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December 2020 - Editor’s Notes
Written by Alicia Anthony
Wednesday, 02 December 2020 04:10
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If only all bad news could be turned around as quickly as that we reported last issue regarding the Fresno County Horse Park’s future.

See this month's Gallop for the happy reversal of fortunes in which Terry Hilst has stepped in to buy the lease on the popular eventing venue and the fixtures needed to carry on with recognized events as originally scheduled.

Better yet, the previous owner and organizer John Marshall will continue to play an important role as co-organizer of the shows. John took over the reins from Bill Burton in 2012 and Bill, himself, has chimed in to offer his help, Terry reports. They join many USEA Area VI members and supporters who’ve jumped on the bandwagon to help maintain this important venue on the West Coast circuit.

You can learn a lot from reading this month’s issue. Hunter/jumper trainer and Grand Prix rider Scott Lico has a good piece on the importance of having a game plan on game day. Amateur eventer Alice Chan writes about the importance of being curious as a horse owner. In her case, that led her to Dr. Carrie Schlachter’s new venture, The Horse Course, through which Alice has gained knowledge that is even more valuable now that she and her son, Benjamin, keep their horses at home. And, our performance psychologist columnist Darby Bonomi, PhD, answers a reader’s request for staying mentally sharp through the equestrian “off season.”

We really enjoyed getting around to several big shows during this deadline cycle. Look for reports on the Galway Downs International Horse Trials in Temecula and the debut of Desert Dressage in Thermal. Big congratulations to those exceling in the many medal finals that managed to be staged at lovely competitions even in this year when so much was rescheduled, relocated, re-imagined, etc. All of our show organizers are outdoing themselves and I find that very encouraging and exciting.  

Thank you to Big Horse Feed and Mercantile in Temecula for sponsoring this month’s cover feature. Very fun to write about this fixture of the Southern California equestrian lifestyle that has had something for everyone, even in these tough times for retailers.

Finally, this is my last issue as editor of California Riding Magazine. Thanks to founder Cheryl Erpelding for taking me on way back when, to Denise Munson and Virginia McClintock at MPM Publishing for sticking with me when they purchased Riding Magazine and to creative director Alicia Anthony for making the magazine so beautiful always and being a pleasure to work with through the tense times of deadlines and last-minute scrambles.

Thanks to the many who’ve shared insights, opinions, guidance and great stories over the years. Thanks to the horses who are the inspiration. Thanks most of all to my mom, Margaret Freeman. “Why don’t you write about horses?” she asked at my last career crossroads. Sure glad I took her advice.

It has been a lovely ride and please stay in touch!


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Snip is a 10 year old quarter horse gelding up for adoption at FalconRidge Equine Rescue in Valley Center, California.

He stands 15 hands high and has been well trained to ride. He appears to have been a ranch horse who most likely worked/roped cattle. He has an enlarged arthritic fetlock on his right front so light riding only for this gorgeous boy.

Snip was probably used hard and he has done his job well, therefore he deserves the best light riding pampering adopter who will love him for life and appreciate him as a family member, not a working machine!

Adoption fee is $500.

See Snip on our adoption page at

December 2020 - Big Horse Feed and Mercantile
Written by CRM
Wednesday, 02 December 2020 04:02
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Legendary Temecula store offers something for everybody, even in tough times.

Big Horse Feed and Mercantile has epitomized one-stop equestrian shopping since opening 22 years ago. It has weathered tough times for all brick-and-mortar retailers in the internet shopping era. In the current time of COVID, the 8,000-square foot store, its owner Rose Corona and its service-driven staff have been beacons of persistence and resilience when it comes to helping customers feed, care for and enjoy their horses and the equestrian lifestyle.


Feed stores are considered essential businesses and Big Horse’s extensive supply of feed and supplements puts it firmly in that category. Open throughout the pandemic and going into the holidays that represent the peak of the year’s sales, the Temecula store is open daily. Its diverse inventory ranges from horse keeping necessities, tack and grooming supplies to english and western riding apparel and fashion and home decor with a distinctly equestrian theme.  


In “normal” times, Big Horse has been a favorite stop for last-minute shoppers, often “horse husbands” looking for that perfect gift for their wives. Because of worldwide issues in the manufacturing supply chain, there will likely be delays in restocking inventory this year. Shopping early is Rose’s advice as last-minute shoppers may be out of luck if restocking isn’t possible.

There is, however, plenty of time to take advantage of one of Big Horse’s most popular offerings: the wish list. Like a wedding gift registry, this service enables horse owners and equestrian lifestyle enthusiasts to visit the store and touch, feel and/or try on items, then make a wish list. A Big Horse team member will keep the list to help when a friend or family member calls or visits the store wondering what that person might like. Rose calls it the “be a hero not a zero” gift giving guarantee and it’s been a big hit for many years.

The wish list system is offered year-round and is particularly popular over the holidays. It has greatly reduced disappointments on the part of the gift receiver and returns to the store.

Another tradition that continues is Big Horse’s emphasis on maintaining a knowledgeable sales team and providing great customer service. Situated in the middle of fast growing, but still horse-dense Temecula, the store attracts a mix of shoppers who know exactly what they want and others who appreciate help determining which of the multiple options in every product category best suit their needs. Plus the many who arrive without a firm idea what they want, trusting Big Horse’s reliable promise of having something for everybody.

A helpful staff is a big plus over online shopping, as is the ability to compare ingredients, materials and other characteristics side by side. And with tack, apparel and home decor, there’s no substitute for the sensory input of touch and feel.

Big Horse was not able to conduct its famous Corn Maze fall festival this year, a community favorite and powerful fundraiser for military-related charitable organizations. Otherwise, it’s been able to carry on through tough times and keep serving horse owners and enthusiasts. Rose is grateful to longtime loyal customers for their continued support and she encourages all to support local family-owned businesses of all kinds. “It’s not just the owners you’re helping, it’s everybody they employ and every manufacturer we buy from and their staff too.”

Big Horse Feed & Mercantile is located at 33320 Temecula Parkway in Riverside County’s Temecula. You literally can’t miss it! If you can’t visit in person, contact store personnel at 951-676-2544 or  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or check out

December 2020 - Galloping Into 2021
Written by by Area VI Chair Asia Vedder
Wednesday, 02 December 2020 03:54
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US Eventing Association Area VI plans virtual year-end awards, all-in fundraiser and other readiness steps for next year.

by Area VI Chair Asia Vedder

2020 has been an odd year, I don’t think anyone would with disagree with that. Each year presents its own unique challenges, and this year was a doozy. Our Area VI organizers have done a wonderful job juggling the calendar to provide the best schedule, in the safest way.  There was a steep learning curve, but they did a commendable job in figuring out to keep everyone safe, and the shows running smoothly. COVID-19 shows no signs of slowing down at this point, and the Council has had to look ahead and make some safety decisions.


There will be no Annual Meeting and Banquet this year, instead we will be doing a Virtual Awards week, where we will feature a couple divisions each day. Debi Ravenscroft will have all awards and trophies available to be picked up at the Ride On bus, beginning with Galway Downs’ January Horse Trials.


Our annual Town Hall meeting also had to be cancelled due to COVID, but we still want to hear your thoughts. We have come up with a survey, and would greatly appreciate it if you would take the time to fill it out and let us know how we are doing, and how we might improve. Click here to fill it out.

Be on the lookout for updates on our Area VI Fundraiser December 1-15th. We are looking for 100% area participation and appreciate everyone helping us spread the word.

