The Plaid Horse May 2021 - The Young Horse Issue

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The Young Horse Issue


for Hidden Ridge International

Allyson and Evan Coluccio find success (and some surprises!) with Agatha and Alexa Lignelli


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What Are Your (Revised) Horse Show Goals?















Smart Earth Camelina Oil: Improving a Host of Equine Issues

Classic Champions: Bringing European Traditions to America



Nautilus Farm: Putting Partnerships First








Courtney HaydenFromm: Empowering the Next Generation of Horse Lovers HORSES

Why Are So Many American-Owned Young Horses Growing Up Abroad?


Ask the Vet: How to Develop Your Young Horse Into a Future Athlete RIDERS


A New Direction for Hidden Ridge International

It Happens! Devon Edition with Louise Serio, John French, Emily Elek, and Kristen Bumpus



The Clothes Horse: Setting the Bar for Horse and Stable

Wynmore Farm: The Smiles Are Priceless



5 Strides with Atticus Diamant

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The Plaid Horse Questionnaire with Gerald Camera Congrats to the Blenheim Emerging Pro Grant Winners

Why You Should Take Equestrian Studies College Courses Online This Summer Natalie Keller Reinert’s Grabbing Mane


Sound Advice: Five Ways to Have the Best-Behaved Horse at the Mounting Block


May/June 2021     THE PLAID HORSE



What Do People Even Talk About? Fumbling Back into Society

Piper (right) and Heather of Heather N. Photography at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event in April.

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I found myself stuck the other morning on the way to the airport. I had trouble figuring out what to pack, then I worried about what might happen on my trip, then I worried some more about going out to dinner with people, doubting what I may or may not bring to the table. I don’t really have the coping mechanisms for this because, frankly, the opportunity to get on a plane and have an adventure made

me feel like a dog who just heard, “Car ride?” After getting yelled at by the TSA agent (yeah, I’m that out of practice), I sat down and read, only to be interrupted by nerves and anxiety. I started again, reading, making notes, and preparing for my day. Mercifully, my air travel Pavlovian response— sleep—overtook me as soon as I clicked my seatbelt, and all I had to do was arrive.

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Upon landing, I found a thousand micro decisions I was unrehearsed for after being so routine-bound. Where was the baggage claim? How might one find a rental car? Am I thirsty? Getting into my hotel room and dressed in pants I wasn’t sure would button moved into deciding if I could walk in my shoes, feeling the weight of my earrings, and being unsure of hair options outside a messy bun. As I sat down for dinner, I surveyed the restaurant and thought, ‘How do I do this again? What do people even talk about?’ No one has done anything. I hate talking about the weather, as the fact that it is still snowing at home is neither enlightening or interesting. Talking about pandemic is equally boring. Most of us didn’t have the foresight on this experience to take up falconry or something similarly interesting and have reflections to share. I worked out on my Peloton, outside, and rode a couple times with a mixed bag of hits and misses. There’s just not a lot of texture to 2020 or the start of the new year. But the thing is, once I jumped in, I had muscle memory. Once I got over the initial awkwardness, it was something I could do as easily as sleep on an airplane. I love talking to people and hearing their stories and sharing ideas. I love the circumstance of eating dinner out with friends. When the small things are quickly surpassed, it is easier to talk about bigger concepts, action plans, and grand innovation. The pandemic has been hard on all of us. It has also given us a gift when we come back—we can cut trifling. We can just jump right in and share: what we’ve been thinking, what we’ve been reading, and the connections we’re making. We can jump right in about theory, action, and new friendships. In putting our anxiety away, we can use our bravery to double down beyond small talk and get to know people and hear ideas and stories. As the restaurant closed around us, I wished the evening didn’t have to end. I

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LEFT: Piper (right) with TPH Contributor Laurie Scott (right) at Saratoga Spring Horse Shows, May 2021.

felt my cup fill up instead of the usual pandemic stasis of being exhausted after dinner and craving television. Back in my hotel room, wired, I looked at the line items that were left unchecked and ideas unfulfilled on my to-do list. And I felt the inertia changing. I was able to pick up the pen again and start to cross things out. Maybe we are turning a corner.


(Follow me on Instagram at @piperklemm)

CATCHING UP WITH ANNA PESTA, PH.D. AND PURINA EQUINE NUTRITIONIST. Purina® Omega Match™, the newest addition to the lineup of Purina® horse feed products, is approaching omega supplementation in a whole new way. Q: What type of horses will benefit most from Purina® Omega Match™ Ahiflower® Oil supplement and Omega Match™ Ration Balancing Feed? A: We created these products for horses that need a concentrated source of omega fatty acids, including those that are not able to graze due to pasture availability, travel schedule or carbohydrate sensitivity. They are two great options for any horse that’s missing out on the natural benefits of green grass. Due to the low feeding rate and a low combined sugar and starch content, the ration balancer is an appropriate

option for horses with metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, Cushing’s Disease, and more. The oil is good for any horse, especially performance horses that can benefit from the high concentration of healthy omegas. Q: Why do horses need omega fatty acids? A: Every cell in your horse’s body contains a balance of essential Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids to function properly and ensure that your horse’s skin, joints, cardiovascular, and immune systems can perform optimally, but your horse’s body can’t

make essential fatty acids. Horses evolved to graze in order to get plenty of Omega-3s, but sometimes our modern diets can fall short. Each pound of Omega Match™ Ration Balancing feed provides a similar amount of Omega-3 fatty acids as two hours of grazing on fresh pasture. Q: How does the Ahiflower® Oil supplement compare to other Omega supplements on the market? A: Not only does Ahiflower oil deliver more Omega-3s per ounce than other plant oil sources, but it is also unique

among plants in its fatty acid profile. It is rich in stearidonic acid (SDA), which is efficiently converted to beneficial eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), normally only found in fish oil. Ahiflower oil is also more palatable than most fish-derived Omega-3 products. Nature didn’t intend for your horses to eat fish, but they love the taste of Ahiflower oil!


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What Are Your (Revised) Horse Show Goals? The Devon Horse Show cancellation has many riders in The Plaid Horse Adult Amateur Lounge on Facebook reconsidering their horse show goals—whether they were Dixon Oval-bound or not. Below, a selection of answers from the group …

“I realized the only important things for me regarding shows is that there’s a good photographer, good footing, and nice ribbons if I’m lucky enough to win one. In FL, I can achieve all those things at schooling shows, plus not have to spend a ton of money to get there, which always make it more fun.” —EMMA VR

“I’ve always treated the nice shows like a vacation. The points were just a bonus. Just enjoy your time.” —KIM MINER

“Good footing for sure. I’m not playing around with bad footing anymore. One of the reasons I chose WEC this winter.” —PAIGE BLEVINS

“My only goals for this year with an inexperienced horse are: 1) move up the levels, 2) create more adjustability, 3) manage to not get jumped off in the process of pursuing #1 and #2. Then, if I succeed at those, perhaps a bonus 4) compete at Thermal!” —SAM COLLINGSWORTH

“I just want to continue my horse’s education and enjoy shows without going broke.” —RACHEL WILKOSKI

“I just want to look forward to waking up and going for a ride.” —MARGIE WOLSON

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“I have never point-chased before. This is my first time at, ahem, 50! Goal is Zone HOTY for the AA’s this year, staying local, and finally enjoying my home bred who is now turning 10!” —MELISSA MURPHY RAFANO


The Professional’s Solution

Cornelia Dorr’s By-The-Sea aka Percy- SAS Photography


SMART EARTH CAMELINA OIL Improving a Host of Equine Issues WORDS:


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Saskatoon, Canada, is revolutionizing the way we supplement our horses. The company, founded by Jack Grushcow, has been cultivating an innovative line of oilseed camelina since 2005. So what is camelina oil, and how can it help your horse? Smart Earth’s camelina oil is derived from a one hundred percent pure non-GMO oilseed crop. The Camelina sativa plant dates back to prehistoric times in Europe, where it was a substantial component of the human diet. Though it is a relatively new crop in North America, it is quickly gaining traction in the equine industry for its high-yielding source of Omega fatty acids and natural Vitamin E, both of which have been proven to provide countless health benefits for horses. PHOTOS: LINDSEY RAE SCHROEDER (LEFT), MONICA FEJES (FAR RIGHT)


TESTIMONIAL “The results have been amazing and we truly believe in this product. Our clients are also putting their horses on the oil after seeing the results! We have an older gelding retired from a show career but arthritic who was getting monthly leg injections, but since starting the oil he moves better and is no longer needing costly injections. One client’s mare suffering from sweet itch is no longer rubbing and biting her body raw since starting the oil. All the horses’ coats glisten and the manes and tails grow quicker than they ever have before!” —TRISH COWLAND, SPROUT MEADOWS ENTERPRISES LTD.


The omega 3 in camelina oil is called ALA and it is the only one deemed ‘essential’ for horses. This means that it is a nutrient required for normal body functioning that can not be synthesized by the body, it must be provided in the diet. In the wild, horses get a rich amount of ALA through grazing on fresh grass but ALA is usually lacking in the typical domesticated diet. This deficiency can cause a host of issues including digestive trouble, allergy symptoms, mood disorders, joint discomfort, skin, coat, and hoof problems to name a few. While other oils will provide fat into the diet, most do not provide the essential type of omega 3 – ALA. In fact, many popular oils actually add to the existing inflammatory problem by providing the wrong types of omega fatty acids, which is pro-inflammatory. Smart Earth Camelina offers an all-natural solution within their unique and carefullydeveloped production of a camelina oil supplement for horses. The oil, which is composed of approximately 38% ALA (omega 3) and 20% LA (omega 6), works as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant at the cellular level. It provides ALA and LA, the specific types of fatty acids that horses need and may be lacking, and is easy to feed as a top dressing. Horses love it! It comes in a simple oil form that can be added to the top of your horse’s grain for easy consumption. Over the last 16 years, Smart Earth Camelina Oil has gained the backing of equine nutritionist Jenna

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TESTIMONIAL “Casey was 350 pounds underweight with inflamed joints when we got him. He was riddled with worms, and covered in skin lesions and rain rot with visible open sores from a ploughing harness. The equipment he was forced to wear rubbed his skin raw and caused substantial soft tissue damage and secondary infections. The vet wasn’t confident he’d even recover. Supplementing his feed with Smart Earth Camelina Oil had a substantial impact in bringing Casey back to health. It even helped alleviate his arthritic hocks and inflamed joints. Before long, Casey was noticeably moving better and his skin returned to good health, an amazing turnaround.” —JENNIFER SEMACH, WALKABOUT FARM THERAPEUTIC RIDING ASSOCIATION

Tranter, who holds a certificate in equine nutrition and feeding from the British Horse Society. “In today’s horses,” says Tranter, “there aren’t many problems I have not seen, and Smart Earth Camelina Oil can fix a lot of them. I have seen it aid in allergic hyperactivity. I have seen it change horses’ moods and give us much more stable, calm animals to work with. I have seen it add weight. I have seen it fix dry skin and coats and I’ve seen it improve tail and mane quality on numerous horses.” In comparison to other omega supplements available on the market, Smart Earth Camelina offers a safe, all-natural oil option, versus the more common chemically-extracted options such as soy oil frequently utilized by their competitors. Soy oils are unbalanced in their ratios of omega oils and can actually be pro-inflammation. By cold-pressing the Camelina seed in the production and extraction process, Smart Earth Camelina has created an option that is nonGMO and is even safe for human consumption. Furthermore, Smart Earth Camelina Oil is safe for show and performance horses, and is a legal supplement for competitive organizations. Smart Earth Camelina customers most frequently see results in their horses within two to eight weeks, and over five hundred five-star reviews note the countless positive effects. While the oil offers benefits for performance horses, it has also shown great results for hard-keepers and horses at all stages of life. From improved coat health to fewer allergic reactions, better moods, ulcer prevention, healthy weight gain, and decreased joint pain, Smart Earth Camelina Oil offers a simple solution to the problems caused by a lack of ALA and the wrong type of omegas dominating today’s horse diet. To find out more about Smart Earth Camelina or to shop their products, visit their website at


