A Silky Start With A Blue Ribbon Finish

By Erna Adelson

I spoke with Lisa Thorpe about her latest venture, Silks to Show Ring Thoroughbred Foundation (SST), at a very fortuitous time. It’s the thick of Triple Crown season where the recent horse racing jewels include a long shot in Kentucky Derby victor Mine That Bird and a new pinup girl in Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra (a top ten Twitter trending topic on race day, in fact). Even though these two speed demons were ridden to thrilling wins and walked off the track unscathed, memories of the tragic Eight Belles and Ruffian accidents still come to mind. It was Eight Belles, the 2008 Derby runner-up who was euthanized on the track after breaking both front legs, who inspired Thorpe to start SST last year.

Some thoroughbreds, like Rachel Alexandra, are without a doubt born to race, but the ones that do not inherit a racehorse mentality are often left without many options. This includes those on the sidelines due to injuries and racehorse retirees who are finished on the track. If a new home isn’t available, these horses often end up at auction and at worst are sent to slaughter. Lisa, who spent much of her career riding thoroughbred hunters, has seen these non-racing horses find their forte, and from this experience, her program was born. “After reading about a descendant of Seabiscuit saved from slaughter and then Eight Belles died, I knew I needed to do something for these horses,” Lisa said. “Honestly, at the track, the horses are well taken care of, as they are on the show circuit. I’m not necessarily rescuing horses—ones who have suffered abuse—it’s just when they are no longer racehorses, there is nowhere for them to go, and it’s such a heartbreak,” she explained.

Lisa Thorpe is a former competitor who also ran a training business with husband Joe Thorpe after a successful junior and amateur career. She retired from competition to raise son Jonathon, now grown and married, as well as spearhead Show Circuit Magazine for over a decade. Establishing Silks to Show Ring is the next step in her equestrian evolution. Lisa adopted her first horse, the stallion Pink Hair, from the Del Mar Racetrack when he was sidelined with a sesamoid fracture in September of 2008. After several months of rest and rehabilitation, “Pink” is a total lapdog, and Lisa came out of retirement to begin riding him.

“Just handling and giving them a safe place to be is completely worth my time. Pink is a dream to hack, and the fact that he is happy is the biggest reward. It’s clear that he is proud of himself again. I just want these horses to be happy for the rest of their lives, and I’ve seen that it can happen.” It’s hard to miss the emotion in Lisa’s voice as she recalls re-training the once-successful racehorse. “It takes a lot of patience, kindness and a soft hand, but these talented horses are smart and great prospects. When I was competing, nearly all hunters and jumpers were thoroughbreds—that was when there used to be a non-thoroughbred class!”

Other trainers can attest; Rebecca Atwater, founder of Santa Barbara Stables, has a successful string of thoroughbreds in her hunter/jumper barn. “We did a clinic the other day with Laddie, registered as Easy Charm, and the clinician was completely taken aback when I told him that Laddie was a full thoroughbred,” she says. “He automatically assumed that this big guy was a warmblood. We call him the Seabiscuit of our barn—he’s been such a success with [rider/owner] Marina Da Silva throughout their hunter career together.” Da Silva and Easy Charm are now competing in 3’ 3” and 3’6” divisions at local and ‘A’ shows.

Ultimately, to get this sort of testimony from more trainers and to see thoroughbreds back in the show arena along with the warmbloods are the goals that inspire SST. “In the long term, I would love to have horses find new homes on a weekly basis, establish a fostering program with retraining for 90 days at other barns, and then getting thoroughbreds into the show ring up to the top levels again,” Lisa said. “There’s a high-score hunter/jumper thoroughbred award through San Fernando Horse Show Association at the B level, which is a start,” she noted, “but I would love to see them compete at the ‘AA’ shows.” She further explained in an enthusiastic tone “If I could get division sponsors, I would love to have a thoroughbred hunter class, and help to establish a funnel for these horses to have a second career.”

SST’s second horse, the filly Silver Scrumptious, came from Silver Charm lineage. She was with SST for just four months before she found a new home with a family in Yucca Valley. The adoption fee for the even-tempered mare was just $1,000, with the conditions that Lisa is given regular updates on her progress and she is never raced again. Thorpe ideally would have five horses at a time, but she is doing the best she can with present resources. Currently, SST fosters two horses, so since Silver Scrumptious found a home, Pink—still on his way to a full recovery—and another Silver Charm baby, Silverado Man, are currently kept at Bliss Canyon Investments in Bradbury Estates (previously the stables of late Saudi Prince Ahmed bin Salman’s The Thoroughbred Corporation). Along with Lisa, hunter/jumper trainer Amy Hess of Hess Equine, whose husband is racehorse trainer Bob Hess Jr., Barbara Thompson, Wendi Stone and others have helped to train and care for the horses. “Everyone has contributed so much. Amy is familiar with both worlds, so she really understands the horses,” said Thorpe. “Even my veterinarian has given discounts on treatments.”

“I think we have been able to do this on such low overhead so far because everyone likes to give back. Many of us who rode in the 80’s owe our success, even our careers, to thoroughbred horses. Just taking one on in their string or donating time makes a difference in a thoroughbred’s life and also how they are viewed as show horses. They still have so much to give. Silverado Man, my current project, came right off the track with his head up like a cobra, but in under a week of care he has mellowed and is a wonderful, sweet horse.” With adoption fees ranging from $500 to $5,000, Thorpe estimates, the benefits of adopting OTTB’s are multiple – certainly a reasonable investment in this economy, potentially more cost-effective than importing a warmblood. Plus many of the horses are solid competitors who would relish in a second chance to excel. The time spent training and bringing them down off the track creates a strong bond between horse and owner. And sometimes the alternative for these horses is death by slaughter, so a new lease on life is clearly a benefit.

“I know there are thoroughbreds out there who have already been successful in their second careers, and I would like to give them some recognition,” Lisa says. “So please send me your stories! Just knowing that there are others out there is important for the breed to reclaim its place.”

Lisa is looking for your stories, donations, or willingness to adopt. Contact her at 909-392-0838. Website: www.silkstoshowring.com.


Fremont Hills: A Sanctuary for Riders in Portola Valley

By Erna Adelson & Jackie McFarland

Located in pastoral Portola Valley, Fremont Hills is an equestrian haven with a grounded nature. Each of the core team – Wendy Carter, Debbi Sereni and Missy Froley – has a distinctive background in equitation, hunters, and jumpers, so they can draw from their varied experiences for teaching all levels. “When we arrive in the morning, our goal each day is to make this day better than the last. We don’t say we specialize in one discipline, better said that every one of us contributes in many ways,” Wendy explains. So students at Fremont Hills benefit from not only a fabulous facility but also get to ride with three trainers at the same location—a prime opportunity for a diverse riding education, offering riders a library of experience to attain their equestrian goals.

