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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]

Twin Rivers: Tamie Smith Takes 1 & 2 spots in CCI3*-S, Haley Turner Wins CCI2*-S

Some sanity returned amid 2020’s wild ride as the Twin Rivers Fall International unfurled in Central California, where CCI2*-S and CCI3*-S competition was decided today.

Junior rider Haley Turner and Shadow Inspector laid down a wire-to-wire win in the 2*, while the 3* standings changed dramatically as Tamie Smith and Terry and Linda Paine’s Cheers moved from eighth after dressage to first.  Tamie, the 2019 Pan Am Games team gold medalist, dominated with five horses in this 15-horse starting field, including runner-up Solaguayre California, owned by Julianne Guariglia.

The CCI4*-S was originally set to conclude today, too, but was rescheduled for Saturday morning, due to a change in the weather. The reschedule gave the Twin Rivers crew extra time to make some adjustments to the cross-country footing before the 3* and Intermediate pairs ran today. The CCI4*-S cross-country starts Saturday at 8:15 a.m. PT, with Tamie Smith leading the pack aboard Ruth Bley’s Danito.

Haley Turner and Shadow Inspector. Photo by MGO Photography.

            It’s Turner’s 2*

“It was amazing!” said almost-18-year-old Haley Turner of her win with “Chief” in the CCI2*-S. Yesterday’s 26.8 dressage score stayed put over this morning’s show jumping designed by Jose Nava. The afternoon’s run over totally new routes by Hugh Lochore went smoothly, too. Just a .4 time fault, to end on a 27.2.

“It’s been quite a long journey for us,” said the student of Bea and Derek DiGrazia. The 10-year-old Irish sport horse sustained an injury the first year Haley had him, then she was injured in the second year of their partnership. This year, their third together, began with high hopes for a North American Youth Championships spot and started well at the Twin Rivers Winter Horse Trials in March, when they finished second in the Preliminary JR/YR division. Then came COVID.

“It’s wonderful to get back out there. The cross-country course is completely different than it was in March,” reports Haley. “It was fun and a good challenge while also being inviting.”

An online student through high school, Haley graduated early last spring and plans to take a gap year partly because of COVID’s impact on the college experience. The opportunity to focus full time on her riding has been a plus and a pleasure, she says. “It’s almost like we’ve had a second winter to practice and improve our skills.”

Amateur rider Lauren Burnell and Counterpoint finished second, on their 29 dressage score. Emilee Libby and Natalia Valente’s Toska moved up steadily, from an eighth-place tie after dressage, into third thanks to penalty-free show jumping and cross-country.

Tamie Smith & Cheers. Photo by MGO Photography.

It’s Cheers, Indeed, in the CCI3*-S

Under the saddle of Tamie Smith, Linda and Terry Paine’s 8-year-old homebred Thoroughbred, Cheers, was the only horse without time faults on Hugh Lochore’s 3* cross-country. That speed helped him move up from an 8th ranked 34.3 dressage score, and a show jumping rail, which Tamie described as “my rail,” to win the day. “He’s been a work in progress, and it’s really cool to have him seal the deal here. Every horse is different: he’s hot and has been a bit slow to develop.” As the final phase neared, Tamie’s “right hand person,” Bridget London calculated that a double clear would earn the win, and that’s what the pair delivered. “He is an amazing cross-country horse,” Tamie concluded.

 Tamie had a different tact with her second-place winner, Solaguayre California, a relatively new ride. Third after dressage on a 32.3, they had rail Tamie again took the blame for, then four time penalties on cross-country. “Out of the box, I am always going for what I need with each different horse. She’d had a beautiful, solid show jumping round and the time was hard to make on cross-country. It was not an easy track to make up time on. So, I wasn’t trying to go crazy fast on her because she is green and more spooky than Cheers. We went at the level that I needed to for her training.” The Argentine Thoroughbred was developed by David Adamo, who “did a phenomenal job with her,” Tamie added.

Bec Braitling and Arnell Sport Horses’ Caravaggio II finished third in the division. After leading dressage with a 30.6, a show jumping rail and cross-country time faults slipped them to third.

Weekend Highlights  

Along with the conclusion of the CCI4*-S tomorrow and ongoing Introductory through Training competition, the Fall International hosts 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, rated Horse Trials is Introductory to Intermediate on Nov. 13-15.

Although USEF and local COVID-prevention safety protocols bar spectators from attending the Twin Rivers Fall International, Ride On Video is live streaming throughout the weekend.

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

Eventers Rarin’ to Go for The West’s First COVID-era FEI Competition

Andrea Baxter and Laguna Seca. Photo by Kim Miller.

After a long delay, the international eventing season roars back to life on the West Coast with the Twin Rivers Fall International Sept. 17-20 in Coastal Central California’s Paso Robles.

The region’s many upper level riders are excited to get back in the hunt for FEI qualifying scores and pairs of all levels are hot to strut their stuff. The competition will also host Advanced through Intro and Future Event Horse and Young Event Horse levels.

Having undergone intensified upgrades before what would have been the inaugural Spring International CCI4*-L in April, the Baxter family’s beautiful, 500-acre venue is readier than ever to welcome competitors from far and wide.

Before COVID-19 shut the country down in early March, exhibitors at the Twin Rivers Winter Horse Trials in late February glimpsed some of those upgrades. Highlights include new Advanced to Preliminary courses designed by Hugh Lochore and brought to life by the Baxters’ earth-moving miracles. There’s the Quarry, the Flyover, Jeff’s Hot Tub and the Palm Tree and Twin Ponds water complexes, plus other new adventures spread over varied terrain. New frangible table fences, compliments of the of USEA Foundation grants for this purpose, are another addition.

Lochore, of Great Britain, is also designing the Advanced to Preliminary tracks for September while Adri Doyle of Texas is handling the Intro through Training routes. Jose Nava of California is on design duty in the show jumping arena surrounded by picturesque vineyards in the heart of Central California wine country.

The September International offer 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. 24, and a new, rated Horse Trials is pending approval on Nov. 13-15.

New Ways To Shine

The smooth running of Twin Rivers’ Summer Horse Trials in July demonstrated the dedication of all involved to complying with the new normal of wearing facemasks while unmounted, maintaining social distancing and other safety measures.

