Laura Listens

By Laura Ware

About a month ago, I wrote a really sad story about the death of my favorite horse of all time – Tustin. Fortunately, not all is lost, and though I have had to gain some patience and take a step down from the height at which I was previously competing, my parents were gracious enough to purchase me another jumper.

In the middle of April, my mother (who is also my trainer) and I traveled to Europe to find a promising young jumper prospect that, ideally, will eventually enable me to compete at the Grand Prix level. The trip was exhausting, fun, emotional, and a great mother-daughter bonding experience. Plus, I learned how to read a map really well – nothing like trying to find a hotel in a foreign country in the pitch dark to encourage the development of this skill! After what seemed like sitting on a zillion horses and driving every back road in Holland and Belgium, we were able to narrow our list down to three promising prospects – a five year old French gelding (Westin), a five year old German mare, and a seven year old Dutch mare. A multitude of traits caused us to choose Westin as our first pick. Even though he was a little younger than I had hoped for, he was ride-able, intelligent, and sweet…just like Tustin.

So with a clean vet check and one more test ride by the dealer (we had only tried him indoors, and wanted to make sure someone we trusted saw him jump around outdoors), we bought him. The two weeks between the time we arrived home from Europe and the time we wired the money seemed like an eternity, and he finally arrived in California during the first week of May. The day that my mom picked him up from the airport happened also to be my prom night, so I saw him for maybe five minutes before having to run off. Half of the people at our barn had already picked out his name before I even got to sit on him! Once he was mine, I absolutely fell in love with him. The first time I rode him at home, he acted wise beyond his years – didn’t spook at a single thing in our arena, essentially he behaved like a perfect gentleman. And he was super fun to ride!

After a few weeks of training him up a little bit at home, we took him to his first southern California show. We only did two Low Children’s Jumper classes and one Children’s Jumper class, but he jumped around the East Grass Field at the Oaks like he had been doing this forever. He’s such a game little horse. He’ll try anything I ask of him, even if I make a few mistakes. After a successful go at that height, we decided to start showing him in the Five Year Old Jumpers. What a great experience for me! Even though I’m not getting to jump as big as I had been with Tustin, being able to gallop around the Grand Prix field in my white breeches doing the Five Year Old Classics is every bit as thrilling as it was in the High Junior Jumper Classics. Warming up with and competing against Grand Prix riders on their young prospects makes me feel special, because, like them, I feel I’m now a good enough rider to train my own young horse. The “optimum time” classes are challenging – you really have to pay attention to the strides and turns the early horses in the class take, even more so than you would in a regular speed or Sec. 2B round. Learning to ride this type of class adds a new variable to my development as a rider and riding a smart, green horse like Westin is especially rewarding. I feel like every time I get on him he is more ride-able than he was before.

Now, I love Westin dearly and truly enjoy riding him, but I really wish he wasn’t mine. I wish I hadn’t made the trip to Europe last April to buy a horse, because that was a direct result of Tustin’s death. I wish I still had Tustin, who had already undergone the long and sometimes frustrating process of becoming a trained horse. Admittedly, if I had the option, I would prefer to be competing with my friends in the High Junior Jumper classes and chasing Prix Des States money rather than training a young horse during my last junior year. Every time Westin does something that isn’t absolutely perfect (lucky for me, this is rare), I end up comparing him to Tustin, and then I grumble “Well, Tustin never would have had that rail,” or, “I wouldn’t have made that mistake on Tustin,” which is unfortunate, because Westin doesn’t deserve this. He’s a fabulous horse.

A few weeks ago, after a Five Year Old class that didn’t go as well as I had hoped, I came out of the ring complaining to my mother about how Westin just didn’t match up to Tustin. One of my mom’s clients overheard this, looked right at me, and set me straight. “Laura, listen to yourself whining and moaning. I can remember hearing the same complaints two years ago about Parker (my hunter.) ‘Oh Parker won’t do this’ and ‘Oh Parker can’t do that’. Well look at him now, Laura, winning classes right and left. Westin will turn out just fine.” I am still a kid, often immature and impatient, but even I am old enough to know that her assessment is absolutely right.

After all, when I have my silly, little-girl dreams about becoming a Grand Prix rider, it is no longer Tustin who I am riding in these dreams. It is Westin.

Photo: Laura Ware and Westin © Cathrin Cammett

Conversations With Equestrians: Hannah Von Heidegger

By Laura Ware

This week, while we junior hunter riders were reduced to showing in the dirt arena at the far end of the horse show grounds, the pony kids took center stage, galloping around the open grass field that sits between the Grand Prix field and the food area. This was appropriate, however, as the Oaks Blenheim June Classic III was home to the Zone 10 Pony Hunter Finals.

