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Steam-Powered Successes in Tokyo

Isabell Werth & Bella Rose: Team Gold and Individual Silver. Photo courtesy of Haygain.

Haygain is all about helping horses be healthy and capable of performing at their peak. Steamed Hay-powered equine athletes did exactly that in dressage, eventing and show jumping competition at the Tokyo Games. Several earned medals and many more did their riders, support teams and countries proud by giving their all and finishing strong.

Along with lavishing praise on their equine partners, Olympic equestrians were universal in sharing credit for their success with those behind the scenes. Haygain is proud to be among them.

“There are so many variables we worry about when traveling to overseas championships with our team horses,” says Susan Johns, DVM, the USET Land Rover Eventing Team Veterinarian, of Haygain’s help.

“In addition to the different allergens and dust they encounter in a foreign country, often we have to switch them to a different forage entirely. Haygain helps alleviate the stress that comes along with changing a significant portion of the horse’s diet so we can concentrate on other things — like making sure they’re feeling and performing at their best on the world stage.”

In helping several riders and teams have access to High Temperature Steamed Hay in Tokyo, Team Haygain surmounted several hurdles of its own — most of them logistics related to COVID and the unique electricity supply in Japan. (Haygain also helped teams have Steamed Hay in the pre-export quarantine in Aachen, Germany).

Seeing these equine stars dance, gallop and soar on the world’s biggest stage was ample reward for Haygain’s contributions. And we can’t help but brag a bit and recap the stories behind why a few of these athletes rely on Steamed Hay.


In eventing, at least half of the top 10 teams included devout Haygain Hay Steamers, including members of the Gold British and Silver Australian teams.

Britain’s Team Gold and Individual Silver medalist Tom McEwen, in fact, recalls Haygain “making immediate sense to me.” As one of Haygain’s earliest adopters, he only recently replaced the original Hay Steamer he purchased shortly after its 2009 commercial debut.

“We steam as a preventative measure,” Tom explains. “I think the Haygain Steamed Hay seriously helps them. It’s especially important because they do such strenuous activity. Haygain, for us, is really about peace of mind: knowing that we are surpassing the requirements for our horses.”

For the humans in the equestrian partnership, that peace of mind may be Haygain’s greatest benefit: knowing they’ve provided their horse every health advantage possible.

Show Jumping

Eight of the top 10 show jumping teams had an assist from Haygain Steamed Hay. That includes the Gold Medal Swedes and the Silver Team USA. Both thrilled the world with their remarkable performances throughout the competition and especially in a jump-off that all came down to speed.

While the USA’s Jessica Springsteen attracted legions of new fans to the sport, the rider and Haygain ambassador herself was laser-focused on the huge hurdles she and Don Juan van de Donkhoeve faced in the arena.

“With Haygain’s help, I can make sure the hay wherever I go is never dusty,” noted Jessica early in her embrace of Steamed Hay. “It’s bacteria-free, so my horses don’t have any issues during competitions.”

Team USA’s anchor pair, McLain Ward, and Beechwood Stables’ Contagious, laid it all on the line in the Friday night jump-off. Knowing their time, Sweden’s anchors, Peder Fredricson and All In, continued their remarkable Olympic streak with a gold-clinching time. Contagious doesn’t have All In’s backstory (yet!) but he has overcome some challenges to get to the top.

A few years ago, Contagious had a classic example of subtle respiratory challenges that can easily go unnoticed. “Even when he was fit, he’d sometimes lose steam at the end of a course,” noted his at-home groom Owen Rogers. It did not present as any kind of major health issue, but the meticulous care team at Ward’s Castle Hill Farm wanted to address it. They turned to Steamed Hay for its ability to reduce respiratory irritants and allergens in his hay. Over three rounds of team jumping, there was certainly no hint of respiratory limitations.


This discipline’s team and individual podiums were heavily stacked with Haygain Hay Steamers. Team Gold and Individual Silver Medalist, Germany’s Isabell Werth, leads that list. She’s followed by fellow Haygain believer Charlotte Dujardin, Team and Individual Bronze Medalist. “We like to keep things as simple and natural as possible, and feeding clean hay is a great way to do that,” explains the triple Olympic Gold medalist from 2012 and 2016.

USA Team Silver medalist Steffen Peters is relatively new to Haygain. His partner, Suppenkasper is now the world-famous #RaveHorse thanks to TikTok fame generated by his lovely Freestyle performance. Suppenkasper never had any health issues that led to adding Steamed Hay, but Steffen considers it an “integral part of our health program for our horses,” he said during a spectacular string of successes in Florida early this year. “We have seen great improvements in their performance and overall wellness!”


Coughs and Hives on Hiatus at Four Schools Farm

Joanie Morris of Four Schools Farm. Photo by Brant Gramma Photography.

Memorial Day is extra memorable at Four Schools Farm for unusual reasons. The late May holiday is when Joanie Morris’ 7-year-old eventing partner, Betterthanexpected, breaks out in hives. It was to the point that his hair fell out and bouts of troubled skin lasted for weeks at a time. Since “Admiral” came to Joanie and her husband Richard Picken’s Lexington, Kentucky farm as a 3-year-old, “We could set our clock by his hives.”

Not this year.

The former Managing Director of Eventing for the United States Equestrian Federation, Joanie is a lifelong horsewoman familiar with myriad allergic reactions in horses. Often, they occur in horses imported from Europe, likely due to the change in environment. But Admiral is a Thoroughbred born and raised in Kentucky, so that couldn’t be blamed. “I don’t know if it’s the humidity, rain or something in the grass,” Joanie says.

Haygain Hay Steaming reduces up to 99% of the dust, mold and other allergens found even in forage of good nutritional quality. Because avoiding allergens is the best way to avoid allergies, it has “made a huge difference for Admiral.”

It has also helped him with another issue of unknown origin: a random cough that cropped up a few years ago. Like the hives, the cough never caused Admiral to miss a day of work. Veterinary checks eliminated the possibility of a serious issue related to the cough, but confirmed Joanie’s conviction that, “As an athlete, it just can’t be good for you.”

Haygain Steamed Hay has taken care of the cough, too. Joanie was reminded of that when Admiral returned from several days out in pasture during a post-competition break. “When we brought him back into the barn, we forgot to steam his hay the first day. The first time I got on him, he coughed three times right away.”

Helping Timaru, Too!

Steamed Hay has been a big help for another Four Schools horse: the recently retired Timaru, owned by young rider Colin Gaffney. The senior citizen 3* eventer had a slight bleed from one nostril when stressed or after an especially rigorous jump outing. It occurred intermittently at first, then more regularly.

Nebulizer treatments didn’t help and veterinary exams did not determine a cause. Without a diagnosis, they could not recommend a specific treatment. Like Admiral, Timaru performed as if nothing was bothering him, but Joanie figured that blowing capillaries in his nose had to be agitating.

After starting Haygain Steamed Hay, Timaru completed the most rigorous events of his career: two CCI3*-L events, throughout which there were no nose bleeds. Haygain was the only change in his daily routine before that happy outcome. “I like isolating the variables so you can kind of find out what’s working,” Joanie explains. “Haygain has made a huge difference for him, too.”

Joanie’s not saying Haygain Steamed Hay is a magic panacea for everything. Admiral, for example, showed different allergy symptoms while competing in Aiken, South Carolina this spring. The triggers in that setting seem to involve sand and rain, Joanie surmises. And his hives have occasionally hinted at returning, but with nowhere near the severity or duration. A Steamed Hay diet made both cases much more manageable, she reports.

A Four Schools Fit

Joanie and Richard sought out Steamed Hay as a good fit for Four Schools Farm’s focus on highest quality horse care. Located on 33 acres in prime Bluegrass country, the farm is home to 15 or so horses who receive individualized care and training. It regularly hosts professional riders visiting for tune-ups: Tokyo-bound Liz Halliday-Sharp (a fellow Hay Steamer) and Deniro Z, for example, stopped by for a jump school shortly before leaving for Europe.

Joanie and Richard’s resumes illustrate involvement in and contributions to the highest levels of equestrian sport. At home, this is reflected in their horses’ care. A Wordley Martin Arena, ample cross-country and conditioning acreage and dust-free AirLite cardboard bedding are a few of the amenities combined with world class horse care knowledge and experience.

Four Schools was named after a special wedding gift Joanie and Richard received when they married in 2013: a 12-year-old steeplechase star trained by Eclipse award winner Richard Valentine. Preparing “Four Schools” for a new career wasn’t easy, but he and Joanie went onto a successful run in the eventing world. Today, he is “fat, shiny and happy” living with a donkey pal out in pasture at a lovely farm named after him.

Coming Soon to Galway Downs: Liz Halliday-Sharp Clinic Now Open for Registration

Liz Halliday-Sharp & Cooley Quicksilver competing at Galway Downs. Photo by Kim Miller.

Under the category of making lemonade from lemons, Liz Halliday-Sharp’s heartbreaking withdrawal from Tokyo has turned into an opportunity to clinic with her. On Friday and Saturday July 30-31 at the Galway Downs Equestrian Center in Temecula, California, slots are open both mornings for private dressage work, then small group show jumping and cross-country schooling.

Liz has been so busy campaigning her many horses, that there haven’t been many chances to give clinics, so it’s a great time to grab a chance to learn from the 2020 USEA Rider of the Year! Interested participants can sign up for this clinic opportunity here – you can pick and choose which phases you’d like help with, but it’s strongly recommended that riders do a lesson with Liz on the flat or over fences before doing a cross country lesson.

So, just as Olympic eventing is getting underway, we can all get some tips on learning to ride and manage our horses like an equestrian who earned her spot on the team. Let’s give Liz a warm West Coast Welcome!

Introducing Haygain’s Forager: Bringing Nature’s Genius to Horse Management

Photo courtesy of Haygain.

Horses in their natural habitat spend over half their day eating. Between 12 and 16 hours are spent with their head lowered, grazing forage that ranges from easy-to-get grasses to blades and stems that are hard to extract and often contain very little caloric energy.

It’s a way of life that leads to virtually zero colic, ulcers, excess weight and metabolic imbalances. Cribbing, weaving and other boredom behaviors are non-issues.

Very few horses live that way these days.

Most riding horses live in settings where stable management realities dictate feeding schedules and methods. Delivered only two or three times a day, meals often consist of high-energy concentrate processed feeds with little to no forage available throughout the day. Most horses spend only 10 percent of their day eating, versus the eight to 10 hours considered a minimum for physical and mental well-being.

Receiving only intermittent, small meals alerts the body’s food-scarcity mechanisms, including stress over the whereabouts of their next meal. The gaps between meals trigger fat storage, increasing the chance of obesity. And, less time spent chewing throughout the day means less production of saliva that protects against gastric ulcers. Unlike the human digestive system, the horse’s gut produces acid all the time and it is only neutralized by saliva.

Harnessing Nature’s Methods

Haygain’s Forager brings nature’s genius to healthy horse management. Designed in conjunction with the Royal Agricultural University in England, The Forager has unique features that resulted from extensive research – Haygain’s hallmark. These make it an ideal stable management solution for many reasons.

Holding approximately 26 pounds of hay, the 28″ tall Forager enables the lowered-head eating position nature intended. A regulator grid with holes of different sizes sits on top of the hay. The horse pulls hay through one bite at a time, ensuring slow consumption and smaller bites. The extra chewing that is required maintains saliva flow which becomes a buffer between the stomach lining and the naturally occurring acids waiting there to digest food. Saliva is a good natural defense against ulcers that affect one in three leisure horses

Recently completed research with four stabled horses determined that the Forager can significantly extend hay consumption time compared to time spent eating loose hay or forage in a hay net.

Foragers come with Standard and Easy regulators: the latter is ideal for introducing horses to the slow feeder or serving horses with different needs.

Photo courtesy of Haygain.

Many Benefits

Boredom Busting: Pulling pieces of forage through the regulator grid is a natural, healthy and more fulfilling pastime than cribbing, stall weaving and other vices.

Extended mealtimes are especially helpful for horses on restricted diets. Measuring heart rate and eye blink frequency as stress level indicators, the aforementioned study showed metrics that were very close to each participant’s baseline when eating out of the Forager.

Respiratory Health: Haygain’s Forager keeps the hay separate from stall bedding, a huge source of dust, mold, bacteria and other inhalable particles that can irritate and harm the respiratory system. The Forager’s 28″ height facilitates a natural, lowered-head eating position used by grazing horses. This allows for exhalation and drainage of breathable particles present in all hay.

Inviting Design: Four openings between the side walls of the circular shaped Forager allow ventilation and light that encourages the horse to delve deeply into their forage. Even the top ring’s light color was chosen for its proven appeal to horses.

Less Waste: Separating forage from the floor eliminates waste of hay that otherwise gets walked into the bedding, manure and urine. It also reduces the risk of ingesting sand and dirt.

Safety: The regulator is constructed of sturdy, durable, yet flexible engineered plastic. The Forager grid slows the horse without frustrating it. Dental damage that can occur with metal grids is not an issue.

Convenience: The Forager’s exterior grey ring lowers as the horse eats down his hay supply, providing an easy-to-see consumption level. The regulator’s click-and-secure system allows effortless filling of the Forager and grid swapping.

The unit’s base can be filled with sand for stand-alone stability in the stall or outside. It can also be secured to a wall using built-in fixing points. Drains at the base ease cleaning and let out rainwater. Assembly and disassembly are easy for travel and cleaning.

Haygain is proud to include the Haygain Forager in its roster of science-backed horse health products. Along with Haygain Hay Steamers and Haygain ComfortStall Sealed Orthopedic Flooring, The Forager is an important part of natural, healthy horse care: “The Haygain Way.” For more information, visit

Alliston, Greengard, Baxter & Billys Top a Full House at Woodside

James Alliston & Gabriella Ringer’s Get Wild. Photography, complements of Kellerhouse Presents.

With 400 horses accepted and 100 on the waitlist, there were enough exhibitors and support team members at The Spring Event at Woodside to make it seem that spectators were once again fully allowed to come. Especially for the Preliminary Challenge, a popular West Coast tradition that draws all to the Grand Prix ring Saturday evening. But the spectator who mattered most to Preliminary Challenge Horse division leader, James Alliston, wasn’t there for the show jumping finalé.

Having sustained a broken pelvis in an Advanced division cross-country fall earlier, James’ wife and Alliston Eventing partner, Helen, was at the Stanford University hospital nearby. James withdrew his Advanced mount, Paper Jam, and three horses from Open Intermediate. Helen, however, was having none of the idea that James would also withdraw Get Wild, the client-owned horse on whom he was leading the Preliminary Challenge Horse division after dressage Friday and a clear go on cross-country that morning.

“Helen said ‘Go do it!’ and I do as I’m told,” explained James, who represents Great Britain and is based in the East Bay Area. Event organizer Robert Kellerhouse Facetimed James and Get Wild’s winning show jump so Helen could watch from the hospital.

Found and competed through YEH by Matt Flynn, and owned by young rider Gabriella Ringer, the 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood had been handed to James for a little fine tuning in competition. Riding last in front of enthusiastic VIP tents and a berm filled with cheering exhibitors, James and Get Wild continued their fault free jumping. That enabled a finish on their 28.3 dressage score awarded by Robert Stevenson and Vicky Matisi-Stasuk.

“He’s an incredibly sweet horse,” said James, who started riding Get Wild on the recommendation of his owner’s trainer, Adrienne Hillas. “He’s quite sound sensitive. When there is a lot going on, noises, traffic, etc., he gets a bit nervous. LIke all the good ones, he’s a bit sharper, so I just tried to put him in a situation where he could relax more.”

Helen Alliston’s Advanced horse, Ebay, had a big lead over that field after their 26.3 dressage performance. Her partner in Galway Downs CCI4*-S reserve in March, Ebay emerged unscathed from the Woodside fall. She is scheduled for surgery Monday and James anticipates he’ll be riding her horses for a while. “I’ll just try not to break them!”

“Everyone was awesome,” he said of the crew at Alliston Eventing who stepped up in many ways. “It’s the benefit of having such a big family barn. We have the good will of all the clients and friends, and people to help pick up the slack and give Helen time to mend.”

