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April 2020 - Editor's Notes
Written by CRM
Wednesday, 01 April 2020 01:02
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Hard to believe it was only three weeks ago that I was volunteering as press officer for the new Pacific Coast Dressage CDI3* March 6-8 in Temecula. We were all talking about COVID-19 at the time, but in a relatively unworried way -- jokingly trading elbow bumps instead of handshakes or hugs as we met. The show ran smoothly, but we all came home to a world that radically changed with the March 11 declaration of a global pandemic. Even then, it took a while to realize the wide-reaching impacts it would have on all of us.

California show organizers scrambled to do the right thing. Some first altered the nature of their shows, then later cancelled them all together or sought to reschedule them for later. The USEF’s March 13 declaration that all its owned events were cancelled for the next 30 days, and the request that organizers follow suit, pretty much put the kibosh on competitions and gatherings of any kind. Mandates from local, state and federal government cemented that new reality. The cancellation of the Del Mar National and the World Cup Finals, in Las Vegas, hit particularly close to home. The USEF’s suspension was initially through April 16, then extended to May 3, per recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control.

Deadline week, March 22, brought the news that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has been postponed ‘til some time in 2021. Those are still shocking headlines, but the broader waves of impact are being felt at private and public stables throughout the state. As we went to press on March 25, some stables were still allowing owners to come ride and care for their horses -- most on structured schedules to limit human interactions. Some had immediately closed to boarders while trainers and minimal staffs care for the horses.

By the time this issue arrives, I’m sure a lot more will have changed. Please consider donating to the California Professional Horsemen’s Association’s GoFundMe effort to help some of our colleagues who’ve been most immediately affected: CPHA Fundraiser for Horse Show Work Force at California horse people have helped each other through some pretty terrible things in the past, and I know that will be part of this crisis’ eventual resolution.

We welcome the chance to spread helpful and encouraging news as it becomes available. With a mid-deadline 180° turn in what we should report on, I am super grateful to my friends and excellent writers Nan Meek and Marnye Langer for their great articles in this issue. And, how timely that performance psychologist Dr. Darby Bonomi, PhD, answers a question this issue about staying focused amid distractions? It was submitted by a reader well before any semblance of normalcy went out the window, and it applies now more than ever.

And to USEF photographer Taylor Pence for capturing Sabine Schut-Kery’s joyous expression and sharing it as our cover image.

Thank you to Premier Equestrian for sponsoring our cover feature on footing innovations. I have been following this company for many years and it’s impressive how they’ve found ways to contribute to elite-level innovations and make them available to those of us at the more “normal” economic levels of our sport.

Stay healthy, please. If you are healthy and have access to your horse, give him an extra hug for those who can’t hug their own right now.
Kim F Miller, Editor
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Little Feather is an arabian mare back up for adoption at FalconRidge Equine Rescue in Valley Center, California.

She is 15 years old and has been with her adopter for the last seven years in Ramona. Her adopter trained her to ride on trail, which she has done since she learned to ride. She is healthy and sound, up to date, and has the arabian sensitivity so she is looking for an experienced rider who wishes to continue to take her on trail rides.

Adoption fee is $500 and a contract is required.

Please contact her adopter Lisa to see Little Feather at 760-315-8164.

April 2020 - Every Horse Deserves Good Footing
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Wednesday, 01 April 2020 00:51
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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


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 - Big Boost
Written by CRM
Wednesday, 01 April 2020 00:41
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Lehua Custer & F.J. Ramzes repeat receipt of generous prize from The Dressage Foundation.

Lehua Custer and F.J. Ramzes have once again been awarded The Dressage Foundation’s Carol Lavell Advanced Dressage Prize in the amount of $25,000. Ramzes is owned by Wendy Sasser, and the pair also received this helpful honor last year. Lehua Custer Dressage is based at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, but Lehua and Ramzes have been in Florida working with USET dressage chef Debbie McDonald for much of the last year. The prize will help them continue their journey to the top levels of our sport.

Lehua is a USDF Certified Instructor/Trainer and L Program Graduate with distinction.  She was Olympian Hilda Gurney’s assistant trainer for 10 years and has trained multiple horses to the FEI levels, earning the USDF gold, silver and bronze medals.  Additionally, she has participated in the FEI Young Horse Program with several horses.

F.J. Ramzes, a 2010 KWPN gelding by Juventus x Rampal, was bred by Cornell University in New York.  Ramzes was purchased by Wendy as a yearling as her future competition horse.  As Ramzes progressed successfully up the levels, Wendy officially turned the ride over to Lehua for further development.  Lehua and Ramzes were named to the USEF Dressage Development Program in 2018.

Lehua Custer and FJ Ramzes. Photo: Gina Falcone

Lehua shared, “This grant will be a game changer for Ramzes and I, as well as for owner Wendy Sasser. Thanks to Carol Lavell’s Prize, we will be able to continue our intensive training with Debbie McDonald. This grant is truly life changing for us as we don’t have a large budget for our journey. It’s truly incredible to have this Foundation and its generous donors as part of our dressage community. Our dreams are bring realized through The Dressage Foundation!”

The Carol Lavell Advanced Dressage Prize Fund was established in 2009 in special remembrance of Carol’s mother, May Cadwgan, and in honor of her father, Gordon Cadwgan. Since that time, the Prize Fund has made 14 awards totaling $350,000 in support of U.S. High Performance teams.

Information about The Dressage Foundation and the Carol Lavell Advanced Dressage Prize can be found at The Prize application deadline is December 13th of each year. For more information, please contact TDF’s Executive Director, Jenny Johnson, at 402-434-8585 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Press release provided by The Dressage Foundation.

April 2020 - Dressage News & Views
Written by by Nan Meek
Wednesday, 01 April 2020 00:31
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dressage news

Sabine Schut-Kery takes change in stride.

by Nan Meek

In just a couple of weeks, this column changed focus on an almost daily basis. Its first draft was a report on California trainer Sabine Schut-Kery creating an exhibition performance for the World Cup Finals in Las Vegas.

Then the World Cup was cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis. No World Cup, no entertainment exhibition by Sabine, so the second draft transformed into an update on Sabine’s quest to qualify for Tokyo this summer.

Soon after that, the final two weeks of the Global Dressage Festival were cancelled, and the equestrian snowbirds who winter at “Global” were scrambling for flights home.  If “third time lucky” is more than a myth, this draft may actually get published.

Our Story Begins

In early March, Sabine Schut-Kery and her Grand Prix partner Sanceo, the spectacular 14-year-old Hanoverian stallion owned by Alice Womble-Heitmann and Dr. Mike Heitmann, were in Wellington in a promising bid to qualify for the short list of candidates for the USA dressage team for Tokyo 2020.

“We came here in November, to prepare and get training with Debbie McDonald,” Sabine explained. “I was able to come here two months early, thanks to funds I still had left from the Carol Lavell Advanced Dressage Prize. It’s given us time to get used to the climate, and time to work with Debbie. It says a lot about both Debbie and my longtime coach Christine Traurig, that their systems are so compatible. It has been very good for Sanceo and me. Christine has been my coach since Sanceo was three years old, and Debbie has in the past coached me at various competitions which Christine wasn’t able to attend. It’s unique to have two coaches and two systems that are so compatible: Debbie in Wellington, and Christine in California.”

Photo: Rosie Simois

In fact, there’s a village that supports Sabine and Sanceo. “It’s amazing to see your vet and your farrier watching your test, and to have them there when you come out of the ring. You know they’re there for you. You don’t feel like you’re alone. It’s really special to have a team like that.”

