June 2020 - The Gallop: Silver Linings & New Ideas

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Horses as a healthy habit is a hoped-for foundation of the “new normal.”

by Kim F. Miller

Jim Hagman immediately took the coronavirus seriously. The founder of Elvenstar, the multi-faceted hunter/jumper program in Moorpark, Jim shut down their riding school in early March. A friend in Wuhan, China, had relayed the severity of the scene there. “I had a gut feeling about it and I paid attention to what was going on,” Jim reflects of the relatively early warning. A few days later, California governor Gavin Newsom declared statewide activity restrictions.

 


Stable quarantine for 17 days, then creation and implementation of protocols for owners to return safely to the barn, for limited time slots, followed. In early May, Elvenstar surveyed clients regarding interest in traveling out of state to compete in the foreseeable future. “100 percent said ‘no’,” Jim relays. “These are not alarmists. They are very even-keel people, but they get it.”

 

Although Elvenstar students are a regular force on the “Indoors” A circuit and medal finals in the East every fall, Jim is grateful for this unusual season when the program has no contenders in their final junior year. Surveyed Elvenstar families “made it clear there was no chance they’d want to go to any championship held indoors.”

In-state travel to shows is a possibility most of his clients are open to, Jim shares.
    

Jim Hagman with Lanie Walkenbach, one of many Elvenstar stars.

Silver Linings

Jim is a keen student, observer and leader of the sport. While he describes himself as “4.8 on a scale of 5” worried about the immediate and long-term impact of COVID-19, he also sees a silver lining. “Youth have been impacted to such a degree. I think parents are going to want their kids to do more things outdoors, in nature, and in less crowded quarters. They are going to want them to do things that involve health and there’s nothing more healthy than being with horses.

“With the stresses of a shut-down world, I think more parents will want kids interacting with something more than the electronic box in their hand. And, I think this will open people up to the premise of being with your family, and not racing to the next social activity.”

With many career paths no longer viable after the worldwide economic crisis, Jim hopefully predicts that more people will choose a path inspired by their passion, including horses and, equally important, horsemanship education. “We can capture that by educating people in a real environment of learning how to teach. There is a system for teaching, involving early childhood development, psychology and becoming certified. There is technical knowledge in knowing how to communicate these things, and in learning to communicate with parents. We skip all that in our industry. In my mind, this lack of foundational basics is the main reason our sport is not what it could be.”

Too often, he continues, families seeking an experience with a horse get fast-tracked onto a show path. Along with being too expensive for many, this route omits many of the most gratifying, educational and character-building aspects of a life with horses.

“Ninety-nine percent of Elvenstar’s clients did not come here to do the Maclay Medal,” Jim observes. “Their kid just wanted to be near a pony.” Fostering a love of learning about horses needs to be the foundation of the sport. “Everything above that is gravy.” He hopes that the “new normal” may facilitate such a shift in the industry.

New Ideas

Georgy Maskrey-Segesman sees these unprecedented times as perfect for a new idea set for a trial run May 22 at her Whitethorne Ranch in Ventura County’s Somis. She’s been pioneering education and horsemanship-based programs for several years and the tentatively titled “West Coast League” is the latest.

Details were still being ironed out at press time, but the basic idea has training barns competing against each other as a team comprised of an amateur, junior and professional rider. Before the first of two jumping rounds, the rider and trainer will introduce themselves to the judge -- Equestrian Coach’s Bernie Traurig on May 22 -- sharing their goals and challenges. After the round, they get the judge’s evaluation, then a chance to implement the suggestions in the warm-up ring and during a second round in front of the judge, followed by more feedback.

“Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong,” is the league’s working motto.

Judging criteria is intended to reward correct riding and to factor out the quality and capabilities of the horse ridden, Georgy emphasizes. “The rider on a Quarter Horse with a limited stride is not going to be penalized for doing five strides where others are doing four,” she says. If executed effectively, this keeps the rider on the same level as another on a fancier, scopier steed.

A $150 entry fee and an emphasis on education is all about value that Georgy and an enthusiastic Jim feel will be all the more important in the post-pandemic era. “So many people have horses to ride and they can do two or three shows a year,” she explains. “But the majority don’t have access to people who are judging medal finals and the chance to get their feedback. It’s always nice to get a new perspective and the idea is to make the sport more inclusive.”
    

Georgy Maskrey-Segesman with sponsored young rider Emma Pacyna.

Team Approach

Tabulating points for the barn over an individual will foster more learning and a team approach to better horsemanship, Georgy and Jim hope. “You can learn a lot by being around other people,” Georgy says. “I myself have learned a lot just by eavesdropping!” Jim adds, “We all do!”

Embrace of educational opportunities is sometimes stymied by reluctance of the rider and/or trainer to receive criticism -- even constructive -- in public. Georgy acknowledges the West Coast League may not be everybody’s cup of tea. She sees a bright spot, however, in the unexpectedly positive response to the judges’ feedback that is a central component of the Whitethorne American Tradition of Equitation Excellence launched in 2017. “That surprised me!”

Getting feedback is important to education and is a priority for parents, Georgy and Jim note. “There will always be some who resist learning in this public way, but there are plenty of people like us that embrace it out there,” Jim states. “And, it’s the parents who will drive this. They want feedback for their kids in whatever they’re doing.”

Along with Whitethorne and Elvenstar students, trainers including Carolyn Biava, Michelle Pacyna and Kathy Megla were among the inaugural event invitees who welcomed the chance to participate. Georgy reports that some of the country’s top equitation judges are on board to participate in the future. The format works as a one-day, stand-alone event, or piggy backed with a one-day competition. The hope is that it can be staged at large private or public facilities, and that it may help rebuild a pipeline of development shows suitable for varying abilities and budgets.

Georgy is organizing the event on her own without the help of or sanctioning by any governing bodies. She welcomes the freedom and independence that provides for the moment, and the longer-term prospect that the concept might be made more broadly accessible with an organization’s help.
    
The Gallop welcomes news, tips and photos. Contact Kim F. Miller at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
June 2020 - It’s Picture Day!

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Beautiful baby horses are always a cheerful sight. We loved seeing them light up social media this season and here’s some of our favorites.

 


 

Coronet’s Asher, by Coronet D’Honneur (Comme Il Faut x Dinard,) out of a Riverman x Schoenfeld mare. 'We’re super excited about this gorgeous boy, as he's a second generation breeding for us,' says Rachel Jansen Jones of CrossRoads Farm in AZ. 'I bred his dam, who was one of my all-time favorite riding horses.'

First Premium Belgian Warmblood 2018 colts, of Hansen Sport Horses in San Francisco & Belgium. Springsteen by Ricardo Z from Nanou D’Oryvil, Yarlands Summer Song. Ricardo Z is the #6 ranked eventing sire and Yarlands Summer Song was ranked in the top 10 world eventing sires for 10 years. Savoy by Triomphe de Muze (Chin Chin) from Adelma E-label, Darco. 'The Triomphe de Muze gives me Alme which is one of my five foundation lines for breeding jumpers,' says Elizabeth Hansen. Photo: Madigan Nugent

Opocalypse LS - 2020 sBs colt Diamanté Fino X Cornet Obolensky x Pilot. The foal was bred and owned by Leeana Baugh Conroe of Texas.

Miss Ladee Rose’sae out of Champagne by Coconut Grove, and sired by Landkonig. 'This is a healthy, extremely athletic fancy filly,' says a proud Susan Worthington of Rainbow Equus Meadows in Lincoln. 'She will make Rainbow proud whatever she does in the future.'

Primo’s Sienna Gen ECE by L Primo DG x Geneva COF, bred and owned by Ellen Corob of San Luis Obispo.

O Pagani H - Diamanté Fino x Cassini II and owned and bred by Courtney Hurley in San Juan Capistrano.

'We are very excited to introduce RT Remarkable,' Says Max Wilcox, owner of RipTide. 'This colt is by the Holsteiner stallion, RipTide. With Riverman and Pablo for his grandfathers this kid can’t help but be fancy!' RipTide is standing at stud in San Diego County’s Lakeside.

Uppercrust PR, of Pomponio Ranch, was sired by ASB Conquistador, and is out of Creme de Lu, by Kannan. 'We are excited to have a homebred filly that has brought many of the top European bloodlines to California,' says Kaitlyn Bradley. 'We are excited to see her jumping future as both sides of her line have incredible jumps, and the future of our breeding program in San Gregorio with the addition of an excellent dam.'

Porchea DG, from DG Bar Ranch in Hanford. She is by Koning DG and out of Julea KS by Charmeur, who is out of Thea KS by Idocus.

Two yearlings by Cassio Picasso: On the right is Champagne Bubbles, out of Shannon Harger's Real Bubbles, a Thoroughbred mare who has competed at Preliminary eventing. The darker bay is Katelyn Grubich's colt out of her Holsteiner mare by Capone. This colt’s name is Carter. Sire Cassio Picasso is an American Trakehner Association-approved 8-year-old. He has been campaigned by James Alliston on the West Coast circuit, where he has a big fan following.

Filly sired by Eurequine stallion, Lord Adonis (Lordanos/Raphael/Ramiro Z) out of Boadicea by Balou du Rouet/Contendro. 'Lord Adonis' first foal crop after moving stateside hit the ground for us and breeders in 2019,' explains Eurequine’s Edgar Schutte. 'He is showing his ability to stamp offspring like this filly with a type desirable for the hunters and jumpers. She is short coupled, long legged, with a beautiful head, doey eye and affectionate personality.' The owner/breeder is Cara Choy. Photo: Hannah Beebe

Johnny Rocket TW is the first foal out of Miss January (For Pleasure) and by the stallion Best Regards (Cumano). His dam earned numerous championships in the Amateur Owner Hunter and Performance Hunter divisions and his sire is a top contender in the International Derby Ring. Three Wishes Farm has partnered with Touchstone Stables to develop this charismatic foal for the hunter and hunter derby rings. 'We have high hopes that he will follow in his parents footsteps!'says Anneliese Kannow of Three Wishes Farm.

The mare Apache Van De Los with her black colt, SR-71 Blackbird, the first foal born to Jaguar van Paemel in the USA. The colt is named after the fastest jet in the world, explains owner Maud Christal.

Jaguar Deluxe 1, by Jaguar van Paemel, and out of Dusty, a mare campaigned in the Thermal Million by owner Russell Morgan. Russell and Jenny Morgan own the colt.

 
May 2020 - The Gallop: “In Transition,” Not “Unwanted”

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Equine welfare organizations follow the lead of small animal re-homing successes. 

by Kim F. Miller

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a boom in dog and cat adoptions from shelters throughout the country. Horses haven’t been so fortunate. Being a bigger money, time, labor and land undertaking than a small animal, horses face harder times now and likely well beyond the pandemic’s effect on human health.

But the news isn’t all dire.

