getting in focus


Mini Derby: 3rd place Emily Ferrell rode Spot On, 2nd Place Joellina Stewart rode Confetti, and 1st Place Sierra Fentress rode Guess Again.

Finding the formula for success starts with a bright idea. Amy Moore and Miranda Kolbe had one together. The team at McDonogh School is no stranger to holding successful horse shows from A to Local, but this idea might be one of the best yet. The Derby and Medal Day. Riders have a chance to qualify throughout the show season, (a minimum of two ribbons won at separate shows is required to participate), and qualifying shows are both recognized (B rated) and unrecognized (Local). Classes are offered for short and long stirrup all the way up to 3’, 3’3” in the Equitation Medal classes and Derby classes. Braiding is optional, shadbellies are optional, the prizes are amazing, and the atmosphere is relaxed and fun. FUN, the focus is on fun. Did you read the last line about fun?  Is this healthy for kids and adults alike to have fun?? Could this be a sign in the shift in the way people think about horse shows? I don’t know exactly, but the uncomplicated formula created here today (that easily could be followed by any group in the country) was a pretty clear indicator that exhibitors were enjoying being treated extremely well, and the tears? I saw no tears…

The courses were stellar, offered a challenge here and there, the judging was on point,  and there is a “Preview” class offered to help acclimate the derby ponies/horses to the course. Get this – a podium was brought into the ring for the awards ceremony for EVERY class, and a victory lap was taken at the end either at the trot, or canter. Safety first, of course.


OMG look! kids actually learning their own courses before they walk up to the ingate on a horse!! What a novel idea!!

I didn’t see any grooms… Amy’s vision of getting your own pony or horse ready, learning from mistakes (without stress) and achieving a special goal works. (and really well.) Could they afford grooms? yep… Over 60 competitors competed in the inaugural year, two rings — one for the derbies, one for the medal classes and I would expect in the future, that number will increase dramatically, not that this needs to happen. It was more than enough for a full day of showing, money was made, bills were paid, and trailers were pulling out of the parking lot at 6pm. If you are living in Maryland get it on your schedule for next year right now. If you are even thinking about what a good idea this is for your part of the country? Get on board now.


The owner of Prideland (Betty McCue) braids for rider Anastasia Vialov for the mini-derby


holding two ponies for friends/barn mates during the course walk


finishing touches by trainers, not grooms..


can you just see the bike??


Is this a big deal?? I am gonna go with the yes answer..picking out the loot..


entering the ring with the podium…


The Pony Derby 3rd place – Serena Wheaton rode Hakuna Matata, 2nd place – Summerlynd Nelson rode China Hill, and 1st Place – Hannah Downs rode Curious George.


the classes offered


on course in the pony derby


sitting in the chair she just won 🙂


Abigail is giving her mommas horse Shirlaine a hug before the handy round for good luck


3rd place Serena Petronelli rode Made You Look, 2nd Place Sable Hughes rode Tattered Lace, and Winner Brittany Clapp rode Walk The Line in the 3′ McDonogh Derby.

Yes, I might have to invest in a new camera with some speed options. Do not judge. #EvolveTheHorseShowIndustry.

young professional

If you are considered a young professional in the horse industry, you may have quite a challenge in front of you. I am constantly looking around and wondering what hands our future is going be in, and I’m seeing a gap. Who is going to be the next up and coming competent group of professionals? I worry. If you are coming from a substantial amount of means then it doesn’t matter, I guess. I can’t relate. However, if you are not coming from means, and you are graduating out of the junior ranks, when you finally realize how difficult it actually is in this world, it is pretty easy to get discouraged, decide to marry rich and be happy deciding on being an amateur. Being a young professional sucks. The reality of expense, and failure hits home pretty quick and pretty hard. I certainly can’t solve any problems for you, but I can encourage you to think outside the box.

Think about where you came from, are you pretty confident you are going to mimic your trainer for the last undetermined amount of years?? Did you have a trainer? You should probably not bank on mimicking anyone, but better develop your own personal style along the way. Adapting to the environment is probably going to be more help to you than trying to make everyone around you adapt to you. When I see people unable to grasp the needs of people around them, I think wow, what a long road they are going to have. Know what you can do. I stay away from anything under 14.2 hands and humans under the age of 12. There are many more capable trainers for those things. And when I see young professionals who don’t drink try to teach adults? No chance. Those guys come with a certain wine obligation. I love my adults, but they are trained with grapes, not accolades.

