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Taleen Hanna


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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.

A Soft Landing for OTTBs: Meet Suzanna Norris, Founder of Hidden Acres Rescue for Thoroughbreds

Quite a few eventers take pride in restarting OTTBs to event, and Suzanna Norris is no different. I was fortunate enough to have a chat with Suzee about her love for the breed and her aftercare organization, Hidden Acres Rescue for Thoroughbreds (HART). Founded in September 2011 in Cocoa, Florida, HART is a safe space for OTTBs and has successfully adopted out 150 horses ot happy and healthy homes.

Q: What was your inspiration for HART?

A: I’ve been riding all my life and as a teenager, I always had a soft place for thoroughbreds. I didn’t understand that the horses coming off the track didn’t have a place to go, so I connected with an organization and started learning more about aftercare. I was compelled to step into action, so I started HART. I’ve always had a passion for thoroughbreds—horses for sure—but thoroughbreds have always had a soft place in my heart.

Suzanna and her first TB, Megsense (aka Webster) won the High Point Rider Award at the 1989 4-H show. Photo courtesy of Suzanna Norris.

Q: How did you get your start into riding?

A: I joke around with everybody, I think it was a genetic defect. My twin sister and I harassed my dad at an early age for riding lessons and my dad finally gave in and it kind of escalated from there. He kind of thought it was a phase and that we’d grow up to be engineers. So we did get engineering degrees but we ended up moving to the horse business anyway. I believe it’s my calling, honestly. I believe I’m here for the horses and I guess specifically for the thoroughbreds.

Q: How did you go from engineering to a horse business?

A: I come from a family of engineers and I’m kind of designed to be an engineer. When I went to college, I got a civil engineering degree but throughout college, I had my horses and I worked on a Trakehner breeding farm. When I graduated, I got a job as an engineer, but even on the side, I started a pony training business with one of my friends that I met on the Trakehner farm.

Finally, I was 28 years old and I decided to move into the horse world. It all just kind of evolved from there. I bought my horse farm in 2006 and eventually in 2011 is when we became a non-profit and started our aftercare organization officially.

Q: What is your favorite part about working with OTTBs?

A: I love the underdog. I like to get down to that horse’s level and learn who they are and help them succeed in our human world with our expectations. Of course, the most rewarding part of that is seeing them transform and become a horse that is more comfortable in their skin. Every day I get to experience a smile on someone’s face or a transformation in their lives because of their connection with the horses. There’s so much need for positivity that I just want to be a little part of that the best I can and these horses give me that ability to do so.

Comrade and Suzanna at Tryon International Equestrian Center. Photo courtesy of Tracey Butcher.

Q: Is there a specific horse you’ve worked with that has stuck out to you?

A: Of course they are all special in their sort of way. I had a horse that I adopted about three years ago and developed for the Retired Racehorse Project in 2017. He was a big 17-hand unicorn. His racing name was Ratnik, which is a Russian name for a warrior, so we named him Comrade in the barn as a spinoff of the Russian thing. He came to us from a good home off the track, but when he got to us he had a lot of abscesses. I was able to get him to the makeover even though we weren’t able to train as much as we wanted to because of some of the issues he had. I fell in love with him, but when I met Dana, who owns him now, I knew it was the right home and he’s been spoiled rotten! She does lower level eventing with him and he’s deserving of the best of homes.

Q: How has this Covid had an impact on HART this year?

A: You know, I feel like to get these horses in from the track and develop them, there’s always more to do than you can manage. This year has kind of felt the same. But we were a little worried when everything shut down in March so we buckled down and went after every bit of funding we could find. We got some emergency funds from the Thoroughbred Charities of America which was great. We were also able to get some funding locally through the government so that helped keep us afloat. There’s always more to spend and more to have so really just balancing the care of the horses with the money coming in is key.

HART’s wonderful volunteers are a big help! Photo courtesy of Suzanna Norris.

Q: What can the readers do to help?

A: Everybody can help in their own big or small way. To me, one of the easiest ways people can help is on Amazon Smile. You can just go on Amazon, choose Hidden Acres as your charity of choice, and every time you shop we’ll get a small percentage of it. Donating equipment and creating awareness is helpful too. There are reputable organizations like HART and other Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA) organizations. You can go on the TAA website and see other organizations that are held to high standards through the TAA. If you’re close to one of the organizations, you can go ride or clean stalls. At HART, a lot of people are there to learn and grow, so we offer opportunities for them to work with the horses. If you’re looking for a horse, look at HART or other organizations to see if they have a horse that might suit your needs.

Go Thoroughbreds. Go Eventing.

Zoe Crawford & K.E.C. Zara Are Full Speed Ahead Toward the TIEC CCI4*-L

Zoe Crawford and K.E.C. Zara. Photo by Shelby Allen.

The cancellation of the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event was heartbreaking for all of us, but it was especially frustrating for Zoe Crawford and her 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare, K.E.C. Zara (Aldatus Z x Puissance Flight, by Puissance). The pair had their sights set on Kentucky being their first CCI5*, but this year came with a different outcome.

“It was disappointing in the spring not being able to go, but knowing that I had a lot of downtime, I was able to go back and have a refresher on the basics with her and practice seemingly simple things,” Zoe, a 25-year-old from Reddick, Florida, said. “Fine-tuning the basics has let me ride her faster and be a bit more confident in everything we do.”

