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Photo by Jenni Autry.

Ocala, are y’all ok? Here in Georgia we’ve had buckets of rain, and I’ve heard that it’s even more saturated in Florida. On the bright side? Free water jump! Turn those trot sets into resistance sets! Either way, you may want to stop your rain dance at this point.

National Holiday: National Chocolate Covered Anything Day

Sunday Links:

Fair Hill International Seeks Executive Director 

Simon Grieve’s eventing blog: sweaty palms and fascinating insight

Royal Windsor Horse Show pageant to recreate Victorian Britain

AP McCoy trains Shetland Pony Grand National contenders

USEA Events A-Z: Millbrook Horse Trials

It’s Been A Year, And I’m Still In Love With My Unicorn

Sunday Video: 

Racing legend Sir AP McCoy gearing up the younger generation of Shetland Pony jockeys - YouTube

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Aside from being a successful event rider Lissa Green also has a delightful sense of humor that shines through on nearly all of her social media posts. Whilst scrolling recently, I realized I was learning a few life lessons. Here it is: Life hacks for eventers, as told by Lissa Green. If you want even more, give her at follow @lissagreen88.

1.Prepare for Everything. And that means everything, like remembering to shine even the bottom of your tall boots. You know, just in case you get photographed falling off.

2. You’re never too good to laugh at yourself.

That escalated quickly

Fresh baby WOLF MASTER deciding to buck whilst walking down a step – I was literally a pivot and gathered speed as I went . After easily 10mins of bent double laughter, this GORGEOUS man behaved impeccably & soared over everything ❤ IN LOVE ❤ pic.twitter.com/ATr0EBSKfP

— Lissa Green Eventing (@LissaGreen88) March 7, 2018

3. With the right attitude, you can make anything work. Like, when you spend your time at the barn and not decorating for Christmas — you might have to get a little creative.

View this post on Instagram

Christmas Tree is coming along nicely

A post shared by Lissa Green (@lissagreen88) on Dec 7, 2018 at 11:18am PST

4. Never, ever stop chasing your dreams.

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Chasing dreams….. #RainbowsAndHorses

A post shared by Lissa Green (@lissagreen88) on Nov 10, 2018 at 9:58am PST

5. Appreciate the little things, and never take your life with horses for granted.

Go Eventing.

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Photo via Jumper Nation.

With every passing day, a new present joins the growing pile beneath my tree, but one person who is stumping me completely when it comes to gift-giving is my trainer. Shopping for horse-people is supposed to be easy for me. After all, I write countless gift-guides each week giving other people suggestions on what gifts equestrians would love. But what do you buy someone who literally has everything? What material object will truly portray my gratitude to her?

My trainer Jen picked me up a little under a year ago after my great epiphany during my first clinic with George Morris. I wanted to attend a rated show, a lifelong dream of mine that many people tick off before they even graduate from leadline. Jen adopted me for a week-long adventure at the World Equestrian Center. When things took an unexpected turn leaving me horseless for the week, Jen went above and beyond to find me a horse to ride so my trip to Ohio wasn’t a “waste.”

While we were unable to secure a mount last minute, I would call that trip anything but a waste. That trip was the start of a great partnership and friendship. Jen included me on every course walk, guided me to better stable management practices and taught me more than I could ever imagine throughout the duration of our trip. I will never forget sitting squished between her two young sons in their car seats, laughing and talking about all of our favorite memories on the way up to Ohio and back home.

Since then, our relationship has only grown stronger. We went from texting here and there to texting every day. From discussions about horse shopping to sharing silly memes, Jen became a staple in my daily life. I began making the three-hour, one-way trek to her stable every weekend just to soak up every ounce of her knowledge that I could and to enjoy her company. Since my riding has grown immensely and, in return, so has my confidence.

The hardest part about being an adult amateur is trying to make everything balance. Work, relationships, family, horses, money, it all gets jumbled up and can sometimes make this horse showing thing pretty tough. The best part about my relationship with Jen is that she goes out of her way to make it all easy. She wants me to succeed. She wants me to love this. She wants me to meet my goals. She wants me to be happy. When life gives me lemons, she chucks those bad boys right back at life and finds a way to solve every problem. Jen has gone above and beyond to help me, in more ways than many trainers would and she does it because she cares. 

So what do you buy someone as influential as Jen? What do you buy for someone that says, “hey, thanks for not giving up on me when I forgot to ride straight after the fence for the fourth time in a row?” How do you thank someone for tolerating countless texts about horses for sale… or a saddle for sale… or a trailer for sale? How do you tell someone who has let you cry when you need to and has shut you down when you don’t, just how much they mean to you?