Nestled between San Francisco and San Jose, Fremont Hills borders Woodside and Palo Alto and is easily accessible from Santa Cruz and Monterey. The group has 25 horses in training at the Portola Valley Training Center and eight others at nearby Bay Rose, where Wendy and Missy also train. They compete at prominent west coast ‘AA’ shows, including HITS, Blenheim, LAEC and Del Mar down south, as well as closer to home Menlo, Pebble Beach, Golden State, Brookside and Woodside. The team at Fremont Hills sees that each rider gets personal attention, providing a diverse program where each client progresses at his or her own pace. Missy commented, “We have ponies, 3’ hunters, 3’6” hunters, open horses and Grand Prix jumpers. Each of us have pieces that we’re good at, so we make a solid team.”

The three collectively agree that as the business manager, the communication hub between trainers and management, and the one who manages the pre-show details from schedule to entries, Debbi is the glue that holds it all together. More active in horse shows in previous years, (her son Matt Sereni won the 2003 ASPCA Medal Maclay Finals), Debbi knew she wanted to be able to spend more time with family when she adopted daughter Mia, now four years old. She contacted Wendy, who was working privately at Bay Rose, and convinced Wendy and Missy to take on a big piece of the training and traveling so Debbi could stay closer to home.

 By then, Missy and Wendy had been working together for several years, moving north from Coto de Caza in 2004, and already had a successful team dynamic—they have, in fact, spent the last seven years in working partnership. Missy started riding at the age of 6 with Jerry Daniels, then rode for a while with Michael Croopnick before she found her way to Caroline Bonham. She spent her junior career with Caroline where she excelled in equitation. Graduating from the junior ranks, Missy worked for Caroline until she met Wendy at Coto De Caza Training Center. Now, “We come as a unit,” Missy jokes, referring to her professional relationship with Wendy.

Wendy Carter grew up in Beverly Hills and also began riding at age 6, where she went on pony rides every weekend. That progressed into lessons at Foxfield Riding Academy where she credits Nancy Turrill and Joanne Postel for teaching her about the love of horses and the passion of riding, not just about winning ribbons. Wendy was lucky enough to ride with a variety of trainers through out her Junior and Amateur career, including Mike and Lolly Edrick, Bennett Kurtze, Jimmy Williams, Susie Hutchinson and Lucy Stewart, who collectively brought her success in the show ring as well as taught her how to be successful as a professional. She feels most indebted to three well-established professionals: Leslie Steele, Carleton Brooks and Scott Wilson.

At home in Portola, work starts at a reasonable 8:00 a.m. every day with lessons from morning until late afternoon. Everyone works together sharing in the duty of daily Starbucks runs. With such a busy competition schedule, an important part of the agenda is reaching goals and making time for fun. “At horse shows clients take what they’ve learned at home to the show ring. When they come out of the ring it’s about accomplishing their goals not necessarily the ribbon.” says Missy. “Having fun is also part of it. We try to do at least one night out with everyone since there are usually around 10-15 riders with us from Fremont Hills.”

Last year, the Fremont Hills team completed 145 days on the road, traveling to sixteen away shows, spanning northern and southern California. While they will stay closer to home in 2009, they always spend at least two weeks every year at Pebble Beach and Menlo. Past accolades include medal final champions, trips to indoors and grand prix placings, with several riders enjoying success in the show ring already this year. Missy Froley and Plein Air © Deb Dawson, other photos courtesy of Gail Morey.

At The Back Gate

Real Time Show Jumping Updates with EquestriSol on Twitter!
By Erna Adelson

For our readers that are not yet familiar with the latest way to get mobile, instantaneous updates from your favorite news sources, celebrity gossip, and your friends, welcome to Twitter.

Twitter is a service that allows a user to answer the question “What are you doing?” by sending 140 character updates from a mobile phone or the web. These messages, called Tweets, are visible to everyone “following” that user and appear the moment that they are posted. This service has quickly revolutionized the way that the media operates and has transformed social interactions globally. While some may have mixed feelings—we know, Twittering does conjure the image of a tech-obsessed teenager—rest assured that there are plenty of practical applications for this tool, especially in the highly mobile, intricately connected show jumping world.

Using Twitter, EquestriSol will now be able to bring results and updates from the West Coast’s most prestigious horse shows (and who knows where else) the minute that they are posted. Followers will also be able to see news updates, receive reports, know when hot sale prospects are on the market – all this from just about anywhere.

If you haven’t already, check out EquestriSol’s Twitter page. Go to twitter.com/equestrisol. This is your source! Now, follow—and join the conversation. Start your own personal soapbox by signing up for an account at twitter.com, and tweet something about what you’re doing at that moment. We also love feedback! And we will try to respond.

Twetiquette: Twicks of the Twade (sorry, couldn’t resist)
Twitter has quickly formed its own social etiquette, known to Twitter Peeps (Tweeps) as Twetiquette. Twetiquette allows a network of followers to more easily find the information that they want, prevents potentially harmful posts, and assures that the source of information is credible.

Hashtags are part of a system that makes finding information on Twitter easier. By marking keywords with the # symbol, users help people searching Twitter find related tweets in one convenient list. EquestriSol will use hashtags to indicate the event we are presently attending (#WorldCup09 for this year’s World Cup).

For example, a tweet from the upcoming World Cup might look like this:
equestrisol: Bond fast and clean in Round 1, Harley Brown in the ring now! #WorldCup09

If you want to get a list of all tweets about the 2009 World Cup, simply search for the tagged term at search.twitter.com. To pass the info along to your followers, you can Re-Tweet (RT) by crediting and copying the original source. For example:
HorseShowFan: RT @equestrisol: Bond fast and clean in Round 1, Harley Brown in the ring now! #WorldCup09

In Twetiquette, re-tweeting is a major compliment, so RT @equestrisol anytime.

Some other useful equine enthusiasts and news sources you may want to follow:
@USHorseman    @EquestrianLife.com
@salehorses        @ChronofHorse
@theequinest      @TrotonTV

Finally, once you’ve signed up and add the appropriate app (TwitterBerry or TinyTwitter for the BlackBerry, Tweetie or Twitterfon for iPhones, and Twidroid or TwitterRide for Android mobiles), then tweet and # from wherever you are. See you in the Twittersphere…

2009 Rolex FEI World Cup Preview

Eastern and Western US Leagues Look Strong

By Erna Adelson & Jackie McFarland

After a long run beginning with the turn of this century and ending in 2009, the FEI World Cup returns to Vegas for the last time this decade. We understand the soonest it would return to the West Coast is 2015. This knowledge comes from the remarkable John Quirk, who will be featured in our World Cup Wrap-Up Issue online. He generously allowed us an interview even under an impending deadline to complete the 2009 Rolex FEI World Cup Finals Program.

