Conversations With Equestrians: The Simpsons

By Erin Gilmore

The Simpsons
When it comes to well-known show jumping couples, it doesn’t get much bigger and brighter than husband and wife team Will and Nicole Simpson. In the last several decades, the two international-caliber show jumpers have contested almost every major championship and competition around the world, and have brought some truly memorable horses through the ranks.

Like we see with many highly motivated, successful and famous families, there was a point in Will and Nicki’s history when the combination of career and personal pressures caused some strife. However, at a time when it seemed they might be growing apart, life, love and the pursuit of gold medals drew them back together. In 2008, both Will and Nicki were chosen to go on European tours and ended up traveling together. Realizing how much they truly missed each other’s company, their family together time and supporting each other’s equestrian talents, and ultimately how well they worked together, they reconciled, reunited and haven’t looked back since.

With an incredible combination of talent, Will and Nicki have a clear vision for Simpson Show Jumping. Committed to owners who enjoy the process of pursuing the ‘gold’, they support each other’s goals to continue representing the United States at Nations Cups, WEG and Olympic levels. Tremendous international experiences highlight their teaching methods, so young riders and amateurs with similar high-level aspirations excel in their program.

Whether they’re at their winter base in Wellington, Florida, back home in southern California or traveling to Spruce Meadows or Europe, these power parents focus on keeping their children, thirteen-year-old Sophie and nine-year-old Ty, grounded and on track. Even superstar international riders have to go home at night and make dinner, and lucky for the rest of the family, Nicki enjoys cooking, and Will is famous for his barbeque.

We caught up with them during the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, where they spend half the year working out of Windsome Farms, a gorgeous private 80-acre facility, competing and enjoying the benefits of that close-knit equestrian community.

EquestriSol: How do you get the kids out the door and yourselves to the barn in the morning?
Nicole Simpson:
 Well, mornings are usually a little hectic, especially on show days if Will or I have the first class. Whichever one of us shows early will get dropped off at the barn, and then the other will run back and take Ty to school. This winter was Sophie’s first time doing online school. She usually starts the day with us – she likes to watch the horses show and ride in the morning and go to school in the afternoon.

EqSol: What’s your routine once you’re at the barn?
 Will and I look at the schedule, and for the most part we try to be there for each other at the rings. We balance it out so that we can put solid time into each horse. We go back and forth between the show and the barn, Sophie usually rides three or four and helps us hack another one.

EqSol: Do you think that Sophie shares your level of passion for the sport?
 Definitely. She’s very serious about it – she works really hard at riding and learning all that goes with it. Since the beginning she’s been exposed to every aspect. We think that’s important, for her to be aware of and part of the whole picture.

EqSol: How do you help Sophie balance horses and school?
 I ask her the same questions my mom would ask me – ‘Sophie, don’t you want to be able to have any career you choose?’ And she’s the same as I was; it’s all about the horses. But she’s finding a good balance, knowing that doing well in school and getting a good education is a priority.

She works hard for us, and knows what her commitments are and what we expect. Along with school and her riding, Sophie is also very involved with JustWorld International, and in California she volunteers with a therapeutic riding program.

Will Simpson: Like mother, like daughter – Sophie is so much like Nicki! Sophie is growing up, and watching her is like watching a mini-Nicki.

EqSol: And what about Ty? Is he interested in riding?
 Ty doesn’t ride – yet. We’ve kind convinced him into starting later. We think it’s important for him to do all sorts of sports, and if he wants to start riding once he’s played on other teams, he can. He is a great fan of our sport. The second he gets home he has a people-course all set up in the backyard. He knows all the horses in the barn, knows the lingo and all the riders. He likes to go to the grand prix and walk the course. He’s very analytical; maybe there’s course designing in his future…

WS: He loves to participate in all sorts of sports – soccer, football, etc. He’s like I was, I did all sorts of stuff as a kid. Guess you could say like father, like son. We’ll see…

NS: We’re very fortunate to have pretty easy, well-rounded kids!

