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Frankie Thieriot Stutes & Lauren Billys Top Twin Rivers Winter H.T.

Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin, 1st in Advanced. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

It was almost 20 years ago that the Baxter family purchased 500 acres in the sleepy Central California Coast town of Paso Robles. Where others saw fallow farmland, they saw the potential for international equestrian competition. And it was international competitors, Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Tamra Smith, who led the Advanced division at the Feb. 28-March 1 Winter Horse Trials, staged by the Baxters and their Twin Rivers Ranch team.

The team has grown and the venue has transformed in those nearly 20 years, but the mission remains the same: providing a West Coast stage for the pursuit of equestrian dreams at all levels — and to doing so with a distinctly California accent of warm, welcome-to-the-family hospitality. When they’re not out doing the myriad tasks that make Twin Rivers a favorite West Coast eventing destination, owners Connie and Jeff Baxter can often be found behind the central gathering spot’s outdoor bar, serving friends new and old with a smile. Their daughter Andrea Baxter contributes in many ways while pursuing her 5* eventing career. This weekend, she finished fourth on her feisty Thoroughbred mare, Indy 500, in the Advanced division.

Super hosts, Twin Rivers owners Connie and Jeff Baxter. Photo by Kim Miller.

Three hundred-plus pairs, from throughout the region, filled five dressage courts on Friday. Over the weekend, they tackled Hugh Lochore and Marc Grandia’s upper and lower level cross-country courses and the challenging Jose Nava-designed show jumping routes. With show secretary Christina Gray of Gray Area Events at the logistical helm, the schedule ran smoothly and all horses and riders made it back to their barns or beds safely every day.

The overall outcome bodes well for the Twin Rivers Spring International, April 10-12, which includes the debut of the CCI4*-Long division, one of only six events in the United States to host this rigorous level of competition.

Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin, 1st in Advanced. Photo by Sherry Stewart.


Frankie Thieriot Stutes and the Chatwin Group’s Chatwin were double clear over Jose Nava’s show jumping track to hold their lead. The rider was thrilled after cross-country to simply have her 5* partner back in form after health issues last year. His rideability and form made for an effort Thieriot Stutes described as one of Chatwin’s best ever.

“I usually have to halt him several times in the warm-up, and today I didn’t need to,” the rider said. It’s a testament to how he’s feeling and a culmination of strength, fitness and technique work advised by team members including USEF Eventing Performance Director Erik Duvander and Thieriot’s close friend and peer, Tamra Smith. “Because we have such a good team behind us, we’re the ones who just get to do the fun stuff!” Thieriot Stutes noted.

She praised many facility upgrades that help amplify the atmosphere. Named to the USEF Pre-Elite Training List, Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin are prepping for the Land Rover Kentucky and beyond. “It’s really great to see what the Baxters have done to make it feel like a big round in a big place,” she said of the Sunday scene. The day’s forecasted rain finally loosed a few drops for the final division’s jumping. Along with the heightened atmosphere, “That was really good preparation for the horses.”

Tamra Smith and En Vogue, 2nd in Advanced. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Tamra Smith and Ruth Bley’s En Vogue had two rails to maintain their second-place standing.

Helen Bouscaren and Ebay, 3rd place in Advanced. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Downing one rail and staying in their overnight position were Helen Bouscaren and Ebay.

The original field of 13 was led by Smith and Mai Baum, whose 18.4 dressage test would have been tough to surmount. However, they’d withdrawn after dressage by prior plan per their Kentucky preparation.

Duvander now spends a quarter of his time on the West Coast, coaching and monitoring team riders and those who may be contenders for it in the future. “It’s good to see how well they came out of last year and they are both stronger,” he said of Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin and Smith and Mai Baum. He also works with West Coast members of US Equestrian’s Eventing 25 list, for their coach Leslie Law. These include Madison Temkin, Megan Sykes and Kaylawna Smith-Cook, all of whom held their own at Advanced: it was the first completion at the level for Sykes and Smith-Cook.

Andrea Baxter and Indy 500, 4th place in Advanced. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

“It’s not just coaching,” Duvander said of his USEF role when discussing the caliber of competition in the West. “Every time I come to Twin Rivers, I’m noticing the amount of work. They are constantly upping the game here.” The USEF’s commitment to riders in the West coincides and to some extent has helped prompt coordinated efforts among riders, owners and organizers to raise the bar in all facets of competition. “In the past it was often said that you need to go East to make it, but it’s really important that riders be able to make it out here. Then, they can go back East and win. That should be the mindset.”

Lauren Billys and Castle Larchfield Purdy, 1st in Intermediate. Photo by Sherry Stewart.


Lauren Billys and her Rio Olympics partner Castle Larchfield Purdy will be staying West in their prep for the 2020 Olympics, representing Puerto Rico. Phase one went perfectly with a wire-to-wire win at Intermediate. Nava’s roll-back and turning course enabled Billys to stay on plan with prioritizing efficient turns and accurate tracks to stay within the time. On Saturday’s cross-country, by new Twin Rivers upper level designer, Hugh Lochore, the pair picked up only .4 time penalty. They sealed the victory with double clear show jumping to finish on a 28.2.

Derek di Grazia and Ringwood Justice, 2nd place in Intermediate. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Derek di Grazia and Ringwood Justice were also double clear with elegantly executed angles throughout the track. They moved up from fourth to second for a 33.5 finish.

Eneya Jenkins and Lawtown Boy, 3rd place in Intermediate. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Eneya Jenkins and Lawtown Boy had two rails, to finish third with a 36.4.

Bea di Grazia and Ringwood Isabelle, 4th place in Intermediate. Photo by Sherry Stewart.


Fifteen-year-old Bruce Hill wasn’t pleased with himself, but had nothing but praise for his partner, Bossinova, in maintaining the lead in the Preliminary Jr/YR division with a clean effort: “He saved my butt!”

There was no room for rails or time faults, and the student of Trinity Eventing acknowledged he was a little nervous in the warm-up. “But my horse is awesome!” The pair assumed the lead after cross-country and finished on their dressage score of 28.5.

Bruce Hill & Bossinova. Photo by Kim Miller.

Haley Turner and Shadow Inspector were second on a 29.9 and Kathryn Canario, and Kiltubrid Rhapsody finished on their dressage score, 30.9, to maintain third place.

In the Preliminary Rider division, Alliston Eventing student India McEvoy held the one and two spots with E’Zara and Red Bull, respectively. The small animal veterinarian was thrilled with both horses’ performance. The 7 -year-old Red Bull had held the lead thanks to his lovely dressage test and 22 score, but show jumping is still a nerve-wracking venue for the Redwine youngster. Two rails Sunday forced him to hand the top spot to his more seasoned stablemate. E’Zara had a tougher time with dressage but was error free jumping, in and out of the ring, to take the win.

Madeleine Moore and Rogadina moved up steadily to finish third on a 41.6.

Lauren Burnell & Freedom Hill. Photo by Kim Miller.

In the Open Preliminary, Lauren Burnell and Freedom Hill were unbeatable from their Friday 24.1 dressage score on through the weekend. Double-clear show jumping was easy, breezy, beautiful to the point that even their coach, Bec Braitling, couldn’t catch them. Braitling and Kirschblute 3 had a tiny time penalty, .4, in show jumping, dropping them to third, while James Alliston and Calaro went clean to finish second on a 26.7.

Next Up

Riders weren’t the only winners this weekend. Among the many volunteers needed to make the competition successful, Leslie van der Wal drew the winning raffle ticket for a generous prize pack donated by Twin Rivers sponsors. The Twin Rivers Ranch season is presented by Professional’s Choice and Auburn Labs. The Riding Warehouse and Best Western PLUS Black Oak are supporting sponsors. The volunteer grand prizes included a bottle of Auburn Labs’ APF, a Professional’s Choice tote bag, and a $50 Riding Warehouse certificate. The prize pack raffle represents phase-one of an incentive program to reward this important role in the sport.

With a fundraising Combined Test set for April 4-5 and an anticipated 500-plus turn-out for the April 10-12 Spring International and its inaugural CCI4*-Long, those volunteers will be even more valuable going forward.

Along with highest level competition, plans for the Spring International include an enhanced Vendor Village, a Friday night wine tasting and amenities intended to further support and expand the equestrian family that revolves around Twin Rivers Ranch.

For complete results, schedule and other information:

Twin River Winter H.T.: WebsiteFinal Scores

Twin Rivers: Thieriot Stutes, Billys and Burnell Out in Front After Cross Country

Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Yesterday being Leap Day, there was some leapin’ going on during the Twin Rivers Winter Horse Trials: over Hugh Lochore’s upper level cross-country courses and in the standings.

Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin overtook the top spot in Advanced. Although the previous dressage leader, Mai Baum, is perfectly fine, Tamie Smith opted to end the Pan Am Games team gold medalist’s weekend after their 18.4 dressage test.

Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Smith remains in hot pursuit of the win with Ruth Bley’s En Vogue. The top nine of the 12 remaining Advanced pairs jumped clean, but incurred significant time faults in this early season outing. En Vogue was the exception with just 1.6 in this column.

Tamie Smith and En Vogue. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Tamie Smith and En Vogue. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Helen Bouscaren and Ebay moved up into third, adding 12 time penalties to their dressage score for a 35.6. The leaders have a 27.8, followed by Smith and En Vogue’s 30.

Helen Bouscaren and Ebay. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Helen Bouscaren and Ebay. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Having the lead is second to having Chatwin back to his old self, says Thieriot Stutes. After finishing fourth at the Luhmühlen 5* in Germany last June, Chatwin was sidelined most of the rest of the year with severe health issues stemming from a case of enteritis. For a long stretch, his survival was all the rider and the Chatwin Group cared about. Thieriot-Stutes was “not going for broke,” but there were moments when her partner of six years seemed to be on today’s course. All of it indicating Chatwin has put the problem behind him. “Just being here is spectacular,” said Thieriot Stutes. The pair is on the US Developing Rider Training List and has Land Rover Kentucky in their sights if all proceeds as hoped.

Megan Sykes and Kaylawna Smith-Cook celebrated their first Advanced level completion today. They are sixth and eighth, aboard Classic’s Mojah and Passepartout, respectively.

Lauren Billys & Castle Larchfield Purdy. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

In the Intermediate, overnight leader, junior rider Jordan Crabo, had a fall on course. She’s fine, but out of the running. Lauren Billys and Castle Larchfield Purdy got their Olympic year off to a great start in taking the lead. With their qualification to represent Puerto Rico in Tokyo already assured, Billys was able focus on a general goal of “being a faster and more efficient rider and preparing myself and my horses to be more forward.” That was no problem for Purdy, who crossed the finish line with just a .4 time penalty, for a 28.2 going into show jumping.

“It’s an interesting season because it’s a slow burn to get all the way to Tokyo,” Billys explained.  “I ran Purdy here at Intermediate to see where he is in terms of fitness and to focus on things I need to improve. Today was a good indicator that he is feeling well and is happy to do his job.”

A sliver of time penalties knocked Eneya Jenkins and Lawtown Boy out of their lead: they stand in second just 0.2 penalties behind.

Eneya Jenkins and Lawtown Boy. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Intermediate’s third-ranked pair is Billys again with her “pocket rocket,” Can Be Sweet. At “maybe” 16 hands, “He’s very different from Purdy, but he’s turning out to be very suited for the upper levels.”

Lauren Billys and Can Be Sweet. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

There were few changes in the standings at Preliminary’s Open and JR/YR divisions. Amateur Lauren Burnell and Freedom Hill were double clear to hold the lead on their dressage score in the Open division. Their coach, professional Bec Braitling, and Kirschblute 3, had just 1.2 time faults to stand second and James Alliston and Calero were double clear for third. Less than three penalties separate the top three.

Lauren Burnell and Bec Braitling. Photo by Kim Miller.

Burnell credited the lead completely to her horse. “He is calm and just loves his job,” she said. “On cross country, he goes fast and stares for the flags. I just love him!” Burnell and Arnell Sporthorses are based at Twin Rivers Ranch, but Freedom Hill isn’t one of those horses who needs a special routine to get tuned up for competition in his own backyard. “Wherever he is, it’s a show.”

Bruce Hill & Bossinova. Photo by Kim Miller.

Bruce Hill and Bossinova‘s double clear cross-country moved them from second to first in the Prelim Jr/YR standings, while Haley Turner and Shadow Inspector‘s modest time faults lost them the overnight lead. Kathryn Canario and Kiltubrid Rhapsody held their third spot, while this division, too, is tightly bunched. No room for a rail from anyone in the top three over Jose Nava’s show jumping route if they want to win on Sunday.

Fresh from a third-place finish at the CCI2*-Short at Fresno County Horse Park, the partnership of 15-year-old Hill and Bossinova is still quite new. It’s been smooth sailing, including today over the new cross-country track. “They did a great job redesigning the course,” said Hill. “It’s straightforward and fun, but nothing super hard or scary.”

Comments about the courses’ suitable were echoed by riders at several levels. All expressed excitement about further changes that will be revealed for April’s Spring International, featuring the inaugural CCI4*-Long division. Today’s tracks were praised as appropriate for the start of the season.

Derek and Bea di Grazia are fourth and fifth at Intermediate, with Ringwood Justice and Ringwood Isabelle, respectively. Land Rover Kentucky and Olympic course designer Derek di Grazia said: “It was a nice galloping course: a good confidence builder for the horse’s next event.” For riders, Bea di Grazia added: “It was good for rusty people to learn to gallop at something and there was nothing too tricky. It was a great opportunity to practice getting your eye back.”

Bea di Grazia and Ringwood Isabelle. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Derek di Grazia and Ringwood Justice. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

The competition continues with show jumping today for the upper levels, while the lower levels tackle cross country. Best of luck to all! Go Eventing.

Twin RiversWebsiteLive ScoresEN’s CoverageEN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram


Twin Rivers: Smith, Crabo & Burnell Lead Winter Horse Trials After Dressage

Tamra Smith and Mai Baum. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Dressage day at the Winter Horse Trials saw Tamra Smith take familiar positions on familiar horses in the Advanced Division. She and Pan Am Games team gold medal partner, Mai Baum, owned by Alexandra Ahearn, earned an 18.4 from Ground Jury member Sue Smithson to lead the 13-horse field. And she’s third aboard Danito and sixth on En Vogue, with a 20.2 and a 28.4 respectively. Both are owned by Area VI’s Owner of the Year Ruth Bley.

Tamie Smith and Danito. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Smith credits Mai Baum’s terrific test to a winter focused on connection, throughness and strength. “He has this flamboyant movement, but he didn’t have the core strength and fitness. We’ve changed up the fitness routine, and it’s had great results.”

Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Slotting into second is another familiar pair, Frankie Thieriot-Stutes and Chatwin, with a 20.2.

Helen Bouscaren and Ebay are fourth and Auburn Excell Brady is fifth with BSP Tuxedo.

En Vogue and Danito were originally entered in the Intermediate division, but when Smith saw the Advanced cross-country course, she moved them up to get the experience of the new Advanced dressage test and for the show jumping mileage. “The course is big, but it’s not overly technical,” she said. “It’s beautiful and a nice first Advanced for the season. I knew they wouldn’t be in over their heads.”

Jordan Crabo & Over Easy. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

The Open Intermediate division is tightly bunched after dressage, also in front of judge Smithson. Young rider Jordan Crabo and the veteran mare Over Easy lead on a 25.9 score. “She was awesome,” said the young Crabo of her mom Barb Crabo’s Swedish Warmblood. “I think it was our best test yet. She was very up and tried her heart out.”

