NORTH AMERICA’S HORSE SHOW MAGAZINE • PUBLISHED SINCE 2003 • AUGUST 2021 FEATURING: Lee Flick• Gochman Grant • Metropolitan Equestrian Team • St. Andrews University Emory & Henry • DMG Shows Grow Our Sport • 5 Strides • Jermo Reese • Preview: Show Strides Book 4
The Pony Issue
JOHN BRAGG’S BRIDGEPORT FARMS $8.99 (ISSN 2573-9409) theplaidhorse.com
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SISTERS who ride together LAURACEA exists because I have two girls who ride. Over the years I was often driving to the barn, or to the shows, and over the years I ruined a lot of bags and I lost a lot of things - lots and lots of crops. This eventually compelled me to create a better option. One that is functional, made with lasting quality, and is also beautiful. I wanted a bag that could hold everything at the horse shows, but it also needed to be able to go out to dinner, and travel as well. I wanted a bag that could go from work, meetings, or lunch, to the barn. I needed a bag that could spend time at the barn, or a horse show, and still look good (hello waterproof leather). And so the LAURACEA Convertible Backpack Tote was born - because I have two girls who ride. Over the years, they went to the barn together, six days a week. They drove to shows together; they got up at 4am together. They shared a common bond. When the girls were young and the short and long stirrup classes were combined, they sometimes found themselves competing against each other. And that was hard. But when my older daughter first left for college, and my younger daughter went to her first show without her, there was a void. The younger one realized that her older sister had always been there, alongside the trainer, to send her into the ring. The girls are grown now. One is a few years out of college and the other is in college. Every Friday night, my younger daughter heads downtown to her sister’s apartment. She sleeps over and they get up on Saturday and drive to the barn together. They continue to share time, and stories, experiences and challenges, as riders. I hear about what they had for dinner together on Friday night and how things are going at the barn. As a mother I am so thankful for the many lessons this sport has taught my girls, but most of all I am thankful for the bond that they share - because they ride together. This series is comprised of various sisters who ride together. They may be in different stages of life and levels of the sport, but they all share an exceptional bond because of this sport. This series is dedicated to ALL the siblings and families who share this bond. Sincerely, Tamara Makris Creative Director LAURACEA
The Stoeckel Sisters
No. 2 in a Series
Britta Stoeckel (L) Olivia Stoeckel (R)
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Thank you John Bragg, Lee Flick and the entire Bridgeport Farms Team… you have made the hard work so much fun! ~ Danielle and Sophia
PHOTO @ CATHRIN CAMMETT.
I am Iaam naturally a naturally hard-working hard-working and independent and independent person, person, but making but making it to pony it to pony finalsfinals was awas goal a goal that that involved involved me me and many and many others. others. I want I want to thank to thank my trainer my trainer and role and role model model KellyKelly Maddox Maddox for pushing for pushing me and me sharing and sharing her her intelligence, intelligence, my friends my friends for supporting for supporting me, my me,family my family for for believing believing in meinand me being and being therethere everyevery step step of theofway, the way, and all andthe allgrooms the grooms that that help help out at outevery at every singlesingle showshow including including the show the show that that I qualified I qualified at. I also at. I also couldcould not not havehave accomplished accomplished this without this without support support fromfrom brands brands such such as Voltaire, as Voltaire, Hygain, Hygain, Willow Willow & Wolf & Wolf Ranch Ranch and Western and Western Saddlery. Saddlery. One One last thanks last thanks to mytobest my best friendfriend and pony, and pony, Charlie, Charlie, I couldn’t I couldn’t havehave donedone anything anything without without you. you.
~Emerson ~Emerson ShaoShao
GoodGood luck luck at Pony at Pony FinalsFinals Emmy Emmy and Charlie! and Charlie! Your Your hard hard workwork has truly has truly paid paid off! And off! And thankthank you to you Kevan to Kevan and Nikky and Nikky HuskyHusky for leasing for leasing us thisusfabulous this fabulous pony…she pony…she is truly is truly the best! the best!
~Kelly ~Kelly Maddox Maddox
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John Bragg and TKTKTKTKT Lee Flick of Bridgeport Farms congratulate Sienna Smith
Publisher & Editor-in-Chief:
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CONTACT & CONNECT WITH THE PLAID HORSE WEB:
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40 THE PLAID HORSE August 2021
PHOTO: KATE HOULIHAN PHOTOGRAPHY
Tobie Van De Lufkenshoeve
for qualifying for Pony Finals 2021 and the Marshall & Sterling Pony Medal Thank you to our trainer Kelci Wilson for her guidance and we are grateful for the support of our barn family.
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All smiles for Bridgeport Farms’ John Bragg and Sienna Smith with Unforgettable.
42 THE PLAID HORSE August 2021
PHOTO: KATE HOULIHAN
NORTH AMERICA’S HORSE SHOW MAGAZINE • PUBLISHED SINCE 2003 • AUGUST 2021 FEATURING: Alltech, Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, Equine Elixirs, Vitalize, Excel Supplements, Equine Health International, Platinum Perfomance, Perfect Products, Smart Earth Camelina
The Pony Issue
JOHN BRAGG’S BRIDGEPORT FARMS $8.99 (ISSN 2573-9409) theplaidhorse.com
Bridgeport Farms’ Lee Flick and John Bragg with Sienna Smith and Unforgettable.
Piper Klemm, Ph.D.
St. Andrews University: So much more than a degree
The Gochman Grant: Meet the 2021 recipients Annie Birmingham
Metropolitan Equestrian Team: Prepares riders for opportunity
Emory & Henry College: A practical well-rounded education
Mechlin Farm: The horse world is family Nina Fedrezzi
It Happens! Pony Edition with Ashton Alexande, Miguel Wilson, Devin Seek and Lexi Miller
Three Redheads and a Moose Photography
Expert Take: Setting the ring pace you need to excel Robin Greenwood
(Piper’s first issue!)
The Upperville Horse & Colt Show: Leadline and pony breeding photo gallery showcases the next generation
Brooke Morin and Party Favor. Party Favor is still at Bridgeport Farms (now owned by Sophia Donald) and still winning in the Large Pony Hunters; Brooke is now competing in grand prix classes and still at Bridgeport Farms and trained by John Bragg and Lee Flick.
Jermo Reese’s Nonprofit Frankie’s Corner: Introducing the Equestrians of Color Photography Project
The Questionnaire with Lala Gee: This catch rider shares her secrets Rennie Dyball
Mill Creek Pony Club Horse Trials: USEA Area IV Eventing Olivia Long
Valuing Your Team with Laura Connaway: Maintaining long-term staff and partner relationships
5 Strides with Thunder D’Azure: Kenzie Chang’s fast connemara pony jumper shares his preparation Rennie Dyball
Kara Pinato Scro
Lauren Mauldin, MFA
Blue Melody Bounces Back: Palm Beach Equine Clinic shares this case study
Show Strides Book 4 Preview: Testing Friendships Piper Klemm, Ph.D. & Rennie Dyball
John Bragg & Lee Flick: Bridgeport Farms of Orange County Lindsey Long
August 2021 THE PLAID HORSE
I WAS RECENTLY walking around
at a horse show where I heard a supportive friend or family member say to a beginner rider, “You look like a natural!” It’s a well-intentioned and positive comment that I’ve heard a thousand times. We’ve all heard it: “She’s so talented.” “ He has natural ability.” “This comes easily for them.” We don’t give those
a second thought, but in this moment, it gave me pause. Really? Really?! We’re praising people for “looking like a natural”? Because it’s not enough to be beautiful—the trick is to be beautiful without trying. It’s not even enough to be fit and eat healthy—the trick is to look like you do without putting in the work. It’s not enough to work your
At the 75th Annual Waterloo Hunt Club Horse Show in Michigan.
44 THE PLAID HORSE August 2021
damndest and ride well—it’s only worthy of envy if it comes naturally. Why are we lionizing this? Why are we trying to be the smallest and the weakest and promote walking in and having success?
This is a sport in which we all have to work. We should be praising work. We should be lionizing work. Next time you praise a rider, think about the terms you use; are you supporting good choices they made, or simply reinforcing traits over which they have no control? Heading to Pony Finals, I’m particularly thinking on how we coach and support young people. Many programs are set up to help the “committed but not genius” rider, providing the practice and structure to build great habits. But that’s only part of the question. I’m increasingly interested in the question of what we do for some of our most talented riders, the ones who perhaps don’t see the need for practice and good habits when they begin riding because their talent carries them through. How do we help these riders when they begin to hit the point where their talent can’t carry them to success in that bigger division or with that new horse? While some parts of the answer may vary with each rider, I think the steps would be far easier if we were praising riders from the beginning for their hard work, rather than for their talent. So next time you see a young rider doing something great, let them know how glad you are that they put in the effort to get there. See you at the ring!
SCENES FROM THE ROAD
Piper Klemm, PHD TPH PUBLISHER
(Follow me on Instagram at @piperklemm)
46 THE PLAID HORSE August 2021
Meeting TPH fans in Akron, Ohio (top). At the ring at the Traverse City Horse Shows in Williamsburg, Michigan.
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SCENES FROM THE ExEL HORSE SHOW
The Experience Equestrian League (ExEL) Summer Horse Show ran June 25–27, 2021 at the Germantown Charity Horse Show grounds in Germantown, Tennessee. The Fall Show runs September 24–26, 2021. For more info: www.exelshows.com
Robin Young and Izak won the $500 Equitation Challenge out of over 30 entries pictured with the judges Michael Tokaruk and Piper Klemm.
Brighton Whimsical and Maggie Dixon (trained by Hunters Edge Stables) won the $500 Hunter Derby.
50 THE PLAID HORSE August 2021
TOP FAR LEFT:
Claire Evans, Kendra Robson, and Taylor Hiatt show off their successful weekend at the ExEL Show with their equine partners, Dawson, Gadget & Henry! BOTTOM ROW FROM LEFT:
Ryan Jane (trained by Leslie Gattuso) was 6th in the Equitation Classic. ExEL horse show judge Piper with ring starter Anna Marie Mayes
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So Much More Than a Diploma:
St. Andrews University Equestrian Studies WORDS
Lauren Mauldin •
Giana Terranova, Rooney Coffman & Tyler Graham
icking a college is the first step of adulthood for many, and there are countless factors that go into determining which school is the best fit. But add horses into the mix? Things get even harder. Still, there are some institutions that maintain excellence through generations. Institutions that know how to create opportunities for their students, and expertly weave riding into a solid education. Since 1961, St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, NC, has been fostering an environment of excellence both in the barn and classroom. At the forefront of St. Andrews Equestrian Studies is Peggy McElveen, director of the equestrian program, who has been with the university for the last 20 years. Honored with the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association prestigious Pioneer Award in 2012 and Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017, she has been involved in collegiate riding since the 1970s. Her decades of experience and commitment to students form the core of St. Andrews’ inclusive, hands-on learning environment. “We build our program around our students’ goals,” McElveen said. It’s a simple directive that other colleges may tout, but St. Andrews truly sets their students’ welfare, education and lifelong success as the top priorities. “The St. Andrews equestrian staff works tirelessly to give each student the tools they need to succeed—whether in riding competitively, training, teaching, judging, managing a barn or becoming a veterinarian or some other equine professional.” The dedication to students is clear in the numbers with a 14:1 student/faculty ratio and 1:1 academic advising to work through goals and career exploration. Celebrating over 50 years of horses on campus, the college has been a leader in equestrian studies and show ring performance. St, Andrews has been six-time American National Riding Commission (ANRC) Intercollegiate national champions, and two-time reserve champions. With their IHSA teams, they’ve been national qualifiers 8 times in hunt seat and nine times in western with 2 IHSA national western championships and reserve national championships in the trophy case. Not to be outshone, their dressage team has qualified for IDA nationals 13 times. Leading the winning ANRC team, as well as the St. Andrews “A” and “C” show teams, is head coach Ashley Duda. Entering her seventh season coaching with the school, Duda mentors young riders who show up with an eager attitude and work ethic. “St. Andrews is unique in that, if you
52 THE PLAID HORSE August 2021
want to learn and are willing to work hard, the instructors and horses are here to help students develop into great horsemen and horsewomen,” she said. The size and scope of the riding program offers essential time in the saddle for students to grow their confidence and develop skills. “Of course academics come first,” she added, “but if the students keep up with their school work, we encourage them to ride as much as possible. We’re lucky to have so many horses to offer our students, and can also offer a great deal of extra lessons.” Though St. Andrews is a highly competitive school regardless of which riding team or teams a student joins, the leadership prioritizes learning and personal growth above any blue ribbon. “Improvement in riding takes so much hard work,” Duda said. “I have been able to witness many moments when riders feel or accomplish something that, up until that point, had only been talked about. To see that work pay off is such a joy.” Regardless of how much skill or experience a freshman has, there is a place for them in the barn. St. Andrews has a wide range of riding programs.”. All students have access to IHSA, IDA, and ANRC riding teams, as well as “A” and “C” show teams. Beyond courses or under saddle classes, these various riding teams allow students to be a part of something greater in what is typically an individual sport. St. Andrews was even the host of the 2012 IHSA national championship, something director McElveen shares as one of her proudest moments with the school. Said McElveen: “Over one hundred St. Andrews Equestrian students, staff, and alumni lived and worked this event for seven days,” held in Raleigh, NC about two hours north of campus. “It was an internship in event management like no other! The dedication, positive attitudes, and endless work ethic demonstrated throughout that week by the St. Andrews crew was phenomenal.” In this way, and many others, riding teams at St. Andrews offer an aspect to equestrian education that traditional universities can’t match. Of course, showing is secondary to the main component of college— classwork. When it comes to academics, St. Andrews offers a total of 18 majors and 21 minors. Their equine-focused paths include Biology with a specialization in Equine Science, Business Administration with a specialized program of study in Equine Business Management, Business Administration with a specialized program of study in Therapeutic Horsemanship Business Management, and a Therapeutic Horsemanship specific degree. Students enjoy courses ranging from beginning riding instruction to judging.
