Teamwork Makes The Dream Work For McFarlane, McNaught And A Little Cat Called Lucky

by Selena Frederick for EquestriSol

Whereas most people would be down and out with a broken neck or a broken collarbone, those maladies didn’t even come close to slowing the pace for the fiery pair of Brit Helen McNaught and New Zealander Duncan McFarlane. From injuries to victories, the pressures (and potential injuries) of preparing and competing grand prix horses on the west coast, as far north as Calgary, and the east coast, as far east as Saugerties, don’t faze Helen, Duncan and the Outwoods Farm team.

Lucky

Helen Mcnaught and Duncan Mcfarlane

Whether or not luck has anything to do with it, a kitten ‘walked’ into their lives last fall and earned a place on the Outwoods Team. They found the little stowaway in the trailer on their way to Saugerties, NY to compete in the Pfizer Million last September (2011). Apparently after finding a new home for a litter, this little feline was left behind. So across the country the kitten went, quite a trip for any animal let alone an orphaned baby, but Lucky was up for the adventure and is now a part of the family. Plus as luck would have it, Helen and Duncan came home with some fabulous prizes from the weekend to boot.

The sweet little kitty seems to have a guardian angel. After his rescue and adoption, Lucky was attacked by pit bulls, but lives to tell the story. He likes to sleep in Mr. Whoopy’s stall, where the usually spunky stallion happily eats around him. And true to the feisty Outwoods nature, the cat marches around like a watchdog, securing the stabling area from any unwanted visitors. Wherever Helen and Duncan go, Lucky is usually in their midst.

Ups and Downs

Caballo and Lucky

Even with all his inherent goodness, Lucky can’t keep two active grand prix riders risk-free. In October of 2011, Helen suffered a potentially career ending neck injury while schooling a horse at their farm. With careful orders from the doctor, she was told to stay off horses for several months. So Duncan took up the reins and competed her grand prix mount Caballo until their winter break in December. As soon as the calendar turned to 2012 and Helen was given the thumbs up, she wasted no time getting back in the saddle. Potentially spurred on by the forced break, she returned stronger than ever. Winning the HITS Thermal $50,000 EMO Grand Prix Week I aboard Lariccello was not a bad start to the winter season. She was second in two of the five World Cup Qualifiers at HITS (Weeks II & IV) on Caballo.

In the spring the tables turned. As Helen affectionately stated, Duncan became a “busted kiwi”, taking a fall and breaking his collarbone at the Del Mar Horse Park in May. It’s no surprise that the following day, he was out setting jumps, helping with the horses and coaching. No matter the injuries or setbacks, these two resilient riders complement each other, always ready and willing to step up and do their part. Nothing seems to dampen their competitive, hard-working and determined spirits.

The Boys

“Whoopy and Caballo are best friends,” explained Helen. “Caballo is the bossier of the two, which is a touch surprising since Whoopy is the stallion.”

Beginning to compete at the higher levels at the ripe age of 12, Caballo had a late start in his high performance career. Helen refused to heed the warnings from friends and family and spent all her savings on the purchase of this talented yet difficult mount. She had her doubts early on after getting dumped repeatedly when he didn’t want to go somewhere or jump a particular fence. Definitely not a quitter, and believing in her own instincts as well as Caballo’s, she made him face his demons and after months of daily trials, patience and consistency, they solidified their partnership.

“He’s paid me back in full a million times over and I’m so thankful to have him,” the proud mother gushed.

She’s confident that he still has some competitive years left in him and “he’ll tell me when he’s ready to retire”. When that time comes, Caballo will be flown to England to spend the rest of his days grazing and enjoying life on the McNaught family farm. Plus before he was gelded, they collected some semen in order to breed and raise Caballo babies in the future.

Helen’s second grand prix mount came about three years ago, after a rough start elsewhere. “He can jump a house,” said Helen, “but he has to want to do it, otherwise he just won’t.”

Once again Helen has produced a top competitor for owner Alison Heafey, and Lariccello has now come into his own. As 2011 came to a close he was the second leading money winner in Northern California. The pair continues to earn top prizes, including winning the aforementioned HITS Thermal $50,000 EMO Grand Prix., and the Sonoma Horse Park THIS $30,000 Grand Prix this past July, for the second year in a row. Plus a well-earned fourth in the $32,000 Cargill Cup 1.50m FEI class at the Canada One Tournament up at Spruce Meadows.

