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Veronica Green-Gott

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Straight from the Vet’s Mouth: Reducing Risk with Better Farm Management

I’ve always said that you could put a horse in a sterile padded room and they’d still come out half-blind with three broken legs and some sort of skin fungus. Meanwhile, the horse that lives in that junkyard you pass every day on your way to work will live happily to the ripe old age of 44 years old and look great doing it. I don’t sound bitter, do I?

Determined to discover whether we should all invest in a junkyard for our horses, I turned to Grand Prix Dressage rider, veterinarian, and FEI delegate Dr. Courtney Varney . She has been a veterinarian for 14 years, and has served as veterinary delegate for international dressage and jumping shows for nine years.

Alongside her husband and Ocala Horse Properties co-owner Matt Varney, Courtney has lived on her 22-acre Ocala farm for about ten years now. As a sports medicine vet and partner of her practice, Ocala Equine Hospital, she says, “I love coming to a barn and getting to know the horses not just for their medical problems, but how they perform, and what their strengths and weaknesses are in the arena. When they win, it almost feels like you won. You’re just so excited knowing what the rider and horse have both been through and that you’ve been there to help them get back in the ring.”

An unfortunate side-effect of being a veterinarian is dealing with our favorite fragile animals in the worst situations. Courtney has seen her fair share of injuries that could have been prevented with better farm management. Still, Courtney says you can’t prevent every single cut and scrape. “Horses will be horses and they’ll get themselves into trouble now matter what you do to prevent it.”

But, if you’re looking to make your farm safer, Courtney has a few pieces of advice.

Photo by Matt Varney

#1: Choose Concrete Over Wood
Courtney has a total of seven stalls on the property, five of which are in a concrete shed row barn, and two in a small wooden shedrow barn. She was very specific on her choice of concrete over wood.

“I think you could build a very high quality, sturdy, safe wood barn and I’ve been in plenty at my job every day. As long as you have a good contractor and build it up to code and have the electricity put in the right way, you can actually have a fantastic wooden barn. I just personally prefer a concrete barn. I think they’re a little easier to clean,” Courtney said. “Every month, we’ll take some cleaning solution and power wash the inside of the stalls. I can get the concrete really clean and you can disinfect a little easier.”

#2: Stalls Should Be Level and Ditch-Free
The majority of the residents at her farm are show horses who spend some portion of the day inside, so one of her biggest priorities was to create a comfortable barn. That includes big comfortable stalls with appropriate mats and good drainage. Courtney prefers to use crushed concrete under her stalls, as it doesn’t deform over time and still drains well. Lumpy stalls can cause a horse to misstep and injure themselves, while poor drainage contributes to bad air quality.

Photo by Matt Varney

#3: When it Comes to Turnout, Quantity & Quality Matter
Courtney and Matt have a total of nine acres of turnout on their farm. “We’ve got it laid out well to keep the horses having plenty of time outside,” Courtney said.

But size and access to pasture isn’t all that matters, drainage, fencing, and maintenance matter nearly as much. Dry pastures with good drainage prevent thrush, abscesses and other hoof conditions. “They will get thrush and this is a fairly simple thing to treat, but it can become chronic and cause lameness. They can get abscesses, which can lead to other problems,” Courtney said. “We can’t do anything about nature, but if you happen to have paddocks where there’s a lot of standing water, it’s a good idea for them to come in for a portion of the day or night just so they can have the chance to dry out their feet.”

Courtney sees a fair amount of horses with skin disease from being out in tall wet grass. “Keep up on your mowing. Especially in the summertime, if you have tall grass and it’s dewey every morning or it’s raining, the horses will get recurrent skin disease. They can get cellulitis and become extremely lame and painful. And then they have to go through various treatments including antibiotic therapy and NSAIDs and possibly steroids.”

Be prepared to spend good money on your fencing and check it often. Even though Courtney checks her pastures once a week, she’s still occasionally surprised by what she finds.

“If there are sharp edges or old nails sticking out or broken boards, the horses will hurt themselves,” Courtney said. “I’ve been surprised. I think my fencing looks good and then I’ll drive around the perimeter and realize this board’s been down for a while, or I didn’t realize that there’s a bunch of nails sticking out or there’s holes from little gophers or other critters that can get into the paddock. Those holes could be deadly should the horse step into it the wrong way.”

#4: Design Your Barn to Cool Your Horse Off Efficiently
In an effort to beat the Florida heat, Courtney has an efficient cooling system for her horses. Her wash rack includes shade and fans. “In the summertime here it gets so hot. It’s important when I’m done riding that I get a fan on them right away because sometimes it is really hard to get them cooled off,” Courtney said. “You need to be able to untack, hose them off, and get them nice and cool in a timely manner.”

Courtney Varney riding in her arena. Photo by Matt Varney

#5: Poor Footing is an Injury Waiting to Happen
Courtney designed her outdoor dressage arena with safety and convenience in mind. ”I decided I wanted all weather footing so I had Joe Watkins from Longwood farm come out. The footing is fantastic. It’s impossible for a puddle to form in that ring. That’s really nice for me because there are times when I don’t get to ride because I’m busy with work. And then if I get time to ride and my arena’s flooded, that’s no good. It is super important to me, not only for my horse’s safety to have good footing, but for my own lifestyle as well.”

And it’s not just drainage Courtney worried about, she was very specific about the concussion of the footing as well. “Harder footing is harder on joints, even though it might be better for soft tissues. But over time, those horses may need more maintenance or are more prone to having arthritis develop at a faster rate because of the harder footing,” Courtney said. “But honestly, I prefer hard footing to soft footing. Footing that’s too deep and too soft makes you much more prone to a soft tissue injury, which from a treatment standpoint, can be heartbreaking.”

“I think it’s good to vary your footing. I always tell people, ‘go outside the ring, go train on the grass, go have a gallop. Go ride on uneven footing.’ That’s good for them,” Courtney said. “It increases their proprioception and it gives them a little more strength in their distal limbs.”

#6: If There’s a Chance Your Horse Can Get a Leg Stuck, They Will
Look at your stalls from the perspective of a curious toddler. Is there anything your horse can get stuck in? Some of Courtney’s emergency calls with the least optimistic outcomes are those where a horse is hanging by a limb.

“I’m really picky about what kind of separation you have between stalls. If you have boards with more than five or six inches between them, sometimes horses will get upset and try to kick and will get their legs stuck. That’s a potentially fatal mistake. I’ll have people change the slots between the boards so the gaps are much smaller, maybe even only an inch or two. That still gives you good air circulation, but prevents horses from getting their legs stuck.”

The same cautionary tale also applies to slow feeders and hay nets. “Some people really like the slow feed hay bags or buckets, but you have to be very careful about the type you get, as some are safer than others. Sometimes you get babies that are curious and investigate them and get their legs stuck in them,” Courtney said. “It’s the same thing with hay nets. I try to put them up high enough, as I’ve had horses paw and catch the edge of their shoe on the net. They can get upset and fall down only to be hung up by the edge of their shoe.”

Photo by Matt Varney

#7: Gates Are Your Best Friend
Accidents involving a loose horse and a car are quite possibly Courtney’s most dreaded emergency call. She suggests, “Make sure that your gate is always closed or that you have an automatic gate. Sometimes you’re handling a horse and they spook and get away from you. If your farm is completely enclosed, a loose horse getting out onto the road is one less worry. Horses getting out into the road is an absolute disaster and a nightmare in every way that it could be. It’s obviously deadly to them and deadly to drivers.”

At the end of the day, all we can do as barn owners and horse owners is try our best. “I have clients that go above and beyond and put their heart and soul into trying to keep their horses safe, and they still have things go wrong,” Courtney said. “We can only do the best we can.”

This article was sponsored by Ocala Horse Properties. Courtney says Ocala has become her home. “I chose Ocala because I love the space. It’s such a diverse area where you can go out and be away from it all and really feel like you’ve got that isolated farm feeling or you could be close to the show grounds and feel like you can pop out to the restaurants and get to the grocery store fast. I just think Ocala offers equestrians anything they want. You can have a busy show barn or you can have complete peace and quiet.”

If you fell in love with Ocala like Courtney did, check out their website to find your dream farm & home.

Commando Wore His Dancing Pants to Stable View CCI4*-S

Boyd Martin and Commando 3. Photo by Liz Crawley Photography.

An earthquake may have rocked the East Coast today, but everything was sunny in Aiken, South Carolina for the first day of competition in the Stable View $60,000 CCI4*-S. As many riders use the event as a precursor to the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event, the schedule was stacked with big names, including Boyd Martin, Liz Halliday, and Will Coleman.

As you might have predicted, the end of day one resulted in “The Big Three” battling it out for the top slots. Amazingly enough, Yankee Creek Ranch’s Commando 3 (Connor 48 x R-Adelgunde, Amigo XX) and Boyd Martin beat the silky smooth Chin Tonic for first place after dressage with a score of 25.7. Will Coleman and Hyperion Stud’s Chin Tonic (Chin Champ x Wildera, Quinar Z) left the ring tied with Liz Halliday and The Monster Partnership’s and Ocala Horse Properties’ Cooley Quicksilver (Womanizer x Kylemore Crystal, Creggan Diamond) with a score of 26.5.

Commando 3’s dressage performance proved his best dressage test yet at the 4* level narrowly trumping his performance at the 2023 Carolina International by a tenth of a point. Boyd took the ride on Commando just last year, taking over from Sweden’s Louise Romeike.

Boyd Martin and Commando 3. Photo by Liz Crawley Photography.

“I’ve really been working hard with Silva on the dressage and I came out and performed a wonderful test today and I still really feel like there’s more improvements to be made, but he’s such an amazingly gifted horse. It’s pretty exciting to think of where he’s going to be in a year or two.”

As for Chin Tonic’s record, you could be excused for thinking you were looking at computer code, based on the number of 1s and 0s. Out of a total of 20 competitions, the talented 12-year-old Holsteiner has won eight. The dressage phase is usually his best phase, regularly scoring in the low 20s/high teens. Only the growth-minded Will Coleman could ever call a dressage test scoring 26.5 and earning a second place tie “one to flush down the toilet,” but you don’t become one of the best riders in the U.S. by accepting what you know wasn’t your greatest performance.

Will Coleman and Chin Tonic HS. Photo by Liz Crawley Photography.

“Well, we had a lot of mistakes. We just had a lot of errors, you know, just silly things. It’s just that kind of a test. Just to have an off day, you know that that can happen. Now he’s been so good recently, maybe we were kind of due for a little bit of a swing and a miss,” Will said. “I think the horse is in a good place. I’m just gonna flush this one down the toilet and look ahead to the next one. He feels great, but it is what it is sometimes. Sometimes you just don’t have your stuff when you get in the ring.”

Liz has already had a busy season with her large string of 4* and 5* horses, five in total. She has three out of the five competing in the Stable View 4* this weekend, Shanroe Cooley, Cooley Nutcracker, and Cooley Quicksilver. This weekend was Cooley Quicksilver’s time to shine ahead of his brothers, putting in a good dressage performance for the 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse, resulting in a score of 26.5, and a tie with Coleman.

The stadium course was designed by well-known designer Chris Barnard. Time allowed for the course was capped at 81 seconds. By the end of the phase 86 percent of the field was able to cross the timer within the time allowed. The triple combination at fence 10 proved to be particularly tricky, racking up a total of nine rails and two refusals.

However, it wasn’t an issue for any of our top three. Boyd and Commando 3 “flew” around the course. “He’s unbelievable. Just super careful and got a big scope to him. And he took up the course in great fashion and we’re very, very pleased.”

The 11-year-old Holsteiner is relatively new to Boyd, with 2024 being only their second competition season together. “We’re really starting to click and gel now. It’s really taken a year to get a partnership going, but now we’re definitely on the same page and we’re rockin’ and rollin.’ But he’s a horse of unbelievable quality. And I feel like we’re really in sync now.”

Show jumping was par for the course for Chin Tonic HS and Will. “He jumped well, it wasn’t overly impressive, but he did his job. He left the rails up and I think he’s in a fine place. All good.”

Liz Halliday and Cooley Quicksilver. Photo by Liz Crawley Photography.

Stable View is a popular event to prepare for the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event. Will and Chin Tonic are entered in the 4*-S at the Defender Kentucky Three Day Event, as is Liz with Shanroe Cooley (owned by Ocala Horse Properties), Cooley Quicksilver (owned by The Monster Partnership and Ocala Horse Properties), and Deborah Palmer and Ocala Horse PropertiesMiks Master C. Boyd also has Commando 3 entered in the 4*, alongside Bonnie Stedt’s Miss Lulu Herself and the Annie Goodwin Syndicate’s Fedarman B.

Not only is this event one of the last runs before Kentucky, it’s also the first time the 4* cross country course has been designed by Helen West, after Captain Mark Phillips’ announcement of retirement (though he’s still got a few courses left on his roster for this season). While the Captain is acting as advisor to Helen this year, the course is mostly her creation. Optimum time for cross country is 6 minutes and 23 seconds. According to the Omnibus, riders should aim to maintain 570 meters per minute to conquer the 3500 meter course close to the optimum time.

According to Boyd, Helen didn’t pull her punches for her first 4* course at Stable View. “Helen West built a real course similar to what we’re going to experience at Kentucky with lots of coffins and a big brush and big jumps into the water and she’s done a top job. But she’s made a pretty good test. So my goal tomorrow would be to give the horses a good run. Make sure they jump all the fences well, and they’re nice and confident coming into Kentucky.”

While Helen was in charge of the 4*, Advanced, CCI2*, and Preliminary courses, Mogie Bearden-Muller designed the CCI3*, Intermediate, Modified, and Training courses. You can view the CCI4*-S track on CrossCountryApp here. The other course maps at Stable View can be viewed here.

Fun fact: We have four 4* pairs who managed to stay tied to the same person through both phases:

Will Coleman / Chin Tonic HS vs Liz Halliday / Cooley Quicksilver
Sydney Elliott / QC Diamantaire vs Colleen Loach / Vermont
Philip Dutton / Denim vs Will Coleman / Off the Record
Doug Payne / Camarillo vs Lucienne Bellissimo / Tremanton

Meanwhile, the Advanced division also got underway today, following the same schedule as the 4*. Allison Springer and Nancy Winter’s Connemara Sport Horse No May Moon (Catherston Dazzler x Ebony Moon, Mystic Replica) are leading the way on a score of 29.1, followed by Lindsay Traisnel and Patricia Pearce’s Bacyrouge (My Lord Carthago*HN x Lelia, Clyde de la Combe). In third place, we have Buck Davidson and Erroll Gobey (Cassini II x Ulla II, Contender) owned by Natalie Sandler, Cassie Segal, and Lisa Darden.

Tomorrow, some of the National and all the FEI divisions will tackle cross country. The Training, Modified, Intermediate, and Preliminary divisions will kick off their competition with dressage followed by show jumping, and will leave the start box on Sunday morning. Saturday and Sunday competition will be followed by a Gaze and Graze at the Pavilion from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Stable View Spring 2/3/4* and H.T. (Aiken, SC) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

On the Hunt for the #Supergroom of the Winter Season

For the past year, we’ve worked with Achieve Equine to highlight hard-working grooms both at events and at home. Now we’re taking the #Supergroom program digital to give these grooms the recognition they deserve with four contests throughout 2024.


We’re once again coming to you – the readers of Eventing Nation – and asking for your help choosing the top groom of the winter season. Whether they somehow made the transition from the cold northern weather to sunny Florida feel seamless or spent the winter breaking ice from water buckets, we’re looking for that one groom that your barn couldn’t have run without. The hunt for the elusive #Supergroom is on – the groom that is so good at their job, they may as well have superpowers.

The winner of this contest will receive a Visa gift card (because everyone loves some cold hard cash), an Achieve Equine care package, their own featured article on Eventing Nation and, of course, bragging rights. Nominating a groom is easy. Simply fill out the form below or click here before April 4th. The winner will be announced on April 5th!

Welcome to Eventing: Get Ready for Your First Event

Is this it? Is this THE season where you finally compete in your first event? If it is, get excited and stop biting your fingernails!

There’s a right way and a wrong way to compete in your first event. The “right way” is to make it a no-pressure, fun-filled occasion. If you approach your first horse trial by putting pressure on yourself to get a blue ribbon while also quaking in your boots that you may fall off, you’re doing it wrong. Relax. Have fun! That’s what eventing is all about.

