Showcasing Young Talent: Haley Webster

By Zazou Hoffman and Jackie McFarland

Haley Webster
Riding as a fourteen-year-old this year, Haley is one of the west coast’s aspiring stars. She trains with Patty Ball in Northern California most of the year and is certainly a self-starter. Haley even has her own web site and sponsors. Similar to Zazou’s experience as a junior, Haley is working hard to earn every winning experience – from working student opportunities to clinics as well as in the show ring. Haley went to WEF this past winter to ride with Missy Clark and John Brennan of North Run Farm. Zazou, who spent many a winter in Wellington with North Run, interviewed her about the experience.

ZH: Tell us a little about your junior career.
I am lucky that I have two horses to show, one is leased and the other was my mom’s (now mine). They both compete in the big equitation, so it’s nice because they never have too many classes. I have always done the medals and I will continue pursuing medal final goals plus start doing jumper classes.

ZH: What were your impressions of WEF? What are the big differences between showing in California and Florida?
HW: WEF was absolutely amazing! The show grounds are beautiful. It’s hard to describe in words how impressed I was… The competition in Florida is definitely tough. Everyone is starting out his or her qualifying year, so a winning round in the equitation would likely be a score in the 90’s.

ZH: How did you manage school and showing?
I actually started home schooling last year to allow more time for riding and shows. My parents and I love this program offered by our school district at home, Visions in Education. The teacher comes twice a month and is available by phone any time we need her. The online resources are wonderful as well. This flexibility has been a very positive experience for me so far.

I brought my schoolwork with me and since I wanted to focus on riding for the two weeks I was at WEF, I finished most of my homework on the plane!

ZH: So how did you end up working with Missy and John?
Through winning the RW Mutch Scholarship in 2009 I had the chance to ride with Karen Healey for two weeks, a great learning experience. I was looking for a chance to ride on the east coast, so Carol Coleman from the RW Mutch Foundation helped me get in touch with Missy. Working with Missy and John was an amazing opportunity. I learned so much, was given a chance to ride some of their horses and truly gained a lot from their knowledge.

ZH: What did you show in? What were the highlights?
I competed in the USEF, USET, WIHS Medal, and the ASPCA Maclay on a new horse of Missy’s, Conan. Very sweet, fun to ride – a really nice horse – the more I rode him the better we were as a team. I also showed a green horse in the children’s hunters both weeks.

ZH: Do you have a strategy for this year? What horse/horses are you working with?
This year my plan includes qualifying for all the medals and to get some good jumper miles. I am currently leasing Gobi, who can do the medals and the jumpers. My mom’s horse Moose turned out to be my horse. Last year I showed him in the junior hunters, medals and the equitation division. This year I am just showing him in the big medals. My first horse Belle, a great 3’ hunter and equitation horse, is currently for sale.

ZH: What advice do you have for other equitation riders who show on a budget?
Be a hard worker. Do everything you can to learn more. We are doing everything we can to make it through the show season on a budget. I do my own grooming, my mom braids, and my grandfather drives the horse trailer. Having a supportive family like mine plays a big role in making it all work.

Thanks so much for giving us a glimpse into your life. We wish you all the best in your aspirations, Haley.

A bit on Zazou:
In 2005 Zazou won the Ronnie Mutch Working Student Scholarship, which led to an association with respected East Coast trainers Missy Clark and John Brennan. Through a lot of hard work, commuting, juggling school and victories as well as defeats, Zazou culminated her junior career in 2009 by winning the prestigious ASPCA Medal Maclay Finals at the National Horse Show in Syracuse, New York.

In both 2007 and 2010 Zazou was one of ten elite riders chosen to ride in the Mastership Sessions with Olympic Chef d’Equipe George Morris in Wellington, Florida. She is back in her hometown of Santa Monica, California where she has turn

Showcasing Young Talent: Katherine Bardis

By Jackie McFarland

Katherine Bardis
A senior at Loyola Marymount with Law School aspirations, Katherine Bardis is growing up. Considering she has only been in the jumper ring since age 14 and in the Grand Prix arena since age 17, she made a name for herself in a short span of time. Now 22 years old (for about a week at press time), Katherine is making adult decisions about her riding, her education and her career.

