Conversations With Equestrians: Mary Manfredi and Saer Coulter

By Katie Kotarak & Jackie McFarland

Interesting how life is – how things have a way of working out as they are meant to. Just over a decade ago Mary Manfredi was living in Italy, established in another career and no longer riding. Saer Coulter was a young girl living in northern California who loved horses.

“I was fortunate enough to catch ride some lovely horses growing up,” explained Mary about her junior years riding with Andre Dignelli and Judy Richter. “But I was burnt out after college. My sister was in Italy so I moved there.” Even though she was living abroad and not officially riding, Andre would still send her around Europe to try horses. That and seeing old riding friend Peter Lutz at a wedding lured Mary back. “We talked about having a barn together when we were kids. It was perfect timing and I couldn’t think of a better person to go into business with.” That was 2000.

Living in Woodside, Saer had neighbors across the street with horses and soon both she and her sister Audrey were taking lessons. For several years they rode at Millennium Farms. Serendipitously, the Coulter family contacted Mary Manfredi and Peter Lutz of Davenport Inc. in South Salem, NY on a recommendation from friends when traveling east for the summer. A turning point for all involved.

That summer of 2002 Mary and Peter found Saer her first children’s jumper and she was hooked. The Coulter family wanted to continue working with this dynamic duo, so Mary, who had always been an East Coast girl, moved to California. With over 25 horses in training, Peter remains on the East Coast and runs Davenport. The business partnership continues, as each one travels to the other coast to coach and train. This unique arrangement, along with the tremendous support of the Coulter family, has allowed Saer and Audrey to obtain their equestrian dreams.

“We are serious about achieving our goals,” Mary explains. “For example, we don’t have any furniture in the tack room because no one should be sitting down.” Both Saer and Mary laugh at this comment. But with more than 20 Coulter and Davenport horses at the California barn and most of them competing, there’s plenty to do.

Saer is now in her final junior year – how time flies – and as most juniors do, she has set many goals. The hard work, focus and commitment have paid off, as those goals are one by one coming to fruition. When we spoke with Saer at Blenheim in June, she was fresh off winning in the Junior Hunters on the naturally talented Positano. Not to mention her fabulous third place finish in her fifth grand prix start at the 2009 Del Mar National followed by a seventh place finish at the Memorial Day Classic Grand Prix on Cats Are Grey. And based on her results at this June show she was hoping to attain her goal of qualifying for the NAYJRC, which she did. Before competing there at the end of July, she spent several weeks in the Netherlands, gaining invaluable European experience.

Soon after her return from Europe, alongside teammates Adrienne Dixon, Paris Sellon and Karl Cook, Saer contributed scores that earned the Zone 10 team a bronze medal over some very difficult and technical courses. She and Chalan also earned ninth place overall in the individual competition.

Even though her freshman fall semester at Stanford is just getting underway, Saer squeezed in some impressive finishes at last week’s Blenheim Fall Tournament, including an eighth on Chalan over a challenging indoor course in the $50,000 World Cup Qualifying Grand Prix on Friday night and a fourth in the ASPCA Maclay Regionals on Saturday night. The path will now lead to Syracuse for the Maclay Finals, another goal on Saer’s last junior year list.

Despite the two-hour trek from Stanford’s Palo Alto campus to her family’s barn in Petaluma, Saer plans on driving home for weekend lessons. “In terms of organization, fitting in riding gives me the incentive to get my homework done so I don’t have to do it on Sunday night,” she said. “School has always come first. I thought I would quit riding after my senior year, but now I’m at a place where I don’t want to.”

And why would she? Since Mary returned to the world of horses and crossed paths with the Coulters seven short years ago, another California-based young talent has a bright future. Although college is a priority, we may very well see Saer’s name again and again as she continues to pursue her equestrian goals and dreams.