Marc Grandia and Sunsprite Seryndipity had just 1.2 time faults in their show jumping to move up into reserve on a 32.7. Josey Thompson and Pistol Annie were third on a 35.4. Below James and Get Wild’s consistent lead, there was a lot of movement in the standings for the 11-horse field.

Tommy Greengard & Joshuay MBF. Photo by Tina Fitch Photography, complements of Kellerhouse Presents.

            Greengard Notches Another Goal

In the Preliminary Challenge Rider division, young professional Tommy Greengard and Joshuay MBF fulfilled a goal they’d set for themselves early in the year. “Andrea Pfeiffer (of Chocolate Horse Farm) and I joked about coming here to win it, but really we just wanted to have a good round and continue our strong spring,” Tommy explained. They had three “good rounds” to maintain their dressage lead on a 30.2 throughout.

One year into his partnership with the 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood, Tommy praised the Preliminary Challenge’s unique format of having cross-country and show jumping on the same day. “Especially for a young horse and, as a developing rider myself, to show jump at the end of the day, when you’re a little bit tired and it’s unfamiliar, is a great opportunity.”

The electric Saturday evening atmosphere was new, too. “He really lit up in the best possible way. He jumped his heart out for me and I think he liked the crowd: I think it made him a little bit sharper.” They didn’t have a rail to spare and Tommy was happy about rising to the pressure that comes with that. It helped that he rode client Brooklyn Reis’s FE Nikki Beach first over Chris Barnard and Kelly James’ track. “He was phenomenal, and it allowed me to take a deep breath before coming back in with Josh.” Finishing with just one rail, Tommy was fourth with the 10-year-old German Sporthorse on a 38.6.

In between Tommy’s first and fourth finishes, Haley Dwight and WS Radagast were second on 34.9 and Taylor McFall and High Times were third on a 37.5.

Andrea Baxter & Indy 500 & Laguna Seca. Photo by Tina Fitch Photography, complements of Kellerhouse Presents.

Mother & Son 1st & 5th in Advanced

The 16-year-old Thoroughbred Indy 500 has been going Advanced for nine years, but “Advanced never gets old,” reports her owner and teammate in acquiring that mileage, Andrea Baxter. The pair topped the division after coming back from a COVID-related break. The “old pro” put in one of “her top cross-country performances” over an Ian Stark and Bert Wood track that “rode a little tougher than I thought it would,” reflected Andrea. “Some of the drops and spreads were impressively big.” They started in third after a 30.5 dressage score in the Advanced Eventing Test B judged by Amanda Miller. Cross-country added 2.4 time penalties, followed by the division’s only double clear show jump for a 32.9 win.

Far less experienced at the level is Indy 500’s son, Laguna Seca, the 17.1 hand, 11-year-old Holsteiner. Fresh from winning the CCI4*-S at the Baxter family’s Twin Rivers Ranch in April, “Junior” brought his best mental game to the challenging dressage test. “For a green Advanced horse, this test is a big ask,” Andrea commented. “It has two counter canters, four lead changes, a half pass, etc. It’s the prep for the 5* test.” While Junior’s lead changes came a little late, the rider was thrilled that “he stayed relaxed and listening to me.” A single rail in show jumping landed Laguna Seca four rungs below his mom, in fifth.

For second place finisher Lauren Billys, Woodside was a critical comeback before the Tokyo Olympics. The Carmel, California-based pro and Castle Larchfield Purdy will make their second Olympic appearance for Puerto Rico in August.

They had intended the CCI4*-S at the Land Rover Kentucky Three Day in April as their last major outing, but on that rainy cross-country, things did not go as hoped. “It was the first time I had to walk off the course with Purdy, and it was an eye opener for me.” The realization that “I should not be relieved to be done, I should be excited to go out” triggered a renewed commitment to bolder riding and a tougher mentality on course. “I really put the pressure on myself and I’m glad I did. It turned out to be a great weekend.”

Erin Kellerhouse and Woodford Reserve had a happier outing at the Kentucky CCI4* and they continued their long string of progressive successes with a third place finish in the Woodside Advanced.

Open Intermediate

Lauren Billys was also thrilled to top the Open Intermediate leaderboard with Can Be Sweet, a 9-year-old German Sporthorse. “We were always the second and third placed pair last year, and with this and winning the CCI2* at Galway Downs it seems like we have broken that curse.”

She had high praise for all aspects of the show. “In both divisions, the courses were really good, the ground was well prepared, it was well organized and everything was really spot-on.” The cross-country courses were just what was needed. “At Intermediate and Advanced, they were enough of a challenge that you really had to put your leg on and make things happen. The horses gave positive feedback to that and both came off more confident. I’m really happy about everything.”

Can Be Sweet finished dressage with a 27.1, second only to James Alliston and Nemesis’ 24.5, which led the 27-pair division on Friday in front of judge Amanda Miller. James maintained the lead with Nemesis after fault-free cross-country before withdrawing to accompany his wife after her fall. A few cross-country time penalties and .4 in show jumping resulted in a Can Be Sweet’s 33.5 to top the day.

One of Lauren’s coaches, Bea DiGrazia, finished second on Ringwood Isabell, on a 35.2, and amateur Lauren Burnell and Counterpoint made big move ups after dressage to stand third on a 38.

A Full House

Like the riders of 400-plus horses competing over the holiday weekend, organizer Robert Kellerhouse was happy to be back at the beautiful Horse Park at Woodside with his Kellerhouse Presents crew. The hub of Northern California equestrian activity for many years, the venue has undergone continual upgrades in footing, stabling and other areas. It continues to be an in-demand destination for eventers throughout the West.

Exhibitors and members of their support teams made it feel like there were more spectators on hand than COVID has allowed over the last 14 months. “We are really looking forward to inviting spectators to our events here in August and October, if all goes well with the pandemic,” Kellerhouse said. “Meanwhile, we are very appreciative of the support of our riders and we are very happy to have put on a great event.”

As The Spring Events sponsors, Uvex, Voltaire, Equine Insurance and APF are equally important and much appreciated.

Next Up for Kellerhouse Presents

Aug. 12-15: The Summer Event at Woodside

October 7-10: The International Event at Woodside

Nov. 3-7: Galway Downs International CCI4*-L at Galway Downs in Temecula

For more information on eventing competitions at The Horse Park at Woodside, visit For more information on eventing competition at Galway Downs in Temecula, visit


Twin Rivers Ranch Has Big Plans for 2021

Amber Levine & Cinzano receive the inaugural McKinlaigh Cup, presented by Thom Schulz, during the inaugural CCI4*-L. Photo by Ride On Photo.

The complete realization of a dream hatched 20 years ago and steadily advanced since then occurred April 8-11 with the Twin Rivers Spring International. From the presentation of the McKinlaigh Cup to the winner of the inaugural CCI4*-L, Amber Levine and Cinzano, to those testing their skills at Beginner Novice over five full days of competition, Twin Rivers’ mission of hosting highest quality eventing competition was realized.

Nearly 500 horse/rider pairs used every inch of the spring-green 500-acre property. Earth moving miracles, expert footing management and creative course design gave all tracks a fresh feel. A highlight is entirely new segments on previously unused property for the Long formats. International division dressage took place atop the hill in the Flag Ring, with colorful banners gracing a new Jog Lane and amplifying the electric atmosphere. New permanent show stabling welcomed many horses.

Spectators couldn’t come, but the Ride On Video livestream logged 55 hours of viewership from close to 4,000 fans. Sponsors stepped up with $15,000 in prizes. The mammoth task of running multiple divisions over multiple days was handled with smooth efficiency, with the safety and enjoyment of all as the top priority. Reflecting the community’s embrace of Twin Rivers, volunteers came out in force to fill the unusually high need over five days.

Twin Rivers’ owners, the Baxter family — immediate and extended — pulled off this remarkable feat. They could rest on their laurels.

They’re not.

Upgrades to courses, footing, stabling and landscaping are poised to welcome a full slate of competition through the year. Like the venue itself, the Twin Rivers calendar is growing in stature as it hosts an increasing number of regional, national and internationally significant events.

Summer Horse Trials

The Summer Horse Trials will host an Interscholastic Eventing League Team Challenge during its July 1-4 staging. This is a new US Eventing Association program designed for Middle and High School age eventers, paralleling similar programs in the hunter/jumper and dressage disciplines. The IEL Team Challenges give young riders a feel for the USEA’s Intercollegiate Eventing Program, through forming, practicing with and representing their team in competition. Twin Rivers is proud to support this new endeavor.

Introductory through Advanced pairs will contest the Horse Trials. Also on the agenda are qualifiers for the USEA Future Event Horse and USEA Dutta Corp. Young Event Horse West Coast Championships. (This will be staged for a second time together at Twin Rivers in October.) Summer Horse Trials entries open May 18 and close June 15.

The Fall International

The Fall International, Sept. 23-26, is a jewel in the West Coast eventing circuit. Divisions up to CCI4*-S are highlights alongside a first hosting of the Adequan/USEF Youth Team Challenge. An evolution of the North American Youth Championship program, this new Nations Cup-style format for 14-25 year-old riders involves a series of Challenges, culminating in a West and East Coast Final.

October’s Young Horse Championships

The final major event of the season is the USEA Future Event Horse & USEA Dutta Corp. Young Event Horse West Coast Championships (and an FEH qualifier), Oct. 29-30. The Twin Rivers team went out on a limb hosting both West Coast championships concurrently for the first-time last year and to very positive response. Expectations are high for an even better, bigger experience this fall.

Get Involved: Volunteer & Sponsor!

A generous volunteer incentive program continues through the year. Full-day helpers receive $60 vouchers toward future competitions, half-day helpers earn $30 vouchers. Each show’s volunteers are entered into a drawing for prize packs filled with useful goodies from Twin Rivers sponsors. Hours are tracked through the year for entry into a year-end raffle. Prizes include a Twin Rivers entry, stabling, cross-country schooling voucher and more.

Presenting sponsors include Professional’s Choice, manufacturers of sports medicine boots for equine athletes; Auburn Labs, manufacturers of the adaptogenic APF Formula for horses, people and dogs; Best Western PLUS Black Oak, which offers exclusive discounts for exhibitors; and Get Away RV Rentals, which delivers fully-outfitted RVs to the venue for those who want to stay on site.
Supporting sponsors include Riding Warehouse, the horse gear and apparel supplier; Chubby Cov, makers of beautiful custom stock ties, and RevitaVet Light Therapy, an industry leader in preventative maintenance and rehabilitative devices.

In between the major competitions, Twin Rivers hosts one-day events in eventing and dressage, and clinics. Year-round, the venue is open for cross-country schooling by advance reservation.

Twin Rivers Ranch memberships include unlimited access to all open facilities — for two horses with the same owner. Members are exempt from non-member fees at all schooling shows, and family members and/or additional horses can be added to the Twin Rivers Ranch membership at a modest additional cost.

The Calendar

Schooling One Day Horse Trials: May 23
Schooling Show: June 6
CDS Dressage: June 12-13
Summer Horse Trials: July 1-4 (featuring the Interscholastic Eventing League Team Challenge)
Area VI Adult Camp: July 30-31
CDS Dressage: Aug. 14-15
Fall International: Sept. 23-26 (featuring the Adequan/USEF Youth Team Challenge)
USEA Future Event Horse & USEA Dutta Corp. Young Event Horse West Coast Championships (and an FEH qualifier), Oct. 29-30.
Schooling Halloween Horse Trials: Oct. 31

Fast Facts:

Sponsorship Inquiries: Christina Gray at Gray Area Events for sponsorship opportunities: email: [email protected]
Location: 8715 N. River Road, Paso Robles, CA. 93446; email: [email protected]

Ride Times: Available a few days before competition begins.


Show Photographer: Ride On Photo by Tayler

Video: Ride On Video


Welcome to Asthma & Allergy Season: Again!

Photo by Adobe Stock.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America declared May Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month in 1984. The goal of “31 days of action for the over 65 million people in the U.S. affected by asthma and allergies” is tackled with education, research and public engagement.

Determining that allergy seasons are getting longer and creating the 2021 Allergy Capitals™ Report are among the organization’s good works. Scranton, PA, Richmond, VA and Wichita, KS, are this year’s “winners.”

The equestrian world does not have an exact corollary effort, but veterinarians, horse owners and other stakeholders acknowledge the increasing impact of asthma and allergies on the equine population. One example is adoption of the term “Equine Asthma Spectrum” a few years ago. The intent by the veterinary community is to improve awareness and understanding by aligning descriptions of the progression of asthma in horses with those in people.

Asthma is inflammation in the respiratory tract and allergies are caused by allergens that trigger the body’s natural defense mechanisms. Those defenses are inflammation and, in the respiratory system, mucus. Their presence in the airways makes it hard to breathe.

As in people, asthma and allergies are inextricably intertwined in most equine cases. Related respiratory challenges are considered by many to be the biggest performance limiter in otherwise healthy horses.

In a recent study conducted at the Royal Agricultural University in the U.K., 400 potential allergens were evaluated in horses that have Severe Equine Asthma. Along with known allergens including fungi and mites, the study results identified previously unidentified allergens including latex and pollen. At an average size of 6-8 microns, pollen had been thought too big a particle to infiltrate the equine lung. It’s now been recognized as an extremely potent allergen for some horses.

Helping prevent, manage and treat allergies and asthma in horses are year-round priorities for Haygain. Core products, Haygain Hay Steamers and Haygain ComfortStall Flooring, address the critical aspect of prevention and management: cleaning up the horse’s environment. Both products significantly reduce the quantity of respiratory particles in forage and the stall.

Bringing a little bit of Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month into the horse world, Haygain maintains a growing library of resources related to helping horses avoid or manage these conditions. Haygain is proud to be at the leading edge of the ongoing evolution of thought and knowledge regarding horses’ respiratory health and overall well-being.

For more information on Haygain High Temperature Hay Steaming and Haygain’s ComfortStall Sealed Orthopedic Flooring, visit

Haygain: Clean Hay Is a Kentucky Consensus

Tamie Smith and Mai Baum. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

True horsemen treat every horse as an individual. Along with all aspects of their care, nutrition routines are carefully calibrated. Body type and tendencies, intensity of work, food sensitivities and temperament are all considered, and the plan is continually monitored and tweaked.

For all that individualism, however, there’s a consensus in the nutrition plan for many of the contenders in this year’s Land Rover Kentucky Three Day Event CCI5*. This eventing competition, April 22-25, is one of only five held at this level worldwide and it demands the highest level of preparedness and performance. 

The consensus? Steamed Hay. 

Will Coleman, Liz Halliday-Sharp, Lauren Nicholson, Tamie Smith, Allison Springer, Will Faudree and Caroline Martin are among the American 5* contenders to consider it critical. They are joined by Lauren Billys, Lynn Symansky and Alyssa Phillips in the CCI4*-S running concurrent with the 5* this year. 

William Fox-Pitt and Oratorio II. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Entered with Oratorio, many-time Olympian William Fox-Pitt of Great Britain is one of the earliest believers in the benefits of Haygain’s high-temperature steamed hay. And several horses representing New Zealand in the 5* will benefit from arrangements made to ensure steamed hay for them while at the Kentucky Horse Park.

It’s that important. 

Like clean air and clean water, clean hay is critical to horse health and performance.  As developed by Haygain, the high-temperature steaming process produces that clean hay. By attaining and maintaining temperatures of up to 212°F in a thermally-sealed container, steaming eliminates up to 99% of the dust, mold, bacteria and other allergens found even in hay of good nutrient content. 

Lauren Kieffer and Vermiculus. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

These problematic particles are invisible and microscopic: small enough to slip past the respiratory system’s natural defenses. Anywhere they settle in the upper and lower respiratory tract, they can trigger irritation and inflammation that restricts airflow. When these problematic particles get into the lungs, they can restrict the transfer of oxygen into the bloodstream. 

