The Chronicles of NARG

By Jackie McFarland

The North American Riders Group
Yet another organization has formed within our sport. And with good reason, as the sport of show jumping has grown to a level where some of the key players believe their concerns are not being addressed. Possibly because those voices were not unified, but just repeated groans and moans of the exhibitors across numerous horse shows, upset by a variety of issues. So along came NARG.

Show jumping as a recognized sport is not yet a century old and has evolved extensively through the years. When those involved in the sport realized it needed the support of governance, the American Horse Shows Association (now USEF) was formed as the US national governing body in 1917. When the national organizations of several countries, including the US, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, France, Italy and Japan, joined to form an international governing body of equestrian sport, the International Federation of Equestrian Sports (Fédération Équestre Internationale or FEI) was founded in 1921. Now over 134 nations are represented by the FEI.

There are several definitions of government; here’s one simple version: the act or process of governing; specifically: authoritative direction or control.*

More about the missions of these organizations to come, but first we need to define another key player in the power of the sport – the horse show managements. Horse shows have a rich history as well; the Upperville Colt & Horse Show was founded in 1853 and the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair began in 1896, long before governing bodies. Those two traditional horse shows still run today, along with thousands more all over the country. Roughly 1,300 horse shows are recognized annually at various levels and several hundred horse show managements run these events.

Management is defined as: the person or persons who control or direct a business or other enterprise.**

Based on the fact that government and management control our sport and our horse shows, it is essential that those who actively participate in the sport also have a voice. Not to say that riders and trainers don’t sit on boards and committees, as many currently do. For example, David O’Connor, an Olympic Medalist in Eventing, is President of USEF. However NARG was formed to create a unified voice coming from the collective riders, owners and trainers that will speak directly to government and management.

In March 2009 the founders of NARG – McLain Ward, Chris Kappler, Norman Dello Joio, Jimmy Torano, Kent Farrington and Beezie Madden – hosted an evening in Wellington to share their vision “providing a united platform for riders, trainers and owners to voice their concerns and ensure the integrity of our sport.” Several hundred attended. Later that year they asked Murray Kessler to take on the role of Director. Kessler is an ideal fit, as he has worn the tie of a successful businessman, running a public company, UST, Inc. for a decade and then negotiated the sale of that company. He also dons the helmet of amateur horse show exhibitor and the baseball cap of horse show dad/husband with a wife and daughter who both compete successfully. Talented and driven, Kessler’s fifteen-year-old daughter Reed is beginning to compete and ribbon at the grand prix level. Kessler seeks to take the passion and exuberance of those involved with the fledgling organization and harness it into a productive voice at the levels of government and management. He will help NARG unify and represent the group that essentially makes the show jumping world turn – the owners, riders and trainers.

So the USEF, USHJA, FEI and top level show managements all seek to satisfy numerous missions and goals that are essential to our sport but can at times negatively affect the very people and horses they represent. NARG represents those people.

As simply stated at The mission of the North American Riders Group is to unite professional riders and trainers to use their collective strength to make show jumping in North America the best in the world.

When it comes to governance, the USEF has a large staff, Executive Board and numerous special committees working year round to continuously achieve the long list of goals. The mission of the USEF is quite extensive; an excerpt includes these statements: As the National Governing Body (NGB) of Equestrian Sport in the United States we will inspire, encourage interest in, and regulate equestrian competition by ensuring the safety and well-being of horses… ensure the enforcement of fair and equitable rules and procedures… and, endeavor to advance the level of horsemanship in the United States. (Full Mission Statement along with a list of 24 ways in which the USEF will accomplish their mission is on Also a player in the governance of our sport is the newest affiliate on the block, the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA). Started just under six years ago, this organization has grown, developed programs and become quite influential in our niche.

NARG seeks to work with, and preferably not against, the governing bodies although at times it is challenging as the most recent FEI World Cup debacle illustrates. The FEI states: The primary mission of the FEI is to advance the orderly growth of equestrian sport worldwide by promoting, regulating and admin-istering humane and sportsmanlike international competition in the traditional equestrian disciplines. However as two USEF formal protests, an official NARG release, McLain Ward himself and several thousand equestrians around the world can attest, the actions of a few can negatively affect the overall missions and goals of government, management and high level competition. As we seek to play on a level playing field where no one has an unfair advantage, all parties need to be considered and heard, and unfortunately in this case the governing body overruled.