For students interested in therapeutic riding, St. Andrews has been a leader for access and work in this field. “St. Andrews was one of the first colleges in the United States that was built to be accessible to people in wheelchairs, and the first U.S. college to offer a degree in Therapeutic Horsemanship,” McElveen said. Their “Ride-Like-A-Knight” program offers an unparalleled way to learn while helping others. As a PATH International Premier Accredited Center, the Therapeutic Horsemanship Program has been a service to the community since 1996. Helping with therapy for muscular dystrophy/sclerosis, emotional disabilities, spinal cord injuries, Down syndrome, Autism and many others, the program helps individuals between the ages of 5 and 55 from surrounding counties. Students in the Therapeutic Horsemanship Program learn from a PATH certified Advanced Instructor as well as other members of the equestrian faculty. Faculty ensure their education is well-rounded by having students serve as administrators, volunteer coordinators, program directors, and instructors during their college career. This way, they learn real-world business and management skills that could translate to any company or program. Whether through study or riding teams, the St. Andrews faculty sets students up for success for a career in the equestrian industry.
As any equestrian knows, we learn by doing. It’s one thing to read an article about how to properly wrap a horse, and another thing to do it successfully when you’re balancing fifteen other things at the barn. This is where St. Andrews’ students thrive in the university’s learn by doing approach. Lectures are surrounded by hours working at the barn getting a hands-on education with thoughtful guidance and unrivaled mentorship. And when we say barn, we should really say “stunning equestrian center,” because it’s a lot more than a barn. “Many mornings I arrive at the farm in the quiet before dawn,” McElveen said. “As I drive down the driveway, my headlights light up the pastures and the barns and I’m filled with awe and wonder. How lucky are we to have this magical place to gather with our students and horses?” The 300+ acre equestrian center, a jewel of the campus, is home to 125 horses and offers boarding for students to bring their horse to college with them. Its expansive grounds include 4 barns, 2 covered arenas, indoor arena, 3 outdoor riding rings, dressage arena, hunter trial (derby) courses, several riding fields, and extensive turnout. There is space for any kind of equestrian to learn at this top of the line facility.
“Our program is very helpful in setting students up to go into the professional industry because they can explore different career paths while also obtaining hands on experience in whatever they might choose to do,” Coach Duda shares. No matter which path of study a student selects, each major offers many hands-on classes and off-site internships within the equine industry. The success of graduates through the St. Andrews program is a point of pride for Director McElveen; “Our graduates have careers in riding, teaching, coaching, training, grooming, barn management, retail business, and equine appraisal as well as professional careers as equine specialist attorneys or veterinarians. The significant amount of hands-on experience our students receive helps prepare them for success,” she states.
August 2021 THE PLAID HORSE
SPOTLIGHT St. Andrews alum Samantha Cram McDermott knows exactly how this diverse, hands-on learning can open up doors for a career in the industry. Graduating in 2013 with a Biology degree with a focus on Equine Science, McDermott worked for Kent Farrington for a year and a half after graduation. Then she went out on her own for the next three years, running her business in NC with IEA and circuit show teams before moving to Kentucky with her husband and starting an office position with Split Rock Jumping Tour, where she has been for the past four years. It’s a dream resume for any equestrian, and she credits the success to a solid work ethic and a St. Andrews education. “With St. Andrews you have opportunities that I don’t think would be possible at other schools,” McDermott said. She and her twin sister, who also attended the university, spent countless hours scrubbing water buckets and generally doing whatever was needed at the barn. “Once they realize you’re there to learn and be engaged, the possibilities are endless. We were given so many opportunities to show and rode all the time,” she said. McDermott also did a pre-vet internship, and worked as horse-show chair to organize the show horses and volunteers for IHSA shows. “You get a little bit of everything, if you want it. You always have somebody around that’s done it before and is willing to teach you.” Christina Kalinski has also built a diverse career in the equine industry in large part due to her St. Andrews education. Working as a professional rider and trainer on the “A” circuit before her current position with Taylor, Harris Insurance Services, Kalinski credits her time at college for a lot more than a start in the industry. “St. Andrews prepared me for life,” she said. “The close relationships I forged with my teachers, trainers, and teammates made my college experience really personal. On all levels—inside and out of the show ring—this group of people watched me succeed and fail. They helped strengthen my weakness, but also guided me in the direction of my strengths. Ultimately, the trajectory of my adult life boils down to the confidence and accountability I found from the mentors I met in college.”
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Both McDermott and Kalinski agree on the most important aspect of their time at St. Andrews. It wasn’t the riding wins or fancy facility that left the biggest impression, but the tight-knit community. “It’s not just the camaraderie of the team, but the whole school. There’s just this bubble of happiness,” McDermott said. “I met the greatest friends of my life at St. Andrews,” Kalinski added. “We worked together and sometimes against each other, but at the end of the day we learned how to live together and grow together. These friends still hold me accountable today, and I find myself extremely lucky to have them in my life.” For these alumni, college was a feeling of being on a team where everyone worked together for the same goal. It’s a mentality that doesn’t stop once the degrees have been handed out. “When you’re getting out of school, they can help you go in the specific direction you’re interested in,” McDermott said. Opening doors for their students is something that makes a St. Andrews education worth way more than a diploma. Many of the alumni in the industry offer summer jobs and internships to St. Andrews students. Joining this special university means a place on a lifelong team and built-in community for what can be a challenging industry to work in. “Many riders say they want to be successful, but then they lack the dedication to work hard,” Coach Duda said. “Riding is a difficult art that few can master. Dedication to learning this art will allow a collegiate rider to accomplish their goals.” For young equestrians looking for mentors that will train them to be their best and take advantage of incredible opportunities, an education at St. Andrews is exceptional. It’s the college experience for driven equestrians ready to put in the work to make their dreams come true. ◼
To learn more about the St. Andrews University Equestrian studies, visit sa.edu/equestrian.
GOCHMAN GRANT for USEF Pony Finals WORDS: ANNIE
THERE IS nothing quite like the USEF Pony
Finals. The unique event is not only a competition; it is also educational in nature—and connects young riders from around the country. While hundreds of pony riders congregate at the Kentucky Horse Park each August, many more are watching—and longing for an experience of their own—from home.
The Gochman family, whose daughters Mimi and Sophie recorded numerous accolades at Pony Finals in their youth, recognized the financial commitment required for event participation, and in 2015, they decided to pay it forward to child riders in need of financial assistance. The result: the annual Gochman Grant for USEF Pony Finals. The Gochman Grant has created opportunities for young riders in need of financial assistance to compete and learn from top industry professionals on a national level. The grant has become a highly competitive scholarship program offered in conjunction with the United States Hunter Jumper Association. Each year, three junior riders receive a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend and compete at the USEF Pony Finals in Lexington, Kentucky—at absolutely no cost to them. The Gochman Grant application is open to any junior USHJA member who has not previously competed at Pony Finals and
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Kelly Finn, one of the recipients of the 2021 Gochman Grant for USEF Pony Finals
Adison Stark, one of the recipients of the 2021 Gochman Grant for USEF Pony Finals
August 2021 THE PLAID HORSE
would not otherwise be able to attend without the financial assistance provided by the program. The grant, however, offers far more than strictly monetary support. Recipients are provided access to professionals for training and receive entry into clinics, among other educational opportunities. Beyond that, the young riders receive an unprecedented opportunity to develop long-lasting friendships and connections within the sport. “[Beyond financial need], each rider selected exemplifies the qualities most important in our sport: horsemanship, tenacity, and good sportsmanship,” said USHJA Development Director Penny Brooks. The recipients of the 2021 Gochman Grant for USEF Pony Finals are Kelly Finn, Adison Stark and Janie Wilder. “It is like a dream come true to be a Gochman Grant recipient!” Wilder said. “I’m so grateful to the Gochman family
and to the USHJA for providing me with this opportunity of a lifetime. I have worked very hard to get to where I am now, and I am very grateful to all the people who have helped me get to where I am today. I’m happy to finally be able to say that hard work does indeed pay off.” Due to the event’s cancellation in 2020, the three selected recipients from last year—Lulu Carney, Jocelyn Flanner and Eleanor Pieters—will also be making the journey to Lexington, KY for the week of competition. Pieters said she is “honored” to have been selected; listed in her travel itinerary are educational clinics, visiting the museums at the Kentucky Horse Park, and taking part in all the fun activities that occur during the week. Applications for next year’s grant will open in January 2022. For more information on how to apply or get involved, visit the USHJA’s website at www.ushja.org/donors-grants/grants-scholarships.
