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Veronica Green-Gott


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Why the Morven Park International & Fall H.T. Needs to Be On Your Fall Calendar

Will Coleman will return to Morven Park aboard last year’s CCI4*-S winner, Chin Tonic HS. Photo by Erin Gilmore Photography.

Galloping through Autumn leaves, touring a luxurious mansion, watching Olympic-level competition from a VIP tent…the Morven Park International & Fall Horse Trials has a lot to offer. We get it, the Fall season is a busy time of year. But when we say you need to make space on your calendar for Morven Park, we mean it.

Here’s why the Morven Park International & Fall Horse Trials needs to be on your eventing bucket list: 

Autumn Leaves… Need We Say More? 

Fall colors peak in the Leesburg area between October 15th and 25th. The Morven Park International & Fall Horse Trials fall just before the peak of leaf peeping season, on October 12th through 15th. If you’ve ever wanted to enjoy the thrill of eventing against a background of russet hues, this competition is for you.  

Caitlin Silliman and Ally KGO. Photo by Erin Gilmore Photography.

Competition for Everyone 

The Morven Park International & Fall Horse Trials offer National levels, Novice through Preliminary, as well as CCI2* through CCI4*-S and CCI4*-L. Thanks to the wide range of divisions offered, this event attracts local competitors at the lower levels, as well as top riders from across the country.

EN’s upper-level rider-in-residence Ema Klugman describes the cross country here as, “nice and open, like cross-country should be,” up to standard for each level but not overwhelmingly technical. It’s a great event to aim for as a Fall season highlight! 

Intense Sport, Welcoming Atmosphere 

Morven Park is one of only six venues across the United States hosting a CCI4*-L. While you may think a venue hosting Olympic-level competition would feel exclusive, Morven Park really feels welcoming to everyone.

Test Yourself Against the Best 

The Morven Park International & Fall Horse Trials always draws in some of the best riders from across the nation. The 2022 field included number six and number eight on the world ranking’s list, Tamie Smith and Will Coleman, as well as Ema Klugman, Buck Davidson, Mia Farley, Allie Knowles, Doug Payne, and more. So far the 2023 field is shaping up to be similarly star-studded across the divisions, with World Championship Team member Ariel Grald, and Olympians Stephen Bradley and Lauren Nicholson, entered so far.  

Ema Klugman and Bronte Beach Z. Photo by Erin Gilmore Photography.

Defeat the Iconic Leaf Pit 

The Leaf Pit is perhaps the most well-known question on the Morven Park cross-country course.  Regarded as one of the most difficult fences on course, the Leaf Pit is an homage to late course designer Tremaine Cooper who originally designed the combination. This formidable four-fence combination involves a steep drop. Fence A is a large brush fence that offers horses a few strides afterwards to prepare for the drop. In 2022, Sharon White called it an “icon of Morven Park.” 

Tackle Challenging Terrain 

Home to eight mountain ranges, Virginia as a whole is a mountainous state and Morven Park is no exception. The terrain at the park presents the biggest challenge to riders who choose to tackle the course. The course was designed by Derek di Grazia, who also designed the cross-country course at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.  

When EN asked Derek what he wanted riders to learn after riding last year’s course in Morven Park, he responded, “To be better prepared for championships and Olympic Games. And also to keep competing, whether it’s to go abroad and do a four-star or five-star, but you always want to have these events, be able to give them the experience that they need to be able to compete in those different situations.” 

Free Spectator Admission

The International & Fall Horse Trials at Morven Park aren’t just about the competitors. It’s also an extremely spectator-friendly event, thanks to free admission and free parking. Spectators can expect to enjoy watching Olympic-level eventing, as well as a small vendor village and a variety of food trucks. There is no better way to enjoy a beautiful Fall weekend in Loudoun County’s 1,000-acre playground. 

Tailgating & VIP Tent 

Last year Morven Park introduced tailgating, which will be coming back this year. Tailgate spaces are in the center of the cross-country course, awarding spectators prime viewing of main combinations on course against the backdrop of the Davis Mansion. Each pass includes parking for one vehicle on the course and up to 12 people. You may bring your own food and beverage, have a picnic catered, or visit the fantastic food vendors on site.

New this year, Morven Park will have a VIP tent. The VIP Hospitality Tent will allow for prime viewing of the 4*-S and 4*-L dressage and show jumping, and will be stocked with refreshments in a lovely, comfortable setting. One ticket allows access to the tent for all three days of the competition.  

[See all Spectator offerings here]

Photo by Erin Gilmore Photography.

More Than Just a Horse Park

Home to the Davis Mansion, Morven Park is more than just another equestrian center. Over the last 240 years, the Davis Mansion has transformed from a modest fieldstone house into the impressive Greek Revival building it is today. Once the home of former Virginia Governor Westmoreland Davis and his wife, Marguerite, the couple filled the mansion with eclectic antiques from around the world, many of which are still in the mansion today.

Also avid equestrians, their love of equestrian sports inspired the creation of the renowned Morven Park International Equestrian Institute. One of the world’s most prestigious riding academies from 1963 until 1991, it was built around training equestrians to become top riding instructors. The academy later became the Morven Park International Equestrian Center.

This year, Morven Park is celebrating 50 years of eventing at the historic venue. Eventing competitions were first held at the 1,000-acre park in 1973 under the direction of cavalry Major John Lynch. When you compete at Morven Park, you’re retracing the hoofprints of all the equestrian legends who came before you.

Where will you be October 12th through the 15th? Whether you’re spectating or competing, learn more about the Morven Park International & Fall Horse Trials here. Sign up to compete on before the closing date of September 26.  

Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Intercollegiate Eventing

University of Kentucky. Photo by Shelby Allen.

For all the young eventers out there who are trying to decide where to go to college, the University of Kentucky might be at the top of your list. Home to one of the biggest USEA Intercollegiate Eventing programs around, some students even chose to attend the University of Kentucky purely for their eventing team.

Team President Kate McGown was one such eventer. Now a coming senior, I caught up with Kate to discuss everything she loves about the team, plus to offer some advice for freshmen who may be wondering if they should join.

Kate moved from Minnesota to Kentucky to join the UK Eventing Team. She rides her 13-year-old OTTB George for the team and competed with him in the Intercollegiate Championships at the Novice level.

Despite moving across states, she has no regrets. “I just absolutely loved being on the team, particularly because when I started as a freshman, it was during COVID. So the team gave me a way to actually make friends and see people face to face.”

First starting off as a team member, then moving to become team secretary, vice president, and now president, Kate has experienced every level of team engagement possible.

University of Kentucky. Photo by Shelby Allen.

How would someone get onto the team? Are there tryouts?

So, we have no tryouts. We don’t have a cap on our membership. We usually have a new members meeting in the first week of school where we invite our new members to come and learn about the team. Usually we have food because college students love food, and some sort of trivia or some kind of fun game and a little intro about the team. It’s very chill, very relaxed.

Do you have to lease or own a horse to be on the team? Can you still be involved if you don’t own a horse?

The cool thing about our team is we do offer memberships for equestrians who don’t own horses. Social memberships are perfect for anyone who doesn’t have a horse or isn’t interested in riding competitively, but still wants to hang out with fellow eventers. But, we don’t have any team horses and we don’t lease horses out to people. The vast majority of our members have their own horse or lease a horse from a friend or family member or something.

The majority of our people are competitive members. It fluctuates slightly each semester, but anywhere from around 60 to 65 people are on our competitive member list.

Photo by Shelby Allen.

Does everyone on the team board at the same barn? Take lessons with the same trainer?

We are a ginormous team with over 100 members so we do not ride at the same barn and all of our students are free to pick their own barn and their own trainer. Being based in Lexington, there are so many barns in the area that there’s something for everybody, whether you’re really looking to be competitive at the top levels of the sport or if you’re just wanting to enjoy your horse at a beautiful private farm.

How often do you get together as a team? What team bonding activities do you do?

We have an event chair and a social chair position on our executive board. So our event chair is responsible for planning any kind of horse-related event. Each semester we usually attend a jumper show which is super fun and relaxed. A lot of our team members and other Lexington horse community people come out and ride for that. That’s always fun.

We usually do a clinic once or twice a semester. So last year we did a lesson day with Liz Halliday-Sharp. That was awesome. And we also did an unmounted horse management clinic with Emma Ford last semester too. And that’s a great way for our members from lots of different barns to come together and learn and have a good time.

Our social chair is responsible for all of our other events that are not horse related. We introduced the social chair position two years ago as a way to keep our social members feeling a little bit more involved and have things to do that aren’t just riding. Thanks to our social chair, we’ve done fun nights like ax throwing and bowling and just enjoying the Lexington community.

How much does it cost to be on the team?

Because we don’t have our own team horses, we can use all of our team member dues to help our members go to Intercollegiate Championships and provide discounted merchandise and apparel for them. Our competitive member dues are around $100 and our social member dues are around $50. Almost all of that is paid back to our members that compete at Champs.

For example, this year we provided each of our competing members with a really nice custom shirt to wear for the cross country phase. In addition to team t-shirts, we bought lots of decorations for the Team Spirit award.

We really just try to use all the money we get from our dues to send it right back to our members, to help them have the best experience possible.

The University of Kentucky Eventing Team after winning the Team Spirit Award in 2023. Photo by Isabel McSwain Media.

What is it like to compete with the team versus as an individual?

Competing at Young Riders and Champs is so much more fun than individual competitions. Champs is just absolutely unbelievable. We go all out on our decorations, everybody is all about team spirit all weekend. We really make an effort to have all of our members that possibly can go out and cheer for everyone. We usually bring a couple of people every year that don’t ride and just want to go and have fun and support the team and they’re our biggest cheerleaders. We have all of our matching equipment, all of our matching team gear, and it is just so much fun.

I forget that I’m riding myself, not just cheering on the team. Like, ‘Oh my dressage ride is in an hour, I guess I better stop cheering for the team and doing team stuff and get my horse ready.’ But really, your own ride almost feels like the smallest part of the weekend.

We got the Team Spirit Award at Intercollegiate Championships this year and we are so so proud of that achievement. We were so thrilled. We really, really worked hard for it. The Spirit Award was so exciting; it was way cooler than winning the overall team competition.

Achieve Equine sponsored the team and provided you with matching blue FLAIR strips at Intercollegiate Championships. Did you notice a difference in your horse’s performance?

I just absolutely love them. I’ve used them in almost all the shows I’ve taken George to and you can definitely tell a difference. Because they sponsored the team for champs, we were able to expose a lot of our less experienced riders to them, to see them in action and learn how to put them on properly and be able to see the benefits of something that you may not necessarily think is crucial. It was good exposure for our new eventers and had big benefits for our horses. It was a win-win all around.

What would you tell a freshman who is wondering whether or not they should join the team?

Well, obviously I would say yes. But I would also say from the perspective of someone that’s doing a science degree, that it’s definitely possible to really excel in academics and also ride horses. I think a lot of times people feel like they either have to do one or the other or not even go to college at all if you want to continue being competitive. I would say that’s definitely not the case. It is possible to do both and it’s possible to do an intense degree and still ride competitively.

The community in the UK Eventing Team is fantastic. Everybody’s on the same page. Everyone’s going through the same thing. And it’s just so much fun, and it’s definitely made my college experience that’s for sure.

This article was sponsored by Achieve Equine, purveyors of FLAIR Strips, VIP Equestrian, and Iconic Equestrian 2-in-1 saddle pads. Click here to shop all of the brands on their website.

EN’s Got Talent: Sharon White & Jaguar Duende

We hear all the time about horses at the top of the sport, but what about the next generation of equine talent? EN’s Got Talent introduces the future superstars of the sport, interviewing riders about how they’re tackling training with these youngsters.

Sharon White and Jaguar Duende collect their winnings in the Preliminary Horse Championship at AEC. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Jaguar Duende gives Sharon White wings.

The young bay Westphalian mare (Jaguar Mail – Latina x Lancaster), is starting to take flight at the FEI level. While only in her second season of international competition, “Jag” is one we expect you’ll see at the very top of the sport one day. “She is just a competitor. I’ve never had a horse be that competitive, to be honest,” said rider and owner Sharon White.

Jag’s magical name matches her Pegasus-like jumping abilities. “Duende is a magical spirit. It is like a magical fairy or a sprite. I just think it fits her to a tee,” Sharon said. “When she’s going around cross country it’s like she has wings, like you’re sitting on a little fairy. She just lifts up off the ground so easily.”

Her less serious barn name suits the classy mare equally well. Plus, it lets Sharon have some fun. “I get to say I’m taking the Jag out,” Sharon said, chuckling.

Bred by Hendrikus-Johannes Von Boggel in Germany, Jag comes from a star-studded lineage. Her sire, Jaguar Mail, was ranked as the second best sire for three years in a row, from 2017 to 2019 and is currently standing at New Normandy Farm. He competed at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, ridden by Peter Eriksson for Switzerland. According to New Normandy Farm, Eriksson thought highly of the stallion, saying he was “always in the best of moods and always ready to go to work in and out of the stables.”

It seems that Jag has a lot of her father’s personality. “She is a worker. She’s funny. I’ve had to teach her to learn to take a breath because she tries so hard. She just puts in so much effort,” said Sharon.

Sharon bought Jag sight unseen when she was three years old. “Dirk Schrade from Germany found her for me. He broke her, he started her, he did all the things, until she was ready to come to the States when she was five years old,” Sharon said.

Sharon White and Jaguar Duende. Photo by Sally Spickard.

It takes a lot of skill to find a top competition horse, but Sharon says there’s no one she’d trust more than Dirk to find her next top competitor. “I trust Dirk to just find the horses for me. I didn’t even see her before I bought her. I mean I probably got a picture or something,” Sharon said. “You have to find things in life you trust, you know? I trust Dirk, and I trust Jag. I’m not actually very good at picking horses for myself, but it’s easy to do it for someone else. So if you have someone who can help you, that’s priceless.”

Since coming to the United States a little over two years ago, a lot has changed for Jag, physically and mentally. “She’s grown so much. When she got here she was a little tiny thing. And now she’s huge. Dirk cannot believe how big she’s gotten,” Sharon said. “It definitely took me a year to really feel like we were on the same team. But now it feels like I’ve been riding her forever. It doesn’t feel like a new partnership at all anymore. She’s very much with me.”

The exponential growth of Jag and Sharon’s partnership is most likely due to the mare’s trainability… or perhaps because she gets plenty of her favorite treat: bananas. “She is very food motivated. She will eat anything. Bananas are her favorite thing. She’ll do anything for a banana peel,” Sharon said.

Sharon and Jag’s close connection in combination with the mare’s raw talent has paid off in spades so far. The mare has completed four FEI events at the two-star level, including one CCI2*-L. She’s never placed lower than third, even in highly competitive fields against other top riders. “Her record is unreal, I’m very proud of that actually,” said Sharon.

While Jag does have two withdrawals after the dressage phase on her record, both were due to Sharon becoming ill. “It was so hot and I was so sick. I just thought I wouldn’t do her any justice.”

If you ask most eventers which phase is most difficult for their horses and which phase their horse enjoys the most, you’ll probably get the same answer seven out of ten times: dressage is the hardest, cross country is the easiest. Jag is the exception to the rule. “She is excellent in all three phases and competitive in all three phases and wants to do the right thing in all three phases,” Sharon said of the type-A mare.

As a matter of fact, Sharon’s biggest struggle with the young mare has been controlling her own temptations to move up the levels faster. “My only struggle with her has been being patient enough. And I’m doing a good job of that I think, because she is one of those horses that it would be easy to push her too fast. Strength takes time. You can’t rush strength.”

Biding her time is finally about to pay off. After two seasons at the two-star level, Sharon has made the decision to move the mare onto bigger things. “She’ll move up this fall. I wanted to move her up at Millbrook. But there’s that rule that you can’t move up if you haven’t done an event in three months and the last thing she did was the CCI2*-L at Ocala. So she missed the deadline by three days. It was fine, it’s no big deal to wait a little longer to move her up,” Sharon said.

Jag took on the Preliminary Horse Championships at the USEA American Eventing Championships and will move up to the Intermediate level this fall. Again proving her talent, Jag and Sharon were crowned Champions of the Preliminary Horse division, finishing on a remarkably low score of 28.5. Those duende wings clearly served her well, as she pulled off a double clear round on both cross country and show jumping and finished on her dressage score.

We cannot wait to see what the future holds for Jaguar Duende and Sharon, as they shoot for the stars.

This article was sponsored by World Equestrian Brands. As Sharon is on the World Equestrian Brands’ trainer team, she’s very familiar with not only their products, but the company as a whole. “They don’t do something if it’s not good. Anything you get from them you know that they’ve thought about whether it’s something that they want to put their name to, to distribute or produce or support. I absolutely love that about a company. It’s about quality.”

Click here to shop all of World Equestrian Brands’ products.

10 Reasons to Put Ocala on Your Bucket List

Most people’s travel bucket lists consist of far off places, like Iceland or Prague, but equestrians know that some of the most amazing places in the world are right here in the good ol’ US of A. There’s a reason why Ocala is called the “horse capital of the world.” The next time you’re looking for a fun horsey vacation, put Ocala on the top of your list.

Watch a Saturday Night Grand Prix at the World Equestrian Center

According to our Ocala insiders on the EN team, spectating a Grand Prix is the place to be on a Saturday night, even for eventers. Watch from the stands as top horses and riders battle it out for the top spot and a generous cash prize in the stadium at the World Equestrian Center. Your view will consist of stately white columns, impeccably decorated fences, and pure showjumping talent.

Gallop on the Beach at Amelia Island

It’s not often you get the opportunity to gallop on the beach. Amelia Island is a short drive away from Ocala and is home to Amelia Island Horseback Riding. This company has been offering daily beach rides on the island since 1993. Honestly, I prefer to ride someone else’s horse when it comes to beach rides. That way you know you’re on an experienced, been-there-done-that type of pony, so you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the wind in your hair. Or, if you’re visiting Ocala with your horse, you can trailer in and gallop across the sand on the back of your heart horse.

Enjoy the Gypsy Vanners

As eventers, our horses tend to be distinctly featherless. When you want your fill of horses that should be on the cover of a romance novel or featured in a Hallmark movie, take a tour of Gypsy Gold Horse Farm. Open for farm tours four days a week, you’ll be sure to get your fill of brightly colored ponies with long manes and tails flowing in the wind.

Take a Glass Bottom Boat Tour

Ocala isn’t just famous for being the horse capital of the world — it’s also home to beautiful aquatic wildlife, such as turtles, manatees, and many different types of fish. There’s no better way to experience Florida’s wildlife than with a glass bottom boat tour at Silver Springs. Available in 30-minute and 90-minute tours, you can expect to see fish, as well as historic Native American and Spanish artifacts, and underwater movie props from the days when Hollywood productions were filmed in the park.

Compete at Florida Horse Park

An aerial view of the Florida Horse Park – one of Central Florida’s major rallying points for transitory equestrians. Photo via FHP’s Facebook page.

Are you bringing your horse with you to Ocala? Consider competing at the Florida Horse Park! The venue hosts two winter horse trials, as well as the well-known Ocala International Horse Trials. For those eventers looking for more schooling opportunities, check out the Partners of the Park events for competition opportunities in a low-key environment. If you’d rather relax than bring home blue ribbons, the 500-acre park has equestrian trails that are open to riders for free!

Stay at The Equestrian Hotel

Instead of staying at an AirBnB, rest in the lap of equestrian luxury at The Equestrian Hotel. Decorated with vintage-feeling equestrian decor, this hotel actually overlooks the main arena at the World Equestrian Center, so you can watch the events from the comfort of your room. This hotel is also home to two equestrian-themed restaurants and a poolside bar.

Zip through Ocala’s Canyons

Since we all know most eventers are thrill seekers, I found the perfect excursion for those who love speed and don’t mind heights. With The Canyons, you can enjoy Florida’s only true canopy tour. Choose from several different packages ranging from one hour to three hours long. One package includes an 1100 foot zip line that crosses the beautiful Lost Spring Lake and goes through Big Cliff Canyon.

