Unbridled Passion

By Lauren Fisher For Jennifer Wood Media Inc.

Show Jumping’s Newest Book Illustrates A Matter of the Heart
McLain and Sapphire, Beezie and Authentic, Ian and Big Ben… These are just a few of the great partnerships in show jumping history that are detailed in Jeff Papows’ new book,Unbridled Passion – Show Jumping’s Greatest Horses and Riders. Released by Acanthus Publishing, Unbridled Passion made its formal debut during the Fidelity Investments Jumper Classic, September 14th – 18th. The book documents the incredible relationships between some of North America’s most renowned horses and riders, telling the life-changing stories of their sacrifices for the love of the sport. Through the wonderful highs and heartbreaking lows both in and out of the ring, Papows gives readers an inside look at what it takes to be on top in the competitive world of show jumping.

Telling many stories never heard until now,Unbridled Passion gives complete insider views and behind the scenes accounts of some of the sport’s most poignant moments. The book features the awe-inspiring stories of 22 horse and rider combinations, with a foreword by legendary U.S. Show Jumping Chef d’Equipe George Morris, and beautiful photography by Gretchen Almy, Tony DeCosta, and Bob Langrish.

The book’s author, Jeff Papows, is well known in the industry. A “tenacious” equestrian in his own right, Papows has personally been inspired by these athletes and their amazing equine partners. He has been a true ambassador for the sport of show jumping and has helped give the sport the recognition it deserves. As Papows so eloquently described it, the book was “a matter of the heart, born of the need to illustrate how truly special the sport of show jumping is.”

In addition to his successful equestrian career, Papows is known in the world of show jumping for his involvement with the Fidelity Investments Jumper Classic. Papows explained his desire to participate in the sport, stating, “I got involved because of my love of horses first and foremost, and it went on from there. Later I wanted to give back and contribute to the sport, so I became the Chairman of the Jumper Classic, and found other ways to sponsor the understanding of the sport.”

He recalled when the idea first to write the book first came to him. “During the meet and greet panel at the Fidelity Investments Grand Prix every year I saw how thirsty for information the young riders were with respect to their idols, like McLain Ward and Margie Engle, and further how enthused the riders were interacting with them.”

When deciding whom to feature in the book, Papows declared, “The Who was easy. I simply selected the biggest North American contemporary stars then got the idea to add three high level amateur riders as well.”

Papows had his work cut out for him at the beginning, facing the challenge of getting in touch with not only the riders but also the owners, trainers, grooms and many other people that make up the support system of a top equestrian partnership. The sport of show jumping involves a lot of traveling and horses and riders are never in one place for long. The hard work quickly paid off as he saw the overwhelming enthusiasm that the participants showed for his project.

“The travel schedules of the Olympians and the logistics of dealing with people at any point in multiple times zones and continents made it challenging,” Papows noted. “Beyond that the biggest challenge was taking care to be sure that the fresh and real inside stories, not previously exposed, were told in each instance.”

“The easiest part of writing the book was staying on schedule, once started,” Papows added. “Because of the enthusiasm of riders, support givers, owners, Geroge Morris and everybody involved, information flowed like it was coming from fire hoses. People really wanted these horses’ stories told!”

The ups and downs of competitive show jumping made the sport the perfect subject for Papows’ book. The biggest surprise to the author as the book progressed became the pure reality of the stories.

“The content ended up being better than fiction!” Papows expressed. “Case by case the drama, heart break, and inspiration in real life was more incredible than even I with all my friendships with the riders understood.”

The riders themselves are grateful to Papows for sharing the stories of their most treasured horses with the world. Many riders expressed their appreciation personally.

McLain Ward, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, said it succinctly. “There is nobody in the sport who I trust more than Jeff Papows to tell Sapphire’s real story.”

Grand Prix Show Jumper Debbie Stephens is featured in the book with Cosequin’s CEO. Stephens acknowledged, “Unbridled Passion has shown what no other book has been able to capture, the opening of hearts for everyone to see, the real story between horse and rider.”

Grand Prix rider Kent Farrington and Up Chiqui are featured as well. Farrington explained, “Jeff has captured the real story of Show Jumping. It goes beyond all the victories and the frustrations. Jeff tells what the sport is truly about – having a special bond with a horse.”

An inspiration to many in the sport, nine-time Olympian Ian Millar summed it up perfectly with his praise for Papows, “Jeff is both rider, friend, and perhaps one of the sport’s most articulate voices – he tells our stories beautifully.”