 


Sunday, April 26 was the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ designated Help A Horse Day and this year its focal point was The Right Horse Initiative. This relatively new ASPCA program embodies positive trends in the equine industry coming together for the good of the horse. The Right Horse campaign encourages those able to foster or adopt a horse in need, opening up spaces at shelters where more horses may be surrendered or wind up due to COVID-19 related economic hardships.

 

Emphasizing adoptions and fostering is the crux of the program, following the example of small animal welfare groups dating back about 15 years. “If I can keep 10 horses forever, I can help 10 horses,” says ASPCA Vice President of Equine Welfare Dr. Emily Weiss. “If I can take in 10 horses and get them re-homed, I can help a lot more horses.”

“The world is a different place for equines now,” Dr. Weiss says when comparing the COVID-19 impact to that of the recession that started in 2008. “Back then, we heard a lot about places where horses could find a safe refuge, but much less in the way of re-homing. Today there is much more sophisticated support and much more coordination of industry support.”.  

To help individuals more easily connect with horses in need of temporary foster homes, the ASPCA is updating its online adoption platform, MyRightHorse.org, to spotlight horses available for fostering. The site, previously focused solely on encouraging adoption, now includes a re-branded homepage, opportunities to inquire about specific horses and resources about fostering.

Those unable to foster or adopt are encouraged to get involved by sharing an available horse from MyRightHorse.org on their social media channels to help spread the word and find a home.

Ivey. Description from Horse For Horses in Galt: Ivey McGee is a Thoroughbred mare. She is so gorgeous! She is a very dark bay, almost black, and definitely a looker. She spent several years as a broodmare. She is an alpha mare and requires a confident rider. For the right person, she will make a rewarding and event competitive partner. She is currently being ridden.

Lost In Transition

The language surrounding horses in need has helped prompt a positive sea change. While the term “unwanted” still lingers, it’s been emphatically replaced with “in transition” wherever possible. A major example is the multi-organizational effort, spearheaded by the American Horse Council, and originally called The Unwanted Horse Coalition. Last year, its name was changed to The United Horse Coalition.

Again, small animal welfare trends led the way. “We found with cats and dogs, about 15 years ago, that shelters were not the place to go for an adoptable animal,” Dr. Weiss explains. “Somehow those animals were considered ‘broken.’ With horses, we found that people thought of horses in shelters as somehow different from the horse in their backyard. The vast majority of them are not any different. Instead, we think of them as ‘lost in transition’ because they are transitioning between careers or homes.”

Mouse. Description excerpted from Saffyre Sanctuary, Inc. in Sylmar: For most of my life, I was on a rental string. I enjoyed being the babysitter for beginners, swimming in the ocean, and feeling like I had an important job. Nothing bothers me. I am fine around traffic, machinery, good with other animals and I am the perfect family horse. I am as close to bombproof as you will find. If you are looking for a cuddle-bug, I am it.

“There are horses that need to be ‘rescued,’” she clarifies. “They have medical issues, have been the victims of cruelty or are at the end of their lives.” These horses need to live out their lives in the specialized care of a suitable rescue or shelter. The majority of horses in need, however, are well suited to being transitioned to new homes and jobs. “Most horses coming through shelters are ready for their next adventure,” Dr. Weiss says.

The Thoroughbred Incentive Program, Retired Racehorse Project and the BLM and Mustang Heritage Foundation’s Mustang Makeovers are among the industry and breed-specific programs leading the way in popularizing and proving the merits of transitioning horses into new lives. “Efforts like these have provided the runway for what we are doing,” Dr. Weiss reports. “These are organizations committed to supporting their horses beyond their sport. It’s an exciting time for these horses in transition and those who could be at risk.”

Organizations’ willingness to set aside philosophical differences and come together for equine welfare has also played a big part, she continues. The United Horse Coalition and the The Right Horse program both reflect groups “setting aside our differences” to work together. Laws regarding horse slaughter and the Horse Racing Integrity Act are among the “big emotional” topics on which participating members may passionately disagree, yet progress for horses in transition is possible by focusing on points of agreement. Even as the wider political culture seems more divided than ever, horse welfare advocates are finding and positively exploiting their common ground.

Gio. Description from Love This Horse Equine Rescue in Mojave: Gio is a gorgeous chestnut gelding with a lot of professional training under his belt. He was entrusted to us by his former owner who is elderly and wanted Gio to continue his training and to find a home that will compete with him. He has his registration papers.

Right Horse Partners

The ASPCA program works with horse helping organizations in two phases, the first of which is the “Warm Up Ring.” In this phase, facilities must meet 13 vetting criteria, then are visited by a Right Horse rep for a site visit before onboarding as a partner program.
    
Right Horse Partners in California include:
•    Love This Horse Equine Rescue in Acton - www.lovethishorsearabianrescue.org
•    Hope For Horses in Galt - www.horse4horses.com
•    The Monty Roberts Institute in Solvang - www.MontyRoberts.com

Prospective Partners in the Warm-Up Ring include:
•    Win Home Place in Canyon Country - www.winhomeplace.org
•    Saffyre Sanctuary, Inc. in Sylmar - www.saffyresanctuary.org

The Gallop welcomes news, tips and photos. Contact Kim F. Miller at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
May 2020 - Andrea Equine

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Young entrepreneur does good while doing well.

by Kim F. Miller

A Craigslist ad, a $25 BLM Mustang and gumption galore have taken Andrea Cao a long way. This month, the Stanford University freshman and member of its western equestrian team celebrates the second anniversary of Andrea Equine, her second venture into entrepreneurship.

Her first venture, the Q-Flex, landed her on ABC-TV’s Shark Tank, where she earned a modest investment and guidance from Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran. That was in 2015 when Andrea was 13. The Shark Tankers’ support helped make a success of the Q-Flex, a self-acupressure device Andrea designed to help her single mother, a nurse, relieve tension in the hard-to-reach parts of her back.  

 


With the help of her mom, Hong Cao, Andrea brought the product to market, made door-to-door sales calls, then placed it with retailers in her San Luis Obispo County area. The simple device is now sold around the world with profits that made possible the purchase of the five-acre ranch in Atascadero where Andrea’s four horses live.

 

Her current venture is Andrea Equine, which includes a line of tack and equipment built on “ethical manufacturing, living wages, fair pricing and true quality.”

These are all things “that nobody in our industry was talking about” when Andrea began researching sources and processes for making the rope halters, leather tack and bits with bright turquoise accents that are now marketed around the world.

In addition to her entrepreneurial accomplishments, Andrea bootstrapped her way up from horse crazy kid with no money for lessons, let alone her own horse.

She’s now a seasoned trainer whose horsemanship resume includes starting several BLM Mustangs and other breeds and helping others develop their own.

All of the above was accomplished along with academic achievements required to be accepted to Stanford University, an institution with an acceptance rate of barely over 4 percent.

At home since the pandemic closed most of the campus in early March, Andrea is planning a leave of absence for the spring semester. She’ll refocus on training her own horses and spending more time on Andrea Equine.

A Brilliant “Black Sheep”

“Chaotic prioritizing” is Andrea’s secret for accomplishing all that she has and juggling her interests. “It’s learning what is most required of me at a certain time, and going down the list to get it done, even knowing that I’m never going to get everything on the list done.” Always a self-sufficient and independent kid, Andrea has a passion for her pursuits that provides natural motivation.

An inquisitive nature has served her well. That was helpful when she was “so blessed” to be selected for Stanford’s Intercollegiate Horse Show Association team among an always competitive field of candidates. For all her horsemanship accomplishments, Andrea had no competitive experience. “My position was trash!” she asserts. That opened a new realm of learning called “equitation” or “horsemanship,” the divisions for western discipline collegiate equestrian competition.  Most of her teammates are well versed in these subjects.

“Her internal motivation and curiosity are immense,” says Vanessa Bartsch, Stanford Equestrian Head Coach. The school’s admission policies have the effect of pre-screening prospective equestrian team members for exceptional characteristics, she notes. Even in that group, Andrea stands out.

“Here’s a kid who had, at 13, a business idea and ran with it. She loved horses, so she decided to get a Mustang and figure out how to train it by working with it. As a teenager... who does that?”

Teammates had heard Andrea’s Shark Tank backstory and were “excited to meet this person who was obviously really into horses,” recalls teammate Paiton Gleeson, a sophomore. “Not just the competition aspect, but she was clearly into the whole world of taking care of the horse and building a bond.”

Andrea’s “super bold nature” is what immediately struck Paiton when the freshman showed up at the Stanford Red Barn last fall. “She immediately had this huge presence and was not afraid to try new things. When you first come on campus, it can be a little intimidating, but she didn’t seem intimidated at all.”

Paiton also admires the fact that, even with Andrea’s impressive equestrian accomplishments, she had no problem asking for help with the unfamiliar aspects of competition.

Paiton expects Andrea to have a broad influence on the team. “She is really involved in the D-School (Design School), which has an entrepreneur focus. That is kind of the spirit she brings to the team in terms of wanting to figure out ways to make the whole team, and everyone on it, better.” Upgrading the tack room with Andrea Equine gear is an immediate example.
    

“A PhD in Feel”

Andrea’s earliest equestrian wishes were fulfilled through a Craigslist ad seeking to trade barn chores for the chance to ride somebody’s horse -- never mind that she didn’t know how. “I taught myself how to ride,” she shares. “It’s a miracle I made it on the team.”

“After the first couple weeks of instruction on the team I realized I had no idea what I was doing and had spent 10 years using the wrong position,” Andrea continues cheerfully. “I rode in a ‘chair seat’ -- I sat on my butt when I learned to ride and was breaking colts. Looking back, I don’t know what was keeping me on.”

She approached the process of re-learning to ride “gracefully and playfully,” Vanessa says. The constant catch-riding format of IHSA competition can be humbling enough, but Andrea embraced the extra requirement of revising her position for competition purposes. Learning to use her inner thigh for a secure position and to reach her leg down long around the horse’s side was a big change from the short stirrup lengths that were a habit after starting many young horses.

The end result has been well worth it for reasons beyond the higher likelihood of earning points for her IHSA team. The better position quickly translated to being a more effective rider, a realization that didn’t take long thanks to what her coach calls a “PhD in feel.”

What Andrea lacked in show experience, she makes up for in instincts. “She may not be used to doing hundreds of patterns, but when we put her on a horse that’s having a bad day, she calms them immediately,” Vanessa reports. “She has a supportive temperament that makes her perfect any time we’re having a horse challenge.”

The prospect of making the equestrian team was a deciding factor in Andrea’s college choice and it has brought friendships and sanity to the exciting swirl of freshman life. Andrea jokingly calls herself “the black sheep” on a western squad that includes “someone with a legendary barrel racing record and an Arabian show world champion.” Her own experience with starting horses, ground manners, round penning and other training techniques has blended with her teammates’ experience in the form of “some interesting conversations,” she says. “It’s been really cool to add that perspective.”

Above all, “My teammates are my best friends,” Andrea adds. “Without them, I think I’d go crazy.”
    