EqSol: Your equestrian start – where you are from, how you started riding, the early years…
I started when I was about 10 years old. My older cousins rode and loved watching them but my parents would not let me start until I had tried out other sports first. I’m from Pebble Beach so the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center was almost walking distance from our house. My first lessons were with Toni Venza and Tracy Cotchett. I started in the medium ponies, then moved to the greatest large pony ever, ‘Peter Piper’ (PD) who we leased from Alex Silvestri. When I was 12, I won the Pony Finals on PD and then got my first Children’s Hunter, a little quarter horse named ‘Equal.’

EqSol: When did you know you wanted to ride in the jumpers?
 I was getting bored doing hunters and equitation. My mom really didn’t want me to do the jumpers because she knew once I started I would be hooked, which is exactly what happened. When I was 14, we went to Spruce Meadows just for fun with a couple of my equitation horses – my trainer thought it would be a good experience. That was when my dad and my trainer’s husband met Richard Spooner in the show office. Of course he was my idol, since we had just watched him win the Queens Cup and the Chrysler Classic. So I was extremely embarrassed that they were talking to him. Luckily, during their conversation (while I was timidly hiding in the corner) Richard mentioned that he had some horses for sale and that we should come and try them. And that’s how it all began…

We flew down from Pebble Beach to the Los Angeles Equestrian Center and ended up purchasing two horses, Prestige and Bada Bing. Within a month, I started riding with Richard. We went down on the weekends so I could train and go to shows with him. I hadn’t had any formal jumper training nor had I been competitive in the jumper ring before Prestige and Bada Bing, so when I started riding with Richard it was like a whole new world.

EqSol: When did your Grand Prix aspirations start?
 I didn’t have Grand Prix aspirations until I was about 17. That’s when I rode in my first Friday Grand Prix in Indio on Mademoiselle and Pariska. I remember I was so nervous because it was not only my first Grand Prix but theirs too. Luckily they were both fantastic. I think I ended up 10th on Pariska.

EqSol: Your GP history – when you started, the good, the bad & the victories.
After Indio in 2005, I wanted to try and keep riding at the Grand Prix level. In 2007 I was a freshman in college so I didn’t have as much time to train. When I tried to ride in the Grand Prix classes at Thermal, I wasn’t in tune with my horses. I think I fell off three times! By the end I improved, I was 4th once and only had one rail in the $200,000 class. After a bunch of second place finishes from Blenheim to Spruce, my first win was at the 2008 Memorial Day Classic Grand Prix on Pariska. Another highlight was winning third in The Pepsi Challenge on the International Field at Spruce in 2007.

EqSol: Let’s talk about Summer 2009: The Developing Rider Tour experience.
 It was great to do something totally different – we did everything as a team – warmed-up, flatwork, we even ate meals as a team.

My favorite show was Lisbon – the horses did really well there. Leopoldo built the courses – I only had a foot in water in the Nations Cup on Pariska and placed in two other classes.

Riding on this tour really showed me what the next step up is all about. The pressure of being on a team, where three other people are relying on your performance and you don’t want to be the drop score. I made a lot of my own decisions – preparing and schooling – it was all on me, which was a great learning experience. I was both excited and scared. I had competed in CA without Richard, but I am so comfortable there, someone is always around to help if I need it. In Europe I was a foreigner, didn’t speak the language, and didn’t know anyone so I had to go with my gut. There were people on the tour that were helpful, but at the end of the day it was my decision.

EqSol: Your education, on & off the horse. Start with your equestrian education.
 Working with Richard was definitely the graduate school of showjumping. He is the best teacher that anyone could ever have. Not only did he have endless patience and never got mad at me, but always helped me work through the mistakes. He would go out and show me what he wanted me to do, so I was able to visualize and could try to emulate. Richard has a great bond with horses. His genuine nature really taught me to admire the sport through all the hardships and the good times.

EqSol: Now more about your college education and beyond. Your favorite courses, who you are off the horse…
 My favorite course at school was Interpersonal Communication during my freshman year. The class was all about the relationships you have with people in your life, on a daily basis and long term. It really heightened my awareness of how actions can affect people. I love philosophy – Soren Kierkegaard is my favorite philosopher. His main theory is that passion comes from within and those that are the most passionate are the most authentic. “The thing is to find a truth which is true for me…” Something I try to live by. I have a passion for education and a passion for horses.

