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Stephanie Simpson


About Stephanie Simpson

Eventing Background

USEA Rider Profile Click to view profile
Area 2
Highest Level Competed Training Level
Farm Name Schramm Equestrian
Trainer Dom Schramm

Latest Articles Written

Q&A with an Olympic Groom: Emma Ford of Phillip Dutton Eventing

It’s often said that equestrian sports are the most difficult sport in which to reach the Olympic level, and anyone that has been following eventing in Rio can see why.

It not only takes years to develop the skills to ride successfully in all three phases, it also requires equine athletes hitting their peak level of performance at just the right time. Anyone that has horses knows that they can hurt themselves an infinite number of times in the four years leading up to an Olympic Games, making the road to a global championship nearly impossible.

Luckily, the riders competing this week have developed successful programs that ensure they have a steady pipeline of horses, oftentimes meaning more than one is ready to answer the call. This became the reality for Phillip Dutton the day he was set to leave for training camp in Ocala, subbing in HND Group’s Mighty Nice for his original mount Fernhill Cubalawn.

Unless you stop to think about it, you wouldn’t know what an undertaking it is to prepare a horse to travel to an event like the Olympics, let alone with such a huge change of plans late in the game.

However, with Emma Ford at the helm, this proved to be a very minor speedbump in Phillip’s road to Rio. In this “Q&A with an Olympic Groom” series, Team grooms shed some light on the Olympic experience from behind the scenes. Emma kindly caught up with us during the Games about her experience in Rio.

Photo courtesy of Emma Ford.

Photo courtesy of Emma Ford.

How many Olympic Games have you been to?

This is my third Olympics. 2008 was my first in Beijing with Connaught,  2012 in London with Mystery Whisper, and now 2016 in Rio.

So far, how does Rio compare?

The venue is well set up. There have definitely been some minor problems, but they’re sorted out as they pop up. Most importantly though, the horses seem to be very relaxed at the venue. Having been here for the Pan Ams in 2007, I feel that the venue has improved greatly. There is now a hand grazing area for the horses which was not there last time. The grooms’ accommodations have been seriously upgraded from the original shipping containers to actual apartments. The food supply has probably improved by about 40%!!

What has been your most memorable Olympic moment so far?

I’m not sure I can pick my most memorable Olympics! Due to the team dynamic and atmosphere, there are always good memories. I’m still hoping that we can produce that medal which I feel would most definitely make the top spot! All fingers crossed…. [Update: Mission accomplished!]

Photo courtesy of Emma Ford.

Photo courtesy of Emma Ford.

As an Olympic veteran, what is your role with the rookie grooms? Are you someone they go to when they need advice?

I like to think that I’m always someone a rookie groom can turn to for advice. The great thing about the team environment is that we all have one common goal: to win a medal. Because of this, we all work together to make sure that the best outcome is possible.

Although you have a lot of experience grooming at international events, what is the pressure like for you at the Olympic level? Has it gotten less nerve-wracking the more you’ve done it?

It’s always nerve wrecking! At the team championships there is a lot of pressure to produce a personal best. If that isn’t the result, you not only feel that you have let yourself and your team down, but also your nation.

From a groom’s perspective, what are the differences between the Olympic Games and other large FEI events?

Obviously the team aspect is a major difference. At the Olympics you get stabled with your nation’s dressage and show jumping teams, so watching how each discipline takes care of their horses is always an opportunity to learn something new. Also, having only one horse to take care of allows you to truly concentrate on that horse’s needs.

Photo courtesy of Emma Ford.

Photo courtesy of Emma Ford.

How does traveling with the team compare to traveling to events where Phillip is competing as an individual?

What I love about traveling with a group is getting to spend one on one time with the horse. Our barn at home is extremely busy every day and I don’t always get to spend as much time with each horse as I would like to. When competing at home we always have multiple horses so competition days tend to be hectic. At team events I get to really delve into that horse’s personality, some of which love the attention. Others not so much.

What does it mean for you personally to have groomed at countless World Championships and now your third Olympic Games?

