AJ Dyer
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AJ Dyer


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About AJ Dyer

Visionaire is one of the foundation writers of Eventing Nation from the very early days in 2010. She has ridden up to Advanced level and spent six years as head groom for Dorothy Crowell. After a few years in the Thoroughbred industry, she now spends her time writing for EN, riding a few nice OTTBs, and working with her husband's hay business, A.T. Acres Farm.

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Thank You, Volunteers!

Jump judges have it rough, make sure you thank them!  Photo from Rocking Horse via Sinead Halpin's Twitter. Jump judges have it rough, make sure you thank them! Photo from Rocking Horse via Sinead Halpin's Twitter.

Thank you.  It can never be said enough to the selfless men and women who give up their weekends all season long so that the rest of us can compete in this sport.  I make it a point to thank as many volunteers as I can, from ring stewards, to starters, to jump judges, to the kid collecting pinnies.  Without them our events would not exist.  Did you remember to thank a volunteer at your show this weekend?

Susan Goldfischer was a voluteer at Groton House and send us a message on facebook.  Thanks, Susan!

Groton House by Susan Goldfischer

From Susan:

Just thought I’d share a pic I took on Friday at Groton House Farm during a brief break from my volunteer gig as warm up steward for dressage. GHF HT has five dressage rings running simultaneously with all competitors warming up in one field. Needless to say by mid day the vocal cords were begining to falter. On a quick trip to the loo I saw these two pups patiently waiting for their person to emerge. Volunteering at HTs is an awesome way to support eventing nation and I always feel as though I get back way more then I’ve given. Plus I have one heck of a t-shirt collection.

Lauren Kieffer and RF Cosima Coast in Preliminary Division at Jersey, and Other Weekend Results

Lauren Kieffer & Cosima, winners of Prelim C at Jersey.  Shown here at Bromont 2013. (photo by Samantha Clark) Lauren Kieffer & Cosima, winners of Prelim C at Jersey. Shown here at Bromont 2013. (photo by Samantha Clark)

Summer Sundays are always busy– ribbons, photos, and cheers for the winners, and sometimes disappointment for those at the bottom of the scoreboard.  For those with letters this weekend, chin up– we’ve all been there, and will be there again.

This weekend saw competitions from coast to coast, and as the upper level divisions have completed let’s take a look at some results from around the country.  Kelly Prather had an outstanding weekend at the New Jersey Horse Park, taking home the win in Advanced Division B with Blackfoot Mystery (see earlier post) and also winning Preliminary-A with D.A. Calimero.  Also at Jersey, Lauren Kieffer and her CIC3* partner R.F. Cosima had an easy win in Preliminary-C.  Madeline Backus won the Intermediate/Preliminary gate to wire with P.S. Adrianna at Inavale, while clear round in show jumping moved Ferial Johnson and Bali Hai into the lead at Groton House.

Groton House Farm HT

Intermediate Preliminary

  1. Ferial Johnson / Bali Hai  37.8
  2. Caroline Teich / Zeus  51.8
  3. Erin Risso / Beacon 60.2

Open Preliminary – A

  1. Paige Crotty / Cooley Dawn Raid 42.4
  2. Paige Skipper / Wauwinet  44.4
  3. Jocelyn Hawe / Going Going Gone  51.7

Open Preliminary -B

  1. Tiffany Cunningham / Sportsfield Jinx  45.7
  2. Ronan Moloney / Fernhill Dollar  53.1
  3. Thomas Davis / King Dingaling  56.6

Genessee Valley HT

Open Preliminary

  1. Holly Shine / Sunday Afternoon Mission 39.8
  2. Barbara Allen / My Main Man  44.7
  3. Lindsay Alberts / Top Gun  48.0

Open Training

  1. Troy Wing / Twist Again  35.1
  2. Tessa Bennett / Autumn Rhea  35.7
  3. Holly Shine / Good Man Like Me  36.2

Abbe Ranch HT


  1. Madeline Backus / P.S. Arianna  36.9
  2. Katie Cummings / Dare Devil  49.7
  3. Darlene McInnes / Warlord  62.5

Open Training

  1. Chelsea Dogherty / Fine Lad  38.2
  2. Heather DuBois / Arlington  42.1
  3. Hannah Slade / Kingfisher II  42.8

Inavale Farm HT

Open Intermediate

  1. Rebecca Buehler / Brighton 43.7
  2. Allison Sparks / Mystic Mojo  49.6
  3. Stuart Black / Balmoral Archibold  51.0


  1. Sophie Ernst / Camden  39.7
  2. Cadence Michel / The Rock  57.5
  3. Chantale Vachon / Penmerryl’s Maximus  65.8

Open Preliminary

  1. Karen O’Neal / Freudentag  32.4
  2. Stuart Black / Tre’ du Karnat  40.2
  3. Catie Cejka / Light In The Dark  41.9

Horse Park of New Jersey HT

Open Preliminary – A

  1. Kelly Prather / D.A. Calimero  34.4
  2. Ryan Wood / Illiniza  38.5
  3. Boyd Martin / William Street  38.8

Open Preliminary – B

We’ve been told there is a misprint on EventEntries.com, and Marilyn Little and RF Typecast won this division on their dressage score of 26.1.

  1. Mikki Kuchta / Rubens D’Ysieux  36.2
  2. Jennie Brannigan / Right Above It  36.2
  3. Buck Davidson / Mr. Bojangles  36.2

Open Preliminary – C

  1. Lauren Kieffer / R.F. Cosima  20.3
  2. Marilyn Little / RF West Indie  23.9

Open Preliminary – E

  1. Buck Davidson / Riviera  32.6

From Horse Nation: 12 Equine Obsessions Non-Riders Just Don’t Understand

Carla Lake over at Horse Nation has composed a list of particular habits only horse people can relate to.  While we aren’t as bad as victims on TLC’s freak show “My Crazy Obsession,” face it: horse people are a little bit weird, but that’s what makes us special.  We think nothing of having more (expensive!) clothes for our horses while our own closets are empty aside from breeches and show garments.  And let’s not get into our craving for leather goods…why do you need five bridles for one horse?  I argue, “Why not?”