Twin Rivers is owned by the Baxter family and operated with the attitude that all exhibitors, organizers, officials and volunteers are part of that family. In “normal” times, the attitude manifests at the friendly Twin Rivers bar and gathering area in the middle of the property. In these not-so-normal times, it manifests as extreme care toward keeping everyone safe, happy and able to continue pursuing their passion for equestrian sports.

“Our staff, officials, exhibitors and volunteers all have the same priority,” says organizer Connie Baxter. “We want to enjoy our horses, our friends and our sport and do everything possible to keep everybody safe. It is a pleasure to welcome all back to our property and to have them join in our efforts to host world class equestrian competition.”

In March, the Twin Rivers team earned high praise from visiting Erik Duvander, US Eventing Performance Director. “Every time I come to Twin Rivers, I’m noticing the amount of work. They are constantly upping the game here.” That has continued during the coronavirus lull in competition, benefitting all West Coast exhibitors.

Although USEF and local COVID-prevention safety protocols bar spectators from attending, Ride On Video will live stream throughout the weekend. Livestream sponsorships are available for coverage that will be widely seen by those interested in how horse/riders pairs out West are performing after the long break.

As part of the Twin Rivers Ranch season, The Fall 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; Ride On Video, horse trials videographer; and Get Away RV Rentals, the Central Coast’s preferred RV rental service thanks to its personalized care, service and high quality fleet.

Supporting sponsors include Riding Warehouse, the horse gear and apparel supplier; and Best Western PLUS Black Oak, which offers exclusive discounts for exhibitors.

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

Volunteers Get Front Row Seats!

Volunteers are critical to the Fall International’s success and the experience is a great entrée to the sport, even for those without prior experience. Hours equal credit toward schooling at Twin Rivers or Horse Trials entries, and inclusion in year-end volunteer raffle and prize pack drawings.

To sign-up, visit

Understanding Hay Quality: Even ‘Good’ Hay Can Have Bad Things in It

Photo courtesy of Haygain.

As the source of 50 to 90 percent of a normal, healthy horse’s nutritional needs, hay warrants careful consideration. Yet, there is a lot of confusion over what, exactly, defines “good” hay. Nutrient content and cleanliness are distinct traits often presumptively and wrongly lumped together.

“People need to be more vigilant about hay because it makes up the lion share of their horse’s diet,” explains Meriel Moore-Colyer, PhD. As a professor and graduate dean at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, England, the feeding, assessing and treatment of hay is an ongoing cornerstone of her work in and study of equine nutrition.

Two main aspects define the quality of hay, she explains. The first is nutrient value and its suitability for a specific horse based on its work level and stage of development. The second is “hygienic quality” — the quantity of contaminants that occur naturally in hay’s growth, harvesting, transportation and storage. Their presence in hay explains the unfortunate reality that horses’ most important nutrient source is also one of the biggest contributors to poor quality stable air that is linked to poor respiratory health.

Photo courtesy of Haygain.


“There’s no such thing as ‘the best’ hay,” when it comes to nutrient value, Moore-Colyer explains. “That all depends on what your horse is doing. If you have a fat horse, you want hay with low nutritional value so that he can spend enough time eating without gaining more weight.” Designed to graze throughout the day, the equine digestion system works best when a steady amount of roughage is moving through it.

Conversely, a horse that’s working hard needs forage with plenty of the digestible energy that comes mostly from carbohydrates and fat. As with humans, the equine athlete needs more calories because it’s burning them off.

Moore-Colyer is often struck by misunderstandings about a horse’s needs. “For the work they do, most horses can easily exist on a forage-only diet.” (Forage is an umbrella term for plant-based livestock feed: Hay, haylage and silage are types of forage.) But that isn’t the reality for many horses. In a recent survey of horse owner feeding practices, Moore-Colyer was dismayed to find that 70% supplemented their horse’s hay ration with concentrated feeds. “If we didn’t feed concentrates, we wouldn’t have the equine metabolic disorders we see.” (Metabolic disorders mandate strict diets, especially in regard to water soluble, non-structural and non-fiber carbohydrates.)

General guidelines call for horses to get 1 to 1.5 percent of their body weight in forage. The aforementioned study of feeding practices showed that few owners weighed their horses’ hay, while the majority did weigh the concentrates. That was one of several findings reflecting misunderstandings of hay’s role in their horses’ diet.

Photo courtesy of Haygain.


Nutrient value in hay varies widely. Even within the same species of hay, energy, protein, mineral and vitamin content is affected by where it’s grown, the soil it’s grown in, when it’s harvested and weather.

However, some generalities can be made. Alfalfa, a legume hay, is relatively high in energy, protein, calcium and vitamin A. Grass hays –including Timothy, orchard, oat and Bermuda — are generally lower in protein and energy and higher in fiber than alfalfa. That’s why grass hays are often suitable for most adult horse’s basic nutritional needs, and alfalfa is often a staple of Thoroughbred racehorses’ diet. These horses’ digestible energy needs are very different.

A hay analysis is the best way to determine what quantities of each nutrient exist in hay. When that’s not possible, a visual assessment offers useful indicators. “Even those who don’t know that much about hay can identify what hay of good nutrient content looks like,” says Moore-Colyer.

“Hay with the highest digestive energy will be green, have a fine, thin stem, and be soft and flexible. It may smell a little like green tea. Pick the hay up in your hands and rub it: it should feel a little bit gritty.” Hay with the lowest digestible energy is “dry and looks like straw. It might feel prickly and smell a little moldy.”

Hay harvested at its nutritional peak will have a high proportion of leaf to stem and the bale should be 85% dry matter. Too dry and the resulting increase in “leaf shatter” adds to respirable dust particles. Too moist and there’s an increased likelihood of mold and bacteria growth.

Dr. Meriel Moore-Colyer. Photo courtesy of Haygain.

Hygienic Quality

The hygienic state of hay is the second component in evaluating hay quality. Beyond obvious cases of excessive dust or smelly, discolored mold, it’s not evident without a microscope. Since helping develop Haygain high-temperature steaming to purify hay, Moore-Colyer has spent over a decade studying what’s in all types of hay, including hay of good nutrient value.

The answer is dust, mold, fungi, bacteria and other allergens, often in the dangerously small particle size of 5 microns. That’s approximately one-tenth the size of a human hair: small enough to infiltrate the horse’s lungs where it can cause inflammation and impede the transfer of oxygen from the lungs to the bloodstream. That, in turn, restricts the horse’s ability to get oxygen to the muscles and limits performance.

