EquestriSol News: September 26, 2011

Welcome Writers
After a busy summer season, we are especially grateful to our contributing writers. We welcome Aimee Robinson who wrote about the amazing LA Pomeroy. Alexandra Pingree and Laura Thompson, who interned with us this summer, each penned an article. Alexandra’s Strap One On is in this issue and Laura’s IHSA Nationals piece was out earlier this summer. Jenni Martin-McAllister agreed to write about her hot time in Lexington this summer at NAJYRC. Erna Adelson had the pleasure of spending time with Barmen and Brooks of Balmoral Farm and she hopes to do more. Selena Frederick, who has worked with us for almost a year, had some “Conversations with Equestrians” – two in this issue – Nick Haness and Ali Nilfourshan. From Jennifer Wood we have two articles – one on the amazing Spruce Meadows Masters, where not only is the show jumping huge but so are the crowds; and the other about Unbridled Passion, a recently released book that we can all relate to.

Congratulations to the USEF Talent Search Final Four
Considered a true rider’s test, the USEF Talent Search Final Four finished this past weekend at the LA International. Sorry we weren’t there to see it in person, we do want to congratulate the top four. Demi Stiegler (trainers, Archie Cox and Robyn Stiegler) topped the group, Sage Flynn (trainers Hap Hansen and Trudi Fletcher) placed second, Zoie Nagelhout (trainer Archie Cox) was third and Taylor Harris (trainers James Hagman, Katie Gardner, Kay Atheuser and Custis Ferguson) came in fourth.

West Coast Rocks the East Coast
There are several special occasions that spur us to travel east for some keen competition. From a WEF winter in Wellington, Devon in May for those who qualify, Lexington in August for the USHJA International Hunter Derby Final, Saugerties in September for the big money weekend and finally fall for the indoor shows, the west coast continues to make their mark each year.

The most recent rally was the group who ventured to upstate New York for the two biggest money events of the year, the $500,000 Diamond Mills Hunter Prix and the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix. Top west coast riders in both the Hunter and Show Jumper arenas not only held their own but brought home big prizes. Although competing in superb weather is almost a given here, west coast horses and riders braved a deluge of rain while galloping on course on Sunday, September 11th.

Out of sixty-two entries in the $500,000 Diamond Mills Hunter Prix, Jenny Karazissis and Heidi Kane’s Sin City won BOTH Round 1 and Round 2. Nick Haness and Jessica Singer’s Cruise won Round 3 and finished second overall. Archie Cox and Stephanie Danhakl’s After Five and Hope Glynn and Sabrina Hellman’s Woodstock made the top twenty-five. And Erin Bland on Weatherly (12th), John French aboard Oscany’s Illusion (7th) and Katie Taylor on Iwasaki & Reilly’s Small Collection (5th) all finished in the top twelve.

Following that feat, three west coast representatives finished in the top ten of the Pfizer $1 Million. As one of only two clean rides in the entire class, Duncan McFarlane and Simon Coxe’s Mr. Whoopy were second. Coming back from a season in Europe, college hot shots Saer Coulter on Copernicus Stable’s Springtime and Lucy Davis riding Old Oak Farm’s Nemo 119 picked up sixth and ninth. Well-known riders McLain Ward, Margie Goldstein and Christine McCrea, who were also fresh off European tours and are heading to Guadalajara for the Pan Am Games (Margie is an alternate), placed third, twelfth and fourteenth.

Congratulations to all on an outstanding showing, you represented the west coast with style.

HITS Revision
When we sent out the HITS e-blast in August we had a misprint – the 2012 HITS Desert Circuit will have DC I-VI (no seventh week). Circuit dates are January 24th – March 11th, 2012. Check the HITS site for details.

Conversations With Course Designers: Guilherme Jorge and Hap Hansen

By Jackie McFarland

Analyzing the World’s Most Competitive Courses with Special Guests Hap Hansen and Guilherme Jorge
We’ve all ridden plenty of Grand Prix classes from our seats… in the audience. And thanks to modern technology we’ve watched the WEG courses via FEI.tv, the new USEF network and YouTube. But I had the chance to watch with Hap Hansen, who certainly knows what it’s like to ride those courses from the seat of the saddle. Plus in the midst of the competition I was able to converse with Guilherme Jorge, assistant to World Equestrian Games head course designer Conrad Homfeld. Through their experienced eyes, we analyzed the world’s most competitive courses from Lexington, Kentucky, home of the 2010 WEG.

Brazilian Jorge was honored to be a part of an impressive team of international designers, including course architect Richard Jeffrey from Great Britian and assistants American Anthony D’Ambrosio, Canadian Michel Vallaincourt and Christa Stormans from Germany. Seven other course designers joined this elite group plus an excellent jump crew of eight. They were truly a design team, with Homfeld asking for their suggestions and impressions of his designs and distance choices.

Jorge commented, “Homfeld’s courses use his knowledge and experience as a rider at this level and his course design experience. His speed course asked a lot of technical questions. It was a good test and interesting to watch. The tests got tougher on Tuesday, but he kept the less experienced riders in mind.” After our Wednesday interview, he was off to a meeting about Friday’s course.

After the warm-up round on Sunday evening where each rider had 90 seconds to get to know the arena, each day forward counted towards both the Team and Individual standings. Monday was a 1.50m speed class, with faults converted into seconds, so each of the 121 starters were scored according to their time. The placings worked as follows – the fastest overall time, which on this glorious Monday was Mario Deslauriers on Urico, was given a score of 0. His winning time of 71.25 was then subtracted from each subsequent score and that total was multiplied by .5. For example on this same glorious day, McLain Ward was second with a time of 71.79. The formula is: 71.79 – 71.25 = .52 x .5 = .27. That is the score McLain carried into Day Two.

The course theme was the ‘nature of Kentucky’ and the jumps were magnificent. Some memorable jumps were the line from fence five, a vertical with wings resembling mountain peaks to an impressive arch wall at fence six in tight four strides and a combination at 10a-10b made from plank board fencing.

The last line of a liverpool vertical to Rolex combination caused quite a few four fault conversions, adding precious seconds onto riders scores.

Day Two was another all day affair – 119 horses passed through the timers. The cumulative scores from this day determined the ten teams that would compete in the Team Final Competition the following evening. I sat with Hap and watched each horse negotiate the brilliant 1.60m Thoroughbred industry-themed course. Hap had the following comments regarding the course, which you can see on the virtual map for 10/5/2010: Team Competition.

