Classic Eventing Nation

A Week in the Life: Jennifer Clapp’s C Square Scholarship Adventure in Aiken

At the tail end of 2023, we shared the exciting news that Courtney Cooper of C Square Farm and Excel Sport Horses was launching a scholarship opportunity for two amateur riders to immerse themselves in the whirlwind of life on a professional yard for a week that would be jam-packed with education and opportunities. Now, we’re delighted to share the diary of the first of those scholarship winners, Jennifer Clapp, who ventured down to Aiken with her Connemara, Muggsy, to put her out-of-office time to great use. Take, it away, Jennifer! 

Jennifer and Muggsy dive into Aiken life – and the water complex at Vista.

Wow! What a week! It was a total immersion into the Aiken horse life. As a public high school teacher, my time off is very prescribed. Luckily, I was able to take my February vacation week to head down to C Square Farm South to do nothing but spend time with horses.

Before I get to the day by day play by play, I just wanted to say that Courtney, her working student Nathan, her college intern Beth, barn manager Emily, and fellow amateurs Kathleen, Kelly, and Seth all went out of their way to make sure I had a fun and rewarding week. 

Day 1:

After a very long day shipping down (17 hours plus a snow storm), we settled in well — Muggsy was super happy to run around on the nice sandy ground and have a really good roll. We spent the morning at Stable View, where Courtney and some of her students were competing. In the afternoon, I watched a couple of training sets and had a dressage lesson, where we got Muggsy to really loosen up his back and soften his poll, especially when he got a little looky. He finished very relaxed and soft in his body, which was great after the long ride.

Day 2:

A beautiful Aiken day on the farm! It was a busy one. I watched Courtney ride a young horse for the second day in a row and it was impressive to see how much he relaxed and got much more confident in his work. Courtney had two Zoom lessons with Peter Gray on her two upper level horses, which were fascinating to watch. I was so caught up in the second lesson I almost didn’t have time to get ready for my own jump set!

Our jump set focused on balance and rhythm; we started with trotting poles, first on a straight line, then bending through the corner, helping the horses to develop and maintain a consistent rhythm. Once they were confident there, we incorporated two sets of raised cavaletti as well as the original poles. The initial responses to the raised cavaletti varied; some over-achievers tried to bounce them or walked; luckily, Muggsy is a pro at figuring out the easiest way to get something done and he trotted neatly through them. The next step was trotting a course of small fences, including one with placement poles; the exercise encouraged the horses to maintain their own rhythm and be responsible for their own balance. By the time we moved to cantering a course, all of the horses were well prepared to jump, land, and turn in balance.

A chilly morning at Bruce’s Field.

Day 3:

We started off bright and early with a trip over to Bruce’s Field for their Tuesday jumper show. Muggsy and I had fresh tracks in the ring, with him blowing little puffs of smoke since it was still so chilly. I definitely was a little unprepared for Aiken’s cold mornings! We did two trips and had significant improvement between the two. Muggsy is on the smaller end, so we’ve been working to get the adjustability we need to be able to make it down the lines well and Courtney helped me find the right canter and approach (gotta come forward through the corners!) to make it happen.

Our afternoon was spent at cross country schooling; Courtney had four horses from training to advanced to school with Erin Sylvester and then taught two upper level students, Kathleen and Kelly. Watching them school some tough questions was both educational and inspiring.

Day 4:

Another bright and early morning in the ring. Kathleen and I reset the jump course, practicing our accuracy in setting a couple of gymnastics and some single fences. Then we two and Courtney took three of the horses who had schooled cross country the day before for a hack on one of Aiken’s classic red roads, successfully navigating goats, chickens, and backyard decorations. Then it was off to the Vista! Muggsy started out being company for one of Courtney’s home breds who was going out for his first xc school. Despite being normally very chill, he totally failed at this job, spooking a shadow on the ground and what I can only assume was a bear (or maybe a dragon?) in the other field. Fortunately, Ghost, our buddy, was calm beyond his years!  He took everything in stride and it was really fun to watch him confidently trot all the elementary fences, the ditch, the bank, and the water with ever increasing joy. His face said, “look what I can do!” 

It took Muggsy a minute to get back into cross-country mode(I could almost hear him saying, “But it’s February!”), but he soon settled in and we had a great ride, with highlights being his bold jump over a coop with brush into the water and a super straight and forward approach to a corner.

Once we got home, I flatted Kathleen’s lovely young horse Curley and then set jumps as Courtney jumped three; the gymnastics we set that morning systematically prepared the horses as we built them up. Courtney was dragging the ring in the dark as we finished up!

Cross-country schooling with Muggsy at Vista.