The human eye typically can’t see particles less than 40 microns in size, rendering invisible the most dangerous respirable irritants that make their way deep into the lungs. But out of sight should not be out of mind, Moore-Coyler stresses. High temperature hay steaming is the one safeguard against the reality that these dangerous irritants exist in hay of all types and nutrient quality.

Using steam injected evenly through hay in a thermally-sealed chest, the Haygain process reduces up to 99% of the respirable particles and allergens found in hay. The key is steam temperatures of at least 212°F, necessary to achieve that reduction.

Along with evaluating each horse’s nutritional needs and assessing hay either by lab analysis or touch, sight and smell, Moore-Colyer recommends hay steaming for horses in all stages of life and levels of work. Drastically reducing these particles drastically improves barn air quality and the respiratory health of its residents, including people.

In the lab, at the barn with her retired dressage partner, an Irish Draft, or at a podium speaking to veterinarians, Moore-Colyer promotes the benefits of hay that can be fully defined as “good” — nutritionally and hygienically and suitable for the horse to which it’s served.

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.

Ella & Whinny: Chincoteague Show Pony Steams Back to Health

Photo by Hoof Print Images.

The mention of Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague novels beams many equestrians back to their childhood dreams. As the protagonists of the 1950s tales, these hearty, feral ponies roamed Virginia and Maryland’s Assateague Island before going onto adventures with adoring young owners on the mainland.

For the now 17-year-old Ella Doerr, that story is fact, not fiction. At 7, she went looking for a safe, sane starter pony. Instead, she found then 5-year-old “Whinny,” a 13.1 hand chestnut Paint with four long, white socks. The Chincoteague’s charm was irresistible. “He was lying down in his stall and he looked up and blinked at me with those magical eyes,” Ella remembers. “I fell in love instantly.”

He was as green as they come, as was Ella.

Fast forward six years, to 2016, when they excelled at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show at Harrisburg in the Medium Childrens Hunter division, winning the class and finishing 6th in the Classic. An 86 score in one of the country’s biggest Indoor circuit showcases is an indelible highlight of a year that included Grand Championships on three regional circuits.

“We all hear that a green pony and green kid don’t mix,” Ella says. “But we did.”

Harrisburg four years ago was the finale of their show career. Ella has gone onto impressive accomplishments in and out of the saddle, and Whinny has introduced younger riders to the sport.

Photo courtesy of Ella Doerr.

The Plot Thickens

Like all good stories, Ella and Whinny’s had an obstacle to overcome: a cough that went from so occasional as to be dismissed to debilitatingly persistent.  It progressed over a two-year period. For the last few years, Ella has limited the otherwise healthy pony to training and competition levels that require only minimal exertion.

The first summer after he retired from higher level competition was tough. Home at her family’s small barn in Wellesville, PA, Whinny had major allergy flare-ups, followed by a throat infection. Multiple vet visits could not determine if the two conditions were related. They did establish that Whinny is badly allergic to alfalfa hay, pine trees, insect bites and other irritants that are hard to avoid in the barn environment.

“We tried everything,” recounts Ella. “Homeopathic allergy treatments, cough syrup and inhalers. We got him to the point where he was okay except that he still coughed when he was ridden.” Ella tried soaking his hay. This common DIY method for removing dust can drastically increase bacteria and, like a lot of horses, Whinny didn’t like it. “He looked at me like, ‘Really? I have to eat that?‘” Ella relays. “It broke my heart.”

Ella is a remarkable and savvy horse woman. She is the USEF’s reserve champion USEF Sportsmanship Award winner in 2020; the USHJA’s Youth Sportsmanship Award recipient in 2016; a consistent top finisher in the USHJA’s Horsemanship Quiz national standings and a junior reporter for The Chronicle of The Horse.

Ella’s most recent report for the esteemed media outlet was an update on arriving at the Kentucky Horse Park for the USEF Pony Finals. Unfortunately, the next day, Saturday August 1, Ella had to break the news that they’d been cancelled due to coronavirus cases at the venue. (She did circle back to the venue the following week with her current ride, Batman, to win their over-fences class and ride to reserve in the Classic. Then she jumped into helping promote the Virtual Pony Finals as a fundraiser for a fellow pony rider, Alexis Halbert, who suffered a bad fall.)

A Better Way

Ella knew there had to be a better way to help Whinny, whose show name is Wind In The Willows. She found it in Haygain Steamed Hay. “I was so excited,” she says of learning that high-temperature hay steaming rids hay of up to 99% of the inhalable bits of dust, mold, fungi, bacteria and allergens found even in hay that is considered high quality for its nutrient content.

Whinny and his stablemates expressed their enthusiasm when Ella’s new HG One portable hay steamer began emitting the tantalizing smell of steamed hay. But Ella was patient. “I didn’t think we would notice a difference right away, but we did almost immediately. Within two weeks of getting steamed hay, Whinny doesn’t really have a cough anymore. He’s much better and healthier. And, happier because he doesn’t have to have the soaked, sticky hay. He couldn’t be more excited.”

Article provided by Haygain. For more information on Haygain high-temperature hay steaming and Haygain’s ComfortStall Sealed Orthopedic Flooring, visit and follow Haygain USA on Facebook and Instagram.

Haygain is Contributing Sponsor for USEA American Eventing Championship

A Portable HG One Hay Steamer will be awarded to the Training Level Amateur Division champion.

Eventers were the earliest adopters of Haygain Steamed Hay when it was introduced 11 years ago, and Haygain is grateful for that launchpad to what is now widespread, global acceptance of its benefits. The company is excited to be a Contributing Level sponsor for the United States Eventing Association (USEA) American Eventing Championships Aug. 25-30 at the Kentucky Horse Park, in Lexington, KY.

The smallest of Haygain’s three steaming models, the HG One valued at $999, will be awarded to the Training Level Amateur champion as part of the sponsorship, and all AEC exhibitors will receive a special discount code for the purchase of any steamer or Haygain’s ComfortStall flooring. Long-time steamer and top eventer Allison Springer will be part of the Training Level Amateur Champion award presentation on Haygain’s behalf.

As with all eventers, conditioning, fitness and speed are the foundation of daily work for the horses in Allison’s program. “That’s why our horses’ respiratory health is incredibly important to me,” says the international rider. “We use highest quality hay, but still within that there are little spores and different things that can be damaging and irritating. We’ve had great success with our steamed hay regime for several years now.”