Your job will be 80 percent problem solver and less than 20 percent ribbon winner. People are attracted to friendliness and capability more than extreme talent, especially in this current millennium. There is actually no guideline, no road map, so your personality will have to prevail in the end. What can you handle, what can you be humble about, what can you have foresight with? In the wake of bad press for some horses this year, here in the States as well as worldwide, there will probably be yet another shift with the majority of the horse world with more focus put on horse welfare, because too many people have witnessed too many horses winning or just showing at some strange and bitter cost. It is on peoples minds. The amount of classes a horse can go in will be addressed, the amount of horse shows a year a horse attends will come under more scrutiny in the future. Certainly not overnight, but it is probably coming soon enough.  There are so many more adults and children riding these days, the importance of riding is going to head in the direction of letting people have fun, loads of fun. Your personality will dictate the amount of business you can generate.  The shift of horse welfare will ultimately be on your shoulders in time to come. Parents are going to look for better role models when thinking about who their kids spend most of their time with, so not only will horse welfare get more attention, kid welfare will ultimately have to be in the spotlight, too.

When people ask me about being a working student, I always tell them please go work for the person with the worst reputation, so you can learn how NOT to do your business in the future. Be on that struggle bus for loads of time, because you are learning far more than the fancy stable down the road has to offer with all those ducks neatly laid in a row. In less than ten years no one will remember you did your time at that place, especially if you don’t brag about it every four seconds. This is reality folks, the horse business is painful, learn how to solve the hardest problems in the most difficult situations. This is the material that can harden you for difficult situations in the future which there will be plenty of. I absolutely came away with so much more information from those dark and seedy stables than I did from the stables involved with the highest levels of showing.

The saddle thing is a big issue with me. I cross the ocean a lot. I drive to other barns a lot. I pack a helmet, boots and half chaps. When I see professionals bringing a saddle on a plane, it absolutely scrambles my brain. What do you think, they don’t have saddles over there??  DO NOT DO THIS. If you can’t ride in every kind of saddle on the planet, something is seriously wrong, and if you haven’t ridden in 100 different saddles by the age of 25, you are really behind. It will be YOUR job to determine if a saddle is not fitting a horse properly, someone out there will depend on you to recognize this fact. So ride in all the saddles available!! I have had to jump horses in dressage saddles, western tack, bareback pads, you name it, this is what we call feel. If a customer says a particular saddle fits the horse and you pout because you can’t use your own Butet, it might be time to rethink your profession. Your body is mostly liquid, it can adapt to the strange saddle, as well as the horse. And if you blame the saddle for chipping a fence….? Actually, never mind, I can’t help you.

Recognizing when there is an issue with a saddle only comes from extreme knowledge of all types of makes and models. You will get to a certain age when you can make your whole barn ride in a certain brand, and even a certain kind of stirrup, but until you are truly invested in the sport, I am not going to recommend you start with dictating it’s the Butet or the highway. (no offense to Butet, you all make a lovely saddle, it’s just your name sort of rhymed with highway)  Try to remember customers come from all walks of life, having the ability to recommend an affordable safe saddle to the client on a budget will be one of your greatest assets.

Diversify to different disciplines. This is pretty crucial and I only see glimpses of this every once in a while. Truly great horsemen can ride in more than one discipline. Whether it be Dressage, Eventing, Arab, Morgan, Saddlebred, Western, there are so many things to do out there to help give you a better knowledge of horses. One of my truly gifted idols rode Saddlebreds before becoming one of the most famous hunter and Grand Prix riders ever. There are other Grand Prix jumper riders that can ride a Grand Prix Dressage test. Hunter riders that can do reigning. We need this more, not just a handful. Buddy up with an eventer and give it a try, you never know when said eventer is going to want to find a new job for his horse who hates cross country, and BAM, you have a very cool equitation horse. Make time for it, encourage your students to try it, it will open doors for you, guaranteed. If you think you are going to look foolish out there all awkward in a new discipline, you could be right, but chances are everyone else will see the big picture and applaud you for it. Do not forget about the Thoroughbred. These horses taught so many of our riders in the past how to ride, we lost them for decades, and now they are growing back into our sport, even in the upper levels of showing. I cannot emphasize enough that the ability to ride a TB is one of the true dysfunctions of todays young professionals, by no fault of your own. We did it to ourselves by dismissing them for so long, and now we have loads of people unable to teach other people how to ride a TB, or even riders unable to sit on them. This will resolve itself in a few years, but you will have the advantage if you start riding that TB properly now. I’ll give you a hint, sit still and put your heels further down.

Learn how to put on a horse show. At some point, you will be asked to help run a show, get in on that knowledge now so you are not scrambling with all the rules and guidelines down the road. One of the biggest advantages in the industry is having an understanding of every facet of sport. This will come in handy when you are sidelined from an injury and worried about income. All sides of showing are important, and when you are asked to participate in putting together a fundraising show, you won’t be blind going in, you will actually be able to get the show off the ground.

There is a very good reason we keep hearing about equestrians in the industry today lacking depth, or breadth or even 1/10th of the same knowledge as Jimmy Williams. It is easy to start the shift back to better horsemen for the future. All the information is right in front of you. Go get it.