EqSol: How many hours a day do you spend with the horses?
 At least one of us is done by the time Ty’s out of school. An alarm goes off every day to make sure we pick him up at 2:15, then we finish up lessons at the barn and we go home as a family. Our kids are with us 90% of the time. It’s really nice, and I have to say that along with the obvious equestrian pluses of the Wellington circuit, it is great for a family because you can stay in one place for six months. It’s very comfortable. We are grateful for this circuit in many ways, beyond just the horses.

EqSol: If you could each talk about one horse that improves daily, who would it be?
 We both have nine-year-olds that we’re really excited about.

WS: Obe is the one I’m bringing along… Anne Frankel owns him and knew she had something special. He’s a really smart horse by Cirka Z, one of Nicki’s good horses from years back. Because of our background with Cirka Z, we already know a lot about Obe and where he is headed. We feel that he definitely has a really good shot at the trials next year. And Nicki is developing a fabulous nine-year-old for Monarch International, Candle Light Van de Warande, by Parco. He’s coming along nicely, and has ribboned consistently in the 1.45m and 1.50m classes this season.

EqSol: Will, you are known for being able to get inside a horse’s mind and develop those “difficult” ones in a way that others can’t. Tell us more about that.
 Well, for example, Obe wasn’t very easy at first. I kind of felt like a little kid on a Thelwell pony. He would rear and buck, and when he stopped doing that he would just stand still. But now we’ve gotten to a place where we had six rounds fault-free. My daughter always laughs at me and asks me how I can say I can do the Olympic Trials if I haven’t done the 1.50m yet, but if you knew the horse and how his mind works, you’d know it’s the right plan.

What I work on every day is bringing the horses along in a way that is comfortable for them, teaching them how to compete and enjoy it, not fear it or resent it. If they enjoy their job, they perform well. Many pieces from their overall care to their training program play a role in their ‘happiness’. My career goal is to hopefully be considered a true horseman, not just a rider.

EqSol: You are both successful and focused on your individual and collective goals. How do you pass that on to your children?
 With a lot of communication and by keeping it real. Fortunately, our kids don’t ever feel entitled nor appear influenced by the world we work in. We are all very comfortable with who we are and how we fit in, so that translates. We stick together, work hard and keep looking forward.

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

A Stable Story: Bernie Traurig’s Equestrian Coach

By Jackie McFarland

Bernie Traurig’s Equestrian Coach
We are deep into a new age where knowledge is literally at our fingertips. From connecting to collecting, the wealth of available resources awaits the typing of a simple address. Not your physical address, but the uniform resource locator or URL. That string of characters – www-dot-equestriancoach-dot-com – represents a wide world of people that are now reaching one another in ways that were virtually impossible just over a decade ago.

Although the equestrian niche certainly utilizes these resources – email, texting, web sites, Facebook, Google, PayPal – a select group have considered the possibilities of this vast network, combined it with their own bank of experience and connections to create an opportunity not previously available. One such individual is Bernie Traurig, the force behind the recently launched
Bernie Traurig
First, step back in equestrian time and take note that Traurig has an extensive breadth of knowledge and success. Having achieved the top level of competition in all three of the International Equestrian Olympic disciplines: show jumping, dressage and eventing, Traurig has over half a century of experience to share.

Renowned not only for his riding talents, but for his teaching and coaching gifts as well, Traurig has been a member of the United States Equestrian Team in both the US and abroad. Still actively involved, he is currently George Morris’s Associate Chef d’ Equipe to the United States Equestrian Team on the West Coast.

Previous to the Internet age, the opportunities to learn from the masters meant proximity, perseverance and reaching deep in your pockets to pay for clinics, lessons, even DVDs and books. Several years ago, Traurig recognized that modern technology gave him a medium to ‘train’ anyone who wanted to learn.

By providing educational video clips by a list of top-level trainers, anyone at any level and at any time could watch and learn. What a great way to offer expertise for a reasonable price. Instead of going to the experts, they can now come to you.

After discovering these exciting possibilities, then came the long road of developing the web site. Conceptually the plan was a go and seemingly straight forward, but there were a multitude of steps to take before completion.

Gaining excitement by introducing the concept at the 2009 FEI World Cup in Las Vegas, the team had their work cut out for them. Filming, editing, generating content, creating a web site flow, pricing model and programming were just a few of the tasks. In the process, Traurig developed clips by show jumping greats such as Olympic Gold Medalist Will Simpson, USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals Winner John French, world class level competitor Rich Fellers and equitation expert Missy Clark as well as dressage and eventing stars Debbie McDonald, Gina Miles and Michael Plumb. The site also offers building blocks and clinics provided by Traurig. And that is just the beginning, more experts are lined up to participate.