Mary, as well, is living her dream. Choosing to work with Peter was the key. “He is my favorite rider. I’ve ridden many horses after other people have worked with them. But no horse feels as good to me as one that Peter has just ridden. He’s my idol.”

  Thank you Mary and Saer!

Highlights From The $40,000 Summer Grand Prix On August 22nd, 2009

The weekend of August 22nd, 2009 will be remembered for many years to come in the equestrian world. On Saturday we watched 56 horses start and fourteen jump-off in the last outdoor grand prix of the 2009 season. Plus we simultaneously witnessed the final rounds of the inaugural ASG Software Solutions/USHJA Hunter Derby Finals live from the Kentucky Horse Park online at On Sunday not only did the CPHA Foundation Medal Finals come to an exciting close but the EquSport and Coapexpan Horse Shows along with a handful of fantastic sponsors hosted a fabulous cocktail party that evening. More on all the above and other outstanding stories below, so read on.

Designing a course for a large field requires the track be challenging enough to narrow the jump-off to a handful of horses and riders. Among the 56 entries were competitors at the International level, horses returning from a summer in Europe with this as their first comeback to the show ring as well as riders on young horses and new mounts. Quite a mix for course designer Olaf Petersen Jr. to contend with and successfully so with exactly one quarter of the first round attempts making it to the jump-off.

Sixteen-year-old Paris Sellon on her Orlando LA went fourth and were the first clean. Familiar with Olaf Jr.’s courses after competing at the 2009 NAYJRC in late July, she set the pace with one rail in the jump-off in a time of 49.25. Up against some top West Coast and Mexican riders, she held her lead for several rounds when rails dropped as riders attempted to beat the clock. Sixth to ride in the second round was another young rider who has made her mark several times in the grand prix arena, Laura Teodori on her fabulous Kasoar D’Uxelles. She also had four faults but in 47.70 to take over the lead for a brief moment.

Next in Mexican rider Eduardo Menezes on his Renoir Mercedes Benz were the first double clean setting, the time to beat at 45.38. Another top contender, Susie Hutchison and El Dorado 29’s Cantano, nipped at Menezes heels, double clean in 47.70, which would end up third best. The amazing (and young) Ashlee Bond was clean on all three of her Little Valley Farm entries, her first time back in on Chivas Z garnered her lowest prize, seventh with a rail in 49.10. Her next attempt on GZS Cassira Z ended up fastest of the four-faulters in 45.37 for fourth overall. Menezes returned on his Let’s Go Mercedes Benz, racing around in 46.80 with four for fifth place. And Ashlee Bond finished the class on her outstanding Cadett 7. The pair blazed around in their now internationally known style and stopped the clock clean in 44.73 for the win.

August 29th, 2009 – The $50,000 Grand Prix of Showpark Indoor World Cup Qualifier

Fitting that the end of our summer season and the start of the new Indoor season would include a retirement ceremony for a horse known worldwide – Wild Turkey Farm’s Summer. Discovered, trained and taken to the highest levels by Mandy Porter, this gorgeous gray mare cleared many World Cup level courses and competed in the FEI World Cup Finals. She also sailed effortlessly around many outdoor venues, including wins at Spruce Meadows and the Del Mar National. When trying the mare as a mount for Barb Ellison, both Mandy and owner Barb saw international potential. Barb purchased Summer and allowed Mandy to bring out the best in the horse. After a very successful five-year reign in the show arena, Mandy will hand the reins back to Barb, who will breed the mare to some of her fabulous Wild Turkey Farm stallions in Summer’s second career as a broodmare. Can’t wait to see those babies jump!

Of forty starters in the first World Cup qualifier of the West Coast season, six horses piloted by four riders jumped off. Last to go, Tiwistar and Francie Steinwedell Carvin were two time faults away from making it seven clean. Four faulters rounded out the top eleven and similarly to seventh, twelfth went to a team with one rail and one time fault.