Always a fun class to watch – those pony kids are so adorable and such amazing little riders – the Zone 10 Pony Finals is open to all pony/rider combinations, and has three phases: model, under saddle and over fences. Ribbons are awarded to twelfth place for each phase, along with a champion and reserve champion for each height section, and an overall champion and overall reserve champion.

This year’s overall and large pony champion was Hannah Von Heidegger on A Hoof and a Prayer. Along with A Hoof and a Prayer, Hannah, 11, rides several other ponies and horses, and was gracious enough to answer a few questions I had about this event.

Laura: How long have you been riding?
Hannah: I’ve been riding since I was three, and began showing in the short stirrup when I was six.

Laura: A Hoof and A Prayer is a large pony, how long have you been showing in the larges?
Hannah: I just started doing them at the beginning of this year.

Laura: Tell us a bit about your pony, A Hoof and a Prayer.
Hannah: I got A Hoof and a Prayer (his barn name is Happy) last fall, and started showing him this year. He is pretty smooth, has a long stride, likes long distances, and takes me to the jump a little bit. He’s a little different to ride than my other ponies because you have to keep more pace in the corners.

Laura: What is he best at doing?
Hannah: He’s best at jumping. He has a great jump!

Laura: Did you show any of your other ponies at Zone 10 Pony Finals? How did it go with them?
Hannah: I showed Simply Magical (in the mediums) as well as A Hoof and a Prayer. Simply Magical got an 86 in the model, and 86 in the hack, but in the jumping I got a score of 63. I had a little bit of a mishap. I moved up too much to the distance, and ended up chipping. So, on A Hoof and a Prayer, I tried to be a little more patient and visualized my course before I got on and imagined what it would look like in the ring.

Laura: That’s awesome that you were able to fix your mistakes and do so well on Happy! How are Simply Magical and A Hoof and a Prayer different?
Hannah:On Simply Magical you just have to stay steady through the whole course and can find the distance pretty easily. Simply Magical is also pretty slow, you have to make sure he doesn’t slow down too much in the corners, and that he doesn’t cross canter.
Laura: Do you have any strategies for modeling your ponies?
Hannah: I try to wait until the judge is a couple of horses away so my ponies don’t move when the judge is watching, and I make sure I have a cookie or mint in my hand to keep my ponies’ ears perked. Luckily, both my ponies are great modelers so they are not hard to model.

Laura: What do you think about riding on the grass?
Hannah: I like it! It’s different, because it is bigger, but it’s fun to be in such a big ring on a pony. You have to have more patience to ride on the big field, which makes it harder. Sometimes, if you’re impatient and try to chase down the jumps on the big field you end up chipping. They also had long bending lines in the courses, which I liked, because they tested your eye.

Laura: What are your riding goals for this year? The future?
Hannah: I’d really like to be champion on one of my ponies at Indoors this year. It would be great to be the first to win Zone 10 Pony Finals twice in a row. I would like to start in the junior hunters next year.

Thanks for your time, Hannah, congratulations, and good luck with your riding goals.

Laura Listens is brought to you by Laura Ware. Winner of the 2007 LAHSA Junior Medal Finals and a recipient of the 2008 WCAR Jumper Rider Grant, Laura rides with First Field Farm and often trains with Archie Cox. She is very successful in the all three disciplines on her own mounts as well as catch riding other horses.

Conversations With Equestrians: Paige Dotson

By Laura Ware

Ten riders are heading to Colorado in late July to represent Zone 10 at the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships. Congratulations to all who participated in the trials– successfully competing at 1.40 is a huge accomplishment. Young Rider Team Member Paige Dotson was generous enough to share her trials experience. Part of Zone 10’s Gold Medal winning ‘B’ Team last year in Virginia, Dotson, 17, is hoping to strike a repeat performance at Young Riders this year participating on the ‘A’ Team.