Rewards Beyond Ribbons

Lack of show experience has never meant a lack of rewarding experiences. Working with any horse, especially the wild Mustangs and especially her “heart horse,” Spirit, has always produced daily rewards. “Even though there’s no ribbons, no spectators or any kind of public validation, it’s super cool how many small goals and victories there are,” she says of starting horses from scratch. “When a Mustang that was not bred to be trained first gets the confidence to come up and smell your hand, when you halter break a foal, or saddle up a horse for the first time, it’s all so monumental. All of those things set the tone of your relationship.”

The process continues with under-saddle work. “When you get the horse to soften laterally, to collect for a split second or slide to a stop with their hind end underneath them...There is so much reward and fulfillment in those moments.”

The trail is Andrea’s favorite teaching terrain. “You can work a horse in the arena as much as you want, but it doesn’t mean the horse is going to stay with you out on trail. Barking dogs and train tracks are among the interesting journeys to lead a horse on.” Round pen work is another stage for training methods that fall loosely under the “natural horsemanship” heading.  The teachings of Ray Hunt, Tom Dorrance and Buck Brannaman are among the influences reflected in her own mix of methods.

Unique Take On Tack

Getting into the tack business resulted from frustrations over the quality, cost and manufacturing practices involved in existing supply. She found that the ethical and transparent manufacturing processes critical to her definition of Q-Flex’s success were not standards or even familiar as she began investigating tack supply chains.

She was “shocked” to find tack companies not owned by horse people and brands marketed as high quality that sourced materials in countries with poor labor practices. As she began to make inquiries, “They couldn’t tell me much about the manufacturing process in terms of working conditions and what people were being paid,” Andrea explains. “I feel like customers should demand to know that information from companies they buy from.

“I don’t care about being the biggest player in the market,” she continues. “I just want to inspire the conversation.”

Using fair and sustainable manufacturing process while keeping Andrea Equine tack affordable is a challenging balancing act. “Fair pricing does have to reflect what we have to pay to support the family-owned companies we work with. It’s a give and take and a constant conversation.”  

The tack is made by a network of small businesses across America. “One of our first leather manufacturing sources were Amish people,” Andrea recounts. Communication involved emails that were responded to via a hand-written letter that was faxed back. Andrea Equine’s product development phase took a year of “flying around the country, meeting all these people,” she explains. “It was such an adventure.”

Her business management principles and priorities were firm early on. During the Shark Tank opportunities with the Q-Flex, “Mark Cuban told me we could reduce our costs by working with China,” Andrea explains. “I said, Why? Our margin is already great. Why take away business from people who are not only manufacturers, they’re our friends? That’s just how we are doing things.”

Regular donations to horses in need is another firm element of Andrea Equine’s business model.

With sales doing well and coming from around the world, Andrea hopes the next expansion may be into english tack. Newly exposed to the hunter/jumper world through her Stanford Equestrian friends and experiences, Andrea is cooking up some ideas and has plenty of advice and product testers for the next three years.  

Presuming normal school will resume in the fall, Andrea will continue on a self-created course of study she describes as “as close to a business start-up major as you can get.”

Meantime, she’s excited about what the leave of absence may make possible. Along with continuing with her own horses, she’s looking for an opportunity to dive deep into the reining discipline. “It’s really cool having some freedom to work on exactly what I want to work on and see where I want to go with it.”

Extra time will likely to devoted to Andrea Equine. “It’s such a great balance of turning my passion into my career and it’s been such a blessing at every stage,” she explains of the plan to keep that as her career and to train as a not-for-profit pursuit.

“I can use my training experience and time to develop and refine the feel of products, and impact so many more equestrians that way. As a trainer, I can only help six horses/clients at a time. With Andrea Equine, I can help and enable thousands of people achieve a better relationship with their horses on a daily basis.”

 
April 2020 - Every Horse Deserves Good Footing

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Premier Equestrian parlays its place at the forefront of evolving arena industry to bring benefits to all.

by Kim F. Miller

Premier Equestrian has deservedly received a lot of attention and praise for its work as Exclusive Footing Products Supplier for the International Arena at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida. WEF is a global hub for highest-level show jumping, especially this year because of the World Cup Finals being held in the U.S. and the Olympics, that were set for this summer.

Closer to its home base in Sandy, Utah, the company has been winning over the West Coast for some time. Four-time Olympic dressage team member Steffen Peters was among the first Californians to recognize the benefits of Premier’s OTTO Sport Arena Base Mats, range of footing blends and expertise on sand, footing additives and all facets of arena construction.

 


Last fall, Peridot Equestrian in San Marcos chose Premier Equestrian as the best fit for its plans to become a hub of high-level dressage education and training. Most recently, the new owners of Toyon Farm in Napa, have chosen Premier Equestrian for an arena overhaul.

Peridot and Toyon have a common denominator in that first-hand experience made easy work of this critical decision in facility planning and management.

Peridot’s Jessica Eaves Mathews and her daughter Katherine kept their horses at Steffen and Shannon Peters’ Arroyo Del Mar stables in San Diego before opening Peridot. “I know there are other good footing companies out there, but I figured why mess with what works?” explains Jessica. “It was kind of a no brainer.”

Converting what had been a jumper training facility was a major undertaking and the arena and footing were “the easiest parts of the process.” Since they moved in and started riding last fall, “The footing has been perfect,” Jessica reports. “Everybody who comes here loves it.” Those “everybodys” include resident dressage trainers Dawn White-O’Connor, Niki Clarke and Verena Sonstenes-Mahin.

Toyon Farm was recently purchased by the Bonavito family, whose daughter Danielle Bonavito has been training in Florida all winter with her coach and Olympic hopeful, Sabine Schut Kery.  Sabine’s base in Wellington, TYL Dressage, has a Premier Equestrian arena.

“It was an easy decision when Sabine asked me to check out their footing,” says Danielle, a rising dressage star whom the Bonavitos have entrusted with arena decisions. She is familiar with Sabine’s horses and saw how confidently and comfortably they worked in the Premier Equestrian arena. Next, Danielle visited WEF and watched jumpers meet their sport’s demands in the International Arena. The Toyon team was sold on what they saw.

Premier Equestrian is the exclusive U.S. distributor for Germany’s OTTO Sport Arena Base Mats. Their ability to reduce concussive impact by 40% was a strong selling point, Danielle explains. So was Premier’s ability to consult expertly on footing selection and all phases of Toyon Farm arena construction. The installation is being handled by one of Premier Equestrians’ Preferred Builders, Tony Judge’s Olympia Footing, and was set to be finished in late March.
    

FEI Grand Prix Freestyle CDI3* sponsored by Premier Equestrian, victors Sabine Schut-Kery (USA) and Sanceo at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival. Photo: Taylor Pence/US Equestrian

An Option For Everybody

Premier Equestrian’s dominance in the West is just beginning, thanks to services and products that fit a range of budgets and priorities. Not everybody can get an International Arena-grade riding surface, Premier’s Heidi Zorn acknowledges.

“But everybody can get much better footing.”

The first of those options is DIY arena building. At this most affordable tier, Premier Equestrian walks the client through the best choices for their needs and budget. This starts with preparatory steps like arena location and grading and continues through the final touches of sand selection, footing blends and maintenance, all factors that vary depending on climate, proximity of suitable sand and arena use.

Working with a Preferred Builder, as Toyon Farm is doing with Olympia Footing, is an option for those who want a turn-key solution.

Arena building plans are Premier Equestrian’s newest service. “These are similar to engineered plans for building a home,” explains Heidi. “They can be taken to any excavator or licensed road contractor.” The plans include four base options and come with three detailed bid sheets for comparing accurate bids from local contractors. “The plans tell the contractor what kind of grading, compaction, testing and drainage is needed,” says Heidi. “They are perfect for people who don’t have a preferred builder in their region and who want the option between DIY and having somebody else build their arena.”

Premier Equestrian recently provided the OTTO Sport Base Mats and the ProTex Footing product for the International arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, in Wellington, FL. Photo: Sportfot

“Super Sand”

Sand concentrate is a new Premier Equestrian product that improves riding surface performance while containing costs. Too many people overlook the importance of sand characteristics when building or rehabbing an arena, Heidi stresses.

“It’s not just about the fiber additives and the arena base. Sand is a huge key component in the final footing.”

The seemingly simple topic is complicated by the reality that sand characteristics vary geographically. There’s no such thing as “arena sand” even though building materials suppliers might market theirs as such. This explains why WEF owners, Equestrian Sports Productions, transported and mixed several different sands to reach the perfect footing blend.

Premier’s very fine silica sand concentrate addresses these challenges by binding to more common sands from any region. If it’s determined that an arena needs four inches of sand, for example, three inches of most local sands can be combined with one inch of Premier Equestrian’s “super sand” to work with any of its footing products. All proposed sands are tested for clients’ needs as part of Premier’s process.  
    

Heidi Zorn congratulates Sabine Schut-Kery and Sanceo on their win in the AGDF FEI 3* Grand Prix presented by Premier Equestrian.

Heidi Zorn congratulates Sabine Schut-Kery and Sanceo on their win in the AGDF FEI 3* Grand Prix presented by Premier Equestrian.

At Forefront of Evolving Industry

Prior to the current Winter Equestrian Festival arrangement that extends through 2022, Premier Equestrian may have been best known in the dressage world. That could be because Heidi is a dressage rider herself and has frequently spoken at educational events. And it could be because dressage riders often lead the way in identifying riding surface as critical to their horse’s performance and longevity in the sport. Playing a critical role in the International Arena where Nations Cup, Olympic qualifying and millions of dollars in prize money was determined, Premier Equestrian is now front and center in the show jumping world, too.

Footing advances at the sports’ highest levels have a trickle-down benefit for horses at the sport’s more populated base levels. Heidi is thrilled to see the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) lead the way in setting ever-higher standards for the safety and enhanced performance of its athletes. With arena surfaces, this involves cutting-edge research and technology and objective methods for defining “good footing.”

The FEI recently enlisted the Objective Biomechanical Surface Testing machine, aka the “OBST,” to quantify the various forces of impact involved in take-off, landing, galloping and turning. It measures the impact, cushion, responsiveness and grip, and the uniformity of those characteristics throughout the surface. In essence, it measures what the horse feels when it performs on a specific surface.

Equestrian Sport Productions’ Palm Beach International Equestrian Center closely followed the FEI’s lead regarding footing. The 12-week WEF series included four weeks of 5* rated competition, which must meet the footing standards made possible by the OBST.

Heidi hopes that national sport governing bodies will follow suit in adopting clear standards for footing that keeps horses safe and sound. But even before that happens, horse owners in all disciplines are becoming better educated about what surfaces -- at home and shows -- are best for their horses. That’s moving the needle in the right direction, she says.  

Premier Equestrian’s principals are horse people, too. Heidi is an amateur dressage rider when time allows. Keeping more horses comfortable and performing at their peak longer is a gratifying aspect of the work. “The way the arena is built at WEF is only accessible to the upper economic echelons,” she confirms. “But we have options that make it affordable for everybody to have better footing.”