When I first started in the U.S. I had no idea about grooming on the international stage. When I was given the opportunity to fly to Blenheim CCI*** I found it to be a real eye opening experience, and it inspired me to want to do more at the upper levels. I can honestly say that I had never dreamed of grooming at the Olympics until I took the job with Phillip. I feel extremely blessed to still be grooming and enjoying the whole experience whilst getting to take care of amazing athletes, all while being a part of this extended eventing family.

As they do, your plans changed at the last minute when it was decided that Happy would go to Rio in place of Cuba. How did that change things for you? Do those two require completely different belongings or were you able to keep some of what you had already packed?

Fortunately for me, the changing of horses did not cause too many packing changes. I was already organized to take all three to training camp, so I actually ended up removing gear from my trunks! However, the paperwork side of things was probably a nightmare for the team staff. Informing Happy’s owners that he was going was very last minute, as we weren’t sure if they would make the trip to Rio or not.

Photo courtesy of Emma Ford.

Photo courtesy of Emma Ford.

Happy has developed into a horse that can be super competitive in all three phases, much like Phil. How would you describe their relationship?

They have a great relationship, very trusting of one another. Happy has always been a cross country machine, but the show jumping and dressage have taken a long time to develop. They now have an understanding that allows Phil to be able to ask for more and Happy remains rideable.

Rio will be Phillip’s sixth Olympic Games. Do you think that it gets less stressful for him? Does he have any nervous habits that you can divulge to us?

Honestly, you would have to ask Phillip! I’ve worked for him for 10 years and I still can’t tell when he gets nervous. When he “gets in the zone” in the warmups you will often hear him humming. Apart from that, he is all about doing the best job possible.

Go Eventing.


Q&A with an Olympic Groom: Shannon Kinsley of Lauren Kieffer Eventing

Photo courtesy of Shannon Kinsley. Photo courtesy of Shannon Kinsley.

Behind every top rider, there’s a top groom. For Lauren Kieffer, that person — Shannon Kinsley — doubles as a longtime friend.

Shannon was the recipient of the 2015 PRO Liz Cochran Memorial Groom’s Award, nominated by Lauren for her endless dedication and charismatic approach to the sport. In the eventing community Shannon has become one of the professors, sharing her expertise and always ensuring that the horses are top priority.

I had the chance to quickly catch up with Shannon and get a little insight into her take on the Olympics.

How long have you been the head groom for Lauren?

I’ve been with Lauren for two years now as her head groom.

Is this your first Olympic Games?

This is my second Olympics. My first time was in 2004 in Athens with the Canadian Eventing Team.

Photo courtesy of Shannon Kinsley.

Photo courtesy of Shannon Kinsley.

Although you have been overseas multiple times, how does traveling to the Olympics compare?

The traveling itself is pretty much all the same. There were definitely different rules as to what we could and could not pack which was regulated by the country of Brazil, not the Olympic committee.

How does traveling with a team compare to traveling when Lauren competes as an individual? Does the team setting make your job less stressful?

I wouldn’t say it has been any more or less stressful, it’s just a bit of a different dynamic. You definitely have a huge support crew which is amazing. The team’s success is always the top priority and everyone does what is best for the team, as opposed to each individual focusing on individual success.

Photo courtesy of Shannon Kinsley.

Photo courtesy of Shannon Kinsley.

The past few years have been huge for Lauren’s development as a rider. What has it been like for you as a groom to watch her at her first Olympics?

It’s really cool. Lauren has been a good friend of mine for going on eight years now, so actually being a part of the team makes it even more exciting. I’m super proud of her, and it is all so well deserved.

Veronica is a very serious competitor. What do you think makes her so successful?

She’s tough. She’s a beast of a horse. She’s so incredibly smart. I’m pretty lucky to be a part of her career.

Only having one horse to look after, have you been able to venture outside of the barns and look around the Olympic Village?

It’s actually amazing how much time one horse can take up, especially at these big events. We have made time to venture out. As a group we went to see Christ the Redeemer which was pretty amazing. The view of Rio from up there is second to none.

Photo courtesy of Shannon Kinsley.

Photo courtesy of Shannon Kinsley.

Has grooming at an Olympic Games always been a goal for you? What is at the top of your list as far as career milestones go?

I think that the Olympics is probably a goal for most of us that are involved in this sport at the upper levels. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have been able to be a part of it twice, which would definitely count as my career milestones. The first time is always really eye opening and it just feels a little sweeter this time for some reason.