Fence 1: A big enough oxer with a nice approach to get everyone started.

Fence 2 –3: There was quite a bit of distance between fences one and two, a good opportunity to gallop in order to stay within the time allowed. However it was important to go far enough around the turn to meet it straight and ride the line, which even though there was a slight bend to the right it rode in a nice seven strides. A few riders rode it in eight.

Fence 4 –5a, b, c: A rollback turn to the left to a tall skinny vertical – a cool jump representing a film slate from Sea Biscuit – which was a careful fence. Best way to approach was to go wide but the time allowed made that difficult. You could see the ones that were confident, careful vertical jumpers who would shave the turn. From there a steady six bending strides to a tricky triple combination – oxer at A, in one to tall vertical at B, what measured a steady two to an oxer at C but rode in a variety of ways depending how much the horse backed up to jump the B element. Each element of the triple took its toll.

Fence 6: Pass the in-gate to the solid black wall. The fence represented a Win, Place, Show scoreboard from the Churchill Downs track and was an intimidating solid looking jump. Quite a few blocks fell.

Fence 7 –8: A sweeping left turn to a wide 4.30m (14′ 1″) water – with several options on the track – inside in seven, center to center in eight or wide in nine strides. This was also tricky as there were quite a good number of feet in the water. The water was set in a line walking long in four strides to a ‘light’ plank vertical that some chose to ride in the forward four and others in the steady 5 – may have been 50/50. Those who stepped in the water did the five. Most who jumped the water well kept going forward for the four.

Fence 9: Right hand turn to a green and gold Keeneland oxer at end of the ring. This was not a particularly difficult fence but it did come up fast after that difficult line. Due to this and because the horses were still forward after the last line and didn’t back off the front rail, it came down a surprising number of times. Like for McLain and Sapphire, it led them right into the front rail, that was the trap.

Fence 10: Rollback to the FEI purple vertical with jockey silks. Not too much trouble at this jump.

Fence 11 – 12A-B – 13: This last line was a difficult track and caused a good amount of rails. Fence 11 was a wide enough oxer then an option of a forward four strides or quite a few tried to collect the horse for a steady five to a very short and airy white vertical – vertical combination and finishing in a forward six stride bending line to a 1.90m (6′ 3″) wide Rolex oxer.

“Overall it was a brilliant course. Exciting to watch with great results. The presentation was beautiful,” noted Hansen. Of the 119 horses, just over 15% (17 horses) went clean; another four were close with one time fault. Nineteen more had just one rail. The remaining 79 horses had 5 faults or more.

So the results from yesterday were tallied – faults were added to the speed score – and the team totals were determined. The ten teams with the lowest cumulative scores competed in a final round on Wednesday night. Again the total number of faults each rider scored in the round were added to both the overall team score and their individual score. These totals resulted in both the final Team standings, awarded on Wednesday, as well as which riders were return for the top thirty on Friday night. The top four scoring riders after Friday’s class would compete on Saturday in the Final Four. Fifteen more rounds were added to Wednesday’s list – the fifteen best scoring individual riders that weren’t on a team competed for a score, to determine if they would make it to the top thirty individual competition.

The course wasn’t altered much from the one Hap analyzed on Tuesday, however the few changes were key as many riders experienced. Guilherme shared some of the slight height changes, with some jumps as high as 1.65m (5’5″). Fences # 2, 3, 6, 9 and 10 were raised and 5A was square when on Tuesday it was slightly ramped.

The difficult line mid-course from the open water to the plank vertical, fences seven to eight, changed to an equally difficult width test – a wide (2.20m or 7’3″) triple bar in a forward four or holding five strides to the plank vertical. This made your track from the wall at fence six extremely important and didn’t ride the same as a gallop to an open water, instead riders had to choose a track that would get them to the base of the triple bar and then they each had to know not only how far into the line the horse would land but as well how adjustable once inside. There were a lot of problems here, including the unfortunately long distance to the triple bar that came up for Mario Deslauriers and Urico, which ended up in a frightening crash where Urico sat down on the back side. The pair circled and recovered to finish the course.

Venezuela’s Pablo Barrios had the opposite problem; he rode beautifully across the triple bar and went forward for the four, which came up too long, and the pair plowed through the plank vertical. Both successful and experienced riders, these mishaps proved the challenges that the fifty-five entries encountered on course.

It was Germany’s night. They came in with a total score of 17.80 and with three of four teams riders going clean, the score remained the same for the win. France also had an excellent showing only adding 4 faults to their score, moving up from fifth to second. Belgium made a big jump from eighth to third only adding two points to their total score. It was not a great night for the US, although Laura Kraut did shine with a beautifully clean round.

Displayed here is a nice representation of the track and the jumps used on this day. The jumps in black were used in Round One and in red are Round Two. Visually the theme was Iconic WEF and Kentucky, which the jumps beautifully illustrate. As a brief review, one of the most challenging lines was the final one in Round One, an oxer-oxer-vertical triple combination across the diagonal in line with the final jump. Most scores were between four and eight faults, with only five of the thirty riders going clean. In Round Two, the shortened course was slightly less technical and thirteen of the twenty-four who returned were fault free, including a great comeback by McLain Ward and Sapphire who jumped brilliantly in both rounds to move from a rank of 26th to 7th.

Having watched this at the USET Talent Search Level multiple times it was quite amazing to see the stakes taken up several notches and see four of the world’s best riders ride each others horses over a 1.60m course. Again having the honor of sitting with Hap Hansen, we collectively thought that Hickstead would be the most difficult to ride. Although certainly strong and sometimes slightly out of control, he proved to be on his best behavior for the Final Four and was actually the best horse of the night. Abdullah Al Sharbatly and Rodrigo Pessoa each had surprising rails on their own mounts, but Sharbatly rode the other three horses like a pro and jumped into second place. Small mistakes if not just tired horses took a toll on Pessoa and Eric Lamaze who dropped to fourth and third respectively. Phillippe Le Jeune was simply stellar. Clean on each of the four rides, he was clearly the champion.