Haygain high temperature steaming reduces up to 99% of the dust, mold, fungi, bacteria and other allergens found even in hay of top nutritional content. The benefits of clean hay include preventing or managing respiratory problems that affect over 80% of active sport horses, plus improved hydration, digestion and appetite and reduced allergies.

“The USEA is proud to partner with Haygain,” says Kate Lokey, USEA Director of Programs and Marketing. “Haygain’s dedication to finding new ways to improve the health and well-being of horses is a great fit for the USEA, and we are excited to offer their steamer as a prize at the USEA American Eventing Championships!”

Bee Richardson, Haygain’s VP of Marketing, says, “We are happy to continue our long-standing partnership with the eventing community. Hay steamers and our ComfortStall Sealed Orthopedic Flooring are now relied on by equestrians in all disciplines and around the world, but our path started with eventers. We wish everyone a successful, safe and healthy competition in Kentucky!”

For more information on Haygain, visit For more information on the USEA American Eventing Championships, visit

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.

Horse Sense Leads San Francisco Zoo to ComfortStall

Slider, a mixed-breed steer; Ramona, a San Clemente Island goat; and Nataani, a Navajo-Churro sheep have Ben, a geriatric Quarter Horse, to thank for the supportive, comfortable surface on which they spend their nights. They are all among the many residents of the Fisher Family Children’s Zoo and Exploration Zone at San Francisco Zoo and Gardens.

The Zoo’s proactive approach to animal care and wellness led them to the equine world where they found ComfortStall Sealed Orthopedic Flooring.

“We discovered ComfortStall while attending an equine trade show,” says Amy Phelps, Children’s Zoo Curator. “We were looking for a quality flooring product to provide cushioning for the joints of our geriatric and arthritic horses and ended up purchasing one stall’s worth of ComfortStall for an older Quarter Horse. We were so pleased with it, and, more importantly, our horse, Ben, was so pleased with it, that we purchased enough to place the flooring in all the barns in our Family Farm. Now, all of our equines, cows, pigs, goats, and sheep find comfort on this beneficial flooring.”

Like horses used in sport and recreation, zoo animals benefit from veterinary care advances that are resulting in longer life spans. Soundness and compensatory muscle and joint issues have the same debilitating effect on Family Farm residents as they do in sport horses.

“In the zoo industry, animals tend to come in young and live very long lives,” Amy explains. “Geriatric care is a very important component in what we do when developing a whole life plan for an animal.”

ComfortStall’s unique design and construction make it valuable through all phases of life.  Supportive cushion comes from a layer of proprietary foam that provides give and support. The padded surface requires constant, tiny muscle movement to maintain balance, which spurs blood flow and helps maintain joint health. The surface also encourages deep, restful sleep as Family Farm animals spend their nights inside a cozy barn. Having ComfortStall to stand or lie down on greatly benefits their well-being.

            Better Barn Air

The flooring’s durable rubber top cover is sealed to the enclosure walls with anchor strips. This prevents the seepage and accumulation of urine and other fluids that contribute to poor air quality in barns with traditional floor mats. Now, straw, shavings or other types of bedding are not required for use as cushioning: they are only needed in small quantities to absorb urine. Less bedding means fewer dust particles in the air, which improves respiratory health and is especially important when the animals are inside for the night.

Less bedding helps the Zoo’s bottom line, too. Amy estimates that the Children’s Zoo saves $15,000 annually on bedding alone. Plus, not having to haul heavy mats out of the stall regularly for cleaning is a significant labor saver.

Minimal bedding has various benefits for animals with special needs. The miniature horse, Carmela, for example, has had a specialized diet since undergoing colic surgery. Staff must carefully manage what she eats because she can no longer eat a regular hay diet.

“Because Carmela eats everything in sight, including bedding material, it has been important that her interior space be shavings-free but still cozy and comfortable,” Amy explains. “All of which has been critical to keeping her healthy and happy.”

            Evolving Animal Care Priorities

Sprawling over 100 beautiful acres on the southwestern corner of San Francisco, the Zoo is home to over 2,000 animals that represent more than 250 species. In 35 years of care for zoo animals, Children’s Zoo Assistant Curator Eric Krussman has seen animal care priorities evolve to today’s emphasis on positive reinforcement training and enhanced well-being.

Using positive reinforcement methods in the science of applied behavior analysis, training focuses on making care easier for the animal and safer for the handlers. Use of this training is widespread throughout the Zoo, from teaching a snow leopard to receive sub-cutaneous fluids to guiding a giraffe to rest its lower leg on a stand for hoof care.

ComfortStall flooring is an example of the life enhancement component of today’s animal care priorities. “In general, it means doing everything we can to keep our animals happy and comfortable throughout their life,” says Eric.

As animal lifespans extend under expert, compassionate human care, ComfortStall flooring contributes to San Francisco Zoo and Gardens’ mission and to that of the many horses for whom it was originally created.

Article provided by Haygain. For more information on Haygain Hay Steamers and ComfortStall flooring, visit

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.

Every Breath Horses Take Affects Every Move They Make

Photo by Wilhelm Westergren.

“Respiratory health is essential to performance,” stresses Dr. Emmanuelle Van Erck Westergren of a key focus at her Equine Sports Medicine Practice in Waterloo, Belgium.

The prominent veterinarian and thought leader spent 15 years engaged in equine health from a University-based perspective. She then left academia to apply that knowledge in private practice, immersing herself in a 360-degree perspective on horse management. Equine Sports Medicine Practice specializes in high performance horses and prioritizes prevention and career longevity.

“I want to help horses compete successfully over a whole season and a whole career,” Dr. Emmanuelle explains. Accomplishing that involves working with owners to evaluate and implement best management practices related to every aspect of their horse’s health. Respiratory function is critical to that, yet often under-appreciated and misunderstood. Worse, warning signs of trouble are easily missed or misinterpreted.

That’s why Dr. Emmanuelle welcomes the chance to speak on equine respiratory health, as she did here with journalist Kim F Miller.

Kim: How is the equine respiratory system different from a human’s?

Dr. Emmanuelle: Several factors contribute to the horse becoming deficient in oxygen even in sub-maximal levels of exercise. This state is called hypoxemia. In man, oxygen levels stay the same during all levels of exertion.

Kim: What are those factors?

