The Chronicles of NARG Continued

By Jackie McFarland

More on the North American Riders Group
This young yet robust organization seems to have a big stride and a great jump. Since forming in March of 2009, founders McLain Ward, Chris Kappler, Norman Dello Joio, Jimmy Torano, Kent Farrington and Beezie Madden added influential names to the Board, including Will Simpson, Andre Dignelli and successful CEO Murray Kessler. As of this year yet another powerful CEO, Hunter Harrison joined NARG as special liaison for Horse Show Management. An avid supporter of the sport, Mr. Harrison serves in an advisory position for several world-class equestrian events, including Spruce Meadows, The Global Champions Tour and the Winter Equestrian Festival. Dynamo Jen Markee serves as Executive Director. Clearly they represent a group that essentially makes the show jumping world turn – the owners, riders and trainers.

NARG Board Member Murray Ke

Serving the equestrian world as an activist and lobbying group that seeks positive change through action, each Board Member puts their money where their mouth is. Seeking global changes that start at the source, besides contributing countless hours to achieve collective goals (more on that below), each Board Member contributed a minimum of $5,000 to the organization.

The achievements this active group has accomplished illustrate that NARG seeks to work with, and preferably not against, the governing bodies and horse show managements.

On February 1, 2011 NARG hosted their third annual meeting at the Wanderers Club in Wellington, FL. Several hundred owners, riders, trainers, managers and members of the press attended and were duly impressed.

Olympic Gold Medalist and NARG
Board Member Will Simpson

Kessler Opens, Simpson Engages
Murray Kessler opened the meeting, reminding the audience of NARG’s mission to “unite professional riders and trainers to use their collective strength to make show jumping in North America the best in the world.” He then introduced Board Member Will Simpson, who went well beyond reviewing the NARG 2010 accomplishments; the Olympic Gold Medalist engaged and entertained the group with his narrative. During his descriptive tale, he mentioned how the management team from Equestrian Sport Productions had already responded to NARG “At WEF every ring has great footing, and you can hear the horses from here saying ‘thank you, thank you, thank you’.”

Onward and upward, NARG had a busy year nationally and internationally. The group re-submitted a prize money alignment rule change to the USEF that would uphold an avid NARG belief that like in other sports, the top level earns the biggest purses; continued discourse on the Mileage Rule; weighed in on the water jump debate; created a recommended course designers list; addressed the United States Olympic Committee regarding the top level of the sport; supported McLain during the incident at the 2010 FEI World Cup, including legal assistance, distributed the Young Riders handbook written by Kim Land which should ease some NAJYRC confusion, worked to get Katie Prudent elected to the IJRC (International Jumping Riders Club) Committee plus developed and presented evaluations to horse shows that resulted in significant improvements at major events like WEF, Hampton Classic, Devon, and the Pennsylvania National Horse Show (PNHS). This initiative led to the inaugural NARG Top 25, a list of the top 25 horse shows in North America. Before NARG announced the results of that year long effort, several more important people addressed the crowd.

Peter Doubleday

Doubleday Delineates, Prudent Will Persevere
Next Simpson invited Peter Doubleday to speak. A long standing name in the sport, Doubelday explained how NARG influenced the PNHS Board, which has a large share of non-equestrian Members, to make some marked changes this year – notably a major investment in improving the footing as well as increasing prize money and improving award ceremonies. He encouraged other events to consider changes to improve the overall experience, ultimately to make North America’s top shows some of the best in the world.

Katie Monahan Prudent spoke about her election to the IJRC. She spoke candidly about how the FEI’s actions against McLain during the 2010 World Cup had ‘damaged our sport worldwide’. She felt that the incident was not only ‘disgraceful and unjust’ but there was no unity among the riders. These negative aspects mixed with her strong desire to improve the sport, increase support and introduce NARG’s ideas are the driving forces behind accepting her new international position.

Ward Remembers, Morris Insists on Excellence
McLain Ward approached the microphone. As painful as it may be to relive the nightmare he experienced through the unbelievable elimination of Sapphire in Geneva, he actually had some positive perspective. Ward commented on how good can come from bad, and that the unity he felt via NARG’s support during a difficult time was both effective and personally moving. “It was like having a bunch of pit bulls in my backyard. It was phenomenal.”

Ward then introduced a video where Board Member Jimmy Torano interviewed the iconic George Morris. With vintage images woven into the piece, the two generations spoke about what has become of our sport. When Morris speaks people listen and he insisted on excellence – to eliminate the ‘limited’ mentality, to put quality first, always be open to learning, pay attention to the details – no shortcuts, and don’t lower standards. He addressed both the trainers and the horse show managers for the notable decline and commented on how we need to re-establish meaningful breeding and horse sales in this country. Acknowledging the challenge of his decree, and even his own admission of succumbing to the ‘sexiness’ of traveling to Europe to buy horses, Morris upheld that the excellence factor is truly how ‘together we can improve our sport’. Board Member Norman Dello Joio then addressed the crowd with comments that reiterated the Morris message and ended with the explanation that “NARG is working hard to restore greatness to North American horse shows with their Top 25 initiative.” Which led to the big announcement.