Born in Elsinore and raised in El Monte, Williams showed horses for his father–a horse-trader and racehorse owner–at Los Angeles auctions when he was a child.

Quick-change Artist

“I learned to ride all kinds because he sold all kinds,” Williams said. Williams became a quick-change artist showing 75 to 100 horses a day–starting with fancy hunt duds to show thoroughbreds and ending with Western garb for quarter horses and stock horses.

“Dad carried a handful of rocks. If I rode sloppy, I’d get hit with one. He wanted me to sit straight, like an old Spaniard,” Williams said. “He taught me to ride like a gentleman.”

At 12 he began racing at fairs and became a stunt man in movies at 22. The handsome young Williams was under contract to 20th Century Fox as a stand-in for Tyrone Power for two years until the war interrupted his movie career.

After Williams was wounded in Italy, he was transferred from the infantry to the 2610 Remount Station near Florence. It was there that Williams learned dressage, a form of training in which the rider is able to control the horse in intricate maneuvers with very slight, imperceptible movements.

“A conversation with a horse is only the distribution of your weight,” Williams explained. “You lean forward, he goes up; you lean back, he stops.” Williams teaches his students to ride with no hands, getting the horse to respond to the pressure of their legs or feet.

Although Williams went back to the movies for a short time after returning from the war, the “hurry up and wait was too much like the Army” and he returned to his first love–he opened a training stable in Escondido. With the techniques learned in Europe, Williams was able to train horses in half the time.

“It takes three years to train a horse and about the same to train a rider,” Williams said, though he emphasizes that horse, rider and trainer never stop learning. “I’m still learning. I’m better this year than I was last year.”

“It’s what you learn after you think you know it all that counts” is one of Williams’ favorite sayings. Fond of proverbs, his own and others’, he has them plastered on his horse trailers, pickup, golf cart and in his house.

Decorated in early Will Rogers, his ranch house at the riding club is a small hall of fame, sporting walls of pictures of former students, champion horses and three California governors presenting awards to Williams. He has a wall unit crammed with tarnished silver bowls, trays, cups and chafing dishes he has won over the years.

Piles of Silver

full article is here, well done, author.


Jimmy riding Gemini


Jimmy riding Fashion Plate

I know we will never have another legend like Jimmy Williams, and I don’t recommend throwing rocks to achieve better position, but he thought outside the box every dang day of his life.

motivation, not greed

What happens when people start exploring options? They start realizing there are a lot of options out there. I ventured up to Fair Hill this weekend for their TB Show and sat down with one of the organizers and asked how this horse show came to fruition.. She credited Louise Merryman looking for options for racehorses coming out of the racing industry. She and a friend got together and the Fair Hill TB Show was born. After four years of steady growth, there are now about 100 horses a day competing in either the hunters or the jumpers over the weekend. There is an enormous silent auction rivaling the nicest horse shows in the country benefitting the show with Fasig Tipton signs all over the place. People put right back into the show what they are getting out.  100% non- profit with everything coming in, going right back out.

With big sponsors, including Brookledge and New Bolton (University of PA)  donating generously to the horse show, the show is able to reward a respectable amount of prize money, happens once a year at the Fair Hill Equestrian Center, and the organizers seem pretty content with the way it is evolving. There are not even too many hopes of larger expansion, because it brings in a healthy amount of exhibitors already. A nutrition expert can weigh your horse and offer education about proper feeding. A 10 dollar wristband gets you all the food you can eat (YESSS) and your horse’s biography and breeding is read aloud by the announcer when you walk in the ring so the spectators know what they are looking at. Endearing and educational.

Probably the COOLEST part of the show is the scholarship fund provided by the Thoroughbred Education Research Foundation (TERF). The judge and the manager keep an eye out for exhibitors who might exemplify the behavior of a good ambassador for the TB sport, and offers eight $500 scholarships to exhibitors for further education. This can be used for lessons, clinics, or even a chance to show at the next level up, but can’t afford the fees…. the scholarship will cover the costs, and a potentially talented rider has the chance to achieve a dream of showing at a recognized competition. Brilliant. Forward thinking. Everyone showing here this weekend is participating in a chance for a second career for a thoroughbred, or somehow involved in the grass roots aspect of horse showing, whether they mean to or not.

If you own a TB, and haven’t put this show on your schedule, you should right now. like them, follow them, volunteer for them, maybe even help them set up an instagram account (important for the future gen).

Other organizations involved in the horse show include the Foxie G foundation, a hardworking group of people intent on rehoming all TB’s that come through their doors. Any extra money left over from the show goes to Foxie G and Reyerss Farm to help horses in need and senior horses with no home of their own. Fabulous!

Keep tabs on these two organizations, these are incredibly inspiring people. Visit, volunteer, educate yourself. something. do something.

