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Grooming at Boekelo Helped #SuperGroom Sophie Hulme Bounce Back

We love celebrating and learning about the #supergrooms who make this sport go around — quite literally! — so we’re on a mission to interview as many grooms as we can to learn about their journeys. Catch up on the other interviews from this series here and nominate a #supergroom of your own by emailing [email protected]! Today, we get to hear from Sophie Hulme.

Sophie and the Alliston team supporters at Boekelo. Photo courtesy of Libby Law.

Sophie Hulme was based in California with James Alliston for a few years before making a jump and moving to the UK to study equine science at Hartpury University. “I geared my degree toward competition horses and I specialized in performance and therapy rehab because I knew I wanted to manage performance horses and event horses,” Sophie said.

While at Hartpury, Sophie took nutrition courses, learned about equine performance, and studied how to keep horses maintained instead of always trying to treat an injury after the fact. “I loved it because I was really struggling when I was in high school with what to study. All my friends were doing history and English, and I wanted to do something that is going to allow me to do the horses but I need something that’s going to help pay for the horses.”

Sophie’s parents are English, so they were able to help her find Hartpury. Growing up, Sophie visited the UK to see her grandparents often, so moving there at 19 years old wasn’t a huge adjustment for her. “You’re not going to move countries often in your life, in theory. I thought I might as well come and do it while I’ve got the opportunity.”

Her studies have helped her in running her own business in the UK, training her own horses as well as teaching. She still grooms for James when she gets the chance, and grooms for friends from time to time.

James asked if she could help him out at Boekelo this past September. “Obviously I’m a lot closer to the Netherlands than California, so I said yes!”

Sophie hasn’t competed abroad herself, so grooming for James for the FEI Eventing Nation’s Cup was a valuable opportunity. “Getting to know the other grooms and that side of having a team aspect as well was quite fun and different. Everyone rallied together, which was really quite nice, to support every member on the team.”

On the way to Blair Horse Trials in 2021, Sophie lost her top three horses in a trailer accident. She had planned to run them in the 2* at Blair and then look toward competing in a 3* in Europe. As things were loosening up after COVID, Sophie was looking forward to finally getting out again at Blair.

“It was really hard for a while, getting used to [the fact that] we lost them,” she recalled. At the time, Sophie had two other horses at home — five and six years old. “We’ve rebuilt the yard in terms of horse power, and rebuilt myself up in terms of it affecting me a lot more than I expected to, in terms of getting back into competing.”

Her first event getting back out there was difficult, especially getting used to the changes in her line-up of horses. “We’re not all three-star again yet, but we will get there hopefully in the next year or two with some of the new ones.”

Sophie was eager to groom for James at Boekelo since she was still rebuilding her yard after the accident.

Sophie and Ice Cool Cooley at Gatcombe Park in 2018. Photo courtesy of Matt Nuttall Photography.

“It was really nice for James to let me groom for him at an upper level like that because, at some point, I would love to be at that level,” she said. “You get to be a part of everything in a different capacity when you’re grooming, which I think is really fun and really cool because you’re still a part of the team at the end of the day.”

Sophie is “definitely a mare person,” having six mares in her yard at the moment– all at different levels. She’ll be gearing them up to compete regularly and hopefully run some 2* and 3* next year.

“The thing that frustrated me when we lost the ones at the crashes, I’d had two of those for years and I’d built the relationship and I knew them inside and out. It’s hard; you can’t just build that relationship, you can’t speed it along.”

Sophie hasn’t been rushing her newbies up the levels. Instead, she’s taking the time to get to know them and strengthen their relationships. She is a jack of all trades: riding at the upper levels, grooming, and teaching too! She’s certified at a Level 2 UK Coaching Certificate (UKCC) and is working on becoming Level 3 certified.

Sophie and the rest of the Alliston team at Boekelo. Photo courtesy of Libby Law.

“One of the positives out of the crash was it gave me the time I didn’t have before the crash to teach and coach,” she said. As she’s done more coaching in the past two years, she’s learned that she really enjoys it.

“I really enjoy seeing clients progress and then the excitement they get from progressing. I find it contagious and it pushes both of you to work harder and make it better. I find a lot of satisfaction seeing my clients get that enjoyment out of actually reaching a goal, which it’s sometimes small and sometimes it’s big.”

Go Sophie and Go Eventing.

The EN #Supergroom series is brought to you thanks to support from Achieve Equine, providers of FLAIR Equine Nasal Strips, VIP Equestrian, and Iconic Equestrian.

Becoming an “r” Licensed Cross Country Course Designer with Genevieve Faith

Setting jumps before the event. Photo courtesy of Genevieve Faith.

Genevieve Faith is a rider and trainer who has gone a step further to learn all about cross country course designing. While Genevieve manages her training business, she has been working on getting her cross country course designer license.

Genevieve’s curiosity got the best of her when she started wondering why exactly certain jumps are set in certain places out on course. She wanted to learn more, so she set out to get her cross country course designer license. “Our sport needs to continue to provide a safe environment for the horses and riders and a fun environment,” she said.

“I had an amazing mare that brought me up through the intermediate level and I started to pay attention a lot more to why my coaches were setting up certain terrain questions.” Genevieve’s natural instinct to gain more knowledge has served her well in this process. “Once I do something, I want to learn more and that was really interesting. So then, I just kept pursuing more education on it.”

The best part about the process to get your cross country course designer license is that you can go through all the training just for the educational aspect of it — you aren’t required to sit for the test. First, you go to the USEA Training Program for Licensed Officials (TPEO), which is hosted twice a year where “you go for two days and you work exclusively with a top designer and you go through and you walk courses.” At the training, the designers give you feedback on what you need to improve on and which rules you should review in the rulebook.

Genevieve and Burned You Too at the 3* at Chatt Hills. Photo courtesy of JJ Sillman.

“You don’t have to want to become a course designer to go and do these two days of training. It does help everybody understand different concepts that designers use and why they do certain things. I think a lot of trainers should actually go do it because it gives a really good perspective.”

Once you get certified at the training, you apprentice with at least two upper level designers for a minimum of eight hours each. “I want more hours working with people, so I’m continuously still pursuing more work, more apprenticeship, more time, making sure I understand it before I go and essentially say I’m comfortable with putting out a course and these riders can go out and ride it,” Genevieve said.

When working on your apprenticeships, most of the time, you’re helping them before an event. “They’ve used their course maps and they have a general idea of where each jump is going to go for each level.” The first day or so, you’re moving jumps around on the course.

“You learn firstly, communication: how to communicate with someone on a tractor who can’t hear you and they’re moving these thousand pound jumps. You have to be able to do some hand signals and show them where you want a jump to be lowered, how you want it to be lowered, if it should be tilted just slightly.”

Once you’ve completed your apprenticeship hours, you can sit for the exam, which includes a paper exam as well as setting courses for a panel of judges. “You want to go into it with your best approach and obviously that means you have to take time and study the art of course designing.”

The certification levels for a course designer are as follows: r, R, S, and FEI Levels. A certification is required for each level. Most of the time, it is preferred if designers have competed at the upper levels so they have an understanding of course design concepts at most of the levels.

A lot goes into course designing, and it doesn’t all just look like designing a course and making course maps. “At a horse show, especially the designers, they spend a minimum of a week out there moving jumps, changing them, leveling them, checking distances. I mean there’s so much that goes into it.”

Understanding things like the fact that the jump decorations are there for the horse to see where the jump is and how terrain affects striding are important aspects to becoming a course designer. “There is actually a why behind every single fence out there, the course designer has not just thrown in a fence out there in the middle of nowhere just to give you a speed bump. Every single fence out there is placed meticulously to help the rider.”

Course designing is all about educating the rider as well as the horse at each level. “Having a horse understand a question is the other half of it. You always want the horse to get rewarded throughout the course for doing a good job, and that’s tricky too, doing a course like that,” she said.

Making sure all the final touches are in order. Photo courtesy of Genevieve Faith.

Genevieve recognizes the need for course designers, especially if we want to keep our sport going. “We’re taking lives into our hands, essentially. And we’re making this safe for the horses and the riders.”

As much as we may think it, course designers aren’t putting a jump by the water because they know you absolutely despise jumps by the water. “They’re out to help teach the horse, train the horse continuously, help the horse’s education,” Genevieve said.

She said that if anyone has any questions about a course they’ve ridden, they should definitely reach out to the designer to ask what their theory was or why they set a question up a certain way.

Genevieve originally planned to take her official license test at Morven Park in October, but realized she wanted to take the test again later in February. “It was one of those moments, I said ‘Wait, I felt super prepared coming into this and I still feel prepared, but at the same time I want to be 100% sure.’ I admitted to myself when I was there, I don’t have enough experience going out and setting fences.”

Genevieve went through the motions of setting a course and explaining to the course designers why certain decisions were made at Morven Park, but she wanted more hands-on experience with putting the questions in place. Since she is inherently booksmart, she was confident in course planning and measuring, and was also confident in executing the set-up of the course, but ultimately wanted more experience under her belt.

Jumps on jumps on jumps! Photo courtesy of Genevieve Faith.

“I don’t want someone to get seriously injured because I didn’t take an extra month or two going out and doing more apprentice work. I was really glad we discussed how I can do that more,” she said.

In preparation for her test in February, Genevieve plans on volunteering for jump decorating at events. “I never thought I’d do [that] before. I didn’t realize how much those little things play an important role if you don’t always have to do it.”

She’s getting her hands on any experience she can, offering to design full show jump courses for her friends. At the end of the day, Genevieve wants to make sure she feels more than ready to have riders compete on her courses.

“Am I comfortable sending a horse and rider that’s not me? Am I super confident in this? Realizing you might have 100 people going through your course, knowing that you feel like it’s safe, that’s a lot of big things to think about. I think that’s important for anybody thinking about course designing in the future -– how much responsibility it is but also how rewarding it is.”

Go Eventing.

What Goes into Planning a Competition? Behind the Scenes with Stable View Organizer Molly Bull

Photo by Shelby Allen.

For us as riders, we prepare for events ahead of time: making sure our horse is fit, sending in our entry, and fine-tuning our dressage test. For all the people who make our competitions go ’round, it’s no different! There is a lot of preparation and moving parts to an event — more than most people realize. I caught up with event organizer Molly Bull to learn about what goes on behind the scenes of an event.

Molly organizes various events on the east coast, Stable View’s full roster of National and FEI Horse Trials being one of them. She lives outside of Charlottesville, VA and makes the seven-hour commute to Stable View for all of their recognized events and some of their unrecognized events.

Molly rode at the Advanced level for many years but took a break when she had her son. “I knew I didn’t want to ride at the upper levels anymore, but I still wanted to be involved in eventing. So, when he was little, that’s when I started doing a bit of secretary work,” she explained.

Eventually, she switched to being an organizer and now Molly makes sure all the moving parts are moving where they need to be. In order to do that, planning is a multi-step (more like a million-step) operation.

The process of planning and executing an event starts just as soon as the event ends. “When an event ends, I usually write up a debriefing email with notes, that for Stable View, it would go to Barry and Cindy [Oliff], the owners and then anybody else who might be affected by whatever is in the notes.”