First, let’s talk about what your first event could look like. Let’s use the term “event” loosely. You don’t have to dive right into the world of eventing with a recognized horse trial at a busy venue. Ease your way into eventing and dip your toe in the water before you take the plunge. There’s a huge variety of schooling events out there that follow different formats so you can choose what’s right for you and your horse.

 

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Derby crosses are becoming extremely popular. These events are essentially a mix of show jumping and cross country fences that either take place in a field, arena, or some combination of the two. There is no dressage test involved with these events, so they’re perfect for the horse and rider that would rather be out jumping than in the dressage ring.

A combined schooling show is similar to a derby cross, but typically you get to choose some combination of the three phases to compete in. For example, you could choose to just do the show jumping and dressage portions of the test, and skip cross country, or vice versa.

On the other hand, you can do an Eventing Academy-style horse trial. This involves a full three-phase horse trial preceded by two days of schooling at the venue and on the courses you’ll be competing in. It’s a great way to familiarize horse and rider with a potentially intimidating course and get them used to the environment.

Whatever format you decide to choose for your first event, pick a venue you’ve been to before. If you’ve never been to any venue, school your horse at the venue a few times before the competition. There’s no need to add any confusion or nerves to the competition because you don’t know where the show office is, where the cross country course starts, or because your horse is afraid of the flowers in the dressage ring. Since it’s your first event, do everything in your power to make it a success.

By success, I don’t mean coming home with a blue ribbon. We’re eventers. A successful event is one where nobody falls off, you get around the course with minimal issues, and you and your horse have a great time.

You can also cut down on the stress of your first event by understanding the rules of what to wear and having an outfit in mind well ahead of time. Don’t wait until the night before the event to stare at your closet and wonder what you’re supposed to wear. Most schooling shows are relatively relaxed, but be sure to read the rules for your specific competition ahead of time. Different venues and levels of competition will have different requirements.

That being said, we’re eventers. We don’t care if your brown reins don’t match your black bridle. Are you being safe and having fun? Great! At my first event, I actually did compete with brown reins and a black bridle. My little hunter heart was very worried I would get a lot of weird looks. But in truth, I don’t think anyone even looked twice.

Cassidy Brooke Photography. Images courtesy of JPC Equestrian

Most schooling events won’t have a strict dress code. Typically, you should wear white or tan breeches, and a professional looking athletic shirt. For example, a great schooling competition outfit could be a pair of Equine Couture Nicole Breeches combined with the Lettia Equifine Sun Shirt. However, if the event you’re competing in includes a dressage phase, you may need to dress up a bit more, including a show jacket, show shirt, and tall boots.

While eventers don’t particularly care what colors you wear (the more colorful the better!), we do care about safety. If you’re going cross country, you need to wear a safety vest and medical armband. As always, you must wear an appropriately certified helmet for all three phases.

Before the event, take some time to mentally prepare. For my first event, I rode in a team at a derby cross at Waredaca. I was lucky enough to have a very experienced friend, shoutout to Ashley Gross at A&A Stables, who rode in my team and guided me through the whole process. Having a friend who will laugh with you at your mistakes and help you get out of your head and not take the whole thing too seriously will make your first event infinitely more fun.

Ashley Ann Gross and Veronica Green-Gott at the Waredaca Derby Cross.

If you can, I’d recommend riding a “steady Eddy” type of horse who knows the ropes. While I’d recommend this, it’s not really required. I did my first event with my 7-year-old OTTB. It was both of our first events; she’d gone cross country schooling only twice before. We lived and had a great time!

Just remember, when it comes to your mindset at your first event, you’re only there to have fun. Don’t put pressure on yourself to perform well and don’t think twice about embarrassing yourself or looking like you don’t know what you’re doing. All of us have been there at some point and, if you ask me, I’m right there with you!

Go eventing!

This blog contains sponsored links, courtesy of our supporter JPC Equestrian, founder of your online tack store, Breeches.com. If you’re looking for quality tack at amazing prices, check out their website.

Transforming an OTTB into an Eventer with Boyd Martin at Stable View

Boyd Martin and Neville Bardos on course at Kentucky in 2011. Photo by Leslie Wylie. Boyd Martin and Neville Bardos on course at Kentucky in 2011. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Olympian Boyd Martin has had a longtime love affair with off-the-track Thoroughbreds (OTTBs). “I have to say Thoroughbreds have changed my life. Growing up in Australia, Thoroughbreds were pretty much all I had. The whole reason I came to America was because of a horse named Ying Yang Yo, and shortly after him there was Neville Bardos. Two failed racehorses who ended up being CCI5* champions. They started off as a bit of a headache, but ended up giving me a great reason to get on a cargo plane and head to America.”

Recently, Boyd has been training a recent addition to his string, Remi, from his winter base at Stable View in Aiken, South Carolina. Remi, racing name “Gold Czar,” is a 6 year old Thoroughbred by Medaglia D’Oro. Boyd found Remi while teaching the Cheshire Fox Hunting Club. He was originally sourced and started by Boyd’s friend, Remi (sound familiar?), and was serving as the hunt master’s horse out in the field.

“What I loved about the horse was basically his look. He’s a nice, tall, rangy horse– uphill type. To me, he’s beautiful,” said Boyd.

The eventing community is very fortunate that Boyd is so active on social media. Boyd shared how he prepped Remi for his first recognized event at Sporting Days Farm in February in a series of super educational videos on Instagram. Watching the series is like a mini clinic you can audit right from your living room as Boyd goes about transforming Remi from an ex-racehorse/ex-fox hunter into an event horse.

Boyd’s goal for tackling the February event at Sporting Days with Remi was simply to finish the event and give him a good experience. Despite Boyd’s well-known ultra-competitive nature, this time success wouldn’t come in the form of a blue ribbon. Rather, Boyd just wanted Remi to end the event with confidence. After watching the whole series and stalking Boyd’s stories, I pulled out six main takeaways that I’m going to put into action with my own OTTB.

Fair warning: We may as well call this piece, “Why the OTTB is the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread,” as Boyd and Remi really make turning an ex-racehorse into an eventer look easy.


1. First Fences: Slow and Steady Wins the Race
According to OTTB Master Boyd, it’s tough to get these horses to understand that not everything needs to be done in a flat out gallop. To achieve that goal, there’s a consistent theme throughout the series: Contrary to what Remi might think, slow and steady really does win the race.

At first, Boyd starts by jumping Remi over a small log at a trot. If Remi picks up a canter after the fence, Boyd brings him back to a trot in a straight line, turns, and repeats the process the other way. This pattern seems to really help prevent Remi from getting too carried away, and it has the added benefit of being the same pattern Remi did in the show jumping ring the day before. While he didn’t explicitly state it, I’m thinking Boyd is using the same pattern to help Remi gain his confidence in the unfamiliar environment of the cross country field.

2. Baby’s First Water Jump: Patience is Key
According to Remi, there are dragons in the water jump at Stable View, although Boyd loves the way the fence is set up, with its two different pools of water and an island in the middle. True to Boyd’s philosophy of slow and steady, Boyd alternated between allowing Remi to look at the water (where he proceeded to eat some sand) before keeping his feet moving and encouraging him forward. According to Boyd, “If you can just get their toe in the water the first time, then you’re away.”

My biggest takeaway from this part of the series was that an undramatic ride pays dividends. There was no pony-style kicking, whip snapping, or growling. Instead, Boyd merely said, “You’ve got to be patient, you’ve got to be prepared to stand there all day.”


3. Introducing Ditches: Take a Tip from Heath

Boyd chose the smallest ditch on Stable View’s extensive cross country course for Remi’s first time. He used a tip he said he learned from Heath Ryan back in Australia, where you walk the horse along the edge of the ditch on both sides. According to Boyd, it better allows the horse to understand where he’s taking off and where he’s landing.

Keep your reins long and approach it at a trot. Be prepared for your horse to stop short or leap awkwardly over it. Remi, like a good OTTB, couldn’t have cared less. After tackling it successfully from both sides, Boyd approached a novice ditch which he cleared successfully the first time, only to stop the second. After Remi stopped short, Boyd had him jump it from a standstill to prevent teaching him to become a chronic stopper.

Approaching it at a trot was key to Boyd’s strategy. “The good thing about doing it from a trot is that they’re jumping it from a place of understanding, not due to momentum and aggression.”


4. Banks: What Goes Up, Must Come Down

When it comes to introducing banks, Boyd recommends starting by going up the bank, not down. Not only does this make it easier for the horse to understand the concept of banks, it’s also harder to commit the cardinal sin of getting left behind and yanking on your green OTTB’s mouth. Grab mane on the way up so you don’t get left behind. When you start going down the banks, keep your reins long and sit back.

As always, the slow approach is the best approach. Here Boyd is taking a non-aggressive approach by walking the banks and allowing Remi to figure it out on his own. There is no kicking forward and Remi doesn’t launch himself off the bank, as other green horses might do. As Boyd notes, he does have fox hunting experience, which may be helping him out here. On the other hand, as Boyd says, “Thoroughbreds are pretty willing animals that want to please. If you point them at it, they’ll most likely have a crack at it.”


5. Even Olympians Get Lost
Finally, the end of the series brings us to the result of all of Boyd’s hard work and preparation: The Sporting Days event. Here we get to join Boyd in his ride around cross country with Remi thanks to his GoPro Helmet Cam.

Now, I’m not 100 percent convinced that Boyd walked this course before riding it. However, he is an Olympian and it’s a Beginner Novice track he could probably do in his sleep. I couldn’t help but laugh as he asks the volunteer the optimum time as he’s in the start box and at one point says, “S**t, I went the wrong way here, buddy.”

Clearly, Boyd’s preparation at Stable View paid off. Remi was an absolute champ, or “legend” as Boyd says, for his first recognized horse trial even trotting into the water on the first try. Despite creating his own course– just a bit– at one point Boyd and Remi were a minute under the time. As Boyd said at the end of his ride, “Once he got the hang of it, I was just trying to slow him down the whole way. Next time I’ll start 30 seconds late.”

Boyd’s Bonus Tip: Don’t let your horse eat grass while you’re riding. “It’s a terrible habit.”

Remi, however, is allowed because, “He’s a Champion.” At the end of February, Remi ran Beginner Novice at the February event at Sporting Days Farm and Novice at the Jumping Branch Horse Trial. At both events, he finished on his dressage score. It sounds like he earned that grass after all.

#goeventing

The Mustang that Sparked a Mission: Ann Hanlin & Woodrow

Photo by Alison Green for Erin Gilmore Photography. Photo by Alison Green for Erin Gilmore Photography.

If you’re local to Maryland, you may recognize Ann Hanlin’s horse, Woodrow, thanks to his flashy black and white coat. But it’s not just his flashy colors that make this little horse special. Woodrow is a mustang, gathered at the age of eight years old, from the well-documented Salt Wells Creek HMA in Wyoming. Six years after being gathered as a wild stallion, Woodrow and Ann are competing at Novice level with plans to move up to Training in 2024.

Ann purchased Woodrow sight unseen, based solely on a few grainy photos, from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) internet auction in February 2018– a process that Ann describes as “just like getting on eBay.” “Bidding started at $125 so I thought ‘Oh, I have a $2500 budget, I should be good.’ Well now, come to find out in the next seven or eight days of the auction, that Woodrow was very popular.”

Photo by Tonya Triplett, provided by Ann Hanlin

As part of the well-documented Salt Wells Creek herd of mustangs, unbeknownst to Ann, Woodrow had developed a relatively large online following. His herd had been followed by a photographer, now a close friend of Ann’s, for almost three years. All of her photos had been posted to the Facebook group, which has almost 3,000 members.

Ann wound up blowing through her $2500 budget quite quickly and after a chaotic bidding process during which the site froze, there were lots of tears, and then moments of absolute joy, Ann purchased Woodrow for just under double that. “I hit refresh and it said ‘you are the highest bidder’ and then I screamed and cried. My mother in law was in tears and she’s not really an emotional person. So it was quite, quite chaotic in the kitchen for like five minutes, but I won. And then I had to figure out how to come up with almost $4000 dollars.”

“I just had my heart set on him. I truthfully had no clue what I was getting myself into,” Ann said. “So he was wild or unhandled– whatever term you want to use. I was new to this entire experience. I had obviously learned a lot between the end of February and April when I was able to pick him up, but there were so many little things, like being able to unload him directly into a pen, that you don’t think about when you’ve only been around domestics.”

While Woodrow was gathered in Wyoming, he was brought to Utah where he hung out in the government holding pens until Ann purchased him through the internet auction. From Utah, he was shipped to New Jersey with 37 other wild horses on a tractor trailer. His first act as Ann’s new horse was to double barrel the front of her friend’s trailer, causing half a grand worth of damages.

Photo by Tonya Triplett, courtesy of Ann Hanlin

“It took me eight days to touch his nose– his nose, not his face. Nothing but the tip of his nose. It took eight days of sitting for hours on end in the round pen. I’ve never wanted to touch a horse so badly in my life,” Ann said. “From there, I’ve done everything with him. I taught him the simple stuff that we take for granted with the domestics. Haltering, leading, they have no clue what any of that is. They don’t even know what grain is. It took him two weeks to eat grain. He only ate alfalfa before that.”

“He’s taught me a tremendous amount,” said Ann. “I will always be indebted to how much that horse has taught me about horses in general. I mean obviously about the wild ones, but he’s really changed the way I work with horses now, even with the domestics.”

After three months, Ann was on his back and riding him around. While he did buck her off twice during the process, Ann said both instances were entirely her fault. “He was bored. I wasn’t stimulating his brain enough.”

A lot has changed for Ann and Woodrow from those early months. “From there, he’s just grown. He’s evented through recognized Novice, we’ve done the classic three day event at Waredaca,” Ann said proudly. “He is definitely ready to go to training level, but his mother’s a big chicken now that she has two-legged children. That’s our goal for this year, to get to an unrecognized or maybe even a recognised Training level event. To get to Training with a Mustang that was a wild stallion until he was eight is beyond my wildest dreams.”

Photo by Kira Topeka for Erin Gilmore Photography.

To say that Woodrow has changed Ann’s life would be an understatement. Woodrow sparked a love of mustangs in her that completely altered her future. Since purchasing Woodrow, Ann has now started and rehomed 25 or 26 other mustangs. While she doesn’t start them under saddle herself anymore, since she’s had her kids she’s a little more cautious, she’s passionate about teaching them the basics of being a domesticated horse before passing them off to their new homes.

“The bond that you build with a Mustang is so different than it is with the domestics because you go through so much together, from the first touch to their first time building a bond with a human. And I think that’s true even if you get a horse that somebody else has worked with,” said Ann. “Mustangs are not going to open up and let you work with them unless they trust you. That’s the biggest difference, I would say, between Mustangs and the domestics. If you’re not committed and you’re not looking to build that relationship and take the time to build that trust and bond, then a Mustang is not for you. It’s truly about the partnership. And it doesn’t happen overnight.”

“Once you earn that trust with a Mustang, you really have to work towards keeping it. I could have gone recognized Training with Woodrow probably a year, a year and a half ago. Again, I’ve become a little bit of a chicken now that I’ve had my kid, but I’m in no rush. He’s my forever horse. I don’t have to, you know, accomplish anything with him, right? He’s got me back out into the eventing world and the show world. I don’t care how long it takes us. I don’t care if we don’t even get to Training,” Ann said. “But you risk losing that trust and it’s gone forever. And I have seen that happen with my own eyes. The domestics are more forgiving and don’t know any better whereas the Mustangs are like ‘You put me in that situation, I trusted you and this happened.’ Trust and having a good relationship is so important to them.”

If you’ve heard that Mustangs aren’t built for English disciplines, that Mustangs can’t jump, that Mustangs look like they’re built from a random assortment of spare parts, you’re not alone. Ann has heard every disparaging thing anyone can say about Mustangs. Now, she’s passionate about proving those naysayers (neigh-sayers?) wrong. “Since I’ve gotten Woodrow, my big goal has been to spread awareness. Growing up, I didn’t really know that there were still Mustangs running wild or as many Mustangs running wild as there are. The land is super overpopulated, the holding facilities are housing over 50,000 Mustangs right now,” said Ann. “I heard every negative thing when I said, ‘Oh, guess what, my next horse is going to be a wild Mustang and a former stallion that’s been in the wild for a long time.’ People would say that I would never be able to ride him English, let alone jump. But I very much have the personality of, you tell me I can’t and I’ll prove you wrong.”