The fact that these shows are not that complicated to put together, but just require a small group of people to work together (this group has 8) to see a vision will be a big indicator for people in the future, if it can be done for the Thoroughbreds, it can be done for all horses, not that this is anything new. Maryland has a substantial amount of local organizations. The Baltimore County Horse Show circuit alone has over 250 members right now. Howard County over 100. Many of the show grounds are the same as recognized shows. These smaller organizations have been around since the 70’s and are constantly evolving to adapt and appeal to its environment and exhibitors. If these smaller unrecognized horse shows continue to develop and grow, and people drop down from recognized showing, the quality of riding and horses will increase in a natural progression. These local regional shows offer many of the same classes as rated shows for 1/4 of the cost. There is nothing to stop each state from adopting the same format. It is not hard to rethink how to make the connections to bring in more business to the horse industry, but it does take effort on everyone’s part.

The very first page of the prize list for the TB horse show blew me away. Lisa Demars welcomed you with this incredible personal and insightful letter, and oh how right she is.

“Those of us who know an old-time horse person should count themselves as lucky. By Old-Time, I mean one who has a lifetime of varied horse-related experiences, has excelled at more than one, and has cared for and trained many horses. I would add that such a person, due to the history of the horse industry in the U.S., has a lot of experience in the thoroughbred industry. One is lucky if one knows such a person because of the wealth of information he or she can impart about horses, a wealth generally much deeper than today’s horsemen, who tend to have less breadth to their backgrounds.

Leslie Ducharme, a dear friend of many at the horse show, exemplified the kind of horse person I speak of. Leslie was probably best known in the hunter ring. However, she had experience in Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing, fox hunting, breeding, and the sales industry. She was a master at spotting a talented horse and bringing out the best.

I first encountered Leslie almost 40 years ago in the side-saddle ring, where she was, of course, winning. My next encounter was in a parade (!) – Jimmy Carter’s Inaugural parade to be exact – where she rode the same horse that had won the Side Saddle classes at Madison Square Garden two months before. A thoroughbred, of course, and ask yourselves how many of today’s horses and riders have done such different things!

In the last 40 years, I have been watching Leslie Ducharme and have had the privilege in recent years of becoming a friend. In those years of watching, I have learned some great lessons which I would like to share:

Conduct – I have never heard Leslie say any unkind word about anyone. Ever. I have seen her be upset with someone but never unkind. I can’t say what her thoughts might have been. Leslie’s first lesson is to conduct oneself like a lady or a gentleman, no matter what.

The Horse Comes First – One never saw Leslie’s horses looking anything but first-rate in public. They were beautiful because of the care they received, as well as their quality. Leslie spent time with them – time figuring out what made them tick, how to best ride them – and adapting her riding to bring out their best.

Experiment – Leslie did things because the horse went better because of them. A simple example is showing over fences without a martingale because the horse didn’t like to wear one. For most hunter riders, martingales are standard attire in the show ring.

Be Quiet – anyone who got the chance to watch Leslie ride could appreciate how quiet she was on a horse. One almost forgot she was aboard as her riding was never a distraction, either to the viewer or the mount. Her communication with her horses seemed to occur by magic.

Keep Coming Out Of the Corners – Leslie had chronic double-vision as a result of a childhood accident. She couldn’t see a jump accurately until she was straight to it and a certain distance. As a result, Leslie didn’t depend on “seeing a distance” because she couldn’t. Instead, she rode the horse’s rhythm all the way around and trusted the horse to meet the fence as it should. I don’t recall ever seeing her miss.

Be Generous with What You Know – I once called Leslie to ask her about a problem I was having. I chose to consult her because I felt the problem was unusual and in need in a creative solution. I expected to chat a few minutes on the phone, but Leslie was in my ring the next day watching and suggesting. I put those ideas to use daily.

If someone wrote 1/4 of that about me when I am gone, I would be more than honored.  Every single person on this planet, especially in this horse world is capable of making a big, big difference.

My frustrations with this industry come from a lifetime of being told what to do (from the very beginning) without feeling like I could question why. I thought I was doing everything right, I thought I would eventually see the benefits. I left the major decisions up to the people that I felt had tenure, and a deeper knowledge of the sport, despite my doubt. And it wasn’t like I wasn’t paying attention or involved, my family history proves it.  I was told I would have to play the game, yet, I still can’t even be sure what that game is because nobody else can figure it out either, or saying it out loud only leaves a bitter taste behind.

I still believe in education over a good pilot, and for the first time in my life, my faith in the two biggest organizations in the hunter/jumper world that have made all the rules and set all the the terms have fractured my ability to not only be loyal to them, but also forced me question my belief that hard work and a good track record to prevail as the true winner. Feeling like I just flushed half my life down the toilet is not a great feeling, not gonna lie about that one, and this is a sport I know I was meant for from the moment I stepped into the show ring, promptly fell off, climbed back on and tried again, but come on already, so many good people have walked out for very good reasons.