“I built a legitimate course,” explained course designer Leopoldo Palacios. “What the West Coast has done having all the qualifiers indoors is the best for the sport, you can see the improvement in the riders.”

A beautiful course that started with the black and white EquiFit, inc. plank oxer, to a bending six, around a tight right turn to a liverpool vertical, blind corner to the red planks, left turn to a diagonal line down the middle of the arena with a triple combination – one stride to a two stride to three forward strides to the brick wall, another bending line that ended with a square wide oxer, to a triple bar in a tight five to a vertical – oxer combination and finishing in a bend over an airy gate. Suffice to say the most of the jumps came down at one point or another, but the middle line and the tight five were the biggest culprits.

First to go clean was none other than rock star duo Ashlee Bond and Cadett 7, seventh in the ring. She did it again on Little Valley Farm’s GZS Cassira Z later in the class. Ashlee’s coach, Richard Spooner followed suit, clean on Cristallo (Show Jumping Syndications Intl, owner) and on his wife Kaylen’s horse Pako. The other two to join the jump off included Santiago Rickard on his own Jet Star and Keri Potter on her Rockford I. Of course Bond set a blazing pace in the jump off, clean in 33.95. No other rider could catch that time. Two more went clean – Spooner and Pako in 34.30 for second place and Potter with Rockford I in 36.08. Cristallo with one rail in 34.20 ended up fourth. Cassira fifth with a rail in 38.38 and rounding out the top six was Jet Star and Rickard with four in 41.17.

Young Horses

The Showpark All Seasons Classic also crowns a good number of young horses with their first big victories. On Wednesday and Thursday, the Wheeler family sponsored the Sallie B. Wheeler/USEF Hunter Breeding Championships for yearlings, two-year-olds and three-year-olds in hand, while two-year-old, three-year-old and four-year-old hunters competed in the International Hunter Futurity classes.

The 2009 Wild Turkey Farm Young Jumper Championships Western League Finals offers competition for three age divisions, five-year-olds, six-year-olds and seven/eight-year-olds over three days. Exhibitors from northern and southern California, Mexico, Colorado and Arizona gathered to show their young prospects. The Simpsons, Nicki and Will, dominated the five year old division riding Holly Go Lightly (Ilan Ferder, owner) and Carpendale (Kimberly Thomas, owner) respectively. Mexican riders garnered the top spots in both the six-year-old and seven/eight-year-old divisions – John Perez won with his six year old Winalaris La Cantera and was second on Carla (Eduardo Leon, owner). He also battled it out with Mandy Porter for the win in the seven/eight-year-olds, with the blue going to Arezzo (Rolling Oaks West LLC, owner) and a close second to LaMarque (Wild Turkey Farm, owner) in an exciting six horse jump off.

Are these horses potential USHJA Hunter Derby winners? Grand Prix contenders? International horses? Time will tell… We wish all the best to these young horses in their future careers.

Conversations With Equestrians: Linda Allen

By Jackie McFarland

An Afternoon Chat with Linda Allen
Yet another world-renowned course designer, Linda Allen, sat and spoke about designing and beyond. Her talents were well utilized at Blenheim June Classic I, where she not only built for many jumper divisions, the $30,000 Grand Prix but also the tracks for the final Young Rider trials. We sat with Linda and her canine companion Willow. This endearing Papillion pup is making her debut in Aachen this summer. Lucky dog!

EqSol: How did you become a course designer? What is your horse history?
LA: I rode for a number of years mostly on horses I trained myself – thoroughbreds off the track. I competed up to the international level. Due to back injuries and a number of surgeries, I had to quit riding. But I wanted to stay in the sport. Course designing was the way I chose to do so.

As I rider I realized what an important role the course designer played in whether you advanced as a rider. So I learned the mechanics by setting for small shows. I’ve been designing as a career steadily since ’82.

EqSol: Your course design mentors?
LA: When I competed I became friends with Pamela Carruthers and often picked her brain. Also Bert de Nemethy and Dr. Arno Gego. How do you determine difficulty for these important Young Rider trials?

