Monday, August 24, 2020

How COVID-19 Has Affected SMU’s Division 1 Equestrian Team

 by Elese Kirby

The NCAA’s Response to Coronavirus

Students from all around the country and the world are getting ready to head back to SMU’s (Southern Methodist University) campus in Dallas, TX this fall. But, this year, things will be quite different. The last few months of the previous school year experienced abrupt and challenging differences brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Those changes are continuing and evolving due to the continued presence of the virus in the world. Among the many adjustments to learning, student athletics will be affected as well, in particular, SMU’s Division 1 Equestrian will look quite different this year. 


The NCAA has implemented systems for the fall season that are subject to change as situations, including federal and state policies, will naturally transform as the pandemic continues to run its course. Some of these changes include specific guidelines that all schools must follow such as having a phone number and email dedicated to taking reports of infractions of these guidelines. They are also allowing athletes to opt-out of participating in their sport in favor of their health while keeping their scholarship granted by their school and enhanced safety protocols for all involved. 


Last week, after another NCAA meeting, more addendums were added to the list of changes made to adapt the sport to protect its participants from COVID-19 safely. As of this past week, self-isolation may end after ten days from the day the athlete tests positive for COVID-19 for most, though there may be extenuating circumstances in which self-isolation will last longer. Another change to the guidelines is that athletes that test positive may not exercise for ten days minimum or as long as symptoms are present.


Changes Within the Sport

These changes will undoubtedly shape the landscape of competitions as Division 1 Equestrian competitions are typically filled with spectators and cheering fans. But, this season, there will be no outside spectating allowed. The relationships between team members may be sacrificed as they must maintain social distancing, and members must wear masks when around others.


“Without this, the team will have to build this momentum on their own, which will be a challenge,” former member of the SMU equestrian team Sara McCann. said. “Just in general, wearing masks and maintaining safe social distancing will be something we’ll all constantly have to be conscious of.”


Athletes in all sports thrive off their fans and outside support as they compete, and this is no different for equestrians. Surely competitions will not be the same with barely anyone around to clap at the end of a round or class.


SMU equestrian
SMU Equestrian Team members pal around at meet.

Not to mention, the lack of interaction between members will make for a more challenging time creating a close bond between the team, especially for incoming members.


“It is going to be hard for them to get to know their teammates and coaches as well as we would like, said SMU’s head coach for the Equestrian team, Gwin.


This coming season (2020-2021) will be  Coach Gwin’s seventh season as SMU’s head coach. She has led SMU to many successful seasons and meets in the past seven years. So far, some of her most prominent achievements have been guiding her team to 20 NCEA All-American selections, two conference championships, and has earned the title Conference Coach of the Year three times. While these achievements do not come without talented riders, there is much to be said for Gwin’s ability to create a harmonious and robust team dynamic that factors to their success.


Looking Forward with COVID-19 on the Horizon

In addition to current athletes, there will also be differences for potential athletes. Recruiting for college athletics is an exciting process for athletes, coaches, and fans alike. However, this year, due to COVID-19, recruiting athletes will inevitably be different for all sports, Division 1 equestrian included.

According to Coach Gwin, there is currently a recruiting ban imposed by the NCAA, and recruiting can only occur virtually due to the pandemic. Admittedly, this poses some challenges for the recruiting process.

For many athletes, like many other college students, visiting different colleges and universities during high school had a significant impact on their decision on where they decided to go. Olivia Woodson, a rising junior and member of SMU’s equestrian team, agreed that touring schools was one of the biggest influences in her choice to attend SMU and be a part of their team. 

“This is something that cannot be replaced virtually, and if high school students are not allowed to visit in person, I think this will greatly affect their choice,” Woodson said. 

With thousands of colleges in the United States alone, deciding on one can be an overwhelming decision. Now that students are unable to travel and visit many schools, that decision is even harder. 

Nevertheless, the lack of visiting and in-person recruiting the Equestrian sport might be facing, SMU’s team continues to be optimistic in maintaining a roster of talented and well-rounded riders.