For more information on Premier Equestrian visit www.premierequestrian.com.

 


OTTO Sport

Premier Equestrian has been the exclusive United States distributor for OTTO Sport Base Mats from Germany since 2014. OTTO Sport mats have been used by top competitors throughout Europe for over 30 years and represented exclusively in the United States by Premier Equestrian, Inc. since 2014. The 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the 2010 World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park and the renowned Aachen Equestrian Festival are among the 6,000 top arenas worldwide to use OTTO Sport.

 

From the all-important horse’s perspective, OTTO Sport Base Mats absorb 40% of the concussive force when the hoof hits the ground, while jumping or galloping between fences. Cutting that impact by 40% -- even before adding the cushion of the footing blend atop the base – means substantially cutting down wear and tear on the horse’s joints.  It’s often said that every horse has only so many jumps in its body. OTTO Sport makes it possible to get the most from each jumping effort and hoof-fall.

Remarkable drainage capacity is another unique OTTO Sport advantage – up to eight inches per hour. Dressage Olympian Steffen Peters and his wife Shannon witnessed this first-hand in 2015, when California’s El Niño rains flooded much of their stable property in San Diego. They were able to ride through it thanks to their newly installed OTTO Sport Base Mats and ProTex footing blend from Premier Equestrian. That was a big boost to Steffen’s successful bid for a spot on the U.S. Rio Olympics dressage team, where he contributed to the bronze medal.

As a boarder at the Peters’ stable during that time, the experience was one of many that sold Peridot Equestrian’s Jessica Mathews on Premier Equestrian.

 
April 2020 - Horse People: Ben Ebeling

horsepeople

In a happy place even while sheltered amid scary world events.

by Kim F. Miller

Twenty-year-old Californian Ben Ebeling has long been a familiar face on the Florida winter dressage circuit. At the end of a cut-short circuit in mid-March, he made himself unmissable by leading his team to victory in the CDIO3* U25 Nations Cup.  He and Nuvolari Holdings, LLC’s Illuster Van de Kempert contributed to team gold with a second-place finish at Intermediate II; and wins in the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Freestyle, scoring 70%, 71.179% and 75.13% respectively.

Ben is the son of 2012 U.S. Olympic dressage team member Jan Ebeling and Amy Ebeling, who were based out of their Moorpark facility, The Acres, full time for most of Ben’s youth. His parents never forced him to ride competitively, but they did insist he know enough to be safe working around horses and riding on family outings. About midway through high school, he settled on a much more serious equestrian path, and in two disciplines. Up until last year, he competed at Young Rider levels in both dressage and jumping.  In the process, The Acres became a hub of USDF Region 7 Young Rider activity and success. Ben attended his first  Championships in 2016, initially as a rider, then, due to a last-minute lameness, he contributed in other ways that earned him the Andrew B. D’szinay Sportsmanship Trophy. For the next few years, he and The Acres stablemates were core members of Region 7’s teams.

 


Starting college at Carnegie Mellon University in the fall of 2018 triggered a change for the Ebelings and coincided with them moving into a new partial-year base in Wellington. It’s called Tierra Contenda, Spanish for “happy place,” and it’s been that for Ben.

Along with being a terrific school, Carnegie Mellon is located in Pittsburgh, only a two-hour flight from Wellington, so his parents and the horses were not far away. As a freshman, he started out without riding, which was “a bit tough coming from riding all day every day.” Another plan involved a heavy load of six classes and flying to Florida every other week to keep up with his riding. “That was insane.”
    

Photo: US Equestrian

Happy Medium

Ben then found a happy medium in a Monday-through-Wednesday class schedule, then flying to Florida to work with the horses and compete Wednesday afternoon through Sunday. Most recently, he’d scaled down his course load to better accommodate riding. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, he’ll study remotely as college students are doing throughout the country.

“We are super lucky in that we can continue working and we and those who work with us are kind of isolated in our site,” Ben explains. If the pandemic is contained and activity normalizes, the Ebelings plan to return to their Moorpark home stable in July — already postponed from their normal May return. The plan is to stay in California through November, when Amy is among those helping stage the new Desert Dressage CDI at the Desert International Horse Park in the Palm Springs area’s Thermal.

Like the rest of the world, the Ebelings’ plans are fluid in these uncertain days. “It’s a really scary time,” Ben acknowledges of the coronavirus pandemic. “ We need to take it seriously and take all the precautions to help ‘flatten the curve.’ At the same time, I think we all need to take a deep breath.” As the logistical leader of the Ebeling endeavors, Amy is handling the situation in a typically admirable way, Ben says. “She has been awesome with our staff, hosting meetings every day and making sure that everybody is safe and comfortable.”

If and when the competition season resumes, Ben plans to target the U25 Brentina Cup and possibly the Small Tour division. Continuing his jumper career isn’t on the current agenda: his horse, Caddilac FS Z, was sold last year. “It’s the first time I haven’t had a jumper and it’s a little sad because that is really where my heart is. I love every minute of the jumping, but with school and dressage, I needed to take something off my plate.”
    
Promise & Challenge

Doing so well with the 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding, Illuster Van De Kampert, is a major milestone in a partnership of promise and challenge.

The “jumper-like energy” Ben sensed and loved when he first tried Illuster in October of 2018 has been a double-edged sword. “The moment I sat on him he was the most fun horse I’d ever sat on,” he recalls. “He had that jumper mentality and energy and his gaits are fantastic.”

The process of getting him into the Grand Prix ring was “an awesome project for me and my dad,” Ben says. They started off well last January in the Young Rider division in Florida and enjoyed a good year of getting to know each other. “The whole season at Young Rider level, he was super hot in the ring and I knew, as we got into Grand Prix, he would get hotter and hotter.”

Indeed, the transition had its rough patches. During a Grand Prix outing last summer in Europe, Illuster’s energy was so excessive that Ben chose to retire from the test.

“He is very anticipatory of the next movements,” Ben says of Illuster, a half-brother to Steffen Peters’ Suppenkasper through their sire Spielberg. “He has such large movements, especially in the passage, it’s like he was afraid of himself.” Adjusting his nutrition with the help of sponsor Cavalor Feed and working to make the horse more comfortable with himself and in the show ring brought gradual improvements.

Their first three to four CDIs of the 2020 season saw scores from 59 to 64s, and “I was like, Yeah!” Ben shares. By Week 8 of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, Illluster was settling into the new groove of being both “calm and on,” resulting in Grand Prix and Grand Prix Freestyle victories, and crossing the 70s threshold. “I was beside myself!” Although the Festival ended two weeks early, Ben was thrilled to close it on their Week 10 victory in the CDIO U25 Nations Cup win March 11-12 with the U.S.’ Stars and Stripes squad.

“Winning a team medal for me is one of the most satisfying and exciting accomplishments in the sport of dressage,” he says. “To have that result in our first U25 Nations Cup was very rewarding for the whole team. The most special thing about the whole weekend was realizing that after hard work and determination, great results are being achieved.”
    

Photo: Holly Smith / PS Dressage

Fortuitous Coffee Shop Stop

Ben and Illuster have a coffee shop encounter to thank for getting connected. It occurred while returning home from his first European Young Rider tour, in 2018 with Behlinger. With the horse quarantined before going directly to the North American Youth Championships in Old Salem, New York, Ben and Amy where staying with New York friends and had visited a coffee shop, both wearing their USA Dressage hats.

“This lady approached and asked if we rode dressage,” Ben explains. “I introduced myself and she said, ‘I’ve heard of you and I have a horse for you.’ At first, honestly, I thought she was a little crazy! It was my first experience having somebody approach me and know who I was.”

Four months later, visiting his folks in Florida during a break from his first semester in college, Ben remembered the woman’s offer to come see the horse. Illuster was at Marcus Fyffe Dressage program in the Wellington area.

The woman in the coffee shop, Sasha Cutter, was, in fact, crazy in the savvy sort of way regarding Illuster and Ben’s suitability. A rider herself, she’s now in training with Jan Ebeling and is a co-owner of the horse with the Ebelings.

Looking Ahead

Along with Illuster, Ben continues to compete Behlinger, his partner in 2017 NAYC Region 7 Junior team gold and a European Young Rider tour, plus a newer U25 horse, Diamond’s Diva. Longtime Ebeling family friend and owner Ann Romney has an ownership interest in Behlinger and Diamond’s Diva.

The Romney and Ebelings’ long friendship made headlines in 2012 when Jan and Rafalca represented the U.S. at the London Olympics, while Ann’s husband Mitt Romney ran for president of the United States. Exposure to life, events and ideas beyond the horse world has been a big part of Ben’s upbringing. That is reflected in his open-minded and enthusiastic outlook on future career paths.

Carnegie Mellon is providing a great continuation of interesting new friends and international connections, he explains. Pursuing a business degree with a marketing concentration is an invigorating path, whether as a “back up plan” to horses or as a career. “You have to have interests in addition to horses,” he says. “Whether that lines up as my career or I do horses after school will just depend on how things are going and how I feel.”

Meantime, Ben is enjoying riding an average of 10 to 13 horses every day while in Florida, appreciating every minute of being able to shelter in a happy place and do what he loves.

 
June 2020 - The Show Must Go On! Or, Must It?

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Organizers and exhibitors enter the “new normal” with fluid plans, frustrations and frets.

by Kim F. Miller

With cautious optimism, a scaled-down schedule of equestrian competition is expected to begin this month. At least that was the case as this issue went to press during the third week of May. As in every segment of society, uncertainty has been the only constant when it comes to the pandemic’s impact on equestrian sport.

 


The United States Equestrian Federation and discipline-specific governing bodies have issued clear requirements and recommendations for safe return to competition. Qualification criteria for medal finals, championships and various industry programs have been or are being modified. So have mileage rules in several cases where organizers want to reschedule shows cancelled between mid-March and the expected easing of Federation restrictions on May 31.

 

In parts of California and elsewhere, the lifting of USEF restrictions is made moot by city, county and state regulations that supersede those of sport governing bodies.

Marnye Langer with Dale Harvey. Photo: Kristin Lee Photography

Stemming The Trickle Out Effect

Langer Equestrian Group co-chief Marnye Langer wants horse shows to resume for three main reasons. “I want to put people back to work; trainers, groomers, haulers, etc. Second, I want to test and figure out what we need to do to have shows in this new, somewhat temporary environment, which I think will be our environment for the rest of the year. Third, I want to have exhibitors experience a show in this more restrictive environment and see how they feel about it.”

She is hoping for a June 13-14 unrated hunter/jumper event at Hansen Dam Horse Park in the Los Angeles area’s Lakeview Terrace. It would be in place of what would have been the Verdugo Hills June show. The LEG team is ready to implement a simple, low-cost competition that could be contested over one or two days. At press time, however, the City of Los Angeles Recreation and Parks, to which Langer Equestrian is a concessionaire, had said “no.”  

Why a carefully staged horse show was declined while horse racing was underway at Santa Anita half an hour away is one of several frustrations for the organizer. It also illustrates the conflicting guidelines issued by various governing bodies that complicate the process of moving forward with competition.
    

