2012/2013 West Coast Qualifying Season For All New Thermal Million

by Danette Kadlic

Rich Fellers and Flexible on their way to a win at the LA National in 2011. This year, the LA National will be one of the West Coast shows hosting qualifiers for the Thermal $1 Million Grand Prix. © Flying Horse Photography

HITS, Inc., together with the show organizers of Blenheim EquiSports, Jump Del Mar, Sacramento International and Langer Equestrian Group, is pleased to celebrate the start of the 2012-2013 qualifying period for the newly formed Thermal Million Grand Prix League. The qualifying season began August 14 and runs through the 2013 HITS Desert Circuit, beginning January 22, where seven weeks of horse shows will culminate in the largest prize money purse ever offered west of the Mississippi. The Thermal Million Grand Prix will be a star-studded conclusion to the seven-week circuit, complete with a musical concert being organized in collaboration with a top entertainment company out of Los Angeles.

The season officially kicked off at the famed Blenheim Summer Classic Series in beautiful San Juan Capistrano, California followed by the Showpark Summer Classic Series in Del Mar, California where high-performance riders got their first opportunities to bank crucial Grand Prix prize money in the hopes of securing a spot on what’s sure to be a coveted Top 40 Rider Rankings for the all-new Thermal Million. The Blenheim Summer Classic II ran August 15-19 at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park in San Juan Capistrano and featured the $40,000 Blenheim Summer Classic II Grand Prix, presented by CardFlex, as the very first qualifying class Saturday, August 18. The action continues for two more weeks at the Del Mar Horse Park with the Showpark Summer Classic August 22-26, featuring the $40,000 Showpark Summer Grand Prix, presented by California Horsetrader, Saturday, August 25. The Showpark All Seasons Classic August 29-September 2, offers the first of 10 World Cup Qualifying Grand Prix included in the Thermal Million League, and will host the $50,000 Grand Prix of Showpark, presented by EQU Lifestyle Magazine, Saturday, September 1. After a short break, the qualifying quest returns to San Juan Capistrano for the Blenheim Fall Tournament, September 12-16 where, on Friday night, September 14 high-performance riders will enjoy a $50,000 World Cup Qualifying Grand Prix, presented by Summit General Insurance Agency.

Rusty Stewart of Grey Fox Farm in Camarillo, California is one rider looking forward to the start of the qualifying season. “This is a huge opportunity for us on the West Coast to compete in a really big class, and everyone that I’ve spoken to is very excited. I think the collaboration of these shows along with the Desert Circuit is great for the sport. I’m looking forward to getting to work on qualifying and hopefully getting my chance at that big check! This collection of shows is typically our schedule for this portion of the season, we typically hit all the World Cup Qualifiers and this year to have those shows be in coordination with the Thermal Million is just a wonderful thing.”

Stewart has his sights set on qualifying with Bristol, a 10-year-old homebred from Grey Fox Farm. “We’ve brought him along since he was a baby with great success,” added Stewart. “He’s a great horse with a terrific personality, he was fifth in the FEI World Cup Standings for the West Coast, and I’m looking forward to continued success with him this season, right up to the Thermal Million!”

A view of the Grand Prix ring at HITS Thermal, which will host the 2012 Thermal $1 Million Grand Prix, as well as
the World Cup Qualifiers taking place during the HITS Desert Circuit. © Flying Horse Photography

From the Blenheim shows, the qualifying tour continues September 19-23 with the LA International Jumping Festival, where the team from Langer Equestrian Group will celebrate the first of their three Thermal Million qualifying shows with the $50,000 LA International Grand Prix, presented by LEGISequine.com, Saturday, September 22 at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center.

October kicks off with the popular Sacramento International Horse Show World Cup Week, held October 2-7 at the Murieta Equestrian Center in Rancho Murieta, where the highlight of the week’s schedule will be the $55,000 Land Rover Grand Prix of Sacramento, a World Cup Qualifier, Saturday evening, October 6. Three weeks later, Jump Del Mar will offer the next opportunity for riders to capture some cash en route to the Thermal Million when it hosts the Fall Festival II October 24-28, which features the $55,000 Villas at Rancho Valencia World Cup Grand Prix of Del Mar, presented by California Horsetrader, Saturday, October 27.

“We are thrilled to be offering two Thermal Million Grand Prix League qualifying events this October,” said Dale Harvey, Show Manager for Sacramento International and Jump Del Mar. “The Sacramento International Horse Show and the Del Mar Fall Festival are sure to attract the highest caliber of horse and rider combinations looking to secure their spot in the Thermal Million.”

Tom Struzzieri, HITS President and CEO, at the helm of the HITS Desert Circuit in Thermal, California, which will be home to the all-new Thermal $1 Million Grand Prix. Photo by Paula Parisi

The Langer Equestrian Group, will host the next two qualifiers leading with the $50,000 LEG 40th Anniversary Grand Prix on Saturday night of the National Preview, October 31 – November 4, followed by the Los Angeles National, November 7-11, the highlight of which will be the $50,000 LEGISequine.com Grand Prix of Los Angeles, a World Cup Qualifying event.

“Langer Equestrian Group has enjoyed a very good relationship with HITS, and when the possibility of the Thermal Million Grand Prix League came about I was honored to include LEG’s three premier Grand Prix events in the League,” said Larry Langer, President and CEO of Langer Equestrian Group. “For quite some time I knew the West Coast needed some kind of league to help promote the highest level of our jumper sport, and Tom’s creation of the Thermal $1 Million Grand Prix League exceeded my expectations.”

With just over two months to go before the start of the 2013 HITS Desert Circuit, riders will have one last chance to test their luck and back some more qualifying prize money towards the ranking list when Blenheim EquiSports hosts the final pre-season qualifier at the Las Vegas National, November 13-18. The event will take place at the South Point Hotel and Casino Equestrian Arena, where the $50,000 Las Vegas World Cup Grand Prix will take the stage on Saturday night, November 17.