Of Saturday’s course, Crabo said, “It looks really beefy! I’m going to be feeling some butterflies in the morning. Otherwise, it looks like a very fun course with areas that we haven’t ridden before.”

Eneya Jenkins and Lawtown Boy. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Eneya Jenkins is second thanks to the 26 score she earned with her own Lawtown Boy, one of three horses she’s riding in this division with 20 pairs.

Lauren Billys and Can Be Sweet. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Lauren Billys and Can Be Sweet are third on a 26.4. Billys is also in the fifth spot with her 2016 and already-confirmed 2020 Olympic partner, Castle Larchfield Purdy.

Open Preliminary has a distinct home field advantage after dressage in front of Ground Jury member Vicky Stashuk-Matisi. Amateur rider Lauren Burnell and Freedom Hill lead with a 24.1, followed by professional Bec Braitling and Pamela Duffy-Trotter’s Kirschblute 3, with a 25.2. Burnell is a principal owner of Arnell Sporthorses, whose head trainer is Braitling, and the sales and development program is based at Twin Rivers Ranch. James Allison and Calaro are third with a 26.7 among 35 contenders in this division.

The new “Burghley Flyover” at Twin Rivers. Photo by Kim Miller.

Since hosting its first event in 2004, the Baxter family has steadily built Twin Rivers Ranch into the premiere eventing venue they envisioned when they purchased 500 acres in Coastal Central California in 2001. The inaugural Spring International CCI4*-L, April 9-12, will mark a major milestone in the realization of those early visions, and this weekend’s Winter Horse Trials gives exhibitors a good glimpse of some of venue’s latest, exciting upgrades. An element tentatively titled the “Burghley Flyover” is not being used this weekend, but illustrates the unique elements that have been dreamed up for the CCI4*-L. An expanded quarry section, now called “The Chasm,” will be in action Saturday, with new multiple entry and exit points for most levels. A favorite Twin Rivers feature, “Jeff’s Hot Tub” water complex, has ample new options, too.

Heather Morris watching dressage. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Eventing Riders Association of North American president Shannon Lilley applauds the Baxter family’s endeavors. “I have to hand it to them for all that they have done for the betterment of our sport. Especially when this is their home, their own property.” Lilley describes the Baxters as among those “who can see things from 20,000 feet above the ground in the sense that what they are doing has a rising tide lifts all boats effect.”

Competition continues Saturday with cross-country for Training through Advanced; while Training through Introductory show jump.

Twin Rivers: Website, Live ScoresEN’s CoverageEN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram

Twin Rivers’ 2020 Season Opener Is Ready to Run

James Alliston and Pandora topped the Advanced division of the Twin Rivers Winter H.T. in 2019. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Tamie Smith with her 2019 Pan Am Games team gold medalist partner Mai Baum along with five-star pairs Andrea Baxter with Indy 500 and Frankie Thieriot Stutes with Chatwin headline a strong Advanced field when Twin Rivers begins an exciting season of eventing competition this weekend.

Weather for the Winter Horse Trials looks distinctly un-wintery on Feb. 28-March 1, as the Baxter family-owned venue on California’s Central Coast welcomes 300-plus contenders. Joining the aforementioned pairs running Advanced are newly-anointed members of the USEF’s U25 Eventing Program — Maddy Temkin, Kaylawna Smith-Cook and Megan Sykes — plus seasoned competitors Helen Bouscaren, Gina Economou, Auburn Excell Brady, Amber Levine and Emilee Libby. 

Twin Rivers’ 500 acres are green and tracks designed by new upper level course designer Hugh Lochore are full of new tests. Plus, teasers for what’s to come at April’s inaugural Spring International CCI4*-L, one of only six competitions at this rigorous level in the United States.

“They are a progressive bunch,” says Lochore of the Baxter family. Along with Andrea Baxter, organizer Connie Baxter has extensive eventing experience and Whirlwind Excavating owner Jeff Baxter happily applies his expertise and equipment to bringing Lochore’s ideas to life.

“The venue has interesting topography and it’s a good canvas to play with,” Lochore adds. “It’s exciting when you put things on paper, then you have a team that is keen to get the bit between their teeth and make it happen.” Lochore designed the Preliminary through Advanced courses; Marc Grandia designed the Intro through Training. Show Jumping course designer Jose Nava has colorful new obstacles to work with in the arena.

The Winter Horse Trials are presented by Auburn Labs, makers of adaptogenic APF Formula for horses, riders and dogs; and Professional’s Choice, manufacturers of top-of-the-line sports medicine boots for horses. Supporting sponsors include Best Western PLUS Black Oak, which offers great exhibitor deals on nearby lodging; and Riding Warehouse, the horse gear and supply company located in nearby San Luis Obispo. Vendors include Equestrian Habits, Chubby Cov, Whitehorse Tack, Cahoots Catering and Katie’s Coffee.

Volunteer opportunities abound and all those helping out will have their name entered in a raffle for generous prizes. These include Twin Rivers entries, stabling and a cross country schooling certificate; and a family four-pack of tickets to the San Diego Zoo or San Diego Zoo Safari. More hours equals more raffle tickets! Sign up to volunteer here.

Other useful info for competitors: the show photographer is Marcus Greene Outdoor Photography, and the official videographer is Ride On Video. For competition-related inquiries, contact Christina Gray of Gray Area Events at [email protected].

Twin Rivers: Website, Entry Status, Ride Times

Haygain Hay Steamer Is Up for Grabs at ‘Kick on for Koalas’

Photo via Haygain.

Kick on for Koalas, a fundraiser for relief efforts benefitting those affected and displaced by the devastating Australian bushfires, is underway today in Ocala at Barnstaple South. In addition to clinic opportunities from top riders who are donating their time, our friends at Haygain have donated a HG600 hay steamer to the cause.

The steamer up for grabs holds approximately a half-bale of hay, is easily portable, and retails for $1,749. Entries will be collected by event photographer Deborah Windsor on site, and the winner will be announced during closing ceremonies. The steamer will be shipped or can be delivered if the winner lives in the Ocala area.

Kick On for Koalas was instigated by Canadian Olympian and longtime hay steaming believer, Selena O’Hanlon. She is one of the top riders donating their time giving lessons; the roster of volunteer coaches also includes fellow steamers Lauren Kieffer and Buck Davidson, plus Lesley Grant-Law, Scott Keach and Dom Schramm.

Selena took a tip from the top in adding high temperature steamed hay to her horses’ routine. It came from Sir Mark Todd, the six-time New Zealand Olympian designated by the International Equestrian Federation as its “Rider of the 20th Century.”

Selena and her longtime top international partner Foxwood High were stabled at Todd’s base in England while prepping for the Badminton Horse Trials in 2014. Todd was one of the first to embrace Haygain steamed hay as a means to protect and improve equine respiratory health. It also adds water to the diet for improved digestive function and its good taste entices even picky eaters.

Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High at the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

In the case of Foxwood High, aka “Woody,” he was initially fed haylage at Todd’s farm, but Selena noticed the big horse was not eating very much of it. His appetite improved significantly once he began steamed hay, and he stayed on it for the next three weeks before Badminton. That alone sold Selena and her mother, Morag, an extremely experienced horsewoman, on steaming’s benefits.

At their base, the Datta family’s 100-acre farm in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, the O’Hanlons have seen steamed hay help all their horses. “Over time, we’ve had a few horses with allergies and Haygain steamed hay has made a big difference,” Selena reports. “We’ve seen a lot less coughing.”    

Haygain high-temperature hay steaming was developed 11 years ago in conjunction with the Royal Agricultural University in the U.K. The process drastically reduces dust, mold, fungi and dust found in even top quality, most expensive hay. These breathable irritants are the main cause of Inflammatory Airway Disease. IAD and other conditions on the Equine Asthma Spectrum affect a surprising high percentage of active sporthorses, often without obvious symptoms. A recent study of 700-plus active sporthorses found that 88% of them had IAD, and that feeding Haygain Steamed Hay reduced the risk of IAD by 65%.

Visit “Kick On For Koalas eventing fundraising clinic” on Facebook for more information. See schedule below. For more information on Haygain, visit The host location is Barnstable South, in the Ocala area’s Moriston (10800 NW 145th Ave, Moriston, FL, 32668).   


Twin Rivers Ranch Has 2020 Vision as Inaugural CCI4*-L Approaches

Marc Grandia competes at Twin Rivers. Photo courtesy of Sherry Stewart.

The Baxter family had a vision back in 2001 when they laid eyes on 500 acres of fallow farmland in Central Coastal California’s Paso Robles. Connie was an experienced eventing competitor. Jeff had earth moving expertise as the owner of Whirlwind Excavating. And their daughter Andrea was already a talented eventer who now competes at the 5* level.

On April 9-12 of this year, the vision of staging top flight eventing competition is fully realized with the Spring International’s inaugural CCI4*-L. One of only six CCI4*-Ls in the United States, this division stacks with Long formats in the 2* and 3*; Short format 3* and 4*; and Beginner Novice through Advanced divisions that have drawn close to 500 exhibitors to the competition in recent years.

“The biggest thing is creating something our riders need,” explains Andrea, a member of the organizing committee along with Connie and Jeff Baxter. She speaks from her own 5* experience readying for successful competitions at Burghley, England, and Land Rover Kentucky last year. The 2019 recipient of the Rebecca Broussard $50,000 International Developing Rider Grant, Andrea knows the many drawbacks of having to go East for the experience, exposure and qualifying finishes needed for team consideration or foreign competition invites.

Thanks to the preparatory capabilities of Twin Rivers and a handful of other West Coast competitions, Andrea is one of several elite riders in the region who’ve been able to attain peak form without the wear, tear and cost of cross-country travel. Pan Am Team gold medalist Tamra Smith, Canadian Olympian Hawley Bennett-Awad and Puerto Rican Olympian Lauren Billys are others. A roster of talented young riders has caught talent spotters’ attention without leaving the West, thanks to Twin Rivers and other venues providing a suitable stage for their development.

Beautiful Twin Rivers Ranch. Photo courtesy of Twin Rivers Ranch.

Broad Benefits

It’s not only the elite horses and riders who benefit from Twin Rivers’ considerable investment in meeting the standards required for hosting a 4*-L. Continual cross-country course changes and improvements expand into new territory and terrain that will also give Preliminary and Intermediate horses good tests for their future. Unique features including a tunnel and a bigger quarry element are among much-anticipated additions. These and other new obstacles maintain Twin Rivers’ reputation for fresh twists on the foundation set by a great course building team. They provide ample options for new upper level course designer, Hugh Lochore, and lower level designer, Marc Grandia.

Good sandy loam footing that handles rain well, permanent show stabling, a covered arena, multiple rings, brightly colored new stadium jumps and fan-friendly viewing enhancements add to Twin Rivers’ appeal.

Most of all, a welcoming family atmosphere and a beautiful wine country and close-to-the-coast location combine with quality competition to make Twin Rivers a top destination for those within and well beyond the region. “We love welcoming everyone to our home to enjoy the new course improvements and great competition for the weekend!” states organizer Connie Baxter.

Andrea Baxter & Infinity. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Catering to Exhibitors’ Interests

As owners, the Baxters enjoy the unique opportunity to do whatever they feel is in their exhibitors’ best interest. Connie brings a lifetime of equestrian passion and, along with earth moving muscle, Jeff brings deft bartending skills to the party. And we do mean “party” when it comes to the Spring International’s Saturday night exhibitor get-together.

Veteran show manager Christina Gray of Gray Area Events has a seasoned hand on the helm and Margie Davis takes the reins from Twin Rivers’ much-appreciated volunteer coordinator of the recent past, Asia Vedder. The Spring International’s presenting sponsors have been critical to making it a circuit fixture: APF Pro; Professional’s Choice; and Riding Warehouse.

The town of Paso Robles is increasingly popular with wine and equestrian enthusiasts –often one and the same! Wineries, vineyards and olive groves dominate the area’s rolling landscape. The Mission San Miguel, the Paso Robles Pioneer Museum and the Estrella Warbird Museum are great side-trips for non-riding family members.

Along with competition, Twin is home to Andrea Baxter’s Estrella Equestrian training program, plus Area VI Young Rider and Adult camps, in June and August. Year-round membership to Twin Rivers Ranch offers everyday access to the cross-country course, arenas and vast acreage for schooling and conditioning. Multi-week stabling is available for out-of-area horses taking advantage of the region’s nearly year-round show circuit and great weather.

Twin River’s secure place on the national eventing map came about fairly fast. The Baxters purchased property in 2001, staged their first event in 2004 and their first International competition in 2005.

The Spring International anchors an exciting year of activity. It’s preceded by the Winter Horse Trials Intro through Advanced Feb. 28- March 1, and an April 4-5 Combined Test that doubles as fundraiser for ongoing improvements. The July 4th weekend starts with a July 2 day of schooling rounds, a Derby, and a qualifier for the USEA Young Event and Future Event Horse championships. That’s followed by the July 3-5 Summer Horse Trials, Intro to Advanced.

The Twin season concludes in September with FEH Championships, Young Event Horse qualifiers and Fall Horse Trials with Intro through Advanced, and 2*-3*-4* Short format divisions.

Having a grand vision is one thing. Shepherding it to reality is quite another. As the Twin Rivers crew readies for an ambitious 2020 season, the Baxters’ vision manifests as a big benefit to horses and riders throughout the West and beyond.

Entries for the Spring International open on Feb. 24 on For more information on all of Twin Rivers’ competitions and events, visit and follow their pages on Facebook and Instagram. Volunteer sign-ups are welcome at

The West Rising: Area VI Offers Unique & Ample Opportunities to Prepare, Perfect, & Party!

James Alliston and Pandora. Photo by Shelby Allen.

With over 20 USEA-recognized competitions every year and two of the country’s six CCI4*-Ls, Area VI is in transition. What was the eventing galaxy’s Wild West outpost is now a hub of elite-level preparation, all-level horse and rider development and first-class fun and camaraderie. 

While much of the country is frozen or flooded, California jumps starts the year with four recognized competitions before February’s end. In April, a brand new CCI4*-L unfurls on the Baxter Family’s Twin Rivers Ranch in the vineyard-covered valley of Central California’s Paso Robles. The highest-level international season bookends in Southern California with veteran organizer Robert Kellerhouse’s Galway Downs International, including the region’s established CCI4*-L, in late October. It takes place in another inviting tourist destination: Temecula Valley Wine Country. 

From legging up in January through earning final qualifying scores late into fall, Area VI’s calendar provides professionals the perfect stage for their own advancement and that of their horses and riders. USEA Young and Future Event Horse divisions are plentiful in Area VI and the full-format Hylofit Classic Series has two Training Three Days and one Novice Three Day in California. 

At a minimum, there’s a recognized event every other weekend throughout the year, often back-to-back. A full slate of hunter/jumper and dressage competitions fills in open weekends to sharpen specific skills.

Area VI revelers having fun everywhere they go. Photo by Kim Miller.

Western Edges

Along with competition for every level, Area VI has unique events and celebrations.  Woodside International’s Preliminary Challenge in May, marking its 12th year in 2020, and the new Modified Training Challenge, also at The Bay Area’s Woodside, in August, are two examples. There are grass tracks all year at Shepard Ranch in the magical Thoroughbred country of the Santa Ynez Valley, a terrific series of move-up shows and schooling opportunities at Copper Meadows near San Diego and single-day Horse Trials at the Woodland Stallion Station near Sacramento. 