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Cynthia Hampton and her stallion Orbetello

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CLASSIC CHAMPIONS Bringing European Traditions to America WORDS:



How Cynthia Hampton is building a foundation for young jumpers “I WANT TO HONOR THE HORSE and

bring the horse back to the center of the picture,” says Cynthia Hampton, founder of Classic Champions. In 2015, Hampton set out to do just that by starting a nonprofit organization with the goal of implementing educational age-appropriate practices for the maximum development of young horses in North America. Classic Champions offers classes for four-, five-, six-, and sevenyear-olds that are intended to educate talent, appreciate inherent attributes for the sport, and assess ability. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Hampton excelled in the equitation ring May/June 2021     THE PLAID HORSE



as a junior, studied documentary filmmaking and French Literature at Stanford University, and then pursued a career in photography. “After college, I moved to Paris where I met photographer Deborah Turbeville, who hired me as her assistant. We did high fashion photoshoots including Valentino, Vogue and Elizabeth Arden.. Eventually, I got my first job as a freelancer with Harper’s Bazaar in Milan with a 12- page editorial spread, and that was the beginning of my career,” she says. Hampton’s passion for art and love of horses have gone together wherever life has taken her. “When I taught photography, I told my students that the only real rule is to press the button when you feel something; that’s when you will truly be expressing yourself. The thought behind your actions is what matters when creating art and the same thing goes for horses,” she says. “It’s all about the passion you bring to it and one’s ability to transmit this awareness.” While Hampton’s whirlwind photography career took off, she maintained her time in the tack and trained under Christophe Escande at a farm near Dreux outside of Paris. It was during this time she had the opportunity to observe how Escande developed young horses. He used systematic methods, focused on the relationship between horse and rider and the optimal manner in which to communicate these things to the horse.

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“The thought behind your actions is what matters whether one is creating art or working with horses. Targeted educated passion rings true.” —CYNTHIA HAMPTON

“If you think about a human child when they are very young and how you want them to learn something, you take your time to instill that knowledge,” she says. “There is an optimum time in life for learning new things. It is important to introduce these various things at the right time in the life of a horse while doing this in an appropriate way. When horses are young, they need time to compute what’s happening. These are physical, emotional and intellectual abilities. We need to take steps to develop the entire horse.” Irish show jumper Paul O’Shea has collaborated with Hampton and been a supporter of Classic Champions. “He takes lessons with top dressage trainers such as Ruth Hogan-Paulsen every week on the horses that he’s developing” Hampton says. “He keeps them mentally and physically as sound as they can be. I’m trying to promote Paul and that kind of horsemanship.” When she returned home in 1997, Hampton was stunned by the contrast between European and American show jumping practices. This ignited her passion and sparked her desire to start developing the roots of Classic Champions.

Hampton recognized some key differences between competing in France versus competing in the United States. In France, it wasn’t as simple as arriving at the show and entering any class you want; there was a solid framework in place to help riders and horses be successful.

HORSEMANSHIP FIRST Before Hampton’s daughter Olivia could even get into the show ring in France, she had to complete seven levels of testing, or “Galops.” By contrast, recognized competitions in America are open to all levels of riders. “In France, the seventh exam involved riding a cross-country course, performing a stadium jumping course as well as a dressage test, and an oral and a written exam,” she says. “We had to know and understand the use of a double bridle plus how to take it apart and put it back together. We had to understand nutrition, basic care, morphology and pathology.”

MAKING HORSE SHOWS MORE ACCESSIBLE Hampton points out how shows in France are also more accessible and affordable,

Hampton with Tom Holden, International 3* course designer and Vice President of Classic Champions Inc.

allowing riders to gain miles and experience with young horses. “Here in North America we deal with distances that European countries don’t face, which is a challenge,” she adds. “In Paris, you can drive a couple of hours outside the city and there are top horse shows. The shows are shorter and there are not big, expensive circuits like you see here.”

COURSE DESIGNING FOR CONFIDENCE Classic Champions classes feature course design specifically tailored to young horses to build their confidence in the show ring. “The Classic Champions courses are inviting, and ask the horses the correct questions without over-facing them, and that’s very important for young horses; not to ask them things they can’t do,” says top trainer and Olympian Joe Fargis. “I have worked with FEI course designers that specialize in young jumpers, such as Frédéric Cottier, Michel Ismalun, and Tom Holden,” Hampton says. “I want to eventually create a path to certification for course designers who want to learn about designing for developing young horses.” Holden, an Irish FEI 3* course designer who has built

for the Irish Young Horse Championships in Dublin, Ireland for the last sixteen years, now serves as the vice president of Classic Champions. He is a former competitor in three-day eventing in Ireland.

PAVING CAREER PATHS AND MAXIMIZING POTENTIAL Hampton believes there is great untapped potential for many careers focused on developing young horses in North America. “I want to help develop an educational program to teach riders who might never go to the top grand prix levels on how to educate young horses to develop their maximum potential,” Hampton says. “We have an enormous opportunity for this class of riders to make a career.” This also constitutes an important opportunity for our horses, their breeders, riders and owners. In addition to creating jobs for professionals, Hampton also aims to find suitable careers for young horses. “It’s all about doing the right thing on the horse at the right time. Our goal is to maximize the potential of each horse. One horse may be suited to amateurs only, but that’s a useful horse that can have a useful life.”

LOOKING AHEAD Prior to the pandemic, Classic Champions has offered classes at The Ridge, Old Salem Farm, Palm Beach Masters, and a series and final at the Kentucky Horse Park in the Rolex Ring in September of 2019. Hampton looks forward to expanding Classic Champions to more horse shows nationwide and continuing her mission to educate people and horses. “The Development of our young competition horses matters deeply to me. I will work to the best of my ability to make this become my legacy,” she says. “The USHJA Young Jumper Task Force has done a great job of starting to create opportunities for young jumpers. I want to build on this and give back to the sport through sharing what I learned during my 20 years in France: an educational format for successfully teaching young horses and aspiring professionals.” To learn more about Classic Champions, visit their website or follow them on Facebook @Classic Champions Inc and Instagram @classic_champions_inc.

May/June 2021     THE PLAID HORSE




Putting Partnerships First WORDS:


At Donna Pace’s boutique hunter/jumper barn in Connecticut, horse and rider partnerships are top priority DONNA PACE WAS your typical

horse-crazy girl. She collected Breyers (but wouldn’t share them with her younger sister) and dreamed of owning her own horse someday. And, like many of us, she did not come from a horse family. “My parents were city kids,” the now-owner and trainer at Nautilus Farm in Redding, CT, tells The Plaid Horse. “They grew up in New York and knew nothing about horses and I just loved them.”

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with True North at The Devon Horse Show; Donna riding Zenzero at Old Salem Farm; Donna and Sunday Best at Old Salem Farm


May/June 2021     THE PLAID HORSE



Being the daughter of “city kids” didn’t stop this future equestrian, and when she was 7, she finally got her chance. An acquaintance of the family owned a Shetland pony farm, and he told Pace she could pick one from his herd. “Of course, we ended up with an unbroke stud pony,” Pace says with a laugh. “We didn’t have him long. But that was how it all started. Then I got into lessons when I was around 9 years old. I can remember being nervous and stuff like that, thinking that the ring was so big and that the horse was running away with me. And now, driving by it, I see there was probably only like five strides down the one side.” That was the beginning. From there, Pace would continue to take lessons and ride whatever she could. She enjoyed jumping and started showing, first in-house and then her first away show to the Junior Essex Troop in New Jersey. They leased a few horses. When she was 15, she finally purchased her first horse. She picked a spicy little Thoroughbred, named Tashua, after the area in Connecticut he was from. She bought him off a classified ad in the newspaper for $500. During that time, Pace gained more experience by riding horses for other people, and developed a love for the jumpers. Her trainer then was Paul Okolowicz, a Polish man

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WHAT’S IN A NAME? Nautilus Farm was established in 2015. Next to horses, Donna Pace’s other love is the beach, and she appreciated the meaning of the nautilus shell. “It has a nice metaphor for the constant journey in life of growing and evolving, so the shell and the name have meaning for me,” she says.

with an affinity for imported Warmbloods at a time before they were popular. Pace did a bit of everything—Junior Jumpers, Junior Hunters, Equitation, Preliminary & Open Jumpers, and dressage shows. She went on to train with Anthony D’Ambrosio, Sr. and began teaching during her senior year of high school. Students included her own sister and her daughter, Cira. “I always knew horses were my life,” says Pace, who went to the Potomac Horse Center in Gaithersburg, MD, for the Horse Masters Course they offered in the 1970s. There, she continued her training over fences, as well as in dressage with a trainer who’d competed in the Olympics. “She was brutally tough on me, taught me a lot though in hindsight,” says Pace, adding that the trainer nicknamed her the ‘Hot Shot Show Jumper Rider from the Northeast.’ “I had a different trainer for the stadium jumping, and they gave me a green horse for eventing, so they taught all those phases. But what was really good was what we learned in the classroom— the veterinarian care and barn management.”

TRAINING HOLISTICALLY At Nautilus Farm, Pace puts horse and rider first, and approaches each partnership from a holistic standpoint. This includes a lot of focus


“I always knew horses were my life.” —DONNA PACE

FROM LEFT: Donna and Beasley at Nimrod Farm c. 1976, Donna and

Tashua at Coker Farm c. 1970, Donna and Kahlua at Kent School c. 1979, Donna and Candian Sunset at Old Salem Charity Horse Show in 1993

on the basics in her lessons— being straight, balanced and focused on pace when flatting and jumping any size fence. “Everything is individually tailored here, and my process is probably much slower because I don’t feel the need to push, especially when I am teaching the adult riders,” Pace says. “When they’re junior riders, they have a timeframe for goals, you know, and then once you get your adult riders that still want to partake, they don’t have to hurry in this lifelong sport.” This means that no two rides are the same, no two lessons are the same. Rather than always sticking to a set lesson plan, Pace adapts to work on what needs to be worked on that day. Even if that means checking saddle fit on a horse that seems unhappy. This is where the holistic aspect comes in. The horses at Nautilus Farm are spoiled and happy. They get ample turnout, which Pace thinks is vital to their wellbeing. “A horse needs to be a horse,” she says. Each horse at Nautilus Farm has a team of professionals besides Pace to ensure that they are always feeling their best. Her veterinarian, chiropractor, and blacksmith all work together as a team to make sure her horses are always in top shape. Even over the course of this interview,

the chiropractor came out to look at a horse who was acting grumpy. “We checked saddle fit, we got him a new, better girth with elastic in the middle,” says Pace. “He was a very sweet, happy horse, and he’s telling us something and we are trying to be aware of that.” Pace adds that she does a lot of the body clipping herself, because it allows her to feel the horses and notice how they react to the pressure of the clippers. “You can know how the muscles are doing just by that,” she says. But she’s not the only one who’s hands-on at Nautilus Farm. She makes sure that her riders are also handling their horses: tacking up, bathing, and grooming. “I’ve always been taught by my mom that the horses and ponies come first, no matter what,” adds Pace’s daughter, Cira Pace Malta, who trains with her mom and shows in the Amateur Owner hunters and is the subscription and podcast manager for The Plaid Horse. “The amount of time that we spend in the saddle is so little compared to all of the other parts of being a rider and horse or pony owner. My mom is passionate about creating horsemen that care about their horses’ needs when they are riding and when they are taking care of them in the barn.”