Shop for a New Home Base

Okay, or take your self on a driven tour of all the incredible horse property offerings contained in the Ocala Horse Properties portfolio. If you’re thinking about relocating, looking for an investment property, or simply want to do some real estate research, check out all the properties on offer through Ocala Horse Properties here. You can also stop by and visit the crew at their new office located right in the heart of Ocala!

School to Your Heart’s Content

Ocala is filled to the brim with a plethora of schooling opportunities. Every winter Sara Kozumplik, Will Coleman, Megan Kepferle, and others have partnered to create an ultra-affordable winter schooling show series. But that’s not all — the Florida Horse Park is also home to the Partners of the Park (POP) schooling show series, which caters to lower-level eventers, although show jumping rounds higher than 3’11” can be accommodated on request. For another three-phase schooling event, check out the series hosted by Majestic Oaks Ocala. Majestic Oaks runs schooling shows nearly all year long and offers divisions from Tadpole through Preliminary. Other venues to look at for schooling opportunities include Rocking Horse Eventing Horse Trials and Barnstaple South — plus TerraNova Equestrian Center is only 2.5 hours north.

Bonus: Go Where the People Are

Sara Kozumplik and Rubens D’ysieux. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Ocala is home to some of the most knowledgeable people in our sport. It’s a hot spot for equestrian knowledge, eventing included, which is why it’s known as “the horse capital of the world.” Local eventers include Sara Kozumplik, Will Coleman, Leslie Law, Sharon White, and more. Even Bettina Hoy and William Fox-Pitt are known to frequent the area every winter. Being in an environment saturated with experienced horse people means that there’s no shortage of clinics and learning opportunities to be had in the area.

Ocala is one of those places that everyone has to go to at least once. If you do decide to extend your visit and stay permanently, check out Ocala Horse Properties to find the farm of your dreams.

This article was sponsored by Ocala Horse Properties. Learn why the OHP team loves to live and work in Ocala on their website.

SF Vancouver II Makes Double-Clear Comeback at the Eventing Academy

Jane Jennings and SF Vancouver II at Stable View Eventing Academy. Photo by Kate Antrim/Sparky Photography.

8 months ago, Jane Jennings was desperately researching why SF Vancouver II had started demonstrating symptoms similar to head shaking. The beautiful bay warmblood, nicknamed “Teddy,” was only eight years old. Despite the odds, on July 23rd, 2023, Jane and Teddy finished on their dressage score to win the Novice division at the Eventing Academy at Stable View.

Head shaking is a frustrating condition that is still not well understood and is difficult to diagnose. It can have a serious impact on the horse’s quality of life. Teddy wasn’t just head shaking under saddle, he was also shaking his head while in his stall and paddock. According to the UC Davis Center for Equine Health, “Research performed at UC Davis confirmed the involvement of the trigeminal nerve, a large nerve that runs across the face. In affected horses, this nerve has a very low threshold for activation, meaning that it fires spontaneously or with minimum stimulus. This causes the horse to experience tingling, itching, or burning sensations.”

As a dedicated horse mom, Jane started researching how she could help Teddy.

“Head shaking can be a very debilitating situation. It was clear there was something wrong and it was getting progressively worse. So, I tried a nose net and different bits, bridles even riding at different times of day and weather conditions trying to figure out if his hyper-sensitivity was related to light/shadows or even insects. My equine dentist performed a thorough exam, but we couldn’t find any answers. I went through the whole gamut researching online constantly, trying to figure out what could be causing this,” Jane said. “My equine acupuncturist, Shelly Onderdonk, suggested that it was time to pull out the big guns. So, I made the decision to bring him to Tryon Equine Hospital.”

After a full workup with Dr. Emilie Setlakwie at Tryon, the team made the decision to bring Teddy to Dr. Amy Johnson at the New Bolton center to get a robotic CT scan. Getting a CT scan of a horse is no small feat; only a few top veterinary centers in the country have the equipment necessary for the procedure. It requires general anesthesia and comes at great cost to the owner. Still, Jane was unperturbed. Her willingness to go the extra mile for Teddy paid off. After four months of trying, he was diagnosed with a deep inner ear infection called Otitis Interna. While a very rare condition for horses, symptoms can include head shaking, head tilting, and a lack of balance to name a few. Drs. Johnson and Setlakwie put Teddy on a four-month course of strong antibiotics.

“Slowly but surely, his whole personality changed,” Jane said. “He’s now affectionate. He’s still a little cautious, but he wants to be loved now. He’s more engaging and he’s such a sweet horse.”

Jane Jennings and SF Vancouver II at the Stable View Eventing Academy. Photo by Kate Antrim/Sparky Photography

Once Teddy was back at the top of his game, he and Jane tackled the Novice division at the Eventing Academy. Jane says that it was the perfect event to get her and Teddy back in the swing of things. The Eventing Academy follows a unique format that allows horses and riders to school the cross country course on Friday, school stadium or dressage on Saturday, and then compete on Sunday. The format is perfect for green horses and riders and allows competitors to get their horses used to the atmospheric venue before the pressure of competition day. For Teddy, it was the perfect way to re-introduce him to competition after eight months off and a four-month course of life-changing antibiotics.

“Teddy schooled the cross country course on Friday, and on Saturday I did the stadium round. And then on Sunday he did the actual event,” Jane recounted. “So it was fun. It was a good outing. It was a good test to see where he was at, if he was ready for the level. It’s just nice to get out and practice and see where the horses are at. It’s a really nice format for horses that are coming back from a little bit of a rest.”

Competing at Stable View’s Eventing Academy wasn’t just about bringing Teddy back into work. Jane says that she also goes to the Eventing Academy to support increasing accessibility to the sport for new riders. “It’s less expensive than a traditional recognized event and whenever people can save a little bit of money, it absolutely helps introduce new riders to the sport,” Jane said.

The Eventing Academy doesn’t feel like an unrecognized or starter event, in either appearance or difficulty. “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.”

Despite the beautiful decorations, true-to-level divisions, and atmospheric venue, Jane says that she still feels the Eventing Academy is extremely welcoming to all levels of horse and rider. On cross country schooling day, you can expect to see some riders with trainers clustered around specific fences, while others will be riding the full course and calling out fences as they go. While it sounds chaotic, Jane says it really doesn’t feel frenetic.

“You definitely see all levels, and you have to remember that it’s training level and below. You’ll have your very inexperienced green horse and rider combinations there with their coaches on the ground,” Jane said. “This is a great way for people to learn about the rules of eventing. So, as experienced riders, we all support the lower level riders.”

Jane Jennings and SF Vancouver II at the Stable View Eventing Academy. Photo by Kate Antrim/Sparky Photography.

Jane bought her farm in Aiken in 2016, but has been coming to the area since 2007 and has been actively involved in the local eventing community. She runs a boutique equine sales business and also offers training and boarding at her facility. As a long-time competitor at Stable View, the venue plays a large role in her competition season. “I can’t imagine this eventing community without Stable View,” Jane said. “Barry has done such a great job promoting the sport and offering a world class facility for horses and riders.”

Jane and the resilient Teddy have big plans for the future. “I’m very happy and thrilled with Teddy’s recovery and subsequent win at Stable View,” Jane said. “So the Eventing Academy was a good little test and then if things continue to go well, then we’ll move back up to training level. I’ll just keep continuing up the levels as long as Teddy’s game. He’s very talented.”

Keep an eye out for Jane and Teddy at Stable View’s Oktoberfest at the end of September.

EN is proud to work alongside Stable View throughout each year and enjoys highlighting the many offerings this unique venue and its dedicated team provide. Stay tuned for more Stable View Stories all season long!

Diego Farje and EQ Scorpio: How to Build Trust with Reactive Horses

Diego Farje & EQ Scorpio working on building trust. Diego Farje & EQ Scorpio working on building trust.

This season, we’re following along with Peru’s Diego Farje and his new ride, EQ Scorpio, a part of the newly-formed Equestly Horses program. This series is brought to you in partnership with Equestly, purveyors of the best riding apparel and outerwear out there — trust us, we’ve tested it! To catch up on more Equestly Stories, click here.

When three-year-old EQ Scorpio, owned by Equestly Horses and Diego Farje, walked off the trailer after two days of travel from Argentina to Windurra USA where Diego works as head rider for Boyd Martin, the Argentinian Sport Horse was a little traumatized from the trip. His extremely sensitive and reactive personality meant that the days of travel had been hard on him, causing him to lose weight. When Carlos Hernandez and Sam Potter of Equestly purchased Scorpio, alongside Diego, they were warned that the horse was tough to handle. All of his beautiful jumping talent and gorgeous movement was wrapped up in an outer shell of anxiety that made him reactive and hard to catch, to say the least. Working with him required tenacity that most riders don’t have time for.

In love with the gorgeous 16.2 hand bright bay gelding from the moment he’d seen his auction video, Diego made the time.

He applied several simple techniques and worked hard on his own mindset to build a level of trust and partnership with Scorpio that, while still a work in progress, is impressive for only two months of hard work. Many of us can relate to what it’s like to have a horse that’s anxious and reactive. These horses seem designed to push our buttons, test the limits of our patience, and emotionally exhaust us. Diego’s method of gaining Scorpio’s trust and ensuring that the horse enjoys spending time with him could help so many of us stuck in similar situations.

Diego says that the key to his success is working on his own mindset before handling Scorpio. “It’s not like working with a robot. It’s an entity that feels energy,” Diego said. “I need to be positive even when if I’m exhausted because he feels that, you know? If you have the wrong energy when you work with a sensitive horse, they will feel something weird about you and they won’t want to be close to you.”

No matter what the day has brought him, Diego leaves his stress and emotions at the door and focuses on being positive and calm every time he works with Scorpio, whether he’s just grooming him or putting in a training session. “I’m pretty chill in general. Because of that, he gets calmer and calmer the more I spend time with him. He feels good with me.”

Diego Farje and EQ Scorpio at their first competition at Unionville. Photo by Carlos Hernandéz, COO of Equestly.

This approach doesn’t mean that Diego never sets boundaries with Scorpio. But it does mean that the way he sets those boundaries or corrects the horse is very thoughtful. “If he does something I don’t like, I just make him move with my hand or bump him with the lead rope. Then I tell him that it’s okay and we move on,” Diego said.

Have you ever seen someone reprimand their horse by getting that growly voice and making a really aggressive face that looks like a snarl? Yeah, that doesn’t fly with Diego and Scorpio. “A correction is just a correction,” Diego said. “I’ll just apply pressure and when he gives me something positive I reward him and then we move on. We don’t get feelings involved. We don’t get angry and we don’t make that face that looks like, ‘I’m gonna kill you.’”

With that being said, it’s human nature to get emotional when working with these big animals. Particularly when your horse spooks and you feel like you’re about to get crushed, it’s easy to react with anger out of fear. I know that I’ve been there and done that, even though it’s something I strive to avoid. Diego’s way of handling a spooky, sensitive horse takes fear out of the equation. “I try not to make a big deal out of the little things that he spooks at. If I try to correct him at that moment, he freaks out and makes the situation worse. If I don’t react, he realizes that there’s nothing to worry about,” Diego said. “So the next time he goes through it, he doesn’t even care. If he spooks, I show him, ‘Hey, nothing happened, you’re safe. Just chill out.’ I try to keep my energy pretty neutral.”

Perhaps the key to Diego’s success with using his own emotions (or lack thereof) to calm Scorpio down is the amount of quality time he’s spent with the young horse. When Scorpio first arrived, he was completely shut down. He wouldn’t let anyone approach him and wouldn’t even poke his head out of the stall to look around. Now, Diego can walk into the pasture and Scorpio will come running. How did he get to this point? A lot of patience and horse treats.

Diego has spent hours sitting in Scorpio’s stall waiting for him to approach him. “I used to go into the stall and he was like ‘What are you doing? Like, give me my space.’ But then I just waited for him to approach me. And he was curious, like ‘What’s that? What are you doing?’ Every time he came over I would give him a treat, just to help him feel comfortable,” Diego said. “I think it just takes patience and giving him space and showing him confidence around other people and horses.”

While Scorpio now trusts Diego, it’s still a work in progress with the other barn staff. Despite the setbacks, Diego hasn’t given up and uses everyday activities like grooming and bathing to continue building Scorpio’s trust in him. “I hate when people spray horses in the face with a lot of water pressure. Imagine if you had someone spraying you in the face with a lot of water pressure. You wouldn’t be comfortable,” Diego said. “So, when I first started bathing Scorpio I started working with him to show him that I wasn’t going to spray his eyes or his face. I use less water pressure and put the hose on the back of the crown and just let it run down his head really gently. I want him to think, ‘Oh, actually that feels really good.’ Once he gives me that relaxation with the water running down his face, I stop.”

The spa day and relaxation techniques continue even after bathtime. “In the beginning, he didn’t want me to approach him with a towel. It was terrifying to him,” Diego said. “Now, he rubs his face on it and enjoys when I go over his body with it. He starts chewing and gets really relaxed.”

“After training and bathing, I just put him in a stall and I can feel his energy really low and relaxed,” Diego added. “I really want everything I do with him to create more good experiences with me, you know?”

Diego really prioritizes working with even the smallest of Scorpio’s quirks, instead of trying to force the horse through every single challenge he faces. For example, Scorpio decided he hated having a fan blowing over his head and down at his face. “He just doesn’t like it, and I won’t force it,” Diego said. “Now the fan is in a corner and blows at a diagonal, instead of down on him, so he’s fine with that.”

Diego Farje & EQ Scorpio working on their partnership on the cross country field.

“He’s just hyperaware and really, really sensitive. There’s not another word to describe it. He’s always focused on everything that’s happening around him,” Diego said.

While many riders would take Scorpio’s reactiveness as a negative trait, Diego believes that sensitivity will add to his athletic abilities in the long run. “When he starts really working in his eventing career, he’ll be really focused, right? He’ll have a really fast reaction to a jump and be really sensitive to where his legs are and how to pick them up. I just need to channel that energy and sensitivity in my favor.”

As the owner of a sensitive young Thoroughbred myself, there’s a lot I’ve taken away from Diego’s trust-building process with Scorpio. Not only am I going to be more mindful of my own energy and mindset, but I’m going to put more emphasis on ensuring my horse is taking some enjoyment away from every step of my process. As Diego has proven, sensitive horses require thoughtful and compassionate handling.

Have you checked out the all-new Equestly.Ride app yet? You can download it for free in the Apple App Store (sadly, it’s not currently available on Android – but we’ll keep you posted!). Inside, you can track your rides, make a training schedule, manage your horse’s appointments, and catch up on news from EN — all in one place. Plus, the more you use Equestly.Ride, the more points you’ll earn toward awesome Equestly merchandise and more. Learn more here.


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Sturdy Riders Unite: Trying to Find Breeches That Fit

Veronica Green-Gott and her horse, GFF Monarch. Photo by Melissa Wise Photography.

In many equestrian cliques, there is one acceptable body type: tall and skinny. For someone whose husband fondly calls her a “sturdy lass,” it’s frustrating to find that most tack stores and equestrian clothing brands cater to this one type of person. In many tack stores, a 32 is the biggest size available, which no longer fits me or many other equestrians. When I was fresh out of college, I worked as a retail associate at a local tack store. I can’t count the number of times I had to turn away riders because we didn’t have show jackets, breeches, or tall boots that fit a larger frame or more muscular calves.

It’s a unique feeling of shame and melancholy when you find out that the tack store that all your friends shop at doesn’t carry your size. It’s a feeling that I didn’t know then, but am familiar with now. No one should ever be made to feel less than just because we’re not built like your standard Barbie doll.

And let’s be honest, equestrians are more likely to be built like weight-lifters than marathon runners. (And I want to be clear here, there is no such thing as a bad body type, whether you’re skinny or sturdy.) Really, having a thicker, more muscular build makes sense in this sport. It comes from throwing hay bales, mucking stalls, hanging onto runaway horses, and using all the muscle you have to control a large animal. So, why don’t brands embrace the bodies that make up the majority of the sport?

I made it my personal mission to find brands that are more body inclusive. While the pickings were still on the slim side (no pun intended), I expected it to be more difficult. Luckily, things have changed a bit since my time working retail nearly eight years ago.

The SmartPak Piper Collection
When I opened up my SmartPak catalog to the breeches section a while back, I remember exclaiming to my husband and waving my magazine around. I’m sure he was thinking, “Once again, my wife has gone insane.” Why all the excitement? SmartPak’s Piper Breeches are now available far beyond the typical largest size of 32/34. Instead, they’re available in sizes from 22 all the way up to 46. There’s a huge variety of styles in the collection, and my little hunter heart is thrilled with all the knee patch options.


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TuffRider Breeches & Boots
TuffRider breeches and tights are not only body inclusive, they’re also budget friendly. I own a few pairs of TuffRider breeches, and especially love these wide waistband knee patch breeches. However, if you’re looking for the pair with the widest range of sizes, you’ll want the Cotton Pull-On Plus Breeches, which are available up to a size 42.

Perhaps even rarer than body inclusive breeches are tall boots that come in a variety of sizes. The TuffRider Ladies Plus Rider Boots come in extra-wide, both short and standard heights, and go up to a size eleven in the footbed. I wish I had access to these when I was working retail!

Buckwild Breeches
Fashion isn’t limited to just one body size. Buckwild Breeches makes super cute riding breeches and tights that are for every body. They have a great Curvy Mare collection that isn’t just larger sizes– these breeches offer more room for your hips, thighs, and butt, so you’ll have a better chance of finding the ever elusive perfect fit.

I have a pair of these and they’re my favorite set of breeches in terms of fashion. My only wish is that they came in knee patch. I find the silicone full seat just a little too sticky for my tastes.

I am 100 percent convinced that there is not a single pair of breeches more comfortable than Kerrits winter tights. I had my original pair of fleece-lined riding tights from Kerrits for nearly a decade. Sometimes I would just wear them around the house, like loungewear– that’s how comfortable they were.

Kerrits doesn’t just make heavenly winter tights, they make most of their breeches and tights in inclusive sizes. Yup, you heard that right. Their riding pants are available in sizes extra-small to 2X.

Honorable Mention: Canter Culture
Full transparency here: I don’t own a pair of these breeches (yet). Everytime they pop up on my social media I spend some time drooling at the screen. I mean, how can you say no to houndstooth breeches?


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The reason Canter Culture gets an honorable mention is that they have pretty standard sizes, extra small through extra large. However, their extra large is equivalent to a size US 16 to 18, and rumor has it they’ll stretch to fit a size 20. But because this isn’t confirmed on their website, I can’t guarantee that’s the case. Still, as a mid-size rider, these breeches are definitely on my wish list.

Veronica Green-Gott and the ever-grumpy GFF Monarch. Photo by Melissa Wise Photography

While I still get frustrated shopping in stores, I’m really excited that more and more online brands are taking on the responsibility of creating apparel for all equestrians. It’s a big step forward when large brands pave the way for body inclusive sizing. Not only is it important to ensure current equestrians have access to the apparel they need, but it’s also a step towards making our sport feel more welcoming and less exclusive to new riders, young and old.

Note: Eventing Nation is proud to have a paid partnership with both SmartPak and JPC Equestrian (owners of TuffRider). However, we hope this won’t sway your opinion of their inclusion in this article. This list was created based on the writer’s personal experiences and opinions and we were not compensated for the publication of this article by any of the brands mentioned.

Skyeler Voss Chosen as Rider for Kim Walnes Documentary

Kim Walnes and The Gray Goose. Photo by Peter Gower.

Six years after the famous “Cinderella horse” Snowman passed away, another gray horse stepped onto the USA center stage, but this time it was the world of eventing who welcomed a gray superstar. Kim Walnes and The Gray Goose took the eventing world by storm. In 1982, they not only won Rolex Kentucky, but also won two World Championship medals. Kim and “The Gray” were so iconic that he was inducted into the USEA Hall of Fame in 2012 and they’re now the subject of a new documentary.