Traurig comments with a smile, “I kept thinking we would be ready to go and then we would want to tweak something or realized we could make it better. It was and is an intense time commitment, but it’s so great to see it come together.”
Other sections include endorsements from George Morris and Paul Cronin, grassroots and horsemanship, a Kids Corner, interviews with coaches and the list continues to grow.

On June 1, 2010 all the preparing, planning and processing became a reality when officially launched.

Before the World Wide Web, the fundamental information that provides was only available to the sport’s elite. The site serves as a coaching aid to riders and trainers alike and aims to make quality education accessible and affordable to every equestrian, regardless of background, level of riding or geographic location.

Now riders from anywhere in the world can take lessons from top trainers. Even a high level rider can gain a new perspective for a very reasonable price.

For less than what it would cost to take a clinic from one of the masters presented on the site, a subscriber can purchase an annual pass of educational videos for a special introductory offer of $299. Or for significantly less than one training lesson, buy a monthly subscription and learn from several top trainers for just $29.99.

“One of the best parts is the chance to offer education to such a wide audience,” explained Traurig. “All the work is well worthwhile when I know how many riders could benefit.”

Besides a tutorial, there are a handful of clips available for free viewing as well as an FAQ section to answer all your questions. You can look at the options in the video library plus see a list of what’s coming next. What could be better for your virtual library than some of the world’s best riders and trainers just a click away and for less than a dollar a day?

Industry Innovators: The Compton Junior Posse

By Erna Adelson with Jackie McFarland

Compton Junior Posse Gives Inner City Kids a New Lease on Horseback

Horses have long served as a magical medium for the rehabilitation and uplifting of spirits and minds; equine therapy is frequently implemented as a social and vocational tool for the physically and mentally handicapped, former veterans, and inmates. In the 1992 film Into the West, a mysterious horse rescues two children from the poverty, hostility and discrimination of the projects of Ireland. Mayisha Akbar and riders from the Compton Junior Posse—a steadily growing group of kids from a Los Angeles suburb better known for gang violence than blue ribbons—are finding that their equine companions have an innate power to inspire them to dream of lives beyond gang involvement, just like the supernatural horse of the film. Changing the greater perceptions of the equestrian community, these new additions to the Southern California hunter and dressage arenas are really turning heads.

The Compton Junior Posse is a 501.3.c. non-profit dedicated to encouraging inner city and underprivileged youth to become productive members of society. Using horses and horseback riding to teach responsibility, discipline, and self-esteem, founder Mayisha Akbar has managed to change the lives of hundreds of inner-city kids. This equine medium teaches them valuable social and interactive skills, motivates them to set both academic and career goals, as well as simply providing a place where they can seek refuge from the often violent environments in their neighborhoods. Out of her small, backyard stable, Akbar has seen two decades of kids grow into leaders and outstanding contributors to their local communities. “We have found that investing in these children through our equestrian program motivates our kids to achieve their goals,” she says. Akbar has also rescued over 100 horses through her ranch.

Akbar, who grew up in the Harbor City Projects outside of Los Angeles, was raised riding horses and aspired to be a veterinarian. She wanted to give her own children the same equine upbringing, so she moved to an agricultural zone in Compton in 1988 to have horses. “At first,” she explains, “we weren’t affected by the neighborhood’s gang culture because the kids were young.” She recalls that neighborhood children started coming over unattended, so she would take them in for a meal and supervision as long as they helped with the horses. As this pattern became more regular, Akbar raised her standards—she made sure that as long as kids were spending their spare time at the ranch, they went to school and kept up their grades. She collected report cards to make sure there was progress. In return, each child was offered a safe place after school, food, warmth, and camaraderie. “It just happened out of needs for the community,” Akbar explains.