Sabine contends that the logistics of Wellington, where everyone is in one central location, are what make that possible. “It’s so special to have everyone right there. They put their heart into it as much as me. Sanceo’s owners are very involved. Alice and Mike are there in good times and bad, supporting us through the hiccups, believing in their horse and in me. I’m a lucky girl and I can’t thank them enough.”

In 2015, Sabine and Sanceo rode at small tour in the US mixed levels team that brought home gold from the Pan Am Games. Now competing at Grand Prix, she explained her decision to set her sights on the Tokyo Olympics, instead of the World Cup Finals, or both. “To qualify for the World Cup, you have to have scores from three Grand Prix Freestyles, and to qualify for Tokyo, you have to have scores from three Grand Prix Specials. To qualify for both would mean double the number of qualifying competitions to get the necessary six scores.”

Photo: Shaana Risley

All things considered, it made the most sense to aim for Tokyo, so Sabine and Sanceo focused on the Grand Prix Special tests. In the mandatory outing for the top ten combinations on the USEF Grand Prix ranking list during the week of February 19-23, they garnered a 73.674% for second place in the Grand Prix for Special 5* and a 72.979% for third in the Grand Prix Special 5*. By the week of March 11-15, they had won the Grand Prix for Kur 3* and Grand Prix Kur 3* with scores of 71.804% and 76.415%, respectively.

As of the March 15 edition of the USEF 2020 Tokyo Olympic Ranking List, Sabine and Sanceo ranked fifth, a stellar accomplishment for their first season back and just three shows. But she was quick to point out that the current list is not final.

At the time, everyone thought there would still be one or two more shows at which riders could get qualifying scores, which could change the rankings and thus the short list that determines which horses and riders would go on to compete during the summer in Europe, and from which final selections would be made for the Tokyo team. But changing events were to throw qualifying plans into chaos for all.

It also looked like the World Cup Finals were still on the cards for them, in a different way, as Sabine was invited to create an exhibition to wow the crowds. Sabine’s resume is as rich with exhibition experience as it is with competitive success, so she spent her rare spare time at Global planning music, choreography, and costumes for herself and her friend Alison Mathy of Lyric Dressage to perform an exhibition pas de trois or a quadrille.

Photo: Taylor Pence/USEF

Coronavirus Changes Everything

All that changed within the space of a week. As the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the US, escalating numbers of events were postponed or canceled. Equestrian events were no exception. First, the World Cup Finals were cancelled, then the last two weeks of Global, followed by all USEF sanctioned competitions through mid-April, with the very real potential for a longer period without competition. As of this writing, the entire country is under “shelter at home” orders and large cities are preparing for unprecedented medical needs.

Life as usual has been suspended for the duration. For those of us at home, sheltering there is one thing. But it’s something entirely different when you’re on the other side of the continent with three horses and all the tack and equipment that goes along with them. With the final two weeks of Global competition cancelled, travel bans going into effect, and shelter at home a requirement across the country, it was time to return home.

On the evening of March 23, safely home in California, Sabine recounted her exodus out of Wellington. “I was told we got the last plane out. We flew out with Tex Sutton, leaving Wellington at midnight for the four-hour drive to Ocala, where we loaded the horses at 6:30 in the morning. Because of headwinds, we made two stops to refuel, and landed in San Bernardino at 3 or 4 Friday afternoon. On the freeway driving home, there was no traffic all the way through northern LA – it was weird. I didn’t feel panic, or danger, but it did look like something out of a movie.”

Now back home at El Campeon Farm in Thousand Oaks, Sabine says it’s quiet. Clients can’t come to the farm, so Sabine and her assistant are riding all the horses. As she said, “It’s still the same number of horses, whether I ride them or teach their owners, and they still need exercise and care.”

Amidst all the bad news, the fears and anxieties, there’s something comforting about the routines of a stable: horses still being fed, ridden, and turned out. It’s a sign that there’s still a “normal,” at least in the barn.

Photo: USEF

The Only Constant is Change

Clichés exist for a reason – they’re true! We can all expect a lot more changes before this is over.

As we go to press, the prime minister of Japan has announced that an agreement was reached with the president of the International Olympic Committee to postpone the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, which are currently expected to be held by the summer of 2021 at the latest.

That’s the news for now, but there’s bound to be more changes as the world rides out this pandemic.

A lifelong horse owner, Nan Meek lives on the scenic San Mateo County coast where dressage courts and riding trails overlook the Pacific Ocean. She competed in dressage to the Prix St. Georges level with her late beloved Lipizzan Andy (Maestoso II Athena II-1), and now practices the discipline of dressage with her handsome Spanish warmblood Helio Jerez 2000 and dotes on the newest family member Mischa (Neapolitano Angelica II-1). Yes, dressage is embedded in her DNA.


April 2020 - Horse People: Ben Ebeling
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Tuesday, 31 March 2020 23:53
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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.

April 2020 - Ready for the What Ifs?
Written by by Marnye Langer, CIC, AFIS, MBA
Tuesday, 31 March 2020 23:41
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Risk management includes and goes far beyond conventional insurance policies.

by Marnye Langer, CIC, AFIS, MBA

A few weeks ago, Kim Miller reached out to me and asked if I would be willing to write an article about insurance in dealing with disasters and crisis. COVID 19 was starting to get on the radar screen of the American public and it seemed like a timely topic for California Riding to address. As a CIC designated insurance professional and the Managing Director of LEG Insurance Solutions (LEGIS), I felt qualified to do so.


I started on my article, and the situation began to change. I gave it a few days and started again, and again the situation changed. As my deadline grew nearer, I had started my article so many times, and each time I felt like whatever I was writing was going to be woefully irrelevant by the time the magazine reached readers’ hands. Here I am past the deadline, and because the Riding staff want to produce as relevant document as they can, I am doing my best to write something that will be meaningful in a week.


Marnye Langer with friend and fellow show organizer Dale Harvey. Photo: Kristin Lee Photography

I have extended my perspective beyond that of an insurance specialist. Because of my role in our company, Langer Equestrian Group, I am a horse show organizer, a facility owner and operator, a riding school owner, an employer, a USEF licensed judge, a journalist, and a horse owner. I draw on a lot of experiences and perspectives. Hopefully this article contributes something useful to someone, somewhere, during this unpredictable and strange time we all find ourselves in.

So here goes!

I was asked to address the insurance options for dealing with a situation like the virus pandemic and the effects on businesses, especially individuals and small businesses. Very quickly I recognized that the larger topic is “risk management.” What can we do, both as individuals and as business people, to manage risks?

Step 1: Analyze your risks.

What risks can affect your business and your ability to earn a living? I doubt many of us had “pandemic” on a list of major catastrophes we could face, but I am sure that wildfire, hurricane, earthquake, and even terrorism would make many lists. Californians are acutely aware of wildfire dangers, and we can’t deny that we live on a number of significant earthquake faults. We also know that over the past 20 years that our world has changed, and terrorism and mass shootings have entered our common vernacular. I bet most of us will add “pandemic” to our list.

Less extreme risks include damage to property, like a barn fire or major water damage due to a broken pipe. Theft is another risk. Imagine having your tack room robbed. An employee can accuse you of unfair practices.
Once you develop a list of risks, the next thing is to consider what you are going to do about them. The basic principles are: avoid, control, transfer, and retain.

Avoid: If you do not want the risk of a dog bite at your stable, you may choose to prohibit people from bringing dogs to the barn. No dogs, no bite risk, and you have engaged in the “avoidance” aspect of risk management.

Control: You may not want to prohibit dogs, so you control the likelihood of a dog incident by controlling the situation.  In the case of fire risk, you can control severity by taking steps like brush clearance, keeping eaves and gutters clear of debris, and using fire resistant building materials.