All living beings need oxygen. Because their bodies are 60% muscle, horses need a lot of it. Horses galloping full tilt over four miles, flying over immovable obstacles, as they will in Kentucky, need all the oxygen they can get. This is a main reason why Haygain’s green logo-ed black chests have become ubiquitous at eventing competitions, including this biggest one in North America.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Kentucky contenders sought out Haygain for different reasons. Liz Halliday-Sharp started steaming to help prevent a recurrence of ulcers in Deniro Z.  For Tamie Smith, it was her retired 5* horse, Wembley, whose picky appetite made it hard to keep weight on. When Lauren Billy‘s 2016 Olympic partner Castle Larchfield Purdy developed Inflammatory Airway Disease, steamed hay became critical to his management. Once they started steaming, there was no looking back.

Caroline Martin and Islandwood Captain Jack. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Caroline Martin steams because she understands that even “really good” hay has bad things in it. “Forage is 90% of horse’s diet, so if you miss something that important, it just opens doors for anything bad to happen.”

Like a lot of horsemen in and out of the competitive ranks, Lauren Nicholson keeps her horses on it to prevent problems. As her contemporary and fellow Kentucky competitor Will Coleman states, “Being able to guarantee dust-free forage for our horses has been a game changer for us.”

Will Coleman and Tight Lines. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Often described as “The Best Weekend of the Year,” the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day almost didn’t happen this year because of COVID-related funding issues. Rider-led international fundraising efforts got it back on the schedule and anticipation is high for a terrific competition. Alas, no spectators, but USEF Network is broadcasting the action starting Thursday, April 22, with phase 1 dressage. 

While each pair prepared in their own way, steamed hay is common ground for many contenders on this exciting, highest level stage.

Amber Levine and Cinzano Win Twin Rivers’ Inaugural CCI4*-L and First McKinlaigh Cup

Amber Levine and Cinzano take their victory lap. Photo by The West Equestrian.

“Too plain” is not a description that fits this weekend’s wire-to-wire winner of the Spring International’s inaugural CCI4*-L. But that’s what Amber Levine heard five years ago after importing the now 10-year-old Holsteiner as a sales prospect. So, she kept him. His long-delayed debut at the 4*-L level proved the wisdom of that decision.

“By far, he exceeded my every expectation this week,” said Levine, whose relatively new focus with her own business, Cellar Farm, is sales horses. “He was 100 percent with me every step of the way, in every phase.” He’s a talented jumper, but unlucky rails and “training moments” were obstacles the last few years. “Today, it felt like everything really came together.”

Winning the inaugural CCI 4*-L was sweetened by having Cinzano be the first horse to receive the McKinlaigh Cup, donated by long-time eventing supporter Thom Schulz. Schulz and his late wife, Laura, owned the Irish Sporthorse who partnered with Gina Miles in 2008 Olympic individual silver for the United States. McKinlaigh was developed and lived out his retired life at the couple’s Rainbow Ranch in nearby Creston.

Of his motivation for boosting the 4*-L prize money and donating the McKinlaigh Cup, Schulz referenced his long-time friendship with and appreciation for the Baxter family who owns Twin Rivers Ranch. Pointing to 5* eventer Andrea Baxter, he said, “I started riding with this kid. I was 49 and she was 10, I think. Laura and I supported what the family was doing with Twin Rivers then and it has become such a wonderful venue for us to have. Laura would have been tickled to be part of this Four-Star.”

Amber poses with one of her prizes, a custom Twin Rivers jump filler from Dragonfire Farm.

And McKinlaigh? “Oh, he would have loved it!” Schulz said of the horse who enjoyed 10 years of green pasture retirement before passing last January. Schulz explained that the Cup is an actual trophy won by Laura at the Forum National Horse Show in the 1970s.

Quality Counts

Marc Grandia and Campari FFF. Photo by The West Equestrian.

As is typical of upper-level West Coast eventing in general, the FEI divisions were light compared to East Coast competitions. The inaugural Spring International CCI4*-L was all set for a big launch last year until the pandemic. This year, reshuffled schedules and general uncertainly likely contributed to a lower than usual turn-out. Quantity, however, can’t be confused with quality.

Exhibitors and officials expressed universal praise for all aspects of the competition. Hosting nearly 500 horses from 4*-L through Beginner Novice put things back on pre-pandemic turf and it’s predicted the ripple effect of everybody’s good experience will help the numbers next year.

A large contingent came from the Northwest, where snow was still on the ground in some places earlier this week. At Twin Rivers’ rolling, green 500 acres, cool mornings gave way to high-70s/low-80s temperatures, blue skies and pleasant breezes.

With only four contenders after a fifth withdrew during Thursday’s jog, the 4*-L field still faced the level’s normal big challenges. Second-place finisher Campari FFF, campaigned by Marc Grandia, was the only one among the four horses who’d run the level before, but all gave solid performances that bode well for the future.

Levine and Cinzano added only .8 time faults to their dressage score to finish on a 32.3. Grandia and Campari picked up two time penalties over Marc Donovan’s technical and turny show jump, holding their runner-up position on a 38.3. Technically, it’s the first 4*-L completion for Campari. A wrong fence at the second-to-last jump on the 4*-L course at Galway Downs in the Fall didn’t count as an official debut, but it proved Campari’s capabilities at the level.

Working toward this goal since December, the “aggressive horse” horse finally had a funnel for his pent-up preparedness. “I think he felt great to finally get to run and get a little bit tired,” Grandia said. “That’s the kind of horse he is.” Favorite elements included the white-painted Race Track Rails and the Ruin complex. After prepping around the track these last several weeks, Campari “pricked his ears at those and was given a little pause,” Grandia said. None of which prevented him from finishing seven seconds under the time on cross-country.

The Washington-based professional has been designing Twin Rivers’ lower-level cross-country courses since he started wintering here four years ago. In that role and as a rider, he’s impressed by how “everybody has been uplifted by the commitment the Baxters have made to everything: the decorations, the jumps, the footing. Everything.”

Bec Brailting explained that Twin Rivers’ Flag Ring, at 160′ x 300′, is a relatively small space, into which Donovan packed jumps that came up quick, especially for a big horse like Arnell Sporthorses’ Caravaggio II. One rail and 1.6 time faults held their third position on a 52. More than holding her own against the veterans, 20-year-old professional Madison Temkin had a very respectable finish with the Thoroughbred Dr. Hart, with whom she’s moved up the levels over five years.

Patterson Finishes 3*-L as Strong as She Started

Alina Patterson and Flashback. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Eighteen-year-old Alina Patterson of Washington and her own Flashback finished a spectacular West Coast tour by winning their first CCI3*-L on a 35.2. They had two rails to work with, so the one they dropped in show jumping didn’t alter the standings.

“He was incredible in all three phases, starting with being super in the sand box,” said Patterson. “On cross-country he never got tired and he had plenty in the tank today.” She thanked her coach John Camlin of Caber Farms and her parents for helping her achieve this significant win. Flashback’s trip home will include “all the treats he wants, then he’ll have two well-deserved weeks off.”

Alessandra Alexander-Shinn’s horse Fool Me Once had ample energy for show jumping. Their one rail left them on a 43.4 for second.

Alliston Jumps Up to Win CCI2*-L

James Alliston and Calero. Photo by The West Equestrian.

The overnight standings were very tight and show jumping shuffled them significantly. James Alliston and Calaro’s double clear elevated them from fourth to first on a 31.4. A full brother to Grandia’s Campari FFF, by the Holsteiner Camiros, the 9-year-old is “good at everything,” Alliston said. He arrived at James and Helen Alliston’s Alliston Eventing two years ago with a solid dressage track record and has won or been second in every event he’s run so far. “He’s a full Warmblood, but you wouldn’t know it because he is really energetic and fast. I’m hoping he can step into the same sort of class as his brother.”

Calaro is also a challenge, chimed in Grandia, speaking from his own experiences with his older, but smaller brother. “They are very opinionated,” said Grandia, who recalled starting Calaro over fences. “It makes them fantastic when you can bring them along to your side, but they don’t want anyone telling them what they can and can’t do. He’s a fun one to watch and I think he has found his match in James.”

Also having a double clear effort, Josey Thompson and the 13-year-old Holsteiner Pistol Annie moved up from 6th to 2nd on a 32.2. Marissa Nielsen and Global Absolute’s beautiful debut at the level was marred by a rail that knocked them from first to third, but expectations are high for this the 7-year-old Mecklenburg who finished on a 32.3.

Terrific Team Effort

Andrea Baxter and Laguna Seca. Photo by The West Equestrian.

“We were super excited to get the chance — a year delayed — to run our 4*-L,” said show secretary Christina Gray of Gray Area Events. “It could not have been done without the tremendous effort of our course building team and staff, who put in countless hours to make a fabulous playing field.”

Each member of the Baxter family organizing committee enjoyed seeing dreams manifest at their home property. As the owner of Whirlwind Excavating, Jeff Baxter took particular pride in “seeing all the new aspects of the cross-country that we built being used in one course.” His favorites include the new “terrain park” following along the Salinas River property border, the race track features and the flyover bridge and underpass.

Connie Baxter loved seeing the work she invested before 500 horses and their people arrived come to life and be enjoyed by all as the warm and welcoming atmosphere Twin Rivers is known for, even in this year when spectators couldn’t come. “Then we turn the reins over to Christina Gray and everything ran smoothly,” she noted.

Along with winning the CCI4*-S with her homebred Laguna Seca, Andrea Baxter fielded compliments all weekend. “I’d like to take credit, but those compliments all go out in different directions and I need to dish them out where they’re due.”


Long format winners went home with armloads of prizes and cash, compliments of Twin Rivers’ generous sponsors. Presenting sponsors include Professional’s Choice, manufacturers of sports medicine boots for equine athletes; Auburn Labs, manufacturers of the adaptogenic APF Formula for horses, people and dogs; Best Western PLUS Black Oak, which offers exclusive discounts for exhibitors; and Get Away RV Rentals, which delivers fully-outfitted RVs to the venue for those who want to stay on site.

Supporting sponsors include Riding Warehouse, the horse gear and apparel supplier; and Chubby Cov, makers of beautiful custom stock ties.

Up Next

The Spring International anchors an exciting year of competition at Twin Rivers Ranch. The Fall International in September is a fixture of the West Coast circuit and the 2021 season finalé is another prestigious calendar highlight: The Future Event Horse and Dutta Corp. Young Event Horse West Coast Championships. These two West Coast championships were staged together for the first time last year by the Twin Rivers team, receiving high praise from all involved.

  • Schooling One Day Horse Trials: May 23
  • Schooling Show: June 6
  • CDS Dressage: June 12-13
  • Summer Horse Trials: July 1-4
  • Area VI Adult Camp: July 30-31
  • CDS Dressage: Aug. 14-15
  • Fall International: Sept. 23-26
  • USEA Future Event Horse & USEA Dutta Corp. Young Event Horse West Coast Championships (and an FEH qualifier), Oct. 29-30.
  • Schooling Halloween Horse Trials: Oct. 31

Amber Levine Holds Twin Rivers CCI4*-L, Andrea Baxter, Lauren Burnell Win CCI4*-S/CCI3*-S

Andrea Baxter and Laguna Seca. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Twin Rivers Spring International organizing committee member Andrea Baxter and her 11-year-old homebred Holsteiner, Laguna Seca, maintained their lead for the CCI4*-S win on home turf. But home turf can’t be treated as familiar turf, Baxter explained.

“Just because you know where things are doesn’t mean you know how things are going to go.” To boot, Laguna Seca “was cocky out there, and he’s hard to ride when he’s like that. Very strong and shaking his head, causing us to get under a few things out there. But he came out of all the combination exits well.”

It’s a major move up for the horse who first went Advanced in March. Because he’s green, Baxter had not planned to go pedal to metal, and they added 10.8 to their dressage score to complete with a 53.2. Lauren LoPiccolo and Diego also had only time penalties, to complete the first CCI4*-S for horse and rider on a 60.1.

Lauren Burnell and Counterpoint. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Baxter’s barn mate at Twin Rivers Ranch, Lauren Burnell, and her 14-year-old Holsteiner Counterpoint were featured on the Spring International program’s cover. They lived up to front page status by taking the lead with double clear show jumping and only some accidental time penalties on cross-country. “I had the Preliminary time in my head and was thinking about that,” said Burnell, whose final score was a 38.

The imposing Ditch Wall at 10 and bending track to a corner rode more easily than Burnell expected and Counterpoint’s “saint-like” composure saved her coming through the Palm Tree Water Cabins. Burnell is thrilled to fulfill her goal of returning to this level successfully after her 3-and-a-half-year old son arrived. “It feels faster after having a baby,” she laughed. “The wind hits your face differently!”

Kelsey Holmes and NZB The Chosen One. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Young rider Kelsey Holmes was already thrilled with double clear show jumping and finishing cross-country with only 1.6 time penalties. Jumping into second place as a result with her partner of eight years, NZB The Chosen One, was a nice surprise. She appreciated the significant changes to the course since they’d competed here in March, when the track was tightly packed with combinations and sharp turns. With several jumps used for both the Long and Short format tracks, today’s course “felt very open” and presented nice variety to test their skills.

On a gap year before law school, Holmes has had “Squid,” a 17.3 hand 15-year-old Hanoverian, since she was in middle school. “I’m not a very emotional person, but today when I was untacking Squid I kind of teared up thinking about how amazing he’s been to me all these years. I’m so lucky to have him still sound, happy and eager.” She blamed herself for a subpar dressage score of 39.3, which started them in 8th place before ending on a 40.9.

As the only pair to finish within the time on cross-country, Kayla Bierman and Addyson moved into third. They’d tied for 10th after dressage on a 46.7.

Levine Holds 4*-L Lead

Amber Levine and Cinzano. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

At the second-to-last of 40 efforts, “I thought, ‘This is actually happening,'” said Amber Levine of a faultless finish with Cellar Farm’s Cinzano today to stay on their 31.5 lead going into show jumping tomorrow morning. The Jeffs Hot Tub Waves complex at 19 a/b was the awkward exception to a Hugh Lochore-designed course that otherwise “rode great” for the 10-year-old Holsteiner in his long-delayed debut at the level. An entirely new portion of the course around the racetrack featured a series of bright-white painted obstacles, but nothing distracted Cinzano’s “tunnel vision for those flags.” Levine expects a similarly game attitude tomorrow and has a rail to spare.

Marc Grandia and Campari FFF. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Marc Grandia and Campari FFF were clear in jumping efforts and time to move into second after Madison Temkin and Dr. Hart dropped down with a run-out at the tricky left turn to a log in the Palm Tree Water at 6a. “I’m just mad at myself,” said Temkin. Dr. Hart popped over it easily on the second try and whizzed around to pick up only 3.6 time penalties. Going onto the racetrack in the first third of the course was easy, Temkin says of the Off-The-Track Thoroughbred’s game attitude. “He went right over to the rail, but it was a little hard getting him to turn off it.”

The young professional from Full Circle Farm and Dr. Hart have risen up the levels together and this is their first 4*-L.

Bec Braitling and Caravaggio II. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Temkin’s penalties enabled Bec Braitling and Caravaggio II to move into third after a cross-country run the Australian professional is thrilled with. Like her barn mate and good friend Andrea Baxter, Braitling said it’s not easy showing at home. “We lost some time early out on the track with the new jumps. He saw that white steeplechase from 1000 yards away and said, ‘No!’. We struggled to get a rhythm there. There is no such thing as a home field advantage.”

Braitling had immediately high expectations for the 10-year-old British Sporthorse purchased as a 6-year-old. After finishing 5th at the Galway Downs 4*-S two weeks ago, this is his debut in the Long format. “I knew straight away I wanted him and that I would take him to Kentucky one day.” He has a big step and gallop, is easy to ride and the good kind of spookiness that works to their advantage most of the time, Braitling explained. In Friday’s dressage, maybe not so much, but once they nail down the flying changes, she’s confident the sky’s the limit for “Ernie.”

Patterson Atop the 3*-L

Alina Patterson and Flashback. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Young rider Alina Patterson and her own 10-year-old German Sporthorse Flashback have a two-rail lock on the division after clean and fast cross-country. The Washington-based rider’s slight concerns about her horse’s stamina were erased as he had fuel to spare going into show jumping.

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

Alessandra Allen-Shinn and Fool Me Once were also double clear today, to move into second on a 39.4. Unfortunately, the division’s third contenders, Alexis Helffrich and M Creme De La Creme SE retired on cross-country, paring the show jumping finalé to two.