Robert Kellerhouse with exhibitor Gina Economou at a 2019 Galway Downs show. Photo: Kim F. Miller

Divergent Opinions

Responses to a May Facebook survey of exhibitors produced divergent responses on whether, when and how people would want to resume competing. “It was very polarized, which didn’t surprise me,” Marnye says. “I appreciate that people were either on one end of the spectrum or the other.”

Those in favor sited the ability to take personal responsibility for their own and other’s safety by following protocols, and the desire to help get the equestrian economy going. Those in the “no” camp attributed that to either not being personally comfortable with returning, or some who asked, “How can you be so irresponsible? I’ll never come to your shows again,” Marnye relays.

Out of 140 respondents, 50% said they’d be comfortable returning to shows this month; 20% said July; and 30% said August.

Relatively even differences of opinion occurred on several points. These included the importance of a show being rated by national, regional or local organizations and preferences for a one-day haul-in show versus a two-dayer. Thirty percent said they’d want to stable their horse overnight even with the various social distancing restrictions, 20% said no thanks. Thirty percent said they’d be willing to show even if the format was “show and go: no hanging out,” with 20% saying no. The rest had more moderate responses to these questions on the survey’s 1-5 scale.  

The poll results stand alongside Marnye’s hunch that nobody knows what they want until they experience it. “Once people come to a handful of shows, if they are pretty restrictive, I’m not sure how many will want to keep spending money until it’s a better experience.” All of which intensifies the importance of getting some events underway to see if a formula can be devised that works for all involved.
    

Cost Containment

Costs will be a critical component. Marnye anticipates keeping the simplified format to about $400 for a stall and fees covering five classes. That’s compared to approximately $750 to $900 for a rated show weekend produced by LEG.

Above all, Marnye is among those deeply worried about what she calls the “trickle out” effect of the economic shut-down. Langer Equestrian Group also manages the Hansen Dam Horse Park, the boarding, training and special event facility that is normally home to about 175 boarded horses. Fifty of those left since mid-March, presumably many for stables with fewer restrictions on how owners can interact with their horses. Whether the destination stables had lighter restrictions, or had looser enforcement of similar rules, is unknown.

The upshot is a disturbing math equation either way: “50 fewer horses is two fewer stable workers, less income for the trainers, less shavings purchased, etc.” Marnye notes. “The snowball effect goes on and on.”

There might be a silver lining. “Now more than ever, we are really learning how to work together in our industry,” Marnye reflects. “It’s given a lot of lip service but, by and large, we don’t do it and we are not as well off as a result. There is a way of working together without impeding your own company’s success: to be competitive and collaborative.”

Cornerstone Dressage’s Glenda McElroy.

Is It Safe?

As for how safe it will be to resume showing, Cornerstone Dressage manager Glenda McElroy is confident of the efficacy of guidelines and of exhibitor compliance. Especially at shows staged at city, state or county-owned venues.

“Exhibitors should feel very comfortable competing at those facilities,” she says. “They are going to be watched and checked very carefully,” she says of venues including Los Angeles Equestrian Center and Hansen Dam Horse Park in the Los Angeles area, and Del Mar Fairgrounds and Horsepark in San Diego County.

Events at privately owned places may be equally safe, she stresses, but there is no doubt the level of enforcement and scrutiny at publicly-owned venues will be intense.

Cornerstone’s Festival Of The Horse CDI, March 17-22, had to be scrapped and attempts to reintegrate it into a mid-June show didn’t pan out. Although restrictions were to have been eased by then, the logistics of travel and accommodations for officials was one of many insurmountable obstacles.

Star Spangled Dressage June 27-28 at LAEC is Cornerstone’s next event. Separate entry and exit doors and plexiglass desk shields for the show office are already in place at LAEC. Ample stabling and parking should make physical distancing relatively easy, Glenda notes.

Sizing up her clientele’s mood, Glenda senses exhibitors with “pent up energy” ready to show, and those, sometimes at higher health risks, who may sit things out a while longer. Star Spangled Dressage typically draws 120-130 horses. It was too early to predict entries at press time, but Glenda was prepared to adjust in either direction: either limit entries to facilitate safety procedures if entries are high, or consolidate into a one-day event if they are light.

Hotel stays and dining out seem to be exhibitors’ bigger concerns, she shares. “We may see more one and two days shows at the beginning.”

“Everybody is having to adjust to this,” says Glenda, whose experience includes many years of hosting CDIs and serving on FEI World Cup Finals organizing committees. “It’s not comfortable for anyone, but with all the steps that are being taken by organizations, local government agencies and facilities, there are good guidelines in place to help everyone feel as comfortable as they can.”

Much Scrambling, No Omelets

A blank calendar belies behind-the-scene scrambling to reschedule important competitions on the eventing circuit. There were no rescheduled recognized competitions on the US Eventing Association Area VI calendar at press time.

Robert Kellerhouse’s newly christened “Kellerhouse Presents” team is poised for action at Galway Downs Equestrian Center in Temecula. Its two early-year anchors, the International Horse Trials at Galway in late March and The Spring Event at The Horse Park at Woodside in late May, were virus victims.

Attempts to work with Shepard Ranch and their June 19-21 date for a recognized show in Temecula were lost to logistical challenges, including finding available hotel rooms for officials. “We’d started planning it about two months ago,” Robert shares. “It was such a big endeavor, and this has all been just crazy.”

Going forward, “If ‘phase 3’ -- sporting events without spectators -- is announced on June 1, we’ll be able to offer an unrecognized competition pretty quickly,” Robert says. Getting a recognized event is more complicated and would take longer, even with Area VI and the relevant governing bodies doing everything possible to reschedule events. Its staging would also need to be weighed with the question of what it would prepare exhibitors for, Robert states.    

The Sexton family who owns Shepard Ranch in Santa Ynez announced an unrecognized schooling derby on that same June 20-21 weekend. It will be two, one-day shows with several combined phase options.

Also lost was what would have been the inaugural Twin Rivers CCI4*-L in April, a highly anticipated addition to the international calendar. The Baxter family’s Paso Robles team tried to reschedule it for early June, but it was not to be.
Still set for the summer are the Twin Rivers Summer Horse Trials, July 2-5; The Summer Event at Woodside, Aug. 7-9; Shepard Ranch Horse Trials Aug. 21-23; Woodland Stallion Station

Horse Trials Aug. 29; and the Copper Meadows One-Day Horse Trials on Sept. 5.

The Event at Rebecca Farm, a highlight of the West region eventing circuit, was still set for July 22-26 in Montana.

(Editor’s Note: Show cancellations and postponements change daily. Check event websites for the latest status.)

 


Help For Lesson Horses

Current and ongoing economic hardship throughout the industry are another of very few sure things. Especially for riding schools, where lesson horses need care, food and exercise even when lessons aren’t allowed. The United States Hunter Jumper Association acknowledged this in launching the USHJA Feed Aid program on May 18. It provides $300,000 in matching funds to assist riding schools and training barns that provide lessons to non-horse owners. For more information, visit www.ushja.org.

 

 
June 2020 - New USEA Area VI’s Chair: Asia Vedder

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Longtime California competitor steps into leading role amid COVID-complicated competition calendar changes.

Asia Vedder is a familiar face on the West Coast eventing scene. She trained and rode professionally for a while, is now a top amateur competitor and served as the volunteer coordinator for the Twin Rivers Ranch competitions for several years.

Asia stepped down from the Twin Rivers post last year and agreed to join U.S Eventing Association’s Area VI as secretary when asked last November. In March of this year, Lisa Sabo resigned as Area VI chair and Asia agreed to step into the lead role.

 


“Becoming chair was not on my radar at all,” says Asia, who lives in Santa Barbara County’s Carpinteria. “But when I was asked, I said, ‘I think I can handle this.’ My father was on the USEA Board of Governors in the 90s, so being involved in the management side of the sport is not a foreign concept.”

 

Asia took on the larger Area VI role just before the COVID-19 pandemic added extra complexities. Managing the competition calendar is a big part of Area VI’s work under normal circumstances and coping with cancellations and hoped-for rescheduling adds intensity to that ongoing process.

“The organizers have been really good and the Council is trying to respond to their requests, although it’s tough when so much is still up in the air.” At presstime, USEF and USEA suspension of their branded events was to end May 31.

A big question is whether The Event at Rebecca Farm will run July 22-26 in Montana. It was “a go” as of early May, with a final decision expected in early June.

If The Event happens, that ups the urgency for Area VI organizers to stage opportunities for horses and riders to prepare. As of May 8, there were two upper level events slated for late June and July, at Galway Downs in Temecula and Twin Rivers in Paso Robles. (Update: The Galway Downs show has since been cancelled.)

If state or regional activity restrictions extend through June, it’s unlikely that anybody could get ready for Rebecca Farm. “Then we’re looking at horses who’ve had over a three-month break from competition,” Asia explains of one of several possible contingencies for which Area VI has plans. “Early in the pandemic, we were one of only a few USEA Areas to have submitted a coherent plan.”
    

Membership & Championship Growth

In addition to helping refigure the competition calendar around ever-changing realities, Area VI has plenty of priorities, its new leader says. Growing participation in the sport is a long-standing priority that will likely be even more important with the pandemic’s expected effect on the economy. Streamlining and upping the impact of Area VI’s digital presence and communication, getting more kids into the North American Young Riders pipeline and continuing Area VI’s strong tradition with Young Rider and Adult Camps are additional points of focus.

Another focus for Area VI is boosting the Area Championships. They are being held at Copper Meadows in September this year. “Copper Meadow’s Taren Atkinson has hosted them in the past and done a great job, so I’m looking forward to what she will do this year,” Asia explains.

“Taking the pandemic into consideration, qualifications have been relaxed. The championships are tough, and don’t always have great attendance. Loosening qualifications is something we had been discussing already, and in light of the suspension of competition, it only made sense to really open things up.”

Along with eventing at a high level, Asia helps manage her family’s 100-acre organic lemon and avocado farm in Carpinteria. She keeps and trains her horses there, including Isi, who debuted and excelled at the 3* level last year, and a new young horse. She’s also rehabbing from a long-needed hip replacement surgery in January.

“I hadn’t planned to be back showing until May anyway,” she says. “I’ve been getting my strength back and trying to unlearn some bad habits I developed from compensating for my bad hip for several years. Getting to know my new horse,” she continues. “And there is always homework to be done, and things to focus on to take advantage of this down time between shows.”

 
May 2020 - Sunsprite Ranch Expansion

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Two new stallions reflect sporthorse breeding program’s embrace of “do it now!” philosophy.

Over morning coffee at Sunsprite Ranch, Pamela Duffy sometimes takes some time to reflect on her life and present circumstances. In the midst of the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic, solitude has become a given, and has brought a complicated mix of thoughts, plans and projects to the table.  

For Pam, losing her mother in October 2018 and her husband, Don Trotter, in June of 2019 have been turning points that have forced her to reconsider some of her options.  