Helen McNaught and Mr. Whoopy

A stallion with a sweetheart disposition, “Whoopy” is a love back at the barn, but a fierce and spunky competitor in the show ring. Known for his big jump and playful antics, he will often hop, buck and then jump during a round. That certainly has not stopped the duo of Duncan and now 10-year-old Whoopy from a stellar career. Owner Simone Coxe purchased the stallion as a five-year-old, and Duncan has brought him along carefully over the years. Along with placing second at the prestigious Pfizer Million back in September (2011) and earning a top prize the inaugural year, Whoopy has won several other grand prix classes, including the World Cup Qualifier $53,000 HITS Grand Prix CSI2*-W. While Duncan was out with injury this spring, Whoopy didn’t miss a beat with Helen aboard. Together they won the $20,000 Jennifer Marlborough Memorial Grand Prix at the Golden State Horse Show. It was a one-two victory, as she came in second on her own Caballo.

With his breeding program underway, Whoopy has one filly on the ground, appropriately named “Whoop-dee-do.” We can look forward to, and hope to write about, the Caballo as well as the Whoopy-sired offspring in years to come.

HITS in winter and fall

After letting the horses rest for all of December, HITS Thermal is the sunny desert oasis that the Outwoods Team seeks out after the holidays.

Helen claimed, “It’s the best for our business. A great way to start the year off with plenty of grand prix classes, indoor and out, plenty of places to ride and a great group of people we look forward to seeing every winter.”

And nothing like a little time in New York to spice up a fall season – Helen and Duncan will soon be trekking cross-country to Saugerties for the third year in a row. Certainly worth the effort with the large potential payout, Helen and Duncan (and Lucky and the boys) enjoy the time on the road.

“The footing is great, the facilities are wonderful, the staff is incredible” commented the couple, “and we love how Tom (Struzzeri) is so involved with the community.”

As the west coast welcomes the new Thermal Million Grand Prix League culminating at the end of the HITS Desert Circuit 2013, the Outwoods Team won’t have to travel so far for the big bucks. However with a million offered on not just one but now two coasts, two times per year, it’s likely this dream team will plan to pursue positions at both events.

Thank you, Helen and Duncan, for taking the time to share your lives, your horses and the importance of having a great team that can pick up the reins and keep you laughing no matter the setback. We wish you the best this season and in many seasons to come with the boys and the offspring, as well as client horses, to follow.

Helen and Duncan asked us to thank their staff at Outwoods Farm, the owners, clients, and supporters, without whom they could not be the dream team they aim to be every day.

Pfizer Million Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos by Flying Horse Photography.

Highlights From HITS Desert Circuit Highlights

WHAT’S HOT

This weekend marked the second to last World Cup qualifier for the 2009 season.  As expected, the winners of the last four qualifiers at the HITS Desert Circuit created a shift in the rankings, so this weekend’s class played a role in determining who will be heading to the final qualifier at the end of March as well as who might be competing in Vegas at the 2009 Rolex FEI World Cup Finals.

This is how the $50,000 FEI World Cup Qualifier, presented by Adequan, unfolded on Saturday night…

Initially the Guilherme Jorge (BRAZIL) course looked tough as the first two riders, including the west coast league leader Harley Brown (AUS), both circled before the final bending line. Next in the ring Week V’s outdoor $25,000 HITS Grand Prix winner John McConnell on Carolina went clean well within the time allowed. Four fault free rides followed, including this week’s indoor $25,000 HITS Grand Prix winner Rich Fellers on the fabulous Flexible, Katherine Bardis riding Mademoiselle, the unbeatable Ashlee Bond and Cadett 7, Helen McNaught aboard Caballo, all in a row sixth through ninth in the order. Fence seven, the liverpool across the diagonal, caused a four fault distraction for quite a few. However, Richard Spooner piloted his new mount Lou Bega beautifully around the course, Mandy Porter and San Diego were flawless and Lane Clarke rode Kiss the Sky to a clean round, resulting in an ideal eight of 28 starters heading to the jump off.