More details and online ordering available at: www.unbridledpassion.net

The Chronicles of NARG Continued

By Jackie McFarland

More on the North American Riders Group
This young yet robust organization seems to have a big stride and a great jump. Since forming in March of 2009, founders McLain Ward, Chris Kappler, Norman Dello Joio, Jimmy Torano, Kent Farrington and Beezie Madden added influential names to the Board, including Will Simpson, Andre Dignelli and successful CEO Murray Kessler. As of this year yet another powerful CEO, Hunter Harrison joined NARG as special liaison for Horse Show Management. An avid supporter of the sport, Mr. Harrison serves in an advisory position for several world-class equestrian events, including Spruce Meadows, The Global Champions Tour and the Winter Equestrian Festival. Dynamo Jen Markee serves as Executive Director. Clearly they represent a group that essentially makes the show jumping world turn – the owners, riders and trainers.

NARG Board Member Murray Ke

Serving the equestrian world as an activist and lobbying group that seeks positive change through action, each Board Member puts their money where their mouth is. Seeking global changes that start at the source, besides contributing countless hours to achieve collective goals (more on that below), each Board Member contributed a minimum of $5,000 to the organization.

The achievements this active group has accomplished illustrate that NARG seeks to work with, and preferably not against, the governing bodies and horse show managements.

On February 1, 2011 NARG hosted their third annual meeting at the Wanderers Club in Wellington, FL. Several hundred owners, riders, trainers, managers and members of the press attended and were duly impressed.

Olympic Gold Medalist and NARG
Board Member Will Simpson

Kessler Opens, Simpson Engages
Murray Kessler opened the meeting, reminding the audience of NARG’s mission to “unite professional riders and trainers to use their collective strength to make show jumping in North America the best in the world.” He then introduced Board Member Will Simpson, who went well beyond reviewing the NARG 2010 accomplishments; the Olympic Gold Medalist engaged and entertained the group with his narrative. During his descriptive tale, he mentioned how the management team from Equestrian Sport Productions had already responded to NARG “At WEF every ring has great footing, and you can hear the horses from here saying ‘thank you, thank you, thank you’.”

Onward and upward, NARG had a busy year nationally and internationally. The group re-submitted a prize money alignment rule change to the USEF that would uphold an avid NARG belief that like in other sports, the top level earns the biggest purses; continued discourse on the Mileage Rule; weighed in on the water jump debate; created a recommended course designers list; addressed the United States Olympic Committee regarding the top level of the sport; supported McLain during the incident at the 2010 FEI World Cup, including legal assistance, distributed the Young Riders handbook written by Kim Land which should ease some NAJYRC confusion, worked to get Katie Prudent elected to the IJRC (International Jumping Riders Club) Committee plus developed and presented evaluations to horse shows that resulted in significant improvements at major events like WEF, Hampton Classic, Devon, and the Pennsylvania National Horse Show (PNHS). This initiative led to the inaugural NARG Top 25, a list of the top 25 horse shows in North America. Before NARG announced the results of that year long effort, several more important people addressed the crowd.

Peter Doubleday

Doubleday Delineates, Prudent Will Persevere
Next Simpson invited Peter Doubleday to speak. A long standing name in the sport, Doubelday explained how NARG influenced the PNHS Board, which has a large share of non-equestrian Members, to make some marked changes this year – notably a major investment in improving the footing as well as increasing prize money and improving award ceremonies. He encouraged other events to consider changes to improve the overall experience, ultimately to make North America’s top shows some of the best in the world.

Katie Monahan Prudent spoke about her election to the IJRC. She spoke candidly about how the FEI’s actions against McLain during the 2010 World Cup had ‘damaged our sport worldwide’. She felt that the incident was not only ‘disgraceful and unjust’ but there was no unity among the riders. These negative aspects mixed with her strong desire to improve the sport, increase support and introduce NARG’s ideas are the driving forces behind accepting her new international position.

Ward Remembers, Morris Insists on Excellence
McLain Ward approached the microphone. As painful as it may be to relive the nightmare he experienced through the unbelievable elimination of Sapphire in Geneva, he actually had some positive perspective. Ward commented on how good can come from bad, and that the unity he felt via NARG’s support during a difficult time was both effective and personally moving. “It was like having a bunch of pit bulls in my backyard. It was phenomenal.”