Janie Wilder, one of the recipients of the 2021 Gochman Grant for USEF Pony Finals
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How The Metropolitan Equestrian Team Paved the Way to Pony Finals WORDS:
ane DaCosta formed the Metropolitan Equestrian Team with its headquarters in New York City in 2010 with the hopes of transforming the lives of kids by introducing them to the opportunities available within equestrian sports. Since then, Metropolitan Equestrian Team has grown into a nationwide program. Finding good opportunities for grants and scholarship programs is not an easy task for those that do not have the resources or the proper connections from within, says DaCosta: “It is really important for us to be that guidance counselor to these students and to their parents.” This year, one of Metropolitan Equestrian Team’s students, Janie Wilder from Clinton, Mississippi, was awarded the Gochman Grant. The Gochman Grant for USEF Pony Finals is made possible by the generosity of Becky and David Gochman and their family. Each year, the USHJA Foundation offers three young pony riders the opportunity of a lifetime to attend and compete at Pony Finals. The grant is not strictly monetary in nature, but rather experience-based. Recipients of the grant are able to compete at Pony Finals and have access to professionals for training, clinics, and more. To be eligible for the grant, riders must show good horsemanship, tenacity, and sportsmanship. Wilder first learned about Metropolitan Equestrian Team’s Equine Opportunity program through one of her old coaches. While there is no limit as to the number of people who can be invited in to the program, not everyone is accepted. Initially, after sending in an application, MET Staff and Committee members organize an interview with the potential candidate to see if they are a good fit for the program. DaCosta notes that the interview process focuses on the riders goals for the future both in and out of the saddle. MET hones in on what they want to accomplish, where they are in life, what they love about the sport, and what change they want to be for themselves and the world. Currently, there are about 25 students in the Equine Opportunity Program who have access to equestrian programs and educational platforms to further their riding careers. “I started out not really sure what I wanted to do when I got older and I had no clue about college or even if I was going to have enough money to continue riding,” says Wilder, who’s
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“I’m so grateful for the Gochman family and USHJA for allowing me the opportunity to attend Pony Finals. And for Jane [DaCosta] for helping me get here.” —JANIE WILDER, PROVIDENCE HILL IEA TEAM MEMBER
been part of the Equine Opportunity Program for about two years. She adds that the program has opened up new doors and opportunities for her in the equine world and beyond. Wilder started riding backyard ponies when she was seven, and began taking on-and-off lessons with multiple trainers. When Wilder was ten, she found Providence Hill Farm, a show barn where she ultimately became a working student. “I had no idea what being a working student was like,” Wilder says. “Once I gained more experience, I started riding show horses and now I show at A shows with my coaches in the jumpers!” Wilder says she has felt fortunate for the opportunities she’s earned. “It’s taken me a long time to get where I am now. I had to work really hard because I don’t necessarily have the funds to be able to do what I do, but it pays off. I have my own horse now and I get to show in the jumpers and it’s a lot of fun.” “I’m incredibly proud of Janie and how much she fought physically, emotionally and spiritually to get here,” DaCosta says. “Our organization is very blessed to have Janie and I know that this opportunity that USHJA and the Gochman family has provided is not just, ‘Okay, you guys are going to Pony Finals and it’s over.’ It has created such a world of giving. Janie is an example to our students of, ‘Wow, if she can do it, I can do it,’ and it’s imperative for us to continue to do that after,” DaCosta says. “We are very grateful for the Gochman family and very grateful to USHJA to be able to bring this all together and this organization (MET) is very grateful and blessed for everything that the USHJA does.” “I’m so grateful for the Gochman family and USHJA for allowing me the opportunity to attend Pony Finals,” says Wilder. “And for Jane for helping me get here.”
Champlain Heart of Gold & Plumbrook Peregrine
Best of Luck at Pony Finals! OWNED BY SHELBY LIT WIN
Stonewall Farm • Text: 920-889-0028 STONE WALLPONIE S@YAHOO.COM
Balmoral AT THE l o s a n 2021 gBEST e l eUSEF sOF LUCK PONY FINALS,
LAUREN ZARNEGIN! We are so proud of you and we admire your hard work and dedication to your sport.
Love, Mom, Dad, and Levi A special thank you to trainers Traci and Carleton Brooks, and all our amazing grooms.
Thank you for your love and support! Traci Brooks 310-600-1967
Carleton Brooks 760-774 -1211
Laila Murad’s Journey to Pony Finals PHOTOS: KATIE BROWNE PHOTOGRAPHY, CATHRIN CAMMETT PHOTGRAPHY, ALDEN CORRIGAN MEDIA, GRANDPIX PHOTOGRAPHY, MCCOOL PHOTOGRAPHY, SHAWN MCMILLEN, SARA SHIER PHOTOGRAPHY & BAHYA MURAD
THE VERY first signs that Laila Murad was eager to ride came
at the local farmer’s market. Each Saturday, without fail, the then-3-year-old Laila was unswervingly drawn to the ponies at the Marin Country Mart near her home in Tiburon, CA. After a year without outgrowing the weekly ritual, Laila had her parents convinced she should begin formal riding lessons. “At that point, Laila was 4, and we thought maybe she should have a proper lesson,” says Bahya Murad, Laila’s mom. “We tried many different activities —ballet, gymnastics, soccer, tennis, swimming, piano, lacrosse...one by one, they all fell by the wayside. Riding was the only activity she was keen to do.” After two years working on the basics at Patrick Seaton Stables, Laila’s eyes were opened to horse shows when she joined the show team to watch and spend the day at Sonoma Horse Park. And with that, Laila caught the horse show bug as well.
A WINNING START With her first pony, Can’t Deny It (“Cappi”), 6-year-old Laila made her own
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horse show debut at Sonoma Horse Park in September 2017. “We went to the show thinking she was doing Leadline,” said Murad. “But once we were there, Laila was entered in the crossrails division. She had never done a course before; she couldn’t remember which way to go. Everyone was cheering her on and telling her which jump to do next. She ended up with an 8th place ribbon in the under saddle, which was very special. From that experience, Laila knew she really wanted to show and took riding more seriously.” Laila’s next pony, Captain Jack (“Jack”), brought the young rider through the ranks from the crossrail division to the Small Pony Hunter division. In September 2018, at their first show together, they were
champion in the crossrail division. The pair moved up to the Short Stirrup and then again up to the Children’s Pony Hunters and Small Pony Hunters in April 2019, championship ribbons following each step of their way. Shortly thereafter, the lease was ending on Captain Jack, and Laila was ready to move up to the medium division. Traci Brooks of Balmoral had just the right pony for her: Out of the Blue (“Nova”). “We got Nova about five years ago for one of our kids,” Brooks says of the medium pony gelding. “We bought him from a trainer friend in Ohio. We needed a special pony because our client was small and needed a pony with great temperament. Nova knows his job. He’s very brave and confident in himself which makes his rider also feel very confident.” To gain additional miles, Laila also leased the medium pony Farmore Good as Gold (“Aiden”) to campaign alongside Nova. Switching to the Medium Pony Hunters and showing in August within a few days of acquiring Nova and leasing Aiden provided a learning curve for Laila. So she was particularly excited to win blue ribbons with Aiden in the Small/Medium
CLOCKWISE FROM UPPER LEFT: Laila Murad & Out of the Blue at Giants Steps Charity Classic 2019, Sonoma Horse Park; At Blenheim Spring Classic III 2021; At Thermal Week II 2020; Laila and her Balmoral teammates and pony friends Madeline Luddy, Lauren Zarnegin and Eloise Eisner at Blenheim Spring Classic III 2021; Laila & Farmore Good as Gold at Menlo Charity Horse Show 2019; With Traci Brooks & Out of the Blue at Balmoral Farms, July 2020; At Thermal Week IV 2020
August 2021 THE PLAID HORSE
Children’s Hunter division, and with Nova in the medium ponies at Menlo Charity Horse Show in August 2019, as well as winning the $500 Pony Hunter Classic with Aiden and taking 3rd with Nova at Paso Robles Horse Park in November.
TICKET TO RIDE By the start of the 2020 season, Laila set the goal of qualifying for Pony Finals. Despite a slight setback in December recovering from a wrist injury, Laila began her winter season at the Desert International Horse Park, earning reserve champion in the medium Ponies with Nova during week two and qualifying for Pony Finals. The pair were again reserve champion during week four and were the mid-circuit reserve champion. Laila also fit in a week at the Murieta Winter Classic in February with both Aiden and Nova. She won the $1,500 derby challenge with Aiden and finished 3rd with Nova. It was the perfect ending to Laila’s lease with Aiden. “I do get very nervous, but then I try to take a deep breath and I feel calmer,” says Laila. “I watch everyone’s rounds.” “It helps that, at the barn, she trains with a variety of riders and that everyone is supportive of one another,” adds Murad. “She was the youngest on the
show team, and that challenged her.” When the 2020 season unexpectedly shut down due to the Coronavirus, Laila wasn’t sure she would be able to attend Pony Finals. But once the invitation arrived in June, Laila and her parents made the decision to honor her goal. “It wasn’t a simple decision. Laila hadn’t been riding in over two months because of the shelter-in-place order, and we needed to change plans many times to conform to state COVID guidelines and ensure we were keeping our family and others safe. We knew Laila would be going to Pony Finals with Traci Brooks so we decided to move down to L.A. to train at Balmoral in final preparation.” “Traci and Carleton Brooks’ reputation precedes them. They are amazing trainers with great experience and understanding of horses and riders. Traci teaches in a way that really helps Laila understand what she is learning and when Carleton speaks, you just listen,” Murad says. “There is so much combined knowledge and wisdom in their teaching which truly makes them a dream team! Balmoral Farms is also a beautiful facility with two barns, one in Agoura Hills and one in the heart of Brentwood, where Laila trained. You can’t even tell it’s there and it feels like an oasis nested in the middle of houses. The horses are amazingly cared for and
LAILA MURAD’S RESULTS
Laila and Farmore Good as Gold, Northern Winter Classics 2020
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• May 12, 2018: Champion, Crossrails Hunter, Jack, SHP Spring Classic, Sonoma Horse Park • May 13, 2018: Champion, Crossrails Equitation, Jack, SHP Spring Classic, Sonoma Horse Park • May 19, 2018: Reserve Champion, Short Stirrup, Jack, HMI Equestrian Challenge, Sonoma Horse Park
ABOVE: Laila & Out of the Blue with the Balmoral Team (Holly Higgins, Roxy Sorkin, Djuna Lauder, and Traci & Carleton Brooks) at Blenheim Summer Festival 2020.
riders get to be in a beautiful setting”. For a few weeks in June and July, Brooks worked with Laila on the three phases that she would compete in at Pony Finals: the model, the hack, and the over fences. “First, we worked on scores in the under saddle,” says Brooks. “For instance, Laila would trot past me, and I would say, ‘That’s a [score of ] 75. How would you make it an 85?’ There are three judges in every class, so, specific to the under saddle, a judge is always looking at you. We’ll talk about how
• July 1, 2018: Reserve Champion, Short Stirrup, Jack, Bay Area Summer Festival, Horsepark at Woodside • September 15, 2018: Champion, Short Stirrup, Jack, Strides and Tides, Sonoma Horse Park • February 3, 2019: Champion, Short Stirrup, Jack, Hits Horse Shows Week II, Desert International Horse Park, Thermal • February 10, 2019: Champion, Children Hunter Pony, Jack, Hits
Horse Shows Week III, Desert International Horse Park, Thermal • April 19, 2019: Champion, Small Pony Hunter, Jack, Paso Robles Spring Classics, Paso Robles Horse Park • November 10, 2019: Champion, $500 Pony Hunter Classic, Aiden (& 3rd with Nova), Paso Park Oak Tree Classic, Paso Robles Horse Park • Laila ended her 2019 season with a Zone 10 4th Place with Nova and 9th Place with Aiden in USHJA’s Horse Zone of
LEFT: Laila & Out of the Blue at the Blenheim Spring Classic III 2021
to manage that and how to get seen.” “Pony Finals can be nerve wracking, and the kids get worked up,” Brooks adds. “The first year is especially challenging. The kids can forget the course or forget to count strides or to go straight. I work on making that automatic. I’m trying to give Laila a visual and a feeling of what it will be like and what to expect.” “Our plan was to go for Laila to have the experience,” says Murad. “There were no expectations.”