December 2020 - In Service To The Sport
Written by CRM
Wednesday, 02 December 2020 03:47
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Sailor Boden is honored for her volunteer work in dressage.

The United States Dressage Federation™ is pleased to announce that Sailor Boden, of Riverside County’s Canyon Lake, has been named 2020 USDF Youth Volunteer of the Year. This prestigious award honors one outstanding youth volunteer who has contributed, both nationally and locally, to USDF and dressage. As the winner, Sailor will be presented with a perpetual trophy, donated by the Akin family of Warwick, NY, in honor of Lendon Gray, which is on permanent display in the Roemer/USDF Hall of Fame. She will also receive a “keeper” trophy and be featured in the yearbook issue of USDF Connection.


Sailor is the type of volunteer who offers her help willingly, before being asked. She is the enthusiastic smile as you enter the warm-up ring, the final “have a great ride” at the in-gate, and the supportive “Congratulations!” at the end of your ride. She goes above and beyond by driving several hours to volunteer at shows that she is not already attending, just so she can spend her weekend supporting the sport she loves. She can always be counted on to perform any job assigned with a cheerful smile and outgoing personality.


Outside of the dressage world, Sailor organizes fundraising events and cares for the miniature horses at a mini rescue sanctuary and is a member of her high school equestrian club where she assists her fellow club members at competitions, while utilizing the opportunity to spread the word about and introduce others to dressage. Additionally, she serves as Vice President of Sales for her high school virtual enterprise class. In this role, she mentors students by helping them to develop business ideas that promote environmental sustainability and prepare for their college and job interviews. Sailor is unique in that she is able to balance an extensive list of extracurricular activities, academic success, a full-time riding program, and volunteering in a large capacity both inside and outside of the dressage community.

USDF Youth Programs Committee Chair Roz Kinstler adds, “All of us involved in dressage and USDF share a passion for our sport, and Sailor Boden is clearly a kindred spirit.  Ours is a difficult sport, and to see how excited she is to be involved in every way that she can reminds us all of why we do what we do.  From her effort to help both show management and her fellow exhibitors at competitions, to sharing her knowledge with her high school equestrian club members, it’s apparent that she will find a way to stay involved with the sport and continue to contribute to its success, forever.  Our youth members are our future and with Sailor’s help, USDF will prosper.”

Press release provided by USDF. For more information about the USDF Volunteer of the Year Award, visit the USDF website at, or contact the USDF office at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

December 2020 - Galway Downs International
Written by photos & text by Kim F Miller
Wednesday, 02 December 2020 03:34
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Highly-praised season finalé bodes well for West Coast eventing future.

photos & text by Kim F Miller

An unprecedented 420 pairs contested the Galway Downs International eventing competition Oct. 28-Nov. 1 in Temecula. It was quality, however, not quantity, that left the lasting impression of this major finalé of the West Coast eventing season.

At the highest level, CCI4*-L, the International attracted the sport’s best: East Coasters Boyd Martin, Phillip Dutton, Liz Halliday Sharp, West Coast standard bearer Tamie Smith, newer 4* rider Rebecca Brown from Texas, and local favorite Erin Kellerhouse and Woodford Reserve making their debut, among others.


The CCI3*-L served as the USEF National championship, held for the first time out West. And the 3* and 4* featured the first West Coast staging of the Adequan USEF Futures Team Challenge. Ninety-five riders in the lower levels jumped on the new Challenge division to rave reviews.


All told, it was a high note on which to end what’s been a challenging year for all and it bodes well for the future of eventing in the West.

Boyd & Luke 140

Tamie Smith & Passepartout

Positive Experience

In finishing first and third in the CCI4*-L, with Luke 140 and Long Island T, Boyd Martin’s experience will likely lead him back to Galway Downs.

Martin said he’s been touting the winner’s international potential to his many-member owner syndicate for two years and “this weekend is the first real moment that proves it.” While Long Island T’s usual strong point, dressage, was off due to excess energy, Martin was thrilled with his cross-country and show jumping.

Martin said both horses’ experience set them up for 5* excursions and the overall experience will likely lead him back to Galway Downs from his East Coast base. “I’d like to come here every year. Especially for the young horses, it’s a great experience to fly out here. I’d prefer a trip like this than going overseas. It’s cheaper and the standard of competition is just as high. Plus, it’s good to support our American events. Sometimes I think it’s a little easy to run off to Europe.”

Martin described California as like “being in another country because I don’t know anybody out here.” Californians knew him, though. Many described the chance to watch Boyd and fellow East Coast-based master Phillip Dutton as a riding lesson unto itself.

He had high praise for the cross-country course newly designed by Australian Olympian Clayton Fredericks. “It was very challenging and both horses learned a lot.” Fredericks had been tasked with making the course tougher, in jumping efforts and pace, and there was consensus that he accomplished that.  Four missed flag penalties at one 4* obstacle, in particular, exemplified new tests of quick responses and control.

Elisabeth Halliday Sharp & Cooley Quicksilver

Asia Vedder & Isi

Tamie Smith Time

“You almost won your first 4*,” Tamie Smith told Passepartout after laying down a clean trip with .40 time faults in the final day’s show jumping to finish second. The horse’s next compliment came from USEF Eventing High Performance director Erik Duvander: “You know he is still just a baby, but he comes off like a professional.” Smith “absolutely” agreed with that assessment of her daughter Kaylawna Smith-Cook’s 11-year-old German Sporthorse. “That was the classiest round of all three phases. He did not put a footfall wrong.” They finished on a 32.40.

Tamie briefly has the ride on Passepartout during Kaylawna’s pregnacy.

The California-based 2019 Pan Am Team gold medalist has strutted the West Coast’s special stuff for several years now. She shared some advice with Texas-based Rebecca Brown, who finished 4th in the 12-starter field on Dassett Choice. “You can be based anywhere, you just need the right team,” Smith said. “You need the trainers that can help you develop your system. Erik (Duvander) has helped me understand that.”

Duvander was on hand all week working with several riders. As the head of Team Erik in the Futures Challenge, he suffered his first loss in the series. His team of Liz Halliday-Sharp, 4* rider Emilee Libby and young rider Sophie Click were second to Team Leslie Law (USEF Developing & Emerging Rider Coach), led by Smith, with Brown and young rider Charlotte Babbitt.

Charlotte Babbitt & 2AM

Sophie Click & Quid Pro Quo

More National Titles

In 2015, Smith hauled Mai Baum east, then onto the international radar by winning the CCI3*-L and USEF CCI3*-L National Championships at Fairhill International in Maryland. Mai Baum went on to be Smith’s 2019 Pan Am Games partner and has already earned his qualifying score for Tokyo Olympic consideration.

Does Elliot-V have the same potential? “Absolutely! 100% yes,” said Smith.

The 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood’s off-to-college owner Louisa Southworth declared his Thursday dressage test “magnificent” after watching in on the livestream. She drove to Temecula Saturday in time to see Smith don the USET pinque coat and win it all on a 30.20 that reflected just .40 in jumping time penalties.

Time faults on cross-country widened what was a very narrow dressage gap between runner-up Asia Vedder and Isi and Smith and Elliot-V. That grew with one rail at the liverpool, but Vedder remained thrilled with the finish. Outside of a break for hip replacement surgery earlier this year, the USEA Area VI chairman and Isi have been progressing steadily and gaining the notice of several sport leaders. “He’s hard not to like,” she said of the Holsteiner.