From Carla Lake:

12 Equine Obsessions Non-Riders Just Don’t Understand

Step AWAY from the Show Sheen…this is an intervention.

Obviously, you’re addicted to horses. But what about everything that goes along with being around them? Most horse people don’t think twice about taking a nice big whiff of manure while picking out stalls…or bringing their barn jacket to the office to get a little whiff of barn smell, I have been informed that most people do not find this kind of behavior to be normal. Why, I am not sure.

What strange equine obsessions do you have?

Doing your polo wraps over and over and over until they’re perfect.

[Eventing Nation]

The smell of Show Sheen or Show Pepi

It’s intoxicating…


The smell of good hay.

[Life as a Leach]

Using your horse’s hair care products on yourself.



Scratching off crud to medicate your horse’s skin. So gross…but so weirdly satisfying.

Getting a whiff of barn smell when you put on your barn jacket. Instant pick-me-up.

Bling. Everywhere.

equestbling[Velvet Rider]

Buying horse stuff online…because what’s one more pair of ill-fitting $20 breeches or yet another crazy-color saddle pad?


Living vicariously through GoPro videos.

Cleaning the barn…even though it will literally never, ever be done.

[Pinterest: My Equine Addiction]

“Window shopping” on DreamHorse, Equine.com, Facebook or CANTER listings–perhaps the most dangerous equine obsession for your checkbook, health, and human relationships.

[Tumblr: Equestrian Ryan Gosling]

Secretly browsing Horse Nation while the boss isn’t looking…

Might want to be a little sneakier than this kid, though.


Go Riding. At least we can all agree on the appeal of that!

Marilyn Little and Kelly Prather Win Advanced Divisions at New Jersey Horse Park

Kelly Prather and Blackfoot Mystery won Advanced Division B.  Photo via Kelly Prather Eventing facebook. Kelly Prather and Blackfoot Mystery won Advanced Division B. Photo via Kelly Prather Eventing facebook.

The Advanced cross-country has completed at the New Jersey Horse Park HT with victories going to Marilyn Little and Kelly Prather.  Marilyn and RF Demeter soundly defeated the field in Division A, adding just 1.2 time penalties to their dressage score to win by nearly 18 points.

Kelly Prather took home the win in Division B with Blackfoot Mystery in his first try at Advanced level.  Her two time penalties kept her ahead of double clear rounds by Boyd Martin with Pancho Villa and Buck Davidson with Wiley Post.

The course seemed to ride well, with only two riders having jump penalties.  Many competitors took it easy around the course, including WEG Team members Lynn Symansky and Donner (+26.8), Kim Severson and Fernhill Fearless (+8), and alternates Buck Davidson with Park Trader (+21.6), Meghan O’Donoghue and Pirate (+18.4).  Riders are likely looking ahead to save their horses for more important events later this fall, resulting in slower trips around the course.

[Live Scores]

Advanced Division – A

  1. Marilyn Little / RF Demeter  30.6
  2. Buck Davidson / The Apprentice  48.4
  3. Sarah Cousins / Ideal Contini  49.2
  4. Jennie Brannigan / Henry  52.7
  5. Boyd Martin / Master Frisky  54.0
  6. Buck Davidson / Park Trader  57.2
  7. Justine Dutton / Huck Finn  57.8
  8. Emily Beshear / Shame on the Moon  65.5
  9. Philippa Humphreys / Rich N Famous  66.9
  10. Boyd Martin / Steady Eddie  67.9

Advanced Division – B

  1. Kelly Prather / Blackfoot Mystery 36.9
  2. Boyd Martin / Pancho Villa  39.7
  3. Buck Davidson / Wiley Post  40.5
  4. Boyd Martin / Crackerjack  42.5
  5. Kim Severson / Fernhill Fearless  43.6
  6. Sarah Cousins / Westerly  49.1
  7. Nilson Moreira da Silva / Muggle  51.0
  8. Hannah Sue Burnett / Harbour Pilot  52.0
  9. Nora Battig / Steppin’ Out  56.3
  10. Emily Beshear / Here’s To You  60.7


Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam Win Strzegom CICO***

Michael Jung could probably win the World Cup singlehandedly, too.  Photo by Julia Rau. Michael Jung could probably win the World Cup singlehandedly, too. Photo by Julia Rau.

Predictably, international superstar Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam won the Strzegom CICO*** wire to wire.  Germans swept the top three of the Nations Cup event in Poland, with Dirk Schrade and Hop and Skip finishing second, followed by Sandra Auffarth and Opgun Luovo in third.  British riders Sandra Bullimore and Rosalind Canter round out the top five, riding Valentino V and Zenshera respectively. [Final Scores – PDF]

The German team looks to be in top form coming to their final preparations for WEG at Normandy.  Michael Jung and Sam look primed to defend their championship title.  Only 55 days remaining!

strzegom 2014 results

Videos: Marilyn Little and RF Demeter and More at New Jersey Horse Park HT

Marilyn Little and RF Demeter, shown here at the Fork.. Photo by Samantha Clark. Marilyn Little and RF Demeter, shown here at the Fork.. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Videographer extraordinaire Thehorsepesterer was in attendance at Jersey yesterday to capture much of the Advanced action and upload it to youtube.  Quite a few pairs from the WEG list were in attendance and had a good showing.  Marilyn Little and RF Demeterhad a lovely test to score a 29.4 and show jumped double clear to retain an easy lead in Advanced division A, just ahead of fellow alternate Park Trader with Buck Davidson.  Check out the videos below, and be sure to view the full playlist here.  [Live Scores]

Lynn Symansky and Donner had a beautiful show jumping round.  Donner appears to have springs for legs!

Emily Beshear and Here’s To You also jumped double clear to move into the lead in Advanced division B.