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Molly ensures that people like the show jump designer, Technical Delegate, president of the Ground Jury, dressage and show jump judges, and cross country designers and builders are able to work the event the next year. “I allow my thoughts to settle after the event ends and then start thinking about who I want to hire for the next year,” she said.

Some event officials stay consistent throughout the season, so at the end of the year Molly will send them the event dates to make sure they can work all of them. For the officials that rotate between events, Molly assembles a team in her head and contacts them to see who can commit.

Next step: getting the event on all the calendars. “You have to renew the competition through your USEF dashboard and pay the fees for that. Closer to the event, you have to register it with US Eventing and pay a fee for that. Then, as you get closer still, you have to do your omnibus page and submit that, plus a bunch of prize list materials to the USEF and then that has to get approved.”

Since Stable View hosts so many events throughout the year, they own things like golf carts, radios, manure dumpsters, and Porta Johns. “They’re a little bit of a unique venue because they own so much that you don’t need to order; at some events that I organize, I have to order radios, order Porta Johns, order ribbons.”

Depending on the size of the event and how many levels are competing, Molly will make the drive to Stable View a few days before the course opens. For smaller events, this means driving down on Wednesday or Thursday of that week, but for larger events, she arrives on Monday or Tuesday.

“When I get on site, usually there’s no competitors there yet, so I like that process of getting everything ready for them and putting up tents and getting everything set out — posting maps on the start box once they’ve been approved.”

Photo by Christine Quinn Photography.

Molly enjoys her job and once everything comes together on the day of the event, she finds it thrilling. “It’s always exciting when dressage starts. But for me, the most exciting is when the first horse leaves the box for cross country. That’s the moment that I’m like ‘Ok, I’ve put all this work into it and now it’s really happening.’”

Inevitably, some things are bound to go wrong, but that’s no worry for Molly. “My job isn’t to make sure nothing ever goes wrong but to react and handle it when things do go wrong– make good decisions, be calm, just come up with a way to solve the problem.”

So, what can we as competitors do to help people like Molly and the rest of the crew? “I think speaking for the secretary, they can get their paperwork in and have complete entries.”

Another thing we can do to help is not waiting until the closing date — or after — to enter an event. “It makes it really hard to plan the schedule, as an organizer, that’s hard because if you think you only have 100 entries, but then between closing and the event, you get 100 additional entries, it completely changes the makeup of the day and how many officials you need.”

Molly, along with all the other show organizers, officials, and volunteers work insanely hard to make it all happen. We are so lucky to enjoy so many beautiful venues and well-run events that keep our sport running.

Next time you’re at an event, be sure to thank all those wonderful people who make it all happen!

Go Eventing.

Caroline Pamukcu and King’s Especiale Win MARS Great Meadow International CCI4*-S

Caroline Pamukcu and King’s Especiale. Photo by Erin Gilmore Photography.

After yesterday’s many withdrawals at the MARS Great Meadow International, seven pairs out of 22 were left to tackle the 4* cross country course today, designed by David O’Connor.

Caroline Pamukcu stayed in the lead with the 8-year-old King’s Especiale (Connect – Cha Cha Special, owned by HX Group Redfield Kings), picking up only 10.8 time penalties to finish on a score of 44.2. Caroline also won the 3*-S with HSH Vamonos (owned by Sherrie Martin RAH Resources LLC), ending on their dressage score of 28.9.

“They’re the best horses I’ve ever had; this is the best string I could ever think of and there’s so much work that goes into them and we have such good owners,” she said.

King’s Especiale, although only eight, stands at a tall 18 hands. “Because I’ve had him since he was a five-year-old and I’ve done every single cross country jump on him, he makes it feel so easy. I know him inside and out, he knows me inside and out. It really makes a difference when you have them from babies.”

Overall, the course ran smoothly for the pair, with some combinations needing extra preparation because some of the distances were on the shorter side.

Next on the calendar for the pair is the 4*-L at Morven in October. “You just take it show by show and week by week. They’re eight and they’re getting stronger in their body and they’re growing a little bit, so if I feel like maybe they don’t need to, they don’t have to go [to Morven].”

Lillian Heard Wood and Dassett Olympus. Photo by Erin Gilmore Photography.

Lillian Heard Wood took second place with Dassett Olympus (Lancelot – Cruising, owned by Debby Greenspan), adding 19.2 time penalties to end with a score of 55.6.

“I thought all these people are withdrawing, should I not run? I don’t want to hurt my horse, the ground is hard. And then I just said to myself, ‘Ok, I’m just not going to go fast, I’ll run, I can get to do all the combinatons. It would be really good education for him, but I just won’t hustle him really hard between the jumps.’”

You’ll see this pair at Morven in the 4*-L, but up until then, Lillian will continue working on lowering their dressage scores and keeping Dassett Olympus fit so he’ll be ready for the 10 minute course at Morven in October.

Tim Bourke and Monbeg Libertine (Womanizer – Chill Lady, owned by Lisa Takada) moved into third, picking up the least amount of time out of the top three, 10.4 penalties, and finished on a score of 61.1. Tim said that the cross country course was straightforward and ran well considering the conditions. “They did a good job in the back half of the course aerating it and having it ready,” he said.

Tim took some time off for a little over a year and a half with a broken leg last year, so he’s getting back into the swing of things. Because of the new FEI categorization rules, he’s working on getting back to being an A categorized rider, so the rest of the fall will be spent on getting more 4*-S under Tim and Monbeg Libertine’s belts to hopefully go 4*-L by the end of the year.

“The organizers did a great job for the conditions that were put to them. And I think us, as riders, we’ve got to do everything we can to support these shows so they don’t disappear off our schedule.”

That wraps up the action from MARS Great Meadow International, and now we’ll kick on for the upcoming action at American Eventing Championships as well as Burghley this coming week.

EN’s coverage of MARS Great Meadow International is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products. Click here to learn about just one of their science-backed nutritional supplements, Equi-Jewel, for the hard keeper in your barn who needs the calories but not the extra grain.

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The ‘Round the World Diaries of Freelance #SuperGroom Debbie Carpenter

We love celebrating and learning about the #supergrooms who make this sport go around — quite literally! — so we’re on a mission to interview as many grooms as we can to learn about their journeys. Catch up on the other interviews from this series here and nominate a #supergroom of your own by emailing [email protected]! Today, we get to hear from Debbie Carpenter, a freelance groom based in the UK.

Debbie Carpenter with Liz Halliday-Sharp and Miks Master C at the Aachen prizegiving. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Debbie Carpenter has nearly grown up with the horse bug, but the grooming bug bit her later on.

She grew up going to a riding school in Oxford, England and later went to agriculture college for two years. At 18, Debbie went right for the industry she loves and began working with Julie Tew.

After taking a year or two of a break in 2007-2008, Debbie got the bug again. “I came back into it and again realized I loved it and ended up working for Andrew Nicholson for a year or two.” After working for Izzy Taylor for around four years, Debbie went freelance and has now been at it for eight years.

“I just decided that I wanted a bit more time to myself, which turns out it doesn’t really happen!” she said. As a freelancer, Debbie is out helping at events almost every weekend, usually keeping Mondays and Tuesdays as her days off to recover from events. In 2019 alone, she groomed for 32 international 3-day events!

When she’s not traveling all around for events, she has some local clients that she works for if they need it — “It’s not stressful, it’s easy going and we just get the job done,” she described.

Since she jumps around from client to client, she doesn’t get to see their horses every single day as a full-time groom would. This is a unique aspect of a freelance groom’s life, and Debbie said the biggest difference between a full-time and a freelance groom is the relationship with the horse.

“I do miss waking up in the morning, walking out onto the yard and having all your horses that you look after everyday whinnying at you for breakfast,” she said. But even though she doesn’t care for them every day, she still manages to get to know her clients’ horses as well as she can while she works with them. “I work for a lot of the same clients as a freelancer, so I do have that relationship with a few of my horses now,” she said.

To make up for any gaps between the home groom and the freelance groom at an event, Debbie tries to keep the horse’s routine the same as their routine at home. She plans the day out with the rider the night before to make sure their horse gets all the TLC needed and isn’t afraid to call in support from the troops at home.

“I would quite often contact the grooms at home and say, ‘Is this normal? What does he like? What doesn’t he like?’”

Debbie said that grooms in the UK often aren’t able to come to every event because some of them don’t have the HGV license to drive the trailer, so the use of freelance grooms particularly in Europe is quite popular. Other times, American riders who are traveling sans groom will pick up her services at competitions. In this way, Debbie becomes a vital, albeit temporary, part of the team. “I always try and thank the team at home — and make sure that they don’t feel that I’m stealing their horses away and not including them in what’s going on!”

Since Debbie values keeping in contact with the horses’ grooms at home, this makes for a more successful way to care for them at the event.

“My role as a freelance groom, especially at the higher level is that the riders know that I would look after their horse and they don’t have to sort of tell me how to do it. They just know that I’ll get up in the morning, muck out the stall, feed, take the horse out for a hand walk and a graze. So the responsibility is that they don’t have to keep an eye on me all the time.”

But of course, this can still be a job that brings pressure with it — as does any grooming gig. “There is pressure, when you don’t know the horse -– it’s quite a lot especially at the big competitions when you don’t know them,” Debbie says. “But, that’s when you have to keep checking with the rider and making sure that, for feeling legs and stuff, that that’s normal for how the legs feel.”

Most recently, Debbie groomed for Liz Halliday-Sharp and Miks Master C at Aachen, where the pair finished fifth individually and second in team competition. “I have worked with her previously on and off for a good few years, so that was just really nice to be asked back again to work with Miks Master C, which was pretty cool because I hadn’t actually met him,” she recalled.

In working with so many horses, surely there have been a few favorites that have arisen — and Debbie does have one, though she admits it’s difficult to pick. “At the moment I’ve got a favorite horse; I shouldn’t have favorites!” Her current favorite horse is Bill Levett’s RNH Tom Tom R — “He’s a bit of a character.” — with whom she worked at Millstreet last year and has seen grow from a young horse into a professional athlete. “He just went around double clear at Bramham and hopefully we’ll finish the season at Boekelo.”

Debbie credits her knowledge and experience to working full time for three or fours years with a few different riders. “It’s invaluable, seeing horses’ legs every day, looking at their skin, assessing their weight, looking at their fitness, and gaining all that knowledge from being on a yard every day, with a professional rider.”

Debbie’s advice to anyone seeking to be a professional groom? “Surround yourself with good people and enjoy it because it’s one hell of a ride.”

Even though Debbie originally made the switch to freelance to free up more time for herself, but ended up with a busier plate she wouldn’t trade the job for anything else. “It’s quite a treat, really, doing it all.”

Go Debbie. Go Eventing.

EN’s #supergroom series is proudly sponsored by Achieve Equine, home to FLAIR Equine Nasal Strips, VIP Equestrian, and Iconic Equestrian. At Achieve Equine, it’s All About the Horse — and who better to trust with putting horses first than the incredible grooms who care for them? Keep an eye out for more #supergroom initiatives happening here on EN all. year round.

Catching Up with #Supergroom Meredith Ferraris after Pratoni

We love celebrating and learning about the #supergrooms who make this sport go around — quite literally! — so we’re on a mission to interview as many grooms as we can to learn about their journeys. Catch up on the other interviews from this series here and nominate a #supergroom of your own by emailing [email protected]!

Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Now that the (volcanic) dust has just about settled from the 2022 FEI World Championships of Eventing in Pratoni, we want to know everything about the experience from the folks who were at the heart of it. We caught up with Meredith Ferraris, travelling groom to Ariel Grald and chief caretaker to Leamore Master Plan (also known as Simon), to ask her some of our burning questions about her experience preparing for the biggest event of her rider and horse’s careers.

EN: How did you get into grooming?

MF: I was managing a barn after college and it just didn’t feel like the right fit. I wanted to move back to North Carolina to be closer to my family so I looked on Yard and Groom in early 2018. The only job in this location was working for Ariel and although I didn’t have any previous grooming experience, we both decided to take a chance and the rest is history!

EN: How did you prepare for Pratoni?

MF: I have several detailed packing lists depending on the type of horse show and time of year, so I was able to create one for Pratoni based off of those. Preparing was particularly challenging because I had to be completely packed for Europe before we left for Great Meadow. Simon and I didn’t return home before shipping overseas — I had to make sure we brought everything we would need for the following month so that definitely made it a little trickier!

Horse kisses are the best! Photo courtesy of Taylor Pence.

EN: What are some essential items to pack for a trip like this?

MF: The number one packing priority is always Mrs. Pastures cookies — we don’t go anywhere without Simon’s favorite treat! Simon is a big horse and traveling isn’t easy on his body, so I always make sure to bring therapy tools that will keep him feeling his best. For this trip I brought his Bemer blanket and boots, a handheld laser, and his nebulizer to help him recover from all the lorry and airplane rides.

EN: What’s your favorite thing about Simon?

MF: Simon has a very big personality and likes to express himself at all times, making him one of my favorites in the barn. Most of the time he’s very polite (unless he gets a little fresh!) and he’s just a lot of fun to spend time with on the ground. He’s always down for a good face hug and a cuddle in the stall.

Cuddles and hugs with Simon. Photo courtesy of Ariel Grald.

EN: What was your favorite thing about going to Pratoni?

MF: One of my favorite parts of traveling overseas is getting to know the grooms and competitors better. You end up spending a lot of time together and it usually ends up forming some very lasting friendships. Pratoni was exciting because it had the team dynamic to add to the international championship experience and everyone was rooting just as much for other U.S. riders as they were for the ones they worked for.

EN: What was challenging about the trip?

MF: It’s challenging to keep enough weight on a fit 5* horse and traveling only makes that more difficult, so helping Simon maintain weight throughout his travels and competing was my biggest priority. He’s already a very picky eater and tends to lose a little bit of weight while traveling. It was such a long trek to get over to Pratoni, but luckily I’m used to catering to his changing needs and was able to keep his weight up.

#Supergroom Alyssa Dobrotin and “His Highness” Mai Baum are Preparing for Pratoni

Tamie and Mai Baum with Alyssa at Aachen. Photo by Libby Law.

We love celebrating and learning about the #supergrooms who make this sport go around — quite literally! — so we’re on a mission to interview as many grooms as we can to learn about their journeys. Catch up on the other interviews from this series here and nominate a #supergroom of your own by emailing [email protected]! This one is a special one because Alyssa Dobrotin will be joining Tamie Smith and Team USA in Pratoni for the FEI World Championships.

Alyssa Dobrotin, Tamie Smith’s groom for FEI World Championships for Eventing it Italy this month, grew up riding and competing as well as working for Tamie throughout her childhood. “I wasn’t going to ride at the upper levels, so grooming was my opportunity to be a part of the sport,” she says.

She works for Tamie on a part-time basis, helping her with events like Pratoni — which is especially fun for Alyssa, since she’s known Tamie for 16 years.

Alyssa and Tamie have been working hard to prepare Mai Baum for Pratoni. Alyssa said that Tamie has been “really focusing on the flat, doing a few jump schools, and just trying to keep him fit and ready to go.”

In addition to typical fitness preparation like water treadmill workouts and gallops, Alyssa said that Tamie has been working hard on their already formidable dressage. “After Badminton, she really wanted to improve on that score, so that’s been a big focus, just working on the flatwork and how to get those extra points and be as competitive as possible,” she says.

Mai Baum and Tamie are fresh off of a second-place finish at Great Meadows with their final score of 26.9, only adding some time faults on cross country. Great Meadows, along with Badminton earlier this year, have prepared him for Pratoni and Alyssa says that “now he’s ready to go.”

Going from the West Coast here in the U.S., where it’s very dry, to the east coast in Europe requires thoughtful preparation on Alyssa’s part. “It’s really important we manage their coats and their feet,” she says. This care requires various products like Sound hoof conditioner and Keratex hoof hardener for his feet as well as pink spray and witch hazel for his coat. After using the pink spray and witch hazel, Alyssa curries him well to help his coat with the transition from dry to wet climates.

Of course, Mai Baum comes with a load of other items to keep him at his peak comfort. “I always like to have everything that he needs like all of his boots, all of his fly sheets and magnetic blanket, Professional’s Choice theramics– all of those products just to keep him as comfortable as can be for whatever the weather is,” Alyssa says.

The U.S. team left for France on Saturday. After spending a week training there, they’ll head on to Pratoni, which is just south-east of Rome in Italy — which means another long road trip is on the cards.

Alyssa says that the team of grooms and support staff will “be keeping them happy and eating through the travel” and “keeping an eye on how they’re acclimatising and changing over to the hay.”

Mai Baum has a sweet, yet quirky, personality, which makes him a joy to look after — as long as you pay attention to his likes and dislikes. “He doesn’t like to be sprayed, but he loves to be pampered,” says Alyssa. “He likes to be the center of attention. He’s very sweet, he’s very opinionated. He’s just a really good guy; he’s a total gentleman.”

Because Mai Baum likes to “feel like he’s the king,” Alyssa calls him “His Highness.” She says that “he definitely has a royal kind of persona. We actually call him the Queen of England often because he is royalty but he’s also very kind.”

Alyssa has a special appreciation for Mai Baum. “He’s my best friend. He knows what’s going on. He knows when we’re traveling for something big. He can be a little cheeky, but when it’s time to perform, he’s all business and he’s such a competitor himself,” she says.

Tamie and Mai Baum were named Team USA’s first alternate for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which was an honor, but Alyssa is excited for the pair to be competing on the team this time around.

“I’m honestly excited for him to have this opportunity to take his shot at it. Being the reserve for Tokyo was a great experience, but him being able to go and compete and really show what he’s got – I’m just excited for that,” she says.

There is a lot to look forward to with an experience like this and Alyssa is excited to work with the rest of Team USA’s grooms over the next couple of weeks.

“I think we have a really good team; I think it’s a really good group of grooms. Everybody’s experienced, everybody gets along great, so I’m looking forward to that,” she says.

Alyssa, along with the rest of the team’s grooms have been working extra hard to prepare for an event like this, and EN wishes them luck and safe travels!

Go Alyssa. Go Eventing.

#Supergroom Sally Robertson’s 6 Pieces of Advice for Professional Grooms

We love celebrating and learning about the #supergrooms who make this sport go around — quite literally! — so we’re on a mission to interview as many grooms as we can to learn about their journeys. Catch up on the other interviews from this series here and nominate a #supergroom of your own by emailing [email protected]!

Sally Robertson and Vermiculus. Photo by JJ Sillman.

Sally Robertson, from Coromandel, New Zealand, has been working in the equine industry for decades. Having worked for riders like Chris Chugg, Clark Montgomery, and Lauren Nicholson, it’s safe to say Sally has learned quite a bit — and so, ahead of next month’s FEI World Championships for Eventing, where Sally will be caring for Team USA member Lauren Nicholson’s partner, Vermiculus, we wanted to pick her brain and learn a few things from this top pro. So, without further ado, here are Sally’s six pieces of advice for aspiring professional grooms!

1. Be patient and stick with it.

Sally has experienced various programs and their atmospheres, but says it may take time to find one that really fits you. “Lauren and I, we just work really well together. I probably wouldn’t want to work for anyone else; she has a great program. She not only respects her horses, but she really respects the staff. It’s taken me a long time to find a position that I feel extremely valued in.”

Being a professional groom is not an easy journey, and the tough days can be as frequent as the exciting ones. But if you stick with it, it’s worth it. “In the early years you have to be prepared that it’s going to be a lot of hard work. You might not get to where you want as quickly as you want. But if you can stick with it, and you find the right place, it’s incredibly rewarding.”

“There are a lot of sacrifices. So it’s up to the individual whether those sacrifices are worth making. Personally, I find that they are.”

Sally and Lauren Nicholson at Kentucky. Photo courtesy of Sally Robertson.

2. Take care of yourself.

It’s typical for anyone in this line of work to ignore minor injuries or pains. No pain, no gain, right? Although that mindset is shifting and becoming less common, it’s still important to be conscious of taking care of yourself, especially when the job is taxing on your body.

“If you get into the profession and you want to stay with it long term, don’t make the mistake I did. Start looking after yourself from the get-go. If you need to see a chiropractor, if you need to have a massage, if you need to take that day off and not leave the house and lay on the couch and reboot yourself, you need to take care of yourself from the get-go. And then, you’ll make your life easier in the long run.”

3. You’ll learn something from everyone that you work for – people you like and people you don’t like. Learn something from each person and keep those lessons in your toolbox.

“To be honest, I’ve learned something from everyone I’ve worked for. And whether that be right or wrong, I think each program has its ups and its downs. If you can take away what they’re trying to teach you whether you agree with it or not agree with it, then you’ll never stop learning. And you’ll find many different ways to deal with people and deal with the horses. Not one staff member is the same; not one horse is the same. The more tools you have in your box, the more versatile and better you can do your job.”

Pony hugs… the best kind. Photo courtesy of Sally Robertson.

4. When the job gets stressful or tiring, remember why you started.

“In the past, if I’ve been in that situation, I just try and take a moment, take a breath, remember why I’m doing it. At the end of the day, everything’s going to get done because it has to get done.”

Sally also said that preparing for what comes next and staying organized helps reduce those stressful moments, which leads us to her next point…

5. Stay organized and think ahead.

Typically, Sally thinks and plans as much as two months ahead of time.

“I’m actually like that on a daily basis and weekly basis. So I don’t have the surprises, but then when the surprises do pop up, I generally find it pretty easy to deal with that. I think just grounding yourself again, for a moment, and remembering to breathe, and the most important thing is making sure the horses are taken care of properly. So if that’s your number one priority, then the rest will fall into place. You might not be finishing at the time you want to but that’s horses. It’s any animal.”

That smile says it all! Photo courtesy of Sally Robertson.

6. Witch hazel is your best friend.

Sally’s go to product is witch hazel, especially because it can be useful for so many things.

“That’s a thing daily in our barn. Once we’ve done our afternoon grooming and they’re curried and brushed off and whatnot, they all get a spray with witch hazel. I just find it helps the coats a lot. I won’t ever at shows put fake stuff on them to make them shiny. I’m not big on that. I think sometimes it interferes with the tack, then you can end up with a slippery saddle pad or something. But I find that witch hazel can actually help with that, a bit of an extra shine if need be without making their coats yucky and greasy.”

Thank you Sally for passing some of your wisdom on to us!