the Year in the Medium Hunter Pony • January 26, 2020: Reserve Champion, Medium Hunter Pony, Nova, Desert Circuit II, Desert International Horse Park, Thermal
And for Laila, the joy of riding goes beyond the excitement of winning blue ribbons. More important, she says, is the bond with your ponies and trainers, your barn family, and the friendships from the shows. Unfortunately, Pony Finals were canceled in 2020. “Laila showed at the Kentucky Summer Classic and had a great round in the mediums in the morning. But by afternoon, we got a call from Traci telling us Pony Finals were canceled. Laila was very disappointed but we were grateful for the learning experience and that Laila had a chance to see and show at the Kentucky Horse Park.” Two weeks later, after a quarantine at home in Tiburon, Laila moved back to L.A. to train and try to qualify for Pony Finals 2021. She went home for a couple of months for training with Ray Texel after the Desert International Horse Park Sunshine Series in November, before relocating to La Quinta for the Desert Circuit in January. Once school resumed in-person after mid-Desert Circuit in March, Laila went back to her hometown of Tiburon, training with Texel on her new jumper Alfonsine Manciaise (“Alfie”), acquired from Gut Einhaus in Wellington, FL. Laila also leased Cover Girl (“Carmen”) to help her transition to jumpers and traveled to horse shows to
• February 9, 2020: Reserve Champion, Medium Hunter Pony and Mid-Circuit Reserve Champion, Nova, Desert Circuit IV, Desert International Horse Park, Thermal • February 19, 2020: Champion, $1500 Derby Challenge with Aiden and 3rd with Nova, Northern Winter Classic, Murieta Equestrian Center • Laila ended her 2020 season with a Zone 10 3rd Place with Nova in USHJA’s Horse Zone of
meet up with Brooks and Nova. Laila and Nova earned champion in January 2021 at week 2 of Desert International Horse Park qualifying for Pony Finals 2021 and reserve champion at Memorial Day Classic in May at Hansen Dam Horse Park. “I’ve been to different horse shows, and I’ve made friends from different cities and states that I probably wouldn’t have made if I didn’t ride,” says Laila, now 10 years old. “It’s been great fun meeting other riders and we’ve created a good group of pony friends. I’m looking forward to continuing that and being at Pony Finals with my Balmoral teammates and friends from different barns, especially since I’m hoping to fully transition to horses afterwards.” “We’ve had a strong Zone 10 medium division this season. Sometimes you do well, and other times your friends do better. I don’t see myself as the best rider but I feel I work hard at it and I can be a rider that adds to the ring. At the end of the day, we all laugh and celebrate being at the horse show with a boba or an Italian soda. Because of my age, I can still be in ponies for a few more years, and I know there is more for me to accomplish and learn; however, I would like to try something different and I’m very excited about jumpers.”
the Year in the Medium Hunter Pony • January 26, 2020: Reserve Champion, Medium Hunter Pony, Nova, Desert Circuit • January 24, 2021: Champion, Medium Hunter Pony, Nova, Desert Circuit II, Desert International Horse Park • May 30, 2021: Reserve Champion, Medium Hunter Pony, Nova, Memorial Day Classic, Hansen Dam Horse Park
LEFT: Wins at Thermal Week III 2019, Desert International Horse Park RIGHT: Laila & Captain Jack, HMI Equestrian Challenge 2018
August 2021 THE PLAID HORSE
Congratulations to Our Over 100 Ponies Sold or Leased in 2020!
PHOTOS © ANDREW RYBACK PHOTOGRAPHY, SHAWN MCMILLEN PHOTOGRAPHY, THE BOOK, MACKENZIE SHUMAN, & GRACE SALMON
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!
PHOTOS © ANDREW RYBACK PHOTOGRAPHY, SHAWN MCMILLEN PHOTOGRAPHY, THE BOOK, MACKENZIE SHUMAN, & GRACE SALMON
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
A Practical, WellRounded Education Awaits at Emory & Henry College © Leah Prater, E&H
Whether you want to pursue a college degree in equine studies or ride competitively at the collegiate level, Emory & Henry College is the perfect place for students to graduate with a top-notch, private, liberal arts education while also pursuing their passion for horses. Emory & Henry prepares you for the world of work and enables you to become a valuable part of the equestrian industry both during your college training and for many years after you graduate. With individualized attention, strong core academics, and such a stellar riding program, Emory & Henry makes a superb choice for the serious collegiate equestrian. Its consistent history of winning championships as well as guiding well-rounded equestrians to careers in the industry makes it an excellent choice for the next generation looking to stay an integral part of our sport. "We are committed to a liberal arts education and fostering each student to meet their own academic goals.” Dr. Patty Graham-Thiers said. "It feels like a 'home away from home' here.”
© Rachael Wilbur, E&H
Emory & Henry offers a bachelor of arts (B.A.), a bachelor of science (B.S.), a minor in Equine Studies, and a pre-professional program for pre-veterinary along with more than 80 academic majors and tracks of undergraduate study. Equine Studies degrees begin with an emphasis on the mechanism of the horse, along with a commitment to traditional horsemanship and the workings of rider position. A small class size allows Emory & Henry faculty to focus on the individual. Academic class size averages at roughly 13, and the overall student to faculty ratio is 10:1. Education is hands-on and project-based, and students maintain close relationships to their professors. Every class, including labs, is taught by faculty, and the Equine Studies department offers distinguished professors. Dr. Graham-Thiers is the head of the department. Her research has been published and presented at the national and international level, and she serves as a committee member for the 6th Ed. Of the Nutrient Requirements of the Horse, a National Academy of Sciences publication.
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Students participate in hands-on learning through research and work opportunities, including equine health-related research studies to assisting at A-rated Horse Shows. The curriculum offers a broad range of courses in teaching, schooling, horse show management, judging, stable management, anatomy, first aid and equine nutrition that prepare students for successful careers in a variety of different positions within the equine industry. Emory & Henry is one of the few colleges to offer undergraduate research putting E&H students at the top of the job market. Students may choose to combine their Equine Studies degree with Business or another major or minor to further their handcrafted education. A new animal science minor offers an additional area of academic specialization.
Graduates from the E&H equestrian program succeed in careers ranging from instructors, trainers and barn managers to professional riders at the national and international levels. They also enter veterinary medicine or achieve positions of industry leadership, including management positions at the U.S. Equestrian Federation where they help shape the future of America’s horse industry. Equestrian Director, Lisa Moosmueller-Terry, elaborated, "The program is all encompassing; we do not offer specialization in training, riding or management as some programs do. Our reason for this is that we have found that most employers are looking for someone that has all of these skills and that the equine industry is already specialized enough. This makes our graduates more versatile and employable.” Students who study at Emory & Henry also learn from internships, which most complete over summer break. Additionally, there are workshops that give opportunity for students to work for trainers at horse shows and make connections with potential future employers. With a focus on setting students up for future success, Emory & Henry knows that employment in the industry is about practical knowledge. When asked what kind of hands-on learning students can expect, Dr. Graham-Thiers provided a comprehensive list including first aid, grooming and braiding, breeding, barn and show management, judging, correct shoeing techniques, hay selection, conformation analysis, balancing rations and much more. There are also plans to add a class on foaling and foaling care, which will allow students first-hand experience doing foal watch, foaling and after care.
© Rachael Wilbur, E&H
Utilizing all of these skills learned at Emory & Henry, graduates go on to be successful in the workplace. Possibilities include facility and event management, instruction and training, professional riding, industry leadership and advisory board position, or working for media or peripheral equine industries such as animal pharmaceuticals. "Overall, we often have more job offers for our graduates than we have graduates to fill those positions," Dr. Graham-Thiers said. "We have many employers who always contact us when they have a position open.” This kind of career coaching and placement is hard to find in any industry, and certainly often lacking in larger institutions. “My job as a trainer, rider and professional groom at Woodridge Farm in Boston allows me to travel to find horses for clients on the East Coast and most recently in Europe,” said 2016 graduate Megan Wilson-Bost. “Starting from humble beginnings, I owe the majority of my successful employment
August 2021 THE PLAID HORSE
© Kieran Paulsen
The E&H Equestrian Center is home to competitions and hands-on training on 120 acres (off I-81, exit 10) surrounded by rolling hills and stunning landscapes in Southwest Virginia. The college provides 50-quality school horses for student use both in and out of class, and students are welcome to bring their own horses for boarding. Features of the equine center include both 250 x 150-foot and 200 x 100-foot indoor arenas, a 350 x 200-foot outdoor arena, the A.J. Coyle Memorial Cross-Country Course, a 28-stall boarder barn for student horses, a sixhorse gooseneck Sundowner van, a two-horse trailer for transportation to shows, nine large grass paddocks, four tack rooms, USA Equestrian regulation jumps, more than 80 box stalls, three wash stalls with hot and cold water, laundry facilities, and a classroom/viewing room.
to the program and connections that I made at Emory & Henry. Riding this level of professional horses wouldn’t have been possible without the coaching of Lisa Moosmueller-Terry and Heather Richardson. I learned how to be a well-rounded, hardworking and knowledgeable horsewoman due to their endless dedication and professionalism. When you say you graduated from Intermont Equestrian at Emory & Henry people take notice in this industry. There is a standard of excellence they hold to and I’m proud to continue that legacy.”
© Lynlee Dutton
© Giana Terranova
The nationally-acclaimed Intermont Equestrian at Emory & Henry College boasts 21 national championships in competitive riding since 2001 – most recently as 2019 IHSA and 2018 IDA national champions. Emory & Henry’s IHSA, IDA and ANRC teams offer opportunities for students to gain competitive experience in hunters, jumpers, equitation and dressage. Riding is open to all students, regardless of their major or level of riding. Best Value Schools has named Emory & Henry College’s Intermont Equestrian Center one of the “20 Most Amazing College Equestrian Centers” in the nation. Amanda Ginder, online relations officer for Best Value Schools, says that “Best Value Schools knows that for horse lovers and dedicated horse owners the search for the perfect college often necessitates a search for the most amazing college equestrian centers.”
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From the facility to the horses, Emory & Henry provides the best for its students. With more than 50 college owned horses on the property, students have a large variety to learn from. "Most of our horses are not what you would think of as 'school horses' director Lisa MoosmuellerTerry said. "They come to us after careers on the circuit as jumpers, junior hunters, equitation horses and FEI dressage horses. We have several of the best horses in the country, and even a few that were past Olympians.” Keeping such quality in the barn allows students to learn in a safe, productive manner on horses comparable to ones they'd find at the top institutions they hope to work for one day. With such diversity available, it isn't necessary for them to bring their horse to college although we do offer boarding for student horses as available. Intermont Equestrian also offers three week-long, overnight sessions of the Collegiate Bound Summer Riding Camp open to students ages 14-18. The camp prepares students for riding at the collegiate level. Participants receive mounted lessons and facilitate a mock horse show at the culmination of the camps for parents and friends to demonstrate their horsemanship. See more information at www.ehc. edu/equine-camp. At this time, we are accepting scholarship auditions by video submission. Please send a video showcasing your riding skills to Odessa Thacker. Contact Odessa Thacker at (276) 944-6533 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on your riding scholarship audition and campus tour. Prospective students should visit www.ehc. edu/equine to learn more about Emory & Henry and to learn about the program and Equine scholarships. ◼
USEA Area IV Mill Creek Pony Club Horse Trials LONGVIEW HORSE PARK ASSOCIATION, KANSAS CITY, MO MAY 15-16, 2021
1 Chloe Deyoung & Rae of Hope (Starter Open) giving it their all. 2 Mallory Huggins & Jax of All Trades (Starter Open) catching some air. 3 Jessica Ptak-Hooker & Nila Gray Dancer (Novice Open) galloping across Longview’s gorgeous Cross Country facility. • 4 John Staples & WF Drosseau (Training Open) checking his time on Cross Country. 5 Chris Heydon & Pour Me Another (Beginner Novice Senior) handling the water complex like pros. • 6 Jana Lyle & Heavenly SCF (Training Open) doing their thing in Dressage. PHOTOS:
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OLIVIA LONG, OLIVIA DANIELLE PHOTOGRAPHY while second shooting for JJ SILLMAN of SKIPPERDOODLEFRITZ
BEST OF LUCK WITH ALL YOUR "Dreams"
ream" " Believe in a D
(289) 838-4444 | Ontario, Canada | ironhorseperformanceponies.com
WHEN YOU’RE AT MECHLIN FARM,
YOU’RE FAMILY WORDS:
NINA FEDRIZZI RYBACK PHOTOGRAPHY and COURTESY MECHLIN FARMS
ARBECUE IS serious business in the Midwest, and St. Louis, Missouri might well be the capital. At Mechlin Farm in Wright City, less than an hour from St. Louis’s iconic downtown Gateway Arch, barbecue is still religion, but with a higher sense of purpose. Here, the invitation is open to everyone. It’s just about showing up, maybe bringing a dish or a case of beer, and pulling up a chair. “We have dinners, and barbecues, and everyone in our program [is welcome]—whether it’s a staff member, team member, student, parent, owner. They know that whatever they need, big or small, they can call Kenny, and he’ll do it for them,” says rider/trainer Sarah Mechlin Duhon of her father. ‘Kenny,’ might be the Midwest’s equestrian equivalent of Prince, Madonna, or Cher, in that he
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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Sarah Mechlin Duhon
with son Ben; Emma Mechlin & Mechlin Farmsowned James Bond PC at Pin Oak Charity Horse Show; Mo Duhon and Ben; Fall at Mechlin Farms
needs only one name and little by way of introduction. The Mechlin family patriarch has a hand in horse hauling, hay and grain sales, and manure removal, and if you’ve attended any shows within a stone’s throw of the Mississippi River, you probably have the name ‘Kenny Mechlin’ saved in your phone contacts. Even still, if you happen to be from a town a little further from the flatlands and nearer to a coast, the ‘Mechlin’ name still might ring a bell, and there’s a very good reason for that.