Erin Risso and Beacon Lead I/P at Groton House, and Other Weekend Scores

Erin Risso and Beacon, shown here at GMHA.  Photo by Eric Swinebroad. Erin Risso and Beacon, shown here at GMHA. Photo by Eric Swinebroad.

It’s a busy weekend with events across the country, from Groton House in Massachusetts to Inavale in Oregon.  As mentioned earlier, a host of US Team horses are running Advanced at the New Jersey Horse Park, with divisions led by Marilyn Little (RF Demeter) and Emily Beshear (Here’s To You).  Erin Risso and Beacon lead the Intermediate/Prelim division at Groton House, while Madeline Backus and P. S. Arianna top the board in the Abbe Ranch (CO) I/P division.  Congrats also to Jennie Brannigan at Jersey for winning Open Training -A on a score of 17.7 with Kilkenny, and finishing third with Cool As Ice.

Here’s a brief round up of scores thus far.

Groton House Farm HT

Intermediate Preliminary

  1. Erin Risso / Beacon 32.2
  2. Ferial Johnson / Bali Hai  37.8
  3. Caroline Teich / Zeus  43.8

Open Preliminary – A

  1. Paige Crotty / Cooley Dawn Raid  38.4
  2. Paige Skipper / Wauwinet  40.4
  3. Jocelyn Hawe / Going Going Gone  47.7

Open Preliminary -B

  1. Tiffany Cunningham / Sportsfield Jinx  45.7
  2. Ronan Moloney / Fernhill Dollar  52.1
  3. Anna Welch / Lone Star III  54.8


Genessee Valley HT

Open Preliminary

  1. Kathryn Hetrick / Parker II  37.3
  2. Holly Shine / Sunday Afternoon Mission 38.2
  3. Barbara Allen / My Main Man  39.1

Open Training

  1. Troy Wing / Twist Again  27.1
  2. Stephanie Roberts / GonnaGetMarried  29.5
  3. Julie Sahler / BFF Finale  35.7


Abbe Ranch HT


  1. Madeline Backus / P.S. Arianna  36.9
  2. Katie Cummings / Dare Devil  49.7
  3. Darlene McInnes / Warlord  62.5

Open Training

  1. Chelsea Dogherty / Fine Lad  38.2
  2. Nicole Musmanno / Slewth  39.9
  3. Amy Gilbertson / One Honest Man  41.2


Inavale Farm HT

Open Intermediate

  1. Rebecca Buehler / Brighton  39.7
  2. Stuart Black / Balmoral Archibold  43.0
  3. Allison Sparks / Mystic Mojo  45.6


  1. Sophie Ernst / Camden  31.7
  2. Chantale Vachon / Penmerryl’s Maximus  49.8
  3. Cadence Michel / The Rock  53.5

Open Preliminary

  1. Karen O’Neal / Freudentag  32.4
  2. Stuart Black / Tre’ du Karnat  40.2
  3. Catie Cejka / Light In The Dark  41.0


Horse Park of New Jersey HT

Open Training – A

  1. Jennie Brannigan / Kilkenny  17.7
  2. Marilyn Payne / Safe Harbor  24.6
  3. Jennie Brannigan / Cool As Ice  27.6

Open Training – B

  1. Andrea Leatherman / Runaway Fantasy  28.2
  2. Philippa Humphreys / Master Eli  31.4
  3. Hannah Sue Burnett / Baloubrie  32.3

Training Rider – A

  1. Seth Beaver / Mr. Bojangles  30.9
  2. Mary Bancroft / Ringwood Amitad  27.3
  3. Corinne Frankel / Excalibur  31.4

Training Rider – B

  1. Nick Olijslager / Inspired  33.2
  2. Drew Wicas / Reba Dean  36.8
  3. Katie Novotny / Cosmic Messenger  37.3

Training Rider – C

  1. Camilla Grover-Dodge / Remington XXV  21.4
  2. Maude Quinn / Killea Gynis  35.8
  3. Jamie Yale / Smooth Sailing  40.4

HC: Denny Emerson’s Advice on Learning to Jump

Denny Emerson and Epic Win tackle  steeplechase at Bromont, via Denny's Facebook. Denny Emerson and Epic Win tackle steeplechase at Bromont, via Denny's Facebook.

Denny Emerson is always a favorite of mine to read; I remember reading his “Between Rounds” columns in the Chronicle many years ago.  He shares his wisdom freely, whether it’s tips on riding skills or opinions on horsemanship.  Today I stumbled across a piece he wrote for Horse Collaborative: How Do I Learn To Jump?

In typical Denny fashion, he makes the answer seem so simple.  How do you learn to jump?  Just do it.  Set up a one-foot fence, and jump it.  When you are bored, make it bigger.  Some things you just have to learn by doing, and jumping is one of them.

Denny says:

“There are thousands of horses and riders who have far more “in there” than will ever be discovered. This is because we so often set limits for ourselves that are only real because we make them real, the “self fulfilling prophesy” syndrome.”

Of course, “make it bigger” could turn out to have crazy kids attempting to jump 4′ on ponies (um, I didn’t think it was that high?!).  But I think Denny’s right: as riders, we should strive to expand our comfort zone.  We should certainly respect our limits of safety, but make sure they are truly there, and not simply psychologically imposed from the fear of failure.  When you’re ready, keep raising those jumps… you never know how high you can go until you try.

Click here to read the full article.

Saturday Video: Show Jumping Legend Gem Twist

Growing up, the brilliant gray Thoroughbred show jumper Gem Twist was my idol.  Maybe it was the name, maybe the sparkling white coat, maybe just the way he soared so effortlessly over the fences, but he was THE horse I always remembered.  A three-time horse of the year, and Olympic silver medalist, Gem Twist was a legend in his own time with a long, long list of accomplishments.  But perhaps more importantly, he captured the hearts and minds of those who saw him compete.

Since his death in 2006, Gem Twist has been cloned.   “Gemini Twist” (2008) has been kept intact for breeding by Frank and Mary Chapot, and another clone, “Murka’s Gem” was born in 2011 and is pointed to a competition career by Team Murka.