Day 5: 

We started the morning off watching Courtney jump Kathleen’s lovely preliminary horse Excel Star Harry, whom she bought from Courtney as a four year old and has brought through her first two-star. Then I got to jump Curley, a six-year-old former steeplechaser who has just a fantastic rhythm and jump. He used a whole different set of muscles than my muffin of a Connemara!  Then it was back to the Vista, for cross-country schooling for Courtney’s student Seth and jumping in the derby field for her student Kelly and some of the horses who were heading to Pine Top that weekend. I finished the day in the most Aiken way possible: a long slow road hack for Muggsy and drinks at the Wilcox!  Kathleen and I headed in to meet some of my Area 1 friends (the best!); Seth and Kelly joined us later. It was one of those great moments in the eventing community, where a group of folks from all over (Areas 1, 2, and 8 represented!) with all kinds of different backgrounds can come together and have a great time based on the common denominator of eventing and our love of horses.

Day 6:

Pine Top!  It was exciting to visit this beautiful venue. We had the pleasure of watching Courtney ride her homebred River in his first Advanced dressage and show jumping, followed by her mare Maeve in the Intermediate. After spending some time watching all the big guns in the show jumping, we set out to walk the cross-country. It’s been a while since I’ve been up close to an Advanced course — Area 1 only has one left — and this one was BIG and, in some places, SKINNY! Looking at the tables, I could only think that Muggsy’s primary response, if I pointed him at one, would be to bank them. There was certainly plenty of room to do so!  The course was across a beautiful piece of land and the footing was perfect. After our course walk, we headed back to the farm to flat and go for a golden hour hack through the woods. It truly was a picture perfect ending to a wonderful week.

As I rolled out of bed at 2:15 the next morning to make the drive home (18+ hours this time!  I’d almost take snow over NYC traffic…), it felt like I had been in another world for a month, not a week. Every day was jam-packed with horses and educational opportunities; I never walked less than 30,000 steps in a day (admittedly, some of that was on horseback). It was the kind of immersion in the sport that I can almost never take the time to do. I came away with many tools for everything, from starting a nervous young horse to schooling one getting ready for its first Advanced (in the unlikely event that I’ll ever need that!), a bunch of new friends, and a renewed respect for the hard work and dedication it takes to be a professional in our sport. I’ve given you the highlights, but behind that was all the care that our animals need, the preparation and tacking up, the clipping, the packing and unpacking, and the sisyphean tack cleaning! I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity and hope my journey inspires other professionals to offer similar scholarships and other amateurs to load up their horses and take a risk in the service of their learning.

Wednesday News & Notes from Ocala Horse Properties

Happening this week – the 2024 $100,000 Conceal Grand-Prix Eventing Showcase at Bruce’s Field, presented by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services (GPE) Organizing Committee and the Aiken Horse Park Foundation.

Making the podium at all five editions of the event – and scoring a hattrick of wins – Liz Halliday has three chances to defend her title, with Cooley Quicksilver (winner of the 4*S at Kentucky last season), Cooley Nutcracker (winner of two 4*L events in 2023) and last year’s champ (and Kentucky 5* third place finisher) Miks Master C all set to take their turn in the start box. It’s tough to bet against her, but with a super-stellar lineup, the competition is hot hot hot!

We’ll see all the US big hitters – the likes of Phillip Dutton, Will Coleman, Buck Davidson, Will Faudree and Lillian Heard Wood, who all bring two rides, with Boyd Martin and Doug Payne each having three shots at the title. And the list goes on… Maryland 5* winner Austin O’Connor is over from Ireland, and there are not one but two 2023 Pan-Am Games gold medalists in the form of Caroline Pamukcu (individual gold) and Canada’s Coleen Loach (team gold). There are just too many top contenders to mention here – one thing’s for sure, we’re in for a stacked competition and we can’t wait!

The action kicks off with dressage at 8am EST on Friday, followed by show jumping at 3pm. The cross country gets underway on Saturday at 12:30pm. You can watch it all play out live on H&C+ (subscription required) and we’ll of course be bringing you everything you need to know – keep it locked onto EN and follow @goeventing as we dive into the 2024 season.

2024 $100,000 Conceal Grand-Prix Eventing Showcase at Bruce’s Field (Aiken, SC) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Ride For Charity Teams] [Ride For Charity Online Vote] [Volunteer] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage]

Also of note: Today is National Public Sleeping Day, which, to my understanding, means that it’s entirely legal – and indeed encouraged – for you to take a nap, wherever and whenever the Zs take you. Think staff meetings, while waiting in line, during particularly boring conversations you’d rather not be having – please not in the saddle. Apparently Oliver Townend snatches forty winks between cross country rounds at 5* events, which makes it totally plausible for me to round this off by saying go eventing, and nap.