Ward then introduced a video where Board Member Jimmy Torano interviewed the iconic George Morris. With vintage images woven into the piece, the two generations spoke about what has become of our sport. When Morris speaks people listen and he insisted on excellence – to eliminate the ‘limited’ mentality, to put quality first, always be open to learning, pay attention to the details – no shortcuts, and don’t lower standards. He addressed both the trainers and the horse show managers for the notable decline and commented on how we need to re-establish meaningful breeding and horse sales in this country. Acknowledging the challenge of his decree, and even his own admission of succumbing to the ‘sexiness’ of traveling to Europe to buy horses, Morris upheld that the excellence factor is truly how ‘together we can improve our sport’. Board Member Norman Dello Joio then addressed the crowd with comments that reiterated the Morris message and ended with the explanation that “NARG is working hard to restore greatness to North American horse shows with their Top 25 initiative.” Which led to the big announcement.

The NARG Top 25, Winner & Special Guest Speaks
Via volunteer evaluators, NARG quantitatively analyzed over 50 horse shows last year. After numerous Board meetings to discuss the final results, NARG developed the Top 25 of 2010. Murray Kessler returned to announce the top events and to explain the importance of this effort. Labeling it the horse show version of Consumer Reports, he emphasized that although it is an honor to make this list it is important to note that after the top four shows all scores were below 80%, effectively a B- or lower. Certainly room for improvement. NARG feels that the key to improving our sport lies within this competitive structure and they seek to work with and not against horse show managements.

The NARG Board presents the Top Award of 2010 to
Linda Southern-Heathcott and Ian Allison of Spruce Meadows
With a score of 92%, Kessler proudly announced the number one equestrian events in North America, the Spruce Meadows Summer Series and Masters. Linda Southern-Heathcott and Ian Allison were present to accept the award. Stepping up to speak, Heathcott admitted that she has not been to Wellington for quite a few years (25 give or take) and that the management here has done an incredible job with the venue.
She said the NARG evaluation of Spruce was constructive and candid, essentially appreciated. Heathcott further inspired the audience by relating that several decades ago Spruce Meadows was her father’s vision and dream. That is how it starts. The Southern family ignored the naysayers who claimed no one would come to Canada, and that this vision of hosting some of the world’s top equestrian events would never work. She concluded by claiming, “There is no can’t, you can.” View the full Top 25 Report here.

Kappler Concludes
NARG President Chris Kappler wrapped up the meeting by highlighting NARG’s goals for 2011. They will again focus on their top 25 ranking as a way to continue to help North American horse shows improve, support the mileage rule and prize money realignment rule modifications, listen to their members – at their request NARG has added three open member meetings for 2011: At WEF on February 17, 2011, another at the Hampton Classic and a third on the West Coast (location and date to be announced). Kappler added that in 2011 NARG was creating an owner’s initiative with a goal to bring back the pride in owning a horse for our nation’s top riders. He closed with thanking the group for attending and asking for their continued support. He encouraged everyone to join and to be a part of shaping the future of show jumping. He ended with the resounding message of the evening “Together we can improve our sport.”

To find out more, go to NARG.org. Several in depth articles are also on PhelpsSports.com.

Photos By Erin Gilmore and Jackie McFarland

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.

A Stable Story: Bernie Traurig’s Equestrian Coach

By Jackie McFarland

Bernie Traurig’s Equestrian Coach
We are deep into a new age where knowledge is literally at our fingertips. From connecting to collecting, the wealth of available resources awaits the typing of a simple address. Not your physical address, but the uniform resource locator or URL. That string of characters – www-dot-equestriancoach-dot-com – represents a wide world of people that are now reaching one another in ways that were virtually impossible just over a decade ago.

Although the equestrian niche certainly utilizes these resources – email, texting, web sites, Facebook, Google, PayPal – a select group have considered the possibilities of this vast network, combined it with their own bank of experience and connections to create an opportunity not previously available. One such individual is Bernie Traurig, the force behind the recently launched EquestrianCoach.com.
Bernie Traurig
First, step back in equestrian time and take note that Traurig has an extensive breadth of knowledge and success. Having achieved the top level of competition in all three of the International Equestrian Olympic disciplines: show jumping, dressage and eventing, Traurig has over half a century of experience to share.

