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

Andrea Baxter and Laguna Seca. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

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

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

Lauren Burnell and Counterpoint. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Levine Holds 4*-L Lead

Amber Levine and Cinzano. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

Marc Grandia and Campari FFF. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

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

Bec Braitling and Caravaggio II. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

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

Patterson Atop the 3*-L

Alina Patterson and Flashback. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

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

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

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

Nielsen & New Ride Lead the 2*-L

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday Schedule

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amber Levine & Cinzano. Photo courtesy of TheWestEquestrian.

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

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

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

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

A few highlights from the course:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patterson Makes Strong 3*-L Debut

Alina Patterson and Flashback. Photo by The West Equestrian.

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

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

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

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

Nielsen & New Ride Lead the 2*-L

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

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

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

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

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

Baxter Leads the 4*-S

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

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

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

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

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

Burnell Leads the 3*-S

Lauren Burnell and Counterpoint. Photo by The West Equestrian.

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

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

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

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

By The Numbers

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

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

Sponsors & Volunteers

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

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

Up Next

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

Schooling One Day Horse Trials: May 23

Schooling Show: June 6

CDS Dressage: June 12-13

Summer Horse Trials: July 1-4

Area VI Adult Camp: July 30-31

CDS Dressage: Aug. 14-15

Fall International: Sept. 23-26

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

Schooling Halloween Horse Trials: Oct. 31


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gina Miles and McKinlaigh. Photo by Mike McNally.

The McKinlaigh Cup

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

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

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

Proving Ground

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

“They are constantly upping the game here,” said USEF Eventing Performance Director Erik Duvander of Twin Rivers Ranch during a March 2020 visit. He described it as one of a few venues that is shifting the sport’s geographic balance in the United States. “In the past it was often said that you need to go East to make it, but it’s really important that riders be able to make it out here.”

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

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

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

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

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

Up Next

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

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

Unprecedented Turnout Expected at Galway Downs Spring International This Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Galway Downs International: WebsiteEntry StatusRide TimesLive Scores

Twin Rivers Ranch 2021 Season Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Permanent Show Stabling

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

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

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

“They are a progressive bunch,” adds Twin Rivers upper-level course designer Hugh Lochore of the Baxter family. Along with 5* eventer Andrea Baxter, organizer Connie Baxter has extensive eventing experience. Whirlwind Excavating owner Jeff Baxter happily applies his expertise and equipment to bringing Lochore’s ideas to life. “The venue has interesting topography and it’s a good canvas to play with,” Lochore explains. “It’s exciting when you put things on paper, then you have a team that is keen to get the bit between their teeth and make it happen.”

Lochore will return to Twin Rivers in March to continue work on the upper-level tracks in advance of the Spring International.

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

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

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

Get Involved: Volunteer & Sponsor!

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

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

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

Lockdown Life with Selena O’Hanlon

Photo courtesy of Selena O’Hanlon.

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

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

Creative Not Crabby

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Extra Unusual Off-Season

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

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

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

Indoor Life Reaffirms Steamed Hay Benefits

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

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

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

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

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

Online Opportunities

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

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

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

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

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

Woody’s Whereabouts

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

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

Martin, Smith & Burnell Claim Galway Downs International Victories

Boyd Martin & Luke 140. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

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

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

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

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

Boyd Martin & Luke 140. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

Tamie Smith & Passepartout. Photo by Kim Miller.

A Fine First 4*

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

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

Rebecca Brown & Dassett Choice. Photo by Kim Miller.

Charlotte Babbitt & 2 AM. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

Erin Kellerhouse & Woodford Reserve. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

CCI4*-L Final Top 10: 

USEF CCI3*-L National Championship for Smith

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

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

Tamie Smith & Elliot V. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

Asia Vedder & Isi. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

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

James Alliston & Paper Jam. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

Charlotte Babbitt & 2 AM. Photo by Kim Miller.

More National Titles

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

Charlotte Babbitt & 2 AM. Photo by Kim Miller.

Sophie Click & Quidproquo. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

Lauren Burnell & Freedom Hill. Photo by Kim Miller.

Burnell, Bouscaren and Sanborn Take the 2*

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

Helen Bouscaren & Irish Pop. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

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

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

Tamie Smith & Luisa Southworth. Photo by Kim Miller.

The Challenges Continue

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

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

Thank You Sponsors & Volunteers

Sponsors and volunteers are crucial to producing top sport for all levels at Galway Downs.

Sponsors include: The American Horse Trials Foundation, Auburn Labs, California Riding Magazine, California Horsetrader, CWD, Devoucoux, Equine Insurance of California, Geranium Street Floral, Ride On Video, SmartPak, Sunsprite Warmbloods, Symons Ambulance, Temecula Creek Inn.

Volunteer Sign Ups: here. More information: or

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

Boyd & Luke 140. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

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

Boyd & Long Island T. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

Phillip Dutton & Fernhill Singapore. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

Tamie Smith & Passepartout. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

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

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

Rebecca Brown & Dassett Choice. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

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

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

Careful What You Ask For

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

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

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

Tamie Smith & Elliot V. Photo by Kim Miller.

Smith, Vedder & Alliston Lead CCI3*-L

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

Asia Vedder & Isi. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

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

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

James Alliston & Paper Jam. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

Andrea Baxter & Laguna Seca. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

India McEvoy & Redbull. Photo by Kim Miller.

McEvoy, Burnell & Bouscaren Atop the CCI2*-L

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

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

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

In Other News …

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

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

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

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

Boyd Martin and Luke 140. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

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

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

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

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Singapore. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

Tamie Smith and Passepartout. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

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

Rebecca Brown and Dassett Choice. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

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

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

Charlotte Babbitt and 2 AM. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

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

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

Emilee Libby and Jakobi. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

Tamie Smith and Elliot V. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

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

Asia Vedder and Isi. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

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

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

Sophie Click and Quidproquo. Photo by Kim Miller.

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

Haley Turner and Shadow Inspector. Photo by Kim Miller.

            McEvoy, Turner & Burnell Lead the CCI2*-L

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

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

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

            Lower Level Challenges Begin

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

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

Sponsors & Volunteers Make The World Go Round

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

Galway Downs International Event & H.T.:  [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage]

Charlotte Dujardin & Haygain Team Up Over Shared Priorities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Galway Downs Ready To Host CCI3*-L National Championships

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The CCI3*-L Championships

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

The Futures Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Courses

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

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

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

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

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

A Team Effort

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

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

Volunteer Sign Ups: here. More information: or

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of Lauren Billys.

Help On Hand

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

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

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

Air Filtration

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flooring First: Barn Design Begins at Ground Level

Photo by Sara Malanaphy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cushion & Clean Air

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Installer’s Vantage Point

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

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

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

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

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

Fixated On Flooring

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

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

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

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

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

Tamie Smith & Passepartout Win Twin Rivers CCI4*-S

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekend Highlights

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

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

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.