Set to be released in 2024, “The Gray: The Kim Walnes Story” will not only chronicle Kim and The Gray’s illustrious competitive career, but it will also cover the tragic, and unsolved, murder of her daughter and Kim’s new career providing transformative life coaching with help from her horse, Gideon Goodheart. The documentary first made a splash when a casting call went up on Facebook for a gray horse and competent rider. It’s not often that an equestrian-focused casting call comes out and the filmmakers weren’t sure what type of response they would get. To their surprise, the post blew up.

“I think landscape is able to tell a story in a different way, in a kind of palpable way. We realized that we really needed the perspective of a rider to be able to show what that terrain was really like,” said co-director Shanyn Fiske. “We put out a casting call for a Virginia-based competent rider and a gray horse. I was expecting maybe 10 people to answer and we got over 100 people of every age, ability, capability, location, wanting to be a part of this and we were flabbergasted.”

Skyeler Voss riding Argyle for the Kim Walnes documentary. Photo by Shanyn Fiske

After sorting through the candidates, the team has chosen Skyeler Voss as the rider who will be filmed in the documentary. While the majority of the film will use archival footage of Kim and The Gray, as well as interviews, Shanyn wanted to get some shots of a rider galloping a gray horse along the same countryside Kim once used to condition The Gray before some of their historic wins.

“There are moments in the film that are going to be more artistically pitched, where we could have a wide angle shot of a gray horse galloping on the same terrain that Kim did and those shots are going to convey the terrain, the environment, and the atmosphere,” said Shanyn. “If people want to understand that as Kim and The Gray, awesome, but I don’t think at any moment we’re going to try to make Skyeler act as Kim.”

For her part, Skyeler is overjoyed to be chosen as part of the project and has developed a close relationship with Kim. “It is an absolute honor to have the opportunity to meet Kim and represent this historic eventing duo! I grew up wanting a gray horse because of the magical Gray Goose. I am lucky to have a few good grays myself now and cannot wait to gallop the same fields Kim and Gray tackled,” Skyeler said. “Kim is such a role model for eventing professionals and competitive horse moms. In the short time I have been in contact with Kim, she has gone above and beyond to reach out, give me guidance during Argyle’s 4*L, and has become a wonderful mentor and fast friend.”

Kim chose Skyeler to figuratively represent herself and The Gray for several reasons, the biggest of which is that Skyeler most reminded Kim of herself. “So her relationship with her horse, Giles, reminded me a lot of mine with The Gray. And Giles looks a lot like The Gray, he acts a lot like The Gray. And she is a very quiet, sympathetic, empathic rider,” Kim said. “And then I came to find out later, she was trained by Jimmy Wofford, all the way through from the time she was 12 until he died. So no wonder her style of riding is similar to what I was taught by Jack Le Goff.”

Kim Walnes meets Skyeler Voss’s horse, Argyle, on the set of the documentary. Photo by Shanyn Fiske

It will truly be a “full circle” moment when Skyeler gallops her gray horse on the same trails Kim rode a thousand times with The Gray. Not only does Skyeler have a similar riding style to Kim, thanks to her training with Jack Le Goff, but Skyeler will also be wearing Kim’s old cross country shirt, which Kim saved for all these years. It seems fated that Skyeler would be part of the team, as the shirt fits her perfectly.

Unlike the first attempt at a documentary on Kim, this iteration of the project doesn’t shy away from hard topics. While the film will still chronicle her competitive career, the real heart of the film will focus on the work Kim does now, which evolved out of the murder of her daughter, Andy. Today, Kim works with her horse Gideon to heal others via transformative life coaching.

“There are very few people on this planet that have not experienced trauma at some point in their life, not to mention all the horses out there that have experienced trauma, right? We’re taught to have a stiff upper lip, and to go forward, and leave it all behind. Well, it doesn’t. Those things just get stored in your body. They don’t just leave, they don’t just dissipate, the feelings that we do not address get stored in our body, and then they come back and haunt us,” said Kim. “I’ve always just been honest about what’s going on with me to folks because it doesn’t feel comfortable to hide it. And I feel like if this documentary can help one person who has experienced something similar, then that’s what floats my boat. I just want to help other people move through their traumas and find a life that is fulfilling for them on the other side.”

The whole team behind the documentary is on board with Kim’s goals. “We want to follow the story of Kim and The Gray Goose but we also want very much to talk about how horses have become a very important source of healing for Kim, from the trauma of Andy’s death, from various other traumas, and how she’s really working with Gideon now to help other people use their relationships with horses to heal from their own trauma,” said Shanyn.

Kim Walnes stands with Skyeler Voss onboard Argyle. Photo by Shanyn Fiske

This documentary sounds like it will be a horse film unlike any other. Far from the Hallmark-style stories about young girls moving to the country and miraculously taming unrideable horses, “The Gray” has the potential to reach far outside of the close-knit, and often exclusive, equestrian community. The team behind the film hopes that the story will give people a new perspective on the animals we surround ourselves with everyday and will focus on how animals help us heal.

“You know, one of the reasons I’m very invested in this film is because horses have saved my life personally, on a couple of occasions,” Shanyn said. “So I think anybody who has turned to animals, whether that be horses or other kinds of animals, for that repair, for that recovery from trauma, can relate to the story.”

“All of life is sentient and it communicates, we’re just the ones who don’t share a language,” said Kim when I asked her what she hopes people will take away from the film. “Humanity has called other animals dumb, meaning they have no intelligence, they can’t reason. And that’s just not true. I’m hoping people will get a message from this film that might change their perspective on the world around us.”

There are a lot of big hopes and dreams riding on the film. Shanyn and Kim have their fingers crossed that they’ll be able to show it at large film festivals, like South by Southwest, and that one day viewers will stumble across it on Netflix and click play, unaware that their lives are about to change.

The team working on “The Gray” includes co-director John Welsh, producer Tabbetha Marron, co-director Shanyn Fiske, and filmmaker Caleb Doranz. This project relies on crowdfunding for its budget. To support the film, donations can be made via Paypal here.

Western Rider Learns New Tricks from Sharon White & Bettina Hoy

Florida: the land of watercolor sunsets, beach-side show jumping, and, of course, the infamous Florida Man phenomenon. It’s also the state that transformed reiner Rachel Ory’s riding career forever.

Rachel has been starting colts alongside reining trainer Tom Pierson since 2008. Together, Rachel and Tom traveled between Traverse City, MI and Scottsdale, AZ in the winter starting everything from warmbloods to quarter horses, until one day in 2015 when they had the opportunity to move to Florida. That decision had Rachel trading in her Western saddle for a dressage saddle.

Rachel Ory & Veronica riding a sliding stop. Photo by National Sports Broadcasting.

“Coming to Florida opened up a whole new world of dressage. I had done some western dressage on my own horse, but living in Ocala has allowed me to immerse myself in the art. I study and ride with top class trainers and horsemen on a regular basis. After a few years, I was able to add dressage and western dressage to what I can offer as a trainer,” Rachel said.

Western dressage isn’t as different from pure dressage as you might think. According to Rachel, the biggest difference is that the tests are set up with the Western horse in mind. “Generally if you’re riding a Western-bred horse, they’re going to tend to have a little more set to them and really be able to squat on their haunches,” Rachel said. “So, the western dressage tests are set up to showcase movements like the lope and pirouette a little earlier in the levels than what you would see in dressage.”

There are a few other unique variations in the movements themselves. “What would be your walk pirouette turns into more of a pivot for the Western dressage. It’s still with forward intention, but they are allowed to kind of plant that inside hind and pivot like your traditional Western horse would do,” said Rachel. “Western dressage can be a little more relaxed and laid back because you’re not having to hold that contact so much. We ride on light contact with a soft connection. It’s not a loose rein, but it’s a little softer connection between the hand and the horse.”

After moving to Florida, Rachel and Tom began operating out of Mardanza Farms in Marion County, a unique 600 acre property that brings together great horsemen and women from multiple different disciplines. Home to Valerie Pride of Blue Clover Eventing, Gabby Dickerson Eventing, Last Frontier Farm, as well as several other smaller trainers, Mardanza Farms is an epicenter for top trainers from a wide range of disciplines, including reining and eventing. While Sharon White operates Last Frontier Farm out of the facility, Bettina Hoy has also been flying over for the last few years.

Rachel Ory and Veronica with Bettina Hoy, Sharon White and Tom Pierson at Mardanza Farms. Photo Credit: Kelly Mastine

According to Rachel, Mardanza Farms is home to a close knit community. “We all support each other. Sometimes we ride together and once in a while we’ll all meet for dinner with the owners of the farm who are so encouraging to us all. For those of us who keep coming back year after year, we’ve become like family.”

And it’s not just the eventers who help Rachel with her training, the opposite is also true. “Tom and I have helped Sharon with some of her young horses and she has ridden some of our reiners just for fun, just to get on and see what it feels like. And it’s always fun to share ideas, since we all are open to new ways of looking at things,” said Rachel. “Bettina got on one of our reining horses too while she was here, just to try it. Why not?”

Training horses is a universal language. Photo by Sally Spickard.

As Rachel began dipping a toe in the waters of first Western dressage and then, later on, pure dressage, she enlisted help from Sharon and Bettina in transforming her nine-year-old quarter horse mare, Veronica (beautiful name, by the way), into a dressage horse. Sharon helped Rachel with grid work exercises, while Bettina focused on teaching Veronica to push forward into the bridle, which is the opposite of how most Western horses are taught to ride.

Sharon’s grids had Rachel working on her adjustability. “Working with Sharon White has been a big plus to add some variety into my program. I love learning new ways to use cavalettis and ground poles. I find it benefits my horses to present this test of their adjustability and balance in a way that creates visual interest for them,” Rachel said.

Bettina tackled the challenge of teaching Veronica to maintain connection while creating greater impulsion. She assigned Rachel exercises like riding a small circle into shoulder-in in collected trot, then lengthening across the diagonal. She encouraged them to go more actively, developing the push of the hindquarters, and creating more energy traveling over the top line to the bit. “It took a lot of effort to get the mare seeking the contact and wanting to go forward into the contact,” Rachel said. “There would be moments where I could feel Veronica get locked up or tense through her back and Bettina was just really good at seeing the little details and talking me through how to unlock her without dropping the contact.”

Working with Sharon and Bettina paid off. “Once our dressage felt really good, we were able to pursue our silver medal and do the Prix St. George at WEC with the real life dressage horses, which was a bit daunting, as there were some really big, fancy movers there. I’m glad that we did though, because you don’t see a whole lot of quarter horses in that ring. Plus, we learned a lot from the whole experience,” Rachel said. “Veronica doesn’t have the big movements like the warmbloods do, but my goodness, she tries her heart out. She’s such an amazing horse. So willing.”

Rachel Ory and Veronica in their USDF Silver Medal test at WEC. Photo by Q2 Photography.

Rachel’s biggest takeaway from her adventures in dressage, and in training with eventers, is that great horsemanship isn’t discipline-specific. “Good riding is good riding. We can learn something from everyone, especially if they are at the top of their game. Sharon and Bettina most certainly are. I have a lot of respect for what they do, and I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to be able to work with them,” Rachel said.

True to her roots as a colt starter, Rachel also says that cross-training has benefits for your horse’s resume, too. “The more variety that you can add into your program, the more well-rounded your horse is going to be and the more broke they’re going to be,” said Rachel. “Everything complements each other. In 2021, Veronica and I did a freestyle reining competition at the World Equestrian Center, and our routine incorporated the dressage movements that we had been working on, along with the required stops and spins for the reining. It was magical to be able to showcase the reining maneuvers next to the dressage movements all on the same horse in the same ride. We marked a 221 and were reserve champions.”

“I’m just trying to find what’s healthy and best for the horses. Presenting them with a variety of exercises and not dwelling too much on any one thing seems best for them, even if they are specialized in one discipline,” said Rachel.

Rachel and Veronica aren’t hanging up their rowel spurs just yet. Next, the pair is going to return to the Western dressage ring to compete in the Western Dressage Association World Championship Show this fall. “It was asking a lot of her to help me secure the USDF Silver Medal. For her to now come back and do Western dressage– that will feel a little bit like a break for her in some ways,” said Rachel. “She worked so hard, and I want to respect her body so that hopefully she’ll remain happy and healthy for years to come.”

At the end of the day, Rachel and Veronica’s story is a great reminder that no matter what tack we wear, all equestrians have one thing in common: we just want to do what’s best for our horses.

This article was sponsored by World Equestrian Brands. When I asked Rachel what her favorite product was, she was hard-pressed to choose just one. “Oh my gosh, I have to pick one?” Rachel said, laughing. “The Equilibrium splint boots are so breathable and nice. And they work almost with a little bit of compression. So I use those everyday on Veronica. The Vespucci bridles are amazing. And then the Mattes sheepskin pads. Oh my gosh. I love them.”

Click here to shop World Equestrian Brands products.

Eventing and Endangered Species Go Hand-in-Hand at Stable View

Endangered Red-Cockaged Woodpecker at Stable View. Images by Andrew Lydeard

When I’m binge-watching reels on #EventersofInstagram, I’m expecting to see training videos, tips, maybe some barn drama, or the person who inevitably posts tragic horse fails (can we please stop posting these?). What I wasn’t expecting was to see amazing videos on beekeeping and protecting the local Killdeer population from @StableViewAiken. Curiosity sparked, I did what any writer would do and got the full story from Barry Olliff, who owns Stable View with his wife, Cyndy Olliff. 

Originally, Stable View was a quail hunting lodge. When Barry and Cyndy purchased the property in 2010, they bought the central 160 acres which contained the main building, which used to be the main barn, the kennels, and the woodshed, as well as the scrub land, which is now the cross country field. More recently, they purchased the surrounding 850 acres of conservation land to bring the total acreage up to 1000 acres. Because these 850 acres are technically in a conservation easement, Cyndy and Barry aren’t allowed to make money from this part of the property. Instead, they’re more focused on being good environmental stewards. 

“What we set about doing was maintaining the trails and trying to create a good habitat for birds and animals,” Barry said. “And you do that by effectively returning the land back to the cycle that it would have had up to 100 years ago by having a habitat management program. And then you find the wildlife returns because it’s a better environment for them.”

American Kestrel Nestlings at Stable View. Photo courtesy of MPJ Consulting.

This habitat management program is carefully crafted in collaboration with the Long Leaf Alliance, Mark Pavlosky Jr of MPJ Wildlife Consulting, and, during the early years, flora and fauna expert Keith Bradley. Barry explained that a big part of the habitat management program includes performing controlled burns, in order to mimic the wildfire cycle that would have kept heavy undergrowth at bay 200 years ago. “The way the husbandry works in terms of looking after the land, you manage these fires, you have controlled burns,” Barry said. “You have a system and you go out and you burn certain parts on a rotation, which sort of keeps the safety aspect of it sensible because it doesn’t get out of control. And if you do that every three or four years, you go across parts of the property and create the right habitat for all sorts of different animals and birds.”

On the farm management side of the property, Barry said they try hard to operate the horse stables in an eco-friendly way. Instead of shipping manure off the property, it gets composted and recycled as fertilizer for the cross country course. This closed loop system cuts down on the farm’s carbon footprint from trucks coming in and picking up manure. They also ensure the manure is responsibly located and reused in such a way so that it won’t runoff into the conservation area. 

While owners may still use fly spray and the like to protect their horses from insects, Barry says stable-wide use is limited. “There actually was a system in the main barn which we’ve never used. There’s a big tank in the back that’s not been touched since we bought the property,” Barry said. “You know, dogs, cats, horses, they all lived in the wild. And they survived and they were in good shape. So why are we worried about fly spray for horses?”

Another reason to avoid widespread insecticide use on the farm is the big bee population. In total, Stable View is home to 17 bee hives. To put that in perspective as to the number of bees this has introduced to the farm, each hive contains an estimated 60,000 to 80,000 bees. Last year, they collected 25 gallons of honey. This year, Barry believes they’ll harvest closer to 50 gallons.

“Originally it was an experiment,” Barry said about how beekeeping was introduced to the farm. “I had no idea that we would collect 25 gallons of honey last year. And even less of an idea that we could collect 50 this year.”

While it may have begun as an experiment, Stable View’s beekeeping pursuits are also doing their part to protect the local environment. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, it’s estimated that globally, one in six bee species is regionally extinct and more than 40 percent are vulnerable to extinction.

These habitat management efforts have really paid off. Stable View is now home to much more than just horses. On the property you can find flying squirrels, Quail, Chickadees, Kestrels, Screech Owls, and more. While Barry is not and never has been an avid birdwatcher, he’s quite proud of one bird Stable View’s efforts has attracted: the Red Cockaded Woodpecker. According to All About Birds, “This endangered species is a habitat specialist that is strongly tied to old-growth pine forests that burn frequently, leaving the understory mostly clear of younger pines and hardwoods.”

Installing a Red-Cockaded Woodpecker nest at Stable View. Images by Andrew Lydeard

Stable View has made a concerted effort to increase the population of this endangered woodpecker. Efforts have included carefully crafting nests for the birds, which involves climbing as high as 30 feet up in the air. “Mark [Pavlovsky Jr.] goes up a longleaf pine, about 30 feet, and cuts a square or a rectangle into the tree,” Barry said. “He inserts a man-made nest into the cavity, which replicates what a lazy Red Cockaded Woodpecker would like if it just rolled up with a mate and laid some eggs.”

Red-cockaded woodpeckers aren’t the only rare species on the property. Big three awn grass, Florida rosemary, yellow cucumber tree, Bitmore carrionflower, and Chapman’s triodia were also found on the property. All of these species of flora are tracked by South Carolina as rare, and are classified as imperiled or critically imperiled. 

But it’s not just the endangered or rare species that Barry and Cyndy are caring for. They’re also protecting the local Killdeer population by surrounding their nests with driveway markers so they don’t get stepped on. “It wasn’t really for conservation or anything,” Barry said. “It’s just a nice thing to do, really. We don’t want people to tread on their eggs.”

Barry’s hope for Stable View is that it becomes a place for the entire community, not just equestrians, to get outside and connect with nature. The trails throughout the conservation easement are open to hikers, bikers, and anyone who wants to explore the property and possibly get the chance to spot a Red Cockaded Woodpecker or flying squirrel. 

“We’re trying to get across to non-horse people that there is a community place here that people can come to, and they can walk or they could cycle or they could watch events, but they could be here separately from the horse park,” said Barry. “We’re trying to soften what is otherwise a rather upmarket, superior sport, and make it user friendly and more available to the public. I think one of the best ways of doing that is to talk about other things that people might be interested in separate from riding a horse.”

The beautiful Stable View! Photo courtesy of Barry Oliff.

“Cyndy and I have always felt that we’ve been very fortunate,” Barry said. “We’ve worked hard for what we have, but we also feel we’ve been able to take advantage of opportunities that may not have been afforded to others. There are a lot of people who have not had the opportunities we’ve had. Now, this is our way of giving back. To the extent that we want to say to people that horses have aspects of healing. We want people to know that they can come and walk the trails, come and ride the trails. Come and participate! The barriers of entry are as low as we can possibly make them in terms of pricing, and availability, and accessibility. So, if you want to come out here? Come out here and enjoy nature with us.”

EN is proud to work alongside Stable View throughout each year and enjoys highlighting the many offerings this unique venue and its dedicated team provide. Stay tuned for more Stable View Stories all season long! 

Ema Klugman: Coming Soon to a Courthouse or Horse Trial Near You

Ema Klugman and RF Redfern. Photo by Joan Davis / Flatlandsfoto. Ema Klugman and RF Redfern. Photo by Joan Davis / Flatlandsfoto.