Retain: Maintaining your own financial reserves helps in risk management. Taking on a higher deductible on a property or auto insurance policy often results in a lower premium. You may choose to self-insure for some things, like an outbuilding that, if destroyed, would not be excessively detrimental to your operations or that you could re-build for an acceptable cost. However, if you are going to do something like this, you need the financial discipline to have the necessary funds in some kind of account. Do not even consider self-insuring for liability type losses without seeking professional advice.

Insure: Most of us are familiar with auto, property, and liability insurance. Few people can go out and buy a new car if their existing one is totaled. One of the best things that liability insurance provides is “legal defense.” If someone sues you, your insurance carrier provides a lawyer, and we know that lawyers are not inexpensive.

There are other insurance coverages that can provide you with additional protection. In a business policy, “Loss of Income” provides you with money if you cannot perform an aspect of your business. For example, a LEGIS client had a barn destroyed by wind. They were able to recover the lost board while the barn was being repaired. Employment Practices Liability (EPLI) provides coverage if an employee claims you treated them unfairly or some other employer-employee issue.

Workers Compensation is a California requirement and provides medical coverage for an employee’s work-related injury. These are complex policies; make sure you are working with an insurance expert who also understands your industry.

Plan for the “What Ifs?”

So here we are with a global pandemic, our society is hunkering down in their homes, and businesses are temporarily closing. Animal care is an “essential service” as horses must be fed and given at least minimal care. However, many people are out of work because horse shows have stopped, and much of our horse industry has slowed. Everyone is affected. So, if we could turn the clock back to the first week of January, what would a prepared business or individual look like?

What risk management strategies could be in place to get you through a crisis?

•    Financial reserves. As difficult as it, businesses and individuals should have enough money in a savings-type account for three months of no income to pay essential expenses. I know this is difficult, but what would you give to have that now?
•    Keep your facility and equipment in good working order. Deferring that new roof on your barn is only going to add to your stress when you get a major leak or failure. Regular maintenance is almost always less expensive than a major repair, or even replacement.
•    Have proper insurance coverage. Understand your insurance coverage and how it will protect you in different situations. However, you cannot insure for everything. There are some risks you are going to have to retain.
•    If you are responsible for horse care, always make sure you keep extra feed and bedding on site. Do not wait until you have three days of feed before re-ordering. The more horses you have, the more extra you should keep on hand. The first week of February we ordered an extra month of feed and shavings for Hansen Dam Horse Park in anticipation of what we are currently facing. This was a time I hated being right.
•    If your business revolves around you, whether you braid horses or are the key person in your stable, consider some kind of disability insurance. What happens if you get hurt and cannot work? The more employees who rely on you, the more coverage you need. If you are a trainer and are hospitalized for an extended period of time, can your business survive without you? Would some money allow you to hire someone to keep your barn running and the clients satisfied?
•    If you cannot get to your facility because of a natural disaster, do you have a plan for ensuring minimal horse care?
•    If you lose water to your facility for hours or days, what is your back up plan? If you have a water truck, always keeping it filled is a great step. No water truck? What about some kind or large tank or storage device?
•    The best time to talk about what to do in a crisis is around your dining room table or sitting on tack trunks, not while the crisis is occurring. Talk about every “what if” you can imagine.

You cannot anticipate every single possibility. However, you can identify a lot of different scenarios and try to figure out what you would need to do. “Business Continuity Plan” and similar phrases are going to be on the lips of a lot of us. I started working on such a plan a year ago, and I kept pushing it off because I had more pressing things to do. I am fortunate because I had elements of the plan in place, but I sure would have appreciated having a more complete plan and not having to figure things out on the fly.

This is a stressful time, many people are struggling, and it looks as though we are going to be dealing with this for weeks, if not several months. Let’s be sure we learn important lessons from this experience and put them into practice. One thing is certain: bad things happen. Let’s be as prepared as possible and have resources at our disposal to help us.

April 2020 - Ask Dr. Darby Bonomi
Written by CRM
Tuesday, 31 March 2020 23:37
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ask dr darby

Performance psychologist and equestrian answers readers’ questions.

Dear Dr. Darby,

On a daily basis, I have a lot of different things on my mind. When I get on to ride I find it difficult to shut off those stresses and focus on my horse. What are some things you recommend that can help me focus during practice?
—A.C., Amateur hunter/jumper rider, Carpenteria, CA

This is a common problem for riders of all levels and ages. These days all of us juggle many commitments, along with an onslaught of thoughts, concerns, and emotions. It’s imperative for our horse’s sake and our own to avoid bringing our burdens into the saddle. Horses are extremely intuitive and feel everything. If we’re stressed and distracted, they will become so as well.


First, I suggest creating boundaries around tasks or parts of your day. Designate certain times for work, emails, riding, errands and so on. Mental boundaries help us focus on whatever it is we’re doing rather than all the other things that buzz around in our minds. Let’s face it—it’s very stressful and terribly inefficient to try to focus on multiple things at once.

Boundaries & Time Limits

One way to create boundaries is to make daily, weekly and even monthly lists of tasks. I set time limits around tasks—giving myself 30 minutes to do x, then 45 minutes to do y, and so on. I stick to my plan as much as possible. My lists are designed to organize me, keep me on track, give me a sense of accomplishment—and give me scheduled breathers during the day! I know that when I set the timer on emails, that’s all I get for now; I have to move on to the next thing. If something doesn’t get completed, it goes on tomorrow’s list (or perhaps next week’s.) I can let the task go for now, because I know it’s on another list and will get done later.

A central purpose of setting boundaries is to be able to let go of everything else and concentrate on what you are doing now.

Another tool to leave stress at the barn door is to develop some mindfulness practices to help shed unwanted thoughts and emotions. Remember, mindfulness is a practice, so it takes practice to work.

Try this to start: take cleansing or relaxation breaths as you imagine the contents of your busy mind going into the earth. Pay attention to your body in space, feeling your bottom in the seat of the car or chair, and your feet on the ground, and become exquisitely aware of your present surroundings. Notice smells, signs, sounds to call yourself right to the present. Should a task or a worry come into mind, say thank you and let it go. This practice can be used anywhere—in the grocery line, in the car—even in the saddle! I personally like to start my rides this way, grounding, centering, and connecting emotionally with my horse.

The essence of mindfulness is to be fully aware of your experience at the present moment.

Last, I suggest my riders set intentions for every ride, even if it’s a solo practice session at home. Decide what three things you and your horse are going to work on today, and design your ride with those goals in mind. Having intentions or goals will help you focus your mind, keep you on track, and shelter you from those nagging thoughts about work or outside life. If your mind wanders, bring yourself gently back to the present and connect with the generous animal you’re sitting on. Remember that he or she deserves your full attention and energy.

Actively setting intentions for your day or ride will help focus your mind.

Just as there are a multitude of distractions out there, there are many tools to help draw ourselves back into the present moment and deliberately compartmentalize thoughts. Horses naturally call us to be here and accounted for—it’s part of why most of us consider barn time our therapy!

If you have a question for performance psychologist Darby Bonomi, PhD., please submit it to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . You are welcome to ask a question anonymously, but please provide relevant background regarding your experience and other details that enable her to best answer your question.

April 2020 - Blackjack Farm
Written by CRM
Tuesday, 31 March 2020 23:25
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Hunter/jumper program caters to adults and their unique learning preferences.

Loving horses aside, adults are at the barn for very different reasons than their junior counterparts. At Blackjack Farm in San Diego County’s Vista, they specialize in catering to just those reasons.  