Photo by Erin Gilmore Photography.

“Yes, you can say all those things about the Mustangs and I’m not saying that you’re 100 percent wrong, but let me prove to you that they can do it. Woodrow is by far the most versatile horse I’ve had and you know, I’m 36 and I grew up with horses.”

To help spread the word, Ann founded her nonprofit, the Maryland Mustang Mission, in 2023. The organization is run similarly to the well-known Extreme Mustang Makeover, which CCI5* eventer Elisa Wallace regularly competes in. Competitors adopt a mustang out of holding, which Ann can help facilitate, between January and June and have until the Extravaganza competition in August to have their mustangs gentled and under saddle. Ann’s goal is to use the Maryland Mustang Mission to spread awareness about the versatility of Mustangs and get as many of these horses out of holding as possible.

“I literally have had two or three Mustangs come to the open show and do all the classes. So they ran barrels, they ran poles, they jumped, they did dressage, they did the trail class. They go English, they go Western. They can do it all,” Ann said.

If you’re ever in Maryland and see a flashy black-and-white spotted coat flying over fences and strutting his stuff in the dressage ring, don’t hesitate to stop and say hello to Woodrow and Ann. After going from Mustang newbie to Mustang advocate in just six short years, Ann would love to tell you all about how this former wild stallion changed her life, and how a Mustang could change yours, too.

“I don’t care if they’re put together with spare parts like people say they are. They have a heart of gold, and they will go to the ends of the earth for you.”

#goeventing

Building Confidence with William Fox-Pitt

Photo by Lisa Madren.

Most people wouldn’t use a clinic with an Olympian as a confidence builder. These clinics have a reputation of being high-pressure situations that may push you out of your comfort zone. So, the winner of our contest for an entry to a clinic with William Fox-Pitt in Ocala, Sarah Clark, surprised me when she said her goal going into the clinic was to continue to build her confidence.

As an amateur rider from Tennessee, Sarah recently returned to eventing after taking an extended break while she had her kids and her schedule became generally full with all the mundane routine that goes along with becoming an adult. But, after the death of her father, she knew it was time to get to doing what she loved. “I got married, had a kid and have tried to keep horses in my life, but it’s just been very inconsistent. So I had more of a longer period away from riding, but when my dad got sick, I knew that I just needed to have riding more consistently in my life to kind of help me cope with everything.”

So, she went back to riding with her friend and trainer, Lauren Romanelli. “I feel like I have a lot of knowledge there but because I’m a little older and took some time away, it’s just convincing my body to remember how to do these things.”

Photo by Lisa Madren.

Like many riders who return to riding as they get older, Sarah has been working through some mental blocks, as well as physical ones. Unfortunately, human beings develop this annoying sense of self-preservation as they get older that makes riding particularly hard.

“I think the older that we get, the harder it is and that’s why I’m really determined to not have any more extended breaks in my riding because I just realized each time I tried to come back it’s a little bit harder on me physically, and mentally,” Sarah said. “It’s full of new challenges that you never dreamed of. When I was riding in my teens and 20’s, nothing scared me. Nothing was intimidating. I was just determined to do whatever I needed to do. And now it’s like overthinking everything and trying to get past the mental blocks of riding, which there are so many.”

Luckily, Lauren had the perfect horse to challenge Sarah and help her find her confidence. Star Quality, barn name “Ava,” is a young Percheron, Morgan, Thoroughbred cross who Sarah has quickly fallen in love with. “She’s just great. She’s got a really wonderful work ethic. And she’s very brave and even though she’s young, she’s been a really great confidence builder for me.”

Photo by Lisa Madren.

Sarah and Ava have been competing in Beginner Novice, but have plans to move up to Novice this show season. To play it safe, Sarah chose to join the Beginner Novice group at the William Fox-Pitt clinic, to play it safe and build her confidence.

“You never know what they’re going to throw at you in a clinic and I thought, let’s make sure we’re really comfortable at the height just in case the exercises get tricky or big,” Sarah said. “The exercises were interesting and challenging, but the height of everything I felt like was very doable.”

Sarah’s favorite aspect of the clinic was how they were able to tackle questions that are normally reserved for a higher level, but at a Beginner Novice height. For example, on cross country day at Barnstable they were able to tackle a combination that involved a wall-one stride-up bank line before hopping down off the bank then heading one stride to another fence.

“We got to do a combination feel of up and down off of that bank, where we could hop down off the bank and then have one stride to another fence, which is something that I don’t feel like you really see at Beginner Novice. It was just really fun to see a combination like that,” said Sarah.

William Fox-Pitt was definitely all about combinations at this clinic. At the water jump, Sarah said they tackled jumping a roll top down into the water before jumping onto a jetty with another roll top on stop and landing back into the water.

Photo by Lisa Madren.

“I would think you would usually see this with larger jumps set for higher levels, but they had it set up where you know the jumps were appropriate for Beginner Novice, but we could feel the complexity of really riding through a whole little course just with the bank complex or the water complex. So I thought that was really, really cool.”

Fox-Pitt also emphasized the importance of trotting fences, something Sarah said she quickly realized she needed to take more seriously. “It was challenging in some ways, but Ava was very bored just trotting over the jumps. As I was coming around, he was pointing out to me that my reins were too long. I just wasn’t taking advantage of this to be like a real schooling opportunity,” Sarah said. “I was just kind of treating it more like, ‘Oh, here’s this exercise or warm up thing that we have to do,’ instead of really testing the connection that I have with my horse.”

Making sure she’s really plugged in and riding at all times is something Sarah has also been working on at home. “When I ride I tend to be a little too forgiving or I give in. But William Fox-Pitt emphasized, ‘don’t give in, do it until you get it right.’”

“He was very matter of fact, you know? He was saying exactly what he meant. He wasn’t sugarcoating anything, that’s for sure. But he was also complimentary at the same time,” Sarah said. “He was definitely encouraging and told us when we were doing things well, too. It was a good mix of being realistic, but also being encouraging.”

Photo by Lisa Madren.

While Sarah entered the contest and came to Ocala for the riding opportunity, she wound up in love with the entire experience, in and out of the ring. “The whole experience was incredible because it wasn’t just the two days of riding, but they had a barn dinner put together by Rhonda Sexton, who was the organizer of the clinic. They gave away a ton of door prizes. They had raffles going on and were giving away prizes from William and from other sponsors, like Seminole. It was a lot of fun to get to mingle and be with everyone and have more of an informal gathering.”

Like many who come to Ocala, Sarah was in awe of the beautiful surroundings. “I’ve just been amazed both times that I’ve been down there about how pretty it is, because there’s Spanish moss hanging off all the trees, but then there’s palm trees mixed in. It’s just beautiful.”

“I would definitely like to just express my gratitude for this opportunity. It was definitely something that I would not have been able to do otherwise,” Sarah said. “So just a huge thanks to Eventing Nation for doing this. I hope this is something that you all will be able to do again in the future and give this opportunity to some other other riders because it was really incredible. I felt so lucky.”

#goeventing

Make Your Nominations: The Ride EquiSafe Crappiest Weekend Award

Every eventer, whether an amateur, professional, or heck even an Olympian, has had a bad weekend, has dealt with dashed hopes, and watched certain dreams fade away. What matters is how we respond in those moments. Do we react with respect for the horse, learn from the lesson, and look to the future? Or do we throw in the towel?


Eventing takes resilience. While our horses are talented in and out of the ring, perhaps their greatest skill is humbling us when we’re getting a little too big for our britches. And when we do eat dirt, eventers bounce back, ready to get knocked down again.

Allie Knowles perhaps said it best, “Just keep going. Keep trying. That’s literally it. Eventing is a game of consistency and determination. There’s no great rider that hasn’t broken some bones and wondered, ‘What on Earth are we doing here? Why am I trying so hard?’ and ‘What are we doing this for? How am I ever gonna be good enough to get there?’

Really, you just have to stand up and do it again. And again. And again. And again.”

 

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The Ride EquiSafe Crappiest Weekend Award was created in the name of that resilient spirit. We’re looking for the rider who has been knocked down multiple times only to stand right back up again, get back in that start box, and give it another go, no matter what. And after all, what’s life without a little sense of humor?

The winner of this contest will receive a Ride EquiSafe Fall Club Pin, a $250 gift card, and a big round of applause from the eventing community. To nominate a rider competing at Carolina this weekend, simply fill out this form before March 16th. The winner will be chosen on the last day of the Setters’ Run Farm Carolina International CCI4*.

You can also visit the Ride EquiSafe booth in the Vendor Village here at Carolina all week long!

Good luck and chin up!

Liz Halliday: Planning for the Olympics

Liz Halliday and Miks Master C. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

After a 2023 season filled with highs and lows, Liz Halliday has been keeping busy in the off season. I caught up with her in a rare quiet moment between traveling to the West Coast to teach a clinic and competing at HITS and WEC in Ocala to keep her horses strong. As exciting as 2023 was, she has big goals for 2024.

When I asked Liz what would make her season a success, she had one simple response, “Winning a medal at the Olympics.”

Sure, anyone can say they want to go to the Olympics; few actually make it happen. Liz isn’t just a dreamer though, she’s a doer. So, how do you plan out a competition season with goals of going to the Olympics? First, start the season off with Grand Prix Eventing at Bruce’s Field.

Liz rarely misses an opportunity to compete in the Aiken eventing showcase. “I think it’s a phenomenal competition. We get to practice the five star test in front of very good judges, which is excellent,” said Liz. “There’s a lot of atmosphere and you’re up there with a lot of top riders, so you really feel the pressure. It’s a great way to chuck yourself into that competitive mindset early on in the year.”


While Liz points out that the good prize money doesn’t hurt, she also thinks the cross country track is a great test for the horses early on in the season. “I love that it’s an intense track. It’s up to height, but it’s short, usually around three and a half minutes to four minutes. You’re not overstretching the horse’s fitness early in the year but at the same time it still forces both horse and rider to make quick decisions and stay focused and sharp.”

Next on Liz’s list is the Setters’ Run Farm Carolina International CCI4* followed by the 4* at Stable View in April. “I tend to target the big bulky tracks at Carolina and Stable View because I think the courses prepare them well for the course at Kentucky.”

On to the main event of the spring season, the Defender Kentucky Three Day Event. Liz hopes that just nine weeks out from the Olympics, we’ll see Cooley Nutcracker, owned by the Nutcracker Syndicate (Liz Halliday, Ocala Horse Properties, Renee Lane and Deborah Halliday), complete his first CCI5* in the Kentucky bluegrass, while Cooley Quicksilver and possibly Shanroe Cooley or Cooley Moonshine, owned by Ocala Horse Properties, will tackle the 4*. As for Miks Master C, Liz says, “In my mind, I don’t believe that Miks Master C needs to prove himself at a 5* again in an Olympic year. Honestly, going quickly around a few 4*s would be just as beneficial for him. My hope would be I can just really show how good he is in the 4*’s this year and that all the pieces are in place after a productive winter of training – It would be great to keep him in the running for the team by doing the 4* in Kentucky rather than adding unnecessary wear and tear.”

The 2023 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, now called the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event, was really special for Liz and “Mikki,” who is owned by Ocala Horse Properties and Debby Palmer. Reflecting back on their third-place podium finish, Liz said, “Miks Master C was just phenomenal the entire weekend. He loves his job and he fought for me to the end. He is such a kind, generous horse who always tries his best and truly loves eventing – I couldn’t have asked for more. I think we have a great partnership now– we still haven’t been together that long, not even two years yet, and I’m very excited for the years to come.”

Liz and Miks Master C, owned by Ocala Horse Properties and Debbie Palmer, contest the Grand-Prix Eventing Showcase in Aiken. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Liz is also competing multiple horses in the 4*L in Tryon just two weeks after the Defender Kentucky Three-Day event, but is keeping the second half of her 2024 competition season flexible. While she has her sights set on events like Aachen, Burghley, Maryland, and Boekelo, she says, “The horses will tell me what they’re ready for.”

“I’m focusing on the first half of the season right now and then I’ll reevaluate what I’m doing with the rest of the year after that. This is an important spring and I will keep my mind on that for now and wait to make plans for the rest of the year after those competitions are done.”

As we looked at all these events Liz has planned, I couldn’t help but gawk at the amount of pressure she handles on a daily basis. With four horses at the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event, aka THE event of the spring season, Liz will have to live up to the expectations of her owners and supporters, as well as her own high standards.

“I’m always under pressure. That’s just what we do, right? I try to stay focused on the process and take things one step at a time and try not to overthink it all,” Liz said. “Half the battle is arriving at these events feeling like you’ve done all your homework and you’ve ticked all the boxes. Then you can leave the start box and perform your best without questioning the training or the fitness. It’s important to keep your head down and focus on one phase at a time.”

Having a well-planned competition calendar can only help. Liz calls in the cavalry, namely her trainers, to help her build each horses’ competition schedule. “I always sit down with Erik Duvander to go through the whole calendar as I plan it out. I try to make sure the horses are going in the right places and that it’s the right step for each one.”

Liz believes that when it comes to her horses, less is more. “I don’t believe any of them need huge amounts of runs at this level. That’s why Cooley Quicksilver will do the Carolina 4* and then he won’t run again until the Kentucky 4*. He just doesn’t need all the runs, as he’s a very experienced horse. You have to think through what each individual needs and be mindful to not overload their calendar unnecessarily.”

If you’re planning your competition season, Liz has some advice for you: listen to your horse.

“I always try to set a realistic goal for each of my horses, but I think the most important thing is that you have to remain flexible. I’ve always said, ‘the horses will tell you what they’re ready for.’ I really believe it’s important to live your life by that motto,” Liz said. “If that means your plan changes, then that’s fine, but you have to be willing to listen to them.”

Best of luck, Liz! We hope to cheer you on in Paris come the end of July, and we’ll absolutely be cheering for you on your path to get there.

#goeventing

Tik Maynard Goes Western: Getting Ready for Road to the Horse

Tik Maynard has many titles: CCI4* eventer, author, Noelle Floyd instructor. Now, he’s getting ready to add World Champion Colt Starter to the list. I caught up with Tik before his cross country round with Susan Southard’s Kayan at Rocking Horse. In between bites of a chocolate muffin brought to him by Susan, Tik chatted with me about his recent foray into the world of Western horsemanship and competitive colt starting.

Tik has spent the last year preparing to fulfill a dream of his, to compete in the elite colt starting competition, Road to the Horse. The challenge: in less than four hours, start an unhandled three-year-old Quarter Horse under saddle. Spread out over three days, the competitors will have to work against the clock and under immense pressure as an audience of thousands stare on from the stands and even more watch from the livestream.

According to the website, “Judging focuses on the competitor and the effectiveness of their horsemanship methodology to communicate, educate, and build a partnership with their colt based on trust.”

Tik Maynard. Photo credit to Madren Photography

My biggest question for Tik was, how is this possible? Typically colt starting takes months, not hours. “You can’t go as fast as you can and then do a good job. It’s got to be first: do a good job and second: go as fast as you can. It’s really a test of how much the competitors are able to train that horse without letting the pressure they feel go on to the horse. That horse can’t know it’s a competition.”

“In this competition, you’re teaching a kid on their first three days of school, like in kindergarten. You’re trying to make it fun for them first, and within that fun, you’re trying to give them a chance to very, very gradually learn some things and very, very gradually set some boundaries for them. But the number one thing is that you’re just trying to make it fun first.”

Tik is only the second English-disciplined horseman to be included in the invitation-only competition, the first being New Zealand show jumper Vicki Wilson. That being said, Road to the Horse will really push Tik out of his comfort zone and into a completely different equestrian culture.

Tik Maynard and Classic. Photo by Jenni Autry.

“It’s really set up to celebrate the Western culture and the cowboy and the Quarter Horse. So it’s a big honor to be invited to be a part of that,” said Tik. “Starting the horse on a timeline and getting to know Quarter Horses as opposed to Thoroughbreds and Warmbloods and starting the horse in a Western saddle and Western bridle, will be really challenging. I’m spending a lot of time here getting ready for it.”