“We have received more letters of interest in the program than ever before, so there is no lack of interest from potential student-athletes,” said Gwin. 

Despite the challenges present for recruiting, one of the advantages that the equestrian sport has compared to others is that many horse shows continue with new safety protocols implemented. Therefore, athletes are still able to compete and be scouted by schools. Many prominent competitions that scouts often visit to look for talented riders are also live-streamed. That means that scouts may still watch for potential recruits despite not being able to visit and be there in person.


Regardless of these advantages, “a new approach to recruiting will need to be taken this year to comply with COVID-19 protocols,” Woodson said. 

While there are many inevitable changes and unknowns that SMU’s Equestrian team is facing, there is no doubt that one thing is sure;  they are ready to meet the challenges head-on with positive attitudes. 

“We all want to play, so it is worth the challenges we will face,” Gwin said.

SMU Equestrian cheers on team-mates prior to Covid-19.


Sunday, May 10, 2020

I was Just Thinking About Chicago Horse Shows...

It’s not the facility – it’s the heart

I was just thinking about Chicago Horse Shows, past, present and future.  There have been a few articles popping up and a lot of rumors about horse shows in the Chicago area, which got me thinking.  

I showed there as a kid and for over 30 years as a professional, remembering when our trainer, Jack Rockwell, who trained at Linda Valetic – Bieniewski’s family farm, first said we should go to Ledges back in the 70’s (yup, dating myself there, Linda was still a junior!). I vividly remember my mother’s response, “What’s Ledges?”

And so it began, like many other riders and professionals who have experienced “Ledges” throughout the years, we quickly learned what that meant. It wasn’t about the one ring indoor arena facility with attached stabling that has been added onto over the years. It wasn’t about the schooling ring with stalls in it and one jump (no stalls there now). It wasn’t about the convenient location or the list of classes that have run on the same schedule for years. So many faces of great riders have come through Ledges throughout the years like Kent Farrington, Will Simpson, the Alex Jayne family, Chris Kappler, Lisa Goldman-Smolen and Todd Minikus just to name a few. So what was it that made showing in Chicago special?

Will Simpson and Bremen Star in 1980 at Ledges, Photo On Course Magazine

I think when people have fond memories of a show it’s sometimes based on the championships, the victories, or the experience of the first win. In Chicago, it’s the camaraderie that comes from hours and days spent with friends and peers. It’s not the “what” that makes the show a favorite, it’s the “heart”, the emotion, the fun, and the sharing of everyday horse show life. Chicago is blessed with a group of supportive and yet competitive trainers like no other area in the country. By the end of the circuit, you know what your friend’s lunch order is and how they take their coffee. It’s the lunch ladies who make the grilled cheese just the way you like it or the office staff that couldn’t be nicer when you need your paperwork finished. That’s why trainers have returned to Ledges for years and how it has earned it’s hashtag #weloveledges.

Ledges aside, what do you think of when asked what your favorite horse show is and why? Show manager Patrick Boyle, has produced some of the most memorable shows in Chicago including shows at the Lamplight facility (many of us remember when it only had one ring). Most Chicago horse-people will say their favorite show of the year was either Showplace Spring Spectacular or the Showplace Fall Championship, but not just because they were at Lamplight but because they were truly special. 

Fun but challenging competition got riders ready for finals. 

Boyle always made sure there was a fun factor.  Junior and amateur riders got to ride in a Gambler’s Choice or a 1.30m Jumper Series, something they didn’t get to do other places. Local medal finals were dreams of all the kids growing up because you got to ride in the grand prix ring and ride through chutes and trees. There were glorious victory gallops and elaborate prizes right down to the Short Stirrup division. Grand prixs were exciting and drew exhibitors and their families back to the ring after their day of showing to cheer on their favorites while socializing with friends.

Creative courses and jumps made the show extra special.