“This collection of shows represents some of the best show jumping offered in the United States and each of them attracts a diverse mix of talented riders and horses,” said Tom Struzzieri, HITS President and CEO. “This schedule should pave the way for a dynamic late summer/fall season on the West Coast and help to generate great momentum as we await the start of new season in Thermal. I’m thankful to this group for their collaboration and support of something new and exciting for the sport. Hopefully this is the beginning of more great innovations that will serve to benefit exhibitors from coast to coast.”

The 2013 HITS Desert Circuit will begin Tuesday, January 22 and offer a jam-packed schedule of classes, including 16 Grand Prix, three of which will be FEI World Cup Qualifiers, leading up to the Thermal Million Sunday, March 17. The 2013 Desert Circuit prize list is currently in production and is expected to mail in mid-October. Please visit HitsShows.com for more information or to request a prize list.

Teamwork Makes The Dream Work For McFarlane, McNaught And A Little Cat Called Lucky

by Selena Frederick for EquestriSol

Whereas most people would be down and out with a broken neck or a broken collarbone, those maladies didn’t even come close to slowing the pace for the fiery pair of Brit Helen McNaught and New Zealander Duncan McFarlane. From injuries to victories, the pressures (and potential injuries) of preparing and competing grand prix horses on the west coast, as far north as Calgary, and the east coast, as far east as Saugerties, don’t faze Helen, Duncan and the Outwoods Farm team.


Helen Mcnaught and Duncan Mcfarlane

Whether or not luck has anything to do with it, a kitten ‘walked’ into their lives last fall and earned a place on the Outwoods Team. They found the little stowaway in the trailer on their way to Saugerties, NY to compete in the Pfizer Million last September (2011). Apparently after finding a new home for a litter, this little feline was left behind. So across the country the kitten went, quite a trip for any animal let alone an orphaned baby, but Lucky was up for the adventure and is now a part of the family. Plus as luck would have it, Helen and Duncan came home with some fabulous prizes from the weekend to boot.

The sweet little kitty seems to have a guardian angel. After his rescue and adoption, Lucky was attacked by pit bulls, but lives to tell the story. He likes to sleep in Mr. Whoopy’s stall, where the usually spunky stallion happily eats around him. And true to the feisty Outwoods nature, the cat marches around like a watchdog, securing the stabling area from any unwanted visitors. Wherever Helen and Duncan go, Lucky is usually in their midst.

Ups and Downs

Caballo and Lucky

Even with all his inherent goodness, Lucky can’t keep two active grand prix riders risk-free. In October of 2011, Helen suffered a potentially career ending neck injury while schooling a horse at their farm. With careful orders from the doctor, she was told to stay off horses for several months. So Duncan took up the reins and competed her grand prix mount Caballo until their winter break in December. As soon as the calendar turned to 2012 and Helen was given the thumbs up, she wasted no time getting back in the saddle. Potentially spurred on by the forced break, she returned stronger than ever. Winning the HITS Thermal $50,000 EMO Grand Prix Week I aboard Lariccello was not a bad start to the winter season. She was second in two of the five World Cup Qualifiers at HITS (Weeks II & IV) on Caballo.

In the spring the tables turned. As Helen affectionately stated, Duncan became a “busted kiwi”, taking a fall and breaking his collarbone at the Del Mar Horse Park in May. It’s no surprise that the following day, he was out setting jumps, helping with the horses and coaching. No matter the injuries or setbacks, these two resilient riders complement each other, always ready and willing to step up and do their part. Nothing seems to dampen their competitive, hard-working and determined spirits.

The Boys

“Whoopy and Caballo are best friends,” explained Helen. “Caballo is the bossier of the two, which is a touch surprising since Whoopy is the stallion.”

Beginning to compete at the higher levels at the ripe age of 12, Caballo had a late start in his high performance career. Helen refused to heed the warnings from friends and family and spent all her savings on the purchase of this talented yet difficult mount. She had her doubts early on after getting dumped repeatedly when he didn’t want to go somewhere or jump a particular fence. Definitely not a quitter, and believing in her own instincts as well as Caballo’s, she made him face his demons and after months of daily trials, patience and consistency, they solidified their partnership.

“He’s paid me back in full a million times over and I’m so thankful to have him,” the proud mother gushed.

She’s confident that he still has some competitive years left in him and “he’ll tell me when he’s ready to retire”. When that time comes, Caballo will be flown to England to spend the rest of his days grazing and enjoying life on the McNaught family farm. Plus before he was gelded, they collected some semen in order to breed and raise Caballo babies in the future.

Helen’s second grand prix mount came about three years ago, after a rough start elsewhere. “He can jump a house,” said Helen, “but he has to want to do it, otherwise he just won’t.”

Once again Helen has produced a top competitor for owner Alison Heafey, and Lariccello has now come into his own. As 2011 came to a close he was the second leading money winner in Northern California. The pair continues to earn top prizes, including winning the aforementioned HITS Thermal $50,000 EMO Grand Prix., and the Sonoma Horse Park THIS $30,000 Grand Prix this past July, for the second year in a row. Plus a well-earned fourth in the $32,000 Cargill Cup 1.50m FEI class at the Canada One Tournament up at Spruce Meadows.

Helen McNaught and Mr. Whoopy

A stallion with a sweetheart disposition, “Whoopy” is a love back at the barn, but a fierce and spunky competitor in the show ring. Known for his big jump and playful antics, he will often hop, buck and then jump during a round. That certainly has not stopped the duo of Duncan and now 10-year-old Whoopy from a stellar career. Owner Simone Coxe purchased the stallion as a five-year-old, and Duncan has brought him along carefully over the years. Along with placing second at the prestigious Pfizer Million back in September (2011) and earning a top prize the inaugural year, Whoopy has won several other grand prix classes, including the World Cup Qualifier $53,000 HITS Grand Prix CSI2*-W. While Duncan was out with injury this spring, Whoopy didn’t miss a beat with Helen aboard. Together they won the $20,000 Jennifer Marlborough Memorial Grand Prix at the Golden State Horse Show. It was a one-two victory, as she came in second on her own Caballo.