As grooms we are often just as invested in these horses and their success as their riders are. Do you still get nervous for Lauren?

For sure I get nervous for her and also for everyone that has been involved in getting all of us to where we are. You work hard every day; it’s nice to see it pay off. Lauren is a great friend and an amazing competitor. She’s incredibly deserving of every success she has.

Get to Know Four-Star Groom Savannah Kilpatrick

Many eventing grooms work for upper-level riders while also actively competing their own horses. Savannah Kilpatrick, the recipient of the 2016 Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event Groom’s Award, is no exception to this. She’s has been taking care of business at Lillian J. Heard Eventing one four-star at a time, all the while competing her own horse, a Thoroughbred gelding named Soul Blues, at Training with eyes on Preliminary this summer.

In the three years that she has been a part of Lillian’s team, Savannah has played a major role in the rise of Lillian’s career. She has groomed three times at the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event, once at Le Etoiles de Pau CCI4* and countless horse trials. We caught up with Savannah to talk about her life as a groom and her goals as a groom and a rider.

Savannah Kilpatrick congratulates Lillian and Share Option after show jumping at Rolex Kentucky. Photo by JJ Silliman.

Savannah Kilpatrick congratulates Lillian and Share Option after show jumping at Rolex Kentucky. Photo by JJ Silliman.

EN: How long have you been working with Lillian? How did you get your start with her?

Savannah: “Before I started with Lillian, I worked for the Jon and Jennifer Holling for a while. I think when you’re in a program for a long time you get to the point when you know its time to move on, and I was there. I called my friend Ashley Adams who told me to call Lillian, so I did. I talked to her for a while and really liked that she was an up-and-coming rider, I liked that I was going to be able to go with her to all the shows and be a part of her progression as a rider. I’ve been there for about three-and-a-half years now, which seems crazy.”

EN: Did you have any previous grooming experience? Is there someone that you look to for advice?

Savannah: “Other than the Holling’s, I would groom for random local people in Tallahassee, my hometown. As far as advice goes, I would say Shannon (Kinsley), Emma (Ford), and Lizzie Olmstead.”

(Shannon Kinsley is currently the head groom for Lauren Kieffer and the 2015 recipient of the PRO Liz Cochran Memorial Groom’s Award. Emma Ford is the head groom for Phillip Dutton, and co-author of the grooming bible World Class Grooming for Horses. Lizzie Olmstead is not only a very accomplished groom, winning the USEA Groom’s Award in 2009, but also competes at the upper levels alongside her husband Courtney.)

Savannah and Soul Blues. Photo courtesy of Savannah Kilpatrick.

Savannah and Soul Blues. Photo courtesy of Savannah Kilpatrick.

EN: You ride as well. How do you balance riding and grooming?

Savannah: “Having your own horse and grooming full time is definitely hard, but having a good working student to share the work with makes it a lot easier. I think that having a horse of your own makes all the hard work worth it. To be able to ride at the end of the day gives me something to look forward to.”

EN: How has being in a program like Lillian’s improved your riding?

Savannah: “Tremendously. It’s not necessarily just my lessons, I learn so much just from watching her lessons with Boyd (Martin) and Jacquie (Brooks). Lillian is really good at not over doing it in my lessons, which is what I need. If I need help on the flat she will get on, which helps a lot. She lets me work on things and figure it out for myself and come to her when I need help.”

EN: What are your long term riding goals? Grooming goals?

Savannah: “I would love to do a two-star. Obviously going to Rolex is everyone’s goal but that’s more of a dream than a goal. I want to groom at Burghley. I have always wanted to go to Burghley. Going overseas anywhere with the team would be awesome though. Other than Burghley, I would love to go to Badminton. Badminton is such a big deal for eventers. And of course, I want to go to the castle.”

Savannah with her charge, Share Option. Photo courtesy of Savannah Kilpatrick.

Savannah with her charge, Share Option. Photo courtesy of Savannah Kilpatrick.

EN: You went to Pau in 2015 with Lillian and Share Option. From a groom’s perspective, how are events overseas different than ones in the U.S.?

