It’s quite brilliant,” he says. “All these clinicians putting something back to help develop the sport and its venues.”

This year’s gathering marks the 26th year and Ian’s been there from the beginning. In fact, his connection to Galway Downs pre-dates the clinic because he’d flown over the year before to coach riders here. Most of all, he explains, he loves the knowledge ripple effect of the clinic.

“Some of the riders are giving instruction themselves, and then I have them riding with me, too. Everybody benefits from that. It’s all encompassing and very positive. I think nearly all the more experienced riders are very keen to help all the young riders – to give some information and share their experiences,” Ian continues. “Our sport has always been great from that point of view and the Galway Downs clinic epitomizes that.”

Galway Downs’ Growth

Photo by Tina Fitch Photography.

Visiting every January and designing Galway Downs’ cross-country tracks for many years, Ian has had a front-row seat for the venue’s evolution.

“Galway Downs has grown beyond all recognition,” he observes. “The whole venue is quite impressive.” Ian first came long before Ken Smith purchased the property and began investing in it as a multi-faceted special events site. While community soccer fields now occupy some of the original space for cross-country, Ian sees positives in that.

“There are so many great things going on out there now. With the soccer pitches being on grass, it does mean the footings changes a little bit for the horses. And that means the riders have got to ride accordingly – their horses might react differently.” It’s an opportunity, he explains, for competitors to develop the adaptability required in eventing.

Galway Downs’ evolution parallels the evolution of the talent pool preparing in the West. “The quality of the horses and riders has always been reasonably good, and it’s gone into another stratosphere now,” Ian says. “The riders have so many more opportunities and now the West Coast can compete very competitively on the East Coast and against those based in the East. In the beginning, they were quite behind on that. I think a lot of that comes down to the dedication of people like Robert Kellerhouse and the other great organizers of West Coast competitions.”

One consequence of riders’ progress is that Ian has fewer opportunities to playfully admonish people for counting strides on cross-country. Early on, that was an obsession for many, not just at Galway Downs but among American riders in general, Ian recalls. “I’d ask them to jump certain jumps on cross-country and they’d ask me ‘how many strides?’ I’d say, ‘I have no idea! Go and ride it and react to what you’ve got’.”

Walking courses is useful for knowing whether a combination is a forward or holding distance, and evaluating terrain that affects that, he says, “but I’d much rather people rode from feel. You have to react to however the horse jumps into a combination, then make it happen for the rest of the combination. I like to tease American riders about being hellbent on knowing and riding for certain striding, but there’s a lot less of that now.”

Ian’s approach draws on his own training system. “My training has always been to ride around the farm, go out hunting, jump everything, get on with it and react.” He acknowledges, however, that “there is a lot to be said for both approaches. Instinct and feel are, for me, more important than the number of strides. But when you walk a course, you’ve got to know whether it’s an open or short distance, then have the feel to react if your horse jumps in too boldly or a bit backward and be able to make happen what needs to happen.”

As a competitor and a course designer, Ian has seen the whole sport of eventing evolve. “It’s a different sport, to be honest,” he says. “When I was competing, we still had roads and tracks and steeplechase and the courses at Badminton and Burghley were 13 minutes long. We don’t get courses that long anymore. Cross country day was speed and endurance. It’s still difficult to make the time and gallop clean around many of our courses, but it’s not quite the stamina affair it used to be.

Course Design Finish Line

Ian Stark taking a dip in the water complex on a warm day in Rio. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

“Everything evolves,” Ian concludes – and that includes his course designing career. Fair Hill International this October will be his last course designing assignment. He’s facing the reality with mixed thoughts and emotions.

Until a few years ago, the International Equestrian Federation, the FEI, mandated that officials retire at age 70. That extended to 72, then the limit was removed all together. Yet, Ian had geared this life plan toward retiring at 70 and he’s sticking to that despite considerable pressure to continue.

“I think it’s a good decision. I’ve always been very aware of and anxious about hanging on to something for too long,” he says. “Knowing when to quit is never easy. If you hang on too long you could lose your edge and stop younger people from coming through. I’d rather go when people still want me!” He acknowledges there are different perspectives on this question but feels good about his own.

His family’s Ian Stark Equestrian Centre, and his adult children and four young grandchildren, tilt him toward the original retirement timing. Plus, he’ll keep a hand in course design’s future as a mentor to younger designers.

