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Karen Isberg

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Elevate Event Team: Kicking Off 2016 With a Bang

We recently introduced you to the newly formed Elevate Event Team, bearing big goals and dreams and making those dreams a reality in the form of a Danish Warmblood named The Natural E, or Leo for short. Here is the next blog in their journey as the team heads to Ocala for the winter. You can catch up on previous blogs by clicking here.

The Natural E. Photo by Becky Young.

The Natural E. Photo by Becky Young.

The days sure fly by when you are having the time of your life! It seemed like just yesterday that Megan and I were walking the novice course at Hagyard Midsouth Three-Day Event and Team Horse Trials.

Once again, the Natural E (Leo) put in the best dressage test of the entire competition, earning a 21.8. His inexperience showed on the cross-country course when he stopped at the scary looking “spider fence,” but after some reassurance from Megan that the spider was not going to leap off the fence and bite him, he jumped it with oceans of room to spare.

You could see him thinking, “I will jump it if you say so, Mom, but I am going to be sure I jump high enough so that spider can’t get us!” The team galloped confidently off and went clean over the rest of the course.

Leo had no problem navigating the stadium course and finished the day in 13th. He got lots of pats and peppermints as we all celebrated the end of our first season.

Since we knew Leo was headed to Ocala in January, he only got a few weeks off in November and then it was back to work. The wet weather meant lots of time in the indoor working on dressage and jumping grids.

Just before Christmas, Jessica Ransehousen visited Reese Koffler-Stanfield’s Maplecrest Farm. Leo and Megan hauled over for several lessons. We all laughed at what Jessica dubbed Leo’s “Hawaiian hula dance” as Megan worked on keeping him straight down the quarter and center lines.

He is so sensitive to her leg that the slightest touch would cause him to shift his haunches one way or the other. Use your seat to hold him straight, look up and keep your legs very steady — those were the goals of the session. Over the next two days Megan got the “hula” under control!

Christmas followed quickly. Santa was good to Megan and Leo, leaving them perhaps the biggest stocking I have ever seen, full of treats and toys.

On the wet winter days that led up to their departure for sunny Ocala, Leo would help Megan set courses for her students and keep her company in the arena while she taught. No lead shank necessary, he was content to follow Megan wherever she went, checking out her pockets for treats, playing with her coat, her hair, or whatever he could get his lips on. They certainly have a special bond.

Leo and Megan departed for Blue Hill South in Ocala on January 18th. The caravan of horse trailers loaded with horses, equipment, feed, supplements and hay rolled out before light.

Thank goodness they left town just before the big snow storm hit. I headed down two weeks later to groom for Megan at their first show of the season, Rocking Horse Winter 1 Horse Trials. Leo took to Florida like a duck to water.

He loved his new pasture mate, Biggin (Rock Hard Attitude), and was relaxed and happy in the airy open barn at Blue Hill. He settled into his new routine right away.

When Megan is in Florida taking care of and riding 4 to 7 horses per day, plus helping out as needed around Blue Hill South, it’s a full-time job. She starts at 7 a.m. and finishes up 12 hours later, but she thrives on it.

You can tell by the big smile she wears on her face. I arrived on the Friday before the show. It was great to see how happy my boy was!

Megan warmed Leo up and ran through her dressage test. She gave him a bath and we packed up the trailer in anticipation of an early departure the next morning.

The weather was perfect, a little chilly for Florida, but excellent for eventing! The show grounds were packed: there were horses competing in all three phases, and the loud speaker announced each rider as they left the start box on cross country. The show ran like a well-oiled machine.

Leo is one of the most “aware” horses I have ever dealt with. He is super alert and does not miss a thing. At 17.3, he is already a big boy, but when there is something new to see, he puts his head up as high as he can and stands on his tippy toes to check it out. I am a whopping 5’1”, so when he is on his toes with that head up, he towers at least three feet above me! As we brushed him off and tacked him up he was in full giraffe mode. I certainly can’t leave home without my step stool!

On the way to dressage we saw lots of familiar faces and heard cries of “have a good ride” coming from all directions. You just can’t beat how the eventers support each other. It is like one big family. I love it.

Leo was relaxed as he warmed up for dressage and the team put in a lovely test earning a scored a 25.4. Jessica would have been proud, there was no sign of the hula dancing down the center line!

They went double clear in stadium later that afternoon and finished in the lead. The next day Leo warmed up well before cross-country. Because of the weather he hadn’t schooled cross-country since Team Challenge. Megan’s goal was to have a forward, rhythmic, confidence-building run. Leo galloped out of the start box and over the first few fences like a pro.

One thing we learned early on about Leo is that his go-to reaction is “when in doubt, jump bigger!” He thought the shark’s tooth, a new fence for him, was a little scary, so Megan gave him a strong ride and true to form he sailed over it with plenty of room to spare. Leo loves the water and galloped in with no hesitation.