How can I ever tell Jen how confident each “good job” or “niiiiice” made me feel? I am not sure how I am supposed to buy a present that perfectly sums up my thoughts on our late-night chats about horses, kids and everything in between. Jen has literally housed me, fed me and, to her delight, clothed me (in outfits that consist of navy and white rather than pink sparkles, of course). Jen is like a mom, a friend, a teacher, a mentor, a coach and a counselor all wrapped up into one. I haven’t seen a gift section for people of that category on Etsy.

I’m not sure that there is any material possession that could truly express the impact that Jen has made on my life, but I sure am going to try. I think the greatest gift I could give her is to be the best student I can be and to show her just how much her hard work means to me. After all, the greatest gift of all is the gift of not having to yell, “balance up” five-thousand times in one day, right Jen?

Go Jumping.

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Erik Duvander at the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

After a year of restructuring, U.S. Equestrian has begun to implement their new U.S. Eventing Pathway Program. Led by Erik Duvander, the U.S. Eventing Director of High Performance, the new program aims to create a “culture of competitiveness,” which he outlined at the USEA Annual Meeting and Convention.

Erik will work closely with Leslie Law, the USEF Eventing Emerging Athlete and Development Potential Coach, and Joanie Morris, USEF Managing Director of Eventing, to create an effective pathway for up-and-coming talent which focuses on, “key drivers for success.”

“These key drivers include the selection of athletes onto the training list,” Erik said. “These selected athletes must be committed, and focus everyday on the work at home, in their training programs, as well as in the team training environment, to become their best.”

“Combinations who can deliver performances to support a team-podium finish are the goal. Through the Pathway Program, the door is always open for these athletes, and we must be prudent and target our resources where it will make the most difference. We will continuously review our progress and measure it against world-leading performances. 2019 is just the beginning of the process for us.”

The biggest revamp for the program comes in the reorganization of the levels. We expect the 2019 training lists to be released very soon, featuring the new classification of EliteDevelopment Pre-Elite and Development Potential. You can read more about each level here.

Erik will seek advice and support from the new Performance Advisory Team (PAT), which includes Leslie Law, Ian Stark, Karen O’Connor, Derek di Grazia and Robert Costello. He commented that this team exists to: “challenge my thinking and ensure I make educated decisions at all times.”

Other changes to the program include a five-member selection for Championships and Nations Cup competition, which is still being finalized, an Ad Hoc Group who will approve any selections made by the selectors or the PAT, and the introduction of unofficial “team competitions” at existing events.

Will Connell, USEF Director of Sport, looks to the future with the program, with a podium finish at the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028 as a major goal.

“The revised structure should lead to a more nimble program that allows Erik and Leslie to ensure we move towards sustainable success in eventing. LA 2028 is less than 10 years away, so our development and emerging programs must focus on a podium finish at our home Olympic Games,” he said.

Erik and Leslie will also be working with the USEA to start this pathway regionally through the existing USEA Area Young Rider programs. A joint program, which will act as a stepping stone from national level, is expected by 2020.

Erik also wrote a thoughtful letter to U.S. eventers, which you can find here. He says: “Our purpose in High Performance is to support our elite riders in their pursuit of excellence and to develop the next generation team riders to achieve sustainable success at championships; to have a pathway in place, and run programs where riders are given the opportunity to develop, be tested, and prove themselves.”

Go Eventing.

[US Equestrian Looks to the Future of U.S. Eventing with Reinvented Pathway Program]

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It’s hard to believe, but we’ve made it through another exciting season of eventing. That means it’s time for the 4th Annual EquiRatings Horse of the Year contest. You’ve done the Americans proud before — voting Loughan Glen to the top in 2015 and crowning Donner last year — and now it’s time to go to bat for the stars and stripes once again.

Known by only one letter, Phillip Dutton’s WEG mount Z is among the 12 in the running and he needs your vote! In round one, the Z Partnership’s 10-year-old Zangersheide (Asca X Bellabouche, by Babouche VH Gehucht Z) faces Ballaghmor Class.

A win at the WEG test event at Tryon set the tone for Z’s sparkling season. He followed that up with a top five finish at Kentucky, his first four-star, and 13th as WEG as the highest-placing U.S. horse. Of course, he did all this without any rails coming down.

The Class of 2018 features a slew of heavy hitters including Allstar B, Classic Moet, Mr. Chunky and many more. It’s hard to imagine picking one from this talented lot. To vote, simply click on the horse’s photo in the polls at the bottom of this post. Round one ends this weekend, so do your thing, EN!