NAUTILUS FARM TOP ACCOMPLISHMENTS • The Devon Horse Show • Pennsylvania National Horse Show • Washington International Horse Show • The National Horse Show • USEF National Pony Hunter Finals • USEF Junior Hunter Finals • Zone 1 Finals • Marshall and Sterling Finals • Connecticut Hunter & Jumper Association Finals


THE CLOTHES HORSE Setting the Bar for Horse and Stable

For nearly five decades, The Clothes Horse has been making bespoke blankets, tack room drapes, trunk covers and so much more. In a time where a lot of businesses aim to deliver products cheaper and faster, The Clothes Horse commits to craftsmanship and quality. WORDS:


LEFT: The Clothes Horse will make all the coolers for WIHS for the tenth consecutive year in 2021. ABOVE: Coldren with her

homebred “heart horse,” ArtMatters, last year.

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BELOW: A traditional wool dress sheet is “a simple and timeless staple of horse showing,” says Coldren.


LOT GOES in to the search for the

perfect dress sheet. Custom colors? Yes, please. Must match the barn aesthetic! Superior quality, of course. Equestrians know how something well made can last generations. Exquisite details make us swoon. From intricate swirled piping to special buckles, we want to add a bit of our own flair to tradition. Katrina Coldren, the owner of The Clothes Horse, understands. A horsewoman herself, she takes great pride in providing exemplary service to each and every customer—whether it’s an order for that perfect sheet or an entire tack room setup. The Clothes Horse has been an icon at shows around the country for nearly 50 years. Edith Friedman, the original owner, established May/June 2021     THE PLAID HORSE



herself as a premier equestrian seamstress by 1990 when Coldren first joined the company. “A friend told me she knew a business that made horse blankets, and was looking for someone to answer the phone for a couple hours a day who could actually talk to horse people and understand the nuances of ‘horse speak’,” Coldren says. Very quickly, within weeks, she became the shop manager and fell in love with the business. “Growing up, I didn’t do a lot of the big horse shows,” she adds. “I had posters on my wall of Katie Monahan, Leslie Burr Howard, and Margie Engle. When I came to work at The Clothes Horse, those people called all the time. It was a bit of a fan girl moment.” Coldren went along with Edith to make deliveries at the Devon show grounds, where all the big name riders stopped by to say hello and ask Edith how she was doing. “I realized that Edith had built a following from the top riders and barns in the industry, and that The Clothes Horse was really something special,” Coldren says. The heart of the business—creating beautiful products— proved to be another joy for Coldren, one that still continues thirty years later. She took over as owner in 2001, and still enjoys tapping into her creativity to make products. “We aren’t just turning out the same thing over and over,” she adds. “People challenge us with design ideas. I can do navy and green all day long, but when someone comes to me and says ‘I really want aubergine’ I like the challenge.” Collaborating with the customer to create something that meets their vision in a beautiful end product remains a joy for Coldren. A lot has happened since 2001, but at The Clothes Horse most things remain the same. The core value of what the businesses does hasn’t changed since Edith’s original work ethic that attracted all those famous riders many years ago. “We don’t cut corners just to save a dollar,” Coldren says. “Quality is paramount. I’d rather be able to ship out ten perfect dress sheets a day, instead of fifteen ‘good enough’ sheets.” Above all else, the businesses commits to customer service. They have stood behind every single stitch for over 50 years. It’s all about how they can cultivate long term relationships, as opposed to pushing to sell more and more. There are modern updates though. Their website features a blanket creator, where you can choose your horse’s color and pick colors down to the piping and trim. Coldren also enjoys thinking outside the box on designs when her customers want a bit more flair. But mostly, the products are steeped in the time-honored tradition that is the hunter/jumper world. They continue to use the same quality fabrics as they did back when riders wore hunt caps instead of helmets. Unlike helmets, the coolers and products made by The Clothes Horse often outlive the horse they were originally purchased for. (The author of this piece lost her horse years ago, but the cooler remains in excellent condition.) When asked how these items last so long, Coldren says it begins with quality fabrics. Buying the best wool isn’t as easy as running to the grocery store to pick up the same brand you always get, but the effort makes a difference. “We’re not looking for the cheapest product that will fulfill the minimum requirements,” Coldren says.

42     THE PLAID HORSE     May/June 2021

ABOVE: A cotton stable sheet. “Horse

clothes that are practical, not just beautiful, are as important to us as the showpiece items,” says Coldren. RIGHT: A gray wool dress sheet. “We

‘tweak’ the pattern of wool dress sheets to still fit well over the saddle — no bellies or bums should stick out!”

“We work really hard to make sure our products are the highest quality because we want them to last for a lifetime.” —KATRINA COLDREN, OWNER

ABOVE, FROM TOP: A Clothes Horse satin award cooler, (all the rage at the time!) awarded at Madison Square Garden in 1985.

A jumper all dressed up in his scrim and matching jumper bonnet. Detail of our high quality leather buckles, which are standard on all wool dress sheets.

From fabric to buckles to trim, “it’s about being meticulous and a little obsessive about sources of good quality material.” The rest of the brand’s magic is in its workmanship. They use a single needle machine, a rarity in today’s mass manufactured market. “Most blankets nowadays are made with automatic binders and double needles,” Coldren adds. “It means they can just zip around the blanket once, where we actually do that four or five times.” This process allows The Clothes Horse to do very accurate mitered corners. Many blanket manufacturers will stretch out the stitches to make the process quicker, leaving the blanket with weak spots that can come apart. The Clothes Horse keeps theirs small, tight, and precise. “It’s not that either method is the wrong choice, but it’s just a different business model,” she says. “We work really hard to make sure our products are the highest quality because we want them to last for a lifetime.” Putting such an emphasis on quality has meant that not only will their blankets last generations, but their customers do as well. Coldren often takes orders from riders she helped when they were on small ponies, only now they’re calling for their children on their own smalls. She keeps extremely intricate records dating back over twenty years. Trainers call to setup what The Clothes Horse calls a “recipe” that matches the barn’s aesthetic. That makes it easy for clients to call in and get exactly what they need and keep everything consistent. “We’re a little obsessive about it honestly,” Coldren says with a laugh. “it’s kind of our claim to fame.” Though she’s been working in this business for over thirty years, Coldren still has stars in her eyes when it comes to serving her clients. The Clothes Horse makes all the coolers for Washington, Harrisburg, the National, and Devon. She’s even been able to send a cooler to an even grander arena… The White House! “President George HW Bush hired us to make cooler with the crest from the Mexico flag as a gift to the president of Mexico,” she says. But her favorite projects are retirement coolers. “From the super stars like Gem Twist, to someone’s beloved junior hunter, I am always honored to be included in such a touching tradition.” These kind of projects, including memorial pillows from coolers worn by special horses, show how it’s a lot more than “just” a blanket. “It’s not just a cooler with their name on it, it’s something they wore. That sort of thing is just as near and dear to my heart as the higher profile orders.” That sentiment is a large part of what has kept The Clothes Horse thriving for the past 50 years, and what will ensure it remains an equestrian institution. Because it’s not always easy to find exquisite products thoughtfully made by industry professionals. But with The Clothes Horse, you can always trust that no detail will be spared for you and your horse.


20% OFF any one item Coupon valid through June 15, 2021. Cannot be combined with any other offer. Limit one coupon per customer. Excludes animal feed, bedding, wormers, saddles, and special orders. Other exclusions may apply. Use promo code “MAY/JUNE2021” to order online. RICK’S FARM FEED PET & RICK’S HERITAGE SADDLERY

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A New Direction for


Lignelli on High Society with Allyson Coluccio; Agatha Lignelli aboard Fox Creek’s Curious George; Agatha with her cow, Milkshake; Chiccobello with Agatha, Evan Coluccio, and Aundrea Hillyard; Agatha painting Philadelphia Story’s hooves before a model class

46     THE PLAID HORSE     May/June 2021

Covid changes, circuit championships and ... cows? ALLYSON AND EVAN COLUCCIO find success (and some surprises!) with AGATHA AND ALEXA LIGNELLI

Hidden Ridge International


HEN 10-YEAR-OLD Agatha Lignelli was

champion with her large pony hunter Chiccobello one week at WEF this winter, she opted out of the parade of champions because she felt her pony was tired and deserved a break. Instead of celebrating her win, she went back to the stalls, gave Chiccobello a bath, took out his braids, and tucked him into his stall to rest. “She’s a completely unique, special kid. We do have help, so it wasn’t like she had to do that,” says trainer Allyson Coluccio of Hidden Ridge International. “You don’t find many kids who are so dedicated to animal care at such a young age.”






May/June 2021     THE PLAID HORSE



Though Agatha opted out of the initial parade of champions, a few weeks later, she’d get to take part in the parade of champions at the end of the circuit. Agatha earned circuit championships in the Large Pony Hunters aboard Chiccobello, and the Low Child/Adult Training Jumpers aboard Fox Creek’s Curious George. Her sister, Alexa Lignelli, 13 joined her in the winner’s circle with Girl Scout, Low Junior Jumper Circuit Champion. Alexa also earned great finishes in USHJA National and International Derbies as well as weekly tricolors across the Junior Hunter divisions. It was an exceptional season for Alexa and her equitation mounts, with multiple top Maclay finishes and a top twelve finish in the annual WEF Equitation Championship aboard Don Stewart’s Any Given Sunday.