All exhibitors got invited to a party in the VIP tent with food and bar second to none.  Trainers organized baseball games and BBQ’s for all to enjoy. Boyle had ice cream socials and drove around in a golf cart back in the barns to give trainers lunch.  Maybe it was the mimosas served in the office during Sunday check out or the trainer’s steak dinner at Jimmy’s Charhouse that made your day just a little nicer.

Chicago Equestrian Hunter Derbies offer opportunity to riders of all levels.

Let’s not forget the B circuit shows with the Chicago Equestrian Hunter Derby for all levels of riders and the Equitation Finals that get riders ready for the next level. Boyle makes local level and B show riders feel just as important as the Premiere level riders. The stability of nice jumps, beautiful courses and top judges week after week has provided tons of opportunity for riders to show and trainers to generate income for decades. 

As properties change hands and Covid-19 changes our lives for a while, the Chicago area remains a cohesive group and will always prevail. Realizing great horse shows are not just about the facility, but about the heart and feel of the horse show staff and managers, it may be a tough crowd to please with high expectations.  It’s not only the stabling, the footing and the prize money offered, it’s the spirit of the whole package that makes Chicago riders return year after year. 

I remain positive that Coronavirus will be just another stumbling block that we will overcome.  Chicago will always be innovative and create solutions. I am hopeful that up and coming riders will get to experience the great memories that I have had a chance to experience during my career showing in the area.  I will always be grateful for the amazing people I have met along the way. 

Stay positive Chicago – wherever you decide to venture out, remember why we do this and that the opportunity to show and be with our horse show family is a gift. Stay safe and we’ll be back to business as usual before you know it! 

by Brenda Mueller
Photos by Marketing4Equestrians

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

An Auditor’s Take on the 2019 Benchmark Farms Jumper Derby

by Peyton Dvorak
Photos by Taylor Bohac

         June 1st was a blue skiedand breezy morning, and as my car pulled up to Liz Atkin’s stunning Benchmark Farms, the air was glimmering with excitement and the driveway was lined with sponsor banners. A long row of cars was parked in front of the gorgeous main barn, and spectators and riders alike were bustling from the barns to the beautifully decorated front porch.

Upon entering the barn, I was greeted by a gorgeously organized breakfast, and I arrived just as the clinic for the low jumper group was beginning their session on the flat with renowned clinician Diane Carney. I took my seat in the viewing area adjacent to the ring with my camera and notebook in hand, ready to soak up all of the knowledge I could get. The group’s flat consisted of lots of “leg riding”, which was a term Carney coined often in the session, emphasizing that riding from the leg is an extremely important component of riding on the flat and over fences. The riders worked with transitions from halt to canter and trot to canter to practice “riding off your leg and body, not your hand” and being “seamlessly forward” throughout the transition. The concept of the “pulley rein” was also discussed, both as a training and emergency method to try and stop the horse in an out of control situation. Riders paired this concept with halting in the corners of the indoor arena and using one's vertical position to halt their horse. Riders jumped a course that included an in and out with a liver pool, and a few jumps that would’ve been defined as spooky, such as jumps set with large barrels as filler. The riders jumped up to .80 m and .85 m and progressed steadily throughout their time over fences. Before long, the first group was dismounted and heading back to the barns to take care of their mounts, all with homework and things to think about for the next day’s competition, and the next group of the morning was walking into the ring to begin their clinic. This medium height group worked with many of the same concepts reviewed in the prior clinic, with more complex exercises, such as collection with shoulder in and shoulder fore. Carney also discussed the horse’s longitudinal and lateral movement, and how depending on their horse’s balance and way of movement, he may be more or lesseasy to collect and ride. Participants jumped a modified version of the original courses, with larger heights set up to make the exercises more challenging for both horse and rider. The medium group also ended with takeaways from their lessons and things to work on for their classes for the following day. The third and final group consisted of riders jumping up to 1.30 m on their mounts. During their session on the flat, Carney emphasized having the riders getting their horses to "track up” and “go forward” which had been previously echoed in the prior clinic groups. The advanced riders worked small cavalleti sets into their session on the flat, helping them prep for their courses later. When it came time for the over fences portion of the clinic the riders worked with liverpools, tricky bending lines, and two separate gate jumps, which is emulative of obstacles found in a typical jumper course. Carney worked with the riders on galloping to the fences and being bold in their riding, saying that pace and impulsion were on their side as the jumps went up. Carney also remarked that riders must “take and apply the riding lesson”, explaining that utilizing a concept that one has learned isn't a one and done process, that it is about practicing it and using it in all of your future aspects of riding and competing. This was a great closing comment for the clinic, as the next day, the riders would be showing in their respective classes and applying what they had learned during their lessons.  