Far from tackling the project on his own, Tik has enlisted the help of several cowboys in his preparations. “In the past five months I’ve learned more about horses than in the past five years. Jake Biernbaum, who’s down the road from me, has been my number one coach. Then I did a clinic with Glenn Stewart from British Columbia, that was amazing. And then I’m doing a Martin Black clinic– he’s quite well known in the Western ranching world. I also had Tom Pierson, a reiner, help me start one down here in Ocala,” Tik said. “I’m just trying to start Quarter Horses and get feedback from people who are really good as I go.”

Tik Maynard goes Western. Photo credit to Madren Photography

In the world of English disciplines, we’re all familiar with the different mindsets and generalizations about our common breeds of horses. If someone says to me, “Well she’s a chestnut Thoroughbred…” I instantly know what that means. But when it comes to how Quarter Horses think, I draw a blank. According to Tik, there are big differences between Western-bred Quarter Horses and your typical English horse.

“It’s a horse that has been bred to do ranch work and to be started quickly like [in the Road to the Horse]. If you think about how Thoroughbreds have been bred for well over 100 years to race. They have that mindset, and those muscles, and that ability and desire to move,” said Tik. “Quarter Horses can handle more pressure in some ways. They can be more thoughtful in some ways. They can be bred to stand still in a different way than a warmblood or a Thoroughbred. Somehow it’s different with a Quarter Horse– they grow roots in a spot rather than just pause. And the way they carry you is a little bit different.”

“Jake once told me, ‘One of the biggest differences between English and Western is that English horses are bred to get out of the dirt. Whereas Quarter Horses are bred to get into the dirt.’”

Tik is going to be relying heavily on his background in horse psychology for Road to the Horse. “Most of the competitors that are doing the Road to the Horse have a pretty strong background in trying to understand horse psychology. I think a large part of the revolution in horsemanship occurred in the Western world and then transferred to the English world. Not all of it, but I think a large part of it, and I think the reason for that is because of the nuances,” Tik said. “If you watch really good cowboys and the stuff that they do with their horses and cattle, it’s very, very quiet the vast majority of the time. In order to be good at that, you’ve got to read both the cow’s mind and your horse’s mind to know what they’re thinking about.”

“I’ve actually applied that philosophy a lot to how I work with horses, especially on the ground. A lot of times people get caught up in what the feet are doing. But I really try to place the emphasis on where the horse is looking and what they are thinking about. Usually where they’re looking is what they’re thinking about and where they’re gonna go,” Tik said.

Despite the thousands of people watching him, despite the pressure to move as quickly as possible, despite the pressure to perform well, Tik is determined his Quarter Horse will feel like it’s any other day, albeit a strange one.

“The name of the game in this competition is building a relationship with the horse. A relationship is built on trust, but it also encompasses respect and confidence, and play. It encompasses confidence and relaxation,” said Tik. “If I have the feeling at the end that the horse didn’t know it was a competition, then I’ve hit my goal.”

 

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As for himself, his goal is to never stop learning, even after the competition. “This situation is such a big ask for me. It’s so far out of my comfort zone. By taking it seriously and getting ready, I’ve learned a ton. I think all I can ask of myself in terms of success is that I keep this pressure on myself, to keep learning. And that, even if I don’t win, I’m able to go in there and have the presence of mind to apply what I’ve learned.”

Good luck, Tik! The Road to the Horse might need to prepare itself for a sudden influx of eventers as we cheer on one of our own. Cowboys, prepare for insanity.

Watch as Tik takes on his biggest challenge yet on March 22nd through the 24th. If you want to attend in person, Road to the Horse will take place at the home of the Defender Kentucky Three Day Event, the Kentucky Horse Park. Tickets are available for purchase here.

As always, keep an eye on our website for more stories to come as our intrepid eventer ventures into the world of Western horse sports.

#goeventing

Ocala Horse Properties Season Preview: What’s on the Florida Calendar This Winter

As I sit here compiling this calendar, I’m staring out my window at snow, ice, and 9 degree temperatures. Last night, I mucked stalls and chipped ice out of frozen water buckets while wearing four shirts and three pairs of pants. Suffice to say, I’m dying with jealousy if you’re reading this article to plan out what you’ll be doing for your winter season in Florida.

Ocala is known as the horse capital of the world for a good reason. If you’re heading down to the sunshine state, you have a lot to look forward to. Not only will you enjoy the sunny skies, balmy temps, and equestrian community, but this state is bustling with great events to enjoy. From clinics to schooling shows to FEI events, Florida has something for every eventer this winter season.

We’ve compiled a list of Florida eventing opportunities here. We know we may have missed some, so you can let us know by emailing [email protected], and we’ll do our best to keep this list up to date with verified opportunities.

You can view the full recognized calendar of events by area on the USEA website here.

Don’t forget: these events don’t run without the valuable assistance of volunteers! You can earn volunteer incentive program points and good karma all around by donating a few hours of your time at your favorite event. Click here to view and sign up for opportunities near you!

Rocking Horse
Recognized Horse Trials
2/8 – 2/11 – Read our recap here!

2/29 – 3/3
Website
USEA Omnibus
Register on Event Entries
Open Date: Jan 16 Close Date: Feb 13
Beginner Novice through Advanced

 

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Florida Horse Park
Recognized Horse Trials
2/15 – 2/18
Website
USEA Omnibus
Register on Event Entries
Open Date: Jan 2 Close Date: Jan 30
Beginner Novice through Advanced

3/14 – 3/17
Website
USEA Omnibus
Register on Event Entries
Open Date: Jan 30 Close Date: Feb 27
Beginner Novice through Advanced

Three Lakes Horse Trials
Recognized Horse Trials
2/24 – 2/25
Website
USEA Omnibus
Register on Event Entries
Open Date: Jan 9 Close Date: Feb 6
Starter through Preliminary

Schooling Opportunities
Did we miss your event? Let us know by emailing [email protected]!

3/10 – Three Lakes 3 Phase Schooling Show
Website
Cross Country schooling on 3/9


Majestic Oaks
Recognized Horse Trials
3/22 – 3/24
Website
USEA Omnibus
Register on Event Entries
Open Date: Feb 6 Close Date: Mar 5
Beginner Novice through Preliminary

Schooling Opportunities

2/21 – Majestic Oaks 3 Phase Schooling Show
Website
Register on Event Entries
Starter through Preliminary

TerraNova Equestrian Center
Recognized Horse Trial
3/28 – 3/31
Website
USEA Omnibus
Check Omnibus for Registration Information
Open Date: Feb 13 Close Date: Mar 12
Beginner Novice through Advance
CCI1*-S through CCI4*-S


Horsepower Equestrian
Schooling Opportunities
2/20 – 2/21 – Erik Duvander Clinic
Register on Strider
Open Date: Dec 7 Close Date: Feb 13
Preliminary through Advanced Riders

Holling Eventing

Schooling Opportunities

3/18 – 3/19 – LandSafe Clinic
Register on Strider
Open Date: Jan 8 Close Date: Mar 11
All Riding Levels Welcome

Attending one of these events? Let us live vicariously through you! Tag us in your social media posts while you galavant around Florida this winter season. You might find your post embedded in one of our articles.

This article was sponsored by Ocala Horse Properties. Who better to keep up with what’s happening in Florida than Ocala’s premiere realtors? Owners Matt, Chris, and Rob live and breathe all things horse-related in the Ocala area. If you’re looking for real estate professionals in the know, check out the Ocala Horse Properties’ website.

Equestly Courses for the Exhausted Equestrian: Diaphragmatic Breathing

Quick story before we get into it. Because I’m a chatty Kathy (verbose Veronica?) I used to talk during my dressage test. My trainer was tired of watching me lose points (so many points), so she taught me and my horse to communicate via breath work. A sharp inhale readies her for an increase in energy, a long slow exhale is just as good as a verbal “whoa.” Unfortunately, overachiever that I am, I took that assignment a little too seriously. Riding my horse when you have the sniffles now means a lot of unexpected trotting. Poor girl is just as much of an overachiever as I am.

So, don’t learn breathwork from me, learn from Maija of Freely Forward Bodywork instead. A licensed massage therapist, she and Equestly have partnered up to create the latest addition to the Equestly Ride app, the Exhausted Equestrians course. Does that sound like you? ‘Cause it sure sounds like me.

I watched the first episode of the course, where Maija teaches you all about diaphragmatic breathing and why you should be putting this tool to good use.

Every experienced equestrian knows how much our breathing impacts our horses. If you haven’t experienced this for yourself, next time you get on your horse, try breathing quickly and shallowly. How does your horse react? (If you ride a sensitive horse, try deep breathing instead. For our lawyer’s mental health, please don’t do something that will get you thrown off.) You may notice your horse becoming tense, alert, and nervous.

The way we breathe has a significant impact on our body, our posture, muscle tension, mental state and more. All of this translates to how our horses move, as well as their mental state. Remember, horses are herd animals. If one horse in the herd becomes snorty and tense, the rest of the herd goes on high alert. When you ride, you are effectively part of the herd. When you take short, shallow breaths, or forget to breathe altogether, you are sending warning bells to your horse.

Many equestrians breathe using their chest, particularly when they’re anxious. Instead of using the diaphragm, this type of breathing relies on the scalene muscles, which are located on either side of your neck and connect into your shoulders. Maija said chest breathing stresses these muscles and causes tension in the shoulders and neck. If at the end of a horse show or after riding a spooky horse you notice some neck and shoulder pain, that might be why.

According to Maija, diaphragmatic breathing allows for more oxygen to enter the body and stimulates the vagus nerve, which helps keep your mind calm and focused in stressful situations such as at a horse show or while riding a spooky horse. The vagal nerves are responsible for many functions involving the parasympathetic nervous system, including your mood, speech, heart rate, blood pressure and respiration. There are many ways you can stimulate your vagus nerve, including diaphragmatic breathing and singing.

Have you ever had a trainer make you sing while you ride? They were onto something! Singing stimulates that vagus nerve and keeps you breathing, both of which will prevent your body from locking up and going into a freeze state. But, because you can’t really go around the warm-up ring singing, learning how to breathe with your diaphragm is probably the better option.

Maija says the best way to learn how to breathe diaphragmatically is to lie down on your back on the floor. As you breathe in, focus on fully inflating your stomach. As you breathe out, contract your stomach or simply allow it to slowly deflate. To get all the benefits of diaphragmatic breathing, take very slow deep breaths. Maija suggests breathing in for seven seconds and out for seven seconds. Make sure you’re counting this out; when I did this exercise it was much slower than I thought.


If you breathe with your shoulders and chest automatically, it will take some dedicated practice to start breathing with your diaphragm. While you can practice your diaphragmatic breathing anytime, Maija says that she practices her diaphragmatic breathing at the end of a long day, while lying in bed, like any true exhausted equestrian. This way she can relax before she drifts off to sleep.

After some practice, you should be able to breathe diaphragmatically all the time on a subconscious level. Just think, if you’re this accomplished now, what will you be able to achieve when you’re getting all the oxygen your body needs? Maybe you won’t be as much of an exhausted equestrian as you are now!

Up next on the Exhausted Equestrian course, learn how to decompress your spine for better posture in the saddle. Download the Equestly Ride app and watch the course.

This article was sponsored by one of our valued supporters, Equestly. Download the Equestly Ride app, where you can earn points towards discounts on high-quality equestrian apparel and read news from Eventing Nation!

Are you a business looking to join Equestly in our stable of sponsors? Download our media kit here.

Looking Ahead to the 2024 Eventing Academy

Photo by Christine Quinn Photography. Photo by Christine Quinn Photography.

A New Year means a new season of the Eventing Academy at Stable View! Last year, over 450 riders and nearly 550 horses competed in this unique schooling competition, and the reviews were nothing but positive.

When I spoke to 2023 Overall Points Winner Lauren Davis, she had this to say, “I think the Eventing Academy is just such a nice way to move up. It gives you the opportunity to do a little bit of practicing, get the nerves out, and then you know, keep on going. I also really like Stable View because they really do treat it as if it’s a recognized event. The jumps are usually technically appropriate and decorated and it’s got that environment of a recognized event. It’s just the perfect opportunity to have your trainer there with you. To me, it’s about as good as you can get.”

Over the last decade, the Eventing Academy has become a hot spot for local trainers, like Stable View regular Jane Jennings, to expose their young or green horses to a recognized atmosphere. “The courses are decorated really nicely,” Jane said. “It’s very well-maintained and manicured. And the courses are definitely up to level. So if you’re out there schooling at training, the training level course really feels like a true training level course.”

Jane Jennings and Kontessa M. Photo by Shelby Allen.

The Eventing Academy follows a unique format that lends itself well to green horses and riders, horses recovering from injury, or even riders who are working to build up their confidence. On day one, the cross country course is opened so that weekend’s competitors can get on the actual course and school their horses. On day two, the show jumping and dressage rings are open for those who would like to practice their tests or get their horses used to the bigger atmosphere at Stable View. Day three is the day of the competition, where riders compete in all three phases.

Being both affordable and inclusive, the Eventing Academy aims to reduce exclusivity in the sport and ensure that riders of all levels and backgrounds are able to enjoy eventing at a 4* venue. To that end, there are a wide variety of levels available, from Sprouts (less than 18 inches) to Training. Riders can also choose to ride all three phases, a combined test, or just their dressage test.

There are plenty of events for you to add into your 2024 season, whether it’s your first time or your 100th time joining the Eventing Academy community.

 

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February
Would you rather celebrate Valentine’s Day with a box of chocolates and roses or would you rather hang out with your barn bestie and your favorite pony at the Eventing Academy? Can’t decide? Just bring the chocolates with you to Stable View.
Date: February 16th through 18th
Register: 1/10/24 – 2/09/24
Now accepting entries!

March
This marks your last opportunity to ride in the Eventing Academy until the summer!
Date: March 8th through 10th
Register: 2/7/24 – 3/1/24
More info here

July
After a three month break, welcome back to the first summer Eventing Academy.
Date: July 19th through 21st
Register: 6/19/24 – 7/12/24
More info here

August
Date: August 9th through 11th
Register: 7/10/24 – 8/2/24
More info here

 

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October
October has to be the perfect month for horse showing on the East Coast. It’s not too hot, not too cold, and you can gallop through crisp fall air on the cross country course.
Date: October 11th through 13th
Register: 9/11/24 – 10/4/24
More info here

November
Date: November 15th through 17th
Register: 10/16/24 – 11/8/24
More info here

December
December marks the last Eventing Academy before 2025!
Date: December 13th through 15th
Register: 11/15/24 – 12/6/24
More info here

Last year’s overall points winner came in with a total of 21 points. Think you have what it takes to beat that score? Make the Eventing Academy a central focus of the 2024 season for yourself, your horse, or your students.

This article was sponsored by Stable View, your gathering place in Aiken, South Carolina. To explore all of the exciting events at Stable View (including intercollegiate championships!), check out their website.

The Debrief: Farrier Steve Teichman on The Wofford Cup, Girlpower, & Horse Welfare

Welcome to The Debrief, where we’ll recap the experience of a rider or equestrian following a big result or otherwise memorable competition or achievement. Click here to read more editions of The Debrief. This week, we’re catching up with farrier Steve Teichman, who has traveled the world for his craft and won the 2023 Wofford Cup at the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention for his service to the sport.

Named after beloved horseman Jimmy Wofford, the Wofford Cup has been awarded to a wide variety of horsemen and women, from course designers to riders to judges and everyone in between. But for the first time since its inception in 1977, the Cup has been awarded to a farrier– someone who works outside the limelight, but who is inarguably crucial to our horse’s welfare.


According to the USEA, “When selecting the Wofford Cup recipient, the selectors identify those who have given so much to the sport that they rise to the very top. They dedicate their life to the betterment of eventing. The 2023 recipient was not only someone who fit that description, but defines that description.”

Meet Steve Teichman. An artist and farrier, Steve is well-known for a prestigious career shoeing event horses. He’s worked at five Olympic events, as well as several Pan-American Games and World Equestrian Games. Now retired, he spoke to me from his home base of Maine about everything from long format eventing to why he’s thrilled to have more female farriers in the industry to why he thinks shoeing a horse before two years old should be illegal.

How did you get started with horses? How did you start shoeing horses?