Savannah: “The atmosphere is so big, and there are people everywhere. All of the top riders and grooms that you look up to are there, and they were all so nice to us. Everyone seemed really down to earth which was nice. And of course the pastries. The pastries made Pau.”

EN: You’ve groomed at multiple four-stars. Does it get less stressful?

Savannah: “Yes! Completely. The first time at Kentucky was a huge eye opener. You walk around trying to look like you know what you’re doing, but you can’t even find the bathroom. The next time you can find your way around which makes everything a lot easier. Watching other people has really helped me. I would watch what other grooms were doing with their horses and try it on mine. Once you figure out what you’re supposed to be doing it’s much easier.”

EN: What is your favorite part about going to shows?

Savannah: “My favorite part is making horses look their best; I like it when they look pretty. It’s fun as a groom because its your time to shine. I also really like organizing the tack stall.”

EN: What are you favorite events for grooming? For competing your own horses?

Savannah: “I love both Kentucky and Plantation. I like a lot of them but Chattahoochee Hills is definitely my favorite to ride at.”

Savannah with Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby at Rolex. Photo by JJ Silliman.

Savannah with Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby at Rolex. Photo by JJ Silliman.

EN: As far as day to day tasks, what are you favorite and least favorite?

Savannah: “I hate cleaning saddles. I don’t know why but I do. I love cleaning stalls though.”

EN: What advice would you give to people who are interested in becoming a groom and/or working student?

Savannah: “Don’t expect to show up and start riding right away, prepare to work for it. Also, don’t expect to eat or sleep. I think you should give the program a year before you decide to leave, and always do a trial period to make sure you actually like these people. It will be the best experience you will ever have. Its also important to know what you’re looking for in terms of the program; there is a huge difference between big and small programs. And remember, you’re not just there to party.”

EN: If you weren’t grooming, what would you be doing?

Savannah: “If I wasn’t doing this, I would be in college going to med school.”

EN: What do you do to keep from getting burnt out?

Savannah: “I think that going to shows and seeing all of my friends keeps me from getting burnt out. I also think having my own horse to ride every day and to compete keeps me motivated.”

A huge thank you to Savannah for taking a minute to talk, and good luck to you and team LJH!

Meet Stacey Driscoll: The Driving Force Behind Ryan Wood’s Team

EN is delighted to welcome Stephanie Simpson of Schramm Equestrian as our newest guest writer. As a longtime groom and barn manager at the highest levels of eventing, Stephanie will utilize her insight to bring us in-depth interviews with her fellow unsung heroes who keep top barns running smoothly every day. Know of a super groom you'd like Stephanie to interview? Tip us at [email protected].

Stacey Driscoll: The mastermind behind Woodstock Eventing. Photo by Ryan Wood. Stacey Driscoll: The mastermind behind Woodstock Eventing. Photo by Ryan Wood.

If you have spent any time eventing on the East Coast, be it Aiken or Pennsylvania, you have most likely seen the faded green sweatshirt of Ryan Wood galloping by on what appears to be a horse that neither you or I could ever dream of owning. Although he rides for Australia, Ryan is based next door to Phillip Dutton’s True Prospect Farm in West Grove, Pennsylvania, where he has established a very successful competition and sales program.

Ryan moved to the United States in 2008, working for Bruce Davidson before settling in West Grove. It wasn’t long after Ryan started his own business that he was joined by his now long-term head groom and barn manager Stacey Driscoll.

Since becoming the head honcho at Woodstock Eventing, Stacey has been a key player in a team that has produced many top 10 finishes at FEI events around the country, which landed Ryan a spot on the Australian High Performance Squad. In typical fashion, Ryan shared the spotlight of a great 2014 season with Stacey, nominating her for the PRO Liz Cochran Memorial Groom’s Award, which she received at the USEA Convention in Fort Worth, Texas.

I had the chance to catch up with Stacey at Red Hills and talk about this new feature that I am doing for EN. We were talking about grooming as a career, and she referred to us as “in-betweeners,” meaning that we weren’t necessarily going to be lifers but also had no immediate plans of doing anything else.

Within this series of interviews, I am hoping to shed some light on those of us who are grooming at the top level of the sport, answering questions related to how we got here, where we see ourselves going and what we do to stay motivated.