Nielsen & New Ride Lead the 2*-L

Marissa Nielsen and Global Absolute. Photo by The West Equestrian.

Yesterday, Sacramento-area professional Marissa Nielsen accomplished her goal of a “boring and accurate test” with Global Absolute. That paid off in the form of a 28.3 division leading dressage score, to which they added no penalties today. It’s the first FEI competition for the 7-year-old Mecklenburg and their new partnership takes an auspicious start into show jumping.

The top three standings remained unchanged as another professional, Barb Crabo of Arizona, maintains the second seed with her 10-year-old Sport Pony, Mine the Melody. In third are Jessica DiCostanzo and Cocoa Z, a 9-year-old Zangershiede mare, who are moving up the levels together since pairing up three years ago.

An entrepreneur who launched the equestrian marketing company, Equivont, around the same time, DiConstanzo used to be a jumper rider, then an FEI level dressage rider. “I was kind of struggling between the two disciplines, then I realized I could do both with eventing.”

Thus far, cross-country has been a weak point relative to strong dressage and show jumping, but today indicated otherwise with bold clearance of obstacles that had been issues in the past. DiCostanzo credits Bec Braitling for putting some valuable training miles on the mare while she recovered from a broken leg. She credits Cocoa with taking the reins in a few of the track’s many tricky spots. A double clear keeps them on a 30.8 dressage for tomorrow’s show jumping. “She is very scopey and careful, especially for a little horse. I just hope I can give her the ride she deserves.”

The standings are tight in this division: the top six are all within a rail of one another. James Alliston and Calaro, Camille Brewer and Cooley Rock Star and Josey Thompson and Pistol Annie are all capable of taking over the lead if things go their way over Marc Donovan’s course.

Sunday Schedule

Long format horses have their final inspection Sunday morning, starting at 7:30 a.m. Then, the Flag Ring that was dressed for dressage on Friday is transformed into the stage for an exciting show jumping conclusion. International ceremonies begin with the National Anthem at 11:40, then 4*-L at 11:45; 3*-L at 12:40; and 2*-L at 1:35.

Awards will be presented at the conclusion of each division. In the 4*-L, this will include $5,000 in prizes and the presentation of the inaugural McKinglaigh Cup. The beautiful trophy has been donated by Thom Schulz in honor of his lovely late wife Laura Coats. Schulz and Coats owned McKinlaigh, the Irish Sporthorse who partnered with Gina Miles in 2008 Olympic individual silver. McKinlaigh was developed and lived out his retired life at the couple’s Rainbow Ranch in nearby Creston.

Winners of each of the Long Format divisions will also receive a custom jump made by Jen and Earl McFall’s Dragonfire Farm, along with prizes from Twin Rivers’ generous sponsors.

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

Supporting sponsors include Riding Warehouse, the horse gear and apparel supplier; and Chubby Cov, makers of beautiful custom stock ties.

Twin Rivers Spring International: [Website] [Live Scores] [Live Stream]

Twin Rivers: Levine, Patterson & Nielsen Lead Long Formats Heading into Cross Country

Amber Levine & Cinzano. Photo courtesy of TheWestEquestrian.

Black stallion antics after the CCI4*-L jog inspection yesterday were not a preview of Cinzano‘s dressage test today. “When you are riding and working him, he’s all into what you are doing,” says Amber Levine, who owns the 10-year-old Holsteiner through her Cellar Farm. A 31.5 dressage test puts them atop a field of four, three of which, including Cinzano, are first-timers in the division.

Like the inaugural Twin Rivers Spring International CCI4*-L itself, Cinzano’s division debut was supposed to take place a year ago. COVID cancelled that. Then, a broken collar bone for Levine cancelled a Plan B run at Galway Downs in the fall. “I’m really excited for us as a team and for him because he finally is fit and actually gets to go out and run!”

Despite high flapping flags that spurred high spirits on the venue’s new ringside jog lane yesterday, Cinzano didn’t notice them today. “We’ve been working on relaxation and that was one of the most relaxed tests we’ve done,” Levine explained. Regular work with legendary California dressage coach and judge Lilo Fore has paid off, too. “Learning how it all looks from a judge’s perspective has helped me think about things differently and refine them.”

“The course, the jumps, the decorations really look beautiful,” Levine notes of tomorrow’s cross-country track designed by Hugh Lochore. With portions that will be used for the 3* and 4* Short courses, it’s a mix of long galloping stretches and fast-rising fences requiring technical precision.

A few highlights from the course:

#5, #6AB: Palm Table to Palm Brush Water. Photo by Kim Miller.

#8AB: The Ruins. Photo by Kim Miller.

#11AB: Racetrack Rails. Photo by Kim Miller.

#14. Offset Levy Logs. Photo by Kim Miller.

#17AB: Auburn Labs Pond. Photo by Kim Miller.

#18. Mosaic Table Atop the Hill. Photo by Kim Miller.

#19AB: Jeff’s Hot Tub Waves. Photo by Kim Miller.

#20. Professional’s Choice Farmyard Corner. Photo by Kim Miller.

#24AB: Brushes & Dip. Photo by Kim Miller.

#26. Skinny Slab Table, Then Underpass. Photo by Kim Miller.

#29. Wine Bar Arbor. Photo by Kim Miller.

“The biggest thing will be not letting him get too big and bold in the beginning,” says Levine of Cinzano. “He has so much power, he can sometimes get ahead of himself, so it’s a matter of keeping a lid on it for a minute.”

Twenty-year-old professional Madison Temkin and her own Dr. Hart are second on a 34.3 from Ground Jury president Robert Stevenson and members Peter Gray and Marilyn Payne. Originally purchased for a client, “Hollywood” and Temkin have come up the ranks together, including a North American Young Riders outing for USEA Area VI at Rebecca Farms. Jumper shows and lots of rideability exercises were key prep for this year’s show season. “As a Thoroughbred, dressage has been a challenge, but he’s come to really like it.” Flying changes are “his favorite trick” and stood out as effortless highlights of a quiet, elegant test.

Temkin echoed the comments of many veteran Twin Rivers exhibitors in their enthusiasm for how well the venue’s 500 acres have been capitalized for the extra distance required of a Long format cross-country. An old racetrack is incorporated into the new terrain, and the rider hopes that Dr. Hart’s history of jumping out of the track during his racing days is only repeated in the right places on Saturday.

Marc Grandia and Campari FFF are third on a 36.3. Twin Rivers-based Rebecca Braitling and Caravaggio II are fourth on a 38.4.

The CCI4*-L offers $5,000 in prizes and the inaugural McKinlaigh Cup for the winning horse. Winners in each of the Long format divisions will also receive a custom Twin Rivers jump provided by Jen and Earl McFall’s Dragonfire Farm.

Patterson Makes Strong 3*-L Debut

Alina Patterson and Flashback. Photo by The West Equestrian.

Three-Star newbies Alina Patterson and Flashback continue a great debut at the level. Fresh off winning the CCI3*-S at Galway Downs two weeks ago, they lead the three-horse field on a 31.2. “He was a bit lazy in the warm-up, but he lit up in the ring,” says the young rider from Washington. Even their typically toughest assignment, the walk, went beautifully today. “He anticipates a lot because he wants to please so much,” she explains. “It is always a challenge to slow his brain down.”

Cross-country will be another challenge due to the Long format length. “The longest course we’ve done is 6:45 minutes and this one is 8:45.” Flashback, a 10-year-old German Sporthorse, is typically filled with adrenaline on course, so Patterson is counting on that, good fitness and ample heart to see them through.

Patterson juggles riding and caring for Flashback with finishing up a high school and college associates degree simultaneously, then plans to take a year off. She is a student of John Camlin at Caber Farms.

Alexis Hellfrich and M Creme De La Creme SE are second on a 31.9, and Alessandra Allen-Shinn and Fool Me Once are third on a 39.4.

Nielsen & New Ride Lead the 2*-L

Marissa Nielsen and Global Absolute. Photo by The West Equestrian.

“My goal today was a boring but very accurate test,” said Sacramento-area professional Marissa Nielsen of Global Absolute‘s division-leading 28.3 dressage test amid 20 pairs. “He has a lot of ‘wow!’ factor and I can add that in later once we get the base.” The 7-year-old Mecklenburg has only been with Nielsen since January and is contesting his first FEI event. “We have high hopes for him and are laying the foundation.” Cross country is so far his strongest phase and Nielsen is looking forward to a “super new track. I love the new jumps and that we are using a bunch of the field that we haven’t used before.”

She’s appreciative of the whole upgraded experience at the Baxter family’s Twin Rivers. “Connie and Jeff (Baxter) are always upping the game here and it’s great preparation for the future.” Coming off dressage in its new hilltop Flag Ring stage, Nielsen said, “You don’t want to be trotting down centerline into something with huge atmosphere for the first time at your first 5*.”

Barb Crabo and Mine the Melody are in second on a 29.5, followed by Jessica DiCostanzo and Cocoa Z on a 30.8.

Marilyn Payne and Michele Henry served as the president and member of the Ground Jury for this division.

Baxter Leads the 4*-S

Andrea Baxter and Laguna Seca. Photo by The West Equestrian.

A double clear jumping effort put Andrea Baxter and Laguna Seca in the 4*-S lead. The 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Linero is out of Baxter’s 5* partner, Indy 500, with whom Baxter did yesterday’s dressage test ride. Laguna Seca has earned dressage scores in the 20s, but yesterday’s wasn’t one of them.

Having just moved up to Advanced in March, Laguna Seca was originally planned to debut at 4* this summer. Accelerating that schedule may have been a bit too much in Thursday’s dressage. “I may have thrown him into the deep end,” Baxter said. “He is capable of being very fancy, but the collection and difficulty of the movements got him a bit stressed out about putting it all together.” That was compounded by the very atmospheric Flag Ring setting Baxter helped create as a member of the family’s organizing team.

Moving onto cross-country, Baxter considers the track a good mix of technical questions and size, for which Laguna Seca should be well prepared after a “big” track at their home base and a very technical track at Galway Downs, both in March.

Sacramento-area professional Lauren LoPiccolo has had the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood, Diego, for about seven years, but life has gotten in the way of their ascent a few times: twice for having kids and once while Diego recovered from a surgery. He is the first horse LoPiccolo has brought up to Advanced and she is thrilled with their outing so far, despite faults and time penalties in show jumping that drop them behind Baxter with a 46.5 score.

Burnell Leads the 3*-S

Lauren Burnell and Counterpoint. Photo by The West Equestrian.

Amateur rider Lauren Burnell has been planning and working to get back to the 3* level for a few years and she is nailing it so far, standing first in the division on a 31.6 dressage score with Counterpoint, her 14-year-old Holsteiner. And that’s despite her belt coming undone during their dressage test yesterday and a last-minute striding change of plan before today’s double clear show jumping.

“I was rattled,” Burnell said of the belt incident. “It was banging around against my saddle, but he just went on and did his job.” She said the same of her longtime partner on today’s show jumping track that “looked, walked and rode big.”

Alexis Hellfrich and Graceland’s Lincoln added one rail to sit second on a 36.2 and Gina Economou and Cooley By Design had only time faults to move into third on a 36.4.

Today’s show jumping courses were designed by Marc Donovan.

By The Numbers

Approaching Twin Rivers Ranch from roads overlooking the vast, green property, the sprawl of trailers, stables and horses seems like it could be seen from outer space. There are nearly 500 horses on property and the schedule is busy. The Long format division entries are light, however. This was not a surprise given the pandemic driven-turn of events since the competition was cancelled last year.

“We are not deterred,” Andrea Baxter shared. “Along with organizer Robert Kellerhouse and Sarah Broussard of Rebecca Farms, it’s our goal to provide a stepping stone so our people can go and absolutely shine on the world stage. It’s new for us and it’s exciting and it’s really important.”

Sponsors & Volunteers

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

Supporting sponsors include Riding Warehouse, the horse gear and apparel supplier; and Chubby Cov, makers of beautiful custom stock ties.

Up Next

The Spring International anchors an exciting year of competition at Twin Rivers Ranch. The Fall International in September is a fixture of the West Coast circuit and the 2021 season finalé is another prestigious calendar highlight: The Future Event Horse and Dutta Corp. Young Event Horse West Coast Championships. These two West Coast championships were staged together for the first time last year by the Twin Rivers team, receiving high praise from all involved.

Schooling One Day Horse Trials: May 23

Schooling Show: June 6

CDS Dressage: June 12-13

Summer Horse Trials: July 1-4

Area VI Adult Camp: July 30-31

CDS Dressage: Aug. 14-15

Fall International: Sept. 23-26

USEA Future Event Horse & USEA Dutta Corp. Young Event Horse West Coast Championships (and an FEH qualifier), Oct. 29-30.

Schooling Halloween Horse Trials: Oct. 31


Twin Rivers Spring International: [Website] [Live Scores] [Live Stream]

More photos from the first two days of action in Paso Robles, all courtesy of Kim Miller and The West Equestrian.

First McKinlaigh Cup Set to Be Awarded at Twin Rivers Spring International CCI4*-L

Bec Braitling and Caravaggio II. Photo by The West Equestrian.

The debut of a CCI4*-Long division at the Twin Rivers Spring International Three Day Event highlights a much-anticipated long weekend of high-flying eventing action. The competition takes place April 8-11 at the Baxter family’s Twin Rivers Ranch in Coastal Central California’s Paso Robles.

The CCI4*-L, one of only six normally held in the U.S., was originally scheduled to debut last year as the cherry atop what’s become a fixture of the eventing circuit in the West. Despite last year’s cancellation, entry levels are back at pre-COVID highs. “It’s exciting to see the sport rebounding as a whole and there is a lot of enthusiasm about coming back,” says Connie Baxter, Organizer. Since resuming events under “new normal” protocols last summer, the Twin Rivers team has ample experience staging safe competition. Those measures prevent spectators, but there are ample opportunities to enjoy the action as a volunteer.

Based at Twin Rivers Ranch, CCI4*-L contender Bec Braitling relays that already substantial upgrades and improvements have intensified. “At Twin Rivers, it’s always about the cross-country,” she says of the 500-acre property’s beautiful track and challenges designed for the past year by Hugh Lochore of Great Britain. “The Baxters have gone especially out of their way on the footing and there are several new fences and complexes, plus a lot of little improvements that will give it a good feel.”

International dressage and the jogs will be staged in the beautiful hilltop area where show jumping takes place, adjacent to the covered collecting ring. International flags and sponsor banners contribute to an electric atmosphere surrounded by the wine country’s rolling hill vineyards. Long format divisions at the 2*, 3* and 4* level run alongside Short format competition at 3* and 4*, plus Horse Trials levels Beginner Novice through Advanced.

Gina Miles and McKinlaigh. Photo by Mike McNally.

The McKinlaigh Cup

Prize money in the CCI4*-L division jumps to $5,000 and the winning horse will be honored with the new McKinlaigh Cup. The beautiful trophy has been donated by Thom Schulz in honor of his lovely late wife Laura Coats. Schulz and Coats owned McKinlaigh, the Irish Sporthorse who partnered with Gina Miles in 2008 Olympic individual silver. McKinlaigh was developed and lived out his retired life at the couple’s Rainbow Ranch in nearby Creston. The handsome, bold horse passed away at 26 in January of 2020.

Schulz and Coats were impactful supporters of eventing, Pony Club and other equestrian activities in the Central Coast area. The presentation of the McKinlaigh Cup at the Spring International connects that generous tradition to today’s top sport. Winners in each of the Long format divisions will also receive a custom Twin Rivers jump provided by Jen and Earl McFall’s Dragonfire Farm.

Alexis Helffrich and Graceland’s Lincoln. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Proving Ground

The Spring International is one of only six competitions in the United States to offer the CCI4*-L division. This rigorous test of the horse and rider partnership, guts, stamina and skill is an important proving ground and preparation for international contenders.

“They are constantly upping the game here,” said USEF Eventing Performance Director Erik Duvander of Twin Rivers Ranch during a March 2020 visit. He described it as one of a few venues that is shifting the sport’s geographic balance in the United States. “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.”