Laura: Please tell us a bit about your Young Rider horse.
Paige: I am taking Friponnier II CH (aka Flip) to the Young Riders championships. He is a 16 year old Swiss warmblood gelding, but he likes to pretend that he is still seven! Mandy Porter rode him as a young horse in Europe and brought him back with her when she returned to California. He has qualified for young riders at least three times – with me, Erica Buie, and once or twice with Kelly Fong. I cannot thank the Buies enough for selling him to me and my parents for buying him; he has done wonders for my riding! He moved me up from the low jumpers to the highs, to the opens, and I did my first (very small) Grand Prix on him in Del Mar last October. He’s a grumpy old man but he’s all bark and no bite. He will charge out of his stall ears pinned back, snarling, but all he really wants is for you to pay attention to him and play with him. And besides his strong dislike of Keri Potter’s dog, JJ, he’s a favorite at the Buie’s barn.

Laura: What did you like/dislike about the trials format?
Paige: I really like the trial format; it’s the reason I’m on the team. I was a little worried that it would be a lot of rounds for Flip but he almost bucked me off in the warm-up on the last day! Having experienced these trials and how they prepare you for the finals, I love them. It is nice to know what to expect when you get to the finals, and Linda Allen set the courses so that they are comparable to the finals, which allows us to know what we are going up against.

Laura: How much experience have you had competing at 1.45m?
Paige: I have been doing the 1.45m with Flippy since the end of last September. At HITS I competed in the Jimmy Williams future classes to get some more experience and have been doing the 1.45m at the previous trials this year.

Laura: Tell us about the trial rounds at Oaks Blenheim. How were the courses, difficulty factor, number of clean rounds, format…
Paige: The final trials were challenging and asked the riders to be consistent over a three day period:
Speed class: The first day faults were converted into time. There were some very tricky spots such as the double combination of verticals which were very tight. In order to be fast enough you had to do a forward eight to the jump, making the rails difficult to leave up. There also was a tall vertical that you had to jump on a very sharp angle. That one came down quite a bit. After a course that encouraged you to come very forward, a lot of horses got strong. Linda asked us to jump across the open water and go directly to a VERY tight one-stride. Many people had beautiful rounds until this point then had a rail at ‘B’ of this combination because they could not get their horses back after the beginning which was so forward, and then the forward water jump.
Day Two: The course was very technical, with a few wide oxers asking for scope. Once again, Linda asked if you could get across the water, this time going to it right after another jump, then get your horse back for a tall airy vertical. The last combination was a tight one stride where ‘B’ had black boxes underneath that scared some horses. The four Young Rider/horse combinations that were clean in the first round came back for a jump off. There was a very tight inside turn to the second jump that saved time, but was very risky and caused problems, as well as the last long gallop to a huge airy vertical. We had Saturday off, and then returned Sunday for a two round competition.
Final Day: The first course was very hard. The time was tight and encouraged riders to rush, causing them to have rails. The triple combination was early on and was a very quiet two to a longer one-stride at a rather wide oxer. Some people got the two done but had trouble getting across the oxer. The last line was the water jump, then a quiet seven to an airy vertical. Most of the class had a foot in the water, even while riding at it hard. After galloping hard to the water, they then had difficulty fitting in the quiet seven, in order to leave the last jump up. The second round was fairly straight-forward and much shorter, with many clean rounds. The time was tight and it seemed that the problem area on this course was the wide oxer that rocketed you into a tight two-stride of verticals. Then you had to protect your horse’s front end at the oxer that was seven strides away.

Laura: After last year, what do you expect and what do you hope for at NAYJRC?
Paige: Last year both the junior and young rider teams won gold, with Karl winning individual gold and Aurora winning bronze. It was the first time in a while that Zone 10 did that well. Our group was tightly knit and there was great team camaraderie. I expect the courses to be technical and the jumps to be big, but I think that our trials prepared us well. I’m sure that our teams this year will be just as close as last I hope that we can win some medals again – gold would be great! I hope to place in the top individually and maybe even get a medal.

Laura: Why did you choose to focus on the jumpers instead of the equitation or hunters?
Paige: I chose to concentrate on jumpers for several reasons. Ever since I was little, I have enjoyed going fast on things, whether it’s a roller coaster, a dirt bike, or a horse. After I competed in the short stirrup classes on my first horse, I got a pony jumper who was really fast and fun. From there on I did jumpers. Since I really enjoyed it and so did my parents, that’s where I ended up! A few years back, I got to watch the Olympic Trials held at Oaks Blenheim, while I was riding there in Children’s Jumpers. I got hooked on international competition and decided that I would really like to compete in the Olympic Trials someday.

Laura: What are your future riding goals?
Paige: Next year, I hope to start competing at the Grand Prix level regularly. When I graduate from high school I am going to go to college in California in order to continue riding and training with Keri Potter. Hopefully, after college I will turn professional. One day, also, if I have the horse, I would like to compete in international competitions such as the World Cup.