Appropriately, the riders assembled to compete from the West Coast League are arguably the most exciting group to represent the western United States since the World Cup originated 20 years ago. Richard Spooner, Mandy Porter, Rich Fellers and Harley Brown of Australia represent the veterans, each with upwards of 20 years experience though they are all known to be quite gutsy, while Ashlee Bond, though not exactly new to show jumping, will turn just 24 during the competition.

We should mention that the East Coast League includes some solid riders. On top of the point rankings sits the young Kent Farrington, all of 28, who tied for eighth in Sweden last year on Up Chiqui. Olympians McLain Ward and Beezie Madden are on the list; Ward and Sapphire is as superb a match as Beerbaum and Shutterfly. Madden has a greener mount, Danny Boy, which could prove challenging. Add Todd Minikus, Lauren Hough and Christine McCrea, none of whom are new to international competition. Darragh Kerins earned enough points to represent Ireland. Rounding off the youngsters are Hillary Dobbs and Michelle Spadone, also in their 20’s, maybe not contenders to win but strong up and coming show jumpers.

2009’s USA West Coast League is without a doubt unconventional. Rich Fellers and Flexible, the wild card entry, are making the trip due to the sportsmanlike generosity of both Will Simpson and Jill Humphrey, the next riders in line based on points, who turned down the spot to allow the 2008 Rolex FEI World Cup Reserve Champion team to compete. Mandy Porter will pilot San Diego, an unexpected standout on the World Cup qualifying tour on a horse she was just “keeping fit” for Young Rider owner Danielle Korsh. Harley Brown on Cassiato, nominally representing Australia, considers himself a more appropriate representative of the California Republic. The pair will be schooled by the well-known Judy Martin, since the Australian Chef D’Equipe, is unable to attend the event.

A promising rider as a teen, Ashlee Bond took a hiatus from riding but is now storming the scene on Cadett 7. That Richard Spooner could compete on Cristallo or Ace is not surprising—the West Coast’s ubiquitous pinup has been to the World Cup Final ten times before, finishing fourth in 1998. Even in Vegas, those odds say he’s due… Note for all you new media mavens, follow all of the updates from the World Cup at: www.twitter.com/equestrisol!

West Coast World Cup Rider Interviews

A World Cup course asks many questions: Technical skill, rideability, scope, and athleticism of horse and rider are challenged by sharp turns, tricky distances, and tall obstacles. In our World Cup Wrap Up Issue we will meet with course designer Anthony “The Architect” D’Ambrosio, who will be ably assisted by Leopoldo Palacios, to discuss not only who will come up with the ultimate answers to the issues on each course, but how they tested these top international riders.

For this World Cup Preview Issue we took a closer look at the West Coast exhibitors in hopes of uncovering what else makes up the stuff of a show jumping luminary. Richard Spooner, Rich Fellers, Mandy Porter, Ashlee Bond, and Harley Brown spoke candidly about their preparations for this particular final, the challenges they have overcome previously as riders and as athletes in order to take the stage in Las Vegas, the trainers and the horses that have assisted and inspired them along the way, what they would do if they didn’t spend so much time in the tack, and even about the soundtrack that accompanies the ride.

Veterans and rookies alike were both candid and grounded in their replies.

When the World Cup week is just 7 days out… what’s your plan?

Richard Spooner: Keep the horses fit and don’t overdo. We’ll jump two-three times during the week up to the final. I try not to change routine for championships and big classes – I have a lot less chance of messing things up that way!

Ashlee Bond: We didn’t have to show at the last qualifier, so Cadett essentially took that week off, just did the treadmill for an hour. Back to work Monday of this week, Dad will get him back into fighting shape on the flat, then he’ll jump Tuesday and do the indoor exhibition class at Blenheim on Friday. After we arrive in Vegas on Monday, we just relax.

Mandy Porter: Keep the horse fit, fresh, and happy. He’ll be on a regular work schedule, not too much jumping before he goes, some trail rides working up and down hills, flatwork. Though I’m not riding in the exhibition class the Friday before we leave, I’d like to thank Blenheim for thinking of us.

Harley Brown: Trail rides going up and down hills. He may jump twice – gymnastics, some bigger jumps in the second session that’s it.

Rich Fellers: Flexible finished up in Thermal really jumping well, which was his last show. He had a light week last week – eurociser, light hacks. Now this week some good, hard flatwork and he’ll be ridden twice a day for extra conditioning. Two school sessions – one with smaller jumps and Friday a bigger school. Saturday he’ll get on the truck and head to Vegas.

How to contend with show life in the Vegas venue: 

Spooner: In Vegas the lights are on all night, and the horses are in the flight path, so it can be very unsettling and the horses lose sleep. I try to keep them happy with massages and even some magnetic blanket therapy.

Porter: This horse takes pretty good care of himself, not a nervous type. He is happy in his stall.

Fellers: I might actually go in and find breaker boxes and turn off lights in Vegas if they’re disturbing.

Brown: This will be Cassiato’s maiden International competition, so we’ll do our best to treat is like any other horse show – just the jumps are bigger!

How you will ride the World Cup Warm-up on Wednesday morning? (Note that riders can also bring a horse to compete in the Las Vegas Grand Prix on Saturday)

Spooner: Go slow, ride deep in the corners, and let them know that it’s a good place to be. I’ll actually choose between riding Ace or Cristallo in the first round based on the one that feels the most comfortable on warm-up day.

Bond: Show Cadett as much of the ring as I can, get into the corners, maybe jump a combination or an oxer—he knows what he’s doing. Chivas Z will do the whole course to get acclimated.

Porter: I probably won’t do a whole course but there’s no real strict plan. It will be based on how he feels.

Fellers: With Kilkenny Rindo I’ll focus on adjustability and rideability, he isn’t as experienced. I won’t have to do much with Flexible, he’s a showman that loves his job, but is very excitable so I’ll try to make it fun without fatiguing him.

Brown: I will get him into the corners; give him a good look around. Use as much time as I can to get him settled in the ring. He’s an 18-hand warmblood but he’s got a thoroughbred brain – very electric and thinking all the time. If he settles early I’m in for a good show.

When were you the most technically challenged? Palacios, Leudi and more 

Spooner: The most technical course I’ve ever ridden was Leopoldo’s 2nd round for the 2008 $1 Million CN International Grand Prix at Spruce Meadows. It had enormous scope tests, enormous stretch tests, incredible careful tests and it was technical – plus a tight time allowed. I was happy to be clean on Cristallo, finished up 3rd.

Bond: Good question! Leopoldo’s courses are insanely technical and high, specifically the 2008 $1 Million Grand Prix at Spruce. The World Cup qualifiers at Thermal were technical and tall, and the ’04 Olympic qualifiers were also very challenging.