Northwest and Arizona professionals regularly tour Area VI for long stretches and contemporaries from further afield are catching on. While every venue and organizing team has its own flair and feel, Area VI events have critical common denominators, says chairman Lisa Sabo. Great footing, good organization, safety emphasis, creative and ever-changing courses and multiple divisions can be counted on. Nearly non-stop sunshine doesn’t hurt the West’s appeal.

Several of Area VI’s venues and events are family-owned and operated. All are known for going above and beyond to serve exhibitors’ needs. A welcoming sense of community and team spirit imbues all activity in Area VI, where exhibitor parties are famously fun.

Idaho based Sara Mittleider her dad celebrate CCI4-L win at Galway. Photo by Kim Miller.

Sabo brags on Area VI-ers like Pan Am Games Team gold medalist Tamie Smith and Burghley contender Andrea Baxter. Both prepared for excelling against the world’s best without leaving the region. Sabo is too young to have experienced California when it hosted selection trials for the 1964 Olympic eventing team under chef Dick Collins at the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center. But a lifetime competing in the region, along with her husband and former USEA president Brian Sabo, inform her vision of Area VI as on the brink of similar national prominence. 

USEF eventing chef d’equipe Erik Duvander is a frequent visitor to scout and coach current and potential team pairs, and the region’s riders regularly haul home a disproportionate share of industry grants and honors. Having more Instructor Certification Program certified professionals than any other USEA Area has a lot to do with the quality of the talent pool, Sabo notes. 

For these and other reasons, the West is on the rise, asserts Sabo, and all are welcome come out for the great ride that is Area Vi eventing.

Area VI Venues & Organizers:

Fresno County Horse Park 

Organizer: John Marshall 

The Central California Valley venue established as Ram Tap in 1957 kicks off 2020 with a Combined Test Jan. 25-26. Set in the ideal riverbed footing and maintained to perfection, the venue’s cross-country and arena surfaces are praised year-round and especially so for safely handling rain. As principal cross-country designer and builder, Jay Hambly and Bert Wood maximize the venue’s varied terrain. 

Continuing the traditions of Ram Tap founders Pat and Marion Humphrey and their successor Bill Burton, John Marshall and a corps of volunteers have gone beyond saving the venue.  In addition to the Combined Test, FCHP now hosts four USEA recognized events, with divisions up to CCI3*-S, plus driving and dressage competitions and educational clinics. In 2019, Fresno hosted the USEA’s West Coast Young Event Horse Championships and Area VI’s Championships. On Feb. 15, Fresno hosts the Area VI annual awards banquet and meeting during the weekend’s CCI and Horse Trials.


Fresno: The fifth biggest California city is a gateway to Yosemite National Park, home to the catacombs-inspired Forestiere Underground Gardens and, by some accounts, has the world’s best tacos. 

Liza Horan Hollister 13 at Galway Downs. Photo by Kim Miller.

Galway Downs

Organizer: Robert Kellerhouse

Winter Horse Trials Jan. 31 – Feb 2 begin recognized events at this 242-acre property in inland Southern California. Organizer Robert Kellerhouse staged the West Coast’s first CCI4*-L (then called a 3*) in 2010 at Galway and has since set a high bar for every aspect of competition — for exhibitors and fans. The whole facility has been continually upgraded, especially since adding top hunter/jumper and dressage shows to its calendar two years ago. Clear-span FEI Stabling is brand new with wide, breezy, light aisleways and big stalls. Galway Downs is also home to a Thoroughbred training facility and the Bert Wood-built and maintained cross-country course winds around a training track with constant terrain and obstacle updates. Jay Hambly recently began designing the upper level routes. 


Temecula: Located about an hour inland from San Diego, Temecula is growing fast as a tourist destination thanks to abundant wineries, hot air ballooning and outdoor activities in year-round warm weather.  

Marc Grandia competing at Twin Rivers. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Twin Rivers Horse Park

Organizers: Christina Gray & the Baxter Family

Feb. 28 – March 1 begins a season highlighted by April’s inaugural CCI4*-L at this family-owned and operated venue in Coastal California’s Paso Robles. Mom Connie and daughter Andrea Baxter share a passion for the sport and Jeff Baxter’s grading and paving experience and equipment helped them realize their 2001 dream of transforming 500 acres into a beautiful eventing facility. Competitor amenities include ample outdoor arenas, a 150’ by 300’ covered arena with GGT footing, upgraded permanent stabling, upper-level courses designed by Hugh Lechore and a new collection of show jumping obstacles. “We always offer something new and different,” says organizer Christina Gray. Family atmosphere and fun have always been high priorities and are now merged with highest level competition. 


Paso Robles is roughly equidistant from Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Its green rolling hills and proximity to the coast make it hub of equestrian activity. Wineries and tourism are growing, yet “Paso” still has small-town charm.

Copper Meadows

Organizers: Taren Hoffos & family

March 13-15 Horse Trials are the first of two recognized events at the Hoffos-family owned Copper Meadows in San Diego County’s Ramona. The 70-acre competition, boarding and training facility also hosts several unrecognized events, with an emphasis on educating and developing horses and riders from the lower levels on up in a friendly, encouraging environment. Tracks and obstacles are updated often to keep things fresh through typically nine schooling events through the year.  A recognized one-day event in September is new to Copper Meadows, and relatively new in the West. 

It’s a family affair: Carolyn Hoffos bought the property in 1999 specifically to stage events: the first in 2000. Today, daughter Taren is “Copper’s” organizer, brother Drew is a restaurateur who feeds exhibitors and dad Robin Hoffos entertains with his band.


Ramona is a cute town about 30 miles inland from San Diego. Its budding wine industry and proximity to the quaint mountain town of Julian and the Anza Borrego desert are additional draws.    

The Copper Meadows Crew. Photo courtesy of Copper Meadows.

Woodland Stallion Station

Organizer: Nicole Sharp

May 9 is the first of three one-day Horse Trials staged at the 101-acre facility in the Sacramento area’s Woodland, including the Future Event Horse division in June. Built on former farmland, WSS is also a training and breeding facility that began developing a cross-country course about five years ago. Arenas and footing were the focus of upgrades for the past two years and this year it’s the cross-country track that spans about 75-acres, says new owner Keila Golden.  

Woodland caters to very beginning levels up to Preliminary and promotes a “laid back, friendly and relaxed vibe,” Golden says. “We welcome all riders, wherever they are in their journey.” The one-day format is appealing and affordable to the 70-80 exhibitors who typically come out and there’s room to accommodate an eventual one-day goal of 120. 


The town of Woodland was established around the same time as California’s statehood in 1850 and is located 15 miles outside of Sacramento. 

Helen Bouscaren and Ebay. Photo by Kim Miller.

The Horse Park at Woodside

Organizer: Robert Kellerhouse

The Spring Event at Woodside, May 22-24, kicks off the international season at this unique jewel of a public equestrian facility. Under Bert Wood’s direction, the courses through green grass hills, three water complexes and an actual “woods” are maintained with an “aggravator” for an ideal blend of traction and cushion. British legend Ian Stark designed the upper level courses, which are widely viewed as good preparation for events anywhere in the world. 

The Preliminary Challenge at the Spring Event and the new Modified Training Challenge at the Summer Event give a special incentive and showcase to horses and riders moving into the higher levels. Prize money of $15,000 and $2,500 for each division of the Preliminary and Modified Training Challenge, respectively, adds to the draw, along with special awards and social events. 


Woodside: About an hour south of San Francisco, this South Bay Area town is a neat mix of Silicon Valley and horsey heritage. There are still hitching posts in Woodside’s tiny downtown, where Buck’s is the go-to for good grub and a glimpse of high-stakes deal makers. 

Shepard Ranch 

Organizer: Ken Sexton

June 19-21 is the first of two Horse Trials hosted with the Santa Ynez Valley Pony Club. Owned by the family of 5* eventer Bunnie Sexton (née Shepard), Shepard Ranch began hosting recognized events in 2000. Home to the oldest wood frame house in the Thoroughbred-rich Santa Ynez Valley, Shepard Ranch irrigates its 35 acres of permanent pasture, where gently sloping grass tracks are an unusual treat in the West. 

Pete Costello and Ram Tap’s Bill Burton helped build the cross-country courses, with later help from James Atkinson and, now, Bert Wood. Pony Clubbers continue as the volunteer heart and spirit of Shepard’s events, and a portion of the events’ proceeds help raise money toward their Championships.


The Santa Ynez Valley is a beautiful area just over the Santa Ynez Mountains from Santa Barbara. It became famous as the location for the 2004 movie, Sideways, and includes the quaint Dutch town of Solvang and many Thoroughbred and other horse farms. 

The West welcomes out-of-area eventing friends. Visit for more details. 


Full Steam Ahead: How Haygain Boosts Lynn Symansky’s Horses

Lynn Symansky and Under Suspection. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Veteran U.S. eventing team member Lynn Symansky knows that success comes in the management of everyday details. Lynn first represented the United States as a college student and has now represented the USA in seven international championships. It could be eight soon: Lynn is currently on the USEF’s Pre-Elite Training List with two horses, RF Cool Play and Under Suspection.

Lynn admits to being “a little late to the party” on bringing Haygain steamed hay into her horses’ program. That was until one of her up-and-coming horses developed a respiratory issue and it became critical to reduce inhalable irritants in the respiratory tract. A simple tie back restored the horse’s normal breathing, and hay steaming, she says, is critical to keeping it that way.  “Anything that reduces the amount of inflammation in the airway is going to help with stamina on cross-country.”

Chinchillin’ in a Haygain steamer at the 2018 Tryon World Equestrian Games. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Adding steamed hay to several of her horses’ diets has helped in other ways, too. A few have allergies Lynn predicts will get worse with spring season pollen and with the transitions between her home base in Virginia and her winter base in Ocala, Florida. “When the horse is already dealing with other allergies, any sort of dust in the hay is going to add to the inflammation problem.” Haygain hay steaming has been scientifically proven to eliminate up to 99% of the dust, mold, fungi and bacteria that are found in even top-quality hay.

Another horse has a “stranger danger” worldview, making him finicky and unpredictable about what he’ll eat on a given day. Since getting steamed hay, he’s become an eager eater, making it easier to maintain his weight and condition and, equally important, getting food into his stomach to maintain gut health.

Lynn Symansky and RF Cool Play (USA). Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

While Lynn was slightly worried about incorporating the additional step of steaming into the barn management routine, she says it’s been easy and straight forward. In the past, if horses developed mild coughs or other signs of mild respiratory issues, Lynn’s team addressed it by wetting their hay. “Steaming is much easier!”

Steaming is also more effective in reducing dust, mold, fungi and bacteria from hay and it does so without leeching nutrients. That is always an issue with soaking or wetting, as is the reality that soaked hay is prone to rapid bacterial growth.

Lynn is certainly no stranger to success, and her competition record is proof of the concept that a strong program leads to ongoing success. Adding the simple step of hay steaming will help reduce irritants that can hold horses back from reaching their full potential. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for Lynn and her team in 2020!


Sara Mittleider, Tamie Smith, David Koss Top Galway Downs International

Sara Mittleider and La Paz. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Tamie Smith put the United States Equestrian Team pinque coat on in hopes of scoring a third Galway Downs International victory, this one in the CCI4*-L. But after two rails with owner Ruth Bley’s fast-rising star, En Vogue, it was Sara Mittleider’s turn to take the top spot thanks to a double clear with La Paz over Marc Donovan’s show jumping track. It’s the rider’s first major international victory and the Hungarian Sport Horse’s first long format.

“I’ve been doing this since I was 15, and I’ve been second a lot!” said a very happy Mettleider. They were fault free all week to win on their 33.30

The rigors of the format seemed to take little toll on 9-year-old horse. “He felt really good in his body, he warmed up really rideable and he jumped incredible. I’m thrilled with him,” said Mittleider. Since getting him in Hungary as a 4-year-old, La Paz has been a bit tricky until just recently. “He’s a funny horse and has been very difficult, but moving up to this level, now that things are starting to match his scope, he’s been a lot more consistent than even I was expecting.” A move up to the 5* level may be in the cards next year.

Sara Mittleider and La Paz. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Mettleider made the trip from her professional base in Kuna, Idaho, all the more worthwhile by also winning the Open Preliminary division on RHF Peterzano.

En Vogue’s two rails didn’t diminish Smith being “super proud” of the 14-year-old Hanoverian mare, who she’s only been riding since March and is new to this level. “She tried her guts out,” Smith said. Both were back rails, not front rails more typical for the mare, and one was such a “barely touched it” that Smith had to look back to confirm it had hit the dirt and lost the win. “We have a few more ‘parts’ to tick off, but she just keeps getting better and better.”

Tamie Smith and En Vogue. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Although she had horses in three divisions today, Smith only donned her pinque coat for the CCI4*. “There are no real rules for when you can wear it,” said the 2019 Pan Am Games team gold medalist. “But my personal rule is only wear it in the 4*. It’s such an honor and something that I worked my whole life for.”

“Oh my god, he’s amazing,” were Gina Economou’s first words when crossing the timers after a double clear on show jumping to finish third on the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood Exclusive. She imported him as a 6-year-old, but it’s been a rocky four years getting him to this level. Having some faith in him has been key to “a season of real maturity for both of us,” Economou explained. He has a wicked spook and spin in him, but also ample heart and carefulness. “In the past, when I’ve seen a big distance, I’d panic. Because I didn’t trust that I could allow him to be bold. But he’s earned that trust.”

Gina Economou and Exclusive. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Remembering an early stretch when “I fell off of him five times in 10 days – at the walk,” Economou was thrilled to complete with only 1.2 stadium time faults to finish third on a 41.60.

Galway Downs organizer Robert Kellerhouse was the next recipient of Economou’s profuse praise. “It’s huge to run this level for this few,” she noted of the six-pair starting roster. “He didn’t have to do it, and if he hadn’t, we wouldn’t have had the qualifiers, we wouldn’t have had this experience. The venue has changed so much, all for the better, and it’s great we have a place to compete with lots of excitement and electricity going on. Robert loves this sport as much as we do.”

Leah Breakey and Master Class were fourth in the division on a 43.40. Two other starters, Marissa Nielsen and Vinetta M and Marc Grandia and Campari FFF, had tough cross-country days and did not advance to show jumping.

Danito & Smith Stay Atop Three-Star

On another of Ruth Bley’s young super stars, Smith stayed atop this field with Danito, even with one rail. Smith attributed it to a bit of bad luck and to also not having a sense how the 10-year-old Hanoverian’s first long format would affect him for the final phase. “You have to know when to soften or keep an extra feel,” Smith noted. The horse is so talented, Smith suspects some of that rail related to his being unimpressed with the size of the jumps. “When he gets too comfortable, he gets a little bored.” It was actually the first rail she’s had with him in the 18 months they’ve been together. “It just happens,” she concluded.

Erin Kellerhouse and Woodford Reserve. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Erin Kellerhouse and her own Woodford Reserve moved from third to second with a double clear jumping finish, adding just .4 penalty in cross-country time to finish on a 32.90. Although he’s only 8, “people have often asked me why we haven’t moved up already,” says Kellerhouse of the Irish Sporthorse she imported at 4. Uphill conformation makes him a natural star in the dressage court, and he’s bold and scopey on cross-country. After a winter break, Kellerhouse plans to catch up to everybody’s expectations for Woody and move him up to Advanced.