I grew up in a big family in Chester County and I was one of nine brothers and sisters. It’s a funny story because when I grew up I always wanted to be an artist. And my father was not going to have any of that. He knew I had a creative side, so he goes ‘I know this guy who shoes horses. Why don’t you go spend the summer with him?’ I was 13 at the time, and that was the kiss of death because I immediately fell in love with it. It satisfied my creative side and I got to work with animals. But the deal was I still had to go to college and graduate school and do all of that. So that launched me into shoeing horses in 1973. Then I did some graduate work at the University of Pennsylvania. I worked in their large animal hospital at New Bolton center. And then I just launched my private practice. I was probably the first farrier to have a large multi-man practice in Chester County. We had eight trucks on the road there for a while because Chester County was just packed with horses.

What’s your shoeing philosophy in one sentence?

Keep it simple and lose the hoof knife.

I traveled all over the world. I can’t tell you how many countries I’ve been in. And if I lost my hoof knife, that would be fine. And believe me stuff got lost. We sent equipment over to Australia because I was there for almost four months. We lost all my equipment for a long time. But if there’s one thing you’d lose all the time, it’s your hoof knife. They fall out of your aprons or out of trucks or out of boxes and it’s not really a bad thing. You do not need a hoof knife to shoe an event horse at all, almost ever. It will be the one tool that will get you in trouble.

By Steve Teichman

Do you think there’s overlap between art and shoeing horses? Is shoeing horses more of an art or a science?

I think I was fortunate enough to grow up in an era where horseshoeing was a combination of art and science. Because we were early on in the science. And back then you had to have good metalworking skills. It’s changed a lot since then. There’s some crazy good products out there. We’ve come a long way. Personally it satisfied my artistic side, I love to bash metal around and solve problems and it worked out to be a good combination for shoeing horses.

And then in terms of the science side of things, I’m 65 now, but I got my master’s in equine locomotion research when I was 60. Ever so slowly, we’re starting to look for the science in hoof care. So the Royal Veterinary College in England under the guidance of Renata Weller, an amazing veterinarian, decided that veterinarians were the wrong people to be researching hoof care. So she created a program that took about 12 Guys from the United States and she said ‘we’re going to teach you all to be scientists even though you’re not, and you’re gonna write papers and publish papers.’ It was a great program.

Talk me through the moment you found out you received the Wofford Cup. What was that like?

Jim [Wolf] called me, and we only talk every few years or so, so we spent a couple hours actually catching up with each other and he goes ‘oh, I almost forgot to tell you why I’m calling you.’ He said ‘you’re the recipient of the Wofford cup.’

Jimmy [Wofford] was a huge part of our coaching program, either directly or indirectly. But he was, you know, he was also not to say that sounding stupid he was also like, just like a regular guy’s guy. What I liked about him most as he was not necessarily a horse person all the time. You know, you could. We had some great times. Some of the best times I remember was us going fishing when we were at Fox Hall before the 2000 Olympics. Jimmy was always hunting. He had his dogs. He had fishing. I liked that he was very diverse. He’s just a regular kind of person. When I wound up with cancer, and he was in the throes of struggling with his, he would call me from time to time to see how things were going. Just a kind person.

You penned a really nice sentiment for the USEA banquet about finding your community and being a ‘somebody vs a nobody.’ I loved the sentence, “life works best somewhere in between.” Can you talk a little bit more about that?

In the horse industry, you feel a lot of pressure to be somebody who goes someplace. Sometimes it’s just too much, especially in the sport of eventing because it’s so hard on the horses and the riders.One of my reflections was that you can feel like you’re the guy, you know? You’re going to the Olympics to deal with so-and-so’s horses. But then the next minute, you’re at a dinner with Olympic athletes from all around the world and you feel like you’re nobody. Your ego’s all puffed up one instant and then in another, you realize, holy crap, you’re really nobody, you’re a fly on the wall. They don’t even know you’re alive. Because you’ve been thrown into the completely other end of the spectrum.

That was one of those life experiences that I learned a lot from. I wouldn’t have experienced it if I hadn’t been at the top of a hotel somewhere in Hong Kong, where I felt those feelings.

Steve Teichman, Dr. Catherine Kohn, and Dr. Brendan Furlong. Photo courtesy of Steve Teichman

You’ve been to five Olympic Games. Which one was your favorite?

I would say that my most favorite was Australia. Partly because I still love the long format. But also because we were in Australia for a long time. I was there from August through October. We lived in a community on Kerry Packer’s huge farm in Australia, about five hours north of Sydney. It was a big undertaking and it required everybody to participate. You weren’t just a farrier. I would drive a van or would help if somebody got a flat tire. You would cool off horses. It didn’t matter if you were a veterinarian or if you were a horse shoer, everybody helped out. It was really good bonding and good teamwork.

It was well organized. They had great support from veterinary facilities, farrier facilities, from everybody that had come to Australia. Kerry Packer took great care of us, from housing, to dinners to trips, and it was the most crazy experience. This guy was one of the wealthiest men in the world. He had Arnold Palmer building him golf courses on his property. We had a racetrack so we could go race cars. I mean serious Formula One race cars. You could go sporting clay shooting. You could go hunting. We went fishing, fly fishing. I mean the place had ruby mines on it. It was just an unbelievable experience.

He had 30,000 acres of property, he had polo ponies and he quarantined a huge chunk of his property off and it’s where we all came and stayed and he took care of all our meals. They have restaurants. It was just an amazing farm in the middle of nowhere. I mean, his driveway was an hour long.

You’d be at a polo match and one of the girls might think a horse was colicking and the next thing you know there’s a helicopter landing in the middle of the polo field. Two veterinarians hop in the helicopter and off they go back to the farm in two seconds, instead of an hour-and-a-half drive through the Outback.

And like I said, I really enjoyed the long format. I think it gave everybody good guideposts for training and getting their horses fit. But you know, that was a long time ago and we’ve all adapted and life is different. I might sound like an old timer here, but it was a good way to get to your event and know you were well prepared. I think we sort of lost our guiding lighthouse for a little bit after we lost the long format.

The Wofford Cup is all about bettering the sport of eventing. What are some things you would like to see changed to better the sport? Would you want to go back to the long format?

No, I don’t necessarily think that we should go back to the long format. I guess that’s just the nostalgic side of me. But, I like the fact that we’re always moving towards safer sport, safer fences.

When it comes to shoeing, Cesar, Washington, and your farrier all shoe horses the same type of way. How we shoe horses hasn’t changed a hell of a lot in a couple hundred years. We’re only just getting that through our heads and applying technology. So, it’s on a curve that’s going the right direction. I’m going to a Farrier Conference in January, mainly because it keeps me in touch, and it’s really good to see the new products, the 3D printed pads and better quality shoes.

There’s been a huge shift in the industry. Last year, I got an award there for their Farrier Hall of Fame. Last time I was there, the audience was all men. This time, it was probably 50 percent– if not more– women. And I love it. It’s one of the things that is helping this industry.

This dawned on me one day because I used to have this young girl that worked for me. We were finishing up a barn of show horses and we had just left. You had to schlep your tools from the barn a ways to your truck and we had just started the walk when she goes, ‘Oh I forgot.’ I’m like, ‘what did you forget?’ And she goes, ‘I have to fly spray these horses before we go.’ She ran back into the barn, fly sprays the horses and came back out, still schlepping her tools. And it dawned on me that these girls really care. They don’t give a hoot about bashing steel around, but they care very much for the horses.

It made me realize, oh, this is the part that I’ve been missing. I’ve been just so focused on just one thing and it really made me shift my focus more to caring about the entire animal. I think I’ve always done a good job, but that’s a different element to it. In the last five years of my life, every apprentice I’ve had has been a girl.

Steve hard at work. Photo taken by Patty O’Brien, courtesy of Steve Teichman

We’ve been seeing more and more horses go to the Olympics barefoot, like the Swedish show jumping team. Do you think we’ll see that trend move over into event horses?

I want to say shoes are pretty much essential for event horses. So, I was at a high performance meeting on the west coast organized by Dr. Mark Ravenel, (who was one of our team vets in Normandy). One of his key speakers was Dr. Lars Roepstorff, one of the leaders in studying equine locomotion. He started doing all of this video analysis on shod and unshod horses in Europe and that is essentially how the barefoot trends started.

But, I don’t think you’re gonna see barefoot in eventing much above your lower levels. A lot of the reasons are simple– if you’re gonna go from Virginia to a place like Southern California, your horse’s feet just aren’t gonna adapt enough to do it. It’s that simple.

If I had anything to say about horses in general, it would be that it should be illegal to put shoes on any horse till about two years of age at least. They should not be allowed before then unless a veterinarian requires it. It’s one of the simplest and best things we could do for animal welfare. Remember, the hoof capsule does not reach its full shape until about five years of age.

What’s one thing every horse owner could be doing to improve the quality of their horse’s feet?

The older horsemen used to take their shoes off in the fall. Nobody does that anymore. Our Florida circuits I think are not productive. I get it. I get why we all go to Aiken and why we go to Ocala. But we’re not doing these horses any favors at all. In the early 2000s, after Fair Hill was finished, every horse used to get their shoes off. Then if they showed up in Florida, I didn’t put shoes on them until February and they were better for it.

Get balanced films twice a year of your horses’ feet while the farrier is there. Do it in January and do it in August. In January, their feet are usually in their best shape. But in August, the capsule is starting to distort. You’re losing heel and the toes are getting along.

For example, we would do barns like Boyd’s, he would always have a vet meet us and we would pop the shoes off, get the X rays. I can look at the hoof right there and I can say, ‘oh, let’s try trimming the foot like this.’ Then shoot another lateral and see if I actually made all the adjustments.

What would you say has been most crucial to the success of your career?

I think I’m just pretty creative. If there’s a simple thing that’s helped me it’s thinking outside the box. When I got sort of thrown into working for the Olympic teams, I was very much of the mindset that if you had this problem, you put on this type of shoe. But then I realized when we’d be traveling, you didn’t have all the bells and whistles and fancy trucks. Sometimes you’re working out of a drywall bucket, and you had to become really resourceful and figure out ways to make these horses comfortable. And that forced me to realize that the foot didn’t actually work the way we were taught.

Created by Steve Teichman

If you could talk to your younger self, what advice would you give him?

If I were talking to my younger self, I would say listen and be a little more open-minded. Be a little more flexible and pay attention to the horses a little more. We used to never take the time to watch the horses go. This is probably one of the single biggest mistakes farriers make. You’re busy, you’ve got to pay bills, and you’ve got 10 horses to shoe. You have to watch every horse walk and trot before you shoe them and after you shoe them if you don’t, you’re screwed. If your farrier doesn’t watch your horse go, he’s missing it.

There are few farriers out there who have invested more in the welfare of our top event horses. Congratulations to Steve on a well-deserved achievement.

Go eventing.

More Winter Grooming Tips from The #Supergrooms

When it comes to taking care of our horses, there’s a strong argument there’s no better person to ask than a groom. They tend to these horses every minute of every day, anticipating their every need, and ensuring they can perform their best.

As we head into the tough winter months with the additional considerations of the cold, the ice, the mud, and the lack of daylight, we figured we could all use some more tips from these #SuperGrooms to bolster our spirits for the long, and freezing, days ahead. Check out part one here!

Lea Adams-Blackmore and Sharon White at the Pan American Games. Photo courtesy of Sharon White / US Equestrian.

Lea Adams-Blackmore

While we normally highlight Lea Adams-Blackmore because of her own eventing career, this year we caught up with her after she took on the role of groom for Sharon White at the Pan American Games. As Sharon’s full-time assistant trainer, Lea splits her time between working with Sharon’s horses and clients and riding her own horse, Frostbite. Earlier this year, Lea and Frosty took part in the Bromont Rising Program at the MARS Bromont CCI Horse Trial for the second time. She also tackled the CCI3*-L at the Maryland Five Star in October, where she and Frosty finished on their dressage score just one tenth of a point away from the top ten.

When I caught up with Lea to talk about winter grooming tips, she was visiting her family in Vermont, so you know she has some experience with a true Northern winter.

Winter Grooming Tip:

“I hot towel them often. Sharon loves a good hot towel. So when it’s this time of year and it’s a little bit too cold to give them baths, we take a little bucket of really warm water and put a dollop of Ivory soap in it. We use Ivory soap for almost everything. We’ll use it to clean tack, we use it to give horses baths. It’s super gentle on their skin.

“Take a rag and rub them down. You rub down all the sweaty bits, basically just go over their entire bodies with the warm soapy rag, and then you let them dry. We’ll put coolers on them. Then you come back and curry them with Coat Defense so that you get all the sweat off. The Coat Defense powder is great for keeping the coats healthy.

“They love it. They all get itchy this time of year, especially where the tack has been. So my horse, personally, loves his hot toweling. He loves his face rubbed pretty aggressively with the hot towel.”

Winter Grooming Pet Peeve:

”Definitely static electricity. Taking blankets off of horses drives me nuts when there’s static electricity. Half the time you shock them and then they freak out. And I’m like, ‘I didn’t mean to shock you!’ It drives me nuts. But I find that if we keep their coats really oiled and super conditioned, it gets better. We use a lot of coat moisturizing products. So I feel like that helps but yeah, the static electricity this time of year drives me nuts.”

Steph Simpson and Fedarman B, the ride of Boyd Martin. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Stephanie Simpson

As Boyd Martin’s head groom, Steph has her hands full. Last time we caught up with Steph, we talked about how she handles bringing along her own project horses, her passion for the sport of eventing, and how she avoids burnout from such a demanding lifestyle. You can refresh your memory and catch up with Steph in our Between the Ears column.

Not only does she take care of Boyd’s horses in Pennsylvania, but she also travels with them down to Aiken for a couple months over the winter. Which, lucky for us, means that we get a double whammy! Winter grooming tips for those of us who stay up north, and for those who go down south.

Winter Grooming Tip:

“One thing we struggle with when we go south is the sand, which is very irritating to their skin. I think a lot of people struggle with it in both Florida and South Carolina. To get rid of the sand as fast as possible, I like to wash their legs when they come in from turnout. And I use a lot of Hair Moisturizer, we call it pink spray. I love that stuff. If you think about it, if you’re washing their legs often or they’re getting bathed a lot, you’re stripping the oils from the coat. I find that it’s really helpful to use the pink spray to restore what you take. It also helps a lot with flaky dry skin.

”If you can get away some days without giving them a bath, I find currying them and then using a witch hazel spray really helpful. It’s just an astringent, like the same stuff in face wash. If they do get slightly sweaty, it just helps dry everything out and keep bacteria from forming. So that’s a definite go-to for us, just in our daily routine.

“We groom three times a day. Obviously before they get ridden and then everyone gets groomed after they get ridden and then at the very end of the day everybody gets groomed over and blanketed appropriately and stuff like that. So grooming is key, but also there are a few products that can help you out along the way if you have some struggles.

“I think it’s important to groom often because you can stay on top of stuff. If they get a little nick while they’re on turnout or if someone pulls a shoe in turnout that somebody didn’t notice when they brought in, it gets picked up when they get groomed at the end of the day.

“We have really nice arenas, but they’re all wet sand. So, as far as hoof care goes, at the end of the day what’s really important is getting that wet sand out of their hooves. I feel like if you don’t get that out of there, that’s when thrush can show up. If that wet sand stays in there, that’s just asking for disaster.

“If we get something in that’s got kind of shelly, weak feet, we will use Keratex, but I think for the most part as long as you keep the feet really clean and you know always be on the lookout for thrush or little quarter cracks and stuff like that for the most part you can stay ahead of it.”

Winter Grooming Pet Peeve:

“Oh God, blanket straps. Really tight ones or dangly ones that they’re definitely going to get their legs caught in when they lay down or they roll or chest straps being done up really tight. I’m really particular when it comes to blanketing.

“Sometimes they’ll get shoulder rubs, so we’ve found that if you use a slinky– a shoulder guard– that can reduce the rubs. But if a blanket isn’t fitting great, I’ll go for different brands or different styles. I’ll just try a different fit. Maybe one has an attached hood and maybe one has a detachable hood that’s just rubbing them differently. So we’ll just kind of play around with what build of horse suits what type of blanket.”


Sophie Hulme

While Sophie does have her own training and eventing career to attend to, she moonlights as a groom for James and her friends when she has time. When we previously caught up with Sophie in early December, she told us how grooming for her old mentor, James Alliston, at Boekelo helped her continue to recover from a trailer accident that resulted in the loss of her top three horses in 2021.

According to Sophie, “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.”