A PANDEMIC PIVOT It was the common ground on horsemanship and quality care that motivated Allyson to rejoin the show circuit with the Lignellis as clients. Hidden Ridge International, operated by Allyson and her son Evan Coluccio, has earned a reputation for importing and breeding the highest quality ponies and horses since the early 1990s. Evan showed sales horses as needed and did some training at shows upon request, but Allyson had not been a regular on the show circuit for almost 20 years. “I was selling an average of 40 horses a year,” says Allyson. “But then in 2020, the pandemic happened, and suddenly I’m not going to Europe every three weeks buying horses.” At the same time, the Lignelli family was looking for a home barn to train Agatha, Alexa, and their small herd of ponies and horses. They had purchased several ponies from Hidden Ridge International in the past, so the Coluccios

were a natural option. “The Lignellis would make copies of every award that our ponies earned and send it to us,” says Allyson. “No one else had ever really been like that. I got to know them quite well as a family over that time, and they retired several older horses with us.” The Coluccios are no strangers to the A-circuit and the pressures that come with it. With the Lignelli sisters, a return felt right. “I didn’t want to train kids who feel everything is the horse’s fault, or deal with parents who will insist on showing a horse that isn’t feeling well. For the Lignellis, the horses are part of the family and receive the best possible care,” says Allyson. “Both girls are really special; they’re just amazing kids. They know their horses, their idiosyncrasies, their pet peeves.” While Allyson didn’t plan a return to the show circuit, she considered it solely because of her and Evan’s close relationship with Agatha and Alexa, and their parents, Catherine and Jeff. “Sometimes, things happen for a reason,” says Allyson. “It just fell together.” Evan agrees, and enjoys working with both girls for different reasons. “Alexa is a crazy good student in every way,” he says. “If she makes a mistake, we talk about how to fix it and she won’t make that mistake again. In a way she almost trains herself. She’s really smart.” Agatha is also exceptional in that she has cultivated impressive horsemanship skills even at her young age, Evan adds: “Agatha likes to know the preparation and she’s very much trying to understand all of it. She’ll make sure that her ponies don’t stand in the sun for too long, and that they’ve walked enough, that their feet are clean and that they’re in a good mood. She just wants to be part of every aspect of it, which is really refreshing and fun.” If Agatha isn’t riding or taking care of her own ponies, she can be found setting jumps, walking her sister’s horse to the ring, or observing the farrier or vet. “She just wants to know everything,” says

Allyson. “She wants to know why a jump is set a certain way, why the ground line is in a certain place, every detail. She probably knows more than 90% of the 18-year-olds.” Evan adds that he’s proud of how Agatha’s riding skills have progressed through the winter circuit, and credits her jumper pony for helping develop her confidence. “Putting her in the jumper division was the best thing we ever did,” says Evan. “She was timid when we first started working with her—successful, but timid. Previously if a pony was sassy she would have pulled up and suggested someone else ride. Now she just kicks harder. She’s super brave and confident now and it’s just so fun to see.”


AUNDREA HILLYARD: HIDDEN RIDGE’S STAR WORKING STUDENT Aundrea Hillyard is Hidden Ridge International’s working student and a vital part of the success of the whole team. At 16, she’s still small enough to school the ponies when needed and

has had great success in the show ring, including earning a championship in the Low Children’s Jumpers at WEF aboard iCloud, owned by Hidden Ridge. “She’s amazing and works super

48     THE PLAID HORSE     May/June 2021

hard and is a super rider,” says Evan. “She’s a team player. She’s one of those students who is more behind the scenes, but she’s a huge asset to us, and is part of the family team.”

Agatha’s love for animals extends beyond equines. She recently bottle-raised two calves after rescuing them from slaughter. Milkshake was two months old when he was found abandoned at a neighboring farm, and Pepita was only three days old when her mother was sold, leaving her orphaned. The Lignellis and Coluccios worked together to bottle feed her and get her healthy.

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Chiccobello, Evan, Fox

Creek’s Curious George, and Agatha walk to the circuit parade of champions at WEF; Alexa bottlefeeding Pepita with Jeff Lignelli and Milkshake; Alexa and Agatha with their mother, Catherine

FOX CREEK’S CURIOUS GEORGE 2006 Half Welsh Bay Gelding

“Every time they hear Agatha’s voice, they moo to her and are so happy to see her,” says Allyson. When she had a week off from school • Circuit champion, in Wellington, Agatha WEF, Medium Pony Hunter flew with Allyson to the farm to visit all the • Circuit champion, animals. When she WEF, Low Children’s/ can’t be there in person, Adult Amateur Agatha is also able Training Jumper to check on the cows through an app on her phone that connects to cameras in their stalls. Agatha has also developed a special relationship with the rescued alpacas that live at Hidden Ridge, and she has taught them to jump small courses. “They’re super unique,” says Agatha. “They’re a little stubborn but they’re willing to learn, especially when you make a partnership with them.” Hidden Ridge is also home to sheep and bunnies (in addition to the alpacas, cows, ponies, and horses), and Agatha helps take care of them all. Allyson enjoys being able to share her passion for animals with Agatha, and has


• Tricolors at WEF, Harrisburg, and Washington, Medium Pony Hunter


even taken on a new hobby: breeding miniature cows. “They’re just so cute,” says Allyson. “Breeding them is much less complicated than horses or ponies, and they’re less maintenance. But they’re adorable and friendly and have great personalities.” Although she’s only ten, Agatha knows her future plans will involve animals. “I just want to do anything I can to help animals and give them better lives,” she says. Allyson sees it, too: “I really think that one day we’ll see her changing the world where animals are concerned.”

Allyson plans to resume her import business again with trips abroad once it’s safe to do so. “I’d like to get closer to pre-pandemic levels,” she says. Hidden Ridge is also hoping to take the Lignellis to Europe next year to experience horse showing there. For now, Evan is enjoying being able to work with horses for a longer amount of time than he previously had when he was riding and showing mostly sales horses. “Before I would have horses and may show them only one time before they’d be sold, so having horses to show consistently was never a thing,” he says. “Now we’ve got this whole show schedule and I have a few horses I’m bringing along in the bigger jumpers. Eventually some of those horses could be for Alexa and Agatha.” Both Allyson and Evan are excited about the future of Hidden Ridge International with the Lignellis. “There are a lot of wheels turning, and there are a lot of moving parts to our operation,” says Evan. “The future is definitely bright.” May/June 2021     THE PLAID HORSE


Click on what’s new Proficiency Certificate Program Overview Registered Candidates ANRC DVD Series Clinicians and Judges

Complete Instructions See ALL of the detailed information and material for the three levels of course work, how to complete the work, and how to submit performance videos for your certificate evaluation.

What’s it about? See if you are eligible to enroll in the ANRC Forward Riding Proficiency Certificate Program. Earning a Proficiency Certificate at a Level I, II, or III is a validation of your dedication as a rider and your degree of equestrian proficiency. The knowledge you hold will prepare you for employment in the equine industry, whether you choose to be a professional rider, equine manager, trainer, or teacher.

Get feedback from experts We have assembled a group of respected top-rated national judges to serve on our evaluation and feedback panel.

Proprietary DVD series presents narrative and demonstrations The American System of Forward Riding: Life Lessons Learned with Horses by R. Scot Evans and Shelby French This DVD series is the primary learning tool for the certificate program and guides you through the levels of the American System of Forward Riding. Riders may use the series as a guide for “home schooling”. Teachers may utilize the system as an instructional framework for teaching, and use portions of the DVD series as demonstrations to compliment their lessons. Workbooks in PDF format accompany the DVD Series Volumes One and Two. “ I was introduced to the ANRC (forward riding system) in my early years as a professional. This foundation gave me the tools to use for a successful riding and teaching career— great exercises, visual and mental preparation and attention to detail which is so important when creating great students and horses. In my amateur years, I used all those tools and my horse “Legend” ended up WCHR amateur owner champion in 1996. I thank the ANRC for that knowledge that put me on the right path. Such a good system!”— Dacia Johnson

at Captain Vladimir S. Littauer Grant Captain Vladimir S. Littauer Continuing Education Grant William Steinkraus, Joe Fargis, Lendon Gray, Paul Cronin, Bernie Traurig. What do these respected horsemen have in common? All were influenced by the forward riding system established by Captain Vladimir S. Littauer. Born in Russia in 1892, Captain Littauer, was instrumental in bringing the Forward Riding System, what we today refer to as “hunt seat,” to the civilian public. An early advocate of the forward seat riding system, Littauer wrote more than a dozen books between 1930 and 1973, including Common Sense Horsemanship (a book that serves as the primary textbook for the ANRC program.) Littauer continued to teach and was a frequent guest lecturer at Sweet Briar College in Virginia where one of his students, Harriet Rogers, founded a riding program for the college in the 1950s based on his system. *

Qualify for a Grant The Captain Vladimir S. Littauer Continuing Education Grants are awarded to riders who best exemplify the practice of, and commitment to, achieving excellence in the American Forward Riding System. Grants may be used for any purpose that advances the applicant’s equestrian goals. This may include, for example, a high school or college riding program, instruction through clinics or lessons, individual training, or competition. To qualify, applicants must have enrolled in the ANRC Forward Riding Proficiency Certificate Program and have earned an ANRC Forward Riding Proficiency Certificate at Level I, II or III.

From this first college program, the ANRC developed the formal organization that today teaches the Forward Riding System at colleges and universities nationwide.

* Learn More:



52     THE PLAID HORSE     May/June 2021


ENERATION OF HORSE LOVERS How Courtney Hayden-Fromm creates horse shows with heart WORDS: PHOTOS:



Hayden-Fromm (in the red dress) with her barn family

May/June 2021     THE PLAID HORSE




N THE ER A OF big-box horse shows and weeks-long

winter circuits, one industrious Wisconsin trainer and show operator has carved out a niche that keeps people coming back weekend after weekend. While Courtney Hayden-Fromm manages a 48-stall barn with a client roster of successful junior and amateur riders, she’s perhaps become best known for her grassroots horse show series, held from May through August at Seoul Creek, her family’s West Bend, Wisconsin, farm. The two- or three-day horse shows—the result of a bathtub brainstorm nine years ago, Hayden-Fromm says—began out of sheer necessity in the region.

Courtney HaydenFromm with her husband Doug, son Carter, and dogs Gunner and Hank

”No one else had the facility to do that,” she tells The Plaid Horse. So she created one. Hayden-Fromm estimates that she and her husband, Doug, have put in more than $750,000 worth of upgrades to their facility to host their shows. Now, the show series attracts trainers and riders looking for shows that are strong on affordability and family-friendliness with an emphasis on horsemanship. Hayden-Fromm’s shows offer a wide range of classes for all levels of horses and riders, culminating in the 9th Annual Wisconsin Equine Derby Weekend, held this year from August 13-15.

AN UNLIKELY BARN OWNER Born in Seoul, South Korea, HaydenFromm was adopted and grew up in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, and got her start riding because of a babysitter who dragged her to the barn. She grew up riding on the state’s local circuit and didn’t plan on owning a barn herself—but in 2009, when she found her current farm listed as a foreclosure, the rest was history. “I’m the anomaly to a lot of trainers because when I was young, I never thought I wanted to do what Hunt [Tosh] and all those guys do. That’s not it for me,” she says. Even though Hayden-Fromm does travel to horse shows and spends all winter in Ocala, her perspective on life and horse showing changed again in 2011 when she discovered she was pregnant with her son. “But I didn’t want to raise a child on the road,” she says, adding that it’s been empowering, “to find my own balance.” For Hayden-Fromm, that’s her horse show series: “It’s what makes me tick.” The horse shows, which have a “minimal profit margin,” she says, are supported by a laundry list of “exceptionally loyal and committed” sponsors. The generous sponsor support allows her to create memorable events for exhibitors—a recent show hosted a Mother’s Day brunch—and host classes that you won’t find anywhere else, like Lexi’s Class (see sidebar).