U.S. Weekend Preview

2024 $100,000 Conceal Grand-Prix Eventing Showcase at Bruce’s Field (Aiken, SC) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Ride For Charity Teams] [Ride For Charity Online Vote] [Volunteer] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage] Schedule – [03/01 8am-2pm EST Dressage] [03/01 3pm-5pm EST Show Jumping] [03/02 12:30pm-3pm EST Cross Country]

Full Gallop Farm March Wednesday H.T. (Aiken, SC) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Rocking Horse Winter III H.T. (Altoona, FL) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Sporting Days Farm March H.T. II (Aiken, SC) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Twin Rivers Winter H.T. (Paso Robles, CA) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

International Events

Portuguese Spring Tour (Mata do Duque) [Timetable] [Entries] [Scoring] [Portuguese Eventing Association Facebook Page] [More Info]

Wednesday News and Reading

We’re kicking off today’s News and Reading with a couple of cool opportunities – first up the chance to have your event horse’s conformation critiqued by former USEA YEH Championship judge Chris Ryan. All you need to do is send a conformation photo and short video of your horse – straight on and from the side – being led at walk and trot to [email protected] and it’ll be considered as part of the USEA’s Conformation Critique series. You only have ‘til Wednesday March 6th, so cameras at the ready and have at it.

Next up, bookings are open for British Eventing’s webinar with Sally Mcginn from Mind Oddessey, where she’ll be talking all things reflection. From making balanced reflections and dealing with post competition blues to identifying strengths and working on the gaps, the session sounds like it’ll be super helpful for those of us who are striving towards competition aspirations as well as less competitive but thoughtful riders who use reflection to improve their performance when working towards goals at home. The webinar will take place on March 14th at 7pm GMT and costs £15.

And while we’re on the topic of things coming up – what better way to celebrate an extra day this year than to get quizzy with it? In aid of the British Eventing Support Trust but absolutely open to anyone around the world who enjoys getting quizzical, this leap year quiz night is sure to be a blast – and there’s a trophy at stake. If I win, can I claim it as an eventing win? My general knowledge may not be quite so general as it could be, but I’ve for sure got a better chance of winning a quiz than an event. If you’re up for the competition, you need to register to receive the Zoom link, which you can do right here. The questions will be comin’ at ya from 7pm GMT / 2pm EST tomorrow (February 29th). See you there.

With a bunch of medals to his name, including Olympic gold, US based British eventer and USEF Emerging and Development Coach Leslie Law is a voice we listen to when it comes to training tips. 17-year-old Austin Skeens got to do just that in person when he had the opportunity to train with Leslie as part of the USEF E18 training program, and lucky for us, he’s shared what he learned. With tips for all three phases, from straightness in dressage and nailing your show jumping warm up to making good choices for your horse on the cross country, there’s lots here for us all to take away and work on.

Yes, we’re once more revisiting the phenomenon that is Shane Rose’s mankini – which is apparently not one of the silliest riding costumes ever seen. A research poll conducted by the ‘Chillax Institute’ has concluded that the scrap of neon orange was actually a rather fitting choice, given its aerodynamic properties and the weather in Australia at this time of year. And as far as the accolade of ‘silliest riding costume’ goes, Shane’s mankini didn’t even make the top-five on the list. It’s probably time we put ‘mankini-gate’ to bed, but there’s for sure one more laugh to be had in this satirical jaunt.

And finally… Saving the best / weirdest / most hilarious ‘til last, I present to you donkey basketball. Yes, really. It’s basically basketball on donkey-back, and the justification for such an intriguing addition to the sport is the added unpredictability these stubborn equines bring to the game. You will see plenty of planting. You probably won’t see a donkey doing a slam dunk. (If you’re in any doubt that this is a thing, here’s proof.)

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Video Break

We’re so lucky to be involved in a sport where age and sex pose relatively limited barriers to not only enjoying the sport, but also competing at the highest levels within it. From show jumping legend John Whittaker, who’s still at the top of his game aged 68, to eventing’s own eight-time Olympian, Andrew Hoy, aged 65, and long-time hero Pippa Funnell, who’s smashing it for the horsegirls at 55, there are many shining examples of the longevity that equestrian sports provide athletes. At the other end of the scale are competitors such as Sky Brown, Britain’s youngest ever summer Olympian, who won a bronze medal in skateboarding in Tokyo. Here’s what went down when King of Dressage Carl Hester met the young talent:

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

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

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

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

Tik Maynard. Photo credit to Madren Photography

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

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

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

Tik Maynard and Classic. Photo by Jenni Autry.

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

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

Tik Maynard goes Western. Photo credit to Madren Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Tuesday News & Notes from Kentucky Performance Products

Today’s the day – the day that entries officially open for the Best Weekend All Year at the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event! It’s time to start stalking those entry lists, making your predictions for who’ll come forward, speculating over who’ll perform so well that they’ll chuck themselves straight into contention for an Olympic call-up… the most beautiful time of the year, in my nerdy mind, because at this point, anything could happen. The plot twists, the moments of glory, the shock upsets; they’re all still to come. I, for one, cannot wait. Want to make sure you’re there to catch all the action? You can still benefit from advanced ticket pricing – head to the box office here to nab yours.