When I spoke with Sophie on the lighter subject of winter grooming tips, she was muddling through the rainy English winter.

Winter Grooming Tip:

“In the UK, we always make sure that we wash and dry the legs off properly. We get mud fever, or scratches, like crazy over here and do little tips and tricks like using baby oil or udder cream to help stop mud fever and keep the legs from getting scratches. Last winter we just had a bunch of them come up with loads of mud fever and everything and it’s not fun stuff to treat. But a friend of mine recommended udder cream and if you rub it in, it works a treat, like properly does it

”We also always have nice backup rugs for any weather and we always pack extra ones in the lorry. We always keep a rain sheet and a cooler at all times in the lorry. So you’ve got extra backups so that nothing gets too wet or too cold when you’re at shows or when you’re out.”

Winter Pet Peeve:

“Putting a wet or dirty rug back on clean or freshly clipped horses. That is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. On our yard, we’ve got a big industrial washing machine. So if anything is a bit scruffy or the rugs are a bit dirty, it goes into the wash and they get a fresh new one. You have to make sure the horses are dry as well. I’ve had bad skin conditions come up before because someone’s put on a damp or not-so-nice rug that has no breathability, it’s like a turnout or something. You get fungal things cropping up if you do that.”

 

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Emma Ford

We haven’t spoken to groom Emma Ford since the spring, when she was helping Sydney Solomon pack for her debut at LRK3DE. Emma is very well known in the grooming world and in the horse world as a whole. Together with Cat Hill and Jessica Dailey, she published World-Class Grooming for Horses in 2015, which she wrote while grooming for her long-time employer, top eventer Phillip Dutton.

Currently Emma is working with the USEA Grooms Program, which will be hosting lectures in both Ocala and Aiken this winter. The lecture series is open to anyone who wants to attend, whether you’re a groom or a rider.

Winter Grooming Tips:

”I think my best winter grooming tip is to think about your individual horse’s needs. Are you staying north or are you going south? With those decisions your winter grooming needs change so much. If you’re staying north, clipping and style of clip depends on how your horse is stabled and the time you have available to care for them once ridden.You don’t want to put them away while they’re still wet. But then you also have to consider, are you the one who changes the blankets or are you boarding and therefore you require  staff to do that for you? You want to keep your blanketing system relatively simple for your barn staff.

”If you’re staying in colder climates, you’re not going to be washing them as much in the winter, so I use a lot of hot toweling. I use Shapley’s Number One Light Oil added to hot water, and then go through the whole hot toweling process. I definitely hot towel after riding to lift up the sweat and the dirt, but also as part of my daily routine. It helps to add some moisture and oil back into their coats, which tend to get very dry in the winter.

“I think currying is probably one of the most important things you can do to really get the circulation going and bring the oil to the surface and smooth that oil through the coat, especially if your horse has a super long coat. 

”You have to look at your hoof care program as well. Different things affect the way the horse’s hooves breathe. Are you going south for the winter or are you riding in an indoor a lot this winter? Waxy footing won’t let the horse’s foot breathe if you don’t clean it off. I pick out my horse’s hooves when they come in from turnout and before and after riding. 

”If you’re staying north, it’s important to make sure your horse is staying warm and drinking enough water. To encourage the horses to drink more water in the winter I also make what I call a tea. I put some grain in a bucket of warm water and a lot of horses will drink that down. You also have to make sure they always have hay in front of them. Not only for weight, but to keep themselves warm as well.”

Winter Grooming Pet Peeve:

”You really need to pay attention to what is right for your horse and for your lifestyle and not what’s just most convenient for you. For example, whether or not you need to do a blanket clip instead of just a trace clip. You need to think about things, like is your horse living out 24/7 or are they inside a lot? If you’re riding a lot, maybe a high blanket clip will keep his back warm and be more beneficial to him than clipping him out completely.

”I see people use a lightweight sheet when it’s maybe 40 degrees and starting to rain on full coated horses. What they don’t understand is that that is actually worse than being naked, because all that does is flatten down the hair coat and there’s zero insulation in the sheet. So, either don’t blanket them because they have a good thick coat, or use a blanket with at least 100 grams or 200 grams of fill in them.”

To wrap things up before 2024, we asked EN readers (you!) to nominate a groom they love one last time. This is the groom who has gone above and beyond all season long, always staying late at the barn, and going the extra mile to make sure the horses are safe and happy. Together with Achieve Equine, we’re thrilled to announce that we have not one, but two #SuperGrooms for 2023: Hannah Black and Stephanie Simpson!

Read the full story here.

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.

Welcome to Eventing: How to Ride the Gallop

Photo by Shelby Allen.

Read more from our Welcome to Eventing series here! This article contains sponsored links.

For most people, the first time you experience a gallop is pure accident. A spooked or frisky horse takes off and soon the edge of your vision is turning into a blur and your heart is pounding as you careen around at speed without control. It’s usually a pretty terrifying experience. So, when you start eventing and you have to learn how to gallop– on purpose, this time– it can be intimidating. Learning how to gallop is all about letting go of your fear and tapping into your childhood daydreams of galloping the Black Stallion on the beach.

Let’s throw it back to pony club for a moment and talk about what a gallop actually is. The gallop is not a fast canter. It’s a different gait characterized by four beats, not three. There’s a moment in each stride where all four feet lift off the ground together. The characteristics of a good quality gallop will vary based on who you ask, but at the 2015 USEA Young Event Horse Symposium, it was described as having seven key traits:

  • Effortless ground cover
  • Rhythm and balance, with no wasted energy
  • Adjustability of stride, rhythm and balance in front of jumps
  • Quick readjustment of stride length, rhythm and balance after jumps
  • Endurance
  • Elasticity
  • A stride length relative to the horse

When you first start to learn how to gallop, focus more on your position, control, and mental strength before you work on developing a high-quality gallop.

5* rider and Olympian Boyd Martin’s partner, Tsetserleg, is one horse that has had genetic testing done for suitability. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Besides jockeys, eventers are probably the equestrians that gallop the most. While most people consider cross country to be defined by the solid fences, this phase is really all about the gallop. The key to cross country is developing a good gallop that’s on pace between fences, while also having the skill to rebalance into a more uphill stride just before each fence.

Learning your pacing at the gallop is crucial if you want to cross the finish line without time faults. Until you learn what it feels like to be on pace, even the novice speed of 300 meters per minute will feel fast. Once you’ve gotten more comfortable at the gallop, wear your watch and practice staying on pace. But first, let’s slow it down and talk about the baby steps you can take to start your galloping career.

In my opinion, you have to wear gloves if you want to set yourself up for success while practicing the gallop. It’s crucial that you have control at this rate of speed and your horse will start to sweat and the reins will quickly become slippery. If you want the added benefit of extra security in the saddle, wear full seat or extended knee patch breeches for a little extra grip. The added security will make you feel more confident, even if your horse is feeling frisky.

While you’re still developing your galloping position, practice it at the walk, trot, and canter first. You should be able to comfortably stay in half seat and stand straight up in the stirrups while keeping your heels down and ankles soft and flexible. You’ll want your stirrups shorter than their usual length by about an inch or so. Here’s a good rule of thumb to follow from an article in Practical Horseman by Jimmy Wofford, “The faster you gallop, the shorter you have to ride and the more you need to close your hip angle to stay with your horse’s motion.”

You should be able to confidently and securely hold a two-point position without your knuckles resting on your horse’s neck. Don’t expect to develop the strength it takes to hold this position overnight. You’ll need time to develop the strength and security to stay in two-point without resting your weight on your horse.

Arne Bergendahl and Luthien 3. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

As you build your confidence at the gallop, start with a “steady Eddie” type of horse. Don’t gallop for the first time with another horse or you may find yourself an unwilling participant in a horse race. And here’s the real kicker– don’t try to ignore your fear. The “just do it” mentality will only get you into trouble and further degrade your confidence. If you find yourself shaking before you even get on the horse, today is not the day to try to gallop. Give yourself all the time you need to overcome any fear you might have.

Think of your horse’s speed like shifting gears. You can shift gears in all four gaits to regulate the speed. Before you go straight into overdrive and gallop away, practice shifting gears in the walk, trot, and canter. Go from medium canter to extended canter and back again to test out how your horse is feeling. Are they frisky or did you have to kick on? When you feel confident enough to gallop, just touch the lowest gear in that gait to start with. Going uphill on known terrain makes it easier for both horse and rider to test out the rate of speed and get used to the feeling of the new gait.

The right safety equipment can make you feel more confident. Wearing a back protector or body protector reduces your risk of injury should something go wrong. While you should always be wearing a helmet, you may want to wear a skullcap or a helmet that was highly rated by the Virginia Tech STAR study.

What probably evokes the most fear in riders just learning how to gallop is the thought of being unable to stop. A little common sense can help here. While yes horses have much more endurance than your average human, they also get tired. I find the thought that at some point they will get tired and stop, and I just have to stay on until then, comforting in an emergency. However, that doesn’t mean you can just sit back and let your horse gallop until they’re done. It’s just not safe, particularly if you’ve lost steering or are covering unknown terrain. This is why it’s so important to practice shifting gears at the canter before you start galloping. If you know your horse will come back to you from an extended canter, it’ll be much easier to get them back from a gallop.

Nicolas Touzaint and Absolut Gold HDC jump clear to be the best of the French. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Bringing your horse back from a canter is exactly like any other gait. Sit up and back, slow the motion of your body, let a long slow breath out, and half halt the reins. It’s important you don’t clamp down on the reins and pull. Not only is this just plain rude, it also gives your horse an opposing force to pull against. What’s much more effective is to half halt and release, half halt and release, until they gradually come back from a gallop to a canter to a trot, etc. Remember, the horse has a lot of inertia at the gallop. Just like a car on the highway takes longer to stop the faster it goes, your horse can’t stop on a dime.

While galloping is intimidating at first, it just might become your favorite thing to do. As Jimmy said, “Galloping in partnership with half a ton of living, moving, graceful, athletic creature gives me a thrill that I would never be able to get from a pet hamster.”

Go eventing.

This article contains sponsored links. Be sure to visit our awesome supporter, Breeches.com, to find all the supplies you’ll need for your eventing journey. New to galloping? Choose tack and apparel that you can rely on. Shop now.

Going South: SMART Goals, Equestrian Style

As we count down to the New Year, it seems fitting to talk about our goals for the next season, particularly as equestrians flock to warmer climes in search of adventure and improvement. In order to make the most of starting out 2024 in the horse capital of the world, i.e. Ocala, set goals for your trip before you leave. Don’t be intimidated – your goal could be as simple as “don’t fall off” (a goal I definitely did NOT achieve last time I went south for the winter!).

We’re taking the SMART acronym for goal-setting and making it applicable to every equestrian who goes south this winter, or to anyone who is planning out their 2024 season, really. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. You’ll find a few slight variations out there. Some people like to replace Attainable with Achievable and Relevant with Realistic, but the acronym still achieves the same thing: a goal that challenges you, pushes you slightly outside of your comfort zone, but is still realistic in the time frame available to you.

 

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Specific: I want to decrease my dressage score.

Right off the bat, many people make rookie mistakes with their goals. They tend to set a goal as something like “I want to improve my riding” or “I want to have a successful horse show.” But what does that really mean? Is a successful horse trial one where you come home with a blue ribbon or score better than before, or maybe one at which you just had a great time? If you want to improve your riding, do you mean in all three phases or just a faster time on cross country?

A specific goal is one that gives a concrete benchmark to work towards. So, instead of saying, “I want to improve my riding,” try a goal such as “I want to decrease my dressage score.” Decreasing your dressage score is a specific action you can take that will improve your overall riding performance.

Measurable: I want to decrease my dressage score by five points.

Okay, you’ve chosen the path you want to take to improve your riding. But what does decreasing your dressage score mean? Are you happy with a half point lower? Four points lower? At the end of the day, you could spend your entire life working towards a lower and lower score. How do you know when it will be enough?

Your goal has to be measurable. To know if your goal is measurable, ask yourself – how will I know if I achieve my goal? “I want to decrease my dressage score by five points” gives you a hard number to work towards. Whether or not you’ve achieved your goal is black and white. You’ve either decreased it by five points while you’re in Ocala or you haven’t. You’ll also know if you’re making good progress towards your goal or going in the wrong direction.

Attainable: I want to decrease my dressage score by three points.

Goals look different for different people. An attainable goal is customized for where you are in your riding journey. For example, my attainable goal for my OTTBs first horse trial was “not fall off…” but we’re all at different points in our eventing journey.

Look back on how long it took you to get to where you are today. Are you being realistic? Are you expecting perfection? Do you have the time to ride often enough to reduce your dressage score by an entire five points? Do you have the budget for the lessons/clinics required?

In Ocala, you’ll most likely have more time to ride than you would at home, but keep in mind that equestrians as a whole have a tendency to be perfectionists, which sets us up for failure. I once had a trainer tell me that if your goal is perfection, you’re actually being lazy. Perfection will never be attainable. So, when you’re striving for perfection, you’re actually working towards nothing at all. It’s better to set a goal that is realistic but still challenging.

 

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Relevant: I want to decrease my dressage so I can pursue my dream of getting my USDF bronze medal.

Why do you want to achieve this goal? Is your dressage score preventing you from coming home with a blue ribbon? Do you want to do more pure dressage? If your goal isn’t relevant to the bigger picture, then there’s no point pursuing it.

Before you head down to Ocala, take some time to reflect on the bigger picture. Think about what you want your future to look like. What would make you happy? What would make your horse happy? Are you retiring your horse from eventing and hoping to resell them as a proven dressage horse?

If your goal isn’t relevant to your big picture, pick a different goal.

Time-Bound: I want to decrease my dressage score by three points before I leave Ocala.

Having a time frame for your goal is important. Without one, you could procrastinate your goal and take years to lower your dressage score. But, your time frame still needs to be attainable. For example, it’s unlikely you’ll manage to drop your dressage score after just one lesson or just one horse trial. Luckily, going to Ocala gives you a built-in time frame. Set up your goal so that it is attainable and realistic to accomplish before you leave.

Ocala is a great location to accomplish your goals. You’ll have access to some of the best trainers and clinicians in the world and more time than ever to ride your horse. As a matter of fact, the biggest risk of going south for the winter is that you’ll want to come back year after year.

Disclaimer: Eventing Nation is not responsible for any equestrian who goes to Ocala on our advice, falls in love with the horse capital of the world, and winds up buying a farm. The best we can do is recommend you use Ocala Horse Properties as your realtor.

This article was sponsored by Ocala Horse Properties and their amazing team of realtors. If you’re looking for the perfect Florida horse farm, look no further. Explore their website.

Our Top Picks from the SmartPak Holiday Gift Guide

Do you remember the days when your mom would ask you to make your Christmas list and you would grab the SmartPak catalog and a red pen to circle everything you wanted? Those were the days. Now, the SmartPak Holiday Gift Guide is online instead of on our kitchen counter. No red pen needed, we picked out our favorite presents from the SmartPak Gift Guide. With a wide range of budgets and styles, there’s something for everyone on this list!

Stocking Stuffers
Is it your first holiday season with a Horse Girl™? Let me give you a pro tip. If you want to impress the equestrian you’re shopping for, don’t just get them a present– get a small present for the horse, too. Honestly, in my book the present for the horse is more important than the present for the human. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but a small bag of treats slipped into a stocking with a small tag and their horse’s name written on it will go a long way.

The Holiday Herballs are the perfect treat to gift your S.O.’s horse. Made with all natural ingredients, you can get a half pound of these treats for less than $10 dollars. Made from Alfalfa, Wheat Flour & Linseed, mixed with generous quantities of Garlic, Mint, Oregano, and Rosemary, these treats are perfect for the equestrian who is all about all-natural horse care.

If you want something a little more festive, a package of Gingerbread Celebration SmartCookies is another great choice for a stocking. A limited edition, these treats have all the good flavors of your grandma’s gingerbread men, without any additives. With no added sugar, these treats are designed to be safe for horses on low sugar diets, but, as always, make sure you ask your vet before you take advice off the internet. However, I can vouch for their palatability firsthand, as my super picky Thoroughbred has decided that the Vanilla Celebration SmartCookies are her new favorite thing in the entire world.

Every equestrian struggles with cold hands in the winter. Solve that problem with a pair of SSG Fleece Lined Winter Gripper Gloves in their stocking. These gloves are a great pair of basic barn gloves that can take a beating. With a fleece lining for warmth and a textured palm for grip, these gloves are great both in the saddle and around the barn.