I’m a senior at Loyola Marymount. I plan to go to law school – ideally I will go to Loyola downtown, my second choice is McGeorge near Sacramento. I’m taking the LSATS in December. So I will start in the spring of 2011. My goal is to get a really good education, to gain a new perspective. Not certain if I’ll actually become a lawyer, but if I decide to I can practice law anywhere in the world.

When I came back from the summer tour I knew I had to make a choice to commit to my education or riding. I decided it was time to take a serious look at my education and what I want to do in the world. So I’m taking at least a year off of riding. I didn’t have the time and it wasn’t fair to Richard or my horses. It’s been very difficult to give up the most important thing in my life since I was ten years old. The choice affected me more than I realized it would.

EqSol: We miss you and your parents at the shows…
 It is weird to see everyone grow up. Doesn’t seem that long ago that I was riding ponies. There is no doubt that horses will always be a part of my life.

It’s true you don’t know what you have until its gone. I’m so grateful for what my parents and Richard have done for me over the years. We all miss the horses but I’m sure we’ll be back.

Thank you Katherine for spending the time to talk with us. We wish you all the best and hope you’ll keep in touch.

Showcasing Young Talent: Laura Teodori

By Jackie McFarland

Increasingly becoming more consistent, twenty-year-old Laura Teodori is yet another West Coast rider showing potential at the grand prix level. We’ve watched her gallop in the arena on her big chestnut jumper, Kasoar D’Uxelles, since 2008. She competed in Europe this summer on the USEF Developing Riders Tour and upon her return we sat down for an interview. Laura is one of many young riders along with an extensive list of veterans vying for a chance to go to Geneva and compete in the FEI World Cup Finals in April 2010.

EqSol: Where you are from, how did you start riding, the early years…
LT: I grew up in Scottsdale, AZ and started taking riding lessons with my mom when I was four. She always had a passion for horses, but wasn’t allowed to ride growing up. I showed ponies and Junior Hunters with Sherry Templin, Kathy Johnson, and Lucy Alabaster. When I was 12 my dad was badly injured in a car accident, forcing me to take a couple years off of riding. When I came back I rode with Betty Beran. I continued to show in the hunters and bought my first jumper when I was 15. When I was ready to do some bigger jumper classes, Betty found ‘Luc’ (Kasoar D’Uxelles) from Barney & McLain Ward. We bought him sight unseen as an 8 year old. He had jumped 1.35m but didn’t have many miles. We got very lucky.

EqSol: You were competing as a junior in AZ in 2007, in medals and hunters. When did your grand prix aspirations begin?
LT: Like most kids, I had big goals. I’ve always wanted to represent the USA in international competition. I competed in my first grand prix in Arizona when I was 16 (2006) at 1.40m. Luc was still new to me, I’d only had him for two months and it was my fourth show with him. In 2007 we went to the first week of the HITS Desert Circuit and ended up Champion in the High Juniors and 3rd in the Jr/Am Jumper Classic. We went back and competed on the HITS Arizona Circuit, did the grand prix classes and I qualified to ride for Zone 8 at NAYRC (Young Riders). He gives me a lot of confidence, I feel like I can jump anything when I am riding him. We get along perfectly, he’s so brave – he’ll do anything I ask him to. For as big he is – he’s very special. He’s scopey and careful.

EqSol: The NAYJRC is always an interesting event. Tell us about Young Riders in 2007.
LT: Anthony D’Ambrosio did the courses. Guy McElvain was our Chef. He was great – very supportive. By far the toughest courses I’d ever ridden. The first day I had two rails and thought I had no chance. Then Friday I was the only one who managed to go double clear. That helped with my confidence. And on Sunday I was double clean again. I ended up winning a Silver Medal in the Individuals. It was a great experience.