OPPORTUNITIES ABOUND All of Hayden-Fromm’s horse shows have one thing in common: Opportunities. With the WHJA and USHJA Outreach governing bodies giving the shows

54     THE PLAID HORSE     May/June 2021

THE MOST SPECIAL CLASS AT THE HORSE SHOW “Lexi’s Class developed from a really good trainer friend of mine who had a girl who had worked for her for two weeks and desperately wanted to do a flat class,” Hayden-Fromm says. “She asked me if I had a safe flat horse for her. She showed up in borrowed clothes, but when she walked up to me, her boots were spotless, and she treated that horse like he was Brunello.” Hayden-Fromm’s appreciation for the young woman turned into Lexi’s Class, a free class open to anyone who’s never been to a horse show and is riding a borrowed horse. “It’s my favorite class,” Hayden-Fromm says. “I hope it’s not the only opportunity that kid gets, but it’s a start. If there’s a kid that lives in southeast Wisconsin that wants to go to a horse show or sit on a back of a horse and thinks that’s unattainable, they should email me,” she adds. TOP: Olivia Bayer riding Roc Couver, owned by Jenna Frank LEFT: Jack B Nimbus leased and ridden by Kennedy Trofimoff. ABOVE: Kate LeCloux from Heels Down Tack and Apparel in the presentation for Claire Gurican riding Rose Gold, owned by the Anderson family and trained by Seoul Creek Farm

flexibility, Hayden-Fromm gets to make the rules (“There aren’t many,” she says with a laugh), and she can go above and beyond for her exhibitors and students. “I’m sure it’s against the rules somewhere, but one time we had a kid who just couldn’t jump the end jump, so I’m running into the ring and making it into

a crossrail so that the kid could jump the jump,” she says. “That’s the root of who I am—you’re the same to me whether you’re on a $100,000 horse winning the national derby or on a $1,500 horse who just needs to jump the end jump.” While the show schedule includes classes you’ll likely see at other local

show series, like Short Stirrup and 2’6” hunters, Hayden-Fromm’s flexibility—no strict schedules with 250-plus trips in a day here—means that she can deviate from the norm as needed, just to ensure that everyone has a positive experience. For instance, a rider having a challenging day can go back in the ring and ride their

May/June 2021     THE PLAID HORSE



TOP: Rebecca Hempel and Gray Street, and Annie Farley and Payard ABOVE: Vanja Anderson, Courtney Hayden-Fromm, and Emily Anderson LEFT: Stonewall

Farm’s Calipo 39 earns the Reserve call with Astrid Skarsten in the irons (Mom is trainer Mary Skarsten)

56     THE PLAID HORSE     May/June 2021

“Isn’t it more empowering to know that your bond with your horse is greater than any 90-cent ribbon?”

Carys Pretre wins the Limit Hunter Classic aboard Primo owned by Seoul Creek Farm.

unjudged warm-up trip again, just to end their show on a positive note.

BARN FAMILY VALUES In addition to her more prominent sponsors, which run the gamut from Nutrena to the local tack store, Heels Down, Hayden-Fromm’s clients and barn family are also integral to her shows’ successes. “Their ‘home-field advantage’ starts on Monday by setting courses, sweeping the aisle, and filling flower boxes,” Hayden-Fromm says, laughing. “Everyone from the non-horsey mom who just brings me Starbucks to the person who sets jumps from morning until night, they’re all important.” That overall attitude toward sportsmanship and horsemanship runs deep at Seoul Creek and is critical to running a barn of its size, Hayden-Fromm says. “I have zero tolerance for poor horsemanship or sportsmanship, and that extends to the horse show. My husband joked that there should be medallions on the stall to turn to red when a client’s behavior has been poor.” Her program, which includes clients with “six-figure horses and clients who have to work to pay for a half-lease,” is culturally different but respectful of each other. “A parent who can only spend $500 a month shouldn’t feel like less of an equal. What they can offer their kid is different,” Hayden-Fromm says. But if you’re looking for your big break with limited resources, once again, Hayden-Fromm says it’s all about looking for an opportunity. “Opportunities arise in the most unexpected ways and unexpected places,” she says. “Be prepared.” At a recent show, a family emergency left one of Hayden-Fromm’s clients unable to ride but with a nice horse ready to show. Meanwhile, another student with an older horse moving down the divisions was prepared to step into the irons. The student had a great time on her barnmate’s horse, but admitted to HaydenFromm afterward that she had had more fun riding her older horse—fitting right in with the barn values of education and horsemanship. Adds Hayden-Fromm: “Isn’t it more empowering to know that your bond with your horse is greater than any 90-cent ribbon?”

May/June 2021     THE PLAID HORSE


Congratulations to Our Over 100 Ponies Sold or Leased in 2020!


Stonewall Farm • Text: 920-889-0028 S TO N E WA L L P O N I E S@YA H O O.C O M • I XO N I A , W I S C O N S I N

Congratulations to Our Over 100 Ponies Sold or Leased in 2020!


Stonewall Farm • Text: 920-889-0028 S TO N E WA L L P O N I E S@YA H O O.C O M • I XO N I A , W I S C O N S I N • • (224) 318-5445

Balmoral los angeles ASK ABOUT

the Balmoral Butet at Valencia Saddlery

Traci Brooks 310-600-1967

Carleton Brooks 760-774 -1211

Balmoral los angeles ASK ABOUT




the Balmoral Butet at Valencia Saddlery


Traci Brooks 310-600-1967

Carleton Brooks 760-774 -1211


Why Are So Many American-Owned Young Horses


The Plaid Horse spoke with three riders whose young horses mature outside of the U.S. WORDS:




well-raised young horses and line them up, side by side. One of them is probably destined to be a future champion in the hunter or jumper ring, but which one? Which factors should you use to determine talent, and what’s the best way, and place, to guide and nurture them? “The young horse, in my opinion, isn’t any different than a young child,” says auctioneer and commentator for the Longines Global Champions Tour (LGCT), Frederik De Backer, who’s


May/June 2021     THE PLAID HORSE



“The young horse, in my opinion, isn’t any different than a young child. Just like in school, the standard program doesn’t fit every child.” —FREDERIK DE BACKER

Frederik De Backer (right), auctioneer and commentator for the Longines Global Champions Tour (LGCT).

spent many years considering these very questions. “Just like in school, the standard program doesn’t fit every child. Some thrive [in the classroom] and are excellent students, others have a terrible time— me being one of them! “I’ve been fortunate to commentate for the LGCT for the last decade, and one thing stands out talking about the winners: None are the same.” Whether competing professionally, training, or selling to make a living, almost everyone would agree that the cost of buying an established, topquality horse is only going up. “Top riders have started to invest in young horses earlier,” De Backer says, noting that the price to purchase an eightyear-old show jumper with international potential in Europe can easily range into the millions of dollars. One practical solution is to breed or buy very young horses (age five or younger), then invest in developing them yourself over time. But for those looking to produce or sell young horses in any real way, is it reasonable—or even possible—to do so in the U.S.? More and more these days, the answer to that question seems to be no. When compared to

66     THE PLAID HORSE     May/June 2021

other countries around the world, carrying costs for young horses are far higher in the U.S., where board, training, vet and farrier care, and horse show fees price out many in the industry from the young horse game before they even begin. In De Backer’s native Belgium, by comparison, a number of cost-effective young horse circuits at various levels are helping professionals to bridge the gap. “The national young horse circuit is one of the secrets behind Belgian successes, both in sport and in breeding,” he says. “Young horses compete under the same circumstances, in classes built specifically for them. It creates a climate where young horse producers can make a living, bringing a full truck of horses to the same event.” According to De Backer, the shows are also a great place to spot talent. “So many scouts and dealers are ringside at 8 a.m., and for the riders, it’s a cheap way to give their horses experience.” Compared to American classes, prize money at young horse events in Belgium is low, a fact that enables organizers to keep entry fees down. The average cost to show a 4-year-old at a national-level event in Belgium? As little as 20 € (about $24) De Backer says, or around 40 € (about $48) for a 7-year-old. But carrying costs are just one of several reasons that many members of the U.S. equestrian community are electing to keep their youngest horses aboard. Whether producing talent for their own strings, buying and selling, or investing in new markets, some of the country’s top names are saying ‘adieu for now’ to America. We sat down with three of them to find out why.




Top international showjumper for Ireland BASE OF OPERATIONS:


Glenbeigh Farm in Wellington, FL

Waterford, Ireland; Swindon, U.K.


N A WORLD where instant gratification is par for the course, Captain Brian Cournane knows how to play the long game. For proof, look no further than Cournane’s current, fivestar-level partnership with the 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding, Castlefield Dream— a horse he purchased in Europe at age three and imported to America at six. “He’s a good example of a horse we’ve produced,” says Cournane, who’s successfully competed the gelding at events around the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Ireland. Across the pond in Waterford, less than two hours from Dublin, Cournane is breeding what he hopes will become Castlefield Dreams for the future. There, the showjumper works with Irish breeder/trainer Richie O’Hara to produce up to three foals a year from his own Glenbeigh Farm broodmares. When the young horses are turning four, they are sent to Swindon, England,


and American eventer Tiana Coudray, a friend of Cournane’s eventer-wife, Jules. Coudray breaks and trains them, then sends the horses back to Ireland to enjoy their four-year-old year off. At five, they return to England once again to be re-started and get their feet wet at local shows. “Tiana is quite good at producing young horses,”

says Cournane, noting that all Coudray’s horses begin with strong foundational work in dressage. “She has a nice farm and brings them out around the forest and the roads—it’s just a good environment.” According to Cournane, there are three main reasons for basing his operation across the pond. “If you’re talking about

breeding horses, it’s much easier in Europe and in Ireland. You’ve got access to all the best stallions in the world through frozen and chilled semen; you can’t get that in the States. [Plus], it’s a nice, temperate climate in Ireland. You don’t get the extreme hot and cold like you do on the East Coast in America. “Third, it’s cheaper, in so much that there are so many [knowledgeable] people, good vets, etc., that are [involved with breeding] horses in Ireland. Whereas here, you’re usually talking about [having to base your operations] in Kentucky, and that’s incredibly expensive.” In fact, for a time, Cournane says, he and Jules considered importing their broodmares to the United States so they could move their operations closer to home. Until they did the math.

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“It actually costs us 10 percent a year to have our breeding operations [in Ireland] to what it would cost us in the States,” he says. “It doesn’t really make any sense, from a breeding perspective, to base over here.” The first of Cournane’s homebred prospects, a six-year-old mare, finally arrived to Glenbeigh Farms in Wellington this season and will be competing in her first U.S. classes post-circuit. So far, Cournane says, some of Glenbeigh’s progeny have been sold in Europe, while others have used their early training with Coudray to springboard careers in eventing. But for those that demonstrate talent in the show jumping arena, Cournane gives them all the time they need to grow, learn, and mature—his way. “When you have a horse from an early age, you know that horse inside and out. You know their strengths and their weaknesses. When you buy a horse at eight or nine, a lot of the time, they aren’t produced like you would produce them,” he says. For a rider looking to breed and train horses with the ability to compete at the highest international level, every detail—from the vet care a horse receives in its infancy, to the types of obstacles and footing he’s exposed to, to the quality of his experiences at his first shows—can have a lasting impact on the kind of horse he grows up to be. For these reasons and more, Cournane believes that giving his homebreds the time they need to mature the right way, affordably, and with colleagues abroad whose methods he trusts will eventually pay dividends. “We’re thinking about it more in the long-term,” he says. “We’re in it for the sport.”

“It’s a nice, temperate climate in Ireland. You don’t get the extreme hot and cold like you do on the East Coast in America.” –CAPT. BRIAN COURNANE

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Owner of Shadow Creek, a boutique sales operation BASE OF OPERATIONS:

Rhinebeck, NY and Wellington, FL



Lier, Belgium

NYONE WHO’S ever tried something new for the first time knows there’s a learning curve. Alas, when it comes to horse sales, that isn’t strictly true. “Here in Florida, rated horse showing is very expensive, every class is on video, and young horses aren’t really granted the opportunities to make mistakes,” says Katha Gatto. Gatto is the owner of Shadow Creek, a boutique sales operation she runs with her partner, Garrett Warner, in Rhinebeck, New York; Wellington, Florida; and Northern Belgium, near the city of Lier. Specializing in top-quality hunter, jumper, and equitation horses with the temperaments to excel in the U.S. amateur market, Gatto has learned to be thoughtful— not just about the horses she purchases for her program, but in how and when she introduces them in America. “A lot of the time, I’ll buy horses in Europe as four- and five-year-olds, and I’ll leave them there for up to a year in order to get them going how we want them to go as hunters or equitation horses,” she says.

