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 Several in depth articles are also on

Photos By Erin Gilmore and Jackie McFarland

Highlights From August 2010 Spruce Meadows

By Jennifer Wood

North American Tournament
American riders always put in a strong showing at Spruce Meadows, and this year’s North American Tournament was no different. Of the 10 FEI ranking classes held that week, Americans won five. In the biggest class of the week, Saturday’s $200,000 ATCO Power Queen Elizabeth II Cup, Americans finished second, third, and fourth. Course Designer Guilherme Jorge (BRA) put riders to the test in the International Ring.

Victory Gallops Led by Bond, Lamaze, Jayne, Cook and Little-Meredith
As the week opened, Californian Ashlee Bond won the $31,000 AON Risk Services Cup 1.50m class on Chivas Z, an 11-year-old Zangersheide gelding by Cumano x Lord Gothard (Little Valley Farm, owner). After sixty-four entries, she was the fastest clear in a jump-off of six competitors. Stopping the clock in 40.635, Bond was seconds faster than Henri Kovacs of Hungary on The Real Deal, owned by Rachel Cline. Brianne Goutal of New York was third on Nice De Prissey, owned by Cloverleaf Farms.

This was Bond’s first major win with Chivas Z. “I’ve won some 1.40m classes, but I’ve never won a big class on him,” the young yet accomplished rider acknowledged. She explained it’s been a long, but satisfying, road with her talented horse. “I’ve had him three years. He was really green and jumped super high and hard. I wanted to give up,” she remembered. “I thought I couldn’t ride him. My dad said to stick it out. Richard Spooner really helped me with him, and it got better and came together from there. It’s been a process. He’s still a bit green at times, but he’s become consistent. I’m so proud of him. The win is so exciting because of him.”

On Thursday, it was Canadian Eric Lamaze’s time to take charge. He and his Olympic partner Hickstead raced to the win in the $35,000 D-Line Construction Cup,1.60m class. Hickstead, a 14-year-old Dutch stallion by Hamlet x Ekstein, is owned by Lamaze’s Torrey Pines Stables and Ashland Stables. The Ontario-based rider beat Katie Monahan-Prudent (FRA) aboard Sassicaia II who finished second, Californian Keri Potter on Rockford I third, Mario Deslauriers (now riding as an American) with Urico were fourth and Californian Guy Thomas (NZL) rode Peterbilt to fifth.

Friday’s $50,000 Lafarge Cup – 1.50m had an exciting jump-off between eight riders. Charlie Jayne of Elgin, IL, won his first International Ring class in his first year competing at Spruce Meadows as a professional. He and Urbanis, a 13-year-old Belgian gelding by Heartbreaker x Ramiro stopped the clock in 32.416 seconds, just half a second ahead of Lamaze on Coriana Van Klapscheut and Goutal again on Nice De Prissey.

Another first time FEI class winner at Spruce Meadows led the victory gallop on Saturday in the $75,000 TD Cup – 1.50m. Karl Cook of Woodside, CA, rode his 15-year-old Dutch gelding, Notories Utopia, to the speed win over Henri Kovacs and The Real Deal and Guy Thomas (NZL) on Carino. Cook won his first class in the major ring during the first week in the ATCO Power Double Slalom. Cook has been showing at Spruce Meadows since 2004, and is only 19 years old.

“It’s amazing to win here,” Cook said. “I love having crowds yelling as you’re going around the ring. You’re competing against amazing riders, so it makes you ride better. It’s a great place to show.”

Cook said of his horse, whom he’s ridden for seven years, “We got him to do the Children’s Jumpers, (but) we just kept moving up and up. He’s a very good teacher. If you do one he doesn’t like, he’ll throw you off or stop. If you do it again right, he’ll jump. He doesn’t hold a grudge.”

Lamaze also returned to the winner’s circle for the biggest win of the week in Saturday’s $200,000 ATCO Power Queen Elizabeth II Cup. He finished just 3/10ths of second faster in the jump-off over Brianne Goutal on Onira and Deslauriers with Urico. Ashlee Bond and Chivas Z were fourth and Rodrigo Pessoa guided HH Rebozo to fifth place.

Marilyn Little-Meredith was the winner of two major classes at the tournament. She and Blue Curacao, a nine-year-old Belgian mare by Mr. Blue x Dark D’Amour, scored an opening day win in the $31,000 Enerflex Cup – 1.60m class over Lamaze and Hickstead and Deslauriers on Urico. Then, they scored their biggest win to date in the $175,000 Mercedes-Benz Classic Derby – 1.60m. Again, Lamaze finished second, this time with Atlete van T Heike, Leslie Howard and Lennox Lewis 2 were third, Champ 163 with Rodrigo Pessoa fourth while Black Cherry piloted by Will Simpson was fifth.

Little-Meredith, who is from Frederick, MD, was also showing for the first time at Spruce Meadows. She was incredibly pleased with her talented mare. “Blue is owned by Paul and Mary Loeber, and she has come along so quickly. She did her first grand prix in January and has been holding that level since then,” she described. “She has an incredible heart and is the most brave horse. She never backs off and she’s never scared. She always comes out every day and tries so hard. It makes you want to come out 100% every day too.”

She said of her wins, “I’m not going to lie, it’s huge. It’s amazing to win in such a field of great, seasoned horses and competitors.”

Little-Meredith was one of many riders who walked the course while the spectators were treated to the “Name the Foal” contest. The mares were led around the ring while foals trotted close behind, oftentimes in the path of walking riders. Little-Meredith smiled, “I’ve started breeding some myself, so it’s nice. It’s such a high stress thing for me walking the courses and then the foals were running around and it was such a pleasant distraction – it’s definitely a unique feature of Spruce Meadows!”

FEI Classes Saved by G&C Farm
Many of their FEI World Ranking classes at Spruce Meadows this year were in danger of losing their FEI status. Luckily G&C Farm of Wellington, FL, owned by Gustavo and Carolina Mirabal, stepped up to sponsor these classes.

Through their sponsorship, the prize money was raised from $25,000 to $31,000 in 10 classes during the Spruce Meadows Tournaments. By increasing the prize money, the classes now qualify monetarily since the FEI changed the exchange rate against the Swiss Franc instead of Euros last December. Otherwise, the $25,000 classes would have been disqualified from the ROLEX rankings because the original prize money offered would have been too low.

G&C Farm also created the $50,000 G&C Farm Rider’s Cup, which awarded points to riders who placed in the 29 of the eligible FEI events this summer through the North American Tournament. Lamaze’s consistency earned him the $25,000 first prize, while Pablo Barrios (VEN) won $15,000 for second. Rodrigo Pessoa (BRA) was third, taking home $10,000.

Lamaze Lame but Recovering
Canadian Eric Lamaze rose to the top of the ROLEX World Rankings once again. He not only dominated the $200,000 ATCO Power Queen Elizabeth II Cup with Hickstead but the pair galloped away with the win in the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen. While competing in the first round of this last event, Lamaze heard a crack and felt pain as he landed off the triple combination. Although the sound was his foot breaking, he continued for two more rounds fault-free and the win.

Lamaze talked about the importance of Rolex ranking classes and being number one in the world. “The ranking is really important because it allows you to go to many competitions around the world that normally you couldn’t go to,” he pointed out. “When you get the best spot, you feel like you can almost relax a bit because for sure you’ve worked hard to get there. If these FEI classes weren’t all here, it would have been impossible for me to move to number one.”