Both of my special guests agreed that it was a week of great sport. Jorge, who started the road to the WEG for the Americans when he designed all the WEG Trials in Wellington last winter, absorbed great knowledge from master course designers and riders, as well as contributing his own expertise. Along with keenly watching every horse and rider, Hansen also had a few days of fun socializing with friends from all over the world, shopping and experiencing Kentucky hospitality. I am thankful to them both. Course photos from Guilherme Jorge; course walk photo from Lisa Mitchell.


EquestriSol News: September 30, 2010

If I had a million dollars…
With two $1 Million Grand Prix events taking place in September, equestrians from across the country were vying for their piece of the pie. As part of HITS-On-the-Hudson in Saugerties, NY, the coveted top prize in the first ever Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix was awarded to McLain Ward and his stellar mare Sapphire (McLain Ward & Blue Chip Bloodstock, owners). Ward and Sapphire rode double-clear after second place duo, Charlie Jayne and Athena, the other clear team from the first round, pulled a rail in the jump-off. Fresh off his $250,000 FTI Grand Prix win at the Hampton Classic, this event was Ward and Sapphire’s last competition together before making the trip to Kentucky to compete in the WEG.

Representing the West Coast, Duncan McFarlane piloted the eight-year-old Mr. Whoopy to an impressive eighth place finish, dropping just one rail on course, and Helen McNaught rode Caballo to the thirteenth position with an eight fault score.

The Spruce Meadows Masters Tournament also boasted a $1 Million event this past Sunday with Venezuela’s Leopoldo Palacios designing the CN International Grand Prix. Three West Coast riders earned spots among the top ten finishers. Second place was none other than California’s own Richard Spooner and his 12-year-old partner Cristallo (Show Jumping Syndication Int’l, owner). Rich Fellers aboard Flexible (Harry & Mollie Chapman, owners) finished seventh and the young Karl Cook of Woodside aboard Uno De Laubry (Signe Ostby, owner) brought home the eighth place ribbon.

The WEG is here!
The long awaited World Equestrian Games are well underway in Lexington, Kentucky. We are not only pleased to be here but were honored to attend the Opening Ceremonies. There was plenty of exceptional talent, but the Friesian team of ten was simply magnificent. Watching ten jet black steeds all dressed in white polos prance in perfect sync and perform a dressage drill without a hitch while their manes flowed freely was a joy. We also took a few iPhone photos that show some of the fun. We will of course be back with bells on for the week of show jumping and look forward to some shopping time. Can hardly wait for the Final Four on Saturday, October 9th. Should be a sight to see!

We enjoyed interviewing Guy Thomas. He’s a multi-faceted individual and we wish him the best of luck next week. Even though he is representing New Zealand, he also represents California. And of course, it goes without saying – GO USA!

Here’s a video of the Friesians during the opening ceremony from “DreamGait”.

West Coast Congrats
West Coast Win – Nations’ Cup News
Congratulations to the United States team of Rich Fellers/Flexible, Ashlee Bond/Cadett 7, Richard Spooner/Cristallo, and Beezie Madden/Coral Reef Via Volo, for clinching the win in the 2010 Nations’ Cup during the Masters Tournament at Spruce Meadows. Coached by George Morris, the team edged out Ireland and Canada who finished second and third respectfully. Considering Fellers, Bond, Spooner all call the West Coast home and Madden’s mount, Coral Reef Via Volo, is owned by Coral Reef Ranch and Gwendolyn Meyer, the team certainly represented the region well.

West Coast USEF Talent Search
Preparing our high-level equitation riders for the jumper arena, the USEF Talent Search tests flatwork skills, how a rider handles gymnastic exercises and their mastering of a jumper type course on the field, including an open water element. One of the most challenging medal finals, the top four are required to each ride one another’s horse to determine the top placings. Riding under the tutelage of Karen Healey, east coast equestrian Taylor Ann Adams bested the field for the win. With scores well into the 80’s on each of the final four horses she competed on, her consistency and style paid off. Second went to Jocelyn Neff, another Healey student. Rounding out the top four were Jennifer Parker, trained by Benson Carroll and Caroline Ingalls, who rides with Hap Hansen.

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 NARG.org: 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 USEF.org). 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 NARG.org. Several in depth articles and a statement from President Chris Kappler are also on PhelpsSports.com.

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

EquestriSol News: May 18, 2010

We Bring You La Baule
As we cruise into summer there are some big events to set our sights on. We have some fabulous content coming in the newsletter that embraces the best from Blenheim, happenings at the Kentucky Horse Park, and stories from our US riders over in Europe.

We wish we could be everywhere as we are passionate about bringing you the stories of the horses, the riders and the events that satisfy our competitive cravings. We will continue to try.

The first leg of the European Tours has commenced, beginning last week with the CSIO5* in La Baule, France. McLain Ward, Beezie Madden, Lauren Hough. Richard Spooner, Mario Deslauriers and Hilary Dobbs all competed.

About La Baule:
Although the first show was held in 1931, it was not until 1960 that La Baule was granted “official show” status by the FEI. In 2002, La Baule joined the FEI Nations Cup Series. There were three key events the MEYDAN FEI Nations Cup (Friday, May 15th), The Derby Meeting of the Pays de La Loire (Saturday, May 16th) and the Grand Prix Longines of La Baule (Sunday, May 17th). The courses were designed by Frederic Cottier. The United States and France were the favorites in the Nations Cup and both went into the second round with a total of four penalties. Richard Spooner jumped two clean rounds on Cristallo, with his second clear putting the pressure on France. Mario Deslauriers and Urico were also clean, McLain Ward and Sapphire had 4 faults and Hilary Dobbs, fresh off finals from Harvard, scored 9 faults.

After their first rider scored 4 faults the French continued to put in clean rounds. The final results came in with the French winning the Nations Cup by a rail, with the US second. A good beginning to the tour. It gets better…

Before the Derby class, Beezie Madden rode Coral Reef Vio Volo to the top prize in the Prix Groupe Lucien Barriere / Diane Desseigne, Table A with 69 entries in the class.

Twenty ‘couples’ competed in the Derby. (When reading the French press, they referred to a horse and rider as a couple, which we found to be ever so true). A difficult test of hills and water and other Derby details, not one of the riders was able to go clean. Until Americans Richard Spooner and Pako. The couple made history that day as they were the only clear effort and the first Americans to win the coveted title!