Disclaimer: The title of this article is a quip from none other than Ema herself. I loved it so much that I told her right then and there that I’d have to make it the title of this story. 

Five-star eventer Ema Klugman is a master juggler. The balls she has to keep in the air include competing her top string of horses, continuing to grow her young horse program, studying law at George Washington University, and working at a law firm. We caught up with her to get an update on her up-and-coming string of horses; talk about her newest sponsor, Equestly; and chat about how syndication is more attainable for riders than you might think. 

Juggling law school and horses means that the start to Ema’s spring season looks a little different than most. “The semester finished at the beginning of May. And so I went to Aiken for a couple of weeks in February, but then generally I’m up in Maryland the rest of the time because I go to school in D.C., so it can be a little bit tricky to get going in the season. It normally works out okay. We start around the end of February or early March.”

This spring heralded a big move-up the levels for RF Redfern, owned by Team Fern. “Fern” was originally purchased during COVID as a blank slate. The little bay mare measures 15.3 on a tall day, but is quickly living up to her potential. “When I purchased her she had been started, but she was very, very inexperienced. She hadn’t been to a show or anything like that and she had had a foal when she was a 4 year-old, so she was pretty raw and a blank slate,” Ema said. “When I purchased her she was coming seven years-old. Now she’s stepped up to the four-star level which is really exciting.”

Despite her small size, Fern handled the fences at the CCI4*-S at Tryon with ease. She finished just shy of the top ten, in 12th place, with a total score of 52.1. “She’s quite a performer for sure,” Ema said. “So, she’s little and sometimes you think these are big jumps for a little horse, but she has such scope and a big big stride and a lot of confidence in herself. She makes it really easy.”

Ema has also recently started riding Slieve Callan Alpha, aka Blizzard, owned by Nicholas Cardamone. It’s unusual to see Ema on something that isn’t small and bay, and Blizzard is well outside of that category. The 17.1 hand gelding has “feet the size of your head.” 

“At home, he’s a worker who improves every day, but he really shines in the show ring,” Ema said. “When he goes to the show he really performs and seems to have real potential in all three phases. So I’m excited about him.”

While Ema has several horses owned by syndicates, it’s rare that she rides for an owner who found her first. “It’s an honor to have somebody call you and say, ‘Hey, can you ride my horse for me?’ It really is. I think Blizzard has the potential to be a really good advanced horse.”

On top of it all, Ema is also managing a circus of up-and-coming young horses that she hopes to move up the ranks. Her growing young horse program is based on the idea of finding a blank slate horse with a lot of potential. Ema says it’s important to think of the bigger picture when working with young horses. 

“I think, ‘Okay, he’s three, so he won’t start doing anything real until at least five or six.’ So that means that if you want to go to a big event in five years, you’ve got to have a five year old now that you’re training to do that,” Ema said. “So it’s quite a process, but it’s fun. You just have to kind of have a long term view of these horses.”

One of those promising young horses is Woody, an off-the-track thoroughbred sourced by Carleigh Fedorka. “He’s three this year. So he’s a baby really, but he’s beautiful, really beautiful looking,” Ema said. “He’s a dark gray 17-hand gelding and very correct in the way that he’s built.”

While she hopes Woody will stay in her pipeline to be a future five-star horse, Ema stays flexible. “Who knows, maybe he doesn’t want to be an upper level eventer, but I think he’s guaranteed to have the blood for it because he’s a full thoroughbred. So we’ll begin teaching him the ropes and see if he likes it.”

As well as a new up-and-coming horse, Ema has also brought on an exciting new sponsor to her team: Equestly. Unlike some of her other sponsors, where she’s limited geographically to talking with them only via phone and email, she’s gotten to know Carlos Hernandez and Sam Potter of Equestly in person. “It’s cool that they’re local and that they’re in my area. They live maybe about an hour away from me,” Ema said. “So it’s been nice to actually meet them.”

The Equestly Horses initiative has particularly piqued Ema’s interest. Equestly Horses aims to bring together a community of eventing fans to follow the journey of up-and-coming eventing stars. The subscription model gives fans access to exclusive VIP content, including behind-the-scenes videos on the making of a five-star horse and dedicated discount codes for Equestly products. 100 percent of every dollar goes to support Equestly riders and all future needs of Equestly Horses.

“I like the idea of having more support for horses that are coming up the levels. I was joking with Carlos that we should try to have a whole Olympic team of Equestly Horses one day,” Ema said. “Equestly is not just a clothing company. They really have an expansive vision. So I’m excited to see where it goes. I’m really happy to be associated with them because I think they’re looking to have a positive impact on the sport as a whole.”

Thanks to law school and personal experience, Ema has a unique perspective on horse ownership. “I think it’s cool to think about ownership in creative ways, like with Diego Farje and EQ Scorpio, who is an Equestly Horse,” Ema said. “One thing I’ve learned about the syndication model, and I’ve also learned this because I go to law school, is that you can write into a contract or agree with people on any terms that you want. You can come up with an idea and try to create something out of it. And if people are into it, then you can make it work. There really is no limit to all the creative ways you can think about horse ownership, just like the Equestly Horses model.”

“From the outside, having a syndicate or riding for owners seems unattainable, and I’m not here to say it’s easy, because it’s not, but it is attainable,” Ema adds. “I think people assume that owners will just show up on your doorstep. But even Olympians put a lot of work into convincing people to buy a horse and convincing people that this is a dream that’s worth investing in.”

“One of the great things about syndicates is that owners can purchase very small shares in the horses,” Ema said. “I have owners who own less than one percent of some of my horses, all the way up to those who own 20 percent. This flexibility is really a great feature of the syndicate model.”

Ema knows firsthand how welcoming owners and syndicates into your community can spread the love of the sport. “Buying a horse is not a good business decision, but it is a way of being part of the joy of horse ownership. When I was at Arena Eventing at Devon, I got a really cute video from Nicholas Cardamone of him watching the livestream in his kitchen and jumping up and down when I finished the course and cheering. Thanks to livestreams, even if you only own 5 percent of a horse you can really feel like ‘wow, that’s my horse on the television.’ That’s really a cool feeling.”

Equestly Horses spreads the joy of horse ownership by creating a community of fans that gets the inside peek at what it takes to move a horse up the levels. Die-hard Equestly Horses fans can follow along with, for example, EQ Scorpio’s journey and really feel a part of the process, from his first horse show to his first five-star event. They, too, can jump up and down in their kitchens while watching the livestream and cheer, as they’ve supported that horse’s journey firsthand through the levels of the sport. 

“Equestly Horses gets more people to be excited about watching the live stream or cheering on the horses and riders,” Ema said. “It’s super fun and grows the community in a way that most people wouldn’t think of.”

Ema Klugman and RF Redfern at Maryland International Horse Trials. Photo by Erin Gilmore Photography.

Ema is a big believer in supporting her local eventing community in the Mid-Atlantic, particularly when it comes to the Maryland Horse Trials at Loch Moy Farm, a venue Ema has been competing at since she was 10-years old. This July the venue is hosting their first ever international four-star event and it was a must-attend for Ema’s competition calendar. 

Ema even hosted an excellent course walk in conjunction with Equestly the night before the course was run. Summarizing the four-star course, Ema concluded, “Parts of the course are pretty technical, there’s a lot of terrain involved. It’s similar to Carolina [International], which Ian Stark also designed,” she said. “It’s friendlier than you might think, but you’ve got to be on your game. The horse has to be well-educated, brave -– all the things a four-star horse should be. It’s a proper course with lots of turns, you’ll want a horse that turns well. But I’m glad it’s not soft and we’ll just have to see how it rides.”

It turned out that RF Redfern, Ema’s four-star mount, had all the traits required to complete the course with flying colors. The pair came in second place with a final score of 62.3. She was easy to spot at July’s Maryland International Horse Trials, thanks to her Equestly gear!

This article was sponsored by Equestly. Ema’s favorite product from her new sponsor are the Equestly Seamless LS Tops. “They come in lots of different colors. They’re just really nice and cool for summer,” Ema said. “Usually I get very sunburned and kind of look like an idiot when I get to the office and have a farmer’s tan. But these long sleeve shirts are great because they’re cool, and they keep the sun off of you and they look quite nice.”

Click here to shop all Equestly products.

Welcome to Eventing: How to Ride Hills

James Avery and One of a Kind II navigate Bramham’s hills. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Read more from our Welcome to Eventing series here!

For the first decade of my riding career, I competed in the hunters and dabbled in show jumping. The most riding I ever did outside of the arena was the occasional trail ride around the property (note: don’t be me). When I decided to make the switch to eventing, learning how to ride across terrain was intimidating, but crucial. Now, it’s something that I truly enjoy. There’s no better feeling than moving out across a big open field on top of your favorite horse.

While longtime eventers seem to trot and gallop up and down hills without even thinking, recovering hunter riders, like me, or new riders will have to think about it a little bit more. Because I love concrete step-by-step instruction, I’ve broken down the nuances of riding up and down hills to hopefully make it a little more attainable for new eventers.

Note: I feel woefully under-qualified to give someone else instruction about how to ride terrain. So, I’ve turned to my bible, Training the Three-Day Event Horse and Rider, by the late, great Jimmy Wofford for support.

Training over hills isn’t just good practice when it comes to your own fitness and position. It’s one of the best things you can do for any horse – even a dressage horse! Jimmy wrote in his book, “Working over undulating terrain, practicing lengthenings uphill, practicing collections downhill, doing a medium walk on the bit while going down a steep hill, lateral work across slight inclines – all are useful. The horse finds it difficult to resist when his topline is continually changing attitude and shape” (68).

Before we get started on the nitty-gritty details of how to ride over hills, first you have to have the right equipment. Particularly with green horses, you’ll want to protect your horse’s legs to provide some padding from interference. When they’re first learning how to use themselves over terrain properly, they’re more likely to bang their legs against one another. I’d recommend a full coverage boot, like this one.

Another essential piece of equipment are gloves. While gloves are always a good idea, they’re particularly useful when you’re trying to get your horse to sit back as you ride down a hill. If your horse is built downhill conformationally, they’re more likely to lean on your hands and use you to balance themselves. Gloves will help prevent the reins being pulled through your grip.

Getting out of the ring and out into the country is good for your horse physically and mentally. And, for me, it feels like the under-saddle equivalent of soul food. However, it does take a little practice. According to Jimmy Wofford, concentrate on maintaining a vertical stirrup leather while moving out over terrain in a two-point position. “This will provide a base of support for you as you either push your upper body forward going up the slopes, or allow your upper body to get behind the stirrup, with the stirrup leather in front of the girth, when going down a slope or landing over drops” (91).

Of course, here Jimmy is discussing steep degrees of elevation, such as landing over a drop. For the beginner eventer, these principles still apply, just more subtly.

Mélody Johner and Toubleu du Rueire climb the hill from 17 to 18 at the Pratoni test event last May. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

When moving up a hill at either the trot or canter, think about softening your position. Let your arms flow forward with the horse. If you’re posting, think about pushing your thumbs towards the horse’s ears every time you’re out of the saddle.

Close your hip angle as the horse moves up the hill. I’m purposefully avoiding saying “lean forward” here as this can lead to riders jumping up their horse’s neck. Closing your hip angle, instead of leaning forward, allows you to keep your weight centered in the saddle and back. Don’t arch your back or slump your shoulders as you close that angle. Think about keeping your spine in a neutral position and keep your chest open with your shoulders back.

Allow the horse to use their body freely by posting the trot or sitting in a half seat or light seat at the canter. You should feel their stride lengthen slightly, their back engage, and the hind end push underneath their body to power up the hill.

Have you ever been told to think about a marionette string or pole that runs through your spine and out the top of your head? Many instructors use this visual to help their students stack their spine and sit up tall. Go back to this visual to help you sit extra tall and long as you go down a hill.

Tuck your tummy and pull your belly button back to your spine. It should almost feel like a crunch. Your goal is to use your core to support yourself and your horse down the hill, keeping them straight and encouraging them to use their hind end and shift their weight back instead of plowing down the hill on their front end.

If you have a horse who really likes to shove themselves on their front end and rush down the hill, a good neck strap can really come in handy. Going down the hill, reach forward and grab the neck strap while still keeping your body back. Gently pull upwards on the strap to apply pressure at the base of the horse’s neck and remind them to sit back. Use it like a half halt. Don’t just haul on your horse’s neck, but apply pressure briefly and release.

Being able to balance the gallop, and moderate energy use, down hills is crucial for an economic round at Pratoni. Emiliano Portale heads down to fence 8 with Aracne dell’Esercita Italiano. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Despite crunching your abs, your legs and hands should be soft. You don’t want to feel like you’re braced against your horse’s mouth, as this will create tension and stiffness in their body. As a matter of fact, you should strive to always maintain a soft lower leg position, even when galloping on the flat. On the topic of maintaining a two-point position while galloping, Jimmy writes, “Do not stiffen your knee or straighten your leg and take up the shock of the horse’s gallop stride by waving your upper body at the horse. This causes you to work out of rhythm with the horse’s stride and to unbalance the horse by continually moving from slightly in front of the motion to slightly behind the motion” (97).

There’s a lot of nuances to riding up and down hills. When it comes to eventing, riding up and down hills becomes a lot more difficult than the classic trail riding rule of ‘lean forward going up a hill and lean back going down a hill.’ And, like most things when it comes to horse sports, those nuances make all the difference.

The best advice my trainer, Carly Nelson of Stoneleigh Equine, gave me was to work on your position and these skills for two or three rides and then let your position come naturally up and down the hills. After all, every rider is built differently and has different conformation. Everyone will have their own way of moving with their horse over terrain.

And remember: perfection is an impossible goal.

This article contains sponsored links. Be sure to visit our awesome supporters,, to find all the supplies you’ll need for your eventing journey.

How a Little Paint Brought Equine Anatomy to Life at Morven Park

Jethro and Michael Alway at the Horses Inside Out Clinic. Photo by Wise Images Photography

It was a hot July day when roughly 200 attendees piled into the arena at the Morven Park International Equestrian Center for the Painted Horse Demonstration from Horses Inside Out, sponsored by HCS, USA Saddlery. Starting at 9am, world-renowned clinician Gillian Higgins and a team of volunteers had been painting the musculoskeletal system onto 11-year-old show jumper-turned-eventer, “Jethro,” and “Whisper,” an 18-year-old Grand Prix dressage horse. The job took several layers of water-based paint and at least four fans to get the horses dry and painted in time for the 4pm clinic. Both horses are owned by four-star eventer and horsemanship trainer Michael Alway and USDF Silver and Gold medalist Marion Alway.

The clinic was hosted by HCS, USA Saddlery, in conjunction with the North American Saddlery School. According to HCS, USA Saddlery co-owner Amber Markley, the company hosted the clinic to offer education for horse owners that’s sorely lacking in the USA. “Being saddle fitters, it’s really important for us to educate our clients. We find that if we educate our clients, they become better horse people,” Amber said. “We just absolutely fell in love with Gillian during our travels to the United Kingdom and we thought her way of teaching anatomy really brings it to life. We felt that this was a hole in our American education system that we could help fill.”

Equine anatomy is a subject that can easily become tedious and dry, but Gillian made it fun. “For me, it’s not just here’s a bone, it’s called this, but it’s about trying to give people the opportunity and the tools to assess movement in order to improve performance and comfort,” she said.

The audience of riders, farriers, saddle fitters, and even a few men from the U.S. Army Caisson Platoon, sat on the edges of their seats as Gillian covered everything from how the horse’s back works to exercises you can do at home to improve your horse’s performance.

Going into the clinic, Gillian’s goal was to “try and give people ways to improve the horse’s way of going without having to kick or pull or tie down or put an excessive amount of pressure on the horse,” Gillian said. “I hope that the audience could see that actually the things that we did to improve their way of going was so simple, like using the canter to improve the trot and those walk/trot/walk transitions to improve the trot.”

Gillian Higgins holding a bone up to Whisper at the Horses Inside Out Clinic. Photo by Wise Images Photography

Gillian had the audience out of their seats and doing some interactive exercises to better understand equine biomechanics at least twice throughout the night, including raising their arms and poking their neighbors to demonstrate the effect of the leg on the external abdominal oblique muscle. Her husband, Doug, was quickly appointed “bone-holder” for the evening as he displayed equine vertebrae in the beginning of the night, while Gillian explained not only the anatomy, but how better understanding anatomy can impact your everyday training and riding. The two horses, Jethro and Whisper, had a grand entrance complete with music and applause, which Jethro didn’t really appreciate, but he warmed up to the crowd by the end of the night.

The clinic was a unique mix of educational seminar, gorgeous riding, and lesson auditing. The first half of the night began with an interesting speech by Kay Hastilow from HCS, USA Saddlery on saddle fitting, followed by a presentation on anatomy basics, complete with real bones, by Gillian. The second half of the night focused on exercises on the lunge and under saddle. Michael Alway and Jethro demonstrated equine biomechanics and anatomy under saddle, while Marion Alway demonstrated the same principles in-hand with Whisper.

I’m going to be honest, I left with roughly six pages of notes. If my hand hadn’t cramped, I would have had more. Everything Gillian said had practical applications to the sport horse. Whether you ride Western or English, event or drive, Gillian provided attendees with real world exercises they could use to maintain their horse’s long-term soundness. Every exercise was discussed in relation to the equine musculoskeletal system and was demonstrated by Jethro and Whisper. It was amazing to see exactly what happens to the horse’s skeleton in the piaffe, as performed by Whisper, or over a fence, as performed by Jethro. The painted horses were almost like holding an extra large x-ray machine to a horse in motion.

While some of the clinic covered the basics– i.e. what happens to the horse’s spine in collection, the lessons were brought into sharp relief thanks to the ability to see the spine move and change as Whisper demonstrated a long and low stretchy trot versus a lifted and engaged trot over poles. I left with a new appreciation for what is happening to my horse’s body when I ask for collection and new ideas on how I can work with her biomechanics for better performance.

One of my favorite takeaways was Gillian’s Four Ways Horses Support Back Posture:

  1. Gillian’s first bullet point was a simple equation: When the horse’s head lifts, the back hollows, creating reduced back support. When the horse’s head goes down, the back goes up, creating more back support. Yes, this equation is simplistic and it’s much more nuanced than I can capture in one bullet point. I will note that Gillian went on to discuss how you have to balance providing back support with long and low under saddle exercises, while also reducing weight on the forehand.
  2. Second, back support increases when the hind limb reaches underneath the horse. This causes the pelvis to tuck, therefore rounding the back and providing better back support.
  3. Here’s where things really get interesting: Horses can also support their back by using their thoracic sling muscles. A properly developed thoracic sling supports good back posture by lifting up the horse’s withers, thereby better supporting the saddle and rider.
  4. “Without abs, there is no back,” Gillian said when she came to her fourth bullet point. Contrary to popular belief, she explained, the back muscle (longissimus dorsi) does not lift the back. Instead, the flexor chain muscles in the abdomen lift the back. Next time your trainer gets after you to better engage your horse’s abs, know that without ab engagement, your horse physically cannot lift their back, and you are riding in a false collection.

I knew some of this list prior to the clinic, but I never really knew why encouraging the hind legs to track under the horse was optimal for back support. Seeing the painted muscles contract and change shape right in front of my eyes offered another level of understanding. Gillian approached the topic of back support from the perspective that the horse’s back wasn’t designed to support the weight of the rider, so it’s up to us, as our horse’s personal trainer, to change our horse’s posture and way of going to create that support.

Jethro ridden by Michael Alway at the Horses Inside Out Clinic. Photo by Wise Images Photography

Gillian’s mantra throughout the clinic was, “if you don’t move it, you lose it.” She encourages horse owners to put their horse’s joints and muscles through their full range of motion on a regular basis. Otherwise, that range of motion will quickly become restricted

I left the clinic with several exercises to incorporate into my Thoroughbred’s daily routine. Gillian is all about easy ways to improve your horse’s posture without adding significant time or effort into your day. She gave us ideas on ways to improve our horse’s posture just walking to and from the pasture. Exercises included backing up to increase range of motion in the horse’s lumbosacral junction, two or three small circles in each direction to create more bend in the ribs, and walking over poles or logs to build fitness in the horse’s core.

