The Plaid Horse March/April 2024 - The Wellness Issue

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The Wellness Issue PHOTO: ESI PHOTOGRAPHY MAR /APR 18 PUBLISHER’S NOTE Tough 22 SPOTLIGHT Distinctive Horse Properties’ Lea McCullough 28 SPOTLIGHT Get Your Shine On with Equine Elixirs Om3ga 34 SPOTLIGHT Merle-Smith Sporthorses 38 SPOTLIGHT WeCover’s Innovative and Elegant Arenas 44 SPOTLIGHT Life Data Labs’ Legacy of Quality 52 SPOTLIGHT Ocala’s Peterson Smith Equine Hospital 60 SPOTLIGHT Briar Hill Stables & Horse Jumps 66 SPOTLIGHT BioStar and Tigger Montague Help You Choose the Right Equine Supplements 72 COVER STORY Violet Tatum on Kindness, Practice, and Catch Riding 88 VOICES A Riding Accident, a Campus Shooting, and One Cold February Night 94 BOOK EXCERPT Winning with Horses 96 PHOTO GALLERY USET Victory in Versailles 98 EXPERT TAKE Competing Against Friends 104 RIDERS The Plaid Horse Questionnaire with Brittany Massey 106 PHOTO GALLERY HITS Ocala 108 BOOK EXCERPT A Horse By Nature CONTACT & CONNECT WITH US! CALL: 541-905-0192
@theplaidhorsemag 2024 12 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024
Publisher & Editor-in-Chief Managing Editor Art Direction Senior Editor Advertising Subscriptions & Plaidcast Manager Plaidcast Production Web Manager
LEFT: Four Aces and Brian Feigus win the $40,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby during HITS Ocala Winter Circuit

In a busy world full of unrelenting demands, we find stillness in the barn. Stillness that allows us to be present with our loved ones and our horses.

Make each second spent in your barn, a cherished memory.

| (855) 957-8255


FOR LONGTIME READERS of this publication, you have heard me say ad nauseum that we need to be more helpful, more kind, more collaborative, and better people.

We can make everyone feel welcome. We can encourage everyone to be lifelong learners and elevate where they are in the sport. We can respect where everyone is at this moment in their own progression.

We also simply need to be tough.

To accomplish anything of value in this lifetime, we have to be more impervious to criticism than ever. It used to be that critics had to write you a letter or call you on the phone or stand up and speak to you. Now, they don’t need much. Wrapped in their hurt, 24/7, no matter their location or mental place, people can attack.

Most of you already know that I’m very sensitive. I have grown and matured and cry way less than I used to, and I hope to never lose how easily I laugh, love, and invest energy in horses, people, and honestly pretty much every animal I

meet. I write this as I am still in the recoil from an online pierce through my armor. I’m angry, I’m frustrated, I’m hurt, and then I’m mad that I’m angry, frustrated, and hurt.

I feel for me, but mostly I feel for young people to whom we are exposing all this negativity and hatred. The anger and hatred will only serve to slow down progress. These posts will make them focus on the wrong things—the stu that doesn’t matter—instead of what we know counts. We will scare people and make them think that community and love and risk aren’t worth it.

We have to all work together to help build ourselves and each other to be stronger. There is no avoiding the negative in our lives. We will all be emotionally hurt so much in our careers, by the people we love, the horses we love, and all the people who are bitter that they can’t hang.

Today, I hope you read this and share one coping mechanism with someone around you that helped you emerge from

a bad situation. Whether it’s something small—someone shared a kind word when you really needed it—or something large, like that surprise horse who changed your life.

Let’s talk about what made things better. Let’s talk about constructive improvements. Let’s experience life and develop callouses that protect us and also are perforated enough to let beauty in. Let’s appreciate all we have going on and celebrate with our community. Invite people, include others, and enhance your circle. We all have so many compliments to give and so much healing to impart!

Follow me on Instagram at @piperklemm

18 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024
Piper and Sundae at Kent School in Kent, CT









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Helping Horse People Find Their Equestrian Dream Property

LEA MCCULLOUGH IS a licensed real estate agent and equestrian with an extensive and diverse background in both real estate and horses. Passionate about the beauty of horse farms in particular—and about the people who are looking to buy or sell them—McCullough brings a thorough and compassionate process when matching people with the equestrian property of their dreams through her business, Distinctive Horse Properties.


After fourteen years of owning a boarding facility, McCullough found she was frequently fielding questions about footing, arenas, addressing mud in paddocks, proper management of horses, etc.

“Then, when I was looking for a transitional career, the thought occurred to me that I could really help people new to the area understand what to look for in soil, land, topography, buildings, arenas, etc. So, I first challenged myself to get my real estate license and then started serving those with horse farms,” she says.

“At first, it started with listing farms for sale and being able to market on the MLS with the appropriate lingo, understanding the value of the land, and helping get the right price. Then, it led to helping those moving to a new area understand how to manage the land and help offer a horse-friendly perspective to real estate. What I didn’t expect was finding such an important niche in real estate and how important it is to buyers and sellers to have a partner on their side to serve in that capacity.”

McCullough’s college degrees in marketing, public relations, and business also proved

beneficial in her new real estate business.

“I’ve spent most of my career promoting and advertising in some form or fashion. Taking my passion for horse farms and layering in my advertising and marketing talents was a natural fit for me. I love telling the story of a farm and painting a picture that attracts just the right person.”

Finding a farm for a buyer is truly fun for me, but the honor of listing a farm for sale is where true magic can be formed. The honor of telling a farm’s story and its history is where I feel I shine as an agent,” McCullough adds.


With her long history of horses, McCullough is the perfect real estate agent to help horse owners find the horse farm that’s right for them.

“Looking to get into the equestrian life in Aiken, SC? I’m your girl!” says McCullough. “I love everything about horse farms. Their functionality, beauty, the infrastructure—a horse farm always has my heart. But land in general is fascinating to me. Learning about topography, the best use of the land, and

“I love everything about horse farms. Their functionality, beauty, the infrastructure—a horse farm always has my heart… I love telling the story of a farm and painting a picture that attracts just the right person.”
22 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024
RIGHT: McCullough and Resolution, a KWPN mare at their 2018 Silver Medal win BELOW: McCullough and her newest partner, Django Kerguelen
March/April 2024 THE PLAID HORSE 23

developing the dream farm is definitely my second favorite niche,” McCullough says.

“I’m down for helping people with any kind of real estate. However, helping someone find their personal space to have their horses at home is my favorite. Boarding facilities and commercial equestrian spaces are another area I thrive in. Since I owned and managed a boarding facility for fourteen years, helping clients see the value of the barn’s infrastructure comes innately.”

But not everyone’s dream farm looks the same. When a client first comes to McCullough looking for a farm, she starts with a foundational set of questions that helps her uncover that vision.

“We each have different needs, riding disciplines, and priorities. Everybody’s dream farm has a different vibe. There are private farms where trail riding is the priority, equestrian communities with all the amenities, to boarding facilities where my clients can run a business,” says McCullough.

There are also some important and unique considerations she takes into consideration when helping someone look for their dream property.

“Since I owned and managed a boarding facility for fourteen years, helping clients see the value of the barn’s infrastructure comes innately.”

“How large do you need the barn to be? What are your pasture needs? Does the arena have a base or is it a native soil arena? Acreage, location, drainage, trailer accessibility, and water availability are all important factors as well. Some prefer local trails accessibility, while some proximity to show facilities. After all of those considerations are discovered, then we can talk about the house. I’ve found over the years that true horse lovers talk about the horse facilities first and the house second,” McCullough adds.


McCullough is licensed in Washington State and South Carolina. Currently, she resides in Aiken, SC, and helps people from all over the country find their slice of happy in the south.

“I live in one of the most beautiful equestrian communities in the county, and wouldn’t have it any other way,” she says. “It’s a different way of life in Aiken County!”

Not only is McCullough a licensed real estate agent, but she is also a Professional Certified Life Coach as well.

“I have my PCC (Professional Coaching Certification) with the International Coaching Federation, and I bring a level of coaching to real estate. Buying and selling real estate is one of the top five most stressful activities you will ever do in your life, so you want someone by your side to support you when things get stressful. You want someone you can lean on for support, help sort through those emotions, and help you find out what is most important when feeling pressure in a transaction,” says McCullough. “One of my skillsets is helping my clients find their voice, prioritize their needs, and get the outcome that is most important to them. Being a coach definitely comes in handy when things feel chaotic!”

“I help my clients gain all the information they need to make a decision and feel 100% comfortable with their choice. Integrity is important to me, and ethical, compassionate treatment is my top priority. Finding the right farm for a buyer or helping a seller market their farm by telling its story is what I set out to achieve with every client.”

To learn more about Lea McCullough, visit and


McCullough’s extensive background with horses is what eventually led her to the career and business she has today.

“I’ve been riding since I was 8 years old, and over the past 43 years, I feel like I’ve done it all,” Lea McCullough says. Her first introduction into competitive riding was saddle seat in the Arabian Circuits. In 1982, she placed in the top ten at the Canadian Nationals AOTR in saddle seat.

From there, McCullough transitioned into the hunter/jumper world for several years: “I enjoyed some amazing horses during that season of my life. During high school, I even got roped into trying rodeo, and played around with barrel racing, goat tying, and team penning.”

After college, McCullough says she took a bit of a break from horses until moving to the Pacific Northwest. “I landed on quaint Vashon Island in the Puget Sound and I met a special trainer there who introduced me to the world of eventing—that sparked a whole new love for horses again,” she says.

For the next decade, McCullough continued with three-day eventing. “I truly loved and enjoyed that community. After a very hard fall during competition, I slowly started gravitating toward just dressage. As years ticked by, I found my passion for the preciseness and beauty of helping a horse learn to dance,” says McCullough.

In 2013, McCullough earned a USDF Bronze Medal on a mare named Hollywood Diva. “That accomplishment felt like walking on the moon! In 2018, I then earned my Silver Medal on another Dutch mare named Zoey, who’s show name was Resolution. I thought she hung the moon and stars. At this point, I knew I wanted to ride dressage indefinitely. The next several years, I had the honor of being partnered to a Hanoverian mare named Sunshine. She was fire to ride, and a joy to train,” McCullough adds.

Today, McCullough rides an 18 hh Selle Français gelding named Django, with whom she hopes to earn a USDF Gold Medal. “I have ridden competitively through the Intermediate II and I’m looking forward to putting the Grand Prix test together. But honestly, the training and the partnership is the most rewarding part for me—the test is just a reflection of those goals. In due time, we will get there!” says McCullough.

24 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024
McCullough and Sunshine, a Hanoverian mare, competed through I-1


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PEOPLE FEED OIL TO HORSES for many reasons: to provide a healthy source of calories not involving sugar and starch, to increase weight or the luster and shine of their coats, and to help bind medications or supplements together in their feed. But not all oils are created equal when it comes to moderating in ammatory and immune-related conditions. Only Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-in ammatory properties while Omega-6 and Omega-9 actually create in ammation.

In the six years I’ve had my mare, I tried every oil and supplement trying to improve her coat. I was shocked that after one week using OM3GA her coat was glistening. Her overall physical appearance was more muscular and fit, and she developed dapples for the first time in her life.”

28 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024


Q: If my horse is already getting Omega-3 fatty acids from flaxseed, why would he need OM3GA?

A: Flax is high in ALA, one form of Omega-3 fatty acid. But the body has to convert ALA into EPA/DHA to derive any anti-inflammatory benefit, and this conversion process is extremely inefficient. Until now, the only way to supplement EPA/DHA was from fish oil. Providing your horse with a direct source of EPA/DHA is the most effective way to provide anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids.

Q: Why is OM3GA better than fish oil?

A: Fish oil is beneficial due to its EPA/DHA content. But horses aren’t designed to eat fish, and they don’t like the smell/taste. Moreover, because fish are often high in ocean contaminants, that means so is their oil. OM3GA uses microbrewed algae to harvest the same EPA/DHA found in fish oil, but because it is clarified and distilled, it has no smell/taste, it is healthier for horses to eat, and it contains no environmental pollutants.

Q: Do horses like the taste of OM3GA?

A: Yes, because there is no smell/taste! Our oil undergoes an intense clarification and distillation process to remove any smell or taste traditionally associated with marine oils.

March/April 2024 THE PLAID HORSE 29

Since starting our horses on OM3GA, I have noticed a positive change in the condition of their skin and coats. Not only are they shinier, but OM3GA boosts their immune system making them less susceptible to skin irritations. As an added bonus, the horses enjoy the taste, which makes them more willing to eat certain medicines or supplements they would otherwise try to avoid.”


The horse’s normal grazing diet contains an Omega-3 ratio upwards of five times the amount of Omega-6 fatty acids. Equine feed and oil products are deceptively high in Omega-6/Omega-9, which throws the desired omega ratio out of balance. The reason why these unhealthy fats are pervasive in equine feed and supplements is because they are cheaper than the healthier Omega-3 fatty acids. Common fats from corn, soy, coconut, canola and rice bran, often labeled as “vegetable oil,” can contain over 55 times the amount of Omega-6 to Omega-3.