The icing on the French pastry for the Americans came on the final day. The stands were packed to watch the fifty couples compete in the Grand Prix. Thirteen went clean, including Mario Deslaurier on the 9-year-old Urico and McLain Ward on Sapphire. Deslauriers had the leading time, clean and fast in 36.95. Until Ward walked in. The pair galloped through the timers clear in 36.00 for the win. First and second place went to the US.

Certainly an auspicious start to the European Tours. Sincere congratulations to all. And a big thank you to Sophie Durieux for the fabulous photos, as well to Sydney Masters-Durieux for delivering.

Stay tuned, June is going to be a big month for newsletters and we are gearing up to keep the stories coming.

Photos © Sophie Durieux

EquestriSol News: April 20, 2010

2010 FEI World Cup Finals Commentary
Competitive riders have many goals and overcome numerous obstacles, literally and psychologically, to achieve these goals. When a name is synonymous with the best of the best, having won Olympic Gold Medals, international titles and countless Grand Prix events, that individual has clearly earned recognition and deserves respect.

That is how we see McLain Ward. Granted he and his father have a tainted past, but as McLain points out that was over a decade ago and he has had a completely clean record ever since. He expects extra scrutiny and often has to endure it. However he continues to be at the top of his game, winning on numerous horses, of course the most famous to date is the fabulous Sapphire.

We all know full well this could’ve been their World Cup victory year. They came so incredibly close last year in Vegas against Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Shutterfly, an awesome competition until the very end. After Friday’s class McLain and Sapphire were on the path to potentially claim the title this year.

Then hypersensitivity happened. Seems sadly unjust to those of us who were routing from afar. Takes the wind out of the competition sails. From what we’ve read, what is sad and disheartening for thousands of us who support and participate in equestrian sport was an absolute nightmare for McLain and his team.

A mare who has proven time and time again to be a winner, has no history of unsoundness, whom had just won top placings in the first two rounds of the FEI World Cup Final, continues to jog sound and clearly is a competitor – why at this stage in her career could she test as hypersensitive to the point of elimination for her own safety? It may be ‘protocol’ but is it logical?

What makes this decision the right one? Why do these individuals get absolute power to eliminate with no appeal or recourse? How is that clean sport? It seems to put too much power in the hands of a few. It certainly presents a serious issue for the future of the sport. When does hypersensitivity make sense in a seasoned horse?

So many unanswered questions.

We congratulate Marcus Ehning, who is a tremendous talent and impeccable rider. Congratulations also go to US riders Mario Deslauriers, Richard Spooner and Rich Fellers, all in the top twelve. We only wish they and all the other competitors would’ve competed against McLain.

Here are several links to find out more:
– PhelpsSports.com – includes an exclusive interview with McLain and a conversation with Rodrigo Pessoa & Jimmy Torano (must be a member to read)
– The Chronicle of the Horse
– USEF – look for World Cup releases
– We Support McLain Ward and Sapphire – Facebook group
– McLain and Sapphire – Facebook group


Showcasing Young Talent: Laura Teodori

By Jackie McFarland

Increasingly becoming more consistent, twenty-year-old Laura Teodori is yet another West Coast rider showing potential at the grand prix level. We’ve watched her gallop in the arena on her big chestnut jumper, Kasoar D’Uxelles, since 2008. She competed in Europe this summer on the USEF Developing Riders Tour and upon her return we sat down for an interview. Laura is one of many young riders along with an extensive list of veterans vying for a chance to go to Geneva and compete in the FEI World Cup Finals in April 2010.

EqSol: Where you are from, how did you start riding, the early years…
LT: I grew up in Scottsdale, AZ and started taking riding lessons with my mom when I was four. She always had a passion for horses, but wasn’t allowed to ride growing up. I showed ponies and Junior Hunters with Sherry Templin, Kathy Johnson, and Lucy Alabaster. When I was 12 my dad was badly injured in a car accident, forcing me to take a couple years off of riding. When I came back I rode with Betty Beran. I continued to show in the hunters and bought my first jumper when I was 15. When I was ready to do some bigger jumper classes, Betty found ‘Luc’ (Kasoar D’Uxelles) from Barney & McLain Ward. We bought him sight unseen as an 8 year old. He had jumped 1.35m but didn’t have many miles. We got very lucky.

EqSol: You were competing as a junior in AZ in 2007, in medals and hunters. When did your grand prix aspirations begin?
LT: Like most kids, I had big goals. I’ve always wanted to represent the USA in international competition. I competed in my first grand prix in Arizona when I was 16 (2006) at 1.40m. Luc was still new to me, I’d only had him for two months and it was my fourth show with him. In 2007 we went to the first week of the HITS Desert Circuit and ended up Champion in the High Juniors and 3rd in the Jr/Am Jumper Classic. We went back and competed on the HITS Arizona Circuit, did the grand prix classes and I qualified to ride for Zone 8 at NAYRC (Young Riders). He gives me a lot of confidence, I feel like I can jump anything when I am riding him. We get along perfectly, he’s so brave – he’ll do anything I ask him to. For as big he is – he’s very special. He’s scopey and careful.

EqSol: The NAYJRC is always an interesting event. Tell us about Young Riders in 2007.
LT: Anthony D’Ambrosio did the courses. Guy McElvain was our Chef. He was great – very supportive. By far the toughest courses I’d ever ridden. The first day I had two rails and thought I had no chance. Then Friday I was the only one who managed to go double clear. That helped with my confidence. And on Sunday I was double clean again. I ended up winning a Silver Medal in the Individuals. It was a great experience.

EqSol: And how have things evolved since summer 2007?
LT: I briefly rode with Rudy Leone and had my first grand prix win with him at the 2008 Del Mar National. That was such a thrill! That show has an incredible atmosphere. But I wanted to be in southern California. Joie Gatlin has always been one of my role models as a rider, so I was very excited to move to Morley and Joie’s barn a year ago (July 2008). They are so professional and organized – the picture of how a show barn should be run. From the ground up – the vet, farrier – my horses couldn’t be better cared for. They work so hard – Joie wants the win as much for her clients as she does for herself. When she walks a course with me she is just as intense as if she walking for herself. I love that.

EqSol: Specifically what was your plan for 2009?
LT: They are very goal oriented at Joie and Morley’s – which I love – everything has a purpose. The first thing we did this year was to have a 2009 goal meeting. My biggest goal was to go to the Vegas Grand Prix. So I had to be competitive and consistently in the ribbons in World Cup qualifiers to achieve that goal. It was a lot of hard work – Joie and Morley boot camp early in the year – but it all paid off because we did it! The indoor at Thermal was ideal for preparing us for Vegas – the crowds, challenging courses, small space. Once you finished there the Thomas & Mack Arena looked like a Grand Prix field!

