Highlights From Winter Circuit East and West

From all reports, all is well at winter circuits both east and west. Horses are happy in Wellington and Thermal, and prominent names are appearing in both places. Both WEF and the HITS Desert Circuit have welcomed riders hailing from the north, south, east and west including but certainly not limited to Canada, South America, Mexico, Europe, Texas, New York and California. Families flew in and settled for the winter – the Bonds and Simpsons flew south to Florida, whereas the Beerbaums, Fellers and Charlie Jayne headed to the California desert.

Seemingly everywhere, Kenneth Vinther was spotted in Wellington and is now in Thermal promoting his new company. Yes Kenneth has flown the CWD coop and has spread his wings as a distributor of exciting new products from Europe. Now you can “Koompeet with Kenneth“.

We are pleased to report from here that several exciting projects are in the works, plus many of our clients jumped into the new year with marketing on their minds, so we are juggling but jazzed. Our team continues to expand. We’ve added a new Account Manager Selena Frederick who hit the ground running in Thermal. Thank you Erin Gilmore for the solid recommendation. Erin also flew south for the winter and is thoroughly enjoying Wellington as seen in her blog. She wrote a piece called “Use Your Head – Wear A Helmet” after attending the Helmet Symposium and interviewing Beezie Madden on our behalf.

Active with the North American Riders Group, our friend Will Simpson participated in the dynamic annual meeting. Proud to be a part of it by producing the NARG Top 25 booklet, we were also in attendance. Read “The Chronicles of NARG Continued” in this issue.

Wishes from Wellington continue as we feature the FTI Great Charity Challenge coming up next week. The EquestriSol family will fly south as well to not only witness this event but some top-notch hunter (and a bit of jumper) action. We know John French is switching coasts for a couple of weeks and hope to see him in the WEF winner’s circle.

Speaking of Wellington, Santana Stables is seeking an “A” level show jumping rider, with American citizenship and fluent in Portuguese, to join their team. To learn more, visit the Santana site and click News.

January came and went like a flash, and we are well into February. Read up, as come March we will be back in your Inbox with more. Selena, who also happens to be a professional photographer, will provide prose from the Desert and we will be enjoying the beaches and the showgrounds in the Sunshine state.

Peeking back into 2010, the Inside Indoors article in our fall issue failed to mention Whitney Downs and her fabulous Coffee Talk – they were Champions in the Small Jr. Hunters 15 & under, plus won Grand Hunter Champion at Capital Challenge. We may miss other shining stars and welcome emails telling us so.

On a final soulful note, occasionally we are reminded of why we tirelessly entrench ourselves in this world of equestrian sport. Certainly the excitement of competition, the plethora of interesting people, the cherished relationships all play a role. But where would any of us be without the horse? As our daughter is days away from her 4th birthday, we succumbed to the purchase of a giant pink unicorn. Tidbits of a recent NPR story on girls, horses and unicorns were both touching and amusing.

Equestrian Connect

By Erin Gilmore

A little over one year ago, amateur jumper riders Barbara Phillips and Simone Coxe were having coffee together and griping about entry forms. They had been doing their own entries for years, and were sick of all the repetition, endless handwriting and the holdup when mistakes were made. Then and there the two equestrians decided that instead of wishing there was an easier way to enter horse shows they would create an easier way to enter horse shows.

Equestrian Connect is Barbara and Simone’s answer to the tedious task of filling out show entries. The quickly growing company provides a way for exhibitors to create accurate paper entry forms for every “A” show on the Pacific Coast Horseman’s Association’s yearly show calendar.

Equestrian Connect is a lifesaver for riders with multiple horses, or trainers who fill out entries for their entire barn. Available primarily for west coast shows since December, the system supports 80 shows, including Blenheim EquiSports, Langer Equestrian Group, Spruce Meadows and HITS by providing show information and entry forms online. The company plans to launch on the east coast in July, and will initially support approximately 20 horse shows including HITS on the Hudson and the Washington International Horse Show. After registering with Equestrian Connect and initially entering horse, rider and membership numbers, all information is saved and automatically reproduced on a new entry form when the exhibitor selects the next show. Legible, accurate entries can then be printed out and mailed to the horse show office.

“We began using the system for our show entries this year,” says Toni McIntosh, of McIntosh Stables in Menlo Park. “We used to spend hours on our entries, making sure they were correct and fixing mistakes. Now that we’re on Equestrian Connect, everything is right there and it’s so much easier!”
Equestrian Connect
Simone and Barbara have been thrilled with the response they’ve received from the horse community. They began in Northern California, where both women live and ride, and by word of mouth, Equestrian Connect caught on like wildfire all the way down to Southern California.