HIGH HOPES After leaving home at age 20, Sarah Mechlin had the chance to work under top professionals including Patty and Richard Rogers, Mindy Darst, Heather Irvine, and Otis Brown, climbing the ranks from groom to barn manager, and eventually into an assistant rider/trainer position. She’s since made her name in the national hunter derby ring, with big wins at Country Heir in Kentucky and the Gulf Coast Winter Classic in Mississippi. In 2012, Sarah was the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) High Performance Hunter Champion and was also named the High Score Emerging Professional at WEF’s Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular. But training has always been Sarah’s primary passion, and in 2012, she returned home to her family’s farm outside St. Louis to set up her own shop, much to her mother’s delight. When Sarah moved away to work, says Sarah’s mother, Connie Mechlin, “that was the saddest day of my life. I just thought my world had ended. Kenny kept saying, ‘She’ll be back. She’ll be back.’ I said, ‘No she won’t! She’s riding amazing horses and she’s with wonderful people! Why would she want to come back here?’ Low and behold, Kenny was right, as usual.” The reason for the prodigal trainer’s about-face? A subtle and supportive push from her soon-to-be-husband—and allaround horse show Renaissance man—Mo Duhon. (“God bless Mo!” jokes Connie). “I wanted so badly, my whole life, to be a show rider, and to be a top-level trainer,” Sarah says of her initial hesitancy
August 2021 THE PLAID HORSE
to return home. “My biggest fear was that I would come back to St. Louis and be a big fish in a small pond, and never really see the kind of success that I had dreamt about having as a professional horseman.” “I had no intention of starting my own business at home. I was maybe going to own a couple of horses, and then go catch ride, which I did for the first year and a half or so. But then I moved home, and my friend [and client] Sue Busse said, ‘You can’t do that, you need a business here, this area needs you.’ The rest is history.” Today, Mechlin Farm boards anywhere between 20-25 horses at a time, training 10 or more clients, and carrying a few young hunters for sale. In recent years, Sarah’s horses and riders have earned numerous accolades at top venues around the country, including Reserve Champion in 2015 in the 3’3” Juniors at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show; Champion in 2016 in the 3’3” Juniors at the National Horse Show; and 2019 and 2020 Reserve Circuit Championships in the Older Small Junior hunters at WEF. According to Sarah, a general flexibility and “big picture” mentality is what sets Mechlin Farm apart. It’s a mindset that extends to training duties, as well, with Assistant Trainer Ali McCool sharing equally in the coaching of juniors and amateur riders at every level. “We [don’t] have a mold that we expect each horse and rider to fit into,” Sarah adds. “It’s a program that tries to adapt itself to each horse and person that we teach. “Sometimes, the kids respond better to the pressure I put on them,” says Sarah, while other times, “they respond better to a little bit more laid-back approach with Ali. We don’t ever expect it to be one way or the other. We kind of let them find their groove.” Though Sarah says that top veterinary care, careful management, and making sure her horses “feel good in their bodies” is a cornerstone of her program, she also understands that there are different types of riders. “I feel like there are two different kinds of juniors: kids that want to know everything that I know, and then kids that want to have the results that I can give them. I don’t begrudge either one.” Two kids that do want to know everything that Sarah does—and
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more—are her 16-year-old working student, Katrina Shulda, and her niece, Emma Mechlin. Shulda, the reigning Zone 7 Equitation Champion, owns a horse with Sarah and homeschools while assisting with grooming and managing duties at the farm. Meanwhile, Emma Mechlin, 12, is quickly making a name for herself in the Junior hunter divisions, earning numerous wins and tricolors in St. Louis, WEF, and beyond. “The girls spend every day at the barn. When we’re at horse shows, they get up at 5 a.m. with the grooms, and [sometimes], they don’t finish the barn until 10 p.m.,” Sarah says. “I’m 100 percent trying to teach them all those things that I know. “Teaching, for sure, is one of my favorite parts of the job,” says Sarah. “Don’t get me wrong, we do this because we like to show and win, but you have to appreciate all sides of it. Those days at home, trying to get better from the last horse show to the next, to me, are as fun as going to the horse show and feeling that hard work pay off.”
A NEW LEAF The 2021 year was a big one for the Mechlin/Duhon clan in more ways than one. In March, Mo and Sarah celebrated the birth of their daughter, Dorothy (Dottie), who joins her 4-year-old big brother Ben. It’s also the year that Mo Duhon will officially take over ownership of the time-honored St. Louis Horse Show Series, a role he’s essentially trained for over decades. “Learning something new at an older age isn’t always the easiest thing,” says Mo, but “I’m figuring out my years of experience have kind of propelled me toward this path.” Mo cut his teeth working jump crews and in-gates at top shows around the country, including the 2017 Longines FEI World Cup™ Final in Omaha, Nebraska. He went on to found and operate his own jump design business, something he brings—along with his longtime friendship with renowned course designer Skip Bailey—to his new role. Former St. Louis show-runner John McQueen actually officiated Mo and Sarah’s wedding, so it seemed only fitting that he should also bless this next phase of their professional lives as well.
“Queenie is like family to us. Taking on these events was an easy decision, and I think that John trusted me to be able to do a good job here,” Mo says. In addition to the well-known winter series (held December- February), which provides a more cost-effective local alternative to Florida circuits, St. Louis Horse Shows will also host multiple events this fall, including the Zone 7 North Finals in October. Top on Mo’s to-do list for his first year: working with the National Equestrian Center and GGT-Footing™ to ensure that St. Louis competitors have a top-notch surface on which to ride, and expanding the show’s family-friendly offerings while working to cultivate a rapport with each and every exhibitor at the venue. “We’re a family-oriented business that has a vested interest in the success of everybody in our area, because our business touches every part of our area,” says Mo, adding that his goal is ultimately to grow the series’ offerings with exhibitor’s parties, expanded prize money, scholarships for young competitors, and creating a developing equitation series and St. Louis
“The more good wishes that you have for your comrades, the more success you end up creating for yourself.” —SARAH MECHLIN DUHON
FROM LEFT: Emma Mechlin riding Mechlin Farm’s Funbelievable back to the barn after showing at WEF; Sarah Mechlin and Nice to Have (owned by Down the Line Equine LLC) at Pin Oak.
circuit final. According to his family, there’s nobody better suited in terms of skill set and natural charisma for the job. “I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like Mo!” says his mother-in-law, Connie. In fact, Connie says, she knew after their first cup of coffee as a family together that Mo was the guy for Sarah. “He’s just so knowledgeable about the in-gate, and the ring, and how it should all be run.” Mo taking over those horse shows “was an opportunity waiting to happen, and he’s going to take it places it’s never gone before,” she adds.
CORNHOLE & LIFE LESSONS For her part, Connie acts as the glue that binds the Mechlin/Duhon clan together, helping (alongside Mo’s mother, who lives close by), to watch the couple’s kids during the day, running errands and navigating airport pick-ups for clients, and even hosting Mo’s family during their permanent move from Louisiana to the St. Louis area. “There was no ‘get acquainted’ period with us,” Connie says of their families’ first meeting. The invitation is now open, all the time.
“Anytime we’re fixing dinner or barbecuing, it’s like, ‘Mo, what are your parents doing? We’re cooking!’ We’re very blessed in that aspect.” To be sure, an emphasis on kindness and good, old-fashioned values, in the most welcoming sense, isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind at a competitive show barn. But if there is a common thread that unites all facets of the Mechlin/Duhon business, that might be it. In fact, when asked about the most important lesson she tries to pass on to her students, Sarah doesn’t hesitate. “Sportsmanship,” she says. “It’s just about being a team player and wanting your barnmate and their horse to go out and have the best round they can have, not hoping they do poorly. The more good wishes that you have for your comrades, the more success you end up creating for yourself.” That may seem like good common sense, but at Mechlin Farm, students are accepted as they are. Not every person may be naturally inclined to sweep the aisle without being asked or polish their trophy case of sportsmanship awards, by
they are expected to learn by example. “It takes time, it’s delicate,” Sarah adds. “You can’t make every person in the program fit a certain mold, but what you can do is to try to develop an atmosphere that produces a certain type of attitude.” Two prime examples: one of Sarah’s former juniors, who now owns an investment horse with Mechlin, helps to nanny the couple’s children while they’re at horse shows. Even closer to home, Sarah and Mo’s young son Ben doesn’t ride, but comes to the barn every day just to chat, pitch in, and be a part of the team. “A lot of the juniors that have come out of the program, their parents have called me, and said, ‘Thank you for helping us to raise a productive and confident young woman,’ ” Sarah says. “We have our fair share of crazy, like any family does. But we are also a representation of healthy adult relationships, and how a family unit [can] work together. I feel like the respect and the love that we all have for each other kind of helps to carry the momentum through to everyone else. “They all know that we’re really all here for each other.”
August 2021 THE PLAID HORSE
Jaime Collins 239-777-1166
HOW THIS PONY BOUNCED BACK Thanks to Palm Beach Equine Clinic WORDS: TORI PHOTOS:
BILAS/JUMP MEDIA COURTESY OF PALM BEACH EQUINE CLINIC
hey say “no foot, no horse.” It may be an old adage, but it proves just as true today. Many intricate structures compose the animal’s foundation, and the overall health of the hoof is paramount. So, what happens when a portion of your horse or pony’s hoof is suddenly missing? Owners Josh and Laura Gross found themselves in this predicament when their barn’s owner, Ayriel Italia, called them to say that their daughter’s Welsh pony had cut herself and needed immediate medical attention. While in the paddock, Blue Melody had gotten her left hind hoof underneath the gate and suffered a serious laceration. “We were initially frantic without more information,” says Josh Gross. “We consider Melody a family member, and her rider is an eight-year-old.” The novice horse-owner parents had been learning the ropes of equine health and care through supporting their young daughter Saylor’s passion for horses. They turned to the expertise and guidance of Italia and trainer Shanna Sachenbacher, who immediately called veterinarian Dr. Kathleen Timmins of Palm Beach Equine Clinic. Upon arriving at the barn, Dr. Timmins saw that Melody had an approximately two-inch-wide section of her hoof missing. “A full thickness portion of the lateral hoof wall and the coronet band had been completely excised,” says Dr. Timmins. “It was a deep wound that exposed the sensitive laminae of the hoof. Thankfully, a thin section of the weight-bearing portion of the hoof distal to the laceration was spared, and the wound did not go deep enough to communicate with the distal interphalangeal joint or the coffin bone.” The sensitive laminae are an interlaced network of connective tissue, nerves, and blood vessels beneath
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Only four weeks after the injury, Blue Melody was deemed sound enough to resume work.
www.Riderzon.com • email@example.com
the hoof wall. This highly-vascular layer attaches to and protects the coffin bone. Injuries to the coffin bone or joint structures can be devastating, often with long-term effects on the horse’s soundness and on the development of the hoof. In Melody’s case, Dr. Timmins found the laceration to be “more bark than bite,” as it did not affect those critical structures. Although Melody would likely have some degree of abnormal hoof growth from the damaged coronary band, Dr. Timmins had an encouraging prognosis for the pony. “Dr. Timmins was so responsive that by the time we arrived at the barn to fully learn what had happened, the wound was already cleaned and wrapped, and we were told that Melody would make a full recovery,” says Gross. After an initial assessment and treatment of the wound at their barn, Melody
was brought to Palm Beach Equine Clinic so that she could be observed and receive comprehensive medical care. Intravenous antibiotics were administered, and the laceration was thoroughly cleaned and bandaged with an added frog pad to support the hoof. Melody progressed well and was able to be discharged only 48 hours later. Along with a lesson in proper cleaning and wrapping of the wound, Dr. Timmins gave Melody’s owners and caretakers antibiotic and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. She also recommended a biotin supplement to aid in healthy hoof growth and advised that Melody would benefit from a few weeks of shoes with clips, which would provide lateral support to the section of the hoof wall that lost integrity. With a full team supporting Melody’s recovery, the injury and medical care become less daunting to the Gross family.