If you want to incorporate one exercise from Gillian’s clinic, then I would say add more poles into your everyday rides. Not only do poles require the horse to lift their legs higher, which builds core fitness, poles also encourage the base of the neck to lift and increase back rotation. When you’re riding over poles, remember Gillian’s advice, “Let the poles do the work.” As she counseled Michael, don’t rush the poles. Instead, sit back and let the horse think as he moves through them. If the horse begins to rush or suck back, the spacing of the poles themselves will correct the issue.

When Michael rode in on Jethro, Gillian began critiquing his ride, explaining what happens to the horse’s skeleton over poles and fences, as well as at the walk, trot, and canter. At the beginning of the ride, Jethro was demonstrating a moderately lackluster trot, which Michael told me beforehand he’s been working on. Gillian immediately picked up on his goal and introduced several exercises to improve it. By the end of the clinic, Jethro was strutting around the ring in a nearly ground-shaking powerful trot.

I caught up with Michael Alway after the clinic to get his perspective on the clinic. “I thought it was great. It was a good learning experience as a rider. It was also a good learning experience for my horse,” Michael said. “When he gets tense, he wants to get jiggy and quick. He gets a little forward and then if I use too much rein, he goes behind the vertical, so it all snowballs. She gave me some really good exercises on how to interrupt that. At the end, I was trying to kind of control him through the poles because he’s so powerful. And as soon as I let the reins go and let the poles do the work, it was amazing. It’s a totally different feeling.”

Jethro and Michael Alway at the Horses Inside Out Clinic. Photo by Wise Images Photography.

HCS, USA Saddlery and the North American Saddlery School did a great job hosting the clinic. According to co-owner Amber Markley, “We hope that at least the attendees will leave thinking about how we’re putting the tack on in correlation with how their horse is built, how their horse stands on his own four feet, and how their horses move,” Amber said. “Because if they can start to think about and understand the principles [of equine biomechanics], they’ll understand how the tack is meant to function as well.”

The inaugural clinic was a definite success with good feedback from volunteers, riders, and attendees. If you missed out this year, rumor has it there just might be another Painted Horse Demonstration from Horses Inside Out, HCS, USA Saddlery, and the North American Saddlery School in 2024.

Coverage of this event was sponsored by HCS, USA Saddlery and the North American Saddlery School. Thinking of becoming a saddle fitter? Check out the North American Saddlery School here. If you want to drool over some gorgeous saddles or get your tack fitted, check out HCS, USA Saddlery here.

Creating a Peaceful Home for Horses with Sara Kozumplik

Sara Kozumplik and Rock Phantom. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Five-star eventer. USEA Governor’s Award Winner. Grand Prix show jumper. Sara Kozumplik is one of those highly experienced riders who has been there and done that. A life-long horse woman, Sara has been wintering in Ocala since 1999, when she was a teenager. After renting facilities for a number of years, she got the opportunity to create Overlook South, the sister farm to her Virginia facility, Overlook Farm, thanks to her long-time owner Edith Rameika.

I caught up with Sara to talk about her farm shopping journey and to get a bit of a barn tour through her top-notch facility. Bonus: she lets us in on her number one farm management secret.

Everyone has different goals when it comes to looking for their dream farm. Sara had a list of goals for her long-time friends and owners of Ocala Horse Properties, Chris and Rob Desino and Matt Varney. “The number one thing was a good property for the horses, a peaceful property, not on a busy road,” Sara said. “And I needed an area with enough hacking for my horses, as I do a lot of training on different surfaces.”

Sara was also looking for a farm with a good grass area for riding, plenty of turnout, and possibly a road that was suitable for hacking. Besides a peaceful location, Sara’s penultimate priority for the property was a concrete barn. “I didn’t want to have to build a barn. I wanted to be able to get into the situation without a whole lot of extra stress and hassle. So for me, that was really important. I wanted to be able to have the horse side of it as turnkey as possible,” Sara said. “I prefer concrete barns in Florida. Concrete barns are cooler and wood barns don’t last as long, thanks to all the heat and humidity.”

Because Edith,  or “Edy,” was going to be investing in the property, Sara wanted to make sure it would be a good investment. To that end, she wanted it close to the World Equestrian Center and the University of Florida. She and Edy chose to work with Ocala Horse Properties to find the perfect property – and it wasn’t just because Sara has had a close relationship with Chris and Rob since they first started their business nearly two decades ago.

According to Sara, the Ocala Horse Properties team knows Ocala and the surrounding area better than anyone else. “I use the best farriers and vets and trainers. Of course I’m going to use the best realtors, too,” Sara said. “They know exactly what I need as a sport horse rider, they know exactly what I’m interested in investment wise, and I don’t have to mess around.”

“Those guys have ridden and they’ve been athletes to the highest level of rowing,” Sara said. “So that makes them unique in the fact that they have a real understanding of upper level sport and equestrian sport.”

In the end, Sara purchased Overlook South because it checked the boxes on almost her entire checklist. Overlook South is located half a mile down a private road, which gives Sara the road hacking access she wanted. Covering 60 acres, Sara’s horses have plenty of room for both turnout and hacking. While it originally came with the gorgeous 18-stall concrete barn Sara wanted, she did install a large ring with top-notch Wordley-Martin footing and laid out her own pastures for turnout. The property also has a beautiful pond with a bridge that you cross to get back to Sara’s house, which she describes as “a heck of a lot nicer than I need.”

Overlook South covers 60 acres, but a third of it is heavily wooded. While this started off as a negative aspect of the property, it quickly became her favorite. “I thought well, that’s a lot of land that we’re not using, so that was a negative tick for me. But it ended up being the most positive aspect of the farm,” Sara said. “And the reason being is it’s provided us with peace and quiet. We’re a half mile from route 27, but I can’t hear anything. You can walk to HITS from where I am, but unless the wind is perfect, you can’t hear anything. My horses love it here because it’s so quiet.”

Creating a peaceful environment for her horses is hugely important to Sara — and her realtors were keen to prioritize that for her, too.

“Matt knew that I would love this property and I needed to come see it and he knows how much I like peace and he knows how much I want my horses to feel calm,” Sara said. “When there’s a lot of farms and a lot of stuff going on right next door, that energy can transfer over and stress everyone out. And I just didn’t want to deal with that. Matt said, ‘No, you need to come to see this property because I promise you you’re gonna love it.’ And he was right.”

Welcome to the dark side, kiddos! Photo via Sara Kozumplik Murphy on Facebook.

Sara has managed to maintain a peaceful environment for her horses, but also host clinics, a schooling show series, and camps, like the 2023 EA21 National Camp, thanks to the unique layout of the property and a house that’s perfect for entertaining. When you drive down the road to Overlook South, the main boarding and training barn is off to one side, while the competition/riding area is on the other. “The horse shows and clinics and the like are quite aways from the house and the turnout for the horses, but it’s close to the arena and some of the barn,” Sara described. “It’s plenty of room, but it’s also quite a consolidated area on one section of the farm, where the clinics and the horse shows and stuff like that are held. So, they don’t go all over everything and that makes it a little bit more peaceful by nature.”

While she’s all about keeping a peaceful environment, Sara is not going to shelter her horses either. “It’s not a bad thing for horses. Like, they can have peace most of the time,” She said. “But sometimes they’ve got things going on with their lives. They don’t always get peace, but that makes them a little bit more used to a big environment. Then when the day is over, everybody’s gone, and everyone gets to have a breath. And it still turns right back into that quiet home very quickly.”

[Side note here about the Winter Schooling Series I mentioned: if you’re in the Ocala area, I highly recommend you take advantage of this series. Here’s what Sara had to say about it: “It’s essentially just so that we have a place to practice over professionally designed courses with proper footing and proper jumps. It’s nice to be able to go and do a $40 round over a quality course as well and not have to break the bank every week. So we’ve been doing that for about seven years.”

You cannot beat a professionally designed course on great footing for $40 a round. Okay, back to business!]

Of course, it’s not just a facility that creates a peaceful environment for your horses. How you manage that property makes a massive difference in the happiness of the horses as well. When I asked Sara what her number one farm management tip was, she said, “The biggest secret to success is having the right people in the barn. You can have the most amazing facility going and you can still have very miserable horses if you don’t have the right people in the barn.”

For Sara, consistency is key. “Having new people show up every six months is not a good thing. I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve had the same team for a long time. But it’s also a two way street – the happiness of the workers has to be a priority.”

Because Sara travels often, she needs a team that she feels comfortable leaving unsupervised with her horses. “I also have to be on the road a lot in order to make enough money to keep everything going. So my main thing is that I have to trust people. I have to trust everybody that I have on my team, that they’re going to do what I asked them to do with my horses.”


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A post shared by Sara Kozumplik (@sarakm_overlookf)

Once you have the right team in your barn, then Sara suggests having your horses outside as much as possible. “That is so, so, so important, right? Horses need to be able to get out and move around. It keeps them sound and keeps them happier,” Sara said. “They 100 percent have to have something to eat in front of them all of the time. Sometimes you have to have a Jenny Craig paddock so they don’t blow up like a balloon, but they still need something to pick at.”

Sara also had a tip that applies to all riders, not just farm owners. To put it simply: give your horse some downtime after you ride. “Horses need a second to have an opportunity to catch their breath, have a pee, and a drink,” Sara said. “You know, I’ve seen situations where people were riding their horses for an hour or even longer. Then they come back into the barn and they go straight to the wash stall. That drives me mental, like that horse is going to colic or something.”

“Our primary goal has to be a happy environment for the horses, and happy people create a happy environment,” Sara said. “The reason we work so hard is for them to be content, because they don’t ask for this life, you know?”

This article was sponsored by Ocala Horse Properties, the number one in Ocala farm sales for 15 years and counting. Find your dream farm, just like Sara Kozumplik. Start by browsing their listings here.

10 Products You’ll Need to Survive Fly Season

Who’s already fed-up with the flies? I know my horse is. I went through and found the top ten products you’ll need to make it through fly season with your horse (relatively) unbitten. 

Maximum Airflow Meets Maximum Fly Protection

SmartMesh Ultimate Fly Sheet

I don’t know about where you live, but here in the Mid-Atlantic, it’s hot, like a step-outside-and-start-sweating-instantly type of hot. It’s tough to find a fly sheet that will offer your horse fly protection without causing them to overheat. That’s where the SmartMesh Ultimate Fly Sheet comes in. The super lightweight and breathable fine mesh allows for maximum airflow to keep your horse cool and comfortable, while still providing head to tail fly protection. Plus, it’s backed by SmartPak’s three year durability guarantee. 

Relaxed Fit Fly Boots

SmartPak Deluxe Relaxed Fit Fly Boots

Chipped hooves. Foot soreness. Stone bruises. Did you know that all of these common hoof health issues can be caused by stomping at flies? As the owner of a finicky barefoot Thoroughbred, I’m unfortunately very familiar with all three. Fly boots could be the answer to better hoof health this summer, as they can dramatically cut down on how much your horse stomps at flies. These relaxed fit fly boots are designed to be as comfortable for your horse as possible, while still providing that desperately needed fly protection. 

Fly Mask with Hard Core UV Protection

SmartPak UV90+ Fly Mask w/ Extended Nose

Owners of gray and bald-faced horses, this one’s for you. If you have a horse who needs sunscreen applied on a daily basis, this fly mask offers both UV90+ sun protection as well as fly protection. It has an extended nose that will cover your horse’s sensitive muzzle so you don’t have to spend your morning slathering sunscreen on a none-too-happy horse. If you have a horse who is prone to moon blindness and melanomas, consider using it year-round. 

Fashionable Ear Protection

SmartPak Luxe Collection Ear Bonnet

If you have a horse that becomes personally offended by flies while being ridden, I’m sure you know that an ear net becomes your best friend in the summer months. Ear nets can cut down on head shaking, help your horse stay focused, and, most importantly, keep your horse happy while you ride. With the SmartPak Luxe Collection Ear Bonnet, you can look stylish and protect your horse from flies. Available in navy, black, and white, this ear bonnet features satin-like fabric on the ears and a sparkly rope trim to add just the right amount of bling. 

Plant-Powered Fly Spray for Horse & Rider

OutSmart® Fly Spray

How many times have you sprayed yourself with your horse’s fly spray in a moment of desperation? Now you can spray yourself with a fly spray that’s actually safe for both you and your horse. OutSmart Fly Spray is made with Geraniol and Peppermint Oil, for a combination that works and smells amazing. This next-generation insect repellent is effective against house flies, stable flies, mosquitoes, and ticks.

Feed-Through Fly Protection

Smart Bug-Off Pellet

Feed-through fly supplements often get mixed reviews. But the SmartBug-Off Pellet has a total of four stars from over 1400 customers. With that many good experiences, it’s a safe bet that this supplement actually works. Picky eater approved, this supplement provides key ingredients to deter biting insects, such as garlic and apple cider vinegar. Plus, if your horse is prone to sweet itch, this supplement also supports healthy skin and a normal inflammatory response. 

Set It and Forget It Fly Trap

Rescue Disposable Fly Trap

Imagine if you could remove 40,000 flies from your farm just by filling a bag with some water. With the Rescue Disposable Fly Trap, that’s actually a possibility. The reviews are glowing, with one reviewer proclaiming, “How dare you make a product that absolutely exceeds expectation.” Because the powder attractant is contained within the trap, all you have to do is fill it with some water and hang it up. 

Hard Core UltraShield Fly Spray

UltraShield EX Fly Spray

Unfortunately, sometimes the natural fly sprays just don’t cut it. If you’re looking for a more intense fly spray, consider the UltraShield EX Fly Spray. The sweat resistant insecticide and repellent formula will protect your horse from more than 70 insect species for up to 17 days. It also contains sunscreens and coat conditioners to keep your horse looking great. However, use it sparingly! Insecticides can be harmful to pollinators.

Disguise Your Horse from Flies with an Earth-Friendly Fly Sheet

SmartPak Deluxe Fly Disguise Sheet with Earth Friendly Fabric

There’s been a lot of new products on the market lately that use zebra stripes to confuse flies and prevent them from landing. SmartPak’s version is a little more subtle. The SmartPak Deluxe Fly Disguise Sheet uses an innovative hexagonal pattern to confuse flies, making it hard for them to find your horse. As an added bonus, the fabric for this fly sheet is made from earth-friendly recycled materials. Each sheet saves 315 plastic bottles from the landfill. 

Say Goodbye to Ticks

Equi-Spot Fly Control

Ticks seem to be the guest of honor so far this fly season. Prior to this year, I have picked one tick off my horse in the last four years. This season, I’ve pulled off more than I can count. You don’t want to mess around with ticks and the diseases they carry. I use Equi-Spot Fly Control to help combat these disgusting blood suckers. The heavy-duty permethrin formula kills and repels houseflies, stable flies, face flies, horn flies, eye gnats and ticks on horses and it lasts for two weeks. 

There’s no way around it. Fly season is… well, not great. For many equestrians, it’s their least favorite time of year. Your horse won’t make it through the summer fly-free, no matter what you do, but you can at least make their quality of life a little bit better through the summer months with the right fly gear. I know my thin-skinned Thoroughbred appreciates a good fly spray and fly mask! What’s your favorite fly protection hack?

This article is sponsored by, you guessed it, SmartPak. Don’t let the flies stop you from riding your horse this summer. Click here to shop on

Q&A with Gillian Higgins: Understanding Anatomy to Improve Equine Welfare & Performance

If you’ve ever seen the incredibly interesting photos of horses with the musculoskeletal system intricately painted onto their coat, then you’re familiar with Gillian Higgins’ work.

For the first time since 2013, Gillian is coming to the United States to teach a clinic at Morven Park Equestrian Center in Leesburg, VA, made possible by the North American Saddlery School and HCS, USA Saddlery. I caught up with her to find out who she is, why she’s passionate about equine anatomy and biomechanics, and what riders can expect to learn from her. If you’re local to Leesburg, be sure to sign up for the Horses Inside Out clinic happening tomorrow (July 12) to learn from the expert herself!  

Photo courtesy of Gillian Higgins

Prior to founding Horses Inside Out, Gillian had a varied career. She’s worked in all sorts of bodywork, for humans and horses alike, including working as a human sports and remedial therapist, equine sports massage therapist, equine chiropractic manipulator, and BHS Senior coach/trainer. She trained to be a human sports and remedial therapist at the Nottingham School of Massage and Manipulation, before learning equine sports massage with Mary Bromiley. Since then, she’s written 11 books on the subject of equine anatomy and biomechanics with topics ranging from pilates for horses to massage for horses. 

After realizing how many of her clients and students could benefit from learning more about equine anatomy, Gillian started hosting small little clinics just for her contacts and it grew from there. Since founding Horses Inside Out in 2006, Gillian has taught at veterinary universities, to professional saddlers and saddle fitters, and to other therapists and equine bodyworkers. “Whatever we do with horses, the more we can learn about anatomy, the better we can ride, train, and look after our horses. For me, that’s what it’s all about. It’s making sure that we’re doing the best we possibly can to help these gorgeous, gorgeous horses,” Gillian said. 

Gillian Higgins and Freddie Fox, photo courtesy of Gillian Higgins.

Q: You have a great quote on your website, “Study the bones of a horse well and they will tell you a story because anatomy reflects function.” Can you explain what you mean by that?

The more you study anatomy, the more you realize just how much of a story it can tell. For example, the shape of the bones, how they change, how they adjust. So if you take the natural shape first, that can give you information about what it’s designed to do. Why are muscles shaped the way they are? That can help us to understand how horses move, why they move that way, and perhaps why they don’t move in other ways. And I think that can help us to understand how and why we should be training our horses.

In the early days of Horses Inside Out, I had this fabulous horse named Freddie Fox. I had him from when he was five to when he was 25. And very sadly, in 2021 we had to have him put to sleep. I made the very difficult decision to build his skeleton and unveil it at our annual conference earlier this year. When I did my talk about it at the conference, I saw how many lives Freddie touched, through demonstrations, through my books, through our online academy. He has helped so many people to learn about anatomy and biomechanics. 

After knowing him his whole life and then being able to see his skeleton really epitomized exactly what I mean when I say that bones tell a story. I could see everything about Freddie’s life through his skeleton, from his medical history to how he rode under saddle. On top of informing us about arthritic changes and other health issues, bones can tell us about muscular asymmetry through attachment points. If a horse is moving asymmetrically, you can actually see a slight change in the shape of the bone.

I suppose another example would be how anatomy reflects function in terms of posture. When we talk about improving a horse’s way of going, we’re talking about improving posture. So if you walk up to a yard and look at a horse and how he chooses to stand in that moment, you’ll have people say, “oh, that’s just because he’s slouching in that moment.” But, how you are in that relaxed moment is a reflection of how you are most of the time. So a horse standing in the yard with his hind leg out behind him, with his back down and the base of his neck forward– that is a reflection of how he’s going to be when ridden. 

The more you study anatomy, the more it becomes more useful and allows you to better assess horses and improve the way you train.

Photo courtesy of Gillian Higgins

Q: How can Horses Inside Out benefit the average horse owner?

I think it’s up to us as horse owners, riders, and professionals to take responsibility for our horse’s posture and way of going. We have to think of ourselves as personal trainers to our horses and good personal trainers really know and understand the body and that’s basically what we’re talking about here. If we really understand the anatomy of the horse, the biomechanics, then we’re going to be able to better assess your horse, to better know what your horse needs, and to understand what you’re asking of the horse.

So yes, Horses Inside Out is about understanding anatomy. But actually it’s really about, what can we do about it? Learning what training is appropriate and what is the right sort of cardiovascular fitness, and understanding why we’re doing that cardiovascular fitness -– because we want our horses to be healthy. 