McConnell set the pace clean in 39.03. In Flexible fashion, Fellers, also clean, shaved more than four seconds off that time stopping the clock at 34.89. Unbeatable? Bardis tried but had a rail in 36.26.  In gallops Bond.  Clean in 34.78 – .11 seconds faster than Fellers. The crowd went crazy, unbelievable!

McNaught and Spooner gave it a go, both clean but not fast enough in 36.94 and 35.09, finishing fifth and third. Porter was blazing fast in 33.55, with an unfortunate two rails dropping her to eighth. Clarke gave it a good shot, ending up fourth, clean in 35.12. A fantastic class.

Place Horse Rider Owner
1 Cadett 7 Ashlee Bond Little Valley Farm
2 Flexible Rich Fellers Harry & Mollie Chapman
3 Lou Bega Richard Spooner Leone Equestrians, Inc.
4 Kiss The Sky Lane Clarke Horsemanship Unlimited
5 Caballo Helen McNaught Helen McNaught
6 Carolina John McConnell Klein Ranch
7 Mademoiselle Katherine Bardis C & S Partnership LLC
8 San Diego Mandy Porter Danielle Korsh
9 Ace Richard Spooner S & B, LLC
10 Black Ice Jill Henselwood Juniper Farms
11 Archie Bunker Will Simpson Linda I. Smith
12 Kaskaya Jill Humphrey Leone Equestrians, Inc.

The $50,000 Orange County Register CSI-W Grand Prix (final 2009 FEI World Cup Qualifier) in San Juan Capistrano will be a very important class to those who still wish to shake up the top of that order.

LATE BREAKING NEWS: SPECIAL INVITATIONAL GRAND PRIX

During the upcoming series of spring shows hosted by Blenheim EquiSports there will be two important indoor Grand Prix opportunities. One is of course the final World Cup Qualifier on Saturday, March 28th and the other is the $35,000 Spring Classic III Grand Prix on Friday, April 10th.

For this Grand Prix, the Blenheim management team would like to offer an invitation to all riders who have qualified to compete at either the 2009 World Cup Finals or the 2009 Las Vegas Grand Prix to ride in the indoor arena Friday night for free. Not only would Blenheim like to recognize these individuals for achieving the honor of qualifying for Vegas this April, but they would also like to give them a chance to practice over a simulated course in front of a live audience before they head to the Finals. The riders will be allowed to jump all or part of the indoor course set at a “soft height” (1.40m – 1.45m) just prior to the start of the actual class. This will be a non-judged exhibition performance that will be limited to horse/rider combinations having earned more than 25 World Cup points in the U.S. West Coast League during the 2008/2009 season. For more information contact Show Manager Stephanie Wheeler at (949) 443-1841 or showpark@aol.com.

WHAT’S HAPPENED: DC WEEKS IV & V 

Ashlee Bond was the rising starlet of the week – winning both the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix AND the $50,000 FEI World Cup Qualifying Grand Prix presented by Adequan against some of the best in the west over courses designed by European Aki Ylanne (Finland). The win on Saturday catapulted her above Gold Medalist Will Simpson and the 2008 World Cup 2nd place finisher Rich Fellers. Ashlee is hot, hot, hot!

There were plenty of important activities off the horse during Week IV, from a National Horse Show forum to a USEF Riders Meeting, culminating with a USEF Dinner & Fundraiser.

East Coasters Leo Conroy, John Madden and Mason Phelps came out to offer their appreciation to the west coast along with getting feedback from our professionals about the National Horse Show. Ideas for both hunters and jumpers were discussed and recommendations made. Another show jumping forum, hosted by the USEF, encouraged discussion on numerous important topics including new committees, 2010 WEG selection and choosing a successor for George Morris, US Show Jumping Coach. The indoor arena was host to yet another grand evening: during the Six Bar Open Jumper Class and Modified Jr/Am Jumper Classic, the USEF hosted wine and dinner, a live auction of exclusive USET memorabilia and a Calcutta for Saturday’s World Cup Qualifying Grand Prix. The evening’s events raised upwards of $30,000 for US Show Jumping High Performance Programs.

During Week V the show jumpers were back out on the Grand Prix field for what proved to be challenging courses from designer Florencio Hernandez (Mexico). Colorado equestrian John McConnell on Klein Ranch’s Carolina had the only clean round of 49 entries in the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix on Friday. Apparently the course was more difficult than it appeared, with three plank jumps, some big square oxers and the skinny jump as the trouble spots mixed with a tight time allowed.

