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.

EquestriSol News: September 26, 2011

Welcome Writers
After a busy summer season, we are especially grateful to our contributing writers. We welcome Aimee Robinson who wrote about the amazing LA Pomeroy. Alexandra Pingree and Laura Thompson, who interned with us this summer, each penned an article. Alexandra’s Strap One On is in this issue and Laura’s IHSA Nationals piece was out earlier this summer. Jenni Martin-McAllister agreed to write about her hot time in Lexington this summer at NAJYRC. Erna Adelson had the pleasure of spending time with Barmen and Brooks of Balmoral Farm and she hopes to do more. Selena Frederick, who has worked with us for almost a year, had some “Conversations with Equestrians” – two in this issue – Nick Haness and Ali Nilfourshan. From Jennifer Wood we have two articles – one on the amazing Spruce Meadows Masters, where not only is the show jumping huge but so are the crowds; and the other about Unbridled Passion, a recently released book that we can all relate to.

Congratulations to the USEF Talent Search Final Four
Considered a true rider’s test, the USEF Talent Search Final Four finished this past weekend at the LA International. Sorry we weren’t there to see it in person, we do want to congratulate the top four. Demi Stiegler (trainers, Archie Cox and Robyn Stiegler) topped the group, Sage Flynn (trainers Hap Hansen and Trudi Fletcher) placed second, Zoie Nagelhout (trainer Archie Cox) was third and Taylor Harris (trainers James Hagman, Katie Gardner, Kay Atheuser and Custis Ferguson) came in fourth.

West Coast Rocks the East Coast
There are several special occasions that spur us to travel east for some keen competition. From a WEF winter in Wellington, Devon in May for those who qualify, Lexington in August for the USHJA International Hunter Derby Final, Saugerties in September for the big money weekend and finally fall for the indoor shows, the west coast continues to make their mark each year.

The most recent rally was the group who ventured to upstate New York for the two biggest money events of the year, the $500,000 Diamond Mills Hunter Prix and the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix. Top west coast riders in both the Hunter and Show Jumper arenas not only held their own but brought home big prizes. Although competing in superb weather is almost a given here, west coast horses and riders braved a deluge of rain while galloping on course on Sunday, September 11th.

Out of sixty-two entries in the $500,000 Diamond Mills Hunter Prix, Jenny Karazissis and Heidi Kane’s Sin City won BOTH Round 1 and Round 2. Nick Haness and Jessica Singer’s Cruise won Round 3 and finished second overall. Archie Cox and Stephanie Danhakl’s After Five and Hope Glynn and Sabrina Hellman’s Woodstock made the top twenty-five. And Erin Bland on Weatherly (12th), John French aboard Oscany’s Illusion (7th) and Katie Taylor on Iwasaki & Reilly’s Small Collection (5th) all finished in the top twelve.

Following that feat, three west coast representatives finished in the top ten of the Pfizer $1 Million. As one of only two clean rides in the entire class, Duncan McFarlane and Simon Coxe’s Mr. Whoopy were second. Coming back from a season in Europe, college hot shots Saer Coulter on Copernicus Stable’s Springtime and Lucy Davis riding Old Oak Farm’s Nemo 119 picked up sixth and ninth. Well-known riders McLain Ward, Margie Goldstein and Christine McCrea, who were also fresh off European tours and are heading to Guadalajara for the Pan Am Games (Margie is an alternate), placed third, twelfth and fourteenth.

Congratulations to all on an outstanding showing, you represented the west coast with style.

HITS Revision
When we sent out the HITS e-blast in August we had a misprint – the 2012 HITS Desert Circuit will have DC I-VI (no seventh week). Circuit dates are January 24th – March 11th, 2012. Check the HITS site for details.

Pfizer Million Preview

West coast riders come east for Pfizer Million Weekend; HITS bids to bring Olympic Trials to HITS Desert Horse Park
As the summer show season nears its end, the excitement and anticipation for this year’s Pfizer Million Weekend is gaining momentum. Exhibitors are clamoring to get their qualifying classes in and add to their winnings to ensure their place in the Rider Rankings for both the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix and the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final. After the Desert Circuit it was clear that riders from the west coast were serious about ensuring they’d make the cut for these two monumental events. And with the grand finale weekend just about a month away, west coast riders are making their plans to come east for their chance at show jumping history – the opportunity to compete for $1.5 million in prize money!

The group of High-Performance riders coming east includes a mix of both returning and first time qualifiers with John Pearce, Helen McNaught, Duncan McFarlane, and Saer Coulter, while young phenom Lucy Davis, who took the Desert Circuit by storm when she won the last four Grand Prix at the Thermal including the $200,000 Lamborghini Grand Prix, presented by Lamborghini of Newport Beach, is making her first trip to Saugerties.