James Alliston celebrated his Halloween birthday Saturday with a third place CCI3*-L finish on Paper Jam. The Hanoverian/Thoroughbred had been his wife Helen Bouscaren’s ride until just four shows ago when “she very kindly said I could ride him” to fill a gap in his string.

The CCI3*-L National Championships also determined the National Combined Training Trophy recipient for the highest placed U.S. rider over the age of 16. Smith added that trophy to her crowded mantle, followed by fellow U.S. contenders Asia Vedder, Andrea Baxter, Alessandra Allen-Shinn, Auburn Excell-Brady, young riders Charlotte Babbitt and Sophie Click, and Stephanie Goodman.

The National Young Riders Championship and its John H. Fritz Trophy were at stake, too, for contenders aged 16-21. With eighth and ninth overall 3* finishes, Charlotte Babbitt and Sophie Click were champion and reserve.
Just a few days after the Galway Downs International, Smith loaded Ruth Bley’s En Vogue and Danito into the trailer and started the journey to Tyron, North Carolina, for the CCI4*-L National Championships in mid-November.

Karen O’Neal & Cafe Noir

Burnell, Bouscaren and Sanborn Take the 2*

With 3-year-old dinosaur paying little attention in their ringside family fan club, Lauren Burnell and Freedom Hill finished a flawless weekend to win on a 27.20. The dinosaur was her Halloween-costumed son, who had already offered his coaching before cross-country. “He told ‘Jack’ to go fast and Mommy to hold on,” and the pair ran with that plan. It helped, too, riding her second horse and fifth-placed finisher Counterpoint first in the 34-pair division. “I just went in and tried to replicate that. The amateur in me came out and I got a little frantic in the beginning, but then it was nice to focus on the plan that my coach Bec (Braitling) and I had come up with.”

Burnell has competed at the 3* level prior to having a baby and felt the weekend boded well for possibly moving back up to that level.

Helen Bouscaren and her new Hanoverian Irish Pop stayed on their 4th-ranked 30.50 dressage performance to rise to third, after cross-county, then second. Their jumping round rode like the breeze it appeared to be. “He is fast, sharp and fun. You can put him exactly where you want him,” she said.

Third place was earned by another of Bec Braitling’s riders, Audrey Sanborn and OBOS Quality Time. The Cal Poly San Luis Obispo communications student called it a high point of their finishes and a harbinger for moving up to 3* in the spring. She praised the flowing, curvy course as fun to ride and their double-clear kept them on a 31.30 dressage.

Erin Kellerhouse & Woodford Reserve

95 in the Challenge Divisions

The 95 contenders in three Challenge divisions took center stage Sunday with show jumping in the Grand Prix Arena as the final phase, just as the International contenders had done the previous afternoon. The fences were a tad lower, but the excitement was still high as national riders enjoyed an unusual spotlight.

Hatched 12 years ago at the Preliminary level, the Challenge format is designed as a transition between levels and as a special showcase. It functioned as intended, spotlighting horses under professional development and young riders and amateurs testing their readiness for new levels and/or fulfilling year-long training goals. With all but the liverpool fence in use from the previous day, the arena had plenty of atmosphere and course designer Mark Donovan and assistant Kelly James retained plenty of tests.

Seattle-based professional Karen O’Neal was thrilled with Cafe Noir’s 22 dressage score on Friday and his flawless rest of the weekend. The 7-year-old Holsteiner/Thoroughbred is owned by Leonie Padgett, who was also riding in the division.

Erin Kellerhouse closed out a happy weekend by riding Sonata GWF to first and LukeAtMe to fourth in Novice-Beginner Novice division.

Earl and Jennifer McFall are big fans of the Challenge format, and not just because Jennifer and Hallelujah DF won the Training-Novice Challenge and Earl and Illumanada were reserve in the Novice Beginner-Novice. “(Organizer) Robert Kellerhouse always has great ideas and this one is a fun way to give the lower levels a championship to work toward,” Jennifer commented.

Jennifer predicted it will be even bigger next year as word spreads of its success. Staging at the FEI venue and concurrent with the International competition was ideal, Jennifer added. “Plus, it’s cool that the West Coast has this unique competition out here: something cooler than they have on the East Coast!”

Jennifer McFall & Hallelujah DF

See You Next Year!

Praise flowed in long after the competition closed: for the quality, intensity and presentation of competition at all levels, the footing, the stabling and the viewing experience. With Kellerhouse’s ideas and positive energy as a strong gravitational force, support from Galway Downs property owner Ken Smith, partnerships with hunter/jumper show organizers Nilforushan EquiSports and other entities aligned to create a major milestone in the venue’s steady ascent as a world-class stage for equestrian sport.

Like Martin, most of the far-traveling riders said they planned to return, augmenting an already big base of participation from throughout the West.

Organizers Kellerhouse Presents had big thanks for sponsors: The American Horse Trials Foundation, Auburn Labs, California Riding Magazine, California Horsetrader, CWD, Devoucoux, Equine Insurance of California, Geranium Street Floral, Ride On Video, SmartPak, Sunsprite Warmbloods, Symons Ambulance, Temecula Creek Inn.

December 2020 - Got Game?
Written by by Scott Lico
Wednesday, 02 December 2020 03:28
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It starts with having a game plan.

by Scott Lico

“Proper planning prevents poor performance.”

I heard this quote years ago and never forgot it. I think this holds true for everything in life. From dieting to starting a business, if something is not properly thought out and planned, the likelihood of success is much smaller.

This certainly holds true for the competitive show jumper. Listen to someone such as McLain Ward speak about his horses’ program, and you will see not only does he have a plan for tomorrow, he has a plan for the next two years!


I’d like to be a bit more specific and talk about having a game plan. A game plan that will give you the best chance possible to have a successful performance at your next competition.

To start, you need a clear idea of what your goals are for you and your horse at the show. Is it to win a championship or a classic, or perhaps move up a division? Maybe it’s just to ride as confidently and accurately as you know you’re capable of. Whatever it may be, you need to have some idea of what you are looking to achieve. This will determine the strategy for the week.

For example, my aim with my current horse is to take the first day or two as training days, and then look to be competitive in the Grand Prix that weekend. I use training rounds to develop confidence in the horse with the jumps and atmosphere they will be facing. I plan to really use the ring and give my horse plenty of time on the approaches to the fences. Of course, I will usually end up with some time faults, but for me, the first goal is that my horse is confident in her new environment. Not to be competitive. Your goals may be different than mine. Regardless, having a clear idea of what you are looking to achieve is crucial.

Establishing the right frame of mind going into the competition begins the night before your class. First, I like to spend time reading, preferably something that will get me focused, such as a book on riding or sports psychology.

A great book that I recommend every rider read is The Golfer’s Mind by Dr. Bob Rotella. Dr. Rotella works with McLain Ward and pretty much everything in his book can be applied to the rider’s mind. After reading, you should spend some time watching videos of yourself riding well. These videos will bring back positive memories in the saddle and give you confidence in the capabilities of yourself and your horse.

This serves to help with the positive thinking every rider should be striving to have. I believe many riders make the error of only working on their physical riding skills while neglecting their mental skills. Spend some time working on your thinking game and I promise you your riding will improve.

Photo: Kim F Miller


This may sound silly, but on the morning of your competition, make sure you eat! Many of my students over the years have struggled to feed their mind and body the nutrients they need to put on a good performance. I am convinced this is due to nerves. I know when I get nervous, I tend to lose my appetite but I always make sure to start the day with something nutritious to get me going. I like a protein shake and some orange juice along with a multivitamin and mineral. Find something that works for you. You wouldn’t not feed your horse, would you?!