Thanks for your input, Paige, and good luck to you and both teams at the Championships!

Laura Listens is brought to you by Laura Ware. Winner of the 2007 LAHSA Junior Medal Finals and a recipient of the 2008 WCAR Jumper Rider Grant, Laura rides with First Field Farm and often trains with Archie Cox. She is very successful in the all three disciplines on her own mounts as well as catch riding other horses.

EquestriSol News: June 13, 2008

Congratulations to west coast junior riders Lucy Davis, Shelby Wakeman, and Laura Ware who took Devon by storm! In the younger small junior hunter section, Lucy and Clockwork earned a Reserve Champion. Shelby dominated the equitation with wins in the USET and the Maclay, plus received the highest score in all three sections of the USET. Laura and her large junior hunter Parker were Reserve Champions, winning the Handy Hunter Class and trotting in third in the Large Jr. Hunter Stake. Top score earners, they brought home the Third Fox Hill Memorial Trophy for the highest score of all junior hunters competing in their handy class at Devon. The trophy dates back to the 1940s! What a triumph in their last junior year, as Shelby and Laura head to college this fall.

And there’s more – JoAnn Postel and Nancy Turrill of Foxfield were honored at the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame Annual Awards Dinner held during Devon each year. JoAnn and Nancy were the first to receive this special induction for their contribution to the horse industry. The west coast is honored to have a family oriented facility as well-respected as Foxfield. Did you know that Meredith Michaels Beerbaum attended camp at Foxfield?

Creative Saddlery Goes Hollywood
Taking on new ventures, Nick Byassee is an associate producer for two new movies by Indie filmmakers Mark and Michael Polish (“Northfork” and “The Astronaut Farmer”). The first film “Manure” started production in May and the second “Stay Cool” will begin shooting in July. More movie news as we hear it…

Happy Summer
We’re planning a fabulous summer of newsletters and other marketing projects. Want to join in on the fun? Call Tammy Chipko at (818) 472-5930.

Collective Thoughts On Equitation

By Laura Ware

Laura Ware, winner of the LAHJA Junior Medal in November, 2007. Photo © AC Custom Photo

Riding in the equitation as a junior is almost like a rite of passage. All the top junior riders, regardless of how many horses they own or show, choose to keep their feet in the equitation ring, as equitation is what prepares juniors to have success in the other show rings, and eventually in the high level show jumping classes such as Amateur Owner or Grand Prix. Looking at the previous junior winners of both local and national medal finals and seeing how many of them are now top Grand Prix riders is indeed impressive.

Although waking up at the crack of dawn to chase down medal points gets old (I think there’s a USEF law somewhere that states that all major medal classes must begin at or before 8 AM!), riding in the equitation ring teaches us discipline, proper position, and the ability to maintain poise and composure regardless of what is happening underneath us.

I cannot speak for all the other riders out there, but I think that practicing position gets tedious, and, although my equitation is far from perfect, it would definitely be significantly worse if I were not being judged on it multiple times at each horse show! I am a competitive person, and being scored on my style gives me the much-needed motivation to practice it.
Several riders who exhibit strength in the equitation, as well as in the hunter and/or jumper rings, were kind enough to tell me about their opinions on and experiences in the equitation and medal classes.

Junior rider Hilary Neff: Competing in equitation takes a lot of discipline and patience, but most importantly, it is always fun. Because this division is subjective, it can sometimes be frustrating. It is easy to feel like a judge “ripped you off”, but in the end, good ribbons and bad ribbons even out. I try to remember that the judge knows best 99.9% of the time.
It takes a long time to become a competent equitation rider, but every second is worth it in the end. Also, you have to have a strong relationship with your horse in order to be successful, which to me, is the best part of the sport.

Amateur rider Hannah Selleck: Competing as an adult in Amateur Equitation is similar to competing as a junior, except Adult Equitation is much less competitive. There’s not the pressure to go in and get WIHS points or to have to get a certain number of points to make it to Indoors. Now I just go and ride my best, and have a good time! I’m almost enjoying the equitation more now than I ever have before. I still love doing the USEF Talent Search and I do have a goal to get my gold medal. Even though this is a pretty important goal for me, I still just go into the ring and really enjoy myself. Having the perspective of formerly competing in the equitation as a junior and now as an amateur, I can really see how important equitation is to give riders a strong foundation of basic skills like position and form. I have definitely transferred these skills from the equitation classes to the jumper ring and have found the experience of the medal finals invaluable. Note from Laura: I’m especially curious about this, as my amateur days are looming near. Yikes!