To complicate matters, not even all Omega-3 fatty acids are created equal. ALA is a type of Omega-3 fatty acid found in plants, but EPA and DHA are types of Omega-3 fatty acids that come from fish oil. Though horses often get sufficient ALA from forages and grain, ALA must be converted into EPA and DHA in the body in order to have any beneficial effects. This conversion process is extremely inefficient, which is why horses benefit from the direct supplementation of EPA and DHA. Though the anti-inflammatory properties of EPA and DHA are beneficial for horses, fish is not a natural part of their diet.


OM3GA is a revolutionary vegan Omega-3 fatty acid supplement that

harvests EPA and DHA from algae instead of from fish, since fish oil can smell and taste bad, and it contains marine pollutants. Combined with all natural Vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) and sea buckthorn oil, OM3GA will rebalance your horse’s Omega-3 fatty acid ratio, reduce oxidative stress, help reduce inflammation in the gut and joints, help regulate insulin, boost the immune system, and support a lustrous coat, mane, and tail. “OM3GA is the only vegan source of EPA and DHA in the horse world. It also represents collaboration and innovation among several entities that we worked with to create this oil, including the algae microbrewery and the biotech company that harvests and clarifies the EPA and DHA,” says Elizabeth Ehrlich, founder of Equine Elixirs.

Most omega oils are extremely misleading when it comes to the ratio of Omega-3 vs Omega-6 and Omega-9 fatty acids. Unlike OM3GA, the majority of other products are heavily unbalanced

towards Omega-6 and Omega-9, when in reality it’s the Omega-3 that your horse needs. Though some Omega-6 and Omega-9 are needed for your horse to mount an inflammatory response to fight against disease, injury, and infection, processed grain diets are exponentially higher in these proinflammatory fatty acids, causing chronic inflammation linked to major equine health issues including laminitis, insulin resistance, metabolic disorders, and allergies.

“One of the things I hear most frequently from riders and trainers when discussing the topic of omega fatty acids is that they never knew there was a difference between the different kinds of omegas,” says Ehrlich. “But once people learn how to understand the labels and assess the breakdown and percentages among types of omega fatty acids as well as the source of the oil, they are shocked to learn that they are often feeding primarily pro-inflammatory products high in soy, corn, canola and coconut.”

OM3GA is more concentrated than other oils, providing a greater health benefit even at lesser volumes. The horses love eating it and I appreciate that it is the only vegan source of EPA and DHA, which means the horses get the same anti-inflammatory benefits as fish oil, but in a form more suitable for their digestive system. My horses are sound and comfortable and they look absolutely amazing.”

30 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024
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How Nicolette Merle-Smith is carrying on the legacy of her family farm by producing top-quality, amateur-friendly horses

Fortune Cookie at the Rocking Horse HT in January 2021 PHOTO: XPRESS FOTO 34 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024

NICOLETTE MERLE-SMITH has always had a place in the saddle. As the daughter of well-known horsemen Grosvenor and Rosemarie Merle-Smith, the Mongol Derby veteran developed a strong foundation with horses at a young age. Her first love has always been foxhunting, but she also rides and trains for eventing, hunters, jumpers, and dressage.

“As a kid and young teen, my mom would have me ride the sale horses because people were more likely to buy horses a kid could ride, but it was a really great experience for me. I rode loads of horses,” Merle-Smith tells The Plaid Horse. Her parents were importing horses from Ireland as well as PMU babies from Canada. Merle-Smith found her first big success on the offspring of a PMU mare named M-S Reddy Fox. She and the Appaloosa/Thoroughbred cross rode and

competed in several disciplines including first level dressage, preliminary eventing, hunter derbies, and foxhunting first flight.

“He wasn’t the type that was going to be an upper-level horse, but he put my name on the map,” says Merle-Smith of the gelding. “Together, we got my lowest dressage score to date, a 20.5.” M-S Reddy Fox went on to inspire the annual Safe Harbor Award, which is given to the most amateur-friendly horse in the Young Event Horse Series, before being sold to the UK in 2009.

Following her success on M-S Reddy Fox, Merle-Smith purchased the large pony Ganymede as a six-year-old. The Connemara/Thoroughbred cross took

March/April 2024 THE PLAID HORSE 35
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Nicolette Merle-Smith at home with Chinggis Khan; Raven Sky earning his stallion license; a young Concerto Grosso; Chinggis Khan competing in the Young Horse Show Series

her to the CCI* Eventing level, and in 2012 they competed together in their first Intermediate.

“She is only 14.2 hands, but she would jump anything I pointed her at,” she says. Produced by Merle-Smith, Ganymede went on to win the Theodore O’Connor Trophy for the USEA Pony of the Year title twice with her new Junior/Young Rider owner, and the Tre Awain Halfbred Hall of Fame Award (American Connemara Pony Society), for a lifetime of competition achievement in the United States Equestrian Federation. “It took me a long time, but that pony made me believe in myself,” she says. “I truly believe now that I can produce one heck of a horse.” And now, she’s added breeding them to her resume.


Merle-Smith began her breeding journey at her family’s Merle-Smith Sporthorses in 2013 with her first ever homebred, Fortune Cookie.

While Merle-Smith was competing one of her mother’s homebreds on cross country day at Red Hills Horse Trials in Tallahassee, FL, in March 2013, Cookie was born. She won her division that weekend and went to celebrate the victory at a Chinese restaurant. “At the end of dinner, the waitress handed me a fortune cookie. I said, ‘That’s her name! Fortune Cookie!’” The 15.3 hh chestnut mare is special to Merle-Smith not only because she is her first homebred, but also because she is the daughter of her famous and beloved Ganymede. She is sired by her mother’s late stallion, Concerto Grosso, a Holsteiner with whom Merle-Smith did a bit of competing in eventing as well.

“I like starting them from the very moment they hit the ground,” she says.

“Teaching them to lead, teaching them how to pick up their feet, getting on a horse trailer, how to stand on the cross ties. Everything starts from the very beginning.”

“Cookie isn’t what I expected when I bred Ganymede to Concerto, but she is exactly what I needed. She is an actual jack of all trades, and literal master of them all,” adds Merle-Smith. Fortune Cookie is a wonderful lesson horse, novice eventer, amateur hunter, second level dressage horse, and very safe foxhunter. “She is one of the most fun horses I have ever ridden, and she will never be for sale, but I will offer custom foals from her because there needs to be more of these horses in this world,” says Merle-Smith.


In 2012, a friend of Merle-Smith’s introduced her to equestrian legend Denny Emerson. Emerson was teaching lessons to a student who rode an offspring of Concerto Grosso. Merle-Smith told him that they had the stallion back at the farm, and they bonded over his wonderful temperament and talent. One day, Emerson called her up and asked her to come look at the coming two-year-old Thoroughbred colt he had acquired.

“It was February, so he was scruffy and really didn’t look like anything particularly special at the time,” says Merle-Smith. “But I trusted Denny’s eye.” Emerson sent Merle-Smith the colt on the condition that Merle-Smith would raise him and prepare him for a career as a breeding stallion. Merle-Smith has raised Raven Sky to be an exceptional breeding stallion and a fierce competitor, and in 2022, Raven Sky was awarded his temporary license with the ISR/Oldenburg NA and the American Warmblood Registry.

In 2019, Merle-Smith and her husband Joel were visiting New England for a wedding and visited Emerson on his farm. He gave them a farm tour that ended in his office where he gave her the ultimate present. “He sat me down and put Raven Sky’s Jockey Club papers on the desk and said, ‘You’ve fed him, you’ve housed him, you’ve put the time in. I think we’re even now,’” says Merle-Smith. “Just like that... he just signed the papers over to me. I still pinch myself every day.”

Emerson encouraged her to get the stallion a Facebook page to attract attention and, with Emerson’s promotion, Raven Sky’s book was completely filled for the year. Raven Sky’s foals are now starting under saddle. “There’s something really special about being able to say I’ve ridden the mare, the stallion, and now the offspring,” says Merle-Smith.


In 2018 Merle-Smith bred her favorite field hunter, an off-track Thoroughbred named Empress Lisa, to Concerto Grosso, which produced a colt. “He was supposed to be a filly for me to keep, but I figured he’d be a nice gelding to eventually sell.” Shortly after Chinggis Khan was born, the Merle-Smiths lost his sire to EPM. Before he was gelded, Merle-Smith’s mother suggested he remain intact to see if he could continue Concerto’s legacy.

“He’s truly the epitome of our breeding program, and has just never had an ugly day in his life!” says Merle-Smith. In 2022, Chinggis was also awarded his temporary breeding license with ISR/ Oldenburg NA. A temporary license must be made permanent by competing in recognized horse shows within two years of licensing. Merle-Smith has plans to compete in eventing in 2024 to obtain these permanent licenses.

In 2019, in order to round out her collection of stallions from which to choose, Merle-Smith couldn’t help but bring in another young stallion to her string, a 2017 Connemara stallion named BSF Golden Snitch: “After having my amazing Super Pony [Ganymede], I’ve always wanted to breed Connemaras and crosses.”

Snitch’s damsire is Ganymede’s sire, so he is very special to her breeding program. Among foxhunting and eventing, Snitch is also learning how to be a driving pony. “Who knows, maybe you’ll see us in single pony driving events!” MerleSmith says with a laugh.

Merle-Smith breeds horses with the primary goal of producing lovely, good-moving, attractive, well-bred amateur horses for any discipline. Her three stallions, Raven Sky, BSF Golden Snitch, and Chinggis Khan, are all slightly different in their movement, body types, and more subtle characteristics, but they all have incredible brains and pass that on to their offspring.

“I am continually fascinated by the outcomes of certain pairings, and I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. I hope to breed and produce horses that people love and enjoy,” she says. “And I want them to come back to me for their next horse.”

Merle-Smith has a stallion for everyone, and will continue to breed her favorite mares, producing offspring that demonstrate all of the attributes she hopes to foster under the Merle-Smith Sporthorses name.

For more on Merle-Smith Sporthorses and their stallions standing at stud, please visit

36 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024


Creating Innovative and Elegant Arenas with a Family Touch and a Personalized Feel

WE HAVE CUSTOM saddles and boots, and our halters and saddle pads are monogrammed. Our half pads are shimmable, our barn mates are decked out in matching jackets, and the barn aisles are lined with matching tack trunks emblazoned with our barn’s logo. Equestrians love a personal touch while ensuring our equipment ts our horses and ourselves.

Why stop at our tack and accessories when we could personalize something as important as our arenas? WeCover structures are personalized arenas that create a uniquely peaceful environment for both horses and riders. They are the ultimate in equestrian customization.

“Fabric roofs are new to equestrians. With that natural light coming in…performance horses and riders have improved.”
38 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024
An WeCover arena in Pennsylvania
March/April 2024 THE PLAID HORSE 39



WeCover is a family-owned company that began creating custom structures for farms and livestock over 20 years ago. Operations manager Kris Tenhage works out of WeCover’s Ontario headquarters, and he stresses their company’s emphasis on listening to the client to design “one-off products,” from turnkey constructions to providing the frame and materials if a client chooses to use their own contractor.

Whether the client is a barn owner, property owner, trainer, or in some other role, the team at WeCover will ensure clients feel heard and have the freedom to make a structure truly their own, often working alongside equine architects. WeCover also shares their list of trusted vendors for essentials, such as footing, and they remain available to clients for consultations and questions years after the structure is complete.

Listening to the client includes matching existing aesthetics, adjusting to riding discipline’s needs, and fitting with the local climate. The cohesiveness between the WeCover structure and existing structures on the property has been a selling point for many clients. The options are nearly endless in choosing ventilation, arena sizes, doors, windows, and both exterior and interior designs.

While your custom WeCover may blend perfectly with your other structures on your farm, it will also be one with the climate, regardless of where you live. The WeCover’s fabric roof has a built-in UVA/UVB inhibitor that allows riders and horses to enjoy the sunlight while being protected by the harmful sun rays. It also responds to the climate. The roof is a translucent fabric that will shed the snow, is quiet in the rain, and is lit by natural sunlight all throughout the day.

The roof maintains a comfortable climate, acting very much like a shade tree in the summer time, and providing protection from the elements in the winter. Without heat or air conditioning, the roof’s material maintains a comfortable climate inside.

Those in warmer climates will enjoy the increased airflow through their arena, keeping it cooler; while those in a colder climate may opt for a steel roof insulated WeCover arena to protect from the cold.

Summer rides will feel cool while winter rides feel warm without being stuffy. Basically, you ride in an arena that is warmer when it is cold outside, and cooler when the weather is warm, because the fabric roof does not require insulation.