The most prominent characteristic for adult learners is that they are internally motivated. That means they are doing something because of their own values or interests. They simply enjoy an activity or see it as an opportunity to explore, learn and actualize their own potential.  


When Blackjack Farm owner Robin Martinez came back to riding as an adult, she was about 30 years old, ready to buy a horse and start competing again. She was certainly internally motivated.


But right off the bat, her experience back in the horse world wasn’t very good. She didn’t feel like she fit in a group lesson with a bunch of teenagers and private lessons were few and far between. As an adult, working in a corporate structure for years at that point, the communication style she was accustomed to was a 180-degree change from what she experienced at the stable. Direction was given as an order rather than an explanation, with the most common direction being the phrase, “Do it again!” It seemed to her that the focus was much more on style than on substance and the communication methods left a lot to be desired.   

Robin knew from her own experience as a corporate trainer/facilitator that teaching adults is about a partnership between the student and the instructor. Adults learn much differently than their younger counterparts and therefore must be taught differently. Adults need to understand the why of things and how ideas fit together. This characteristic drives many trainers crazy, but this is who adults are and how they learn. “I know this is how I wanted to be taught when I was the client and it’s exactly how I teach now,” says Robin.

Robin and Dionicio Martinez.

“It has been my experience that the American method of teaching is focused mostly on replicating a style rather than on principles that lead to a consistently reproducible outcome of an effective rider and a rideable horse,” says Robin. “This lack of a system in teaching jumping riders is problematic in general but especially problematic for adult learners. I really believe it is the cause of so many adult amateur riders finding themselves frustrated and without any real progress to their riding. It’s what stood in my way as a horsewoman and a rider. It was the basis of my frustration that eventually inspired me to do things differently.”

Robin’s teaching style is one of well thought-out communication, with the goal always being that the rider understands the theory behind what they are learning. After 20 years of experience with adult learners, Robin knows that you can’t just say “do it again” and expect that the person is going to learn something that will affect lasting change or improvement.  

At Blackjack Farm, horsemanship comes first, and the principals of riding are an integral part of that. “To me, good riding is a part of good horsemanship. It’s not a separate thing. Learning the foundational flatwork that is the basis of how all horses are taught, mastering how to put the horse on the bit, understanding proper use of the horse’s body and the rider’s position, really understanding the aids and what you are actually saying to the horse with each thing you do, these are essential parts of good horsemanship.”

Blackjack Farm at sunset.

The focus at Blackjack is on teaching adult amateurs and young people who want to be in a more adult atmosphere. Full and half training programs are available as well as in-barn lease options. Robin teaches out of her beautiful North County facility that she owns and manages with her husband Dionicio Martinez. Together, they eat, sleep and breathe horses. Life is full and the future is bright.  

The vibe at the five-acre facility is “peaceful, productive and positive,” and the training emphasis is jumpers and adult amateur riders. Blackjack Farm has a 12-stall barn, nine oversized in-and-out stalls, premiere all-weather footing, show quality jumps, large turn-outs, a groomed track and a Eurociser.

For more information on Blackjack Farm please visit

April 2020 - The Gallop: Pandemic Perspectives
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Wednesday, 01 April 2020 00:58
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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 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’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
Written by courtesy of America’s Horse Daily
Wednesday, 01 April 2020 00:43
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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.


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 - The Tokyo Olympic Games Will Bring Akiko Yamazaki Full Circle
Written by by Molly Sorge
Wednesday, 01 April 2020 00:36
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The ardent supporter of U.S. Dressage is looking forward to seeing her passion merge with her heritage.

by Molly Sorge. (Reprinted courtesy of the USET Foundation) • News of the Tokyo Olympic’s postponement to 2021 was issued at presstime.

Attending the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games will be an emotional experience for Akiko Yamazaki – and not only because she hopes her horse, Suppenkasper, will be named to the U.S. Dressage Team with rider Steffen Peters. When Yamazaki sits down in the stands at Equestrian Park at Baji Koen, she’ll be sitting next to her mother, Michiko, who is the person who inspired her love of horses, and her two daughters, who share their passion for riding.

“My mom attended the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964 as a spectator,” Yamazaki said. “Now we’ll go to watch the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games at the same venue, and hopefully we’ll be watching one of our horses compete. My mother is going to be 79 years old, and she’s really looking forward to going back and watching the Games in Tokyo. We are three generations of riders. It’s coming full circle.”


For Yamazaki, who sits on the Board of Trustees and serves as the Secretary of the U.S. Equestrian Team (USET) Foundation, that feeling of legacy is a big part of why she loves equestrian sport so much. Her mother introduced her to riding when she was young, and now Yamazaki’s daughters have not only grown up immersed in the sport but have also developed their own passion for riding.

“I remember my older daughter, who was five at the time, dancing beside the arena at Aachen with Shannon Peters during the sound check,” Yamazaki said. “That moment stands out to me, to think now that she’s taller than me and has become a serious rider herself.”

Akiko Yamazaki congratulated Steffen Peters on one of his winning rides aboard Legolas 92. Photo: Mary Adelaide Brakenridge

That daughter, Miki Yang, is now 15. She competed at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Caen, France, on the USA Vaulting team when she was just 10. The following year, her team won the bronze at the 2015 FEI World Junior Vaulting Championship at Ermelo, the Netherlands. Yang now has turned into a competitive dressage rider. In 2018, Yamazaki and Yang both showed at the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions—Yamazaki riding Chopin R in the U. S. Equestrian Federation (USEF) Intermediaire I Dressage National Championship and Yang showing Garden’s Sam in the USEF Children Dressage National Championship, which she won. Yamazaki’s younger daughter, Emi Yang, 11, is an avid vaulter and budding dressage rider as well.

“What’s lovely about this sport is how it keeps going,” Yamazaki said. “It doesn’t just end with one horse or one competition. I’m so lucky that I get to re-live some of these moments through different horses, and now through my daughters.

There have been so many great moments.”

Akiko Yamazaki took a moment to bond with her horse Rosamunde along with groom Eddie Garcia Luna. Photo: Annan Hepner

Catching the Bug

The 2020 Olympic Games will also be an anniversary of sorts of Yamazaki’s start as an owner of High Performance dressage horses more than a decade ago. As the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games were on the horizon, Yamazaki and her husband, Jerry Yang, decided they wanted to support Peters with a horse for the U.S. team in Beijing. Yamazaki had gotten to know Peters through a horse sale and admired his talent and system for developing horses. “My husband and I are both of Asian descent, and we thought it would be special to have a horse that represented us as part of Team USA Beijing,” Yamazaki said.

Yamazaki and Jerry had gotten a taste of ownership at the international level when Yamazaki asked Peters to take over the ride on her Lombardi 11 in 2005 when Yamazaki was expecting her first daughter. “That led to him going to Aachen and [winning the USEF National Grand Prix Dressage Championship] at Gladstone in 2007. He ended up being the reserve horse for the Beijing Olympics in 2008. We kind of stumbled into High Performance ownership accidentally with Lombardi, but with Ravel it was a very deliberate decision. Once we got a sense of what it was like to be attending these great shows with Steffen, and being part of Team USA, we caught the bug,” Yamazaki said.

After Ravel (foreground) retired from competition, Akiko Yamazaki enjoyed hacking him on the trails around her Four Winds Farm. Photo: courtesy of Akiko Yamazaki

Through their Four Winds Farm, Yamazaki and Jerry purchased Ravel for Peters to show in late 2006. He and Peters represented the U.S. at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, went on to win the 2009 FEI World Cup Final, won at Aachen, took two individual bronze medals at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (Kentucky), and rode for the U.S. again at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Ravel retired after the 2012 Olympics.

