Inside Indoors

By Whitney Campbell and Jackie McFarland

Capital Challenge, Harrisburg, Washington, and Syracuse
The excitement of the World Equestrian Games surrounding Lexington, Kentucky was nothing short of overpowering during the months of September and October. However many other year round competitors and enthusiasts of the sport instead found themselves at the most recognized and notorious end of the year championship shows. Many of the sport’s elite as well as up and coming hunters, equitation and jumper riders and their mounts traveled to the 17th annual Capital Challenge Horse Show in Upper Marlboro, Maryland held October 2-10 for the beginning of a well-known and traditional fall series of competitive shows, the Indoor Circuit. A few days later, 1,200 top ranked horses and riders from all over the nation traveled to Harrisburg. The dates of October 14-23, 2010 marked the 65th annual Pennsylvania National Horse Show.

The Equitation weekend at Capital Challenge kicked off the season. West Coast highlights included 17-year-old division Equitation Champion, Samantha Harrison of La Canada, CA, who trains with Karen Healey. An interesting twist came out of the Taylor Harris Insurance Services (THIS) National Children’s Medal Finals when riders were not asked to return as the judges had their final decision. Moving up from second in the second round was Molly Peddicord of Malibu, CA to take home the top prize. She rides with Far West Farms.

The Professional Hunter Division saw defending champion John French reclaim the Second Year Green Hunter Division, this year aboard Small Affair, owned by Iwasaki & Reilly. Small Affair dominated by winning three over fences classes. French returned for the Future Hunter 3’3″ North American Championships and walked away with another blue on Small Collection and the second to Small Kiss, both Iwasaki & Reilly horses. On a hot streak, John French aboard Small Affair earned top honors in the $15,000 WCHR Professional Challenge.

The California invasion continued when Meredith Darst and Wild Sky Farm’s Macy Grey earned Reserve Champion in the Medium Pony Hunter Division. Having a great year in the hunters, seventeen-year-old Hannah Goodson-Cutt, from Los Angeles, was both the Small Junior 16-17 Hunter Champion and the overall Grand Junior Hunter Champion aboard her horse Caretano. Goodson-Cutt, who trains with Willow Brook Stables, was awarded the Spontaneous Perpetual Trophy and later named the Best Junior Rider.

Further Capital Challenge champion level competitions at the Prince George’s Equestrian Center included the ARIAT National Adult Medal Finals and the World Champion Hunter Rider Finals, for all the press and details visit

West Coast standouts included Hannah Goodson-Cutt, coming off a great showing at Capital Challenge, to claim the Small Junior 16-17 Hunter Championship aboard her horse Caretano. Goodson-Cutt returned in the Large Junior 16-17 Hunter Championships to claim the Reserve Championship honors on Leroy Brown.

With a score of total score of nine faults, the Zone 10 Junior Jumper Team of Jocelyn Neff/Gaja 20, Audrey Coulter/Roderburghs California, Lindsay Douglas/Pernot and Alec Lawler/Live Fire, were second in the $15,000 Prix de States. Jocelyn Neff was awarded the William C. Steinkraus Style Award. The award is presented to the Prix de States Junior Jumper rider who best exemplifies the American style of equitation, and the respectful, dignified, courteous and workmanlike manner of a true sportsman. Aforementioned Hannah Goodson-Cutt was named the Best Junior Rider, Horse Award.

Out of 208 riders, Lucy Davis, who trains with Archie Cox, finished in the top four of the prestigious Pessoa/USEF Hunter Seat Equitation Medal Finals. Judges Julie Winkel and George H. Morris asked back the top twenty for the second round over fences and then the top seven returned for flat work. After top two riders Hayley Barnhill of Collierville, TN and Samantha Schaefer of Westminster, MD switched horses, Barnhill ended with the top honors.

The final event of the PNHS was highlighted with a win from defending champion Rodrigo Pessoa. Coming straight from a Final Four appearance at the World Equestrian Games in Lexington, KY, Pessoa of Brazil reclaimed his title aboard HH Ashley in the FEI World Cup Qualifier $75,000 Grand Prix de Penn National. For more results, stories and highlights, visit

Members of the North American League (NAL) have the benefit of earning points in six hunter-jumper divisions – Children’s Hunter, Adult Hunter, Children’s Jumper, Adult Jumper, Pony Jumper and Low Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper – that up through 2010 had qualified horses and riders for the Finals at the PNHS. However in 2011 there will also an annual North American League West Coast Final occurring at the Las Vegas National Horse Show. This event will represent an even bigger and more nationwide opportunity amongst competitors. The 2011 qualifying year began on September 1st and continues through August 21st at qualifying horse show across the Unites States and Canada. Membership and more information at

Next in the Indoor Circuit lineup is the world renowned Washington International Horse Show. Classes started on October 26th and continued through today. Jennifer Woods Media was there and gave us the daily scoop.