Twin Rivers Ranch began when the Baxter family saw 500 acres of dormant farmland and envisioned it as the perfect stage for international equestrian competition. With the Spring International, those visions materialize to the benefit of equestrians and fans throughout the West Coast. Remarkably, Twin Rivers’ growth and national prominence has not come at the expense of the welcoming, family vibe that has distinguished it from the get-go.

The family’s continual focus on upgrades includes new permanent stabling this year. Fully-covered permanent stabling with 36 12′ x 12′ stalls are first offered to Twin Rivers Ranch members. Year-round supporting Ranch members also receive unlimited access to all open facilities — for two horses with the same owner. Members are exempt from non-member fees at all schooling shows, and family members and/or additional horses can be added at a modest cost.

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

Supporting sponsors include Riding Warehouse, the horse gear and apparel supplier; and Chubby Cov, makers of beautiful custom stock ties. For sponsorship opportunities, contact Christina Gray of Gray Area Events at [email protected]. Volunteers are critical to the Spring International’s success and offer a great entrée to the sport, even for those without prior experience.

James Alliston and RevitaVet Elijah. Photo by Ride On Photo.

Up Next

The Spring International anchors an exciting year of competition at Twin Rivers Ranch. The Fall International in September is a happy host of the Adequan/USEF Youth Team Challenge and the 2021 season finalé is another prestigious calendar highlight: The Future Event Horse and Dutta Corp. Young Event Horse West Coast Championships. These two West Coast championships were staged together for the first time last year by the Twin Rivers team, receiving high praise from all involved.

  • Spring International: April 8-11
  • Schooling One Day Horse Trials: May 23
  • Schooling Show: June 6
  • CDS Dressage: June 12-13
  • Summer Horse Trials: July 1-4
  • Area VI Adult Camp: July 30-31
  • CDS Dressage: Aug. 14-15
  • Fall International: Sept. 23-26
  • USEA Future Event Horse & USEA Dutta Corp. Young Event Horse West Coast Championships (and an FEH qualifier), Oct. 29-30.
  • Schooling Halloween Horse Trials: Oct. 31

Unprecedented Turnout Expected at Galway Downs Spring International This Weekend

Erin Kellerhouse and Woodford Reserve. Photo by The West Equestrian/Kim Miller.

An unprecedented turnout of horses and riders for this week’s Galway Downs International Horse Trials, March 25-28, marks a milestone on the West Coast eventing scene. One year ago, it was the first major West Coast eventing showcase to be shuttered by the COVID-19 virus.

When it was safe to resume competition under “new normal” protocols, Robert Kellerhouse’s Kellerhouse Presents team led the way in staging safe, enjoyable and constructive competition for horses and riders. When competition couldn’t be hosted, the Kellerhouse crew made the most of it by accelerating and expanding upgrades and enhancements that have become a trademark of the 242-acre equestrian venue located in the heart of Southern California’s Temecula Valley Wine Country.

Many of those improvements were showcased at the Galway Downs International last fall. It featured CCI4*-L competition that drew top East Coast riders and hosted the USEF National CCI3*-L Championships. Boyd Martin, Liz Halliday-Sharp and Phillip Dutton were among the international stars who had not competed in Temecula in several years and they went home with rave reviews.

“It was great for the West Coast to have them see the level of improvements in everything,” notes Asia Vedder, chair of USEA Area VI and an upper-level competitor who finished as reserve champion in the USEF’s National CCI3*L Championships last fall. “Robert and his team work really hard at constantly improving the facility, which is much appreciated. He’s been able to make many of the improvements because he thinks outside the box, particularly when it comes to working with organizers in other disciplines.”

Kellerhouse’s three-year partnership with hunter/jumper organizers, Nilforushan Equisport Events, has led to particularly transformative upgrades in footing, exhibitor amenities and elsewhere. The wholehearted support of Galway Downs owner Ken Smith is the bedrock supporting the venue’s continual growth.

On top of substantial upgrades unveiled in the fall, first-rate all-weather footing has been added to additional arenas. The cross-country tracks designed by Clayton Fredericks (3 & 4*) and Bert Wood (2*-BN) will be roped off for the upper levels, as they were to great effect in the fall. Both designers assure exciting new obstacles and challenges on all routes.

While spectators are not allowed due to COVID-19 safety protocols, a new, permanent VIP pavilion allows exhibitors safe social distancing in comfort while watching the action in the Grand Prix Arena. Sponsor Ride On Video will be live-streaming the FEI action.

Volunteering is the best form of spectating and there are opportunities available here.

The international, Advanced and Open Intermediate divisions begin on Thursday, March 25, with dressage in the morning and show jumping in the afternoon. Cross-country will wrap up on Friday. Competition through Beginner Novice continues through Sunday.

Exhibitors from throughout the Western United States and generous sponsors make the Galway Downs International Horse Trials the perfect international season opener.

Galway Downs International: WebsiteEntry StatusRide TimesLive Scores

Twin Rivers Ranch 2021 Season Preview

Avery Noblitt and Cumani at the 2020 Winter Horse Trials. Photo by

New show stabling, new cross-country obstacles, and upgraded infrastructure. These are among the ways the Baxter family made the most of the COVID-caused downtime that waylaid some — but not all — of last year’s ambitious plans for their Twin Rivers Ranch equestrian venue.

The inaugural Spring International CCI4*-L that was set for last April will now unfurl April 8-11, 2021, at the 500-acre property in central coastal California. Hosting an Adequan/USEF Youth Team Challenge concurrent with the Fall International September 23-26 is a new calendar addition.

Following up 2020’s resounding success with the first joint staging of the Dutta Corp USEA Young Event Horse and USEA Future Event Horse West Coast Championships is a major agenda highlight. Last fall, the Baxters wowed the eventing world by hosting these Championships concurrently and showcasing them as a stand-alone competition.

“The West Coast Championships were a great success in 2020, boasting record numbers across the FEH and YEH Championships,” stated the US Eventing Association. On Oct. 29-30 of this year, Twin Rivers hopes to build on that debut by welcoming, challenging and showcasing more young horses from throughout the Western United States.

“They set a real standard for what the Championships should be,” confirmed Debbie Adams, who travelled from her East Coast base to judge the 2020 Championships with Peter Gray. “I was just blown away by what a good job they did.”

Amber Levine & Leonardo Diterma at last fall’s Dutta Corp. USEA Young Horse
Championships. Photo by MGO Photography.

Permanent Show Stabling

The first competition of the year is the Winter Horse Trials, Feb. 26-28. Exhibitors will be the first to see the new, fully-covered permanent stabling with 36 12′ x 12′ stalls. Twin Rivers Ranch members get priority treatment for the new stabling. That’s in addition to year-round unlimited access to all open facilities — for two horses with the same owner. Members are exempt from non-member fees at all schooling shows, and family members and/or additional horses can be added to the Twin Rivers Ranch membership at a modest additional cost.

Membership fees help Twin Rivers with maintenance and upgrades that have helped the facility become one of the favorite venues in the Western United States. Ample space, varied terrain for cross-country and carefully maintained dressage and show jumping arenas are among its assets.

After coaching top contenders during the Winter Horse Trials last year, USET Eventing chef d’equipe Erik Duvander praised Twin Rivers’ continual upgrades. He credited the venue as a key destination for horses and riders on the top sport path.

“They are a progressive bunch,” adds Twin Rivers upper-level course designer Hugh Lochore of the Baxter family. Along with 5* eventer Andrea Baxter, organizer Connie Baxter has extensive eventing experience. 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 explains. “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 will return to Twin Rivers in March to continue work on the upper-level tracks in advance of the Spring International.

Andrea Baxter in Advanced Show Jumping at Twin Rivers. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Also new is Ride On Photo by Tayler as Twin Rivers’ show photographer for the year. This is the talented Tayler Callie Walsh, a familiar face in the eventing world and daughter of Ride On Video’s Bob and Debi Ravenscroft.

People accommodations have expanded, too. In addition to discounted rooms from sponsor Best Western Plus Black Oak and on-site RV rentals from Getaway RV Rentals, Twin Rivers has increased its total of full-power/water RV hook-ups to 37. Having resumed show hosting in July of last year, the Twin Rivers team has mastered COVID protocols to keep all exhibitors safe. Until further notice, spectators are not allowed.

Get Involved: Volunteer & Sponsor!

A generous volunteer incentive program continues through 2021. Full-day helpers receive $60 vouchers toward future competitions, half-day helpers earn $30 vouchers. Each shows’ volunteers are entered into a drawing for prize packs filled with useful goodies from Twin Rivers sponsors. Hours are tracked through the year for entry into a year-end raffle. Prizes include a Twin Rivers entry, stabling, cross-country schooling voucher and more. Sponsors already on board for the year include Best Western Plus Black Oak, Getaway RV Rentals and Auburn Labs, manufacturers of APF Pro Formula. Sponsorships are still available and more partnerships will be announced soon. (Contact Christina Gray at Gray Area Events for sponsorship opportunities: email: [email protected]

The Calendar:
Winter Horse Trials: Feb. 26-28
Fundraiser Combined Test: April 3-4
Spring International: April 8-11
Schooling One Day Horse Trials: May 23
Schooling Show: June 6
CDS Dressage: June 12-13
Summer Horse Trials: July 1-4
Area VI Adult Camp: July 30-31
CDS Dressage: Aug. 14-15
Fall International: Sept. 23-26 (Including the Adequan/USEF Youth Team Challenge)
USEA Future Event Horse & USEA Dutta Corp. Young Event Horse West Coast
Championships (and an FEH qualifier): Oct. 29-30.
Schooling Halloween Horse Trials: Oct. 31

Fast Facts:
Location: 8715 N. River Road, Paso Robles, CA. 93446; email: [email protected]
Ride Times: Available a few days before competition begins.
Show Photographer: Ride On Photo by Tayler
Video: Ride On Video

Lockdown Life with Selena O’Hanlon

Photo courtesy of Selena O’Hanlon.

Olympic eventer Selena O’Hanlon would normally be ensconced at O’Hanlon Eventing South, in Ocala, Florida, this time of year. Warm weather and blue skies would backdrop the conditioning and training in prep for the international season. By early spring, she’d normally relocate to the Pennsylvania base of her longtime coach Bruce Davidson. There, hilly terrain facilitates the final conditioning work needed to meet eventing’s rigorous cardio, strength and overall fitness demands.

Instead, she and a skeleton staff are riding out the winter at OHE’s Balsam Hall Equestrian Centre training base in Kingston, Ontario. The riding is exclusively indoors thanks to cold weather and icy outdoors. The vibe is quiet and the care of many horses is in the hands of a few thanks to Ontario’s second COVID-19 lockdown.

Creative Not Crabby

But it takes more than that to get the 2008 Olympian and three-time World Equestrian Team member down. She’d rather get creative than crabby, so she’s focused on keeping her horses ready to ramp up for the show season — whenever that time comes.

Selena is targeting mid-May as her horses’ first competition. Four months out, that calls for making the most of relatively light, short work-outs. Elevated cavaletti work, at the walk, and “bounce” jumping exercises are keeping her horses fit, without undue wear and tear on their bodies or boredom in their brains.

Cavaletti at the walk is an exercise recommended by U.S. and Canadian eventing team physical therapist Jo-Ann Wilson, M.Ed., Selena explains. “Because the horse is going slower, at the walk, they have to lift up each leg longer, which is more work for them. It’s really hard to build up the horses’ stifle muscles when you can’t do hill work. This builds up their stifle and hamstrings.”

Using light poles on plastic blocks, Selena works up to setting the poles a little below the height of the horse’s knee. She typically starts with five passes through a set of five poles, then gradually increases. Under normal circumstances, she’d do raised cavaletti walk work once a week. These days it’s twice a week because there are few other fitness options.

For cardio, Selena likes bounce exercises in which low jumps are set approximately 9-10′ apart so the horse “bounces” through, landing then taking off without a stride in between. “Horses don’t breathe when they do bounces, so it’s good for building up their cardio.”

To sharpen form and technique, Selena sets alternating high-side cross-rails to encourage straightness with vertical fences. Balsam Hall’s indoor arena is on the small side and bounces are an efficient way to make the most of it.

To avoid boredom and repetition, she’s finding about 35 minutes sufficient for each horse’s total workout. Whenever the weather permits, that is complemented by time in outdoor pasture and hand walking wherever there’s enough traction to do so.

Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Extra Unusual Off-Season

Even without the pandemic, Selena was facing an unusual off-season. In cross-country competition in mid-August of last year, one of her young horses opted for the gap between a skinny fence and a tree. There wasn’t room for her left leg, leading to a dislocated ankle and an avulsion fracture at the lower part of her tibia bone. She was in the hospital for surgery and out of the saddle for a several-month recovery.

Selena was back to coaching by mid-September, back to walking by late September and back to favorite fitness routine — mucking out stalls — soon after. Today, she’s thrilled to be able to stand in her stirrups at the canter and to be regaining elasticity in the achilles tendon that is important for maintaining a secure, heels-down position in the saddle.

Seeing German Olympic gold medalist Ingrid Klimke skip the stirrups on an off-day of the World Equestrian Games confirmed Selena’s long-standing commitment to no-stirrup work. It was the only option initially when returning after her injury. Now, “I actually prefer jumping with no stirrups. One of my bad habits is to lean forward early at the jump. I’m hoping this work will make a difference!”

Indoor Life Reaffirms Steamed Hay Benefits

Extra time to review horse care routines is one upside of the lockdown. In that department, Selena is grateful for Haygain steamed hay. She first learned of it while riding at Sir Mark Todd’s stable in England in 2014, so it’s not new to her program. The pandemic has proven that high temperature steamed hay is as important to horse health in the off-season as it is during showtime.

For her top horse and Olympic partner Foxwood High, steamed hay helped improve the picky eater’s appetite. All her horses enjoy the respiratory benefits of forage free of 99% of the dust, mold, bacteria and other allergens found even in hay of good nutrient quality.

More recently, an up-and-coming horse suffered back-to-back colic bouts. Careful management keeps it under control, but worries linger. These were heightened because the horse was not a big drinker to begin with, and even less so when the water is cold, or worse, frozen. That’s why dehydration can be as big a problem in the winter as it is during sizzling summers.

Haygain steamed hay has three times the water content of its dry counterpart. “It really helps get moisture into him,” Selena says. “He needed to put weight on and it has helped with that, too.” Many horses tend to drink less in the winter, so Selena is happy they’re all getting more water in their diet with steamed hay.

Although allergies are often considered spring and fall issues, indoor living is making things tougher for a few of Balsam Hall’s residents. There, too, steaming’s ability to reduce inhalable irritants goes a long way toward maintaining their easy breathing, health and comfort.

Online Opportunities

Last but not least, Selena and her mother and expert horsewoman, Morag O’Hanlon, are using the lockdown to learn about new technologies like Zoom. Coaching is a big part of both of their lives, of students at OHE and those in clinics around Canada and in the United States.

This month, Morag launched a six-part series that anyone can join by Zoom. And Selena will soon be offering live coaching via live video platforms.

“We are definitely learning new ways of interacting and teaching!” Selena concludes.

Most of all, she hopes to be back on familiar turf with her string of horses soon. If all goes well, that would start at Will O Wind in Mono mid-May, and include outings at the Grandview Horse Trials, Bromont, Oakhurst and Wesley Clover competitions through October.

Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Woody’s Whereabouts

And how is her superstar Foxwood HIgh, aka “Woody,” handling the lockdown?

Selena’s Olympic and WEG partner is enjoying retired life at the home barn of his owners, John and Judy Rumble. John helped the Canadian eventing team earn Olympic bronze in 1956 and now hopes that his grandchildren might get to ride Woody “when they get a little taller,” Selena reports. Being part of “Team Woody” for the Badminton Horse Trials in 2018 made lifelong fans of the Rumbles’ adult children and the horse bug is now embodied happily by a third generation.

Martin, Smith & Burnell Claim Galway Downs International Victories

Boyd Martin & Luke 140. Photo by Kim Miller.

Boyd Martin had only competed once at Galway Downs, many years ago and, by his own account, “I did terrible.” After clear show jumping rounds in the CCI4*-L today secured the win on Luke 140 and third on Long Island T, Martin has a far more favorable impression to replace that bad memory.