The NARG Top 25, Winner & Special Guest Speaks
Via volunteer evaluators, NARG quantitatively analyzed over 50 horse shows last year. After numerous Board meetings to discuss the final results, NARG developed the Top 25 of 2010. Murray Kessler returned to announce the top events and to explain the importance of this effort. Labeling it the horse show version of Consumer Reports, he emphasized that although it is an honor to make this list it is important to note that after the top four shows all scores were below 80%, effectively a B- or lower. Certainly room for improvement. NARG feels that the key to improving our sport lies within this competitive structure and they seek to work with and not against horse show managements.

The NARG Board presents the Top Award of 2010 to
Linda Southern-Heathcott and Ian Allison of Spruce Meadows
With a score of 92%, Kessler proudly announced the number one equestrian events in North America, the Spruce Meadows Summer Series and Masters. Linda Southern-Heathcott and Ian Allison were present to accept the award. Stepping up to speak, Heathcott admitted that she has not been to Wellington for quite a few years (25 give or take) and that the management here has done an incredible job with the venue.
She said the NARG evaluation of Spruce was constructive and candid, essentially appreciated. Heathcott further inspired the audience by relating that several decades ago Spruce Meadows was her father’s vision and dream. That is how it starts. The Southern family ignored the naysayers who claimed no one would come to Canada, and that this vision of hosting some of the world’s top equestrian events would never work. She concluded by claiming, “There is no can’t, you can.” View the full Top 25 Report here.

Kappler Concludes
NARG President Chris Kappler wrapped up the meeting by highlighting NARG’s goals for 2011. They will again focus on their top 25 ranking as a way to continue to help North American horse shows improve, support the mileage rule and prize money realignment rule modifications, listen to their members – at their request NARG has added three open member meetings for 2011: At WEF on February 17, 2011, another at the Hampton Classic and a third on the West Coast (location and date to be announced). Kappler added that in 2011 NARG was creating an owner’s initiative with a goal to bring back the pride in owning a horse for our nation’s top riders. He closed with thanking the group for attending and asking for their continued support. He encouraged everyone to join and to be a part of shaping the future of show jumping. He ended with the resounding message of the evening “Together we can improve our sport.”

To find out more, go to Several in depth articles are also on

Photos By Erin Gilmore and Jackie McFarland

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.

Aachen Accolades

By Jennifer Wood

American Show Jumpers Experience Positive CHIO Aachen
The U.S. sent five show jumpers to Aachen, Germany, to compete at the CHIO, one of the most prestigious competitions in the world. As part of the “second tour,” these riders were there due to their strong finishes in the USEF World Equestrian Games Show Jumping Trials, held this winter at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. After winning the Meydan FEI Nations Cup at the CSIO Rotterdam a month earlier, the team became known as “George’s girls” – Laura Kraut, Lauren Hough, Nicole Simpson, and Candice King. Joining these top four females was two-time Olympic gold medalist Beezie Madden.

Madden Makes Her Mark
Madden could not be picked for the Nations Cup team since her tour-qualified horse, Danny Boy, is sick with a virus. However, she started the week off strong for the American team.

In their first class in Aachen, Madden and Coral Reef Via Volo, a 12-year-old BWP mare by Clinton x Heartbreaker, owned by Coral Reef Ranch, were clear and finished tenth in the NetAachen-Preis on Tuesday. Then on Wednesday in the Warsteiner Preis, Preis of Europa the pair was sitting in the final spot of a nine horse jump-off. Madden had the small luxury of knowing the time that she had to beat. With that knowledge, Madden and Coral Reef Via Volo were able to best the time of 50.07 seconds set by Sweden’s Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and Ninja La Silla by two seconds. Their time of 48.27 seconds and a fantastic clear round gave them the win in a class of 49 competitors.

California owner Gwendolyn Meyer purchased Via Volo in February this year, and the talented mare has certainly been impressive. They won two major classes at Spruce Meadows in Calgary in the past month before traveling to Europe.

“This is the biggest event that she’s been to,” Madden acknowledged. “She felt great. She seemed very comfortable in this ring, so I was pretty confident with her today. She’s gradually climbing her way up.”

Rain or Shine, Hough Holds Her Own
Yet another American scored a win when Lauren Hough of Wellington, FL (but grew up riding with her mother Linda Hough in California), and Prezioso S, owned by Highlife Farms, topped the field in the Preis der Städte Region Aachen over 53 other competitors. In the “winning round” format, the clear rides returned for a second round. Through inclement weather, Hough and the talented 14-year-old stallion by Pilox were the fastest double clear in 44 seconds flat.

“He actually likes the mud and rain, so I wasn’t disappointed to have to go in the changing conditions,” Hough revealed. “I felt quite confident that the ground is really good and I could take a chance.”

Hough had help from Madden, who went before her and placed seventh on Abigail Wexner’s Mademoiselle. “Beezie and George were really helpful; Beezie had gone before me and told me where I could do less strides than her. It was a really open, galloping jump-off, which suits him. He has a really big step. He’s so handy (too).”