Go Sally and Go Eventing.

#Supergroom Conner Ann Clark Balances Training Clients and Producing Her Own Horse up the Levels

We love celebrating and learning about the #supergrooms who make this sport go around — quite literally! — so we’re on a mission to interview as many grooms as we can to learn about their journeys. Catch up on the other interviews from this series here and nominate a #supergroom of your own by emailing [email protected]!

Conner Ann and Hawley at her farm in Idaho. Photo courtesy of Conner Ann Clark.

Conner Ann Clark, originally from Emmett, Idaho, has spent the last six years producing her own horse up through the levels, along with teaching lessons to her own client base that she’s been building since graduating high school. That busy schedule is no accident: Conner Ann began working for Hawley Bennett-Awad in 2020 as a working student, which eventually turned into a groom position. Since the program was on the smaller side, Conner Ann was lucky enough to be able to bring two horses along with her and says that Hawley “pretty much helped mold the idea that my horse and I are capable of doing more than just Training or Preliminary, and she was in his corner for that aspect.”

Even now, working for Valerie Pride in Maryland, Conner Ann is still able to balance riding her horse, Second Chance McFly, aka Chance, along with teaching lessons. “She’s really good about making sure that our horses get on the schedule early enough in the day; that it’s not going to be 4 or 5 p.m. by the time you’re swinging your leg over your own horse,” Conner Ann says.

When you’re managing to ride your own horse as well as teaching others, it’s important to remember what got you to that point in the first place. “The reason you’re doing this is the horses you have, so don’t let them get the short end of the stick just because you’re wanting to fill up a schedule of lessons or schedule of horses,” she says sagely.

Conner Ann coaching her student around her first recognized event at Galway Downs in 2021. Photo courtesy of Conner Ann Clark.

Although Conner Ann’s title is Assistant Trainer, that doesn’t stop her from being at the barn at 7 a.m. with the rest of the girls taking care of the horses. She has always prioritised putting in the work, which has helped her get to where she is today.

“I don’t come from a wealthy background and I don’t have the most expensive, well-trained, fancy horse. I got here by working my butt off every day for the last 10 years,” she says.

One of the keys to success in the tough, often relentless horse world is a hunger to learn and get stuck in, and Conner Ann has never passed up an opportunity to get involved with horses. “I fed, cleaned, tacked, groomed, anything I could for the opportunity to swing my leg over anything and everything I could. This is what opened all my doors for me to get where I am,” she remembers.

While Conner Ann is teaching clients– both in Maryland and back home in Idaho – she also manages to compete her horse at the CCI1* level. Some weekends she travels back to her hometown in Idaho to teach lessons to loyal, day one clients, and some weekends she’s competing at an event herself, which gives her a unique perspective on what her clients need from her.

Chance and Conner Ann through the CCI1*-S finish flags at MDHT. Photo courtesy of Allison Green with SDH Photography.

Conner Ann and her OTTB have been partners since 2016. Although her mother didn’t like the idea, Conner Ann and her dad went to look at the skinny rescue horse who they would later call Chance. They’ve undeniably come a long way since then, winning the CCI1*-S at The Maryland International Horse Trials this July among their accolades.

“I think that just being his person from day one of this journey has been really gratifying; I know him like the back of my hand, if not better than that. And I feel like he knows me just as well,” says Conner Ann. You can read more about their tight-knit partnership in the story that Conner Ann wrote for EN here.

It’s becoming more and more common for aspiring equestrian professionals to take a gap year after school to work as a groom or working student. Although hers is an unconventional approach, and one she was conscious might be looked down upon by some outside the industry, Conner Ann opted to follow a different route: she began her business straight out of high school.

“It’s definitely, I think, worth going and taking that year or two or three or however many years you want it to be because you’re not going to be 18, 19, or 20 forever,” she says. “A lot of people that I know, I do think that it’s something they wish they would have done when they were younger because it’s harder to do once you have a family or have a nine to five office job; you can’t just sneak away. I definitely think that school is always going to be there; I think that school is very important and I think that you definitely should go.”

Conner Ann’s advice to any young rider hoping to pick up a working student position?  “Be a sponge,” she says,  and absorb anything you can from the people you work with.

Go Conner Ann and Go Eventing!

#supergroom Madelyn Gibbs Got Her Start with Tennessee Walking Horses

Madelyn and Scout. Photo courtesy of Mustafa Photography.

Madelyn Gibbs grew up driving from Chattanooga, TN to Atlanta, GA two weekends out of every month with her parents. It was there in Atlanta where family friend Roger Brown let Madelyn spend the weekend riding at his barn. As a typical kid infatuated with horses, she took that opportunity.

“I would ride Friday night and then I’d spend the night and ride all day Saturday, and then ride Sunday morning, and then I would come home,” Madelyn said.

Madelyn got her start with horses when she was around nine years old when a woman her mom knew taught Madelyn the basics of riding on her Tennessee Walking Horses.

“It kind of started because I was never really good at other sports and riding was always something that was super interesting to me,” she said.

Since Chattanooga is not a very horsey area, Madelyn and her family made the commute to Atlanta for her to gain more riding experience with Roger. When riding every few weekends wasn’t enough for her anymore, Madelyn met Caitlin Randolph at Mystery Dog Ranch in Ringgold, GA.

“I basically became a total barn rat and I grew up there, made all my childhood friends there, and that’s where I got introduced to the sport of eventing,” she recalled.

During her time at Mystery Dog, Madelyn leased Caitlin’s horse, Scout, a Quarter Horse. “He always gave me the best feeling and I couldn’t wait every day to get home from school and go to the barn and ride Scout and he really became my heart horse and my best friend,” Madelyn said.

Out of high school, Madelyn got her first working student gig, and although she said it was not the greatest experience, she learned a lot from it. When Madelyn came home from her working student position, her first horse, Yaya, was retired. She was at a point where she didn’t know exactly where to go next. It was then that her current horse, King’s Ransom, aka Arthur, came into her life.

Madelyn and Yaya. Photo courtesy of Pamela Hammonds.

“He is such a genuine and kind-hearted horse and he was exactly what I needed when my mare retired because I just felt a little bit lost,” she said. While Madelyn and Arthur were building their new partnership, she also began grooming for the hunter jumpers. “A local rated horse show hunter jumper barn was looking for someone to muck stalls on Saturdays and I reached out and one thing led to another and I became a show groom.”

When Madelyn wanted a change of pace, she encountered a post from Courtney Cooper of Excel Star Sporthorses / C Square Farm in Nottingham, PA seeking an event groom. “It had been a while since I’d been on the eventing scene, but I’ve always loved it and knew I would somehow find a way back to it,” she said.

So she reached out and less than a month later, she moved to Pennsylvania to start her job with Courtney. “I’ve been here since August of last year and it’s a dream come true.”

Madelyn and King’s Ransom, aka Arthur. Photo by Amy Dragoo.

Madelyn works with around 30 horses at the farm, including “a bunch of babies that are coming up the ranks.” She enjoys helping with bringing the babies along especially since it’s something she’s never done before, as the hunter jumper horses she’s had experience with were already made.

“I’ve gotten to watch two of our horses – David and Griffin – both win their first Intermediates and I got to see them go to their first three-stars,” she recalled fondly.

Working with Courtney is unlike any job Madelyn has ever worked before. “Courtney is always right there in the barn, right beside you working just as hard. She really cares about the horses in a way that I have not seen anyone else care,” she said.

Courtney encourages Madelyn and pushes her to learn more and try harder. “Everyone we meet says that I am Courtney’s ‘mini me.’ Basically, we’re really similar in the fact that we are strong willed and we have ways we like to do things.”

Madelyn and Briarhill Excel Star Take 2 aka Maeve, one of Courtney’s horses. Photo courtesy of Madelyn Gibbs.

Madelyn thrives off of the constant energy that her job has. “There is never a day that goes by without something interesting or funny or totally random happening here. We always have something to do whether it’s cross country schooling or showing horses for sale or getting new horses off of a trailer at 3 a.m.”

Some people would be intimidated by that unpredictability, but Madelyn feels just the opposite. “It’s always an exciting day; you never know what’s going to happen when you wake up in the morning,” she said. Her process as a groom has shifted as she transitioned from working in the hunter jumper world to the eventing world.

“I was very used to going somewhere for a whole week and setting up the barn at the horse show,” she explained. “It took me a little while to get used to working off of a trailer at one days.”

Madelyn also had to transfer her focus from working with clients, making sure that kids and horses got to the ring on time, the horses were ready on time, and everything else you’d expect in a mixed training and sales program. “It’s a lot of the same stuff especially with us working with sport horses and imports,” she explained. “It’s kind of the same routine just done a little bit differently, which I really love.”

Madelyn leading the Midsouth Region at Pony Club Championships. Photo courtesy of Pamela Hammonds.

She finds value in being part of Pony Club for the past eight years, which has greatly helped her in her position now and recognizes the importance of becoming involved in the like to be prepared for the inner workings of the equine industry. “I think whether it’s finding IEA or 4-H or Pony Club, anything like that where you can get involved and you can be hands on with animals and with people, it’s really important to have good people skills,” she said.

Madelyn said that many people think that as a groom, you just deal with horses all day, but in her experience, that’s far from the truth. “We have clients in and out of the barn three or four times a week; this week we have horses being shown for sale every single day. I have to be able to put on my customer service voice and cater to them.”

When her former boss first approached her about coming to a show and grooming, Madelyn was nervous to do it, but took the opportunity anyway. “Never turning down an opportunity is a really big proponent of it,” she said. To make the most of every opportunity you don’t turn down, Madelyn’s advice is to take bits and pieces from each opportunity and keep those tools in your toolbox.

Madelyn grooming in the hunter jumper ring. Photo courtesy of Madelyn Gibbs.

It is because of her support system that Madelyn is able to put all her effort into her work. “I have a huge support group back home in Chattanooga who are always checking in on me through my mom and asking me how I’m doing and I just wouldn’t be able to do the job I’m doing without them.”

Most of all, she understands the importance of giving the job your all. “If you take the time to learn and you take the time to care for every single horse as if it’s your own, people start to notice and people want you to work for them.”

Go Madelyn and Go Eventing.

“It Gives You a Really Great Community”: Get to Know Auburn Eventing

Auburn University. Photo by Shelby Allen.

As the Auburn Eventing Team is fresh off their win at the USEA Intercollegiate Championships, we wanted to get to know the team and how it started. Auburn’s team is just one of 28 USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Teams in the country. The intercollegiate program is continuing to grow and it’s a wonderful way to continue eventing in college and experience the sport in a team-oriented sense.

In 2013, Mary Atkins Hunt founded Auburn’s eventing team, which started with just a few childhood riding buddies. Along with Mary, Carley Whetstone, Claire Robinson, Betsy Kaywood, Kyndal White, Lucia Menozi, Sally Colbert, Meagan Baker, and Casey Driscoll were the founding members of the team.

Fun fact: Auburn was actually one of the founding teams in the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Program, which officially started in 2015 after Leslie Threlkeld and Claire Kelley brought their ideas to life. In May of 2016, Auburn earned third place at the inaugural USEA Intercollegiate Championships at Virginia H.T. where eight other schools were competing.

Photo courtesy of Auburn Eventing.