EqSol: The Saturday Grand Prix in Vegas – another Anthony D’Ambrosio adventure. You were the first to go clean!
LT: My favorite thing about Vegas was when I was walking the course – it was like a mix of all the courses at Thermal (again I have to say a good prep). Every mistake I had made during the qualifiers was in the course in Vegas, so I was able to correct those mistakes. It was very rewarding for the whole team to have everything come together. The coolest thing was being in the warm-up ring with all those international riders. Not only could I watch them warm-up, I jumped alongside them! Hearing all their names and my name announced together was amazing. To get to the ring you ride through a dark tunneland enter into lights, music, and a packed audience, it’s such incredible energy. It was just how is should be, a horse “show.”

EqSol: Almost directly after Vegas in April was Europe in May. How did that come about?
 You apply and are chosen off the computer list rankings. The experience was completely surreal. We laid over in Barcelona at the Polo Club where the ’92 Olympics were held. We competed at a CSI2* and a CSIO4* in Linz, Austria and finished at a CSIO4* in Lisbon, Portugal. Of course some of the biggest and most challenging courses I had ever jumped. I didn’t go with any expectations, so even though it would’ve been great to come home with wins, it was invaluable. From the team camaraderie, working with Michelle Grubb and Eric Hasbrook, wearing the pink jacket with the stars & stripes, watching all the great riders – it was all amazing.

EqSol: And your future?
 What’s next – hmmm. My life is very day-by-day. It’s been a fantastic year and I look forward what the future has in store! I’m so lucky in so many ways – great support from my family, a horse of a lifetime, and working on developing another, and most of all Joie and Morley’s guidance and expertise – I learn from them every day.

Thank you Laura and best of luck! To read more about her time in Europe go to PhelpsSports.com – she wrote the 2009 Developing Riders Tour Blog.

What A World

While we make our way through one of the most challenging economic times we’ve had as a nation, if not the world, there are shining stars and glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel. Whether the economy is up or down, our own niche of sport horses never ceases to please and amaze us. Take a close look at this week’s stories from Carleton to Compton to World Cup.

Touted as one of the best World Cups ever, we are still talking about the once-in-a-lifetime events that occurred in Sin City at the 2009 Rolex FEI World Cup Finals. First, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum not only won for the third time in her career, but she was the leader in every round. McLain Ward tried to catch her and came quite close; he also had an extremely successful weekend, finishing second to Meredith by two seconds over four rounds and a jump off (Friday).

Next, our American top hats are off to Steffen Peters who dressaged his way to a World Cup win over some of the world’s best riders. His high scores included a 93 in the artistic category on the final night, as his horse Ravel danced to the music of his freestyle ride. Notable that Meredith was American-born, but is now a German citizen whereas Steffen was German-born and now lives and trains in nearby Escondido, CA.

Rich Fellers rode the relatively green Kilkenny Rindo to the blue in the Las Vegas Grand Prix on Saturday of World Cup week. Very pleased with the horse, Rich is currently bringing along a number of jumpers for the Boyds of Kilkenny Crest. Some of our reigning riders, including Olympic Gold Medalists Will Simpson and Anky Van Grunsvan, donned cowboy boots and chaps atop reining horses in an exhibition match – certain also to be a first. Both of course rode well and the crowd loved it.

The room was buzzing at the final press conference on Sunday, not only with the excitement of the fabulous sport all had witnessed, but at the conclusion Robert Ridland made an announcement that put the icing on the Las Vegas FEI World Cup cake. After ten years of participation, Ridland took the time to honor some of the many names that made this phenomenal event possible year after year, including John Quirk, Bob Maxey, Shawn Davis, Tim Keener and Pat Christensen, among others. He then stated that Blenheim EquiSports, with the full support of Las Vegas Events, would be making a bid to bring the FEI World Cup Finals back to Las Vegas in 2014. “This team, this event is too good to give up,” he said. In response to this announcement Sven Holmberg, FEI Vice President, replied with a smile that the 2014 bid would be “very well received.”

World Cup Photos © Tish Quirk.

2009 World Cup Wrap-up With LEG Up News

EquestriSol and LEG Up News put their collective heads together and covered the World Cup events each day. A daily e-release was distributed to the LEG Up News list. Below is a recap of the coverage: scroll to read or click the following links to jump to a specific day’s event.


The air sizzled with excitement and rock music as the first rider entered the arena, Rich Fellers of USA with Flexible, an Irish Sport Horse stallion (Harry & Mollie Chapman, owners). Knowing he had to go for broke to set a time that would be hard for the 43 other riders to beat, Fellers made tight turns, took the inside turn option between jump six and the double combination, and wasted no time. With a huge effort over the Las Vegas vertical and opting for the tight turn back to 7a and 7b, Fellers almost fell off, but he quickly re-grouped and never broke Flexible’s stride. They jumped a clean round with a time of 58.50, setting a very tough standard for the rest of the field. He showed that the Americans were there to compete.

Fellers only kept his lead for four rides, when he was unseated by Swiss rider Christina Liebherr and the Dutch Warmblood gelding L.B. No Mercy (Hans Liebherr, owner). The pair jumped a clean and fast round, choosing to take the outside turns quickly and ending with a time of 57.47. Liebherr noted that her horse normally jumps better outside in a big arena, but “he was really rideable tonight.”

Liebherr was followed by many riders who each took the course in their own way, some of which chose to take the risky inside turns with varying degrees of success. She held her number one position despite McLain Ward’s effort that included a particularly difficult inside turn before the number 11 jump. Ward and the Belgian Warmblood mare Sapphire (McLain Ward, Tom Grossman’s Blue Chip Bloodstock, owners) finished with a time of 57.73, just behind Liebherr.

With only six riders remaining, it was not until Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, the number one rider in the world and a two-time World Cup Champion, trotted into the arena on Shutterfly (Octavia Farms LLC, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, owners) that Liebherr’s reign ended. Michaels-Beerbaum, a former Californian who is now a German citizen, jumped a fantastic round, taking many of the inside tracks with seeming ease and leaving the rails untouched to end with a time of 56.48 and first place. She proved untouchable.