Here is the original Gem Twist in all his glory at the WEG Stockholm in 1990 with Greg Best, where he was voted World’s Best Horse.

WEG Team and Alternate Horses Compete at Jersey HT

Marilyn Little and RF Demeter at Pau. Photo by Jenni Autry. Marilyn Little and RF Demeter at Pau. Photo by Jenni Autry.

As the World Equestrian Games approach, our Team horses and riders continue their preparation. Nearly the entire list of alternate horses are competing this weekend at the Horse Park of New Jersey HT, as well as confirmed team members Lynn Symnasky with Donner, and Kim Severson with Fernhill Fearless.  It’s great to see clear show jumping rounds from both of them, as well as alternates Marilyn Little with Demeter and Buck Davidson with Park Trader.  Marilyn and Demeter have a commanding lead in the Advanced division A, with an impressive dressage score of 29.4.  Cross-country runs tomorrow.

[Jersey HT Live Scores]

Advanced – A

1. Marilyn Little / RF Demeter  29.4

2. Buck Davidson / Park Trader  35.6

3. Buck Davidson / The Apprentice  38.4

4. Sarah Cousins / Ideal Contini  41.2

5. Boyd Martin / Master Frisky  42.4

Advanced – B

1. Emily Beshear / Here’s To You  31.5

2. Boyd Martin / Crackerjack  34.1

3. Kelly Prather / Blackfoot Mystery  34.9

4.  Lynn Symansky / Donner  35.0

5. Kim Severson / Fernhill Fearless 35.6

6. Nora Battig / Steppin Out  37.1

7.  Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot  39.2

8. Boyd Martin / Pancho Villa  39.7

9.  Meghan O’Donoghue and Pirate  43.5




Services to be Held in Honor of Jordan McDonald

Jordan McDonald and Prince Mayo at Bromont last year. Photo by Jenni Autry. Jordan McDonald and Prince Mayo at Bromont last year. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Memorial services have been scheduled in remembrance of Canadian eventer Jordan McDonald, who died in a tragic accident two weeks ago at Nunney Horse Trials in Somerset, England.  Services will be held in Richmond, BC today and in Ontario on July 3. In lieu of flowers, donations to the SPCA would be appreciated as Jordan had such a love for animals.

From the obituary posted in the Burnaby Now newspaper:

It is with profound sadness we announce the passing of our beloved son Jordan Cameron McDonald on June 14th 2014 from injuries sustained while competing at an international horse show in Somerset, England. Jordan was born November 18th, 1983 in Richmond, B.C, the son of Cindy and Cam McDonald and younger brother of Shannon. Jordan touched the lives of many with his quick wit, curious mind, and gentle manner. Jordan will be lovingly remembered by his wife Shandiss, parents Cam and Cindy, his sister Shannon and her husband Damian, niece Emma, his mother in law Peggy, grandparents Anne and Edie as well as aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. 


Service details:

Richmond, BC
Saturday June 28th, 2014
Place: UBC Boathouse
7277 River Rd, Richmond B.C
Time: Service 11:00am to 12:00pm
Light refreshments to follow

Thursday July 3rd,2014
Place: Mono Community Centre
754483 Mono Centre Road
Mono Centre, Ontario, Canada
Time: 5:00pm-6:00 pm
Light refreshments to follow


Watch Strzegom CICO*** XC Live Online Now

Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam. Photo courtesy of Julia Rau. Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam. Photo courtesy of Julia Rau.

Strzegom CICO***, part of the FEI Nations Cup Eventing series,  is currently live streaming for free. [View It Here] Cross-country runs from approximately 9-10:40am Eastern time.  While no Americans are competing, some familiar German names are in attendance, no doubt having a nice prep for the World Games later this year.

[Live Scores]

The top five after dressage are:

  1. Michael Jung (GER) and La Biosthetique Sam FBW (33.8)
  2. Julie Krajewski (GER) and London Return OLD (40.8)
  3. Sandra Auffarth (GER) and Opgun Luovo (41.4)
  4. Dirk Shrade (GER) and Hop And Skip  (43.2)
  5. Sarah Bullimore (GBR) and Valentino V  (44.6)


Selling a Pony: Learning Patience and Persistence

In this day and age, selling horses should be easy, right?  There are dozens of advertising sites available online.  Every cell phone has a camera, so it’s possible to get at least one photo of the beast to attract attention.  Yet casting a wider net still does not guarantee results.

I have a gelding for sale; I call him The Pony.  He teeters precariously on the Pony/Not-A-Pony line of the measuring stick at 14.2-and-a-half; but to me, he’s a pony.  I acquired him as a companion for my yearling colt, and as the colt is growing up, Pony’s services are no longer needed.  It’s time for him to find a home where he can have a job and be appreciated.

Pony is green, cheap, and as such I don’t want to spend a lot on advertising.  I opted for the free listing sites.  I composed an honest, fair description of the Pony, including that he’s 14.2+,  still green and not yet suitable for beginners, but okay for a junior or ammie with some experience.  He’s sound, easy keeper, yadda yadda.  With a couple cute pictures, I’m in luck– I get emails!  Six inquiries within a few days, buyers are interested!  Success!

Well, not exactly.  Remember what I said about a wide net?  Add a low price to that and you’ll have a lot of tire kicking.  Out of a dozen emails, ONE person has come to try him.  A very nice girl, a dressage rider looking for a basic walk/trot lesson pony.  While she liked him and she said he was everything described in the ad, he was just too green for her needs.  Back to the drawing board.

Other emails have had a sense of urgency (“I’m looking for something to buy within this week!“), or are one-liners like, “If u got on and tried to ride would he buck u off,” and “The horse is pretty do you think you could bring it to us or no.  I’ve had messages from children, low-ball offers on an already bargain price, inquiries if his saddle comes with him (sorry, no tack for sale at this time), and someone asking if he could be a parade horse.  I’ve never tried to sell a horse in this price range before; I figured it would be pretty easy, quick and simple.  Boy was I wrong!  