Clearly, their hard work is paying off because the pair had the fastest CCI4*-S cross country at Stable View Oktoberfest last month, only coming in five seconds over the optimum time. They carried two time penalties, adding to their dressage score of a 37.3 to end in 10th in a massive division of 40 riders. (View EN’s coverage of the event here.)

Zoe Crawford and K.E.C. Zara. Photo by Shelby Allen

“I knew she’s always been a really fast horse, but it’s taken a while to sort of find the balance of being able to go quickly and have enough control to get everything done,” Zoe said. “I walked parts of the course where I could shave off a few seconds, like cutting close to some trees or taking tighter turns into a few combinations, but she’s also incredibly quick across the ground, so I knew that she would be pretty quick around the course.”

Zoe and “Zara” have been partners for eight years, working their way from both of their first Novice events to becoming a competitive pair at the 4* level. The bond between this pair is evident, especially since they have worked up the levels together. They claimed a fourth-place individual finish in the CICY2* at NAJYRC in 2016 and started the 2020 season with a 12th place finish in the CCI4*-S at Red Hills. They were named to the 2020 USEF Eventing 25 Emerging Athlete Program.

The pair is aiming for the CCI4*-L at Tryon to continue out the season and Zoe is determined to head to Kentucky next year. “At this point, I know the events in the spring that are good for her, to get her prepared, so I have an idea of what events I am going to run leading up to Kentucky. She’s a horse that is incredibly easy to get fit, she never really gets tired,” Zoe said.

Zoe and Zara’s strong partnership will be one to keep your eye on!

Go Eventing.

Stable View Oktoberfest CCI4*-S Cross Country Live Updates: Liz Halliday-Sharp Wins!

Good morning eventing fans! It’s a lovely overcast day at Stable View, and we’re all set to start the Oktoberfest CCI4*-S cross country. Our first pair out with be Nilson da Silva and Magnum’s Martini at 10:16 a.m.

Two pairs have withdrawn before the final phase: Ashley Johnson with Firefly and Ronald Zabala-Goetschel
with Wundermaske. This leaves us with 38 pairs to contest Capt. Mark Phillips’ beefy track. Click here to see what they’re jumping today. They’ll want to do all this within the optimum time of six minutes and 16 seconds.

Keep refreshing this page for all the latest!

12:39 Clayton comes home with 6.8 time penalties, so Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill by Night are your CCI4*-S winners!

12:31 Doug Payne has picked up some time penalties keeping him out of the lead. That leaves only Clayton as he moves toward the finish.

12:23 Madeleine Scott and Crosby’s Gold have a third runout at 21 B, resulting in elimination.

12:23 Will Faudree provisionally has 12 time penalties, so now it’s only Doug and Clayton who could overtake Liz.

12:22 Madeleine Scott and Crosby’s Gold have a runout at 17b, the Dog Kennel Corner.

12:19 Waylon Roberts and Lancaster are on fire. They’re clear just four from home.

12:18 Madeleine Scott and Crosby’s Gold have a stop at 15B, a downhill wedge.

12:18 Liz has picked up 4.8 time penalties to have her on a score of 29.3. Will just finished without jump penalties, but he could go ahead along with Doug Payne and Quantum Leap and Clayton Fredericks and FE Stormtrooper.

12:13 Whoops! Annie Goodwin and Fedarman B accidentally jump the Intermediate Tiger Trap. Luckily, she realized her error before continuing. This will only cost her time penalties.

12:10 This just in: Liz and “Blackie” did have a handful of time penalties, but right now provisionally hold their lead on a score of 27. This could leave the door open for Will Faudree or Doug Payne to take the win.

12:09 Demons have been put to rest for Joe Meyer. With Clip Clop, he was slower and more careful to get a clear through 21.

12:05 Liz and Fernhill By Night are all business through the first water. They make it through the finish flags with no jump penalites — so now we eagerly await their time result.

12:04 Lucienne Elms and Diamond Duette have a stop at 19, the Pine Top Cross.

12:03 Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night, the overnight leaders, are on course.

12:01 Rebecca Brown and Dassett Choice go through the second water and 21 combination with ease, getting some cheers along the way.

11:54 Colleen Rutledge and Confidence Game are clear over the Stable View Brush.

11:50 An update on times: Zoe Crawford and K.E.C. Zara have so far been our fastest pair. They were five seconds above the optimum time.

11:48 Mexico’s Daniela Moguel and Cecelia make easy work of the Alp Brush combo at 15AB.

11:46 Megan Sykes and Classic’s Mojah make a quick turn of the combination at 21.

11:42 Second-placed Matt Flynn and Wizzerd are making quick work around this track. They have a confident five strides through the combination at 21.

11:38 Clayton Fredericks and FE Stormtrooper make it beautifully through the tricky turn to the Amen Corner at the 21AB combination.

11:31 Doug Payne and Vandiver make it clear through the Hillside Rails at 9A and the Hillside Triple Brush at 9B.

11:28 Victoria Garland and FE Capricino decide to retire after having two stops.

11:26 Cornelia Dorr and Daytona Beach 8 make it clear through the first water.

11:25 Nilson Moreira da Silva and Rock Phantom have a runout at the second element at 17 for their second stop on course.

11:19 We are pleased to report that Ellie and Zick Zack are both ok after their rider fall at 14.