The crop of Hunter riders making their plans to show in Saugerties is equally as impressive with top professional riders John French, Hope Glynn, Nick Haness and Jenny Karazissis each committed to show in the Diamond Mills Hunter Prix Final. Amateur riders Erin Bland and Avery Hellman, who both train with Ned and Hope Glynn, will also be on the scene, as will Archie Cox with a group of his students.

“I am very excited to be coming to compete in the [Diamond Mills] $500,000 Hunter Prix,” said Cox. “Cruise, owned by Jessica Singer, has already proven himself from coast to coast and I am anxious to add a top placing to his resume.”

Jerry Dougherty of Bokeelia, Florida will set the courses for the Hunter Prix and Olympic Course Designer Steve Stephens of Palmetto, Florida will set the track for the Pfizer Million. Olympic Course Decorator Flora Baptiston of Brazil will bring her magic touch to the courses.

There’s quite a buzz about the weekend throughout both the equestrian and local communities, as VIP tables are selling quickly and ticket sales for Motown legends The Temptations are picking up momentum. Adding to the ceremony of the day will be an appearance by the West Point Equestrian Team and a special 9/11 commemoration ceremony with members from the local fire, police and emergency service workers. Plans are also in the works for a special head-set rental program for round-by-round commentary for both the Hunter Prix and the Pfizer Million.

More exciting news pertaining to live-webcasting and TV coverage along with other plans will be announced soon, so stay tuned. For more information about VIP or general ticket information, please visit

HITS bids to bring Olympic Trials to HITS Desert Horse Park
For the second time in two years, HITS put in a bid to host a USEF selection trial competition at the HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal, California. In the summer of 2009, HITS bid to host the USEF Show Jumping Selection Trials for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG). The proposal included unprecedented prize money, $775,000 to be exact, and a commitment to waive the entry fees for all Selection Trials classes for horses competing in every leg of the Trials. This time around, HITS submitted another extraordinary bid proposal to host the USEF Selection Trials for the 2012 Olympic Games and National Championship.

The highlights from the Olympic Trials bid included $200,000 in prize money to be divided among the winners, waived entry fees and complementary accommodations for all exhibitors participating in the trials. News came in early August that the selection committees had met and voted to award the bid to another management company, despite the innovative package prepared by HITS.

When news of the decision came, HITS President and CEO Tom Struzzieri offered his insights on the vote. “If there’s a bright side to this, we’ve got our bid packet fine tuned! Perhaps more importantly, these Trials will not take place during the Thermal Circuit, so customers can enjoy their regular circuit schedule with us in the Desert and still have the opportunity to travel for the chance to compete on the Olympic Team in Florida at the end of March.”

Struzzieri was pleased to have the opportunity to submit a bid and was pragmatic about the outcome. “I can’t say that I disagree with the decision of the committees, geography has to play a big role in this type of decision. We will continue to stay in this process and hopefully we will be awarded this type of event in the near future.”

In the end, Struzzieri believes, “Our bid had an impact in raising the stakes for the competition. As it turned out the other bid was modified to match what we had offered and include free entries for the riders, so that’s another positive outcome for the exhibitors. Having just completed hosting the East Coast Junior Hunter Finals here in Saugerties, I feel strongly that HITS has a product to offer that will ultimately be the right one for trials of this nature and we’ll keep going after it… for us, our customers and the sport.”

Photos by Flying Horse Photography.

EquestriSol News: September 30, 2010

If I had a million dollars…
With two $1 Million Grand Prix events taking place in September, equestrians from across the country were vying for their piece of the pie. As part of HITS-On-the-Hudson in Saugerties, NY, the coveted top prize in the first ever Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix was awarded to McLain Ward and his stellar mare Sapphire (McLain Ward & Blue Chip Bloodstock, owners). Ward and Sapphire rode double-clear after second place duo, Charlie Jayne and Athena, the other clear team from the first round, pulled a rail in the jump-off. Fresh off his $250,000 FTI Grand Prix win at the Hampton Classic, this event was Ward and Sapphire’s last competition together before making the trip to Kentucky to compete in the WEG.

Representing the West Coast, Duncan McFarlane piloted the eight-year-old Mr. Whoopy to an impressive eighth place finish, dropping just one rail on course, and Helen McNaught rode Caballo to the thirteenth position with an eight fault score.

The Spruce Meadows Masters Tournament also boasted a $1 Million event this past Sunday with Venezuela’s Leopoldo Palacios designing the CN International Grand Prix. Three West Coast riders earned spots among the top ten finishers. Second place was none other than California’s own Richard Spooner and his 12-year-old partner Cristallo (Show Jumping Syndication Int’l, owner). Rich Fellers aboard Flexible (Harry & Mollie Chapman, owners) finished seventh and the young Karl Cook of Woodside aboard Uno De Laubry (Signe Ostby, owner) brought home the eighth place ribbon.