The word “fabric” can be a bit misleading. The fabric used to make the roofs in WeCover structures is a high density polyethylene material designed specifically for buildings and structural design, and comes with a 20-year warranty. It is also flame-retardant and fire-resistant—a major selling point in the equestrian industry.

The fabric itself requires little to no maintenance, but barn owners can choose to pressure wash it if desired. In general, notes Tenhage, these roofs are “maintenance free.” He stresses the importance of good ventilation, which aids in longevity and lowers maintenance. Ventilation options are discussed during the design process that include your climate and your aesthetics. The result feels as though you have just the right amount of fresh air indoors.

“Fabric roofs are new to equestrians,” says WeCover’s Equestrian Specialist Tricia Kraybill. Accidents can happen on

any arena roof, such as a leak or a fallen tree. In those cases, WeCover simply replaces that single panel, allowing it to remain “clean and consistent” with the rest of the roof, rather than having one panel that clearly does not fit with the rest. In addition to the way in which the structure is built, the waterproof barrier on the fabric also protects your footing and avoids any rain drops landing on an unsuspecting horse or rider. Your footing is also protected from drying out from the sun. Many steel roofs are built with tiny fasteners that have the ability to corrode and leak, causing a host of issues that are avoided with the WeCover structure and fabric.

Footing companies are aware that Western riders, dressage riders, and hunter/jumpers all have a preferred type of footing for their discipline, and the custom structure WeCover builds for you will also take your discipline into account. For instance, Western riders need a higher ceiling, and straight side

climate, WeCover
arenas 40 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024
for those who
in a cold
makes insulated steel roof

columns are preferred for hunter/jumpers as opposed to tapered columns. Tapered columns require riders to avoid 6-8 feet of the structure when jumping. Because of this attention to detail and the intended use of the arena, riders are able to get the optimal use out of the space in their WeCover arena.

Internal support columns are not needed for reinforcement in the middle of WeCover’s structure due to the lightweight fabric roof. Stalls, offices, and other elements can be added all under one roof, and the span of your riding area can be up to 160 feet wide. The steel structure is made of hot dip galvanized steel, with a warranty of 25 years. In an equestrian arena, however, the process of hot dip galvanizing the steel can ensure your arena will last a lifetime. Other companies galvanize the exterior tubing of the steel that can lead to corrosion at welds, but WeCover takes further steps to protect against corrosion by using the hot dip process to coat both the inside and

outside of their North American steel.

While the roof can have specific options like sectional panels for climates with high wind, such as Gulf Coast farms, the frames are also adjusted for places that are humid or expect a lot of snow. The design to build process is relatively shorter than more traditional buildings, and your specific products arrive at your farm in panels, ready to install and build simultaneously with other construction.


WeCover structures are green in two ways, both in their sustainability and cost-saving opportunities. Steel roofs can make an arena warm in the summer and cold in the winter, but the fabric WeCover roof provides an environment that makes horses and riders comfortable year round. Kraybill adds that the fabric is “considered a green product.” There is no need for artificial lighting during the day thanks to the natural sunlight that is filtered through the mildew-resistant

coated fabric roof, and lighting in the evenings costs less than with standard roofs. Electric bills are significantly lower with natural light coming in through the roof, regardless of the weather during the day.

These increased savings in operating cost can add up to significant savings over the lifetime of your WeCover arena. The ability to replace a single roof panel if needed, protecting the lifespan of your footing, and the longevity of the fabric and steel structure also contribute to WeCover being sustainable and cost-saving.


The ambience created by natural light and soft acoustics from the fabric are ideal for both horses and riders. Shadows are eliminated, as well as loud noises. Fresh air flows through the arena.

WeCover got its start designing structures for livestock. Farmers noticed that the livestock could tell when it was day and night in ways they had not been able to sense previously, and this increased their productivity in regard to dairy products. This discovery led WeCover to expand to the equestrian world. Kraybill says that there “is a dopamine enhancer for horses and riders with that natural light coming in…performance horses and riders have improved.” Therapeutic riding students, both those with special needs and veterans, have echoed this to WeCover.

Riders and horses are at ease with no need for electrical lighting during the day, minimal lighting at night, and a shadow-free, quiet environment. WeCover provides an environment designed for peaceful rides, and happy horses and riders. And the structure will feel as personal and customized as your saddle.

To learn more, visit

A Connecticut arena—curtains allow for airflow through the space on nice days, and protection from the elements on cold or rainy days
March/April 2024 THE PLAID HORSE 41
Large windows and a skylight at the ridge provide great lighting for this steel roof arena in Victoria, BC


A Legacy of Quality Equine Nutrition Products

LIFE DATA LABS, INC. is a trusted name in the equestrian community thanks to their product, Farrier’s Formula, the number-one recommended hoof supplement by farriers in the U.S.

In 1973, Frank Gravlee, DVM, MS, CNS, founded Life Data Labs, Inc. with the purpose of studying the nutrient requirements of horses. He set out to determine the requirements through laboratory testing of over one hundred horses’ blood and feed, then re-testing at intervals to determine the exact nutrients and the amounts needed for each animal. During the initial process, it quickly became clear that many severe problems could be corrected through supplementation.

Dr. Frank Gravlee’s son, Scott Gravlee, DVM, CNS, practiced veterinary medicine for over two decades before joining his father at Life Data Labs and continues his father’s legacy by further focusing on equine nutrition research. Dr. Scott’s role in new product development also allows him to help horse owners understand their horse’s nutritional requirements. His father’s vision included being a steward of the environment. Dr. Frank purchased a coffee bagging machine, modified it for Life Data products, and packaged products in vacuum-sealed and nitrogen-flushed bags. This not only preserved the nutrients but also created a lower impact on the environment compared to the natural resources required to produce plastic buckets along with disposal concerns in the landfills. He also built a solar energy field that produces sufficient electricity for the entire facility, including manufacturing,

for net zero energy requirements.

“Life Data Labs does not introduce products that are not based on research and field tested,” says Dr. Scott Gravlee. Blood samples from a group of affected horses are analyzed in the laboratory and are compared to blood samples of horses not experiencing the same issues, such as insulin resistance. If the blood sample results indicate that nutrition may help, a formulation is developed. There is then up to two years of field testing before the company is prepared to market and sell the product.

Life Data documents where the ingredients are sourced and retains the ability to recall any products through a tracking system. Fortunately, there has never been a need to recall any of their products, but a system is in place should that ever occur.


Regardless of discipline, “horses are metabolically the same…even between pasture horses and working horses,” says Dr. Gravlee. They may have different caloric needs, but the metabolic issues they face due to poor nutrition, the quality of their grass, over-supplementation, and other health issues are all similar.

A significant issue with horses now is over-supplementation, says Dr. Gravlee, and there is a “metabolic cost to feeding too many supplements.”

Life Data’s specialty products can address many metabolic problems horses commonly experience. Their latest line of supplements and nutrition products are years in the making. Laboratory blood sample testing and nutrient formulation are followed by field testing while making some adjustments as needed. The inhouse lab at Life Data focuses on mineral testing of whole blood with ICP-MS equipment. Life Data has developed three specialty products from this research: Life Data Lamina Formula for laminitis, Life Data Adrenal Formula for horses with Cushing’s, and Insulin R Formula to support horses with insulin resistance.

Per Dr. Gravlee, “Approximately 10% of horses in the United States have been diagnosed with insulin resistance.” Most horses are obese for a period before insulin resistance builds. Early warning signs can consist of abnormal weight gain or weight loss, increased or excessive water consumption, loss of stamina and muscle tone, tendency to develop laminitis or colic, abdominal bloating, and increased

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Dr. Scott Gravlee, DVM, CNS and his father, Dr. Frank Gravlee, DVM, MS, CNS, who founded Life Data Labs, Inc., in 1973
“Life Data Labs, Inc. only introduces products that are fully researched.”
March/April 2024 THE PLAID HORSE 45

blood triglyceride levels, he notes. Horses with insulin resistance are more likely to colic, face laminitis, and be diagnosed with equine metabolic syndrome. Insulin resistant horses are often apathetic, lazy, and not alert.

To create Insulin R Formula, Life Data Labs compared mineral blood testing of a data set of horses with insulin resistance to horses that were not affected. A supplement was formulated to bring down the high test values and supplement the low values. Signs that administering the Insulin R Formula is helping begin when horse owners notice a more active, alert horse that starts to lose weight. The nutrients in the product aid in boosting the metabolism. It is important to note that Insulin R does not replace any medications that are prescribed by an individual horse’s veterinarian, such as thyroid hormone supplementation.

The Insulin R Formula will aid in maintaining a healthy weight, balancing metabolism, and providing overall health support to combat issues that result from insulin resistance. Nutritional support for the connective tissues of the ligaments, skin, and hair coat should be provided by giving Farrier’s Formula Double Strength or Farrier’s Formula DS Plus Joint along with Life Data Insulin R Formula.

The process of developing the Life Data Adrenal Formula was similar. It is designed for horses diagnosed with Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), otherwise known as Cushing’s Disease. PPID occurs when the middle lobe of the pituitary gland increases in size leading to excessive ACTH production. Dr. Gravlee explained that the pituitary gland “produces excessive levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which in turn stimulates the adrenal gland to over-produce several hormones, including cortisol. The resulting hormone imbalances cause the symptoms associated with PPID. Horses diagnosed with PPID are immunocompromised, and more likely to have hoof abscesses, dental issues, and repeated bouts of laminitis.” There are also coat issues associated with PPID, such as not shedding a winter coat, coarse hair, or an unusual amount of hair growth.

Both PPID and Insulin Resistant horses will need the advice of their veterinarian for treatment and appropriate feeding practices.

Dr. Gravlee says that about 10-15% of adult horses have been affected by laminitis. Laminitis can often be caused by metabolic issues (EMS, insulin resistance, or PPID), grain overload, sepsis from colic, sepsis from a uterine infection, or concussion (Road Founder). Horses with laminitis will position their forelimbs “out in front of the chest and the hind limbs are positioned under the abdomen to alleviate the amount of weight on the affected limbs,” he adds.

Life Data Lab’s Lamina Formula is designed to provide nutrients that support horses with acute or chronic laminitis by promoting improvement in the blood flow within the capillaries of the inner hoof wall and reducing inflammation.

A case of laminitis in healthy and dense hooves is likely to be less severe than if the hooves have existing poor structure. The nutrition provided by a quality hoof supplement can help reduce the severity of a future bout of laminitis. The research behind Life Data’s well-known Farrier’s Formula and the Lamina Formula ensures that your horse’s hooves are receiving the highest quality ingredients and nutrients. Fed together, horses prone to laminitis will have stronger hooves, better blood flow in the hoof wall, and likely fewer future bouts of laminitis. The nutrients in both supplements work in tandem to give your horse healthy hooves.

It is important, however, to note that feeding both joint and hoof supplements together can result in too much sulfur in a horse’s diet leading to a deterioration of hoof quality. Excessive sulfur in a horse’s diet can “block the proper absorption of copper,” notes Dr. Gravlee, which, “along with Vitamin C, is necessary for the formation of collagen to build the healthy connective tissue essential for strong hooves and joints.”


It can take months to years, but metabolic issues can be addressed with the right nutrients. The product line from Life Data Labs, Inc. can help address issues that are rooted in metabolic problems.

Given that his father was very particular about how their products were produced, Dr. Gravlee says Life Data Labs, Inc. continues to produce supplements and nutritional products that are proven to be effective, ensuring that his father’s vision continues. Life Data continues to formulate supplements with quality ingredients that are derived from evidence-based research. The trusted name and legacy truly matter to everyone at Life Data Labs, Inc.

To learn more about Life Data Labs, Inc., visit

46 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024
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With over 40 years in business, Peterson Smith Equine Hospital and Complete Care offers top service to their equine clients in Ocala

SINCE THE EARLY 1980S, Peterson Smith Equine Hospital and Complete Care has been providing premiere equine veterinary services to the Ocala, FL, area. It all began when Dr. John Peterson and Dr. Johnny Mac Smith combined their individual practices to form what has now become one of the most successful and recognized names in equine veterinary medicine.

From the start, the practice grew rapidly and quickly expanded by adding more veterinarians and opening a surgical and referral hospital. Today, Peterson Smith has grown to a team of 27 veterinarians, with the number varying slightly each year due to their dynamic internship and residency programs.

With the recent retirement of three of the original partners, the practice welcomes a new generation of leadership to continue the exceptional service Peterson Smith has always provided to the equine community.

“Since our inception, Peterson Smith has always stayed on the cutting edge. As the demographics of the Marion County equine community have changed, so has

our practice. While we still hold on to the foundational values that made us into an industry leader, we are also a more progressive practice, adapting to industry needs as we prepare the practice for the next 40 years of success,” Ryan Meeks, DVM, a partner at Peterson Smith tells The Plaid Horse.