Smith picked up this division’s third place, too, on her own OTTB No App For That, who finished on his dressage score of 36.20. Of all the week’s victories, Smith may have been most elated about those of her daughter, young professional Kaylawna Smith-Cook. Riding her own Passepartout in the 3*, she had the same score, 36.20, as the elder Smith. Mom’s cross-country time was closer to the optimum, earning her the higher placing.

Winner Danito earned the division’s Yogi Cup, and No App For That received the Livingstone Award for the highest placed OTTB.

Stunner Stays Ahead in Two-Star

David Koss and Stunner. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Just as the announcer relayed that David Koss and Stunner had a rail in hand, the pair riding last in the 46-horse field lost that rail at the very first fence. There were clear from then on to keep the win with a 30.20 score. Koss felt the 6-year-old Hanoverian homebred was a bit tired and said they have show jumping work ahead over the winter. Nicknamed “Banger” for his playful barn antics, the youngster has always lived up to his name in dressage and Kos looks forward to mental and physical maturation helping to fulfil his early promise.

Professional Olivia Loiacono-Putrino finished second in this division aboard Under The Spotlight, but she refused to take credit for the 8-year-old’s accomplishments. The mare is owned by her longtime student, 16-year-old Lauren Gillis, “who has produced her all up to this point.” Gillis has competed Under The Spotlight in Preliminary and had planned to ride her at Galway, but later decided to take a bit more time for that step.

Olivia Loiacono-Putrino and Under the Spotlight. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Loiacono-Putrino was disappointed to have a rail that kept them from overtaking the top spot, but praised Marc Donovan’s instructive course design. “He likes doing related lines, so the game is all about timing and reaction. You can’t be late, which is one of the biggest skills we need in all three phases. I love his courses, but they’re hard.”

Meg Pellegrini finished third on Ganymede, her most familiar of the three mounts she competed this weekend. She and the 16-year-old Connemara powerhouse‘s 32.10 stood them eighth after dressage, and clean cross-country moved them up to fifth before stadium. Pellegrini was sixth in this division on RF Eloquence, making her the 2*’s highest placing young rider.

Meg Pellegrini and Ganymede. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Ruth Bley did more than watch her horses win this weekend. She rode her Selle Francais Rodrigue Du Granit to fourth place, becoming the highest scoring 2* amateur.

The winners in all international divisions received $1,000 and a $500 gift certificate from Voltaire. The balance of prize cash was divvied up as $750, $600, $450 and $200, for 2nd through 5th, and $100 for 6th through 8th. All top placers received generous prizes and gift certificates from sponsors: Ride On Video, Voltaire, Devoucoux, Professionals Choice and SmartPak.

A celebratory mood and good weather graced this season-ending Galway Downs International Horse Trials. The weekend started early with Thursday’s Halloween night costume party and ended on Sunday afternoon with veteran competitors James Alliston and Helen Bouscaren getting married out on the cross-country course with a custom-ordered sunset. In between, local musicians, local craft beers and Galway Spirits beverages enhanced the sporting experience at various spots around the beautiful 240-acre facility in the heart of Southern California wine country.

Jennifer Miller, the reserve champion in the Hylofit USEA Classic Series Training Three Day, summed it up nicely: “The organizer Robert Kellerhouse has done an amazing job. The venue has been greatly improving every year. The footing is great, there’s lots of warm-up rings and it’s a well-run, safe event. It just keeps getting better and better.”

Before the 2020 season of Kellerhouse events begins with the Galway Downs International in the spring, the venue hosts the 22nd annual staging of the Galway Downs Fundraiser. On Jan 18-19, Great Britain’s legendary eventer and coach Ian Stark headlines a roster of 20 of the region’s top professionals who donate their time coaching. Funds go toward continuing improvements for the equestrian facility.

Galway Downs 3DE & H.T. [Website] [Final Scores]

Galway Downs: Tucker Billeter Wins T3D, Smith in Control of CCI4*-L, CCI3*-L, Koss Leads CCI2*-L

Whitney Tucker Billeter and Bill’s Midnight Magic. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Whitney Tucker Billeter and Bill’s Midnight Magic had top professionals and rising equine stars hot on their heels throughout the Hylofit USEA Classic Series Training Three Day, a marquee event of the Galway Downs International. Riding last in front of a buzzing crowd in the VIP tent, Billeter achieved her main goal “of trying not to help him too much. That usually doesn’t work out too well.”

“I tried to think as if we were just doing a course at home and that there was not a big crowd watching.” In that crowd was “Billy’s” owner, John Herich, who lives too far away to see his horse in action very often. The Classic format has benefits for even experienced horses like Billy and the rider, Billeter noted. But one of the big reasons for entering this one was providing Billy’s owner the chance to see the 15-year-old Hanoverian shine.

Some might have struggled with the night’s pressure, but Billeter rode to plan finishing on their 25.90 dressage to win in front of happy friends and supporters.

Jennifer Miller and Bon Bon. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Arizona-based Jennifer Miller said it was sweet to finish on Bon Bon’s 28.30 dressage score. To finish reserve in a format she admires and has contested for many years was icing on the cake, said the equine veterinarian and amateur competitor. Miller has owned the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare since Bon Bon was 4. She’d been “a back-up horse,” but is clearly assuming a starring role.

“I thought it was a pretty challenging Training course,” Miller said of Friday’s track. “She rose to the occasion, hunting out the next fence and giving me a great ride. I found the (late afternoon) lighting a little challenging in show jumping, and she was very generous with me. I just tried to stay out of her way.”

Bec Braitling and Galwaybay Merbantos. Photo by Kim Miller.

Last year’s Training Three Day winner Bec Braitling finished third, this year with a new horse, Galwaybay Merbantos. Braitling was thrilled with the 7-year-old Irish Sporthorse and described the victory as a game changer for the horse’s next steps. He’s owned by amateur rider Jenny Ramirez, who now has to decide whether to let her coach continue their great start together or fulfill original plans that she would campaign the horse herself.

Braitling’s winning ride in the T3D last year, Dassett Ricochet, finished fifth today, with his new owner, 15 year old Meg Pelligrini.

Lauren Billys finished fourth on a brand new star, Twilight 54, who also received the Best Conditioned Horse Award. Mucho Me Gusto, the 7th placed finisher, won the Thoroughbred Incentive Program award as the highest placing off-the-track Thoroughbred.

Generous prizes were distributed in the division. Along with beautiful ribbons to 15th place, top finishers earned equipment, gift certificates and and supplements from sponsors Ride On Video, Professionals Choice, APF Pro, Devoucoux and SmartPak. The big winner, Bill’s Midnight Magic, trotted home with a beautiful embroidered cooler.

Smith Dominates, Kos Leads, in the FEI Divisions

Tamie Smith and En Vogue. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Tamie Smith is “only” riding five horses at the Galway Downs International this weekend – a bit less than is often the case. She compensated for the “shortfall” by assuring that three of them are leading their divisions going into tomorrow’s stadium jumping finalé.

En Vogue has a rail-plus lead in the CCI4*-L with a 28.50; Danito is dominating the CCI3*-L on his 24.30 and Elliot-V leads the Open Intermediate with a relatively slim 1.10 margin. On her own No App For That, Smith is tied with her daughter, young professional Kaylawna Smith-Cook, for fifth in the 3*, and Mai Stein is 3rd in the 2*-L. All in a weekend’s work for the busy professional.

“There’s a lot of work to do tomorrow,” Smith was quick to acknowledge. Nonetheless, “It’s been a pretty good day!”

The 4* field narrowed over Jay Hambly’s cross-country track. Sara Mittleider and La Paz maintained their #2 spot on a 33.30 and Gina Economou and Exclusive sit third on a 40.40. Leah Breakey and Master Class are fourth on a 43.40. Marissa Nielsen and Vinetta M retired after refusals at fence 12, and Marc Grandia and Campari FFF had the misfortune of missing fence 24 all together – just one fence from the last on course.

Even with new bumps, twists and turns added to the 25-effort course, Galway’s dirt track is mostly flat, helping explain all four remaining pairs finishing within the time.

Although Smith initially thought those twists and turns might make the time difficult to meet, it was clear early that she was in for a worry-free ride on the 14-year-old Hanoverian mare owned by Ruth Bley. Out of the box, fences 1 and 2, a lodge and a large brush table, “She jumped them so easily it was amazing.” Smith attributes the mare’s smooth step up to this level to the training foundation established by Bella Mobray and Kimmy Steinbeck, who brought the mare along before Smith got the ride. “This is what happens when you move up a horse that has the right foundation. It’s when there’s holes in the training that you have problems.”

A good look coming down to the water that started the course’s third water obstacle, the Orca complex, illustrated one reason En Vogue made the time with relative ease, Smith said. “She’s careful. I can come in at speed and she backs herself up and balances herself, while she keeps coming. It’s a cool feeling.” The Orca whale in the middle of that 18ABC complex has been a heartbreaker for many in the past, Smith noted. This year, she described it as the highest difficulty element on a track of otherwise medium difficultly for the level – on both the 4* and 3* runs.

Veteran 5* rider competitor Sara Mittleider was thrilled with another steadily improving outing from La Paz, a 10-year-old Hungarian Sport Horse. In his fourth FEI trip and first 4*-L, the gelding showed new levels of maturation and ease when presented with even the trickiest elements. In Mittleider’s view, that was the 11A,B,C “moat” obstacle. “There was a lot there and you had to go at it with a good pace without a lot of time to react. I wasn’t sure he had the experience to handle it, but he did and I was tickled pink!” The run was also the first time she’d pressed La Paz to make the time, and he handled that with ease, too.

Gina Economou was thrilled with Exclusive’s performance. “I just wanted to give him the ride he deserved,” she said of their fault-free cross-country trip. Making the time with the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood was a special accomplishment she attributed to trusting him with more free rein than in the past.

Three Star Domination

Tamie Smith and Danito. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Tamie Smith and Ruth Bley’s Danito, the 10-year-old Hanoverian, sailed over cross-country. Smith’s main worry was herself. “I was actually nervous on him because he’s won so much, everybody expects that. It’s way harder to keep winning on a horse that’s already won multiple times.”

They kept their two-rail lead over Asia Vedder and Isi, who added nothing to their 32.30 dressage score in the 9-year-old German Thoroughbred’s first long format at this level. It’s a great follow up to the pair’s last outing, at Woodside in early October, when the accomplished amateur rider lost their CCI3*-S lead in the final cross-country phase by mistakenly jumping a 4* fence. She was able to finish the course, which may have helped prepare them for today’s good outing. Galway Downs-based Erin Kellerhouse and the 8-year-old Irish Sporthorse Woodford Reserve are a close third on a 32.50 dressage score.

Today’s cross-course only changed this division’s standings slightly. Jess Hargrave and Regenmann’s had stood second, but a refusal at fence 20 dropped them out of the top rungs. Time was a factor for this field of 13 starters, with seven incurring time penalties.

Two-Star Stunner

David Koss and Stunner. Photo by Kim Miller.

David Kos and Stunner added just a .40 time penalty to maintain their lead in the CCI2-L* lead on a 25.80. But there’s less than a rail to spare, with Olivia Loiacono-Putrino and Under The Spotlight adding nothing to carry a 27.90, and Tamie Smith and MaiStein right behind on their 29.

The 6-year-old Stunner owned by Vicky Kos is a homebred sired by Escudo II. Stunner was started by Kos’ professional and life partner Robyn Fisher, “but was a little too strong and wild for her.” He describes the appropriately-named Stunner as a “really fun and opinionated.” He has excelled in dressage of late, starting his last three outings with the lead from that phase. Establishing a pace to allow more shape over the fences was a goal today and the course’s many interesting features helped achieve that. “It was a really nice galloping course with lots to look at,” Kos said. Show jumping has sometimes been an issue because “he can be a bit lackadaisical.” The rider predicted that having stadium follow cross-country will help with rideability during Sunday’s final phase.

Olivia Loiacono Putrino and Under the Spotlight. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

As always, anything can happen on Sunday. Accomplished amateur and one of Tamie Smith’s top owners, Ruth Bley, sits fourth with a clean cross-country effort on Rodrigue Du Granit and a 31.80 score. And, 15 year old Meg Pellegrini and her mighty Connemara pony Ganymede can never be counted out. They’re 5th on a 32.10.

The Galway Downs International is made possible by generous sponsors: Devoucoux, CWD, California Horsetrader and Parker Equine Insurance.

Galway Downs 3DE & H.T. [Website]  [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Many thanks to Sherry Stewart for these photos from cross country day at Galway Downs:


Whitney Tucker-Billeter Holds T3D Lead, David Koss Takes Control of CCI2*-L at Galway Downs

Whitney Tucker-Billeter and Bill’s Midnight Magic. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Whitney Tucker Billeter and Bill’s Midnight Magic held their lead in the Hylofit USEA Classic Series Training Three Day today at the Galway Downs International. It was the 15-year-old Hanoverian’s first Training Three Day and he “was awesome,” said Billeter.

Of the cross-country track that concluded the full endurance day’s four phases, Billeter said the horse’s ample experience in other divisions left her not overly worried about anything except “getting my lines right to everything.” That she did, moving onto Saturday’s show jumping conclusion, when she’ll have to leave all the rails up to nail down the win.

Rebecca Braitling and Galwaybay Merbantos. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Those in closest pursuit of the win changed slightly. Canadian pair Jennifer Miller and the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood Bon Bon sit second on a 28.30. Australia’s Rebecca Braitling and Galwaybay Merbantos, a 7-year-old Irish Sporthorse, also incurred no penalties to move into third on their 28.90 dressage score. Lauren Billys, who rides for Puerto Rico, and the 6-year-old Dutch Warmblood Twilight 54 are very close behind on thier 29.00

Brailting and Billys are both big fans of the Classic format for its ability to prepare and test horses’ readiness for the higher levels.

Brailting said she was right to predict that the T3D format would benefit Galwaybay Merbantos. “Today he was the fastest he’s ever been around cross-country and also the most relaxed. He’s a horse that we think will go up the levels and this format teaches him how to really move across the ground, to recover, and go out again the next day.”

Lauren Billys and Twilight 54. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Billys recalled competing in her first T3D 13 years ago and she has since entered every horse possible in the division. Today’s partner arrived with the help of the Twilight 54 Syndicate in March, and he came straight from the show jumping world.

“The T3D is so educational for him because cross-country is the phase he has the least experience with,” Billys said. “Doing the steeplechase, touring the grounds, he was definitely more focused on cross-country and I could feel his confidence building as he went around. Which is the whole reason we did it.” She’s experienced the same benefits in all the horses she has run in the division. Among other things, “It tells me if they have the gallop,” she explained. “Do they have it, can they sustain it over the distance and do they need to improve it?”

“He may be the best moving horse I’ve ever sat on,” the 2016 Olympian continued of her newest horse. ‘He’s incredibly athletic and super well balanced. Even though he’s a big horse (17 HH at last check), he doesn’t ride like one.”

Billys anticipates Saturday’s show jumping will be another educational lesson. Even though “Ned” came from the jumping world, “He’s changed a lot since I got him. The goal tomorrow is to gain a better partnership with him and see how he responds after today’s work.”

Stunner Sets the Pace after 2* Dressage

David Koss and Stunner. Photo by Kim Miller.

The day dawned in the 30s and hit the 80s before the 46-horse 2* field was finished. David Kos and the 6-year-old Hanoverian Stunner led the day on a 25.80. Junior rider Jordan Crabo and veteran eventer Over Easy, the 13-year-old Swedish Warmblood mare, are second on a 27.70. Olivia Loiacono-Putrino and the 8-year-old German Sporthorse Under the Spotlight are third, barely behind them on a 27.90.