“We are really fortunate in that the area we are in at Auburn is surrounded by a lot of big events and venues, so there were already several girls at the school who were eventing,” this past year’s president, Gabrielle Yashinsky said.

The team really began to grow as the intercollegiate program in general is becoming more popular within the U.S. “We have girls visiting Auburn and looking at the school specifically because of the program, so it’s really cool how it’s developed from just a few members to now we have 41 girls on the team,” Gabrielle said.

As the team continued to grow, they became more well-known within Auburn, garnering more of the school’s support. Aubie the Tiger, their mascot even showed up to cheer the team on at championships this year!

Auburn University’s mascot “Aubie” was out cheering on the team at Intercollegiate Championships last month. Photo by Shelby Allen.

The team meets once a month and the executive members talk about upcoming events and they host clinics once or twice a month. Outside of horses, the team comes together for events like football watch parties, tailgates, and team dinners.

“We also do team workouts twice a week where we are fortunate enough to have personal trainers within the Auburn Rec Center that we get to work with who have helped us focus on specifically what will help with our riding skills,” Gabrielle said.

Most members board at H&G Horse Quarters, Silver Lining Equestrian, Bright Farms, or Flint Hill Farm. “Everyone gets to choose what they want, where they want to put their horse depending on their needs, at various distances from campus, and different coaches and stuff like that,” Gabrielle said.

Lindsey Lanier, owner of Flint Hill Farms, is generous enough to allow the team to host their clinics at her property. “It has nice cross country and a dressage arena, so we all come together for that at this one specific barn whenever we’re bringing someone in or hosting a clinic,” she said.

Photo courtesy of Auburn Eventing.

Even if students don’t have their own horse, they can still participate in team activities. Members who aren’t able to bring their horse to school with them, their horse is injured, or they don’t have a horse can be part of the team as non-competing members.

“They’ll do things like audit clinics, cheer us on at all the team challenges, do all the social events, and meetings so it allows them to still participate even if they don’t have a horse at the current moment,” Gabrielle said.

Since the team doesn’t receive funding from Auburn, they put a lot of effort into fundraising. They focus on funding championships, clinics, and shows. Fundraisers like selling t-shirts and sweatshirts, hosting an auction, or opening their clinics to the public helps bring in more funds. “We’re always adding new things to help us raise money so that we can support the team even more,” Gabrielle said.

Photo by Shelby Allen.

Auburn’s eventing team has been fortunate enough to be sponsored by Fairfax & Favor and they recently started a new partnership with Lululemon. “It’s really cool that some of these brands are starting to see what we’re doing and want to be a part of it and we get great deals out of it.”

Gabrielle has enjoyed being part of the team throughout her time at Auburn, even though she was worried about having enough time for it at first. “I think most of our girls say that having a horse at school has been very therapeutic for them in a way because it’s a way to escape off campus to hang with other people who have the same love for horses that we all do,” she said.

Photo by Shelby Allen.

“It just gives you a really great community and especially at a school like Auburn where it’s really big and intimidating, it’s super nice because you’re meeting all these people with similar interests right away,” Gabrielle continued.

The team has worked hard all season to bring home the win at championships this year. “To bring home the national championship and the spirit award was just a really amazing feeling I think that everyone will remember for a long time,” Gabrielle said.

Having a team-like atmosphere in eventing is becoming increasingly valued, thanks to the founding of the intercollegiate program. “Everyone’s always there to support each other and help out, so it’s just a super close-knit group of girls who all share the same passion,” Gabrielle said.

“I’ve loved my four years on the team and wouldn’t change anything about it,” Gabrielle said.

War Eagle and Go Eventing.

Check out more scenes from Auburn’s eventing team and follow them on Instagram to keep up with more:

#supergroom Janelle Fleming’s Journey from Birthday Parties to Barn Manager

We love celebrating and learning about the #supergrooms who make this sport go around — quite literally! — so we’re on a mission to interview as many grooms as we can to learn about their journeys. Catch up on the other interviews from this series here and nominate a #supergroom of your own by emailing [email protected]!

Janelle and Sara Kozumplik at Tryon last fall. Photo courtesy of Janelle Fleming.

Janelle Fleming, from Dallas, Tx., started taking riding lessons when she was 10 years old, but never thought it would lead her to the position of Sara Kozumplik’s barn manager.

At a young age, Janelle’s dad took her to the barn down the road to pet the horses and when her friends had birthday parties at barns, she rode the horses there. Her passion for horses was ignited, but at the time she couldn’t afford to take many lessons.

When, at age 10, Janelle wanted to start taking lessons and she took it into her own hands to make it happen. “My dad opened a restaurant, so I decided that I would get a job there to pay for riding lessons,” she said.

Years later, after switching to online school for her senior year of high school and becoming a working student for Ellen Doughty-Hume, Janelle still wasn’t completely sure if she wanted a career in the equine industry. She decided to keep following the path she was on to see where it would lead; Sara Kozumplik needed help at the time, so Janelle took the job as a working student.

Janelle at one of her first summer camps with Cheyenne, who was the first horse she consistently rode at her first lesson barn. Photo courtesy of Janelle Fleming.

“I was supposed to take a gap year, but I’ve been here for almost three years. I decided that this is what I wanted to do and not to go to college,” Janelle said.

After about a month of working for Sara, Janelle began grooming her show jumpers and from there began taking on more responsibilities. Eventually, she kept gaining more responsibility which has led her to the barn manager position. She didn’t think she would end up being the barn manager when she first took the job, but she has just the right personality and attitude for the position.

“I have a very strong personality; I like to take charge. If I see something that needs to be done, I’ll just go ahead and do it and I like having responsibility,” Janelle said.

Janelle and Ellen Doughty-Hume. Photo courtesy of Janelle Fleming.

She enjoys working with Sara because she is able to bounce ideas off of her and they can collaborate as a team. “I like that she doesn’t micromanage us in the barn every day. She trusts us and she knows that she hired us for a reason,” she said.

Janelle appreciates that Sara’s main priority is for the horses to be happy. “I know some people just want to come in and ride; that’s all they want to do,” she described. “It’s really nice that she’s there and just wants the horses to be happy.”

Janelle rides Sara’s former 5* horse, Fly Me Courageous aka “Ziggy”. He spent some time out in the field after a suspensory injury in 2016. “About two years ago, they decided that he’s going to come back into work and start rehabbing and kind of see where he’s at,” she said.

Janelle took Ziggy through his rehab process beginning with walks and eventually started jumping him and going to events. Ziggy was feeling comfortable and spry, and Janelle was having the time of her life: in the last two years they’ve methodically moved up the levels, completing Janelle’s first FEI events including the 2*-L at Tryon last fall. Now, Janelle and Ziggy are headed to her first 3*-S at Virginia Horse Trials this coming weekend.

Janelle has been able to travel to various venues, but she says she most enjoyed going to the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event with Sara last year.

Janelle and Ziggie. Photo by Ella Detwyler.

“We didn’t have the result that we were hoping for, but still, I think it was a really fun experience,” Janelle said. “I’ve only been to Kentucky once before, and that was probably five years ago and I just went as a spectator. So it was really cool to get to go as a groom and to help her actual groom [fellow #supergroom Sara Kelson] out.”

Janelle’s journey to this position was unexpected, but she’s glad it led her to work with Sara. “She is probably one of the most selfless and caring people that I’ve met,” she said. “She really wants the best for everyone and she really wants us to do well.”

While Janelle may not have expected she’d go from taking riding lessons at age 10 to becoming the barn manager at a top barn, but she is thankful for the experiences she has encountered through her journey.

Go Janelle and Go Eventing.

#SuperGroom Series: Sara Kelson’s Journey from Pony Club to Professional Groom

We love celebrating and learning about the #supergrooms who make this sport go around — quite literally! — so we’re on a mission to interview as many grooms as we can to learn about their journeys. Catch up on the other interviews from this series here and nominate a #supergroom of your own by emailing [email protected]!

Sara at the Pony Club Quiz Championships. Photo courtesy of Sara Kelson.

Sara Kelson was looking for a change in her routine during the Covic-19 pandemic and wound up working for Sara Kozumplik in Berryville, Va. It was a big change for Sara, who grew up in the Bay Area in northern California and did a variety of Pony Club activities during her childhood.

“I didn’t have my own horse so I just catch rode and I was really big into doing the quiz rally in Pony Club, which I think for me started my whole thing with horse management and learning about things that were not just riding,” Sara said.

Since Sara didn’t have a horse of her own, competing in the Pony Club quiz rally was a way for her to be involved with horses without needing to have her own horse.

Sara began working for 5* rider Jon Holling out of high school and learned all about horse care and management from his head groom, Katy Long. Soon after, she spent time in England working with Beth Burton, who currently rides for Cooley Farm in Ireland.

Jon Holling teaches Sara on her first horse, Ebony. Photo courtesy of Gary Kelson.

Sara liked seeing the differences between the culture of ownership in England compared to the U.S. “People owning horses for people is so much more normal there; normal people want to get involved and support riders,” she said.

After she went to college for a year, Sara decided that she enjoyed working with horses more, and began working at Chocolate Horse Farm, a large client barn in California.

Sara was still in contact with Katy Long, who told her about the job opening with Sara Kozumplik. “I was only planning on staying with Sara for a year,” Sara said. “I ended up falling in love with her program and her horses and we really clicked professionally.”

Sara enjoys working with a boss who is fair when it comes to the horses, and Sara Kozumplik embodies that concept. “She treats both the horses and the people the same: with a lot of kindness, a lot of compassion,” she described.

Instead of jumping to conclusions with the horses, the team at Sara Kozumplik’s farm, based in Virginia in summer and Ocala in winter, look at how to help them first. The team evaluates factors like if their feet are hurting, if they need massage therapy, or if they need acupuncture before associating it with merely bad behavior.

Sara being a superstar groom! Photo courtesy of Katie Trafton.

Sara Kozumplik is always learning, and Sara enjoys watching her lessons because she is open to feedback and even criticism. “She’s also incredibly humble — she has done so much and knows so many people but she always has that student mentality,” Sara said.

Although Sara enjoys going to big events, she likes getting to know the horses and their personalities better. “The day to day is why I like doing what I do,” Sara said. Since she puts so much emphasis on getting to know the horses on a day-to-day basis, when they get to high pressure situations like competitions, Sara knows exactly what they need to stay relaxed and happy. “Just being able to spend quality time with them and really have that relationship is what keeps me going,” she said.

Sara knows how easy it is to get caught up with setting big goals, but understands that horses are still emotional animals. It’s fascinating for her to understand how each horse is unique and how they react individually to the competition environment. “I think that still letting them be horses and be normal, be real is so incredibly important,” she said. “It’s also cool because they are all so different, seeing how Sara will adapt her riding or her approach to the different horses too.”

Sara with the horses. Photo courtesy of Sierra Lesny.

Sara knows that there is major pressure to be “successful” in the equine industry today, but says that “you don’t have to fit into every box. There’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t.” She can see herself staying with Sara Kozumplik for a while, but noted that being a groom is not always considered as prestigious or as long-term of a plan as being a rider. “The only thing that’s kind of acceptable in the horse world is if you are a trainer or you have a lesson program.”