With his breeding program underway, Whoopy has one filly on the ground, appropriately named “Whoop-dee-do.” We can look forward to, and hope to write about, the Caballo as well as the Whoopy-sired offspring in years to come.

HITS in winter and fall

After letting the horses rest for all of December, HITS Thermal is the sunny desert oasis that the Outwoods Team seeks out after the holidays.

Helen claimed, “It’s the best for our business. A great way to start the year off with plenty of grand prix classes, indoor and out, plenty of places to ride and a great group of people we look forward to seeing every winter.”

And nothing like a little time in New York to spice up a fall season – Helen and Duncan will soon be trekking cross-country to Saugerties for the third year in a row. Certainly worth the effort with the large potential payout, Helen and Duncan (and Lucky and the boys) enjoy the time on the road.

“The footing is great, the facilities are wonderful, the staff is incredible” commented the couple, “and we love how Tom (Struzzeri) is so involved with the community.”

As the west coast welcomes the new Thermal Million Grand Prix League culminating at the end of the HITS Desert Circuit 2013, the Outwoods Team won’t have to travel so far for the big bucks. However with a million offered on not just one but now two coasts, two times per year, it’s likely this dream team will plan to pursue positions at both events.

Thank you, Helen and Duncan, for taking the time to share your lives, your horses and the importance of having a great team that can pick up the reins and keep you laughing no matter the setback. We wish you the best this season and in many seasons to come with the boys and the offspring, as well as client horses, to follow.

Helen and Duncan asked us to thank their staff at Outwoods Farm, the owners, clients, and supporters, without whom they could not be the dream team they aim to be every day.

Big money goes bicoastal: HITS announces all-new high-performance show jumping league and Thermal $1 Million Grand Prix

by Lindsay Yandon

Canadian Olympian Jill Henselwood takes one of two mounts to the top in the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix at HITS Thermal this winter. © Flying Horse Photography

After its announcement in 2009, the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties, New York soon became a stop on the road to equestrian stardom. For HITS, the buck didn’t stop there. Based on the success of the Pfizer Million on the East Coast, HITS Horse Shows looked west and joined forces with West Coast show organizers Dale Harvey, Larry Langer and Robert Ridland to form the Thermal Million Grand Prix League, which will culminate with a $1 million Grand Prix at the conclusion of the 2013 HITS Desert Circuit in Thermal, California.

Fifteen West Coast competitions will comprise the all-new high-performance show jumping league and welcome the best of the best on the West Coast to vie for a piece of $1 million. The League will include the entire 2013 HITS Desert Circuit, as well as select weeks of the Blenheim Summer and Fall shows, Sacramento International Horse Show, Del Mar Fall Festival, Los Angeles International Jumping Festival and Los Angeles National Horse Show.

“This is something we’ve been looking to do for a while and the timing is perfect for the West Coast to have a signature show jumping event to call its own,” said Tom Struzzieri, HITS President & CEO. “This past season in Thermal was a true tipping point. The atmosphere was phenomenal and the contribution from the West Coast in our sport is as strong as it’s ever been.”

Crowds gather to watch the $200,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix, presented by Lamborghini Newport Beach – the richest grand prix of the 2012 HITS Desert Circuit. © Flying Horse Photography

Specific qualifying, including nine World Cup weeks will be available at the following participating West Coast horse shows from August to March:
Blenheim Summer Classic II: August 14-19
Showpark Summer Classic: August 22-26
Showpark Summer Tournament: August 29 – September 2
Blenheim Fall Tournament: September 12-16
LA International Jumping Fest: September 19-23
Sacramento International World Cup Week: October 2-7
Del Mar Fall Festival II: October 24-28
National Preview: October 31 – November 4
LA National: November 6-11
The Las Vegas National: November 13-18
2013 HITS Desert Circuit: January – March

Rich Fellers rides to victory in the $30,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, at HITS Thermal this winter. © Flying Horse Photography

With Rich Fellers recent World Cup victory as evidence, West Coast competition is preparing horses and riders alike to excel in global arenas. “Thermal has really become a great platform to push from,” said Canadian Olympian and HITS Thermal regular Jill Henselwood. “Many riders like Rich Fellers are using those shows to propel them to the World Cup and more.”

Modeled after the qualifying procedures of the Pfizer Million, money won in League grand prix will be calculated by individual rider/horse combination with the rider’s top money winning horse determining the rider’s final ranking. Each rider must also compete in at least one grand prix at four HITS Desert Circuit shows prior to the week of the Thermal Million. The top 40 riders in the Thermal Million Grand Prix Rider Rankings will qualify. In addition, five additional riders may be chosen as Manager Picks. Two Wild Card slots will be awarded – one to the winner of a Wild Card Grand Prix during the 2013 Desert Circuit and one to the top performing grand prix rider at the six-week HITS Arizona Winter Circuit.

“There is an electricity of excitement happening west of the Mississippi,” added Struzzieri. “This League and second $1 million Grand Prix will present yet another product that should ignite a spark in American show jumping.”

Ridland’s recent appointment to U.S. Show Jumping Chef d’Equipe gave equestrians in West Coast circles yet another reason to celebrate. Seeing the potential for growth in the sport both on the West Coast and beyond, Ridland sees nothing but positives in this new collaboration.

“No question, this should be a big boost for the sport on the West Coast and nationwide as well,” said Ridland.

As Spring and Summer show jumping gets underway, the Thermal Million Grand Prix League should soon climb to the top of “to-do” lists for high-performance riders across North America. A breath of fresh air for show jumping, the League hopes to add another claim to fame for the sport’s top athletes.

Complete specifications and qualifying criteria for the Thermal Million Grand Prix League have been released and are available at HitsShows.com.

Conversations With Equestrians: The Fellers

After catching up with the Feller family at the HITS Desert Circuit (Thermal, CA) this past season, EquestriSol checked in on how they keep their personal lives and professional careers balanced and thriving.