Both Ward and Fellers are easily in striking distance of the lead as they sit third and fourth, and this is a long competition. Friday night they face a challenging test. American riders showed their depth with very strong performances by up and coming stars Hillary Dobbs, Ashlee Bond, and Michelle Spadone. Richard Spooner was on a winning pace with Ace, but a rail in the triple and another after a very tight roll back to fence 11 dropped the pair down in the standings. However, clear rounds count and Spooner is more than capable.



Competition kicked into high gear today, with the opening ceremonies and Grand Prix Dressage competition. Fourteen horses entered the court to vie for their share of $100,000 in prize money.

Once the show got under way, it had a shaky beginning, especially for the Americans. First Jan Eberling had a rocky ride on Rafalca, who seemed concerned about something in the corner between C and H. Eberling persevered and finished the ride, earning a 53.995 despite the foibles. However, he did not qualify to participate in the Freestyle on Saturday.

Next, Leslie Morse and Kingston began their test, but something was obviously wrong when their extended trot was severely lacking. The judge at C rang the bell when Morse reached H and excused her from the arena. Morse dismounted and led Kingston out of the arena to tumultuous applause. “I could tell in the first corner, he felt unbalanced and I knew he wasn’t right,” Morse was reported to say in a press release from the event. “We respect the Ground Jury’s decision to ring the bell and we all agreed it was absolutely in the best interest of the horse, which is always the most important consideration.”

Isabell Werth, who was the winner here two years ago, put in a beautiful ride for third place and with Satchmo, earning several 9s through the test and a 10 on the half pass, with a final score of 73.745. Nine-time World Cup Champion Anky Van Grunsven and IPS Painted Black followed Werth, putting on a strong performance with several 9s throughout and a 10 on the extended trot. She ended with a respectable 74.170. This was IPS Painted Black’s first World Cup. “I’m really happy,” she said. “It was his best Grand Prix of the season.”

Werth and Van Grunsven are tough acts to follow, but when Steffen Peters and Ravel entered the arena, it was clear they were ready. After numerous 8s and 9s, including the piaffe, Peters’ score continued to rise. During his last piaffe, the crowd began to murmur, and the excitement in the air was palpable. The audience was on the edge of their seats, watching as the collective scores flashed up on the screen. Peters’ score of 77.915, unanimous first with all judges, made him the clear winner. Everyone in the crowd was on their feet as Peters waved to them, grinning from ear to ear.

At the press conference after the awards presentation Peters’ emotion was obvious. “I was beside myself. I couldn’t believe it. I had to keep looking at the score to make sure.” Peters said he would follow the advice Van Grunsven gave him in Florida, which is to keep the same routine when preparing for the Freestyle and not to change anything even though he is in the lead.

The last time the FEI World Cup Dressage was won by a rider from the USA was in 2003, when Debbie McDonald took it with Brentina.



This class was run in a traditional jump-off format, and course designer Anthony D’Ambrosio posed some challenges for the riders. The jumps were bigger and required even more scope than the speed round. The time allowed was not a significant factor, but in the small arena there isn’t much option for veering off the track and slowing down too much. Of the 42 starters, 13 negotiated clear rounds.

It was not until the 11th ride, Keean White of Canada with Celena Z, that we saw the first clear round, followed immediately by another one from Helena Lundback of Sweden on Madick. Of the 13 riders who went clear and moved on to the jump-off, five were from the US: Richard Spooner on Cristallo, Beezie Madden on Danny Boy, Hillary Dobbs on Quincy B, Rich Fellers on Flexible, and McLain Ward on Sapphire. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum on Shutterfly, last night’s winner, was last to go and also went clear, as did Christina Liebherr, who was second last night.

After the final ride in the first round, the ring crew quickly prepared for what was bound to be an exciting jump-off. There were ample opportunities to cut corners and make up time, which some of them put to full advantage.

First up in the jump-off was White, who dropped a rail on the second jump and finished in 40.83. He was followed by Lundback, who jumped a clear round in 37.20. She was only at the top of the leader board for a moment before being knocked down first by Spooner with 34.87, then Madden with 34.83. Dobbs, Forsten, and Pessoa all dropped a rail apiece, so Madden was still leading until Albert Zoer of Netherlands, who was sixth last night, jumped a clear round in 34.72.

Excitement was high when last night’s fifth place finisher, Thomas Velin, entered the arena on Grim St. Clair, but he knocked down nearly the whole fence at five and put himself out of the running. The crowd went wild when favorite Fellers, last year’s second place finisher and fourth last night, entered the arena. He took the course at a breakneck pace, but he had a rail at fence three and this, combined with his fast time of 34.42, put him in eighth place.

Ward was next up, and the stadium filled with applause once again. He and Sapphire put on a brilliant performance, taking some very tight turns to save valuable time, and finished in a seemingly impossible 33.77 with no faults, sending himself to the top of the leader board and leaving Zoer in second and Madden in third. They stayed there when Liebherr had a refusal at jump two, dropped a rail at six and had two time faults, leaving her with a disappointing 13th place finish.

Finally, Michaels-Beerbaum nearly brought down the house when she rode in on Shutterfly, and the crowed eagerly waited to see if she would repeat last night’s performance and take home yet another Rolex watch. She delivered, neatly taking the tightest possible turns and finishing a full second ahead of Ward and claiming the leader’s spot.

The other two West Coast riders, Mandy Porter (San Diego) and Ashlee Bond (Cadett 7) each caught a single rail in the first round. Although they are not in contention for a top prize, they both qualified for Sunday’s final competition. There is no doubt that Ward is nipping at Michaels-Beerbaum’s heels, but Michaels-Beerbaum is an experienced international competitor having made her mark in Germany, the bastion of show jumping. Ranked first in the world, this California born and now German resident will cooly work to defend her title. Both Ward and Fellers are within grasp of the title and they will keep the pressure on. Stay tuned because in show jumping anything can happen!



The second day of dressage competition at the FEI World Cup Finals was a bit more relaxed than the previous day, with only exhibition competitions and one very special presentation on the schedule. There was a whole lot of fun, a few tears, and a great day of dressage for all. You didn’t have to be an aficionado to enjoy today’s showcase.