“I came out here thinking ‘Ludwig’ (Long Island T) might beat Luke this weekend. But it was Luke’s weekend and I’m really glad I brought him out here.” Martin said he’s been touting the horse’s international potential to his many-member owner syndicate for two years and “this weekend is the first real moment that proves it.” While Long Island T’s usual strong point, dressage, was off due to excess energy, Martin was thrilled with his cross-country and show jumping.

Boyd Martin & Long Island T. Photo by Kim Miller.

Martin said both horses’ experience set them up for 5* excursions and the overall experience will likely lead him back to Galway Downs from his East Coast base. “I’d like to come here every year. Especially for the young horses, it’s a great experience to fly out here. The cross-country course was very challenging and both horses learned a lot. I’d prefer a trip like this than going overseas. It’s cheaper and the standard of competition is just as high. Plus, it’s good to support our American events. Sometimes I think it’s a little easy to run off to Europe.”

Over the roll backs and fast-coming fences of designer Mark Donovan’s course, Martin incurred minor time faults with both horses to hold their first and third places after the first two phases. Luke 140 finished on a 31 and Long Island T on a 36.40.

Boyd Martin & Luke 140. Photo by Kim Miller.

Martin described California as like “being in another country because I don’t know anybody out here.” Californians knew him, though. Many described the chance to watch Boyd and fellow East Coast-based master Phillip Dutton as a riding lesson unto itself, even when they were just schooling in the warm-up.

Tamie Smith & Passepartout. Photo by Kim Miller.

A Fine First 4*

“You almost won your first 4,*” Tamie Smith leaned over to tell Passepartout after laying down a clean trip with .40 time faults. The horse’s next compliment came from USEF Eventing High Performance director Erik Duvander: “You know he is still just a baby, but he comes off like a professional.” Smith “absolutely” agreed with that assessment of her daughter Kaylawna Smith-Cook’s 11-year-old German Sporthorse. “That was the classiest round of all three phases. He did not put a footfall wrong.” They finished on a 32.40.

The California-based 2019 Pan Am Team gold medalist has strutted the West Coast’s special stuff for several years now. She shared some advice with Texas-based Rebecca Brown, who finished 4th in the 12-starter field on Dassett Choice. “You can be based anywhere, you just need the right team,” Smith said. “You need the trainers that can help you develop your system. Erik (Duvander) has helped me understand that.”

Rebecca Brown & Dassett Choice. Photo by Kim Miller.

Charlotte Babbitt & 2 AM. Photo by Kim Miller.

As appreciative as she is of Duvander, Smith was happy to “annihilate” his Adequan® USEF Futures Team Challenge squad. Smith captained Team Leslie, with USEF Developing and Emerging Rider Coach Leslie Law, and including Rebecca Brown and young rider Charlotte Babbitt. The Futures program is designed to build the unique skills required of team riding and to foster connections, coaching and guidance for international hopefuls. There’s room for rivalry, too. Duvander’s crew had won the initial outings and with #1-ranked U.S. eventer Liz Halliday-Sharp, fellow 4* rider Emilee Libby and young rider Sophie Click, it could be described “as a little stacked,” Smith noted. “We had three really good performances and it was really fun to win!”

Erin Kellerhouse & Woodford Reserve. Photo by Kim Miller.

Earning applause equal to the winner’s, Erin Kellerhouse and Woodford Reserve completed their first CCI4*-L on a 41.10. The score included only small time penalties and earned a fifth place finish. Based at Galway Downs year-round, Kellerhouse has been patiently developing the Irish Sport Horse up the levels, earning the appreciation of those who’ve witnessed their progress.

CCI4*-L Final Top 10: 

USEF CCI3*-L National Championship for Smith

In 2015, Smith hauled Mai Baum east, then onto the international radar by winning the (now 4*) CCI3*-L and USEF CCI3*-L National Championships at Fair Hill. Mai Baum went on to be Smith’s 2019 Pan Am Games partner and has already earned his qualifying score for Tokyo Olympic consideration.

Does Elliot-V have the same potential? “Absolutely! 100% yes.”

Tamie Smith & Elliot V. Photo by Kim Miller.

The 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood’s off-to-college owner Louisa Southworth declared his Thursday dressage test “magnificent” after watching in on the livestream. She drove to Temecula Saturday in time to see Smith don the USET pinque coat and win it all on a 30.20 that reflected just .40 in jumping time penalties.

Asia Vedder & Isi. Photo by Kim Miller.

Time faults on cross-country widened what was a very narrow dressage gap between runner-up Asia Vedder and Isi and Smith and Elliot-V. That grew with one rail at the liverpool, but Vedder remained thrilled with the finish. Outside of a break for hip replacement surgery earlier this year, Vedder and Isi have been progressing steadily and gaining the notice of several sport leaders. “He’s hard not to like,” she said of the Holsteiner.

She also raised eyebrows with a newer horse this weekend: Get Cheeky, with whom she scored a 16.40 in dressage and stands second in the Open Beginner Novice division that concludes Sunday. Get Cheeky was sourced by Elmar Lesche of Germany, Vedder noted, the same source as the third-place winner in the CCI2*-L, Helen Bouscaren’s Irish Pop.

James Alliston & Paper Jam. Photo by Kim Miller.

Helen’s husband James Alliston celebrated his Halloween birthday today with a third place CCI3*-L finish on Paper Jam. The Hanoverian/Thoroughbred had been Bouscaren’s ride until just four shows ago when “she very kindly said I could ride him” to fill a gap in his string. “He has a lot of energy and is always on his toes, which I really like,” Alliston said. “That can be a bit of a challenge in dressage, so we are working on getting him relaxed for that.” Their 38.20 dressage score stood through all phases.

Charlotte Babbitt & 2 AM. Photo by Kim Miller.

More National Titles

The CCI3*-L National Championships also determined who’d be honored with the National Combined Training Trophy for the highest placed U.S. rider over the age of 16. Smith added that trophy to her crowded mantle, followed by fellow U.S. contenders Asia Vedder, Andrea Baxter, Alessandra Allen-Shinn, Auburn Excell-Brady, young riders Charlotte Babbitt and Sophie Click, and Stephanie Goodman.

Charlotte Babbitt & 2 AM. Photo by Kim Miller.

Sophie Click & Quidproquo. Photo by Kim Miller.

The National Young Riders Championship and its John H. Fritz Trophy. U.S. were at stake, too, for contenders aged 16-21. With eighth and ninth overall 3* finishes, Charlotte Babbitt and Sophie Click were champion and reserve.

Lauren Burnell & Freedom Hill. Photo by Kim Miller.

Burnell, Bouscaren and Sanborn Take the 2*

With 3-year-old dinosaur paying little attention in their ringside family fan club, Lauren Burnell and Freedom Hill continued a flawless weekend to win on a 27.20. The dinosaur was her Halloween-costumed son, who had already offered his coaching before cross-country. “He told ‘Jack’ to go fast and Mommy to hold on,” and the pair ran with that plan. It helped, too, riding her second horse and fifth-placed finisher Counterpoint first in the 34-pair division. “I just went in and tried to replicate that. The amateur in me came out and I got a little frantic in the beginning, but then it was nice to focus on the plan that my coach Bec (Braitling) and I had come up with.” Burnell has competed at the 3* level prior to having a baby and felt this weekend bodes well for possibly moving back up to that level.

Helen Bouscaren & Irish Pop. Photo by Kim Miller.

Helen Bouscaren and her new Hanoverian Irish Pop stayed on their 4th-ranked 30.50 dressage performance to rise to third, after cross-county, then second. Their jumping round rode like the breeze it appeared to be. “He is fast, sharp and fun. You can put him exactly where you want him,” she said.

Audrey Sanborn & OBOS Quality Time. Photo by Kim Miller.

Third place was earned by another of Bec Braitling’s riders, Audrey Sanborn and OBOS Quality Time. The Cal Poly San Luis Obispo communications student called it a high point of their finishes and a harbinger for moving up to 3* in the spring. She praised the flowing, curvy course as fun to ride and their double-clear kept them on a 31.30 dressage.

Tamie Smith & Luisa Southworth. Photo by Kim Miller.

The Challenges Continue

With the international competition wrapped up, Sunday is dedicated to show jumping finalés for the three new Challenge divisions at the Modified-Training; Training-Novice and Novice-Beginner Novice levels.

After dressage and cross-country tracks at maximum difficulty for each division, the show jumping phase is staged in the Grand Prix arena with pairs going in reverse order of their standings, just as the FEI divisions did today. Ninety-five pairs snapped up the chance to test themselves and their horses and enjoy the showcase usually reserved for the sport’s highest levels.

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Martin, Smith & McEvoy Maintain Leads After Galway Downs International Cross Country

Boyd & Luke 140. Photo by Kim Miller.

New course designer Clayton Fredericks started working with Galway Downs this summer with the mandate of making things harder. Although today’s cross-country did not change the top rung of the 4, 3, and 2*-L leaderboards, there is evidence of mission accomplished in the standings below that and in riders’ reports.

In the CCI4*-L Boyd Martin and Luke 140, a Syndicate owned 9-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Landos x Omega VI), maintain their dressage day lead. They were a 10th of a second over the 10-minute optimal time to bring their score to a 29.8.

Boyd & Long Island T. Photo by Kim Miller.

“The course rode a lot harder than I thought it would,” said Martin. “Even on my more seasoned horse (third-placed Long Island T), there were angles on the corners that were very demanding.” Martin expected the track to be an especially big test for Luke 140 and was “over the moon” about his effort. “He has amazing fight in his DNA. If he sees a jump and the red and white flags, he does anything he needs to do to get himself through them. He showed me that he is a big-time horse today: that he is a tough, resilient mongrel. There were a lot of technically demanding fences, places where we only had a stride to see the narrow or the corner, and I was really impressed with his attitude.”

Phillip Dutton & Fernhill Singapore. Photo by Kim Miller.

Speaking of those demanding fences, Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Singapore were among four of the 11-horse field to get 15 missed flag penalties at the mid-course 16AB water complex. That knocked him out of second to seventh place after Thursday’s dressage, and made way for Californian Tamie Smith and Passepartout to gallop double clear into second on a 32. Smith and “Pasco” have a rail in hand over Martin and Long Island T in third.

Tamie Smith & Passepartout. Photo by Kim Miller.

“Basically, this horse is such a rideable, fast horse,” Smith said of the 11-year-old gelding (Pasco x Preschel). “He may not look like he’s that super fast, but he just skips across cross-country with a massive stride and an efficient jump.” Smith is riding Passepartout for her pregnant daughter and fellow professional, Kaylawna Smith-Cook. This was only their second cross-country trip together and Passepartout’s first CCI4*-L.

Tamie Smith & No App For That. Photo by Kim Miller.

Rideability was critical. “Two waters walked very difficult,” Smith said. “You just had to have a super rideable horse. If there was any wonkiness, you might have a flag.” She spoke from experience: she and her own OTTB, No App For That, also doing his first CCI4*-L and “very green,” were among those getting an “MF” at 16B.

Rebecca Brown & Dassett Choice. Photo by Kim Miller.

Martin and Long Island T pair jumped from sixth to third with no jumping faults and a 1.20 penalty for a 36. Texan Rebecca Brown and Dassett Choice stayed in the fourth seed, picking up 2.8 time penalties for a 36.

Liz Halliday-Sharp & Cooley Quicksilver. Photo by Kim Miller.

Liz Halliday-Sharp was another to get a flag penalty at 16B. An initial extra 20 penalty points were later removed after review by the ground jury determined she had not re-addressed the fence. Nonetheless, it was a disappointing day for the East Coaster in her native Southern California for the current #1 ranked U.S. eventer. The flag penalty plus 8.40 time penalties dropped she and Cooley Quicksilver from fifth to eighth.

Careful What You Ask For

“As the new course designer coming into a new venue, obviously the last thing you want to do is obliterate the whole field,” commented Fredericks at day’s end. “We had an agreement that the course needed to be stronger and the time needed to be harder. I think we achieved that.” Of the particularly problematic 16AB, “It was a fairly tight line and I think some people tried to bend it more than was ideal, so it became an issue of the left shoulder popping out.”

A new test earlier in the course exemplified Fredericks’ ideal outcome. The combination started with an open ditch element followed by the “Which Way Brush” option. “A lot of riders were scratching their head over that: it’s a fence you don’t see very often. For me, it’s ideal to cause a little confusion, then see it be ridden quite well.” Most pilots chose the right-side brush, and just one pair had a refusal.

At the “Mini Wine Bar” water complex at the 20ABC element of the 27-effort track, Fredericks was also happy to see better jumping through the water, barrels, and mound creation. “It wasn’t something that caused major problems in the past, but sometimes the jumping efforts through there were ugly. Today I was pleased to see horses jumping very nicely and being really careful.”

Tamie Smith & Elliot V. Photo by Kim Miller.

Smith, Vedder & Alliston Lead CCI3*-L

Elliot-V, an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Zavall VDL x Vera-R) owned by Louisa Southworth, is top of the CCI3*-L — he and Tamie Smith earned that spot after a 29.80 dressage ride, and they were first out of the box in the CCI3*-L. Yet they took nothing for granted, maximizing the many long galloping stretches to stay on that score. “It was good to let him open up and blow off some steam, and his gallop is just incredible.” So is his jumping, Smith said, which bodes well for Saturday’s show jumping finale crafted by Marc Donovan and assistant Kelly James.

Asia Vedder & Isi. Photo by Kim Miller.

Smith can’t let up as Asia Vedder and Isi are within a rail after adding 1.20 in time to maintain their number two seed on a 31.1. Although the amateur rider and USEA Area VI chair saw one of Isi’s shoes fly off at fence 17, then another close to the finish line, neither horse nor rider were distracted by that or by the many other opportunities to lose focus. “It was a fair course, with no bugaboos, but there were spots where you really needed to pay attention. It was a little relentless. Even some of the single fences, you were jumping on an angle and you needed to be tidy.”

Isi is “still figuring out that he has different gears,” Vedder explains. She liked the course’s many opportunities to shift them. “There were places where you had the option of going forward and others where you could jump in quiet and nicely add.”

As for Saturday’s show jumping, “Isi is a funny horse. He’s spooky, but not always in a way that translates into spooking into clear rounds. I’ll be making sure he’s awake and keeping his canter active.”

James Alliston & Paper Jam. Photo by Kim Miller.

Behind Vedder, there’s a big gap in scores before a tightly packed group led by James Alliston and Alliston Equestrian’s Paper Jam. Cross-country dramatically reshuffled the mid-standings, with Alliston going from 8th to 3rd, Rebecca Braitling and Caravaggio II moving from ninth to fourth, and Andrea Baxter and Laguna Seca jumping from 10 to 5th. Less than a rail between these contenders sets the stage for another possible shake-up.

Andrea Baxter & Laguna Seca. Photo by Kim Miller.

Going in reverse order of their standings, the CCI3*-L jumping will also determine the USEF National CCI3* Championship and the U.S. National Combined Training Trophy. Only American athletes are eligible, so Great Britain’s Alliston and Australia’s Braitling aren’t in the running. Standing fifth and sixth, Andrea Baxter and Laguna Seca and Auburn Excell-Brady are. Smith likely has a special eye on the trophy, too. She won it in 2015 with Mai Baum, a major of many milestones in her ongoing successes.

India McEvoy & Redbull. Photo by Kim Miller.

McEvoy, Burnell & Bouscaren Atop the CCI2*-L

Amateur rider India McEvoy rode with Phillip Dutton when she was in college and had a refresher with him just last week in a clinic near her Northern California home. Getting Redbull, her own 8-year-old Oldenburg gelding by Redwin, more in front of her leg during the cross-country warm-up was among the suggestions she put into play today for a double-clear round to stay atop the standings on a 26.50. “He’s a funny combination of good temperament for dressage and he could gallop forever, but having Thoroughbred from his mom, he can get a little nervous. Phillip rode him a little during the clinic and gave me pointers about making sure he’s forward and letting him have a second to think so he doesn’t get frazzled.”

Show jumping hasn’t been the still-green Redbull’s strong suit so far and whatever Saturday’s outcome, McEvoy said she’ll be thrilled. “Today’s cross-country was really good because he ended feeling more confident. It’s great to have him gain that kind of experience.”