Brown: The Sacramento Grand Prix last November, designed by Leopoldo was the most technical. Followed closely by the World Cup qualifier in Thermal designed by Aki Ylanne (Riihimaki, Finland)

Porter: The 2nd and 3rd rounds of the 2008 World Cup Finals in Sweden, designed by Rolf Leudi, were the biggest and most technical. I had 8 or 12 faults and I was just happy to get through it. When I walked it I thought it was huge – but didn’t allow myself to think that until after it was over when all the riders were talking about how big the course was.

Fellers: The 2nd round and 3rd rounds of the World Cup final last year owing to the size and width that Rolf Leudi presents. He is probably the top course designer in Switzerland. His stamp is BIG. A lot of what makes up a ‘techincal’ course is height & width – the ride changes a lot with those elements. Distances combined with the size and width –especially the width of some of the oxers – really complicated things. Everybody was walking 2,3,4 times over wondering how to ride it, choosing two different ways to ride the course. When 16h (that’s eight inches smaller than Cassiato!) Flexible jumped around that 2nd round without touching a fence I thought, ‘This little horse has what it takes. I’ll do everything I can to win.’

Your biggest challenge as an athlete?

Spooner: The balance of sport and life is a challenge as an athlete. Everyday I have to find balance, by setting achievable goals and staying within my ability to maintain them.

Bond: There really isn’t one specific thing so far, except for keeping myself and the horses fit and in fighting shape. Since I haven’t been at top level for very long that will probably change soon!

Porter: As an athlete, my stay in Switzerland at Gerhard Etters challenged my time management and get-the-job-done-well skills. It was also far, far away from home. It was a lot more work to achieve the goals daily than I was used to. I had six horses to care for completely, and I mucked, groomed, rode and competed on all of them. In a given day I sometimes worked with up to 12 horses, depending on how many clients came to try horses. I learned ways to balance the physical work and to keep my head mentally in the right place, not stress out. No one was there telling you what to do, you had to watch, learn and figure it out for yourself. Success or failure was completely up to the individual. I learned a ton over the five years I was there.

Fellers: Actually, my senior year high school I ran track for Yam Hill Carlson High School in Oregon. I had my wisdom teeth pulled the day before I did the high jump in the District Championships. That was so challenging (and painful!) I remember it to this day.

Brown: Producing horses on a regular basis. It’s a challenge but I get my greatest satisfaction producing one from zero to hero.

How do you maintain calm under high pressure? 

Spooner: I thrive under pressure. That’s what I signed up for. Countless hours are spent riding in the doldrums. When the wind picks up that’s when I want to be a sailor.

Bond: It’s funny, I used to appear calm but on the inside the adrenalin was pumping. I noticed when I rode well internationally at Spruce that I was calmer in this high-pressure situation. I walk the courses with Richard [Spooner] and focus on the job, which usually calms everything down. I won’t be leaving his side at the World Cup.

Porter: I stay very focused on the task at hand. When I enter the ring, I rarely hear much around me, I am really centered on the job. Otherwise I would be a basket case!

Fellers: At any top level if you feel nervous, use it positively. It’s adrenaline. There is so much to execute, so I focus on the task at hand, go over the technique, and stay on track. This keeps me from getting distracted and worried.

Brown: The higher the better, otherwise I can get on the lackadaisical side. When the nerve ends are tingling and I’m concentrating hard, then outside influences can’t creep in. When the stakes are high, I perform better.

If you could add any horse to your string, which one would you choose and why? 

Spooner: I am happy with the string I have right now. I would love to have Robinson back, but other than that I’m content.

Bond: Any horse in the world? There are so many… Shutterfly and Authentic seem to be my style. Jessica Kurten’s (IRL) Castle Forbes Libertina. But if I had could ride any horse in the World Cup, it would be Cadett 7. We have formed a partnership and really fit well together.

Porter: Shutterfly—it would be interesting to give him a go. I would also love to keep San Diego in the string, what a great ride.

Fellers: Richard Spooner’s Cristallo. He’s a real fighter and athletic, his personality reminds me of Flexible.

Brown: Ludger Beerbaum’s Ratina Z. She was crazy and brilliant.

If you had a day to spend with one clinician/trainer, past or present, who would it be? 

Spooner: Hugo Simone, my mentor for years. He’s one of the only top professionals that thought I could be good at this. The most important thing he taught me was to know how much you’re able to drink before you can get on a horse. In all seriousness, though, you can’t learn the most important lessons from one person or one trainer.

Bond: Hugo—Richard’s mentor. Just because I’ve heard so many amazing, funny stories about him. Or Ludger Beerbaum. I can’t leave out Eric Lamaze. For me it’s just as important to watch them ride. I learn so much from that.

Porter: Wow, that’s tough. I watch and learn from almost everyone, everyday is a learning experience. In Europe I rode in a couple Nations Cups and found that Katie Prudent could make you believe in yourself in any situation. There are also so many Europeans that I admire, I watched a lot of them when I was there. Bernie Traurig is a fantastic trainer. Also, I once took a clinic from a cowboy named Tom Dorrance – it was one of the most educational clinics I ever rode in.

Fellers: John Whitaker—been to the bar but not the barn with him.

Brown: I’ve trained with a lot of people over the years, but Richard Spooner is my pinup boy, I think he’s a genius, a wonderful person and trainer. We probably wouldn’t do much riding but we’d have a fun time.

If you had to choose a career path other than equestrian, what would it be? 

Spooner: I would have to work outside; I would probably be a gardener or landscape architect.

Bond: I already have one! I just started Bondies with a partner, it’s a lingerie sportswear line, a pretty version of sports bras and underpants. It’s what we were lacking in underwear. I took sports bra technology pioneered by Nike and adapted it to a much sexier level. But I can still ride, even, sleep in it. The line is debuting at the World Cup!

Porter: Sports medicine or working in therapeutic horseback riding.

Fellers: I was in school to be a contractor but the economy was so bad (similar to now) that my father advised me to think of another career, so I started a training business.

Brown: A golfer, a left-hander like Phil Nicholson. It’s easier to take golf clubs around the world than horses! Eighteen holes takes four hours – instead of 90 seconds on course where if you screw up the first fence you’re done.

What is on your playlist or what music do you listen to right before/in the midst of/directly after a competition? 

Spooner: Maybe the Eagles, Sting, nothing too radical. Cristallo would like Twisted Sister, Ace would like Julio Iglesias.

Bond: Something chill like the Cold War Kids or Rebelution. For Cadett 7 it’s Lupe Fiasco’s Superstar.

Porter: I don’t listen to anything in particular, but I have a friend who calls me and leaves a song on my voicemail. Something that lightens the mood for me, like Van Halen’s JUMP. Justin Timberlake’s Sexy Back for San Diego.