Renowned not only for his riding talents, but for his teaching and coaching gifts as well, Traurig has been a member of the United States Equestrian Team in both the US and abroad. Still actively involved, he is currently George Morris’s Associate Chef d’ Equipe to the United States Equestrian Team on the West Coast.

Previous to the Internet age, the opportunities to learn from the masters meant proximity, perseverance and reaching deep in your pockets to pay for clinics, lessons, even DVDs and books. Several years ago, Traurig recognized that modern technology gave him a medium to ‘train’ anyone who wanted to learn.

By providing educational video clips by a list of top-level trainers, anyone at any level and at any time could watch and learn. What a great way to offer expertise for a reasonable price. Instead of going to the experts, they can now come to you.

After discovering these exciting possibilities, then came the long road of developing the web site. Conceptually the plan was a go and seemingly straight forward, but there were a multitude of steps to take before completion.

Gaining excitement by introducing the concept at the 2009 FEI World Cup in Las Vegas, the EquestrianCoach.com team had their work cut out for them. Filming, editing, generating content, creating a web site flow, pricing model and programming were just a few of the tasks. In the process, Traurig developed clips by show jumping greats such as Olympic Gold Medalist Will Simpson, USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals Winner John French, world class level competitor Rich Fellers and equitation expert Missy Clark as well as dressage and eventing stars Debbie McDonald, Gina Miles and Michael Plumb. The site also offers building blocks and clinics provided by Traurig. And that is just the beginning, more experts are lined up to participate.

Traurig comments with a smile, “I kept thinking we would be ready to go and then we would want to tweak something or realized we could make it better. It was and is an intense time commitment, but it’s so great to see it come together.”
Other sections include endorsements from George Morris and Paul Cronin, grassroots and horsemanship, a Kids Corner, interviews with coaches and the list continues to grow.

On June 1, 2010 all the preparing, planning and processing became a reality when EquestrianCoach.com officially launched.

Before the World Wide Web, the fundamental information that EquestrianCoach.com provides was only available to the sport’s elite. The site serves as a coaching aid to riders and trainers alike and aims to make quality education accessible and affordable to every equestrian, regardless of background, level of riding or geographic location.

Now riders from anywhere in the world can take lessons from top trainers. Even a high level rider can gain a new perspective for a very reasonable price.

For less than what it would cost to take a clinic from one of the masters presented on the site, a subscriber can purchase an annual pass of educational videos for a special introductory offer of $299. Or for significantly less than one training lesson, buy a monthly subscription and learn from several top trainers for just $29.99.

“One of the best parts is the chance to offer education to such a wide audience,” explained Traurig. “All the work is well worthwhile when I know how many riders could benefit.”

Besides a tutorial, there are a handful of clips available for free viewing as well as an FAQ section to answer all your questions. You can look at the options in the video library plus see a list of what’s coming next. What could be better for your virtual library than some of the world’s best riders and trainers just a click away and for less than a dollar a day?

EquestriSol News: November 17, 2009

Congratulations to…

Laura Teodori and Kasoar D’Uxelles on their success in the CSIO Nations Cup in Buenos Aires – they were the only double clear! Laura is now working on the east coast. We wish her the best.

$1,000 Thoroughbred Hunter Champions Classic this weekend

As a kickoff for the Thoroughbred Show Horse Association, which will take membership paid to offer prize money for classes throughout the year, the Autumn Jubilee Show at Industry Hills Equestrian Center on November 21-22 will host a $1,000 Thoroughbred Hunter Champions Classic. Call Duncan McIntosh for more information or to join at 818-943-7102.

Clinics Coming to Town

Before Santa comes you can give yourself an early Christmas present by participating in and/or auditing at some upcoming clinics. Names synonymous with the world’s best in the sport – Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Joe Fargis and George Morris – will be in sunny California hosting clinics at three beautiful locations. Clinic sessions are filling fast but auditing is the next best thing to riding…

November 20-22: Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum at El Campeon Farms
Contact Kasey Ament: 805-794-6107

December 2-3: Joe Fargis at Menlo Circus Club
Contact Nathan Stiles: 209-765-7755

December 11-13: George Morris at Shelburne Farms – clinic space is full.
Auditing available at $75 p/day. No auditing reservations needed.
Contact Melissa Jones: 805-370-1941

Save The Date! December 10th – 7-10 pm: Anthropologie Holiday Shopping Soiree to Benefit the Equestrian Aid Foundation

Enjoy fabulous hors d’oeuvres and Stephen Vincent sauvignon blanc while shopping and benefitting a great cause. All attendees receive a 15% discount. Click here for details.