The Fellers family

A Bold Balance
Going on 25 years of marriage, Rich and Shelley both spoke of the other as being an inspiration and supporter. “Rich is a super good dad,” said Shelley. “He’s a great husband, great partner – he hates being away from his kids and the family.”

“Shelley’s been an inspiration to me ever since I met her,” said Rich. “She keeps my life and our whole family’s life very balanced.”

Juggling Olympic Trials and a family vacation isn’t the ordinary family calendar, but for Rich, Shelley, Christopher (21) and Savannah (18) its par for the course. By sharing parental duties, realizing each other’s strengths, and keeping family time a priority this couple has created a recipe for success. “We split the duties; he’s the better rider, so he goes all the time and I go back and forth, or skip a show.” said Shelley, “It’s difficult organizing taking care of kids, staying home and feeling guilty about leaving/staying, but we’ll never look back and say, ‘I wish that I would’ve not spent more time with my kids’ – you’ve got to think about their lives, and so we do and make it work.”

Rich and Shelley have managed to achieve a unique parental balance in Oregon while competing on the road. Meanwhile both continue to progress in their own riding careers. As is often true for equestrian professionals, the path to making a living and career in the show jumping world is typically paved with sale horses, which often means selling one you would love to keep and take to the top. Shelley’s experience is primarily with bringing up young horses through the 1.4m division and along the way they sell. At the 2012 HITS Desert Circuit she achieved a personal goal when competing at the grand prix level. Her mount Revenge (“Reggie”) stepped up to compete in five top level classes including the $53,000 HITS Grand Prix CSIW-2*/World Cup Qualifier (Week III) and the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix (Week VI). “I’ve brought him along from the 1.2m division to the Grand Prix ring,” she explained. “He’s definitely the nicest horse that I’ve ever had, he’s really a dream.”

Rich Fellers and Flexible at the 2012 HITS Desert Circuit.

When it comes to personal goals and living the dream, Rich continues to make strides with the amazing little Irish stallion known as Flexible (Harry and Mollie Chapman, owners). Post the HITS Desert Circuit, Rich and his longtime partner put in a strong performance at the Olympic Trials held in Wellington, FL. “He’s quite experienced,” said Rich, “His performances have improved every year. He’s a veteran and has walked into a number of different venues. He has good Irish instincts and I think we’ve got a shot.” Being 16 years young, ‘Flexi’ proved that age was simply an advantage. They successfully ended the trials placing 7th on the USEF long list and it didn’t stop there.

In s’Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, Flexible and Rich went on to bring a 2012 FEI World Cup Final victory back to the US after 25 years. On a roll, just two weeks after arriving back on American soil, Flexible and Rich won not one but both of the Olympic Observation classes at the 2012 Del Mar National. As the dynamic duo exited the ring post these two California victories, the crowd chanted: “Put him on! Put him on!” (the Olympic Team). They are undoubtedly a formidable force and will be competing at the last Olympic Observation event at Spruce Meadows in June.

Training Together
Raising a family while bringing up horses to compete in the international rings doesn’t seem to faze this incredible couple. After 25+ years of training together, “We know each other fairly well at this stage,” said Rich, “so, we work well with each other. We do get little signals, and we know when to back off. But overall, we really do well – and very rarely do we get in arguments. Sure we disagree with each other about stuff, but we respect each other enough to not let it cause a problem.”

As per Shelley, “We do work really well together. We’re basically on the same page, but we may do it differently. Some of my strengths are his weaknesses, and vice versa. Rich gets pretty amped up at horse shows, and especially intense about a big class. We laugh about it. But he’s my biggest supporter and I’m his.”

With London as a possibility later this summer, Shelley competing in the Grand Prix classes, their kids also have crazy schedules to juggle. Chris is completing his sophomore year at Linfield College and will be competing this summer on his two mounts Zidane L and Cascade. Savannah finished her senior year and will be heading to Linfield as a freshman with hopes to play collegiate tennis. Shelley and Rich both enjoy playing tennis with their daughter, although Rich reluctantly admits defeat – it’s still one of his favorite things to do when not in the saddle.

Balance, respect, humor and understanding keep the Fellers successful both in and out of the arena. Not only did I enjoy spending time with both Rich and Shelley, I respect their approach. We wish them all the best in continuing to pursue their dreams. We will be rooting for you.

Shelley Fellers and Revenge at the 2012 HITS Desert Circuit.

Fun Facts About Rich and Shelley:
If you could ride any horse, who would it be and why?
Rich: “I’ve always been intrigued with Cristallo (Richard Spooner, rider) because he’s such a tough horse and he’s a fighter – he’s a horse that will fight to leave the jumps up and when the pressure’s on he’ll come through. And Richard’s that way as well and the horse reflects Richard’s personality.
Shelley: “My horse (Revenge), because part of it for me, especially over the big jumps, is having a rapport with my horse. That’s huge, when you build up a rapport and you trust them, it makes it that much more fun and easy. I might also say Milton. He’s a big favorite of mine from way back when. He looked like a lot of fun, and a horse that I could ride.

Favorite part about the desert:
Rich: “I’d have to say the weather is quite nice!”
Shelley: “Sun! It’s a nice place to get started again after the holidays. Definitely my favorite part is the sun.”

Rich: “It’s a great place to let the horses have a fresh go; it’s maturing a bunch with the trees and the berms. It’s very open and spacious.”
Shelley: “I love the vegetation that they’ve planted. The facility is growing up and it’s become more visually appealing. I like the layout with the stabling, the rings and routes.”

Favorite Restaurant?
Rich: “Don Diego (Mexican Restaurant in Indian Wells) and we always like the Cliff House.”
Shelley: “Cliff House”

Favorite thing to do aside from riding?
Rich: “I love playing tennis with Savannah. She beats me and it’s tough because I hate to lose, but I hope someday I’ll beat her.”
Shelley: “I like to ski. Savannah plays tennis and I like playing with her. I’m not very good, but it’s fun. I also like to read especially when travelling on the airplane. I like to be outside: camping, fishing, outdoors.”