Early in the riding program, the Compton Junior Posse went mostly to rodeos. Akbar started to integrate English-style riding about three years ago after watching a flat class at a local horse show. “It was clearly so good for the horses to learn and progress the same way, and be judged the same way. Everyone walked, trotted, and cantered at the same time!” she noted, a big difference from rodeo chaos. Now, the Compton Junior Posse is primarily an English operation, and all of the rescue horses are trained under English saddle. Akbar says that since making the switch to English riding, she has seen Junior Posse riders benefit from more structure and discipline. “I was worried about not being accepted at hunter and dressage shows,” says Akbar, “but the English world has been so welcoming, so giving, and so warm! Everywhere we go we break norms. Everyone is so impressed with the athleticism and politeness of the Junior Posse riders—we are completely breaking equestrian stereotypes.”

With the support of private donations, the Compton Junior Posse has grown from a refuge of necessity to a flourishing equestrian, husbandry, and educational program. Once on the verge of retiring due to the emotional toll of her work (Akbar estimates she’s lost 40 children over 20 years to gang violence), she has rallied in a most interesting way—by having introduced English style riding and equitation to the Junior Posse and finding support in some of the West Coast’s most prominent riders, trainers and veterinarians. She has forged ahead with a development plan for fundraising, support and maintenance of the program and now has some substantial goals, such as being the first inner city charter school and Interscholastic Equestrian League (IEL) team so students will be able to ride and receive PE credit from Junior Posse participation while they get core credits from regular schools. Additionally, as IEL participants, the members of the Compton Junior Posse would earn points toward collegiate equestrian scholarships when competing at IEL shows.

Our own Olympic Gold Medalist Will Simpson, who has worked with the Compton Junior Posse riders on several occasions and will be participating in the upcoming LAEC fundraiser, reports that “The Compton Junior Posse is a great program. They are so appreciative, love to learn and are incredibly talented. These kids aspire to go to the top of the sport – they want to be as good as they possibly can, which I think is a healthy approach. That attitude plus their dedication and a willingness to work hard is how to get to the top. Every single one of them has that drive.” He goes on to say that working with the program is uniquely rewarding. “I get as much out of it as they do.”

In the next year, Akbar’s goal is to raise 1 million dollars in gap funding while she awaits approval for federal and state grant money—primarily to hire a staff to support her efforts as the program grows. “I’m going to need a director of education, a director for the riding program, ranch management, an administrative coordinator, and capital for equipment, a hay barn, tractor, and classroom,” she says. She has also arranged for a long-term lease for her property so that the program can stay in its original location, which makes it convenient for the participants and their families. This evolving program that aspires to give more opportunities to inner city kids offers a new lease on life through horses and English riding. An unlikely bond that we hope can be everlasting.

  The upcoming fundraiser May 30th at LAEC, featuring a silent auction, celebrity appearances, dining, entertainment, and dancing, is a major initiative for this cause.

  Tickets are available online at, and are $175 each.

Compton Junior Posse photos from the 2009 HITS Desert Circuit courtesy of Suze Randall.

2009 HITS Desert Circuit Wrapup

Sunday, March 22nd

Will Simpson and a
Junior Posse Member
Photo © Suze Randall

Eight weeks of horse showing ended with a bang, but not the one West Coast equestrians expected. After an almost flawless two months of weather, Mother Nature kicked up her heels and blew, blew, blew almost everything down on Sunday, March 22, the final day of the 2009 HITS Desert Circuit.

The much anticipated $150,000 HITS Grand Prix of the Desert, along with the remainder of the show schedule was cancelled. The show management decided to split the grand prix prize money amongst the 38 entrants, so they all walked away winners. The day was disappointing from a competitive aspect, but certainly a kind gesture from HITS and the safest decision for all involved.


Six riders from the Compton Junior Posse battled the gusty winds at the showgrounds on Sunday for a chance to ride with Olympic Gold Medalist Will Simpson. Through the power of horses, this special California-based organization keeps inner-city kids “on horses and off the streets” by teaching responsibility, discipline and increasing self-esteem. With a mission to establish the first inner-city high school equestrian team and charter school, which in turn will allow students to become eligible for equestrian scholarships, the Junior Posse is hosting a fundraiser on May 30th at LAEC honoring Will Simpson.


Catena Leading Lady Rider Award: Ashlee Bond

Awarded to the overall leading female Grand Prix rider based on points accumulated during the HITS Circuit. 2009 is the first year for this award.