Peterson Smith categorizes their services under ambulatory care, internal medicine, reproduction, sports medicine, and surgery. They offer an extensive variety of services under these categories… everything from routine herd health services, to complex emergency surgeries, and everything in between.

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Consisting of five barns, two surgical suites, examination rooms, full-service laboratory, pharmacy, and administrative offices, the referral hospital has been providing exceptional patient care since 1983. They provide 24/7 care, 365-days-ayear support to not only Peterson Smith veterinarians, but also a multitude of referring veterinarians. Services provided at the hospital range from simple outpatient procedures to some of the most complex surgical procedures in the industry. The hospital also offers various advanced imaging services including the recent addition of a state of the art Qalibra CT.

“Peterson Smith is a full-service equine hospital that has the capability to treat or diagnose any patient. From drafts to minis, foals to broodmares, and from racehorses to Western performance horses, we see them all,” says Andrew Smith, DVM, PhD, DACVS-LA, CVMMP. “The hospital has the staff and equipment necessary to treat virtually any case. Beyond our full-time specialists, we also collaborate with specialists outside our hospital in areas such as ophthalmology and dentistry. Those collaborations not only help us provide a valuable service to our clients, but also make us more well-rounded clinicians outside our chosen specialties while doing what is right for the horse.”


While the clinic does have a physical hospital, veterinarians also make ambulatory

farm calls, so your horses don’t have to leave their property or the local show facilities to receive top-notch care.

Dr. Adam Cayot, one of Peterson Smith’s Associate Veterinarians, is the on-site veterinarian for the winter circuit at HITS Ocala, so even at the horse show your horse is covered by the practice.

“My role at the show is to provide any medical service that may be needed to the equine athletes that are competing,” says Cayot. “This ranges from routine vaccinations to pre-purchase exams, treating sick or injured athletes, occasional emergencies, and anything in between. We are equipped to provide a full complement of onsite services to appropriately support athletes at every level of competition.”

The practice understands that the industry, the area, clientele, and equine-related activities are constantly changing. At home, the training facility, or the show barn, Peterson Smith’s diverse ambulatory team is equipped with the resources necessary to provide premier veterinary care to Ocala’s thriving equine industry.


Peterson Smith also has a full equine fertility center for broodmares, stallions, and foals. Established in 1999, the AFC sits on a 100-acre facility in Summerfield, FL.

“Our goal at the Advanced Fertility Center is to work with our clients to maximize the reproductive potential of their animals, while being a place where all who stop by feel like part of

the Peterson Smith family,” says Melissa Prell, DVM, MD, Dipl. ACT, the leading veterinarian at the AFC.

Breeders ranging from those who breed for a living to the hobbyist are able to customize their mare’s experience by either letting Peterson Smith handle the whole process, or choosing when to bring them in as they need. The center offers most services on an in-patient or out-patient basis to fit the needs of the client.

From routine stallion and mare services to its completely in-house ICSI program, the center offers breeders every option available to accomplish their goals. With a thriving embryo transfer program, the center also maintains the largest recipient mare herd in the eastern United States.


Staying true to their mission of helping develop the next generation of veterinarians, Peterson Smith also acts as a teaching hospital. They are one of very few private practices to offer a surgical residency program. They also offer internships focused on ambulatory practice, reproduction, and in the referral hospital. Undergraduate internships and externship opportunities for veterinary students round out their extensive teaching program.

Marcos Pérez, LV, MSc, DACVS-LA, recently relocated to join the Peterson Smith team. He made the move to Ocala due to its rich and diverse equestrian history, not to mention the beautiful central Florida weather.

“Since arriving here, everyone has been very welcoming. I have had the honor of joining this team of veterinary colleagues that excel at equine veterinary care,” says Pérez. “Technicians, barn crew, front desk, and administrative staff are great professionals that have quickly become my work friends. Also, the level of knowledge, diligence, horsemanship, and overall passion for the horse exhibited by owners, farms, and training stables that trust us with their horses’ care is second to none. This makes being a surgeon in Ocala, and at Peterson Smith, very rewarding.”

With its rich history, bright future, and commitment towards providing complete veterinary care, Peterson Smith looks forward to servicing Marion County’s equine years for the next 40+ years.

services, visit their website at

To learn
about Peterson Smith
54 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024


Entrepreneurship Meets Equestrian Excellence

NESTLED IN THE SLOW - ROLLING HILLS of Lexington, Kentucky, is a stunning and elite equestrian facility called Briar Hill Stables. Briar Hill is situated just twenty minutes from The Kentucky Horse Park and boasts 16 paddocks, a large 120' x 238' arena with GGT footing, on-property living quarters, and 35 stalls spread across two barns.

Briar Hill Horse Jumps, which are made at Briar Hill Stables, is a sister business that offers exceptionally high-quality wood jumps and custom orders.

Since its recent ownership change just a few years ago, Briar Hill Stables has made some impressive changes that have since attracted well-known riders from all over the world to temporarily call it home.

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Denny and Jennifer Goode, Briar Hill owners
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Jennifer Goode, Briar Hill’s current owner, purchased the property in May of 2021.

“After COVID, I was feeling like I needed to live life beyond the confines of my computer screen after spending a decade in leadership and managing an entirely remote business,” says Goode.

“My husband, Denny Goode, and I started looking at horse farms in Lexington, and we just fell in love with the property on Briar Hill. It has a gorgeous arena with GGT footing right next to a lake, a dreamy courtyard, and a large stucco barn full of big stalls. We then did about $200,000 worth of renovations to the arena, stables, and living quarters on the property after we bought it. Later, we also founded Briar Hill Horse Jumps on-site as well.”

Goode grew up riding at Camargo Stables in Indian Hill, near Cincinnati, OH, and later married Denny, who raised cattle and tobacco during his own upbringing in Springfield, KY. So it’s no surprise he enjoys helping out around the farm today.

But Briar Hill was far from Goode’s first entrepreneurship venture.

“I’m an entrepreneur who has spent the last 10 years growing my businesses. My background is in higher education, and up until now, my career has been focused on helping colleges and universities grow enrollment through marketing and admissions support,” she says.

“I run a twenty-person contact center with employees in 15 states, called Enrollment Builders, a higher education lead-generation business; EDUTrust; and now the Briar Hill Stables and Briar Hill Horse Jumps as well.”

Today, Briar Hill Stables is a private facility that has attracted some of the top international Grand Prix riders and other equestrian professionals—including the 2023 Land Rover Kentucky Three Day Event Winner, Tamie Smith.

“Riders will lease the farm in its entirety from April through October on a seasonal basis. During the non-peak season, we also do dry stall layovers on more of a one-to-one basis. Tamie Smith leased our facility as her home base for Land Rover Kentucky Three Day this past year. We were absolutely thrilled for her and her team when she ended up winning! This summer, we had an international Grand Prix rider from

“At Briar Hill Stables, we have worked to create an equestrian space and products that attract professionals competing at the highest levels.”

the United Kingdom and her clients as our seasonal lease for the 2023 summer season,” adds Goode.


“At Briar Hill Stables, we have worked to create an equestrian space and products that attract professionals competing at the highest levels. Our strive for excellence at our facility also embodies our core values of trust, open communication, and mutual respect,” says Goode.

“Our commitment to those values extends beyond providing the highest level of care for our horses. We take our client relationships seriously and strive to cultivate a community where individuals are driven to excel in their equestrian careers.”

“By fostering an atmosphere of commitment and respect, we aim to be more than just a facility—we’re a place where equestrian professionals can thrive and achieve their highest aspirations in the sport,” Goode adds.


Briar Hill Horse Jumps, which is run out of Briar Hill Stables, is a newly-launched business venture for Goode.

“We opened Briar Hill Horse Jumps out of what we feel is a shortage of high-quality jumps being produced

in this region. We are now producing wooden horse jumps through our intricate attention to detail and using only the highest-quality materials,” says Goode.

With this attention to detail in mind, every screw hole is wood-patched, sanded, and painted using only the best wood and paint.

“The materials we use to produce these jumps are long-lasting and weather-resistant,” Goode says. “Anything that doesn’t meet the highest-quality standards are sold as second-quality to preserve the nature and reputation of our product.”

These jumps use the track system and jump cups. Each jump includes keyhole jump cups and breakaway safety cups which are USEF, USEA, and FEI approved.

In order to provide the best appearance possible, Briar Hill Horse Jumps has a complex process.

“First, we handpick all of the grade one lumber used to build the jumps. Instead of rushing the process, we allow our wood to dry for at least four weeks before starting to build with it. Once the wood is dry, our jump builders plane, cut, and assemble each jump. After assembly, all the imperfections and screw holes are filled, and then every jump undergoes thorough sanding to ensure a smooth finish,” says Goode.

62 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024

“Before our painter gets to work, another quality check is completed. Then, we use two layers of exterior stain-blocking primer before they’re painted with industrial, marine-grade enamel paint. Our paint offers a superior protection against the outdoor elements as well as durability under the conditions they endure in the arena. After a week of curing time, the jumps move back to our production team where they measure and install the track system. Finally, the jumps get wrapped up and sent off.”

Delivery of their jumps is available throughout Kentucky and any of the surrounding states, as well as Florida.

The Briar Hill Stables team is also highly involved with Briar Hill Horse Jumps, with the exception of a few additional life-long equestrians.

Head jump builder Jackson Palmer is originally from the Pacific Northwest and moved to attend the University of Kentucky. He is currently a Junior in the Equine Science and Management program.

“I have been eventing for five years and have ridden through the 2* level. My other passion is construction, and I have been working with my hands for as long as I remember. I have done numerous house renovations and other outdoor projects. When I received the opportunity to build stadium jumps, it was the perfect way to combine my skills and stay focused on horses even at work,” says Palmer.

Another University of Kentucky Equine Science major, Devin Handy, helps Palmer build the Briar Hill Horse Jumps.

Prior to moving to Lexington, Handy attended high school in Maryland.

“Throughout high school, I worked as a student intern at an eventing facility, soon progressing to a working student position while on a gap year. I also own and manage a business in the landscaping and film production industries to support competing horses. Throughout these roles, I have developed a fond interest in working in industrious building occupations, ultimately landing me at Briar Hill Horse Jumps. The opportunities to stay engaged in this work environment while still competing and attending school are indispensable,” says Handy.

The third member of the dedicated Briar Hill Horse Jumps team is Reese Farrell. “I have been riding and working with horses for twenty years, and

professionally for 12 years in a variety of positions such as trainer, instructor, trail guide, stable hand, and assistant barn manager,” says Farrell.

“My discipline growing up was endurance, however I also dabbled in Western events like drill team and team penning. In 2023, I earned my BA in Equine Studies with a training concentration from Asbury University. I have also been painting as long as I have been riding. Ten years ago, I began as a freelance artist and worked as a house painter a year before finishing college. Now, I put those and my artistic skills to use at Briar Hill Horse Jumps.”

Briar Hill Horse Jumps prioritizes supporting the equestrian community in Kentucky. They give back to a beloved local cause—The Retired Racehorse Project. In fact, the first custom jump design done ever by Briar Hill Horse Jumps was for the RRP.

“We donated the fillers to the silent auction at RRP where they were bid on and sold. We intend on donating another jump accessory package to the RRP Silent Auction again this year. We have some other exciting custom projects being planned out as well, such as a custom saddle display made out of horse jumps for a local tack shop. Another custom project, currently in the design phase, is a life-size horse jump of our logo. We are very excited for this one since there are many complex features of a jump to this caliber. It will end up being a unique and eye-catching addition to our branding,” says Goode.

Briar Hill Horse Jumps also gives back the equestrian community in Kentucky by supporting the Kentucky Horse Council, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and development of the Kentucky’s equine community. They develop programs for trails, equine welfare, horse owners, youth, and legislation.

“We offer members of Kentucky Horse Council 10 percent discount, and we contribute 10 percent of the order total back to the Kentucky Horse Council,” says Goode.

To learn more about Briar Hill, visit

For more on Briar Hill Horse Jumps, visit

Exclusive to Plaid Horse Readers, use coupon code “PlaidHorse10” for 10% off your Briar Hill Horse Jumps order.


Briar Hill Stables manager, Kaisee Winters, is “the real magic here at Briar Hill,” Goode says. “She has really brought this place to life.”

A Pennsylvania transplant, Winters relocated to Kentucky with her husband and 3-year-old son. “She’s always the first one in and the last one out, and she puts so much heart and soul into horse care and creating a truly world-class facility,” says Goode. “In her time here, she has managed the renovations on the property, brought in two high-profile seasonal clients for long-term leases, and has recruited and managed an awesome team of people that align with our values.”

Winters has an extensive and life-long career in the horse industry that led her to running Briar Hill Stables to be the best it can be today. Her journey in the equine industry started at an early age with her family’s long-standing connection to the horse world.

“The spark of my passion ignited when, at the age of three, I sat on my grandmother’s retired racehorse who was affectionately known as Meatball.”