Events Opening Today: Defender Kentucky Three-Day EventSpring Bay H.T.Unionville Horse TrialsLongleaf Pine H.T.F.E.N.C.E. H.T.Twin Rivers Spring International

Events Closing Today: Ram Tap National H.T.Pine Top Spring H.T.Ocala Winter IICarolina International CCI & H.T.

Tuesday News & Notes from Around the World:

So often, equestrian media is dominated by names from ‘big six’ nations. But beyond those global superpowers, there are so many riders breaking down barriers and playing a colossal part in building an equestrian industry in countries for whom competing on the world stage is a brand new novelty. One of those? Lithuania’s Aistis Vitkauskus, who we’ve been following at EN for a few years now. Get to know him, his cool, quirky Commander VG, his philosophies, and his love for fly-fishing in this profile from the FEI.

This year’s MARS Badminton Horse Trials is a special one. Okay, let’s be real, it’s Badminton – they’re all special! But this year, the world’s first five-star celebrates a big birthday, and we’re looking forward to all the celebrations of the history and future of this magical competition. Want to start feeling those butterflies nice and early? You’re in luck: on April 9, there’ll be a preview evening in Gloucestershire, packed with some of the biggest names in eventing and guaranteed to be heaving with fascinating stories and interesting insights. Get your tickets here and I’ll see you at the bar.

Costs continue to rise for eventers, and so it’s always exciting when a chance to save money pops up. That’s what’s been offered by British eventing organisers BEDE Events, who have launched a ‘loyalty scheme’ for repeat competitors: compete in five BEDE events through the season, and at the sixth, you’ll have your start fee waived. More money for cheesy chips! Sign me up, tbh.

The season is officially underway, but there’s so, so much left to come. Catch up with US Eventing in the latest episode of the USEA Podcast, where host Nicole Brown is joined by EquiRatings’ Diarm Byrne, USEA CEO Rob Burk, and President Lou Leslie to find out how they reckon it might unfold – from team predictions to exciting moments yet to come, and plenty more besides. Tune in here and get excited!

Photo by Lorenzo Castagnone, via Unsplash.

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Watch This:

As if eventing at the top level and vying for a place on the French Olympic team wasn’t enough, young British-based upstart Gaspard Maksud — who you may remember from his sparkling sixth place finish at the 2022 World Championships — has spent his winter learning the ropes around seriously beefy showjumping tracks. Check out his first-ever trip around a 1.50m course:

Monday Video: Boyd Goes Beginner Novice

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Sometimes we spot a horse on an Advanced results list and think ‘Whoa, where did that horse come from?’ — making it seem like a top horse suddenly comes out of nowhere. In a passing glance at a results sheet, it can be tempting to view these horses like an overnight success story and forget that, like in most sports, it takes years and years of training and partnership building to make it to the top.

So when we see Gold Czar with Boyd Martin on an Advanced start list in a handful of years, let’s not forget that this is where it all started: out and about at Sporting Days Farm a couple weekends ago tackling his first recognized Beginner Novice.

Gold Czar (Medaglia d’Oro – Pleasant Review, by Pleasant Trap) a.k.a. “Remi” is 6-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred who last raced in February 2022. Remi caught Boyd’s eye while he was teaching the Cheshire Fox Hunt Adult Camp last year and he purchased the horse from the field master, who had taken him off the track about a year ago and given him a good restart with about a year of rest, hacking, and some basic flatwork.

Boyd has been chronicling his work with the youngster on Facebook and you can listen to him further introduce Remi here and watch as Boyd introduces him to his new career step-by-stephere. Will young Remi make it to the top of his new sport one day? We look forward to following along!

Breeding Spotlight: Leigh-ping Forward with OTTBs

Jeff Goodwin and Exactleigh compete at Galway Downs’ Eventing Championships in 2023. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Taking a glance at any entry list these days, there are quite a few prefixes and suffixes that we have come to know. The ever popular Irish Cooley, Ardeo, and Fernhill, the Belgian Zangersheide Z, the up-and-coming FE, Excel, HSH and Global, and even the Argentinian Solaguayre is on the rise. One could be forgiven for missing a lone “Leigh” here and there.

But not anymore.

In the 2023 edition of the annual Event at Rebecca Farm (Kalispell, MT) — one of the top destination events on the West Coast — there were more “Leigh” horses than any other breeder, trainer, or seller. There were 14 Cooley horses, 10 Fernhill, 7 Ardeo, 6 Z, 4 Excel, 3 FE, and 1 Global.

Squeaking past them all, “Leigh” horses had 15 representatives, from CCI3*-L all the way to Beginner Novice.

Humor abounds in the names of these salwart partners: Pridefulleigh, Mixologeigh, Bankseigh, My Leighona, Casualleigh, Agatha Christeigh, and my personal favorite: Drunk & Disorderleigh.