Round 1, Heat 1: The CHIO Aachen winner takes on the The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials Official Pagey winner….

Posted by EquiRatings on Thursday, December 13, 2018

Round 1, Heat 2: The rising star of the sport, Vassily De Lassos had a year to remember. Maintaining a perfect show…

Posted by EquiRatings on Thursday, December 13, 2018

Round 1, Heat 3: Samourai Du Thot has won four of his last five internationals – including winning Military Boekelo -…

Posted by EquiRatings on Thursday, December 13, 2018

Round 1, Heat 4: The US win this thing every year and Z is the latest challenger from that side of the pond. He has to…

Posted by EquiRatings on Thursday, December 13, 2018

Round One, Heat 5: Where to start with Mr Chunky? Individual silver medallist at the World Games where he finished on…

Posted by EquiRatings on Thursday, December 13, 2018

Round 1, Heat 6: The final heat is by far the hottest. Mr Bass, the FOD King takes on the World Champion, Allstar B….

Posted by EquiRatings on Thursday, December 13, 2018

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Photo via Kelly Beaver.

Warmest of congratulations to Kelly and Seth Beaver who welcomed their first child into the word this past Tuesday, December 11th. We featured Kelly here on EN about a year ago as the “Ambitious Amateur” who’s proved that yes, you can work a full time job and make it to the Advanced level. And you can do it well, too. Sadly, Kelly and Seth had to say goodbye too-soon to Kelly’s steed, Sempre Fino, after complications from emergency colic surgery earlier this fall. I know that Kelly is completely broken-hearted that her son will never get to meet her amazing partner “Hobbs”, but in a sweet tribute to her best friend, their son Benjamin Daniel Hobbs Beaver, will always carry a little bit of that heart horse magic with him.

National Holiday: National Cat Herders Day

U.S. Weekend Action:

No more recognizeds for the rest of the year! What are you going to to with all your “free time”?

Your Saturday Links:

Do Women In Eventing Get A Fair Shake At The Leaderboard?

Equestrian Looks to the Future of U.S. Eventing with Reinvented Pathway Program

Burghley pathfinder retires from eventing: ‘it’s what he deserves’

PODCAST: 2019 Grant Recipients + 2018 Hall of Fame Inductees

How to ride the perfect square halt

Doug Payne’s Oxers and Angles Jumping Exercise

A Barn Krampus Christmas Carol

Saturday Video: Leave it to a Canadian to know exactly what to do with their water jump in the winter!

Water jump turned into hockey rink Team Phoenix

Posted by Jessica Phoenix – Phoenix Equestrian Team on Wednesday, December 5, 2018

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Lord knows we all love a challenge, but with ice buckets no longer an appealing option and Keke, frankly, a little bit played out, we’ve been stuck in a bit of a rut, quite frankly.

Enter Jake Tarrant, who can be found lurking the interwebz under the guise of Little Bentley Eventing. British eventer Jake is currently busy making a bit of a name for himself on these shores, as he stars in the current season of Horse & Country TV’s Omega Equine All Star Academy. Yes, Americans, we’re so utterly horse-bonkers over here that we not only have an entire channel dedicated to ponies doing various forms of prancing, we have an equestrian reality show, too. Move aside, Kardashians, for this one is legendary coach Pammy Hutton‘s domain.

Anyway, for those of you who aren’t in the know, Pammy’s dishy and delightful dressage rider son Charlie showed off a rather impressive bit of sitting trot on a recent episode, demonstrating that he could, in fact, hold a cup of tea while cruising around the arena. His hips most certainly do not lie, pals. Now, Jake is determined to see us all embarrass ourselves trying to emulate him, and he’s kickstarted the Cup of Tea Challenge. The premise is simple, if not easy: can you ride while holding a cup of tea, without covering yourself with it? Pass us something stronger, please.

Have you given it a go? Post your video on Facebook with the hashtag #LBECupOfTeaChallenge — we promise not to laugh! (We categorically do not.)

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Brian O’Connor as the Chairman. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

You know Brian O’Connor as the voice of U.S. eventing in Area II and beyond, but did you know he is also an actor? While he ultimately pursued a career in announcing, Brian’s background is in theater, and he returned to the stage last year as the Chairman in Christmas at the Old Bull & Bush.

Brian is once again reprising the role this year at MetroStage in Alexandria, Virginia, and he is inviting all EN readers local to the area to take advantage of discounted friends and family tickets and see the play as part of their holiday celebrations.