Make sure to arrive at the show nice and early. This will prevent you from feeling rushed.  Just like rushing your horse, rushing yourself is the kiss of death. Following your arrival, and after checking in on your horse and possibly giving them a light flat session or lunge, a good game plan always includes a thorough course walk.

When walking a course, pay special attention to details: the locations of the start and finish timers, distances between fences, turns, time allowed, spooky fences, scope tests and jump-offs. During this time, I also make a plan of what jumps or turns I will tour in the arena with my horse when we enter the ring. The strategy for your course will ultimately be determined by you and your trainer, tailored to fit both horse and rider’s strengths and preferences for the day. Take the time to go over this plan in your head; memorize it and visualize riding it. It must be clear in your mind.

Embrace The Nerves

Now that you have your plan for riding the course, it’s time to mount up. You may be quite nervous and that’s okay. Try to relax by taking deep breaths and reviewing your plan. Aim to be loose, free and confident.

Remember that every top athlete gets nervous and learns to welcome it. Accept the butterflies, and you will actually ride better! I personally used to struggle with being intimidated by other competitors in my class as I moved up the ranks. Top riders I looked up to, or even were taught by, would be in the same division and, at first, I wouldn’t think I had a chance. But I learned to cherish these competitors. Having them is good for my riding, and if I believe in myself, I can beat them!

When on course, be sure to stay in the present with your mind sharply focused on the jump or turn ahead of you. A lot of riders let their minds wander or become even blank during their round. As you can imagine, that will hinder you from riding to the best of your ability. Also, have a trusting and decisive attitude with how you approach your course and fences. Believe fully in your horse, yourself, and your plan.

Following your round, spend time reviewing your ride in your head or with your trainer. I usually walk for around 10 minutes after exiting the ring to cool down my horse, providing me with the perfect opportunity to do so. I will also spend some time watching video footage and critiquing myself when I have free time that day. Hopefully, everything went perfectly but if you happen to have made a mistake, allow yourself to spend 10 to 15 minutes thinking about it. Your best teacher is, of course, your last mistake. After you figure out what went wrong and how to fix it, accept it and then forget about it! As hard as it may be not to, do not sit around and dwell on it. A rider needs to be able to forget the bad rides and remember the good ones.

Improving one’s chances of a successful performance starts with having a solid game plan. A plan that you are confident in and that will ultimately bring out you and your horses’ true capability. Whether it’s for your class tomorrow, a weekly training program, or the year ahead, put the time and energy into creating a plan that will help you succeed at whatever goals you may have.

Author Scott Lico is a USHJA Certified trainer and Grand Prix rider based at Hacienda Del Valle in the Los Angeles area’s Sylmar. For more information, visit

December 2020 - LAHJA Medal Finals
Written by photos: ESI
Wednesday, 02 December 2020 03:13
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Fun in the sun for Los Angeles hunter/jumper contenders.

photos: ESI

The Los Angeles Hunter Jumper Association (LAHJA) was proud to host all seven of its 2020 medal finals at the National Sunshine Preview (Oct. 23-25), co-produced by LEG Shows & Events and Desert International Horse Park. Congratulations to all of the medal finalists who competed at the Medal Finals Extravaganza!

Read on for highlights from the medal finals. Plus, make sure to follow LAHJA @rideLAHJA on Instagram to check out exclusive content and video interviews with our medal finals champions.



Charley Stowell (Elvenstar, trainer) laid down three consistent rounds and earned the overall championship in the LAHJA Junior Medal Final presented by

After three rounds and a work-off, Anne Sherwood (Michelle Morris, trainer) earned the championship in the LAHJA Senior Medal Final presented by Hansen Dam Horse Park.

After two rounds and a work-off, Georgia Bass (Karen Perlow, trainer) took top honors in the LAHJA Betsy Woods Horsemanship Medal Final presented by SmartPak.

The top four riders worked off after two tough rounds of competition, and it was Lily Grosz, trained by Elvenstar, who earned the championship in the LAHJA Rosewood Medal Final presented by SmartPak.

With two rounds and a work-off for the top four, Nicole McMillion, trained by Elvenstar clinched the win in the LAHJA Pony Medal Final presented by Elvenstar aboard Chynna Walker’s large pony, Oh Wonder 21.

After two rounds of competition, Amalia Goshtigian, trained by Stephanie Haney, topped the LAHJA Stirrup Cup/ Mary Jane Watson Combined Medal Final with her own Nimbus.

December 2020 - The Gallop: Valued Venue
Written by by Kim F Miller
Wednesday, 02 December 2020 04:06
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Fresno County Horse Park’s fate goes from sad to super in the span of a phone call.

by Kim F Miller

“So many people have told me that I’ve been in training for this for years,” says Terry Hilst, the proud new owner of the Fresno County Horse Park lease and the fixtures related to hosting equestrian events at the Central California venue.

The West Coast eventing community had a sad moment in mid-September when John Marshall announced that he was stepping down from managing the property and organizing competitions, mostly eventing, there. John brought relief to the region when he took over the Fresno reins from Bill Burton eight years ago. Terry brings great experience as the next to take on the task, and she’s quickly enlisted a team of supporters, including John, who will work as co-organizer for upcoming shows.


Terry Hilst & Victory Trail

Terry is a long-time eventer herself and, until two years ago, organizer of events at the Camelot Horse Park in Northern California’s Butte Valley. In the interim she has indulged her passion for designing cross-country courses and for dirt: the kind that’s ideal for horses to gallop over on cross-country.


Terry has been taking the US Eventing Association courses and putting in the apprentice hours needed to fulfill the licensing requirements. She is currently licensed to design up through Training and expects to add levels up to Preliminary as of March 2021.

“My passion is providing good footing,” she explains. So much so that she purchased her own tractor and the “aggravator” attachment that she describes as “causing a minor earthquake” six inches below the surface. The effect is to quickly create safe, cushioned footing. Under the tutelage of longtime West Coast course builder and footing expert Bert Wood, Terry’s been in the driver’s seat aggravating the tracks at Galway Downs and Woodside Horse Park for the past year.

In fact, she was doing exactly that in preparation for the Galway Downs International in late September when she got the news about John Marshall ending his run at Fresno. “Bert (Wood) got the call from John, and Bert turned to me and said, ‘Terry, you should buy it!’”

The Mighty Aggravator

A Team Effort

Terri won’t be going it alone. She reports happily that John has agreed to stay on as a co-organizer of events. The calendar stays as scheduled and starts with the Combined Test and venue fundraiser Jan 15-17, followed by USEA/USEF eventing competitions in February, April, October and November. Prior to shows getting underway, international eventer Will Faudree will be at the Horse Park Jan 8-11 for a clinic organized by Kristi Nunnick and Max Gerdes.

John’s predecessor Bill Burton has also expressed interest in helping out, as have several concerned horse people throughout the region. Along with John and Bill, the team will include course builders and designers Bert Wood and Jay Hambly, Kim Goto Miner, Chris Hoyt, Ashley Ross, Stefanie Gladen and Nick Salwasser are part of the Terry-led team.

Roofing the barns.

Anne Howard is hosting the Friends of West Coast Eventing Facebook page to help raise funds for the Park. The Watsonville area dressage trainer has deep roots in eventing. Volunteer extraordinaire Sue Funkey was on her way with a paintbrush as we went to press, adds Terry, who hopes that the support of US Eventing’s Area VI members will continue to manifest in such helpful ways.