Being a sudden advocate for change and growth is not even what the tarot card lady saw coming, and I am perfectly aware that the USEF will eventually find a way to shut me up, mail me a letter, or something more drastic and painful, just like they have done to everyone else in the past they felt has not remained in line, but I do not really have any intention of giving up as long as there is hope for the future riders, trainers, professionals and amateurs alike to recognize the true history of riding horses and good horsemanship, honor it, preserve it, and give back to it in every facet of sport. If they do slap me with that life ban that everyone, including myself, thinks they will do, I have options, I don’t hold the highest level of showing up on that pedestal like others do. I put my values elsewhere.

I guess meanwhile I will be a horse show blogger, could be worse I guess.


yes you can wear a tiara in the leadline, and this lovely horse took home 2nd place in the side- saddle at Devon! Lost Letter




formal hunt attire 😉





enormous silent auction

  IMG_8324 IMG_8326


prizes all the way down the line

fashion forward or backward

Promoting beauty and style in the horse world and is fashion replacing horsemanship?

It seems as though beauty and fashion have taken a severe upstage to actual horsemanship. I have no idea how this happened, but I am assuming it is because of a capitalist market, and loads of money is to be made in the industry. People love to sell crap. So the so called ‘role models’ we have created in the show horse world are dressed to the nines now. What kind of message is this sending to the rest of the world?  I feel like in a couple years, some rider from Untacked is going to fly down to the in-gate and shove a recorder into the winners face, and go “OMG you look amazing, can you tell the fans what you are wearing today and why??”

This obsession over the right kind of boot to wear is unreal. It is a boot. A boot that covers your leg from the knee down. It is black. a black boot. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to move fashion in the hunter world forward and evolve (kind of in slow motion), because it is fun, (and I am old, I want a chance to wear my sparkly coat!)  but are young riders actually thinking that the clothes they wear will give them an advantage in the ring, particularly in the Eq ring? I really think they are. Like some sort of mind wash, beauty sells, not picking out feet and learning how to bandage a horse (don’t even think about poultice landing on horse show clothing). Menial tasks are so boring apparently, and don’t sell. Well, not until you are 21 and you know about Noble Horse, because the hoof pick actually comes with a corkscrew or bottle opener at the other end (GENIUS!!!). Is Noble Horse trying to bring back horsemanship?? I never thought of that before now, those models. That corkscrew….

The more expensive, swanky saddle you buy, the more you will win, it is almost a guarantee! The more you pay for your boots, the more judges will notice you!! It is the only acceptable way! Being the cynic I am I would naturally think these people are crazy, just learn how to ride, it seems all so hilarious to me, however I absolutely cannot  deny the fact that I bought my first French saddle PURELY based on the hotness of the salesman Greg. OMG, Antares, thank you. And thank the lord you actually made a good product, because my horses would have been so screwed. THAT was a good sales team. (I since have switched to CWD for personally believing it is better for my horses)

What do trainers care if you show up with a fancy crazy expensive saddle? Good for you, now go tack up  – oh wait, go to the mounting block and your horse will be brought to you in four seconds.

Actual true horse people ignore this fashion frenzy most of the time, think it is funny, and when I wanted to wear a cute jacket with a sparkly collar in Kentucky, I was for-warned this would not be acceptable. Ok, take the fun out of it, no problem, but that was it, it was just fun for me. Moderation, I get it. like not eating too many french fries. Fashion should actually not have such an enormous role in the horse world, but it does, we can not escape it. I think people entering the sport ACTUALLY believe they are only allowed to wear one kind of riding pant. or boot. or shirt, or helmet. So they maybe get the wrong impression, because they are hearing other girls say other things –  “OMG you are still wearing that old thing? I totally got better results when I switched to my GPA Speed air evolution revolution silver gold yada yada yada.”  Jeepers. Thanks for making my job that much harder. I didn’t think we had enough self-esteem issues flying around. What is one more?

Hearing any discussion about fashion detracts from the actual horsemanship angle I really can’t let go of. The only valuable Equitation Final I have ever witnessed takes place in Virginia and it is not a fashion show. It is the VHSA Junior Medal, and ingenious on every level. A written test, practicum (hands on knowledge of your horse test), flat class and jumping class all calculated into your final score. The rider is largely responsible for his or her own score, and loads of effort is placed into every aspect possible at that level. It is a really, really big deal. Personally I want to see it in the children’s and pony level as well, since only a small percentage get a 3’6” horse, and you never know if those future kids will implement it into their own horse shows 20 years down the road.