11:18 Leslie Law and First Class are clear through the Barry’s Desk at 4.

11:15 After holding for a few minutes, Ashlyn Meuchel and Emporium continue on course.

11:08 Elinor Mac Phail O’Neal parted ways with Zick Zack at the Alp Corner at 14B. She took a few minutes to sit and catch her breath, but she’s up on her feet now.

11:07 Zachary and Direct Advance improvise through the combination at 21AB, making it work but taking the flag at the Amen Corner.

11:04 Zachary and Direct Advance make a bold jump through 15AB.

11:01 Zachary Brandt and Direct Advance are our latest starters.

10:58 Dana Cooke and FE Mississippi had a stop at the water at 11.

10:57 Karl and Fernhill Wishes make it beautifully through the 21AB combo.

10:55 Karl Slezak and Fernhill Wishes make it clear through the Skinny Brush at 15AB. Karl is the highest placed Canadian rider so far.

10:52 Ashley and Tactical Maneuver had a runout at the Amen Corner but make it safely through on the second attempt.

10:50 Ashley Johnson and Tactical Maneuver make it clear through the Elephant Trap at 16.

10:47 Hallie Coon and Celien had a runout at the Dog Kennel Corner, but made it clear on the second attempt.

10:39 Zoe Crawford and K.E.C. Zara clear through the Dog Kennel Corner at 17AB.

10:37 No one has been able to catch the time yet, but Nilson has come the closest with 2.4 time penalties, finishing just 6 seconds over.

10:36 Lucienne Elms and Mistralou lose their impulsion and have a stop at the Amen Corner at 21B. They’re nicely clear on their second attempt.

10:33 Rebecca Brown and Fernhill Fortitude had the cleanest ride through 21AB so far today even gathering some applause!

10:31 Joe Meyer and Johnny Royale picks up another runout at 21B but they are clear at the second attempt.

10:29 the latest starter is Rebecca Brown with Fernhill Fortitude. Joe Meyer and Johnny Royale had a runout at the corner at 14B.

10:28 Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights have a bold jump into the max-sized table at 21 A, and they take the flag at B, but they’re safe through there.

10:27 Joe Meyer through the hillside rail at 9AB.

10:25 Doug and “Gin” are through the Amen corner at 21B. This is a cheeky combination presented by Capt. Mark Phillips, but so far riders have gotten the job done.

10:21 Magnum’s Martini slips a bit coming through the tricky combination at 21, but looks keen as ever as he clears the corner at B.

10:20 Doug Payne and Starr Witness have joined us on the course.

10:18: Nilson and Magnum’s Martini are out on course! They are clear through five.

Shelby Allen contributed to this report. 

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The Girls in the Barn Next Door: Meet the Sisters Behind the Mud Studs & Skull Caps Podcast

It’s neat to get insight on what is happening in the eventing world through podcasts that dive deep into the professionals and big-names of the sport, but have you ever listened to one that is hosted by people just like you and me? Sisters Robin and Kelsey Loch have just the podcast for you!

The idea of Mud Studs & Skull Caps started as an idea for a blog they wanted to create years ago. They explain, “The blog would follow the journey of our new problem pony, sharing our experiences as we worked with her while providing unique training tips and tricks along the way. Turned out that we fixed the pony and never typed a single word for our blog.” Robin and Kelsey have revamped the idea, still sharing their experiences, to fit the podcast.

Photos courtesy of Robin and Kelsey Loch.

Although they live on opposite ends of the country, they still manage to produce quality content. To my surprise, Robin spends a lot of time editing to make the podcast seamless. Kelsey says, “Half the time our audio ends up with weird static noises … but when we do get usable audio, it’s from us speaking into podcasting microphones, while also on the phone with each other, recording our audio separately. There is some fancy editing where Robin pieces the audio together like a funky jigsaw puzzle.”

Kelsey and Robin explain that Mud Studs and Skull Caps is basically just them catching up, like they normally do, but into microphones. Their episodes range from talking about different horse boots to moving up the levels. They provide a perspective that any rider can relate to, especially since Robin and Kelsey have differing riding styles and body types. In their latest episode “the one where we try to balance life,” published today, the sisters break down how they try to balance horses, work and relationships: “Sometimes that balance works well, and sometimes everything seems to collapse!”

As for future plans, they “hope to continue to grow and learn personally [and] would like to be able to highlight the stories of other non-professionals throughout the horse community.” Kelsey and Robin let their passion pick their topics, which allows them to “feel truly invested in the information [they] are sharing.”

The real, unfiltered conversations about struggles we face daily as riders sets this podcast apart from others. “We are not professionals; we are just the girls in the barn next door,” they say. When listening to Mud Studs and Skull Caps, it feels like a casual conversation with a friend, which makes it enjoyable to listen to.

The Mud Studs and Skull Caps podcast is available on several podcast players including Apple, Google, Radio Public, Listen Notes, Overcast, Pocket Casts, Spotify and more. You can also follow them on Instagram @mudstuds_skullcaps.

Checking in With the 2020 E25 Athletes, Part 4: Kaylawna Smith-Cook, Jenny Caras & Felicia Barr

The 2020 USEF Eventing 25 Emerging Athletes Program is filled with talented and determined upcoming professionals. Just like the rest of us, these young adults have continued to persist throughout this year’s suspension of competitions. In part four of this series, we check in Kaylawna Smith-Cook, Jenny Caras and Felicia Barr to see how they spent their quarantine. 