During a typical, non-pandemic year, Gatto travels between Shadow Creek’s U.S. bases and Belgium every other month, checking in on her prospects-in-training and conducting buying trips around Europe. Of course, logging those kinds of miles can come with a hefty price tag, but even with travel included, Gatto says, the numbers are on her side. One horse stationed at her partner Don Leys’s farm in Belgium costs just 650 € (about $770) per month. “That’s for everything,” she says, “board, riding, shoes, training, local [schooling] shows—all of it. We are also very fortunate that my partner often has American riders at his stable who know how a hunter or equitation horse should feel, both when they are looking at potential prospects to purchase, or developing them for me to eventually import. That’s a huge advantage that we have with our program.” Like most sales operations, Shadow Creek does the majority of its business during the winter circuit in Florida. To that end, the horses Gatto and Warner select for travel to the

Sunshine State—either importing directly from Europe or shipping down from their base in New York—are each on an individualized timeline for sale. “Between the cost of shipping them, the stall and care, the vet work, the farrier, the show fees, themselves, all of it starts to add up,” Gatto says. Equally important is the fact that young sale horses require frequent, quality miles in the show ring in order to learn and improve. In Florida, those miles can come with a literal and figurative price tag. “I have a really beautiful hunter that I bought two months ago, and I’m not bringing it over [to the U.S.] until it’s 100 percent ready to go step into the hunter ring, especially in Florida. Green horses just need miles, and experience being at different venues, and seeing new things; it’s much easier to have them go and do that in Europe for a fraction of the cost,” she says. In addition to high entry and nominating fees at


venues such as the Winter Equestrian Festival, there’s not much leeway offered to a young new import stepping off the farm for the first time, and especially in the hunter ring. Every missed lead change, head shake, or spook can have long-term consequences for a horse’s sale potential. And, according to Gatto, the U.S. market can be as demanding as it is unforgiving. “Often times, people want to see a long and successful record in the ring in the U.S., normally for the exact job they are looking for the horse to do for them, and that can be difficult,” she says, noting that the sheer number of videos and consistent horse show results potential buyers expect can be staggering. If a horse isn’t showing, Gatto says, clients will notice—and they’ll want to know why. “For us, we often have to make decisions on which horses we show, based on both our time and our finances. That can be a hard thing to explain to potential buyers.” For the better part of the winter season, Shadow Creek’s young horses have spent nearly every Tuesday in Wellington campaigning at M&R Equestrian’s Training Days at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center. A creation of Alberto Michan (ISR) and Juan Andrés Rodriguez (GUA), the show offers the perfect environment for young hunters and jumpers that need miles in the show ring, jumping on quality courses created by FEI designers. There, sellers

“Here in Florida, rated horse showing is very expensive, every class is on video, and young horses aren’t really granted the opportunities to make mistakes.” –KATHA GATTO

like Gatto can get the video footage they need to market their horses, while also giving them the freedom to learn and make mistakes. “M&R Training Days are amazing—and affordable! It’s $60 a round, which is unheard of here in Wellington, but it doesn’t go on the [horses’] records,” Gatto says. “That’s a difficult thing, because I can tell people, ‘I’ve been here in Florida since November, and I’ve gone every single week on Tuesday to these training shows,’ but they’re not in their USEF history.” Not so for Shadow Creek’s base in Belgium, where there are a greater number of local horse show options available, recorded and otherwise,

and all within a day’s drive of the farm. “In Europe, they have different levels of shows; a local circuit, a national circuit, and then an international circuit,” Gatto says. “It’s a totally different thing.” More events like M&R Training Days at additional locations around the U.S. would hugely facilitate Shadow Creek’s business, Gatto adds, but she can’t see things changing here any time soon. “I think, for me, it would take a lot to want to fully base my young horse operations in the U.S., because we don’t have the same horse show infrastructure here that they do in Europe,” she continues. “I think we’re a product of the environment that we’re in.”




Rider/trainer for Burgundy Farms; owner of the Sonoma Horse Park BASE OF OPERATIONS:


Petaluma, CA

Monterrey, Mexico



heard the name La Silla stud (or LS) associated with top show jumping partnerships such as Ashlee Bond and her World Equestrian Games mount, Chela LS; Daniel Bluman’s 2012 London Olympics horse, Sancha LS; and Beezie Madden and Longines FEI World Cup™ Finals Champion, Breitling LS. A La Silla hunter dynamo, though? Probably not. That’s just the idea behind Burgundy Farms trainer Meredith Herman’s recent sales venture. Together with David (“Sparky”) Esparza Perez, the Sonoma Horse Park Owner is bringing La Silla’s top-quality show jumping bloodlines from Mexico direct to America—just in slightly different packaging. “I typically fly down when the horses are good enough to get a lead change and start showing in the hunters. Then, we’ll bring them [to California] to sell them,” Herman says. Based in a niche facility near La Silla in Monterrey, Herman keeps three to five La Silla-bred young horses

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in Mexico at any given time. Managed on the ground by Perez (a cousin of showjumper Eugenio Garza Perez), the four- to five-year-olds receive care, training, and miles at local jumper shows. They also get frequent visits from Herman, who travels

to Mexico as many as nine times a year to monitor their development and shop for horses at La Silla and at various farms around Mexico City. Once the horses are ready, they’re imported to the U.S., and then the race is on. On the to-do list for each one:

annual vaccinations and visits to the vet, dentist, and farrier; a body clip; and a new supplement regimen for their coats. Horses in Herman’s program have two shots to get sold; one at Thermal and the second during the Sonoma Horse Park season (May through September). Because of the cost of keeping horses in the U.S., she says, “we’re pretty calculated.” In order to break even on her investment, Herman explains, most of her horses will need to be sold within three or four horse shows. “The second these horses arrive, even having this location [at the Sonoma Horse Park], and the discounted rate, there’s no way they don’t cost us a significant amount of money every single month.” Like Katha Gatto, Herman understands that appearances in the hunter ring are everything. Before her prospects make their U.S. debut, they need to have both a solid lead change and marketing materials at the ready. “To sell these young horses as a hunter to your typical American buyer, [you need a good video] of the horse cantering around in an actual, recognized horse show, swapping its lead in the corner, and looking quiet—not like it’s taking a lap on the racetrack,” she says. Basing her young horses out of one of America’s largest show parks is a distinct advantage, Herman adds, not only because it sets them up to produce solid results at a venue where they live and train, but also because it helps keep her horse show bills down. “I don’t know if anyone else could replicate


“This [business] isn’t ‘Jack and the Magic Beanstalk.’ You’ve got to go through lots of highs and lows.” –MEREDITH HERMAN

the kind of cost efficiency that we do.” The team already boasts a number of success stories among its La Silla graduates, including one quickly snapped-up young horse named Watermelon they feel is destined for a brilliant career as a Small Junior hunter. Last year, the horse arrived and went to two shows in the Green division, Herman says. “I got on it, got the strides, it earned some 80s, won some blues, and away it [went]!” In addition to her young hunters, Herman also owns some horses in partnership with La Silla, and imports as many as 30-40 more experienced show horses—typically ex-grand prix and higher-level jumpers—from the Mexico City area every year. After a month or two of retraining, many of these go on to new careers as hunters, amateur jumpers, and equitation horses in California and beyond. “This [business] isn’t ‘Jack and the Magic Beanstalk.’ You’ve got to go through lots of highs and lows,” says Herman, adding that one of the most gratifying parts of her job is watching her “raw” La Silla young horses blossom into top hunter prospects. “Mexico is a really good source [for us],” she says. “Overall, we’re for sure winning.”

Sun Protection Made Beautiful


ATTICUS DIAMANT 2 The 12-year-old Selle Français gelding (who goes by Monty at the barn), claimed back-to-back FEI 2* victories at WEF.


What’s your favorite thing about being in the show ring? My favorite thing is jumping new fences and going to new venues. There’s nothing like going fast! The more atmosphere and people watching, the better. I also love taking care of my mom and making her happy (and getting lots of carrots and treats after).

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What was it like to win twice at WEF?

I wanted to finish my season at WEF with a BANG! We had never won two classes in one week so I brought my A-game. I could feel that my mom wanted to win both classes so I gave it my best effort and had a great time. I was really proud of myself. Plus, I got lots of ribbons and two new coolers!


What is life like at home when you’re not actively training and competing? It’s super chill! I spend time in the paddock, get lots of cuddles and ear

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Gabriela Reutter (Chile) and Lumiere Horses’ Atticus Diamant.

rubs from my mom, go on trails, and do relaxing and stretching flats. I still have to maintain my fitness!


If you could eat any human food, what would it be and why? Between you and me, I’ve tried piece of donut before and it was SO GOOD. More of those would be great. Also, it’s hard to say no to my cuteness, so I’ve tried fruits, veggies and granola bars. I’ve yet

to try what humans call “bagels” and “tacos.” I’ll keep trying though.


Do you prefer the company of horses? Or humans? I love attention and humans give me A LOT of attention. I am, without a doubt, the king of the barn. My stall is the first one, so anyone who comes in or out of the barn has to say hi to me, pet me, and give me treats. Otherwise I neigh as loud as I can.


E.H. Herzensdieb & one of his offspring

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NEAR RIGHT: Victoria Wieseler, Jordyn Pratt-Laue, Samantha Dodd, and Aralyn White. CENTER: Melanie Wright on Game Day. FAR RIGHT TOP: Sybil Greene and Southern Comfort. FAR RIGHT BOTTOM: Cate Black, Kayla Mahmood, Annette Wieseler, Victoria Wieseler, Jadyn Horst, Sophia Welniak, and Mekenna Scott.

Sybil and Melanie with Victoria Wieseler on Southern Comfort


are Priceless

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HEN MELANIE WRIGHT was 14 years old, she began riding with Patty Foster

and Mary Lisa Leffler at Rolling Acres Farm in Maryland. It’s also where she met fellow rider Sybil Greene. The two became best friends through riding— and, ultimately, so much more. “When I needed some help, I called her, and the rest is history,” says Greene of teaming up with Wright for her business, Wynmore Farm, based in Lincoln, NE. “I have loved to watch what Sybil and I have grown together,” says Wright. “Doing this with your best friend makes it that much more special.” Wynmore Farm caters to both children and adults, with a focus on showing at the local and national levels. “I love starting kids and watching them grow as equestrians,” says Greene. “The nice thing about our barn is that we have two trainers and our system allows for us to start kids and move them up through the divisions.” Melanie does the majority of riding and training on the road while Greene splits her time between the home base in Nebraska


and going to the horse shows. Wynmore generally competes at one or two rated shows per month, plus some local shows for rider mileage, and they’ve got a list of Pony Finals first timers headed to Kentucky this August. Horse show milestones or otherwise, “the most rewarding part of the job for me is seeing the kids’ faces when they have worked hard on something and they actually get it done,” says Wright.