California junior riders Olivia Esse, Hannah Goodson-Cutt and Ashley Pryde rocked the Junior Hunter Divisions. Esse was Grand Junior Hunter Champion aboard Illusion. Goodson-Cutt earned the best Junior Hunter Stake round and was Small Junior Hunter 16-17 Champion on Caretano. Plus was Champion in the 16-17 Large Division on Superman, with Ashley Pryde taking home the Reserve Championship on Truly. Laura Wasserman and Overseas also won the Stake in the In the Amateur Owner Hunter 36 & over Division. Interviewed in an earlier issue this year, young hotshot Reed Kessler grabbed 1st and 3rd in the $10,000 Junior Jumper Stake. Pablo Barrios and G&C Farm’s Quick Star 11 topped the Puissance and McLain Ward aboard the priceless Sapphire rode to the blue in the $100,000 President’s Cup, a World Cup Qualifier. More at

The final Indoor extravaganza will be in upstate New York when the prestigious Syracuse Invitational Sporthorse Tournament commences on November 2 and continues through the 7th. Champions will be crowned in several divisions, grand prix events as well as in the ASPCA Maclay Medal Finals. Details at

Conversations With Equestrians: Reed Kessler

By Jackie McFarland & Ally Mentilik

Reed Kessler
Back at WEF this winter we had the chance to meet the Kesslers, a true equestrian family. All three love horses, the sport and are keen competitors. We spoke to Murray about his involvement with NARG, visited their Wellington barn and interviewed Reed about her horse life.

After a multitude of wins in the Junior Jumper ranks, then fifteen-year-old Reed began to make her mark by earning ribbons against the big boys and girls in the Grand Prix arena at WEF. On the Kentucky Circuit she not only placed in the 1.50m classes but won the 1.45m Open Classic. She defended her Junior Jumper Championship title at Devon by earning both Champion and Reserve plus was first and second in the $15,000 Show Jumping Hall of Fame Junior Jumper Classic on Flight and Ligist.

She celebrated a very sweet sixteen at Spruce Meadows, as she returned after several weeks not only a year older but with seventeen victories, including wins in the $15,000 Riddell Family Grand Prix on Flight and the $21,000 ATCO Gas Cup aboard her new horse Onisha.

Back to Kentucky in late July, Reed won her first career grand prix, the $25,000 Hagyard Classic on Onisha. She was also Junior Jumper Champion, with victories on Ice and Flight. Also participating at the North American Young Riders Championships, Reed finished 4th overall and was part of the Bronze Medal earning Zone 2 Team on Mika. She’s logged quite a momentous year to date…

A force to be reckoned with, Reed was not only born into a horsey family, but she is clearly fiercely competitive. However, she is also a real sweetheart. When the question came up about her horses during our interview, she promptly took us through the barn and introduced us to each one. We didn’t just get their names, but as Facebook fans would appreciate we ‘friended’ each one.

EQSOL: Where are you from? How did you start riding?
 My parents have been riding for thirty years. At 6 months old I was on a horse. Then I rode ponies for a few years until I was old enough to move up to horses. I did do the Junior Hunters for a bit but hunters aren’t my passion. I also did the Equitation for three years and may eventually go back, but for now I’m focused on the jumpers.

We have lived in Armonk, NY for the past six years. I trained with Heritage Farm and Andre Dignelli for a long time and now I train with Katie Prudent. My dad was actually Katie’s first student thirty years ago!

EQSOL: Since hunters weren’t your passion, tell us about your time in the Eq ring.
 Equitation teaches you how to ride the jumpers. A strong position is very important, all great riders have impeccable positions and most did Eq at some point. It’s a great way to gain mileage, work on accuracy, and it teaches you how to ride under pressure. I was lucky to have great horses so it was fun for me, but it was always my goal to be a better jumper rider. Equitation did definitely build my foundation.

EQSOL: When did your jumper passion begin? You have become one to watch in this arena.
I started about 3 years ago at WEF. I rode a horse of Andre’s in the children’s jumpers and I was hooked! I couldn’t stop after that and I only wanted to ride jumpers. I am now doing the highs, some WEF Grand Prix classes and the 1.50m classics. My goals are to go as far as I can in the sport. I would love to ride on a team and compete at the highest levels.

I am committed – I want to do this for the rest of my life.

EQSOL: Tell us about participating in the George Morris mastership program earlier this year.
It was such an amazing experience. I cannot say enough about it. You have no idea how little you actually know about horses until you participate in an intensive program like this. We learned from every aspect of the show jumping world including ASPCA, Adequan, Tim Ober, the Olympic vet who gave a clinic, and of course everything that George did. We were all sad it only lasted a week. The one thing that really sticks in my mind is that there is always more to learn, you never know all there is to know about horses.