The Hermes and Der Dau Pas de Deux Challenge included three Olympic riders teamed up with their students or peers for three fun and exciting routines. Eschewing the traditional black-and-whites for coordinating costumes complete with bling, each pair of riders performed a Grand Prix Musical Freestyle that added the challenge of staying in sync with each other to the already difficult movements. The exhibition was run like “Dancing with the Stars,” with scores from judges Wojtek Markowski (the show’s Foreign Technical Deligate) and Linda Zang, and audience participation combined to determine the winners.

Last to enter the arena for the Pas de Deaux exhibition was Guenter Seidel on Fandango and Elizabeth Ball on Orion. Dressed as The Phantom of the Opera and Christine Daaé, they were already a cut above the other teams before they even started their performance. However, they soon proved they were not all clothes and no substance, because every movement was not only beautifully ridden, but about as perfectly in sync as you can expect two horses to be.

“Your spirit and my voice…in one, combined,” lyrics from one of the Phantom songs used in their routine is the perfect description of a dressage horse and rider, and this pair in particular. The routine culminated in the two riders side by side in a passage up centerline, holding hands with a rose between them. The crowd was on their feet at the final bow, and it was clear who the winner would be. The judges were equally impressed, awarding an 11 (out of 10) from Markowski and a 10 from Zang.

Next on the agenda was the International Superstar Young Horse Exhibition, during which judge Zang explained the Young Horse program. Four Young horses were brought into the arena: Zidane with yesterday’s champion Steffen Peters, Wynton with Edward Gal, Valeska DG with Willy Arts and Big Tyme with Marisa Festerling.

Finally, it was time for Brentina’s retirement ceremony. Her owners, Parry and Peggy Thomas, were brought into the darkened arena under a spotlight and presented with roses and a plaque thanking them for their contributions to the sport. Emotions were high as a retrospective of Brentina’s career played on the JumboTron, and then the crowd rose to their feet as the mare of the hour entered the arena with Debbie MacDonald astride.

MacDonald covered her face several times, clearly unable to contain her emotions as she and Brentina walked around the arena while the announcer read the words she wrote, words written in Brentina’s voice, saying good-bye and thank you to all of her fans. MacDonald rode into the center and dismounted, and tears flowed freely in all corners when the saddle was removed from Brentina’s back. Several presentations were made, including a sash, roses and a cooler, then MacDonald led her faithful partner out of the arena to tumultuous applause accompanied by Aretha Franklin’s RESPECT. It was a fitting end to the career of this most celebrated of horses, one that will not be forgotten…and nor will she.


Over 7,000 spectators were in attendance to watch the show, beginning with the Las Vegas Grand Prix, a separate competition on the off day for the horses and riders competing in the World Cup Final. Twenty-one riders faced the course, including several World Cup riders who rode a second horse or decided to opt out of tomorrow’s leg of the Final.

It wasn’t until the seventh ride, USA’s Michelle Spadone and Melisimo, that we saw the fences stay intact—but her time of 85.08 gave her a time fault and left her out of the jump-off. Two rides later, the youngest rider in the competition was the first to enter the jump-off. Nineteen-year-old Laura Teodori of Scottsdale piloted Kasoar D’Uxelles around the course clean and within time. Sacramento, California resident Jill Humphrey nearly joined her with Kaskaya, but finishing in 85.28—she joined Spadone with just a single time fault.

Four more riders managed to jump around fault-free within the time allowed: HRH Prince Abdullah Al-Saud of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia aboard Mobily Ashkur Allah Obelix (36th last night), Geir Gulliksen of Norway on Sundal Colliers Cattani (30th last night), USA’s Rich Fellers with his second horse, Kilkenny Rindo, and Gerco Schroder of Netherlands on Eurocommerce Seattle.

Teodori was first to make a jump-off attempt, but dropping two rails left room for others to go clean. Prince Abdullah Al-Saud was next, putting in a clear round at 38.61. Gulliksen had trouble in the same exact spots as Teodori, knocking down nearly the whole fence at three.

Fellers entered the arena to a roar of applause and cheers, ready to challenge Prince Abdullah Al-Saud. He rode a breathtaking round, cutting corners and taking the fences at daring angles. The energy from the audience increased with each effort. Every rail was in place when he crossed the timers in 36.83, an impressive 1.78 seconds ahead of the previous leader.

Schroder made a valiant effort to catch up. His fate was sealed, however, when he dropped a rail at the second fence, and his best shot was to go for third place. He managed it, ending in 37.53.

In a press conference following the events, Las Vegas Grand Prix winner Fellers commented that Kilkenny Rindo just started jumping at this level in November of 2008. A solid win for owners Sheryl and Doug Boyd, the Kilkenny Crest show horses, of which there are many, are in good hands with Fellers. And Kilkenny Rindo is on his way to an excellent Grand Prix career.



After the awards were presented to the jumpers, the arena was cleared for the International Reining Celebrity Challenge, which allowed some riders to ditch their breeches and helmets for jeans and cowboy hats, and to show that a good horseman is a good horseman. Two teams were assembled: Rodrigo Pessoa, Anky Van Grunsvan, and NRHA World Champion Ann Fonck for the International team, and Will Simpson, Charlotte Bredahl-Baker and NRHA World Champion Rick Weaver for the USA team. AQHA was present to oversee the event.

Pessoa started the competition with a respectable but careful ride, scoring 118.5 from the judges. Simpson came next, delighting the audience with some good spins, transitions from the gallop to the slow circle, and then the hallmark of the reining horse, the run to sliding stop. He earned an impressive 144.5 for his effort.

Van Grunsven was next. She put on a good show, the crowd loved it, and received a score of 141.5. Bredahl-Baker’s horse got a little jittery and only earned 125—good enough to keep the US team in the lead.

When it was Fonck’s turn, she took all the riders to school. The audience was treated to some fantastic, world-class reining during her run and got a good laugh when she stopped one of her spins facing the wrong direction. It did not affect her score too much, she was given a 147, bringing the International team’s total to 407.

Weaver was the last to enter the pen, egging the audience on all the way through a stellar performance. Although his score fell just below Fonck’s—and Simpson’s—at 144, it was enough to seal the victory for the US Team.

At the press conference later in the afternoon, both Bredahl-Baker and Simpson said they enjoyed the change in costume and had a great time.

“The response these reining horses have is incredible,” said Simpson.

Bredahl-Baker added, “This was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I’m a little bit hooked.”

Weaver and Fonck both seemed to enjoy the experience as well. “The quality of horse and horsemen here is something I’ll take away. They did an outstanding job.”