The Four Winds Farm-owned Legolas 92 filled Ravel’s shoes well. With Peters, he claimed team and individual gold at the 2010 Pan American Games (Toronto), contributed to the U.S. team effort at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Caen, France, and then helped Team USA take a historic bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Suppenkasper looks like the next star of the Four Winds string, as he and Peters served on the silver-medal U.S. team at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018.

“There’s nothing like seeing your horse with the American flag on its saddle pad and being part of that team, where everybody’s wearing the Team USA jacket,” said Yamazaki. “There’s an electricity in the air that pressure brings. In all the teams I’ve been part of, everybody has been such a team player, and it’s been such an enjoyable experience.”

Through those experiences, Yamazaki has also witnessed how the USET Foundation and the USEF work together to make success possible. “I think people sometimes don’t realize how much it takes to send a team to international competitions, not just financially, but also logistically,” she said. “The work that the USET Foundation does on behalf of the High Performance teams, raising the funds, allows the USEF staff members to focus on what they need to do in terms of logistics. It’s such great teamwork between the two organizations.

While Yamazaki treasures the medals her horses have won, she values the human bonds she’s formed over the years even more. “Steffen, his wife Shannon [Peters], our vet Rodrigo Vazquez de Mercado, Tom Meyers the physiotherapist, and our groom, Eddie Garcia Luna—we’re like family,” continued Yamazaki. “We know each other so well now. It’s such a team based on trust. You don’t have to say much to each other; we know how to perform as a team. That’s been a great accomplishment in itself, and we’ve been together as a team through a lot of ups and downs.”

The entire family (from left), Michiko Yamazaki, Miki, Emi and Jerry Yang, and Akiko Yamazaki, cheered on the U.S. Dressage Team at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Photo: Ken Braddick

Succeeding as a Family

Yamazaki is an accomplished rider herself, competing to the CDI3* level. She rides three horses a day at Four Winds Farm in Woodside, California, and travels to Steffen’s base in San Diego when she can to train in addition to meeting Peters at shows.

“Even though I’m an amateur, I’m serious about my riding,” Yamazaki said. “I wanted to be exposed to the highest level of sport. When you’re an owner, you get access to the warm-ups and some training sessions that you have the privilege to see up close. It’s a tremendous learning experience to be able to watch all these top riders working with their horses and with their coaches.”

Competing warmbloods at the upper levels is a far cry from Yamazaki’s beginning in horse sport. While she’s of Japanese heritage, she grew up in Costa Rica. Her mother rode and got Yamazaki and her siblings started in riding lessons. “We were mainly jumping, because there wasn’t much dressage in Costa Rica then,” Yamazaki said. “Nobody had a warmblood! I had a nice Thoroughbred, but he was a not a dressage horse.”

Yamazaki competed all through high school in Costa Rica, but packed her tack away when she left to attend Stanford University (California). She studied industrial engineering and met her husband, Jerry, while on a study abroad stint in Japan. They married in 1997 and settled in California, where Jerry co-founded Yahoo! Inc. As his business was getting off the ground, Yamazaki was working as a management consultant.

While she left her career 20 years ago, Yamazaki is anything but idle. In addition to her busy riding career, she’s also very active in philanthropy and service. Along with her work with the USET Foundation, she’s also the chairman of the board at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and a co-founder and director of the Wildlife Conservation Network. She also serves on the Advisory Councils of both the Woods Institute for the Environment and Cantor Center for the Arts at Stanford University.

With the USET Foundation, Yamazaki helped to fund the USEF Dressage Development Program for six years starting in 2012. “For me, it was one of the best things in terms of being able to help up-and-coming riders advance through the pipeline to High Performance teams,” said Yamazaki. “I received so many letters and cards from riders who participated in the programs. Some of them have gone on to represent the USA. Through my funding, I’ve always developed close relationships with [Dressage Development Program coaches] Debbie McDonald and Charlotte Bredahl. That has been very rewarding, to see people of that caliber giving back to the sport in such a meaningful way. If I can be part of that, it’s a great honor.”

Miki Yang and Bailarino in the recent Juan Matute, Jr. clinic at Peridot Equestrian. Photo: Kim F. Miller

Yamazaki put her riding on hold while she was in college and through the early days of her career and marriage, but when life allowed her to start again, she re-ignited her passion. “Jerry said, OK, you can ride a horse, but no jumping, please, and that’s how I started in dressage,” she said.

A sales horse brought her to Steffen’s farm 20 years ago, and their relationship has only evolved since then. “I’d always been an admirer of his riding. He has a system that I believe is very correct. He develops the horses in a very supple way,” said Yamazaki.

Yamazaki treasures the close-knit team that her family has formed with Steffen and his support network. “To be able to participate as an owner family has also been a really rewarding thing,” she said. “Jerry isn’t a rider, but he enjoys every bit of it as much as we do. Our daughters have been attending these competitions since they were infants, and just the experience of being able to see the top of the top in these incredible venues has been an amazing experience for them and us.”


Ravel’s Legacy

Ravel, now 21, lives with Yamazaki at her Four Winds Farm. He retired from Grand Prix competition after competing with Steffen at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Steffen’s assistant trainer, Dawn White-O’Connor, rode Ravel briefly, then Yamazai rode him for two years.


“He was the best schoolmaster in the world,” Yamazaki said. “But then he told me he didn’t really want to do it anymore, so then we just went out on the trails for a while. Now he just spends his days in the paddock. He still goes on the treadmill twice a day, so he’s in good shape.”

His competitive legacy lives on, however, with his offspring. White-O’Connor is competing an 8-year-old son of Ravel’s, Galeno Gimli, as well as a Grand Prix horse Yamazaki owns, Bailarino. And Yamazaki has two Ravel sons and a grandson at home at Four Winds. Yamazaki’s daughter, Miki, is showing the six-year-old Raphsodie de Espagnole with the goal to qualify for the USEF Junior Dressage National Championship in 2020. “I didn’t breed that horse thinking he’d be my daughter’s horse, but they’re a match made in heaven,” Yamazaki said. Miki’s trainer, Hillary Martin, is showing the eight-year-old Gaspard de la Nuit at third level. Also in the barn is a three-year-old, Luchero de la Noche, by Gaspard de la Nuit and out of Akiko’s retired Grand Prix mare, De La Noche. Yamazaki names Ravel’s offspring after pieces of music that Joseph Maurice Ravel composed.

April 2020 - Symposium Report
Written by by Nan Meek • photos: Tamara Torti
Wednesday, 01 April 2020 00:05
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Florida Superstar Steffen Peters assists fellow Californians at Starr Vaughn Equestrian Center.

by Nan Meek • photos: Tamara Torti

While Steffen Peters was winning eight out of eight Grand Prix competitions at the Global Dressage Forum in Wellington, Florida, early this year, his teaching was making a real difference back home in California. Riders in the Steffen Peters Symposium at Starr Vaughn Equestrian Center, held last November, were putting his techniques to work with far-reaching results.

It’s all in the time-tested dressage tradition of each generation of masters passing their wisdom on to the next, working with them one-to-one to develop horses and riders that will become the next stars of dressage sport.

Starr Vaughn Equestrian owner and manager Michele Vaughn has made it her mission to use her state-of-the-art facility to host educational events as well as shows, because she believes in the value of training the next generation. It’s a subject that’s close to her heart.

Michele has coached her daughter Genay from first ride through Brentina Cup competition and now into Genay’s professional career. And she knows from personal experience how important it is to learn from the best. Over the years, she has hosted clinics and symposiums that featured Debbie McDonald, George Williams, Jan Ebeling, Jeremy Steinberg, and Jan Brink.