What’s New

Most importantly, Terry plans to continue the good work John has done in staging competitions that have become increasingly popular. Her expertise on the footing front contributes to improvements in that perennial priority and she’s excited that Fresno is on track to be the first West Coast venue to stage a Modified division in April.  Largely because of the significant expense of cross-country requirements for this step between the Training and Preliminary levels, the division has not been offered at many venues throughout the country since it was introduced in 2017.

New Auburn Labs Pavillion

Terry will continue to live in her Butte County home, with her eventer Victory Trail, and has already started spending three days a week at the Horse Park. All are welcome to help with painting and other maintenance tasks that will be ongoing for the foreseeable future.  

Most of all, “I really want to put some fun back into it,” says Terry. “John built such a beautiful place and I want there to be parties and tail gate gatherings. I want to put back some of the camaraderie and celebration that we used to have.” That Horse Park, of course, will be managed under COVID safety protocols as long as necessary.

For more information on the Fresno County Horse Park and to help out with its continuance, visit or reach Terry Hilst at 559-572-0011 or by email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
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 .

December 2020 - Holiday Gift Guide
Written by CRM
Wednesday, 02 December 2020 03:56
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Last minute gift ideas!

Timeless Style for the Holidays

An Capall sustainable luxury performance shirts will take you from stable to street, looking flawless and chic, and feeling comfortable.

They have an outstanding level of breathability that keeps you comfortable even on the hottest day, but this wonder fabric also keep you cozy in the cold. And they feature stretch comfort with slight compression to give the most flattering fit that will hold its shape and not ride up no matter how many horses you ride a day.

They are made of recycled water bottles, and feature UPF50, anti-bacterial and wicking performance technology. Best of all, they are machine washable, quick drying, and never need ironing ever!
Made proudly in the USA, with a portion of all profits going to ocean cleanup efforts.


Summit Hypnosis

Become the decisive, confident equestrian using The Power to Win MP3’s hypnotic meditation for all disciplines.

Improve mental toughness by releasing fear and anxiety.

Learn new focus on confidence and performance techniques.

Gift certificates for sessions with Laura, Larissa and Billie Jean available.

MP3 player collection includes 30 sessions and an ebook Power to Win $350.00.

Dreamers & Schemers

Own your FUN.
Own your STYLE!

At Dreamers & Schemers, we’re passionately dedicated to bending the rules by creating designs and products that celebrate individuality. We create socks and spur straps for fearless, fun equestrians!

Show off your spirit & self expression with D&S and ManeJane. Our socks are a unique combination of a slightly padded, wicking cotton bottom, flat seam toes for extreme comfort and a black cuff to help your socks stay up and out of eyesight when you are in the show ring.

Our new fully knit, mostly cotton socks are our new favorites- They fit a broader range of sizes, in both length and width! Match your look with ManeJane Spur Straps and wrap it up as a gift with one of our reusable zippered totes for the perfect gift, ANYTIME! Celebrate your individuality and uniqueness with D&S!
Instagram: @dreamersnschemerssocks
Facebook: @dreamersnschemers

Dimples Horse Treats

The only horse treat with the unique “Dimples” pill pocket. Here at Winding Way Farm, horses are our passion and who has horses without treats? Not us! After sampling other horse treats we decided to create a better treat with healthy ingredients.

Dimples® Horse Treats are loaded with ground flax (a natural supplement that has anti-inflammatory properties and promotes overall health), beet pulp, wheat bran, whole grains and molasses. In fact, each Dimples® Horse Treat contains a teaspoon of ground flaxseed. But what makes this treat even better is the irresistible aroma and soft pliable texture that allows medication to be hidden in the treat without the horse ever being aware.

Dimples® Horse Treats are now available in a three-pound bucket or a one-pound tub at tack shops and feed stores nationwide. Dimples® have a 12-month shelf life and remain soft and pliable with no special storage. You can feel good using Dimples® Horse Treats as a reward, an aid in giving medication, or just a special treat your equine friend will love.

Everyone Could Use a PAL!

This holiday season, surprise your favorite equestrian with a PAL, the Personal Accessory Locker. This ultimate collection of ready to use items has been prepared for those unexpected but inevitable horse show emergencies. Horse shows can be hectic at times but your PAL has you covered. The PAL was developed by show riders for show riders and contains the most common personal items exhibitors tend to run out of, dry out, wear out, break, or are merely forgotten. PAL’s dust resistant, durable clear tote keeps 50 items conveniently arranged, organized and protected for when you need them most.  And it’s refillable! Measuring 14”x9”x2”, it can fit anywhere and is perfect for your tack locker, horse trailer or tack room. The perfect Christmas gift for any equestrian! The PAL is brought to you by Two Pony Pals.
Instagram: @two_pony_pals
Facebook: @twoponypals
eBay: @2ponypals

Larry’s Jump Rails

North American made competition quality show jumping rails meeting the specifications of FEI & USEF show jumping sport.

Used by Paso Robles Horse Park, Hansen Dam Equestrian Center, Thunderbird Horse Park, Spruce Meadows, Woodside Horse Park, and more.

Available in the USA & CANADA.

Lemke Saddle Services

SDL saddles - Sheryl Lemke is a well known saddle company. Sheryl has been fitting horses since 1984. Offering new and used saddles for dressage, jumping, eventing, endurance and all around. Lemke offers saddle exams, consultation and flocking for all horses, brands and riding. Her cushy medical sheepskin saddle pads are also wonderful along with girths and leathers.

Sheryl has been riding in saddles and studying horses for over 50 years and loves working with horses, riders, trainers and coaches to help improve performance. She embraces a balance of time tested traditional experience, hard work and advanced technology. This historically perfected technique along with brilliant craftsmanship and leather works beautifully for many horses and riders both physically and spiritually.  To make appointments or set up a clinic in your USA area please contact Sheryl Lemke: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 925-286-1434

Spot On Braiding Wax

Have you ever wondered how people create beautiful, show perfect braids every time? Looking for way to get those show perfect braids? Give Spot On Braiding Wax and our Waxed Braiding Thread a try! After months of development, we have perfected a formula to keep braids tidy and beautiful all day and even overnight! Spot On Braiding Wax comes in 3 scents – Lavender, Peppermint, and Unscented – and is made with all natural ingredients. Spot On Braiding Wax provides good grip, keeps fly-aways under control, and isn’t greasy on hands or hair. Our product is also great for taming forelocks, tail tops, and mane training! Our waxed braiding thread is coated with a thin layer of wax which makes threading your needle and sewing in your braids easy! This waxed thread has more grip and strength than plain thread or yarn which is key in creating neat and secure braids. Our waxed braiding thread comes in 7 different colors to match your horse’s mane. When using waxed thread and our braiding wax when braiding you’re sure to get those show perfect braids so give us a try!

EKO Sweep

EKO Sweep quietly collects manure, removes small debris from your paddocks such as leaves, small stones, weed blooms and trash simply by driving over them while simultaneously breaking up loose dirt clods, which are commonly formed in horse paddocks.
EKO Sweep is wheel driven which rotates the brushes that pick up anything in its path. Because it is not motor operated, there are no fuel costs and it produces very little noise. It is safe for all and it can be used around your animals while they are still in their paddocks.