Junior rider Tina DiLandri: By riding in the equitation, you find your best position and learn how to manipulate certain situations in the ring – it is the base of riding. Riding in the equitation classes has taught me patience. It definitely helps me succeed in the hunters and the jumpers as well.

From competing in the equitation ring I have learned that everything is not as easy as it looks. There needs to be a true connection from the horse to the rider. You can have one of the best horses in the world, but if you don’t know how to ride it’s not going to work.

During the George Morris seminar in Florida, he told me not to be an emotional rider. It is so true that if you overreact your horse is also going to overreact and not stay calm. If something happens, fix it in a nonchalant way and stay calm. Overall, just have fun!
Junior Rider (and article author) Laura Ware: I agree with this premise; equitation has taught me to maintain a proper position which will encourage my horse, whether hunter or jumper, to jump in the best form possible.

A Flat Jump: However the growth of the equitation division has created an irony. An ideal equitation horse is one that jumps flat and has little feel in the air so a rider can maintain the most conventional and attractive position. This is fine; it’s nice to be able to leave the ground and feel almost nothing in the air, but having a flat-jumping horse will probably not bring success in other arenas of this sport. This is kind of ironic because the whole purpose of equitation is to prepare riders for other arenas, which demand a good-jumping horse. Plus, if you ask me, detracting from the horse’s form eliminates part of the thrill of this sport. There is no better sensation than cantering up to a perfect distance and feeling your horse explode in the air. And shouldn’t good riders be able to maintain a solid position when a horse jumps well?

Rails: A very controversial issue that gets all of us riders and trainers and parents in a fit is the question of whether or not to penalize a downed rail in an equitation class or final. There are those who believe that a rail is a major error (the whole point of this sport is to jump over the fences without a fault) and should be penalized accordingly. Then there are those who feel that the rail should only be penalized if it is the rider’s error, since these classes do focus on the rider. I’ve always found this a bit confusing. A jumper receives four faults for a rail and a hunter will score no higher than a 50, regardless of whose fault it was. Why can’t there be a solution as simple as this for the equitation ring?

I could go on all day about the pros and cons of this division, but the challenge of a job well done and then being judged subjectively is part of what makes it fun. Having to guess as to the results of each class keeps us on our toes (and in our heels), eager to improve our performances.

So like my colleagues above say, remember that the good and bad ribbons even out, have goals but also have fun, learn to get connected with your horse and don’t be an emotional rider. Most of all, don’t let the subjectivity get to you – it’s all part of the lessons we learn time and again.

Laura Listens is brought to you by Laura Ware. Winner of the 2007 LAHSA Junior Medal Finals and a recipient of the 2008 WCAR Jumper Rider Grant, Laura rides with First Field Farm and often trains with Archie Cox. She is very successful in the all three disciplines on her own mounts as well as catch riding other horses.

My Horse Tustin

By Laura Ware

Growing up around horses, I could handle watching them get sold. I could even handle watching them get hurt, and could usually keep a stiff upper lip when the vet would say that this particular horse was not going to be able to do its job anymore, but watching them die was something I had never had to deal with. None of the horses at my mother’s barn had ever encountered any life-threatening injuries, and even the school horses were sent off to an old friend’s stable when their time loomed near. This, however, all changed on March 17th.

Laura Ware and Tustin at HITS Indio 2006. Photo © Flying Horse Photography

My horse died. My horse Tustin, whom I purchased from Europe as a five year old, who took me from borderline terrifying rounds in the Modified Junior Jumpers to wins in the High Junior Jumpers, who tolerated my mistakes like an old school master even though he was barely eight years old, who would stand stock still as four-year-old riding school students (and myself, of course!) fawned over him, who would leave the ground from any distance at any jump without question, shattered his pastern bone in the turn-out.

This simply was not supposed to happen. This is my last junior year; we were supposed to qualify for Junior Young Riders together, and Prix Des States at Harrisburg, and maybe even Washington or Devon, and then, when this beloved, amazing horse could no longer do what I asked of him, he was going to be some lucky kid’s children’s jumper until he was at least 20 years old. All I’ve ever wanted was to become a Grand Prix rider, and after finally hitting the High Junior Jumper mark, I felt so incredibly close. I had so many dreams for myself and my little horse, and, in the time it takes to pull the plunger on a syringe, watching them all float away was unbelievably hard to deal with. Unfortunately, these things happen, and I’m glad I had the pleasure of owning and riding this very special horse. We grew by leaps and bounds together, and he was, and will probably always remain, my absolute favorite.