Lauren Burnell and Freedom Hill were also fault free today to be second on a 27.20. And professional Helen Bouscaren and Irish Pop were double clear to move up into third on a 30.50. Bouscaren and her husband James Alliston are McEvoy’s coaches “and they’ve found me some great horses!” McEvoy said.

In Other News …

Preliminary divisions continued today, highlighted by Josey Thompson and Pistol Annie staying on their 18.90 dressage score with a fault-free cross-country to lead the Open division. All other national divisions got underway, including the “Challenge” format at the Modified-Training, Training-Novice, and Novice-Beginner Novice levels.

Karen O’Neal and Cafe Noir lead the Modified-Training Challenge; Leah Forquer and Oakley’s Hunt SE top the Training-Novice Challenge on a 28.70; and CCI4*-L rider Erin Kellerhouse is atop the Novice Beginner-Novice Challenge with Sonata GWF on a 25.

The new showcase and test is a hit. “Last year, we had 17 entries in the Training Three Day event,” noted organizer Robert Kellerhouse during the Wednesday briefing with International riders and officials. “We were sad to see that division go, but we have 95 riders doing the Challenges this year. These are all riders following in your footsteps and excited to see you compete.”

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Martin, Smith & McEvoy Top the Galway Downs International Opening Day Leaderboards

Boyd Martin and Luke 140. Photo by Kim Miller.

The new normal of no spectators didn’t lessen the electric atmosphere surrounding the Galway Downs International CCI4*-L opening dressage late Thursday afternoon. While quieter than usual excitement nonetheless filled the air as Boyd Martin and his familiar partner Long Island T entered the Grand Prix court. But it was Martin’s newer horse, Luke 140, who topped the 12-pair field with a 29.40 from FEI ground jury members Sandy Phillips, Wayne Quarles and Valerie Vizcarando-Pride.

“My first horse (Long Island T) was brilliant in the warm-up and terrible in the ring, and Luke was not very good in the warm-up and a champion in the ring,” Martin said. “I prefer they do it like that.” The Luke 140 Syndicate’s Holsteiner is a “hot feisty number” who faces “a big test” tomorrow over Clayton Fredericks’ tracks as Galway Downs new course designer, said Martin.

In a nice change of scenery, Martin is among a handful of top-ranked eventers to trek from the East to compete at Galway Downs. They add to equestrian fire power fit for the venue’s rising status in the sport. “It’s a world class facility,” said Martin. “The rings are unbelievable and it’s turning into one of America’s premier event facilities.”

All of the 4* horses showed the unique combination of power and elegance required for wins at this level. Where there were gaffes and glitches — most notably in a few flying changes — they illustrated how tough it is to balance those two characteristics even though several pairs made it look easy.

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Singapore. Photo by Kim Miller.

One such pair was Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Singapore, who also came from the East, and are second on 31.30.

Tamie Smith and Passepartout. Photo by Kim Miller.

With East Coast heavy hitters in the ring, California-based Tamie Smith may have the weight of West Coast hopes on her shoulders. But that wasn’t evident in her cool horsemanship on five horses in the FEI divisions.

She is third in the 4* on her daughter Kaylawna Smith-Cook’s German Sport Horse, Passepartout, continuing his rocket ride begun with Kaylawna and carried on with Tamie during Kaylawna’s pregnancy. “I am so proud of him. He was uphill and pushing out to the contact,” said Smith.

Rebecca Brown and Dassett Choice. Photo by Kim Miller.

This pair is followed by Texas-based Rebecca Brown and Dassett Choice. Brown has been travelling extensively from her Texas base and made a positive showing here with this horse and her second 4* entry, Fernhill Fortitude.

Charlotte Babbitt, Erik Duvander, Tamie Smith and Leslie Law. Photo by Kim Miller.

Even behind his mask, the big smile those third and fourth standings put on USEF Emerging & Developing Rider Coach Leslie Law’s face was unmissable. He’s coaching the Adequan® USEF Futures Team Challenge captained by Smith and including Brown and young rider Charlotte Babbitt. Charlotte and 2 A.M.‘s 4th standing in the CCI3*-L after dressage puts Law’s team in the pole position over the squad led by Erik Duvander, USEF High Performance Eventing Director. Team Erik is captained by Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp, riding Cooley Quicksilver, and fellow 4* pair Emilee Libby and Jakobi. Halliday-Sharp and the gorgeous gray sit fifth, and Libby and Jakobi are 10th.

Charlotte Babbitt and 2 AM. Photo by Kim Miller.

Contesting her second CCI3*-L, Babbitt said she benefited from the Futures Team experience even before competition began during jump and flat schools with Law and team meetings. Tangible tips? “I learned to go to a team member if I need help, but to remember that you’re the one who got yourself on the team,” the Northern California-based rider explained. “We talked about learning to lean on your teammates when you need to, but not shifting your perspective or approach unnecessarily.”

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver. Photo by Kim Miller.

It was a special treat to see Tamie Smith’s Pan Am Games team gold medal partner Mai Baum and his owner Alex Ahearn do the test ride before the CCI4* dressage. Mai Baum has already earned his qualifying scores for Tokyo Olympics consideration.

Emilee Libby and Jakobi. Photo by Kim Miller.

“Twisty and turny between long gallop stretches” were the characteristics mentioned by several 4* contenders in anticipation of Friday’s excursion over the Galway Downs’ 242 acres. In several cases, major challenges arise on relatively short notice, putting a premium on boldness and confident communication. Having most of the track roped off is new this year, eliminating opportunities to cut corners that existed in the past and intensifying the pressure on pace over track. The field is full of well-known riders, but the collective experience of the horses they’re on runs the gamut. Everyone agreed it will be an interesting phase.

Tamie Smith and Elliot V. Photo by Kim Miller.

            Smith, Vedder & Excell-Brady Lead CCI3*-L

Tamie Smith leads the pack with Elliot-V on a score of 29.80 from judges Sandy Phillips and Robyn Fisher. That’s even after forgetting the “stretchy circle” and a brief hitch in a canter-depart, reflecting the horse’s quality even when things don’t all go perfect. “He is a super horse that is really great in all three phases,” Smith reports. The Dutch Warmblood is owned by Louisa Southworth, one of Smith’s off-to-college students. “Louisa was watching it on the livestream and she texted me saying, ‘That was pretty magnificent,'” Smith shares. The Southworth family is looking to syndicate Elliot-V for Smith to keep campaigning “and I am super excited about him.”

Asia Vedder and Isi. Photo by Kim Miller.

Very close behind Smith is amateur rider and USEA Area VI chair Asia Vedder and Isi on a 29.90, then professional Auburn Brady-Excell on BSP Tuxedo with a 34.20.

Auburn Brady-Excell and BSP Tuxedo. Photo by Kim Miller.

All three are among the nine of 12 division contenders eligible for the CCI3*-L USEF National Championships, hosted for the first time on the West Coast. At stake is the USEF National Combined Training Trophy for the highest placed U.S. rider over the age of 16.

Sophie Click and Quidproquo. Photo by Kim Miller.

Concurrently, the CCI3*-L includes the National Young Riders Championship for the John H. Fritz Trophy. U.S. riders aged 16-21 are eligible, putting Charlotte Babbitt and Sophie Click in the hunt for this prestigious award.

Haley Turner and Shadow Inspector. Photo by Kim Miller.

            McEvoy, Turner & Burnell Lead the CCI2*-L

There were an Olympians and a Pan Am Games gold medalist in the 34-horse CCI2*-L contest, but it is three amateurs who lead after dressage. India McEvoy and Redbull are on top with a 26.50. But not by much: Junior Haley Turner and Shadow Inspector follow up a CCI2*-S win just a month ago at Twin Rivers to sit second on a 26.60.  Lauren Burnell and Freedom Hill earned a 27.20 for the third rank in front of judges Wayne Quarles and Valerie Vizcarando-Pride.

“He was very green last year and we haven’t done much this year,” says McEvoy, a small animal veterinarian from Northern California. “He is a very obedient, relaxed horse who is nice to ride in the dressage ring. He’s had some pretty good scores, but I’d say this is one of his best.”

The COVID caused downtime allowed for extra focus on self-carriage in the canter for Redbull. McEvoy rides mostly on her own, as she lives two hours from her coaches James Alliston and Helen Bouscaren. “Dressage and cross-country are his stronger phases,” McEvoy said of the Hanoverian/Thoroughbred. “He’s a big horse (17hh) and getting him to fit himself into the dressage ring has been a challenge. He has gotten stronger in his movements and has built himself up over the break.” He’ll have a different use for that tomorrow. “The course looks great and challenging,” McEvoy said.

            Lower Level Challenges Begin

Preliminary divisions also did dressage Thursday. Friday opens the lower divisions, including the “Challenge” format at the Modified-Training, Training-Novice; and Novice-Beginner Novice levels.

The three-day format begins with dressage in Galway Downs’ Grand Prix arena on Friday. On Halloween Saturday, it’s out on cross-country at max distance and effort for all levels and over all new routes. The winners are determined Sunday during stadium jumping, with riders going in reverse order their standings in the Grand Prix arena. The CCI-L competition concludes on Saturday, so Sunday is all about Challengers.

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Sponsors and volunteers are crucial to producing top sport at Galway Downs. Sponsors include: The American Horse Trials Foundation, Auburn Labs, California Riding Magazine, California Horsetrader, CWD, Devoucoux, Equine Insurance of California, Geranium Street Floral, Ride On Video, SmartPak, Sunsprite Warmbloods, Symons Ambulance, Temecula Creek Inn.

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Charlotte Dujardin & Haygain Team Up Over Shared Priorities

Charlotte Dujardin & Valegro. Photo by Rose Lewis/Daydream Equine Art.

Much has changed for Charlotte Dujardin since her dominance with Valegro on the international dressage stage made her that rare equestrian: a household name well beyond it.

The Olympic, World Equestrian Games, World Cup and European Champion was awarded the Officer of the Order of the British Empire, OBE, in 2013, then the Commander of the Order of the British Empire, CBE, in 2017. She’s published her autobiography, The Girl on the Dancing Horse, to rave reviews and she’s met another of the world’s most famous equestrians: Her Majesty the Queen

What hasn’t changed is the root of Charlotte’s success: talent, hard work and dedication to her horses’ well-being. The latter explains Charlotte’s new partnership with Haygain, manufacturers of high-temperature hay steaming equipment and ComfortStall Sealed Orthopedic Flooring.

“We are always looking for ways to keep our horses more comfortable, healthier, happier and performing at their peak,” says Charlotte. “Partnering with Haygain is a perfect fit with our horse keeping philosophy.”

Haygain’s core products will soon be staples for the horses in Charlotte’s program, located at the yard of her longtime coach, mentor and Olympic gold medal teammate, Carl Hester. “We like to keep things as simple and natural as possible,” Charlotte continues. “Feeding clean hay and having stalls that provide cushion and comfort while reducing dust are great ways to accomplish that.”

Haygain’s high-temperature steaming was introduced commercially in 2009, two years after Charlotte showed up at Carl’s barn in Newent, Gloucester. It was two years before she rode her first Grand Prix with Carl and Rudy Luard’s Valegro, whom she developed from the Novice level.

A desire to improve equine respiratory health was the catalyst for Haygain’s development in conjunction with the Royal Agricultural University in the U.K.  Steaming reduces up to 99% of the dust, mold, fungi, bacteria and other allergens found even in hay of top nutrient quality. Along with dust in bedding, these irritants are a top cause of respiratory problems because they can infiltrate, irritate and inflame the lining of the upper airway and lungs.

Haygain steaming is now widely recognized for preventing respiratory issues that affect over 80% of the active sporthorse population, often without obvious symptoms. And reducing allergens means reducing allergies, which are often related to respiratory problems.

ComfortStall’s one-piece top layer of durable rubber seals to the stall wall. This prevents urine from seeping down and amassing unhealthy, unpleasant and irritating ammonia, as happens under traditional stall mats or on dirt-based bedded stalls.

A layer of orthopedic foam provides ample cushion for joint health, comfort for deep rest and sleep and a soft, safe surface on which horses can easily lie down and rise up. Often likened to a gymnasium mat, ComfortStall has a combination of give, stability and traction that prompts therapeutic blood flow and tiny, constant muscle movements. The built-in cushion reduces the need for bedding to only that required to absorb urine.

Charlotte’s long-time groom Alan Davies is excited about the Haygain partnership, too. “These are next-level steps in providing the cleanest, healthiest possible environment and nutrition for Charlotte’s horses. Along with wanting to keep our horses healthy and happy, we know that cutting edge care can give the extra edge needed to excel against the world’s best and we’re confident Haygain’s Hay Steaming and ComfortStall will help us keep doing that.”

“We’re beyond proud and excited to be working with Charlotte and her team!” says Bee Richardson, Haygain’s Vice President of Marketing. “Her remarkable accomplishments are rooted in exceptional horsemanship. This is why she is such a positive and influential example to horse owners worldwide.”

After a career of record shattering scores and captivating performances, Valegro was retired in 2016 with celebrity status. Meanwhile, Charlotte has several talented horses to continue her “services to equestrianism,” for which she received her OBE and CBE distinctions. She and the 2019 FEI World Cup™ Finals Champion, Mount St. John Freestyle, are currently sixth in the world as international competition resumes. They are top candidates for a third Olympics at the Tokyo 2021 Games.

With Haygain newly on Charlotte’s horse health team, the stage may be set for yet more broken records in the dressage world.

For more information on Haygain, visit, and follow Haygain USA on Instagram and Facebook.

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.

Galway Downs Ready To Host CCI3*-L National Championships

2019 CCI4*-L champs Sara Mittleider & La Paz. Photo by Kim Miller.

Top 10-ranked U.S. eventers are among the 420 entries for the Galway Downs International starting Thursday in the heart of Southern California’s Temecula wine country.

An exciting finalé for the West Coast eventing season throughout its 22-year existence, the Oct. 28-Nov. 1 competition is exponentially more so this year for several reasons that explain why East Coast stars Liz Halliday Sharp, Boyd Martin and Phillip Dutton shipped horses 3,000 miles to compete. Californian Tamie Smith will defend her victorious turf in almost every division and pairs from throughout the West Coast, Texas, Arizona, Montana and all around the Northwest are ready to finish their season on a high note of intense, high-quality competition.

As with all sporting events, COVID precautions prevent spectators, but Ride On Video and the USEF Network are live-streaming Thursday, Friday and Saturday, bringing the FEI action to the world.

First, the competition will host the USEF National CCI3*-L National Championships, marking the first time it’s been held in the West. This builds upon Galway Downs’ selection as host of the Adequan USEF Futures Team Challenge, a coup announced for Robert Kellerhouse’s Kellerhouse Presents team early this year. You can view the teams here.

 The organizers have something special up their sleeve for lower level contenders, too: the “Challenge” format at the Modified-Training, Training-Novice; and Novice-Beginner Novice levels.

The competition will also unveil international competitor Clayton Fredericks’ first tracks as the venue’s new course designer, working with veteran builder Bert Wood. Sections of newly laid grass bordering re-footed portions of the cross-country course are one of many upgrades that continue Galway Downs’ commitment to hosting top tier tournaments.

 The Championships and new divisions are icing on a cake of venue improvements that’s been baking for some time. Extensive show and warm-up arena footing upgrades, new stabling and countless big and small improvements throughout the 242-acre property have taken an already first-class venue to new levels.

“We are lucky as hell for this opportunity,” says Kellerhouse of adding the CCI3*-L National Championships and the Futures Team Challenge to the Galway Downs International. “We were asked to host the Future Team Challenge West early in the year and the more recent opportunity to host the 3*-L National Championships brings extra interest and the chance to show off what we’ve built up out here with the help of many supporters and stakeholders.”

The CCI3*-L Championships

The COVID cancellation of the Fair Hill International in Maryland opened the door for a new location for this prestigious event. Getting the USEF nod is a big vote of confidence in the Kellerhouse team and fits with the Federation’s efforts to embrace West Coast riders and competitions. “The USEF remains committed to building a bridge to the West Coast and continues to bolster the High Performance program on both sides of the country,” notes Jenni Autry, USEF’s Managing Director of Eventing.