Part 1: Alyssa Phillips, Megan Sykes, and Woodge Fulton

Part 2: Zoe Crawford and Madison Temkin

Part 3: Hallie Coon and Kalli Core

Kaylawna Smith-Cook and Passepartout. Photo by Kim Miller.

Kaylawna Smith-Cook is from Murrieta, California and had several top three-star finishes last season with Passepartout, including a win in the CCI3*-S at Woodside and a 4th in the CCI3*-L at Galway Downs. Her time at home has allowed her to focus on a newer ride, Mai Blume. 

“Initially I was very disappointed when our season was postponed. I had just run my second event of the year and everything was off to a great start. I can say now, I’m grateful for the time I’ve had to train and build a better relationship with each of my horses. I truly feel like I’ve used this time to really break down the training I have on each horse and focus on what my horses and I need to work on together. 

“I have a mare that I picked up the ride on early this year (MaiBlume). She’s a 9-year-old German Warmblood. At the beginning of the year I felt like I really needed some extra time for us to get to know eachother but was conflicted with the show season in full force. She’s a hotter horse and a mare! So of course bonding is essential. This extra time has been awesome for that!” 

Jenny Caras and Trendy Fernhill. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Jenny Caras

Jenny Caras is from Cartersville, Georgia. She has competed at the Land Rover Kentucky 3-Day Event and Badminton. She started off this season moving Trendy Fernhill up to Advanced at Pinetop. 

“Before all the events were put on hold due to Covid-19 my season started out just how I hoped it would. I had just moved Trendy Fernhill up to the Advanced level at the February Pine Top where he finished second, and had been named to the Futures Team Challenge list for Carolina International. I had my sights set on getting Joey to the Rebecca Farm CCI4*-L. When it was announced that our season was going to be put on hold, I have to admit that I was slightly lost. Thankfully my fiancé Waylon Roberts and I had just taken a horse shopping trip over to Ireland and England and were able to get three lovely new horses imported before the borders shut down. So with all of our competitions on hold, I turned my attention back to focusing on training the horses that we’ve had and developing a relationship with the new ones so that when the time came I’d be able to hit the ground running. 

“I treated the down time like I treat the normal off season. Just focusing on having the horses as happy and well as possible while trying to keep them progressing in their training. It is a lot of stress on the horses going to events and being away from home for periods of time and although it is easy for me to feel behind due to missing the spring season and having to postpone some of the competition goals for the horses, I have really enjoyed being able to focus on training my horses without the pressure of competing. It has also been great to be able to spend a little extra time with my family!” 

Fylicia Barr and Galloway Sunrise. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Fylicia Barr 

Fylicia Barr is from West Grove, Pennsylvania and had top finishes on Galloway Sunrise last season including a win in the Jersey Fresh CCI4*-L. Even though she was aiming for Kentucky this year, she still made the most of her time at home. 

“I won’t lie, at first it was hard to stay motivated but once the initial disappointment of all of the cancellations wore off I was able to shift my focus. During the competition season it is easy to feel like you’re constantly playing catch up and the time off allowed me to take a step back and focus on making my horses overall happier and stronger. My upper level horse who was aimed for Kentucky enjoyed a bit of time off. After her time off I spent a lot of time going back over the basics and polishing up our dressage work. 

“Unfortunately during the stay at home order I was forced to close my barn to everyone except staff. Most of my days were filled with training my young prospects and my students’ horses. Spending so much time watching the young horses learn and get better with each ride was really satisfying. We also found creative and fun ways to keep my riders involved from home. 

“The shutdown allowed me to spend extra time in the barn with each horse. I think it can become very easy to take things for granted and I feel very lucky to be where I am doing what I love. I am grateful to be surrounded by amazing horses and people. We all kept each other motivated and sane! We’re all looking forward to getting back out and competing safely in the future!” 

Go Eventing.

Ride Heels Down: Both Mantra and a Business

The phrase “Heels down!” is one we constantly hear our trainer say or one we think as we approach that massive table. While this may be a staple mantra for us, Ainsley Jacobs has turned it into a business.

Those heels, tho! The jump that started it all. Photo courtesy of Halliea Milner, Go With It Farm.

The birth of Ride Heels Down came in September 2014 when Ainsley was jumping her first Novice height course in a lesson. “As JJ and I cantered towards a ‘big’ oxer, I told myself ‘heels down, hold on, and let JJ do his job.’ I thought the phrase ‘heels down and hold on’ would make

a cool t-shirt, and then immediately realized I still had to survive the course before I could start being creative … ha!” After successfully finishing their first Novice course, Ainsley went home to start designing and the rest was history.

Ride Heels Down was officially launched on September 1, 2015 and even had its first sale, from New Zealand, on that day. Ainsley started selling her products at local shows with what she had– mismatched table cloths, an old Maxxis Tires pop-up tent, and some plastic folding tables. Ainsley’s day job in her automotive aftermarket and performance industry company, P. TEN Marketing, has helped her immensely with the growth of Ride Heels Down.

“I was able to design a logo, build a website, and develop an online strategy to get things going right from day one. I just considered it to be another one of my clients, added Ride Heels Down to my daily task list, and, before long, my idea for a little t-shirt shop had become a reality.”