Hough said she is “grateful to have a horse like this in my string.” She added, “In 99% of the shows he goes to, he comes home with a top three placing in a 1.50m class. Those horses are almost impossible to find. He can jump every day to win. I can’t say enough great things about him. He always wants to please and win.”

The Girls in Another Nations Cup
The USA started out strong in the Mercedes-Benz Preis, part of the Meydan FEI Nations Cup with a clear round from Lauren Hough on Quick Study, an 11-year-old Belgian gelding by Quick Star x What A Joy. That same feat was repeated with the next rider, Aachen newcomer Candice King of Wellington, FL (who also began her riding career in California) and Skara Glen’s Davos, a 10-year-old Zangersheide gelding by Carthago Z x Pericles XX.

King said afterward, “I was thrilled. I had a great Rotterdam, so that helped me feel a lot more confident coming into Aachen. It’s been a lifetime dream to come here to Aachen, and I’m finally here at 40 years old! With a young horse, I was just really pleased. It felt like he jumped great. I was just a little unlucky; I didn’t quite get to that one vertical in the second round. I was close to having a double clear. I’m very happy.”

Nicole Simpson of Thousand Oaks, CA (originally from the East coast!), was also competing for the first time in the Nations Cup in Aachen. She and Tristan, a 10-year-old Dutch gelding by Lancelot x Ferro, had just one rail down in the tricky triple combination coming home. Anchor rider Laura Kraut, also of Wellington, FL, had an unfortunate fault at the open water to finish on four faults with Cedric, a 12-year-old Dutch gelding by Chamberlain x Carolus.

Following the first round, the American team sat in a five-way tie for first place with a total of four faults with Ireland, France, Switzerland, and Germany. Their solid trips in the second round would help them rise above two of those teams.

Hough and Quick Study, owned by Laura and Meredith Mateo, had a rail in the double combination to start out the second round for the American team. King and Skara Glen’s Davos, owned by Skara Glen Stables and Ira Gumberg, also contributed four faults.

Simpson and Ilan Ferder’s Tristan helped the team with an all-important clear round as the third American combination, while Kraut and Cedric, owned by Happy Hill Farm and Peter Wetherill, had just a rail at the triple bar.

The United States ended up with a solid third place. The “all-girls” team and their Chef d’Equipe George H. Morris were pleased with their placing as they finished with a total of 12 penalty points, just three points behind Germany with nine and not far from the winners, Ireland, with just four faults.

“I’m always proud of my girls,” Chef d’Equipe Morris commented with a smile. “We had a little thing here and a little thing there, but to be in this company was stellar. It’s fabulous to be here and I’m lucky to have been participating here for so many years.”

Placings in the Grand Prix of Aachen
In the first round of the ROLEX Grand Prix of Aachen, two American riders were clear to advance to the second round. Candice King came back in the second spot in the order on Skara Glen’s Davos, owned by Skara Glen Stables and Ira Gumberg. They finished with 12 faults for 15th place. Laura Kraut returned two trips later with Cedric, owned by Happy Hill Farm and Peter Wetherill. They accrued eight faults and finished 10th.

On to Hickstead, Dublin & Lexington…
The third and final tour started recently in Hickstead. Bob Kraut and Graf Lando, McLain Ward and Rothchild, Cara Raether and Ublesco and Rich Fellers with Flexible competed in The Meydan FEI Nations Cup of Great Britain and also finished third with 29 penalty points. Germany was second with 22 points and Great Britain won with a fabulous final score of 7 penalty points.

The final event on The Meydan Nations Cup Tour was in Dublin, the United States finished second there as well as in the overall standings, jumping ahead of Great Britain by 1.5 points and 9.5 points behind France. After a great showing in Europe, the Selection Committee recently picked the short list of riders who will represent the US at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games this October.

Highlights From August 2010 Spruce Meadows

By Jennifer Wood

North American Tournament
American riders always put in a strong showing at Spruce Meadows, and this year’s North American Tournament was no different. Of the 10 FEI ranking classes held that week, Americans won five. In the biggest class of the week, Saturday’s $200,000 ATCO Power Queen Elizabeth II Cup, Americans finished second, third, and fourth. Course Designer Guilherme Jorge (BRA) put riders to the test in the International Ring.

Victory Gallops Led by Bond, Lamaze, Jayne, Cook and Little-Meredith
As the week opened, Californian Ashlee Bond won the $31,000 AON Risk Services Cup 1.50m class on Chivas Z, an 11-year-old Zangersheide gelding by Cumano x Lord Gothard (Little Valley Farm, owner). After sixty-four entries, she was the fastest clear in a jump-off of six competitors. Stopping the clock in 40.635, Bond was seconds faster than Henri Kovacs of Hungary on The Real Deal, owned by Rachel Cline. Brianne Goutal of New York was third on Nice De Prissey, owned by Cloverleaf Farms.

This was Bond’s first major win with Chivas Z. “I’ve won some 1.40m classes, but I’ve never won a big class on him,” the young yet accomplished rider acknowledged. She explained it’s been a long, but satisfying, road with her talented horse. “I’ve had him three years. He was really green and jumped super high and hard. I wanted to give up,” she remembered. “I thought I couldn’t ride him. My dad said to stick it out. Richard Spooner really helped me with him, and it got better and came together from there. It’s been a process. He’s still a bit green at times, but he’s become consistent. I’m so proud of him. The win is so exciting because of him.”