The Platinum Performance Leading World Cup Qualifier Rider: Ashlee Bond

Awarded to the Grand Prix rider with the most money won in the four World Cup Qualifying Classes at the HITS Desert Circuit. 2009 is the first year for this award.

Potcreek Meadow Farm Junior Sportsman Award: Richard Neal

As a Junior rider, Richard demonstrated consistently good sportsmanship, ethical and respectful behavior both in and out of the show ring.

Jimmy Kohn Style of Riding Award: Joie Gatlin

Sponsored by Karen Healey Stables, this award goes to the Grand Prix rider who best exemplifies the style of equitation as modeled by Jimmy Kohn.

SHALANNO Style of Riding Award: Lucy Davis

The Junior Jumper rider who not only exhibits the best American style of equitation as modeled by Olympic Medalists Joe Fargis, Conrad Homfeld and George Morris but is also respectful, dignified, courteous and workmanlike in the manner of a true sportsman.

Michael Patrick Perpetual Trophy: Titleist 8 and Didi MacKenzie

Sponsored by Cathy Hayes, this trophy is awarded to the Circuit Grand Champion Amateur-Owner Hunter.

The Jennifer Marlborough Freeman Memorial Trophy: Hollister and Alison Baileys

Awarded to the High-Point Mid-Circuit Amateur-Owner Hunter.

Saturday, March 21st


Caroline Ingalls and Redfield Farm’s Lazio
Photo © Flying Horse Photograph

Always popular with competitors and spectators, the $10,000 ASG Software Solutions/USHJA International Hunter Derby returned for Week VIII. Mountain Home Stable’s Rumba with John French aboard did not disappoint, repeating their winning streak by capturing the win in both the classic and handy rounds. Simply striking to watch, Rumba exemplifies the High Performance Hunter.


Friday, March 20th


Junior rider Caroline Ingalls won the coveted Ronnie Mutch Equitation Championship on Friday night. In a unique format that illustrates a true horseman, competitors must walk, prepare and ride the courses without any outside training assistance. The first course includes gymnastics, trot jumps and other technical questions. Then riders are called back in reverse order to ride a second round. Competitors are judged by two sets of judges – one for their performance in the arena and the other for their preparation in the schooling area. Challenging for the exhibitors as well as giving the trainers a much-needed break, it is interesting for trainer and spectator alike to watch how these junior riders perform under this type of pressure. Offered for the second year, this class is held in honor of R.W. Mutch, who back in the 1950’s won medal finals at the age of 15 and rode for the USET at age 18.

Friday, March 20th


Congratulations go to the superstar team of Rich Fellers and Flexible, owned by Harry Chapman, who topped a field of 51 riders to win the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix. With 15 clean over the Olaf Petersen (Germany) course, the race was on for the win. Six of those 15 went double clean, with Fellers and Flexible stopping the clock at a smokin’ 38.276, next fastest was Mandy Porter aboard San Diego, with a time of 39.326. Both of these teams are in the running for the World Cup, with one qualifier left to go, Mandy is currently ranked third in points with Will Simpson and Rich a close fourth and fifth. Third in this $25,000 class was hot shot Ashlee Bond, riding her fantastic Cadett 7. Catapulting to the top of the World Cup point list, Bond had an unbelievable circuit winning two of the four World Cup Qualifiers.

Week VII Highlights:


HITS DC VII was a hit for Grand Prix riders Jill Henselwood and Richard Spooner. Canadian Henselwood was hot on Friday, March 13th when she earned both first and second in the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix on Juniper Farm’s Special Ed and Black Ice respectively. With 56 horse and rider combinations vying for prizes, Henselwood took home just over half of the $25,000 purse.

Spooner topped that one-two win with a one-two-three victory in the $50,000 HITS Grand Prix on Sunday, March 15th. Having three of the four clean rides over the Marina Azevedo (Brazil) course, Spooner had the advantage in the jump-off. He set the time to beat at 43.68 with his first ride on S&B LLC’s Ace. His second jump-off ride aboard Pako was also clean, but not fast enough to take over the top spot. Spooner did manage to beat his own fastest time when piloting Peter Farlinger’s Cordoba around the shortened course in 41.52. That left Guy Thomas and Peterbilt, who had an unfortunate ride to the second jump. Knowing he wouldn’t catch Spooner, Thomas voluntarily withdrew from the jump-off and finished fourth. As the HITS Desert Circuit all-time leading money winner, Spooner protected that top spot by winning $32,500 of the $50,000 purse.