I think he likes getting as wet as possible as he canters through. The only other fence that worried us was the natural log into the dark woods, but a strong ride from Megan convinced Leo there were no bogeymen in the darkness and the pair galloped on over the ditch and finished with a double clear.

Our goal for the first show of the season was met and the icing on the cake was a blue ribbon at the end of the day. Now it is time to move up to Training!

Kentucky Performance Products Elevate Eventing Team: How It All Began

We recently introduced you to the newly formed Elevate Event Team, bearing big goals and dreams and making those dreams a reality in the form of a Danish Warmblood named The Natural E, or Leo for short. Here is the next blog in their journey chronicling how the journey began.

The Natural E at Jump Start. Photo by Becky Young.

The Natural E at Jump Start. Photo by Becky Young.

The Elevate Event Team had become a reality. It was something I always wanted to do—own an advanced level event horse. Over the last few months the team fell into place as if it was meant to be, with Olympic level trainers, a talented rider and a doable budget. Now all we needed was the horse. Make that one very special horse.

It takes a certain kind of equine athlete to compete as an upper-level event horse. He or she must have good bone, a big jump and an even bigger heart. Confident, sane, smart and sound were key traits we were looking for in our Elevate Event Team horse.

Megan Lynn, EET’s rider, had worked with OTTBs most of her career, so she was keen to find a forward-thinking horse, hot off her leg and ready to go. She was looking for a partner that would help her achieve her lifelong dream of riding in the big events: Rolex, Burleigh, Badminton, possibly the Olympic Games. No pressure…

The search in the U.S. had turned up a few prospects but nothing Megan really loved. The relationship between an upper-level horse and rider is critical, so we were willing to wait for just the right horse.

One day the phone rang. It was Megan. “Missy wants me to fly to Germany,” she said. I could tell she was excited. “She will be there and she has arranged for me to go horse shopping. Is it possible to get me a plane ticket to Hamburg for next week? ” I remember thinking to myself , “Holy cow, this is the real deal.”

Photo by Becky Young.

Photo by Becky Young.

Flights were booked and on Sunday April 26th Megan departed Cincinnati Airport for a weeklong shopping trip in Germany and Denmark. She was going to meet up with some associates of Missy Ransehousen, Babsi and Martha, in Hamburg.

Megan would be traveling with the two women, who at the time we knew little about, but if Missy Ransehousen said they were the best, that was good enough for us. Megan stepped on the plane with a partial list of horses, but few other details.

Megan, Babsi and Martha found each other in the bustling Hamburg airport and the adventure began. The three were soon best buddies. Megan became known as “the Kidlet,” Babsi was dubbed “Aunty Babsi” and Martha, “Momma Martha.” Babsi Neidhardt-Clark and Martha Thomas were no strangers to horse shopping, having imported many talented Danish warmbloods since the establishment of their business Sycamore Station in 2007.

Megan was having the time of her life riding 4 or 5 horses a day, traveling all over Germany and into Denmark. Meanwhile, I sat in Kentucky waiting eagerly for the daily emails, photos, text messages and videos of the horses she had ridden. The girls spent many a late night fighting with poor Internet connectivity, but they managed to keep me up to date.

One horse already stood out in the crowd. His nickname, given to him by Babsi and Martha, was the Bad Ass horse. He was big, he was bold and he was forward. He was a gorgeous dark brown Danish gelding with a star, snip and four white socks.

Babsi and Martha had taken a lot of hopeful owners horse-shopping in Europe, so they had a system. They prescreen each horse before the perspective buyer ever sees them. Babsi, an FEI gold medalist in dressage, has more than 30 years’ experience training and teaching.

A very well-rounded rider, she has ridden at the top levels of 3 disciplines: jumping, eventing, and dressage. Martha was an FEI silver medalist and taught dressage. They recognized the Bad Ass horse was special, but he was big and strong and needed an experienced rider.

They had no idea how Megan rode, so they waited until the end of the second day to introduce the pair. By the time they arrived to try Bad Ass, there was no doubt in their minds that Megan could handle him. It was practically love at first sight. The first time Megan rode him she was in a saddle 3 sizes too large, but it didn’t matter. The two just clicked.

The first photo we saw of Leo.

The first photo we saw of Leo.

That afternoon (evening in Germany) I got an email with several numbered photos attached. It read, “Number 5 is the one known as Bad Ass horse. Holy Moly this thing could jump! He is a fantastic mover. Super quick off his feet. Only downside of him is he hasn’t cross country schooled. Jumper owner says he is very brave. He is 7 and 17 hh.“

I wanted Megan to pick the right horse for her so I had been fairly neutral with most of my comments up until now. My response after this email was “ I REALLY like number 5.”