Ainsley and JJ. Photo courtesy of Lauren New, River Birch Farm.

If you know Ainsley’s horse, JJ, you love him. He is well known for his series, “Will JJ Eat It?” Ainsley says, “JJ has been a big inspiration for shirt designs … I love that he’s so loved, he’s definitely got a fan club! We have had some ups and downs, but he has taught me more about riding than I had learned in a lifetime, and eventing as well has elevated me as an overall equestrian.”

A sampling of the amazing Ride Heels Down products. Photo courtesy of Ride Heels Down.

The Ride Heels Down designs are relatable to all disciplines. Phrases like “Everything hurts and I’m dying” paired with some stirrups on the super soft t-shirt material make for a perfect staple in your closet. Ride Heels Down has t-shirts, hoodies, hats, stickers, jewelry, koozies, socks, you name it, they have it! You can shop their products here.

Ainsley is motivated daily by the people she surrounds herself with in the automotive industry. The “self-made entrepreneurs and first-class world champion drivers” are “relentless in their pursuit of success,” which gives her motivation to continually search for success as well. She is
also driven by how far she’s come since a tough childhood.

Ainsley hopes that Ride Heels Down will “go from a small business to a medium or even large one that can sustain itself as an independent entity instead of just a fun side-hobby.” Even though the small business sustains only itself, it’s what keeps Ainsley going. Her ultimate goal is to have Ride Heels Down apparel in big-name retailers like Dover or Smartpak.

Ainsley and the Ride Heels Down booth. Photo courtesy of Mary Campbell, Mare Goods.

Ainsley is not just your typical rider/ businesswoman. She is one of the most genuine and enthusiastic people you will ever meet. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know her throughout the past few years, and she is truly one of a kind. When you walk up to her tent she is actually interested in how you are doing instead of just trying to sell her product. Ainsley’s enthusiasm for running Ride Heels Down and her genuine encouragement embodies the strong community in the equestrian industry.

Go Ainsley and Go Eventing!

Checking in With the 2020 E25 Athletes, Part 3: Hallie Coon & Kalli Core

The 2020 USEF Eventing 25 Emerging Athlete Program is filled with talented and determined upcoming professionals. Just like the rest of us, these young adults have continued to persist throughout the suspension of competitions. In this three-part series, you will get to find out how some of these riders spent their quarantine. In part two, we catch up with Hallie Coon and Kalli Core. You can read part one of the series with Alyssa Phillips, Megan Sykes, and Woodge Fulton here, and part two with Zoe Crawford & Madison Temkin here.

Hallie Coon and Celien. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Hallie Coon

Hallie Coon, from Ocala, started a strong season with Celien and Cooley SOS before quarantine. Celien placed 3rd in the CCI 4*-S at Red Hills and was named the 2019 USEA Mare of the Year.

“This spring has been an interesting and uncertain time for all of us, but I think it’s been a blessing in disguise for some, if not most of us event riders. I know that’s going to be an unpopular opinion but it’s given me time to really think things through, reevaluate my program and go back to the basics to fix the holes in the boat that I may not have been wanting to admit had temporary plugs.

“I’ve been able to take the time to go back to a simple loose ring snaffle on all my horses in their training and see what a bigger bit may have been covering up. This alone was a huge step for me in the way I think and getting back to the correct basics in producing these horses. Another focus has been working the horses on the ground, including regular line work and long lining which has made a huge difference in several of my more insecure young horses. With 10+ young horses in the barn, it’s been incredible to have the extra time to focus on producing them the slow, correct way.

“The frustration has come in more heavily with the more experienced horses that should have run long formats this spring, but all I can do now is hope that they have something in the fall to be aimed at. Celien and Cooley SOS have been in light work as they won’t go out competing until August, they have a ways to go until their long formats (Cooley SOS is aimed at the Jockey Club CCI4-L and Celien will hopefully be returning to Pau CCI5*).

“Having purchased a farm in Ocala in late January, which had been abandoned for two years and in a serious state might I add, has also been an incredible motivating factor this spring. There has been an endless list of things to do around the farm and it’s finally coming together. We now have a cross country jump field complete with a water jump, 19 paddocks to mirror the number stalls, a beautiful show jump field, and two arenas in the works and scheduled to be finished in the next two weeks.”

Kalli Core and Cooley Master Courage competing in the Virginia Horse Trials CCI*. Photo by official photographer, Brant Gamma Photography.

Kalli Core

Kalli Core, from Orange, Texas, had a great go last season, winning the CCI3*-L at Rebecca Farm with Cooley Master Courage. The pair ended on their dressage score of 30.7 to dominate the division of 18 competitors.

“I never would have thought, that after our normal winter trip to Florida, it would have been my last competition for a while. For myself, and I’m sure the majority of riders, this pause in competitions was really disappointing. Plans were changed and goals were pushed back for everyone. When that happens, it’s always hard. We love the sport and part of that love is the ability to compete with our horses. But during this time, there was also the opportunity for growth. You take a moment to reevaluate, set a new plan and then you get to work. For me, this time has turned out to be very impactful. Each day is a new day and one to focus on putting everything I have into bettering my riding and my horses.