May/June 2021     THE PLAID HORSE



“We as trainers have a responsibility to make these kids better people, inside and outside of the ring.” —MELANIE WRIGHT

“Whether it’s something as simple as actually doing the numbers or being champion. The smiles are priceless.” “My philosophy as a trainer is to treat each person and horse as an individual. No one is born with the same talent, passion, or financial situation,” Wright adds. “So I tell my kids, ‘Let’s be better than the last Melanie + Sybil time.’ We work on what is specific to them. It’s hard to see kids jumping higher sometimes, or showing more, or whatever it may be. But let’s make small steps and we will get there.” “I think the fact that we are still a family barn that competes on a national level is the best part. I love that our people love to be in the barn, and with their animals, yet we can go to any show and be competitive,” says Wright. “Because we have multiple trainers, we are able to divide and conquer to meet the needs of all of our clients.”

CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES AND TRAINING TENETS “My first ride was on a pony at West Point when I was two. I’m an Army brat, and every base we were stationed at had a Calvary post, so they had stables.” says Greene. “I gravitated to the stables! It was hard to own and show horses moving every two to three years, but once my father retired I started finding my way to barns and lessoning with people I felt could help me achieve any goals. Horses provide so much peace and joy.” “The first time I stepped foot in the barn, I was hooked,” Wright says of starting to ride herself at 5 years old. “I was raised by a single mother who tried her best, [but] financially was not able to buy nice horses or pay for shows. But I worked hard and rode other animals and worked my way up as a junior. I braided to help out. Black Entertainment Television sponsored me when I was a junior because they saw the lack of minorities in our sport. I’m just really thankful to have had the people in my life that I did.”

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ABOVE: Jordyn Pratt-Laue, Sybil Greene, Peyton Scott, Melanie Wright, Jadyn Horst, Victoria Wieseler, and Mekenna Scott.

INCLUSION FOR ALL “I don’t know that I felt different growing up as a black equestrian. Of course, I knew there were very few of us at the shows and in the sport, but I never let that affect my love for it,” says Greene. “I do think it’s great that people are starting to have the conversation about how few minorities there are, and expressing their thoughts and ideas on how we continue to grow our diversity.” “Sybil an I used to joke about it being just us two,” adds Wright. “However, it didn’t really affect anything for myself. I was still a very successful junior rider and never felt treated any differently. I took some time away from the sport, and coming back to it, I see a lot more diversity, but clearly not enough.” So how can we do better? “I do believe that exposure to the urban communities will have to happen at the local levels. For much of the black community, I don’t think that they [see our sport] an option. But it starts with us reaching out and giving back,” says Wright. “I’m a prime example of people providing opportunities to someone who may not have otherwise had the chance to do what they loved. It can work!” Adds Greene, “As a community, we need to continue to advocate for the sport we love. We need to talk more about it, post more on social media about its benefits, donate to events, and encourage kids to attend. The Omaha Equestrians Foundation has a wonderful program that brings kids from local schools to the event for an interactive experience in their ‘gallery of breeds.’ And we can do more by taking on a working student that you can help along in the business. It’s all about inclusion of everyone!” After all, notes Wright, our sport is about more than producing good riders. “Riding teaches you to be competitive, responsible, compassionate, empathetic, hardworking. All of the things that make you a better human being,” she says. “We as trainers have a responsibility to make these kids better people, inside and outside of the ring.”

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We all make mistakes. But horse people, as a group, aren’t always the best at handling them. So TPH reached out to some top riders to share their own show ring bloopers to prove, once and for all, that mistakes really do happen to the best of us! BY




Hear more It Happens moments on the #Plaidcast at

78     THE PLAID HORSE     May/June 2021



I think Devon is my all-time favorite horse show and has been forever … I’ve been leading lady rider a couple times. My horses seem to rise to the occasion there. When I was a kid, it was a local show and you didn’t even have to qualify. I was reserve champion one year, but I didn’t make the presentation because I ate too much cotton candy and was throwing up in my car.”

First time I went to Devon in the Leadline, my mom got the pony ready. It was a big deal: Going to Devon, driving up there, and having the pony polished and ready for me. I go in the ring … and I got a fly in my eye. I was just screaming the whole time. My mom wanted to kill me. The whole time I’m yelling, ‘I got a fly in my eye! I got a fly in my eye!’ I wouldn’t do anything in the ring but scream about the fly. Didn’t really start off that first time so great. It got better from there.”



We leased a medium pony for a 10-year-old rider. I know him well, super safe and reliable. Rider meets him at their first horse show and they are champion, everyone is happy. The pony happens to be qualified and entered for Devon so ... why not? You never know when you will get the opportunity again. We ship him from the horse show in Iowa to Pennsylvania. Kid is totally star struck, taking pictures of all the famous ponies, so excited to be there. The pony schools perfectly and everything seems great. Until it drops 30 degrees during the medium pony model. I figure: Get the kid on early, he will be fine, just give the good old boy a little extra warm up. He is not fine. He is WILD. The pony schooling ring is a zoo on a good day, now it is cold and occupied by lots of fresh ponies. Child cannot find a track to canter and I can see her getting scared. The pony is getting his back up … I know him, he just needs a lap and he will settle. We are about five trips out, so I pull the kid off the pony, grab her helmet, (which is probably 3 sizes too small) and climb on the medium pony. In my rain suit, shorts, and Sperry’s. I gallop the whole schooling ring, weaving in and out of junior hunters and ponies, looking like an absolute maniac. Feel pony take a breath. His back comes down. Put kid back on, she jumps a couple of warm up jumps and goes in the ring. Pony is his perfect self and they end up getting a jog! Kid goes on to do several more Devons. I now pack riding gear.”

At my first Devon, I started without a groom, so I was there by myself taking care of my horse. When I came out to do the High Performance the first time, she caught sight of the carriage horses and she was not a big fan of. She grew to about 27 hands and started spinning circles around me with her tail straight up, snorting so loud she started spooking the carriage horses. I was about ten out in the order. Needless to say, all I could think about was having a halfway decent round in that particular class because I was a little freaked out. She turned out to be pretty good in the ring, though, and we went on to win the derby that year. That was an unbelievable experience.”

May/June 2021     THE PLAID HORSE




How to Develop Your Young Horse Into a Future Athlete WORDS:


Raising a young horse from foal to athlete is a very rewarding process. It is important to know that there are several important factors in the raising and handling of a young horse that will determine whether or not your prospect will succeed and have a long, healthy career … or burn out and fade without reaching their full potential. Being mindful of the health and development of your youngster throughout its life and taking a patient, long-haul approach to their career gives you the best chance for success.

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NEONATAL TO WEANLING There are events that happen in the first days/months of life that will impact the long-term athletic potential of a horse. Any foal who is born prematurely will likely have a long list of health struggles that they will need to overcome in order to survive the first weeks of life. In addition, these foals are at increased risk for serious joint disease. Premature foals are often born before the bones in the hock and carpus have fully ossified. The weight of the foal standing on these soft bones can cause them to crush, resulting in early onset osteoarthritis. Additionally, premature foals often do

not receive all the colostrum from their dams needed to help them fight off infection in the first week of life so they are more prone to bacterial sepsis which can cause severe joint damage. In foals who are not premature, contracted tendons, angular limb deformities, and clubbed feet are possible medical conditions that, in certain circumstances, can be treated at a young age to correct the problem before the horse reaches maturity. Weight and growth during this stage of life should be slow and steady and the foal should be allowed plenty of movement outside in good footing with safe fencing (pasture is ideal).


could be a problem as the horse’s workload and career unfold. Many two-year-olds may have evidence of juvenile arthritis, osteochrondritis dessicans (OCD) lesions, or subchondral bone cysts. In many cases there will be surgical options available that may give the horse an excellent prognosis for a full athletic career if the issue is diagnosed and treated prior to the onset of strenuous work. In other cases, there may be issues that can be treated uneventfully in a young horse with minimal risk that may make them a better resale prospect. Unfortunately, there are some issues that may be discovered in young horse screening radiographs that will carry a poor prognosis for a successful athletic career. In this case, it would be important to have this knowledge prior to the start of training and investment of significant resources in the horse’s career.


IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER: • A young horse needs to slowly develop a base of fitness before more sophisticated work is added (collecting the stride, jumping combinations, competing in many classes a day at a horse show). • Horses that train tense or crooked, or are ridden with excessive use of artificial training aids that restrict their natural way of going (draw reins, and other head setting devices) are more likely to develop injuries over the long run. You’re much better off allowing a young horse to find their own balance and slowly learn to bend, collect, and develop suppleness and strength as their bodies are ready. • If the basics of the program are not in order—shoeing, nutrition, dentistry, proper fitting tack, comfortable stalls/turnout and a low stress environment—it will be more difficult for the young horse to succeed.

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YEARLING TO TWO-YEAR-OLDS During these years, it is ideal if the young horse can have a relaxed life socializing with other youngsters receiving a diet that is balanced in vitamins and minerals. Vitamin E is important for development of muscles and the nervous system. A ration balancer fed along with access to pasture and free movement is ideal. By the time a horse is a long two-year-old, it is ideal to have screening radiographs performed to look for evidence of developmental joint disease prior to the horse being backed and started in under saddle training. Additionally, a dental examination and float along with extraction of any wolf teeth that may be present should be scheduled prior to introducing serious work in a bridle in order to prevent any pain related contact or bridling issues. In racehorses it is not uncommon to take radiographs of the distal radius/carpus to see if the growth plates of the radius have “closed” as a sign that the horse is ready to start training. This is more relevant in disciplines where very young horses are asked to perform at a very high level such as thoroughbred/standardbred racing and Quarter Horse futurity events. Developmental orthopedic disease that may be discovered during these screening radiographs may uncover conditions that are not causing any clinical issues but

As a young horse starts in their career, it is important for owners and trainers to be realistic about what the horse is physically and mentally able to handle at each stage of training. While there are many exciting young horse classes available in all disciplines, it is extremely important to realize that it is a very rare and special horse that is able to perform successfully in the age-specific classes on the timeline needed to be successful. Pushing a horse to develop faster with a high plane of nutrition, artificial hormones, and a strenuous work program may deliver short-term results but it may also result in future mental and/or physical effects. Horses learn by experience and a horse cannot “unlearn” something once it has been taught to them. Human beings can reason and rationalize if they are scared or try to do something that is physically too difficult for them. A horse cannot reason. so if they are overfaced or asked to do something that frightens them, confuses them, or causes physical pain, they are likely to develop an evasion to that task. An evasion can be as mild as a crooked tilt of the poll or as severe as rearing, bucking, or refusing to move forward. Once a horse “learns” an evasion they will never unlearn that evasion, and your job will be more difficult as it will require new training to counter the learned behavior. •



• HOMETOWN: OTTSVILLE, BUCKS COUNTY, PA • TRAINER: JEFF AYERS • As a horseman, I am most proud of taking care of grooming my horses when I ride and being involved with their lives—not just showing up and being handed the reins. • I would most like to improve on not panicking when I don’t see a distance. • I’d be lost without my Dollar Tree tail comb in my tack trunk and my HITS crop in my ring bag. • I think the biggest misconception about our sport is how much dedication it takes to be a true horseman and sportsman. • My best piece of advice for young riders is persevere.