Diane Carney and judge Sarah Booker provided commentary with each round.

The next morning, I arrived bright and early to Benchmark Farms to see riders, grooms and trainers hurrying around the grounds, preparing for the day's events. I peeked into the arena to see that a new and interesting course had been set according to clinician Carney’s direction, and a slew of fellow spectators had taken their seats, ready to watch the competition for the day unfold. As spectators quieted and commentator Diane Carney and Judge Sarah Booker took their places in the ring, students from the day prior filed into the arena one by one prepared for their rounds; only this time as competitors. Every rider and horse were beautifully turned out and prepared for the competition. Each pair was allowed a few warm-up jumps coached by their respective trainers before the actual rounds to keep with the tone of education set by the clinic day. After their warm-up, competitors started their rounds around the challenging track for the day, and upon finishing, returned to Carney and Booker to review their performance, and talk about positives and things to improve upon. Carney made a point to a nervous rider after their round that made me personally reflect.  She wisely stated that getting nervous is a natural part of showing, but the only element that was different from the clinic the day prior was the fact that you dress up in different clothes. This piece of advice can be easily translated to all of us, as the only part differing a horse show from our regular practice riding is the added element of dressing up, which creates an unconscious anxiety. This is definitely somethingthat was eye opening for me and it seemed to help the rest of the day’s riders as well.  Watching every round was exciting, and the crowd kept the energy up by cheering during each of the class's jump offs, which made things even more entertaining. 

Chloe Butler and High Altitude with trainer Andrea Hendricks.

Earning the first blue ribbon of the day was Chloe Butler and High Altitude in the Voltaire Design Jumper Derby. Liz Atkins competed in and won the Lewis Veterinary Services Jumper Derby aboard Carletta. Both winners were awarded ferns thanks to Showplace Productions.

Liz Atkins and Carletta earned the second blue of the day.
After both morning classes had wrapped up, attendees made their way up to the facility's balcony to be greeted by a gorgeous champagne brunch sponsored by Homestead Veterinary Hospital and Pro-Stride. Over the delicious lunch, those present were briefly educated on the new technology behind Pro-Stride, a new veterinary treatment, by Dr. Mark Cassells from Homestead Veterinary Hospital, and Pro-Stride representative Emily Lundstrom. Auditors could also speak with a representative from Voltaire Design, who was present at the event. As lunch 
came to a close, viewers were called back to their seats to prepare for the last event of the day, the Benchmark Stables Jumper Derby.

Chris Johnson and Dutch Martini flew to the win in the final Benchmark Stables Jumper Derby of the day.

With the crowd cheering and the air filled with excitement, we all watched as Chris Johnson and Dutch Martini soared through their jump off to secure the top spot on the podium. After their victory gallop, special awards were handed out to participants, including Best Turned Out Horse and Rider, sponsored by Cynthia Zitko, which went to both Cassandra Jarchow and Casino RSS and Catie Hope Rose and Johnny Bravo. Both riders were awarded special prizes, as well as a fern. Most Improved Rider, which was sponsored by Pouwer Patties, went to Skyler Hendricks riding The Countess and the Dover Sportsmanship Award was won by Nancy Desmedt. Commentator and clinician Diane Carney closed the Derby by thanking the event’s sponsors and congratulating the riders, saying that they had all improved and rode well. 