“For my young horse, Dobby, I have been using this time to foster our relationship and build his trust. I recently purchased him in December and am thankful for this time we have had to spend with each other. It has been a really fun process learning together and having the ability and time to get creative. Angela, my coach, and I have been working hard to help Dobby become braver on cross country. He is great and extremely careful but just needs a bit more confidence. We have been lunging him over cross country jumps and the process has been really rewarding. I cannot wait to take him to his first event back as I think it will feel like a completely different horse underneath me.

“For my upper level horse, Courage, we have been working hard filling in all the gaps. I have been working on his softness and rideability both in the show jumping but more recently out cross country. We have been setting up some hard accuracy/turning questions out cross country to help teach him to look through the bridle better. We had worked through a lot at the beginning of the year and this break has been great for all of the little details. Courage has never felt better, and I truly feel like this time without competitions has helped us reach a whole new level of education. I am hoping to take him advanced in the fall and Angela and I have been working hard to prepare us both. He is such a special horse and I feel so blessed to be the one riding him. I can’t wait to compete at Virginia Horse Trials for our first competition back.”

“This time without competing has been different but I think in ways it has been super beneficial because it has pushed me to work even harder. I am taking the time to do things like riding a horse each day with no stirrups and one with a whip across my hands. I am grateful for the time I’ve had and cannot wait to get back competing very soon.”

Go Eventing.


Checking in With the 2020 E25 Athletes, Part 2: Zoe Crawford & Madison Temkin

Photo of Madison Temkin by Sherry Stewart / Zoe Crawford by Lisa Madren

The 2020 USEF Eventing 25 Emerging Athlete Program is filled with talented and determined upcoming professionals. Just like the rest of us, these young adults have continued to persist throughout the suspension of competitions. In this three-part series, you will get to find out how some of these riders spent their quarantine. In part one, we catch up with Zoe Crawford and Madison Temkin. You can read part one of the series with Alyssa Phillips, Megan Sykes, and Woodge Fulton here.

Zoe Crawford

Zoe Crawford, from Reddick, Florida, started this season out strong with K.B.S Quick Strike and K.E.C Zara picking up few penalties to add on to their dressage scores at Red Hills. Zoe and K.E.C Zara have been partners since 2015.

“Of course the cancellation of the spring season was very disappointing especially when I had my sights set on my first 5* at Kentucky. The first few weeks of quarantine I gave my horses a little downtime. They had a few weeks out in the field and then went on lots of hacks and trail rides. It is sometimes nice to not have the pressures of a competition calendar to enjoy just riding and being around horses.

“The funny thing about horses is they sort of train you for times like these. That is the unexpected and unplanned. Although there are no competitions to help stay motivated, I have found that I have really enjoyed having this time with my horses. There are so many training videos on the internet of different cavaletti, dressage, and showjump exercises that I usually wouldn’t have time to try because of competitions. Quarantine has been great for trying new exercises, training techniques, and approaches to improving the overall quality of my horses’ work.

“Along with online training videos to try I love watching old competition videos from Burghley, Badminton and Kentucky. You can find plenty of years’ worth of competition videos online. I want to be at those events competing one day. Watching the likes of Andrew Nicolson, Ros Cantor, and Michael Jung gallop around those enormous tracks effortlessly motivates me to work as hard as I can so that one day I will be riding around those tracks too!”

Madison Temkin

Madison Temkin is from Sebastopol, California and has been competing on Dr. Hart and MVP Madbum. Madison and both of her horses had a great run last season, ending in the top 15 at Stable View and Fresno County Horse Park.

“During these times of uncertainty this spring I have found different ways to keep myself and my horses motivated. Luckily for me, I live on my farm. As the world around us feels a bit like it is collapsing, I have been blessed in the fact that my life truly hasn’t changed that much. At the beginning of quarantine, I backed off of my upper level horses a bit and gave them an easy few weeks.

“As we begin to (hopefully) see a light at the end of the tunnel, I have begun training harder again. I have taken this time of no shows to really work on my flat work as well as some footwork and ride-ability exercises in the jumping, that really work on educating my horses and making them think. The horses have also been doing quite a bit of water fitness work which has been a great tool to get them fitter and stronger without the stress on their legs. It’s incredible to see how much they have changed over these last few weeks because of it. One of the most motivating things for me is that because we have had all this time off, I want to come out with stronger, more competitive, and fitter horses than I had in the beginning of the year.

“One of the other things that has helped me stay very motivated and focused is that this time off of traveling has been an incredible opportunity to work with the young horses and my students. As much as I strive to see change and improvement in my own riding and my competition horses, I love to see and feel the young horses develop as it gives me a bit of a glimpse into the future with them which in itself, is very motivating for me. It’s hard when we are traveling and competing to truly give them the time they need.

“I have been able to continue taking lessons and most recently had a great couple days of lessons with Tamie Smith, which just makes me even more eager to get back to it. This was definitely not my plan for 2020, but life tends to throw curveballs and at the end of the day, what matters most is how you react to them. I hope that we can get back to showing soon and finish off the year with a few great events.”

“With so much happening around me on the farm it’s been hard to lack motivation — we have a brilliant place to train now and I’m so incredibly grateful for that — the only thing that can dampen the positivity is the possibility that the remaining fall fixtures will cancel. In that case — we will come to guns blazing in 2021! Cheers to all, and hoping to see you all (distantly) soon!”

Go Eventing.