I don’t know how to say this without sounding cheesy, but receiving everyone’s condolences was wonderfully heartwarming. Hearing all these trainers and competitors and parents say how sorry they were gave me a great sense of belonging; people really do care. I look up to these trainers, and when the ones to whom I’d never really spoken (yet always admired from afar) came over and let me know how sorry they were, it made me feel good, like I wasn’t the only one who thought my little horse was great. I really wanted to be able to keep my feet in the jumper ring (hunters and equitation are fun, but nothing compares to going fast and jumping big!), so Archie Cox was kind enough to arrange for me to ride Marnix G, a horse who used to be in training with him, but is now at Joie Gatlin and Morley Abey’s barn. I got to show Marnix in the Low Junior Jumpers at the first two Oaks horse shows, and had a blast. Tustin was the only jumper I had ever ridden over anything bigger than 3’9”, so it was nice to be able to prove to myself that I am capable of successfully piloting a different horse over a decent-sized course.

I’m young and impatient and hate having to accept the fact that my goals are being delayed, but my parents have been generous enough to purchase another young jumper prospect. Hopefully this horse will eventually be able to take me back up to where I was, and will be able to stand the inevitable comparisons to his flawless predecessor. As the wise adults have been telling me, life goes on!

Laura Listens is brought to you by Laura Ware. Winner of the 2007 LAHSA Junior Medal Finals and a recipient of the 2008 WCAR Jumper Rider Grant, Laura rides with First Field Farm and often trains with Archie Cox. She is very successful in the all three disciplines on her own mounts as well as catch riding other horses.


Conversations With Equestrians: Mavis Spencer

By Laura Ware

One of the many important classes at The Oaks Spring Tournament was the $5,000 Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic, also the first North American Young Rider Trial. The North American Young Rider Championships is a competition consisting of two teams: an “A” team with 1.50 meter fences for riders ages 16-21, and a “B” or “junior” team with 1.40 meter fences for riders ages 14-18. Both teams consist of four riders and an alternate from each US Zone, each Canadian Province, Mexico and the Caribbean. This competition includes Eventing and Dressage along with Show Jumping, and is run under F.E.I. rules.

Making either of the teams is an honor, and is a highly sought after goal for many riders. Southern California rider Mavis Spencer, the winner of the first trial, was kind enough to speak with us.

Laura: When did you start doing the 1.40 meter classes?
Mavis: I started doing the 1.40m with my mare early last year but unfortunately she was off for a bit after. I was only able to ride her at Spruce and at the November LAEC show, in the 1.30m. At Pebble Beach last summer, though, I got to ride Paris Sellon’s junior jumper Syndication in the 1.40m and I was also given the ride aboard Francie Steinwedell’s horse Naranco. It was very helpful riding those two horses because they were both really experienced in the larger classes and it boosted my confidence a lot. I am so grateful to both those owners for allowing me to ride and show their horses.

Laura: Please tell us a bit about your horse.
Mavis: My horse’s name is Winea Van’t Vennehof. I bought her almost two years ago. and she had never shown before. We shipped her straight to Spruce, and started her in the 1.20m. As my trainer, Dick Carvin said, she was either going to crack or jump and never look back. I guess she really jumped into it! When I first bought her, she was very skittish and head-shy and also kind of point and shoot. Thanks to all the help I’ve gotten from my trainers, though, she is now awesome and really ride-able. She is very headstrong and mare-ish but she fights for me and I can always trust her to leave the ground and not have a second thought about it.

Laura: How did the course ride in the trial? What was the jump-off like?
Mavis: The course was designed by Leopoldo Palacios so there were some obvious challenges, but I thought it was a very fair. Seven in the jump-off, all good riders. Saer Coulter and Paris Sellon were both coming off of some big wins during the winter circuits, Brenna Riddel I’d seen during Spruce and she is a great rider, as is Alicia Jonsson who I had seen go in the Grand Prix the night before and in the Olympic Trials so I knew she would have experience jumping tougher tracks. Taylor Coe and Katie Gardner are both fast riders so my plan going in was to try for a clean round while leaving out strides in some places. The rounds went so quickly in the jump-off that when I went in to the ring I didn’t know what time or how many faults were leading. I saw the long galloping option to the first jump and just went with it. After the last jump I wasn’t sure where my round put me but I knew I was clean and fast. Of course, I was thrilled to hear that I was leading! My horse has just been amazing and kept improving all through Florida. We were both really confident together after having some solid rounds in the bigger classes there so it’s nice to come home and see our hard work translate here.