Where do they come from?

Jil Walton operates JARBA Farms out of Rebecca Farm in Kailspell, MT where she breeds and trains her own homebreds and off the track thoroughbreds. A representative of the 1992 US Olympic Eventing team, she helped USA to a top 10 finish and finished 17th individually as the highest placed American on a self made mare called Patrona.

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Patrona herself was an off-the-tracker who Jil, in partnership with her parents, sourced in Southern California where she grew up. Walton calls her “the beginning of it all.”

“My dad, my mom, and I would pick the ones that didn’t run and turn them into event horses and event them so I’ve been doing that my whole life,” Jil said. “Then I met one of my clients, Leigh Gray. [She] brought a horse to me to event for her [while] she worked at a vet hospital and had access to lots of Thoroughbreds. So [we] started developing a relationship with trainers, and good owners, that wanted them to go on to do something other than just sit in the field.”

Most of the horses carrying the “Leigh” in their name are former racers sourced by Jil herself, and her friend Gray. But it didn’t begin that way.

Among the horses Leigh sent to Jil to be retrained and homed was Truly Triton. A 1992 chestnut gelding out of Coastal Breeze and With Approval, it began as a rehabbing project when he came to Walton with a tendon injury. Over time however, the partnership competed to the highest levels, completing the Kentucky Three-Day Event in 2004 and multiple top 10 finishes at the 4* level. As success came not only to Jil but with the horses Leigh was helping source, Jil felt a touch of inspiration.

“I decided I needed to give Leigh a little bit of credit,” she explains. “So then we started putting the Leigh on the end. I mean, it just kind of caught fire because there’s so many possibilities.”

The name options are pretty excellent (see above!). Indeed, Jil often gets messages with suggestions for Leigh names for future horses down the line.

She credits Leigh with an incredible eye for temperament and her own eye for confirmation, gleaned at her parents’ knees and her own 30+ years of experience. For soundness, she feels nothing can beat a good war horse — Thoroughbreds who have run for many years. Together, she and Leigh work in tandem to not only source successful sport horses but also to find the horse’s own passion.

“I tried to be responsible to the racehorses,” Jil says. “Some of them don’t want to jump. They don’t want to go eventing so we have one barrel racing, we have a couple that are ski-jouring.”

While Jil also breeds some of her own prospects (with the prefix JB for JARBA), her heart is firmly with the Thoroughbreds. The feeling of riding cross country on a horse with a high foundational level of fitness and forward training from their racing careers instills confidence and security. And she feels there is cause to be optimistic for the future of OTTBs in eventing.

“Before I felt like it was an uphill battle, 100%,” she says. “Thoroughbreds are getting so much more attention with the Thoroughbred Makeover and all of that. So I feel like people are more open to them now, which, for a long time, they haven’t been — so that’s rewarding to me.”

Leigh is winding down the non-profit that helped source these fine partners — the Thoroughbred Rehab Center — so there may not be a whole lot more “Leigh” horses coming through the pipeline. Jil herself is still trucking on with her part, having formed new connections and contacts in the racing industry to help retrain and rehome those horses who no longer can or want to race.

In an increasingly global sport where more and more often we see both professional and amateur members sourcing horses from outside our borders, we are seeing less and less of our own American Thoroughbred. While there is nothing wrong with finding quality wherever it may be, by casting a spotlight on our American professionals and trainers, our domestically bred horses can shine as well.

So next time you see that humor filled “Leigh” name, have a chuckle to yourself and maybe, just maybe, find your local OTTB trainer and see if you can find your next partner close to home.

Drop us a line if you know of another deserving barn, breeder, or trainer we can shine a light on!

The Weekend Update: Carolina Prep and More at Pine Top, Three Lakes, Full Gallop Farm

Another weekend of eventing is in the books, with plenty of horse and rider pairs out and about in the southern states. We’re inching closer to warmer weather for the spring season, as well as some upcoming competitions, like the Carolina International CCI4* in just a few weeks!

We caught up with some of the riders aiming for Carolina, and took a look back on this weekend and celebrate our Weekend Winners! Congrats to all on successful outings, with an extra shout out to the winner of our Unofficial Low Score Award, Priscilla Pignatelli and Dittos Gold En Fury, who scored 20.7 in the Starter Rider division at Three Lakes!

Full Gallop Farm Mid February H.T. (Aiken, SC) [Website][Scoring]

Preliminary/Training: Alexandra Knowles and Fernhill Mac an Bata (29.8)
Training: Tracey Bienemann and Silver Bop (29.6)
Training/Novice: Margaret Schneck and Islandwood Border Patrol (31.7)
Novice: Cole William Horn and WillOMoor Pathfinder (24.7)
Beginner Novice A: Christine Hryzak and Sheeran (27.7)
Beginner Novice B: Fylicia Barr and Master Of Illusion (23.8)
Starter: Sophia Perry and Corona With Lime (29.7)
Pre-Starter: Katherine Thornton and Carlingford Finegan (28.0)

Pine Top Advanced (Thomson, GA) [Website][Scoring]

“I’m very pleased with how my horses went at Pine Top this weekend,” says Advanced B winner Ariel Grald, who reflected, “I’m based in Ocala for the winters, and although we have several great venues to choose from, I always make the trip to the Pine Top Advanced HT with my upper level horses… The cross country courses are fantastic and are a good evaluation of where the horses are at at the beginning of the season.”