EqSol: And how have things evolved since summer 2007?
LT: I briefly rode with Rudy Leone and had my first grand prix win with him at the 2008 Del Mar National. That was such a thrill! That show has an incredible atmosphere. But I wanted to be in southern California. Joie Gatlin has always been one of my role models as a rider, so I was very excited to move to Morley and Joie’s barn a year ago (July 2008). They are so professional and organized – the picture of how a show barn should be run. From the ground up – the vet, farrier – my horses couldn’t be better cared for. They work so hard – Joie wants the win as much for her clients as she does for herself. When she walks a course with me she is just as intense as if she walking for herself. I love that.

EqSol: Specifically what was your plan for 2009?
LT: They are very goal oriented at Joie and Morley’s – which I love – everything has a purpose. The first thing we did this year was to have a 2009 goal meeting. My biggest goal was to go to the Vegas Grand Prix. So I had to be competitive and consistently in the ribbons in World Cup qualifiers to achieve that goal. It was a lot of hard work – Joie and Morley boot camp early in the year – but it all paid off because we did it! The indoor at Thermal was ideal for preparing us for Vegas – the crowds, challenging courses, small space. Once you finished there the Thomas & Mack Arena looked like a Grand Prix field!

EqSol: The Saturday Grand Prix in Vegas – another Anthony D’Ambrosio adventure. You were the first to go clean!
LT: My favorite thing about Vegas was when I was walking the course – it was like a mix of all the courses at Thermal (again I have to say a good prep). Every mistake I had made during the qualifiers was in the course in Vegas, so I was able to correct those mistakes. It was very rewarding for the whole team to have everything come together. The coolest thing was being in the warm-up ring with all those international riders. Not only could I watch them warm-up, I jumped alongside them! Hearing all their names and my name announced together was amazing. To get to the ring you ride through a dark tunneland enter into lights, music, and a packed audience, it’s such incredible energy. It was just how is should be, a horse “show.”

EqSol: Almost directly after Vegas in April was Europe in May. How did that come about?
 You apply and are chosen off the computer list rankings. The experience was completely surreal. We laid over in Barcelona at the Polo Club where the ’92 Olympics were held. We competed at a CSI2* and a CSIO4* in Linz, Austria and finished at a CSIO4* in Lisbon, Portugal. Of course some of the biggest and most challenging courses I had ever jumped. I didn’t go with any expectations, so even though it would’ve been great to come home with wins, it was invaluable. From the team camaraderie, working with Michelle Grubb and Eric Hasbrook, wearing the pink jacket with the stars & stripes, watching all the great riders – it was all amazing.

EqSol: And your future?
 What’s next – hmmm. My life is very day-by-day. It’s been a fantastic year and I look forward what the future has in store! I’m so lucky in so many ways – great support from my family, a horse of a lifetime, and working on developing another, and most of all Joie and Morley’s guidance and expertise – I learn from them every day.

Thank you Laura and best of luck! To read more about her time in Europe go to – she wrote the 2009 Developing Riders Tour Blog.

Showcasing Young Talent: Ashlee Bond

By Jackie McFarland

Ashlee Bond: Riding the Wave
 I recently had a chance to interview the invincible Ashlee Bond. Last week in the $40,000 Summer Classic Grand Prix she was first, fourth and seventh on her three entries in a class of 56 horses. She has taken the show jumping world by storm and continues to ride that winning wave. Ashlee has had an uncanny raw talent since she was a little girl on ponies, winning from the moment she stepped into the show arena. She didn’t know nor understand her ability – when her father, Steve, asked her if she realized what she had done when she was champion at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show at age 11, she commented, “No, not really, but I sure had fun.”

Like many young girls, Ashlee has Olympic dreams. Also a southern California girl originally, the young Meredith Michaels Beerbaum would state that she was going to be the number one rider in the world. These aspirations mixed with years of work, an intense competitive edge and the right horse equal to gold medals, World Cup victories, European Championships and more. This is not luck. The lucky part is that this phenomenal horse, Cadett 7, and rider have found each other. Like Meredith and Shutterfly, these two flow together so flawlessly it’s poetry in motion.

EqSol: Where to start… Does it feel like a dream or a path? 
AB: It feels like a little bit like both – it’s always been a dream to get to the top, it also feels like it’s meant to be. I think it’s cool to have proven that this is where I belong, that I am on the right track.