Fellers: I always listen to Stranglehold by Ted Nugent before going out. It’s on my son’s iPod. Flexible would like some classic and hard rock like AC/DC.

Brown: I like Coldplay, sometimes even while riding. Cassiato would listen to Queen’s We Are The Champions.

Thank you all for your time and we look forward to cheering you on from the stands in Las Vegas!

The George Morris Horsemastership Clinic 2009

Earning A Degree in the Liberal Arts* of Horsemanship
By Erna Adelson & Jackie McFarland

*“The term ‘liberal arts’ is a… curriculum aimed at imparting general knowledge and developing intellectual capacities…”

Preceding 2009’s Horsemastership Clinic last month, George Morris addressed the eight attendees. Practical Horseman’s Sandy Oliynyk was lucky enough to report directly from the sidelines. According to Oliynyk, Morris was clear about his mission. “We have a problem today and that’s called horse show, horse show, horse show, horse show, horse show, horse show. That’s competition,” he said. “That’s competitive education. That isn’t basic education. That isn’t necessarily horsemanship or horsemaster education.” To Morris, it is clear that true horsemanship is not merely a trade, or a means to an end, but a true liberal arts education that encompasses much more than the ability to perform in the show ring. “Knowledge is power,” he continued. “I’ve always loved education. And still by my bedside, I always have a horse book. Don’t ever underestimate education.”

Although now a freshman at Princeton in New Jersey, we spoke with the west coast equestrian at the clinic, Sophie Benjamin, who is known for taking her equestrian education seriously. A working student for a good portion of her junior career and the winner of the 2008 USEF Talent Search East, Sophie claims that if she had to give up the competitive aspect of the sport to sustain a future with horses, she would. “For me personally I wouldn’t want to do this if it wasn’t about mastering all the horsemanship. At one point when I thought I might not be showing – I realized I still always wanted to be involved with horses.”

Sophie began preparing for the clinic long before she got to Wellington. She had to overcome the December rain in Southern California that put the rings on her home turf under water. “I compensated by going to the gym as much as possible, doing strength and cardio exercises similar to riding. I reviewed some of my favorite books, including Practical Horseman’s Book of Riding, Training, and Showing Hunters and Jumpers. I rode as much as I could without stirrups once I got back to Florida – only four days before the clinic. So even though I panicked a little bit, I was prepared.”

Sophie’s experience as a working student also prepared her for the tight schedule during the five-day clinic. Since the chef d’equipe himself would be abroad, he did not host the clinic as in years past. Instead each day featured a different top-caliber riding clinician as well as demonstrations from veterinary, barn management, and other equine related perspectives. She and the other riders also had the advantage of a small, close-knit support group. “We all pushed each other to do our best, and we really had a lot of fun together,” Sophie recalled. “We shared grooming stalls, everyone helped each other before and after. There was no complaining and no hand-holding.” Just lessons, a lot of lessons.

Orientation: Beginning Each Day with the Walk

The first clinician was Dressage Olympian Robert Dover. Dover gave a lecture prior to the outing, planning a vision for the day. Dover emphasized that as a rider you should be conscious of what you teach the horse on every ride. He also set the tone for the bigger picture when he affirmed that as a rider, “You feel all opportunities inside the walk.”

According to Sophie, this was one of the most difficult days of the program because it required the riders to completely re-evaluate their position at the most fundamental level. Each student spent nearly an hour with Dover working on a 20-meter circle. “It took a really long time to loosen up since we’re so set in our equitation positions,” Sophie explained. She remembered that one of the most helpful techniques for improvement of a stiff position was taking a deep breath and focus on using your core (stomach muscles).

She analyzed Dover’s advice about what some consider a casual aspect of the ride: “Not only should you be giving aids even at the walk so that you could step into another gait within a stride, but as a rider you should be thinking about your goals and progress even at the most basic gait. Everything stems from that foundation.”

Course Work: A Day in the Ways of Our Nation’s Best

Once the foundation was established, the eight young riders were challenged and inspired by show jumping greats and Olympians Anne Kursinski, Laura Kraut, Beezie Madden and McLain Ward. On the first day, Kursinski began the teams on the flat and then graduated to gymnastics in pursuit of the automatic release. “My favorite day,” said Sophie. “I’ve been trying to get the automatic release down for years. Anne talked about the whole body position, not just the arms, which really helped.” On the flat, Sophie also noticed that there were marked changes in her equitation after drills with the Olympian. “Anne had us turn our hands over on the reins – the last time I did that was when I was 9 years old riding ponies!” She said. “From this session I have more tools for working on my position at home.”

With Laura Kraut, the riders tested their mettle and their mounts’ rideabilities over a solid 1.30-1.35m course in a nations cup format. Even though some horses and riders were newly paired – Sophie had been riding her horse, Remonta Haron, a sale horse of Federico Sztyrle’s, for just a few days at the time. “It was intimidating at first, but the horse I rode really stepped up and we all agreed afterward that this day was the most fun,” Sophie recalled. “We walked the course, told Laura our plan and she offered critique but she really trusted us and was very positive. She left the major decisions up to us and stressed that course strategies should be individual to a team of horse and rider as well as what works best for the team.”

By day four, the students worked on feeling the ride with Beezie Madden – only it wasn’t just the horses they were molding, but their mental game. Sophie found that for her, “it was really hard to keep all your strides even, to hold the track and meanwhile be able to look in but stay out.” Beezie encouraged the riders to try different things, to think and strategize the ride. “I kept counting strides and not looking or riding the track, which I need to work on. It’s about feeling, planning, measuring strides – the art of separating mind and body, and in my case not overanalyzing. I remember realizing that this the real thing – this is how Beezie Madden prepares for the Olympics.”

On the final day, McLain Ward advocated an “American” style of riding and worked on how your body influences a horse’s jump. “McLain is a huge inspiration for what he’s accomplished at such a young age. He was different from the others,” said Sophie. In fact, “He wanted us to do crest releases after we had been working on automatic release all week!” But McLain made a strong case for his system. Sophie recalled, “He was very open, explaining ‘I am the son of a horse trader, I’m different than some of the others. But I have a system that works for me. These horses need you to communicate with them clearly and consistently. There are a hundred ways to train a horse – find your way and stick to it.’ ”

The Final: Applying the Intensive Sessions to Real Riding Life

As a nation and on the west coast, 2008 was a year of victories. This success stems from a solid program while on and off the horse. The clinic included barn management, animal behaviorists, farriers, nutritionists, veterinarians – all essential ingredients to success. As for her own progress and personal program, Sophie Benjamin is very much still a student. “I am gathering as much information as I can. I love to watch and learn, soaking up the knowledge so when I’m ready I am able develop my own program. All of our questions about mastership of the whole horse were answered, I can’t think of a week spent more productively.”

