Conversations With Equestrians: Traci Barmen, Carleton Brooks, and Balmoral

By Erna Adelson

The relatively recent marriage of Traci Barmen and Carleton Brooks was a celebration of passion on many levels, but most certainly on the equestrian front.

After two years of cultivating their business on the west-side of LA, (so idyllic is the area that I was delayed in getting to the farm by a Volvo commercial being filmed in the neighborhood), the couple will now also run a training facility as an expansion of Balmoral Farm about 15 miles up the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, an equally iconic location but with a slightly different feel. They look forward to adding names, both equine and equestrian, to their roster. With the added space, Traci and Carleton, or CB as he is affectionately known, also look forward to adding more diversity to their program and the opportunity to expand their barn to include bringing along younger horses – Carleton’s specialty.

The new site will allow the couple and the business to accommodate a wide variety of clientele. Both locations are full service, from pony hunters to adults, Barmen and Brooks work together to craft the ideal program for each person they teach. Each location has unique advantages as well; nestled in the heart of Brentwood, adjacent to Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, Sullivan Canyon is private and membership based, fostering an intimate community of equestrians close enough to the city that riding can be more easily worked into a packed schedule. “Most of our kids are serious students and can’t miss too much school,” Traci explains. During the summer, though, it is not uncommon to see girls hacking around bareback on their ponies after a day of lessons in equitation and horsemanship. In addition to Barmen and Brooks, Courtney Miller and Octavio Godinez are essential players on the Balmoral team.

“Courtney does everything from riding and teaching to horse show planning and beyond,” says Traci. CB adds that Courtney has helped bring along horses and riders in her own right. Octavio oversees the day-to-day care of the horses at home and on the road.

The Malibu location, which overlooks the ocean, boasts grass turnouts, and more latitude to train different types of horses and students. “It will really be ours. Ours and our clients,” says Brooks. “With more space and ring time, we’ll be able to create programs that can unlock the potential in a horse and rider.

“This should be very exciting to anyone who is familiar with the careers of Brooks and Barmen. That this duo will be able to bring out potential in a horse or a team of horse and rider is somewhat of an understatement. Brooks has a track record of bringing out the best in talented and often miscalculated horses. Not just a trainer but a partner, he serves as a channel for the potential in a horse by allowing them to do what they do best. A true horseman, he has been known to ride for hours just at the walk to build trust. But most importantly, Brooks looks to the horse as a guide for the best ride and the best result.
In addition, Carleton brings his years of experience as a judge, clinician, and consultant to his evaluation of each team he works with. With Traci’s extensive teaching background as well as a keen ability to match horses and riders, the two make a formidable team. Since they paired up, they are pleased with the results for all of their clients, which they speak equally fondly about. “Our goals are to produce successful riders and horses, to educate, to feel like we can have a little part in shaping great young ladies (and gentlemen!) by instilling confidence and independence, and to have fun,” says Traci. “We’re always looking to add riders who are serious about showing to the roster, but welcome anyone with an open mind who is willing to learn.” On the show circuit, look for Balmoral Farm at a variety of California venues, including Thermal, Blenheim, Del Mar, Menlo and LAEC as well as on the east coast for the Indoor circuit.
They make the move into the new location after spending much of August on the road. Recently back from judging the prestigious USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals in Lexington, Kentucky, CB is especially ecstatic about the new locale. After several years judging other horses and riders, he is looking to return to riding and showing himself. Partners in business and in life, the couple spends a lot of time together. Post the interview, CB chivalrously sends Traci off to meet with friends in Los Angeles, and he and his canine shadow, Hannah, hold down the fort for the night.

Conversations With Equestrians: Carleton Brooks

By Jackie McFarland

Dual Inspiration

In a conversation with Carleton Brooks regarding the horses he’s worked with over the years, I was fascinated with the sincerity of his connection and the methods that evolved from this union. The inspiration was two-sided: he was inspired by each horse’s innate desire to perform, and through innovative training, the horses were encouraged to enjoy being at the top of their game.

Carleton considers himself a producer, not a rider. He doesn’t just train; he channels the horse’s focus, bringing out the best in a horse by allowing them to do what they do best. His methods are inventive, inspired by the horses themselves, and by legendary horsemen from a variety of disciplines. “One of my favorite ways to allow a horse’s hind end to come up underneath him I learned from cutting horse trainers.” He wants the horse to guide him as to what works in their program.

“All my horses went in a snaffle, or occasionally a thick sweet metal twisted wire because they would like to balance on it. I also created my own bit by taking a piece of cotton rope, re-braiding it and attaching to two D-rings. They liked to suck on it.” He further explained, “I tried to feel what they were going through, to see it through their eyes. Once I did, I could figure them out.”

Carleton was often asked to work with horses that were refusing to jump, not performing to their potential. “I would spend days just trying to figure them out. Once we were on the same page, many of the horses became overachievers. They wanted to give and give.” After investing this time, Carleton would know what made the particular horse tick or not, and then gave as much breadth as possible for success.

As a horseman, “I didn’t dominate my horses – I allowed them. I allowed them to think. I was the guard rail, keeping them from going off the road.”

The Horses

We discussed the stories behind some of the horses in his rich history. The list is extensive – “Looking down five columns of horses over two pages (handwritten), I can tell you I learned something from each and every one of them.” Below is a small sampling of horse stories with more on his website.

This just in: Just for Fun, one of Carleton’s first conformation horses, will be inducted into The National Show Hunter Hall of Fame later this month!

Doubletake – The word is WOW. An amazing horse. Wise and extremely talented as well as subtly sensitive. He was a 2nd year horse out of the Northwest. I rode him in a warm up class and bought him. I competed on him at Indoors with a broken elbow. And later sold him to Eva Gonda.

Trinity – A 16h Thoroughbred, he was the little train that said ‘I think I can, I think I can… I know I can.’ He never ceased to amaze me. Who would have thought he would jump 3’9”, let alone 4’. Just kept firing. He won so much we gave him a year off showing.

Vested – Extremely intelligent Thoroughbred with an amazingly spectacular jump. He was one of the overachievers. We never schooled him in the warm-up ring. A bit quirky, you had to be a horseman to deal with him. Just incredible in the air.

Penn Square – This was a horse that could fill Vested’s stall (and shoes). Another that we never schooled, he went straight to the ring.

Both Vested and Penn Square communicated with me from a distance, they would look at me when I came around the corner of the barn. I spent hours riding these horses at the walk, just becoming a part of their team.

Calvin – When I purchased him he had a difficult lead change. I didn’t ride him until the horse show. We went to the back ring and jumped off a bank, and I asked him for a lead change. By teaching him to change his balance in the air via the bank jump, he was able to carry that over to changing leads across the ground. He didn’t have a problem after that. He was also a Thoroughbred and an overachiever.

Buccelatti – A Thoroughbred that had a mentally rebellious personality. The day before the winter circuit started I went out to the paddock and worked with him for 30 minutes on the ground. He was 3rd in his first two classes and then he started winning everything and never looked back. His warm-up was vertical-vertical combinations, maybe at 2’6” or 3’. Never a single jump.

Carleton Brooks photo © Cathrin Cammett.

EquestriSol News: May 11, 2009

We are happy to announce a new website for Carleton Brooks. Although it is always interesting to learn more about our clients as we develop their campaigns, CB is especially dynamic. We look forward to adding to his site as he continues to tell us the stories. See this week’s Conversations With Equestrians for more.

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