On Thursday, it was Canadian Eric Lamaze’s time to take charge. He and his Olympic partner Hickstead raced to the win in the $35,000 D-Line Construction Cup,1.60m class. Hickstead, a 14-year-old Dutch stallion by Hamlet x Ekstein, is owned by Lamaze’s Torrey Pines Stables and Ashland Stables. The Ontario-based rider beat Katie Monahan-Prudent (FRA) aboard Sassicaia II who finished second, Californian Keri Potter on Rockford I third, Mario Deslauriers (now riding as an American) with Urico were fourth and Californian Guy Thomas (NZL) rode Peterbilt to fifth.

Friday’s $50,000 Lafarge Cup – 1.50m had an exciting jump-off between eight riders. Charlie Jayne of Elgin, IL, won his first International Ring class in his first year competing at Spruce Meadows as a professional. He and Urbanis, a 13-year-old Belgian gelding by Heartbreaker x Ramiro stopped the clock in 32.416 seconds, just half a second ahead of Lamaze on Coriana Van Klapscheut and Goutal again on Nice De Prissey.

Another first time FEI class winner at Spruce Meadows led the victory gallop on Saturday in the $75,000 TD Cup – 1.50m. Karl Cook of Woodside, CA, rode his 15-year-old Dutch gelding, Notories Utopia, to the speed win over Henri Kovacs and The Real Deal and Guy Thomas (NZL) on Carino. Cook won his first class in the major ring during the first week in the ATCO Power Double Slalom. Cook has been showing at Spruce Meadows since 2004, and is only 19 years old.

“It’s amazing to win here,” Cook said. “I love having crowds yelling as you’re going around the ring. You’re competing against amazing riders, so it makes you ride better. It’s a great place to show.”

Cook said of his horse, whom he’s ridden for seven years, “We got him to do the Children’s Jumpers, (but) we just kept moving up and up. He’s a very good teacher. If you do one he doesn’t like, he’ll throw you off or stop. If you do it again right, he’ll jump. He doesn’t hold a grudge.”

Lamaze also returned to the winner’s circle for the biggest win of the week in Saturday’s $200,000 ATCO Power Queen Elizabeth II Cup. He finished just 3/10ths of second faster in the jump-off over Brianne Goutal on Onira and Deslauriers with Urico. Ashlee Bond and Chivas Z were fourth and Rodrigo Pessoa guided HH Rebozo to fifth place.

Marilyn Little-Meredith was the winner of two major classes at the tournament. She and Blue Curacao, a nine-year-old Belgian mare by Mr. Blue x Dark D’Amour, scored an opening day win in the $31,000 Enerflex Cup – 1.60m class over Lamaze and Hickstead and Deslauriers on Urico. Then, they scored their biggest win to date in the $175,000 Mercedes-Benz Classic Derby – 1.60m. Again, Lamaze finished second, this time with Atlete van T Heike, Leslie Howard and Lennox Lewis 2 were third, Champ 163 with Rodrigo Pessoa fourth while Black Cherry piloted by Will Simpson was fifth.

Little-Meredith, who is from Frederick, MD, was also showing for the first time at Spruce Meadows. She was incredibly pleased with her talented mare. “Blue is owned by Paul and Mary Loeber, and she has come along so quickly. She did her first grand prix in January and has been holding that level since then,” she described. “She has an incredible heart and is the most brave horse. She never backs off and she’s never scared. She always comes out every day and tries so hard. It makes you want to come out 100% every day too.”

She said of her wins, “I’m not going to lie, it’s huge. It’s amazing to win in such a field of great, seasoned horses and competitors.”

Little-Meredith was one of many riders who walked the course while the spectators were treated to the “Name the Foal” contest. The mares were led around the ring while foals trotted close behind, oftentimes in the path of walking riders. Little-Meredith smiled, “I’ve started breeding some myself, so it’s nice. It’s such a high stress thing for me walking the courses and then the foals were running around and it was such a pleasant distraction – it’s definitely a unique feature of Spruce Meadows!”

FEI Classes Saved by G&C Farm
Many of their FEI World Ranking classes at Spruce Meadows this year were in danger of losing their FEI status. Luckily G&C Farm of Wellington, FL, owned by Gustavo and Carolina Mirabal, stepped up to sponsor these classes.

Through their sponsorship, the prize money was raised from $25,000 to $31,000 in 10 classes during the Spruce Meadows Tournaments. By increasing the prize money, the classes now qualify monetarily since the FEI changed the exchange rate against the Swiss Franc instead of Euros last December. Otherwise, the $25,000 classes would have been disqualified from the ROLEX rankings because the original prize money offered would have been too low.

G&C Farm also created the $50,000 G&C Farm Rider’s Cup, which awarded points to riders who placed in the 29 of the eligible FEI events this summer through the North American Tournament. Lamaze’s consistency earned him the $25,000 first prize, while Pablo Barrios (VEN) won $15,000 for second. Rodrigo Pessoa (BRA) was third, taking home $10,000.