EqSol: Remember when we interviewed you just two years back when you were one-two here at Blenheim on Southern Girl & Tommy Gun… 
AB: That was when I had just come back from taking some time off – getting my feet wet again. It was a good start. The win helped build my confidence and boosted the rest of my career. I knew I still had a lot of work to do and I needed a legitimate 1.60m horse.

EqSol: Those two mounts were homebred. Any plans to continue with the breeding program? 
AB: Yes! It’s a great partnership between my dad and me when we work with the babies. He breaks them and I train them over fences. We have a seven-year-old Super Girl [Best of Luck x Surfer Girl] that we bred. She did the futures at HITS and was fourth in 1.35m this week. She’ll go to Spruce Masters with us. I think she has a big future. I have high hopes for her. We also have two four-year-olds, Good Girl [Good Times x Super Girl] and Moondoggie [Lord Continuet x Southern Girl] and two Indoctro babeis now three-year-olds, Isabella and Gidget. They all show great natural talent and will come along end of this year, beginning of next.

EqSol: Tell us about buying Cadett – when you first tried him did he feel like ‘the one’? 
AB: Ilan Ferder found him in Europe for Aurora Griffin from top Swedish rider Lotta Schultz. The moment we saw Cadett in the Meredith Michaels Beerbaum clinic in Thermal almost two years ago my dad and I both saw something in him. We told Ilan to please let us know if he was ever for sale. Then it all just magically worked out. Aurora only had him for seven months when we tried him in June of 2008 – right before we were leaving for Spruce – I rode him once and it was a perfect fit. I competed on him the last two weeks and on the final day of the second week I won the $75,000 Sunlife Financial Grand Prix.

We realized that he needed conditioning so once we were home we put him on the treadmill every day. He also had to learn to trust me – he’s a careful horse. You never know if a horse will step up, but every time we went in the ring our partnership kept growing and growing – beginning in Thermal this year and in Europe it exploded. I couldn’t have imagined we were going to achieve anything close to what we accomplished. It was amazing.

EqSol: Starting with your indoor season ending in Vegas at the World Cup Finals – give us your thoughts on your rides, the courses etc. 
AB: At the World Cup I made an error in each round that caused me a rail. I was close each day – but not as good as I would have liked. Thermal prepared us well. But it was huge. Anthony D’Ambrosio was spectacular and did an amazing job. It was an eye opener to what was to come in Europe.

EqSol: Your thoughts when you walk those big European courses… 
AB: At first in Europe I was the alternate for the team, so I had to prove myself. When I walked the 1.50m speed class, the qualifier for the Grand Prix, I knew I had a shot. I thought ‘this is my opportunity to show them I belong here.’ And I did it! I was the only American to place that day (7th). And then George decided to put me on the team. We walked the Nations Cup and I was pretty calm. I still felt like I needed to put the pressure on and prove myself. I was clean in the Nations Cup, both rounds. Actually I was clean in each Nations Cup – La Baule, Rome and St. Gallen. My dad said the FEI claimed that had never been done – fault free six consecutive times. It’s been quite a summer! I have an amazing support team. I am very close to my family. My parents are incredibly supportive through thick and thin. My dad is an integral part to our program. Richard (Spooner) and I work great together – he knows my horse and me. Plus I know myself, and I am confident in us as a team. I don’t over-analyze the courses – I don’t change my ride because of where I am and what level we are competing at. So each course I stay true to who I am and my instincts.

EqSol: And those Super League shows you attended in Europe?
AB: We jumped on a lot of beautiful big grass fields. These are the top shows with the top players – everything is done to perfection. The athletes are treated like stars. Simply wonderful shows from the atmosphere – the vibe – the crowds – signing autographs –thousands of people screaming your name. All of Europe was amazing. Rotterdam was so beautiful – we were in a forest and Aachen – what can I say? It was Aachen, first class all the way.

EqSol: The most valuable lessons you’ve learned in the last two years? 
AB: To not take anything for granted. To appreciate where you are – what goes up can come down, so enjoy every moment and learn from every mistake. Everyone knows in this sport – you can be up and down – even in the same class.