The Wild, Wild West

Heading north from Guadalajara, the 2011 Las Vegas National in early November was a hit with both exhibitors and spectators. Each year the excitement builds and the event gains momentum. Exciting evenings of competition mixed with the PCHA Adult Medal Finals and a successful NAL Sunday meant there was truly a highlight event for everyone. More on Vegas and all its trimmings below.

The Sacramento International was a sellout and as a result all involved saw some solid show jumping. Congratulations go out to all the winners, especially the little but mighty stallion, Flexible with Rich Fellers. They galloped on from that victory to the Los Angeles National Horse Show to clinch the win once again. Chalk that up to a double whammy for that indomitable duo.

To round out the west coast wrap up, the LA National also crowned some other top riders, including Sophie Simpson who took the win in the Onondarka Medal Finals and Demi Stiegler completing a solid end to her junior years with another medal win, this time the WCE Jr/Am Medal Finals.

Industry Innovators L.A. Pomeroy

From a Notion to a Name With Publicist Extraordinaire L.A. Pomeroy

As one of the equestrian world’s most talented and passionate publicists, L.A. Pomeroy can single-handedly skyrocket an under-recognized individual and safely, as well as successfully, launch them into recognition. Outspoken yet complimentary, Lisa Ann (L.A. to the world) took the time to talk to us about how she came to this place.

On her birthday, no less, we discussed her humble beginnings and the journey that made her into the professional woman she is today. “You couldn’t catch me in a more philosophical or reminiscent mood!” she exclaims.

Horse Crazy
Like many who jump head first into the horse world, “It is possible to be a horse crazy little girl and to grow up and work in the industry,” L.A. explained with a passionate tone.

The journey began when L.A. hosted her own Breyer horse races and ‘covered’ the results on spiral-bound notepaper with two of her closest grade school friends. Through her father’s encouragement, she published a newsletter for her 4-H group at age 10. A writer from the start, her beginnings paved the path toward a significant career in the field of equestrian journalism.

L.A.’s father was a journalist during WWII, and would bring home the New York Daily News every day to follow the horse racing scores. After finishing the paper, L.A. would read the very same lines and stories. “While following the Daily News, I was able to follow the society and sports journalists’ alliterative, colorful styles, and horse racing news, from Canonero II to Secretariat.”

Growing up in a time where it was unusual for women to compete equally with men, L.A. developed an even deeper fascination with equestrian sport when she realized the even playing field.

“For a woman, equestrian sport is one of the only sports where men and women compete on the same level. You really can’t be a woman and not want to follow that. It’s the most level playing field a woman can ask for.”

Throughout her equestrian evolution she always relished being an all-around horsewoman. She competed in several different disciplines, including dressage and reining. “To this day I hold fast to the reason I took dressage. I still believe it is the best building block to any riding style.”

Laughingly she describes how she was training in dressage at age 9, before many others could even pronounce the word. To give an idea of when that was, on this day of her birth she quoted a French Proverb during our interview, “‘The 40s are the old age of youth – the 50s are the youth of old age.'”

In June, L.A. earned the honor of an American Horse Publications 2010 Editorial and Graphics Award in the category of best Freelance Writer Equestrian-related Journalism (print). The article that landed her this accomplishment was a moving piece published about Tracy Kujawa, the owner of Angel Heart Farm, an Arabian facility that provides therapeutic care to children facing cancer and other life-threatening diagnoses. As a three-time cancer survivor herself, the thought of starting a therapeutic farm came to Tracy in a dream.

“[In the dream] she was teaching riding lessons to bare-headed children. She had this clear picture in her head and knew this is what she was supposed to be doing,” L.A. recounted. “Compared to what I do, she is absolutely heroic.” And so L.A. brought her story to the horse world. The award was icing on the cake, not only for the reward of recognition, but also the expanded exposure it brought for Angel Heart Farm, including securing a $5,000 grant to help continue its programs.

An ‘A’ List
Some of L.A.’s past and current clients include the 1996 Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, Arenus/Sore No-More, EquiSearch.com, Holistic Horse Media, Horses in Art, Modern Arabian, NRHA The Reiner, Northeast Reining Horse Association, Reeves International/Breyer, Today’s Equestrian and the U.S. Equestrian Team.

Two years ago she accepted a Media Liaison position with the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA). Aside from the obvious promotional tasks with the organization, she suggested nominating IHSA executive director, Bob Cacchione, for the 2010 USEF/Equus Humanitarian Award as well as the 10th annual Pfizer/AHP Equine Industry Vision Award (EIVA). Relying on her grant-writing experience as a development director, she crafted proposals that led to Cacchione, and the association he developed, earning both awards this year. Her notion led to honoring his name.

Being on a first-name basis with riders whom she idolized growing up marks right up there as among the most memorable experiences of her career.

L.A.’s talents were put to work as J. Michael Plumb’s personal voice for the Belvoir Publication’s monthly magazine, Mike Plumb’s Horse Journal, now called Horse Journal.

“I would drive to Mike’s facility north of Boston, he’d usually be finishing a ride or a lesson so I’d hang out, watch that, and then when he was done he’d dismount and I’d join him in the tack room and he’d philosophize about training or whatever the specific topic was. I’d take the notes, then go back to my desk and craft his advice column.

Being the ‘voice’ for one of the best athletes in the equestrian world was a highlight.

“Mike is still one of the very few American athletes, of any sport, to have represented his country in multiple (eight) Olympic Games and he is the first rider ever inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. So to be the mouthpiece for the greatest eventing rider of our generation was tremendous.”

Some moments she calls “full circles,” where she began as a young, horse-crazy girl and now years later, is at the same place as a professional journalist.

“When I was a little girl, my folks would take the drive into Manhattan to the National Horse Show. Years later I was on the press team promoting the National, and it was a beautiful full circle.”