Here are additional links for the 2009 HITS Desert Circuit:

Week III newsletter
Week VI newsletter
2009 HITS Desert Circuit press page


Here are links to some notable charitable efforts going on in our sport. The latest news from Jessica Newman’s Just World International means that now anyone can become a member and technical officials are now jumping on as ambassadors. Click here for the details and here for the JWI web site.

The Equestrian Aids Foundation hosted a carnival recently where Grand Prix greats got dunked for charity. See the press release and photos by clicking here.

Highlights From 2009 HITS Desert Circuit Highlights

Hunter Derby

Hunters had the spotlight in the Grand Prix field on a cool Saturday afternoon as the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby commenced. A solid rain had fallen the night before, however the footing held up well and twenty-nine horses competed over what turned out to be quite a challenging course.

Competing in front of an audience of 200 plus, many a lovely (and usually brave) hunter spooked on course. The spooky spot – gray rocks along the side of the outside line – was reminiscent of the West Coast Junior Hunter Finals last summer. Approximately half the entries balked, stopped or refused to get near the rocks or jumps nearby. However a handful of horses didn’t take note and went on to jump magnificently.

Jenny Karazissis hunted around both rounds on two of Tonia Cook-Looker’s horses, Forbes and Aragon, riding each with style and ending up second and third respectively. John French rode Mountain Home Stable’s new mount Rumba to fourth in the first round, and then returned in the second round with a gorgeous handy course to take the win in both the round as well as overall. As always, the class was fabulous to watch and appears equally fun to ride.

Place Horse Rider  Owner
1 Rumba John French Mountain Home Stable
2 Forbes Jenny Karazissis Tonia Cook-Looker
3 Aragon Jenny Karazissis Tonia Cook-Looker
4 Quicksilver Sharon Duff Jaclyn Duff
5 Y2K Natalie Rae Medlock Hap Hansen
6 On Top Nicoletta Von Heidegger Laurel Ridge Sport Horses LLC
7 Paladijn Jenny Karazissis Maria Bruggere
8 Belle Fleur Avery Hellman Avery Hellman
9 Piper Zoie Nagelhout Sylvia Ausweger-O’Conner
10 Beckham Holly Dickinson HMG Farms
11 Toska Gail Ross Pacifica Riding Club
12 Aspen Extreme Liz Schmidt Teton View Farm

World Cup Qualifier
The indoor arena was the place to be on Saturday night for the $50,000 Purina Mills FEI World Cup Qualifier, presented by Adequan. With a line out the door, the bleachers and VIP seating area were packed with spectators hoping to see some great World Cup level show jumping from the twenty-nine starters in the posted order. The course and horses did not disappoint, the class was phenomenal all the way to the last jump off round.

Bernardo Cabral of Portugal built a tall and tough route, using every bit of the intimate indoor space. First to go, east coast equestrian and Olympic Gold Medalist McLain Ward made it look easy riding Sagamore Farm’s Phillipa without a fault. We did not see another clean round until Jill Henselwood on Black Ice, Ashlee Bond aboard Cadett 7 and Helen McNaught all rode fault-free going thirteenth, fourteenth and sixteenth in the order. Two more men rounded out the six returning for the jump off – Harley Brown piloting Cassiato and our west coast Olympic Gold Medalist, Will Simpson on Archie Bunker. The four faulters took the remaining ribbons, among them some of our top World Cup contenders including Richard Spooner, Mandy Porter and Rich Fellers.

The top six had a lengthy jump off with a combination of long gallops and tight turns to master. McLain and Phillipa set the pace, going neat and clean in 42.51. Both Jill and Black Ice and Ashlee on Cadett 7 went for the win, each finishing with fast times, but one rail down. Harley rode Cassiato strategically to a clean round, knowing he would end up second or third. Leave it to Will for the finale – he cruised around the jumps in a fast and clean 40.24 for the win.