I hope beyond hope it happens across the country in various other states, but I haven’t had time to research that. What I do know, is that it doesn’t happen at indoors. Fashion arguments happen at indoors. Somebody obviously felt the need for a little explanation (or damage control) and I found this break down of fall finals online. You tell me how it compares to the VHSA Final. And by the way that little shout out to the founding father of horsemanship is the most insulting thing I have EVER heard. I believe Horsemanship and forward seat riding started WAY EARLIER THAN THIS MILLENNIUM with people like V.S. Littauer in 1912 and the Russian Cavalry. Never in my life have I wanted to throw the book at someone more than when reading that statement. I wish I could sue for stupidity. But I can’t. Do your homework for Pete’s Sake. Bert De Nemethy,  Gordon Wright, HELLO???? ANYONE?? BEUHLLER??

Our priorities are completely out of whack.

Real Talent:

100% Respect:


Russian Cavalry implementing forward seat riding


For real reading

intimidating fire

Why does intimidation work? wow, what an effective tool, huh? We see it everywhere in society, schools, governments, countries, cities, mafia, we can’t seem to get away from it can we.  I guess the monks in Tibet have less intimidation issues, they seem to be super focused on meditating, robes and  that whole seated leg crossed position, but the rest of us are not so lucky. Especially as horse people. We use intimidation to get our animals to do what we want, our relationships to go a certain way, training, handling, competing, to get our help motivated, and our organization uses it to keep us in line. It works, to a point.

What is the counter to intimidation, the balance, that allows us to tolerate a certain amount, but not too much? Charity? A pat on the back for a job well done? Applause? what, then? Is finding the balance between membership and an organization too hard to attain? The utopia that doesn’t exist?

Apparently people out there believe to stop intimidation, you have to counter with intimidation. . Sobering thought. Maybe that is why there are uprisings in society, people find the courage to jump up and down, wave their hands around, and scream ‘enough already’ They hash it out with the intimidator, and everyone calms down and eventually we all proceed again.

So have we placed too much value on what we think our organizations have to offer? Maybe. What is the importance of the highest standard of showing? I have no idea. Will people eventually put less value on those highest standards and also on the most intimidating force in our horse show bubble that seems to make people quiver in fear? Probably. The trend in society certainly seems to dictate exactly that when you look at trying to close those gaps, and people don’t make the connections. What we know today might look drastically different tomorrow when people start placing those values elsewhere. I wonder if it is possible for a whole new organization to be born out of the rubble when people shift attention to more core values that match their current lifestyles. nah. doubt it.

I wonder if kindness acts as a counteractive to intimidation? Would kindness dissolve the fear? Or is that just a sign of weakness. Have we seen it before in our organizations? What if the USEF was able to LISTEN to its membership, say ‘we hear ya’ and we are on board with making positive change, we are gonna start by taking action here. These small shows that are on the struggle bus and not quite making the numbers needed for a B rating? We are going to give you a couple years and drop that required number down by ten, let you recover a bit and recruit members into our awesome organization which herein promotes safe sport!! The arbitrary suspensions we love to issue out?  we are going to form a baseline so EVERYONE understands what the heck is going and gets fair treatment – maybe even create a chart based on percentages of banned substance in the blood test… Meanwhile we are going to show our faith and appreciation to our community by donating a huge chunk of money to all of the animals affected by wildfire!! Wouldn’t that be incredible??

This show standard stuff is mind boggling, I don’t even know how we got so complicated, show managers are working overtime to meet standards from the USEF and USHJA at the same time. You can look for yourself and try to figure it out here.

But how do we keep people interested in entering the sport when the introductory kids are juggle academics, a 5 day a week sports commitment, music lessons, and the countless demands parents are thinking will make them “well- rounded” . It is not possible, it’s nuts. But our show standards to protect our horses remains pretty high, even in a fluctuating sport. Seems like those horses I saw earlier this year were doing ok at an unrecognized competition. Maybe there really are enough people in this top group to keep these organizations going, but it is hard to see it, where are the new people coming from? Who is responsible for bringing them in and making them members? Where are the incentives to keep showing? Do you have to just be born into it to remain interested? High point horse is really that much of an achievement? Are those high point horses all stallions we are going to breed to? I think it is pretty crucial to think about ALL of the things happening in your sport today, not just the ones that you can connect with. Someone is going to have to see the big picture at some point, and question the health of our industry, and really consider why the USHJA is asking us for more money?

The USEF has a disaster relief page on it’s website. I called the number, but it was the voice mail of someone in marketing, not Josh.  I left a message about where I could send money to help out those suffering. I also remember a farm burning down in Roswell, Georgia earlier this year, did the USEF give her anything to help rebuild? Shockingly, I haven’t heard back.

I don’t know if that is just another place to store money for taxes or what, (non-profit?) but I haven’t gotten an email about how the USEF is sending aid relief to the victims. I did, however, get an email asking me to buy Christmas cards. Shouldn’t we be going green and sending those out online? Are they made from recyclable materials?