I have responded politely (though perhaps not always enthusiastically) to every message and thanked them for their interest.  For the serious ones, I include links to video, additional pictures, and detailed information specific to their requests.  For the others…I answer a few of the questions patiently but I try to make it clear this probably isn’t the right horse for them.

A buyer could come from anywhere, so as a seller it’s always important to answer any inquiries promptly and honestly.  While it’s frustrating when barely 50% of them reply back, such is the game.  I’d rather weed through a lot of emails and get serious buyers than have a lot of riders come try him only to find that he’s unsuitable for their needs.  Still, I’m wondering why this is proving to be so difficult; is his price actually too low to attract my intended market?  Should I change the wording in the ad?  The photo?

So far, I’m learning that I’d much rather sell an event horse, a horse with mileage, and a horse with a higher price range– buyers who speak my language. Above all, I’m learning patience.  The right person will come along eventually, I just need to be persistent.  Patience and persistence…two things horses will teach you no matter the circumstance.


In Pursuit of the Triple Crown: Two Must-Reads Before the Belmont

California Chrome wins the Preakness Stakes. Photo by Jay Baker/Wikimedia Commons. California Chrome wins the Preakness Stakes. Photo by Jay Baker/Wikimedia Commons.

It’s Friday, June 6, which means Belmont Stakes day is almost here. The nation is swept up in “Chromania,” and I find myself reading the Bloodhorse, the Paulick Report and Horse Racing Nation each morning (and often) for daily updates. The support for California Chrome and his quest for destiny has been universal: rival trainers, racing legends and ordinary fans are all firmly on the bandwagon. If you need an inspiring way to spend your Friday, and, like me, you can’t get enough Chrome, here are a couple must reads before 6 p.m. tomorrow.

William Nack has penned a fantastic piece for ESPN, weaving the stories of former Triple Crown champions in to California Chrome today. I remember the first time I stumbled upon Nack’s story of Secretariat; it was in my college library, where I was supposed to be “researching” notes for an important project. Two hours later, I was still sitting on the floor leaning against a bookcase, soaking up every word from the race call “… he is moving like a TREMENDOUS MACHINE …!”

Bill Nack’s writing will give you goosebumps; his storytelling is magical, and this article is no different. From meeting 33-year-old Citation, to watching Smarty Jones in Penny Chenery’s box with Bill Murray, he tells the tale of how long it’s been since the Crown was won. Here, go read it: My Years Chasing the Triple Crown. You can thank me later.

The Bloodhorse created a special feature in this photo essay: Waiting and Waiting, for Crowning Glory. Comments from past hopefuls, top trainers and Triple Crown spoilers are mixed with stats from the track, all weaved in with perfectly timed images to make this piece a home run. This isn’t just an article; it’s an interactive experience, and it makes it clear just how difficult the Triple Crown challenge actually is. Will this be the year? Many kudos to the Bloodhorse for this effort.

And finally, I can’t in good conscience post a final article before the Belmont without including this video, the greatest performance by a racehorse of all time. I’ve watched it a hundred times; it never gets old. and I always tear up. “Secretariat by TWELVE … by THIRTEEN! Secretariat is ALL ALONE!”

Horse & Hound Asks: Is It the End of the Top Hat in Dressage?

Allison Springer and Arthur. Photo by Samantha Clark. Allison Springer and Arthur. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Evention’s #mindyourmelon campaign keeps chugging along, and global awareness of helmet safety has made great strides. In that spirit, Horse & Hound published an article today asking, “Is It the End of the Top Hat in Dressage?”

Since Courtney King-Dye’s accident in 2010, many riders have changed their stance on wearing helmets in both pure dressage and eventing. Silva Martin has made it very clear she wears a helmet at all times when mounted in large part because of Courtney’s accident, a decision that likely saved her life during her accident this past March.

Allison Springer made waves at Rolex in 2010 when she was the only rider to wear a helmet in dressage. Since then, we’ve slowly seen riders follow suit, not just stateside, but in major competitions in Europe as well.

Charlotte Dujardin won an individual Olympic gold medal in 2012 wearing her helmet, proof that judges will score an excellent test fairly no matter what headgear the rider chooses. The progress has been slow — traditionalists cling to their top hats in competition for the sake of the look, but the tide is changing.

Mary King wore her helmet at Badminton this year, and told Horse & Hound: “To be honest it was Charlotte Dujardin at the Olympics wearing it at such a high profile event [which made me decide]. I don’t think there are going to be many years left of being able to wear a top hat, and I’m setting a good example for the younger riders.”

While presumably it will take enforcement of an FEI rule to eliminate the top hat entirely, it is excellent to see so many riders voluntarily fasten their helmet instead. Before you know it, kids will look back on photos asking, “Why did they wear those funny hats on their heads?”

Eventing Nation has long been a proponent of wearing a helmet “every ride, every time.” We hope that with increased awareness, more riders will adopt this philosophy in the saddle.

Go helmets. Go eventing.

California Chrome Draws Post 2 For the Belmont Stakes

Photo via Bill Brine/Wikimedia Commons. Photo via Bill Brine/Wikimedia Commons.

The draw for the Belmont Stakes has just completed.  Morning line favorite California Chrome has drawn post position two.  Close to the rail could mean a shorter trip for the Derby and Preakness winner, but sometimes an inside post could cause a horse to get boxed in, trapped, with dirt thrown in his face.  However, the horses around him don’t have much speed, so there’s a good shot he’ll get clear if he breaks well.  With nutty speedster Social Inclusion skipping the Belmont for the shorter Woody Stephens (a race that should suit him much better), California Chrome may not have a target to run at, and may find himself setting the pace.

What did assistant trainer Alan Sherman have to say about it?  “Secretariat was number 5 in the Derby, number 3 in the Preakness, and number 2 in the Belmont.  I like our draw.”  While Secretariat was actually 1A in the Derby (breaking from post 10), he did share those posts in the other two races…and we all know how that turned out! Will California Chrome be the next chestnut Triple Crown winner?  Find out Saturday evening on NBC.