Place Horse Rider Owner
1 Archie Bunker Will Simpson Linda I. Smith
2 Phillipa McLain Ward Sagamore Farm
3 Cassiato Harley Brown Oak Park Group LLC
4 Black Ice Jill Henselwood Juniper Farms
5 Cadett 7 Ashlee Bond Little Valley Farm
6 Caballo Helen McNaught Helen McNaught
7 Ace Richard Spooner S & B, LLC
8 San Diego Mandy Porter Danielle Korsh
9 Flexible Rich Fellers Harry & Mollie Chapman
10 Kiss The Sky Lane Clarke Horsemanship Unlimited
11 Cristallo Richard Spooner Show Jumping Syndications Int’l
12 Chianto John Pearce Forest View Farm & Gerald Moore

Desert Circuit Weeks I-II Highlights
No stranger to the winner circles, our congratulations go out to the 2009 HITS Desert Circuit Weeks I & II Grand Prix winners, Richard Spooner and Mandy Porter. These two riders ruled on different turfs – Richard outdoors and Mandy indoors:

In the Grand Prix Field:
1/23: $25,000 HITS Grand Prix, Desert Circuit I: Richard Spooner & Quirino 3
1/25: $50,000 EMO Grand Prix: Richard Spooner & Quirino 3

In the Indoor Arena:
1/29: $25,000 HITS Grand Prix, Desert Circuit II: Mandy Porter & San Diego
1/31: $50,000 Strongid® C 2X FEI World Cup Qualifier, presented by Adequan: Mandy Porter & San Diego

Desert Circuit Week II
HITS celebrated the horse as art in many ways on the eve of the final day of January 2009. Exhibitors and spectators alike enjoyed the displays presented by artists from California, Colorado and Oregon. Plus a unique installation by Embarr Tack Room Design, specialists in tack room design and construction.

Hung with care throughout the arena spectator entrance, equine paintings and prints created a stylish start to the upcoming artistic performances on horseback in the $50,000 Strongid® C 2X FEI World Cup Qualifier, presented by Adequan.

The indoor arena was literally filled to the rafters in anticipation of the evening’s special events, including the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing and listening to John French sing the National Anthem. His voice not only boomed but he rocked the house! The cheers were heard all the way back at the barns.

Mr. French set the stage for a fabulous night of show jumping. Thirty-one horse and rider combinations negotiated the Bob Ellis course. Difficult but not deadly, twenty-three of those who attempted had a rail or more, including Olympians McLain Ward on Phillipa, and Will Simpson on Archie Bunker. However eight went without fault and advanced to the jump-off.

Ashlee Bond set the stage on Cadett 7. She was flying high – literally – as she made the sharp rollback turn from fence 6b to 3b. Almost separated from her horse, she quickly recovered to finish with four faults in a fast 33.88. Katherine Bardis riding Mademoiselle made the turn but lost the pace heading to 3b, resulting in a refusal. Quick indeed, she still managed to make a dash for cash, and even with the stop, stayed within the time allowed for four faults.

In galloped McLain Ward on Goldrika 559, who had a fabulous time with eight faults. Next to attempt a clean and fast ride was Lionel with Erin Duffy aboard. She went for clean not speed, but had four faults as well. Halfway into the jump-off with no one clean, Mandy Porter and San Diego entered the arena. Consistent since the start of World Cup qualifying season back in the fall, and after winning the Thursday $25,000 Grand Prix, they once again set the time to beat – clean in 32.93. Lane Clarke riding Kiss the Sky made a gallant effort but had two rails. With two left to go, Mandy held the lead. Richard Spooner maneuvered Ace to a beautiful clean ride, in 32.94. One one-hundredth of a second off the leading time – the definition of a close second. Black Ice with Jill Henselwood took the final shot at the win, finishing with four and settling for third best.

EquestriSol News: July 31, 2008

Congratulations to our west coast riders on their victories abroad – performing well on the Super League Tour, Will Simpson and El Campeon’s Carlsson Vom Dach are gearing up for the Olympic Games; winning in Monaco on Cristallo and Pako, Richard Spooner and his horses are going strong on the Global Champions Tour; after a fabulous World Cup this spring, Rich Fellers and Flexible were the only clear in the $60,000 Investors Cup at Spruce. Joie Gatlin & Morley Abey have opened up a second location in Calgary.