Three things horse owners will learn through Horses Inside Out are:

 1. Understanding how the weight of the rider comprises the horse’s posture, their ability to move, and their ability to balance. By ensuring your horse moves correctly, you’re making the horse’s job easier and more enjoyable. 

Some of the muscles that support the rib cage effectively were designed to support the horse’s breathing. Yet, we have the weight of the rider on top of them, and those breathing muscles suddenly become load bearing. So, the question becomes how can we strengthen those muscles? Cardiovascular fitness, or getting your horse breathing hard, will strengthen those muscles and make your horse’s job easier.

2. Horses Inside Out encourages horse owners to think differently about fitness. For example, the question, “How fit does my horse need to be?” Let’s say I only hang out at the barn on the weekend and we just go for a walk down the road. Does that horse need to be cardiovascularly fit to just walk on a flat surface? Well, no he doesn’t. He’s not gonna get out of breath walking down the road. 

Fit horses will have better posture, will have stronger backs, and will be better able to support their ribcage, which is what we’re sitting on. So yeah, the horse doesn’t need to be cardiovascularly fit to walk down the road. But if they are, they’re going to be so much better at carrying the weight of the rider. 

3. Understanding equine anatomy puts more pieces of the puzzle in place and ultimately means we can better look after our horses. Horses Inside Out is about anatomy and biomechanics, but it’s also about understanding assessment exercises for improving posture, movement, and training performance. 

We all love our horses and we want the best for our horses and I think this is particularly important in today’s world. We need to do everything that we possibly can to make sure that they are conditioned, including both musculoskeletal conditioning and cardiovascular conditioning. We have to ensure their bodies are strong and capable for the job that we’re asking them to do and so that they’re strong enough to enjoy the work we’re asking them to do.

Q: What is one thing you wish every rider knew about equine anatomy?

I wish every rider understood that the most common cause of riding-related injury in horses is repetitive strain. Very often people will say repetitive strain injury is caused by a rider doing too much canter work on hard ground, or drilling too much left shoulder-in, or practicing a specific dressage move over and over again. And all of those things are true, to a certain extent. Repetitive strain injury can be caused by all of these factors. 

But repetitive strain injury is often caused by asymmetrical biomechanics in the horse’s body– or, putting it simply, bad posture. 

When a body, horse or human, is in perfect posture it is also in perfect symmetry. And when it moves, the forces within the body will be evenly distributed. So for example, if you run and you have poor posture, let’s say you have a tendency to slump your shoulders and your head goes forward, you’re going to put more strain at the back of your neck. 

If a horse has a tendency to go a little bit extended in the back and carry the base of the neck forward and down, which is the same sort of scenario as to the human running with slumped shoulders, you’re going to have more strain in certain areas. If you’ve got asymmetry within the body and poor posture, you’re going to have asymmetrical forces through the body. So if some areas get more force and others less force because your horse is working in a poor posture, it doesn’t matter how much you vary your training. Your horse could still develop a repetitive strain injury. 

The Live Painted Demonstration will be taught by Gillian on July 12th at the Morven Park Equestrian Center in Virginia. Hosted by the North American Saddlery School and HCS, USA Saddlery, you can expect a mix of educational demonstrations, applicable exercises, and some vendor shopping. In true British fashion, there will be a tea break halfway through the clinic. 

“We’re so thrilled to be bringing Gillian over to the United States,” said Amber Markley, co-owner of both the North American Saddlery School and HCS, USA Saddlery. “As a saddlery and saddlery school, we’re passionate about helping horse owners better understand how equine biomechanics impact performance and horse welfare, particularly when it comes to saddle fit. Bringing Gillian here to provide quality education and knowledge was a mission close to our hearts.” 

Gillian brings her love and passion for horses to everything involved in Horses Inside Out. She says it’s not about memorizing the names of the bones, muscles, etc. “It’s about how we as riders, trainers, and owners, use that information to help our horses because at the end of the day, we all love our horses.”
If reading this article brought out your inner horse nerd, like me, click here to sign up for the clinic.

This article is brought to you thanks to support from Horses Inside Out, Gillian Higgins, North American Saddlery School, and HSC, USA. We’ll have a full recap of the clinic coming soon on EN!

Catching Up with Diego Farje and EQ Scorpio: Slow and Steady Makes a Future Top Horse

This season, we’re following along with Peru’s Diego Farje and his new ride, EQ Scorpio, a part of the newly-formed Equestly Horses program. This series is brought to you in partnership with Equestly, purveyors of the best riding apparel and outerwear out there — trust us, we’ve tested it! To catch up on more Equestly Stories, click here.

Diego Farje and EQ Scorpio. Photo by Carlos Hernandéz, COO of Equestly.

We’re back with another update on Head Rider for Boyd Martin, Diego Farje, and his new horse, EQ Scorpio, a 3-year-old Argentinian Sporthorse owned by Carlos Hernandéz and Sam Potter of Equestly. When we caught up with Carlos, Sam, and Diego last month, Scorpio had just arrived from Argentina and was starting to settle into life at Windurra USA. Since then, Diego has been working hard to gain Scorpio’s trust and build a relationship with this outwardly fiery, but inwardly sweet, powerhouse of a horse. 

What’s it like to take a baby horse with 5* potential to his first-ever horse show? Well, Carlos, Sam, and Diego found out recently when Diego and Scorpio tackled their first Beginner Novice event. Sometimes, horses that show the most promise for the top levels are also horses that aren’t exactly as easy-going as your average amateur horse, both mentally and physically. This doesn’t always play to your favor when you’re taking said smart, sensitive horse to his first horse show. Overall, Scorpio and Diego had a wonderful first outing that accomplished their goals: to give this baby horse confidence and to keep all four feet in the dressage ring. 

The last time Scorpio was on a trailer, he traveled for two days straight to get to Pennsylvania from Argentina. It’s understandable that our intrepid baby horse would be a little hesitant to get back in the ominous metal box. “I don’t think he has ever been in a trailer where he walks on straight and then has to back down the ramp, so I thought it was going to be harder than it was. I mean, the last time he traveled he was on a trailer for two days. He was snorting and still a bit afraid. Like, ‘I don’t want to do that again,’” Diego said. “I just stayed patient and waited for him to trust me that everything was going to be okay. It only took like five minutes; it was way easier than I thought. But then I got to the show and was like, ‘Uhhh, I don’t think he knows how to back down the ramp…’”

Diego Farje on board EQ Scorpio with Equestly CEO Sam Potter at their first competition, Plantation Field Horse Trials. Photo by Carlos Hernandéz, COO of Equestly.

With a little bit of extra patience and loving encouragement, Scorpio slowly backed his way off the trailer and they were in business. Carlos, Sam, and Diego really wanted to give Scorpio the full horse show experience without the pressure of pushing for results. So, naturally, Scorpio joined them for a tour of the show grounds and even grabbed lunch with the Equestly crew. “We brought Scorpio with us to see the food truck and everything and all the horses around it. He wasn’t overwhelmed. He was really, really calm,” Diego recounts. 

Despite his initial cool demeanor while taking in the show grounds, Diego was still expecting Scorpio to show his true fiery colors under saddle. “I got into the dressage warm-up one hour before it was my time because I thought I would need to really calm him down before we got into the dressage ring, but he was fine. He was just like any other horse.”

Their only goal for dressage was to keep all four feet inside the ring. Not only did the pair achieve that, but they also nailed their Beginner Novice test to earn a score in the low 30s. Not bad for Scorpio’s first time treading the boards! 

The real excitement started when Diego took Scorpio into the show jumping warm-up. “We almost ended up in the bushes,” Diego said, laughing. “He just spooked and bolted and there were bushes in front of us and I thought we were going to end up in them, but he just stopped right in front of them, like nothing happened, and just did a perfect halt. It was so funny, everyone around us was laughing.”

Once in the show jumping arena, Scorpio made it all the way around the course with just a few rails down and some awkward baby moments. The pair withdrew before cross country as they’d planned. Since Scorpio is only three with less than a month of training under his belt, Diego is taking things slow and steady. “Performance is gonna come with time and patience, but it’s good for him to get this kind of experience in a big environment so he feels more comfortable,” said Diego. “Getting his confidence up is our only goal at horse shows for right now.”

 Diego’s philosophy of taking things slow, putting as little pressure on Scorpio as possible, and building his confidence is paying off. When Scorpio first came to Windurra USA he was essentially unhandleable. As an uber-sensitive baby horse, he had been completely overwhelmed by the stress of travel and the new environment. “When he first arrived, he was really scared because of the long trip to the United States and he is just so sensitive,” Diego said. “For some horses, the travel would have been fine, but for a horse like him, he got scared of dealing with people and became really reactive.”

Diego Farje and EQ Scorpio at their first competition, Plantation Field Horse Trials. Photo by Carlos Hernandéz, COO of Equestly.

The big bay gelding became completely withdrawn. He wouldn’t put his head out of the stall, wouldn’t let anyone catch him in the field, and trusted no one. “He didn’t even want treats. Believe me, I bought carrots. I bought different expensive treats. And nothing,” Diego said. “One day I tried to give him a treat and he actually took it from me. So the first thing I did was go to the store and buy a huge bag of the same treat that he liked and started working with that.” 

Diego took an almost meditative approach to winning Scorpio’s trust. In an effort to get the horse to trust him, he would spend all of his spare time sitting in Scorpio’s stall next to his hay. He patiently waited for Scorpio to come to him on his own terms. “At first he was like, ‘What are you doing?’ Then he started approaching me and getting confident that I wasn’t going to do anything bad. When he did approach me I started cuddling him and he slowly became more relaxed.”

The hours spent patiently sitting in Scorpio’s stall, on top of an already busy schedule working Boyd’s horses and client horses, were well worth the time spent. Diego credits that slow, no-pressure approach to why Scorpio did so well at his first show. “I tried to develop a system where Scorpio could feel comfortable doing what we want him to do,” Diego said. 

Scorpio’s sensitive and reactive nature means that slight pressure from Diego is more than enough. But it also means that setting boundaries and clear communication both on the ground and under saddle are more important than ever. “He’s like a baby. Just like a kid, he needs to learn what’s good and what’s not good, so I have to be very clear,” Diego said. “Scorpio is really sensitive. When I do have to correct him, I need to be really smart and accurate in the timing.”

If Scorpio shows that he’s becoming overwhelmed or uncomfortable, Diego instantly pumps the brakes. “For example, if he is afraid of one spot in the ring, I immediately walk. Stop everything,” Diego said. “I go to the same spot again, just walking and letting him look at it. I tell him, ‘Okay, it’s fine.’ And when he gets it, I walk it a couple more times. I could pressure him through it, but instead, when he gives me a good feeling, I listen to him. Then I just go back to doing whatever we were doing when we stopped, like nothing happened.”

Diego Farje and EQ Scorpio at their first competition. Photo by Carlos Hernandéz, COO of Equestly.

Taking breaks to give Scorpio the time he needs to process what he’s learning is a big part of Diego’s program. “Sometimes if you drill something 100 times to force them to understand it, that just makes the situation worse,” Diego said. “If you’re working on something new, work on it a little bit and then move on to something easier. Then, at the end of the ride, do it one more time, very gently, just to double check that he learned it, and then be done.”

“As a trainer, you always have a plan and you kind of want to stick with that plan. But sometimes things happen during the working session and you probably won’t reach your goal but you might get really close,” Diego explained. “Sometimes it’s better to stop one step before your goal then drill the exercise trying to reach a goal when it is not going to happen in that session.”

Like a little kid learning a new sport, Diego just wants Scorpio to learn to love the work he does, which means making it feel more like play, than hard work. “I think the most important thing for a horse training-wise is to enjoy the job. They need to feel like they’re playing, like everything is enjoyable, that it’s a good experience, that they can have fun.”

Diego believes that the most successful horses are those who love working with their rider and who truly enjoy their job. He hopes to cultivate both that feeling of partnership and that attitude in Scorpio. For now, it’s clear that the bromance is blossoming for this pair. In Diego’s own words, “I’m just obsessed with him.” While Scorpio is slowly coming to trust Diego, he hasn’t told Diego he loves him– yet. 

All kidding aside, it’s clear that there is so much love between this horse and his rider and I can’t wait to see what they’re up to next month.

Reporter’s Notebook: A Newly-Christened 4*-S Track + A Bright Future at Maryland H.T.

Caroline Martin and King’s Especial. Photo by Erin Gilmore Photography.

“No one in the world has ever ridden this course before.” – Ema Klugman

Well folks, Carolyn Mackintosh and her team have pulled it off. Loch Moy Farm is officially a CCI4* venue. At 9 a.m. this morning, the first rider galloped out of the start box to tackle the highly anticipated four-star track at the Maryland International Horse Trials. The Advanced and CCI4*-S groups were lucky — this morning a cool breeze was whispering across Loch Moy’s hills and the bugs were hiding somewhere -– probably in the woods near fence three. Not so lucky are this afternoon’s riders who have to deal with the scorching heat.

As I write this report, I’m lounging in an adirondack chair by the dressage ring, under my very own Maryland-colored umbrella, complete with beer, watching Bruce Davidson warm-up for preliminary dressage with his mount, Chesterland’s Sunswick. Am I a fancy person yet? Shhh.. No one tell the people sitting around me that I’m wearing $8 shoes from the Target clearance rack.

The Maryland International Horse Trial was definitely a spectator-friendly event. You can see the majority of the course from a variety of places and the start box is a stone’s throw from the show jumping ring. Altogether, I found the course to be extremely easy to navigate on foot with a multitude of great spectating locations. You won’t find drinks or snacks out on course, but I would argue they aren’t needed — here you can easily nip back to the concession stand by the dressage ring.

While all in all the course rode beautifully, the morning was not without its upsets. I had expected the combination at 11 to be the real test that would filter the true 4* horses from the rest of the pack, but it was really the third element at fence 4 that proved difficult, as we had three refusals there. The broken bridge at fence 13 — giving major Badminton vibes — also proved to be a stiff question for a few riders, leading to one elimination and another three refusals.

The course really shook up the placings in the Advanced class with Leslie Lamb moving up nine places with her own Banjo (Bailero – Banjanbee) to win the division with a score of 64.8 while our former leader, Lauren Nicholson and Larcot Z, retired after a refusal at the first element of fence 11.

“I know that everybody’s coming back and saying it was riding tough and yeah -– you had to be there and really be present — but Banjo answered every question and really stepped up to the plate,” said Leslie.

This was Banjo’s second ever Advanced course completed, his first one being at the Horse Park of New Jersey a few weeks ago. Comparing the two tracks, Leslie said, “This was a lot more technical. About the same size but this one is definitely more twisty-turny than Jersey. There were a lot of things that we never see, like the Broken Bridge and the bounce up there into the water. That’s stuff that he’s never been able to practice, but he handled it amazingly well.”

4*-S winner Jennie Saville agreed. “It’s twisty, but you know that coming here. It’s good to ride different kinds of tracks. I rode at Devon Arena Eventing just to get prepped for this. [Pascal and FE Connery] are both not great at turning, so I think that preparation really helped me today,” she said. “I was talking to Ariel Grald about Simon and she said that she would take Simon to places that wouldn’t really suit him just to make sure he would learn how to be flexible. That’s what I want to emulate with my horses. I think we need to be able to ride around twisty courses, like Boekelo. I don’t want to pigeonhole my horses into just one type of track.”

It has been a spring of “almost there’s” for Jennie and her team — she told me yesterday that she felt like she had been in the top 10 a lot, but not winning like she had been last year. Well today was the end of that “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” situation — after a great run, she and the Gardners’ FE Connery (Conrato – Hocaponta), “Sean,” finished an impressive 15 points ahead of the rest of the pack (47.9).

“Sean was great. Phillip Dutton rode him last time I went cross country schooling. I had been putting bigger bits on him, but Phillip said to just ride him in a snaffle. So I did, and he ran up underneath fence three a little bit, but got over it okay, just like Phillip predicted. After that, he was wonderful. So, Phillip was right -– like always,” Jennie said, laughing. “I’m proud of his score. The top three are riders that I really respect, so I’m very pleased with it.”

Ema Klugman and RF Redfern. Photo by Erin Gilmore Photography.

I caught up with Ian Stark maybe a total of 15 minutes before the first rider galloped out of the start box. This is quite possibly the absolute worst time to speak to a course designer whose brand new track is about to be tested for the first time, but Ian was a good sport about it and graciously agreed to give me a quote.

“I’m excited about the course. The guys have done a brilliant job. Carolyn Mackintosh and her crew have done an amazing job on the ground. We’re all set, we’ll just have to see how the riders cope with it. No one has come and attacked me yet, so I guess they’re happy with it. Or they’re all terrified and scared speechless,” Ian said, laughing. “There’s enough questions out there, there’s enough challenges. It’s got to be up to four-star level, but at the same time it has to be educational as well.”

For the first running of a four-star division, the day went smoothly. Jump judges were on their game and spectators were respectful. All dogs stayed on their respective leashes and did the important job of looking adorable. Good sportsmanship abounded and the horses were beautifully turned out.

Big picture-wise, I’m betting that this event has a shining future ahead of it. The organizers are innovators who aren’t afraid to try something new, like the exchange program with Ireland’s Millstreet International Horse Trials. The idea for the program developed after Governor Larry Hogan went to Cork County, Ireland in 2022 alongside Maryland Horse Industry Board officials, including Ross Peddicord.

“With Millstreet hosting a four-star and the Maryland Horse Trials hosting a four-star, we thought it would be natural to do a rider exchange,” Ross said. “Marylanders have a lot of connections with Ireland and Cork County, which is Maryland’s sister state. Marylanders and U.S. folks buy a lot of horses in Ireland. Our Maryland Hunt Cup has been won by Irish horses. The last three years in a row a lot of our steeplechasers were from Ireland. There’s already a lot of close connection between Maryland and Ireland and we’re very excited to further that relationship.”

Madison Temkin was crowned the inaugural winner of the exchange program with Millstreet, as she was the top placed young adult rider (18-25) in the FEI divisions with her OTTB mare, MVP Mad Bum. Madison, “Maddy,” was thrilled to get the chance to go to Millstreet, if a little sad that she’ll have to leave her horse behind. “I’m a very superstitious person so when people asked me about the opportunity I would just say, ‘Oh I don’t know, I don’t know,” Maddy said. “And then when I heard them calling me to the VIP tent I thought, ‘Wow, I’m going to get to go to Millstreet.’ That’s pretty amazing. I’m very, very grateful for the opportunity.”

The Maryland Horse Industry Board will be sponsoring Maddy’s flight to Ireland, while Fleur Bryan of Parkmore Supplements and Parkmore Academy will also be sponsoring part of the trip. “I have a passion for putting horses under good young riders,” said Fleur. “Originally I was just going to be sponsoring the rider snacks at Maryland Horse Trials this weekend, but when they asked if I could help sponsor part of the trip as well, I said of course. You know, I’m honored to find a young rider to go to Millstreet.”

Bobby Meyerhoff and Lumumba. Photo by Erin Gilmore Photography.

On top of doing an exchange with Millstreet Horse Trials, the Maryland International Horse Trials have done their best to make the event as accessible as possible. The Maryland International Equestrian Foundation (MIEF) has provided three riders with scholarships for the one-star, two-star, and three-star divisions. The organization’s mission is to support “equestrian sport from grass roots to FEI level at Loch Moy Farm, and is committed to providing funding for the development of dedicated riders from diverse backgrounds to compete at the top levels of our sport.”

The foundation awarded three scholarships equivalent to $1,000 to: Christy Niehues in the 1* division, Morgan Connelly in the 2* division, and Caitlin O’Roark in the 3* division.

All in all, my time at the Maryland International Horse Trials could not have been more enjoyable. Loch Moy Farm has done a wonderful job of fostering a relaxed atmosphere that creates a breeding ground for good sportsmanship and feels welcoming to spectators, volunteers, and riders alike.