Nancy Desmedt earned the Dover Sportsmanship Award.

Overall, my time spent at the Benchmark Farms Clinic and Jumper Derby was wonderful, informative and exciting. Liz Atkins and the Benchmark Team put on a spectacular event, and Diane Carney allowed for it to be an educational experience for everyone in attendance. I'm so thankful to have audited and can't wait to head back next year! 

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Here's to Horse Show Moms - Past, Present and Future

Here's to horse show moms past, present and future. You know, the ones who sacrifice having a life so their kids can live the dream because kids are their joy. It's time to thank the moms who get up at all hours to make sure we are on to school at 5:30am, who find us breakfast when nothing is open, who help braid, clean tack and polish boots. The moms who wipe a horse's dirty nose, scrape mud off our boots and trudge through the rain to see us show for our 2 minutes in the ring.

Perhaps you've had one of these special horse show moms and can recant numerous stories of what they've done to boost your riding career. I know my mom would get up at 3 am to braid horses with me to have money to pay for leasing and showing. She was there to hold horses at the ring, share in the joys of my good days and blue ribbons and wipe the tears on the bad days when you were thrown in the dirt.

Thank you to the moms today who allow their kids to learn, help find opportunities to ride and experience different levels of the sport, and who financially figure out how to work at the tack store, sell horse treats and squander grocery money to pay the horse show bills.

Thank you to the future horse show moms, who can't wait to put their babies on a pony for the first time and will  feel horrible the first time they fall off. The future moms, who will do the same or more for their little riders as their moms did for them to become another generation of amazing horse show moms.

Thanks to my mom, who without her I wouldn't be where I am today. Thanks to the moms today who keep our next generation of olympic riders on the map, and thanks to the future horse show moms who make little one's olympic dreams alive.

Horse show moms, you are one of a kind, loved, and never appreciated enough. Thank you for all you do and cheers to you, enjoy your day (which really should be at least a week!!)!

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, March 1, 2019

Riders at Hunter Holloway Stables Take Working Out Seriously

We hopped right in on a workout session at Hunter Holloway Stables in Wellington, where trainer Petr Julianov works with the riders. For the eight weeks that junior riders Britta Belline and Hannah Loeffelbein have been showing at the Winter Equestrian Festival, they have added a weekly workout session with Julianov in addition to their riding duties scheduled by Holloway. The two girls say they have learned a lot about fitness and will be continuing a workout program at home.

The hour long session starts with some stretches followed by some squats. The workout included exercise bands for working the outer thigh, kicks for the hips and inner thighs and of course, what workout would be complete without working on the core and abs. The session had a variety of exercises for balance, strength and dexterity such as some friendly soccer, jump squats, medicine balls and kettle balls. The girls agree the sessions have definitely helped them in the tack.

Hannah Loeffelbein works out with Petr Julianov at Hunter Holloway Stables.

"I know for sure I couldn't even touch my toes the first week," laughed Loeffelbein, "but now I can go to the middle of my feet."

"Hand-eye coordination and balance has improved for me," added Belline. "Also my ankles were really weak, but now I can actually keep my heels down without my feet rolling underneath me when I'm jumping."

So why isn't riding enough?
Britta Belline works on her core and hand-eye coordination.
"Most sports have conditioning in addition to the sport," commented Belline. "If you play basketball you don't just play basketball, it definitely helps you to be stronger in the saddle."

"It helps the athletes become better balanced, they improve all around and improve their riding," said Julianov. "People can also train on FaceTime from Europe and other places they travel to for sports so working out is easy from anywhere."

Julianov recommends working out an hour at least every other day with 15 minutes of warm up, the workout and 15 minutes of cool down. He works with many show jumping and dressage athletes as well as hockey players and athletes in other sports.