With Medal Finals and World Cup Qualifiers around the corner, we’ll have plenty going on here at home and will keep an eye out for our west coast medal final contenders on the east coast…

We are proud to announce the launch of the new Pegasus Show Stable website:

Look for the launch of up to ten more websites currently in development, as well as a host of ads in your favorite equestrian publications.

We are having fun developing new ad campaigns for Freelance Show JumpingCam & Becky Smith, Blenheim EquiSports and Blue Ribbon Law.

Meanwhile, Chloe is almost 18 months old. Where does the time go?

West Coast Rider Will Simpson Headed To Hong Kong?

By Jackie McFarland

On Monday July 7th, four months after announcing the short list, the USEF Ad Hoc Committee on Selection will name the US Olympic Equestrian Team for Show Jumping. With only Aachen remaining for the short-listed ‘A’ Team, the pressure is on.

What Has Happened to Date:
On March 10, 2008 the USEF Ad Hoc Committee for selection chose six horse and rider combinations based on their performance in the Selection Trials and four other pairs were given a bye.

The six top performers included Laura Kraut, Nicole Shahanian-Simpson, Anne Kursinski on two horses, Charlie Jayne and Kate Levy.

Two top riders, McLain Ward on Sapphire and Beezie Madden on Authentic, were given byes before the trials began – meaning they were automatically chosen to be on the short list and did not have to compete in the trials. After two trials Jeffrey Welles and Armani were also given a bye. Will Simpson and El Campeon’s Carlsson Vom Dach were awarded the final bye after solid performances in all the trials with the exception of the last, where the horse was unable to compete.

These top ten were divided into two groups of five to participate on two European Tours before selecting the final team to represent the United States in Hong Kong this August.

Ad Hoc Selection Committee:
George Morris
Frank Chapot
Michael Endicott
Eric Hasbrook
Candice King (alternate selector)

Michael Endicott, who’s been on this committee since its inception six years ago, explained how they work. George and one selector are present at each event. “The entire committee discusses overall performance; everything from the jog to the jump. Essentially any details that would affect the team,” Mike explained. “It’s purely about performance, how this horse and rider will represent us.”

Will’s Will
  We had the opportunity to speak to Will when he was home briefly after representing the USEF on a European Tour.

JM: What was the most challenging aspect to the European Tour?
WS: The language barrier was sometimes a challenge. In Germany they changed the order and put 6 horses ahead of me and I didn’t understand until I was already schooled and ready. Had to prepare again once I knew. Some shows run exactly on time, others run late – it seems to depend on the country.

JM: Tell us about Carlsson Vom Dach.
WS: We bought him in April of 2007. He’s 12 years old and at the peak of his career. We knew he was special and it started to show last summer at Spruce. Good at 1.40m, 1.45m and then we did three 1.50m Grand Prix in Europe, returned to Spruce for the Masters and when we came home we started to discuss the best plan. We did the three World Cup qualifiers – Del Mar, Las Vegas and LA National and then we trained on a variety of surfaces at home – grass, sand – we jumped some big courses.

JM: How do you feel about his performance in these high-pressure situations?
WS: We had only competed at 1.50m before heading to Wellington for the trials at 1.60m. He stepped right up. Went in and came out fresh. He came out of the European tour fresh – it’s an unknown whether a horse will go through the trial system and come out like he has. Every time we ask a question of him he has the right answer.

JM: Who helped you prepare for the trials?
WS: Roger, an excellent horseman who’s been grooming for me for 10 years, set jumps. Eva was also my ground person. She was in Europe too. And she’s attending law school.

JM: How was the team experience in Europe?
WS: The team had great camaraderie. I have a great relationship with Anne. Nicki makes a really good teammate. The kids came to Rome and we spent time together as a family.

JM: How does it feel now that the tour is over?
WS: It hasn’t sunk in yet. I feel very fortunate to have a wonderful horse that is really hot. I’m fortunate to even have a chance. I do feel that everything is right: right horse, right time. We are fit and ready.

As we anxiously await the news on July 7th, we wish Will all the best and thank him for his time.