The wildfires are really scary. If you are not living in that area, I don’t know if you can really get a sense of how bad it is. These people are going to need some serious help. I couldn’t find a satisfactory place to send money so I started a Go Fund Me account to help Charlie and Macella. Give if you can, you can always remain anonymous as a donor.


soul searching


wild burro thanking fireman for saving him, they had to spray him off when he emerged from the forest. after that he stayed by their side.


I went back and forth about self esteem for days, because my last post was meant to be a sort of lead in to addressing self-esteem in the hunter and equitation rings, and it is a massive problem. It seeps through on every level from pony land all the way up to the top, recognized to unrecognized competition, doesn’t matter, it is everywhere and it needs to be considered.

I asked friends all over the world how to cope with this major issue in the sport and asked them to contribute to what their insights might be, because I literally cannot relate. I am a huge cynic. I can’t help it, I was born this way. I truly believe in my perspective of ‘we are playing with horses’ because it is true. I don’t mean to belittle everything you are doing, but when I watch what happens outside of the horse world bubble, I gotta admit, I am basically just thinking how lucky I am to have carved out a little place in the world surrounded by animals.  85% of the world ‘ain’t so lucky’. When my friends responded with how they had watched people deal with low self esteem, I wasn’t sure their answers were right either. I know what people in Europe do, they generally go around, at whatever levels they are competing in that day, and whatever ever happens happens, they put their horses on the trailer and go for a beer in the beer tent and commiserate together. It is not as rampant over there. Conceit may be a bigger problem.

I am HUGE loner, I know this,  I spend hours in the truck alone driving all over the country with my horses and I literally could care less what other people think about where I go, what I do or win. I do, however, strive for being a good person, friendly, supportive, sort of considerate with non-stupid people, etc. etc.  It is good for business, and people remember you for your friendliness, not what your success was in the ring. I think about the people worried about letting a trainer down.  Don’t worry about pleasing your trainer, he/she gets paid at the end of the day no matter what happens, they have their own personal issues to deal with, and could be downing a bottle of vodka every night for all you know (not that there is anything wrong with that), juggling two mortgage payments and that awesome car payment on a sports car. If your parents make you feel bad, because they spent all that money on a horse and expect perfect results with said horse, that is simple, find new parents. They should have known better in the first place.

I literally have no idea exactly how to handle the issue of low self esteem, and my only response is the same every time – knock it off, you deserve to be here. I don’t encourage to go full swing the other way and become a total arrogant prick, but maybe just try to find that happy medium, ok? I am not even sure how we got to the point of so much emphasis put on the Big Eq just to witness teenagers starving themselves like runway models. It seems odd for a rider to do that. Doesn’t starving just make you weaker? Aren’t you riding a horse?? How did these classes get insanely popular recently? Are we scrambling through the motions hoping to find our future Olympians in the Equitation Finals? Shouldn’t a future Olympian like to eat and already know what a spider wrap is by this point? DO any of them? 20 people are about to google spider wrap. eh, maybe 10.

Nervous energy is fabulous energy. It happens to every competitor on the planet, no matter the sport. People that never participate in a competition probably only feel this kind of energy on a blind date. or when robbing a house. It is normal adrenalin that courses through your veins when you are trying to make a good impression, and I love every second of it. It evaporates too quickly, but for those few seconds when I stand on deck at the In-gate, I think it is pretty awesome. It returns to all business as I approach the first fence, but for those fleeting seconds, I tend to embrace the butterflies, not fear them, they are butterflies for pete’s sake, I mean really. Maybe I should ink one of those little bugs, eh, idk. that might be weird. Anyway, learn to shed the fear, and accept the nervous energy. Fear is getting kidnapped, thrown into the trunk of a car, and stored in some lunatic’s house not knowing if you will ever see your family again. Standing at the In-gate of the Walnut ring wondering if you will go off course again is not a legitimate fear.

Trainers have a history of being mean, I could go on for days about the detrimental practices of various trainers in the sport, but it wouldn’t really solve anything. They would still be mean. Lining your own future up with a good perspective is probably the best way to go. Or find a nice trainer that responds well to your needs. If you are an evil person, by all means you certainly have my permission to stay with whatever crazy trainer you have (let’s face it I don’t care about evil people, this may or may not include spoiled brats that cry a lot), however, no one should feel like they cannot leave a bad situation just because rumors might or might not spread about them. Yes, many trainers are also judges, we can’t escape this fact, but deal with it. Lift your chin up, you will be fine. Accept the fact that you are ultimately going to have to compete in front of someone that you chose to leave two, five, or ten years ago and get over it. You are not the first person to experience this and who knows, maybe you get a lucky break that day and actually win a class, or ok, get fourth, whatever. Who really cares, in the end, all it does is make for a story at a cocktail party. (Notice I didn’t say good story.)