Winters was then introduced to the world of APHA show horses by her stepfather, and she competed in 4-H and local hunter/jumper shows in Pennsylvania. She later relocated to South Carolina during high school.

“My desire to work with horses led me to secure a part-time position as a barn hand at Sunnyfield Equestrian Farm. This opportunity not only allowed me to care for horses, but also paved the way for my involvement in IEA and clinics with esteemed clinicians like Barbara Filippelli, Gillian Stupples, and Liza Boyd,” says Winters.

“I would also participate on the show team while juggling my barn hand duties— you could say I was eager! Eventually, I assumed the role of barn manager while pursuing online studies in accounting at Penn State University.”

Winters later taught beginner lessons and coached students at shows as the assistant trainer back at Sunnyfield Equestrian Farm, as well as teaching hunter/jumper lessons at other facilities in South Carolina. She then became a groom and rider for Touchstone Acres, a leading Lipizzan breeder specializing in dressage before landing at Briar Hill.

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How Tigger Montague helps horse owners choose the perfect supplement combination for their horse

WHEN YOU’RE CHOOSING SUPPLEMENTS for your horse, you may find yourself wishing you had someone to guide you through the process. This can be a reality, thanks to BioStar’s passionate founder, Tigger Montague.

“I love consulting with potential customers. It’s the best part of the job,” says Montague, who welcomes anyone to ask her for recommendations. “I ask a lot of questions. What’s he eating, what’s his turnout, how is he in the barn, that way the owner can reveal so much about the horse. Little things come out that you just wouldn’t get if you didn’t ask questions. I get a picture of the horse in my mind. I want to get down to the deeper issues in the horse.”

At the beginning of her career, Montague worked with human supplements while she also owned horses—that’s when she noticed something missing from the equine supplement market.

“I noticed that if you had an imbalance, you could walk into a store and get advice on what products to use,” Montague tells The Plaid Horse. “There was nothing like this for horses.”

66 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024


That’s when she was struck by the idea that the equine industry needed an herbal complement to support horses with minor health issues and nutritional gaps.

She created her first company, EquiGenesis, which was a partnership between Montague and the owner of a large company named Solgar. The company sold five herbal-based products

for horses, which was one of the first of its kind.

Solgar eventually sold, taking EquiGenesis with it, which led Montague to begin working at MegaFood, one of the few companies that started pioneering food as medicine.

She started working for them as a consultant and learned a lot about food and the nutrients in it. The company was

“I think people trust me because I’m not trying to sell product. It’s about the horse.”

interested in promoting the raw food movement.

“I went to a seminar by a triathlete who was a raw foodist and he said to me, ‘The body can only heal and repair when it’s at rest. When it’s trying to digest fast food or processed food, it’s more stressful for the body to take that time to digest. You’re taking time away from your body because your body is focused on the digestion of

March/April 2024 THE PLAID HORSE 67


“I was bitten by the horse bug the day I came out of the womb,” Tigger Montague tells The Plaid Horse.

As a child, her school held an extra curricular program where students would get picked up at school and go to the barn to ride and learn about horses. Montague began riding at just five years old.

refined foods’”, says Montague. “What he said changed my life.”

Almost immediately, Montague started sprouting seeds and dehydrating food, and she ultimately got to apply what she was learning to her own horse.

“My Grand Prix horse came up with inflammation of the bursa and my vet tried everything to assist with the inflammation,” says Montague. Unscientifically, she took some sprouts and papaya and cut them into little bars and started feeding it to her horse.

Two weeks later, she thought that the horse looked better…and so did her vet.

“When I gave my horses this concoction, they were happier within themselves,” says Montague. “My vet encouraged me to make it available to the public.”

With no intention of starting a company, in 2007, BioStar was born.


From the very start, BioStar was a gut-focused equine supplement company. Montague prioritizes using real ingredients in each one of her supplements.

“One of the advantages to using real food is that the body instantly recognizes real food,” says Montague. “An ulcer isn’t just an ulcer. Gastric issues are going to affect the brain, the liver, the adrenal gland. That’s why it’s so important to take a scientific

approach with it all.”

Montague also understands that each horse is different, which is why she believes it’s her job to know everything about the science behind her supplements so she can assist horse owners in giving their horses exactly what they need.

While BioStar’s success is partially built off the extensive, quality product line they have available, customers keep coming back because of their trust in Montague.

“I think people trust me because I’m not trying to sell product. It’s about the horse,” says Montague. “I recommend lots of other products that are better for a certain horse. It’s not about BioStar, it’s about getting the horse’s body back to homeostasis. Whoever else’s products can complement and help, I’m interested.”

Riders including Amanda Steege, Kelly Soleau-Millar, and Jonathon Millar are among the many top professionals who trust BioStar’s supplements to keep their horses in tip-top shape.

Montague’s goal is to treat every horse as an individual and educate each owner with a little knowledge that they may not have had before.

“I don’t care about the profit margin, I care about the result,” says Montague.

For more information about BioStar and Tigger Montague, please visit

She grew up riding ponies, taking lessons, and attending summer camps. Her show career began in the walk-trot ring aboard a pony in his 30s named Foxtrot. At the time, she would get on anything with four legs…including a bull that lived in a neighbors field.

“We got some kind of halter on him and we got on him and rode him around,” says Montague with a laugh. “I came home and told my mom about the fantastic ride I had on a cow—I thought she was going to have a heart attack.”

After college, Montague bought a horse of her own and started eventing while pursuing a professional career in medical and surgical sales. In the 1980’s, she transitioned to the health food industry, focusing her time on human supplements.

At the time, human supplements was a young industry but it was fast growing, built mostly off of entrepreneurs.

“There were so many new products and supplements that were only available in health food stores,” says Montague. “I found my niche in that market.”

SPOTLIGHT BioStar founder Tigger Montague with long-time client, Kelly Soleau-Millar and her dog, Shorty. Horses aren’t Montague’s only passion—Biostar also has a full line of canine supplements
68 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024
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The standout junior rider on her diligent practice, show ring milestones— and why kindness matters most

72 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024
Tatum and Valedictorian after their 2022 Junior Hunter Finals win

“It’s Important to Be Kind”

March/April 2024 THE PLAID HORSE 73
Competing in the Junior Jumpers with Tango


Just 15 years old, the California junior rider excels in all three rings. She’s won tricolors at Indoors and Junior Hunter Finals, and she piloted For Fun to USEF HOTY Grand Champion honors. Her winter circuit at the Desert International Horse Park is punctuated by wins and championships week in and week out, on both her own horses and catch rides.

But on social media, you’ll see her fall. And you’ll see her celebrating not only her own wins, but her fellow junior riders’ victories as well.

“It’s important to support one another and celebrate not only your own wins but also your friends’ wins,” Tatum tells The Plaid Horse.

As for those less than perfect moments she shares on TikTok, “I think social media creates a false sense of perfection. That could not be further from the truth so why not celebrate learning moments and show the reality of the struggles?” says Tatum. “Nobody is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes are how we learn and move forward in this sport and they are going to happen. No one round defines you.”

What does define Tatum, says her longtime trainer Archie Cox, is the hard work she puts into improving in the sport she loves. “Violet has a very strong work ethic. She drops her stirrups daily by herself,” says Cox. “One day I looked in the ring and started to say, ‘You lost your…’ and then I realized it was planned.”

Of course, it’s not just her hard work in the tack. Cox says the foundation of Tatum’s success is, unsurprisingly, her horsemanship. “She knows her horses inside and out. The most important thing in riding and partnerships is knowing your horses, their likes and dislikes. You have to know what’s wrong to know what’s right,” he says.

“Whether it is a little swelling on a leg, a little tenderness on their side, knowing what’s normal or what might be an issue is by handling the horses, working with the horses, grooming them, playing with them, endlessly being with the horse. That’s something Violet does from sunup to sundown.”


It’s no secret that unkind commentary can float around any horse show, at any time. But for Tatum, it’s the obvious choice to combat the stigma and spread

kindness. “Why not make an effort to be nice and supportive? What do people gain from being mean and talking negatively?” she says.

“I think it’s important to be kind. I am on the quieter side so some people mistake me as not always being nice, but once they talk to me they realize I am just shy. If I can help someone feel better about themselves and offer advice I’m happy to.”

Her fellow exhibitors and spectators at the horse show are taking notice, too. Violet’s mother, Jenny Tatum, says her daughter has even been approached for her autograph.

One young fan “drew a picture of me and my horse jumping. It was really cute,” says Tatum. “It recently happened again and I just sort of freeze and get embarrassed. I don’t really know if I am a role model but I try my best to stay grateful, humble and appreciative, and

74 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024
“Why not make an effort to be nice and supportive? What do people gain from being mean and talking negatively?


• Junior Hunter Finals Champion, Small Junior Hunters 15 and Under 3’6”—two years in a row on Valedictorian

• Reserve Champion at Washington International Horse Show and Pennsylvania National Horse Show on Evermore

• Reserve Champion, Capital Challenge Equitation Week on Congrato

• Top 15 WIHS Equitation Finals 2023 on Ironman van de Kalevallei

• Champion CPHA Foundation Medal Final, 14 and Under on Ironman van de Kalevallei

• USEF HOTY National Grand Champion Junior Hunter with For Fun

PHOTOS: COURTESY JENNY TATUM (TOP RIGHT); SARA SHIER PHOTOGRAPHY (MIDDLE RIGHT) FROM TOP LEFT: Showing Evermore for the mare’s first time in the 3'6" hunters; Signing an autograph for a young fan; A winning weekend on the Desert Circuit with catch rides Tokota Fuji owned by Ingenium Farms (left), and Beatrise, owned by Julie Henderson; Accepting Junior Hunter Finals honors in 2023
March/April 2024 THE PLAID HORSE 75

emulate good sportsmanship.”

Fellow West Coast junior rider Paige Walkenbach recently introduced Tatum to The Kindness Movement—a group that encourages equestrians to stand up to bullying and spread kindness. Tatum applied this year to their ambassador program. “I love the message and the purpose it stands for,” she says.


When The Plaid Horse featured Tatum in 2022, she had only been riding for five years, quickly moving up the ranks from the 2’6” divisions to the junior hunters, and she was looking for an equitation horse. Less than two years later, she’s found success in all three rings.

Indoors last year was a big milestone for Tatum, who says she managed her nerves much better than she did the prior two years. Her mental toughness was reflected in her riding, and she was successful at all the Indoors stops last year.

Among the highlights: She and her newest hunter partner Evermore (“Ellie”) were reserve champion in the Small Junior Hunters at both WIHS and Harrisburg. (See more horse show highlights in the sidebar.)

Competing in the junior jumpers “is so much fun and I trust my partner Tango so much every time I step into the ring,” says Tatum. “My favorite thing about competing in equitation is that it is challenging and it’s something that takes hard work and desire. After years of not having a steady equitation horse I now have two incredible equitation horses that have helped me immensely.”

As for her favorite ring, “the hunters have always come more naturally to me, but it’s also where I put the most pressure and expectations on myself,” says Tatum. Showing hunters is “the most rewarding,” she adds. “It is also more fun now that I have Ellie because she is always so much fun to show.”


• Evermore “Ellie” ( BELOW RIGHT ) Small Junior Hunter

• Valedictorian “Brooks” ( RIGHT ) Small Junior Hunter, Derbies

• Ironman van de Kalevallei “Tony” ( FAR RIGHT)

Equitation, owned by Archie Cox

• For Keeps “Keeps” ( BELOW LEFT ) Equitation

• Tango ( ABOVE ) Jumper, International Derbies

76 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024
“You get to know your horse by handling them, working with them, and playing with them. Endlessly being with the horse. Violet does that from sunup to sundown.”
March/April 2024 THE PLAID HORSE 77
78 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024
her Large Junior Hunter star, For Fun


After a few years of great success with her hunters For Fun and Valedictorian, Tatum got paired up with Ellie in a rather serendipitous manner. “Archie saw her in a warm up ring,” says mom Jenny Tatum. “She had never done this job and came from a jumper barn. She was seven when we got her in March, 2023. She is really blossoming quickly considering how green she is.”

Photos of the gray mare with the stunning jump tell part of the story, but Tatum says she’s actually easier to ride than she looks with her kneesto-nose bascule. “She is so much fun to ride and, although she jumps like a freak, her jump is very soft and easy to stay with,” says Tatum.

“When I first tried her, I didn’t realize she jumped that way until I watched the videos and my mouth dropped. Her personality is very sassy but sweet and she always has a happy expression and tries 110% for me in the ring,” she adds. “I’m very proud of her because she did her first-ever 3’6” only in April and was very green and then was Grand Champion at junior hunter finals three months later with Eleanor Rudnicki and had two tricolors in a very competitive field at Pennsylvania National and the Washington Horse Show with me. This was a huge accomplishment for TeamEllie!”


No matter how many accolades Tatum racks up, she’s always looking forward to the next challenge. Not to mention the balancing act of attending ninth grade while horse showing at such a high level, week in and week out.