Belmont Stakes Entries  Horse / (Jockey) /  Trainer

  1. Medal Count (R. Albarado)  D. Romans
  2. California Chrome (V. Espinoza)   A. Sherman
  3. Matterhorn  (J. Bravo)  T. Pletcher
  4. Commanding Curve (S. Bridgmohan)  D. Stewart
  5. Ride On Curlin  (J. Velazquez)  W. Gowan
  6. Matuszak  (M. Smith)  W. Mott
  7. Samraat (J. Ortiz)  R. Violette Jr.
  8. Commissioner  (j. Castellano)  T. Pletcher
  9. Wicked Strong  (R. Maragh)  J. Jerkens
  10. General A Rod  (R. Napravnik)  M. Maker
  11. Tonalist  (J. Rosario)  C. Clement


What the State You Live In Says About You

Buzzfeed posted a quirky piece yesterday concerning the US and our perceptions of those states.  Sure, a lot of it reflects worn out stereotypes…but you have to admit stereotypes have some small basis in truth.  Nonetheless, it’s a humorous way to spend 15 minutes if you take the time to read it.

As for my own state, I think it’s pretty spot-on.  “People from Kentucky love talking about how much they love Kentucky.”  Ayup.  Guilty.  And proud of it.  We Kentuckians LOVE our state, love our horses, love our basketball, our bourbon, our blue, our bluegrass.  We love it and we want the whole world to know how much we love it.  The state may be behind the times in many ways, but its citizens have embraced the internet and all of its ability to spread your voice to the farthest flung reaches of the earth.  Don’t believe me?  Create a fake twitter account and say something bad about Coach Cal.  You’ll get a predictable, and numerable, response. Kentucky fans are always around, always on guard, and always ready to stand up for their state.  It’s a feeling born into every member of the commonwealth– that feeling that makes you tear up at a proper rendition of My Old Kentucky Home, that makes even the non-horsiest feel a sense of pride on Derby Day.  Yes, we love to talk about our state, because we just can’t help it; we love it that much.

So, what do you think about what Buzzfeed says about your state?  Is Vermont all about maple syrup?  Should the state of Illinois really be named “Chicago” instead (maybe.).   Check it out here.


Buzzterbrown’s 2014 Rolex Kentucky Video

Finally, the ultimate highlight video has arrived.  Buzzterbrown is a master at capturing cross-country action, and this year’s Rolex footage does not disappoint.  Make sure you have 19:27 to spare, because this is definitely worth watching. Current video settings prohibit us from embedding the video, so in the meantime check it out here on Youtube.


COTH: Sinead Halpin Perfectly Summarizes a Relationship with Horses

Sinead and Tate at Burghley (with Meg photobombing). Photo courtesy of Team SHE. Sinead and Tate at Burghley (with Meg photobombing). Photo courtesy of Team SHE.

“I write this blog to all of those who have loved and lost in this sport at every level. We have cheered for you and cried for you … together.”  — Sinead Halpin

Sinead Halpin penned a fantastic blog for Chronicle of the Horse titled A Student of Empathy. Admitting she has questioned herself and the sport, she then reminds herself how lucky she is to share her life with these wonderful horses. Through success and failure, eventing has taught her what empathy really means: to relate with another being’s emotions.

“We work tirelessly developing a dialogue so we can head into competition — no matter at novice or four-star — looking to answer the questions that are challenging the relationship we have with our horses,” Sinead wrote. “In the beginning, the dialogue notices if the horse is a nervous shipper, and as the years get on, you notice the one tail swish, the ear flick, the odd step, the feeling when that horse says, literally, she is ready or he is not. But no one else knows but you.”

Sinead goes on to explain her relationship with her up and coming superstar mare, On Cue. She reflects on pushing “Q” a bit too fast, too far, causing a fall and blow to their confidence. As a result, Sinead is now taking things slow and steady — Sinead wonders, too steady? — but Max Corcoran says she’ll know when it’s time to put the pedal down again.

These are feelings and relationships that all of us share within this sport, and Sinead has expressed it all in this fantastic piece. Read it here, and then hug your horses today.

Sunday Video: Meet California Chrome’s Groom

The Bloodhorse put together a great video featuring Raul Rodriguez, the 57-year-old groom for California Chrome.  With over thirty years’ experience, Raul is considered the right-hand-man in trainer Art Sherman’s barn; he is responsible for the horse’s daily care, happiness, and well-being, just like a head groom in an event barn.  While grooms are often overlooked in a top horse’s success, there is no doubt they play a huge part.  It was refreshing to hear California Chrome’s co-owner Steve Coburn give plenty of praise and gratitude to Raul Rodriguez in the winners circle yesterday after the Preakness.


Weekend Results from CHC Int’l, Otter Creek, Fair Hill May, Greater Dayton, and Hitching Post Farm HT

Jon Holling and Zatopek B at Richland last year. Photo by Jenni Autry Jon Holling and Zatopek B at Richland last year. Photo by Jenni Autry

It’s been a busy weekend of eventing across the eastern half of the country, with horse trials from Colorado to Vermont.  Here is a selection of currently available results from these events — congratulations to all competitors.  Notice that Boyd Martin is back in the saddle in fine form, winning one intermediate division and placing fourth in another at Fair Hill.