 

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Presents Under $50
If you know an equestrian who loves all things matchy-matchy, look no further than SmartPak Polo Wraps. Available in classic colors like white, black, and navy, as well as crazier colors like Turquoise and Merlot, there’s a color for everyone. If you really want to earn some brownie points, you’ll get a pair that matches their favorite saddle pad.

It’s a good day when you get a present that costs less than $50 that not only looks good, but could lower your chances of getting a vet bill, too. The SmartPak Sport Boots are an economical option for leg protection. The polyurethane shell provides flexible support and protection for your horse’s legs, while the soft fleece lining prevents rubs. Pro tip: your dog’s brush, the type with the little metal bristles, does a great job of combing out the fleece in your boots.

I love a good quarter sheet on a cold winter morning. Keeping my horse cozy and warm instantly makes me feel warmer, too. The SmartPak Classic Fleece Quarter Sheet is available in five different colors and ranges from 72 to 84 in size. If you want to take this gift up a notch, have it monogrammed with your loved one’s initials or the horse’s name.

From subtle to bold, it seems like there’s a C4 belt out there for every style. SmartPak has four exclusive C4 Classic Belts on their holiday guide that would make a great holiday present. Thanks to their customizable length, C4 belts are designed to fit pretty much anyone. Plus, the durable material and fun patterns make them an instant favorite with equestrians.

Photo by Erin Gilmore Photography.

Presents Under $100
Are you shopping for a dressage queen? If you know someone who loves to tread the boards– er, sand?– you can’t go wrong with the SmartPak Luxe Collection Dressage Saddle Pad. Available in the traditional dressage colors of white, black, and navy, this saddle pad features a satin finish, metallic rope trim, and double diamond quilting. But the best part of this pad is hidden underneath. A bamboo poly mesh lining wicks moisture away from your horse’s back and has natural anti-bacterial and deodorizing properties to help the pad stay fresh.

There are two people who will really appreciate getting the Effax Total Leather Care Bundle: those who clean their tack after every single ride and those who really should be cleaning their tack more often. Effax offers really high-quality tack cleaner and conditioner, but my favorite is their Leather Balsam. In my experience, it conditions and protects the tack really nicely.

Looking for a gift for your trainer? The SmartTherapy ThermoBalance Ceramic Quarter Zip is it. This quarter zip is designed from fabric that contains ceramic particles that absorb and reflect your body’s natural heat for gentle yet deep muscular healing. These far infrared rays penetrate beneath the skin to activate blood flow, which may help to decrease inflammation for improved performance and recovery. Did your horse buck off your trainer this year? Then you definitely owe them this top.

<Presents Over $100
Next up, we have a great present for your barn manager. Your barn manager doesn’t have the option of hiding under a blanket on a cold winter day, but this Redingote Jumpsuit is the next best thing. With 60 grams of fill and a waterproof outer shell, this jumpsuit will keep them warm no matter the weather. Plus, they can easily hop on their horse in between mucking stalls thanks to the jumpsuit’s helmet-sized hood, leg zippers to allow easy off and on while wearing boots, and stirrup elastics that keep your pant leg in place while riding.

This next present is perfect for the equestrian who actually is hiding under a blanket when it’s too gross out to ride. The FieldSheer Mobile Warming Heated Glove Liner may just get them out of the house and back at the barn, even in the cold. Despite an ultra-thin fitted profile, these heated glove liners pack a punch. Able to heat up to 135 degrees, they’re better than any disposable hand warmer. Select up to four different temperature ranges to ensure you can find the perfect temperature for you.

I loved my pair of Dublin River Boots and was so sad the day I had to retire them. Dublin Boots are the perfect boots for all things horse. You can ride in them, work in them, muck stalls in them, and cross muddy pastures in them. SmartPak has them available in five different colors and a wide range of sizes.

We’ve made your list, have you checked it twice? Spend more time with your family this holiday season and get your shopping done online at SmartPak instead of running from store to store.

This article was sponsored by SmartPak, but all opinions are the writer’s own. If you’d like to read through the Holiday Gift Guide, find it here. If you haven’t finished your shopping yet, hurry! The cutoff for orders to arrive by Christmas is right around the corner.

Equestly: The Gift Every Equestrian Loves

Holiday shopping is so much easier online, isn’t it? If you have an equestrian on your list, stop desperately trying to find a tack store near you. Instead, nip over to Equestly.com to get all your shopping done in one place.

If you’ve seen the Eventing Nation team out and about at events this season, then you’re familiar with Equestly. We were lucky enough to be decked out with Equestly gear from head to toe last Spring. Based on our first hand experience, we can’t recommend the brand enough. Run by two lovely people, Carlos Hernandez and Sam Potter, you’re not supporting a big department store when you shop at Equestly. You’re supporting a family! Plus, with the Equestly Horses program, you’re also supporting the careers of up-and-coming riders like Diego Farje and EQ Scorpio.

 

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Stocking Stuffers
Equestly doesn’t just sell apparel – they also have accessories that would make great stocking stuffers. (Speaking of which, we have a quick reminder to all the husbands and boyfriends out there: Don’t forget to fill your partner’s stocking!)

No equestrian outfit is complete without a belt. These beautiful braided belts fold up and will slide easily into a standard sized stocking, but they also have a lot of stretch and fit the majority of people. I currently have the Sorbet and Navy colors, but Mambo and Sage are next up on my wish list.

This next one is perfect for all the equestrian Apple watch owners out there. Sick of your boring old watch band? Ask for an Equestly Watch Band this holiday season! Made from genuine leather, these bands feature equestrian motifs and the Equestly logo scattered across the band. It’s a subtle way to represent your equestrian hobby without being too in-your-face.

 

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Under $100
Equestly somehow manages to create high-quality clothing at affordable prices. The fact that I’m able to have a $100 or less section in this gift guide is one of my favorite things about this brand. My other favorite thing is their Seamless Long Sleeve Shirt. These shirts are form fitting, which at first made me think, “Oh no, this may not work out well.” But when I tell you these shirts are a big confidence boost, I mean it. Yes, they are snug. But the elegant lines and seamless construction highlights all the good curves and minimizes the ones you don’t necessarily want to draw attention to. My only complaint is that there isn’t a bigger range of sizes.

The Equestly Quarter Zips are a relatively new offering this season. With color-blocking on the arms and sides, the two-toned look is really flattering. Plus, the shirts are made from an ultra-soft and breathable fabric that provides UPF 50+ protection. If you have Northern European roots like me, then you know that sun protection isn’t just for the summer months… Finish off the look with that classic equestrian high mock neck, and you’ve got a shirt that’s perfect for everything from clinics to horse shows.

Goodbye LeMieux. Hello Equestly. The new EQ Pads are perfect for anyone who loves a classy saddle pad with that satin sheen but who also lives on a strict budget. Coming in at under $100 dollars, these pads are a real steal. With substantial plush padding, these pads offer wither clearance and back protection. You’ll especially appreciate that the satin fabric is dirt resistant.

 

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The Mane Event
(See what I did there?) When it comes to the big ticket item under your Christmas tree, Equestly Breeches and Lux 2-in-1 Jackets fit the bill.

I can personally attest to the fact that the Lux 2-in-1 Jacket is waterproof, as I spent the entirety of the last season wearing the outer shell in all sorts of weather and stayed dry, including one particularly rainy cross country day at Morven Park. While I’m obsessed with my rubber-duck-yellow jacket, Equestly has other colors like rose, lavender, black, and sky if you’re not feeling the Paddington Bear look.

Next up is every equestrian’s winter must-have: fleece-lined breeches. The Equestly Lux WeatherTEQ Riding Pants are lined with a micro-fleece that’s ultralightweight and keeps you warm without restricting your movement. Including a cell phone pocket, these breeches are both stylish and practical. Plus, the silicone full seat is extra, extra grippy and perfect for sitting on a frisky horse on a cold winter morning.

Last but not least, we have the perfect present for the ambitious competitor. The Elite Breeches are Equestly’s top-of-the-line competition breeches that are perfect for the show ring. Available in white and beige, these pants have the look of traditional breeches, with belt loops and buttons, but the comfort of your favorite pair of leggings. Designed with four-way stretch compression fabric, you’ll never want to take these breeches off, even after a long show day.

There’s less than 12 days left until Christmas. If you want to fill the space under your tree with presents from Equestly, you need to act fast! Finish up your holiday shopping on their website.

This article was sponsored by Equestly, your source for high-quality equestrian apparel. Shopping on a budget? Here’s a holiday tip: download the new Equestly.Ride app to earn points towards discounts and coupons. Users should stay tuned for the release of Equestly Ride Courses, a marketplace of courses created by top equestrian professionals in a variety of disciplines. New updates release on 12/18/23!

‘Don’t You Know About the Bird?’ Bird is the Word Shines in Stable View’s Eventing Academy

Bird is the Word is worth his weight in gold. Not because of his first career as a racehorse or because of his FEI record, but with his latest job title of “Teacher,” Bird is the Word has found a career in which he shines.

We often focus on the top professional riders with their high-dollar horses and expensive tack, when in reality, this sport thrives on the backs of adult amateurs and young riders. We dutifully pay our show fees and sign up for lessons with our trainers. We grind at work all day and get to the barn after the sun goes down. We do it all for the thrill of crossing that finish line at the one or two events a year we manage to get to.

The horses that allow us to live our adult amateur dreams are priceless. Bird is the Word, barn name “Goose”, is one such horse. Formerly owned and piloted by FEI rider and #supergroom Courtney Carson, Goose is now a part of the family for adult amateur Lauren Davis, Goose is more precious to her than any 5* winner. A dream five years in the making, the 2023 season marked Lauren and Goose’s first Training level completion and crowned them overall points champion for the Stable View Eventing Academy.

The Stable View Eventing Academy is designed to make eventing more accessible for riders of all ages and backgrounds. The event covers three days: the first day is open for riders to school the cross country course, the second day allows riders to practice their show jumping or dressage, and on the third day all three phases are judged in show format.

Bird is the Word and Courtney Carson. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

It’s been a long road to being crowned champion for this pair. Lauren bought Goose roughly five years ago with plans to make the move up to Training that season. Fate had other plans. Goose spent that first season bucking Lauren off and was diagnosed with kissing spine. After six months of rehab, Lauren and Goose were ready to get back to their plans… but then Goose developed anhidrosis. After another six months of trying to figure out how to manage his anhidrosis, Goose was back and going again — only to tear his hind suspensory six months after that. A full year of rehab later, Lauren and Goose were finally cleared to get back to their original goal.

“I had bought him five years ago with the intent of going Training that year, and it took five years for us to get to that goal,” Lauren said. “It almost makes it better, to be honest. I mean, the immediate win would have been great. But the four years of rehabbing just made it so much more rewarding.”

Goose takes his role as teacher seriously. Lauren can’t just sit there and allow him to carry her around. “He completely knows his job. He won’t give it to you unless you ask for it, so he’s a perfect teacher. There were many times where I ended up on the ground because I did something that he knew was incorrect. He’s not just gonna deal with you sitting up there and flopping around. But if you ask correctly, he’ll give you the right answer.”

Lauren and Goose started the season with the Beginner Novice Eventing Academy at Stable View and then moved up from there. In the course of three events, they went from Beginner Novice to Training. “Novice and Beginner Novice, he and I can go around just fine, but as he was coming back from the suspensory injury and he’s older, we were trying to be very cautious of what we’re asking of him. The Eventing Academy gave us a really, really good spot to kind of get him out there and test that leg and make sure that it was going to hold up without having to spend the extra money on the recognized show.”

“I think the Eventing Academy is just such a nice way to move up. It gives you the opportunity to do a little bit of practicing, get the nerves out, and then you know, keep on going,” Lauren said. “I also really like Stable View because they really do treat it as if it’s a recognized event. The jumps are usually technically appropriate and decorated and it’s got that environment of a recognized event. It’s just the perfect opportunity to have your trainer there with you. To me, it’s about as good as you can get.”

 

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While dressage isn’t either of Lauren’s or Goose’s favorite phases, they still had a good dressage ride and a great stadium round. But for this pair, the “pinch me” moment came on the cross country course. “He was just absolutely perfect to every fence. He came back to me when he was supposed to, galloped forward when he needed to. He just gave me that perfect round and it was definitely a pinch me moment at the end,” Lauren said. “I grew up riding but my parents were insistent that I was not going to own a horse. So I didn’t buy my first horse until I was 23/24 and had started eventing. And he’s only my second horse. So it’s one of those moments where you sit there and you’re like, ‘Man, I really did it.’”

Lauren is no stranger to magical moments at the Eventing Academy. Only an hour away from Stable View, Lauren has been coming here since the Eventing Academy first started in the early 2010s. All of her seasons of competing in the Eventing Academy have taught her a lot. “I think the thing that I learned the most was that taking the time and doing it the right way is really beneficial,” said Lauren. “I had tried to take my old horse around the training course and it was just a nightmare. We ended up getting stops left and right and then got excused. And that was the end of it.

I think in my head, I was still thinking this is going to be hard. This is going to feel hard. We’re really going to have to work for it. And the day of the show was not hard at all. We finished the cross country course and I was like, ‘that didn’t feel big at all.’ And it’s just because we took the time to do it right.There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that the two of us could roll around the course without any issues versus the first time– which was like ‘hold your breath and maybe you’ll finish.’ So I think that to me, the biggest lesson I’ve learned from the Eventing Academy is that preparation is so critical,” Lauren said.

This year, Lauren and Goose were crowned end of year overall points champion across all divisions with a total of 21 points. The award is particularly cherished as their memorable 2023 season was five years in the making. Lauren says that she’ll be back next year to contest the award again. “We’re headed back there to run the training course again, and this time, the hope is to not practice on Saturday and to really treat it as a true show.”

Happy riding and a big congratulations to Lauren Davis and Bird is the Word for truly demonstrating what eventing is about at all levels: resilience, grit, and pure joy for the sport.

Go eventing.

This article was sponsored by Stable View, host of the Eventing Academy. The Eventing Academy is part of Stable View’s initiative to make eventing inclusive to all, financially and otherwise. If you’d like to add the Eventing Academy to your 2024 season, check out the calendar.

Horse Farms Forever: Equestrians Unite to Save Ocala Horse Farms

Photo by Matt Varney, courtesy of Horse Farms Forever.

In 2018, word of a frightening new proposal slid across the proverbial desk at the Ocala Horse Properties office: the Coastal Connector toll road. The proposed plan meant that two interstates would cut through the heart of Ocala horse country, not only dividing precious farmland, but also damaging Marion County’s Farmland Preservation Area. Invigorated by the thought of the “Horse Capital of the World” suddenly becoming a lot less horse-friendly, the Marion County community, led by Ocala Horse Properties and Horse Farms Forever, united against the government and fought for their homes, horses, and farms.

In an effort to create new growth in rural Marion County, the Coastal Connector would extend the Suncoast Parkway and connect it to Interstate 75 with a goal to bring new jobs into the area. Unfortunately, this also meant that the parkway would cut through the county’s designated Farmland Preservation Area, damaging hundreds of horse farms in the process.

As local realtors, few were more in tune as to how these roads would impact the equestrian community than the Ocala Horse Properties team, made up of Matt Varney and Chris and Rob Desino.

“We got wind of the Coastal Connector very early on. And Rob, myself, and Chris pride ourselves on looking pretty far in the future and understanding what could happen. If you don’t protect what you have now, you’ll lose it. We looked at this and looked at the potential route and thought, ‘Now, this will decimate some of the nicest horse farms in the country’,” said Matt.

The Ocala Horse Properties team and several other individuals, including the future president of Horse Farms Forever, Bernie Little, saw an opportunity arise from the chaos to create a long-lasting organization that stood for no single discipline, breed, or creed. This resulted in Horse Farms Forever, a watchdog group with an honorable mission: to protect the horses we all love and save the land they need in order to thrive. All three members of the Ocala Horse Properties Team, Rob, Chris, and Matt, are founding members.

For someone who is part of a watchdog group protecting an area from development, ironically, Matt actually comes from a family of developers. But, as he explains, he’s not against responsible development — but he is against development that would damage the very essence of Ocala.