Lamaze Lame but Recovering
Canadian Eric Lamaze rose to the top of the ROLEX World Rankings once again. He not only dominated the $200,000 ATCO Power Queen Elizabeth II Cup with Hickstead but the pair galloped away with the win in the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen. While competing in the first round of this last event, Lamaze heard a crack and felt pain as he landed off the triple combination. Although the sound was his foot breaking, he continued for two more rounds fault-free and the win.

Lamaze talked about the importance of Rolex ranking classes and being number one in the world. “The ranking is really important because it allows you to go to many competitions around the world that normally you couldn’t go to,” he pointed out. “When you get the best spot, you feel like you can almost relax a bit because for sure you’ve worked hard to get there. If these FEI classes weren’t all here, it would have been impossible for me to move to number one.”

Equestrian Connect

By Erin Gilmore

A little over one year ago, amateur jumper riders Barbara Phillips and Simone Coxe were having coffee together and griping about entry forms. They had been doing their own entries for years, and were sick of all the repetition, endless handwriting and the holdup when mistakes were made. Then and there the two equestrians decided that instead of wishing there was an easier way to enter horse shows they would create an easier way to enter horse shows.

Equestrian Connect is Barbara and Simone’s answer to the tedious task of filling out show entries. The quickly growing company provides a way for exhibitors to create accurate paper entry forms for every “A” show on the Pacific Coast Horseman’s Association’s yearly show calendar.

Equestrian Connect is a lifesaver for riders with multiple horses, or trainers who fill out entries for their entire barn. Available primarily for west coast shows since December, the system supports 80 shows, including Blenheim EquiSports, Langer Equestrian Group, Spruce Meadows and HITS by providing show information and entry forms online. The company plans to launch on the east coast in July, and will initially support approximately 20 horse shows including HITS on the Hudson and the Washington International Horse Show. After registering with Equestrian Connect and initially entering horse, rider and membership numbers, all information is saved and automatically reproduced on a new entry form when the exhibitor selects the next show. Legible, accurate entries can then be printed out and mailed to the horse show office.

“We began using the system for our show entries this year,” says Toni McIntosh, of McIntosh Stables in Menlo Park. “We used to spend hours on our entries, making sure they were correct and fixing mistakes. Now that we’re on Equestrian Connect, everything is right there and it’s so much easier!”
Equestrian Connect
Simone and Barbara have been thrilled with the response they’ve received from the horse community. They began in Northern California, where both women live and ride, and by word of mouth, Equestrian Connect caught on like wildfire all the way down to Southern California.

More than 1,000 riders are currently registered and as word continues to spread, the site gains about 200 new people monthly. “When I first heard about ‘the one minute entry service’, I had to try it!” says Jenni Martin McAllister, of Martin McAllister Training in Burbank. “I signed up and will never look back. I can’t believe how fast it is.” Equestrian Connect is free of charge for the 2010 horse show season. Barbara Phillips comments, “Our early customers are providing us vital feedback that helps ensure the performance, stability and usability of the service. The company is in the process of finalizing its pricing for 2011.”

Eventually, Simone and Barbara want to expand Equestrian Connect to list show results, track points and even put together show reports by rider and horse. They’ve also received interest from riders competing in other disciplines, but plan to stay focused on the hunter/jumper market for the foreseeable future.

Quite an enterprise that evolved from a conversation over coffee! Visit to learn more and to take a guided tour of the system.

Showcasing Young Talent: Katherine Bardis

By Jackie McFarland

Katherine Bardis
A senior at Loyola Marymount with Law School aspirations, Katherine Bardis is growing up. Considering she has only been in the jumper ring since age 14 and in the Grand Prix arena since age 17, she made a name for herself in a short span of time. Now 22 years old (for about a week at press time), Katherine is making adult decisions about her riding, her education and her career.

EqSol: Your equestrian start – where you are from, how you started riding, the early years…
I started when I was about 10 years old. My older cousins rode and loved watching them but my parents would not let me start until I had tried out other sports first. I’m from Pebble Beach so the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center was almost walking distance from our house. My first lessons were with Toni Venza and Tracy Cotchett. I started in the medium ponies, then moved to the greatest large pony ever, ‘Peter Piper’ (PD) who we leased from Alex Silvestri. When I was 12, I won the Pony Finals on PD and then got my first Children’s Hunter, a little quarter horse named ‘Equal.’

EqSol: When did you know you wanted to ride in the jumpers?
 I was getting bored doing hunters and equitation. My mom really didn’t want me to do the jumpers because she knew once I started I would be hooked, which is exactly what happened. When I was 14, we went to Spruce Meadows just for fun with a couple of my equitation horses – my trainer thought it would be a good experience. That was when my dad and my trainer’s husband met Richard Spooner in the show office. Of course he was my idol, since we had just watched him win the Queens Cup and the Chrysler Classic. So I was extremely embarrassed that they were talking to him. Luckily, during their conversation (while I was timidly hiding in the corner) Richard mentioned that he had some horses for sale and that we should come and try them. And that’s how it all began…

We flew down from Pebble Beach to the Los Angeles Equestrian Center and ended up purchasing two horses, Prestige and Bada Bing. Within a month, I started riding with Richard. We went down on the weekends so I could train and go to shows with him. I hadn’t had any formal jumper training nor had I been competitive in the jumper ring before Prestige and Bada Bing, so when I started riding with Richard it was like a whole new world.