Dr. Emmanuelle:

1. Horses breathe only through their nose. There is no communication between the oral cavity and the airways. Think about exerting yourself while only breathing through your nose.

2. Their narrow upper airway and the long distance from there into the lungs makes it that much harder to move the column of air in and out. It’s “dead space” because nothing happens to the oxygen during the trip. It is only transferred to the blood stream when it gets into the lungs.

3. Horses breathe in and out at the same rate as their gait. As they canter or lope, they inhale in suspension, and exhale when their first foreleg hits the ground. Standardbred trotting horses have an advantage because, if they become oxygen deficient, they can take a big breath over several trot steps. A Thoroughbred racehorse is limited because they can’t compensate with a big breath over a few strides. They have to breathe in and out with their stride. As they become oxygen deficient, they have to breathe more often, which means shortening their stride.

4. Horses’ bodies are over 60% muscle and muscles demand a lot of oxygen. By comparison, muscle mass for a “normal” 18-40-year-old man is 33% to 39%.

5. Horses have a higher heart rate and that faster circulating blood means it doesn’t stay anywhere long enough to output all the oxygen it carries.

 Kim: Will the horse’s ability to intake and use oxygen improve as his fitness improves?

Dr. Emmanuelle: Unfortunately, no. The horse’s muscle and heart function adapt and improve with conditioning, but the oxygen capacity of its respiratory system does not. Human performance is limited because we have small hearts. Horses have big hearts that get bigger and can pump more blood with conditioning, but their performance is still limited because the respiratory system can’t deliver enough oxygen to the muscles.

Because of all the limitations, even a little bit of inflammation or obstruction anywhere in the respiratory tract has a big impact on performance.

Kim: How often to you see sport horses with some type of respiratory disease?

Dr. Emmanuelle: Too often! We have tracked 400 cases in which horses were referred to our practice for poor performance.  Between 50% and 80% had some degree of respiratory disease. Eventers had 100% and international show jumpers had 85% at the high end, while driving and leisure horses were at the “low” end with 50% affected.  In a study published last fall, we found that 88% of 731 horses referred for poor performance had Inflammatory Airway Disease, a range of conditions on the milder end of the Equine Asthma Spectrum.

 Kim:  Do owners typically recognize poor performance issues as related to respiratory health?

Dr. Emmanuelle: No. Most of the complaints were very unspecific. “Feeling heavy” is a top complaint.  Heavy breathing, breathlessness, lack of energy and slow recovery times are more common complaints. Owners seldom noted coughing or nasal discharge, which are more clear symptoms of respiratory problems.

Kim:  What are some of the biggest risks to respiratory health?

Dr. Emmanuelle: Respiratory diseases fall into the category of Equine Asthma, a relatively new label in veterinary medicine. Some horses have a genetic predisposition for it, but otherwise it is an occupational disease. Environment, stresses of training and competition which can lower immunity, and mingling with other horses are all risk factors for Equine Asthma.

Kim: How do you figure out what’s causing the problem?

Dr. Emmanuelle: I look at the horse and his environment. We do measurements of dust levels and samples of contaminants. Some are easy to see. Have you seen someone sweep dust from the barn aisle, then stash that in the horse’s stall? Or seen mold stains on barn walls or ceilings?

A condition called Sick Building Syndrome exists in human medicine and it can apply to horses, too. They may not be coughing or having nasal discharge, but they clearly don’t feel well. That can often be linked to the amount of contaminants growing inside the building

Horses were designed to live outside, but many horses spend 23 hours a day in the barn. Living inside, they’re exposed to 50 times more inhalable irritants! Even if they live outside, if they’re getting hay with contaminants, it’s still a problem.

 Kim: Does weather affect the amount of contaminants to which horses are exposed?

Dr. Emmanuelle: Yes. Europe experienced particularly warm weather this year, and earlier in the spring than normal. That corresponds to a record number of respiratory cases, as did record pollen levels with record numbers of asthmatic patients.

A Canadian study found a correlation between the temperature and humidity and worsening symptoms of equine asthma. And global warming is having an effect because there is a shorter or non-existent period when there is a layer of frozen ground. That all affects the number of contaminants, including fungi, mold and bacteria found in soil, in which hay or straw is grown.

Kim: Fungi sounds especially nasty and dangerous.

Dr. Emmanuelle: It is. Fungi, which is the same as mold, can be very allergenic because it has proteins that can trigger a very strong reaction. It can become infectious and start to grow inside the horse’s airways. That process can produce toxins and irritations to the respiratory mucosa, which can ultimately affect the throat muscles. Fungi can also trigger inflammatory responses that manifest as rhinitis and sinusitis.

The role of fungi is not yet broadly recognized in the veterinary world. When a fungal infection is suspected or diagnosed, current treatments often include corticosteroids to address inflammation. Those further depress the immune system, enhancing the opportunity for fungal infection

In our study of 731 horses referred for suspected respiratory issues and/or poor performance, 88% were found to have Inflammatory Airway Disease. Horses with fungal elements in their airway were 2.1 times as likely to have IAD.

In a study we did on sport horses, we detected a link between fungi in the airways and the likelihood of Exercised Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage: a horse is seven times more likely to bleed from the lungs, through the nose, during extreme exertion when they have fungi in the airways. In the United States, this could get a lot of attention as racetracks are in the process of phasing out Lasix, the medication that reduces EIPH.

Kim: That’s a lot of bad news. How can we protect our horses from these microscopic assailants?

Dr. Emmanuelle: Assess and improve your horse’s environment!

  1. Make sure there’s ventilation in the barn. That means circulation and renewal of the air. If there’s no renewal, moisture will accumulate and foster contaminant growth. Cobwebs indicate there isn’t enough ventilation because spiders won’t make them where there’s any breeze.
  2. Reduce dust: the fine dust that can be inhaled and lodge in the airways and deep in the lungs.
  3. Look for signs of mold on walls, everywhere and especially on walls near stored hay.
  4. Look at floor mats: specifically, what is growing between and underneath them. Urine accumulation can make it really dangerous and gross. It’s awful for horses and people. Stables don’t have to be sterile, but they do need to be clean.

Kim: What about hay and bedding?

Dr. Emmanuelle: Both play a big part in respiratory health.  I strongly advise all my clients to get a Haygain Hay Steamer because it reduces 99% of the fine, respirable particles and kills fungi, bacteria and yeast in hay. Ample scientific studies demonstrate the benefits of killing the fungi/mold. It hasn’t been studied yet, but I think killing the bacteria has a positive impact on horses’ digestive function. I would like to look into that.