Only two weeks after the laceration, the wound showed great improvement, and Melody was able to be shod and very lightly worked. Four weeks after the injury, Melody received the green light from Dr. Timmins to resume full work with Saylor in the saddle. “Dr. Timmins’ responsiveness and calm demeanor made all the difference,” says Gross. “She put our minds at ease, took great care of our extended family member, and helped her get back on her feet (hooves!) more quickly than we expected.” Injuries to horses’ legs and hooves can be unnerving. Having a veterinarian immediately assess an injury and determine if it affects any vital structures is crucial for recovery. In case of an equine medical emergency, do not hesitate to call the veterinarians of Palm Beach Equine Clinic at 561-793-1599.
Sophia Welniak & Samantha Dodd Training,, Leases,, Sales
on a successful 2020-21 show season Best of luck at Pony Finals !
Wishlea Star Song ""
Stonewall Texas ""
Sybil Greene | Melanie Wright | Lincoln, NE | (402) 310-2718 | firstname.lastname@example.org
We are so proud of the wonderful season you have had competing "Lone Star" and qualifying "Wishlea Star Song" & "Stonewall Texas" for Pony Finals 2021. We love being along for the ride.
Samantha Dodd We are so proud of all you have accomplished!! You will always be our champion. Have fun at Pony Finals; we can’t wait to watch you do your thing!! Much love & gratitude to Sybil Greene & Melanie Wright for making Sammy the rider she is today. All Our Love,
Mom and Dad
VALUING YOUR TEAM:
MORE THAN A‘THANK YOU’ WORDS:
KARA PINATO SCRO/JUMP MEDIA
For Laura Connaway, recognizing the value of her teams—including those that work with her horses and those at Connaway & Associates Equine Insurance Services, Inc.—is a critical piece to creating a positive and productive work environment.
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S AN owner, trainer, or
manager of an equestrian operation, your team extends beyond your day-to-day staff. Veterinarians, farriers, bodyworkers, and part-time help all play an integral part in making sure everything goes smoothly— whether at a horse show or at home. Days spent working in this industry are often long and laborious, and expressing gratitude is important. For Laura Connaway, founder and president of Connaway & Associates Equine Insurance Services, Inc. as well as the breeder of her own grand prix mounts, it’s about more than saying “thank you.” “I think about what makes me feel excited to be part of a team,” says Connaway. “It’s being around people who value each role or ‘part of the whole’ and don’t value one type of contribution more than another.” It’s this mentality that has shaped the way Connaway expresses gratitude on a day-to-day basis.
NOTICING THE SMALL THINGS Connaway, who keeps her horses at home, says noticing the little things that each “segment” or team member is doing goes a long way. “I take notice of the people that spend the extra time with the horses,” says Connaway. “For example, without being asked, someone may take
PHOTOS, FROM LEFT: COURTESY LAURA CONNAWAY, SANDRA GREGORY
August 2021 THE PLAID HORSE
“At the end of the day, I think one reason team members try hard is because they see others around them are invested in and dedicated to their individual role as well as the bigger picture,” —LAURA CONNAWAY
time to hand walk the horses in the paddock after they’ve just come home from a day of travel and they’re feeling a little fractious. It may not even be their job specifically, but they’re looking out for the team as a whole—that’s extremely valuable.” Connaway recalls a recent situation in which her farrier noticed that one of her horses was dragging its hind feet and he suggested she have her veterinarian come take a look. Because she had planned to leave for a show just days later, the veterinarian rearranged his schedule to come out to the farm as quickly as possible. “When my vet examined the horse, he didn’t just ask to see my horse to jog,” said Connaway. “He used the lameness detector and flexed the horse. He knew how important this horse was to me and so he was thorough and did his job well.” In the end, the horse was healthy, sound, and able to compete. According to Connaway, this illustrated the whole team working together and recognizing value in each part. The farrier and the veterinarian both took steps to make sure that the horse was in top form. Sure, the farrier and the vet may have been “doing their jobs,” but the jobs were done well, and it enabled everything else Connaway had planned to run smoothly. “In addition to saying ‘thank you,’ ” she says, “I like to celebrate my team’s hard work by showing them how their efforts have paid off. When my horse in question jumped clear in the grand prix that weekend, I sent my vet a video of the class and let him know his evaluation was correct; there wasn’t a problem. When things are going well, you can acknowledge that a team member’s hard work is paying off.”
APPRECIATING EVERY JOB
Connaway also believes you can demonstrate gratitude by respecting the importance of every single role. “A large part of showing how grateful you are is ensuring that you are not demeaning anybody,” says Connaway. “What I mean by this is that each job is of the same importance and no job is beneath anyone.”
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As an amateur grand prix show jumper, Laura Connaway knows that keeping her horses in top form takes a village and she recognizes the importance of expressing gratitude for every job.
As the owner of a farm and in her professional career, Connaway makes time to do every single part of each job at some point, including taking on all of the barn work on weekends, and tacking on the occasional thrown shoe when her farrier is out of town. “I like to do the work,” she says. “It helps me understand— and ultimately appreciate—the effort that goes into each job, and the processes that have been put in place.” In her professional career, when a team member goes on vacation, Connaway will typically take over that employee’s responsibilities. “Doing this helps me to figure out the workload of each person. If it’s overwhelming, I can assist in fine tuning processes or reallocating pieces of the position.” Connaway contends that, as an owner, trainer, or manager, by showing interest in and recognizing the importance of each job—in and out of the office—your team will take note and it’s a boost to morale. With greater understanding and appreciation for everyone’s jobs, we are better equipped to connect, support, and show gratitude for each part of the whole. “At the end of the day, I think one reason team members try hard is because they see others around them are invested in and dedicated to their individual role as well as the bigger picture,” Connaway adds. “I try to lead by example in this way and I’m very fortunate to work with people that love the horses and the work just as much as I do.”
PHOTOS, FROM LEFT: SANDRA GREGORY, ANDREW RYBACK PHOTOGRAPHY
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Kerry O'Connell owner
would like to congratulate Baylee Rowan & Ryleigh Orton on qualifying Twentynine Palms & Wishes n' Kisses for Pony Finals 2021!
Both ponies are available for sale or lease, & can be tried at Kentucky Summer Classic
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It Happens! We all make mistakes. PONY EDITION 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 theplaidhorse.com/listen
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At one show when I was super young, I forgot to check my girth. After the first jump, I stepped out for a lead change and my saddle slid way off to the side. I had to halt, get in the center of the pony, tighten the girth up, and then finish the course!”
One year at Pony Finals I had the unlucky combination of missing at a jump along the outside and the pony not wanting to play that day. I landed on the neck but somehow stayed on, made it to the other side, and we finished the trip. And, if I remember correctly, we also got a four in the two-stride.”
When I was 9, Bibby Farmer Hill was training me on Benjamin Buttons for the medal at Pony Finals. He went around the first round like a star, and I managed to make it back for the second round—one of the only small ponies making it back. This was a big deal for me because I never had to walk the course for a second round before, so I was excited, but very nervous. I was so focused to doing the inside turns since it was a medal that I think I stayed in the course walk the entire time, even though I probably was late getting on and getting ready. On course, I made my inside turn … and then kept turning, completely missing the trot jump! I was so embarrassed and might’ve cried the whole way home, but now everyone has a good laugh and I always ask where the trot jump is beforehand.”
I was at Pony Finals going into the jumping in the top 30 out of 120+ after the model and hack the day before. I knew I wasn’t going to get an over fences ribbon because the pony’s strongest suit was model and the flat. So I planned on just trying to put a solid round in. I turned to only my second line and right out of the corner I saw the big one and my pony trusted me. But he three-legged it and we completely took out the top poles and they went flying in front of us. He ended up jumping the pole again in the middle of the line because it flew so far in front of us. I was so embarrassed but I finished the round the best I could not thinking about how I mucked out the third jump in my Pony Finals course!”
PHOTOS, FROM LEFT: ANDREW RYBACK PHOTOGRAPHY, IZZY BOSLEY, SHAWN MCMILLEN PHOTOGRAPHY, TORI WEED
August 2021 THE PLAID HORSE
“ THE SMELL
OF HORSES WAS MY TRUE LOVE ”
Jermo Reese, who will be featured in the Equestrians of Color Photo Project, runs a nonprofit for young horse lovers in Lexington, KY THREE REDHEADS AND A MOOSE PHOTOGRAPHY
ERMO REESE is
the founder of Frankie’s Corner Little Thoroughbred Crusade in Lexington, KY, a nonprofit that introduces young people to the equestrian world through education in riding, horsemanship, and ranch living. “I knew at an early age the smell of horses was my true love,” says Reese (pictured with Wolfe, LEFT, a 3-year-old Quarter Horse and Max, RIGHT, an 8-year-old Quarter Horse). “I can remember at the age of 7, admiring my grandfather Frank Wilson’s work ethic. He worked in the horse industry for over 40 years.” Reese is also being featured by the Equestrians of Color Photography Project. LEARN MORE ABOUT REESE’S NONPROFIT AT FRANKIESCORNER.ORG, AND MORE ABOUT THE EQUESTRIANS OF COLOR PHOTO PROJECT AT EQUESTRIANSOFCOLOR.COM.
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August 2021 THE PLAID HORSE
Ten Tips to Regulate Your Ring Pace FOLLOW THIS step-by-step guide to regulate and
maintain your ring pace, whether you’re riding in a schooling show or in the Walnut Ring at Pony Finals.
Learn and then practice your horse or pony’s regular canter pace. Learn to maintain that pace all the way around the ring and practice doing so, at first on the flat.
You may have to increase pace as you pass the gate and head away from the gate, and decrease pace as you head toward the gate. Work on this until you can easily maintain one pace around the ring.
Be sure you follow the same track as you go around the ring, and that your horse or pony is straight as you go down the sides. Look straight ahead at a point like a tree or a post and be sure that you cannot see either of your horse or pony’s eyes. (This means his neck is straight.)
Now ask your horse or pony to lengthen his stride on the sides going toward the gate and away from the gate. Be sure that you sit still, sink in your heels, and squeeze with both legs. Reaction to the
leg is learned, so use your stick behind your outside leg if he does not respond. Return to the regular canter on the other two sides. Practice this until your horse or pony readily goes forward and readily returns to his regular canter.
Now practice cantering a pole until you can calmly canter up to the pole and over it without your pony speeding up or slowing down or jumping the pole. Sit in the saddle over the pole. Again, be sure your horse or pony is straight and goes over the middle of the pole.
Add a second pole between 65 and 72 feet away from the first pole. The distances will be shorter on ponies. Canter over the center of both poles at a nice relaxed canter in six strides. After you do it a few times, you may have to adjust the distance between the poles to fit your horse or pony’s stride. As you continue the exercise, you should have to begin to smoothly slow down between the two poles. Remain
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siting at the canter and as you go over the poles.
Do this over two poles both going toward the gate and away from the gate. Practice until your horse or pony can go both directions and you are able to smoothly regulate his stride length so that he is the same in both directions.
Now do the same poles in your half seat and start with a little more pace. Canter the first pole smoothly without your pony taking a long jump. As you go over the first pole, squeeze with both legs so that he lengthens from your leg as you practiced in step four. Take one less stride between the poles. Don’t drive with your seat, or kick, or cluck. If your horse or pony does not lengthen, use your stick behind your leg and remind him of the signal. You stay still.
Continue to work over the poles, lengthening and shortening until you can do
the quiet lines in six strides and the lengthening in five strides. Your pace should now be the same before, during and after the line.