Megan rode Bad Ass three more times and each time went better than the last. He did whatever she asked. The trainer even created some makeshift cross country fences for the pair to try.

He turned his garden into a mini bank and pulled a log out of the woods for them to jump. Bad Ass not only jumped everything they aimed him at, but he loved it. He was totally confident over fences. He was also a very personable, happy horse. He liked people and he liked attention. He certainly liked his new crazy American friend Megan and she liked him.

Missy arrived in Denmark the next day and rode the Bad Ass boy , then she watched Megan ride him. She approved of the pair. “This is a really cool horse,” Missy said. Babsi and Martha shared their thoughts: “The two made a fantastic pair. This horse had a lot of potential.” The team was in agreement and Bad Ass moved to the top of the list.

It was time for the girls to move on, because they had more horses to see. Megan admitted from then on she compared all the rest of the horses to Bad Ass and they all came up a short. She had found her horse.

He passed the pre-purchase exam. A flight to the U.S. was arranged for the Bad Ass horse, registered as Ommestrupgards Linardo and soon to be know as The Natural E, or “Leo” for short. On June 6, 2015, he landed at JFK Airport to begin his career as an upper-level event horse. I don’t know who is more excited about this new venture—Megan, me or Leo himself.

Flash-forward. Leo won the Open Novice Division at the Jump Start Horse Trials, finishing on his dressage score of 21.3. Next up is the Hagyard Midsouth Team Challenge this weekend.

Newly Formed Elevate Event Team Eyes Big Goals

Megan Lynn and The Natural E. Photo courtesy of Becky Young. Megan Lynn and The Natural E. Photo courtesy of Becky Young.

The Elevate Event Team was born in the winter of 2015 on a sunny afternoon around a picnic table at Missy Ransehousen’s Blue Hill Farm in Ocala, Florida. The Team would allow Kentucky Performance Products to participate in the eventing world in a whole new way as an owner, with all the hopes and dreams of making it to the top of the sport.

Playing a key role in the Elevate Event Team plan is longtime Kentucky Performance Products-sponsored rider Megan Lynn and her coach Missy Ransehousen. “Megan is a natural with horses, Karen Isberg, Kentucky Performance Products owner, said. “She is a talented rider and a fearless competitor, but she and Missy always put the horse first, which is what I like most about working with them. We are just thrilled to have them as part of the team.”

Megan Lynn is a native of Versailles, Kentucky, where she resides on the family farm. She has been around horses since the day she was born and started eventing at age 12. Megan has a special talent for working with off-the-track Thoroughbreds. She has developed her own OTTB, Hoosier Daddy (Hoosier), to the two-star level with hopes of moving him up in the near future. Megan’s other OTTB, Have At It Playboy (Zekers), moved up to Training this year.

Along with training and competing her own horses, Megan rides outside horses, coaches students and holds down a job as an ophthalmic technician. Megan spends the winter in Florida with Missy Ransehousen. When her schedule allows, she trains with Missy and her mom, Jessica Ransehousen, at Blue Hill Farm in Pennsylvania.

Megan and Leo all smiles after cross country. Photo courtesy of Becky Young.

Megan and Leo all smiles after cross country. Photo courtesy of Becky Young.

The first order of business for the new Elevate Event Team was to find a horse. During a buying trip to Denmark with Sycamore Station’s Babsi Neidhardt-Clark and Martha Thomas, Megan was introduced to “Leo,” and the connection was immediate. Standing 17.2 hands, the fancy Danish warmblood gelding was bold and confident, and holy moly could he jump!

Everyone liked Leo — a lot — but he had never as much as seen a cross-country fence. It was a risk, but one that all involved felt worth taking, so Leo found himself on a plane headed for America. After a short stay at Blue Hill Farm in Pennsylvania, where Megan trains throughout the year with Missy and Jessica Ransehousen, Leo and Megan headed home to Kentucky.

“Leo has been a rock star ever since he arrived,” Megan said. The first time she schooled Leo cross country, he jumped everything: up and down off the bank, in and out of the water, and over the ditch. If he was unsure, he would just jump bigger as if to say, “No worries, Mom. I won’t let it get us.” He loved it. Megan loved him, and a partnership was born.

Photo courtesy of Becky Young.

Megan and Leo. Photo courtesy of Becky Young.

In mid-July, Megan and The Natural E, aka Leo, competed in their first horse trials, Champagne Run at the Kentucky Horse Park. They finished third in the Open Novice division with a lovely dressage test and clean rounds in both cross country and stadium. “We are so excited to be involved in the eventing community at this level,” Karen said of the Elevate Event Team’s first foray into ownership. “We can’t wait to see just how far this talented pair can go.”

Stayed tuned for more stories and updates from this exciting new team!