Finally, Sophie commented on the importance of this type of program to the bigger picture – the goal of creating a caliber of riders as true horsemasters and to continue the excellence of the sport. “Everything came together so well. I appreciate the USEF and USET support of young athletes and upcoming efforts by the USHJA. I hope to give back in the same way,” she said.

And as it should be, the student is inspired to continuously learn and aspire to become a master of the art. The art of true horsemanship.

Conversations With Equestrians: Zazou Hoffman

My View on Zazou
By Erna Adelson

Most of you already know Zazou Hoffman as the young rider who competes bi-coastally, both near her hometown in Santa Monica, CA and on the east coast circuit with Missy Clark. Her bio also reveals that among other notable accomplishments, Hoffman was one of seven elite riders chosen to work with Olympic Chef d’Equipe George Morris in Wellington, FL and has competed in the Medal Finals for the past three years. Additionally, she took first at Maclay Regional, 5th in “the Medal” at Harrisburg, 5th in the USET Talent Search East at Gladstone, 3rd in the WCE, and recently 3rd in the Maclay Finals.

Throughout her eventful career, Hoffman has also managed to find a way to make the sport accessible to all enthusiasts by regularly writing about her experiences. Her columns, found in CA Riding Magazine and in this newsletter, offer counsel and insight that resonates with all riders and provides a window to the inside of the most coveted places in the industry. As a writer, a rider, and a bi-coastal traveler myself, I was thrilled at the opportunity to interview Zazou Hoffman. Since our schedules and locations would never allow us to do this in person, of course, I did the next best thing to meeting her: I “friended” her on Facebook. This way, I gained insight into Zazou not just as a rider but as one of the most driven and busiest teenagers that I have ever (almost) met. Read on for Zazou’s revelations about keeping up with schoolwork, her remote social life, and even Tyra Banks.

ERNA: When did you know that much of your future budget and time would be dedicated mostly to competitive horseback riding? Did you ever question whether or not it was worth such an investment?
ZAZOU: Riding has been a part of my life since I was really little. I mean, I have pictures of me when I was three years old next to my mom’s horses and there has never been a doubt in my mind that horses would be a part of my life. Of course, when I was little, I had NO idea how much time and money had to be invested in the sport to get to the top. I can honestly say that I have never doubted that I wanted to put in all the time I possibly could to work at getting better, but money is something that is not really in my control. My family has been wonderful at helping me get to where I am, but there are times when it is very upsetting to see both my parents, and my brother making sacrifices that wouldn’t need to be made if I didn’t ride. We have all decided though that I am lucky enough to have found what I am passionate about at a young age, and we will all work hard to make it happen.

ERNA: Besides the time change, how did you have to adjust to riding and training primarily on the east coast? Are there any major differences between east and west coast venues?
ZAZOU: Well, the time change can actually be a pretty big part of it! But, in terms of the actual horseback riding, it’s about getting in the ring and getting the job done no matter where you are. I have had the incredible opportunity to be working with Missy Clark and John Brennan back east, and I learn something new every single day, but a lot of what I am learning is simply an extension of what I have learned from Meredith Bullock, who trains me in California. Some of the horses I am riding on the east coast are definitely nicer than some of the ones I have ridden at home, but nothing is “push-button” and it’s all just about riding. In terms of the venues, I have found that everything back east is just bigger; there are more horses, more people, and more horse shows.

ERNA: Could you elaborate on how you ended up riding with Missy Clark?
ZAZOU: I received the Ronnie Mutch Working Student Scholarship in 2005, which allowed me to travel to WEF to ride with Missy Clark for two weeks. Missy and I developed a great relationship and she invited me to continue riding with her as a working student. It all kind of took off from there!

ERNA: Could you also tell us a bit about your decision to continue riding with Missy as far away as Vermont rather than a similar caliber west coast trainer?
ZAZOU: There were a lot of things that factored into this decision. Basically though, Missy’s barn is fabulous. Missy and John and I immediately got along, the staff there works harder than any I’ve seen, the horses are amazing, and I simply saw an opportunity that I didn’t think I could turn down. I was really just coming off the ponies, and the offer of a working student position at North Run seemed irresistible. I had had lots of riding opportunities in California, but nothing that could compare to this. I think that if you want to be really competitive you need nation-wide exposure and you need to be learning from the best people you can put yourself in contact with. Learning from as many of the good people as possible helps a rider to understand what works for them and what doesn’t, as well as what they would like to take with them into their professional career.

ERNA: Do you now consider yourself an east coast rider or representing both the west and the east coasts?
ZAZOU: I consider myself as a rider that represents both coasts. I still have a fantastic trainer in California (Meredith Bullock), and while I may not go to as many horse shows with her, this is only because I do not regularly show a horse that I own. And then I have great trainers on the east coast with North Run. I consider my self bicoastal because I try to compete and continue learning in any state and at any horse show where I find myself.

ERNA: Besides riding, you also write a couple of regular columns. How did that part of your career materialize? Since writing seems to be another passion of yours, do you have any aspirations as a writer?
ZAZOU: My writing kind of evolved on its own. I really just started by doing a couple of small things for California Riding and branched off from there. This sport has given me a lot in my life and I figure all I can do is keep trying to give back in some ways. I think interviewing the great people in the sport is educational for me, and having it published gets it out there so others can learn as well. I have also gotten to the point in my riding where I have had the opportunity to experience a lot of new and different things that I think are important to share with others. I haven’t really thought much about my future in writing, but like I said I would really like to continue giving back to this sport in as many ways as I can.

ERNA: The question everyone probably asks you right now: Have you thought at all about which college/university you might attend? Besides a stellar riding program and possible scholarship money, what other factors are going into such a pivotal decision?
ZAZOU: Luckily, I am only a junior in high school, so I haven’t had to do my college apps yet, but I’m dreading the day. I’ve thought about college a little though, and my main priority is getting the best education I can. I would like to keep riding in college, but I’m not set on riding for a college team unless I think it’s going to help me get into a school I want to go to. From the little bit of research I’ve done, the school I would love to go to (but I think is a long shot to get into) would be Brown. Both my parents went to Berkeley, so that is also a school I have thought about. The whole admission process seems to be so complicated and so random that I think it is important to keep an open mind about what school I want to go to.

ERNA: High School is a notoriously tough time for teenagers. How do you deal with the frustrations of highly competitive riding–less than perfect outings, travel, and the added workload in addition to the pressures of teenagerhood (if there are any)?
ZAZOU: Oh boy, it can all get really stressful. I actually just started taking all of my classes online this year, and that has really helped. I am taking four Advanced Placement classes and one honors class through four different online programs. My parents and I agreed that the only way I would do online classes is if we felt that my education would in no way be compromised, so after a lot of research I found that UC Davis, UC Irvine, Stanford, and APEX had programs that I could rely on. Having the opportunity to take my classes online has been extremely helpful in making things less stressful. This has allowed me to stay back east all fall, which removed the added stress of traveling back and forth from CA to the east coast for each horse show. My friends at home are great though, and they are always there to be supportive. There is a great dynamic among the kids at North Run (Missy Clark’s barn) and, of course, my friends in California are always happy to see me when I am home. It is very comforting to have people around you who can help if you need anything.