The WEG is here!
The long awaited World Equestrian Games are well underway in Lexington, Kentucky. We are not only pleased to be here but were honored to attend the Opening Ceremonies. There was plenty of exceptional talent, but the Friesian team of ten was simply magnificent. Watching ten jet black steeds all dressed in white polos prance in perfect sync and perform a dressage drill without a hitch while their manes flowed freely was a joy. We also took a few iPhone photos that show some of the fun. We will of course be back with bells on for the week of show jumping and look forward to some shopping time. Can hardly wait for the Final Four on Saturday, October 9th. Should be a sight to see!

We enjoyed interviewing Guy Thomas. He’s a multi-faceted individual and we wish him the best of luck next week. Even though he is representing New Zealand, he also represents California. And of course, it goes without saying – GO USA!

Here’s a video of the Friesians during the opening ceremony from “DreamGait”.

West Coast Congrats
West Coast Win – Nations’ Cup News
Congratulations to the United States team of Rich Fellers/Flexible, Ashlee Bond/Cadett 7, Richard Spooner/Cristallo, and Beezie Madden/Coral Reef Via Volo, for clinching the win in the 2010 Nations’ Cup during the Masters Tournament at Spruce Meadows. Coached by George Morris, the team edged out Ireland and Canada who finished second and third respectfully. Considering Fellers, Bond, Spooner all call the West Coast home and Madden’s mount, Coral Reef Via Volo, is owned by Coral Reef Ranch and Gwendolyn Meyer, the team certainly represented the region well.

West Coast USEF Talent Search
Preparing our high-level equitation riders for the jumper arena, the USEF Talent Search tests flatwork skills, how a rider handles gymnastic exercises and their mastering of a jumper type course on the field, including an open water element. One of the most challenging medal finals, the top four are required to each ride one another’s horse to determine the top placings. Riding under the tutelage of Karen Healey, east coast equestrian Taylor Ann Adams bested the field for the win. With scores well into the 80’s on each of the final four horses she competed on, her consistency and style paid off. Second went to Jocelyn Neff, another Healey student. Rounding out the top four were Jennifer Parker, trained by Benson Carroll and Caroline Ingalls, who rides with Hap Hansen.

Young Jumper Classes

By Tammy Chipko

The Young Jumper Championships are designed to identify the horses that are the most promising young show jumping prospects competing in the United States. One of the goals is to offer opportunities for up and coming Grand Prix jumpers to compete against their peers over suitable courses.

Horses must be nominated for the Young Jumper Championships annually in order to qualify for the League Finals held in August.

Qualifying classes are hosted throughout the year at recognized USEF competitions. These classes for 5, 6, and 7/8 year olds are designed to provide exposure and invaluable experience.

A great way to bring young horses up the ranks throughout the year, each division begins with inviting courses and then advances throughout the year offering bigger and more difficult courses. Since all the horses competing are the same age, the classes help riders gauge their own horse’s talent and progress. Ideally the system is designed to help young horses along at a good pace.

I asked some of our top professionals about the YJC.

Joie Gatlin: This organization is important because we need to develop our own horses here in the United States. With the Euro being so much stronger than the dollar now, it is not cost-effective for most people to go to Europe and show horses there like we used to. It also encourages people here to develop their own breeding programs. This is vital to the growth of our sport and in doing this we can encourage owners to purchase horses here in the States.
Joie Gatlin and her husband Morley Abey run a successful program that includes trips to Europe and Canada.

Mandy Porter: I hope that everyone continues to support the Young Jumpers so we can continue to grow and improve the organization. I would love to see this develop like it has in Europe. This is possible if we keep our standards high and provide good challenges for our horses throughout the year.
Mandy Porter spent many years developing jumpers and showing in Nations Cups in

Duncan McFarlane: The Young Jumper classes are a great idea! They inspire owners to become more involved because they can show their horses all year in hopes of qualifying for the finals. I think the final could be run in a different format that would make it more exciting for the owners and spectators but hopefully, as the organization progresses, this will happen.
Duncan McFarlane and his wife Gry own Windfall Farms. Through the years, they have trained multiple young horses to the Grand Prix level.

Tasha Visokay: The class allows me to show my horse in a division of horses of the same age and ability and I like that. I think the intent of the Young Jumpers is good and we need to continue to come together to help it grow as it has on the East Coast.
Tasha Visokay assists Mark Bone at Huntover Farm in Thousand Oaks, California.

Patricia Griffith: We have several horses that we enter in the different age groups – it really is a great outlet for the young horses. It provides us a chance to compete in classes with horses of the same age instead of competing in open classes that have sometimes over 100 horses, many of which are older and have much more experience than our young horses. The format promotes clean rounds which is so important for young horses. These classes also provide a very nice way to showcase young horses that are for sale. We are lucky here that we have the sponsors to support this. The eastern finals are located at the Hampton Classic and it is a beautiful venue and very exciting for all.
Patricia Griffith works for Heritage Farm located in Katonah, NY. (914) 232-2122