From left, Katlyn McMorris and Woodstock Bennett, Stacey Driscoll and Powell, and Ryan Wood and Woodstock Wallaby. Photo by Madison Reynolds.

From left, Katlyn McMorris and Woodstock Bennett, Stacey Driscoll and Powell, and Ryan Wood and Woodstock Wallaby at Richland. Photo by Madison Reynolds.

EN: How did you get your start at Ryan’s?

Stacey: “I came to Ryan’s in October 2011 and have been here ever since. I had just graduated from Delaware Valley College with a major in Animal Science and a minor in Business. I started riding when I was 7 and mostly did hunter/jumpers, so eventing was very different to me.”

EN: How much grooming experience did you have prior to joining Ryan’s team? Who have you looked to for advice?

Stacey: “When I first started at Ryan’s, the team was just him, me and eight horses. That was our team. It wasn’t for a few months that we got our first working student. I was lucky enough that a few of the people from Phillip’s would come over and help for the first few weeks I was there. As far as advice goes, I would have to say Emma (Ford), mostly because she is right next door and would help me with any questions that I would have.”

EN: In the nearly five years that you have been at Ryan’s, what has been your most rewarding moment?

Stacey: “I would definitely have to say when Classic (Fernhill Classic) got second in the CCI2* at Fair Hill in 2013. Everyone was so excited. Ryan was so excited. Classic can be difficult, which is why it was even more rewarding.” That year Ryan’s other mount Frankie finished ninth out of 69 starters in the same division. That was the first CCI2* attempt for both horses.

EN: Out of all the events that you have gone to, which one is you favorite?

Stacey: “I’m going to choose two. Red Hills and Bromont are both my favorite. I like Red Hills because of the whole Southern hospitality thing; everyone there is so nice. I also like Bromont for the same reasons, but Bromont is like a whole other world. The people at Bromont are always really great.”

Stacey and Ziezos. Photo courtesy of Stacey Driscoll.

Stacey and Ziezos at a show. Photo courtesy of Stacey Driscoll.

EN: Is there an event that you’ve always wanted to groom at?

Stacey: “I’ve always wanted to go to Rolex, but have never been. I’m really excited about getting to go this year. Its going to be a lot of fun.” Ryan currently has the Fernhill Classic Syndicate’s Fernhill Classic, Steven and Karri Guy’s Frankie, and Heather Sinclair’s McLovin entered to run at Rolex this year.

EN: Having seen a lot of people come and go, what would you tell someone that is interested in becoming a groom and/or working student?

Stacey: “It is one of those things that you have to stick with. If it is something that you truly want to do, you can’t let the commitment scare you away. You also can’t let others steer you away; you can’t let them talk you out of it. You have to make it work.”

EN: What are qualities that you look for in a potential addition to the team?

Stacey: “We always do a trial period before hiring anyone, which helps a lot. I want people to think of things to do without having to be told.  If someone finishes with what they were doing, I want them to be able to look around and see what else needs to be done without me having to tell them all of the time. Throughout the trial period, Ryan will ask me how it’s going and what my thoughts are. Ultimately it is up to him, but he asks for input from me.”

Stacey in the tack. Photo courtesy of Stacey Driscoll.

Stacey in the tack. Photo courtesy of Stacey Driscoll.

EN: Are there tasks around the barn that you dislike? Something that you might pawn off onto a working student?

Stacey: “Studs. Definitely.” Amen, sister.

EN: What are your favorite tasks?

Stacey: “I really like braiding. I like jobs where you don’t have a bunch of things to think about; it’s kind of a mindless task.”

EN: I know you’re not supposed to, but do you have a favorite horse?

Stacey: “I can’t choose. All of ours right now are so different, and they all have very different personalities and quirks. If I absolutely had to choose one, I would say Frankie.”

EN: Where do you see yourself going? What do you see yourself doing in the future?

Stacey: “One day I would like to have my own place and business training horses. I’m not the biggest people person, so lessons wouldn’t really be my thing, but I would like to have horses in training. I have no plans of doing it any time soon, but eventually.”

I hope this provides some insight into the reserved, yet talented mastermind behind Ryan’s team.