ERNA: What is currently on your iTunes Playlist?
ZAZOU: I listen to anything and everything! I actually like just about every type of music so my iTunes playlist is all over the place. I always have it on shuffle to keep things interesting. That way I can get my fix of rock, hip hop, country, rap, and a little bit of everything else there is. I’ve got some of the Beatles, some Red Hot Chili Peppers, a little JT, some Taylor Swift…. the list goes on. I actually just saw the movie Slumdog Millionaire (which was fantastic and I recommend it to everybody) so I am currently a bit obsessed with the soundtrack, which was also amazing.

ERNA: I have gotten to know you a little better through some thorough facebook stalking. (Forgive me) It seems that you have somehow managed to balance your career and maintain a social life. Is there anything you ever feel like you are missing out on due to the demands of your competition and training schedule? (Prom, travel, etc)
ZAZOU: There are always social sacrifices that I have to make for my riding, and while I may have been a little bummed at the time, I have never felt that I have regretted any of them. Facebook has actually been a great way to stay in touch with my west coast friends when I’m back east and my east coast friends when I am home. It has definitely helped me keep a healthy social life, and like I said before I have a group of good friends who are really fun to hang out with. In terms of missing out on things, I’m hoping I will be home for Prom (at least my senior year). I have to say, some of my friends are going to Vienna, Budapest, and Munich for a choir trip, and I’d being lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit jealous, but then again, I probably get to travel more than any of them.

ERNA: I did also see that you listed America’s Next Top Model (ANTM) as one of your favorite shows. Hate to admit it, but I’m also sort of addicted…OK. Tyra Banks: Insane or a genius?
ZAZOU: Oh, ANTM has definitely consumed a large amount of my life for the past couple years! In my opinion, Tyra Banks is completely out of her mind, but the catch is, that her craziness is what makes her such a genius! It’s a great show–very addictive.

Thank you so much for doing this interview with me, Erna. Your questions were great, and I had a lot of fun answering them. I’m sure we will keep in touch through Facebook!

ERNA: Undoubtedly when I hear about Zazou Hoffman’s next triumph in the show ring, I won’t be the only person to offer my congratulations in the form of a facebook memo. But if I’m not mistaken, Zazou is a girl that collects wall posts like ribbons and cherishes them just as much.
About Erna L. Adelson
A bi-coastal writer and rider, Erna’s exposure to horses started at age 7, spending her summers at Road’s End Farm in Chesterfield, New Hampshire. In her junior year in high school, Erna achieved her first byline in the Montclair Times, the large local weekly paper of Montclair, NJ, and worked as a staff writer throughout her senior year in high school. Erna studied writing and sociology at UCSB and continued to ride as a working student With Rebecca Atwater at Santa Barbara Stables and at Creek Hollow Ranch in San Diego. She joined the staff at SB Fitness Magazine and also became a regular contributor to California Riding Magazine.

Erna’s work at Equestrisol has allowed her to combine her passions of writing, public relations, and horses and to retain her ties to the west coast. She now resides in New York City in a marketing position at Manhattan Saddlery, the successor to Miller’s Harness Company, and the sole destination for the equestrian community of the Big Apple. 

Conversations With Equestrians: Jessica Newman

Jumping for a Just World
By Erna L. Adelson

In the previous newsletter, we featured Francie Steinwedell Carvin’s images from the October 2008 Just World International trip to Honduras. Since then, we were able to get a more in-depth account from Francie and also to chat with former international equestrian and JustWorld founder, Jessica Newman.

JustWorld International is a recognized International 501(c)(3) charitable organization in the United States and in France. Currently, this non-profit raises funds through its 160 professional, junior and amateur ambassadors representing over 20 different countries. JWI also partners in fundraising with more than 50 International Show Jumping competitions around the globe. The proceeds help to develop long term, sustainable education projects, targeting communities where local organizations have evolved to help children who often fall beyond the reach of government and large-scale humanitarian programs. Besides addressing immediate needs such as food and clean water for these children, JustWorld and its partners provide educational programs that will begin to equip the children for future lives of self-sufficiency.

In Honduras, Carvin and the JWI team helped implement these long-term educational and vocational training programs, as well as providing general relief and friendship to the citizens of an impoverished community. They volunteered at local schools and formed personal relationships with many of the people they met. Carvin was especially affected by the hardship she witnessed during a visit to a local dump. “We could not get out of our vehicle because there were cows, dogs, children, and adults all fishing through the trash, she said. “To see everything in motion, the birds soaring up, the dogs fighting, the plastic bags flying around everywhere – it had a huge impact on us.” She was also able to reflect more thoroughly on her own lifestyle. Carvin explained, “The trip really revealed the immense number of material things we live with as Americans, myself included. I have way too much stuff, I am going to have to go through and clean out my closets. There is someone who needs it more than I do.”

Carvin recalls, “The JustWorld projects are very well organized, including the local volunteers and the teachers. The mobile librarian was especially striking, according to Carvin who said, “The teacher was amazing! I don’t know where he got the energy! He was so good that even though I don’t speak Spanish, I could understand what he was saying.” She notes that the success of such programs has a lot to do with the diligence of Newman and the JustWorld staff. “If something does not work cohesively within the organization, Jessica immediately moves forward,” she said. For example, when an attempt to provide baby formula to the town’s orphanage proved futile since the recipients are so transient, Carvin was very impressed at how quickly Newman re-routed the operation so that other forms of aid could be supplied instead. “She cut her losses and made sure that progress continued. Jessica is also very good at surrounding herself with people who have the same concerns and goals to ensure that everyone is on the same wavelength.” Carvin hopes to expand her personal efforts with JustWorld. “I would like to go to Cambodia next,” she says, aspiring to bring about greater awareness for the cause at horse shows across the U.S. “I would love to take more people [to Honduras]. It is an incredible experience to meet the kids at the school along with their mothers,” she adds.

Newman, who recently returned from subsequent JustWorld trips to Guatemala and Mexico, explains that her equestrian connections have been especially beneficial to forming relationships with local, grassroots organizations. These connections helped to circumvent confrontation with some of the political unrest that is present in the countries where JustWorld gathers support. “We create reciprocal partnerships with our local establishments and all funding is monitored very carefully according to criteria mandated by international nonprofits,” says Newman. “This way, we avoid a lot of the corruption in developing countries.” During the most recent trips through Mexico and Central America, the organization partnered with existing horse shows to raise money for projects similar to the one in Honduras. The trip was a huge success, and the shows raised funding and support for JustWorld campaigns.