December 2020 - An Unstoppable Ascent
Written by by Kim F Miller
Wednesday, 02 December 2020 03:49
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Young eventer Tommy Greengard takes the direct route to his dreams.

by Kim F Miller

Tommy Greengard is studying environmental science at UC Berkeley. It’s a field on which the future of the free world may hinge, yet it’s unlikely to draw Tommy away from horses. From a 3-year-old to the 20-year-old he is today, “I’ve been totally fixated on horses,” he says.

The morning of his sixth birthday, at precisely 8 a.m., is an indelible memory. The three years prior, “I’d sit and watch my mom take lessons at Mill Creek Equestrian,” he says, referring to the now-closed horse world hub in Malibu’s Topanga Canyon. “You couldn’t take lessons until you were 6, so that’s what I got to do on my sixth birthday and the rest is history.”


That history has only just begun. A junior at Berkeley and studying online, Tommy spends as much of each day as he can with horses. On a serious eventing path since moving from Mill Creek’s beginner program to its training program under Robyn Fisher’s guidance, Tommy is preparing for the upper levels on his own new horse, Joshuay MBF. They train with Andrea Pfeiffer and Amber Levine at Chocolate Horse Farm in Northern California’s Petaluma. Along with riding Josh and a few others at Chocolate Horse, he typically rides between five and nine horses a day at Ned Glynn’s hunter/jumper training barn, Sonoma Valley Stables. He also worked at Dover Saddlery when time allowed.


Tommy and Josh closed out 2020 on high notes: a fourth in the Galway Downs Modified Training Challenge and a second in Open Training at Twin Rivers last month, the latter with the help of an 18.4 dressage score. They are well suited for continued success. Tommy has enjoyed dressage since Robyn emphasized it early on, the Dutch Warmblood is elegant and agile and extra work with dressage coach and judge Lilo Fore is helping Tommy build up the 6-year-old’s strength. “He already has a really innate ability to do the jumping,” Tommy says. So much so that it’s difficult to keep him inside the paddock during turn-out. “He just jumps out!”  

Andrea “can’t take much credit” for Tommy’s accomplishments. “I got to step in with a young man who already had a very strong background. I am just putting the finishing touches on him.” The biggest challenge has been finding him the right horse for the next step up. His background with a wide variety of horse types and traits positions him to make the most of Josh’s raw talent.

“Robyn was really big on throwing me on top of everything,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate to ride a lot of different horses at different levels, up to Preliminary.” With Josh, he hopes to go higher.

Tommy with Andrea Pfieffer & Amber Levine.

Not Just a Rider

Like most parents, Liddy Morrin and Gerry Greengard thought that exposing their child to a variety of experiences would be good. At some point, they threw in that towel and chose to “get on board,” Liddy says. “Looking back, it is extraordinary how differentiated and specialized he was at a young age.”

“When you know what you want to do, it makes other things easy,” Liddy reflects of now-clear benefits of her son’s singular dedication. “He is an incredibly focused child. He never had any problem keeping his grades up, even though he was away from school a lot.”

Tommy with Robyn.

She makes a distinction between herself, who “enjoys riding,” and Tommy, who “is extremely interested in all of it: the breeding, buying, selling, nutrition, coaching...He wants to drill down deep on all of it.”

Shortly into his ownership of Josh, he had a chance to do exactly that with an unusual health issue.

The Greengards purchased Josh in May of this year, from Andrew McConnon in North Carolina. About a month into his new home, the horse developed allergy symptoms that progressed quickly from mild eye gunk to the eye being swollen completely shut. Six weeks at UC Davis Veterinary Hospital resulted in an unusual diagnosis of eosinophilic keratoconjunctivitis, aka “EK.” This is an inflammatory disease of the conjunctiva and cornea. It’s rare in horses and has no known cure or specific cause beyond a suspected hypersensitivity to parasitic or environmental allergens.

Tommy with Spartan Strength. Photo: MGO Photography

Once ointments and antihistamines helped get the condition under control, preventing a recurrence became the priority. Aware that even good quality hay brings dust and allergens into the horse’s habitat, Tommy started steaming Josh’s hay in a Haygain high-temperature steamer. “We needed to make sure that hay wasn’t contributing to the allergies, and Haygain has been instrumental to changing everything for him.” Tommy is vigilant in making sure Joshuay is not fed anything but steamed hay, at home and shows.

That level of care typifies what Andrea describes as Tommy’s most distinctive trait as a horseman: “compassion for the horse,” in and out of the saddle. “We instill that every day and Tommy has that. Horses have good days and bad days and you have to love who they are every day.”

Tommy and Joshuay. Photo: Kim F Miller

Athletic & Attentive to Detail

A long list of attributes follow that. “He’s an athlete,” Andrea continues. “He’s incredibly studious and attentive to detail.” That latter can trip him up on occasion. “If I had to pick on him, I’d say he can be too detailed oriented. I have to say sometimes, ‘It’s OK you missed that trot step.’  I try to get him to relax about the process a little. He is very driven, wants to do everything right and never half-way.”

Robyn saw those attributes early on. “He came to me at 7, and I’ve been able to watch him go from this young boy who dressed as Woody from Toy Story for Halloween to this intelligent, bright young adult.”

The dedication was always there. When Robyn moved from Mill Creek in Malibu to Moorpark in 2013, Tommy switched high schools to be closer to the barn. Before he could drive himself, Tommy’s parents, who both work full time, made the long, congested commute from their home in Malibu to R Farms in Moorpark, Robyn’s new base with her husband and fellow professional David Koss.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have my parents’ support,” Tommy says. Going all in on the eventing path has been full of parenting positives.  “There is so much hard work in the eventing world,” notes Liddy. “It shaped him in terms of discipline.” Gratitude is a family priority that Tommy learned to apply to the variety of horses he rode coming up the ranks. “We didn’t try to keep up with the equine Jones,” Liddy notes.

“We were concerned that it is a very privileged world. As a parent, you want your child to understand some of the issues regarding equity and access. From a young age, Tommy didn’t pay attention to the demographics of who was in the ring with him: whether they were adults or what gender they were.”

“It’s funny, I never really thought about it,” says Tommy when asked if being a boy among many girls affected him in the early days. “I feel like the girls at Robyn’s raised me in a lot of ways. I can’t wait to see them at shows now. It’s like they’re my older sisters and I was always part of the gang.”

Tommy, age 7, at Mill Creek Equestrian Center.

Everybody Loves Tommy

Throughout high school, the laser focus on horses was fine so long as Tommy kept his grades up. “My dad jokes that I looked at school like a box I had to check off the list in order to be able to ride.” Getting into UC Berkeley requires more than checking academic boxes. While he considered skipping college and going directly into an equestrian career, that was a non-negotiable with his parents.

Choosing Berkeley was “a great decision” he almost didn’t make.

“Robyn told me I had to go,” relays Tommy, who recalls being more interested in schools that would have allowed him to keep riding at Robyn’s. Continuing a role of mentor, coach and close friend, Robyn had another mandate when Tommy committed to Berkeley: moving to Chocolate Horse. “Robyn said, ‘You are going to Andrea and Amber and that was that,” Tommy remembers.  

David Koss had ridden with Andrea while attending Santa Clara College, a connection that enhanced Chocolate Horse’s already strong appeal as a magnet for serious horsemen of all ages, abilities and budgets.

Along with the easy horsemanship segue from Robyn to Andrea and Amber’s program, the people part has been a breeze, too. “Everybody loves Tommy,” Robyn says. “The girls he grew up riding with are like his big sisters.

They are very protective of him.”