The best lessons were when I was down and out, not doing well and had to pick myself up – you learn who you are, your character that you can pull yourself together and come through. Then you appreciate the ups so much more. The same person doesn’t always win. You aim to be consistent and on any given day you never know what’s going to happen. You try to make it your day, your moment – give it your best shot.

EqSol: Fall-winter competition plans? 
AB: We are bringing some of our young horses and all the Grand Prix horses to Showpark and then we head to Spruce for the Masters, looks like Florida for the WEG trials – hopefully that will put me on the European tour again, the WEG and so on until the Olympics – end goal is the 2012 Olympics.

EqSol: Do you feel like this is destiny? 
AB: I love to sing – but it was NOT FUN to sing in front of a crowd, it was totally nerve wracking. I love to compete and when I go into the ring I’m not nervous. Actually I’m nervous and anxious the day before. When I walk in that class it’s time for me to be with my horse – the rest of the world falls away and I get strangely calm. My brother Dylan is big into surfing – he talks about being at one with the wave, the rest of the world doesn’t matter. That’s how I am in the ring. Riding the wave.

Thank you, Ashlee! We wish you continued success.

Showcasing Young Talent: 2009 USEF National Junior Hunter Championships – West Coast

By Jackie McFarland

Over 40 juniors from various West Coast locales hunted their horses around the beautifully decorated courses this past Tuesday and Wednesday. In a unique setting where no trainer or rider has to rush off to another show arena, this collective group of top equestrians started their day with a special breakfast and ended it with a lovely reception hosted by Karen Healey Stables and Brookway Stables-Archie Cox.

The Handy Hunter phase began just before noon, with the Small Juniors in the older age group going first. Where last year the handy course took too much of a toll on horses, with spooky elements that caused refusals and even elimination, this hunter-friendly course had jumps made of shrubs and flowers, a natural post and rail, a trot jump and a hay bale bounce. In the younger division of small junior hunters Whitney Downs and Coffee Talk, trained by John Bragg, went flawlessly from start to finish. Picking a perfect pace and jumping each fence out of that gorgeous forward rhythm, the horse’s expression never changed and with scores of 86, 86 and 87 from the judges it was the trip that couldn’t be beat. The Under Saddle phase concluded Tuesday’s competition. It is notable that the top three scores after day one were all small junior hunters exhibited by younger riders.

Wednesday was both the start of the horse show and the completion of the Junior Hunter Championships. The final classic round went in the afternoon after the open horses competed. Starting with the large junior hunters, it was Small Town (Iwasaki & Reilly, owners) ridden by Caroline Ingalls that laid down the trip of the day, receiving scores of 86, 88 and 88. When it came time for the last division of the day, the top three younger small juniors had yet to show.

One important lesson of horse showing is to take the highs with the lows and both Corrine Miller and Whitney Downs deserve sportsmanship awards for their final round performances. Sitting second and first respectively, both of these young girls encountered unexpected spooks and dealt with them like champs. Corrine’s young mare Lucille peeked and jumped sideways as she cantered down to the first jump, which was a bit shadowy, and although she jumped it her scores certainly reflected the trouble. Whitney and Coffee Talk were once again having a trip for the history books, when heading to the last line her horse stiffened and spooked, forcing her to circle. With the horse still a bit startled, she had to ride him through the spook when making her second approach. Both girls rode well and dealt with the disappointment in a mature manner.

As the 2009 USEF Junior Hunter Championships on the West Coast came to a close Wednesday evening, four perpetual trophies were awarded and the overall Reserve Grand Champion and Grand Champion were presented with coolers and trophies. This is a special event that we hope continues to get more and more recognition in years to come. For more on the USEF, click here

And the Perpetual Trophy Winners are…

Huntover Farm Perpetual TrophyChampion in the Small, 15 & under
Breckenridge & Hannah Von Heidegger

Shalanno Farm Perpetual TrophyChampion in the Large, 15 & under
Peter Rabbit & Kilian McGrath

Rivers Edge Perpetual TrophyChampion in the Small, 16-17
Pringle & Amber Henter for Ashley Pryde

Magic Word Perpetual TrophyChampion in the Large, 16-17
Small Town & Caroline Ingalls for Iwasaki & Reilly