“So many people will ask me ‘What’s the next plan?’ and I think it’s a lot of times because people don’t really think about being a professional groom as a legitimate career option,” she said. Sara believes that people’s outlook on a groom’s role in the industry is changing for the better. “It’s a really cool, really rewarding career. That’s something that I’m really loving riding the wave of.”

Go Sara and Go Eventing.

Land Rover Rookies: Booli Selmayr and Millfield Lancando

Booli Selmayr and Millfield Lancando. Photo by Abby Powell.

When Booli Selmayr is looking at horses, she doesn’t carry a list of specific qualities that need to be fulfilled — instead she goes with her gut. That’s exactly what happened with her partner, the 15-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Millfield Lancando (Lancer II – Fancy II, by Langata Express xx).

Booli, who hails from Westchester, NY, grew up in a family who loved animals. Her childhood consisted of Pony Club and trail riding with her brother.

Booli bought Millfield Lancando, or “Lance”, from Kevin Keane, a equine sports medicine vet in Pennsylvania, six years ago. Lance was already going Prelim when Kevin called and asked her to try him out. “I can’t tell you exactly what it was that made me go ‘yes’ but there was definitely something that was like ‘yep, this is the horse that I’m going to be dedicated to and take as far as he can go,” Booli said.

Booli’s gut feeling proved to be advantageous, as now the pair is headed to make their debut at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event this year!

Although Booli’s goal with Lance was to go up the levels, she knew she needed to build a relationship with him first. “Even though the horse was going Prelim, we definitely had to take some time to develop a partnership and train him to be more my ride versus a very tall man’s ride,” she said.

Lance stands tall at 17.1 hands and “if you were to see Lance in person, he’s built kind of like a bus. He is really tall, but he’s also just really long,” Booli described.

Booli and her Connemara pony, Maggie, at a hunter pace in North Salem, NY in 1996. Photo courtesy of Booli Selmayr.

He also carries a lot of tense energy, and since he’s a big horse, Booli has worked with him to channel that energy. “It was just teaching him to sort of use that tense energy in a more manageable way so that I didn’t feel like I had to be really strong on him,” she said.

But although Lance may be a large, strong horse, he is also a gentle giant. “He’s actually quite sensitive, which is why I think he is more of a woman’s ride even though his size would say otherwise!” she said.

Another part of Lance’s size is the fact that he can be a bit claustrophobic and is ““very bashful about that,” according to Booli. “He actually makes me think of how big dogs really wish they were small.”

Anna Ciampaglione, who works for Booli, says that Lance often gets intrigued when he’s in new spaces and “gets this expression on his face like he’s just hatched.”

Lance and Booli on cross country at Pine Top Horse Trials. Photo courtesy of Logan Fontana.

When Lance has to conquer new environments, he gets really tall, pricks his ears, and almost gets cross-eyed. “He’s like ‘oh my gosh, the world is so big and bright’ even though he’s 15 years old and has seen everything there is to be seen,” Anna said.

Lance and Booli’s partnership has had its fair share of ups and downs, with both of them dealing with injuries between the start of their partnership and now.

“Dealing with things that you couldn’t foresee having to deal with – it takes some time,” Booli said. But once the pair moved up to Advanced two years ago, Booli knew Lance would be able to go all the way. “This is so easy for him, still, and I thought he should definitely get up there in the next couple of years,” she said.

The pair has had a successful season in 2022 so far, fresh off of top three finishes at Pine Top, Carolina International, and Pine Top again to keep the confidence bubbling ahead of the big 5*. When Booli saw her name on the entry list, she felt a rush of emotions, but she’s not letting that get in the way of properly preparing for the event.

“I’m trying to stay very monotone about the whole thing just because I’m trying to sort of keep a clear head and not get super anxious about how Lance is going,” she said. Her top priority is keeping Lance comfortable leading up to the event, like she would do for any other competition. “I’m just trying to keep myself channeled so that the routine stays the same and he stays happy and healthy and doesn’t feel any anxiety.”

Since the cross country track will prove to be the most challenging that Lance has seen thus far, Booli knows he needs to be extra prepared regarding his fitness. “I’m trying to keep it so that he’s feeling good in his body, good in his mind, and happy; again so it’s not overdoing anything, not underdoing anything,” she said.

Even though Kentucky is a major event, Booli still stresses the importance of the everyday aspects that everyone should have in their training.

“Just working on the little details that we should always work on: transitions, stretching, suppleness. When I’m jumping, making sure that we’re straight and basically all the everyday training things that we should be doing everyday, regardless of a competition,” she said.

Booli Selmayr and Millfield Lancando. Photo by Abby Powell.

The pair’s strongest phase is cross country, having a consistent record of no jump penalties and just a little bit of time. “I’m very comfortable out cross country and he’s an incredible cross country horse,” Booli said.

Having a spot on this year’s entry list was something Booli has been wanting to achieve since she was young, but the journey has not always been easy. “I feel like in the process of trying to get there one can get aggravated and frustrated and that’s normal,” she said.

If Booli could give her younger self advice, she would say to trust the process — a challenge for any driven individual! “What will be will be,” she said. “Learn from things not working out.”

EN wishes Booli and Lance the best of luck at their first Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event! Stay tuned for much more from the #BestWeekendAllYear and, as always, Go Eventing.

#Supergroom Series: Will Coleman Equestrian is Hailey Burlock’s Home Away From Home

Hailey and the team. Photo courtesy of Shannon Brinkman.

Hailey Burlock went from helping her cousins with barn chores as a kid to grooming for Will and Katie Coleman– and I had the pleasure of getting to talk with her about that journey.

Hailey grew up in Fredericton, New Brunswick and her involvement with horses began as a kid by lending a helping hand at her cousins’ draft horse barn on the weekends. As she grew older, she started taking weekly lessons with Zoe Erichsen-Meesters, and eventually leased “Fantasia,” a horse that was shortlisted for the 2008 Olympics.

“I was so lucky to be able to ride and compete a horse like that. She was amazing and we shared a special bond, as well as an exact same birth date,” Hailey said. “Fantasia” got Hailey hooked on the sport of eventing and began her appreciation for and dedication to horses as high-performing athletes.

As an integral part of the WCE team, Hailey’s work behind the scenes is a major help to the team’s consistent international success.

While this respect for the horses and the sport would eventually be her career choice, Hailey studied forestry at the Maritime College of Forest Technology.

“It wasn’t always clear that a chance to work with horses was a viable option for me, but I was always really interested in just being outside and working outside,” she said. “Studying forestry and going down the path towards becoming a park ranger was really formative for establishing myself as an independent, self-motivated individual.”

Hailey’s chance to work with horses on a daily basis arrived partly by chance. Growing up in Eastern Canada, she had ridden in several clinics with Rob Stevenson, the Chef d’Equipe for the Canadian Olympic Team. After crossing paths with him later, he offered her a job running his barn in St. John, New Brunswick. She worked with him for about two years and groomed at international competitions like Bromont and Foshay International.

Hailey and Dondante. Photo courtesy of Alleyn Evans of Shannon Brinkman Photo.

“It gave me a taste for running a barn and maintaining a standard of horse care that I could really embrace,” Hailey said.

Hailey soon found herself back at school, but within six months, she was itching for another opportunity in the horse world. “I just missed horses, and I missed working with them. The classroom all of a sudden seemed very boring and unfulfilling, and I began desperately looking for opportunities as a groom,” she said.

Will and Katie Coleman were looking for some help, so Hailey seized the opportunity and applied for the job. “As soon as Hailey arrived, I could see that she was exactly what we were looking for in a professional groom,” Katie Coleman said.

“Traveling from New Brunswick to Ocala is an exhausting, nearly 24 hour journey. When Hailey arrived at the farm, it was at the end of the day and the girls were sweeping and finishing up the barn. Hailey had probably not slept in a day, but without saying a word, she just instantly grabbed a broom and started sweeping alongside them. I remember so distinctly saying to myself, ‘I like this girl.’ She has an unbelievable motor, and a work ethic that is second to none. She leads by example, and that’s what we admire most in her,” Katie said.

Grooming is not an easy job, and people are often shocked by the time commitment it requires. “It’s an all-consuming job and lifestyle,” Hailey said. “People don’t realize all that goes into it, but I love all that.”

Top eventing and equestrian programs around the world are like Formula One teams, and grooms are the epicenter of maintaining and optimizing these incredible equine athletes that are part of top equestrian programs. They communicate with vets, farriers, coaches, and their riders in ways that require them to be very knowledgeable about all of these various fields.

“There are no medals or major performance goals reached without a truly world-class groom in the barn, and Hailey has become that person for us,” Katie said.

In almost two years of working with Katie and Will, Hailey has seen firsthand that the number one priority for WCE is the horses and their care, and she has embraced that approach.

Hailey Burlock riding her cousins’ pony when she was little. Photo courtesy of Hailey Burlock.

“Everything is meticulously well thought out, and there’s a reason why we do everything. Will and Katie hold everyone to a very high standard. Their expectations are that the whole team is constantly striving to get better in the way that we manage and support the horses in fulfilling their potential, and I think that’s what makes us a successful program,” Hailey said.

WCE’s success in 2021—which include multiple internation wins, a top five finish at the Maryland 5*, a reserve horse for the Tokyo Olympics, and the first American winner of Aachen CHIO 4*– can be attributed in part to the team behind the scenes.

“Success for our program — the rider is just the cover,” Will Coleman he told EN after a recent win at Stable View. “It is as much about everybody else: my coaches, my wife, my family, our girls home at the barn, the team behind us, vets, farriers. It’s really a victory for all of them, I’m just the cover of the book, but they’re the ones making up the full story.”

Aachen winner Off The Record and recent Carolina 4*-S winner Dondante are Hailey’s top two favorites at the barn – credits to their vibrant personalities for being so high up on the list! Just don’t tell the other horses…Hailey can’t play favorites, “I love them all to be honest.”

Since Will and Katie are based out of Ocala during the winter and Gordonsville, Virginia the rest of the year, it is difficult for Hailey to see her family in Canada. “I feel very fortunate that Will and Katie treat us like family – that certainly helps with being away from home for extended periods of time.”

But despite the long hours and hard work, Hailey says, “I love all of those ins and outs. Those small details and extra efforts are really what makes our successes so rewarding.”

Hailey is thankful for the support and opportunities that Will and Katie have given her and looks forward to another exciting year in 2022. With three horses aiming to contest the Land Rover Kentucky 5*, another trip to Aachen CHIO and their sights ultimately set on representing the U.S. at the FEI World Championships for Eventing in Pratoni, Italy this fall, it will be another busy and exciting year of competition for Hailey and the Will Coleman Equestrian team.

Go Hailey and Go Eventing.

#Supergroom Series: Nowhere Else Anna Lawson Would Rather Be Than with Sharon White

Anna and her horse, Cinder. Photo courtesy of Anna Lawson.

There’s nothing else Anna Lawson would rather be doing than grooming for Sharon White.

Sharon White’s farm, situated on the border of West Virginia and Virginia, is like a second home for Anna Lawson, who has been working there since the summer of 2021.

“I know in my bones this is where I’m supposed to be and everything about it feels correct and right. There’s really no one else I’d rather work for honestly,” Anna said.