As those involved with the above incident try to get to the bottom of the issue and see that it not be repeated, it serves as further proof that fair sport is not to be placed in the hands of a few.

International competitions are the pinnacle of our sport and our riders have worked hard to earn their placings amongst the top European equestrians. The top 16 horse and rider combinations from the WEG qualifiers have been divided into three tours, with the first one beginning this week at the CSIO 5* in La Baule, France. We all look forward to a fabulous and fair Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games this fall.

The opportunity to compete or even understand show jumping at the International level is created from the horse show world. The show managers provide the arena(s) where horses and riders learn, train, evolve and potentially win. Of the thousands of competitors who pay to play at these shows, only a small percentage has the chance and ability to make it to the 1.60m level. The horse show management serves that group as well as the short-stirrup, amateur hunter, equitation rider and the hosts of other divisions offered at a horse show. Suffice to say it’s complicated to run a horse show well, from following the rules of governance, to serving your clients (exhibitors, trainers, owners and sponsors) and most importantly heeding to the horses welfare.

That stated, there are issues with management. The horse show steward by definition is a licensed official tasked with the responsibility of interpreting and enforcing the rules of the organization that sanctions the horse show and submitting reports accordingly. However this individual is hired by the horse show management, hence writing up a negative report regarding the party who hired you may not be good for your reputation nor your job security. That issue as well as the proposal for horse shows to uphold certain standards to maintain their rating and mileage protection created some heated discussions at the USHJA and USEF Annual Meetings this past year. Various parties involved in government, management and now NARG are working on adapting these standards to work for all involved – from the exhibitor who pays the entry fees, trainer fees, hauler, braider, groom etc. to the manager who pays the governing body for the license, officials, course designers, ring crew, office staff, etc. to the USEF, USHJA and a slew of other organizations who collect fees and in turn support our sport at the local, regional and national levels.

It’s a long and arduous process to propose, argue for and stand behind change. The USEF, USHJA, NARG and show managers understand this and are committed to seeing the necessary changes for our sport to endure, evolve and nurture success.

Kessler explains, “I am most encouraged that horse show managers are starting to view us as a partner and not an adversary. We are gaining lots of momentum. We were by McLain’s side in Geneva, are evaluating shows and have persuaded several major horse shows to significantly upgrade footing. We are proposing a rule change to the FEI for on site appeals on hypersensitivity. Look for announcements on these in the near future!”

A West Coast NARG meeting is in the works; so stay tuned for more information. To find out more, go to Several in depth articles and a statement from President Chris Kappler are also on

Thank you to Murray Kessler for meeting with us about NARG.
* Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam-Webster, Inc. 11 May. 2010.
** The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. May. 2010

Conversations With Equestrians: Mavis Spencer

By Allyson Mentlik

Mavis Spencer
When eighteen-year-old Mavis Spencer was offered the opportunity to learn from a top professional and ride some of the most incredible horses in the world, all in exchange for some work around the barn, she jumped at the chance. Her days are now filled with hours in the saddle, learning at every turn, plus a slew of barn chores including feeding and mucking. And she loves it.

Her passion for riding began at the age of two when her aunt, who owned a breeding farm, put Mavis on top of a retired stallion named Galoubet and led her around the barn. By the age of five she was taking lessons and went on to spend most of her junior years competing and winning under the instruction of Dick Carvin and Susie Schroer. After graduating high school, Mavis was well prepared for a working student position with top East Coast rider Kent Farrington.

I am Allyson Mentlik, a college graduate and devoted equestrian, who was lucky enough to come down to Wellington from snowy Amherst, Masssachusetts, for the week and spend some time with Mavis, my friend Joscelyn, and EquestriSol.

A day in Mavis’ life starts with the alarm ringing at 6:30 a.m. After a quick bite to eat, we threw on the typical barn attire, and were on our way to the barn by 7:00 a.m.