“She has learned how to maintain top grades by staying organized and ahead in school,” says mom Jenny. “Communicating with her teachers allows her more freedom to miss days at school while on the show circuit. I’m just so proud of her and in awe of how she manages all she does.”

At home, Tatum usually focuses on long flat lessons and no-stirrup work to save her horses for the show rings. She tries to get to the horse shows on

Wednesday or Thursday to have time to practice.

“I typically get to the show early to ride my horse in the morning and watch/study the rounds before I show,” says Tatum. “I also want to know what I can do better, how I can fix the details and what needs improvement—always asking my trainers or clinic instructors what needs to change for those pieces to fall into place. I think it’s important to not be afraid to hear or ask how I can be better and what I can change.”

In addition to training with Cox, Tatum also rides with John Bragg. “I primarily catch ride for John now since my horse with him, For Fun, is retiring. John gives me a lot of opportunities and helps me succeed by giving me small tweaks and details I can do to that make my riding better,” she notes.

As for Cox, “he always believes in me and my ability and makes me believe I can achieve anything I set out to do. Both trainers offer a different perspective which has made me a better, more well-rounded rider, something I appreciate so much.”

The hard work, of course, pays off.

“Riders and horses feed off each other in terms of improving. The softer a rider is, the softer a horse is, and the softer a horse is, the softer a rider becomes,” says Cox. “Violet is very gentle and she’s sympathetic to the horses. Whether it’s how she pats the horse, or how she uses her hand and her leg, it is all about asking the horses and waiting for the answer before asking in a stronger way.”

“It is a unique quality and it is one of the things that separate the top riders anywhere.”

“Violet is very gentle and sympathetic to the’s a unique quality and one of the things that separates the top riders anywhere.”
Tatum “knows her horses inside and out,” says trainer Archie Cox (above, with catch ride Beatrise, owned by Julie Henderson)





We spoke with the experts to address equestrians’ most pressing concerns about insuring their animals

82 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024

a sick or injured horse, stress over their well-being—plus the bills


come with


care—may feel overwhelming. Equine insurance can help you to prepare for the unexpected, giving you peace of mind that you’ll have some financial help paying for your horse’s care. But navigating the ins and outs of equine insurance can be complicated, and chances are you’ll have some questions as you shop for insurance.

The Plaid Horse spoke with three equine insurance experts to answer common questions about mortality, major medical, and personal equine liability insurance. Amy J. Daum, one of the founding partners at Broadstone Equine Insurance Agency, has over 25 years of experience in the equine insurance industry. Cindy Anderson is an agent at Blue Bridle and has been employed with the company since 1998. Karen Wynn is an agent at Blue Bridle and has over 24 years of experience in the insurance agency. Broadstone Equine Insurance Agency and Blue Bridle are both agencies, meaning they work with a variety of equine insurance companies to help clients find the best coverage for their needs.

I board my horse. Will my barn owner’s business liability cover my horse if he injures someone, or do I need to buy my own personal equine liability policy? “When it comes to any protection for the horse owner, even if the barn owner has their own liability policy, that is not going to protect the horse owner,” Daum tells The Plaid Horse. “If the horse owner wants protection in the event their own horse injures a third party, they need to purchase their own liability policy.”

My horse lives at my personal barn at home. If my horse injures someone, will my homeowner’s insurance cover me?

Wynn explains that whether homeowner’s insurance will cover a horse-related incident depends on your home insurance carrier. “Some will,” she says. “Sometimes they’ll cover one to four horses for liability.” Other companies may not cover horses at all, so it’s best to check with your homeowner’s insurance carrier.

Wynn notes that if you plan to start an on-property or off-property riding business, it’s also important to check with

your insurance company to verify such an operation will be covered.

I adopted my horse for $1,000. Can I get medical insurance coverage for him? Some companies won’t offer medical and surgical coverage unless a horse is worth a certain amount of money. “Most companies have a minimum insured value, in some cases $15,000 to $20,000, before they’ll offer certain coverages,” says Daum. “We work with a company that is still in the market to offer medical and surgical coverage beyond what the horse’s value is. If you adopted a horse for $1,000 and wanted to get $5,000 or $10,000 in major medical coverage, they typically will offer it.” Additionally, Daum notes that a second company allows medical and surgical coverage on horses with a $7,500 minimum value, so there are potentially two options available for horses at lower values.

I bought my horse a year ago, and I believe his value has increased through training. How can I prove that to my insurance company? Do I need to have him appraised?

Anderson explains that insurance carriers use a horse’s purchase price to determine its insured value during the first year of ownership. That purchase price can include other expenses, such as a commission paid or import costs. “For example, if you bought a horse in Europe for $30,000 and you paid $10,000 for import, we can insure the horse for $40,000.”

After the first year of ownership, a horse’s value can be increased based on factors like training fees. “If you bought a three-year-old for $20,000 and put a year of training into it, underwriting can increase the value based off the training fees,” says Anderson. Show records can also increase a horse’s value, especially if the horse moves up levels.

“We seldom if ever see appraisals,” says Daum. “Typically, underwriters don’t put a lot of stock in them.” She notes that the typical formula for evaluating paid training is to increase the horse’s value by about half of what you’ve paid for in training. For example, if you paid $500 per month in training fees for a year, you could expect your insurance company to increase your horse’s value by about $3,000.

I am concerned about paying for regenerative therapies like IRAP, and major diagnostics like MRIs and bone scans. Do any medical policies include coverage for these diagnostics and therapies?

“Most every major medical/surgical type of coverage have some degree of diagnostic coverage and some degree of lameness treatment coverage like IRAP, stem cell, and PRP,” says Daum. “The extent of the coverage depends on the company. When it comes to certain diagnostics and lameness treatments, there’s often a coinsurance or a copay, which is either a percentage or a dollar limit. You might have a $2,500 limit for diagnostics. Once you meet that and your deductible, you’ll be responsible for anything beyond that. It’s definitely something to ask the agent about when shopping around.”

How does an insurance company determine exclusions for my horse? Can an exclusion ever be reversed?

According to Anderson, how a company approaches an exclusion depends on where and when the issue happens, as well as the type of issue. Chronic conditions, such as ringbone, arthritis, EPM, allergies, and founder, would be covered if they’re a new condition during the policy term. At renewal, an exclusion would apply, and exclusions for chronic conditions are permanent.

However, exclusions for other issues may be removed. If a horse fully recovered from an injury or lameness, you can ask for exclusions to be removed, typically at renewal or after a certain amount of time has gone by. “It never hurts to ask,” says Daum, and your insurance agent can help by collecting and forwarding your paperwork to underwriters.

Daum notes that underwriters tend to be reasonable and specific to a problem when identifying an exclusion. “My experience has been that underwriters aren’t excluding entire legs. If you have an injury, unless it’s extreme and there are multiple areas and joints involved,

March/April 2024 THE PLAID HORSE 83

underwriters are going to be pretty specific to the actual problem.”

My horse had a colic episode three years ago. Can I ever get colic coverage for him again?

“Every carrier has their own guidelines for colic,” says Anderson. “If the horse had colic surgery and there was a resection, the colic exclusion would be permanent for the time the horse is insured for, because the chances of colic recurring are greater,” she says. “But if the horse had a colic surgery and can go a year or two years colic-free from the date of surgery, and we get a note from the vet saying the horse has been colic-free for that time, underwriting can review and possibly remove that exclusion.”

Do I always need to report events like lameness exams or treatments my horse receives to my medical insurance provider if I don’t plan to file a claim?

What happens if I don’t report all of these diagnostics or services?

“Whenever you do anything that is non-routine, it needs to be reported,” says Daum. It’s possible that a seemingly small issue, like a minor lameness, might escalate into a larger issue, prompting you to file a claim. “You don’t want to limit your access



• Rate for full mortality coverage is 3.25%, for an annual Mortality premium of $163.

• Mortality policy also includes $2,500 of free Emergency Colic Surgery coverage, provided the horse doesn’t have a history of gastrointestinal issues.

• Major Medical/Surgical annual limit options with annual premiums:

$5,000 • $200 premium

$7,500 • $340 premium

$10,000 • $450 premium

$15,000 • $675 premium

to coverage by not notifying the company when it starts,” Daum says.

My coverage is renewing, and my insurance provider wants to know if my horse has received joint injections. Why does this matter and what will happen if he’s received injections?

Renewal applications will often ask about treatments like joint injections or services like lameness exams. “Definitely disclose it,” says Daum. If you don’t disclose the information, some companies will request more information and react accordingly. “Some might actually refuse to renew your policy, even if technically what went on was nothing really important from the standpoint of the horse’s future. I think to a certain extent, companies have gotten frustrated by the lack of information and some are getting stricter if it’s not disclosed and they find out later,” she says.

I have mortality coverage for my horse. If he has a life-threatening condition, can my vet and I decide we need to euthanize him, or do we have to contact my insurance company first?

“When we issue a policy, you will receive a claim card,” says Anderson. “The claims department is open 24 hours a day, seven

days a week. If you have to call your vet for anything other than routine care, you’re going to call your vet, hang up the phone, call the claims department.”

By sharing information about your horse’s situation with the claims adjustor, the adjustor will be prepared if your horse does need to be euthanized. “A claims adjustor does need confirmation from the vet to authorize the euthanasia,” says Anderson, “but this way the claims adjustor has all of your information in front of them and can make the decision immediately.”

Additionally, some carriers require a necropsy, especially if a horse is found dead. When your vet speaks to the adjustor, the adjustor will determine whether a necropsy is needed.

How can I best determine how much coverage I should purchase for my horse?

Anderson explains that when she speaks with a client, she shares all of the coverages that their horse would be eligible for. “Then we go from there,” she says. “We try to get a feel for what’s most important to the client. We try to ask what’s important to them, what’s the greatest concern, and then what their budget is like. I want to make sure we can cover these people correctly without breaking their banks.”

Amy Daum shared three hypothetical scenarios with horses of different values with sample insurance premiums to provide readers with a financial frame of reference.


• Full Mortality ranges from 3.35%-3.7%, for an annual Mortality premium between $1,675 and $1,850.

• Mortality policy also includes $5,000 of free Emergency Colic Surgery coverage, provided the horse doesn’t have a history of gastrointestinal issues.

• Major Medical/Surgical annual limit options with annual premiums:


• premiums from $375 - $500


• premiums from $550 - $575

$15,000 • premiums from $750 - $800


• Annual Mortality premium would range from $3,350 - $3,700.

• Mortality policy also includes $5,000 of free Emergency Colic Surgery coverage, provided the horse doesn’t have a history of gastrointestinal issues.

• Major Medical/Surgical annual limit options with annual premiums:


• premiums from $375 - $500


• premiums from $550 - $575


• premiums from $750 - $800

*Quote is good for all states except LA & VA, which have slightly different rates and premiums.

84 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024

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A Riding Accident, a Campus Shooting, and One Cold February Night

Rider Karen Hopper Usher reflects on when her riding accident coincided with the mass shooting at Michigan State University

AS MY HORSE BOLTED, I knew I was going to get hurt. I tried to convince myself otherwise, arguing whole dockets with every gallop stride.

You’re not going to fall. Don’t give up. Can you relax your body more and calm yourself and your horse? Ok, not that much, that was too much, you’re more out-of-balance now. You fool. You fool. You fool. Your kids don’t deserve a broken mother. This isn’t worth it. I landed on my butt and back, mostly on the right side. I never passed out. I didn’t hit my head. But I couldn’t breathe. The wind was knocked out of me, I surmised. I told myself not to panic. I wasn’t going to suffocate. I just needed a second. I wiggled my fingers, I wiggled my toes, I kept trying to breathe. I didn’t have enough air to scream, at first. I yelled

for help as soon as I could fill my lungs. Nobody came. Later, my friend said she’d heard me but thought the yowling was fighting barn cats.

If nobody was coming, I needed to risk sitting up. It hurt. I screamed for help. I tried to check on my horse but couldn’t turn enough to see him. Couldn’t stay upright. Laid back down in the cold dirt and screamed some more.

Finally, the stall cleaner came. More help started arriving. Somebody asked me what I needed, and I gasped that they should just shoot me. I didn’t want to admit I needed an ambulance. I didn’t want the humiliation of several people carrying my overweight body on a gurney. But my mobility issues weren’t just shock. I asked for an ambulance.

Then, they told me. Eleven miles away, at the university where I’d earned my Master’s degree, a gunman was loose on campus. I might have to wait a while for that ambulance.

On February 13, 2023, a gunman walked into a classroom at Michigan State University shortly after 8 p.m. By the time the shooting was over, several people in two buildings were shot and three students were killed (Arielle Anderson, Brian Fraser, and Alexandria Verner).