Checking in with the 2020 E25 Athletes, Part 1: Alyssa Phillips, Megan Sykes & Woodge Fulton

The 2020 USEF Eventing 25 Emerging Athlete Program is filled with talented and determined upcoming professionals. Just like the rest of us, these young adults have continued to persist throughout the suspension of competitions. In this three-part series, you will get to find out how some of these riders spent their quarantine. In part one, we catch up with Alyssa Phillips, Megan Sykes and Woodge Fulton.

Alyssa Phillips and Oskar. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Alyssa Phillips

Alyssa Phillips is from Fort Worth, Texas. She is a five-time NAJYRC medalist and is currently competing Oscar at the four-star level. They ended in the top five at almost every event last season.

“In the beginning, everything was so up in the air and uncertain, so we decided to give my horses a short holiday. They were super happy coming back into work, and that made me happy. During show season, I feel like everything is fast-paced, so my horses and I have enjoyed this downtime. I have been able to focus on each horse’s training needs without rushing to fix the issue or weakness. I love going back to the basics; rideability is key. I’ve stayed motivated during this time because I know my horses are benefitting from it.”

Megan Sykes & Classic’s Mojah. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Megan Sykes

Megan Sykes is from Midland, Texas, and is competing with Classic’s Mojah this year. Shortly before lockdown started, she placed 4th in the CCI3*-S in Fresno. She also owns and operates Classics Eventing.

“Unfortunately, I got injured shortly after shelter-in-place started, from a fall sustained while training at home. This is a very real thing that happens in our sport, and I got very lucky. The fractures in my scapula and pelvis are healing ahead of schedule and I can’t wait to get back in the saddle!

“Before my accident, I was staying motivated by taking advantage of the down time to get to know my new horses and develop a strong foundation and connection with them. I have a new mare, thanks to my supporters Brian and Kailynn, imported from Germany who is coming along very nicely! Due to the pandemic we’ve been able to take our time with her and allow her to settle in.

“For my upper level horse, Mo, I backed off of his fitness and focused more on strength building exercises. Since my accident, my motivation is stemming from trying to heal as quickly as possible so I am ready to leg back up my horses and make a plan for the fall. Not knowing when shows would resume made it hard to stay focused, but making sure my horses and I stay as healthy as possible keeps me more determined than anything.”

Woodge Fulton and Captain Jack at Badminton. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Woodge Fulton

Woodge Fulton, from Finksburg, Maryland, has been competing with Captain Jack and Franky Four Fingers this year. Woodge and Captain Jack had a successful run last season at Badminton, Strzegom, and Luhmühlen.

“These times have been uncertain to say the least, but honestly it’s been super useful for myself and my horses. Every year I find myself feeling like I’m playing catch-up, finishing up one event and then having to try to make last minute improvements before the next. After Ocala, there was no shows in sight, and this caused a weird, ‘Twilight Zone’ feeling where I could just train in a bubble. No pressure of upcoming shows that made me feel like I needed to rush training certain things, nor a potential start back up date to look forward to. For once in a very long time, we were training just to make each ride better and that turned out to be really beneficial for both myself and the horses.

“It was also interesting not being able to take lessons. It can be the case for anyone, but especially for young riders transitioning to professionals, one of the hardest steps is taking a step away from being under the constant supervision of a coach. So often it’s easy to get reliant on our coaches and trainers, and while quality instruction is obviously important, I think it’s good every once in a while to put the full pressure on yourself and know it’s up to you to get better. I intend to use what I’ve learned during this global pandemic going forward, and apply what I’ve learned even when we are ‘back to normal.’ Until then, I hope everyone is being smart and staying safe, and look forward to enjoying our sport together one day soon!”

Go Eventing.

Remember Your Why

EN intern Taleen Hanna is a junior at Cambridge High School in Milton, Georgia, and an avid follower of the sport. In her latest column, she reflects on the “why” of eventing relative to other sports.

Taleen and Ash. Photo by GRC Photo at Stable View Horse Trials in January.

Recently I was at the barn, having a conversation with my friends about how our horses were sometimes the only thing we lived for. Yes, this sounds a little depressing, but it’s true. We agreed that they largely helped us get through the stress of school, being a teenager, and just life in general.

This piqued my interest in learning more about how horses affect us and our mental health. I can say for sure that going to the barn is vital to my sanity. I wanted to learn more about how other riders are affected by their horses.

On my Instagram, I interviewed 25 riders in total, 21 of whom said riding and their horses provided them with an outlet or a stress reliever. Four of them said that riding has impacted them in positive as well as negative ways. The competitive aspect seemed to bring about mixed feelings on whether or not it helped or harmed their riding. Ava Vojnovic said that “It showed me the competitive side of things; made me work harder. But then it also kind of brought me down because some people are really mean.” While showing can be motivating and fun, it brings the
difficulties of peer pressure and jealousy.

On the other hand, most of the riders I talked to found competing more motivating than anything. Most of us feed off of goal setting especially with our placings or levels we event. We work hard to accomplish our goals. Why? For the ribbons? To impress everyone else? Or for the horse?

I then contacted a sports psychologist to talk to. Janet Sasson Edgette completed her doctorate in clinical psychology and decided to get back into riding and competing. After doing this, she realized the importance of a rider’s mental attitude, so she began working with riders to help them with the demands of the sport. Edgette says that “rather than setting up the rider’s anxiety as this thing to be ‘beaten’ or abolished, I help the rider identify the specific ways in which her anxiety compromises her riding.”