Results from CHC International (GA) CIC2* and CIC3* results posted yesterday


  1. Sara Beth Anton / Blitz Volo  47.6
  2. Daisy Trayford / Exmoor Denver  50.5
  3. Elizabeth New / Uppercrust D   50.5
  4. Nobie Cannon / Bust A Groove  53.2
  5. William Hoos / Brookfield Cult King  53.2


  1. William Hoos / Celtic Rhythm  48.9
  2. Lynne Partridge / Zoe  51.2
  3. Kelly Taylor / Kynynmont Indeliby Irish  53.9
  4. Kelsey Regan / Revelation  57.5
  5. Taylor Dileo / Rebel’s Legacy  58.4


  1. Jonathan Holling / Zatopek B  45.0
  2. Jodi Hemry / In Style  64.4
  3. Lauren Ferguson / Mainway’s Dry Ice  70.2
  4. Emily Rusinyak / Reatta HW  89.4

Open Intermediate

  1. Will Faudree / Pfun 34.4
  2. Buck Davidson / Quasar  40.7
  3. Lizzie Snow / Coal Creek  41.4
  4. Tiffani Loudon-Metze / Hap  49.7
  5. Alexandra Green / Falkonet  55.6


Otter Creek Spring HT  (MN)

Open Preliminary

  1. Kristine Burgess / BFF Tiara  44.3
  2. Edith Lee / Prince Halory  49.5
  3. Elena Hengel / Fernhill Solar  51.3
  4. Jonathan Ketzler / Sal  52.2
  5. Rebecca Gall / Can Ya Dig It  53.6

Junior Training Rider

  1. Greta Schwickert / Purple Rain  32.7
  2. Makenna Rold  / Badland’s Echo  35.0
  3. Kristine Burgess / Regatta  37.9
  4. Emily Shirley / Raptor Force  38.6
  5. Natasha Erschen / Magic Drummer  40.1

Open Training

  1. Brad Hall / Pendragon  31.0
  2. Brad Hall / Revolution 9  36.1
  3. Laura Markham / Storm Warning  37.4
  4. Diane Palm / Achilles  38.6
  5. Cindy Bonamarte / Puma  46.7


  1. Emma James / Marley  35.9
  2. Carrie Fino / Kaiden  48.2
  3. Chris Heydon / My Sweet Baboo  49.2
  4. Kendel Torrel / La Batt Blu  49.7
  5. Heather Lindroth / Drama Queen 51.2

Fair Hill International May HT  (MD)

Open Intermediate -A

  1. Boyd Martin / Pancho Villa  34.6
  2. Janelle Phaneuf / Irish Ike  39.6
  3. Eliza Farren / Bantry Bays Dublin  48.6
  4. Kate Chadderton / Buckharo  50.1
  5. Eliza Farren / Mysugamama  56.0

Open Intermediate -B

  1. Jennie Brannigan / Henry  41.0
  2. Caitlin Siliman / Callisto  43.7
  3. Mikki Kuchta / Calle  45.8
  4. Boyd Martin / Cracker Jack  47.1
  5. Nina Fout / Walk About  56.1


  1. Danielle Poulsen / A Kodiak Image  34.1
  2. Connor Husain / RF NTF Mandalay  36.0
  3. Heather Johnson / The Manx Man  39.7
  4. .Julie Henk / Merry Sioux  40.0
  5. Miranda Webb / Expresso  46.5

Open Preliminary – A

  1. Kelly Prather / D. A. Duras  20.0
  2. Caitlin Silliman / Ballyneety  23.0
  3. Skyeler Voss / Accolade  29.1
  4. Amy Ruth Borun / Casarino  31.6
  5. Jordan Thompson / Femme Fatale  32.2

Open Preliminary – B

  1. Sean McQuillan / Casalino  24.4
  2. Phillip Dutton / Hermes Hari  295
  3. Phillip Dutton / Automagically  30.2
  4. Erika Gonzalez / Copper Dancer  33.6
  5. Michelle Warro / Not Without Me  34.1

Open Preliminary – C

  1. Hillary Moses / True Mystic  31.5
  2. Zehra Gundogan / Captivate  33.6
  3. Sara Lieser / Osh Kosh  34.9
  4. Mardi Herman / Go Gilda  41.8
  5. Dr. Nancy Lee / Chesterland  43.8


Greater Dayton HT  (OH)

Open Preliminary

  1. Bethany Hutchins-Kristen / Bronte HVF 32.2
  2. Katherine Zapala / The Contender  35.7
  3. Liz Messaglia / Apollo Star  38.1
  4. Hudson Foote / Irish Lad  52.1
  5. Megan Moore / Promisemethemoon 59.0

Open Training

  1. Conor Rollins / Fernhill Tiger Con 28.6
  2. Philippa Humphreys / Master Eli  30.4
  3. Sarah Thelen / Lark’s Gamin  37.3
  4. Philippa Humphreys / The Archer  41.1
  5. Lori Miller / Heza Whyz Guy  45.5

Training Rider

  1. Beth Weisberger / R. Hocus Pocus  30.5
  2. Amy Lacy / Rigden  41.3
  3. Catherine Wilkinson / Zero Gravity  43.6
  4. Brittni Poland / Orio D’Orange  499
  5. Wendy Watson / Big Uno  52.1


Hitching Post Farm Horse Trials (VT)

Open Preliminary

  1. Melissa Boutin / Guy’s Elegant Miss 39.8
  2. Paige Skipper / Wauwinet  40.7
  3. Thomas Davis / King Dinagling  49.9
  4. Tiffany Cunningham / Sportsfield Jinx  51.5
  5. Alison Eastman-Lawler / Otto Rocket  60.3

Open Training

  1. Daryl Kinney / Rosie’s Girl  25.7
  2. Kaley Maxfield / Meadowlark  31.0
  3. Anne Hambleton / Should Expect  32.4
  4. Robert Piro / Waterview  32.9
  5. Jacqueline Gilbert / Sea Squall  36.4

Kelly’s Ford Cancelled Due to Flooding

Things look flooded at Kelly's Ford. Things look flooded at Kelly's Ford.

Kelly’s Ford was scheduled to run a one-day horse trial on Saturday, May 17 but unfortunately weather got in the way.  The event was cancelled due to severe flooding.

EN reader Erin writes, “We hauled up from Raleigh, NC on Friday and were able to walk the XC course, but the water was rising fast and by Saturday morning the road in and most of XC was under water!  We hacked out for a bit, thought about following the canoe over to the show grounds, but decided instead to hit the road for home. Too bad, it was a beautiful day for a horse trial!”

Thanks to Erin for sending in these photos, and we hope the land at Kelly’s Ford recovers quickly.