EqSol: When did your Grand Prix aspirations start?
 I didn’t have Grand Prix aspirations until I was about 17. That’s when I rode in my first Friday Grand Prix in Indio on Mademoiselle and Pariska. I remember I was so nervous because it was not only my first Grand Prix but theirs too. Luckily they were both fantastic. I think I ended up 10th on Pariska.

EqSol: Your GP history – when you started, the good, the bad & the victories.
After Indio in 2005, I wanted to try and keep riding at the Grand Prix level. In 2007 I was a freshman in college so I didn’t have as much time to train. When I tried to ride in the Grand Prix classes at Thermal, I wasn’t in tune with my horses. I think I fell off three times! By the end I improved, I was 4th once and only had one rail in the $200,000 class. After a bunch of second place finishes from Blenheim to Spruce, my first win was at the 2008 Memorial Day Classic Grand Prix on Pariska. Another highlight was winning third in The Pepsi Challenge on the International Field at Spruce in 2007.

EqSol: Let’s talk about Summer 2009: The Developing Rider Tour experience.
 It was great to do something totally different – we did everything as a team – warmed-up, flatwork, we even ate meals as a team.

My favorite show was Lisbon – the horses did really well there. Leopoldo built the courses – I only had a foot in water in the Nations Cup on Pariska and placed in two other classes.

Riding on this tour really showed me what the next step up is all about. The pressure of being on a team, where three other people are relying on your performance and you don’t want to be the drop score. I made a lot of my own decisions – preparing and schooling – it was all on me, which was a great learning experience. I was both excited and scared. I had competed in CA without Richard, but I am so comfortable there, someone is always around to help if I need it. In Europe I was a foreigner, didn’t speak the language, and didn’t know anyone so I had to go with my gut. There were people on the tour that were helpful, but at the end of the day it was my decision.

EqSol: Your education, on & off the horse. Start with your equestrian education.
 Working with Richard was definitely the graduate school of showjumping. He is the best teacher that anyone could ever have. Not only did he have endless patience and never got mad at me, but always helped me work through the mistakes. He would go out and show me what he wanted me to do, so I was able to visualize and could try to emulate. Richard has a great bond with horses. His genuine nature really taught me to admire the sport through all the hardships and the good times.

EqSol: Now more about your college education and beyond. Your favorite courses, who you are off the horse…
 My favorite course at school was Interpersonal Communication during my freshman year. The class was all about the relationships you have with people in your life, on a daily basis and long term. It really heightened my awareness of how actions can affect people. I love philosophy – Soren Kierkegaard is my favorite philosopher. His main theory is that passion comes from within and those that are the most passionate are the most authentic. “The thing is to find a truth which is true for me…” Something I try to live by. I have a passion for education and a passion for horses.

I’m a senior at Loyola Marymount. I plan to go to law school – ideally I will go to Loyola downtown, my second choice is McGeorge near Sacramento. I’m taking the LSATS in December. So I will start in the spring of 2011. My goal is to get a really good education, to gain a new perspective. Not certain if I’ll actually become a lawyer, but if I decide to I can practice law anywhere in the world.

When I came back from the summer tour I knew I had to make a choice to commit to my education or riding. I decided it was time to take a serious look at my education and what I want to do in the world. So I’m taking at least a year off of riding. I didn’t have the time and it wasn’t fair to Richard or my horses. It’s been very difficult to give up the most important thing in my life since I was ten years old. The choice affected me more than I realized it would.

EqSol: We miss you and your parents at the shows…
 It is weird to see everyone grow up. Doesn’t seem that long ago that I was riding ponies. There is no doubt that horses will always be a part of my life.

It’s true you don’t know what you have until its gone. I’m so grateful for what my parents and Richard have done for me over the years. We all miss the horses but I’m sure we’ll be back.

Thank you Katherine for spending the time to talk with us. We wish you all the best and hope you’ll keep in touch.

Conversations with Course Designers: Jack Robson

By Jackie McFarland

Jack Robson

I was thrilled to have another fascinating conversation with yet another person who plays a significant role in our horse show world, actually one of this week’s World Cup Officials, President of the Jury Jack Robson. Robson has spent more than a quarter century working as a course designer, technical delegate and jumper judge.

EqSol: What is your horse history?
JR: Actually I don’t come from a horsey family. I’m a northeasterner – born in Massachusetts and have lived in both Connecticut and upstate New York. I’ve been in California for about 18 years.

My first career was as a machinist, making microchips before they were in vogue. One day a friend of mine who worked for Barney Ward in Brewster, NY in the early seventies called me when he needed a hand. So I said sure. Turned out I liked it a lot and stayed for seven years. You could say it was a turning point in my life.