 


The original plan was, Pam states, to bring down the workload at her Temecula ranch and spend more time in leisurely pursuits such as traveling to places far and exotic. Don had travelled extensively for his job at the United Nations, but they definitely had a shared travel bucket list. Unbeknownst to most riders in USEA’s Area VI and beyond, he was starting to limit his volunteer stewarding calendar in order to spend more time in non-equine activities.  

 

One of the directions in which the Sunsprite breeding program was headed was to bring it to a close, although gradually. “I have spent too much time, passion and effort planning hypothetical matings, staying up nights with mares due to foal, and maintaining the fencing and flooring and the like to just walk away from a dream that was pushing and pulling persistently in my head, soul and heart for years and years,” Pam explains.  

Infinity, one of Sunsprite Ranch’s two new stallions.

In March 2019, Pam and Don went to Germany together. It was a great trip, as well as a wonderful opportunity to talk about the future. Berlin was the stop that brought art, architecture and some real luxury to the lives of the couple. It also made Pam painfully aware of Don’s stubborn cough and lack of stamina.

Then, in April, Don underwent many diagnostic tests and was found to have cancer in multiple organs.

With this recognition, there was time to discuss what the Sunsprite dream entailed and how best to bring the basic plans into fruition. There was also time for reminiscing and humor and a hard stare at the realities of imminent death. “Not sufficient time” says Pam. “I think we made the most of it though.”  

Donald Trotter’s legacy in both the warm-up arena and volunteerism will live on and he was so proud, also, of the Sunsprite program. He rarely got to see the horses compete, but certainly enjoyed following their careers. His trademark smile, words of encouragement for the riders, and thumbs-up gesture “gave the riders wings” as Pam describes it.
     

Sara Sellmer. Photo: MGO Photography

New Paradigm

Pam’s new life-stage has actually embraced a new paradigm of expansion, probably due to the fact that she is, in her own words, “a hopeless contrarian” when it comes to planning. Pam holds the following quote close to her heart: “Life shrinks and expands in proportion to one’s courage.” The author is Anaïs Nin.

“I started to think about life in terms of enjoyment and risk and opportunities.       

I also saw that nothing in life is guaranteed and that if you are lucky enough to think in bold lettering, so to speak, you owe it to yourself to do so,” says Pam. “I also started to tap into a carpe diem or “Do It Now” mentality.”        

With that in mind Sunsprite recently purchased two stallions that will represent the company in the breeding shed.

In 2019, Pam purchased a second facility, which goes by the name of Donegal Farm, in honor of the Irish county in which the Duffy family, for generations, was born and raised. Donegal Farm is far better suited to having a stallion in residence and is also very well appointed for training young horses.
   

Don de Marco. Photo: MGO Photography

Don de Marco. Photo: MGO Photography

Don de Marco

Until now, Sunsprite’s foundation has been mares from Pam’s favorite bloodlines, paired with outside stallions ranging from the familiar and proven to the lesser-known up-and-comers. Pam still has a beginner’s giddiness and a willingness to fiddle with her own breeding formulas going forward, so Don de Marco, by Donnerwetter, has been purchased, transported from his former home in Florida, and started back under saddle.

His bloodlines stem from a very successful mare line, including the genetic jewel Chinchilla, allowing proven old but very valuable bloodlines to shine through.  
Chinchilla was born in 1977 and her conformation and overall quality allowed her to bring home numerous regional and national titles in Germany in the early and mid-1980s.   

“Don de Marco is very modern in body type and his offspring have excellent records, winning in a variety of disciplines, including hunters, dressage, jumpers and also eventing,” Pam says. Through Donnerwetter, he is a paternal half-brother to the famous dressage sire and former world-ranked competitor, Donnerhall.  

Don de Marco is 14 years old and boasts a very correct foundation, Pam continues. His unique temperament appeals to riders who want to be partners with their horse rather than a passenger.  Don de Marco does have set opinions, Pam adds.  “He has his own intelligence and code of ethics.” That strong sense of himself more than fills his 16.1 frame.  In Pam’s words, “He’s a gem in a small package.”

Infinity. Photo: Jutta Bauernschmitt

Infinity.

Infinity

Infinity, Sunsprite’s second stallion, is much younger. He was born in 2017 and like his future stablemate, Don de Marco, brings traditional bloodlines to the table.  

Pam purchased Infinity at the November Trakehner stallion show in Neumunster, Germany.  There were many young quality stallions looking to be approved, if the breeding committee had found their characteristics laudable enough. However, in the end, the percentage of stallions that were given the approval vote was low. Infinity was among them. Pam shared that the “hook” that caught her attention in regard to the stallion was the connection to Infinity’s grand sire.

Pam’s interest in this sire (Amiego) had to do primarily with the fact that he was the sire of one of Pam’s foundation broodmares, Donamia. In 1987, at the Pan American Games, Amiego represented Bermuda,  where he won the individual bronze medal, ridden by Peter Gray, in Combined Training/Three Day Eventing.

Amiego shares the same dam, the incomparable Abiza, with Abdullah, who represented the United States with his rider Conrad Homfeld and won a team gold and individual silver in show jumping at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. On Infinity’s dam side, he carries the exceptional sire Buddenbrock, an elite stallion with many successful get in the dressage world.

During the grading process whereby the young stallion “prospects” are shown to the public, the candidates are presented numerous times so that they can be evaluated. “Most of the horses were reactive and impressionable.  Infinity, himself showed a presence beyond his young years, strolled out calmly and obediently, like he had been doing this all his life,” Pam explains.  “He was kind of unflappable, and the more I saw him, the more I loved him. He is balanced when he moves, elegant and compact. I really do have high expectations for this guy.”  

Infinity will stay in Germany for another year at least, but there are plans for collecting him and freezing semen for the American public, likely to be available in 2021.  

Photo: Pamela Duffy

Exciting Times

“These are exciting times at Sunsprite!” Pam states. “Another fortunate event has been the presence of my dear friend from Canada, Sara Sellmer, who is hanging out and playing at Sunsprite. Sara originally came to the U.S. to compete in eventing through the winter and spring.  Fortunately, she is enjoying the weather and the horses and I am thrilled for her to be part of the Sunsprite family. Hopefully when we all get back to competing, you will be seeing her on several Sunsprites.  

“In the meantime, we’re having fun starting some young horses and it’s great to watch her. She is a phenomenal rider and also a phenomenal person.”    

Sara sees many common positives in the Sunsprites she’s riding.“Intelligence, athleticism and sensitivity are common traits. They are all very correct in their movement.

Rebecca Braitling on Kirschblute 3. Photo: MGO Photography

“The related traits of balanced canters and big walks are of special appeal,” Sara continues. “A balanced canter translates to a natural ability to adjust the stride. That makes it easier for the horse and safer for us as riders. It’s a big advantage when you are galloping down to a big solid fence. Cat-like is the phrase I keep going back to,” she reflects. “They are soft and light over the ground and really agile.”

Being a part of the horse industry has never been for the faint of heart. Pam believes that staying true to one’s goals and committing to the journey, one step, one jump, one competition at a time, is the ultimate celebration of living life.

“Stay healthy, stay strong and don’t forget to add sprinkles of joy and amusement to the mix.”

For more information, visit Sunsprite Warmbloods on Facebook.

 
April 2020 - The Gallop: Pandemic Perspectives

gallop

Every nook and cranny of the equestrian world impacted by coronavirus.

by Kim F. Miller

“March Madness” took a devastating form last month as the coronavirus spread to the point of being declared a global pandemic. That happened on March 11, accelerating a wave of severe disruption in all facets of life, including the equestrian world.

In the early days, competitions first attempted to continue with their shows, but with alterations to reduce concentrations of people and adding safety protocols. Within days, sometimes overnight, organizers shifted to either postpone or cancel their events.  

 


On March 13, the United States Equestrian Federation announced that all its owned events were suspended for 30 days, and asked organizers to do the same. News that the World Cup Finals were cancelled came the same day, followed by the same status for the The Land Rover Kentucky Three Day Event. Sunday, March 24, the International Olympic Committee announced it would make a decision regarding this summer’s Olympics within four weeks. Canada announced its athletes would not compete if the Games are held this year, and there was strong speculation that the Olympics would be postponed to 2021.

 

On March 19, California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered residents to stay home, with the exception of those engaged in businesses deemed essential. Although horseback riding was listed in many descriptions of safe outdoor activities, the businesses that enable most people to ride were not deemed essential. Many stable owners had already told boarders to stay home and entrust the care of their horses to a skeleton crew of staff.

While human health is the priority in all these decisions, the economic impact is already drastic. The necessary cancellation of shows has a ripple effect that is hard to quantify: judges, course designers, grooms, photographers, announcers, award organizers, food preparers and office staff barely scratch the surface of people who are now suddenly without income.

The California Professional Horsemen’s Association launched a GoFundMe.com page to help these kind of show workers. As of March 24, it has raised $3,655 toward a $15,000 goal. The West Coast equestrian world is a generous lot, but with almost everybody’s livelihood affected, it’s an especially tough time because the impacts are just beginning.  

To get a little more understanding of how this is impacting different people and horses in the West, California Riding Magazine Kim F Miller checked in with three people: Stanford Equestrian Coach & Red Barn Executive Director Vanessa Bartsch; veterinarian Phoebe A Smith; and Lisa Sabo, owner of Sabo Eventing and the Newport Mesa Riding School.

The Gallop welcomes news, tips and photos. Contact Kim F. Miller at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Vanessa Bartsch: On the Front Lines

Vanessa is the Stanford Equestrian Team coach and Executive Director of Stanford’s Red Barn Equestrian Center, which is home to Stanford’s 30 horses and the base for private training businesses run by Willow Tree Farms, Northern Run, Nicole Prows Dressage and RW Dressage. Its location in Northern California’s Santa Clara County put in on the front lines of efforts to prevent coronavirus spread in the U.S. The University was the first campus to close to most students and its Medical Center was among the first to offer tests to the community.

Kim: What were the earliest preventative steps taken at Stanford and its Red Barn?
Vanessa: Stanford was at the front edge of this. We have amazing resources through the school, its hospital, its health and safety officers, etc., so we adapted faster than others because we knew it was coming.
That led us to look at our operation of how we run the barn and what are our priorities. We determined that our #1 priority is protecting a core group of personnel who know every one of the horses on our property better than even their owners because they are in and out of their stalls every day. So, our priority was to ensure they were healthy and at the least risk of exposure as possible because they are paramount to making sure horses stay healthy.