As the Chairman, Brian narrates the frivolity and takes you into the merriment and revelry of the Bull and Bush, a historic London pub. You’ll enjoy Vaudeville-era tunes, classic Christmas carols, silly puns, sing-alongs (with lyrics provided!) and even a moving tribute to the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day. There is even a chance to join the cast in a hysterical reenactment of the Cratchit dinner from Charles Dickens’s beloved holiday classic, A Christmas Carol.

Joining Brian are veteran musical theater actors Sherri Edelen as the vivacious Florrie Forde; Albert Coia as the lovable and comical Bertie Ramsbottom, who regales the audience with a hilarious rendition of The Night She Cried in My Beer; and the singing and dancing pair, Jimmy Mavrikes and Katherine Riddle.

Broadway World said it best in reviewing the play: “Christmas at the Old Bull & Bush will keep you laughing and singing all the way home.” Christmas crackers, British beer and cider, mince pies and sausage rolls are also available to purchase at the MetroStage bar to ensure a truly festive evening.

Christmas at the Old Bull & Bush, directed by Catherine Flye, runs through Dec. 30 at MetroStage, 1201 North Royal Street, Alexandria, Virginia. Show times are 8 p.m. on Thursdays; 8 p.m. on Fridays; 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays; and 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays.

To take advantage of the discounted ticket rate of $35, call the MetroStage box office at 703-548-9044. You must ask for the discounted rate and mention you are an EN reader coming to see the play in support of Brian O’Connor. (I’m seeing the Saturday matinee on Dec. 22 and hope to see lots of eventers there!)

Visit www.metrostage.org for more information.

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Kyle and Binky at the 2018 Thoroughbred Makeover. Photo by Susan Palmer.

A bay with a dainty blaze, “Binky,” as she became known, was a 2008 Kentucky-bred by Songandaprayer who made 16 starts in the United States before the end of her 3-year-old career. Fairly noncompetitive, she changed hands, shipped to Puerto Rico, and made another 80 starts for her connections through mid-2017.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico in September of 2017, with the latter now recognized as the worst natural disaster to strike Puerto Rico on record. The horses at Hipódromo Camerero, Puerto Rico’s only racetrack, were not immune to the power of the storm and the widespread destruction; in the weeks following Maria, horses were left exposed to the elements — the walls on the backside remained intact, but about 90% of the barns lost their roofs, leaving metal strewn about and horses often standing in deep muck after downpours of rain. Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare (CTA) provided boots-on-the-ground assistance as much as possible, with eventual support from US mainland-based aftercare charities when shipments of feed and supplies could be flown in.

Post-hurricane conditions at Camerero in Puerto Rico. Photo by Kelley Stobie.

It was in these conditions that Binky foundered, as well as developed a raging case of scratches. It was believed that she would likely never be riding sound, and in fact was near death. Through the hard work of Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare, Binky recovered and got her second chance, flying out of Puerto Rico back to the mainland United States to RVR Horse Rescue in Florida. Rothfus adopted her and competed with her in the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover, using the competition as a platform to raise awareness among OTTB enthusiasts about the horses of Puerto Rico, many of which started their careers just like Binky in the U.S.

Because Binky’s story, while an amazing triumph, is not an isolated tale — every year, as many as 150 horses ship from the mainland to Puerto Rico to race. In and of itself, this is not necessarily a bad thing, describes Kelley Stobie of Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare.

“We have good owners and good horsemen here,” Stobie says. “They buy good horses at the U.S. sales and bring them here to run. We do breed some on the island as well, and all of the native-bred horses are registered through the Jockey Club.” But what breaks Stobie’s heart are the horses that should have retired in the States and never been run again — the so-called “warhorses” with more than 50 starts, horses who weren’t competitive at the lowest levels of US racing, and even horses on the vet list at various tracks. She’s seen all of these come through the track in Puerto Rico.

“I’m not opposed to horses shipping here to race,” Stobie adds. “What I have a problem with are the old or unsound horses coming here that should have been retired.” Buyers from Puerto Rico work several angles to get trainers to sell their horses into Caribbean careers, from describing the beautiful warm weather to playing up loyalties: “With a lot of track workers originally from Puerto Rico, the buyers tell them it’s their responsibility to help the racing industry at home.”

“We don’t slaughter horses here,” Stobie is quick to point out. “But so many need to be euthanized. There’s nowhere for them to go when they’re not competitive here, and CTA simply cannot handle the numbers with limited capacity and limited funding.” Puerto Rico is only 3,500 square miles with about a 40% poverty rate, which makes placing horses within the U.S. Caribbean difficult. “Some horses will go run in the U.S. Virgin Islands,” Stobie continues, “but we just don’t have that much room to retire horses here. It’s an island — resources are limited.”

