Reporter’s Notebook: Final Reflections from a First Rebecca Farm

The Event at Rebecca Farm 2023 CCI4*-L podium finishers. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

While I could probably keep writing about Rebecca Farm until my fingers fall off (not too unlikely honestly, given my arthritis in this heat), I did have a great time just sitting in the shade for a few hours watching some pretty horses jump some pretty jumps. The conclusion of the event was definitely well-attended and beautifully coordinated, with cheers flooding the stadium at the completion of each rider.

Excepting the stunning custom jumps and unparalleled views, the finale really did give an atmosphere that one typically finds at your hometown events — hugging, cheering, and fist pumps were seen around the arena, riders congratulating each other — just a very wholesome camaraderie felt between everyone present.

Alyssa Phillips entered the CCI3*-S showjumping ring aboard her gelding Oskar with nearly 6 points between her and second-placed Erin Kellerhouse and Woodford Reserve, only 4 seconds of time on cross country over her dressage score. A perfectly double-clear round easily secured their victory.

Alyssa Phillips and Oskar. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Thanks to receiving a Broussard Travel Grant, Alyssa was able to make it out with several horses this year. She and Oskar took a second-place victory in last year’s 4*-L here at Rebecca, but after an unfortunate fall that fractured her ankle at Terranova earlier this spring, Alyssa had to take some time off and is only recently starting up again.

Alyssa clearly has been doing quite well despite the setback, as she also easily clinched the victory in the 2*-L as well aboard Cornelius Bo, who also held a comfortable overnight lead with nearly two rails in hand prior to showjumping. Adding just one dropped pole to their score still saw them as the champions on a 27.1, maintaining their lead over Julia Beauchamp Crandon and MGH Capa Vilou‘s dressage score finish.

I was pleasantly surprised with how down-to-earth and humble many of the riders were that I had the opportunity to speak with. I got the feeling that Rebecca is just a comparatively relaxing event to many of the other 4*s out there — whether that’s due to the Farm’s vacation-y vibes or the great connections and care everyone has for the Broussard family and the organizers, the event seems to feels a bit like home to just about everyone.

“For how big of an event it is, and the fact that it is a four-star long — there’s this really fun, chill vibe about it where it feels like a big deal, but it doesn’t at the same time,” says Jennie Saville, winner of the 3*-L aboard Alexa Lapp’s Pascal.

Jennie Saville and Pascal. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

The duo has a rather unconventional background, as ‘Pasco’ was actually picked out and purchased by Jennie’s assistant, Alexa Lapp, as a four-year-old in Europe. “She took him to Fair Hill as a seven-year-old last year in the three-star long,” Jennie explains, “which I think is a really huge achievement. I’d flatted him, but I think I’d only jumped him once at the most — and he’s a lovely jumper. He’s just been coming with me getting to know him this season.”

Jennie is a long-time attendee of the Event at Rebecca Farm, especially since many of the owners of her horses are very connected to the event. “Getting the ‘Big Becky’ grant was life changing. I think I’ve brought everything from like a two-star horse here — FE Lifestyle came here and ran the Intermediate once, and Stella Artois came here.”

Jennie Saville and Pascal. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

“I love the people here — [I come here] for the people,” she says, “and obviously the view is great.” She mentions that she’s always just felt so much more comfortable here at Rebecca than most other shows, greatly in part to the organizers she sees as close friends. “When people come to see me at like Land Rover, I’m not a jerk, but I’m not fun to be around,” she laughs. “But here, I have people… I love that I’m actually relaxed enough to actually be myself. That’s what I love the most about it.”

After an eventful cross country day (again, take a look at the detailed scores for the Intermediate leaderboard) full of pulled shoes and water jump confusions, everyone seemed to transition pretty well into showjumping overnight. Andrew McConnon was all smiles today as he and Wakita 54 ended on a 38.9 — just 3 seconds of time added to their cross country run.

“I’m honestly just proud of my horse,” Andrew said of his ten-year-old mare. “Liz [Milliken] imported her, and she was a little unassuming, to be honest, because she’s built slightly downhill and she has a few little lumps and bumps… I bought her and started her off from the beginning, and it’s really nice to have her here at the Advanced and four-star level.”