Ian hopes the pipeline of younger designers will get fuller. Since the FEI implemented more levels of course designer certifications and requirements, “it’s become even more difficult for young ones to get to the top levels,” Ian observes. “It worries me that it takes too long to move up to the higher levels and I hope there will become a way for the very talented ones to be fast tracked.”

Course design is not a track for the faint of heart, he cautions. “When you’re riding, you get a knot in your stomach until you get on and get that adrenaline going. As a designer, you don’t get that release of pressure. And the pressure is enormous.”

The work’s rewards come at day’s end. “The most gratifying aspect of course design is when a rider comes up at the end of the day and says their horse was a bit green at the beginning, but it improved throughout the round and finished with a smile on its face.”

Busy “Retirement” & A Brilliant Career

Ian Stark discusses frangible technology. Photo by Erin Tomson.

Even without designing around the world, Ian has plenty to keep him busy. Run by his wife, Jenny, the Ian Stark Equestrian Centre is located on 500 acres in the Scottish Borders’ town of Selkirk. It offers lessons and a full calendar of competitions and events.

Helping Great Britain earn team silver at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics was a launch point for Ian’s international riding career. His resume includes six Olympic silver medals; World Championships team gold and silver and individual silver; and six team golds, plus individual gold and silver, at the European Championships. He is a three-time Badminton winner and remains the only rider to have finished 1st and 2nd in the same year, which he did in 1988.

Ian retired from team riding in 2000 and “mostly” retired from riding in 2007. The allure of the saddle, however, is such that Californians have seen him campaign or school a horse or two over here in the years since.

Snow skiing fulfills Ian’s free time these days, making up for the years when he abstained because of its injury risks.

His many honorifics include MBE from the Queen of England in 1989 and OBE in 2000; Honorary Fellowship of the British Horse Society and induction into the Halls of Fame of Sporting Scotland, Sporting Scottish Borders, the British Horse Society and the Event Riders’ Association.

In short, he’s a living legend in our sport and the wisdom and wit he’ll share at the Galway Downs fundraising clinic is not to be missed.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for the Galway Downs Gazette, delivered to your email inbox each month, here. 

Ingrid Klimke’s Wine Country Masterclass a Huge Hit

U.S. Tokyo Olympic Team Silver Medalist – Sabine Schut-Kery and Mr. Spielberg. Photo by Kim Miller / The West Equestrian.

Ingrid Klimke’s Masterclass in the Wine Country drew 700-plus enthusiasts Dec. 2-3 for a fantastic, fun weekend of learning from the 5-time German Olympic eventer and international dressage rider.

Ingrid’s love of the horse was palpable all weekend and she shared Classical dressage and training principles, the multiple benefits of cavalletti work and much more. It was wonderfully staged by Kelly Artz and her organizing team at Entrigue Consulting. All the riders and horses were amazing and it was great to see Galway Downs gussied up again just a month after the Eventing Championships.

Photo by Kim Miller / The West Equestrian.

Divided into six sessions with two horses/rider pairs each, the Masterclass saw Ingrid share her expertise and advice with everything from young dressage horses to those close to Grand Prix level. A session with three eventers – Chloe Smyth, Taren Hoffos and Grace Walker – closed each day.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Haygain USA (@haygainusa)

The versatility of cavalletti work was evident in every session. Cavalletti work is one of many training tactics Ingrid inherited from her father, the eventing and dressage master Reiner Klimke. She has refined the work with successive editions of the book Cavalletti for Dressage and Jumping, 4th Edition. The evolution includes creating her own cavalletti that were used at three heights in a wide variety of gymnastic exercises to fulfill various strengthening, suppling and training objectives.

Arranged in straight and serpentine patterns and set in different distances and striding options, the cavalletti served many functions. They helped horses learn to sit into their hind quarters and develop the strength to articulate their knees, shoulders, stifles and hocks.

Photo by Kim Miller / The West Equestrian.

Circle and serpentine work helped riders prepare for turns — whether they occurred in a jump course or dressage court. They taught suppleness and responsiveness to bend and to change that bend smoothly and on short notice. Stride extensions and collections were yet another area where Ingrid’s cavalletti exercises helped participants advance their partnership, whether that was played out in the dressage court, the jumping arena or on cross-country.