On any level, in any discipline, if you happen to be scared of the horse you are riding and are frozen into speechlessness for fear of letting someone else down, this line of thinking is going to get you hurt in a big way. It’s not funny. This is one of most damaging behaviors very few trainers can predict or see until it is far too late. Be honest with yourself and your coach, it is the only way. EVEN if you think a trainer will shame you, let them know when you are scared of your horse. It is NOT your problem if your trainer blows a gasket, and that person may just need a certain wake up call. Putting on a brave face when you literally can’t feel anything but sheer terror will affect everyone around you. It is dangerous. Remember: the level you are competing on does not define you as a person, being a person defines you as being a person.   

If you ARE the kind of cool individual that has a really good perspective, and would love to make the world a better place, or could use a little boost in your self-esteem, here is a pretty good way you can help. A couple of years ago a student of Virginia Intermont tragically lost her life in a car accident on the trip home from a horse show in Virginia and now an incredibly special person has gone to great lengths to keep her memory alive for her family through a scholarship fund. It is important! she was amazing. click here and give. and work on your perspective.

About Claire



Why is winning so dang important? It is not really our fault, actually, this is our society, winning is celebrated on every facet of sport, horses, or not. If we were all in Jamaica, it would be totally different, I am guessing we would all be too high to care about winning. Does winning define me as a person? no. Being a person defines me as being a person. You see it everywhere, though, winning seems to be the answer, in every magazine, all the stories seem to be about the winner, with a couple of do-gooder feely stories sprinkled in between, clients flip-flop around to trainers until they get satisfactory results,  or feel like they have the right presence at the in-gate, instructors and clinicians telling you have to look a certain way, ride a certain way, ride to win or don’t bother coming to the party. High school seniors feel like they need the winningest resume to be recruited by colleges. The excuses seem to be ‘well it makes you better horseman if you are the most competitive and winningest person out there’. WRONG. ‘Well, that is what builds character in young people, helping them find their ambition’, no I don’t agree, but ok.

Years ago, I accepted the fact that I would never have enough money for the top tier of our sport so I made the decision to trade in winning for actually learning how to ride. I left home. I went everywhere I could get my foot in the door, and figured out how to do all of the things the top riders were doing and was satisfied with what I eventually came back with. It was a personal decision, and I knew it worked for me to become the best rider I could possibly be, on my own. The rest of it all sort of worked out the way it did, I found my niche, and I carry on with all those young horses around me, go to horse shows, help people that need help, yada, yada, yada. Like everyone else, I love to win, and celebrate when it happens with a party and bottle of wine, but I don’t look for it every day. I can’t, it would make me crazy….

So, why do I get so upset when the fees get raised? Because as a society, we have been so focused in general, as a whole, on winning, we have dropped the fundamentals of how to actually get there, the education. Americans are so guilty of buying their way to the top, it has become a joke around the world. And now I have to pay for someone else’s education. The basics. So in order to actually go to a horse show, have fun, sell my horses, I am now giving an organization money to fill in the gaps we created a long, long time ago. Someone saw the need for it, had a vision, and boom, here we are today. 14 educational programs within the USHJA.

There is no excuse for what we have done, and very little escaping it at this point. The end game is the blue ribbon and the name on the trophy. When I read a quote from a really well known rider, it stunned me “I am so glad for this win, because when you are not winning, no one is thinking of you”. Jeepers, Is that what everyone thinks?? I thought it was ok to just show up, but her words echoed over and over again. It was why our organizations are chasing the cheaters, our manufacturers are spitting out products to give you that edge, it is why knee rolls, and thigh blocks were invented on a saddle, custom bits, drugs, it is why politics exist, it is the core of our sport, right down to the very bottom.

People complain over and over again, about how they worry they can’t break into this sport, so why bother trying, and I hear you, it is hard. But we can’t all win at the same time, we have to accept it is a fluctuating sport, a fluctuating market, wins will pop up here and there and be celebrated, and over time we should probably start worrying about filling those gaps In education ourselves, rather than depending on an organization to do it for us.

I tell people all the time I don’t care about being on the cover of a magazine, it is not the end game for me. That is for someone else, I cannot imagine the pressure of being there. And once you start, you can’t stop.  No, my end game is seeing the success in other people because of me, the satisfaction in their achievements allowing them to shine for a while. It works, then I go back and focus on my riding, and doddle along until the next big lucky break. I will eventually calm down and accept the fact that I am being taxed each year for laziness, just as I am in society, but it is sad and frustrating to see it all over the place.

Someone else recognized the need for education and has done a brilliant job in manufacturing the tools to get through to people, and it is probably making a fortune at it. Bernie Traurig. He saw the gaping holes we were creating and really saw an opportunity to help fix it, by developing Equestrian Coach. The whole time he was developing that product, I was mortified we needed it so badly. But he was right, absolutely right, and his answer might be the best one for right now. I have no idea what the future will bring, but, if you want your future horsemen to actually be horsemen, you better start doing something about it right now.

BTW, he credits pony club in his background (just saying)