Begin to practice the same exercise over low jumps. The distances will have to be slightly longer as you raise the jumps. Once you master this over low jumps, change the number of feet between jumps, both on straight lines and bending lines. Now you should be able to smoothly lengthen your horse or pony up the first line of a course and shorten his stride down the last line.
ROBIN GREENWOOD 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.
PHOTO: ©ALLIE CONRAD (GREENWOOD)
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THUNDER D’AZURE The 14-year-old Connemara buckskin gelding, who goes by Thunder or Tutu at the barn, qualified for Pony Finals in 2021.
What’s your favorite thing about doing the pony jumpers? I am very competitive; I play to win. I know if I get extra grain in the morning, it’s game time. I like speeding through the courses. (Speed classes are my favorite.) I know if I do a great job, Kenzie will have treats waiting for me.
Do you think ponies can do anything horses can do? What can ponies do better? Of course! Ponies are small, so we can make tight turns. I also have a big stride. Bonus!
If you could eat any human food, what would it be and why?
My mom thinks I’m “super picky.” I only eat apples and watermelon if they’re cold. Bran mash? Not for me. I wanna try sushi; it looks colorful and cold.
What’s your life like at home when you’re not training or competing? I love the turnout. What’s not to like? I get to roll around in the sun all day, drink water, and do absolutely
PHOTOS, FROM LEFT: GRANDPRIX PHOTOGRAPHY; RUTH MARIE PHOTOGRAPHY
nothing. I exercise every day, but my favorite activity is sleeping.
Tell us what you enjoy about having a junior rider on your back vs a professional/adult?
I know my job. Since Kenzie is much lighter, it makes my performance easier. She just needs to point me in the right direction! August 2021 THE PLAID HORSE
LYNDSEY LAMELL PHOTOGRAPHY 2
1 Menachem Stein and Special Time Edition. • 2 Cindy Watkins and Catty Kyle. • 3 Janis Pearson and Reyvolution.
“Four factors make up every successful jump: pace, line, balance, and distance.” ~ GEOFF TEALL
on Riding Hunters, Jumpers and Equitation: Developing a Winning Style Purchase at theplaidhorse.com/teall
GEE AND VIENNA AT DEVON 2019
LALA GEE RIDER STATUS: JUNIOR • HOMETOWN: VALDOSTA, GA • TRAINER: TRACI WESTON As a horsewoman, I am most proud of the progress I’ve made with my first pony, Tina Turner, because she’s won two Horse of the Year awards and I got her when I was 5 and she was a 2-year-old cow pony. • As a horsewoman, I would most like to improve on my knowledge of horse management. • I’d be lost without spurs in my ring bag (I always lose them and always need them) and my phone in my tack trunk (my trainer always makes me put it away in there so I can focus!). I think the biggest misconception about our sport is the way everyone thinks the horses do all the work, but it’s actually the connection between the horse and rider that makes it special. • My best piece of advice for young riders is try your best and have fun—that’s what it’s all about. • I cope with pressure in the show ring by making a plan before I go in and taking deep breaths. When I’m nervous at a show, I tell myself that it’s just sticks that I’m jumping.
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GEE AND TINA TURNER AT THE NATIONAL PONY HUNTER DERBY CHAMPIONSHIP 2019
MY MOTTO IS
Teamwork makes the dream work. PHOTOS: ALEXA BING (TOP), SHAWN McMILLAN PHOTOGRAPHY
“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 GEE AND TINA TURNER AT DEVON 2019 IN THE SMALL PONY HUNTER DIVISION (LEFT), AND AT DEVON 2013 IN LEADLINE
• My favorite book is Harry Potter. • The part of riding I struggle most with is looking ahead to where I’m going in the course. • I’m a sucker for mares that jump really well. • On Mondays, you’ll find me sleeping in and then doing school all day. • I sometimes wish I had the time to learn how to play soccer. • I’m afraid of disappointing those around me.
• The horse person I most admire is Beezie Madden because she has had such a long lasting career and so many accomplishments. • Something I say ten times a day is “it’s hot!” (I live in Georgia). • One of my greatest show ring victories was getting first and second at the HITS derby. • Riding ponies is the best because it’s so much fun getting to know all their different personalities and how unique they are. • One of the best horse names I’ve ever heard is my pony’s name, Tina Turner, because it suits her so well. Her mane, her legs, and her personality. • My absolute favorite show is Pony Finals because my friends are all there and I get to spend time with them.
Get your copy at theplaidhorse.com/teall
The Upperville Colt & Horse Show MIDDLEBURG, VIRGINIA • SINCE 1853 LEADLINE JUNE 2021 PHOTOS:
ERIN GILMORE PHOTOGRAPHY
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WHEREVER YOU LISTEN TO PODCASTS WHEREVER YOU LISTEN TO PODCASTS
iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Spotify iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Spotify
Sun Protection Made Beautiful
The Pony Issue Through the Years
108 THE PLAID HORSE August 2021
SHOW STRIDES BOOK 4:
TESTING FRIENDSHIPS SNEAK PEEK!
BEAU WAS A big-bodied, large bay pony with two white socks and a snip. He was adorable to look at, and had a personality to match. Tally got him ready on the cross ties behind Mac, who had her own medium pony, Joey, on the next set of cross ties. “My mom got the video of my round at Pony Finals,” Mac told Tally as she pulled Joey’s half pad up under the pommel of her saddle. Tally smiled, recalling her friend’s nearly flawless trip around the enormous Walnut ring at the Kentucky Horse Park, culminating in an uncharacteristic rail at the very last jump. Tally was so impressed by Mac’s ability to laugh
110 THE PLAID HORSE August 2021
it off and appreciate all the good that came from her round, rather than focus on the mistake at the end. “Ryan watched the video too, and he thinks I came back with my body a little early, which could be why Joey hit the back rail with a hind foot,” Mac continued, pulling her blonde hair down over her ears and securing it in a low ponytail. “Plus, Joey had to be a little tired by then. That ring is like a football field!” “It didn’t look like you came back early,” Tally told her, buckling the throat latch on Beau’s bridle. “I don’t remember doing it either, but Ryan says it can happen at the end of your trip, or when you’re excited—and I was definitely excited that we got around that course.” Mac rubbed Joey’s neck and he turned to face her. “No treats right now, buddy,” she told him, scratching his forehead. “Workout first!” The girls walked their ponies out of the boarder aisle and up the hill toward the outdoor ring, situated just outside the farm’s large indoor. Before Tally started going to horse shows off the property, she didn’t realize how lucky they were to have two indoor rings and a large outdoor ring. Plenty of riding facilities didn’t even have one indoor to use when it was raining or during the winter months. Ryan was sitting on a jump in the center of the outdoor ring when Tally and Mac arrived with the ponies. He explained to Tally that Beau had been a little off in his right hind for about a week— likely the result of too much fun in turnout with his buddies. The vet didn’t suspect it was anything serious, and she recommended that Ryan watch the pony under saddle
every couple of days and note the pony’s progress. “Take a nice long time walking around the ring, Tally,” Ryan said. “A full lap on a loose rein and then you can pick up some contact, okay? Walk around the jumps, make some circles, and get him moving off your leg and bending. But just at the walk. He’s been standing in his stall since all the horses came in this morning, so I want him really warm and loose before we trot.” Tally double-checked Beau’s girth, mounted up, and walked toward the long side of the ring on top of the hill, overlooking the paddocks. She glanced down at the empty turnout fields in the valley below and up the hill in the distance. She smiled as Beau let out a big breath. Tally loved when horses and ponies did that—a sign that they were feeling relaxed and content. Behind her, Tally heard Mac and Ryan talking about where they would show next, once Joey had another week or two off after Kentucky. As Tally and Beau completed their lap on a loose rein, Tally changed direction and began to slowly gather up her reins. Mac was standing atop the mounting block and Joey looked like his usual sweet self, almost half asleep since he hadn’t started to work yet. Mac put her left foot into the stirrup and Joey stepped away from the mounting block. That’s when they heard the crash. A truck had smashed through the fencing around the turnout fields, noisily snapping and splitting the wood. The ponies heard it, too. Tally felt Beau shoot forward underneath her, away from the sound of the crash. And out of the corner of her eye, she watched Joey leap sideways. Mac, with only her left foot in the stirrup, never had a chance to swing her right leg over. She hit the ground hard as Joey raced for the gate.
Pony Power of Southern California AROUND THE CIRCUIT 2021 PHOTOS:
SARA SHIER PHOTOGRAPHY
August 2021 THE PLAID HORSE
THE PLAID HORSE COMMUNITY
What’s the Best Pony Show Name You’ve Ever Heard? We asked The Plaid Horse Adult Amateur Lounge on Facebook to share favorite pony names, and the group did not disappoint! Enjoy this sampling of some of the cutest and funniest responses …
• Al Capony • Fairy Dust • Biggie Smalls • Ice Cream Pancake • Himself the Elf
• Howie Do It
• Remember the Laughter
• There’s an App for That
• Pet Rock
• Dewey Decimal
• Jumbo Shrimp
• Slumber Party
• Shoulda Been a Scooter
• Coulda Been a Beach House
• Batteries Not Included
• Mischief Managed
• The Flying Ham
• Training Wheels
Peyton Dopf and Infinity & Beyond on qualifying for Pony Finals 2021! BEST OF LUCK TO ALL COMPETITORS!
A special thank you to our trainers, Kendra & Devon Bridges!
• Sugarbrook Boogieboard • The Jig Is Up • Second Mortgage • Pinky Swear • Kissed the Frog • Don’t Tell Daddy • Duck Duck Goose
A Poem for Her Pony K ARDIN AVA JONES is a fourth-generation rider who grew up on Woodlands Pony Farm—her family has bred ponies in the U.S. for many years. The 12-year-old “loves ponies and is passionate about her riding,” her mom, Jessica Jones, told The Plaid Horse in an email. Kardin rides with trainers Kathy Martin and Mike Nealing of Starting Point Sport Horses and competes in the VHSA associate shows. She’s pictured below at VHSA Pony Finals in Lexington, VA, with So You Say, owned by Kristen Brown. When Jessica sent us her daughter’s poem, it reminded us of our own childhoods spent counting down the hours until we could get back to the barn. So there was no better time than our annual Pony Issue to share Kardin’s work with our readers.
Orion Faramtes Congratul t Dreambo! a DHS
The Jump of My Life After boring school Next to the large barn on the three-step mounting block Aboard my brown pony On my face a wide smile Near the road past the white barn Underneath me a four-legged animal Between the brown standers over a jump Toward the next jump Across the jump flying like a free bird
(Empire’s Power x DHS Blue) Currently leading USEF National Horse of Year Standings •
2021 Large Green Pony Hunter Tricolors at: Saratoga Spring I 5/A Baker Charity
ESP Spring 1, 2, 3 & 4 ESP Spring Circuit Champion WEF 1, 2, 3, 8 & 11 WEF Circuit Champion ESP Holiday Finale
BY KARDIN JONES, APRIL 28, 2021
LINDA EVANS • K I M FERRO 413-530-9685 • firstname.lastname@example.org Massachusetts • Wellington, Florida PHOTO: COURTESY JESSICA JONES
Pick up a book & READ! Rider Keira Lancelle Bates reads SHOW STRIDES, BOOK 1: School Horses & Show Ponies.
Read all three!