A Retirement Tribute to Cold Harbor from His Biggest Fan

Schramm Equestrian super groom and head honcho Stephanie Simpson penned this touching tribute to Manny and Dana Diemer's Cold Harbor, Dom Schramm's upper-level mount that was recently retired after a battle with EPM. Be sure to read to the end for a special note from Dana. Many thanks to Steph for writing, and the entire EN team wishes "Bo" a very happy retirement.

Dom Schramm and Cold Harbor. Photo by Cindy Lawler. Dom Schramm and Cold Harbor. Photo by Cindy Lawler.

Anyone that follows upper level eventing has undoubtedly heard of the legend that is Cold Harbor. Most recently “Bo” had been piloted by Dom Schramm, where I was lucky enough to meet him. To Bo I was the food lady, the personal scratcher, the keeper of the mints and his personal escort to anywhere that was worth going. However, to me Bo was a milestone horse.

He was the first horse I ever braided at an FEI event. He was the first horse I ever galloped up the historic Nelson’s Hill (I say this as though I actually had control of him. I did not. I was merely a passenger that kept him going in a general direction.) Bo was also the first horse that made me understand just how tough this sport can be.

Before coming to Schramm Equestrian, Bo was ridden by Dana and Manny Diemer’s son Andrew, who produced him to the National Intermediate and FEI one-star level before Holly Hepp Hudspeth took over the ride. Bo sustained a hind suspensory injury in the spring of 2010 and was out for the rest of the season. Boyd Martin then took over the reins when Bo returned, as Holly was pregnant, and brought Bo up through the Advanced level in 2012.

Dom Schramm and Cold Harbor at Fair Hill 2013. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Dom Schramm and Cold Harbor at Fair Hill 2013. Photo by Jenni Autry.

In 2013 Dana made the decision to send Bo to Dom per Boyd’s recommendation. To say Bo was a straightforward ride would be nothing short of a lie. Being a Canadian Sport Horse, he has Friesian influence in his breeding, which made his canter four-beat. As it turns out dressage judges aren’t fans of four-beat canters.

Although Bo wasn’t one to dazzle judges in the sand box, you could count on him to make light work of the cross country. It was not uncommon for him to trot Intermediate tables with no regard for the heart failure instilled in everyone watching. But that’s Bo.

It became apparent in the summer of 2014 that Bo wasn’t feeling himself. After a rather elaborate evaluation, it was discovered that Bo was battling EPM and was immediately put on an aggressive treatment plan. He began work again in the fall and returned to competition last winter in Aiken.

However, after a handful of events it was decided that Bo should be retired. Though no fault of his own, Bo’s body was letting him down and was making it very hard to continue eventing. Everyone agreed that although his heart was still in it, we owed it to him to retire him while he was still sound and healthy. Bo has completed 72 USEA recognized events, 11 of which were at the FEI level and included two CIC3*. He won or placed at every level with five different riders.

Dom Schramm and Cold Harbor

Dom Schramm and Cold Harbor at Fair Hill. Photo by Ab3 Photography.

Knowing that Bo’s eventing career is over is incredibly sad, but should also be a very proud point for everyone involved. I know that Dana and Manny are incredibly proud of all that Bo has done not only for them as owners, but also for Dom as a rider.

I believe that Bo’s passion is a direct reflection of Dana’s and her dismissal of all the negativity and naysayers that have criticized him over the years. We always joke that had Bo been born a Thoroughbred, he would have been a proper four-star horse. The sad part is that it’s incredibly true. You would be hard-pressed to find a horse that has a bigger heart.

So Bo, I hope that you enjoy this new chapter. I hope you take joy in the fact that I will never force you to let me brush your face again, I will never have to clip your ears, I will never hose you after being ridden (although the water was never as cold as you made it out to be), but most importantly I will always be your biggest fan.

From Dana Diemer: “A few thanks for a wonderful career have to go out to Doug Dean who bred Bo, John Williams and Ellen Chaney who brought Bo into our view, Andrew Diemer who got everything started, Marc Donovan who helped in the early years, Lynn Doki Camina who taught Bo to count to three while cantering, and most especially to Dom and Jimmie Schramm and Steph Simpson. Bo holds court every day with the driving ponies across the fence line, Steph. I’d like to think he is telling them about all of his adventures going to places with you worth going.”