“Ocala is what it is because of horses. We were all for reasonable and responsible growth, but this was basically plowing through a billion dollar industry. And we felt there was no way there was a developed understanding as to the impact these roads would have on our coveted soils and floodplains.”

“If you’re going to build a road, you look for high, dry open green pastures. And when they looked at Marion County on a Google Earth map, all they saw were big, open green pastures in the Northwest, and they thought it’d be the perfect place to put a Turnpike,” said Bernie Little, president of Horse Farms Forever. “Nobody really got on the ground and looked to see that they were going through the heart of some of the most precious horse farms in the United States.”

The Farmland Preservation Area that the Coastal Connector would cut through isn’t just protecting the open, undeveloped land that is so crucial to horse owners. The area was also designated as protected in 2005 “to manage growth and protect the area’s valuable soils, water and spring sheds.”

A large portion of Marion County’s 1200 horse farms are located within the Farmland Preservation Area. Why? It all comes down to the soil. Marion County is one of only five places in the world that has soil with a thick layer of limestone near the surface. Besides Ocala, Lexington, Kentucky; Newmarket, England; and Chantilly, France all have the same soil structure and are similarly renowned for producing high-quality horses. The grass that grows from this limestone-rich soil is filled with all the minerals and nutrients horses need to develop strong hooves and bones. Per the Horse Farms Forever website, “If those areas are developed, the horse industry cannot just ‘move’ to another area. Horses cannot graze with the same intensity on sandy soils.”

“At Horse Farms Forever, we seek to shine a spotlight on why it’s important to protect the Farmland Preservation Area. And we do that through education,” said Bernie Little. “We talk about why the soil is unique and important, why the area was established. It’s really the lungs for two of the most precious primary springs in the United States: Rainbow Springs and Silver Springs State Park.”

Sadly, Marion County has a history of losing horse farms to projects like the Coastal Connector. Marion County’s first Thoroughbred Farm was established in 1936 by Carl Rose. Due to the limestone-rich structure of the soil, he believed the area was particularly excellent for raising horses and cattle and encouraged other breeders to move to the Ocala area. He is responsible for the establishment of 30 Thoroughbred horse farms in Marion County. After raising horses for nearly 30 years, Rose succumbed to pressure and sold the farm to developers at a nearly 15000% percent increase in price per acre. Where once stood Rosemere Farm, now stands a Walmart.

Horse Farms Forever strives not to let that happen again.


The equestrian community has a bit of an unsavory reputation for being exclusive, even within its own sport. Whether Western vs English, eventers vs hunter jumpers, dressage riders vs show jumpers, there are many different “cliques” within the community that rarely come together. However, the Coastal Connector was one of those rare catalysts that saw the entire equestrian community come together to fight for a shared goal: to save their horses and their farms. After all, whether it was a 5-acre farmette or a 100-acre professional facility, everyone was going to be similarly impacted by the proposal.

Rob Desino, now the vice president of Horse Farms Forever, was shocked at the initial routes as well.

“There was probably not one farm in Ocala that would not have been affected negatively by some of these routes, either seeing it or hearing it being developed, or having it go through their property. We were able to fund support very quickly and we created a voice that was heard immediately,” he said.

Everyone was joining the fight to save Ocala’s Farmland Preservation Area.

“At the county commissioners meetings, it was literally standing room only, people showed up with their horse trailers. We’re talking, you know, somebody who just moved to Florida and bought a three acre farm using all their life savings, and they have their kid’s horse at home. They were out there at the meetings, too,” Rob said. “We had such a strong presence that it caused a huge commotion.”

Upon first hearing about the Coastal Connector, Matt delivered a powerful speech in front of a packed house at the County Commission Chambers. After the speech, which aired the grievances of the entire community, the commissioners began drafting a resolution against the Coastal Connector. But the Ocala Horse Properties team knew this was just the first step in a long fight.

Backed by the Ocala horse community, Horse Farms Forever took a stand against the Coastal Connector project. The organization approached their Herculean task from several different angles. Not only did they attend meetings and submit counter proposals, but Rob actually traveled to Tallahassee and met with the governor himself.

“In the beginning, Bernie Little, myself and some founders made a trip up to Tallahassee and met with the Florida Secretary of Transportation. And they completely agreed with all of the issues of the project. They promised a letter within 30 days, basically, to cancel the project. And 30 days became 40 days, which became 50 days, and we finally got a letter which did not abandon the project, but postponed the project.”

A postponement wasn’t good enough for either the Horse Farms Forever team or the farm owners of Marion County.

“Can you imagine being an elderly couple and they have to sell, or somebody has cancer and they have to sell, or an estate trying to sell property? But now you have a property you can’t sell because there’s five routes still slapped up on a map,” Rob said. “That was affecting thousands of people and hundreds of farms. There was a dark cloud hanging over all of them.

“After a few weeks I knew we had to do more. I met with the governor’s office again and they finally agreed that postponement would not be good enough,” said Rob.

After months of hard work, their efforts paid off. In April of 2020, the governor’s office completely abandoned the project.

“The governor’s office said to me, ‘Rob, we understand the issue with postponement and are preparing a response. What we ask of you is to help with the language that would serve your area best.’ Matt and myself sat down and drafted language and the Governor’s office later created a letter addressed to Kathy Bryant, who was fantastic during this process, and the head county commission. We were proud because the state literally took our paragraph word for word about abandoning all routes.”


The legacy of the Coastal Connector project is still present today, just not in the way its creators thought it would be. Knowing that there would be other development projects that would try to encroach upon the Farmland Preservation Area, Horse Farms Forever now works to actively dissuade future proposals that would impact Ocala horse farms.

“Prior to our creation, no one was really monitoring closely what the government and developers were doing. We attend any and every meeting related to growth, growth services, planning, and zoning. We read every application that is put forth to our Planning and Zoning Commission, we attend the meetings when it’s something that affects the Farmland Preservation Area, we speak at the meetings,” said Bernie. “Over the six years we’ve been in existence, we’ve created a very strong and loyal following. And not only is our opinion important to the professional staff that run Marion County, but also to the elected commissioners that govern the county, and, of course, farm owners of every shape and size.”

More than a watchdog organization, Horse Farms Forever is also a resource for farm owners. Whether you have five acres or 100 acres, you can benefit from Horse Farms Forever’s help when it comes to putting your land under a conservation easement. If you’re interested in conserving your land, check out their website here.

Horse Farms Forever is an organization for the entire Ocala horse community, not just the rich and the famous. Individuals can make monthly or one-time tax deductible donations to the project, starting at just 25 dollars. To stay up-to-date on what threats could impact your Ocala home, keep an eye on their website or sign up for their email newsletter.

“I’m unbelievably proud of what Horse Farms Forever and their staff have been able to accomplish in the last six years — it is an incredible organization,” said Rob.

Make Your Nominations: The One #Supergroom to Rule Them All

Let’s face facts: this sport wouldn’t exist in the same format it does today without grooms. Can you imagine riders managing multiple horses in different divisions over a competition weekend without help? Grooms may be tucked away behind-the-scenes, but their work is no less crucial.

From cleaning tack to organizing the trailer to endless hours of hand walking horses before competition, these #Supergrooms make sure horses and riders have everything they need to cross the finish line safely.

All season long we’ve worked together with Achieve Equine to highlight these hard-working grooms both at events and at home. Now, as we wrap up the year, we’re looking for one more nomination for The One #Supergroom to Rule Them All.

This is the groom who has gone above and beyond all season long, always staying late at the barn, and going the extra mile to make sure the horses are safe and happy. We’re looking for the groom your barn couldn’t function without!

[Click here to read more #Supergroom content on EN]

The winner of this contest will receive a Visa gift card (because everyone loves some cold hard cash), Achieve Equine swag, and, of course, bragging rights. Nominating a groom is easy. Simply fill out the form below before December 27th. The winner will be announced on December 29th! You can also click here to fill out the form in your browser.

The Debrief with: 3* Eventer and Pan Ams Groom Lea Adams-Blackmore

Lea Adams-Blackmore and Sharon White at the Pan American Games. Photo courtesy of Sharon White / US Equestrian.

Welcome to The Debrief, where we’ll recap the experience of a rider following a big result or otherwise memorable competition.

Lea Adams-Blackmore has had a busy season. In the last year, Lea conquered her first Advanced with her trusty steed Frostbite, competed in the MARS Bromont CCI Horse Trial as part of the Bromont Rising Program, and capped off her personal competition season by adding zero faults to her dressage score in the CCI3*-L at the Maryland Five Star.

While Lea works full-time as Sharon White’s assistant trainer, she traveled with Sharon and Claus 63 to the Pan-American Games under a different title: groom. Today, we’re getting her take on the Games from this unique perspective.

What is your history with Sharon White? What’s she like to work with?

I’ve been with Sharon for about four years now, which has been great. I started working for her as a working student right after high school. Everyone pretty much starts out doing everything — you’re not really limited to one job. Whenever she’d be competing, I’d go to the shows with her and help out the grooms. So that’s been really fun, because you learn every aspect of the upper level eventing life. You don’t just learn about riding; you learn about horse management, horse care, and all the things that you need to know to make a program run successfully.

Sharon is great because she leaves no stone unturned in her teaching. She is so adamant that you have to know how to do all the things and do them really well, which is great because I feel like a lot of people just know one thing and that’s kind of it. So even though I’m not necessarily a professional groom by any means, I could go to this show and groom for her without a problem.

And she puts so much effort into her students. She is out there with us. If we’re out there working till 7pm, she’s out there teaching until 7pm. She doesn’t take advantage of how hard we work. She works just as hard as we do.

What’s Claus’s personality like, and what’s your favorite thing about working with him?

He is such a dork. We call him Claus-Mouse, because he’s just so in your pocket and personable. You just see him in the barn and he wants to touch you and play with you. And, if you have a treat, he’s all about it. He’s just a goofy guy. He’s a little opinionated about things in the best way.

He’s just so sweet when you’re taking care of him, if you’re icing him, or lasering him, or putting the Bemer on him, he just loves it. He loves all the attention.

I think that’s why he was so happy at the Pan Ams because he had me and Sharon there to just do things for him all day. He was like, ‘I have my own personal butler that’s gonna make sure all my needs are met all the time.’ I’m pretty sure it was his idea of heaven.

 

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As Sharon’s Assistant Trainer, what’s your training philosophy?

I would say my teaching/training style has been heavily influenced by Sharon, and I really believe in her ideology around training horses and coaching people. I think that being patient is really important. I definitely focus on balance – riding horses in a good balance makes all the difference, especially in eventing. I think that whether you’re riding a horse around its first Beginner Novice, or tackling your first Advanced, you should always be thinking about the four things that a rider is responsible for: your own position, your steering, your rhythm, and your intention. Sharon has a phrase: ‘Horses go the way they are ridden.’ And I think that is such an accurate statement. Horses can tell a coach or trainer a lot about what their rider is doing, so it’s my job to look at where the communication could be improved and how we can get both the horse and rider to be on the same page, so they can be successful at whatever it is they are trying to accomplish.

What do you prefer more: grooming or competing?

Definitely competing. It’s funny – I thought going to the Pan Ams and not competing there was going to be so much less pressure on myself. But I was just as nervous and invested in Sharon’s performances the entire week. I was right there with her every step of the way. I like competing because I feel like I have so much influence on how things go — but when I’m grooming, all I can do is my part, but I wanted to do more. I love all the aspects of being at a show, but definitely competing is a little bit more my speed.

Describe the atmosphere at the Pan American Games in 3 words.

Intense, different, and precise.

Everything has to be so precise for every single rider that was there. They’re such high performance athletes that have the exact way that they do everything down to a science. I mean, it was precision to the point that the hole you put your nose band on was influential.

I think that’s why it’s so important to have people there that the riders are really close to and that they can trust. You have to do things a certain way to get the best results and I think that, while it’s so true for anything, it’s especially true for this sport because the smallest thing can completely put you off your performance.

 

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How did you prepare for your trip to Chile?

It was a team effort for sure. We had three back-to-back weekends leading up to it and we were all hands on deck – Morven and then Fair Hill, and then obviously the Pan Ams. Like boom, boom, boom: that was that whole three week stretch. I think probably everyone at the farm had a collective six hours of sleep!

We had to make sure everything was where it needed to be for the various shows, because you can’t put aside the stuff you need to show early because we needed it for Morven and then for Fair Hill. I couldn’t have done it without Sharon’s groom, Kate Servais. She was on top of it. If there was anything I was forgetting, she was on it.

We had to prepare for any scenario. You had to be willing to stay at the barn until 9:30 at night and repack things over and over. They needed access to different things along the journey as well, so it was a long process.

What was it like to watch riders from all over the world?

I hadn’t really appreciated how big riding is in South America. Obviously, the last Pan American Games had a huge turnout. But I was still shocked at how many countries had full teams of riders that had results at FEI competitions that had gotten them qualified. There was some really good riding and everyone and their horses tried really hard.

There were so many riders that the last morning before show jumping, they had an open schooling ring where you could do a little jump school if you wanted. And it was the first day that the show jumpers could ride their horses. I think there were probably about 30 horses in a small ring – I mean, it could fit no more than two standard size dressage rings in there.

The problem was, there were so many bay horses in that ring that I was having trouble finding Sharon! Everyone was dressed in their formal schooling attire and she was also on a bay horse, and I was like, ‘where did she go?!’

What is one thing you learned about yourself that weekend?

I learned that I’ve gotten a lot better at projecting one thing externally when I’m feeling completely different internally. Every single warm up I had to be cool as a cucumber, because Claus can easily get very emotional. It was so important that I was being completely calm externally, even while on the inside I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so exciting. This is so crazy!’ Externally, you have to be professional and serious and completely unfazed by all of the action going on around you because both Sharon and Claus need that right now.

What did you learn about being a groom at a big event?

I’ve learned that it’s not actually as daunting as I thought it was gonna be. And it was fun because a lot of the people that were grooming there also, were not really professional grooms, at least for the eventers. It was so much fun being surrounded by all these like-minded people.

It made me realize that all you’re doing is the same thing that you would do at any show. You’re making sure that the horses look immaculate every time they leave the barn. And when there’s only one horse to show, you have so much time to redo braids and stuff like that. So that was really nice.

 

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What do you wish riders knew about grooms and grooming?

I wish the average rider knew that so much of the stuff you do when you’re grooming at the show, you should be doing all the time. If your horse is always well groomed and you groom your horses every day really well then you don’t have to change all that much at the show. Maybe you scrub a little more in the bath, but you won’t have to do anything extra at the show because you should always take really good care of your horse and always keep their body free of fungus and stuff like that.

How do you plan to spend your off season?

We’re doing all the things we didn’t really have time to do during the season. So, bringing the babies into work again and working on all the things that got pushed onto the backburner a bit. Like making the farm look great, doing arena care, stuff like that. Sharon is also hosting a couple of schooling shows this fall, so we’ll be making the arenas ready for that and focusing on some sales horses and getting things ready for us to go to Florida.

Frosty has his shoes pulled, so he’s living his best life out in the pasture and will be ready to return to work in a couple of months. He’s very much like, ‘Give me some carrots and treats and I’ll see you in a couple of months.’

What do you like to do when you’re not riding, competing, or grooming?

Whenever I can, I go home to see my family in Vermont. They’re really amazing people, so that’s always fun. And I’m big on being outside, so I like to exercise outside. I also find a lot of satisfaction in cleaning stuff. I’ve actually spent a lot of time cleaning, which is probably not healthy but I really enjoy it. It’s super satisfying for me.

If you could give one piece of advice to yourself five years ago, what would you say?

Be patient with yourself. Be patient with your riding and your goals. Things will happen when they’re meant to happen at the pace they’re meant to happen at. Don’t freak out when you have setbacks because all that does is make it worse. If things start going wrong, don’t give up. Just be patient and give yourself a break. Take a moment to be upset about whatever’s gone wrong or isn’t working out the way you thought and then give yourself a little bit of time to work through it. Things work themselves out in mysterious ways. Don’t look at other people’s progress and be distracted by that, because everyone is on their own path and headed in their own direction. All you can do is keep your head down and keep working hard.

As a rider for World Equestrian Brands, Lea Adams-Blackmore is very familiar with their products. Her favorite one? The iconic Mattes pad. According to Lea, “They always look amazing and are just an all-around quality product.”

Click here to explore the selection of Mattes pads on the World Equestrian Brands’ website.