When asked what else she would like to accomplish during her career, she laughingly sighed and said, “It would be nice to be able to own a horse.” Other than this remark, she said her career to date, and it is far from over, has been a fulfilling journey.

Heroes like L.A. are the behind-the-scene storytellers who give our industry and the people in it well-deserved recognition. She has a true dedication for the sport, the horses and the people who love them as she does. Coming full circle repeatedly in a lifetime is a passionate person’s dream come true. L.A. is living that dream. We had a notion that her name deserved recognition.

Thank you L.A. for speaking to us on your celebratory day, so we could in turn celebrate you!

Unbridled Passion

By Lauren Fisher For Jennifer Wood Media Inc.

Show Jumping’s Newest Book Illustrates A Matter of the Heart
McLain and Sapphire, Beezie and Authentic, Ian and Big Ben… These are just a few of the great partnerships in show jumping history that are detailed in Jeff Papows’ new book,Unbridled Passion – Show Jumping’s Greatest Horses and Riders. Released by Acanthus Publishing, Unbridled Passion made its formal debut during the Fidelity Investments Jumper Classic, September 14th – 18th. The book documents the incredible relationships between some of North America’s most renowned horses and riders, telling the life-changing stories of their sacrifices for the love of the sport. Through the wonderful highs and heartbreaking lows both in and out of the ring, Papows gives readers an inside look at what it takes to be on top in the competitive world of show jumping.

Telling many stories never heard until now,Unbridled Passion gives complete insider views and behind the scenes accounts of some of the sport’s most poignant moments. The book features the awe-inspiring stories of 22 horse and rider combinations, with a foreword by legendary U.S. Show Jumping Chef d’Equipe George Morris, and beautiful photography by Gretchen Almy, Tony DeCosta, and Bob Langrish.

The book’s author, Jeff Papows, is well known in the industry. A “tenacious” equestrian in his own right, Papows has personally been inspired by these athletes and their amazing equine partners. He has been a true ambassador for the sport of show jumping and has helped give the sport the recognition it deserves. As Papows so eloquently described it, the book was “a matter of the heart, born of the need to illustrate how truly special the sport of show jumping is.”

In addition to his successful equestrian career, Papows is known in the world of show jumping for his involvement with the Fidelity Investments Jumper Classic. Papows explained his desire to participate in the sport, stating, “I got involved because of my love of horses first and foremost, and it went on from there. Later I wanted to give back and contribute to the sport, so I became the Chairman of the Jumper Classic, and found other ways to sponsor the understanding of the sport.”

He recalled when the idea first to write the book first came to him. “During the meet and greet panel at the Fidelity Investments Grand Prix every year I saw how thirsty for information the young riders were with respect to their idols, like McLain Ward and Margie Engle, and further how enthused the riders were interacting with them.”

When deciding whom to feature in the book, Papows declared, “The Who was easy. I simply selected the biggest North American contemporary stars then got the idea to add three high level amateur riders as well.”

Papows had his work cut out for him at the beginning, facing the challenge of getting in touch with not only the riders but also the owners, trainers, grooms and many other people that make up the support system of a top equestrian partnership. The sport of show jumping involves a lot of traveling and horses and riders are never in one place for long. The hard work quickly paid off as he saw the overwhelming enthusiasm that the participants showed for his project.

“The travel schedules of the Olympians and the logistics of dealing with people at any point in multiple times zones and continents made it challenging,” Papows noted. “Beyond that the biggest challenge was taking care to be sure that the fresh and real inside stories, not previously exposed, were told in each instance.”

“The easiest part of writing the book was staying on schedule, once started,” Papows added. “Because of the enthusiasm of riders, support givers, owners, Geroge Morris and everybody involved, information flowed like it was coming from fire hoses. People really wanted these horses’ stories told!”

The ups and downs of competitive show jumping made the sport the perfect subject for Papows’ book. The biggest surprise to the author as the book progressed became the pure reality of the stories.

“The content ended up being better than fiction!” Papows expressed. “Case by case the drama, heart break, and inspiration in real life was more incredible than even I with all my friendships with the riders understood.”

The riders themselves are grateful to Papows for sharing the stories of their most treasured horses with the world. Many riders expressed their appreciation personally.

McLain Ward, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, said it succinctly. “There is nobody in the sport who I trust more than Jeff Papows to tell Sapphire’s real story.”

Grand Prix Show Jumper Debbie Stephens is featured in the book with Cosequin’s CEO. Stephens acknowledged, “Unbridled Passion has shown what no other book has been able to capture, the opening of hearts for everyone to see, the real story between horse and rider.”

Grand Prix rider Kent Farrington and Up Chiqui are featured as well. Farrington explained, “Jeff has captured the real story of Show Jumping. It goes beyond all the victories and the frustrations. Jeff tells what the sport is truly about – having a special bond with a horse.”

An inspiration to many in the sport, nine-time Olympian Ian Millar summed it up perfectly with his praise for Papows, “Jeff is both rider, friend, and perhaps one of the sport’s most articulate voices – he tells our stories beautifully.”

More details and online ordering available at: www.unbridledpassion.net

Spruce Meadows Masters

By Jennifer Wood

Lamaze Lights Up the Masters and Three Frenchmen Sweep the Nation
It was the Eric Lamaze Masters, much to the delight of the tens of thousands of fans at the Spruce Meadows Masters Tournament. Lamaze won three classes during the week plus was the only entry to go double clear to help Team Canada win the silver medal in the BMO Nations Cup. Lamaze and his superstar stallion Hickstead brought the crowd to their feet when they performed the double clear dance, once again the only couple to do so, to win the CN $1 Million Grand Prix.

Nations Night
The Saturday highlight was the BMO Nations Cup. The French three-man team, anchored by veteran Roger-Yves Bost and Ideal de la Loge, truly rode to the occasion with a win for their country. With the European Championships the following week, France sent three less experienced riders or riders with younger horses along with Bost to represent them at the Masters. When one horse couldn’t compete, they had to go with just three and therefore having no drop score. French Chef d’Equipe Thierry Pomel said, “Our hopes were not high, but the team is very strong with good horses. Since the beginning of the competition, we believed we could do something, and today you see the result.”