Feeding hay and grain was the first chore, and then we moved on to cleaning stalls. Aside from Mavis, there are six other grooms working at this Wellington farm that houses approximately 24 horses. As Mavis worked through her mucking duties, she was able to share some stories with me.

AM: How did you meet/end up working with Kent Farrington? 
MS: I actually met Kent in Lake Placid a few years ago through a mutual friend. Kent has a business partner based out of Europe that helps with buying, selling, and transporting new horses over here for Kent to ride. During one of my trips to Europe back in November of 2008, I tried horses at his barn over there. I knew I was planning on taking a year off between high school and college to learn as much as I could as a rider so we began to plan ways for me to stay in Europe and work there. I then spoke to Kent about my ideas and he helped me realize that I would love to work for someone who is in a position that I one day hope to reach. Kent is still a young professional, only 29, so I discussed everything with my parents and we all agreed that Kent would be incredible to learn from. I’ve been officially working with him since the Devon horse show last May.

Once chores are done, Mavis checks the list of horses that she will be riding. Depending on Kent’s schedule, she will usually ride between six and eight horses per day.

AM: Which horses are you riding? Do you have a favorite type of horse? 
MS: I ride almost all of the sale horses here. With an active sales business, we always have new ones so there is always a variety for me to ride. I’ve been riding and showing a horse named Uno since this past summer. Right now we show in the 1.40 classes here in Wellington. I also rode Uno in the USET finals and he was great. Another one of my favorites is Valencia, an adorable eight-year-old bay mare. We get along well – she has such a good heart. I don’t know if I can say that I have a favorite type of horse. Being a working student allows me to ride so many different types of horses so you learn to adapt to many different rides.

AM: Explain how your working student situation works. 
MS: My day starts with chores in the barn. I take care of Uno but am still part of the team just like everyone else. There isn’t any special treatment for me because I’m the working student, I just do a little bit more riding. I am not paid for the work I do, my pay is the time I get to spend in the saddle. My situation is a bit different only because most working students are junior riders. I’m 18 so technically I am considered a professional. There isn’t really a protocol for how long you can be a working student, if you have a good situation you can stay where you are until you may be ready to move on.

The first horse that Kent had to ride today was Up Chiqui. Mavis’ job is to warm up Chiqui on the flat so he is ready when Kent wants to ride and school him. Once Kent is on Chiqui, Kent’s next horse is brought out for Mavis to warm up on the flat. Seems to be an effective system that helps Kent and allows Mavis to ride and learn at the same time.

AM: Some of your favorite moments as a working student for Kent? 
MS: A really funny and favorite moment was this past summer when we were in Kentucky. Kent was very busy at the show, so he called to tell me which horses to ride and at the end of the list he said Chiqui, which to him didn’t seem like a big deal. Everyone knows Up Chiqui as one of Kent’s most successful horses and the one he competed on in the 2009 FEI World Cup Finals. I was very nervous but everyone told me I would be fine. I just flatted him and he was actually great. Kent says I can jump him one day but I may just stick to flatting him, he can be quite the handful. He’s incredible for Kent though they’ve had tons of success.

I have to say that I’ve seen such a big difference in my confidence since I’ve worked for Kent. I’ve matured in so many ways by being exposed to this world and gaining the experience that I have from riding so many incredible horses.

AM: What have been some of your greatest experiences as a rider that have shaped your style today? What about your favorite moments as a competitor? 
MS: I remember watching lessons when I was about five years old and just admiring all the older riders. I learned very early on that if I fell off, I got back on and that there wasn’t any crying in horseback riding. This definitely shaped me into the rider that I’ve become.

Some of my most memorable experiences would have to be traveling over to Europe two summers ago to work for Neil Jones in Belgium and going to Australia last January for the Australian Youth Olympics. I rode on a team with three other girls, chosen because of the amounts of prize money we had won the previous fall season. We were down there for a week and a half and ended up 4th overall as a team.

One of my favorite moments competing was definitely winning a 1.20 class in Europe at the Beervelde Horse Show. It wasn’t a huge class but there was a big ceremony after where we got off our horses and stood on a podium to receive our awards. It was just a much different experience than I had ever had here in America.