Laura: How do you manage riding and school work?
Mavis: My school has been wonderfully supportive of my riding. This year they allowed me to take a two month leave and ride in Florida. I also get out of school at 1:00 every day which gives me have plenty of time to ride.

Laura: What do you do to keep your horse prepared for these big classes?
Mavis: To keep my horse ready I hack her and sometimes lunge her with the Pessoa rig. Dick gets up there sometimes to help make her really work and think hard. Then she also hand walks a few times throughout the day. As many people have noticed, she doesn’t have much of a tail, and while we are always trying to make it grow, I guess a certain amount of prep is just keeping her the way she is and happy.

Laura: What are your riding goals and plans for this year?
Mavis: To be honest I haven’t thought that much about riding goals. I’d like to make the Young Rider team and I’d like to do well at Spruce, but for right now I’m just concerned with learning, riding consistently and keeping my horse happy and healthy. In my eyes once you have all that, the rest will follow.

Congratulations, Mavis, and good luck at the rest of the Young Rider Trials and Spruce Meadows!

Laura Listens is brought to you by Laura Ware. Winner of the 2007 LAHSA Junior Medal Finals and a recipient of the 2008 WCAR Jumper Rider Grant, Laura rides with First Field Farm and often trains with Archie Cox. She is very successful in the all three disciplines on her own mounts as well as catch riding other horses.

Conversations With Equestrians: Shelby Wakeman

By Laura Ware

The USHJA International Hunter Derby made its debut at the third week of HITS Thermal, and has proven to be a success every time it was held. This unique class attempts to create spectator interest in Hunters, with difficult courses consisting of bending lines, natural jumps, and four-foot fence options, all set in the main Hunter or Grand Prix arena. Other special features of this class are that it rewards bonus points for brilliant riding, and has a minimum amount of $10,000 prize money.

The most recent Hunter Derby was at the Oaks Spring Tournament in the small, intimate indoor ring, which has never before been used for a hunter class. Shelby Wakeman, a talented and successful rider in the hunter, jumper, and equitation rings, placed second in this past Hunter Derby, making her the highest placing junior rider. She was gracious enough to answer a few questions for me.

Laura: What were the classic and handy courses like?
Shelby: The classic course was more like a hunter course with a forward ride and couple of bending lines. There were natural options, including a skinny plank, multiple brush jumps, and a log under a jump, which made it different from any other hunter course. The handy course was hard, with a lot of tight inside turns that I could not get on Truly because they were more like jumper turns. It was difficult, but fun.

Laura: What was it like showing hunters in such a small arena?
Shelby: I was a little skeptical about showing a hunter in an indoor ring, but the course designer did a good job, and I really enjoyed riding it.

Laura: Tell me about the horse you rode.
Shelby: I rode Truly, who is owned by Ashley Pryde. He was a bit spooky in the Derby at Thermal, so I didn’t know how he’d be, but he ended up being really good and relaxed.

Laura: What makes this class special?
Shelby: The fact that it was in the indoor ring was fun and special, because the hunters never show in there and it is a completely different environment. It was at night and under the lights, so a lot of people came to watch it, adding to the uniqueness of this class.

Laura: Did you get any bonus points for taking risks in the handy round?
Shelby: You can get up to 8 bonus points from each judge team in the handy round, so a maximum of 16 points. This can really add to your score. I watched Jenny Karazissis (who had won the class at Thermal) go before me, and she took all the inside turns and got 7 bonus points. I didn’t know what it would take to earn 8 bonus points, so I planned on taking all the inside turns.

Once I got into the ring, however, I realized that the turns were tighter then I had thought. I ended up missing a couple, but I still ended up with 5 bonus points from one judge and 2 from the other.

Laura: How did it feel to be second in a class with famous professionals?
Shelby: It felt really good. I was honored to do well in such a prestigious class.

Laura: What are your riding goals for 2008?
Shelby: I want to do well at Devon. I’ve never been there and it’s my last junior year, so it would be really special if I did well. I’d also like to compete effectively at Indoors, and end my junior career on a good note.

We congratulate you Shelby, and wish you all the best in your last junior year.