Kim: How are the horse care logistics working out?
Vanessa: We determined a one person per six to eight horses plan. For Willow Tree’s horses, for example, that meant their grooming staff and (trainer) Guy Thomas going in alone. Each program was given a 2-3 hour window every day so we could limit who is sharing space at the barn at any given time. It helps that each program is in its own barn, so it’s easier to separate people.
For the team horses, I have my two assistants each working a half day, with one to two volunteers that are current or former student athletes. They scrub in and scrub out, wear rubber gloves and are disinfecting doorknobs, brushes, etc.
It’s been tricky with our team horses. Their average age is 13 to 14 and, while they don’t need to be kept competition fit, it can be hard for teenage horses to be taken completely off work then put back on. In normal circumstances, the horses work three weeks, then have a week off during which they get extra turn-out time and time on the walker, so we are incorporating that the best we can. It would help if it stopped raining--not that I want there to be a drought either!
We have fast-tracked retirement plans for a few of our older horses thanks to alumni and friends who can provide them a nice forever home.  

Kim: I saw in the early days that you had oodles of volunteers offering to help, but clearly you could only have a few people coming to the barn. How did you decide who to call?
Vanessa: I’ve known through my time at Stanford that there is a huge and loving community supporting us. I’d say we had between 50 and 70 alumni saying “What can I do? How can I get in there and help?” That’s the silver lining: seeing the amount of support, which has also been there for us during fires and other worst times.
Understanding how community health works, we made the decision early on that we needed to take the aid of super helpers. People who could pull a four- or eight-hour shift, versus an hour here or there. Some are phenomenal riders, and some are phenomenal on the ground: they are fast and efficient and can prep the horses so our coaches can ride them all. They are great with turning horses out, getting the laundry done, and other things so that my riders can get out and exercise as many as possible.
    
Kim: What’s been the toughest part of this very tough situation?
Vanessa: Stanford people love having a plan, an orderly plan. I have so many emergency plans, including phone trees. The most difficult part was the landscape was changing so rapidly. Every day there was a new edict that we had to adapt to. Every day, we thought we had things handled safely and then, 24 hours later, there was a new hurdle. As the first university to close, it was very stressful for the first week, and then getting to a plan that could stick for a day or two. Now (as of March 19), we are on shelter-in-place, and things have stayed the same for a while.
I’ve been communicating with our boarders as much as possible, conveying the importance of protecting our staff’s health. Every individual wants to see their horse and have a place to come to that is not stressful, and I want to give that to them. But horse people understand the sacrifice each individual makes is for the greater good.  
The second part of what’s been most difficult is outside of barn management: it’s being there for my student athletes. I had 16 seniors this year, which is large for a 42-member team. It’s one of my best teams in terms of being caring, loving and well-bonded men and women. Their entire plan for their school year, and as athletes, is now cut short over something none of us could have foreseen.
We had a team meeting Tuesday night and it was very sweet to look at 38 members on our Zoom (Video Conferencing) meeting, trying to continue some sense our community. We are featuring a senior every day on our Stanford Equestrian Team Instagram account.
And, we are working with the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, asking what does this mean for kids who have qualified for the post-season, and for whom this was their athletic pinnacle, and it’s now cut short for absolutely necessary reasons.
Above all, I want to be there for each of my riders. It’s scary for you and me, and I can’t imagine how it is for 18 to 22-year-olds. It’s a lot to absorb.
    
Kim: Any lessons emerging from what you’ve seen and been through so far?
Vanessa: The importance of preparedness in running a barn. We talk a lot about worst case scenarios, and it can sometimes feel so pessimistic. Fires and earthquakes are all things we hate to think about and this mass pandemic is something out of a science fiction movie. So, the lesson of all this is probably to have way more contingency plans than you ever thought you needed and be ready to be adaptable.  

Kim: Final thoughts?
Vanessa: It hit here first and Stanford had the ability to test before anyone else. Along with Johns Hopkins University, I think we have a bead on this. I think what we are seeing is the tip of the spear. I was just on a conference call with other coaches around the country: there are several parts of the country that don’t yet have any restrictions. It’s crazy. I hope we are doing things right.

 

Veterinarian’s Perspective: Phoebe A Smith, DVM, of Riviera Equine Internal Medicine & Consulting in the Santa Ynez Valley

Kim: What does this look like from your perspective as an equine veterinarian?
Dr. Smith: As large animal vets, it falls into the context of herd immunity, in which we try to protect the vulnerable by minimizing the disease in the herd. So, conceptually, this is all very familiar. It’s what we do with horses when there is a contagious disease on a farm or showground. We lock down, nobody in, nobody out.  Much of the regular public has not had to think like this in recent history.

Kim: Is there a risk of transmission between horses and infected people?
Dr. Smith: Multiple species have different forms of coronavirus. But the one that causes the current disease, SARS-CoV-2, is new, so there is not a lot known about it in human medicine yet. At this point, there is no evidence that horses are part of the transmission process in any direct way. You could make a crazy link through a “fomite,” an inanimate object capable of transmitting an infectious organism. For example, say an infected person sneezed on your horse’s coat, and somebody else put their hand in that same spot, then touched their face and became infected.
As to whether horses can get it, we don’t believe so. There is rapid work being done trying to figure out what the virus does and who it can affect. I am getting that question frequently from clients, but there are no reported incidences of horses getting the SARS-CoV 2 virus.

Kim: How concerned are your clients about COVID-19 and their horses?
Dr. Smith: Completely coincidentally, there are some cases of equine coronavirus in our region currently. The equine coronavirus is a gastrointestinal-borne condition which presents as GI disturbance, colic, diarrhea, fever, or any combination of these clinical signs. This is caused by equine coronavirus, which is well-typed and something that we are familiar with. In most cases, we are able to treat equine coronavirus at the farm with supportive care.  Less commonly, intensive care may be required for more severely affected cases.
Most horses recover from equine coronavirus within days of falling ill. The virus can be transmitted in manure, so the treatment should include isolation.
So, the biggest concern is when I have to tell a client that their horse has coronavirus. I immediately say, ‘But wait...it’s not that coronavirus!” Again, this current regional incidence of equine coronavirus is completely coincidental with COVID-19, but it is causing some confusion.
    
Kim: Are there helpful take-aways for horse owners and care providers?
Dr. Smith: Yes, the principles of how respiratory viruses are spread are valuable lessons for animal health as well as human health. There is a lot of talk about how COVID-19 is spread through respiratory secretions -- coughing or sneezing. The virus also spreads through fomites, when those secretions get onto something that another touches. Think about how many things a horse touches with its nose to ask “Hey, what’s that?”
Because everyone has had to think about this form of transmission in such a detailed fashion, it could improve awareness of how contagions travel and that should improve a farm’s ability to control disease spread in the future.

Kim: Any general advice to horse owners regarding COVID-19?
Dr. Smith: We all want to spend time with our horses and you should continue to unless you are sick with the coronavirus or have symptoms that indicate you might be infected. And this is only because your horse could accidentally become a fomite if you coughed or sneezed on his blanket, or somewhere else, that another person might touch. They are just now working out how long the virus survives on different surface types.
(The National Institutes of Health announced on March 17 these finding regarding the virus’ stability on various surfaces: in aerosols for 3 hours; on copper, up to 4 hours; on cardboard, up to 24 hours; and up to two and three days on plastic and stainless steel.)
    
Kim: What about advice for those who can’t get to their horse because of self-imposed or mandatory “shelter in place” restrictions.
Dr. Smith: I think everyone understands that horses still need to get out and get exercise and are working with barn managers to find efficient ways to do that. I hate to see horses standing around all day in their stalls. Activity is important to keeping horses healthy, which will minimize the number of vet visits and minimize the general downstream effects of all of this.

Kim: Any suggestions for those who can safely spend time with their horses, and have extra time because of show cancellations or postponements?
Dr. Smith: It’s the same concept as what we are working on for ourselves and our families: what do we want to work on that we don’t normally have time for? Maybe it’s ground manners or getting over that fear of needles.
Some of my clients are using this break to give their horses extra rest. And some of my upper level rider clients are having to re-think how they are conditioning and preparing their horses, especially those with Olympic plans and hopes. I think we will see there is a lot of coordination in finding ways to allow them to continue preparation without risking anybody’s health.

Kim: Final thoughts?
Dr. Smith: It will be interesting to see how this shapes our future. On the horse and horse owner side, I think there will be truly lasting benefits in people having more familiarity with disease control and response to disease outbreaks.

 

Lisa Sabo: Owner, with her husband Brian Sabo, of Sabo Eventing and Newport Mesa Riding Center and Newport Mesa Pony Club, based at the Orange County Fairgrounds Equestrian Center, in Costa Mesa
 
Kim: As of March 19, what was the status of your business activities?
Lisa: We initially got a letter from the Fairgrounds that all activities need to halt. But we explained that the horses still need care and exercise. So, our owners, trainers and grooms are allowed to be at the barn caring for the animals.
We are not having any gatherings or group lessons, so the school horse program is totally shut down. We are washing our hands like crazy and keeping a 10’ distance from each other. I have always been the one constantly telling people to use their own brushes because you don’t want to spread anything between horses. And, now I’m doing it to prevent the spread of anything between humans.

Kim: Who’s keeping your lesson horses exercised?
Lisa: We have 12 lessons ponies. I have six instructors, two of whom are full-time, and they are exercising the school ponies. We are also putting them on the walker, which I hate to do, but we’ve had to go down to a skeleton crew.

Kim: This is impacting every business, but I’m thinking lessons program are taking an especially hard hit.
Lisa: Each lesson horse costs about $1,000 a month. Every month, if my black meets my red, I’m happy. I consider my school program as here to provide access for people coming up into the sport and some of them develop into training clients. I feel like school horse programs are necessary to attract people to our sport and to share our love of horses. I’m proud that I do it, but times like this are really devastating. It’s worrisome.

Kim: How are your training clients holding up?
Lisa: This is impacting everyone. My client families include airline pilots, travel agents, doctors, dentists, etc. Everybody is affected. I’m worried for everybody and for our industry. Horses, after all, are a luxury.

Kim: Any problems with compliance with the safely guidelines?
Lisa: We all have to follow the government guidelines. Even though it might be tempting to haul away for a cross-country school somewhere, the President and the Governor have told us to stay put and not travel. If I needed to haul a horse for a health emergency, I would do it, but not for anything else. Travel involves stopping at gas stations, using their restrooms, etc... Because we can be carriers and not even know it, I consider it my personal responsibility to stay put.
Sometimes I think we horse people are a little out of balance. I think some people feel exempt from the safety guidelines. If this were a horse disease, people would understand the horse needing to be isolated and taking all these steps to stop the spread. If anyone has any doubts about the importance of compliance still, they should just think about what they would want done if this was happening with their horses.

Kim: You are one of the most positive people I know. Is there a bright side?
Lisa: It’s a good time to give the competition horses a little let down. With our area’s show schedule, June is normally a slower month. But with the events being cancelled or postponed, that slow month is now March and April.
It’s also a good time to study horsemanship. Every Saturday is horsemanship class at our Riding Center. I just sent out an email with an online horsemanship class, with a bunch of attachments to study. Hopefully, we can keep people involved that way.
Of course, I am hoping this is only for a few weeks. We all have to suffer the consequences. As a whole, we need to dig in and get through this.