• My favorite horse book is Seabiscuit. • My favorite non-horse book is John McEnroe’s You Cannot Be Serious. • The part of riding I struggle most with is, to this day, confidence. • The part of riding I’m best at is resilience after making a mistake and focusing on making the next round better. • I’m a sucker for a double tall with friends after a show. • On Mondays, you’ll find me working to pay for it all. • I sometimes wish I had the time to learn other horse disciplines—I would love to ride a gaited horse. • I’m afraid of not doing what’s right for the horse’s welfare.


You can achieve anything with a positive attitude and perseverance. 84     THE PLAID HORSE     May/June 2021

• The horse person I most admire is Bill Steinkraus because I saw him win the Queen Elizabeth Cup in England when I was a little boy, which inspired me to want to ride. • Something I say ten times a day is the bottom line is .... • One of my greatest show ring victories was a tricolor in the Amateur-Owner Hunters at Devon in 1999 with Island Time and showing my green horse, Braemor, at the National Horse Show this year without a professional ride. • One of the best horse names I’ve ever heard is Cha-ching. • My absolute favorite show is the National Horse Show, especially when it was at Madison Square Garden because I always wanted to show there being from NYC. PHOTOS: SHAWN McMILLEN PHOTOGRAPHY



Blenheim Emerging Pro Grant

My first job at 13 was teaching horse camp during the summers. That’s where I discovered I loved teaching riding. To this day, I love when someone’s face lights up when they canter for the first time, or a new concept sinks in for a student. Over the course of my professional career, I have been so fortunate to not only ride amazing horses, but to be a part of the whole process at every barn where I’ve worked. I gain as much satisfaction watching David Vega (head groom at Balmoral) adjust a horse as I do from showing. When I was younger, I found showing to be anxiety-inducing because I always wanted to ride well for the horses and never give them a negative experience. Over the last two years I have had the opportunity to show more thanks to Carleton and Traci Brooks, and I’ve learned to use my anxiety rather than be paralyzed by it.”

With my mother being a single parent, I was able to show [growing up], but not as frequently as we would have liked. As a financial alternative, I turned to clinics and educational programs. I have always harbored goals of being an international level rider, however, with the reality of a limited budget, I know how hard I will have to work to get there. I feel I am taking the slow and steady path to reach my goal by putting in years of hard work and continuing to educate myself as a rider and trainer. I am at the barn seven days a week, 365 days a year, building my career from the bottom up. I have been the main trainer and instructor at Mischief Farm since my mother started stepping back about nine years ago. This has allowed me to make it more my own. I pride myself on creating riders who are horsemen first, and fantastic riders second.”



86     THE PLAID HORSE     May/June 2021

I always envisioned I would start out working under an established trainer or program. When COVID hit last year, it had a silver lining for me in allowing me to take the plunge on going out on my own. I had been working for a local Grand Prix rider by day for my horse’s board, and waitressing at night. I tried to use the disadvantage of losing my evening job to start making the time to [build clientele]. It has been a very insightful and productive time for me. I am also proud of how my own horses are coming along. I ride a young stallion, who I just started jumping lightly in November, and he shows a lot of quality and talent … each round, we improve, and he learns the ropes. It is exciting to be part of a future superstar’s career!”


Balmoral los angeles


holly higgins on winning a blenheim emerging pro grant

Traci Brooks 310-600-1967

Carleton Brooks 760-774 -1211


Winner of the Grand Prize Blenheim EquiSports Emerging Pro Grant

Elizabeth Evans Mischief Farm

Show Jumping

Los Angeles, CA

Congratulations Alina Boyer

Recipient Runner Up Blenheim EquiSports Emerging Professional Grant

McCool photo

Emphasis on young jumper development Freelancing available around north San Diego area 916.233.5621



Equestrian Studies College Courses Online This Summer

A Q&A with Plaid Horse publisher Piper Klemm HE PLAID HORSE publisher Professor Piper Klemm, Ph.D., is

offering her equestrian studies online courses for college credit again this summer. The courses run from May 24 – June 26, 2021, and are being offered through Clarkson University: • Business and Bias in the Equestrian Industry • Grit, Toughness, and Contemporary Equestrian Coaching • English Riding: History, Culture, and Industry Evolution

The Grit, Toughness, and Contemporary Equestrian Coaching class will be offered a second time from July 6 – August 8, 2021. Prof. Klemm earned her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 2012 and became publisher of The Plaid Horse in 2014. She has run her own pony-leasing business since 2011. In addition to teaching in grad school, she has been teaching university-level courses since 2018. Klemm is also the co-author of Show Strides, an equestrian middle grade novel series. Tianna Vestri, one of Klemm’s students last summer, said, “I am loving every book, article, lecture, podcast and more that we’re engaging with, and it’s really providing depth to my equestrian experiences and helping me make some great connections. I’m so glad I decided to take these three courses.” Want more info on the classes? Read on for more in our Q+A with the professor herself and visit

What made you decide to teach equestrian courses in the first place? I think our industry lacks a lot of structure on how to learn within it. Like most people in the horse business, I have learned much the hard way. Through these courses, we use traditional academic framework to approach the equestrian business and our own knowledge systemically, and using a building block approach.

Who would benefit from taking these courses?

The great thing about these courses is that everyone can take responsibility for their own learning and equestrian experience, and take away valuable knowledge and data. Riders as young as middle school to parents of riders and excited amateurs all benefit from the courses while adding a great mosaic of experiences to class discussion. The class size is small enough that we can focus on specific situations and tailor the material to be of the most interest to each individual class.

My child is horse-obsessed but college isn’t on our radar yet. Can I still enroll them? Can I enroll myself?

Absolutely! Young riders can earn college credit to transfer to the eventual college of their choice while learning about their sport, strengthening their connections, and enhancing their resume. We welcome parents as well!

Want more info? Visit

90     THE PLAID HORSE     May/June 2021

I’m not majoring in anything equestrian-related. Is this course still for me? Yes! These courses are to expand your knowledge

“The book impressed me so much that The Plaid Horse wanted to be a part of its new life with a new printing in order to get it into as many equestrians’ hands as possible. Geoff ’s work remains as strong and relevant as ever. As much as things have changed in our sport, so much about riding hunters, jumpers, and equitation has not. ‘Classic’ still wins in the show ring.” NOTE TO THE READER BY PIPER KLEMM, PHD

of the sport, yourself, and how to best manage hobbies, business and your approach to our sport. They are a great tool for all majors. They can be transferred per your college’s policies to use credit toward graduation or specific distribution requirement.

I’ve already graduated from college! How would I benefit from these courses? This sport is unique because it is a lifelong sport. Handling decision making, finances, emotions, and understanding the market forces can always be improved upon. This investment will benefit you for decades to come!

What sort of feedback did you get from students last summer on how they were able to implement what they learned into their lives with horses? Students were able to use decision-making processes to further their careers—including evaluating facility purchases, horse purchases, and investing further into our industry and using techniques learned in class. Klemm also co-hosts the #Plaidcast and runs various entrepreneurial projects. Her mission is to educate young equestrians in every facet of our industry, and to empower young women in particular to find their voice and story and share them. She shows in the amateur hunter divisions with her horse of a lifetime, MTM Sandwich.

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The Young Horse Issue Through the Years










Pick up a book & READ! What readers are saying about SHOW STRIDES, BOOK 1 & 2: “I loved the messages the book portrayed about hard work, dedication and learning to handle disappointment. These concepts were woven in throughout a great story that had me reading from cover to cover. If there is a horse-crazy kid in your life, don’t think twice, buy it now!” —AMAZON REVIEWER ★★★★★


“My 10-year-old daughter started reading this series over the summer and hasn’t put it down. She is able to identify with a lot of the characters in the books and is excited for the 3rd book of the series to be available.” —AMAZON REVIEWER ★★★★★

“Great listen for rides to horseshows and lessons. This book is for serious, young riders, written by serious riders! Read by the author, which is cool.” —AMAZON REVIEWER ★★★★★


(Kindle & Audible too!) Rider Keira Lancelle Bates reads SHOW STRIDES, BOOK 1: School Horses & Show Ponies.

Read all three!


lf re o of yourse Email a phot ShowStrides with us online! or share esReader #ShowStrid


Even Keel Equestrian is a hunter/jumper facility that offers boarding, training, leasing, and clinics Located just 40 minutes south of Boston Even Keel Equestrian Evenkeelequestrian Head Trainer: Lauren Koslosky (774) 216 - 0282


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75 66



40° 39


20° 21



59 49



87 64



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44 34 25


54 40

40° 20°






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57 39


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Grabbing Mane CASEY HALBACH,

a 32-year-old former “horse girl,” has a seemingly wonderful life. She lives with her boyfriend, Brandon, in her coastal Florida hometown, has a comfortable marketing job, and a wonderful circle of friends. But she still feels her life is missing an integral piece: horses. As a teenager, she had a horse of her very own that she cherished dearly. No stranger to the hunter/jumper show circuit, she had dreams becoming a professional rider. But Casey is forced by her parents to forgo her dream for something more plausible: Sell her horse, go to college, and join the workforce as a business professional. For over a decade, horses were the last thing on her mind. Until a work errand changes everything. Casey is tasked with delivering an advertisement to a potential new client … who happens to be Sky Thomas, the head trainer at St. Johns Equestrian Center. And the barn located exactly where she rode at as a young girl. Taking in the scenery, she is swept into memories from her youth spent in the saddle. Ultimately, she realizes the piece of her life she has been missing for years is exactly what she suspected— horses. When Sky convinces her to take riding lessons again, she falls back in love with the sport. Then she makes the decision (much to the chagrin of her boyfriend) to purchase a horse of her own: James, a dark, handsome, off-the-track Thoroughbred with no show experience. Although the decision is risky both financially and practically, Casey manages to regain the confidence she had as a young equestrian. She goes on to ride James in their very first show together, and to quit her mundane job and work for Sky full-time as a marketing assistant. Grabbing Mane is the beautiful tale of a young woman rekindling her once-fervent passion for horses, taking a risk to make her dreams a reality once more. This highly relatable novels will remind readers that our riding journeys do not have to be linear. Lucky for all of us, this sport will be waiting for you, whenever you are ready. BY:


May/June 2021     THE PLAID HORSE


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Five Ways to Have the Best-Behaved Horse at the Mounting Block

EVERY THING YOU DO with your animal is training—whether it is right or wrong. Horses learn the wrong things as quickly as the right ones. The simplest exercises make you the trainer and help you to teach the right things! Here are five easy steps to train your horse to stand quietly while you’re mounting.

1 2 3 4 5

98     THE PLAID HORSE     May/June 2021

Have someone hold your horse’s head when you mount to make him stay still until he has learned what you are asking. Mount in the same place (preferably from a mounting block) until your horse has learned to stand still. Mount correctly. Hold shortened reins in your left hand. Put your left foot in the stirrup and swing your right leg over the saddle. While standing with your left foot in the stirrup, pick up your right stirrup. Sink gently to a sitting position with your horse standing still. When you land on the saddle with all your weight, you are giving your horse a large signal to go forward as well as possibly hurting his back. Don’t wiggle and twist to get comfortable for the same reasons.



Robin Greenwood is the owner and trainer of Grand Central ponies in Southern Pines, NC. She has trained dozens of ponies and riders to wins and championships at the National Horse Show, Indoors, Pony Finals, and many other top shows.

Your horse may walk forward only after you give him the signal to walk. See? You are already training. PHOTO: ©ALLIE CONRAD (GREENWOOD)

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