Our timelines don’t line up exactly. When there’s a mass shooting in your community, it takes time to know what’s going on. There’s the actual shooting itself. There are the 911 calls. There’s law enforcement response. At some point, the emergency text goes out. And depending

88 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024
The author capping with Old Dominion Hounds on Hunter’s Rest hireling John Barleycorn ten months after her accident

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on when the shooter is located, it can be hours before the all-clear is given.

Like the rest of the community, I didn’t have very many details at 9:30 p.m. When I heard about the shooting, I concentrated hard on my body and my injuries, doing a system check as best as I could. Maybe I could crawl into a car and get someone to drive me? I didn’t want to wait hours in the cold dirt and I also didn’t want to use up an ambulance if somebody else needed it more.

I’ve felt shame over my riding accidents before. Nearly every time I’ve gotten injured, I’ve felt embarrassed. I’ve imagined other, similarly neurotic people fret about their own culpability in their injuries. My regret has always comingled with fat-shaming; we overweight folks get hurt because physics just isn’t on our side.

That night, the shame walloped me. It would have taken my breath away if the fall itself hadn’t done a pretty good job of that. I was going to use up valuable resources on a night when kids were terrified and bleeding all because I have this dumb, silly, expensive hobby. I wondered, for the first time, whether equestrians use up more than our fair share of emergency services; if we are like billionaires on private jets that spit emissions into the air, damning us all for what? Convenience, thrill, satisfaction? I can accept the risk for myself but there were only so many ambulances in the region that night. What if my choice to ride led indirectly to someone else’s death?

Those are the thoughts of an anxious, injured person before she gets morphine (after the morphine, I told my husband that I’d give up horses if he let me have a third baby. He didn’t go for it, and I have a new horse).

My rational mind knows that emergency services know how to triage. But my rational mind wasn’t in charge, even if my internal monologue resembled undergrad ethics debate prep.

When the ambulance arrived, the chief of the local emergency services authority showed up with it. A horse guy himself, my friend and my trainer both knew him. He responded that night, he explained, because his crews had been called to East Lansing for mutual aid.

“Don’t be embarrassed,” someone told me, “He likes tall horses, too.”

I spent the night apologizing, anyway. First to the EMTs for bothering them, then every time I screamed when the

“This is what emergency services should be for. For riding accidents and bicycle wipe-outs and tumbling out of trees. Ambulances shouldn’t be for shooting victims because there shouldn’t BE shooting victims.”

ambulance hit a pothole (“Fix the Damn Roads” was a Gov. Gretchen Whitmer campaign slogan for a reason).

When I agreed to go to the hospital, I imagined I’d go to Sparrow Hospital. It’s where I was born. It’s where I’d given birth to my youngest daughter exactly eight months before. My grandmother and cousins had worked there. It’s what felt familiar and safe. But it’s also where the shooting victims were being taken, and everyone else was getting routed to other area hospitals, the chief told me. They took me to a hospital on the southside of Lansing.

My first impression when they wheeled me in was that I had never seen a hospital so staffed up. Personnel were crowded at the desk, their faces tight but calm. I saw resolve.

As far as emergency rooms go, this wasn’t my first rodeo. But it was my first time at finals, shall we say. People packed into my room, moving fast, asking questions.

What medications did I take? Did I get bucked off?

“No,” I said, “I stayed on for the bucking. It was the running and stopping that did me in.”

After they determined I wasn’t going to die or become paralyzed, my room got quieter. I turned on the TV to check for shooting updates, the way I have done so, so many times before. The way I did for Columbine when I was a teenager. For Virginia Tech when I was a young professional. For Aurora. For Newton.

In the scheme of things, the Michigan State University shooting in 2023 doesn’t even make the “deadliest” list on Wikipedia. It was a blip in the national attention.

Around here, when I’m explaining my injuries to people, “the night of the MSU shooting” is adequate. People know when that was. They know what it means. But a visiting clinician that I lessoned with recently hadn’t even heard of it. Not her fault. We’re used to these things, as a nation. We need fresher horrors to even make an impression.

I did a lot of thinking in that hospital bed over the next couple of days. I was distraught at the idea that I was wasting a huge chunk of my youngest child’s babyhood. Instead of crawling on the floor with her, I’d be perched on my cushions for six to 12 weeks while bones in my back, butt and ribcage healed.

I thought of the staggering financial cost right after we’d paid for having said baby. The time involved in traumatic injuries (a year later and I’m still in twice-weekly physical therapy).

I thought about horses and riding. Was this it? Was this the thing that finally was going to make me quit? And what about my horse? What was our future going to look like? I decided that yes, I wanted to keep riding but that my horse was the wrong fit for a nervous post-injury rider. He was a free lease and went back home to his owner.

When I thought about how cold I’d been while I laid in the dirt screaming for help, I realized the temperature could have been fatal. No more riding alone in the winter.

90 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024

When EMTs asked for details of the fall, I gasped that they should go get my phone off the tripod and check the video. But that wasn’t possible. The cold zapped the battery on my phone and the recording automatically shut off before my fall.

I thought about my husband and how much he hates hospitals and injuries and how, when my trainer called him from my low-battery phone, all he caught initially was “fell” and “going to die.”

I thought about the shooting. I returned, again and again, to the question of whether I was “bad” for falling and using emergency resources on a night when other people needed them, too. Health care workers and emergency responders were so gracious, but I speculated that they’d rather be helping somebody with nobler injuries than my riding accident. Isn’t it more rewarding to save a hero than it is a silly late-30s woman who could have been home with her children instead of riding a horse that nobody wanted to pay money for?

I thought about my kids again. I want them to learn about dirt and mud and the smell of leather and the feel of a horse nuzzling you for treats. They should learn about work and devotion for something that may never earn you an income or win you awards or even a thank-you. I want them to see the best version of me.

My dignity and my pride came creeping back as I thought about the life I want my children to have.

And then I became very, very angry at the shooter and a political culture that allows gun violence to continue in the United States.

I’ve come to feel that, of all the injuries that night, mine was the one, as a culture, we shouldn’t feel ashamed of. I knew the risks. I knew the rewards. I got hurt pursuing my own happiness. This is what emergency services should be for. For riding accidents and bicycle wipe-outs and tumbling out of trees. Ambulances shouldn’t be for shooting victims because there shouldn’t BE shooting victims.

I can accept ambulance rides for people who went skipping into danger. I cannot accept ambulance rides for people who were just doing the bare essentials of living in a society, like going to school or work.

In a country where you can be gunned down for going to a nightclub, for going to a concert, for going to worship, for going shopping—screw it. I’m going to ride the horse.

The author in the hospital post-injury

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When it comes to the question of whether horses “enjoy” a sport, it is hard to say. But let’s face it, your horse doesn’t wake up in the morning and think, Oooh, I can’t wait to jump that course perfectly or execute a flying change or win a polo play. He thinks, Where’s my food? But, especially in horses that are bred to perform a certain job, I believe that they are undeniably better off when they are doing what they have been bred to do. Maybe it is just because I like to work, and I am anthropomorphizing. But let’s admit that one of life’s greatest hacks is exercise. For the mammalian brain, outdoor exercise checks all the boxes for building a healthy mind and body—true in the horse as much as in the human (see Gretchen Reynold’s The New York Times article from May 12, 2021, entitled “How Exercise May Help Us Flourish”). The body’s own feel-good hormones (endogenous endocannabinoids and beta-endorphins and enkephalins) increase their circulation and produce a cascade of positive effects, including lowering stress levels. So, you’re not going to convince me that not exercising a horse is doing it any favors.

But how do we know when to push and when to rest? Which factors come into the decision of whether or not to play/show/compete when the stakes are high? How do we conscientiously compete? I believe we have to understand

deep in our hearts that we have prepared everything we are capable of preparing, and then and only then will we feel confident that we are entitled to make demands upon our horses. We must start with a horse suited to the job at hand, trained appropriately (confident that he is only going to be asked to do things he is capable of), and given every chance to be at his physical best. We also must ensure we are primarily using long-term thinking for the horse’s welfare versus short-term gain.

These ideas sound straightforward, but it is of course very complicated to achieve all of them (which is why we are writing a book about how to do it!).

Any doubt that surfaces can put a rider off-track. I often hear concerns from clients who witness veterinary procedures on their horses, or reach a deeper level of understanding about a soundness issue of their horses, and from that time forward have difficulty putting their horses back to full work. When questions lurk in the back of your mind about your preparation—“Did I cut short too many trot sets?” or “Did I jump high enough that last lesson?” or “Does the new feed give him enough energy?”—it can have a devastating impact on your confidence. Everything has to feel right before the competition begins.

At the professional, upper levels of any equine sport, I believe we as horsepeople have to acknowledge that everything can’t be pretty all the time. Unless we abolish horse sport altogether, we have to

make peace with the fact that finding the perfect line between not pushing hard enough and over-pushing is not always possible without trial and error. No person who has ever been a competitive athlete themselves would disagree. You don’t achieve greatness without the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears. Our horses need to train hard also. Doing it well is the key.

No discussion of winning is complete without considering the horse’s desire to win. Many books are written on sports psychology for the human athlete, but equestrians have to manage the

94 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024
Finding the perfect line between not pushing hard enough and over-pushing is not always possible without trial and error.

psychology of the horse as well as their own! I find it fascinating to ponder how it varies among horses, and why? Is it different for mares, geldings, or stallions? Is it innate, so we can breed for it, or is it created, and thus we must train for it?

On gender: racehorse trainers certainly feel young colts are the most highly competitive; most professional polo players vastly prefer mares (about 95 percent of the top horses in polo are mares) for their drive and spirit. And male horses are traditionally castrated to enhance their tractability, which would seem to put geldings at a disadvantage

in any equine sport where horses are in direct competition with each other. But when it comes to a horse being in the ring on his own and simply really trying to do his best, perhaps it simply comes down to character—which can be both bred and trained. And once you’ve got it, treasure it and handle it with kid gloves.


Regarding retirement, I have heard many stories from clients who tell me about their geriatric horses doing so much better when

they continue to “work.” Recently I was texted a photo of a 20-year-old-plus patient, jumping a good-sized fence, perhaps 3’6”, with the caption “Nick couldn’t be happier that he is back doing his favorite thing.” (The owner hadn’t ridden him for a few years while she was busy training some younger horses.) Adam swears that one of our “retired” mares, Rio, grows a few inches and loses several years in attitude when she gets out on the polo field to “stick and ball” every now and then. Data does show that most humans do better with an active or even nonexistent “retirement.” Of course, with horses, it is a little more complicated than with people, to know the right way forward. It certainly depends on the situation, but perhaps the core issue is stress level. Would it be stressful for a horse who has competed at a high level for years to get turned out in a big field and not receive much human interaction after a lifetime of stalls and trailers and grooming? Maybe he would find it less stressful to be in light work, getting hacked and sticking to a familiar routine. Another horse, maybe particularly one who has been adjusted to turnout even during his prime, may know perfectly how to relax the minute his unshod feet hit green.

I received good advice from a child psychiatrist years ago when asking about making a school decision for my child. It was, in a nutshell, “If you listen, they will tell you.” I believe the same is true for horses (although “listening” requires much more expansive perception in a horse than a child!). Older polo ponies will tell you because they don’t want to enter the “throw-in” (when play is started by throwing it down the line-up of players and horses) or they tremble at the trailer. Jumpers will refuse fences or become grumpy in the barn. After appropriate trouble-shooting (ruling out medical and training issues) a solution can usually be found. Giving the horse to a younger rider often does the trick—horses quickly sense the drop in pressure and become the perfect schoolmaster. This is the winning way— listen to your horse, pay attention to his behaviors, and the correct decision will present itself.

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March/April 2024 THE PLAID HORSE 95

USET FOUNDATION’S “Victory in Versailles” Benefit Gala

Presented by Lugano Diamonds

JANUARY 19, 2024


HOSTED BY honorary chairmen Patti Scialfa and Bruce Springsteen, the United States Equestrian Team (USET) Foundation’s “Victory in Versailles” Benefit Gala presented by Lugano Diamonds had more than 600 guests in attendance and raised more than $2 million to support the U.S. equestrian teams that are headed for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris, France.

In addition to performances from Scialfa and Springsteen, the event featured a live auction and live entertainment from The Legends of The Voice, a premier band comprising vocal performances from the stars of NBC’s hit show “The Voice” presented by HUB Private Client.

The gala also included the presentation of the USET Foundation’s most prestigious annual awards:

• The R. Bruce Duchossois Distinguished Trustee Award, given to a USET Foundation Trustee as a way to pay homage to the late Mr. Duchossois’ leadership, generosity, and outstanding character, was presented to the USET Foundation’s Chairman, President, and CEO W. James McNerney, Jr.

• The Lionel Guerrand-Hermès Trophy, given to a young rider who exemplifies both horsemanship and sportsmanship, was awarded to young show jumping athlete Zayna Rizvi.

• The Whitney Stone Cup, awarded to an active competitor who displays consistent excellence in competition and high standards of sportsmanlike conduct, was presented to five-time show jumping Olympian and Olympic gold and silver medalist McLain Ward.