Michele’s commitment to dressage education set the stage for Steffen to share the wealth of his experience with six riders and a large audience of auditors. Here’s a glimpse into their experiences.

Ariel Thomas is familiar to many California dressage fans from her Junior and Young Rider career aboard Montfleury, and more recently with Heraldik Star at the Under 25 Grand Prix Championships at Gladstone. Now riding Vorst D in the U25 Grand Prix division, Ariel said she took home valuable lessons.

“Steffen had such a clear, precise way of giving instruction,” she recalled. “Each time he said something, it seemed as if it automatically translated into a change in my riding. We spent time working to improve the consistency of the uphill balance and self-carriage, and his way of thinking about and verbalizing this is now part of my mantra when I ride each day. For example, I hold every transition to a high standard, making sure that in each transition the balance stays uphill.

Steffen emphasized the necessity of being particular in each and every stride, never letting my horse take over or disengage.”

Caitlin Hamar is no stranger to good coaching, having worked at DG Bar Ranch and trained with Willy Arts for the past 15 years. After a junior and young rider career decorated by a wealth of medals and other awards, and recently a fifth place at the Markel/USEF Young Horse National Championship with the now 6-year-old stallion Ion SWF (Lingh x Dekooning), she is aiming him at 4th Level and USEF Developing Horse competition.

Left to right, Steffen Peters, Akiko Yamazaki, Ariel Thomas, Ashlyn Dodge, Caitlin Hamar, Michele Vaughn, Genay Vaughn, and Julia Mineikis on Frangipani.

Steffen Peters, giving immediate, positive and encouraging correction and feedback.

Akiko Yamazaki and Chopin, concentrating on preparation for the next movement.

“I have had the pleasure of watching Steffen ride and coach many times, but this was my first time to have a lesson from him,” Caitlin said. “It was such a wonderful learning experience. His methods of teaching are very calm, yet very effective, and he has a lot of great techniques. During my lesson, one thing we really worked on was transitions within each gait. He explained how it is very important to change the tempo within the gait in order to build strength and cadence.

“He also explained the importance of a good clear transition. He emphasized that you can get just as many points for a transition score as you can for a movement score, and this is where we can pick up a lot of points in our tests. It was a wonderful experience for me to be a part of this very educational symposium and to learn from such an amazing Olympic rider!”

Genay Vaughn is well known for her partnership with the Hanoverian stallion Donarweiss GGF, who she rode to the Under 25 Reserve National Championship at The Festival of Champions, and represented the US in the U25 Grand Prix Division in European Nations Cups. She recently completed her third winter working for Helgstrand Dressage in Wellington, where she also competed Michele Vaughn’s Westfalen mare Furstin P, by First Piccolo, at PSG/Intermediate I. At home she runs her training business with her mother Michele at Starr Vaughn Equestrian.

Genay giving Steffen questions from the audience after the symposium rides.

Linda Houweling.

Julie Mineikis and Frangipani, getting Steffen’s help with the piaffe.

“I really enjoyed how positive Steffen was with both me and my horse,” Genay reported. “He was really passionate about his teaching and giving his knowledge to, as he called us, ‘the future upcoming riders in dressage’.

“My mare was starting the small tour work and he gave us some great exercises with the pirouettes. He made sure that every time, I expected correctness and held high standards for perfection but then always gave walk breaks in between. I really appreciated that, because it helped reward her and keep a normally hot, red-headed mare positive and excited about the hard movements.”

She added, “He also had me do an exercise where I did my tempis in both a higher frame and a deeper frame, just to show that there’s always adjustability. I really loved this idea, because as a rider I feel like I get focused on what we are working on in one stage, and it’s always a good reminder to go beyond and try new things as well.

“Steffen’s teaching was a perfect balance of strictness in holding ourselves to our highest standards of perfection in our practice, along with the balance of positivity that keeps the horse’s welfare in mind,” Genay concluded.

Akiko Yamazaki is so well known as one of the USET’s most supportive and generous horse owners that many may not be as aware of her own riding accomplishments.  Her current horse, Chopin, is a 13-year-old Jazz x Ferro KWPN gelding who she found in 2014 as a 7-year-old. With a little help from time to time, she has done most of the training herself, and calls Chopin her buddy.

Together, Akiko and Chopin have travelled the country, and have won the 2016 CDS PSG Adult Amateur Championship, the 2017 USDF Region 7 I-1 Adult Amateur Championship, and in 2018 qualified for the Festival of Champions in Lamplight, Chicago. Her favorite part of that show was sharing the experience with her daughter Miki, who with her pony Garden’s Sam won the USEF Children Dressage National Championship. Miki is the third generation of her family to become an accomplished rider, following in the footsteps of both Akiko and Akiko’s mother, a former rider who can still give her daughter the benefit of her knowledge.

Having been the owner of numerous horses ridden by Steffen for the US team, Akiko can speak with knowledge about Steffen’s training and teaching. “If I could summarize Steffen’s approach in two words, it is ‘smart riding’. He teaches you to analyze what needs to work before a movement can be performed successfully. Is the horse straight? Is the horse yielding correctly to your leg aids? Is the horse bending correctly? When you and your horse understand the correct set up, you have a greater chance of success.”

Ariel Thomas and Vorst D, working on balance and self-carriage in transitions.

Caitlin Hamar and Ion SWF, practicing transitions within each gait.

Genay Vaughn and Furstin P, working on pirouette exercises.

Ashlyn Dodge now spends much of her time developing young horses, with notable success. With Dalina DG (Jazz x Con Tango), Ashlyn earned an invitation to compete at the World Young Horse Championships in Verden, Germany, and she has taken numerous young horses to the Markel/USEF Young Horses Championships through the years.

Growing up as the granddaughter of DG Bar Ranch founders Tony Sr. and Betty DeGroot, it’s no surprise that Ashlyn began competing by the age of 8, and has trained under Willy Arts all her life. She credits her early years as a vaulter with contributing to giving her the balance and seat so important to her dressage career. Through the years, she earned her Bronze, Silver, and Gold USDF Rider Medals, becoming a familiar presence at dressage shows throughout California.

Ashlyn has competed Dalina DG, now 11 years old, since the mare was a 5-year-old. In 2019 they competed at the Intermediate II level, and at this symposium were looking toward the leap up to Grand Prix in 2020.

“Steffen is such a master at what he does,” Ashlyn said. “You can tell he has such passion for this sport and for horses. He is a true horseman. He has so many fantastic techniques up his sleeve to develop any horse and it was so cool to ride with him. One thing we worked on that helped a lot was transitioning two steps into piaffe and then immediately going out. This really helped me teach Dalina to come into place in the piaffe. Immediately going out of the piaffe kept her from getting stuck in it or quitting.  Once she did two good piaffe steps, I could add a few more steps and keep adding more until she did it on her own.  It was so helpful!”

Julie Mineikis brought her passion for dressage, nurtured in her native Riga, Latvia, to the US when she arrived in 2003, and she brought that same passion to Starr Vaughn for the symposium, along with her 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Frangipani. Julie has been a professional trainer in Reno, Nevada, for the past 10 years.

In 2018, Julie rode Frangipani to the USDF Region 7 Third Level Championship with a 75% score. Currently he is competing at Prix St. Georges, with a median score of 71.397% and is ranked 14th nationally, and 2nd in the KWPN PSG Open.

“It was pure magic!” Julie exclaimed. “Steffen has an unbelievable way of influencing both the horse and rider in a way that makes learning feel effortless. His ‘no pressure’ approach to teaching made us feel completely at ease and made for an unforgettable ride. Frangipani and I came home so much more advanced after just that one clinic.”