Worthy of Wings, back in the U.S. mainland. Photo courtesy of Kyle Rothfus.

Part of the problem is the expense of bringing horses back into the United States from Puerto Rico. Going into Puerto Rico, there is no quarantine requirement, but coming back into the States, horses must quarantine. It costs upwards of $3,300 to get a horse out of Puerto Rico and back into the U.S. Factor in that many of the horses that CTA is trying to place have health problems or limitations, combined with the number of younger, sounder horses coming off the tracks in the U.S. ready for second careers, and the issue is compounded.

“We’ve taken a lot of negative comments,” Stobie details. “They say, ‘why should we spend so much money and time getting these horses out of Puerto Rico when there are so many that need homes here in the U.S.?’ Well, these horses are from the States originally — they deserve to come back. Connections failed them along the way — that’s not the horses’ fault.”

Worthy of Wings unloading on the mainland:

Live Video as Worthy Of Wings, Charlie Bull & Barlovento Tiger leave travel stall and load trailer for Ocala!

Posted by Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare Inc. on Friday, November 9, 2018

Rothfus too has had to field his share of questions about why he’s not helping more local horses — and he refers them to his 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover hopeful, Worthy of Wings. “She was bred right here in Ohio,” Rothfus, himself based in Ohio, points out. “She ran about 90 starts in the United States and 72 of those were in Ohio.” “Worthy,” as Rothfus calls her, has more than earned her warhorse status, retiring with 138 career starts. “We owe it to these horses to bring them home.”

Worthy settling in back in Ohio. Photo by Kyle Rothfus.

Rothfus again hopes to raise more awareness of Caribbean horses with Worthy. “If I can help inspire more people to choose the warhorses or the ones that might need a little rehab, fewer horses might end up needing help like Binky and Worthy. By not choosing these horses here in the United States, they were able to slip through the cracks and continue running in Puerto Rico. There’s a bigger picture I’m hoping to help people to see.”

Follow Worthy of Wings’ journey to the 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover at OTTB Training. For more information about Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare, please visit the organization’s website.

A candid moment among CTA horses at the 2018 Thoroughbred Makeover. Photo courtesy of Kyle Rothfus.

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How do you keep your ears warm under your helmet while you ride in the winter? Normal winter hats don’t fit properly and render your helmet unsafe. What if you want to listen to music while you ride … but earbuds keep falling out? Introducing Tooks — hats you hear!

Tooks Hats come in a variety of styles including the Sportec Scully, made of dryfit material, which is absolutely perfect for riders! It is stretchy and warm, specifically designed to fit under a helmet for winter sports. It not only keeps you warm under your helmet for winter riding, but also contains headphones that you can position for a custom fit to your ears!

If you have trouble with earbuds like I do (for some reason ear buds just refuse to stay in, so I waste more time adjusting them than actually riding) then you need to try Tooks. The headphones slide into the Hat through a reinforced opening in the back of the hat. It allows you to place the headphones securely inside of the fabric itself, exactly where you want them, and they stay in place with small pieces of Velcro on the earphones. They are removable for easy washing of your hat, or for storage when you don’t care to listen to music while you ride.

Tooks Sportec Skully. Photo from TooksHats.com.

Despite the size of these headphones they actually have extremely good sound quality! In addition to riding professionally for all these years, I have spent 19 years working as a radio DJ.  I know good sound when I hear it. These headphones have superior sound quality, with great definition of bass, and you can even get them in a wireless option. You can thump your dance music while jumping through grids, rock your heavy metal while cleaning stalls, and secretly listen to rock opera while perfecting your dressage.

Amy Nelson with the Tooks Sportec Skully under a winter hat.

Tooks Hats come in several colors to express your individuality. They also have winter style hats for when you aren’t riding, to listen to music perhaps while finishing farm chores. I tested the Sportec Scully with wired headphones and the wire easily tucked through my jacket to my phone for my dance mixes. It never seemed to get in the way of my riding position at all. And I actually put a winter hat over it while I was doing chores, listening to an audiobook in the frozen tundra. It provided extra warmth and was already on my head to quickly switch out for a helmet when I was ready to ride.  Tooks offers a variety of hats and styles, including a Tooks Sportband in dryfit material. This fits over a baseball cap nicely, while still fitting perfectly under your helmet.

Tooks Sportec Skully under Amy Nelson’s helmet.

Take a look at my video showing how the Tooks Hats work!  These are super affordable, so you can grab one in every color — even Pink!  Absolutely a perfect stocking stuffer for the rider on your gift list.

Cost: $
Excitement: *** 3 Stars
Durability: *** 3 Stars
Variety: *** 3 Stars

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