Holloway has private sessions scheduled with Julianov and continues to work on core and shoulder strength for her riding. She started the workouts because of issues with her shoulder, which has improved over the weeks. Holloway tries to work out 4-5 times a week depending on the show schedule.

"Petr (Julianov) is great! He's fun and really helps you achieve your goals. He's good at training everyone at their own level," said Holloway.

Top athletes such as Beezie Madden and Laura Kraut, are serious about their time in the gym as well. Athletes also use trainers to come back from injuries which can be minor or major, all so they can quickly get back in the tack and back to competition.

Belline and Loeffelbein definitely plan to continue some training at home with a friend or on their own because they learned simple exercises they can do with equipment that's easy to purchase such as kettle balls or bands. Especially for those days you just can't make it to the barn, you can get in a quick workout to build strength.

As for me, I totally enjoyed having someone to work out with to have some new exercises to add to my own routine.

What's your workout routine and what helps you the most with your riding? Maybe your barn can organize some group sessions and try the eight week challenge!

Special thanks to Hunter Holloway Stables and Petr Julianov for letting me join in!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

An Auditor’s Take on the 2018 Galway Farm Equitation Classic

Hunter Holloway demonstrates with clinician Diane Carney.

by Peyton Dvorak

It was early Friday morning, and anticipation and excitement lingered on the brisk fall air as the tires of my car crunched down the driveway of Lorrie Canady’s very own Galway Farm. The venue was decorated to the nines, and riders and spectators’ bustled to-and-fro, preparing for the day’s events. To my left, I saw clinician Diane Carney setting course, tape measure in hand and crew of helpers running every which way. She made it seem as if she was conducting a perfect symphony, and her masterpiece of a course was already in the works. On the edge of the ring, I spotted the Hunter Holloway, a demonstrator for the day, and upon seeing one of my biggest idols, I grabbed my camera and sprang out of the car, ready to begin the next three days of the annual Galway Farm Equitation Classic. 

Once the course for the first of the two clinic groups was set, I took my seat to watch the sessions begin with light flat work. Right off the bat, clinician Carney had participants practicing with riding forward, using diagonal and lateral aids, and going through ground pole courses that included turning in reverse and bending lines. All of those methods Carney repeatedly used to help improve riders in different areas throughout the day in both of her groups. I wasn’t surprised when the “Five Key Components of Jumping”– pace, line, distance, impulsion, and balance, were eventually referenced, as that method helped riders to prepare for the over fences portion of the clinic that took place shortly after the flat. When riders finished their courses, professional Hunter Holloway jumped up to 1.50m on two participant’s horses as a demonstration, which was incredible to see!

Catherine Tyree and Diane Carney have discussions on what it takes to be on top.

Following the clinic sessions and wrapping up the first day, those who rode and attended, including myself, were welcomed to a wonderful Italian feast and a special question and answer session with Carney and Holloway. Everyone was encouraged to seek advice and ask questions, and during that short session, I learned so much as a rider and person from both speakers.  It was such a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere after such a long day, and it gave me lots of time to reflect on all of the day’s teachings. I left Galway Farms anticipating the next day’s clinic and getting excited for Sunday’s competition day.

The 2018 Galway Classic group.

Saturday morning began the second day of the Galway Farm Equitation Classic, and I was up bright and early to see the day start out seamlessly, with another clinic by Diane Carney; who had groups of riders this time jumping heights of 2’6”, 3’, and 3’6”. The clinic began with a light session of flatwork which benefited both the horse and rider before the jumping portion of the class. Carney started the participants with shoulder in exercises, voltes (twenty-meter circles that are not as easy as they look), and plenty of turns in reverse. Riders also demonstrated the using of an “english bridge”, a style of holding the reins which generally helps a rider keep better control. Carney partnered this method with exercises centered towards the rider’s balance at the posting trot, having them put one arm out, one hand on their heads, and placing an arm behind their backs, all while holding their reins in a secure fashion with their other hand. I’m very familiar with those methods personally, as they appear in George Morris’ classic “Hunter Seat Equitation”, and I practice with them tons at home.