2010 Horse Mastership

Already looking forward to 2010, riders invited to participate in the George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Session January 5-9, 2010 in Wellington, Florida were just announced. Invited west coast riders include Zazou Hoffman, Tina Dilandri and Theodore Boris. If you happen to be in Wellington in January, auditing the training session is free.

USHJA’S Emerging Athletes Program Level 3 is coming

The inaugural EAP National Training Session is also coming in 2010. On January 8-10, 2010 the top 12 finalists will spend three days on their riding, horsemanship and stable management skills. The 12 riders selected to participate will be announced at the end of November. Auditors are welcome at $75 per day.

Host Facility: Maplewood Stables
Location: Reno, Nevada
Main Clinician: Peter Wylde
Veterinarian Seminar/Asst Stable Mgr: Dr. Midge Leitch
Horsemanship Seminar: Mindy Bower
Course Designer: Chrystine Tauber
Judge: Melanie Smith Taylor
Host Hotel: Peppermill Resort

EAP Level 2 clinician Bernie Traurig had some encouraging words to share. “I was extremely impressed with the level of riding. There were eighteen kids there, some who showed a high level of talent. I think that directly reflects on the quality of our west coast trainers. They are doing their job– these kids are getting a high level of training.”

For more EAP information, visit: www.ushja.org.

E-news Announcement

Our last e-news had tremendous response – thank you! Unfortunately, the email list server went down for several hours so for anyone that got an error when trying to view it, here is the enews link again


The History Of The Big Eq

By Erna L. Adelson

The Search for the Best is Back

As the qualification period for the USEF Talent Search gets underway, rankings reveal the top of the nation’s leading equitation contenders. Each day spent training, preparing and competing will culminate, for some, in a mark on the storied history of the sport. Equitation has certainly evolved over the years, from the days of Jackie Kennedy Onassis to last year’s Sophie Benjamin and Hannah Selleck, though competitors remain true to the heart of the sport—the bond between horse and rider. It is this special bond that defines the membership of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF). Since 1917, the Federation has been dedicated to pursuing excellence, promoting growth and providing a safe and level playing field for both its equine and human athletes. In this tradition, the 2009 USEF Talent Search will, of course, reveal the potential bearers of the crimson coat in international competition, but it will also indicate something more, something innate that materializes with the chemistry unique to horses and riders.

The OG of the Big Eq
Before the name George Morris was synonymous with horsemanship, the second president of the Association of American Horse Shows, Mr. Alfred Maclay, was the authority on the rules and regulations used to license members and venues. In 1927, these policies filled a six-page pamphlet. Though now they are much more extensive, the original sentiment is still referred to upon evaluation of candidates today—and Maclay’s legacy as a horseman lives on in the medal final that bears his name.

Much of the terminology surrounding the Talent Search stems from the days of Maclay’s tenure. The nickname for equitation classes as ‘Medal Classes’ has stuck almost 80 years since riders were first awarded medals for their achievement in winning an equitation class. The newer nomenclature, the “big eqs” refers to the classes in which riders show to qualify for several national championships, especially the historic and coveted USEF Talent Search, USEF Medal and ASPCA Maclay Championships.

The Star Search is Born
The USEF has several fundamental responsibilities as the governing body of US equestrian sport: The USEF trains, selects, and funds our United States Equestrian Team, licenses equestrian competitions of all levels across the United States each year, and encourages growth among newcomers as well as the coming generation. The Talent Search was started in 1956 by the U.S. Equestrian Team (now the USET Foundation) as a USET Medal Program in order to fulfill the cultivation aspect of their duties. In 1982, the Medal Program incorporated year-end finals as a further goal. In 1994, the USET decided to combine the USET Medal Program with the USET Show Jumping Talent Search Program. This name change better reflected the focus of the program by asking developing riders to meet a more difficult set of standards than required in other competitions, thus helping to prepare them for berths on future international show jumping squads.

The Show Jumping Talent Search Program became part of the USEF’s Show Jumping High Performance Program in 2005. The Platinum Performance / USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals attracts the nation’s top Juniors and Young Riders in head-to-head competition. The Finals are open to U.S. citizens 21 years old and younger who have qualified through their placement in Platinum Performance / USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Classes and include a matrix of phases to test entrants’ skills in the show jumping arena, including equitation, speed over difficult courses and gymnastics, derby-style terrain, and a ride-off.