A Fort Reilly Calvary School graduate at Barney’s taught me how to ride. I jumped up to 1.40m. When I realized I couldn’t afford to have horses, I chose to stay involved by working on the jump crew. My career progressed from there.

EqSol: How did your career as a horse show official progress?
JR: Frank Chapot helped me get my judge’s card. I was at the Saratoga Horse Show and Frank asked me if I was interested in getting my card. I said, ‘Yes sir.’ So he threw me a clipboard and a watch, said ‘You’re working on it’ and walked away.

Frank was my mentor in both judging and course design and I can’t thank him enough. He opened many doors for me.

EqSol: And as a course designer?
JR: I assisted and worked with Frank, Bert de Nemethy, Pamela Carruthers, Robert Jolicoeur… all those guys. I was both a jumper judge and course designer by the early eighties. I was one of the first course designers listed when the AHSA chose to include them in the roster. Then I got my FEI-C (candidate judge) and had that for about 12 years. Now I have an FEI-I (International) card as both judge and course designer.

I love course designing. When you ask fair questions and get good answers it’s a great feeling. I get to see all types of courses as a judge, learning each time. As a judge I get to watch the best jumpers at all levels – it’s the best of both worlds really. Then I can practice what I’ve learned when I design. I get a chance to design about ten times a year. And I judge about 30 weeks a year.

EqSol: Some of your favorite horse show memories?
JR: [smiling] When Pamela C and I got jumped in Cleveland. She was designing and we were sitting on the wishing well discussing the next class. She looked over her shoulder and said nonchalantly in that British accent ‘Be very still’ as the horse proceeded to jump over us.

In the early eighties Mason Phelps modeled The Newport Jumping Derby in Rhode Island after Hickstead. It was a big field. I remember Anthony D’Ambrosio’s horse leapt straight down the steep hill (instead of walking down) – it was maybe sixteen feet down. He landed flat on his stomach, got up and in two strides jumped the vertical. Rodney Jenkins got hung up on the Irish Bank. Buddy Brown wore a helmet cam with a Super 8 attached; he almost broke his neck.

The Tijuana Jockey Club hosted a horse show. That was fun.There was a zoo on the infield of the track. The show was on the grass field right beside the zoo. You waited for your class next to the lions and elephants.

EqSol: And your future plans?
 Possibly the WEG. That would certainly be an honor. I will continue to work with Blenheim EquiSports and the Langer Equestrian Group in California and Colorado. HITS Arizona, HITS Ocala and Spruce Meadows might on the roster next year. In any case I’ll keep trying, improving my game. The sport evolves and you have to keep up with it.

Thank you Jack and thank you Emma (Jack’s Jack) for playing ball with Chloe.

Conversations With Equestrians: Morley Abey

By Jackie McFarland

As a Canadian who spent most of his summer working with clients in Canada, we wanted to get an ‘Up North’ Report from a good source.

EqSol: Where are you from in Canada?
MA: I am from Edmonton, the capital of Alberta, just three hours north of Calgary.

EqSol: How many years have you been competing at Spruce Meadows?
MA: My family competed at the first show 33 years ago (1976). I competed in the Rocky Mountain Hunter Ring on Junior Hunters when I was 8 years old. The last time I competed there was in 1996, the year I met Joie (Morley’s wife).

A bit of Spruce Meadows History…
Formerly a cattle feed lot, the Southern family transformed a field into one of the best equestrian facilities in the world. Construction started in 1973 and the first tournament was in 1976. The horse shows attract over 450,000 spectators each year, with 65,000 recorded in attendance on Sunday of the 2008 Masters Tournament. Having strong commitment from a large number of corporate sponsors, the prize money exceeds six million annually.

EqSol: You’ve been to a lot of facilities all over the world – is Spruce one of the best?
MA: Most definitely Spruce is one of the best. They take such good care of the place and make it special for exhibitors.

EqSol: What makes it special and what are your recommendations to spectators and/or exhibitors?
MA: There are so many reasons why Spruce is special but one that comes to mind for me is that they only use the International Ring three times per year, and for the big classes only. So when you say you’ve ridden in the International Ring at Spruce Meadows it means something.

Whether you compete in other arenas or go just to watch great competition, everyone should see Spruce Meadows. It’s a fabulous facility. Horses and riders can do amazing things when a crowd of 20,000 or more is cheering them on. Not to be missed!

And when you go up to Spruce, don’t miss out on the Egg Burger or Grasshopper Beer, both a must!

EqSol: One fond memory of this past summer?
MA: I would have to say the weather. Spruce’s Achilles heel is the weather – it can be miserable. But this year it was dreamy, likely the best year ever. Maybe a sign of years to come…

EqSol: Tell us about Blue Valley Farms.
MA: It’s a very special place. The Smith’s built a destination for local riders to come and train, and they really made it top notch. It is more than a facility – it is the nicest barn I have ever been to. Alex, their daughter, was the catalyst for me returning to Canada. Joie and I opened JG-MA SJ, Inc. – Canada and Chris Starr, a former employee, did a nice job of developing a customer base.