Results of the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby:
1st   On Top    Keri Kampsen
2nd   Truly    Shelby Wakeman
3rd   Cinico    Katie Taylor
4th    Palmar     Jenny Karazissis
5th    Aragon    Jenny Karazissis
6th    Rumba    Erin Duffy
7th    Wesley    Shelby Wakeman
8th    Fiona    Elizabeth Blaisdell
9th    Norah Jones    Ali Leopold
10th    Rascal    Archibald Cox
11th    Mata Hari    Hilary Neff
12th    Chaucer    Peter Lombardo

Laura Listens is brought to you by Laura Ware. Winner of the 2007 LAHSA Junior Medal Finals and a recipient of the 2008 WCAR Jumper Rider Grant, Laura rides with First Field Farm and often trains with Archie Cox. She is very successful in the all three disciplines on her own mounts as well as catch riding other horses.

Ronnie Mutch Equitation Classic

By Laura Ware 

The newly added championship week at this year’s HITS Desert Circuit brought many exciting new classes. One of them was the prestigious Ronnie Mutch Equitation Classic, which has previously been held at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida. To qualify for the classic, riders must have won a USET, USEF, ASPCA Maclay, or WIHS medal class at any of this year’s winter circuits.

This class is unique in that it does not allow the riders to communicate with their trainers during the time that the class is being held. The riders are also judged in the schooling ring. This year’s winner, Carly Anthony, was gracious enough to answer a few questions for us regarding this special class.

Laura: What was the format of the class?

Carly: There were two rounds. The first one was a jumper course that had a very demanding first line which challenged everyone. The judges definitely rewarded the people who took risks. Even if the round wasn’t perfect, they liked the fact that a rider was willing to put it on the line. The second round had tests which were also very difficult. There was no work off, but I believe there would have been if the judges had had more time, because the scores were very close. Laura: What was it like not being able to communicate with your trainers?

Carly: I LOVED IT! It was a great chance to use all that I have learned from my trainers and prove to them that what they teach me doesn’t go in one in ear and out the other; it actually stays in there.

Laura: What was it like to be judged in the schooling ring? I understand that the overall score from your round was adjusted based on the schooling arena judge.

Carly: It was so much fun to be judged in the schooling ring because that’s where it all happens. You get to show the judges what makes you even more unique from the other riders as you school your horse over warm-up fences. They announced the scores when the other scores from your round were announced, and a rider could receive a +4, +2, 0, -2, or -4. I would have to say that was one of the most interesting parts of the class.

Laura: Did you enjoy this type of class?

Carly: This was the most fun class that I have ever competed in. It was a true test of my knowledge, and it was such an amazing experience to prove not only to my trainers, but to myself that I can do this on my own. I really enjoyed riding on my own, and it gave me a little taste of what it will be like when I become a professional. It was an honor to be able to compete in such a wonderful class.

Laura: Thank you so much for your time, Carly, and congratulations on winning the inaugural Ronnie Mutch Equitation Classic on the West Coast. Hopefully we’ll see more of these classes in the future.

Ronnie Mutch was a life-long horseman. An early student of Gordon Wright and Al Homewood, Mutch won the AHSA Medal finals in 1950 at the age of 15. At 18 he was the youngest rider at the time to ride for the USET. By 1970, Mutch had established with his wife, Sue Bauer, one of the most successful show jumping stables in the country, Nimrod Farm. Twenty-eight years after Mutch had won the AHSA Medal Finals, Mutch’s son, Bert, won the Medal Finals. Ronnie and Bert Mutch are the only father and son combination to have won the Medal Finals.

The R.W. Mutch Educational Foundation is a tax exempt 501 (c) (3) educational foundation that sponsors both a scholarship and the annual R.W. (Ronnie) Mutch Equitation Classic. This special invitational class is open only to those young riders who qualify by winning one of the major equitation classes during any of the Winter Circuits, including HITS-Thermal, HITS-AZ, HITS-Ocala, CN-WEF & the Gulf Coast Winter Series. It is a highly sought after honor to be invited to participate.

Past Winners of the Equitation Classic:
2008 – Carly Anthony
2007 – Maria Schaub
2006 – Maria Schaub
2005 – Sloanes Coles
2004 – Brianne Goutal
2003 – Whitney Roper
2002 – Kate Landau
2001 – Brian Walker
2000 – Vanessa Haas
1999 – Sarah Willeman

Laura Listens is brought to you by Laura Ware. Winner of the 2007 LAHSA Junior Medal Finals and a recipient of the 2008 WCAR Jumper Rider Grant, Laura rides with First Field Farm and often trains with Archie Cox. She is very successful in the all three disciplines on her own mounts as well as catch riding other horses.