Robyn’s group was like family, and the vibe is similar at Chocolate Horse, Tommy says.  So are the opportunities to learn and advance for all who are driven and hard working. While he may have other options after graduating Berkeley, Robyn has no doubt Tommy will pursue horses as a profession and that the profession will be lucky to have him.

Tommy at the Galway Downs International.

December 2020 - Desert Dressage
Written by photos and text by Kim F Miller
Wednesday, 02 December 2020 03:40
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Venue and inaugural competition spark excitement.

photos and text by Kim F Miller

California dressage enthusiasts have big praise for the inaugural Adequan Desert Dressage presented by Buffini & Company. Held over two weeks, starting Nov. 12 at the Desert International Horse Park in Thermal, the CDI and national show attracted all of the West Coast’s top players.

Steffen Peters and Suppenkasper danced their way to domination in the Grand Prix divisions. The four-time Olympian summarized first week sentiments after their first win on Thursday with a 77.413% in the FEI Grand Prix CDI3* sponsored by Elizabeth Keadle.


Anna Buffini & FRH Davinia La Douce

Steffen & Supperkasper

Ben Ebeling and Illuster Van De Kampert won the FEI GP Freestyle CDI U25 and dad & Olympian Jan Ebeling, right, won the FEI Intermediate II CDI3* on Bellena.

“We arrived two days ago and I drove around with my mouth open,” Steffen explained. “The last time we were here was about seven or eight years ago and I just couldn’t believe how much was improved and the resources that were put into this place. It is absolutely beautiful. That (Grand Prix) arena, truly, I am not exaggerating, has Olympic quality. When you come in with the big gate and the spectators where they are, that has Olympic quality. I cannot wait and hope that maybe one day something really big will happen here.”


(Editor’s Note: Per COVID safety protocols, spectators were not allowed, yet the Grand Prix ring drew other exhibitors when Steffen and his contemporaries went to work.)

Steffen and “Mopsie” returned Sunday to win the FEI GP Special, and he and his wife Shannon Peters rode several horses and coached clients through the two weeks.

Dawn White O’Connor & Bailarino

Jan Ebeling & Bellena

Jennifer Hoffman & Rondoro Noblesse

Hot on their heels in the Week 1 Grand Prix divisions were Anna Buffini and FRH Davinia La Douce. Anna has only had the mare for one month and was thrilled to be back in the big ring on such a spectacular horse. They earned a 70.319%.

The San Diego-based young professional was equally excited about the venue, the show organizers, etc. “This is probably one of my favorite venues I’ve ever ridden in.” She complimented everything from the responsiveness of the show staff to an expansive vibe in which “the horses don’t feel closed in and stressed.”

“This could absolutely help the West Coast dressage world,” she continued. “Thank you to (organizer) Thomas Baur and everybody who helped put this on. It’s really necessary that we have these and for everybody to support them.”

Charlotte Jorst and Jan Ebeling were among others to have stellar CDIs, but it wasn’t just the big names who enjoyed the show. Week 1 was Sandra McNamara’s first dressage show. The amateur and her 17-year-old Connemara, Pioneer, have always evented, but they decided to give dressage a go after moving to the Palm Springs area’s La Quinta earlier in the year.  With the help of their coach Liz Morton, they won the USEF Training Level Test 1 Pony class and had a terrific time.

“All of the people here were really nice,” Sandra reports. “Everybody was rooting and clapping for everybody else. The venue is so pretty and everything was just outstanding.”

Guenter Seidel & Equirelle

Shannon Peters & Disco Inferno

Claire Robinson & Glamour Boy

A Flourishing Venue

The Desert International Horse Park is very familiar to hunter/jumper riders over its many years as home to the many-week HITS Thermal circuit. In August of 2019, a group of exhibitor families purchased the venue and the hunter/jumper shows, under the Apex Equisports banner. The improvements they’ve made have been widely praised by people in that discipline and the dressage show debut seems another great indicator of the future.

Earlier in the fall, the DIHP hosted reining competition, on one weekend concurrent with the National Sunshine Preview hunter/jumper show, which was in itself a new mix of high quality experience and lower costs.

Terri Sue Wensinger & Quintessential Hit

Ben Ebeling & Illuster Van De Kampert

Christine Kohler-Ekstrand & Dark Berry

Next up is the three-week Desert Holiday circuit, including 5* rated jumping on Week 2, then Desert Circuit Jan 19 through March 21, with February’s Coachella Valley Classic woven into February.

In our August, 2019 issue, Apex Equisport leader Steve Hankin said there were three components to the venue and the shows’ success: the facility, the competition and the hospitality. The group certainly seems off to a great start on all counts.

Visit for more details and complete show results.

December 2020 - Dressage News & Views
Written by by Nan Meek
Wednesday, 02 December 2020 03:31
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dressage news

Grigio and the Season of Giving.

by Nan Meek

Deciding what to give your families, friends, barn mates, and horses? That’s a topic on many minds during this season of giving, mine included. I don’t think I’m the only DQ who gives her horses a stocking full of treats and a prezzie or two under the tree.

This year, however, I’m thinking about gifting in a different way.

Annamae’s Beloved Horse, Grigio

Before she died, Annamae thought her horse was set for life. But nobody expected that her husband would die a short time later, leaving her horse dependent on the care and goodwill of her friends. If you know horses, you know that love alone doesn’t pay for board and other expenses

Now Grigio’s caretakers are counting on the love of Annamae’s friends, and the kindness of those who read their story. Her friends have launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise enough money to support Grigio for the next year or longer.

Grigio’s caregiver Laura wrote the following as if he could put hooves to keyboard:

Grigio Tells His Tale

“Hello and thank you for reading my GoFundMe page. I’m here because I am in trouble.You see, I’m a horse and I was beloved by my owner, Annamae, who treated me like gold. We were together for almost 20 years. Anyone who knew Annamae, knew how much she loved me and how hard she worked to make sure I had a fluffy bed, the best food, and anything else I needed. As for me, I did my best to carry her to a championship in dressage as well as be a good trail horse in my retirement. We were best friends. She loved me and I loved her.

“Last fall, Annamae was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lung cancer. I still got to see her and she unfailingly made sure I was loved and cared for when she couldn’t come to the ranch. It was a rollercoaster as some days seemed full of promise and others full of despair. I tried my best to be her lovable marshmallow and make sure I was ready for a trail ride when she had the strength.

“Sadly, ultimately, Annamae knew she was going to leave me. She asked a couple dear friends to care for me and make sure I was loved and had everything I needed. She wanted me to live out my retirement with people who loved me and knew how to care for me as she did. Annamae and my human dad, Mike, set up an account for me that Mike would fund periodically to ensure my board would be paid and my extra groceries would be taken care of. This is how special our bond was and it showed how much she loved me.

“Here’s where I hope you’ll come into my story. Two months after I lost my human mom, I lost my human dad, as well. It was unexpected and took everyone by surprise. The money in my account has dwindled down, as he is no longer here to add funds, and I’m in the unfortunate place of feeling very vulnerable! Her friends have taken such good care of me, but they don’t have the money to pay for me every month. My hope is that Annamae’s community can bond together to help me. I’m close to 30 years old, but I still love to smell the grass and play with my friends. I am, however, not a cheap date! I have missing teeth, so it’s hard for me to eat hay, and I have a metabolic disorder that requires me to get a daily pill. All of these costs (board $675/month, daily medicine $80/month, extra food $150/month, hoof and vet care $100/month) add up to $1,000 every 30 days.