Jordan Crabo and Over Easy. Photo by Kim Miller.

The standings through #10 are tight, so anything can happen over the weekend. Saturday, they tackle a track designed by Canada’s Jay Hambly and Galway Downs builder Bert Wood, then Sunday it’s show jumping in the Grand Prix Arena on a course designed by Marc Donovan and assistant Kelly James, both of the USA.

Olivia Loiacono-Putrino and Under the Spotlight. Photo by Kim Miller.

The Galway Downs Equestrian Center is located in the heart of Southern California’s Temecula Wine Country. There, beautiful but wild weather provided a good test for new show horse housing: Clayton Frederick’s FEI-Stabling. Exhibitors were grateful the ClearSpan covered barns withstood strong winds Wednesday and Thursday, then provided shade from Friday’s searing sun and plenty of circulation. The larger stalls are a hit with horses and their keepers and received rave views as the latest of ongoing upgrades to the competition facilities on the 240-acre property.

Beautiful new FEI Stabling barns at Galway Downs. Photo by Kim Miller.

Saturday’s FEI cross-country action will be enhanced with live music, local craft beers and adult beverages from Galway Spirts Distillery, enjoyed from on-course, tented oasis spots. The first 3* rider leaves the start box 10:05, 4* follows at 11:05 and 2* at 11:50. National division show jumping plays out all day, and the Training Three Day wraps up with stadium jumping in the late afternoon.

Big thanks to major event sponsors Devoucoux, California Horsetrader, CWD and Parker Equine Insurance.

Galway Downs 3DE & H.T. [Website]  [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Tamie Smith Takes Scary-Good Leads in the Galway Downs International CCI4*-L & CCI3*-L

Tamie Smith and En Vogue. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Given the wildfires burning elsewhere in California, the Halloween start of the Galway Downs International was nowhere near as scary as it could have been. Winds that were lesser than expected throughout the day picked up just in time for late afternoon CCI4*-L dressage, making some of the division’s six equine contenders more spirited than their riders might have liked.

Other than that, the first day of the West Coast season finalé went smoothly. That is until the riding was done, the horses put away and the VIP tent filled with competitors transformed into a four-piece mariachi band, a herd of large, cute animals, angels, devils, Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf during the opening night costume party.

Riding last in the 4* division, Tamie Smith and En Vogue dominated with a 28.50 from ground jury members Jane Hamlin, Robert Stevenson and Helen Brettell. Owned by amateur competitor Ruth Bley, the 14-year-old Hanoverian mare overcame her spooky nature on a spooky day to dial into her rider.

Except for a few glitchy flying changes, Tamie was thrilled with the test. “I’ve been riding her since February and really trying to get her trust,” she explained. “She’s a mare: you’ve got to sort of finagle your way in.” En Vogue spooked at a flapping tent as Tamie made her way to the arena, but once underway, “She was completely with me and I was really proud of her.”

Sara Mittleider & La Paz. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Riders from the Northwest followed in the standings after dressage. Sitting second is Sara Mittleider, of Idaho, and La Paz, nearly five points back on a 33.30.

Marc Grandia & Campari FFF. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Marc Grandia, from Washington, and Campari FFF are third with a 38.50.

Tamie Smith and Danito. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

As usual when so close to her home barn, which is across the street from the Galway Downs Equestrian Center, Tamie had a busy day with multiple rides. She took an even bigger lead in the CCI3*-L on another of Ruth Bley’s stars, Danito, a 10-year-old Hanoverian. Danito was second to En Vogue at the Intermediate level at this year’s American Eventing Championships in Kentucky, and his star is rising just as fast despite less than impressive early years.

Imported by Ruth as a 4-year-old sale prospect, Danito failed to get anyone to fall in love with him until the summer of 2018. Ruth had sent him to Tamie to sell, but after a month, “I called her and said, ‘Are you sure you want to sell him?’” Tamie shared. “I think he’s got all the ingredients.” They agreed to keep him through 2018 and their ascent has been steady and impressive. “He’s been a tricky horse. He’s got all this movement and he doesn’t always know what to do with it, so he can get tense. It’s been all about building a partnership.”

Of the performance that earned a 24.30 from the judging panel of Jane Hamlin, Bobby Stevenson and Bea DiGrazia, Tamie said,“He really couldn’t have been better: that was his best to date.” USEF eventing chef d’equipe Erik Duvander was equally enthused. “When I came out of the ring, Erik said, “That’s probably as good of a test as you had with Mai Baum at the Pan Am Games.’” Which is interesting because Tamie revealed she’d had Danito in mind for the Pan Ams before a pilot snafu and subsequent fall at a spring competition derailed the idea.

Jess Hargrave & Regenmann. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Jess Hargrave and her own Regenmann are second with a 31.60. 

Asia Vetter & Isi. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Asia Vedder and her own Isi are in third on a 32.30.

Whitney Tucker Billeter and Bill’s Midnight Magic. Photo by Captured Moment Photography.

Tucker Billeter Leads Training Three Day

Concurrent with the 3* and 4* dressage, 17 contenders began the last of the year’s Hylofit USEA Classic Series Training Three-Day runs. Whitney Tucker Billeter and Bill’s Midnight Magic led the field with a 25.90 from judges Amanda Miller and Wendy Wergeles.

“He’s always tricky in dressage, because the longer I’m on him the more amped up he gets,” explained Whitney. She’s been an assistant for 15 years to Erin Kellerhouse, who had campaigned Magic up to the 2* level. Whitney used her ample experience with the horse to keep him focused for show time, with help from a morning jog that helped keep his brain “busy but not over excited.” Injuries have sidelined him a few times over the years and Whitney was thrilled to get the ride on the horse owned by John Herich last year.

Friday’s endurance phases — roads and tracks, steeplechase and cross-country — will require more focus, especially with the home field disadvantage that can lurk for horses, like Magic, who live at the venue. Whitney was confident he’d come out Friday “ready to play the game.”

Britt Sabbah and Rickamore Rafferty sit second in the Training Three-Day followed by Jennifer Miller and Bon Bon.

 More To Come

The CCI3* and 4* divisions have Friday off as the 46-horse CCI2* division occupies nearly a full day of dressage, along with national levels Intermediate through Beginner Novice and the endurance phases of the Training Three Day.

Live scoring is available at and is live streaming the action on Saturday and Sunday.

Enhancing the equestrian action, Saturday’s schedule includes live music, local craft beers and Galway Spirits beverages enjoyed from tented oasis spots out on the cross-country course designed by Jay Hambly and Galway Downs builder Bert Wood.

The competition and fun festivities are made possible thanks to generous sponsors: Devoucoux, California Horsetrader, CWD and Parker Equine Insurance.

General admission is free with $10 parking, and VIP Patrons Passes include catered meals in the Grand Prix Arena’s VIP tent. For tickets and more information, visit

Galway Downs 3DE & H.T.: WebsiteEntry StatusRide Times, Live Scores, EN’s Coverage

CCI4*-L Top 5 After Dressage:

CCI3*-L Top 5 After Dressage:

Training Three-Day Top 5 After Dressage:

Get Geared Up for Galway Downs International

Galway Downs Promo November 2019

The Galway Downs International Event starts on Halloween Thursday and ends on time-change Sunday, so there’s likely even more excitement than usual to be had this weekend.

Three hundred horse/rider pairs from throughout the West will convene at the Galway Downs Equestrian Center’s beautiful 240 acres in the heart of Temecula Valley Wine Country. Fan friendly “Super Saturday” is set to draw big crowds with live music, local craft beers and beverages from Galway Spirits Distillery enjoyed in on-course oasis spots with great views of the cross country action.

Emilee Libby and Jakobi, winners of the Galway Downs International CCI4*-S in March 2019. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Important qualifying scores are on the line in the CCI-L 4/3/2* divisions, with equally intense national level competition through Beginner Novice. The agenda includes the popular Training Three Day division, which preserves eventing’s origins by staging all of the discipline’s original endurance day phases: roads and track, steeplechase, more roads and track, and cross-country.

Interesting match-ups are already emerging, including several steeds tackling their first 4*-L challenge. The 3*-L division features mother-daughter, Tamie Smith and Kaylawna Smith-Cook, going head-to-head. Tamie has had a girl-on-fire sort of year, topping the team podium at the Pan Am Games, completing Boekelo as our top placed U.S. finisher, landing in the top 20 at Bramham, and clean sweeping multiple West Coast event scoreboards. Tamie’s daughter Kaylawna has also had a super year, most recently winning the CCI3*-S at Woodside earlier this month. Galway will be Kaylawna’s first CCI3*-L — have fun out there, both you ladies!

Tamie Smith will compete in the 3* division against her daughter, Kaylawna Smith-Cook (and many others!) Photos by Kim Miller.

Also in the CCI3*-L are soon-to-be-newlyweds James Alliston and Helen Bouscaren. These training business and life partners will jump off their horses after Sunday’s show jumping then dash off to a special cross-country spot to tie the knot in front of their equestrian family.

Photo courtesy of James Alliston and Helen Bouscaren.

FEI stabling is the newest of year-round facility upgrades. New cross country features and expert footing maintenance highlight a track that combines the international perspective of Canadian designer Jay Hambly with the local expertise of longtime Galway builder Bert Wood.

Thank you major sponsors for making this end-of-season event one to remember: Devoucoux, CWD, Parker Equine Insurance and California Horse Trader.

Galway Downs 3DE & H.T.: WebsiteEntry StatusRide TimesLive Scores, Live Stream

Buck Davidson & Reggie: Full Steam Ahead with Haygain

Yesterday we shared the news that the highest-scoring U.S. event horse of all time is receiving one of the highest honors: a Breyer model of his own. Carl and Cassie Segal’s Ballynoe Castle RM, or “Reggie,” who spent his career with Buck Davidson, has been selected as the BreyerFest 2020 Celebration Horse. The 19-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding by Ramiro B will be making an appearance at BreyerFest 2020, which will be held July 10-12 at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Did you know that steamed hay was a big part of Reggie’s remarkable accomplishments? Our friends at Haygain shared this insight into Buck’s feeding regime and respiratory health. 

Ballynoe Castle RM takes a bite of his carrot bouquet during his retirement ceremony at Kentucky 2017. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Buck Davidson was one of the first Americans to embrace Haygain Hay Steaming when it reached America 11 years ago. His high-performance partner and perennial fan favorite, Ballynoe Castle R.M., had unique respiratory challenges – a “lazy larynx” – that made it miraculous he was able to compete at all, let alone become one of the sport’s biggest winners.

Throughout multiple wind surgeries and the careful management practices that followed them, steamed hay was a “game changer” for “Reggie,” says Buck. The now 19-year- old Irish Sporthorse retired from competition in 2017, but the strategies to keep him comfortable and capable of performing at his peak are fresh in the two-time World Equestrian Games contender’s mind.

“I loved Haygain from the beginning,” Buck recalls. “It was so obviously a help for Reggie, and I wound up putting all our horses on it. It’s a huge asset for them. They all seem to go better on steamed hay and to have fewer issues.”

While all his horses benefit from steamed hay, it was a big part of truly critical treatment for Reggie at certain junctures in his career.

“Running out of steam” and mildly noisy breathing were early indicators of Reggie’s respiratory issues as a 6- and 7-year old, Buck explains. The eventual diagnosis was laryngeal hemiplegia, aka “lazy larynx,” in which the larynx that connects the nasal passage to the windpipe (trachea) doesn’t function right. A normal larynx lets air pass through and protects the trachea when the horse swallows. But Reggie’s wasn’t normal, hence his early tiring and mild roaring.

Laser surgeries kept Reggie going for a while. But a later attempt to perform a “tie back” (prosthetic laryngoplasty) surgery didn’t work because the earlier procedures had caused the larynx cartilage to atrophy. The next step was more drastic: an arytenoidectomy, in which the paralyzed arytenoid cartilage is removed, opening up the passageway to the trachea. It was effective for Reggie: “His career really took off after that,” says Buck of the surgery performed by Dr. Eric Parente, DVM, DACVS, at the New Bolton Center Veterinary Hospital in Pennsylvania. But it came with the sizable risk of complications.

Photo courtesy of Breyer.

Related Risks

“There was always the risk of infection and pneumonia,” Buck recounts. Because there was a chance food would go down the wrong tube and enter the lungs, the cleanliness of Reggie’s hay was crucial. Developed in conjunction with the Royal Agricultural University of Cirencester, England, Haygain high temperature hay steaming is proven to eliminate 98% of dust, mold, bacteria and fungi. All of those are culprits in respiratory problems for horses with normal respiratory function. For Reggie, they could have been killers.

“It was mandatory that we steamed hay,” Buck remembers. “I noticed that all the gunk wasn’t in there after steaming. I felt like we were putting clean gasoline into Reggie’s engine.”

Newly anointed as the BreyerFest’s 2020 “Celebration” horse, Reggie now enjoys his retirement. He splits his time between his owners’, the Segals, farm in New Jersey and wintering with Buck and beloved longtime groom Kathleen Murray in Florida. Fans will have the chance to see him again at the BreyerFest in July, at the Kentucky Horse Park, where his beautiful likeness in a Breyer model will be available.

“He should never have done as well as he did in two World Games, at Kentucky or Badminton, or been the winningest horse in America when he retired,” Buck reflects. “But he had the heart of a lion and he was managed right.” Haygain is proud to have been a part of the management that made all that possible.

Buck Davidson and Ballynoe Castle RM. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Steaming into the Future

While Reggie enjoys luxe pasture life, Buck is atop the sport with a string of new horses. Fresh from the Burghley CCI5* in England in early September, Buck, along with several students, had a busy fall at the Morven Park Horse Trials in Virginia and the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International, where Buck and Erroll Gobey contested the CCI4*-L.

Buck has upgraded his early model Haygain with a full bale HG2000 that stays at home at Chesterland Farm in Pennsylvania. The BDJ Eventing horses stay on steamed hay while away competing thanks to the HG600 half-bale unit, which travels easily. While he and his team understand the benefits of steamed hay very well, all are careful to understand proper use of the equipment that produces it, too.

Steam injected evenly throughout the hay reaches the temperatures needed — between 188-212F degrees – to kill bacteria, mold and fungi. That process requires a power supply best scoped out in advance of travel. The HG600 uses a 1500-watt power circuit for its steam generators, with 110/120 voltage and 50/60 Hertz power. It needs to be plugged directly into the power source, not connected to an extension cord. (Back home at Chesterland, the HG2000 has two steam generators that require their own power sources meeting the same requirements.)

Most showgrounds have adequate power supply for the HG600, but that supply can be drained when other equipment –fans, refrigerators, microwaves, etc.—are drawing power at the same time. Generators are an option. In fact, most living quarters trailers have generators powerful enough to run an HG600, along with the trailer’s functions.

For more information on the benefits of steamed hay and the operation of all three Haygain steamer models, visit or call 888-307-0855.

Haygain is a science driven company with the horse’s health as the primary focus.

We are committed to improving equine health through scientific research, product innovation and consumer education in respiratory and digestive health. Developed by riders, for riders, we understand the importance of clean forage and a healthy stable environment in maintaining the overall well-being of the horse.

Our Haygain hay steamers are recommended by the world’s leading riders, trainers and equine vets and ComfortStall® Sealed Orthopedic Flooring System is used and recommended by leading Veterinary Hospitals, including Cornell University.