2 3 4 5 96 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024


1 Bruce Springsteen joined premier band Legends of The Voice on stage •

2 Recipient of the USET Foundation’s Whitney Stone Cup, five-time show jumping Olympian and Olympic gold and silver medalist McLain Ward rides a Team USA scooter with daughter Lilly Ward • 3 Recipient of the USET Foundation’s 2024 Lionel Guerrand-Hermès Trophy Zayna Rizvi with Judah Singer, Yasmin Rizvi • 4 Show jumping athletes Lucy Deslauriers and Mark Bluman

5 Show jumping athletes Ali Boone and Santiago Neuberger • 6 Olympic show jumping silver medalist Jessica Springsteen and Olympic show jumping gold and silver medalist Laura Kraut • 7 The Dutta Corp. CEO & President Tim Dutta, dressage athlete Susie Dutta, and polo athlete Timmy Dutta

8 Olympic show jumping silver medalist Lucy Davis, Brenda Bocina Curnin, and Olympic show jumping silver medalist Kent Farrington

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Competing ‘‘Against’’ Friends


can be such a fantastic, fun experience. As a matter of fact, the social aspects of our sport can play a huge role in our overall motivation to ride and compete. We get to root for each other, be silly together between classes, clap and whoop after each other’s great rides, talk through our shared experiences, and help one another through the occasional rough patch.

Some days, however, having to compete against your friends can feel like a distracting challenge. Who will have to go first? Who will ride well? Who will get more attention from the trainers? Who will be champion or reserve? It can catch you off-guard to feel competitive with people you consider good friends, and you may feel strange, vulnerable, or even disloyal in those instances. If this sounds familiar and you have occasionally felt off-kilter when competing with your friends, here are some ideas that can help you stay focused and composed.

For starters, you are hopefully at a horse show first and foremost to compete against yourself—to be better than you were the day before, to help your horse put forth his or her best performance, and achieve your goals together. So, the phrase “competing against friends” is really just a way of describing the situation that occurs when your friends happen to be in your class or division. One of the best ways to steer clear of the distraction inherent in worrying about your friend’s performance versus your own is to stay focused on your personal progress and performance goals. For example, is one of your performance goals to use your outside aids to get arrow-straight to each jump as you come out of the corner? Perhaps you are also focusing on riding the course in sections by taking a breath in each corner? It can be nice to talk about your performance goals with your friends (especially the ones in your class) so that you can support one another. This way you can intentionally and specifically counteract the temptation to measure, compare, and define success based on scores and ribbons.

To redirect your focus from the social aspects involved in competing with your friends, it can be helpful to create a mantra for yourself that can act as a quick key to your performance goals. If you were

to find yourself worrying about your friends’ opinions or wondering how your day will stack up against theirs, a mantra can bring you into the moment and create a productive thought. Continuing with the examples from above, “Like an arrow” or “Just breathe” are mantras that you could use to put your mind on task and on your goals. Repeating them to yourself as you walk to the warm-up ring, for example, can be a useful touchstone for productive thoughts and positive action.

Any time you find yourself worrying about riding in a class with your friends, take a moment to remind yourself that there is enough talent to go around. You can put in an amazing round, and so can your best friend, all on the same day—even in the same class. The results are dependent on a myriad of factors, including the judge or the clock, none of which are 100% within your control. Staying grounded in the moment and keeping your awareness on things that will help you ride well (like performance goals that are within your control), versus constantly evaluating you and your friends’ rounds is extremely important.

Communicate with your friends about your preparation plans, expectations, and concerns ahead of time to proactively plan for an enjoyable experience. For example, you may want to be alone and

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have quiet time to mentally prepare for your ride or walk your course once by yourself, which are choices that can be misinterpreted by those around you. Remember it is absolutely okay (and often helpful) to focus solely on your own performance as you prepare for your round, but making the effort to communicate your plan to your friends ahead of time will greatly reduce the risk of misunderstandings within your relationship.

Good sportsmanship positively impacts your self-confidence. This cannot be overstated. Please read that again. If you have noticed yourself turn unduly critical of other riders (including your friends) in the heat of the moment, even if only in your mind, it may mean that you can be unduly negative or judgmental of your own performances as well. Craving a desired outcome like a blue ribbon instead of fully valuing effort and progress can lead to this type of negative mindset. Appreciating quality

performances, respecting talent, and complimenting success means you are fair and genuine with everyone around you—including yourself!

“Treat others as you wish to be treated.” This saying is an oldie but a goodie and it typifies the way to successfully navigate friendships during competition. For example, when competitive juices are in full effect, what would you rather your friend said to you literally moments before you entered the ring? “Be careful, everyone is having problems at the end jump; its really spooky.” or “Go get ‘em, good luck!” Communicating in ways that are supportive, positive and motivating are the best expressions of friendship within competition. Also, your friends very likely value your opinion, so sharing compliments and positive feedback can be a way to honor the bond you have in what can be a very charged atmosphere.

Remember, it is a blessing to share a sport you love with people you care about—appreciate it to the fullest!


Tonya Johnston, MA, is an equestrian mental skills coach with over 30 years of experience helping riders of all levels be their best. She conducts “Mental Skills for Riders” clinics throughout the country or via Zoom and does phone consultations with individual clients. Her book, Inside Your Ride: Mental Skills for Being Happy and Successful with Your Horse, is available on Amazon and Audible. Tonya has a monthly “Inside Your Ride” podcast that is a part of the Plaidcast. Connect with Tonya at 510-418-3664, or

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Brittany Massey RIDERS

STATUS: Professional

PROGRAM: BTH Equestrians, Sloughhouse, CA

As a horsewoman, I am most proud of learning to be patient with my horses and adjusting to what they need to succeed and knowing to take the time to allow them to learn. • As a horsewoman, I would most like to improve my time management so I could ride/teach more along with running the farm. • I’d be lost without sunglasses  in my tack trunk. • The best part about being a horse professional is the barn in the late evenings when the horses are all eating and relaxed, getting to check on them and pet their soft noses and say good night. My best piece of advice for young riders is watch and listen, a LOT, and try to watch with a very open mind. You’ll learn a lot at the warm up ring or at other people’s lessons. It’s the best free education I’ve ever received. • My favorite horse book is Horse Brain Human Brain. I think everyone with horses should have to read it.

My favorite non-horse book is anything by David Sedaris.

• The part of riding I’m best at is being soft with my aids to get the horses lighter and more relaxed. • I’m a sucker for a really pretty dark bay with no white, especially with dapples and a big beautiful eye. • On Mondays, you’ll find me sleeping in a little, reading, snowboarding in winter, and if it’s super hot in the summer, I love to head to the coast for the day. • The horse person I most admire is the late Jimmy Wofford. He was the most educated horseman I’ve ever known and he was an amazingly kind and supportive mentor for many years. • One of my greatest show ring victories was ... the first time my horse Bryton and I completed a derby together and he felt so happy and proud of himself. I’m pretty sure we were fourth or fifth, but it was a victory because he was a bit of a problematic fellow and now he’s just the most lovely and reliable soul. That’s been a big win for me. • One of the best horse names I’ve ever heard is ... any human name, I like simple, one-word names for the horses!

• My absolute favorite show is Thermal at Desert International Horse Park because they have trails and turn outs with grass that my horses just love.

“Bryton and me doing our favorite thing together— playing in the derby ring.”
104 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024
—Brittany Massey


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Massey checking the course with her nieces at a schooling show held at her farm "So proud of my students and their hard work." —Brittany Massey
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Managing Emotional and Mental Stress in Horses for Improved Welfare

Reprinted with permission from Trafalgar Square Books


We can all acknowledge that people have horses in their lives for various reasons. Because there is a need to define the “use” of horses in our lives, people often seek to learn how to “train” horses instead of learning how to be in a functional relationship with another species. People who have good relationship skills with other humans and understand the nature of social creatures in general, often have very good relationships with horses. So being honest about your own self-assessment and skillset is, therefore, critical in determining the type of relationship you will have with horses.

In general, there are five categories that most people can identify with, to some degree. Realize that most people do not fall into just one category but rather have a strong tendency toward one while exhibiting traits in others, as well. Balance, in the end, is the goal.



You seek and value “obedient” horses who quickly learn what to do. You have a strong work ethic and expect your horses to work just as hard. You have a low tolerance for horses trying to think on their own. You feel happy when things are in order and you are in charge.

• Best Horses for You: Those who like consistent and regular work and either seek to please or will test you, looking for strong guidance.

• Strengths: You usually have welltrained horses. You expect people and horses to do their jobs, and they often rise to that expectation. Your barn is usually run well and horses are kept to schedules. You are goal-oriented and often perform well under stress.

• Weaknesses: Horses and people need to “fit your program,” which may not be

successful in all cases. You may rely on “shortcut” training devices to get your horses do things you want in order to be efficient. Signs of equine stress may go unnoticed as you are results-oriented.


You love to nurture and care for horses and often have a “rescue” or someone else’s problem horse in your barn. Often you make a wonderful groom, veterinarian, or equine bodyworker. Your joy is being around horses as you appreciate all the duties related to caring for them.

• Best Horses for You: Those who respond to love and nurturing, and who have sensitive natures and the ability to communicate their appreciation. You may find “rehabbing” injured horses fulfilling.

• Strengths: You take the time to assess and care for horses physically and mentally. You are always willing to help your horse or other’s horses when they are in need. You support others and are

108 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024

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good at getting tasks done. You are careful and stabilizing

• Weaknesses: You can be prone to “compassion fatigue” from being overworked while trying to care for too many individuals at once, especially those that may not be “fixable.” You may end up with too many horses due to an inability to part with them or because they are horses not well suited to other living and training situations.


You are looking for the competition horse to share your love of sport. Regardless of the discipline, you value a top equine athlete and enjoy working together to compete and stay in shape. Winning is important, but you value the work it takes to get there, as well. Often you are a professional rider or excel in other athletic endeavors as an amateur.

• Best Horses for You: Those with equally competitive natures who “love the game.”

• Strengths: Your horses usually get regular work and are fit for their discipline. You stay in shape, and both you and your horses get top athletic training and maintenance. You are detail-oriented, logical, and usually prepared for the task before you. You want to win and will spend the money and time to get to the top if you can.

• Weaknesses: While you may find “difficult” horses interesting, you do not have the time or patience for horses who tend to have unsoundness issues or who are not both committed and talented. You will pass on and sell horses that do not meet your expectations. You may not be sympathetic to your horse’s needs.


You enjoy teaching both horses and people. Spending time with young horses and educating them about life, watching a student canter around a course for the first time, or teaching a group of students about equine behavior can all bring you satisfaction. Those who identify as a “riding instructor” or “educator” usually fit this category, but many who consider themselves “trainers” are often more aligned with the Controller and Competitor categories.

• Best Horses for You: Young horses and those horses with little knowledge

about how to “be a horse” or “be with people” are good fits, as you can help them learn essential skills.

• Strengths: Full of knowledge, you love to share it with others. You are a good communicator with both horses and people. You take the time to listen and develop learning exercises that fit the horse and the person. You often are the “go-to” person in the barn for information. You are frequently friendly and enthusiastic. Horses generally like you, and your natural teaching ability makes you ideal for working with both horses and people in various disciplines.

• Weaknesses: You think every horse and every person can benefit from learning something new from you. You may be judgmental of others when you know more than they do about what horses need, how to teach, or in general, how to do things better.


Horses are a “lifestyle” to you. You like the cultural aspects of the equestrian world, so owning horses, attending and supporting horse events, and socializing with other equestrians brings you pleasure. You may be a spouse or parent to an equestrian, or involved in breeding or investing in horses, own a farm in an equestrian community, or be involved in other aspects of the horse world.

• Best Horses for You: Horses that decorate your pasture or barn “just being horses,” horses in training you might ride once in a while or just

watch compete with someone else, and horses you support through donations of time or money are likely to fit your personality.

• Strengths: You are social, outgoing, and usually have good relationship skills. You often support and contribute to horse charities, events, and equestrian lifestyle activities. You may be involved in equestrian organizations and volunteer to help at events, even though you may not choose to ride or own your own horses.

• Weaknesses: You may overlook equine welfare as you may trust and believe others are caring for horses adequately, without knowing when to ask questions. Your desire for the status of being involved with horses can limit your direct connection with horses themselves and involvement in the bigger picture.


The better you are at assessing yourself and recognizing your strengths and weaknesses, the better you will be in developing positive relationships with horses. To develop trust, loyalty, and friendship, you must first truly love horses, then provide safety and comfort to them from a horse’s perspective, not a human perspective. Horses respond far better to feelings than to thinking, so your motivation for being with horses must come from the heart, not the mind. Then, no matter what discipline you choose to pursue with your horse, your horse will enjoy being with you.

110 THE PLAID HORSE March/April 2024
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