The Futures Challenge

 The Futures Team Challenge is part of the USEF’s Eventing Pathway Program. It debuted last year on the East Coast, with the intent of preparing future senior team athletes by providing an opportunity to experience competing as part of a team and working with the U.S. team coaches. The Futures Team Challenge is open to competitors at the 3*-L and 4*-L levels.

Last year, the Futures Team Challenge was only held on the East Coast. When it came time to expand it with a West Coast edition, Galway Downs and Kellerhouse Presents were poised to make that happen.

Teams were selected earlier this month: U.S. Performance Director Erik Duvander coaches a squad comprised of Liz Halliday-Sharp, Emilee Libby and young rider Sophie Click. U.S. Developing Coach Leslie Law helms the team led by Tamie Smith, Rebecca Brown and Charlotte Babbitt. All prepped for the Challenge with a two-day training focused on dressage and show jumping.

The M-T, T-N & N-BN Challenges

Designed as a test of abilities at the higher end of each level, and as a celebratory showcase, the Challenge was introduced by Kellerhouse 11 years ago as the Preliminary Challenge, held every spring in Northern California’s Woodside. In 2019, a Modified-Training Challenge was added to rave reviews, with riders grateful for the chance to step up their skills and receive a showcase similar to that enjoyed at the higher levels.

The three-day format begins with dressage in Galway Downs’ Grand Prix arena on Friday. On Halloween Saturday, it’s out on cross-country at max distance and effort for all levels and over all new routes. The winners are determined Sunday during stadium jumping, with riders going in reverse order their standings in the Grand Prix arena. The CCI-L competition concludes on Saturday, so Sunday is all about Challengers.

“These classes are all an evolution from where our sport has gone,” explains Kellerhouse. “While we are saddened to see the passing of our Training Three-day Classic format at Galway, we are thrilled to offer something for all the levels to shoot for in the modern test of eventing. For the past decade eventing went toward this format with a more technically challenging long court dressage test, cross country-only jumping with no A, B and C phases, and finishing with the show jumping at a larger height than the cross country test.”

New Courses

The FEI courses will reveal the vision of new Galway Downs course designer, Olympic silver medal winning Clayton Fredericks of Australia. He’s been working alongside veteran Bert Wood, an expert on the venue’s terrain and nuances, for several months.

 “The biggest change is that we’ve decided to stick to this track as the designated upper level track,” Clayton explains. “That will answer a few of the questions being raised in the past about the ground changing between grass and sand. The new track will only have a few of those changes, and with plenty of time for the horse to acclimatize to those changes.”

Clayton is based in Florida but has ample experience with Galway Downs as a competitor, coach and in other sport roles. Most recently, he brought clear-span FEI Stabling to the venue, another first for the West Coast, that has received positive reviews.

A newly-laid stretch of grass is part of the new course and it will all be maintained specifically for eventing purposes. “That allows us to water and manicure the grass exactly as we want to,” says Clayton.

“Challenge and flow” are the key words he uses to describe the new course. As for advice to upper level contenders: “Preparation! Make sure you’ve done your homework. there won’t be anything too out of the ordinary, but we will try to make it up to the standard for each level. So, be ready!”

A Team Effort

Kellerhouse credits the skills and efforts of his own growing team; Nilforushan EquiSports Events; Galway Downs owner Ken Smith; the USEF; USEA; and Clayton Fredericks as heading a long list of supporters who’ve helped make this weekend’s event a fitting showcase for every level of the sport.

Sponsors and volunteers are equally important in realizing this vision for top sport in the West. Sponsors include: The American Horse Trials Foundation, Auburn Labs, California Riding Magazine, California Horsetrader, CWD, Devoucoux, Equine Insurance of California, Geranium Street Floral, Ride On Video, SmartPak, Sunsprite Warmbloods, Symons Ambulance, Temecula Creek Inn.

Volunteer Sign Ups: here. More information: or

Breaths of Fresh Air: How Lauren Billys Protected Her Horses’ Respiratory Health During CA Wildfires

Lauren Billys and Castle Larchfield Purdy. Photo by Kim Miller.

Like most horse owners in Northern California, Haygain ambassador Lauren Billys Shady has been through the ringer during a wildfire season that started early and shows no signs of letting up. In late August, she and her husband had to evacuate their home. Lauren’s own horses and several in her care at Lauren Billys Eventing had to move twice. They first evacuated to a facility relatively close by on the Monterey Peninsula. After a second evacuation notice, client horses had to be hauled four hours south to Paso Robles for safe stabling with friends.

The 2016 Olympic eventer needed every ounce of her famously positive attitude to get through it all. Along with a good team and good friends, she had the advantage of familiarity with equine respiratory health on her side. Since her Olympic partner Castle Larchfield Purdy was diagnosed with equine asthma two years ago, Lauren has learned how respirable particles in the barn environment can infiltrate, irritate and inflame the equine respiratory system.

This is true for horses without any pre-existing respiratory problems and in normal weather. It’s exponentially true for horses with conditions on the Equine Asthma Spectrum and when the inhalation of smoke-borne particulate matter is unavoidable, as it has been for multi-week stretches in Northern California.

Photo courtesy of Lauren Billys.

Help On Hand

Having a Flexineb Portable Equine Nebulizer on hand and Haygain steamed hay as a staple of her personal horses’ diet, Lauren was well prepared to help them through long stretches when the Air Quality Index hit the hazardous zone. Thrice daily treatments with nebulized EquiSilver, an antimicrobial, or a saline solution “helped clear their lungs and gave them a breath of fresh air,” she explains.

The Flexineb is easy to use, lightweight and portable. Lauren and her assistant Andrea Bushlow typically walk the horses during their 10-20 minute daily treatments so their breathing helps draw the aerosolized solutions into their lungs. Even with the horse at rest, the Flexineb delivers aerosolized solutions through the upper airways and deep into the lungs.

Haygain steamed hay is another advantage Lauren’s horses had going into the fire and smoke season. The high-temperature steaming process removes up to 99% of the dust, mold, fungi, bacteria and other allergens found even in hay of good nutrient quality.

Air Filtration

Along with passing oxygen through to the bloodstream, the lungs function as an air filtration system. Unfortunately, they aren’t as easily cleaned as a household air filter. That’s why it’s so beneficial to keep tiny particles out of the lungs in the first place. “It keeps the lungs free of all those particulates and is way more effective at that than soaking the hay,” Lauren says. Keeping the respiratory system clear with steamed hay gave her horses a head start when it came time to deal with the inescapable smoke.

With clear skies in her immediate area now, Lauren is even more grateful than usual to be back training and coaching. Careful management has kept her horses fit even with fire-related training interruptions.

Lauren has two horses competing at Woodside International Horse Trials this week: Castle Larchfield Purdy is contesting the CCI4*-S and Can Be Sweet is tackling the CCI2*-S. Keep an eye on EN for all the latest updates from that event! Then its south again, this time to the Galway Downs International CCI4*-L in Temecula at the end of the month.

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.

Flooring First: Barn Design Begins at Ground Level

Photo by Sara Malanaphy.

Stall flooring isn’t the sexiest subject among the many considerations in building or updating a barn. But leave it to the last at your peril, counsels renowned barn architect John Blackburn. As the title of one of his most popular books, Healthy Stables by Design, suggests, Blackburn and his team at Blackburn Architects PC prioritize horse health every step of the way. The owners’ goals for their stable and the demands of their site are equally important.

Because stall flooring impacts horse health and owner’s goals, it should be determined at the outset. Over 30 years, Blackburn has constantly refined what is now a proprietary questionnaire for owners to complete as step-one in the process. The answers are critical to the firm’s work and in helping owners identify priorities and allot budget accordingly.

Leaving flooring decisions to the last can be a costly mistake. Most options require leveling the base, pouring concrete, compacting the base material and/or laying a grid or creating another means of drainage. Re-doing that after the walls and the rest of the structure are up is an expensive, laborious inconvenience. It’s easily avoidable by planning for how the stall will be used, by what kind of horses and for how much of the day.

How the stalls will be maintained and by whom is another important factor. At-home horse keeping is many a boarder’s dream, but underestimating the time it takes to maintain the stable is a top tarnisher of that dream’s manifestation. Stall flooring choice plays a part in that.

Stall-related decisions include size, stall fronts, doors, walls, lighting, feed and water fixtures and flooring. Flooring ranges from the most basic: clay or stone dust to the most expensive options that include cushioned flooring that is sealed to the stall walls and custom-made interlocking rubber bricks.

Horse health-driven flooring priorities are safety, comfort and how it impacts stable air quality. Safe flooring is a stable surface with traction to prevent slipping when horses walk, lie down or stand up. It should be level at installation and constructed to stay that way even with hard keepers that may paw or pace the floor. Bases made of compacted dirt or stone dust will eventually form depressions, even when installed with plastic grid systems to aid drainage and ease cleaning. Proper maintenance is critical.

Cushion & Clean Air

Comfort and joint health are attained by cushioned flooring or the use of enough bedding to create cushion. This is important for rest and sleep and to reduce wear and tear on joints. A level floor also encourages horses to distribute their weight evenly.

Surfaces that emulate a gymnasium mat in their degree of give require horses to make tiny muscle movements to maintain their balance. The resulting proprioception has the therapeutic effect of prompting blood flow and minimizing inflammation. Equine physical therapists recommend this flooring characteristic to accelerate healing, whether from everyday work or injury or surgery rehab.

Flooring’s impact on barn air quality is often overlooked. “Odors and bacteria accumulate in the barn,” Blackburn explains. “The horse’s respiratory system is so sensitive; we do everything we can to protect it.” Situating and designing the whole barn for ventilation and air circulation are crucial for all of Blackburn’s designs.

Cushing and clean air are points in favor of flooring with a one-piece sealed top cover, such as ComfortStall. This system prevents urine and other fluids from seeping through and becoming a bacterial bouillabaisse at the stall base. Even well-snugged stall mats, a less expensive option, allow some fluid to seep through to the base.

Durable, sealed, one-piece top covers also enable sanitization. The Cornell University Veterinary Hospital has had ComfortStall in its post-surgery stalls for 10 years, partly because they are easily sanitized between patients.

Bedding is major contributor to bad barn air. Wood shavings are full of respirable dust and straw was found to promote fungal growth in a recent study of Inflammatory Airway Disease in active sport horses. The need for only minimal bedding is another attribute of flooring with built-in cushion. These systems only require enough bedding to absorb urine, which is then easily removed when soiled. Less bedding equals less dust and less time, labor and costs of buying and removing bedding. It’s easier on the environment, too.

No flooring lasts forever, but investments up front usually correlate to longer life.

An Installer’s Vantage Point

As an independent contractor, Graham Russ sees stall flooring from a different perspective. Over several years of installations in new stables and replacing it in existing barns, he sees more owners making a substantial upfront investment with the realistic expectation of a return in the form of horse health and maintenance savings.

“A lot of my installs are replacing the 4′ by 6′ rubber mat puzzle pieces,” says Russ, who is based in Ft. Worth, Texas. “They usually have cracks between each mat. They provide little cushion themselves and they are usually put down over concrete or gravel. That lack of cushion really causes problems for horses.” But it’s pocketbook pressure that initially turns many to the ComfortStall installations that he’s doing more of the last few years.

“People go from seven bags of shavings per stall to one bag,” Russ explains. “This product pays for itself in nine or 10 months. It sells itself.” And that’s the case even though its upfront cost is considerably more than seemingly similar brands.

ComfortStall’s cushion comes mainly from a layer of proprietary orthopedic foam while other types use geo-textiles and a crumb rubber-filled, channeled mattress for cushion. The flooring systems can look the same to the casual observer but not to Russ, who has installed and observed the performance of various methods and materials. “When you are going to spend the money, you might as well do it right the first time and not worry about it again,” Russ states. “If you don’t want to spend the money, go with the 3/4″ stall mats and a lot of shavings.”

Even without the shavings and labor savings, flooring costs should be considered as amortized over time. ComfortStall, for example, has a six-year warranty and an average life span of 15-20 years. “I work at barns where horses have pawed through the mats all the time,” he says. “I’ve never seen a horse paw through ComfortStall.”

Fixated On Flooring

Florida hunter/jumper trainer Emma Whillans is an unusual barn owner. First, she was only 23 when she broke ground on her dream barn and 25 when it was finished and full of happy clients.

Second, she didn’t get too excited about eye candy options like rooftop finials or fancy paint schemes. Instead, she fixated on stall flooring. It came first in her budget largely because she knew what she didn’t want: heavy, unwieldy stall mats that have to be hauled out regularly and hosed down, while the stall base was dredged and re-leveled. She’d done her share of that as a working student for other trainers and knew there had to be a better way.

Affordable board rates were a priority, too. Whillans knew that less bedding would help with that, but she didn’t want to sacrifice cushion and comfort for the horses. “When I saw ComfortStall’s flat surface of rubber, I knew that’s what I needed. No matter what happened, I knew I had to have that in our budget.”

She started with ComfortStall in 16 stalls and has already added another eight, including a foaling stall where her former jumper Della gave birth to Uno earlier this year. It was Della and Emma’s first delivery and having a comfortable, safe surface throughout the delivery and first hours of Uno’s life gave Emma further reason to love the flooring investment she made when Whillans Equine was only an idea.

Whillans’ horse-first forethought is the ideal starting point and she was wise beyond her years to give flooring the top priority it warrants in any barn planning and budgeting process.

Tamie Smith & Passepartout Win Twin Rivers CCI4*-S

Tamie Smith & Passepartout, owned by Kaylawna Smith-Cook. Photo by MGO Photography.

The CCI4*-S had an exciting shake up of the top placings to finish out the International divisions at the Fall International. It was Tamie Smith and Passepartout, owned by Tamie’s daughter Kaylawna Smith-Cook, who came out on top with the fastest cross-country time of the group. Ruth Bley’s 11-year-old Hanoverian Danito took second. Erin Kellerhouse and her own Woodford Reserve rounded out the top three.

Tamie has made the most of the long break in show schedule. Show jumping focus with international Grand Prix riders Ali Nilforushan and Peter Wylde at home at Kings Way Farm in Temecula paid off in the performances of Passepartout and the rest of the deep string of talent she brought to Twin Rivers. “It’s been really good to have the extra attention in jumping,” she said after logging three clear rounds on Friday over Jose Nava’s courses, including on Passepartout and Danito.

“It was my plan to go out and have a steady quiet go with Danito.” The handsome chestnut is “really coming into his own,” Tamie explained. He led yesterday’s standings on his 25.1 dressage score and a clear show jump. “I asked Kaylawna if she wanted me to go fast on her horse and she said yes. I had never ridden him cross-country and so was pleasantly surprised at what an incredible horse my daughter has! I am so excited for their future together.” Kaylawna and Passepartout have had a remarkable first year together, logging their first Advanced finish at the Twin Rivers Winter Horse Trials in March. Tamie has the ride on the talented horse now because Kaylawna and her husband are expecting!

“All my horses were incredible today,” Tamie said. “The courses and footing rode great, the attention to the footing was greatly appreciated.”

While she has been back competing since July, with a trip to Rebecca Farm, Tamie acknowledges that the “new normal” still takes some getting used to. “We feel so fortunate that the organizers are going above and beyond to enable us to enjoy competitions again. It seems like we have figured it out. Everybody is diligent about wearing masks and the organizers are enforcing things like taking temperatures. It’s a new era for all of us.”

Erin Kellerhouse was thrilled with her Woodford Reserve’s performance. “Woody was really good in his first CCI4*-S, he answered all the questions easily and galloped really well. The courses were really fun and gallopy with good questions.”

Weekend Highlights

Along with national level competition, the Fall International hosted qualifiers for the USEA Future Event Horse West Coast Championships and The Dutta Corp. USEA Young Event Horse West Coast Championships. This special showcase for young horses will be hosted by Twin Rivers on Oct. 23-24. An unrated one-day event is slated for Sunday, Oct. 25, and a new, recognized Horse Trials offering Introductory to Intermediate is slated for Nov. 13-15.

Twin Rivers Fall International: [Website] [Entry Status/Ride Times/Live Scores]