Woodside: Goodman, Adamo, Lilley Top Intermediate and Preliminary Standings

Stephanie Goodman and Carolina Morning. Photo by Kim Miller.

Professional Stephanie Goodman regularly treks from Idaho to Woodside and other California venues, but today’s Open Intermediate victory with her own Carolina Morning made the long haul especially worthwhile. She and the 8-year-old Thoroughbred finished on their 33.60 dressage score from judge Gretchen Butts.

The Boise, Idaho-based trainer wasn’t sure of the horse’s jumping potential when he came from the track as a 4-year-old. As a 5-year-old, he eschewed anything resembling a ditch or bank and, as the trainer’s personal horse, “he spends a lot of time not being ridden.” Nonetheless, he keeps rising to each upward challenge, including this weekend in his third Intermediate outing.

Dressage has been a particular challenge. “He’s a very confident horse and he doesn’t like being told what to do,” Stephanie said. “And there’s really a lot in the Intermediate B test.”

Yet, he’s also obedient and has a huge heart that’s helped him tackle each new challenge and Stephanie’s patient, one-step-at-a-time has served the pair well. “I just hope he keeps getting stronger and better,” she noted.

The overnight standings after Saturday’s cross-country held in this division. Marissa Nielsen and Vinetta M incurred only 2.40 time penalties over Marc Donovan’s stadium jumping track to stay in second. She and the 10-year-old Hanoverian were clear over Bert Wood’s cross-country on Saturday. Right behind them in third were Kelly Pugh and Ringwood Trendsetter, an 8-year-old Irish Sporthorse.

David Adamo and Soliguayre California. Photo by Kim Miller.

Adamo & Lilley Top Two Preliminary Divisions

With over 40 Preliminary entries, the division was split in two, with familiar faces –horses and riders – emerging the winners. Bay Area professional David Adamo had three horses entered and rode each to top five finishes. The best among those was A group winner Solaguayre California, the 8-year-old Argentinian sporthorse with whom Adamo won the inaugural Modified Training Horse Challenge at the same venue, The Horse Park at Woodside, in August.

“When I heard about that new division, I thought it would be great preparation for Preliminary,” Adamo explained.

Apparently Solaguayre California agreed, finishing on her 24.60 dressage score earned Friday from judge Vicki Matisi. They cruised on to make the time over Bert Wood’s cross-country route without pushing the pace. This being the young mare’s first try at the level, Adamo was pleasantly surprised to breeze across the finish line under the time. Show jumping has been the horse’s strength from the get-go, so Adamo was happy but not surprised to get the clear needed to maintain the top spot.

Adamo was fifth in the A group with another Modified Training Challenge star, Dos Lunas Filipo, the Argentinian gelding with whom he finished third in the August competition. The Modified Training Challenge was developed by veteran event organizer Robert Kellerhouse to be a suitable stepping stone for the big move from Training to Preliminary. Adamo’s results with both horses validate its value in a young horse’s development.

Argentina has become a favorite sporthorse source for Adamo. Solaguayre California and Dos Lunas Filipo epitomize the country’s bold and talented bloodlines, and the trainer loves the range of experiences to which these horses have typically been exposed when they come up for sale.

In the Preliminary B group, Adamo finished third aboard Fred. The 10-year-old is a Holsteiner, not Argentine-bred, but the trainer loves his potential, too. Fred was purchased for an amateur client a few years back and Adamo is enjoying bringing out his potential.

Rounding out the A group top three, Josh Barnacle and Happiness Is were second as the 11-year-old Hosteiner finished fault free on their 27.20 dressage score. Shannon Lilley and Carrigdhoun Cool Lad held their overnight third spot to finish on a 31.10 for the 7-year-old Irish Sporthorse.

Shannon Lilley and Ideal HX. Photo by Kim Miller.

Lilley Looks Ahead

Shannon Lilley has only had Ideal HX for one month, but her high hopes for the 6-year-old Dutch Warmblood are already being realized with their victory in the Preliminary B group. Shannon owns the horse with her father, Alex Lilley. The last horse they partnered in was Ballingowan Pizzaz, Shannon’s partner in a 2011 Pan Am gold medal. Like Pizzaz, Ideal also got the nod from coach Dayna Lynd-Pugh. “So, we hope this guy might be just as good!” Lilley said of the horse sourced through Caroline Martin Eventing.

“He’s still learning connection for dressage,” she said, which was not evident in the 25.20 score from judge Vicki Matisi on Friday. That and a clear cross-country effort had them in third coming into Sunday stadium, when a double clear trip elevated them two first after the two pairs above had a rail.

“He has a big rangy canter and he’s game on cross-country,” explained Shannon, who is also president of the Eventing Riders Association of North America. And, he’s fun to campaign and to be in the barn with. “He has the most personality of any horse I’ve ever owned. He is totally in your pocket all the time and very sweet.”

The overnight leaders were junior rider Jordan Crabo and the 17-year-old German Riding Pony, Black Gold. The bold pair had a show jumping rail to bring their dressage score to a 28.60 for second. Adamo and Fred’s rail took them from second to third.

Good Stuff Galore

The top seven finishers in each division took home armloads of useful prizes from generous Woodside International Horse Trials supporters. These included grooming gear and equipment from Professional’s Choice, gift certifiates from Ride On Video and Marcus Greene Photography and a stall plague from The Horse Park at Woodside.

Speaking on behalf of the 400-plus exhibitors, organizer Robert Kellerhouse expressed appreciation for sponsors Devoucoux, Parker Equine Insurance and Auburn Labs, longtime supporters of the event.

Many exhibitors will reconvene at Kellerhouse’s final major competition of the year, the Galway Downs International Horse Trials in Southern California’s Temecula. This important qualifier set for Oct. 31-Nov. 3 features divisions up to the CCI4*-L and includes the Training Three Day division.

Woodside CCI & H.T. [Website] [Final Scores]

Big Wins for Bouscaren, Smith-Cook, and Braitling at Woodside International

Helen Bouscaren and Ebay. Photo by Kim Miller.

Helen Bouscaren and Ebay seal the deal ion CCI4*-S win

Ebay had a nice pre-wedding gift for his owner Helen Bouscaren. It took the form of what the bride-to-be described as a “very brave” run over Ian Stark’s CCI4*-S course at the Woodside International Horse Trials, where the international divisions concluded in Woodside, California yesterday.

They led the small but strong four-star field by a slim margin after Saturday’s dressage and show jumping, then stayed atop the leaderboard after 8.40 time penalties on cross-country. A partner with her fiancée James Alliston in Alliston Eventing, Helen did her part to clinch the win, too:

“I was very determined to ride him aggressively, and to ride him to the base of the jumps, which is how he feels confident.”

Helen and James have their wedding set for Nov. 3rd, at Galway Downs in Temecula — right after they finish their show jumping rounds in the Galway Downs International Horse Trials.

Helen and the big-looking, but only 15.3-hand white Oldenburg gelding were second after dressage with a 31.70. Even with a heartbreaker final fence rail and a few time faults in stadium, they stayed there going into cross-country.

“My main goal was to jump clean and have him confident,” she said, so she wasn’t pressing the gas pedal too hard.

Helen and James base their business about 45 minutes from Woodside, and they felt a bit of a home field advantage with a crew of students and Woodside Pony Club members assisting through the weekend. The Alliston posse hauls over to school at the South San Francisco Bay Horse Park at Woodside regularly, which Helen says can be a mixed blessing come show time.

Helen Bouscaren and James Alliston celebrate with the Alliston Eventing crew.

“It’s great for cross-country, but it can be tough for dressage because when the horses unload here, they think they’re going out on cross-country so it can be a little hard to settle them here.”

“Ebay loves to perform,” Helen continued of the 10-year-old she’s had for three years. “He has so much energy, he could go around twenty times and be fine. He loves the atmosphere here and always jumps really well.”

The time penalties that resulted from Helen prioritizing a clean, confident round put the win on pins and needles as Amber Levine on her second ride, Cinzano, a Holsteiner, headed out last after two others retired on course. The 8-year-old’s run-out at the coffin fence laid waste to their victory hopes, but Amber and her veteran Carry On, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood, wound up a close second on a 45.20. Canada’s Leah Breakey and Master Class were third.

The Alliston Eventing students and Woodside Pony Club helpers came in handy on Saturday night as Helen was loaded with trophies. She received the Founder’s Cup, given in honor of Robert E. Smith, whose ideas were instrumental in the Combined Training Equestrian Team Alliance from which The Horse Park at Woodside was born. Helen also took home the Fric Frac Berence Heart Trophy, donated by five-star rider Frankie Thieriot-Stutes in honor of her retired eventer.

Kaylawna Smith-Cook and Passepartout. Photo by Kim Miller.

Kaylawna Smith-Cook an Passepartout win the CCI3*-S in first attempt at the level

Pan Am Team gold medalist Tamie Smith was full of advice as her daughter Kaylawna Smith-Cook warmed up for the 3*-S cross-country, in which she and her mount of seven months sat second.

“My mom asked me, ‘What do you need from me?’,” Kaylawna relayed. “I said, ‘I need you to go to the airport and not miss your plane for Boekelo!’”

So, off went Tamie to represent the United States Equestrian Team in the Nations Cup there, leaving her daughter to fend for herself. Kaylawna, a young professional, did so rather nicely.

Passepartout came Kaylawna’s way in March, as a sale prospect, but mother and daughter fell in love with the 10-year-old German Sporthorse and he never made it out of the Temecula, California stable where both base their training businesses.

“I didn’t come to this event thinking we would win,” Kaylawna noted. “He gave me his all in every phase.”

They earned a 32.0 in dressage from international judges Richard Baldwin and Gretchen Butts to sit fourth, were one of very few to jump double clear in stadium, and only added four penalties on cross-country.

Amateur Asia Vedder and Isi had a big lead going into cross-country, but a pilot error: jumping the four-star hanging log instead of the three-star duck coming out of the North Water Complex led to technical elimination.

“He was so good out there and really deserved the win,” Asia said of her German Thoroughbred. She’d lost a little time earlier on course, along with focus on the right water complex exit, while trying to make it up. They were able to complete the course and Asia was otherwise thrilled with the 9-year-old’s performance. Their next outing is the Galway Downs International 3*-L.

Most finishers in the three-star had cross-country time faults, but Erin Kellerhouse and her Irish Sporthorse Woodford Reserve nabbed a 2nd place finish by having the fewest at 3.20. Woodside veteran James Alliston and the handsome Paint Trakehner stallion, Cassio’s Picasso KD, finished third on a 39.80.

Bec Braitling and Dassett Ricochet. Photo by Kim Miller.

Bec Braitling and Dassett Ricochet stick their two-star standing

Riding for Arnell Sporthorses, Bec Braitling had a busy weekend highlighted by a fault-free trip over the two-star cross-country designed by Ian Stark and Bert Wood. Her partner is the fast-rising star, 7-year-old Dassett Ricochet. Since splashing on the scene a year ago as winner of the Galway Downs Training Three Day, the Swedish Warmblood has steadily ascended with confidence and scope to spare.

“When I first tried him, I thought he would be a good amateur horse because he’s very relaxed: very chill,” Bec recalled. “There’s actually more in there than we thought. He’s chill but he uses the excitement to be really good.”

The careful youngster is a reliable stadium jumper equally at ease out of the ring: “He looks carefully at everything, whether it’s scary or not. Then he lands and wants to run on. He can be pretty quick.”

Arnell partner, amateur rider Lauren Burnell, was fourth in the two-star with Freedom Hill, and Bec rode Arnell’s Penhill Celtic to a solid middle-of-the-pack finish in the same division. The native Australian rode the sporthorse sourcing company’s Caravaggio II to fifth in the the three-star as well.

Caravaggio II is just 8 years old and is another quickly moving up the levels. Being based at Central California eventing venue, Twin Rivers Ranch, Bec is able to “do the right homework” to enable all horses “to really come out and compete.”

Fifteen-year-old rider Meg Pellegrini continued a remarkable two years with her reserve finish aboard the Thoroughbred RF Eloquence, and 5th place aboard her Connemara/TB pony Ganymede. Lauren Billys and her rising youngster Can Be Sweet, a 7-year-old German sporthorse, held their third place position after stadium with a fault-free cross-country.

Along with beautiful ribbons and prize money, top finishers received generous prizes from Professional’s Choice, Marcus Greene Outdoor Photography, Auburn Labs and Ride On Video.

International division course designer Ian Stark, of Great Britain, enjoyed his latest visit to California. “Over the many years I’ve been coming to America, I’ve really seen the quality of horses and riding improve,” he said.

Noting the relatively small four-star field, he stressed that lower entry numbers don’t equal lower course demands: “We’ve got standards to adhere to and, if we soften them, those horses and riders qualify for the next level and have troubles. Instead, they have to come up and meet the level.”

Organizers including Woodside’s Robert Kellerhouse, Rebecca Farm’s Broussard family and others on the West Coast have been instrumental in improving the level of the sport, he added.

Stark looks forward to his next California visit, serving as the star attraction for the Galway Downs fundraising clinic in January of 2020, a long-standing West Coast eventing tradition.

Cross country for Novice, Beginner Novice, and Intro divisions continues today and are being live streamed by RideOnVideo.

Woodside CCI & H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Woodside Show Jumping Report: Bouscaren, Vedder and Braitling Lead CCI Divisions + Cross Country Live Stream

Steering clear of the spooky-fun graveyard in the middle of this afternoon’s Woodside International stadium jumping course, CCI4*, 3* and 2*-S contenders vied for pole position ahead of cross-country in front of a VIP dinner crowd on Friday night. The mood was festive, but the competition fierce while navigating course designer Marc Donovan’s creative multiple-choice test of skill and scope.

Helen Bouscaren and Ebay. Photo by Kim Miller.

Helen Bouscaren and Ebay Take Over the Top Spot in 4*-S

Helen Bouscaren and Ebay sit atop the 4*-S standings, even after a heartbreaker rail at the very last fence and a slight over time offense added to their dressage score for a 36.10. Helen, who is a partner in Alliston Eventing with her fiancée, James Alliston, blamed herself for the rail: “I turned around to look – which you’re not supposed to do–and it was still up. But later they said it had fallen. He jumped fantastic, though, so I’m not too upset.”

Planning for Ian Stark’s cross-country track tomorrow, Helen’s priority is making the time. Ebay, who she’s owned for three years, has two four-star shorts under his belt, but has yet to make the time in this phase. Of the course, Helen says, “It’s big and hard and there’s lots of new elements. It looks like a good four-star course, so hopefully we are up to it.”

Helen and Ebay slid into the lead over Amber Levine and Cinzano, who sit second. Amber and her more experienced partner, Carry On, were in the lead on their 30.80 dressage score until two rails and time faults dropped them into third on a 40.

Amber was thrilled with both horses’ performance. Cinzano just moved up to this level in the spring and Carry On is returning to the level after time off. The Chocolate Horse Farm trainer praised the course as having nice flow and four-star challenges.

“It was super fun to have the options at fences 8 and 9, plus the liverpool, the triple bar and all the fill in the jumps,” Amber said. “The Grand Prix Arena has an energy and presence to it, with the flags and the barns along the berm. And it was even more so with the big white VIP tent today.”

Asia Vedder and Isi. Photo by Kim Miller.

Asia Vedder and Isa Hold Lead in 3*-S

“It was fun!” said amateur rider Asia Vedder, summarizing her lovely dressage test with Isi that earned a 24.40, for a wide margin over the runner-up going into stadium jumping. Judges Gretchen Butts and Richard Baldwin rewarded what Asia described as a combination of “strength and relaxation” and “things we’ve been chipping away at for a while.”