 
April 2020 - Foal Growth

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Special care and nutrition are required for young horses.

courtesy of America’s Horse Daily

A healthy foal will grow rapidly, gaining in height, weight and strength almost before your very eyes. From birth to age 2, a young horse can achieve 90 percent of more of its full adult size, sometimes putting on as many as three pounds per day.

Genetics, management and environment play significant roles in determining individual growth patterns. Through research, we also know we can influence a foal’s growth and development – for better or worse – by the nutrition we supply.


Strive for Balance

 

Feeding young horses is a careful balancing act. The interplay between genetics, management and environment and nutrition is complex. While we can do nothing to affect the genetics of an individual, we can affect how those genetics are ultimately expressed.

The nutritional start a foal gets can have a profound effect on its health and soundness for the rest of its life. We can accelerate growth if we choose. However, research suggests that a balanced dietary approach, which supports no more than a moderate growth rate, is less likely to cause developmental problems.

Some conditions that have been associated with rapid growth rates include:
•    Contracted tendons
•    Epiphysitis
•    Angular limb deformities
•    Osteochondrosis

The Foal’s Changing Diet

As early as 10-14 days of age, a foal may begin to show an interest in feed. By nibbling and sampling, the youngster learns to eat solid food. Its digestive system quickly adapts to the dietary changes. It is now recognized that coprophagy (eating of feces) is normal in the form and may lead to foal heat diarrhea as the intestinal microflora changes. This diarrhea was previously thought to result from hormonal changes in the milk but has been observed to occur with orphaned foals that have no exposure to maternal hormones.

At 8-10 weeks of age, mare’s milk alone may not adequately meet the foal’s nutritional needs, depending on the desired growth rate an owner wants for a foal. In order to achieve a more rapid rate of gain, high-quality grains and forage should be added to the foal’s diet.

It is essential the ration be properly balanced for vitamins and minerals. Deficits, excesses or imbalances of calcium, phosphorous, copper, zinc, selenium and vitamin E are of particular concern in the growing foal. Improper amounts or ratios can lead to skeletal problems.

Foal Feeding Guidelines

As the foal’s dietary requirements shift from milk to feed and forage, your role in providing the proper nutrition gains in importance. Here are some guidelines to help you meet the young horse’s needs:
1.    Provide high-quality roughage (hay and pasture) free choice.
2.    Supplement with a high-quality, properly-balanced grain concentrate at weaning, or earlier if more rapid rates of gain are desired.
3.    Start by feeding 1 percent of a foal’s body weight per day (i.e. 1 pound of feed for each 100 pounds of body weight) or one pound of feed per month of age.
4.    Weigh and adjust the feed ration based on growth and fitness. A weight tape can help you approximate a foal’s size.
5.    Foals have small stomachs, so divide the daily ration into two to three feedings.
6.    Make sure feeds contain the proper balance of vitamins, minerals, energy and protein.
7.    Use a creep feeder or feed the foal separately from the mare so it can eat its own ration. Try to avoid group creep-feeding situations.
8.    Remove uneaten portions between feedings.
9.    Do not overfeed. Overweight foals are more prone to developmental orthopedic disease (DOD).
10.    Provide unlimited fresh, clean water.
11.    Provide opportunity for abundant exercise.

Weaning

Foals are commonly weaned at 4-6 months of age. Beginning about the third month, the mare’s milk supply gradually declines and a natural weaning process begins.

To prepare the foal for complete weaning, its ration should be increased over a two- to three-week period to make up for the nutrients being lost in the diminishing milk supply. The mare’s grain should be reduced and/or gradually eliminated to further limit milk production.

Once the foal is no longer nursing, a 500- to 600-pound weanling should be eating between 2-3 percent of its body weight in feed and forage a day.

Sustaining Growth

Weanlings and yearlings continue to build bone and muscle mass at a remarkable rate. From weaning to 2 years of age, the horse may nearly double its weight gain.

Weanlings and yearlings benefit from a diet containing 14-16 percent protein. They also require readily available sources of energy to meet the demands of growth and activity. The percent of concentrates or roughage a diet may contain depends on the desired growth rate. However, the diet should never contain less that 30 percent as roughage – measured by weight.

A good rule of thumb is to provide 60-70 percent of the ration as concentrates and 30-40 percent of the ration as roughage – measured by weight. The diet must also provide ample fiber to keep the digestive tract functioning properly. Some of the new complete feeds have the ration already balanced.

Weight-gain and development taper off as the horse matures. As growth slows, you will need to adjust the ration to approximately 1.5-2 percent of the yearling’s body weight. The grain-to-roughage ration should also be adjusted so that by the time the horse is a 2-year-old, half of its daily diet (by weight) is coming from grain sources and the other half from hay and pasture. Breed type, maturity, desired growth rate and condition, and level of activity will affect the horse’s exact nutritional requirements.

Total Care and Management

Work with your equine practitioner to develop a total health care plan for your foals, weanlings and yearlings. A regular deworming, vaccination and examination schedule is essential to ensure that your foal is getting the care it needs.
Remember, vaccination and deworming regimens may vary depending on regional factors and disease risks. Consult your equine practitioner for exact recommendations.

Here are some other management tips:

•    Unless there is a medical concern, provide youngsters free-choice exercise daily. The less time foals are confined to stalls, the better. Avoid confining foals for more than 10 hours per day.
•    Use longeing, round pen or treadmill work judiciously. Excessive forced exercise can strain joints and limbs.
•    Never exercise a foal to the point of fatigue. If you observe a foal’s limbs to be shaking or weak, or if the mare cannot keep up with the adult horses in a herd, the mare and foal need to be confined until the foal is rested.
•    Keep your youngster’s feet properly trimmed to foster proper bone development.
•    Provide a clean, safe environment with adequate shelter from the elements.
•    Check the horse’s surroundings and eliminate any potential hazards, such as loose boards, nails, wire fencing or equipment.

The reward for providing excellent nutrition, conscientious care and a safe environment will be a healthy foal that grows into a sound and useful horse.

 
April 2020 - Farewell to a Champion

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Remembering Mark Watring’s gold medal partner, Sapphire.

by Esther Hahn

When Puerto Rican show jumper Mark Watring arrived at the 2002 Central American Games in El Salvador with his then 10-year-old mount, Sapphire, the joke that circulated around the competition was that Puerto Rico had sent a pony.

Although Sapphire stood at a respectable 16 hands, the stall in which he was stabled had a divot in the ground so the gray, Holsteiner gelding (Liostro x Roman) could barely hold his head over the door.

“Of course, we were all offended when we heard what people were saying,” Mark remembered, smilingly. “Our grooms would respond, ‘Wait until you see the pony jump!’”
Once the Games were underway, the first day of equestrian competition was a speed class that was also a medaling class, and Mark and Sapphire won. They went on to win the overall individual gold medal, as well. By the Games’ end, the Puerto Rican contingent had composed a little theme song for their winning, little pony, and Mark and Sapphire returned home with double-gold honors from their first international competition together.


At First Sight

 

Mark, based in the Los Angeles area’s Hidden Valley, first laid eyes on Sapphire in 1998, while visiting Puerto Rican colleague, Edgar Pagan, at his Southern California stables.

“Edgar had got in about 10 horses from Europe, and he asked me to come and try them,” said Mark. “I went, and while I was there, I saw this dappled gray horse waiting to get shod. I asked Edgar, ‘What horse is that? Is that one of yours?’ He said, ‘Yes, but he came without two shoes, and while he was in Europe, he kept getting bumped from his flight so he hasn’t been ridden in a month.’”

These details didn’t discourage Mark from riding the 6-year-old prospect. And as soon as the horse had all four shoes on, Mark talked Edgar into giving him the honor of the horse’s first ride on U.S. soil. After just a few jumps, Mark knew he found his next star, bringing Sapphire home that very same day to own in partnership with Dr. and Mrs. John Bohannon.

“I think it was his eye that caught my attention,” Mark explained about his instant connection to the horse. “He was so beautiful. I loved his look and his conformation. From the moment I saw him, I thought that he was stunning.”

All Things Gold

In a couple years’ time, Mark and Sapphire began their winning record at the Grand Prix level. Soon followed the double-gold international debut in 2002 and individual gold at the 2003 Pan American Games in the Dominican Republic.

At the Pan American Games, Mark and Sapphire sat in fourth place following the first speed round before moving into the lead after the two rounds of Nations Cup competition. Mark competed as an individual as Puerto Rico did not send a team.

“There was a press conference following the team rounds,” Mark described. “I arrived early and there were chairs around a table so I just sat in the middle. And when the teams came in, I was asked to move so that the U.S. team that won team gold could have the center chairs. After questions with the teams, the press turned its attention toward me and asked what I expected to see after the individual rounds on the final day. I replied, ‘I’ll be sitting back in the middle [of the table].’”

Mark’s prediction proved true when he and Sapphire did in fact secure individual gold, earning not only a middle seat at the table but also a slot at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

For the next four years that followed, Mark and Sapphire continued to dominate at the 1.60-meter level throughout the West Coast and at Spruce Meadows in Alberta, Canada. In 2006, the pair repeated their double individual gold performance at the Central American Games in Colombia.

Parallel to Mark’s journey with Sapphire was the growing family that Mark and his wife Jenny began amid the successful riding career. Sons Sterling and Stone joined in 2000 and 2003, respectively, growing up alongside the world travel and international acclaim.

“I’m so appreciative of how much of the world I’ve been able to see, from such a young age, thanks to Dad and Sapphire,” said Sterling. “I’m forever grateful.”

A Legacy In Progress

“I retired Sapphire as a 1.60-meter horse, not realizing he had another 10 years in him,” Mark revealed. “I retired him when he was 16, and I think he had a lot more years left. I should have done some of the smaller classes with him. He was sound right to the day he passed away.”

In retirement, Sapphire enjoyed his daily rides with Jenny. And in the year before his passing, Sapphire learned to work “on the wire,” a bridle-less form of riding that utilizes a strap around the horse’s neck for direction and control. But all the while, a tumor common to gray horses grew large on the side of Sapphire’s head. It began to affect his eye and his ability to chew.

In a matter of two days, it looked as though Sapphire had lost a hundred pounds of weight, according to Mark, which prompted the difficult decision to lay Sapphire to rest on Saturday, February 29, 2020.

Sapphire’s legacy will continue not only in the stories of his gold-medal heroics, but also in his clone, Saphir, born in 2010. And through Saphir, Sapphire’s genetic legacy will be in the foals on the ground and those to come. Mark currently owns one foal, Cortir, by Saphir, in addition to storing frozen straws for future breeding.

“He always cleared the jumps by a couple of feet, but it was so smooth,” said Mark, remembering his longtime partner. “It wasn’t like you were getting jumped loose. His jump wasn’t hard to stay with—you basically just went along with him. He started out spooky and stayed spooky his entire life. It was easier to jump the jumps than to go around them.”

In a sense, the way Mark has described Sapphire, is a model to approach life: overcome obstacles without too much struggle. It just may be the final gift from the iconic gray horse that gave so much to his rider and to the sport.

 
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