I never thought of looking at it that way, but when you think about it, it makes sense. When you realize what makes you anxious, you have already made a huge step towards improving. This outlook on riding can definitely help to minimize or even just recognize show nerves, which is a big aspect to our riding.

Then, I wondered if other sports have the same effect on people. So, I interviewed some friends who play other sports. Katie, who dances, said that she would be more stressed if she was not dancing, since she would have more time to stress about schoolwork. Sarabeth, who plays lacrosse, said that she would be less stressed if she was not playing lacrosse because she would have more time for her academics. Caroline, who rows, feels that rowing is an outlet for her to push herself, but it is also physically and mentally draining. Lauren, a softball player, said that it affected her mental health in a negative way because when she does not do well, it takes a toll on her self esteem. She also said that “Even though the sport itself can take a mental toll on you, your teammates are always there to back you up and that is what I consider my outlet, not the sport itself.”

As equestrians, we have double the teammates. We have our horse, but we also have our fellow riders. Comparing riding to other sports, it seems like they both have the motivation factor, but the other sports lack the horse. The horse plays a crucial role in our sport.

Not just in the competing aspect, since we obviously need them for that, but they are a part of a partnership that is different than any other. The fact that we can communicate with a large animal with just our body language is incredible. We forget that sometimes. I think I can speak for most of us when I say that riding can be an outlet, but it can also be a stress inducer. Sometimes, it becomes a chore of having to ride in order to prepare for the next event. This isn’t even touching on the fact that horses are unpredictable and can injure themselves, altering our competition plans. Not being able to ride, especially due to injuries or weather, can take a huge toll on our mental health. We have our minds so set on a schedule to accomplish a certain list of goals that we are easily distraught by the bumps along the way.

After gathering this information, I realized that no matter what sport we are involved in, we push ourselves to be the best for our teammates. We do this because they are there for us; whether that be our horse or the riders we surround ourselves with. I ask you to never lose sight of why you do this.

Go Eventing.

Majestic Oaks Winner Catherine Shu Is Enjoying the Journey

EN is very excited to welcome a new intern to the team! Taleen Hanna is a junior at Cambridge High School in Milton, Georgia, and an avid follower of the sport. For her first writing assignment, we asked Taleen to interview an eventer she admired. Her chosen subject: 18-year-old Catherine Shu, who is fresh off a win in the Training Rider division at Majestic Oaks H.T. with her horse 24 Karat Fernhill. 

Training Rider winners Catherine Shu and 24 Karat Fernhill. Photo by Lisa Madren.

Eventers of all levels often look up to the professionals in the sport like Boyd Martin, Michael Jung or Lauren Kieffer. When I think of eventers I admire, they automatically come to mind. Another rider, however, also comes to mind: Catherine Shu. I’ve known Catherine since I was about 10 and I’ve always looked up to her throughout my riding journey. I had the chance to sit down and talk with her about her journey and the challenges of riding.

Her start into riding was not a surprise since she had always been obsessed with horses as a kid. For her fourth birthday, her parents signed her up for riding lessons at a local barn. Around four years later, she went on to ride with an eventing trainer and has stuck with it since then.

Catherine and her current horse, 24 Karat Fernhill, aka Copper, had a win at the Training level at Majestic Oaks earlier this month — what a great start to the season! She was looking for a horse that could give her a move-up to Prelim, but ironically bought a baby five-year-old instead. “He hadn’t done anything, but I don’t regret it at all, it’s been a really fun process,” she says of the 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Radolin x Cendry Nouvolieu).

Catherine has been working with Copper for two years now and worked up the levels with the goal of going Prelim this season. “He had the entire year off last year because he tore his check ligament and this previous weekend was our first show back,” she says. “So I’m very happy with our win!”

Catherine describes Copper as “having a ton of energy and you kind of just have to figure out how to deal with it; he’s a really smart horse, and you have to work with him instead of against him.”

This year has looked a little different than past years for Catherine, especially since her horse is down in Ocala with her trainer Alex Green. She drives down from Georgia during weekends or days off of school to ride, but misses a lot of school for shows. “The most important part is just being willing to compromise your schoolwork and talking to your teachers to figure out a schedule that works for you,” she explains. She’s learned to be responsible and to manage time with school and riding, which is definitely not the easiest task. When she’s not in Ocala riding Copper, Catherine rides her friends’ horses if they need work.

The toughest challenge she’s had to overcome in her riding career was “the competitiveness of how all the young riders are now,” she says. Catherine often compared herself to her friends, who were moving up the levels while her horse was injured. “The most important thing that I’ve learned is that you can’t compare yourself to other people; you have to focus on your own goals, and that’s the only way that you will get better.”

Catherine said it perfectly — we should not compare ourselves to others, which I think is something that we all struggle with.

When I asked Catherine what her proudest moment in her riding career was, I was expecting her to tell me about a successful move up or a certain placing she won at a show. She hit me with this: “When I sold my second horse.” At first I was surprised, but she went on to explain that seeing the horse that she taught from a young age become a packer for another rider was the most rewarding part.

Catherine truly captures what it means to not only be a considerate rider, but also a brilliant horsewoman. “Don’t let competitiveness get in the way of your training and of course enjoy the journey!”

Go Catherine. Go Eventing.