Anna moved from Georgia to Virginia when she was 17 years old to gain more experience in the equine industry. She started reaching out to people and one of Sharon’s first working students, Christy Hill, introduced Anna to Sharon.

Anna wanted to work for Sharon, but she knew she needed more experience before stepping up to that position. “ I wasn’t quite qualified for the job. I’d never been anywhere at all. I’ve been home my whole life, taking little riding school lessons,” Anna said.


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Before working for Sharon, Anna gained experience with Natalie Hollis at Destination Farm in Maryland for about three years. Anna started riding with Sharon when she was at Destination Farm to teach clinics and later trailered to Sharon’s barn for lessons about once a month.

“There was something about the way she taught me, I really liked it and I appreciated the effort she put into my riding,” Anna said.

Anna’s mom ended up working for Sharon as her barn manager, so Anna visited Sharon’s farm more often, which encouraged her to work to prove herself to Sharon.

“I didn’t think I was good enough so I kind of made it a point to prove myself to her and get her attention,” Anna said.

While Anna was working off lessons, Sharon needed more help around the barn, and the groom position was open. “She asked me, and I wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity; it’s a fabulous opportunity!”

Anna appreciates the attention to detail that Sharon has for her horses and students. “She’s a visual learner. And in that she also teaches for people who are visual learners.”

Sharon holds a high standard for her barn and Anna makes sure to uphold that standard.

Claus, Anna and Sharon at Tryon last fall. Photo by Sally Spickard.

“I’m a very detail-oriented person. The kind of care I like to give is very personal, like how amateurs spend time with their horses, they spend four or five hours at the barn, or like most people do. I like to do that with each and every horse, and it gets hard when there’s as many as we have,” Anna said.

Luckily, Anna has the support of Sharon’s working students to help around the barn. “I really couldn’t do it without the working students we have here: Lea and Olivia. They’re all very, very wonderful and they’re very good about everything,” Anna said.

Anna’s favorite horse around the barn is Claus 63. “He reminds me a lot of myself; he’s very anxious and nervous. But he tries his hardest in everything that he does.”

The best part of Anna’s day is riding her own horse, Little Red Corvette aka Cinder, who she’s had since she hit the ground. They are currently competing at the training level, with the hopes of moving up to preliminary and eventually running a 2* this season.


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Their first event back this season was at Rocking Horse and “It was very productive. I went entirely too fast and blew past two fences and a combination, but she was having the time of her life. So it’s okay,” Anna said.

Anna has felt at home since she started working for Sharon and sees herself doing that far into the future.

“There’s no one I can depend on– whether it’s as a boss or a coach– no one who is as invested in her students as Sharon is in all of us,” Anna said.

Go Anna and Go Eventing.

Don’t miss out on more #supergroom profiles — click here to follow this series!

#Supergroom Series: Groundwork and Grooming are the Journey for Erin Jarboe

Erin and her first horse “Go Baby Go.” Photo courtesy of Heather Jarboe.

Erin Jarboe, from Athens, Georgia spent her childhood surrounded by horses: she took weekly hunter jumper lessons and spent her summers at riding camp. Erin began eventing competitively at age 15 when her summer camp instructor sent her a horse to lease, “Go Baby Go.”

Erin always planned on going to vet school, but she was still very intrigued by the sport of eventing. When she decided not to go to vet school, she needed to find a place to start in the equine industry.

“I figured if I could find a barn or the right place that could be something that I could do for a long time. And I started working for Will.”

Before working for Will Coleman Equestrian, Erin had some experience working for some local people in the equine industry as well as Liz Halliday. She has been with Will for a little over a year now, and said that it is a “very family style program.”

“That was actually kind of a selling point for me because it showed me that obviously, this is a serious, professional and really quality program, but they also value people and lives and family. And that’s not always the case with every upper level barn.”

Hugs! Photo courtesy of Erin Jarboe.

Even though Erin grooms, sometimes she is able to stay home from shows and she gets to ride the rest of the horses.

“They’re both great about trying to provide no matter what position you’re in in the barn, whether you’re a groom or a ride or a working student, they’re great about trying to provide opportunities for everyone,” Erin said.

Since Katie recently had a baby, Erin has been able to ride her dressage horse, Stallito (aka Luca), often during the past few months. The two have gotten close during their time together– in the saddle as well as on the ground.

Erin and Luca at the natural horsemanship clinic. Photo courtesy of Katie Coleman.

“Katie actually even, for my birthday this year, she paid for me to do a natural horsemanship groundwork clinic with him,” she said.

Will and Katie implement natural horsemanship practices in their program, but Erin doesn’t have extensive experience in that area, so “doing that clinic was super awesome.”

In the clinic, taught by Kathy Barr, Erin and Luca did work in the round pen, focusing on body language and how the horse views a rider’s physical stance. These exercises helped Luca become less sensitive.

“When he first came, he was sensitive to fly sprays or lifting up the saddle pad while you’re on him or even patting him behind the saddle while you’re riding him,” Erin said. “And now he’s great. Almost anyone’s been able to hack him or ride him; it was a huge gamechanger to work with him.”

All smiles from the WCE team. Photo courtesy of Erin Jarboe.

Erin recognizes the importance of a solid foundation in a horse’s groundwork, especially since it translates into how they act under the saddle. “I think it’s another cool tool to have. You can work on aspects that affect your riding while also on the ground.”

Erin’s passion about horses and the equine industry are advantageous to her, especially with the challenges that come with being a groom. Although the hours are “kind of crazy and inconsistent,” Erin would probably be doing this in her free time anyways, so it’s the perfect place for her.

Go Erin and Go Eventing.

Meet #Supergroom Steph Simpson

Boyd Martin’s Tsetserleg and his groom Stephanie Simpson. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Steph Simpson from Sutton, Vermont didn’t grow up with horses at all. Rather, she grew up on a dairy farm but was interested in horses, so she went to the University of Vermont for animal science with a focus on equine science. After graduating, Steph moved to Pennsylvania and started her working student experience — but little did she know that she would travel across the world and meet many people and horses in the years to come.

Steph began her career working for accomplished 5* rider Jane Sleeper, then a few months later joined the team assisting Dom and Jimmie Schramm. “I was with them for nearly five years and started as a working student, and then transitioned to their barn manager and groom,” she recalled.

After working for the Schramms, Steph freelanced for a year, taking on roles like working alongside a local vet and spending the winter with Liz Halliday-Sharp. Then, the phone rang. Boyd Martin was calling and wanted to offer the hardworking groom a position at his Windurra facility in Pennsylvania.

Boyd Martin celebrates with Steph on the podium at the Maryland 5 Star. Photo by Abby Powell.

When working with Boyd there’s always something to do, Steph explains. But the bustling environment at Windurra is fitting for an active person like Steph, who enjoys the variety and intensity. “I like that there’s not a ton of standing around or doing the same thing every day,” she explained. “We’re always running around and horses are coming and going.”

While it’s a dream for many, Steph wasn’t expecting a trip to the Olympics when she first started grooming. “Obviously, it was always a dream, but I didn’t really think I would ever get there,” she said. “Being able to go to Tokyo and with one of my favorite horses [Boyd Martin’s Tsetserleg TSF, owned by Christine, Thomas and Tommie Turner] was really huge — being able to be part of something that’s so much bigger than anything you could ever imagine.”


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With her high level of experience and years on the job, Steph has valuable advice for those wanting to become a groom or barn manager: “If you are unsure of how to do something, whether it’s wrapping or giving injections, seek out people in your life that know what you don’t.” Indeed, when it comes to proper horse management — at the five-star level or the Starter level — is a continuing education. You truly don’t know what you don’t know, which is why it’s always better to ask for help than assume, Steph says.

Not only is asking questions useful, but going the extra mile will also set you apart. “If you want to be in a position where you are one of the best in the industry then you have to be able to rise to the occasion and go above and beyond,” Steph advised. “Stay late and come early.”

Steph plans to continue grooming in the future and possibly become a part of committees and help other grooms along the way. Grooming has become a larger topic of much-needed conversation in recent months, with grooms mobilizing to have greater representation within governing bodies and protections on the job. “Whether that’s in a formal type situation or not, I want to be a resource for people while continuing to be able to travel,” Steph said.

Go Steph and Go Eventing.

Taylor Greene: From the Jumper Ring to an Eventing Euro Tour with Tamie Smith

Taylor Greene, from Nipomo, California unexpectedly found herself grooming for Tamie Smith in Europe at Aachen and Boekelo in the fall of 2021. Follow along as we learn about her journey!

Tamie Smith’s groom, Taylor Greene, takes on horse-whisperer duties. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Originally, grooming wasn’t exactly at the top of Taylor’s list. She was working for a hunter jumper trainer in San Luis Obispo, Ca., but her parents met Tamie at an event since they are photographers for most of the events on the Central Coast through the always popular Marcus Greene Outdoor Photography. “When [Tamie] had posted that she was looking for somebody, my mom had asked me and I was like, ‘no I like the situation I’m in now!'”


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Tamie posted seeking a groom again, and after some convincing, Taylor gave it a shot. She felt she had the base of knowledge she’d need for the job at hand through her riding and experience in other disciplines. “I feel like I have learned a lot from riding with her even though eventing isn’t my discipline,” she said.”

Taylor started by helping Tamie, then switched to helping Kaylawna Smith-Cook, Tamie’s daughter. One week, Taylor found herself working fully for Tamie, and a few weeks later, Tamie asked her to travel to Europe and be her groom there. “How do you really say no to all of that?” Taylor said. “So I was just like, ‘okay!’”

When Tamie went back to the U.S. for a few events during the Euro Tour, Taylor enjoyed staying with the horses — the Ahearn family and Eric Markell’s Mai Baum, Ruth Bley’s Danito and Julianna Guariglia’s Solaguayre California — in Europe. “I was able to lesson with Johann Hinnemann and really work on dressage,” she recalled. “And I was able to learn so much more about riding because she was gone and I had to ride the horses.”


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Grooming in Europe did come with some challenges for Taylor. “I’m kind of a perfectionist, which is very hard to be when I’m trying to learn how to do something,” she explained. “So because I’ve never groomed before, I’m learning how Tamie likes everything done and just how to time manage everything. With those horses, there’s the physio and in Germany I put them on the treadmill daily or twice a day, and then there was the riding and the evening physio. I think just trying to make everything perfect and being the best that I could be was probably the most challenging.”

Taylor got a system going when she groomed for Tamie, with her Notes app on her phone quickly becoming her best friend for keeping track of tasks and staying organized. Taylor would write everything she needed to do in her Notes app and plan out her day from there.

“Whatever the ride time would be, I would have them ready ten minutes before she wanted to be on,” she explained. “I’d start getting ready 45 minutes before that just in case we needed to do a tack swap or something didn’t fit properly or something broke, or I got caught up doing something else.”

After the whirlwind tour and crash course in becoming an eventing groom, Taylor has since returned home and is focusing on her own riding. She has four horses of her own, which makes it difficult to be a full-time groom. She grooms for riders sometimes, and she recently helped her hunter jumper friend at a show. Going forward, Taylor wants to focus on her own four horses, and says she wants to “maybe pursue a different career, but always stay riding.”


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Go Taylor and Go Eventing.