Next horse to ride is Salem, one of the sale horses, followed by Valencia, one of Mavis’ favorite mares. We take them out to the large grass field, a great space for flat rides. Mavis uses her knowledge and feel to flat the horses with plenty of circles and bending exercises.

AM: Do you have your own horse here? 
MS: My horse Winia unfortunately is not here, she is leased out right now. She was my junior jumper; we also competed in the Prix de States. I wasn’t sure if I was going to work for Kent until right before Devon when he called and asked me to ride. So I flew right out to start working for him, returned home for graduation, and was then able to remain on the East Coast. Leasing out Winia just made things easier for everyone. It wasn’t an easy decision but it was the best one.

AM: Whom would you consider your mentor in your life/riding career? 
MS: I would absolutely have to say my mom. Even though she doesn’t ride she is the most awesome horse show mom. She always drove me to horse shows no matter how early and watched all of my lessons. She helps me achieve my goals and definitely guided me to where I am today. She is so supportive. I know she will definitely be visiting a lot next year when I am in New York.

AM: New York? Does this mean for college? 
MS: Yes, I will be attending Columbia in the fall. I always knew I wanted to find a college on the East coast and I love New York City. My family owns an apartment on the Upper East Side so we have always spent a lot of time there.

Last horse of the day is Transavia, a Chestnut mare who seems very quiet and a pleasure to work with. It’s about 2:00 p.m. and after this ride it’s time for afternoon chores. These include cleaning the stalls one more time, re-filling everyone’s water buckets, and giving the barn a good sweep. By 4:00 p.m., the horses are hungry and through the occasional whinny are ‘talking about’ their upcoming meal of grain and hay. Before leaving, the team checks each horse to see they are comfortable and have an ample supply of water. That is the end of the day. That is, until night check. Night check is divided up by days between each groom. Fortunately, today is Mavis’ day for night check so we will have one last trip to the barn at 8:30 tonight. Before we end the day, Mavis answers a few more questions.

AM: What is your favorite horse show? And why? 
MS: Wellington is definitely my favorite because we are able to actually live down here. It doesn’t feel like coming to a horse show, everyone is down here together. We are all able to ride together, hangout, and really make great friendships with people who have all of the same interests. We spend so much time here that it feels like home. The quality of horses here is on such an international level and the prize money is huge which creates such a competitive atmosphere that is amazing to be a part of.

AM: Any hobbies outside of riding? 
MS: When I had time, I used to play tennis. I’m pretty normal, I like to read and listen to music. I also like to hang out with my brother Duncan. He’s a sophomore in high school out in California.

AM: And are you planning on making a career out of riding? 
MS: Well, I’m not really sure what I will be majoring in college. I do know however that riding will part of my career somehow. I would absolutely love to have a string of horses that I am able to show. As far as riding through college, Kent spends the fall months at a barn in Brewster, NY, about an hour outside of the city. I will definitely continue to ride with him as much as I can and hopefully be able to spend time in Wellington during the winter.

At about 9:30 p.m., this day is coming to an end for Mavis. We have finished night check, which includes another round of hay, water, and the occasional blanket change, and are now able to rest until the next busy day begins.

AM: Any final advice you would like to give to any other young riders looking to be in your position one day?
MS: Never forget that hard work and dedication do get noticed. Always do your best and if you don’t know something, ask someone. No one will judge you for asking a question especially when it comes to the care and well-being of a horse. More than anything else, what someone once said to me, “Make decisions on planning to succeed and not fear of failure.” 

Thank you Allyson and Mavis for spending the day together. Good luck with college, horses and pursuing your dreams!

2009 Rolex FEI World Cup Preview

Eastern and Western US Leagues Look Strong

By Erna Adelson & Jackie McFarland

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

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

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

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

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

West Coast World Cup Rider Interviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to contend with show life in the Vegas venue: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your biggest challenge as an athlete?

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

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

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

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

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

How do you maintain calm under high pressure? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Porter: Sports medicine or working in therapeutic horseback riding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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