Graduates of the program include some of the top competitors and trainers on the circuit today, each doing their part to inspire and train the next generation of equestrians.

In this week’s final 37 riders will vie for the title. Last year’s West Coast winner, Hannah Selleck, just returned from the Spruce Masters where she competed against the best and brought home prizes. On the East Coast qualified riders will compete on the weekend of October 4th-5th in Gladstone, NJ. Now a sophomore at Princeton, California-based Sophie Benjamin won the coveted East Coast Finals in 2008.

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. 

Clinics That Click

By Zazou Hoffman

One of the benefits of participating in a clinic is that you learn new exercises that help you and your horse. You also realize that there is no “one“ correct way. Horses and riders will respond differently to different training methods.

An Opportunity
In 2005, shortly after I started in the Children’s Jumpers, I learned of the organization West Coast Active Riders. At the time, Grand Prix rider Gabriella Salick was the president. She arranged for many outreach programs. Among them was an essay contest for a free space in the Leslie Burr Howard clinic. Leslie Burr Howard is a two-time Olympian, has competed in numerous World Cups and also won the Maclay medal. An amazing teacher, Leslie tailors her training methods to the individual horse and rider. I was fortunate enough to win the contest because Leslie liked why I wanted to participate – “What sparked my interest in Zazou is her attention not only to riding and competing, but her interest in preparation and strategy.”

The Clinic Format
The first day of the clinic was flat work. We worked on shortening the horse’s stride over cavelletti. Leslie got on all 18 horses so that she could individualize her comments. The second day we continued to work on adjustability over low jumps, bending and slicing. The third day we worked over a course of twelve fences. The clinic concluded in a competition over a jump-off course. The main theme of the clinic was the need to be able to lengthen and shorten the frame of your horse. Leslie emphasized that whether you are a soft rider or a strong rider, you need to be able to do the opposite while riding a course. She quoted U.S. Olympic Team Chef d’Equipe George Morris “Your strength is your weakness”. Mr. Morris reiterated this in the Horsemastership Sessions. What he means by this is that you must practice what is least comfortable to you.

The Stride Game
In my mind it all hinges on adjustability of horse and rider. When I am at home with my friends and in lessons with my trainer, Meredith Bullock, we play “The Stride Game”. You begin by setting a pole in an open area and establishing the number of canter strides you want to put in before you go over the pole. Each rider calls and counts the number of strides as they canter to the pole. Every time you miscalculate you have to drop out. We practice off of both leads. We learn about lengthening or shortening accurately, preparing ourselves for those tough jumper or equitation courses, especially for lines that are set short or long or on the half-stride.

It’s interesting to note that each horse is an individual and what works for one may not work for another. There are lots of clinics being offered and they can be expensive. Do your homework – make sure that you choose the one that will most benefit you and your horse. If you can’t attend as a rider, ask if you can audit as a non-rider, or as a volunteer to help set jumps. It’s a great way to learn. Some of my favorite clinicians are: Joe Fargis, Kathy Kusner, Richard Spooner, Archie Cox and George Morris (pass on this if you are a super sensitive person, can’t tolerate criticism, or tend to cry easily).

Zazou Hoffman is a 16-year-old from Santa Monica, CA. As a 13-year-old, having only shown locally, she decided to apply for the Ronnie Mutch Working Student Scholarship. She won, which led to working with respected East Coast trainers Missy Clark and John Brennan. Through hard work and commitment, by Jan. ’07 Zazou was one of seven elite riders chosen to work with Olympic Chef d’Equipe George Morris in Wellington, FL. She has competed in the Medal Finals for the past three years. She counts her win at the Maclay Regional, her 4th in “the Medal” at Harrisburg, her 5th in the USET Talent Search East at Gladstone, and her 3rd in the WCE amongst her notable accomplishments.

Can You Ride In The Rain?

By Zazou Hoffman

Bad weather is not fun… or is it? Can we make it fun? Playing in the mud was fun when we were kids, splish-splosh, splish-splosh. So if we can learn to ride in all kinds of weather we can not only potentially have fun but can also have the upper hand in a competitive situation.