Symposium auditors learned as much as the riders, as former dressage rider and Hanoverian breeder, and longtime CDS volunteer Joan Cinquini reported.

“I attended both Steffen’s symposium at Starr Vaughn and the mini clinic that he gave in Pomona at the Horse Expo the previous weekend. At both events, I was impressed by the attention to detail that is required to bring a horse to the top. Steffen’s experience enables him to give the rider immediate correction and feedback; his understanding allows the corrections to be positive and encouraging,” Joan said.

“I do not have FEI level horses or students, but it is essential to see the direction that the path upward takes, so that all training leads towards the same final goal, regardless of where that goal might be for each individual.”

All of the riders expressed thanks to Michele for hosting this symposium at Starr Vaughn Equestrian, and to Steffen for bringing his experience, expertise, and effective teaching style to educate dressage riders in the tradition of the old masters: working together to transfer knowledge from one generation to the next, rider by rider, horse by horse.

April 2020 - Pacific Coast Dressage
Written by article & photos by Kim F. Miller
Tuesday, 31 March 2020 23:48
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New show creates a “healthy base” and sets stage for big future.

article & photos by Kim F. Miller

The inaugural Pacific Coast Dressage CDI overcame many hurdles in going from idea to reality at the Galway Downs Equestrian Center in Temecula, March 6-8. Organizer Barbara Biernat was grateful that everything went so well and must have been even more so a few days later when the OIVID-19 virus shut down equestrian competition around the world—along with all major gatherings within and beyond the sport world.


Jennifer and Jürgen Hoffmann brought two horses to the show, which was presented by Adequan, and won everything winnable. Jennifer Hoffmann and the 12-year-old Oldenburg mare Finesse won the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special, and Rondoro Noblesse won the Prix St. Georges and Intermediate 1.

Returned from eight years based in Germany, the Hoffmanns were excited about the new show before they even set foot on the 242-acre Galway Downs Equestrian Center in the heart of Southern California wine country. They were counting on a viable CDI circuit on the West Coast to develop their horses and clients. Proof of widespread dressage community support was evident throughout the competition. It included many championship qualifiers, which became extra important when other chances to earn such scores got cancelled or postponed.

Daniela Groenke & Sambuca.

Happy Hoffmanns.

The Hoffmanns were among many to fully support the effort, and their sweep was a cherry atop what they described as a very positive development for the region. Finesse’s 70.319% in the Grand Prix Special followed Friday’s win of the Grand Prix with a remarkably consistent score of 70.391%.  

The mare is owned by Lisa Bradley and sired by Festrausch, (Florestan). She carries on a proud California legacy of her dam, Breanna, Kathleen Raine’s U.S. team partner. Finesse is one of four babies from the now 20-year-old Breanna, all bred by embryo transfer. The youngest is a 2-year-old in Germany.

The Hoffmans’ Austrian stallion, Rondoro Noblesse, is hot on Finesse’s heels as a Grand Prix contender. He dominated the weekend’s Small Tour with a 71.716% at Intermediate I and a 70.588% at Prix St. Georges. That bodes well for his performance career and for joining the Hoffmann’s breeding program eventually. He earned high scores in his stallion approvals and the Hoffmans project he’ll keep doing the same in the dressage court.

“I’ve never had a horse who is so complete in everything,” Jennifer Hoffman reflected. She started the Rosengold son from scratch as a 6-year-old and he’s come far fast thanks to talent and, especially lately, temperament. She described his attentiveness, even in the cool, windy weather and exciting environment, as evidence of his increasing maturity.

Claire Elise Manhard and Wilfonia had a good Grand Prix weekend. It’s a nice progression from their USEF Young Adult Brentina Cup title last year, and Manhard was thrilled with their performance. In Sunday’s Grand Prix Special, a glitch in the canter half-passes was the only major snafu in a second-place finish of 67.979%. They were third in Friday’s Grand Prix test.

It was great to see Nick Wagman on another beautiful horse after he and Don John’s viable 2020 Olympic bid ended in Florida with that horse’s temporarily sidelining injury. There were many positives to celebrate with Zenith, Beverly Gepfer’s 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood by Painted Black and out of an IPS Krack C mare.

Zenith was purchased as an amateur horse, but turned out too hot for that. The upside is upper level potential clearly on display at Pacific Coast. Friday, it was contained lightning expressed in big, free-flowing movements: they were a close second with a 69.478% in the Grand Prix. During Sunday’s Special, the lightning escaped the bottle with a premature start in the first walk-to-piaffe transition: “a particularly fragile spot in the test,” Wagman explained.

“Overall I’m super pleased,” said Wagman. “The beginning of the test felt great and he was coping with his energy. But I had to make him wait. The more you make him wait, the hotter he gets.”

Jennifer Hoffman & Finesse.

Jennifer Hoffman & Rondoro Nobelesse.

Another Hot One

In the CDI Intermediate I, Daniela Groenke finished second and third in the CDI Intermediate 1, on Sambuca and Bardolino, respectively. The 13-year-old Hanoverian mare, Sambuca, is another hot one. So much so that Groenke usually brings a companion pony along to keep the mare at ease in the stable. However, new FEI rules complicated that strategy this time. Plan B was a large stuffed animal bunny to travel with and keep in her stall. “That seemed to help a little bit,” said Groenke, who also credited the spacious, bright FEI stabling at Galway Downs Equestrian Center and the venue’s calm, pleasant atmosphere. “She can be tense and nervous, but today she was really there for me.” Sambuco earned a 69.902%.

Sambuco’s stablemate, the 9-year-old Oldenburg Bardolino, was close behind with a 69.363%.  He’s currently schooling Grand Prix but Groenke’s priority is building show experience, hence her gratitude for the Pacific Coast Dressage show’s arrival. She hails from Hope, Idaho, but winters in Southern California. “It’s my first time in Temecula, after hearing about it for a few years now. I love it and, knock on wood, we’ll be back,” Groenke said of plans to return in November for the Pacific Coast Dressage II.

Linda Houweling.

Nick Wagman & Zenith GPS.

Quite The Comeback

Linda Houweling and the 12-year-old Oldenburg mare Zaouira had a super show. They won the CDI Adult Amateur Intermediate I and CDI Intermediate Freestyle and were second in the Prix St. Georges. After having back surgery three years ago, Houweling wasn’t sure she’d be even riding the mare again -- ever. Their Bach and Vivaldi freestyle was actually designed for one of Houweling’s trainers to use with Zaouira, who was sidelined herself by a blind splint in the interim.

“That’s why this is all so emotional,” said the rider and dressage supporter who lives in British Columbia and spends time training in Southern California. She works regularly with Shelly Lauder and Leslie Reid and spent three weeks with Johan Hinnemann prior to Pacific Coast Dressage. Along with the joy of being back in the saddle, Houweling was thrilled with their freestyle, which earned a 70.408%. Fluid trot and canter half-passes were favorite segments from a “generous” mare, said the rider.  The ease and grace of their tests gave no hint of the struggles preceding their return.

Like many of the 150-plus who participated this weekend, Houweling assured she’d be back for Pacific Coast Dressage II in November, also at Galway Downs, which now hosts major competition in all three Olympic equestrian disciplines.

Claire Manhard & Wilfonia.

Be Back In November

Organizer Barbara Biernet is best known for her dressage apparel company and outfitting service, Horse and Rider Boutique. She had major help in staging the event from manager Debra Reinhardt of Centerline Events and Robert Kellerhouse, equestrian facilities manager of Galway Downs and veteran eventing competition organizer.