Most of all, everyone involved with the event stayed focused on what matters most: that all participants gallop safely home.

The Maryland International + Horse Trials (Adamstown, MD) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times][Volunteer] [Scoring]

Reporter’s Notebook: Maryland H.T. Gallops Into the Big Leagues

Loch Moy Farm shows off its photogenic nature. Photo by Erin Gilmore Photography.

The Maryland Horse Trials at Loch Moy Farm have long been a staple of the local eventing community. Loch Moy manages to provide the perfect environment for both young riders looking to get their feet wet and for professionals looking to give their horse a great experience as they move up the ranks. Because of this unique duality, you wind up with stories of riders like five-star eventer Ema Klugman, who has been competing here since she was ten years old and is now one of the top contenders in this weekend’s event.

Many a pony clubber has learned how to event on the hills of the Maryland Horse Trials. So, to see the event “grow up” and offer an international CCI4* for the first time is bittersweet. On the one hand, I’m so excited for everyone who has worked so hard to pull off this historic moment for the venue. But, on the other hand, I hope pony clubbers and adult amateurs with green horses will always feel at home in the welcoming atmosphere provided by Loch Moy Farm.

To this end, I was pleasantly surprised with how little the competitive atmosphere changed with the addition of the 4* level. While there were some spectators in dresses and heels, the overall vibe of the event was the same as always: down to earth and welcoming. A moment that made me (for the umpteenth time) think about how much I love the eventing community was when Jennie Saville called, “Good luck!” to Ema Klugman in the show jumping ring, despite the fact that the two were currently duking it out for the lead. That moment exemplified what the Maryland Horse Trials have always been, and continue to be, about: good sportsmanship, friendly competition, and great horsemanship.

Speaking of great horsemanship, props to the many riders I saw who exited the show jumping ring and immediately got off, loosening their horses tack and giving them a big pat on the neck. In today’s heat, it’s so important that we give an extra big carrot to our faithful mounts who would probably rather be standing in their stalls in front of a fan.

Jennie Saville and FE Connery. Photo by Alison Green for Erin Gilmore Photography.

If you’ve never been to the Maryland Horse Trials before, you’re in for a treat. After winding your way up a hill, you’ll find yourself greeted by the sight of a sizable show jumping ring, surrounded by flags. As you slowly meander your way over to the parking area, you’ll get a mini tour of the show grounds. Four dressage rings, two up on a hill and two below, offer spectators a clear view of the event, particularly of the four-star ring. The VIP tent sits up on a ridge overlooking Ring 1, with four Maryland-colored sun umbrellas and adirondacks in front. Overall, everything felt within arm’s reach on day one.

Day one included both show jumping and dressage. While we had a small field in the four star and in the Advanced, there were plenty of familiar names and faces, including the aforementioned Jennie Saville and Ema Klugman, as well as Caroline Pamukcu, Lauren Nicholson, Jan Byyny, and Will Faudree. Countries represented included Australia, Canada, Brazil, and the good ol’ US of A.

For the 4*-S, it’s clear that Jennie and Ema will be duking it out for first place Saturday. After dressage, Ema and RF Redfern were in the lead with the second-lowest dressage score of “Fern’s” career, a 28.3. Unfortunately, a rail in show jumping dropped her down to second place, giving Jennie the lead by less than a point.

Jennie Saville and FE Connery. Photo by Erin Gilmore Photography.

Speaking of show jumping, Jennie and FE Connery were one of only two clear rounds of the day. FE Connery, or “Sean” as he’s known at the barn (yes, his owners named him after Sean Connery), has a bit of an underdog story. Jennie almost didn’t buy the then-six-year-old. “He was ewe-necked and had a yellow coat. He really hadn’t done anything,” Jennie said. “But I just loved to ride him and I knew I had to have him.”

Her gut feeling about Sean has paid off. The 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding, owned by Jennie along with longtime supporters Nina and Tim Gardner, has proven himself to be a real contender of the sport. “I’ve been working with Silva Martin on the flat and today was the first time we had two clean changes in the ring,” Jennie said. “He’s just a really nice horse to have and I’m really excited about his future. I feel like I’ve been in the top ten a lot this year, so I’m ready to go out and win.”

The Advanced field was a bit bigger than the 4* group, 24 riders to the 4*’s nine. The top three names on the leaderboard were easily predictable: Lauren Nicholson and Larcot Z, Will Faudree and Mama’s Magic Way, and Allison Springer and Vandyke in that order. Sydney Hagaman was in second place after dressage and show jumping, but withdrew before cross country.

Lauren Nicholson and Larcot Z. Photo by Alison Green for Erin Gilmore Photography.

At one point we had a little bit of a family feud going on. Maks Mojo C, ridden by Maya Clarkson, and Mama’s Magic Way, ridden by Will Faudree, were tied for third place after dressage. Both horses are by the hugely popular stud-of-the-moment Mighty Magic. Lately, it’s felt like you could throw a stick at any event and chances are high you’ll hit a horse by the Hanoverian stallion (attempt at your own risk*).

Solidly in the lead for the Advanced after day one is Lauren Nicholson and Larcot Z. While this is only Lauren Nicholson’s second FEI event with the 10-year-old Zangersheide gelding, the pair are clearly gelling well together. Prior to the Maryland International Horse Trials, Lauren took “Larco” owned by Ms. Mars, to the MARS Bromont CCI3*-L, where the pair came in fourth on a technical track. Now, they’re poised to clean up this weekend, if the horse’s prior cross country record is anything to go by, though for a step up this may be more of a “getting to know you” sort of trip on Saturday.

“Larcot and I are still getting to know each other but have become fast friends thanks to how beautifully he was produced by Will Coleman and Reagan LaFleur (who is here this weekend giving me advice and cheering him on!),” Lauren said. “It’s been a relatively quick partnership but I do feel like I’ve ridden him for years and really get on well with him. Hopefully he feels the same about me.”


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Looking ahead to cross country day tomorrow, riders will have to tackle a new course designed by renowned 5* course designer Ian Stark. New features have been added to the Loch Moy cross country course, including a triple bank complex at the water, coffin, and leaf pit track. Ema Klugman led a course walk, sponsored by Equestly, on Friday evening. I tagged along to hear about the 3570 meter track with a total of 34 jumping efforts and 22 questions.

[Click here to view the CrossCountryApp preview of the 4*-S track]
[Click here to view the CrossCountryApp preview of the Advanced track]

My main takeaway from this course could be summarized in one word: Surprise! But, keep in mind that I’m a weenie wanna-be eventer. The course starts out with a pretty standard first three fences to get the horse’s blood pumping and find your rhythm.

The riders will encounter their first combination at fence 4, which features three elements. However, the real excitement begins at fence six, which is a coffin with a lot of terrain that Ema thinks will feel like a real “rollercoaster ride.” She also pointed out that the horse will not have a lot of time to realize there’s a ditch after the first fence and recommended that the rider should be in a defensive position and ready to support the horse with a lot of leg.

Photo by Erin Gilmore Photography.

The fun doesn’t stop there. After a few twisting turns, fence 8 is a decent drop into the water, Ema’s advice is to “kick like hell” if your horse hesitates, as you’ll only get one shot due to the tight space. Horses will have to be super brave at the first element in order to make it into the water and get out neatly.

A ditch and wall at fence 9 and a steeplechase-like jump with a ton of brush at fence 10 are the lead up to the real show: fence 11. After a tight turn, riders will come up to the ABC combination. When we here at Eventing Nation say “insanity in the middle,” we’re talking about fences like this one. The combination will ride more like a gymnastics exercise meets cross country with two up banks leading to a massive log with a steep drop on the other side. If I were riding it (which I would never), I’d be channeling my inner Man from Snowy River.

After a relatively straightforward fence 12 to let the riders and horses catch their breath, riders will gallop through the arena for a decent drop and angle at fence 13, gallop up a hill to a skinny fence 14 and then encounter the Normandy bank at fence 15. Fence 16 is where the real “surprise” comes in.

Riders will gallop up a steep hill to all of a sudden emerge in the second dressage ring and wind up nearly perpendicular to a small water jump containing fence 16. After that, they’ll gallop up a short hill to the combination at fence 17 where they’ll need to make a tight turn and carefully angle the B element, all while watching their footing on the edge of the steep hill they just cantered up before 16.

From there on out, I think Ian takes pity on his victims eventers because the rest of the course, despite a significant drop at 20 and a few tight turns, is relatively “straightforward”. Keywords from the course walk? Turn, spooky, drop, brave, kick like hell, defensive position -– oh, and did I mention turn?

Ema seems relatively unfazed, however. “I think parts of it are pretty technical, there’s a lot of terrain in the course. It’s similar to Carolina [International], which Ian Stark also designed,” she said. “It’s friendlier than you might think, but you’ve got to be on your game. The horse has to be well-educated, brave -– all the things a four-star horse should be. It’s a proper course with lots of turns, you’ll want a horse that turns well. But I’m glad it’s not soft and we’ll just have to see how it rides.”

As always, I’m very excited for cross country day tomorrow. Our first rider to hit the course and serpentine around the Loch Moy grounds will be Matt Brown on board Alderwood. We’ll keep our fingers and toes crossed for an exciting, but safe, day of cross country. See you at the finish line!

*EN does not condone throwing sticks at horses.

The Maryland International + Horse Trials (Adamstown, MD) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times][Volunteer]

How Cindy Anderson-Blank Built Monarch Eventing from Caterpillar to Butterfly

This article is brought to you in partnership with Equestly and the just-launched Equestly Horses. See more Equestly Stories here.

It’s not everyday a fourth-generation ranch kid becomes a four-star eventer. Cindy Anderson Blank grew up working cows and running barrels in southeastern Oregon. Today, she’s fought tooth and claw to build what’s now Monarch Eventing in Berryville, Virginia. 

Cindy’s earliest memories involve horses: “My sister and I both started riding with my mother before we could even sit up, basically. My parents were working cows or whatever, and we had to go with them, so we grew up in the saddle.”

Cindy Anderson Blank aboard her trusty cowpony. Photo courtesy of Cindy Anderson Blank.

Cindy’s introduction to English riding was thanks to her kindergarten teacher and 4-H leader Denny Duke. Another local trainer, Norma Angele, introduced her to eventing. She did her first event when she was just eight years old on her trusty cow horse, and from then on out, Cindy was hooked. 

Finding eventing opportunities in southeast Oregon wasn’t easy. As soon as she turned sixteen and got her driver’s license, she started hauling her trailer over the mountains to take lessons in Medford, OR, which was three and a half hours away. 

Cindy attended Oregon State University to get her degree in Equine Exercise Physiology and spent her summer and holiday breaks working for David Acord with New Heights Training Stables. But, after college, she knew she had to head East, where there were far more opportunities to turn an eventing hobby into a full-time career. “After I graduated college, I worked as a tech for a little bit, like full-time small animal vet tech, just to build up enough cash to then start working my way East.”

Instead of taking a direct flight to the East Coast, Cindy slowly worked her way eastward as a working student. “I took a working student job for Jim Graham in Florence, Alabama for a couple years and took two horses with me, and stayed there until I basically ran out of money. Being a working student doesn’t pay very well,” Cindy said, laughing. 

Cindy Anderson Blank and Windchase Phoenix Star. Photo by Shelby Allen.

While Cindy said she learned a lot in her time as a working student, she said no one can afford to do it for very long without significant financial backing. She found what seemed like a blessing: a barn three hours outside of Chicago needed a barn manager and trainer. After three years working for herself, she realized she needed more instruction than she could afford to pay for. “If you go off to start your own thing to make some money too early, then you never get the knowledge base you need, you know? It’s just too hard to get instruction when you work for yourself and are just starting out. That’s why the working student thing is nice, but you can’t do that forever,” Cindy said. 

With three Preliminary horses and one Intermediate horse, she had made just enough of a reputation for herself that she could ride for someone professionally. Finally, she found the perfect position to grow her knowledge base and launch the rest of her career -– Olympian Phyllis Dawson was looking for a competition rider and assistant trainer. Not only had Cindy finally made it to the East coast, she had also found a mentor with a veritable wealth of knowledge. “At Phyllis’s, I was able to really gain a lot of competition miles and just so much experience. Her knowledge base helped me along and taught me about developing horses, conditioning horses, and training,” said Cindy.


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Cindy believes that the ten years she spent riding for Phyllis is what really allowed her to finally launch Monarch Eventing. Riding for Phyllis allowed her access to a great eventing education, without requiring the massive financial backing of being a working student or paying for lessons. While living and working at Windchase Farm, Cindy got the ride on Windchase Phoenix Star, who became her first 4* horse. “Windchase Phoenix Star was one that she owned, and I was able to take him Advanced. That was super,” said Cindy. “So I got four-star mileage on him and that’s kind of what got me to where I am today.”

While we routinely refer to young professionals who are just starting their business as “going off on their own,” it’s rare that someone is truly on their own. Cindy, for example, needed the help of two amazing friends, Darlene Judd and Andrew Brower, that she had met at Oregon State University. “They had a little extra space and they let me kind of build onto one of their barns to house a few more horses,” said Cindy. “And it worked. It worked really well to get my business going.”

Cindy helped Darlene get her homebreds started under saddle and in exchange, Darlene allowed Cindy to run her burgeoning business from their home. Darlene and Andrew were actually the inspiration behind the name of her business, Monarch Eventing. The two are entomologists and  Andrew is actually a butterfly specialist. “I liked the idea of — it sounds kind of cheesy, but — new beginnings, you know?” Cindy said. “The idea that you can crawl out of something and just make a beautiful vision a reality. The name Monarch Eventing was really to honor them.”

As Cindy’s business continued to grow over the next few years, she became too big for Darlene and Andrew’s home farm. Luckily, that’s when Sam Potter and Carlos Hernandez, CEO and COO of Equestly respectively, stepped onto the scene. Having already worked with Cindy as a sponsored rider for the Equestly brand since the fall of 2021, Carlos and Sam stepped up to the plate when she was searching for a new place to go. 

Equestly was leasing a farm in Virginia and offered it to Cindy so that she could build her program true to her vision. “They were very adamant that I could just build the training program out of their barn how I wanted it,” Cindy said, almost sheepishly. “That’s the thing that’s great about them — they’re not leasing the barn to make money, they’re leasing it to help my business get going and be able to stay going. In return, my business helps their business, since I’m a sponsored rider. Sam has her horses here and I’m able to help her with them. It’s very much a shared vision of what everybody wants it to be.”

Cindy Anderson Blank and Faberge. Photo taken by Carlos Hernandéz.

Together, Cindy and Equestly are creating a barn and training program that any horse would be lucky to be a part of. Their philosophy is simple: Horses first. Money second. “We’ve really tried to do everything absolutely for the horses’ best interest,” Cindy explained. “The best of feed, the best of care. We try to hire the best people you can possibly find. It’s important to us that we’re not making money at the expense of the horse.”

Of course, there’s a reason why some new business owners choose money over five-star horse care: it’s expensive to provide the best possible of everything and it takes time to grow a business the right way. Thanks to Equestly’s support, Cindy is able to take the slow and steady path to building the program of her dreams. Cindy believes that their shared vision is what makes the symbiotic partnership work so well. “It takes time to build a business up like that, but after a couple of years, you really start to see the benefits of that. And that’s also what Sam and Carlos are very focused on with Equestly,” Cindy said. “They’re very focused on quality and being able to create a brand that’s not just there to turn a profit, but to actually help people and make a difference for their sponsored riders and horses.”

Whether it’s mucking the occasional stall as needed or moving fencing around to create more pastures, Carlos and Sam have been hands-on in helping Cindy create the farm that she needs to grow her business. The new home of Monarch Eventing is located on more than 50 acres in Berryville, VA. It currently has 12 stalls, but that number is soon to go up with the addition of two more stalls. There’s an all-weather outdoor arena, which Cindy says she was able to ride in all winter long, plus a continuously growing cross country field out front — but Cindy’s favorite part of the property is the turnout. “The really nice thing about the property is it has exceptional turnout, like the turnout pastures are huge. The horses think they’re wilderness animals,” Cindy laughs. “They enjoy the land.”


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Monarch Eventing is located in a red-hot eventing community — the exact opposite of where Cindy grew up. But for her, it’s a paradise filled with new learning opportunities everywhere you look. “It’s easy to move to an area where you can be a big fish in a small pond. But in this area, even as a four-star rider, it’s like well, that doesn’t mean anything. You know, the knowledge base is already so high in this area,” Cindy said. “But it’s the place to be if you want to continue to educate yourself and continue to become a better rider and trainer.”

Building Monarch Eventing from the ground up hasn’t been an easy road for Cindy. “You have to take that first plunge of ‘I have no money behind me and I have nothing except the ability to work really hard,’” Cindy said. “We have a friend that says she spent her life jumping out of a plane and building the parachute on the way down and that’s pretty much what I did.”

The risks Cindy has taken are paying off. When asked what she’d tell other up-and-coming professionals who are looking to start their own program one day, she answered, “It’s all about having the right timing, being in the right place, and finding people that share your goals. Then you start to establish a vision of what you want and then you start to get a little bit of confidence like, ‘Okay, this is working and this is where I want to go.’ That’s when it starts to grow.”

Keep an eye out for Cindy in her Equestly gear galloping around the Advanced level this season with her horse, Faberge. 

Lessons Learned About Life & Riding from the Bromont Rising Program

Lea Adams-Blackmore and Frostbite. Photo by Sally Spickard.

If you followed along with all the action from the MARS Bromont CCI Horse Trials, then you’re probably familiar with the Bromont Rising Program. The MARS Bromont U25 Rising Program, first introduced in 2019, awards young riders grants to offset the expenses associated with competing at either MARS Bromont or Galway Downs International in the fall, along with access to mentorship from world-class equestrian thought leaders. World Equestrian Brands rider Lea Adams-Blackmore is one lucky rider who has been awarded a place in the program not once, but twice.

Both years, Lea has competed aboard her horse, Frostbite. This year she competed in the CCI3*-L, a step up from last year’s ride in the CCI2*-L. She and the 10-year old Dutch Warmblood gelding (VDL Zirocco Blue – Zanna, by Corland) have risen through the eventing ranks together after she imported him from Ireland when he was just four years old. 

Lea and “Frosty” arrived at the venue on Monday and started working with three-time German Olympian Bettina Hoy on Wednesday morning. From there on out, Bettina was coaching the young riders every step of the way, through all three phases of the event. Riders also attended a private workshop with Cara Whitham to get the judge’s perspective on dressage. 

[You can read more about the MARS Bromont Rising experience in Canada here]

Even though Frosty is an experienced 3* horse, Lea knew the terrain at Bromont would prove challenging. “My goal was to just go and not be dead set on having the best result ever, but I thought it would be a good test for him.”

While the weekend would end up cut short after Lea and Frosty were ultimately eliminated on cross country after some trouble late on course, she still has moments she expressed pride in. For one, she’d been concerned that her nerves might interfere with her horse’s focus, but she was pleased to find that Frosty handled the challenges quite well. “I was really proud that he went into the dressage ring in that big atmosphere and just kept his cool and didn’t get tense,” she said. “Sometimes he just gets a little bit distracted by the environment, but he was really focused.”

“On cross country, up until that last combination, he was just unreal. I honestly couldn’t have been happier with him,” Lea said of the early end to her cross country round with Frosty. “The last fence was just like a little stump on top of a mound and he tried so hard, but I think I got a little distracted and we both got a little disheartened.”

Despite the premature ending, Lea has a mature perspective on her run at Bromont and came away with lessons on both life and eventing from Bettina Hoy, proving that horses — and great coaches — always have something to teach us, whether we come in number one or dead last. Perhaps we learn even more from the run-outs and refusals (we’ve all been there!) compared to the rides that bring home blue ribbons. 

Lesson #1: Focus on Fun

Lea Adams Blackmore and Frostbite enjoy a post-ride snack. Photo by Cealy Tetley Photography.