Canadian Olympic rider Jill Henselwood on Juniper Farm’s Special Ed rode for the win in the $75,000 HITS Grand Prix on Sunday. Eleven went clean, four double-clear, with Henselwood’s 48.06 emerging as the fastest time. Fellow fast Canadian John Pearce as well as the master

of faster, Richard Spooner, tried but couldn’t beat Henselwood’s time, finishing second and third respectively.

Off the horse happenings included the Volleyball Tournament hosted by Joie Gatlin – Morley Abey Show Jumping and the WCAR Party. The weather was ideal for the inaugural beach volleyball event where a dozen teams played in the grand prix field. This year’s WCAR party was a casual affair, with dinner and dancing at the date plantation, Tierra del Fuego.

And the always-anticipated Tack Room Awards were presented last Sunday, with generous prizes donated by Home Depot, Antares Saddles, Der Dau Boots & Shoes and Flying Horse Photography. A panel of five judges awarded first through third in two categories: permanent and portable barns. In the permanent barns the winner was Waldenbrook, and the top honor in the portable stalls went to Sovereign Place. Congratulations!

EQSOL NEWS: WHAT’S IN THIS ISSUE

In this issue John French enlightens us in unexpected ways in Conversations with Equestrians. Eq Specs Excerpts presents a detailed description of the AHJF’s World Championship Hunter Rider Program. Erna Adelson speaks with Tamara Petersen of Showjumping Unplugged!TV and USHJA provides an update about their new and exciting program for Emerging Athletes from all levels.

WE’RE BACK WEEK VIII 

With the $150,000 Grand Prix of the Desert, the Ronnie W. Mutch Equitation Classic and another $10,000 USHJA Hunter Derby, the final week of the 2009 HITS Desert Circuit offers a high-end class for each discipline. A not-to-be-missed weekend for exhibitors and spectators alike.

 

Highlights 2008 Oaks Blenheim

Oaks Blenheim June Classic II Grand Prix:

Joie Gatlin rode Camaron Hills Shanroe to yet another victory in the $30,000 Oaks Blenheim June Classic II Grand Prix presented by Mary’s Tack & Feed. At the top of their game both indoors and out, this dynamic duo has collected quite a few wins and top placings this year. With only three of thirty-two starters making it to the jump-off, the course took its toll – a tight time allowed mixed with a few trouble spots including the triple bar at the top of the field and the vertical-vertical combination directly past the in-gate towards the end of the course.

In the jump-off, Peter Breakwell and Lucas left the door open for the next two riders with a tidy time and four faults. Joie shaved more than two seconds off Peter’s time, also with four faults. Along came Simon Nizri and Good Girl. With a practically flawless ride up to the last jump, this pair was a pleasure to watch as they cruised around the jump-off. Unfortunately the last jump was a heartbreaker, as he had the time but jumped the wrong obstacle and was called off course.

Oaks Blenheim June Classic III Grand Prix:

Helen McNaught and Caballo, owned by John Endicott, beat the heat and 26 other competitors to win the $30,000 Copa de Amistad (Friendship Cup) Grand Prix. With six clean, the Scott Starnes course presented a few challenges, including a rollback to a vertical from the hogsback, on to a bending line ending with an oxer-vertical combination. Technical questions asked along with a medium tight time and some unseasonably hot weather narrowed the field to six no-faulters. Second in proved best as McNaught piloted Caballo around with a solid 43.094 that the remaining four couldn’t beat. McNaught said, “I am so pleased! I’ve wanted to ride this horse for six years and finally got to prove what a star he is. This week, Caballo has been super in every class.”

More Zone X Excitement… Pony Finals!

Earlier this month Blenheim Equisports hosted the Trials for the Zone 10 NAJYRC Teams. Last week, the grass fields were covered in ponies as the top West Coast Small, Medium and Larges prepared for and competed in the Zone 10 Pony Finals. Congratulations to Hannah Von Heidegger on winning Grand Champion riding A Hoof and A Prayer and to Mitch Endicott and Buffalo Soldier on earning Reserve Grand Champion. Pony power!