We’ll see Ariel at Carolina in just a few weeks, with Anne Eldridge’s Leamore Master Plan (Master Imp xx – Ardragh Bash, by Cavalier Royale) in the 4*S, Annie Eldridge’s Diara in the 3*S (Diacontinus – Lady Revens, by Colon xx), and Annie Eldridge’s Adagio’s Nobility (Adagio De Talma – Noble Lady I, by Heraldik xx) in the 2*S.

Andrew McConnon won the Advanced A with Jeanne Shigo’s Ferrie’s Cello (Chello III – Karelza, by Wolfgang). “I’m thankful to have my horses starting off the season looking and feeling well! I had different goals for each horse and I’m pleased with all four of them. We’re really fortunate to have Pine Top Farm on our spring calendar, I’ve been going to Pine Top for nearly 20 years. I’ve had many firsts at Pine Top, including my first Advanced many years ago. It’s always been a special event to me!”

Coming out of the winter, these early spring events have been helpful in bringing Andrew’s horses back from their breaks and in utilizing their training. “I’ve been fortunate to learn from William Fox-Pitt in England the importance of a long winter break and several weeks of long hacking before starting back into work. Most recently with the help of the USEF I’ve had the opportunity to train with Leslie Law, well as my long time coaches at home who have helped me step up my game. While I’m not on the development list this year, the opportunities over the last several years from Nations Cup teams, European tour, and access to training in that program has made a huge impact to myself and my program.”

With a recent move out onto his own, Chris Talley sought out Pine Top as an important stop in his spring for his horses and program: “This year after stepping out on my own and starting my own business I came up from Ocala, Florida and came to the second Pine Top specifically because they have the Advanced division which I wanted to target with the Allison Pratt’s FE Marco Polo (Arko Junior Pms – Elfe II, by Exorbitant XX) and my own Loughtown Cici (Cc Captain Cruise – Castlelawn Diamond Clover, by White Clover) that recently stepped up to [the level].”

“The cross country at Pine Top is why I chose to come here every year. It’s big and bold and really requires positive riding. The courses offer fair questions for this point in the season and also offers a bit of terrain which in Florida you don’t get much of.”

“It’s been a very good start to the season and all the horses finished Pine Top full of confidence so I’m excited for some big spring plans… Since establishing my own business I’ve been really happy with how the horses are going. I have an amazing group of horses and wonderful owners who have been incredibly supportive. This year I really wanted to find the fun in it again. I wanted to enjoy my personal life as much as I enjoy the horses and I’ve found the perfect work/life balance which I think the horses and their performance and reaping the rewards of,” Chris commented.

Having just moved her business back to the states from her time in England, Kimmy Cecere enjoyed her first time at Pine Top. “What a fantastic event to start the season! Both the cross country and show jumping courses were strong and rewarding.”


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“Jacqueline Mars’ Landmark’s Monaco (Formula One – Glamour) had a fun and easy canter around the Intermediate. [Her own] OS Hermintage (Indoctro – Elvira), who has just stepped up to the level, gained confidence throughout all three phases. The rolling hills and variety of questions set both horses up to continue on to Carolina in a few weeks,” Kimmy reflected.

Kimmy’s horses seem to be making the transition to their new base in Southern Pines well. “The horses traveled super well and they love our new base in Southern Pines,” Kimmy commented. “I have developed some great new relationships, and I’m looking forward to expanding my business!”

Advanced – 2022 USEF Advanced Test A: Andrew McConnon and Ferrie’s Cello (36.5)
Advanced – 2022 USEF Advanced Test B: Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan (29.5)
Intermediate Rider: Sara Beth Anton and Legionnaire (37.2)
Open Intermediate A: Allison Springer and No May Moon (27.0)
Open Intermediate B: Colleen Loach and FE Golden Eye (27.2)
Open Preliminary A: Ariel Grald and Adagio’s Nobility (26.1)
Open Preliminary B: Boyd Martin and Kolbeinn (27.2)
Preliminary Rider: Carlin Keefe and Point Nemo (26.6)
Modified – Open A: Fylicia Barr and Quantum Cooley (26.5)
Modified – Open B: Chris Talley and Fast Forward (25.8)
Modified – Rider A: Heidi Grimm Powell and Finntastic! (28.0)
Modified – Rider B: Molly McLaughlin and Top L’Amour WV (34.0)
Open Training A: Kim Severson and Cooley Consort (26.9)
Open Training B: Andrew McConnon and Connery Cooper Z (22.8)
Open Training C: Jane Jennings and SF Vancouver 2 (25.3)
Training Rider: Harrison Chang and JVK Fionn MacCumhaill (34.3)
Junior Novice Rider: Samantha Sibley and RHS Casallco Star (35.4)
Open Novice: Erin Kanara and Captain’s Lady (24.4)
Senior Novice Rider: Alexis Shrum and Anchorman (29.7)
Beginner Novice Rider: Nina Celeste Braun and Lagoon Macaroon (33.5)
Open Beginner Novice: Maddie Lichten and RF Luminati (28.8)