When it comes to preventative medicine, Haygain is something that speaks for itself over time. That’s why you don’t see many hay steamers for sale second-hand. Once horse owners adopt it, they don’t go back.

As for bedding, first consider flooring that can be disinfected. Then, wood shavings are better because wood contains terpene, which is a natural antiseptic. Cardboard and paper shavings are cleaner options. Straw, on the other hand, can foster bacteria and fungal growth.

Kim: What about homemade hay steamers?

Dr. Emmanuelle: Not an option. Temperatures need to reach the range of 212°F (100°C) to kill bacteria and fungi. Steaming at lower temperatures actually serves as an incubator for contaminants.

This happened with a dressage horse referred for coughing while exercising. Using an over-ground endoscope, we found he had an obstruction in his upper airway. Determined to help their horse, the owner had made their own hay steamer. What happened, though, was putting contaminated hay into what was, in effect, an incubator. It wound up culturing fungus to the highest level, to where the fungus produced neurotoxins that affected the muscle function and resulted in the obstruction.

Kim: How receptive are horse owners toward these preventative measures you recommend?

Dr. Emmanuelle:  As a sports medicine practice, we work mostly with high level competitors. It has taken a while to educate our clients. As we treat horses year to year, if we are always treating the same problem, I like to review the management over going first for medications. As horses do better over the long term, the results speak for themselves.

Kim: Thank you!!

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.

For the Herd: Haygain Helps the Horses Who Started Our Journeys

Competition has resumed in much of the United States and schooling shows and clinics are cropping up on Canadian calendars. Yet, the school horses who likely put riders on their equestrian path in the first place are still hurting. Big time.

After two or three months of complete shut-down because of COVID-19 and now an only partial return to normal operations, lesson program owners are looking at scary balance sheets: same costs of feed and care, but nothing in the revenue column.

As a silver level corporate sponsor of Ontario Equestrian’s For The Herd campaign, Haygain is helping provide desperately needed funds toward feed and care of “schoolies” throughout the province.  “Haygain is all about helping horses,” notes Bee Richardson, the company’s VP of Marketing.  “We know how important lesson horses are as most people’s first introduction to our sport and we are happy to help.”

The idea started as a local Facebook-based endeavor and has grown considerably since Ontario Equestrian took it on in late April. The majority of the $175,000 raised so far has already been distributed to the over 100 lesson programs that have already applied for help.

The need is intense and ongoing, notes Brandon Hall, Ontario Equestrian’s Director of Marketing and Communications. “Everyone has been really set back.” The shutdown’s effect is exacerbated by the timing. “It happened just as horses needed vaccinations, dental work and de-worming and just before the year’s hay purchases need to be made.”

Summer camps are typically a riding school’s main profit source for the year, but that’s doubtful now. Evolving regulations issued by the Ontario Department of Public Health make it currently unclear whether horse camps will be permitted this season. Ontario Equestrian is working to have horses exempt from new regulations in which summer camps cannot include interactions with pets and animals. “It’s too vague to know if horses are included or not,” Brandon explains.

            Help For the Long Haul

Haygain initially joined the school horse aid effort by donating an HG One Hay Steamer to a fundraising auction for the cause. That auction raised $24,000 and a second, larger silent auction is on the drawing board. In the meantime, a beautiful video is making the social media rounds. It depicts the Ontario equestrian community pulling together to help members in need. “We’re strong,” the voiceover assures. “Together, we’ll get through this. But not without a little help.”

Along with golf, equestrian was one of only two sports allowed to resume in Canada’s first phase of return to normal activity. Brandon is happy for all who can get back into the show ring, but he worries that “Now that everybody is getting their fix of riding, the problems that linger may be out of sight and out of mind. If you rode a lesson horse ever, or want the next person to be able to, this is the time to make a donation.”

Throughout the United States, policies limiting the number of participants in summer horse camps are the current norm: by 50% is typical.

Along with product and a much-needed cash donation to For The Herd in Ontario, Haygain is offering lesson barn operators throughout North America a 20% discount on any of its three hay steaming models.

High temperature hay steaming has many health benefits, but budget benefits may be steaming’s biggest asset right now. Horses rarely waste any of their hay after it’s been steamed. And the process makes even less-than-pristine hay appealing in taste and texture, while reducing up to 99% of the dust, fungi, mold, bacteria and allergens found in even top-quality hay. Getting those breathable irritants out of hay alleviates many respiratory issues, helping lower the cost of veterinary care. Steamed hay further helps reduce vet bills by protecting and improving digestion, hydration and overall well-being.

Give Or Get Help

For The Herd welcomes individual and corporate donations. For more information, visit For more information about Haygain Hay Steaming, visit For riding schools interested in the 20% discount on steamers, please call 888 307 0855 for details. Haygain will offer this discount through the duration of COVID-19-related need.

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.

Hit the Road with Respiratory Health on Board

Photo by Shelley Paulson.

The horse world is cautiously getting back on the road as competitions re-emerge on June calendars. Productive horse people likely spent some of the pandemic doing horse trailer maintenance: checking breaks, tires, interiors, hitches and electrical connections.

Those critical aspects of safe equine transport tend to get a lot of attention. Horse’s respiratory health merits equal consideration because it can be badly compromised during trailering.

Competition itself has enough variables, notes Virginia-based two-time World Equestrian Games eventer Lynn Symansky. “They really increase when you combine those variables with respiratory issues horses can pick up while travelling. Especially when you are traveling with multiple horses in the trailer. You already have dust from shavings and bedding, plus whatever is coming in through the open windows. When each horse grabs and pulls hay from their hay net, it can be worse.”

Hay is mostly a good thing for traveling horses. Having something to munch on keeps them occupied, which helps reduce general travel stress. Chewing and digesting food keeps stomach acids at bay, lowering the risk of ulcers that often accompany that stress.

From a respiratory health standpoint, however, hay can be harmful in the trailer or van. That’s because even hay that has good nutrient quality and looks clean can be loaded with inhalable irritants. Dust, mold spores, bacteria and other allergens are not limited to hay that looks and smells bad. These are the main triggers of conditions on the Equine Asthma Spectrum that affect a surprisingly high percent of the equine population.