More Than Meets the Eye: RNS Video Media

There is so much more that goes into putting on an event than meets the eye. In this series, “More Than Meets the Eye”, we’ll be taking a deeper dive into all the people who make events what they are: videographers, photographers, course builders, volunteers, you name it! In part four of this series, we take a look into RNS Video Media and its founder, Lou Ann Franicich. To nominate someone to be featured in this series, please email [email protected]. To read more articles in this series, click here.

RNS Video Media at work! Photo courtesy of RNS Video Media.

EN: How did you get started with RNS?

RNS: Originally it was called Captain Edgar’s VideoWorks. It was 1989 and video was brand new. First off, I never intended to do any of this. I was a musician and you couldn’t make any money doing that. My mother, after deciding that she wanted to go to Vienna decided to buy a very expensive video camera. She had the 8mm cameras for a long time but this was a step up. So we took that camera to Austria. When I came back it kind of sat on the shelf and it was an expensive thing to just sit on the shelf.

I always wanted a horse, but could never afford one. I was in my twenties and I fell into a situation where I could get this horse for basically nothing because they didn’t want him anymore. I didn’t know anything about riding, so I came upon a trainer and I started working with him. I still sucked. The guy that I was seeing at the time suggested taping me on my mom’s video camera. I saw all the stuff I was doing wrong and I started to get better fast. The women at the barn were like how are you doing that? I said well, it’s this thing called video. At the time there was no such thing. So they said well can you tape me? And I was like well I got to pay for this horse. So I said for 20 bucks I can tape you! We just kept expanding from there.

EN: How did RNS get into the eventing community?

RNS: Well, we started with dressage because that was something you could do without worrying about jumps and going out into a field. Myself and my partner at the time, Roger, who is deceased now, started going to dressage shows and maybe a couple of jumper shows. Roger suggested covering an eventing show and we went up not knowing what we were facing. We knew there were three phases and they did something out in the field but we happened to pick a show that literally everything was in the woods. You could only see one, maybe two jumps from any given place. Roger would say to everybody in warm up “Do you want a video or what?” And that became a catchphrase at the beginning and we had t-shirts with that on there. The first event we went to we got about six or seven orders and there were two cameras, meaning there were two fences on cross country. People were enjoying it because there was no such thing. Nobody had video, so they thought it was cool. It was something. But again it was meant to be something to make us money while we were trying to do something with the music industry.

EN: What do you do in the music industry?

RNS: I have done a lot with different start-ups and different studios. I never planned on being a video person, but I ended being that way. I work for a lot of people that you don’t know and I’ve worked with a handful you might know. I’ve worked for the Buckinghams and The Loving’s Spoonful. I actually worked for Beyoncé once, when she was forming her all girl band, assisting with the Chicago auditions. I never got back to my own music and now that I’m getting older I might decide to go back to that.

Where the magic happens! Photo courtesy of RNS Video Media.

EN: What has been the hardest part about starting RNS?

RNS: This makes a living. You’re going to pay your bills. You have a job. It’s a slow climb, like anything else. We were in a position once at Virginia Horse Trials and we had tents at the time because we couldn’t sustain hotel rooms. It was a terrible storm and we were hiding in the shower rooms. Somebody threw a tarp under a picnic table and sat under that. Then we went and shot cross country the next morning. It’s expensive when you’re doing it with a crew. We would have to have six or seven people with us to cover a course and it was ridiculously expensive, it’s still expensive.

EN: What’s your favorite part about videoing people’s rides?

RNS: Having them buy them and enjoy them. I’ve seen tons of people throughout the years, so I’ve seen that the styles have changed. Lots of stuff has changed over the 30 plus years that we’ve been out there. It used to be a lot more strategic with more verticals. Now there’s a lot more galloping and big obstacles as opposed to short and tight ones. So it’s also been cool to see the styles change.

EN thanks RNS Video Media for capturing these moments throughout the past years. Check them out here.

Go RNS and Go Eventing.

More Than Meets the Eye: Ride On Photo

There is so much more that goes into putting on an event than meets the eye. In this series, “More Than Meets the Eye”, we’ll be taking a deeper dive into all the people who make events what they are: videographers, photographers, course builders, volunteers, you name it! In part two of this series, we take a look into how the new photo division of Ride On Video, Ride On Photo, was created. To nominate someone to be featured in this series, please email [email protected].

Emilee Libby and Jakobi. Photo by Ride On Photo.

The creators of Ride On Video always thought it would only be fit to also have a photo division as well. It just so happens that Tayler, their daughter, has a knack for photography.

Tayler has been riding since she was five years old and has been interested in photography her whole life. “My parents got me little cameras when I was younger and I’d run around taking pictures all the time,” she explains. As she got older and Ride On Video was formed, she got involved in the business and worked for some show photographers. When she saw the need for photography in Area 6, she decided to take a leap and start her own business, Ride On Photo.

“Honestly, I love candid moments and stuff like that. I like capturing that excitement and joy as they’re galloping along and giving their horse a pat. It’s fun for me to capture all those little things that everyone has. It’s such a solitary thing and you can get focused on what you’re doing with the photography and I just enjoy that,” Tayler says.

Tayler and her trainer, who both have a passion for photography, looking through photos they just captured. Photo courtesy of Ride On Video.

Tayler especially enjoys capturing the liveliness of the intro divisions at events. ”The little kids coming up is one of my favorite divisions to take photos of. They are always so excited and learning all the things. That’s one of my favorite things.”

Much like Ride On Video, a lot more goes into Ride On Photo that meets the eye. The day starts with getting things organized and scoping out the cross country course. Tayler figures out where the lighting would be ideal and what jumps are best to shoot. After a day of shooting, the cameras are offloaded and photos are organized into their correct folders. With a few editing touches, the photos are uploaded online and sent off to people.

Tayler has only just started her business, but she couldn’t be more excited. “It was a big step, but I am glad that I did it. It was a scary step to do, but it’s worth it. I was terrified going into my first show that I was doing, but I did it and I realized that I got this!”

EN wishes Tayler luck as she continues making her passion a business. Be sure to check out Ride On Photo’s latest shots here.

Stay tuned for the next installment of this series, where we’ll hear from some more show photographers. Go Eventing.

Land Rover Kentucky Rookies: Fylicia Barr and Galloway Sunrise

Welcome to EN’s annual series celebrating the first-timers making their five-star debut at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event! We continue with our next CCI5* first-timer, Fylicia Barr and Galloway Sunrise. To read more of EN’s Kentucky coverage, click here.

Fylicia Barr and Galloway Sunrise. Photo by Shelby Allen.

It all started with a suspicious Craigslist ad and a feral horse for Fylicia Barr and Galloway Sunrise. Their strong 12 year partnership started with “Sunny” attempting to kick Fylicia, but she took the chance anyways. Fast forward to today, and Fylicia and Sunny are headed to the Kentucky Land Rover Three-Day Event to make their five-star debut. We were fortunate enough to talk with her about this upcoming first experience for the pair.

EN: How does it feel, having a partnership with Galloway Sunrise since you were 13 years old and now you are going to Kentucky?

FB: It’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid so to finally be here and with a horse I’ve grown up with is really incredible. Our partnership is so strong and we know each other so well I’m really looking forward to the whole experience.

EN: What advice would you give your younger self watching Kentucky for the first time?

FB: I would tell my younger self to just stay focused and enjoy the journey. To not let the lows feel so low and to really celebrate the highs along the way!

EN: What was it like qualifying last year but having to wait until this year to be able to compete?

FB: It was devastating to not be able to run. That being said I still consider myself very lucky. A lot of families were severely impacted by the pandemic and although LK3DE was canceled my horse and I were healthy and I was able to keep working and training.

EN: Do you think the absence of spectators will help or hurt you and Sunny?

FB: Honestly she’s a horse that usually stays pretty focused. When she’s in the zone it doesn’t matter if there is a big crowd or just the two of us. It will be bitter sweet to not experience the energy of the crowd on XC day but I’ll know when I leave the start box I have a ton of people cheering us on through the live feed!

EN: Have you been focusing on anything in particular with your training in preparation for Kentucky?

FB: In the past when she’s been this fit she has become a little less ridable in all three phases. So I’ve been really focused on just keeping her relaxed and happy in her work.

EN: What will be your strengths and weaknesses going into Kentucky?

FB: I would say our biggest strength would be our partnership. We know and trust each other completely and I’m really looking forward to the challenge. A weakness would just be the fact that it’s our first 5* and I can’t let nerves affect my rides.

EN wishes Fylicia and Sunny the best of luck at their first Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day! Stay tuned for more “rookie” profiles and other lead-up stories as we get closer to the April 22 start of competition.

Land Rover Kentucky: [Website] [Entry List] [EN’s Coverage]

More That Meets the Eye: How Ride On Video Started With Some Borrowed Cameras and an Idea

There is so much more that goes into putting on an event than meets the eye. In this series, “More Than Meets the Eye”, we’ll be taking a deeper dive into all the people who make events what they are: videographers, photographers, course builders, volunteers, you name it! In part one of this series, we take a look into how California-based videography service Ride On Video creates priceless footage for eventers of all levels. To nominate someone to be featured in this series, please email [email protected].

Photo courtesy of Ride On Video.

Ride On Video – a California-based videography service we all know and love – has been videoing West coast events for nearly 14 years.

A media background combined with some people skills was the perfect match to kick-start Ride On Video for founders Bob and Debi, but they never planned to start such an operation. Their daughter, Tayler, was competing one weekend and they got a little bored, so they jokingly said, “Go ask people if they want you to film them.” Next thing you know, a friend introduced them to other trainers, which led to them filming breed shows. Ride On Video was on to something – they could earn back their daughter’s entry fees and it was fun!

“I always joke that Ride On Video was started on two borrowed cameras and an idea because at the time we didn’t have good video cameras, we would borrow from friends,” the founders explained. The budding service began to cover driving shows and ventured out to the eventing world. They had just a few cameras, but they also had a lot of heart and fell in love with the sport fast.

A perfect filming setup! Photo by Ride On Video.

“What’s number one to us is the riders. What we do is for the riders. We always want to put out the best thing that we can for the riders. One: it’s the best lesson they can spend their money on, watching their competition with their trainer and studying it. Two: if you have a great go, what a great thing, right? It’s priceless.”

A lot goes into the process of filming for Ride On Video, which proudly films every rider competing so that a later order may be placed. From arranging travels to uploading the footage, it takes a whole team. The Ride On Video crew starts at a show at about 5 a.m., getting the schedule from the show office and setting up each camera. It’s not just the cameras, though. Each numbered camera has a corresponding tripod, battery, radio, and clipboard which all go in the corresponding bag. After shooting the riders, footage gets compressed in order to go to editing. Once edited, the video gets uploaded to the website. “It’s labor intensive, but it’s a labor of love,” Ride On Video says.

Photo courtesy of Ride On Video.

“If you were at the Olympics or if you’re the intro kid, I cheer for you all the same. I admire these riders so much. What they do is so special,” the company explained. From the riders that are starting at their first rated show to the professionals, the team loves to hear how their rides went and keeps up with the community on social media. “People always ask what the secret of Ride On Video is and I feel that it is that we passionately love the sport and the people in it.”

Stay tuned for a feature coming next on the new arm of Ride On Video: Ride On Photo. To find Ride On Video at an event near you, visit

Go Eventing.