Now just in its sixth year of operation, Newman reports that JustWorld is at the stage where, instead of simply partnering with established shows, these competitions are actually becoming JustWorld events, complete with special classes where entry fees and winnings benefit JWI. There are also “horseless horse shows” which result in additional awareness and support. “This way, the link between equestrians and those in need will be a direct link as opposed to a connection through sponsorships and donations only,” she says, adding “Within the next five years, I hope to see JustWorld shows in every country where there is competitive horseback riding.” Judging by the support that JustWorld has garnered in its first five years, Newman and her equestrian ambassadors are jumping for a just world, one round at a time.

  To find out more about this incredible organization please visit their web site at http://www.justworldinternational.org, or to send an email.

Industry Innovators: Mosley and Mary

By Erna Adelson and Jackie McFarland

Have you ever wondered (or have you been around long enough to know) – who is Mary of Mary’s Tack & Feed? We were honored to have a chance to chat with Mike Mosley, owner of this well-established brand, to find out the answer to this and more.

A well-known destination for So Cal equestrians in need of the finest, most current gear for horse and rider as well as a very visible sponsor of horse shows and advertiser in multiple publications, Mary’s Tack & Feed is conveniently located next to Showpark (the Del Mar Horse Park). Founded in 1963, the store established a clientele before the show grounds existed.

A former representative for numerous tack suppliers, Mosley was able to gain access to Mary’s through a history of business with the original owner and founder, Mary Hammond, who had been running her tiny operation out of an old gas station since ’63. After Mosley took over in 1976, he introduced new merchandise, but retained the original name, superior inventory, and meticulous attention to customers. “I learned a lot from Mary about how to treat people and what to carry,” he says. “She had a really good eye for quality and already had a reputation and customer base, so why would I change a good thing?”
Mosley reveals that a place like Mary’s is the product of a lot of hard work and a little good luck. “There have always been quality horses and riders in San Diego,” says Mosley, “But the right equipment has helped keep them here.”

As business flourished, one thing Mosley did need to change was the size of the store. In 1983, twenty years after its humble beginning, Mary’s relocated from its 600-square-foot location to a site twenty times larger – a 12,000-square-foot location two-story building on Via de la Valle, where it stands today. The outpost store in San Juan Capistrano opened approximately ten years later to further accommodate customers in Orange County. While e-commerce sales have helped Mosley and his team serve customers in distant locations like the East Coast, Hawaii, and even Japan, the internet is actually only a small part of his business. “There is nothing in print advertising or on the internet that can replace the feeling of actually walking into the store.”

Mosley and the rest of the staff at Mary’s are incredibly dedicated to their customers and take pride in providing the latest designs in tack and equipment, hard to find items, and high quality options. For each niche in the equine industry, Mary’s employs a specialized buyer so that the inventory is always up to date. “There are constant challenges involved in staying on top of the market, like keeping the variety so the inventory is interesting and satisfies the customer, whether the item is for a horse, for training a horse, just for riding, or just for fun,” says Mosley.

“It is a monumental task for new employees to know as much as possible about the merchandise,” he adds. Thus, everyone on the floor regularly attends Mary’s University, a school within the tack store, so that they are able to answer any and every question about what is currently being offered. Mosley estimates that Mary’s stocks about three times as many products as a Home Depot, so a student of Mary’s University actually has quite a course load.

Though there are challenges to running a 12,000-square-foot tack store the size of Mary’s, Mosley says that the people are the reward. He explains that “I have not only been incredibly blessed by the people I work with, but since so many of the clients have been coming to Mary’s for so long, they feel like old friends.” Mosley intends to keep the formula for Mary’s simple as the brand continues to expand in the future. “I think people will always have horses and the best products for horses are still high-quality and created by craftsmen, so we will continue to carry those items.”

So the answer to the question – Who is Mary? – is not just Mary Hammond but also Mike Mosley. His innovation plus Mary’s tradition create an excellent retail environment for equestrians.


Conversations With Course Designers: Scott Starnes

By Erna Adelson and Jackie McFarland

A name we have seen printed in prize lists for many years, we caught up with Scott while he was designing courses in Parker, Colorado for the series of ‘A’ shows at the Colorado Horse Park.

“It’s been a long, strange, trip,” says Starnes of his ascent to his current status as one of California’s well-known course designers. Not a competitive rider but rather a former collegiate defensive back, Starnes’ experience in the elite equine world was hard to come by, and is a testament to his work ethic, determination, and skill as a technical designer.

It all began with the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, when Coto de Caza was host to the Olympic pentathlon show jumping events. Starnes took what was supposed to be just a summer job as part of the set up crew and ended up having a knack for the assignment. Shortly afterward, he met the legendary Pamela Carruthers and upon her encouragement traveled to Spruce Meadows where he crewed and assisted with course design. During the next decade Starnes observed and drew inspiration from some of the finest in the field from Equitation Finals to Grand Prix, including Jon Doney, David Ballard, Richard Jeffrey, Leopoldo Palacios and Linda Allen. While assisting abroad, Starnes was also working his way up as a course designer in his own backyard, learning from Tommy Dendiu, Richard Keller and Michael Curtis about designing for hunters and equitation as well as jumpers. As the horse show schedule in southern California expanded, Starnes was gainfully employed and no longer
had time to spend summers in Spruce Meadows.

We asked about designing courses for the new USHJA Hunter Derby, a more recent addition to our ‘A’ rated shows that requires a designer’s imagination to create a demanding yet inviting course for hunters. Whereas an equitation medal final or grand prix have many of the same technical questions and distance challenges, the Hunter Derby has its own requirements. “It is supposed to be more like an actual foxhunt while maintaining traditional hunter style,” Starnes commented. “The class requires a completely different build, at least four height option jumps, 3’6” and 4’, plus handy options.” Only in its first year and growing in popularity, this class requires the skill of an experienced course designer and when done well is as awesome to watch as a great Grand Prix.

Certainly steeped in the system, Starnes is the first person to admit that his career path would be considered unconventional. “Nowadays course designing is regulated more strictly,” he says. “You need to apply for a license, attend a certain number of clinics, and design at least three grand prix courses every two years to maintain your certification.” He notes that the new guidelines require all course designers to get licensed which he feels helps to ensure the safety of both horses and riders and improves the sport for all involved.

Though Starnes says that his most memorable assignments have been while crewing high-end events like the Olympics, World Cup and the Masters at Spruce Meadows because of the caliber of the designers and the athletes involved, he reveals that designing local and regional Medal Finals make him most happy. “I love designing at the Oaks because it’s home,” he says. Starnes is far from settled, though. With his FEI license pending, he may very well be back at the Olympics in London 2012, this time at the helm.