During Week I of HITS Thermal, we were deluged with rain on Sunday. Many exhibitors scratched, but after watching a couple of hunter rounds I thought that the footing was still good and that as long as the trainer and the owner of the horse I was riding gave the okay, it was a go. Here in California there are so few opportunities to show in the rain and wind, it’s important to get the experience whenever you can.

George Morris told us in the Horsemastership Sessions to “practice what’s not comfortable in order to get better at it.” On the East Coast riders often have to ride under sloppy, cold conditions. I have benefited from showing on the East Coast where “the show goes on” unless there is a dangerous electrical storm (see final paragraph for more about lightning). Every rider’s tack trunk is stocked with raingear and the barn manager and staff all assume that getting drenched and covered with mud is a job requirement. They think it’s fun. My barnmates at Missy Clark’s North Run actually giggled when I told them I had never heard of Helly pants, (in case you don’t know either, they are water proof pants with zippers on the sides) which they put over their show breeches. Just zip them off before you go in the ring.

So, it is to a certain degree a mindset. You CAN ride in the rain – the horse does not mind. So why do I, the rider, want to get all wet and dirty? Because after working all year to qualify for a Medal Final which takes place on the East Coast in the Fall where you can be 99% sure that it WILL rain you do not want to let bad weather psyche you out of putting in a great round. But, you might ask, “Since they are called Indoor Medal Finals, why would I get wet?” Yes, they are Indoors but the layover farms and warm-up rings where you prepare are outdoors. You never know what weather you might encounter on the East Coast in the fall.

Try this mantra: “I love the rain, I can ride in the wind, and getting muddy is fun. Most importantly my horse doesn’t mind.”

This is the best reason to practice whenever there is rain and wind at home. I try to expose my young mare to puddles on the ground and muddy footing so that she will become desensitized to these things. Nothing is worse than getting to a show and having your horse turn into a clean-freak white-gloved party princess. Try to visualize your worst nightmare, the Junior Hunter Under Saddle Hack with twenty run-away horses in a windstorm or in pouring rain and sloppy footing. If you know your horse can behave under these circumstances, you will remain confident and your horse will feel it, too.

This confidence comes from all the training at home. Earplugs can definitely help your horse to focus at a show, but you should practice riding without them at home. Save them for situations where you really need them.

Okay, mantra said, you had your fun in the mud. Now you are back at the hotel after showing in the rain. Your boots and breeches are sopping wet and covered in mud. Your hunt coat smells like a wet sheep dog and you have to show tomorrow.

A few things you can do:

• Hang up the wet huntcoat, spot clean it and place it in a warm but not too hot area. You don’t want it to shrink.

• After getting the mud off of your boots, rub some lotion on the inside of your boots to prevent them from drying into stiff cardboard.

• Next, crinkle some tissue paper and shove it into the foot. The boots can regain their shape, yet breathe and dry. Put boot trees or rolled magazines into the leg area.

• If you have mud-stained white breeches you can rub toothpaste on the dirty spots and take them into the shower with you. I found that if you throw them in a laundry basket with globs of mud, the mud stains the fabric and the breeches are ruined.

A bit on lightning – remember that lightning is electricity. If you are on your horse get back to the barn as quickly as possible. If you have returned the horse to a stall that has pull-down or shutter windows, do not close them. This is because those shutters are often made of metal and even touching them in an electrical storm could get you electrocuted, particularly if the roof of the barn is metal. Just leave them open and get yourself to the center aisle. Regardless of how it strikes, once in a structure, the lightning can travel through the electrical and plumbing fixtures. Lightning can also travel through any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring.

Final note: Lightning storm – head inside. Rain falls – as long as the footing is safe, have fun in the mud! Wind blows – if the jumps are blowing down, call it a day. If you can see, go with the flow. Remember your mantra and those words from George…

Zazou Hoffman is a 16-year-old from Santa Monica, CA. As a 13-year-old, having only shown locally, she decided to apply for the Ronnie Mutch Working Student Scholarship. She won, which led to working with respected East Coast trainers Missy Clark and John Brennan. Through hard work and commitment, by Jan. ’07 Zazou was one of seven elite riders chosen to work with Olympic Chef d’Equipe George Morris in Wellington, FL. She has competed in the Medal Finals for the past three years. She counts her win at the Maclay Regional, her 4th in “the Medal” at Harrisburg, her 5th in the USET Talent Search East at Gladstone, and her 3rd in the WCE amongst her notable accomplishments.