Lamaze helped Canada to the silver medal along with veterans Ian Millar and Jonathan Asselin. Nations Cup newbie Tiffany Foster made her first team appearance and couldn’t contain her excitement. “I was a little nervous. I just tried to pretend it was a normal course. My horse is so nice. I knew Ian and Eric were coming after me, so that was nice padding,” explained the exuberant Foster. “I was happy that I didn’t make a huge mistake!”

Third place went to the Swiss team, while a disappointing performance from the Americans left them in last place.

CN $1 Million
The best riders of the week had to qualify to compete in the CN $1 Million Grand Prix. Seemingly in top form, Lamaze and Hickstead looked poised to bring home the top prize. The Olympic gold medalists did not disappoint as they bounded through the difficult course with barely a rub in front of a record crowd of 89,632 fans.”[Hickstead] came into this tour in fantastic shape. From the first day he jumped very well,” Lamaze said.Two rookies jumped up to second and third places in the grand prix. Neils Bruynseels of Belgium rode Nasa to second place. “I gave everything, my horse gave everything. She was fantastic today,” he said.In his first CSIO 5* competition nineteen-year-old Martin Fuchs (son of show jumper Thomas Fuchs and nephew to Markus Fuchs) rode Principal S to third place after he was the first to go clear in the opening round.”Today with the first round clear, I was going crazy,” he remarked. “The crowd here is much better than in Europe, but don’t tell the Europeans. It’s a special day, one of the best in my life.”Course designer Leopoldo Palacios commented, “I’m proud to be here with this new generation.”This was the second win for Lamaze and Hickstead in one of the biggest classes in the world, the CN $1 Million. Along with the two victories, the pair has placed in the top five of this prestigious class for the past five years. Lamaze summed it up by commenting, “To win here and win this grand prix, it’s one we have all dreamed of winning. For me it’s just as exciting as the first time, if not more. When you have a great horse, you want to have this title attached to his name. The money is great, but it’s more than that. He’s the best horse in the world.”Almost certainly Olympic bound, look for these superstars in London next year.

Was HITS a Hit?

Stories from Horse Shows in the Sun
Through my work with EquestriSol I had the privilege of interviewing a number of riders, sponsors and vendors during the 2011 HITS Desert Winter Circuit. Most would agree that with all the improvements, the world-class competition, the hunter prix classes and the World Cup qualifiers, the 20th anniversary year in the desert was definitely one for the books.

Horse show grounds and facilities can be vastly different; however, ask any rider/trainer and they’ll tell you that there are a few key elements that truly make a good horse show.

For riders like Hap Hansen who has competed at HITS Horse Shows since the circuit’s inception, the shows close proximity to his southern California home is one but not the only aspect that draws him and his clients out to the desert. A man of few words, when he spoke, I listened. ‘Why Thermal?’ was one of my questions.

“There’s lots of room and great footing. I’ve noticed improvements but there is also a more international feel this year. It’s fun to have Meredith here.”

He sums it up by saying, “They (HITS Show Management) know how to put on a horse show.”

A key element riders and trainers consider when attending a horse show, is the course designer. Hap rated them as “up and down.” One week in the $25,000 Grand Prix Hap, John Perez and John Pearce all had spills at the same jump. Certainly a surprising turn of events.

If you’ve read EquestriSol’s series “Conversation with Course Designers”, all of them seek to challenge while being careful to not overwhelm horse or rider. That said the course designers had their work cut out for them – often the class had 50 or more horses with a wide span of experience. It was not uncommon to have the group narrowed down to eight riders or less in a jump off.

For Brazil’s Eduardo Menezes, who jokingly disclosed his mantra for life, while sitting next to Olaf Peterson, as being “Live everyday like it’s the most important or the last because who knows what course designer will be there to kill you.” Kidding aside, Eduardo agreed that the facilities, amenities and most importantly, the footing were all excellent.

With big money classes, a tough course is always on the menu. And like any menu, what tastes great to some is not so delicious for others. Eighteen year old Lucy Davis and her two mounts Hannah and Nemo 119 got their fill of goodies, conquering two weeks worth of course designers’ challenges with four grand prix wins.

I caught up with Lucy after her second victory of four, the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix on Hannah during Week V of the circuit. Lucy excelled in field of 57 riders, including topping trainer and well-known international rider Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum,. “I was confident about my ride, but was still in disbelief from last night [winning the $50,000 Strongid CSI-W Grand Prix aboard Nemo 119]! Today was the cherry on top!”

Davis proved her ability to achieve the ultimate, winning two more grand prix classes, including the $200,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix of the Desert again on Nemo 119. Qualified for the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix scheduled for September 11 in Saugerties, NY, will the young star be in attendance?

Crossing over to the hunter ring, seems the newly added hunter prix classes, qualifiers for the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final in Saugerties, NY in September, drew both competitors and crowds alike, week after week.

Some would question if a 3’3″ hunter competition with a $500,000 finals is good for the sport. With the response and anticipation of the upcoming HITS weekend this fall, the Diamond Mills Hunter Prix combined with the Pfizer Million, it appears the answer is yes. The competition arena is clothed in many ways, and ultimately the best in the sport will prevail.

John French certainly knows a good horse show, having won all over the world in both the hunter and jumper arenas, both indoors and outdoor. French, who owns Waldenbrook Farm, surmised, “HITS has done a great job on improvements. The footing is good, nice job on maintenance and keeping the ground soft. We’ve had excellent weather this year and more people are coming back.” Waldenbrook clients were happy and staying longer than they initially planned.

As explained in this issue’s “Conversation with Equestrians”, for trainers Hope and Ned Glynn of Sonoma Valley Stables (SVS), the circuit proved to be a hit. Hope landed two blue ribbons in the 3’3″ Hunter Prix classes.

“I am thrilled to have an opportunity to compete for the biggest purse of prize money in hunter history. We have all really enjoyed the hunter prix classes at Thermal,” added Hope.