Andrew McConnon and Wakita 54. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Andrew has been very forgiving of his mare’s challenges in the show jumping ring, given her unconventional build. “This is her second time jumping clear in the show jumping. She definitely has the capability, but in our record, we’ve had quite a few tapped rails — not because of lack of ability — but it’s just nice to go in there after a long journey and at elevation and in heat, even though it’s dry, and have her jump a clear round. I’m just really proud of her.”

“It was funny,” he remarks, “when I checked in, they asked if I was wearing hind boots or had spurs — I didn’t carry a whip, no running martingale, you don’t need a whole lot with her. The way she’s built, I have to help her a little bit more to just stay on her hocks, and so I did do that. I had to kind of sit up and say ‘stay with me’ a little bit — not because she was going quicker, but just to change the balance. I had to work a little bit harder in that way just to help her be in what other horses find a little bit more natural.”

Andrew McConnon and Wakita 54. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

I honestly found Andrew’s simplistic and humble approach very refreshing and admirable, especially the clear love for his horse and the appreciation for his team, the designers, and the staff here at Rebecca Farm. “My other horse went to the Nation’s Cup in Poland,” Andrew explains, “and then I decided to bring [Wakita 54] out [to Rebecca Farm] pretty quick after. It was a quick turnaround, so thank you to the people at home that helped keep her going. My groom, Natalia Knowles, is not here with us this weekend — she’s at home taking care of everything, just because it was such a long journey. I wish she could be here to enjoy the win, but it takes a lot of people to keep everything running.”

Andrew posted a video Saturday night where he brought “Kiki” out to the fields to let her live out the fantasy that I’m sure every horse on site has been dreaming of since they arrived. I really love and appreciate seeing moments like this, when upper-level riders let their horses just be horses, especially in the middle of such a big event.

James Alliston and Karma appeared to just be having another uneventful schooling day around Chris Barnard’s track, with their leisurely jaunt bringing them the win on their dressage score.

“You wouldn’t have known she’d done what she did yesterday, really,” he says of the young mare. “She’s full of energy — really jumping up in the air high and very careful and she felt really good. She’s sort of just really an energetic horse. I don’t know where it all comes from, but she just has so much energy. She never really feels sorry for herself or anything like that.”

James Alliston and Karma secure his third victory in a row at Rebecca Farm. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

James was pleased with Karma’s performance at the Kentucky 4*-S this year. “I’d like to think that sort of sets her up — hopefully, if everything goes well for the rest of the year — maybe for the five-star there,” he says of his upcoming plans for her.

For his third consecutive year as the Rebecca Farm Champion, James has nothing but praise for the event. “I always eye this one up — it’s a four-star, but it’s a big one with a lot of atmosphere. I think now I have a bit of history with it; I kind of want to try and keep going and try and have a nice horse for it.”

James Alliston and Karma. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Based on the West coast along with his wife Helen, who placed second in the 3*-L, James has been a regular recipient of the generosity shared by the Broussard Family. “I was fortunate enough to get not only the travel grants I’ve had the last few years I’ve been American, but I got the National [Broussard Foundation Developing Rider] grant for $10,000,” James says. “So that’s a huge help, especially since,” he says referencing his fellow podium-placing riders, “we all own our own horses. It’s expensive to campaign and produce the horses to this level, and when they’re at this level — at shows like this with amazing prize money, maybe they start to pay their way a little bit — it’s expensive, so getting the $10,000 was huge.

“I was able to have a lot of training at home which I wasn’t really able to have before, and it just sort of eased the travel costs to a few shows. When I went to Kentucky this spring, I think that money to pay for the expensive diesel everywhere was good to have!”

James was sure to thank Leslie Law for his coaching both at home and on the road. “It’s amazing having someone with his experience — he’s achieved Olympic gold medal right? He’s achieved the highest of the highs in the sport, so to have his experience — everything you’re going through, he’s gone through many, many times. Just having that wealth of knowledge and getting to know him through the US Eventing Development Program, he’s just a really nice guy as well and gives up a lot of time. You can bug him, and he’s really cool and patient.”

Madison Temkin and MVP Madbum. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Madison Temkin also expressed her gratitude for Leslie’s direction, after maintaining her second place position with her mare MVP Madbum, even despite one rail pulled on course. “I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve been a part of the Under 18 program — now it’s more like the EA21 program — and then I’ve been a part of the Under 25 program. My mom and I run a business together and I’ve always ridden with her, and she’s helped me every step of the way and made me who I am. But alongside of her, I’ve had a lot of help from Leslie Law, and on the Under-18s, David O’Connor. He’s based in Lexington now, and he’s been helping me quite a bit with [Madbum].”