High praise covered footing, by Footing Solutions, the FEI Stabling, a beautiful spacious venue, efficient organization and, most of all, a friendly vibe. West Coast dressage enthusiasts are grateful to have Pacific Coast’s two CDIs added to the region’s international calendar that shrunk with the fall 2019 loss of a four-CDI circuit that went kaput. Rebuilding the trust and support of the community has been no small task, Biernat acknowledged throughout the planning stages. In the end, she was as happy with the outcome as the exhibitors were.

Along with opportunities to ride in front of international judging panels and qualify for various championships, “It’s really all about community,” said Biernat at the close of competition. “I grew up riding in Germany where all the shows had cake and beer tents. Everybody hung out and had a chat.” Supported by business and individual sponsors, Pacific Coast had its American equivalent with bubbly during the FEI jog and a pizza party Friday during the Grand Prix. There was a general sense that the show’s success is shared by all who made it possible with sponsorships, donations and participation.

“We are all really motivated to make this happen,” concluded Biernat. “I think we established a healthy base and I think there will be even much more support in November.”

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April 2020 - Horse Insurance Basics
Written by reprinted courtesy of America’s Horse Daily
Tuesday, 31 March 2020 23:39
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What you need to be protected, depends on what you do with your horses.

reprinted courtesy of America’s Horse Daily

You know that owning a horse is both an emotional and a financial commitment. Expenses for food, tack, boarding and vet care can really add up. But you also know they’re all essential for protecting your horse. The same is true for equine insurance. If your horse was stolen, became seriously ill or even worse, how would you handle that loss?


You place yourself and your assets at risk every time your horse comes in contact with people or property. Equine-related lawsuits occur more frequently than one might expect, and many homeowners’ policies limit equine liability coverage or exclude it altogether.


So many times, horse owners are not adequately protected from these types of situations and may not even be aware of their risk until an accident happens. Here is a list of questions to help you determine your basic equine insurance protection needs.

Question: Have you invested time or money in your horse?
Answer: The financial investment in your horse is too important to go unprotected. Many insurance companies offer all-risk mortality and theft coverage that will reimburse you for the death, theft or human destruction of a covered horse.

Question: Could your horse kick someone or cause property damage to others?
Answer: If you own horses but don’t operate a commercial horse business, then private horse owner liability policy can protect you against legal claims that your horse caused bodily injury or property damage to someone on or off your premises. For example, if your horse gets loose in the road and causes an accident or injures someone at a show, you could be held liable.

Question: Do you give riding lessons or board, breed, race or train horses?
Answer: If you perform any of these activities on rented or owned premises, you need a commercial equine liability policy, even if you have other coverage that protects you for general liability exposures. This coverage is designed specifically for all types of horse-related businesses, such as: boarding, breeding, racing, sales, riding instruction, clinics and team roping/penning practices.

Question: Do you care for anyone else’s horse in return for fees?
Answer: If you take care of someone else’s horse, you need the protection of a custody and control policy. This coverage reimburses you if a covered horse in your care is injured, becomes ill or dies, and you are found negligent. Most general liability policies exclude this coverage.

Question: Do you belong to a riding or hunt club?
Answer: Club liability policy can provide the protection your club needs for owned or leased premises, public event days and various club functions.

April 2020 - Farewell to a Champion
Written by by Esther Hahn
Tuesday, 31 March 2020 23:34
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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.

April 2020 - Horses Shaking Their Heads
Written by article provided by Signal-Health LLC
Tuesday, 31 March 2020 23:22
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Researchers still scratching theirs as to why.

article provided by Signal-Health LLC

Four studies into why horses shake their heads and how best to manage or control this behavior have explored the question yet not found an acceptable answer. The condition has both welfare and economic implications for the horse and its owner since euthanasia is sometimes thought to be the only cure or solution.


First, let’s define the problem. Equine headshaking is a normal, involuntary defense system designed to rid the horse’s neck and face of annoying and potentially pathogenic or disease-causing flies. Since there is little to no threat of flies in the dark, the winter or when the animal is in motion, a healthy horse will shut down this protective system in order to conserve the energy the shaking motion requires.


Some horses, however, exhibit headshaking – usually vertical and often quite severe – even when there are no flies present. This condition has frustrated owners and baffled veterinarians, scientists and researchers for some time. Because the cause remains unknown, an effective cure has been elusive.

Let’s take a closer look at the latest findings of four studies into equine headshaking.  Please note that this research deals specifically with idiopathic headshaking. That means other possible physical causes have been ruled out, such as ear mites, otitis interna, injury, ocular disease, guttural pouch infection, dental problems and sinusitis.

Article 1. Trigeminal Nerve Root Demyelination Not Seen in Six Horses Diagnosed with Trigeminal-Mediated Headshaking. Published May 15, 2017 in Frontiers in Veterinary Science by authors Veronica L. Roberts et al.

The authors found that no histopathological abnormalities were detected on microscopic examination of the trigeminal nerve root, trigeminal ganglion, infraorbital nerve and caudal nasal nerve in the headshaking horses. In fact, no histological differences were detected between samples from headshaking and normal horses.
Article 2. Alterations in Metabolic Status and Headshaking Behavior Following Intravenous Administration of Hypertonic Solutions in Horses with Trigeminal-Mediated Headshaking. Published June 25, 2018 in Animals: MDPI by authors Shara A. Sheldon et al.

Changes in blood components (pH, electrolytes) are known to affect nerve pain.  To investigate this more, three different fluids with varying pH and electrolytes were given in the vein to horses affected with trigeminal-mediated headshaking. 

IV injection of hypertonic sodium bicarbonate solution produced some beneficial but short-lived effects.  The authors concluded, “Further investigations of changes in electrolytes that might affect nerve firing should be explored.”

Article 3. Trigeminal-mediated headshaking in horses: prevalence, impact, and management strategies. Published January 20, 2018 in Dove Medical Press by Veronica Roberts.

While this article provides an excellent overview of the prevalence and impact of trigeminal-mediated headshaking and a detailed description of its symptoms, it explores no cause and offers management strategies rather than treatments or cures. The nose net was recommended as the first treatment to try because it is cheap, non-invasive, risk-free, and is allowed in most competition at most levels.

Article 4. Intravenous infusion of magnesium sulfate and its effect on horses with trigeminal-mediated headshaking. Published January 22, 2019 in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine by authors Shara A. Sheldon et al.

Administering IV magnesium sulfate was credited with having reduced headshaking by 29%; however, the improvement lasted only for two hours.

Although research is progressing, there is an easy and effective option for horse owners now.

Again, let’s assume that all other possible physiological causes of trigeminal-mediated headshaking have been eliminated and we’re dealing specifically with idiopathic headshaking.

It’s frightening, sad and unnecessary to think that euthanasia is the only cure when a simple 10-day treatment is effective and is available at a very affordable cost, with a full guarantee.  Equiwinner is a patented, non-transdermal patch. It serves as a natural electrolyte-balancing system that restores normal blood pressure and healthy circulation in the headshaking horse.  Both are necessary to end headshaking.

It’s safe, effective and easy to use. One single treatment can be effective for months, even up to one full year, when used as directed although severe cases may require additional treatments.

Equiwinner patches contain only natural balanced electrolytes. Nothing goes into the horse’s body – it simply recognizes the electrolytes in the patches and responds to them. There are no side effects and Equiwinner will never test positive in any competition, race, event or sport.

Since electrolytes are involved in every physiological process in the body, when you restore them to perfect health, several conditions disappear including bleeding, tying-up, anhidrosis and headshaking. Proper electrolyte activity will also keep horses hydrated and improve their general performance and health.

To learn more about electrolytes and their effect on horse health and performance, visit or call toll-free: 877-378-4946.