“I know I’m old, and I’m pretty sure someday I’ll be with my human mom again, but until then I really want to stay with the people who love me. I know she wanted me to know I was safe and cared for even though she wasn’t here. Maybe you can help? Thank you for reading my story and for whatever help you can give!”

The Gift of Love & Security

Annamae’s and Grigio’s saga showed me that even the best-laid plans can go off the rails in the wake of tragedy, and that the best gift we can give our horses is a secure future.

Their tragedy is bringing together friends and friends-of-friends to give Grigio the priceless gift of loving care. That spirit of love and community is what defines holiday spirit to me.

Over the years, I’ve given my horses bling for their bridles, buckets of horse cookies, and the latest in winter rainwear.

This year, they will get a gift-wrapped prezzie, because, of course! But I’m also giving them the gift of security with their care covered in my will. I love them, and I want to be sure that their future is secure.

The love and security — what better gifts can we give this holiday season?

I know there are many worthy causes and non-profits who would love our contributions as this challenging year draws to a close. If Grigio’s challenging future touches your heart, you can find his GoFundMe page by searching for “Help Annamae’s Beloved Horse, Grigio” on the GoFundMe home page.

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).

December 2020 - Ask Dr. Darby Bonomi
Written by by Dr. Darby Bonomi
Wednesday, 02 December 2020 03:24
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ask dr darby

Performance psychologist and equestrian answers readers’ questions.

Dear Dr. Darby,
It’s December, and I’m already looking ahead to the 2021 season. Like most of us, I  didn’t get to show consistently this year. I ended this season feeling that my horse and I finally got back into our groove. Will you give me some tips on staying mentally sharp during the off season? When I get back to competition early next year, I want to be my best right out of the gate.
Thanks very much,
—C.N., Newport Beach

Dear C,

Thanks for this great question! With COVID and the wildfires, 2020 was indeed a stop-and-start show season for us here in California. It’s been a very stressful year, no doubt about it. I am happy to hear that in the last couple of months you were able to get into your groove—that speaks to your determination, focus, and hard work—all of which will serve you well next year and beyond.

First of all, I advise taking a break. I know that may sound like a strange first step, but recovery (mental, psychological, and physical) is an essential part of the performance cycle. It’s just not possible or productive to stay on ‘full flame’ all year. You wouldn’t expect that of your horse, so don’t expect it of yourself either. Horses need time off, and so do we.

Remember that lots of integration occurs during downtime, so rest assured that your hard work isn’t going to waste. With more downtime, you hopefully will have some more mental space. Don’t rush to fill that space with busywork; plan your weeks so there is time to reflect and recover.

Full disclosure: I am not good at downtime.
Give me a schedule with goals and tasks
to accomplish, and I’m right there, but
give me a week off and I might get lost.
For this reason, I try to schedule my
downtime just as I do my work time.
Those boundaries allow me to actually
take a breath and give myself a rest.  

Do take some time to review the factors that helped you to get into your groove at the end of this season. What did you refine or do differently, both for yourself and your horse? Make a few notes about the mental prep, technical work, or physical conditioning that made a difference—and add a few notes about what you might tweak for next season.

During this time when you’re not riding as much, challenge yourself to develop your physical fitness. Change up your routine. Maybe try a new workout or consult with a fitness trainer. Now is a great time to focus on getting stronger, more flexible, and developing your endurance. Do an assessment of your physical fitness to pinpoint your weaknesses, and go after those. One of your rewards will be that physical fitness provides all sorts of mental and psychological benefits too.

As we get older strength,
flexibility, and endurance
are crucial to our performance.
I personally have found that
cross training is an
essential foundation to my riding.

In addition, the off season is an optimal time to do some extra reading. Sounds like you’re game to enhance your mental strategy, so I would suggest some sport psychology books such as Mind Gym, The Power of Full Engagement, and The Champion’s Mind. There are many great texts out there—find something that speaks to you and see what you can glean from it.

Make a plan for next year. Think about where you and your horse are now. Outline where you want to be this time next year and how you’re going to get there. Focus not only on your show plan, but also your training goals and mental/psychological goals for performance. Writing down your goals and your plan will help you solidify them in your mind and keep track of your progress.

And, remember: no matter how much off-season prep you engage in, when we come back from a break, we’re all a bit rusty. Expect it, plan for it, accept it as a part of the cycle of performance. Not every show is the Olympics; nor should it be! Finals and championships happen at the end of the year for a reason. Be reasonable in your expectations of yourself and your horse, and always have gratitude for the process.

Darby Bonomi, PhD is a Sport and Performance Psychologist based in San Francisco. She works with equestrians in all disciplines, as well as other athletes, to achieve optimal performance in and out of the competition. She can be reached at

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.

December 2020 - Courses for Horses
Written by by Alice Chan
Wednesday, 02 December 2020 03:06
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The importance of staying curious.

by Alice Chan

As a relatively new horse-owner—three years and counting—I knew early on in the journey that there was an entire library of equine knowledge that I’d likely never acquire, but I sure was going to try. On my quest to becoming better informed, I’ve attended many a riding clinic, have consistently had my horses in training, and exhausted my poor vets’ (yes, plural) patience with my never-ending questions.


Imagine my delight when one of our wonderful vets, Dr Carrie Schlachter, together with veterinary colleagues from her newly established practice, Animals In Motion, announced she would be hosting a four-week-long educational series entitled: The Horse Course. Totaling 12 hours, the course includes lectures and hands-on experience with AIM’s herd of horses who are there expressly to support the practice’s teaching efforts.


We recently moved our two horses home to live with us, so acquiring some basic health management techniques seemed like a good idea. The course covered fundamentals such as taking vitals, spotting colic, better understanding nutrition, recognizing lameness, worming and vaccinations.

Each class starts with a detailed lecture, with plenty of opportunities for Q&A with the presenting veterinary, and lots of laughs along the way. I discovered that most of my equine medical knowledge dates from the 1950s (don’t ask me why). Once our classroom time was done, we would head on over to the barn to apply what we learned. If you haven’t figured out how to listen to a horse’s heartbeat, here’s your chance - and spoiler alert, it’s not quite as easy to find the right spot as you’d think.

Likewise, we learned how to apply standing wraps correctly, as well as six-layered pressure bandages in the event of an injury. And we heard that today, a broken leg isn’t necessarily a death sentence, and you may want to use drain pipe material as a temporary splint in the event of a nasty break.

We became skilled at identifying common parasites, and how to avoid picking them up (e.g. at shared water troughs and grazing spots at trailheads and showgrounds) and were invited to bring in a poop sample which we then analyzed under a microscope to assess for parasites and how to count them.

During the nutrition class we were taught how to read the labels on feed bags, as well as understanding the importance of a forage-heavy diet. We were shown how to assess a horse’s body condition score—which we then practiced on the AIM herd. Looks can often be deceiving: a large barrel doesn’t necessarily mean the horse is carrying fat, and vice versa.

Perhaps my favorite class was about lameness, having had all too many experiences. We got to evaluate a number of videos of different horses to see if we could spot where the lameness was originating from, and heard about the preventative and curative treatment options that are available for the modern sport horse.

All in all, this was a highly educational and engaging experience and I look forward to taking the Horse Course 2 in the future.

If you’d like to attend the next Horse Course, the clinic’s Wednesday night lectures, you can visit the website below. The in-person classes take place in Penngrove, Sonoma County, and there are often opportunities to join remotely.

For more information, visit