Frosty is a nice mover and has always done well in dressage, bringing in scores in the low 30s. Bettina’s task for Lea in the dressage phase was simple: make it look fun. “She was like, ‘Make it look easy, show him off. Sit up and make it look like you’re having the time of your life and easily floating around. The judge should think it’s all just super easy and fun,’” Lea said. “The minute you look like it’s laborious and you’re nervous, it becomes a struggle.”

Even at the topmost levels of the sport, it’s important to remember that we were all once pony-obsessed little kids who spent the entire day at the fair in line for the pony rides. “You know, this is all supposed to be fun,” Lea said. “There shouldn’t be this big, stressful, sort of feeling right before you go into the arena. It should just be easy, just let it be easy and keep it simple.”

Riders in the U25 program also did a workshop with Canadian FEI judge Cara Whitham. Lea’s biggest takeaway from this session was to make every hoofbeat count, from the moment your horse steps foot anywhere even near the ring. “The time before you go into the arena is super important because that’s where the judges put you in a category,” Lea said. “They’re going to score you a certain way based on that first impression.”

Lesson #2: Every Piece of Terrain Matters

Lea Adams-Blackmore and Frostbite. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

As eventers, we tend to talk about the terrain as it relates to the fences. But how often do you pay attention to every single dip and mound on those galloping stretches? According to Bettina Hoy, every piece of terrain matters, particularly at Bromont where there’s lots of it. 

The terrain was a significant challenge for Lea and Frosty: “There is so much terrain at Bromont. You don’t really think about it until you’re at minute six or seven and all of a sudden the horse underneath you is definitely not the horse you started out with,” she explained. 

Bettina encouraged Lea to think about the terrain in a new way. As the U25 riders walked the course with the three-time Olympian, she pointed out every piece of undulating ground the riders would have to consider. Whether or not it related to a fence, Bettina was adamant about noting each little dip and mound and encouraged the riders to do the same. 

“I feel like that is real cross country riding in a way, thinking about all of those little pieces of terrain and letting them become part of your plan because it’s all related, whether or not it’s near a fence,” Lea said.

Each small mound or divot or hill changes your horse’s balance and impacts their quickly fading energy. Lea came away from the course walk with the knowledge that to truly master cross country, you have to look at the course as a whole, including the terrain, instead of as individual questions.

Lesson #3: Be Your Horse’s Cheerleader

Lea Adams-Blackmore and Frostbite. Photo by Cealy Tetley Photography.

Hard ground and lack of rain in Lea’s home state of West Virginia made it hard to build Frosty’s fitness prior to the event. She also had to balance his fitness with his focus in dressage as, like most athletic horses, if he gets too fit he loses focus. These factors combined meant that Frosty was having a little bit of a harder time at the end of the course than expected.  

“Being a bit more of a warm-blooded horse, Frosty is a little bit harder to get the fitness on. Bettina told me after we were eliminated that ‘You’re gonna have to work a little bit harder at the end of the course’ and to have that in mind next time I go out,” said Lea. “It was a good lesson to make sure you’re cheering your horse on through those last couple of combinations, or even if the last couple of fences look simple or like they should be simple. Just don’t underestimate them.”

As responsible riders, Lea says that we need to be there for our horses when they’ve been there for us. “Help your horse out because they’re trying so hard and they aren’t going make a mistake because they are being bad.”

Eventing is a sport that tests the partnership between horse and rider. Lea says that she walked away from the event understanding more about how to be a better cheerleader for Frosty. “You have to be like their little cheerleader and tell them, ‘You’ve got this buddy.’ So yeah, so just being a little bit more proactive and putting him in a better position towards the end of the course and really letting him know that I believe in him.”

Lesson #4: There’s Always Something to Learn

Photo by Abby Powell.

After being eliminated on cross country, Lea was taking some time to think back on her ride and figure out where she went wrong. Bettina came over with some great advice that could apply to anyone who has ever made a mistake while riding (so… all of us!). “Bettina talked to me after cross country and said, ‘You are going to make mistakes on [Frosty] and he’s such a good genuine horse. He’s going to forgive you every time, and you’re going to be smarter for the next time you go out,’” Lea said. 

Instead of focusing on what went wrong, Bettina encouraged Lea to think of all the experience and education she and Frosty got from attempting Bromont. Their original goal was never to go out and win. Their goal was to push the threshold of what he could do just a little bit more to further his education. 

“It was a good test for him and I think the questions he saw are going to be super helpful later on,” said Lea. “Bettina helped me understand that if you’re not winning, you’re learning every single time you go out. Maybe it doesn’t go the way you plan, but there’s always something to be taken away from it.”

“And it’s not a big deal when something doesn’t go to plan. It’s horses,” Lea added. “That’s just sometimes how it goes. But every single time there’s something to be taken away from that. So just learn the lesson, put the learning experience in the back of your mind, and then get ready to move on to what’s next.”

Looking forward, Lea is hoping to eventually step up to the Advanced level with Frosty, and overall looks at her run at Bromont, and particularly being part of the MARS Bromont Rising Program, as overwhelmingly positive. “It was the time of my life, up until it wasn’t,” Lea said, laughing. “But overall, it was an awesome experience.”

There is still time to apply for the fall round of MARS Bromont Rising, which will award grants for competition at the late-October Galway Downs International in Temecula, CA. Click here to learn more and fill out a MARS Bromont Rising application if you’re eligible (or, share it with someone who is!). Applications are due September 1.

This article was sponsored by World Equestrian Brands, your source for trusted brands like Vespucci, Amerigo, and Sergio Grasso. Lea’s favorite World Equestrian Brands’ product has to be her Amerigo dressage saddle. “I think my dressage saddle has become my new favorite thing in the entire world. I got it last summer and it has been my most prized possession,” Lea said. “It’s a Vega that’s custom fit for Frosty. It just puts me in such a better position and that’s made his job so much easier.”

Click here to shop World Equestrian Brands products. 

Welcome to Eventing: What to Wear to Your First Horse Trial

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

Eventing is unique from any other discipline in that it has three different phases requiring a few outfit changes. If you’re getting ready to head to your first ever horse trial, it can be confusing to know what to wear for what phase. Whether you’re an adult amateur who’s new to eventing or a parent of a riding school student who’s about to take the plunge into the world of horse trials, the need-to-know info is largely the same.

Most riders wear one or two pairs of breeches per horse trial. The main requirement is that you have a pair of white breeches for the dressage phase, like these TuffRider Full Seat Breeches. Unlike riding tights, the breeches should have belt loops, a button and zipper, and be made of a slightly thicker fabric. While most competitors ride in white breeches, beige or light tan breeches are also acceptable. You can technically wear the same pair of white breeches for all three phases, but some riders prefer to change their breeches before cross country to protect them from stains. Nothing ruins a pair of white breeches faster than falling into the water complex!

If you’re going to change your breeches before cross country, keep in mind that there are very few regulations around the breeches you wear on course. They can be any color and made of any fabric. Many riders prefer to wear cross country breeches that are made of a technical fabric that has sweat-wicking and cooling properties, like the Equine Couture Coolmax Breeches. Whatever breeches you choose to wear, make sure they have good grippy knee patches or a full seat to help you stay in the saddle if you get into a sticky situation. 

For the dressage and show jumping phase, you’ll need a formal show shirt, like the Equine Couture Cara Show Shirt. It has to have a stand-up or wrap-around ratcatcher collar and be a conservative color, usually white. While it is most likely to remain hidden under your jacket, it’s important to wear a show shirt that follows all of the rules, so that if jackets are waived, you can ride without your show coat. Keep in mind that if you’re riding below preliminary level, you don’t have to wear a show coat. 

While your show shirt in dressage and show jumping can be either long or short-sleeved, it must have long sleeves to be appropriate for cross country. Most eventers choose a shirt that showcases their cross country colors. A bright shirt means you’ll be easy to spot from across the field. Look for something that uses moisture-wicking technical fabric that will still be breathable, despite the long sleeves. The TuffRider Technical Sport Shirt checks all the boxes for a great cross country shirt, plus it’s available in a variety of colors. 

Photo via JPC Equestrian, taken by Cassidy Brooke.

For the dressage and show jumping phase, it’s encouraged to wear a show coat over your shirt. While it’s not required until you’re riding at the preliminary level or above, most riders want to look their best and choose to wear a show coat. Recent rule changes have started to allow riders to wear a wider variety of colors. However, for your first attempt at a horse trial, it might be a good idea to wear a more conservative coat, like the Equine Couture Raleigh Show Coat. That way if you decide eventing isn’t for you, you can still wear the coat in the hunter/jumper ring or if you go out fox hunting.

If you’re wearing a show coat, then you have to wear a stock tie! It also works the other way around– if you’re not wearing a show coat, then it’s considered a faux pas to wear a stock tie. For your first horse trial, choose a pre-tied stock tie, like the Equinavia Cavalleria Venice Stock Tie. It’ll save you time fiddling with a tricky knot when you’re already nervous prior to entering the ring. 

Gloves are a must in all three phases. And they aren’t just for looks– gloves provide crucial added grip when you’re galloping around the cross country course or flying around turns in the show jumping ring. Your gloves should be black, white, or beige. Most riders, particularly at the lower levels, choose to wear black gloves as they’re easier to care for. Leather is technically fine for all phases, but consider wearing them exclusively in the dressage ring and choose gloves with more grip for cross country. If you only want to invest in one pair of gloves for all three phases, consider the TuffRider Grippy Riding Gloves. These gloves have the grippy palm you’ll need for jumping, but they look like leather. 

What you wear on your feet is just as important as the rest of your outfit. When you’re first starting out and riding in schooling horse trials, half chaps and paddock boots are technically allowed, but they’re not really the norm. If you’re not sure if you’ll continue your competitive eventing career, or have a child who’s still growing, half chaps and paddock boots are a fine choice, particularly if they’re leather. Make sure the half chaps match the paddock boots in terms of color and type of leather; black is a safe color choice. Look for a combination that’s designed to be worn together, like the TuffRider Belmont Half Chaps and Paddock Boots.

If you’re ready to invest in a pair of tall boots, look for something that’s economical, but still looks stylish. You can both compete and practice in the TuffRider Regal Field Boots, which gets you the most bang for your buck. Just take a little extra time to shine them up before your first show. 

There’s a big emphasis on safety gear at horse trials. Unlike any other equestrian discipline, eventers must wear a protective safety vest on the cross country course. The vest you choose should meet or surpass the existing ASTM standards, just like your helmet. While there’s many different types of cross country vests, the best vest is the one that fits you correctly. It should cover your last rib and end just below the tailbone, without interfering with your position in the saddle. 

Overall, the eventing community is a welcoming one, particularly to riders who are just starting out. Don’t be afraid to ask questions before the event. Your trainer should be an excellent resource who can help guide you in terms of what to wear to an event. If you ever have any questions about the rules and regulations regarding show apparel, particularly at schooling shows, reach out to the show administrator. 

This article is sponsored by, your online source for global brands that design, manufacture, market and distribute fine riding products. 

Gemma Stevens and Jalapeno’s Long Road to Badminton

Gemma Stevens and Jalapeño. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Many people know of Gemma Stevens’ most recent accomplishment, finishing in sixth place with her powerhouse mare, Jalapeno, at Badminton this spring.

Few know of the long, long road that she took to get there.

In 2019, Jalapeno, Christopher Stone’s mare, by 5*-winning stallion Chilli Morning out of a mare by Shaab, suffered an injury to her tendon at Pau. “Unfortunately, she had a really quite serious injury to her tendon,” Gemma said. “To the point where we weren’t sure, to be totally honest with you, whether she would be able to come back to eventing again.”

Jalapeno, barn name “Jala,” has beaten the odds not once, not twice, but many many times as Gemma has slowly and carefully nursed her back to health and back to winning status at the CCI5* level. After Jala’s 2019 tendon injury, Gemma took full advantage of the break COVID provided to really bring her beloved mare back slowly and carefully. Jala got an entire year, plus another winter, off before Gemma brought her back into work.

And then, with the type of luck that seems to plague horses everywhere, Jala fractured her splint bone in 2021.

“She came in the following year, and then unfortunately she managed to bash her leg, her other front leg, and fractured her splint bone,” Gemma said. “We were actually at a Nations Cup at the time and I had worked her on the flat the day before and she was beautiful, going so well and it felt amazing. And then my poor groom got her out in the morning and she was limping, and she’d fractured her splint bone in the stall overnight.”

After coming back into work at the end of 2021, Gemma and Jala competed in the Blenheim CCI4*-L and finished on her dressage score of 28.7, which earned them fourth place. After a wonderful performance at Blenheim, Gemma decided to play it safe and aim for Luhmühlen in 2022 instead of Badminton, as the venue’s track would place far less strain on Jala. Jala, apparently, had other plans.

“About four weeks before Luhmühlen, she was getting pretty fit. She’d gone really well. We’d just had a prep run and all of that,” Gemma said. “And then my groom found her in the middle of the night in her stall, laid out on her back. Jala had actually split her spleen and her spleen was bleeding. Luckily, my groom found her and basically put her in the lorry and drove her straight to the emergency hospital and they saved her life.”

So, all competition plans were put on hold, while Jala recovered from her near-death experience. For the rest of the 2022 competition season, Gemma decided to let Jala plan her own season. “So now in 2022, we thought okay, we’ll go back to Blenheim instead of Luhmühlen because we know you like Blenheim,” Gemma said, laughing. “We’ll do that again. And we know you don’t need too much stress and prep to get to Blenheim and we know we can manage you for that. We know it’s very within your capability.”

Gemma Stevens and Jalapeno. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Gemma’s plan worked. While Jala had one rail on the last day that dropped her from second place to seventh, she came out of the competition stronger than ever before. “She came out of Blenheim bouncing. And when I say bouncing, she went out in the field and she ran around, rolled, and stood up and kicked out her front legs and she was so happy.”

Because Jala came out of Blenheim with flying colors, Gemma set her sights on Badminton in 2023. However, she didn’t take a single thing for granted due to the mare’s complicated history. She started preparing for the event extremely early and thoroughly. No detail was missed.

Starting in December, Gemma started preparing Jala for Badminton in May. “She did a whole month of strengthening work, hacking and gentle lunging and schooling. Then we started fitness work in the middle of January,” Gemma said. “So she had actually done six weeks of prep work before we started any sort of fitness work, if that makes sense. From there on, she galloped once a week and she swam in a pool once a week, since the middle of January. She also did two water treadmills per week. She pretty much didn’t miss a beat.”

While Jala was excellent for her prep work, the weather was not. Due to the extremely rainy English spring, Gemma was not able to ride in nearly as many events as she had hoped. “We didn’t get to do an Intermediate run at all. We didn’t get to just have a nice canter around an Open Intermediate to get your eye in. Then we had every intention of running her in the four-star Short at Thoresby. But I just felt that it was too risky for her,” Gemma said. Indeed, the weather at Thoresby had plenty of other plans, prompting multiple other pairs to pull out of what would have been their sole major prep for a spring 5*.

Because they missed all of their Intermediate opportunities, Gemma said she had to get her “brave pants” on and go straight to the CCI4*-S at Burnham Market. Luckily, despite the shortened spring season, Gemma and Jala had a wonderful run at Burnham Market. “We had a really good run there and she felt really fit, really up for it, and really focused.”

Gemma had Jala’s leg scanned after their run at Burnham Market, even though the horse looked spectacular. The scan showed no problems, leaving Jala clear for the homestretch to Badminton. Wanting to avoid any additional pounding on Jala’s legs, Gemma opted to gallop her as little as possible in the last three weeks before Badminton. “She doesn’t mind the gallops, but she’s not in love with it,” Gemma said. “Instead of pounding up the gallops, we took her for nice long hacks and did lots of trotting up hills and fun stuff that she enjoys doing.”

Gemma Stevens and Jalapeño. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Gemma also wanted to avoid overdoing it on the flat. “She’s beautiful on the flat and I didn’t want to overdo that too much. So instead of putting on a dressage saddle and doing flatwork, I put on a jump saddle and I’d have some poles and stuff up in the school and we just do loads of nice stretching and pole work.”

As Gemma explains it, the last thing she wanted to do was to make Jala’s body sore. So, instead of trying to cram in more fitness work, she focused on keeping Jala happy and keeping her body relaxed and strong. At the same time, Jala was also receiving top notch day-to-day management and was certainly keeping her groom, Charlotte Overton, busy. “At home she gets iced in the morning after going on the walker, and always after work, and then again in the evening,” Gemma said. “So at a minimum she gets it three times a day.”

Wanting to disrupt the sensitive mare’s routine as little as possible, Gemma maintained the same icing schedule for Jala during Badminton itself. Each day of the competition, Jala was iced at least four times. She also spent a significant amount of time walking around and using a magnetic rug. Gemma also had a “fantastic” physio, Sam Daplyn, come to work on Jala every day.

In terms of her riding schedule during the event, Gemma was quite brave. She got on Jala a mere 15 minutes before it was her time to ride on cross country day. “I’m not going to lie — I only got on her 15 minutes before my time,” Gemma remembers. “She actually had a really, really, good walk. She was kept out of her stall and then she got tacked up and walked in hand, like marching-walking, for 15 minutes. Then I got on her literally 15 minutes before my time and I jumped two jumps just to kind of remind me and then off we went.”

Throughout the entire event, Gemma’s priority was to keep Jala “fresh and happy.” Her approach paid off. Not only did Jalapeno come in sixth place, but she and Gemma broke their personal record to get their best dressage score yet, and Jala was also the highest-placed mare at the event.

Gemma said that her and Jala’s achievements at Badminton have inspired her to “crack on and carry on.” “It was just the best feeling and then to actually then go on and compete the way that she did so confidently, and so soundly was amazing,” Gemma said. “She’s amazing. The scans are amazing. She looks fantastic. Honestly, the sense of achievement was through the roof.”

When asked if mares required a different approach to success than geldings, Gemma had a humorous take on what mares need to succeed. “She’s a gritty, gutsy mare. And she’s really got her own mind,” Gemma said. “I think mares do get a little bit pissed off with kind of galloping constantly. Whereas with a gelding, you can kind of say, ‘Come on, you’ve got to put your back into it a bit,’ and they say, ‘oh, okay.’ I think with a mare that if you do that, you just piss them off. I absolutely love my girls, but you do have to find ways of getting them fit without making them unhappy. So I think doing different things with them, like swimming and hacking, is so important to keep them sweet and happy.”

Gemma Stevens and Jalapeno. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Gemma’s dedication to Jala is really the epitome of what this sport is about. At the end of the day, the best horse(wo)men put their horse’s health and happiness first. Gemma’s dedication to keeping Jala healthy and happy, at the expense of opportunities to win and compete, not to mention the financial expense, is the only reason that this powerhouse mare is back to eventing and winning.

“If we get her to a big show in one piece and feeling good, the horse is going to be right up there every time because she’s so consistent and she’s got such a good brain,” she elaborated.

Gemma also notes that she could not have gotten Jala to Badminton successfully on her own. “I’m so thankful for my whole team, from my other girls at home who work endlessly to support me and then my home vet Ed Lysall, farrier Jim Cooper, and my home osteopath Liz Oakenfold,” Gemma said. “Without all these people taking such good care of Jala we would never have accomplished what we have. It takes a village!”

For a horse that was never supposed to event again, Jala is looking pretty good out there.

This article was sponsored by Achieve Equine, creator of FLAIR Strips. Gemma and Jala’s journey to Badminton embodies Achieve Equine’s slogan, “It’s All About the Horse.” Gemma has had personal experience using FLAIR Strips, and uses them in both show jumping and cross country. “When she gets tense, she actually makes a little bit of a noise,” Gemma said. “We have had her looked at and she has had a little bit of a little wind operation, but I find that when she’s got the FLAIR strips on, she actually stays relaxed and doesn’t make any noise.”

Learn more about FLAIR strips here.