Honestly, although we did well, it was too hard to run another business. The staffing issues, the time away from our California operation as well as time apart from Joie was too much. So now I only work with Alex and we were lucky enough to find Darrin Dlin to move his business and lease the stall the Smiths aren’t using. That means I can focus on training Tara when I’m there and not on having to run a business.

We do plan to have our first Blue Valley Farms horse show next summer at the end of July. We’re going to only have 150 horses, offer special incentives to California riders and more – I’ll give you the details when I have them.

EqSol: How has Sunshine (Morley’s French bulldog) changed your life?
MA: She is a great companion and travels with me everywhere. I’ve had people approach me at shows asking about Sunshine and don’t even know who they are.

When I was in Portugal for the developing riders tour, someone asked me where Sunshine was – she has a huge international fan base! As for her agent, we’re talking to Justin Timberlake’s people.

  Thank you Morley for your time and expertise on Spruce.

EquestriSol News: June 16, 2009

We are pleased to announce the launch of – Wendy, Debbi and Missy of Fremont Hills were also featured in this month’s edition of California Riding Magazine.

And we are excited to hear about all of the West Coast coverage planned in upcoming issues of The Chronicle of the Horse. Wishing the best to riders at Spruce, Europe and here at home.

Keep the feedback coming, we love hearing from all of you…

Conversations With Course Designers: Peter Holmes

By Jackie McFarland

During the first week of the Blenheim Spring Series, which was host to final World Cup Qualifier, we took the opportunity to speak with Canadian course designer Peter Holmes.

How did you become a course designer? What is your horse history?
PH: I was raised with horses in Victoria, British Columbia. My mother was a horsewoman in England, and I grew up doing a bit of everything: western, arabs, eventing and then I got into hunter-jumpers. In the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s I started designing courses at the family farm and for the local shows. As I got into jumping we had more jumping shows. Back then, no one else would do it – designing courses was a fair bit of work. ‘Design’ usually meant not only designing the course but bringing the jumps to the show, unloading the trailer, setting the course with whomever was around plus competing on the course you designed!

After graduating college and managing a stable for ten years I started designing further afield and did my first Grand Prix for Diane and George Tidball at Thunderbird in the mid ‘80’s. My interest in course designing grew and I took it up full time in the late ‘90s. Throughout I gained valuable experience working at Spruce Meadows

Your course design mentors?
PH: Pamela Carruthers and Leopoldo Palacios.

You design courses for Children’s jumpers through World Cup Qualifiers. What factors go into the engineering of the different courses for the variety of levels?
PH: For a while I did get course designers disease – doing things that are clever, but not so good for the horses; it wasn’t good course designing. I remember one day Albert Kley (Spruce Meadows Riding Master) said to me ‘Peter, what are you doing?’ It was the trainers who talked me into coming back down to earth. Your perspective changes a lot with experience – you see things from a different viewpoint. With good course design, you want horses to go well. In the end, your goal is for the riders to have success on course and the horses to enjoy it. I truly love watching horses jump. My favorite moment is when a rider pulls up after completing a course and pats their horse.

How do you determine difficulty for the field?
PH: Coming in from Canada I may know many of these riders, but I don’t always know all the horses they are riding now. I usually do numerous things to get to know the group – first I set a more generous course early on in the week and then watch and see what’s happening. I do a lot of listening and hear tidbits from the riders. Plus I inquire with show management to see what their goals may be for the show or for a particular class.

Like a course for tonight – the final World Cup Qualifier…
PH: So I asked Robert Ridland and the technical delegate Bernie Traurig – to get their sense on how the course should ride. They know how the horses are going better than I do. They’ve seen them all season. We are all part of a team – all trying to achieve the same goal – a good experience for horse and rider. We decided not to go overly scopey – the horses jumped well on Thursday and you want the horses jumping well this close to the World Cup. We don’t want to get them backed off right before the Finals. Apparently the group has done some hard trials – so they just need a good refresher.

So would you say it’s a ‘soft course’?
PH: (as his eyes light up) Oh no, it’s definitely not soft. Anyone who thinks so should get on and give it a go!

So how many do you think will be clean?
PH: I would like to have the ones that are jumping well to be rewarded with a clean ride. Maybe five will jump clean. But in some ways you never know.

Tell us how a course like the one tonight evolves for you…
PH: You start with a piece of the course that you’re thinking about – then you work from it. Tonight – the opening line is a possible type of line you’ll see in a World Cup class. You actually have a little more room in this ring – so the four/five to a four (long to short) like I built could potentially be a three to a three in the World Cup.

Horses are fascinating – what is hard for one is not for another. Or sometimes where you think there is a test on your course, the test ends up being elsewhere. There are so many variables in the sport, it’s what keeps designing interesting.

What are your immediate and long- term goals?
PH: Well my life has changed a bit – I just got married and I am really enjoying my life at home. So now I’m adjusting my schedule, I’m not on the road for months in a row. Danielle has her own career and we both like it at home. This means designing at a few less shows and taking a few more breaks in-between shows.

A great plan – we all wish we could take more breaks! Thank you, Peter, for your time and expertise.