Evaluating California Chrome as a Sport Horse Prospect

California Chrome at the Derby.  Photo via Wikipedia Commons. California Chrome at the Derby. Photo via Wikipedia Commons.

California Chrome as a sport horse? Ok, so we know it would never happen — he is a phenomenally successful race horse and will never know anything other than an oval, and later a breeding shed.  And not that he should, either; he clearly loves his job and has wonderful owners, a trainer and connections who care for him greatly.  It’s a Hollywood story unfolding in real life, and I hope the final chapter is a good one.

But still, we’re eventers.  And as eventers, we look at every Thoroughbred with a critical eye: will he jump?  Would I like to ride him?  So let’s take a look at California Chrome through that lens, and see where it goes.

Let’s go in with a blind eye and pretend we don’t know how flashy and pretty he is.  Let’s start with the paperwork: his pedigree and race record.

California Chrome is by Lucky Pulpit (Pulpit – Lucky Soph) and out of Love The Chase (Not For Love – Chase It Down).  The first thing I do when evaluating a prospect’s pedigree is find whatever photos I can of the parents, grandparents, and adult siblings/relatives, to tell me how this prospect might turn out.

Lucky Pulpit very much resembles his sire, Pulpit– a little chunky, big hip, with the typical arched Pulpit neck.  Lucky Pulpit raced at a mile or less; not what I typically like for an eventer (or a Derby horse!), but let’s dig further. I consider Pulpit a good name in a sport pedigree; he’s a very successful son of the great A.P. Indy (to whom I am very much attracted).  A.P. Indy is a noted distance influence, and his traits commonly “carry” down generations in a pedigree.  I like the athleticism, balance, and intelligence that comes from the A.P Indy/Pulpit influence: smart horses who use themselves well. Lucky Pulpit also brings in a branch of Caro through Cozzene; Caro is noted for good jumpers.

On the dam side, Love The Chase is by a fantastic sport sire Not For Love.  Not For Love stands in Maryland and has quite a few sport offspring out there; he himself is very good looking with a beautiful front end and strong hind leg.  I’ve seen several Not For Loves and they are lovely individuals: nice movers, great balance, very classy.  Love The Chase also brings in two lines of Northern Dancer (jump!), and doubled up Numbered Account (by Buckpasser).  All good things.

So the pedigree is definitely interesting and inspiring for a potential event horse career, at least in my opinion.  Let’s take a look at his race record.

California Chrome has won at distances from 5.5f to a mile and a quarter.  It’s common to start two-year-olds in short sprint races, so the 4.5-5.5 furlong distances don’t mean much.  Instead, notice how he can win over a distance of ground (multiple wins a mile and an eighth or more), and over both dirt and synthetic.  They say a good horse can run on anything, and that seems to be true here.  Dirt vs synthetic is not much of a distinction in a sport prospect; it’s just interesting to note this horse’s athleticism.

He has 12 starts so far, which is a pretty good load for a spring three-year-old.  He hasn’t been run into the ground, though; with the allowable exception of the Preakness, he gets about a month’s break between races.  This shows consistency and soundness, being fit mentally and physically to withstand steady training.  And winning in graded stakes company?  That’s an elite athlete: a Michael Jordan or Peyton Manning who can excel at nearly any sport they try.

Why do I consider racing success useful for non-racing sport? I once met a noted professional who studies Thoroughbred biomechanics and has charted thousands of race horses’ performances along with their structural characteristics; he truly has it down to a science in measuring what it takes to be a graded stakes horse.  The interesting thing?  He once studied Bruce Davidson’s advanced level event horses… and they measured up right alongside the graded stakes performers.  It was an interesting conversation and made me appreciate what “freaks” our great equine athletes really are.

Back to California Chrome.  I like his pedigree, I love his race record. This alone probably means he’s out of my price range (you could say that, LOL)… but let’s continue and take a look at him conformationally.  It’s tough to find any kind of conformation photo of him; here’s one under tack, another getting off the van, and the best I could do, a screenshot at bath time from a video by the Thoroughbred Daily News.

california chrome

[Via Video by Thoroughbred Daily News]

California Chrome shows a nice overall balance with proportionate parts that blend well together.  His neck comes nicely up out of his shoulder, which has good length if just a bit upright.  The front end suggests good reach and length of stride through the shoulder.  His feet, while criticized for being white and “weak,” show good shape and size…white feet don’t scare me, either.

His topline is smooth and strong, showing a nice length of back, and good loin connection.  His hind end looks powerful with good angles in his hip and hocks to drive well under his body.  He has a strong chest and deep heartgirth with plenty of room for lung capacity.  California Chrome has enough substance to suggest durability and stamina, but he doesn’t look blocky or chunky whatsoever.  His strong hip combined with the uphill feel of his carriage makes me think he’d have no problems rocking back and pushing over a big fence.  Add that athleticism along with his big intelligent eye and flashy good looks…well, it’s no wonder most of America has jumped on the bandwagon!

The final piece we have to evaluate is his movement.  Watching his race videos and workouts, he doesn’t appear to be a dressage winner.  While his gallop is remarkably efficient, smooth and powerful, his trot and canter appear a bit stilted.  Some of this is due to being at the track; many OTTBs will show vast improvement in their trot with proper training as their muscles change, but there are limits to how much better it will get.  From what I’ve seen, California Chrome lacks some suspension and ground cover in his slower gaits, but he more than makes up for it with his gallop!  In both canter and gallop, he uses his hind end well underneath his body and moves relatively uphill, not heavy nor on his forehand.  He shows nice reach through his shoulder and fairly correct flight, with little wasted motion paddling or winging. Even when he “levels out” at racing speed,Chrome keeps good rhythm and balance with an effortless stride.

Could California Chrome make a nice eventing prospect?   I’d expect him to be a good jumper who would really eat up a cross-country course. While we’ll never know for sure, I certainly wouldn’t turn him down. Best of luck to California Chrome and all his connections as they chase history in the Belmont.  We’ll all be rooting for him!