EQSOL: Now that you are riding in the ‘big’ classes, how does it feel to walk a course next to some of the best riders in the world? Tell us about your routine from course walk to warm up to walking into the ring.
I always walk the course a few times. Usually with Katie twice and by myself once or twice; they essentially kick me out of the ring. I always want a strong feel of the course before I go in. We watch as many as we can without getting overwhelmed. I do try to watch some of the great ones. My routine also varies from horse to horse. I’m sometimes nervous but only when it’s something new. After I walk the course I talk to Katie to review it. We go over the whole plan. One day at WEF we were in the same class, I went 34th and Katie went 36th – it was a lot of fun to compete against my trainer. I went in before her in the jump off and she went right after, we exchanged words at the in gate as she was entering and I was leaving, ‘that was good, that was too deep, etc,’ and then she went in. I ended up 6th and Katie was 2nd, she was proud to bump me down.

EQSOL: Who are your idols in the equestrian world?
 Obviously Katie and Henri Prudent. They are absolutely fantastic. My parents are also great. I have to say McLain Ward and Beezie Madden as well. They are amazing at developing young horses and are never out of horses since they bring so many along. Nick Skelton is also incredible to watch. He could go clear on anything; his style is so wonderful and soft.

EQSOL: It’s a family affair with the Kesslers. Everyone rides. Tell us about your family.
 My family is very supportive of my riding, which is so important. I’m really lucky. The only thing we ever fight about is when they try to train me. When I’m bad I hear it from Katie, Henri, Mom and Dad. Still they are always there for me. My mom asks me for jumper advice, she was a hunter rider for years but we are all moving towards the jumpers now. It’s fun to set jumps for each other. Ideally we’ll go to the Sunshine Tour in Europe one year so we can all compete.

EQSOL: What about school? How do you work it into your show schedule?
 When I’m in NY I go to the Professional Children’s School ( in New York City. I am able to design my own hours and the school works around the students’ professional schedules. I started high school there and the school is amazing. When in Florida I’ve been lucky to have the Wellington Private Tutoring Services since about 6th grade. It’s a beautiful facility and the tutors are great.

I choose my own schedule and then I’m matched with tutors that work with my school’s requirements and with me. We get a complete outline and syllabus from my school. I love it and am usually able to stay ahead.

EQSOL: Can you tell us more about your horses?
 Mika – 16.1h bay Selle Francais gelding. “He’s our big worry wart and a huge thinker. He basically hangs out in his stall and thinks about everything. We did the 1.40m at WEF and the 1.30m at Spruce last year. He is insanely careful and scopey with so much potential. My dad and I loved him when we looked at him but Katie wasn’t sure, luckily he’s been amazing so far. Neither of us have miles in the Grand Prix ring so we are getting used to the 1.50m level together. He has so much talent but he gets nervous. When competing on him I try to get in the arena as early as I can so he can calm down a bit before we start.” 

Ligist – 16.2h bay Swedish WB gelding. “Goose (his barn name) is our little love, always sweet and happy. We got him during WEF last year and he’s from Emil Hendrix in Holland. Also really scopey, he’s a great derby horse. We won a small Grand Prix in Neuiwpoort, Belgium.”

Ice D’Ancoeur – 16h chestnut Selle Francais mare. “Ice is our moneymaker. She’s cool, has her own style, really fiery. She’s very fast and definitely a real Katie horse. She loves to win and is always so competitive. She won four high junior classics at WEF, was champion at Devon, and won a 1.45m class in France that had 115 riders who were all professionals. She also won individual gold at Prix de States in 2009 and the speed at Syracuse.”

Flight – 16h bay Swedish WB gelding. “Flight is probably the most well known horse that I have. He was Addison Phillips’ high junior that she won a lot on. I’ve had him for three years and I’m only his second owner. We call him my boyfriend since he’s only one month older than I am. He’s the smartest horse I know; he could be a hunter, jumper, or an eq horse. In 2008 after winning Prix de States my eq horse was hurt. We braided Flight and I took him in the medal finals. I ended up just out of the ribbons but he was great.”

Onisha – 16.2h gray Holsteiner mare. Since our interview, the Kesslers bought Onisha from Niall Talbot. With Talbot aboard, the mare won four Grand Prix events in Europe. She continued her winning ways once Reed stepped in the irons; the pair won five classes at Spruce Meadows including the first one they entered together.

A strong combination of good family, fabulous horses, skill, talent, hard work and a keen competitive nature has served Reed well. She has taken her riding career a long way in a short time. Seems such opportunity in the show ring hasn’t changed Reed one bit; she is a down to earth girl who has a true passion for horses.