When these microscopic bits lodge in the airways, an inflammatory response to foreign objects kicks in. This can restrict the upper airway and impede the transfer of oxygen from the lungs into the bloodstream. That’s never good for the horse’s welfare or performance, and it’s especially bad when heading to a show.

Before hitting the road, Lynn’s crew steams their horses’ hay in a Haygain Hay Steamer. The high-temperature steaming process rids hay of up to 99% of the dust, mold, bacteria and allergens found in all hay. Putting clean hay in the trailer is especially important because the hay sits right in the horse’s breathing zone for the duration of the trip.

Heads Up: Not Healthy

Eating hay from an elevated position is already problematic, notes Kentucky-based veterinarian and dressage rider Dr. Wren Burnley, DVM. Eating from the ground is nature’s design for allowing the horse to clear inhaled material from its airways. They can’t do that in the trailer.

Opening vents and windows is important for ventilation during travel, although that can also disperse breathable bits further within the trailer. (Use a fly mask or other protective gear to guard the horse’s eye and face from anything that might fly in the window, Dr. Burnley notes.) Stopping for rest breaks every four hours is the conventional wisdom for long trips. If a safe place can be found to unload the horses, letting them drink or graze with their heads lowered will help them clear their airways.

Before loading horses in Ocala, Florida, for the annual trek back to their Virginia base, the team at Will Coleman Equestrian loaded hay into their HG 2000 steamer to make sure all the horses had fresh, clean hay for the journey.

“We ship all the horses on steamed hay,” says the Olympic and WEG eventer’s head groom Olivia Quill. “Steamed hay is easier for them to digest and minimizes the dust while traveling.” A medium-size hay steamer, the HG 600 model, usually goes along with the WCE team. “They are easy to transport,” Olivia reports.

In this time of heightened awareness about airborne respiratory risks, Haygain Steamed Hay offers the assurance of greatly reduced respiratory risks for travelling horses.

For more information on Haygain Hay Steamers and Haygain’s ComfortStall Sealed Orthopedic Flooring, visit

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: Young Florida Barn Builder Discovers That ComfortStall Does It All

“A” circuit jumper, Corey, enjoying his ComfortStall at Whillans Equine. Photo by Emma Whillans.

It’s widely known in the equestrian world that horsemanship skills and horse sense in a business context don’t always go together. They do at Whillans Equine, where 24-year-old hunter/jumper trainer and barn owner Emma Whillan’s clear vision for every aspect her new training and boarding facility has led to a remarkable first year.

Whillans Equine opened for business July 1 of 2019, in the Wellington, Florida area’s Loxahatchee. Emma’s idea was top notch care and training in a family-friendly environment and its realization resulted in the quick filling of her now 24 stalls.

Emma has been planning the barn most of her life. She kept a notebook of what she liked and didn’t like in stables as a junior competitor and working student at several top programs.

Flooring First

Starting from scratch with five acres of former nursery, Emma put flooring first in prioritizing her budget. She knew what she didn’t want: traditional stall mats. These provide little cushion for the horse and are a heavyweight hassle when they and whatever they’re laid on top of need to be cleaned and aired out because of urine seepage and accumulation.

ComfortStall Orthopedic Sealed Flooring was exactly the flooring Emma imagined, even before she knew it existed. The multi-layer system functions as a single-piece thanks to a durable rubber top cover that is sealed to the stall walls with HDPE anchor strips. Under that is proprietary foam that provides give, cushion and energy return.  Emma made an initial investment in 16 ComfortStalls and recently added another eight.

The flooring is a convincing selling point for prospective boarders, letting them feel with their own two feet the commitment Whillans Equine has made to their horses’ well-being. Most important, the flooring is helping the horses, exceeding Emma’s already high expectations at the outset of her barn and business building adventure.

“I am so lucky to have it in my first barn,” she says. “I knew that flooring was something I could not cut corners on and I was right. We’ve actually had some miracle stories with some of our horses, and all of them are way better thanks to this flooring.”

This Is Cushy!

Tamara Ploskunak is one of those to bear out Emma’s prediction that ComfortStall would impress prospective boarders. Shopping for a new home for her Andalusian mare, Rabina, Tamara saw stables that had dirt stall floors and others with rubber mats over concrete. “Oh, this is just bad,” she thought. Then, “Wow! This is cushy. I could do gymnastics on this!” when she visited Whillans Equine.

Tamara purchased Rabina a year ago knowing the mare had some mild fetlock issues, most likely arthritis related. “I figured if that was the only problem, I wasn’t going to worry.” She accepted that joint injections might be a near-future reality to keep Rabina comfortable in her dressage work. After being at Whillans Equine for just a few weeks, “She was sound as a board,” Tamara states. “I think the way the flooring takes the pressure off her legs is really helping her.”

Rabina’s general response on ComfortStall has been “amazing,” the owner adds. “At first, I freaked out because she was always lying down when I came to see her. But now I realize it’s because she is comfortable lying down and I know it’s the flooring. In the past, she used to be fidgety in her stall. She used to pace and weave a little. She doesn’t do that anymore. It is such a relief to know that she is comfortable.”


Corey, a 17.2hh show jumper, is another ComfortStall fan, as is his owner and farrier. The 12-year-old Holsteiner has an issue with thinning bursa, the sac of fluid that helps lubricate joint function. “His navicular bursa was pretty beat up,” explains farrier David Bustamante.  It never manifested in actual lameness, but rather as occasional tenderfootedness, especially when first coming out of his stall each day. That’s disappeared since Corey moved onto ComfortStall.

David had cared for Corey when he was stabled elsewhere. The first shoeing after moving to Whillans Equine, David didn’t notice a difference in the jumper’s hooves. After the second shoeing, four weeks later, “I told his owner, I really like his feet.” Because Corey’s nutrition and exercise routine had stayed the same, the farrier attributed the improvement to the flooring.

“But why?” he wondered. “I believe it’s because this flooring allows the feet to articulate in whatever way they want to. The hoof is not set at a certain angle because it’s on a hard surface. It allows give and take and for the bony structures of the foot to go where they want to go.

Corey and his junior rider, Victoria Craig, did well at the 1.1M and 1.15M jumper division at Wellington’s Winter Equestrian Festival this year. They are confident about moving up now that his condition is so well managed.

The “big boy” also seems to be getting more rest. “He didn’t used to lie down that much before, but now he is really comfortable doing so,” observes Pat Craig, Victoria’s mother.