Three Lakes Winter II H.T. at Caudle Ranch (Groveland, FL) [Website][Scoring]


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Open Preliminary: Elisabeth Halliday and Newmarket Cooley (29.7)
Preliminary Rider: Victoria Sudkamp and Woodstock Rio (32.6)
Open Modified: Jordan Crabo and Cooley Pot of Gold (27.9)
Open Training: Stephanie Goodman and HSH Clever Z (25.5)
Training Rider: Hannah Fatehdin and Things To Ponder (26.9)
Novice Rider A: Kirsty McLeod and Celtic Sapphire (27.5)
Novice Rider B: Coco Fiorita and Oskar (22.5)
Open Novice A: Arielle Aharoni and Veni Vidi Vici (30.6)
Open Novice B: Lauren Nicholson and Sir Prize (22.9)
Beginner Novice Rider A: Sarah Alexander and Lambrusco W (21.6)
Beginner Novice Rider B: Jean McNamara and Pavoratti’s Soul (35.0)
Open Beginner Novice A: Lauren Nicholson and Tennyson (25.3)
Open Beginner Novice B: Macy Clark and Bailando (21.9)
Open Starter: Kristen Ayers and Counting Stars (26.7)
Starter Rider: Priscilla Pignatelli and Dittos Gold En Fury (20.7)


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Monday News & Notes from FutureTrack


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Eventing will always be my sport of choice (despite the odd foray out of it — I’ve spent the last few days in Qatar, working as part of the broadcast team for the 5* showjumping at the CHI Al Shaqab, which has been an experience!) but I do think there are some cues we could take from other disciplines. Mostly, tbh, I want us to have costume classes, as they do at Desert Horse Park in California, but I don’t want them to just be restricted to kids. I’m thinking a fancy dress CCI4*-S could go over nicely. Who do I pitch this to?

National Holiday: It’s Letter to an Elder Day. Have you been inspired, or taught valuable lessons, by a horse person of an older generation? Consider writing them a note of gratitude — even if they’re not someone you know directly, we guarantee it’ll mean a huge amount to them.

US Weekend Action:

Full Gallop Farm Mid February H.T. (Aiken, SC): [Website] [Results]

Pine Top Advanced (Thomson, GA): [Website] [Results]

Three Lakes Winter II H.T. at Caudle Ranch (Groveland, FL): [Website] [Results]

Your Monday Reading List:

Men and women might be able to compete equally in equestrian sports, but the experience of it isn’t always the same. Menopause is one major factor that can really change a rider’s riding life, and that’s the topic on the table in this interesting interview with 55-year-old Rachel Fisher, who’ll be tackling the Badminton Grassroots Championship this year and has learned how to make her body work for her, even when it feels like a new, alien place to be. Check it out.

Would you buy an unbroken pony for your kids? Only if you don’t like them much, amiright — but actually, writer Jamie Sindell has kind of swayed me with her measured approach to doing exactly that. First-time pony producers should probably still not do this, but for those with a bit of experience, I think I can see the benefits now.

We love a life-hack or a top tip from the folks who really know horses. And top of that list? Professional grooms. Here’s some of their biggest ‘don’ts’ to help you become a better horse person and make your horse happy, healthy, and super-duper shiny.

Marley Bridges was en route to being a gymnastics champion. Then, a major injury forced her to give up the sport she loved at just twelve years old. It was heartbreaking — but in the process, she found horses, and eventing, and a new challenge to embrace. Check out her inspiring story here.

Morning Viewing:

I truly…don’t know what to tell you here.


Announcing the 2024 Ride for Charity Teams at #GPE2024

Emily Hamel and Corvett. Photo by Shelby Allen.

The 2024 $100,000 Conceal Grand-Prix Eventing Showcase at Bruce’s Field, presented by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services (GPE) Organizing Committee and the Aiken Horse Park Foundation are excited to announce the 2024 Ride For Charity Teams and Online Fan Vote!

Since the inaugural event in 2019, #AnEventLikeNoOther has featured the extraordinary Ride For Charity team competition. Along with the main event, the riders competing at the GPE are divided into 6 teams, each representing a local charitable organization. The top 3 finishing teams earn prize money for their respective charities.