“Today was far and away the best we’ve done,” she said. The mental game has been Asia’s personal focus: “I’ve been working on not getting into my own head too much.”

Asia kept her cool and her lead for a clean jumping round with just 0.40 time penalties, which will send her out on cross-country with a 24.80. Time will be on her mind, too as that has been a bugaboo for the 9-year-old Isi who just did his first three-star at Twin Rivers earlier this year. Gearing up for their first CCI3*-L at Galway Downs later this month, Asia will be seeking a “nice rhythm and a good round, with an eye on the time.”

Young professional Kaylawna Smith-Cook and Passepartout logged one of three double clear rounds, to move from 4th to 2nd in the standings. Helen Bouscaren and Paper Jam were third after a single rail brought their score up to a 34.80. After the big gap behind Asia and Isi, only four penalty points separate the 2nd through 5th place positions.

Bec Braitling and Dasset. Photo by Kim Miller.

Bec Braitling and Dassett Sit Lead Large 2*-S Division

Bec Braitling’s dressage ride with talented 8-year-old Dassett Ricochet had a little bit of everything: beautiful movements and moments of absolute distraction. After the test, it was determined that a rambunctious horse turned out in a nearby paddock during the test created an unfair setting. An adjusted score to reflect that left the pair second to David Koss and Stunner, by just a hair: 25.60 to 25.50, going into show jumping.

“It was funny because there were times I wondered if I should stop, then there were times it was clear he was trying to listen to me,” Bec explained. “I figured I’d keep going and deal with it afterward.”

The dressage incident didn’t get under horse or rider’s skin: they moved on to lay down a double clear round to move into the lead of the 29-horse field. Koss and Stunner had two rails, slipping to 10th, while 15-year-old Meg Pellegrini and RF Eloquence went double clear to move into the number two spot. Lauren Billys and Can Be Sweet continue on their dressage score of 27.90, in third. Less than five penalty points separate the top six in this division.

Cross Country Live Stream

Cross country action at Woodside began at 8:30am PST/ 11:30am EST with Preliminary divisions. The CCI2*-S begins at 10:20am PST/ 1:20pm EST followed by Intermediate, CCI3*-S, CCI4*-S, and then Training divisions. Thanks to RideOnVideo, you can watch all of today’s cross country action right here!

Woodside International Event Live Stream

Woodside CCI & H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

The Secret’s Out: Upgrades Galore for Galway Downs International

James Alliston & Pandora were big stars of last year’s Galway Downs International. Photo by Kim Miller.

Any hope eventers had of keeping Galway Downs as their own Shangri-La got blown away this past year. New, elite competitions let the international dressage community and national hunter/jumper exhibitors in on the fact that the venue in Southern California’s beautiful Temecula Valley Wine Country is an ideal place to excel in and enjoy top sport.

There’s an upside to sharing Shangri-La: the new event’s fast-tracked facility-wide upgrades. Ideal footing for the jumping, dressage, warm-up rings and cross-country tracks led a host of improvements ready for the Galway Downs International Event & Horse Trials, Oct. 31-Nov. 3, featuring competition from Novice to CCI4*-L and including the popular Training Three Day division.

“The equestrian facilities have undergone more improvements in the last 18 months than in all of the previous eight years,” says Ken Smith, who purchased the 242-acre property in 2010. He recently renewed a long-term contract with facilities and competition manager Robert Kellerhouse to keep the equestrian operation on the upward trajectory that’s brought it to national prominence and appeal.

The eventing community has treasured and supported Galway Downs since it began hosting competitions in 1999. Kellerhouse staged the West Coast’s first CCI4*-L (then a 3*) in 2010. Enhancements have been constant since then and hit light speed when Nilforushan Equestrian Events launched the Temecula Valley National hunter/jumper circuit in 2018, and when the Adequan® West Coast Dressage Festival came this year with its World Cup and Pan Am Games-qualifying international divisions.

In addition to satisfying demanding equestrians’ good footing fetishes, Galway’s many improvements positively impact the experience of exhibitors, sponsors and spectators. Exciting new stabling options, electricity and water-supply upgrades, new RV spots and lovely landscaping enhance the already-strong appeal. The show’s Temecula setting is a rapidly-growing tourist destination with great dining, wine tasting, hot air ballooning and other outdoor lifestyle attractions.

Pan Am Games team gold medalist Tamie Smith knows first-hand the scale of improvements and their impact. “Galway Downs has quickly become a premiere equestrian facility that Olympic hopefuls, previous Olympic riders and top professionals can compete at to prepare their horses and themselves for the world stage.”

Charlotte Babbitt & 2 A.M. dominated their Galway Downs International division last year. Photo by Kim Miller.

Cross Country

Eventers count on Galway Downs to lead the way in cross country creativity, challenge and safety, notes Jay Hambly. The international course designer is fresh from serving on the design team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics test event and looks forward to working with his longtime Galway partner, Bert Wood.

“Bert knows Galway better than anyone,” says Hambly. Wood has been Galway’s course builder since the beginning, and Hambly became the venue’s course designer last year. Their top priority is incorporating the longest possible stretches of the same terrain and applying their creativity and safety expertise to the track’s many unique features and five water complexes. “There’s lots to play with,” Hambly notes. “Bert has built a multitude of water obstacles, and lots of mounds and bumps, and there are trees everywhere! Galway has always set the standard on the West Coast.”

Managing the track footing is another of Wood’s specialties, Hambly adds. “He knows what equipment to use on each spot to tighten up or loosen the ground, so you have it consistent the whole way around.”

New Stabling

Australian Olympian Clayton Fredericks enjoyed Woodhouse’s temporary stabling during the 2012 London Games and recently brought it to the United States as FEI-Stabling. In use now at several top East Coast events, FEI-Stabling debuts at Galway Downs as an ideal showcase for its innovative efficiencies and comfort.

The Clearspan® covered stables have generously-sized, single row stalls separated by a 13’ aisle. Air circulates freely and horses can see each other but not be in contact, for safe socialization. Plusses include a 50-amp power supply for each 20 stalls, LED lighting and HDPE walls that clean easily for biosecurity and are kick and chew resistant.

Fredericks and Kellerhouse are longtime friends who served on the FEI Eventing Committee together. “We’ve had conversations about better event stabling for some time, and I’m happy to have made this arrangement for FEI-Stabling at Galway for the next year.”

Visiting Galway Downs International exhibitors can choose from 100 FEI-Stabling stalls or thoroughly refurbished permanent stabling.

“Our focus is always on serving the needs of our competitors while helping the sport grow and engaging more people in it – both exhibitors and fans,” Kellerhouse concludes.

Early sponsors of the Galway Downs International include Devoucoux, Parker Equine Insurance and Auburn Labs.

Entries open Sept. 17 at For updates on the show and more information, visit

Meanwhile, Kellerhouse and crew are also preparing for the Woodside International Horse Trials, Oct. 3-6. Held at the Horse Park at Woodside, in Northern California, this competition includes Intro through CCI4*-S and is another fixture of the West Coast event circuit. Entries open Aug. 20 at

Woodside Summer H.T. All Set to Debut Modified Training Challenge

Erin Kellerhouse and Sir Elijah Craig, M-Training Challenge Horse division contenders. Photo by MGO Photography.

Newly minted Pan American Games team gold medalist Tamie Smith, Olympic silver medalist Gina Miles, and World Cup finalist Jennifer Macouzet-Wooten are among the equestrian stars bound for this weekend’s Summer Event at Woodside. But a different level of riders will dominate the spotlight thanks to tremendous response for the inaugural Modified Training Challenge, the centerpiece of the Aug. 9-11 competition at The Horse Park at Woodside.

A field of 40 is set to contest the innovative “M-Training Challenge,” designed to prepare and showcase horses and riders moving up from standard Training Level’s test of scope and skill in dressage, cross country and stadium jumping. Run to the standards identified in the USEF rulebook as the Modified-Training division, the M-Training Challenge adds difficulty across the board without requiring the full step up to Preliminary. M-Training Challenge dressage is currently underway, with the jumping phases to follow tomorrow.

The idea sprang from discussions between organizer Robert Kellerhouse and West Coast riders and owners. It is modeled on the super successful Preliminary Challenge, which for 11 years has showcased contenders at that level in a Saturday night dinner gala during the stadium jumping finale. The M-Training Challenge concludes with a ringside BBQ dinner Saturday night, too. (Purchase dinner tickets.) Top contenders vie for $2,500 in cash in both the horse and rider divisions and a new saddle that will go to the overall lowest scoring pair.

Entries are also strong for the rest of the Summer Event’s divisions:  Intro to Intermediate, plus Future Event Horse 2-Year-Old, 3-Year-Old and Yearling tests.

USEA president Rob Burk with Mid-Cal Region Pony Club’s Kathryn Schulz, at the Spring Event at Woodside. Photo by Kim F Miller.

            Pony Club Celebration

The Pony Club Celebration is another new Summer Event attraction. All participating United States Pony Club members will receive recognition on the online results and special first and second place Pony Club ribbons will be presented in Intro through Preliminary during each division’s winners ceremony.

“We really appreciate Robert Kellerhouse and the Horse Park at Woodside for all the things they’ve done for Pony Club,” notes Mid-Cal Pony Club Regional Supervisor Kathryn Schulz. “It’s really great to have other organizations recognize the value of Pony Club.” Outside of their special recognition in the program and winners circle, Pony Clubbers will likely be wearing their club’s pins and they are expected to turn out in force for Saturday night’s BBQ party.

            Volunteer Spots Open!

Volunteers are needed and this is a great way to get involved and support the sport, as well as meet nice people. Woodside Eventing offers branded swag and credits toward future entries, and the United States Eventing Association’s Volunteer Incentive Program logs hours for year-end national recognition and prizes. Sign up here. The VIP program was guided by the late and much-missed Don Trotter of Sunsprite Warmbloods; many have already signed up to volunteer in his honor.

The Summer Event’s much-appreciated sponsors are Devoucoux, APF, Parker Equine Insurance and Professional’s Choice.

For more information, visit www.woodsideeventing.comTickets for the BBQ dinner can be purchased online now at tickets and in the show office. 

Woodside Summer H.T.: WebsiteEntry StatusRide TimesLive Scores


Lauren Billys Is Targeting Tokyo at Rebecca Farm

Article provided by Haygain. The science-backed horse health company manufactures Haygain Hay Steamers and ComfortStall Orthopedic Sealed Flooring and distributes the Flexineb Portable Equine Nebulizer. For more information, visit

Lauren Billys and Castle Larchfield Purdy in the first horse inspection at The Event at Rebecca Farm 2019. Photo by Shelby Allen.

“He grabbed the bit and ran!” is Lauren Billys’ description of how Castle Larchfield Purdy attacked the final uphill stretches during his most recent Advanced cross country course. That might be expected from her 2016 Rio Olympics partner and hopeful for the 2020 Games, but instead there have been some dark months when Lauren wasn’t sure what the future held for him. He’s 17 and first had to recover from a severe colic last fall.

He did that, but in the process presented more clear symptoms confirming something Lauren had long suspected: respiratory issues.

“I always knew that his breathing was the limiting factor in his fitness,” she says of the big Irish Sporthorse. It became more pronounced as she began legging him up this past spring, after he had fully recovered from the colic. Prior to that, the main hint of breathing challenges was that Purdy’s respiratory rate was slow to recover after exertion, especially compared to that of lighter Thoroughbreds and other breeds who excel in the rigorous discipline. However, Purdy hadn’t been coughing or having any nasal discharge, common signs of respiratory tract issues. And he was otherwise performing at his peak.

As he regained fitness this year, the symptoms were more obvious. On conditioning gallops, he hung his tongue out the side of his mouth – “we think to get more air’’–  and the effort to inhale was audible. “It wasn’t like he was roaring, but you could just hear him struggling to inhale,” explains Lauren, who is based in California and represents Puerto Rico in international competition.

Lauren Billys and Castle Larchfield Purdy at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Harnessing Diagnostic Advances

Purdy was referred to Phoebe Smith, DVM, DACVIM, an internal veterinary medicine specialist with Riviera Equine in California’s Santa Ynez Valley. An extensive respiratory exam included the use of the relatively new dynamic respiratory endoscope while Purdy was galloping, and a cytology report drawn from a bronchoaveleor lavage. The exam confirmed Lauren’s fears: Purdy, indeed, had respiratory challenges.

The dynamic endoscope revealed some functional instabilities in his upper airway that only occurred under exertion. The BAL revealed a moderate level of Inflammatory Airway Disease (now often referred to as a condition on the Equine Asthma Spectrum) and a mild case of Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage. The functional instabilities occur in the upper airway, and the IAD exists in the lower airways. For Purdy, it was likely that each condition affected the other, though it’s not possible to say in what way or to what extent.

Lauren and Dr. Smith set about “treating the treatable:” IAD and, by treating that, likely eliminating the mild EIPH.

Multiple studies estimate that over 80% of horses have IAD to some extent, often without symptoms that even a conscientious owner would detect. It occurs when irritation causes inflammation and constriction of airways, impeding the transfer of oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body and further stressing an already delicate system. It is not curable, but it is manageable.

EIPH is a condition common in racehorses and others who exert themselves to the extreme for short bursts. It occurs when tiny blood vessels in the lung – 1/110th the width of a human hair — burst. In mild cases, like Purdy’s, the amount of bleeding is so small it can only be detected in a microscopic evaluation of a bronchoaveolar lavage.

Purdy wearing the dynamic respiratory endoscope, a technology that enabled the vet to take pictures of his respiratory tract while Lauren was doing a normal conditioning gallop. Photo courtesy of Kim Miller.

            Immediate & Long Term Solutions

A Flexineb Portable Nebulizer was the first step to bringing Purdy immediate relief, delivering the bronchodilator medication, albuterol, and the corticosteroid, fluticasone. An intensive, initial 90-day course of treatment with these aerosolized medications brought the IAD under control and enabled Purdy to gradually build up his fitness.

But Lauren wanted long-term solutions and to keep Purdy at his peak without medications that are not allowed in competition. With the help of the Purdy Syndicate, Lauren imported him in 2013 and galloped on to fulfill a lifelong Olympic dream. His well-being is Lauren’s top priority, but with him so fit, capable and willing, she believes the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are fully within reach so long as his respiratory conditions can be controlled.

On Dr. Smith’s recommendation, she started Purdy on Haygain high-temperature steamed hay in April of this year. “With IAD, we know it’s inhaled particulates they are reacting to, so the overarching goal is always to reduce that,” the veterinarian explains.

Haygain hay steaming rids hay of 98% of the breathable dust, mold, fungi and bacteria  found in even top-quality hay.  In California’s dry climate, hay is often dustier than that found elsewhere in the country, while mold spores may be less of an issue.

Lauren’s team had been wetting hay to dampen dust and appreciates the switch to steaming. Purdy loves it and it’s much less of a mess, she notes. At home in the Carmel Valley area, Purdy spends more hours on grass pasture to avoid barn dust and his paddock is sprinkled regularly to further minimize breathable irritants. (Dr. Smith cautions that conventional wisdom regarding the respiratory benefits of an outdoor life don’t always apply. “Sometimes it’s dustier outside, especially if it’s windy or there are fires in the area. It should really be considered on a farm by farm basis.”)

Monitoring Purdy’s respiratory recovery rate after workouts with similar levels of exertion over these last four months, Lauren says the new routine is improving that once weak metric of his fitness. That and his performance, energy and attitude suggest that the mild EIPH and IAD are well controlled.