Top hunter riders, professional, amateur and junior alike, have the opportunity to attend several special shows with a focus on hunters this year. The first is the USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals, now in its third year, at the Kentucky Horse Park in August. Continuing the trek east, the Hampton Classic is an excellent choice for exhibiting and enjoying the east coast. Next to HITS Saugerties for the Diamond Mills Hunter Prix Final in upstate New York, which not only includes a big grand prix but a Temptations concert. And then the indoor season begins, the Capital Challenge in Washington, DC offers a list of prestigious hunter classes, the fall continues with Harrisburg, Washington and this year Lexington. But that’s another story.

Pleasing your public is essential when running a business. Was HITS a hit? The answer is in the desert oasis. 

It’s High Time For Helmets

By Alexandra Pingree

You Should Always Strap One On 
The decision to strap on a helmet before mounting a horse is a decision that could save your life. Without a doubt you should strap one on before getting on. 

Ever since well-known Dressage rider Courtney King Dye’s accident many riders have seen the helmet light. Courtney was in a coma for a month after her horse slipped and fell. Not wearing a helmet at the time, she suffered severe head trauma. Her fall started an avalanche of riders who decided to change their ways and start strapping one on.

I will never leave the barn without my helmet after what happened to my mother. She was out hacking one day, luckily with her helmet on, and her horse stepped on its front shoe and fell to the ground. She left the fall with a couple broken ribs, a broken ankle, and no recollection of what happened. It took her over a month to get her head back to normal after hitting it that hard. I shudder to think of the outcome if she hadn’t been wearing a helmet.

Can Riders Rise Up and Buck Tradition?
One rider noticeably changing her ways is Alison Springer. As a top event rider, she would wear a top hat during dressage like every other FEI rider. During the dressage phase at the 2010 Rolex event, Alison shocked the crowed when she entered the ring wearing not a top hat but her ASTM/SEI approved helmet. For her this was just a simple choice, but it was one that sparked major rule changes in equestrian sports. The USEA has now made it mandatory that all riders wear an ASTM/SEI approved helmet during dressage. This rule has not reached the FEI level yet, but many riders in the 2011 Rolex event choose to leave their top hats behind and strap on a helmet.

Another noticeable statement made by a rider was the one Steffen Peters made during the WEG. He dedicated his ride on Ravel to Courtney King Dye and choose to strap on a helmet. He became the first American to win two individual golds at the world championships. Ever since Courtney’s accident he has become a advocate for wearing a helmet. He hopes many other dressage riders will follow his lead and start strapping on.

Seems to be happening slowly but equestrians are beginning to realize the importance of wearing a helmet.

Two areas in the horse world that this trend has yet to reach effectively are show jumpers and western riders. Show jumpers are known for hacking, even warming up over jumps, without a helmet on and then putting it on to compete in the ring. Since an accident can happen at any time, not just in the show ring, it seems these riders should be protecting their head whenever mounted. There is a select group that is riding the helmet train (see the EquestriSol article on Beezie Madden), but their numbers are limited. Hopefully many will learn that wearing a helmet is a better decision, and it won’t take an accident like Dye’s in the jumper world to wake people up.

For years cowboys have been riding around on the ranch with just a cowboy hat. The symbol of a western rider lies within that weather-beaten hat, but unfortunately it does not protect their head. Bull and bronco riders have smartened up and begun wearing protective helmets. However many western riders have not switched to helmets because to them it is not proper attire. It’s time for this discipline to stop risking their lives for fashion and tradition. Troxel has come out with an approved cowboy hat, however this cowboy hat does not look traditional. I believe it is going to take the construction of an approved but tasteful cowboy hat to protect the heads of the western riders.

Brainy Statistics
Statistics show that horseback riders are hospitalized more often then football, soccer, and boxing athletes. Did you know that a fall from just two feet can cause brain damage? When mounted on a horse we can be elevated to a height of eight feet and a fall from that height, without proper precautions, can potentially mean death to a rider. Statistics also show that at speeds of 7-10 km the brain can shatter. A horse can travel up to 65 km at one time. This information alone should make riders aware that riding is inherently dangerous. Horses are unpredictable animals. Unforeseeable events can occur at anytime, no matter how well you ride. Is the risk of your brain shattering really worth leaving the helmet behind?

I ask myself this question often yet I still hear different excuses amongst riders that are unwise enough to go without a helmet. The top excuse that gets me is, “It’s too hot to wear a helmet.” This one I find funny because many helmets are designed with air vents that cool the rider’s head off. Aside from that is protecting your brain not worth the slight increase in heat? Another excuse I have heard is, “Helmets look dumb” or “Only beginners wear helmets.” The truth: ‘dumb’ is the rider who fails to wear a helmet.

Now there’s a site called Riders4helmets. This campaign started after Courtney King Dye’s accident to make people aware of the importance of wearing a helmet. Riders4helmets sponsored a national helmet awareness day on June 11, 2011 to increase people’s awareness of the importance of wearing a helmet. Helmet makers ranging from Charles Owen to GPA offered large discounts on their helmets on this special day. See the website for all the strapping on action.

The next time you decide to leave the barn with a bare head I hope you think twice. You are allowed to make your own decisions, but don’t we pride ourselves on making intelligent ones? Think about your friends and family. No matter what, you should always strap one on when getting on.

About Alexandra Pingree
I grew up in Hamilton, MA on a horse farm with my family. Riding since age six, I started out in the Hunter Jumper discipline and switched to Eventing when I was 11. I have reached the FEI CCI* level with my Irish Sport Horse, Toy Master. I currently compete on my two Irish horses. I have earned my silver medal at the preliminary level and I am hoping to move up to intermediate soon. I would like to make horses my career and to represent the United States at the Olympics someday.

I don’t hesitate to always strap on a helmet when I get on a horse. I don’t feel fully ‘dressed’ without protecting my head. My mother made sure that wearing a helmet became a habit for me and I am forever thankful.