In addition, since 2021 we have incorporated the “Online Fan Vote”, where the public can get in on the action and vote for their favorite team. At $5 per vote, 100% of the proceeds go back to our participating charitable organizations.

The Aiken Horse Park Foundation, a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization, prides itself on its charitable contributions at EVERY event here at Bruce’s Field! Whether raising funds, awareness, or both, our charitable work is central to who we are.

Please read on to learn more about our 6 participating charitable organizations and join our “Online Fan Vote” to contribute to your favorite causes. Fans may vote as often, for as many teams, as they wish! Online voting will close at 4:00 pm EST, Saturday, March 2nd. [Click here to cast your vote]

Tickets are still available for this one-of-a-kind event, and you can get yours by clicking here.


Great Oak Equine Assisted Programs

Captained by Colleen Loach

Sydney Elliott

Kyle Carter

Waylon Roberts

Great Oak provides equine assisted activities that promote the physical, emotional, and psychological health of individuals with disabilities. At Great Oak, we change lives. Our programs are the catalyst for unbridled personal growth and awareness. We share our knowledge to empower individuals and their families.



Captained by Liz Halliday

Dani Sussman

Buck Davidson

Shannon Lilley

We make sure that individuals’ strengths and abilities are recognized. People with disabilities are vital and integral members of our society. They are supported as members of the community, rather than clients of programs or consumers of services. Opportunities to grow and achieve are offered in natural settings on a systematic and timely basis. Everyone is treated with dignity and respect.



Captained by Doug Payne

Caroline Pamukcu

Arden Wildasin

Sara Kozumplik

ADPS deploys volunteer personnel to supplement other components of the department in a non-law enforcement capacity as deemed necessary by the Director of Public Safety. Mounted volunteers can be an effective tool in operations, ceremonial details, and other areas of public relations. The volunteers of the unit are civilian volunteers. Participation as a volunteer does not confer law enforcement authority upon the civilian volunteers. It is the policy of the Department to utilize trained mounted horse volunteers in specific capacities as designated by the Director.



Captained by Emily Hamel

Will Coleman

Austin O’Connor

Sharon White

Aiken County Pony Club (ACPC) was founded in 1998 by Sporting Days owner Joannah Glass, and has grown in leaps and bounds over the past 20+ years. ACPC is incredibly lucky to be based in one of the most exceptional equestrian locations in the world – Aiken, SC, with access to Olympic coaches, notable equestrians and horse trainers, and exceptional facilities.  Each member plays an important role in our club, and we have riders of all abilities – from those learning to ride to those with Olympic dreams (and every one in between). Our club is part of a greater network of equestrians and sportspeople through the Regional and National Pony Club Organizations. Through Pony Club our members compete in Pony Club competitions (known as rallies), which require the kids to work together as a team, in the spirit of great horsemanship.



Captained by Phillip Dutton

Will Faudree

Bobby Meyerhoff

Allison Springer

The Hitchcock Woods Foundation is solely responsible for the preservation and management of the Hitchcock Woods, which is the largest privately-owned urban forest in the country. Its 2,100 acres and 70 miles of sandy trails have been a haven for pedestrian and equestrian users since the early 1800’s.



Captained by Boyd Martin

Monica Spencer

Matthew Grayling

Erin Kanara

To provide outdoor adventures and therapeutic events to the men and women who serve at home and abroad.

Sunday Links from SRF Carolina International

You can collect them all! Take your pick of Carolina International CCI4* competitors and add them to your Equiratings Eventing Manager team. Trade them with your friends Pokémon-style, and wait in line at the midnight release to get the ultra-rare shiny Will Coleman.

U.S. Weekend Action

Full Gallop Farm Mid February H.T. (Aiken, SC) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Pine Top Advanced (Thomson, GA) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Three Lakes Winter II H.T. at Caudle Ranch (Groveland, FL) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

Links to Start Your Sunday:

Free USEA Digital Memberships Awarded to Volunteers for 2024

Lauren O’Connor: Surviving Years of #MeToo Turmoil and Healing Through Horses

Q&A: How has the path changed for ambitious young riders without the budget to pursue the top sport?

Liz Halliday’s three-step process to teaching young horses over narrow fences

Sponsor Corner: Calling all volunteers near the Carolina Horse Park! The Setters’ Run Farm Carolina International CCI and HT on March 14th through 17th is looking for volunteers. Choose from a half day or full day shift and get to enjoy all the eventing action from right in the thick of it. No experience needed! Learn more [here].

Morning Viewing: You’re twelve years old aboard a pony named Cupcake or Sparkles, pulling up to the Beginner Novice warmup wearing your hot pink tie-dye cross country colors, just to queue at the start box behind Boyd Martin and a spicy baby Thoroughbred. Oh, but then you beat him because he racked up time penalties from going too fast.


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