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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 ★★★★★
“CLEARLY WRITTEN BY PEOPLE WHO KNOW HORSES!” “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 ★★★★★
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The highs and lows at shows from coast to coast
AVERAGE TEMPERATURE (°F)
AVERAGE TEMPERATURE (°F)
40° 41 20°
79 67 58 47
JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
74 62 53
79 68 58
JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC SOURCE: USCLIMATEDATA.COM
JOHNSON JO HN SO N JOHNSON JO HN SO N JOHNSON JO HN SO JOHNSON JO HN SO N N
VALLEY FARMS V A LLE Y F AR MS VALLEY FARMS V A LLE Y F AR MS VALLEY FARMS V A LLE Y F AR MS VALLEY, NEBRASKA VALLEY V A LLE Y FFARMS ARNEBRASKA MS VALLEY, VALLEY, NEBRASKA
VALLEY, BEST OF LUCK ARALYN WHITE & CAPICHE AT YOUR FIRSTNEBRASKA PONY FINALS BEST OF LUCK ARALYN WHITE & CAPICHE AT YOUR FIRST PONY FINALS BEST OF LUCK ARALYN WHITE & CAPICHE AT YOUR FIRST PONY FINALS BEST OF LUCK ARALYN WHITE & CAPICHE AT YOUR FIRST PONY FINALS
WE ARE SO PROUD OF YOU AND ALL YOUR HARD WORK WE ARE SO PROUD OF YOU AND ALL YOUR HARD WORK WE ARE SO PROUD OF YOU AND ride ALL YOUR HARD WORK Enjoy the WE ARE SO PROUD OF YOU AND ride ALL YOUR HARD WORK Enjoy the
Enjoy the ride GOOD LUCK & HAVE FUN Enjoy the ride GOOD LUCK &PROUDLY, HAVE FUN YOUR BARN FAMILY GOOD LUCK &PROUDLY, HAVE FUN YOUR BARN FAMILY GOOD LUCK &PROUDLY, HAVE FUN YOUR BARN FAMILY PROUDLY, YOUR BARN FAMILY JOHNSON VALLEY FARMS JOHNSON VALLEY FARMS Lexi Johnson JOHNSON VALLEY FARMS Lexi Johnson JOHNSON VALLEY FARMS (402)679-1016 Lexi Johnson (402)679-1016 Lexi Johnson (402)679-1016 (402)679-1016
Ripley Erlich & Catch A Kiss, Smartpak Children's Pony Hunter Grand Champions during WCHR Week at Blenheim Equisports in June.
BLENHEIM JUNE CLASSIC 1 San Juan Capistrano, CA
LAMPLIGHT EQUESTRIAN CENTER SPRING SPECTACULAR I Wayne, IL
SPLIT ROCK JUMPING TOUR Lexington, KY
JUNE 9–13, 2021
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118 THE PLAID HORSE August 2021
JOHN BRAGG’S BRIDGEPORT FARMS:
BUILDING SUCCESS FROM THE GROUND UP From the small ponies to the Grand Prix, Bragg says developing riders is “truly rewarding” WORDS: LINDSEY LONG PHOTOS: KATE HOULIHAN, MCCOOL PHOTOGRAPHY, CAPTURED MOMENTS PHOTOGRAPHY, THE BOOK LLC & KATIE COOK
August 2021 THE PLAID HORSE
John Bragg and Social Hour, 2015
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Bridgeport Farms at a horse show, chances are you’ve been impressed. The sheer size of the show setup is remarkable, with aisle after aisle of beautiful horses and ponies peeking out from immaculately kept stalls. The oversized client lounge features rows of proudly hung tricolors and blues. At the Desert Circuit held each winter in Thermal, CA, Bridgeport enjoys a permanent setup complete with an office, tack room, private restrooms, private grass turnouts, and an exclusive practice ring. As extraordinary as they are, the homes away from home that Bridgeport creates at shows are nothing compared to their actual home barn, located at The Oaks Farms in San Juan Capistrano, CA. The 65 to 70 horses who participate in the Bridgeport training program enjoy several arenas with premium footing, large stalls, turnouts, and miles of trails. Coastal live oak trees provide shade on a huge grass grazing field—a rare amenity in Southern California. The Bridgeport Farms logo prominently displays 1989, the year of its inception, but founder and head trainer John Bragg laughs when he remembers how much the business has evolved over 32 years. At the start, “I was in Industry Hills, CA, and I had four horses in training, one of them being my own.” F YOU’ VE SEEN
A Los Angeles native, Bragg was not born into an equestrian family, but knew he was a horse person early on. “I was horse crazy,” says Bragg. “I used to bug my dad and he would take me to rent a horse every Saturday.” That led to regular lessons and then eventually his own horse and a junior riding career that included coaching from Jeff Katz, Mike Edrick, Mark Mullen, and Victor Hugo-Vidal. After aging out of the juniors, Bragg’s first job was with DiAnn Langer and his second was with Mary Gatti before establishing his own Bridgeport Farms. His business grew steadily, one horse at a time, thanks to his talent in working with both people and horses and his ability to ride and train all levels for all three rings: hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Industry Hills, east of downtown Los Angeles, was a tough area to attract new clients—Bragg estimates he had 18 to 20 horses there at its peak. Then, in 1997, he was presented an opportunity in Petaluma, CA, when equestrian legend Bitsy Shields retired. Bragg moved to Northern California and took over her operation. “Bitsy had a nice group of people and a very nice barn that she trained out of,” says Bragg. “So I made the jump, and that was probably the turning point. I ended up with a lot of really nice clients that were into buying young horses and bringing them along. I just built on that and was able to get more horses to show myself.” Bragg traveled between Woodside and Petaluma for several years, then worked in Woodside only, while also steadily acquiring some clients in Southern California. He owned a house in Laguna Beach, an area he had always loved, so when Joan Irvine Smith offered him barn space on her San Juan Capistrano property in 2009, he took it. Ever since then, Bridgeport
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CLOCKWISE FROM FAR TOP LEFT: Sienna Smith and Mr. McGregor going to Pony Finals in the Small Pony division; Memphis Blues, going to Pony Finals in the Large Greens; the Bridgeport Farms show setup; young riders; John on his Grand Prix horse Caept’n Gaga
August 2021 THE PLAID HORSE
has steadily grown in horses, clients, and—notably—professionals. In addition to John, the professional team includes Lee Flick, Mitch Endicott, and Lexus Arbuckle, who attend most shows, plus Sedona Prietto, Briana Blankenaufulland, and Erin Moehnke, who teach and train at home. Then there’s veteran trainer Leslie Steele who runs her own training barn but works with Bridgeport as an equitation specialist, and Deanna Kornbluth, who does the majority of scheduling and management for the whole operation. “It doesn’t just happen overnight, it builds slowly,” says Bragg. “I think
what makes it work is that we don’t treat anyone like the assistant. It’s more like a team and we value everyone’s opinion and so forth. We don’t have a pecking order.” Professional Lee Flick has worked with Bragg on and off for almost 20 years and feels that having a great working relationship is key. “It’s nice to be able to work with your friends. John and I were friends for a long time before we started working together and it’s just been an easy relationship. When you genuinely care about each other and are friends, it might not always be perfect but it’s great most of the time.”
JUNIOR BROOKE MORIN SHINES IN ALL THREE RINGS
ROOKE MORIN is wrapping up her junior career with a bang. A student of Bridgeport Farms for the past eight years, she began riding there with one small pony and two medium ponies. Now 18, she’s regularly seen earning top placings and tricolors in the junior hunters and equitation, and most recently has competed at Grand Prix level with 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood Icarus and 11-yearold Danish Warmblood NKH Carrido, both stallions. From the small ponies to the Grand Prix, she’s a perfect example of the type of progression for which Bridgeport is known.
“Even when she first started it was clear she has a lot of talent,” says Bragg of Morin. “We’ve been doing this for a while together now, and I don’t have to hold her hand. She’s calm and cool, and we form a plan and she just does it.” For her part, Morin loves being on the Bridgeport team. “My favorite thing about working with John is how well we get along, and I like working with Lee and the rest of the team because they’re all so hard working, but fun at the same time!” You can catch Morin this fall competing with the zone 10 team at the 2021 North American Young Rider Championships, and then at various medal finals on the East Coast.
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One of the advantages of a large team of trainers and coaches is the ability to personalize a program according to what’s best for each horse and each rider. “There are some horses that I think one of the other riders ride better, and some clients who click well with another person, so we are always looking for great matches,” says Bragg. Before taking over the barn management, Deanna Kornbluth was a junior and then an amateur rider at Bridgeport, so she has a unique perspective on the program. “Lee and John have complimentary teaching styles, but also each brings their own
“It doesn’t just happen overnight, it builds slowly. We have a lot of clients that go from ponies to juniors to bigger jumpers, and that’s a special thing.” —JOHN BRAGG
unique perspective, which is nice for the client. And same with riding horses. As a rider you’re happy for either of them to be at the back gate for you.” With 68 horses currently at Bridgeport Farms, there is plenty of work to go around, whether at shows or at home. “People may not realize that John is here every day, all day, with
everyone,” says Kornbluth. “Today when I got to the barn he was pushing the golf cart back to the barn. He’s not pretentious in that way and if it needs to get done, he’s willing to do it.” A large team means there is room for all levels of riders, and helping riders and horses make significant progress is a hallmark of Bridgeport Farms. “John
will teach the walk-trot then run over and get on his Grand Prix horse,” says Kornbluth. “We have a lot of clients that go from ponies to juniors to bigger jumpers, and that’s a special thing.” Bragg’s only plan for Bridgeport’s future is to keep doing exactly what they’ve been doing: “To see some of these kids and how they’re progressing and achieving their goals, it’s truly rewarding. We want to do more of everything. I want to continue to just be able to ride and train these nice horses. We’re just lucky that we’re able to work with such great clients and horses and ponies.”
Brooke Morin and her stallion NKH Carrido
August 2021 THE PLAID HORSE
Lee Flick and Sienna Smith
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John and Flairvona, his new Grand Prix horse
August 2021 THE PLAID HORSE
PONY POWER R
ECENTLY, Bridgeport Farms has exponentially increased its cuteness level with a growing herd of ponies. While John Bragg and Lee Flick didn’t intentionally set out to create a pony empire, it continues to grow, four small hooves at a time. “We had hardly any little kids before and now we’ve got a bunch, which is awesome,” says Bragg. “Two years ago, we had one or two ponies and now we have 17 or 18. It’s an advantage for small kids to learn on ponies because it’s not as intimidating and they don’t get jumped around as much.” Bragg enjoys working with the smallest children and their ponies but gives Flick most of the credit for the program’s growth. “He’s picked out all the ponies and he’s so good with the kids. He never gets flustered and he really loves them.” Flick says the first key to success is quality ponies, but beyond that, they’re trained and coached the same as the horses. “A lot of people think it’s a lot different
from doing horses but we don’t teach or train any differently,” says Flick. “It’s all the same concepts: Good riding is good riding. Good horsemanship is good horsemanship. And quality is quality.” Ponies often enjoy careers much longer than those of horses, and several ponies that were outgrown and sold have now come back to the barn with new owners. Brooke Morin’s former medium pony Always Happy is now back in the barn with Taylor Morrow in the irons, and Morin’s former large pony Party Favor is back with Sophia Donald as his rider. “With the prior ponies we used to have, you know what their habits are, how they are with kids and so forth, so that’s really fun,” says Bragg. “It kind of comes full circle.” Bridgeport Farms has a nice group headed to USEF Pony Finals at Kentucky Horse Park this year, and everyone is looking forward to it. “A lot of them are going for the first time this year, so that’s fun for everyone and we’re super excited about that.”
PARTY FAVOR RETURNS Imported in 2013, Party Favor is a Large German Riding Pony that was gelded and brought over by Bragg. He showed with Hailey Giddings and then Brooke Morin, and has had a successful career with many championships and is now back at Bridgeport, currently owned by Sophia Donald. FROM LEFT: Brooke Morin and Party
Favor featured on the July/August 2014 cover of The Plaid Horse. Sophia Donald and Party Favor with Lee Flick.
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CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Taylor Morrow & Sugarbrook Game Plan; Unforgettable & Sienna Smith, and Sofia Popescu & Shenandoah Coral Reef, all going to Pony Finals in Medium Pony division.
August 2021 THE PLAID HORSE
You were the heart of our farm! And my loving partner. I will miss you for the rest of my life. You never put a foot wrong and you passed along your beautiful mind.
e n i h
Thank you Liza Richardson for loving him and taking such excellent care of him!!!
Looking for a young horse? Look no further
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Satchmo. 2019 Ragtime x Let it Shine/Shine
Shine a Light 2020 Shine x Taxi/Cabana
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