LA: It’s a two-fold situation – the Zone wants to send the strongest riders it can. But the trials shouldn’t be the end game; instead they lead up to the event. I try to provide the building blocks for riders for future events without discouraging them. The right team for this given year should be clear based on the results.

It’s great for the riders to have the trials over three days. The format follows the championships – the difficulty builds up height wise and can go to 1.50M. If a rider doesn’t do fairly well here they aren’t likely to make the team.

The courses ask a lot of different kinds of technical questions. Using the water a lot – because usually at that event the open water is a big factor.

EqSol: How the course like the one today evolves for you…
LA: It’s difficult because you have three important classes in one week. I want variety from one class to the next – to not repeat the same questions. So first I develop the key elements – combinations and technical lines and then build from there. Sometimes it happens in ten minutes, other times it takes much longer. Either time you fool with it a lot until you are happy. Focus on protecting…

LA: Today I designed the Young Rider tracks first and then tracks for the other classes. When designing for grass you have to move jumps a lot, thinking about not only where the jumps are but also where they will be – because of the ground. First you protect the horses, try to keep their work as pleasant as possible. Protecting the horse in turn takes care of the rider. A close second here is protecting the grass – keeping the ground not only good for Sunday but for the upcoming weeks. And last, but not least, you take care of the ring crew – they work hard.

Along with course designing across the world for many years, Linda has a long list of accomplishments including developing an organization, publishing a book, 101 Jumping Exercises for Horses, and giving clinics.

EqSol: Can you tell us about your involvement in the development of young jumpers?
LA: I helped to start this organization in the US that has evolved into two programs – the International Jumper Futurity for breeders and purchasers of young horses which consists of three different opportunities for four-year old showcases – East, Midwest and West Coast. And the Young Jumper Championships developed from the IJF for nominated 5, 6, 7 and 8 year olds.

We’ve grown this year, which I am impressed with since this is a trying time in the industry. Although things are slow to change, we are building the foundation for developing young horses in a systematic way. It is still challenging, there is no culture or system for young horses here. Some in the sport have more interest than others.

About fifteen years ago Germany developed a completely different approach. You cannot build for Young Horse classes without a special license – it’s a minimum of 10 years to get to the highest ‘S’ level. Young jumper classes are scored, not timed. Each round receives a 1-10 score for quality of jump, carefulness, rideablilty – a horse you want to take home. The horses are beautifully broke with a lofty jump. The concept was very unpopular at first. All the jumper judges had to get a new education. Some fabulous riders came from this division like Marcus Ehning, Marco Kucher, and Christian Ahlmann. It’s taken very seriously. Germany is the only country that does it this way.

Side note: In a country so devoted to the ‘hunter’ and its scoring system, is this German system worth considering in the US?

EqSol: And your future plans?
LA: Heading to Aachen later this month, I’m going to present a paper there. I’ll stay on to spectate throughout the show, the only way to stay current in our game. Frank Rottenberger is the resident designer. He took over some years ago and does a good job – he was one of my assistants in Atlanta.

Probably over the last five years I’ve accepted more clinic dates. So I’m booked with more riding clinics than designing now. I truly enjoy teaching. I’ve become more particular about where and when I build. I’m designing in Oregon next and for the Fidelity Classic on the East Coast. I’m also on the Ground Jury for the 2010 WEG in Kentucky.

EqSol: Are you planning another book?
LA: I did complete a DVD on course building, mostly for course designers at smaller shows to help them with technique. So they can get better results with less work and more tips to stay out of trouble.

I’ve been planning another book for awhile, I just don’t seem to have that chunk of time needed to get it written. I have a publisher that wants a more general topic – course designing doesn’t draw a wide audience. I’ve got a few different ideas. Someday…

Wishing we were joining you in Aachen. Someday… Thank you Linda and Willow!

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.