Maddy got the Thoroughbred mare off the track at Golden Gate Field as a two-year-old when she was just 15. “She’s come a long way. She’s been quite a challenge — I think she’s just starting to work with me rather than against me a bit, but I’m very proud of her this week. I think she’s taught me quite a bit.”

Madison Temkin and MVP Madbum. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

While their relationship hasn’t always been easy, Maddy is extremely happy with the improvement she’s seen in her mare, which she says was a huge factor in being able to make their incredible double-clear round yesterday on such a long course. “She is very talented and it’s all in there, but she’s a bit of a fiery lady. It’s just kind of learning how to get everything out of her while keeping her happy and keeping her developing up through the sport. I think she’s taught me a lot, and she continues to teach me a lot every day.”

Maddy was also another grateful recipient of the Broussard’s Rebecca Farm travel grant, which was vital now that she is based out of Kentucky. “I think the opportunity they give all of us as US athletes, developing and up-and-coming athletes is absolutely incredible. I think that a lot of our top athletes are where they are today because of the Broussard family and their generosity. I know I’m very grateful and I think everyone could say the same thing.”

Jessica Phoenix and Fluorescent Adolescent. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Jessica Phoenix was full of praise for Fluorescent Adolescent after her own particularly long 41-hour journey from Ontario, Canada. The photogenic mare had pricked ears the whole course, and Jessie was excited to be sharing such a success with her after just nine months together.

She is a really awesome horse,” Jessie gushes. “She wakes up in the morning wanting to go to work, and she’s like, ‘What are we doing today?’ She came out of yesterday really, really well, so I was looking forward to today.”

Jessie and “Lacy” just began running at the 4* level this spring. “I thought this would be a well-suited course for her,” she notes. “I’m so thankful it was, because it’s a long journey to get here from Canada, but it does not disappoint. This is one of my favorite events in the entire world. The scenery, the people — you’re so welcome here.”

The long-time Canadian Team member secured a third place finish aboard Makayla Rydzik’s flashy Canadian Warmblood. “She lacks a little bit of length to her step in the show jumping, so I just have to make sure I really get her in to the combinations,” she explains, “but what a horse for the future. I am so pumped about her — she went in there and did everything she could do today and gave me 110%. It was just such a pleasure to ride her this whole week.”

Fluorescent Adolescent making friends with Gstar Van De Klinkenberg. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

The trio also commented on the elevation and terrain difference here in the mountains — something none of our podium finishers really experience in their sea-level home states. “Fitness was key on the cross country course yesterday,” Jessie admitted, “and as James said, the footing was quite fast, so you’re not necessarily expecting them to get as tired as they’re going to, but they feel it every bit of it. Even as a rider you feel it! The air doesn’t get to your lungs as quickly — and I would consider myself a very fit person, I often ride multiple horses a day — but honestly, after yesterday I had a whopping headache, and I was exhausted.”

Comments on the increasingly difficult temperatures were also plentiful — the phrase “dry heat” appeared multiple times in every conversation. “For the horses to perform the way they did yesterday and then come back and do what they did today, I think that’s just a testament to how much they really want to do it for us.”

At the end of this long, hot week, I’ve had an unbelievable experience immersing myself in this amazing world. Stay tuned for a social media dump soon, as I’m sure nothing short of a mile-long album can come close to capturing the essence of this incredible event.

The Halt Cancer at X initiative had excellent success in generosity of sponsors and donors this week as well, reaching $1 million consecutive donations to the fund.

Huge congratulations to all our winners and award recipients, with unending praise to the organizers, staff, vendors, and everyone who makes this event possible. Click here to see a summary of all our weekend winners. Only 12 months until the next Rebecca!

Kyle Carter and Gstar Van De Klinkenberg. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Helen Alliston and Flinterro Z. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

EN’s coverage of Rebecca Farm is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products. You can learn all about Kentucky Performance Products’ full line of trusted, science-backed nutritional supplements by visiting

The Event at Rebecca Farm (Kalispell, MT) [Website] [Ride Times/Scoring] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage]

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