Easing Pregnancy Problems

Breeding is a new adventure for Emma, and for her former Junior Jumper mare, Delfine 3. As usual, the stable owner approached the task with extensive research and inquiries.

Ample bedding was advised for the mare’s comfort throughout her pregnancy. Emma was happy to already have that detail covered with ComfortStall’s orthopedic foam.

The eight ComfortStalls Emma added to the original 16 include two stalls adapted into a 12′ by 24′ foaling stall. “I knew I wanted the ability to un-divide two stalls to make one foaling stall, and I’m so glad I thought of that in advance.” The ComfortStall top cover is normally installed so that it extends a few inches up each wall, to which it is sealed with HDPE anchor strips. A modification to accommodate the removable stall divider was easy to devise, Emma says.

Because Delfine is a first-time mom, Emma removed the mare’s shoes. A maiden mare is more likely to accidently step on her foal in the early days. That advice made sense, but Emma worried that carrying an extra 200 pounds on unshod feet would be rough for a show horse that had worn shoes for 12 years. “I pulled her hind shoes first,” Emma explains. “On regular barn aisle mats, she was a little ouchy, but in her stall, she was completely fine.”

Pregnancy usually brings swollen legs from restricted circulation, but that was another non-issue for Delfine. The constant, tiny muscle movements that occur while standing on ComfortStall prompt proprioception that improves joint health, whether pregnant or not. As a result, Delfine has not suffered the usual lower leg stocking up.

Bottom Line Booster

ComfortStall requires only enough bedding to absorb urine and it prevents urine seepage that creates unhealthy barn air and requires regular, heavy-duty cleaning. For those reasons alone, it substantially lowers bedding and labor costs, often paying for itself in less than a year.  Less bedding in means less soiled bedding out, making ComfortStall an environmentally friendly choice, too.

At Whillans Equine, Emma is most impressed by how far beyond the bottom line the benefits extend. Most of all, seeing her own and her clients’ horses at ease in their stalls and in their bodies is the best dividend for this forward-thinking barn builder and business owner.

 For more information on Haygain’s ComfortStall visit

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.

Haygain Offers 15% Discount to COVID-19 First Responders

In thanks to horse owners risking their own health to fight COVID-19, Haygain is offering a 15% discount on its horse health products to all first responders. The offer applies to its three high-temperature hay steaming models and to ComfortStall Sealed Orthopedic Flooring and is in effect through at least May 15.

Haygain considers first responders to include medical professionals and support staff, elder care and in-home health workers, grocery store employees and anyone at increased risk because of the essential service they are providing during this difficult time.

To redeem the offer, call Haygain at 888-307-0855.

Haygain high-temperature hay steaming eliminates up to 99% of the microscopic bits of dust, mold, fungi and bacteria found in even top-quality hay. These are the main causes in respiratory issues that affect over 80% of active sport horses, often without obvious symptoms. Steamed hay also adds water to the horse’s diet for digestive health and colic prevention and its proven palatability is great for picky eaters and reducing hay waste.

ComfortStall Orthopedic Sealed Flooring provides therapeutic cushion that preserves joint health and encourages deep, restful sleep.  Its one-piece durable top cover is sealed to the stall walls. This prevents urine from leaking through to the stall base, where it accumulates and creates unhealthy levels of ammonia off-gasses often found under traditional stall mats.

Haygain is grateful to all those helping the country through these unprecedented times.

For more information on the 15% discount, call 888 307 0855. For more information on Haygain’s horse health products, visit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Bruce Hill & Bossinova. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

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

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

Lauren Burnell & Freedom Hill. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

Next Up

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

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

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

For complete results, schedule and other information:

Twin River Winter H.T.: WebsiteFinal Scores

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

Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

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

Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

Tamie Smith and En Vogue. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Tamie Smith and En Vogue. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

Helen Bouscaren and Ebay. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Helen Bouscaren and Ebay. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eneya Jenkins and Lawtown Boy. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

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

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

Lauren Burnell and Bec Braitling. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

Bruce Hill & Bossinova. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Tamra Smith and Mai Baum. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

Tamie Smith and Danito. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

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

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

Jordan Crabo & Over Easy. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

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

Eneya Jenkins and Lawtown Boy. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heather Morris watching dressage. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

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

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

Twin Rivers’ 2020 Season Opener Is Ready to Run

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twin Rivers: Website, Entry Status, Ride Times

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

Photo via Haygain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Broad Benefits

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

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

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

Andrea Baxter & Infinity. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Catering to Exhibitors’ Interests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Alliston and Pandora. Photo by Shelby Allen.

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

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

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

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

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

Western Edges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Area VI Venues & Organizers:

Fresno County Horse Park 

Organizer: John Marshall 

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

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


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

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

Galway Downs

Organizer: Robert Kellerhouse

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


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

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

Twin Rivers Horse Park

Organizers: Christina Gray & the Baxter Family

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


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

Copper Meadows

Organizers: Taren Hoffos & family

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

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


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

The Copper Meadows Crew. Photo courtesy of Copper Meadows.

Woodland Stallion Station

Organizer: Nicole Sharp

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

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


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

Helen Bouscaren and Ebay. Photo by Kim Miller.

The Horse Park at Woodside

Organizer: Robert Kellerhouse

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

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


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

Shepard Ranch 

Organizer: Ken Sexton

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

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


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

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


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

Lynn Symansky and Under Suspection. Photo by Shelby Allen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Sara Mittleider and La Paz. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

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

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

Sara Mittleider and La Paz. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

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

Tamie Smith and En Vogue. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

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

Gina Economou and Exclusive. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

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

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

Danito & Smith Stay Atop Three-Star

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

Erin Kellerhouse and Woodford Reserve. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

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

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

Stunner Stays Ahead in Two-Star

David Koss and Stunner. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

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

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

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

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

Meg Pellegrini and Ganymede. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jennifer Miller and Bon Bon. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

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

Bec Braitling and Galwaybay Merbantos. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

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

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

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

Smith Dominates, Kos Leads, in the FEI Divisions

Tamie Smith and En Vogue. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Star Domination

Tamie Smith and Danito. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

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

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

Two-Star Stunner

David Koss and Stunner. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Rebecca Braitling and Galwaybay Merbantos. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

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

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

Lauren Billys and Twilight 54. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

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

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

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

Stunner Sets the Pace after 2* Dressage

David Koss and Stunner. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

Jordan Crabo and Over Easy. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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