In mid-July, Purdy went off the nebulized albuterol and fluticasone. Instead, he’s getting nebulized saline solution and EquiSilver, a chelated silver product that kills infectious microrganisms: both are competition “safe.”

Lauren Billys and Castle Larchfield Purdy back in action this spring. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

New Lease On Life

Based on how Purdy was feeling early in his steamed hay-powered routine, Lauren was optimistic as they headed to the Rebecca Farm CCI4*-L in late July. “Honestly, this whole process has given him a new lease on life,” she explains. “I never thought about how this could affect him.” Even in the dressage phase of spring competitions, “He had so much energy and perk,” she reflects. “And it carries from one day to the next.”

Speaking of the Spring Event at Woodside in late May, where she and Purdy finished second at Advanced as a warm-up run, Lauren recalls, “I’ve run Woodside I don’t know how many times… Every time, I’ve always had to kick him when we get to that last uphill stretch. This time, he grabbed the bit and ran. He’s never felt like that before!”

There’s a lot riding on their Rebecca Farm performance. To represent Puerto Rico at the Olympics again, Lauren and Purdy need to be the #1 or #2 ranked pair in Latin America. Right now they are #1 and Lauren believes a top 3 finish at Rebecca Farm will lock up the Tokyo track. “If that happens, I think it will be hard for someone to knock us off.”

As of Saturday morning, she’s well on her way as the CCI4*-L dressage leader. Click here to follow our Rebecca Farm coverage.

Tokyo or no, Lauren has already realized one Olympic dream with Purdy. Two would be amazing, she acknowledges, but having a healthy, easy breathing horse is even more important.

Photo by Kim Miller.

Haygain is a science driven company with the horse’s health as the primary focus.

We are committed to improving equine health through scientific research, product innovation and consumer education in respiratory and digestive health. Developed by riders, for riders, we understand the importance of clean forage and a healthy stable environment in maintaining the overall well-being of the horse.

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Five Top 10 Eventers Are Hay Steamers

Liz Halliday-Sharp’s five-star partner Deniro Z eats steamed hay to prevent a recurrence of ulcers.

Five of the U.S. current top 10-ranked eventers count on Haygain steamed hay for their horses. Initially, most sought it for different reasons: poor appetite, ulcers and being “allergic to America” among them. Which is kind of funny because these are all secondary benefits.

Steamed hay was developed 10 years ago in conjunction with the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, England. The primary goal was improving respiratory health, which is considered the number-one performance limiter in otherwise healthy horses.

Hay should always comprise the majority of the horse’s diet, but the fact is that even the best quality, most expensive hay is loaded with breathable irritants: dust, mold, fungi and bacteria. These particles infiltrate the airways and lungs, which are one of the most vulnerable and delicate systems in the horse’s body. Unlike muscles, the thin lining of the respiratory system, through which oxygen is absorbed by the body,
can’t be made stronger.

Damage can’t be repaired, only managed, which steamed hay is a huge help with. Ideally, Haygain is deployed as a preventative measure. In healthy horses, the clean, pure hay steaming produces enables better breathing that equals better health and performance.

Eventers Lead The Way

Globally, eventing riders lead the way in embracing hay steaming. Their three-phase sport involves galloping at speed, two to three miles, over large, permanent obstacles that don’t budge when hit. Feeding clean hay, no matter where they are in the world, ensures the easy breathing essential to that level of exertion.

Recently selected to represent the U.S. at the Pan American Games in August, Tamie Smith turned to Haygain Steamed Hay to help improve her 5* horse Wembley’s appetite. The big horse was a picky eater and needed to eat more to have the energy required. Wembley’s appetite improved immediately on steamed hay and Tamie quickly recognized its wider benefits and put all her horses on it.

“All you have to do is look at steamed hay versus dusty, dirty, dry hay, and it’s a no brainer,” Tamie says. “You can see how much cleaner it is and we just feel it’s overall better for the horses’ respiratory systems.”

One of Tamie’s other horses is Mai Baum, her Pan Am Games partner, and the stakes regarding his health could not be higher right now. The U.S. team must earn Pan Am gold or silver to assure the States a place at the 2020 Olympics.

Tamie’s Pan Am teammate as the traveling reserve, Liz Halliday-Sharp, sought Haygain to help one of her top horses, Deniro Z, recover from an ulcer and prevent a recurrence. For nutritional reasons, he needed to switch from haylage to regular hay, yet still get the water content found in haylage. Since switching to steamed hay, Deniro is back on track as a top international horse.

“Deniro prefers it to anything else,” Liz reports. Like Tamie, Liz is now steaming hay for her other horses. “I like the idea that it’s dust and bug free and they all seem to love it.”

Her barn staff is happily on board, too. “We had been soaking our hay and that was a real nightmare. They love not having to do that anymore and the horses are happy and healthy.”

Fellow top-10 ranked rider, Olympian and WEG team member Lauren Kieffer acknowledges that she didn’t realize all of steamed hay’s benefits “until we had a horse that really needed it.” That horse was a recent import who arrived from Europe struggling with allergies. His breathing was frequently wheezy, and he was prone to coughing at rest and while galloping. “He was basically allergic to America,” Lauren comments.

While looking for ways to alleviate the horse’s allergy symptoms, Lauren’s head groom Sally Robertson suggested Haygain. The allergy-affected import was a familiar story for Sally, whose belief in steamed hay dates back to her days in England working for Clark Montgomery. At the time, the American Olympic eventer was based there and some of the horses he brought with him were suffering allergy-like symptoms, probably due to different grasses and other environmental factors. The science-backed benefits of feeding clean hay made immediate sense to Sally and seeing Clark’s horses respond positively to the new diet made her a believer.

Back in the States working for another top rider, Sally saw another imported horse’s persistent cough disappear after just a few feedings of steamed hay. “We just couldn’t get rid of that cough. We’d wet the grain, we’d soak the hay … nothing mattered. But after a few feedings of steamed hay, that cough was gone. It was crazy!”

Sally brought her belief in Haygain when she signed on as head groom for Lauren. Lauren rides for Jacqueline Mars’ Mars Equestrian and is a top candidate for another Olympic outing.

Buck Davidson is another top-10 ranked Haygainer. One of the first Americans to embrace hay steaming, Buck explains that “it was huge for Reggie,” his 2010 World Equestrian Games partner, aka Ballynoe Castle RM.

Another Olympian, WEG team member and top-10 ranked rider, Will Coleman, adopted steamed hay for his horse’s overall health and improved performance. “You focus on your short-term plans because that’s what will take you to your long-term goals,” he explains. Maintaining peak horse health is the most important aspect of those short-term goals. Steamed hay, he says, “is one of those small things that make a big difference.”

Although he’s an Olympian, Will has a reason for choosing steamed hay that gives him common ground with all horse owners: a desire to provide the best for their horses’ health, well-being and performance.

For more information on Haygain USA, visit

The Summer Event at Woodside to Feature ‘M-Training Challenge’

2019 Preliminary Challenge winners: Penhill Celtic & Bec Braitling (horse division), left, and Meg Pellegrini & Ganymede (rider division.) Photo by Sherry Stewart.

On the heels of a sold-out Spring Event at Woodside, organizer Robert Kellerhouse announces another competition innovation: the Modified Training Challenge. The “M-Training Challenge” is the centerpiece of The Summer Event at Woodside, taking place Aug. 9-11 at The Horse Park at Woodside.

Designed to offer new challenges in the dressage, cross country and show jumping phases for Training level horses and riders, the M-Training Challenge is modeled on the Preliminary Challenge. Like that 11-year-old institution on the pathway to international divisions, the M-Training Challenge will conclude with Saturday night show jumping followed by a ringside dinner after-party.

Run to the standards identified in the USEF rulebook as the “Modified-Training” division, the M-Training Challenge adds difficulty across the board without requiring the full step up to Preliminary.

Friday’s dressage will be conducted at Modified Test B, introducing leg yields, halt and rein-back, 10-meter trot and 15-meter canter circles and trot and canter lengthenings, with two judges to provide feedback. Cross country will be built at Training level’s one-meter height, but on a different track than the regular Training course and with more technical challenges and a faster pace of 470 meters per minute. Show jumping will be staged at the Modified division’s 1.05-meter height, with double and triple combinations upping the degree of difficulty.

Prizes for the M-Training Challenge are already sweet: a new saddle for the overall lowest score, and at least $2,500 cash in the horse and rider divisions. Kellerhouse anticipates that broad industry enthusiasm will enable additional prizes and welcomes founding sponsors who would like to align with this new event.

            New Ideas From a Veteran Organizer

The M-Training Challenge’s horse and rider divisions are designed for professionals’ younger horses and for riders looking to test themselves at a higher level. Many of these rider division candidates are amateurs and juniors who comprise the base of the pyramid upon which equestrian sport is built in the United States. Kellerhouse looks forward to celebrating their accomplishments.

Along with establishing the nationally-known Preliminary Challenge, the veteran event organizer began staging international eventing at Galway Downs in 1999. He brought the first CCI4*-L (formerly defined as a CCI3*) competition to the West Coast, in 2010, and now has a long track record of top events at Galway Downs in Southern California’s Temecula and The Horse Park at Woodside in Northern California. By prioritizing footing, maximizing current technologies and gathering and acting on customer feedback, Kellerhouse competitions have enabled many international contenders to prepare on the West Coast. After the Summer Event at Woodside comes the Woodside International Horse Trials CCI4*-S, Oct. 3-6, followed by the Galway Downs International Three-Day Event & Horse Trials, CCI4*-L, Oct. 31-Nov. 3.

Kellerhouse also manages the Galway Downs equestrian venue. This 242-acre property in the Temecula Valley wine country in Southern California now hosts international dressage and eventing competition, national hunter/jumper tournaments and a nearly year-round calendar of equestrian activity.

            Ideal Timing

Falling shortly after The Event at Rebecca Farm in Montana, The Summer Event at Woodside is an ideal showcase for Intro to Intermediate exhibitors. The Event also hosts Future Event Horse 2-year-old, 3-year-old and yearling tests.

 Stabling, footing and many other upgrades were thoroughly appreciated by the 450-plus pairs contesting last month’s Spring Event and improvements continue at the spacious, beautiful venue in one of California’s horsiest havens. In addition, the South Bay Area weather is usually cooperative. “It’s one of the few places where it’s not too hot to stage equestrian competition in August,” Kellerhouse notes of the wooded, 272-acre facility that is uniquely dedicated to year-round equestrian sport and lifestyle.

Entries for The Summer Event at Woodside open June 25 at or at Xentry on  Tickets to the M-Training Challenge dinner can also be purchased at, where live scoring will be available during the event. Entries close July 23. For more information, visit

For sponsorship information, contact Alyssa Dobrotin at [email protected].

The Spring Event at Woodside: Dressage Day Roundup

Intro through Advanced competition got the Memorial Day weekend off to a busy start as 450 horse/rider pairs filled six dressage rings at The Horse Park at Woodside. The Preliminary Challenge wraps up on “Super Saturday” with cross country in the morning and show jumping at night, while all other divisions continue through Sunday, May 26.

Let’s catch up with the Friday action!

Madison Langerak and Normandy’s Kivalo. Photo by Kim Miller.

Madison Langerak and Tamie Smith Lead the Preliminary Challenge Rider and Horse divisions

Now marking its 11th year, the Preliminary Challenge celebrates and incentivizes horses and riders preparing for the international divisions. Cash and prizes total $15,000 in each division and the show jumping finale features an electric atmosphere in which the top 10 pairs jump in reverse order of their standings. It’s a great test for horses and riders and has become the social event of the season for spectators.

Long trips have paid off for young eventer Madison Langerak. Two years ago, on a family vacation in Hungary, she fit in a horse shopping trip and found the Hungarian Sport Horse, Normandy’s Kivalo. He was a very green 5-year-old, but Madison saw potential that’s proven true.  After another long trip, this time from her Boise, Idaho home to Woodside, California, Madison and Kivalo topped a strong field of 27 contenders in the Preliminary Challenge’s rider division after dressage.

Madison has targeted the Spring Event’s Preliminary Challenge for some time. Previous horses had not had quite the right stuff for this stepping stone to international competition. “I’ve always looked at it as a milestone and to start this well is special because I’ve produced him through the levels myself.” She attributes their steady ascent together to Kivalo being “smart, willing and loving his job.”

Saturday’s Bert Wood-designed Preliminary cross-country track walks as the perfect combination of technical and big, Madison explains. They’ve done well with big and technical separately this year, and now she hopes to put the two together effectively. If they remain in a top spot for Saturday night’s show jumping showdown, under the lights and with a big crowd cheering, Madison hopes the jazzed-up environment won’t jangle her nerves. She’s confident of how Kivalo will respond. “I think that will spice him up. He’s a little on the lazy side, but he loves to perform.”

Madison and Rivalo’s 29.40 dressage score led the pack in the competition that has catapulted many careers. Maya Clarkson and Sweep’s Crystal Cruise are second with a 31.60 and Meg Pellegrini and RF Eloquence enter Saturday morning’s cross-country sitting third on a 33.

Tamie Smith and Elliot V. Photo by Kim Miller.

Familiar professionals dominated dressage in the Preliminary Challenge Horse division. Tamie Smith and Elliot-V are in the lead on a 27.10, Bec Braitling and Penhill Celtic are close behind on a 27.90 and Lauren Billys and Can Be Sweet are third on a 30.90 score.

Frankie Thieriot-Stutes and Chatwin. Photo by Kim Miller.

   Two Amateurs, Frankie Thieriot-Stutes and Hilary Burkemper, Lead Advanced

Two amateurs topped the standings after dressage in the Advanced division. Familiar Frankie Thieriot-Stutes and Chatwin lead the way on a 27.30 score from judges Valerie Crail and David Schmutz. Hilary Burkemper and her gorgeous gray Undercover are second on a 32.50, with Sara Selmer and PDQ Leigh in third on a 33.80.

An attorney who lives in Santa Barbara, Hilary is thrilled with “Ace’s” dressage test. It’s the latest in many milestones over the last year since Hilary started working with hunter/jumper coach Kristin Harden and eventing trainer Erin Kellerhouse. She describes both as “the greatest,” and credits them with restoring her own and Ace’s confidence in the sport. Ace lives with Erin in Temecula and Hilary keeps her riding sharp with a 5-year-old at home in Santa Barbara. She misses her Ace,  so named “because he aces everything”– but their 6-year partnership before that and Erin’s horsemanship make it work. It’s unusual arrangement for an Advanced pair, Hilary confirms, but it works. “Ace is happy and well taken care of and it’s thrilling to see your horse that way.”

As for Saturday’s cross-country, “Woodside is always challenging,” Hilary says. “But it’s a fun challenge. It’s not dangerous or intimidating but you have to take notice. There’s a lot of downhill terrain. I think it’s the most challenging course in California.”

Hilary Burkemper and Undercover. Photo by Kim Miller.

Along with continued top flight competition and the Preliminary Challenge dinner gala, “Super Saturday,” May 25, encourages new fans to come out and enjoy the sport. A VIP tent on cross-country offers up-close action of the Lake Shanahan water complex and US Eventing Association CEO Rob Burk will be giving a 4 p.m. talk geared toward newcomers.  The United States Pony Club has a booth all weekend with members happy to answer questions about the sport.

VIP X-C Tent tickets and Preliminary Challenge Gala tickets are available in the office while they last. For more information, visit

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