Excitement was high tonight for the Musical Freestyle leg of the FEI World Cup Dressage competition. The World Cup title was on the line, and it was

a close race between the 2007 winner Isabell Werth of Germany, last year’s winner and nine-time champion Anky van Grunsven of Netherlands, and Thursday’s winner Steffen Peters of the United States. As the scores rolled in it became clear that for the first time in 23 years, an American won the World Cup on American soil.

The competition began to really heat up after the break, when first Monica Theodorescu of Germany and Whisper took the lead with 76.85, then Hans Peter Minderhoud of Netherlands and Exquis Nadine with a score of 81.05. Minderhoud was immediately bumped from the lead position by Werth and Satchmo (third place on Thursday), who scored 84.5 for her beautifully choreographed and ridden freestyle—including an artistic score of 92.

When the moment came for Peters and Ravel to perform, the air in the arena was electric. From the moment they trotted into the arena, it was clear he was there to win. His extensions were beautiful, his half passes were elastic, and his piaffe and passage were strong, as well as throughout these movements, the horse truly danced to the music. The audience loved every second of his performance.

The crowd was on their feet at the final halt, rising again and again every time he passed as he walked around the ring, waiting for his scores. His overall score of 84.950 shot him to the top of the leader board. His artistic score of 93 showed that this was exactly how a musical freestyle should be ridden.

There was great tension in the room when “The Queen of the Kur” van Grunsven rode in on IPS Painted Black. Nearly every beat of the music was perfectly timed to the stallion’s footfalls. However, they made a mistake in the two-tempis and their overall level of difficulty and execution did not meet the standard that had been set by the two previous riders. Her score of 82.25 was only good enough for third place.

Peters’ accomplishment is particularly impressive given that he has only been riding Ravel for 14 months. “He has a great mind,” Peters said at a press conference after the award ceremony. “I’m one of the really lucky guys in the world who gets to ride a horse like that.”

Of the win, Peters said, “It’s just an incredible feeling.” Showing off his second Rolex watch of the week, he said, “This is incredible support from the sponsors, Rolex. We really appreciate it.”

Van Grunsven appeared genuinely happy for Peters and with her performance on IPS Painted Black. “I was really happy. It was his first big competition like this. He did well.”

After the freestyle performances were over, Jan Brink and Bjorsells Briar were invited back into the arena to say their final good-bye to International competition, as Briar is retiring at the age of 18. And thus ended another year of fantastic FEI World Cup Dressage, with many fond memories for dressage fans to take home.


The 2009 Rolex FEI World Cup Finals concluded with two thrilling rounds of jumping competition. Twenty-nine horses entered this third leg of the Final, which started on Thursday. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum remained at the top of the leader board after her victories on Thursday and Friday, but McLain Ward was hot on her heels.

This round of the competition is run in a format unique to the World Cup. The placings from the first two rounds were converted into World Cup penalty points to determine the overall ranking. Then, the riders rode the first round of the day, in which their faults were added to their World Cup points. The 22 riders with the lowest score, along with any with clean rounds who chose to ride again, moved on to the next round—which was scored the same way.

Course Designer Anthony D’Ambrosio continued to increase the difficulty each round. Both legs of Sunday’s competition had 12 efforts, as high as 1.62m (5’3”) and as wide as 1.85m (6’).

Despite the questions asked on course, however, there were 11 clear rounds, including three riders from the United States: Todd Minikus with Pavarotti, Beezie Madden with Danny Boy, and McLain Ward with Sapphire. Twenty-three riders moved on to the second round, led by Michaels-Beerbaum with zero points, Ward with two, and Albert Zoer close behind with four. With the top three so close together, just one time fault or rail dropped could significantly change the standings.

For the second round, D’Ambrosio increased the technical and physical aspects up a notch, including several tests of scope for these horses and riders—who had already jumped a challenging course just a short time before. The biggest problem spot was the final oxer. At 1.85m wide, nine of the twenty-three riders did not get quite high enough to clear the width.

The first to go clean was Steve Guerdat of Switzerland with Tresor. He finished with 19 World Cup points for the 2009 competition, which put him in eighth place. Last year’s second place winner and crowd favorite Rich Fellers had a difficult day with enough faults to drop him in the rankings and out of contention for the title.

The cheers were loud for Rodrigo Pessoa, who having jumped clear in the first round today improved his ranking from seventh to fifth place going into the second round. Almost clean, he had a rail on the last jump and finished fifth overall.

Christina Liebherr and L.B. No Mercy, fabulous and second on Thursday but encountering some problems on Friday and placing 13th, was in fifth place overall going into the first round today. Illustrating that her Friday performance was not to be repeated, the pair jumped two clear rounds, moving up to fourth place.

Albert Zoer and Oki Doki put in yet another clear round and stayed in third. With only four penalty points, he was still in reach of the title if Ward and Michaels-Beerbaum riding after him had any faults.

The arena filled with thunderous applause for Ward, who with only two penalty points had a chance to take the title away from Michaels-Beerbaum. To the crowd’s delight, Ward and Sapphire had a flawless round, maintaining his second place rank and continuing to nip at Meredith’s heels.

All that was left was to see was if Michaels-Beerbaum would continue her streak of clear rounds. Just one rail would push her down to a tie with Zoer, but the pressure did not seem to affect her. She rode yet another cool and perfect round, leaving every rail in place and clinching the title for herself and Shutterfly. This win makes for the third World Cup title for this dynamic duo.

“I think this was absolutely a great event,” said Michaels-Beerbaum at a press conference after the awards ceremony. “The best horses and riders were here.” She also said, “I think this was my most perfect win, winning all three rounds, but it was also the hardest win ever. McLain made it difficult for me, there was no room for error.” She added that it was a good come-back after her just missed bronze medal experience in Hong Kong.

As for Ward, he said, “We came up two seconds short. It’s a fine line in sports but that’s what it is all about. I’m very proud of what my horse did this week. I’m proud of my team.”

Michaels-Beerbaum took home a grand total for the week of over $230,000 and three Rolex watches. For second place, Ward earned a grand total of over $158,000, and Zoer a grand total of over $98,000.

In 2010, the show jumping event will be held in Geneva, Switzerland, the home of Rolex, and in ‘S Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, for dressage.


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: www.twitter.com/equestrisol!

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!