This was really a treat and privilege to have Ingrid in California. She clearly loved the sunny winter weather and Galway Downs’ ability to host both educational opportunities in an elegant, comfortable setting.

Here’s hoping Ingrid will return soon!

Want more updates from Galway Downs? Visit their website to sign up for the Galway Gazette email newsletter!

Building a Base of Support at the Annual Galway Downs Fundraiser Clinic

Photo by Tina Fitch Photography.

The annual Galway Downs fundraising clinic is set for its 26th year – Jan. 19-26, 2024 and sign-ups are open now!

Olympic eventers Ian Stark and Jock Paget are the featured clinicians. Land Rover Kentucky 5* winner Tamie Smith headlines a roster of 24 “local” eventing professionals ready to share their expertise. Friday, January 19 features private dressage lesson opportunities with Donna Weinberg or Jo Moran.

The clinic began as and continues to be a way to help fund first-class eventing competition and it’s become a fixture on the West Coast calendar.

Deb Rosen asserts that it’s much more than a money-maker. “It’s my favorite weekend of the year,” says the Wild Ride Eventers proprietor who has participated from the get-go.

A Base Builder

Funds raised from the clinic go to ongoing venue improvements and maintenance. Photo by Tina Fitch Photography.

“It started as a grassroots event,” she recalls. “Getting everybody together at a time when Galway Downs was new and we wanted to help promote all the efforts being made on behalf of eventers in our area.”

Since then, the clinic has become key to building the base for the sport. Deb is based at the El Sueno Equestrian Center north of Los Angeles. She sees a thriving community of professionals helping riders at the entry and lower levels of eventing.

At the Galway fundraiser, these pros can ride themselves and bring students. Deb estimates that many of those kids and adults will be riding off property for the first time.

One of the most in-demand professionals on the roster, Deb is happy to work with all levels, perhaps especially those relative newbies who want an adventure and education without being overwhelmed. “It’s fine with me if you just want to walk over logs on the ground,” she says. “All of these riders contribute to building up the base of the sport.”

Deb sees the ripple effect of participating in the clinic. Initially, riders stick with her year after year, then gradually branch out. “They’ll ask me, ‘Do you think it’s OK if I ride with someone else?’ That gives me chills when they want to ride with another educator.”

The clinic is part and parcel of Galway Downs’ support of the region’s horses and riders, Deb adds. “I can’t thank Robert Kellerhouse enough for what he has done for our sport and for me personally. There are so many things I would not have been able to experience if it wasn’t for Robert. He and Katy Robinson are just delightful.”

Katy Robinson is coaching herself and suggests another benefit of the clinic – “It’s a great way to check out a trainer you might be considering working with. It’s a super opportunity to see them work.”

The clinic welcomes spectators, although care must be taken while walking on cross-country as there are often a few groups working in different parts of the course. It’s a great way to learn more about cross-country in general and to see how a range of professionals approach various questions on course. In past years, a few brave hunter/jumper riders have entered at the lower levels to test the eventing waters.

A social gathering on Saturday evening adds to the weekend fun.

How It Works

Photo by Sally Spickard.

The Standard Clinic program includes Saturday and Sunday group cross-country lessons, with stabling included. Group or private lessons with Jock and private lessons with Ian Stark are separate options that do not include stabling in the entry fee. Ian and Jock offer dressage, show jumping and cross-country.

At press time, the professionals donating “Standard” cross-country clinic experiences are Allyson Hartenburg, Auburn Excell Brady, Barb Crabo, Chloe Smyth, Deb Rosen, Emilee Libby, Erin Kellerhouse, Frederic Bouland, Gina Economou, Hawley Bennett Awad, Jennifer Johnson, Katie Willis, Katy Robinson, Kaylawna Smith Cook, Kim Goto Miner, Lisa Sabo, Mickayla Howard, Megan McIver, Olivia Putrino, Stacia Arnold, Susan Friend, Tamie Smith, Taren Hoffos and McKenzie Rollins.

Groups are organized by skill and experience level, from. The closing date for entries is January 12. Slots fill up fast and additional clinicians are often added to the roster.

Sign up here.

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.

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

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

This post is brought to you in partnership with:

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.