More than 1,000 riders are currently registered and as word continues to spread, the site gains about 200 new people monthly. “When I first heard about ‘the one minute entry service’, I had to try it!” says Jenni Martin McAllister, of Martin McAllister Training in Burbank. “I signed up and will never look back. I can’t believe how fast it is.” Equestrian Connect is free of charge for the 2010 horse show season. Barbara Phillips comments, “Our early customers are providing us vital feedback that helps ensure the performance, stability and usability of the service. The company is in the process of finalizing its pricing for 2011.”

Eventually, Simone and Barbara want to expand Equestrian Connect to list show results, track points and even put together show reports by rider and horse. They’ve also received interest from riders competing in other disciplines, but plan to stay focused on the hunter/jumper market for the foreseeable future.

Quite an enterprise that evolved from a conversation over coffee! Visit www.equestrianconnect.com to learn more and to take a guided tour of the system.

Conversations With Equestrians: Les Ann LeClaire

By Erin Gilmore

Trainer and New Mother Les Ann LeClaire
Since giving birth to her daughter Lydia Rose six months ago, hunter trainer Les Ann LeClaire’s life has changed dramatically. Now she balances daily life at her multi-location Rubicon Farms with motherhood, a juggling act that is hard to match. Luckily the father of her daughter, New Zealand horseman and chiropractor Dylan Harries, is also her business partner and the small family has made staying together at shows and at home a priority. With the help of a very special staff and one dedicated nanny, Les Ann marches through each day with the same sense of purpose and meticulous eye for detail that has helped her barn thrive.Dylan and Lydia Rose

EG: What time do you get up in the morning?
 Well, Lydia doesn’t really sleep; she’s up every two hours. We’re trying to break the sleep pattern I set at Thermal, when I had to get more than two hours of sleep in a row if I was going to show in the morning. So we’re working on her sleep schedule, but we’re up between 5 and 7 every morning. After I get up I email, go for a run and walk the dogs. Then I get myself and Lydia ready for the day.

EG: Does Lydia go with you to the barn?
 She goes with me to the shows, and most days she does come to the barn for a bit. I am blessed to have an outstanding nanny named Mele, who was my 96-year-old grandmother’s caregiver for more than 10 years. My grandmother passed away at about the same time I gave birth, and Mele agreed to work for me. It’s a hard job because I need someone to go to all the shows. But our priority is that we’re a family and we go everywhere together. Mele really takes care of all of us! So when I’m home she comes in at 9am and takes over for me so I can get to the barn. She brings Lydia over to the barn when the weather’s nice, which is great for me. And at the shows she brings her over in the afternoon for lunch and we ride around in the golf cart to visit friends.

EG: You chose a busy time (when you were in your second trimester of pregnancy) to open a second location of Rubicon Farms. How’s that going?
 It’s going great, and I think it will grow into something really special. Right now I go to Gilroy Gaits [the second location] on Wednesdays and Saturdays. We have about a half a dozen horses there, and are also helping out Angie and Mike Scully, who run Los Laureles Equine Rehabilitation Center with a lot of their rehab riding.

EG: Wow – that’s a lot of running around! What’s the advantage to having two locations?
At Gilroy Gaits I can take advantage of lots of turnout, an Aquapacer and a Eurocizer. It’s a great environment to bring the young horses along or give show horses a break. It’s going to be an amazing show facility, and it will be really fun to have our barn there when that starts happening. The Portola Valley Training Center is centrally located, close to San Francisco and two minutes from our house! It is the best training facility I have ever worked out of. It has everything we need to prepare our show horses. Kevin & Wendell Chambers have been very supportive and are really wonderful to do business with. So, I’ve got the best of both worlds.

EG: Tell us a little about your typical day.
 The first thing I do in the morning is schedule changes. There are always schedule changes so I start making those while driving to the barn. When I arrive I walk the barn front to back and talk to the grooms. I want to know everything. Then I go over with my team what the day’s objective is with each horse. We don’t like to lunge the horses a lot, they all get prepared with a light school in the mornings. Weather permitting, every horse gets a turnout every day. Then the clients come in; some clients have several horses so I do several lessons. That’s up and through lunch. After lunch we’ll ride the horses that didn’t have lessons, and then in the afternoons the juniors come and we go through the same routine. At the end of the day I walk the barn again to check on everyone and start formulating my plan for the next day.

EG: And the staff that helps the day go smoothly?
First and foremost, Dylan is my right hand. He does all the ground schooling on the horses and organizes routines with the grooms. He does our hauling and handles all the sales for the business. He’s also got his chiropractic business that keeps him busy. We have an excellent staff of professionals, working students and grooms working both farms daily to keep everything to our standard and everybody happy! Everyone who is working with me is playing their part in strengthening the team, and I’m still in the process of streamlining who I need where.

EG: Besides motherhood and running two locations, other goals for the year?
 We have a couple of clients going for World Champion Hunter Rider Points this year. We’re working towards that while being realistic about everyone’s personal schedules. We have a decently aggressive schedule, but all the same I try to take it month to month, if not day to day!

Photos © Flying Horse Photography