Clinic members then worked on a number of varying exercises over fences and seeing the variety of riders and how they handled everything Carney threw at them was by far the most interesting part of my day. As I watched participants navigate the tricky courses, I also noticed how Carney molded every mistake a single rider made into a learning opportunity for the whole group. This is certainly my most favorite aspect of her training, and her phrase “I teach one of you, I teach all of you” will be engrained in my mind during future clinics or group lessons I may be apart of.

Participants jumped multiple courses going into the afternoon, with all three groups benefiting from her presence and expertise. Also in attendance was experienced amateur rider Catherine Tyree, who helped riders set and walk out Sunday’s competition courses in preparation for the show the next day.
After completing the organization of the next day’s course, clinic goers were once again invited to a fabulous dinner with another question and answer session, which this time included special guest and 2010 Hunterdon Cup winner, Tyree, as well as the day’s clinician, Diane Carney. Attendees were again given the opportunity to ask questions, and I nervously asked a few of my own, which took up too much courage than I care to admit.

Lisa Campbell rides to a medal. 

Sunday morning rolled around and I arrived to the grounds eager to see what was in store. Attendees like myself were treated with an exquisite brunch and the opportunity to enter in some very generous raffles.  As soon as those events concluded, the show day begun.

The competition included the High Galway Equitation Classic, the Low Galway Equitation Classic, the High Galway Hunter Derby, and the Low Galway Hunter Derby, as classes. Each of the courses collectively included concepts that were focused on during the clinic days, which helped riders to gain perspective and more experience with the weekend’s educational aspects. During the break between the Equitation Classics and the Hunter Derbies, judge Diane Carney sat down with competitors after placings had been given to discuss scores, techniques, and improvements, which I though was an intriguing concept compared to traditional showing.

Lorrie Canady, Cassie Jarchow and Molly McAdow.

Taking the top prizes of the show day were Skyler Hendricks in the High Galway Equitation Classic, Lisa Campbell in the Low Galway Equitation Classic, Cassie Jarchow in the High Galway Hunter Derby and Pauline Schultz in the Low Galway Hunter Derby. It was so amazing to see all of the rider’s hard work during the clinics pay off in their final rounds.

Once the show events had ended, special awards were given, with highlights being the judge’s choice award, presented to Erica O’Neil; best turned out horse and rider, as well as the highest scoring handy round were both won by Casino RSS and Cassie Jarchow. Highest scoring amateur was won by Lisa Campbell, and the sportsmanship award was won by Pauline Schultz. After the awards ceremony, the last meal of the weekend, a delicious lunch, was enjoyed by attendees, and an interesting and informative closing discussion with Diane Carney and Lorrie Canady, the owner of Galway Farm, occurred.

All in all, my experience at my first Galway Farm Equitation Classic was incredible, and I’ve already had a discussion with my trainer about riding in it next year. Getting to experience and capture the event through my camera was even more exciting, as I got to view everything as an auditor and as a photographer. The classic will most likely become something I will attend every year from this point on, as I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.  For now, I’m going to be practicing at home, using everything I learned from this weekend to help advance myself for my own clinic with Diane Carney, which is coming up soon!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Day at the Races

A Day at the Races
by Elizabeth Stein

With the Preakness in the books and the Belmont Stakes only three weeks away, everyone around the country is in the horse racing spirit. In honor of that spirit, we decided to take a trip to Arlington International Racecourse, to see how a racing stable operates, and it wasn’t disappointing. As a hunter/jumper equestrian whose only experience with horseracing is watching it on TV, I can assure you, the glitz and glamour is only part of what makes a racing stable run.  

First, I have to give credit where’s its due, our day and all this insider information would not have happened without Alexis Kuhn, and everyone at Rodriguez Stables. Kuhn, 22, a Barrington Hills native, got into horse racing like most of us do, by watching it on TV. However, this former hunter/jumper rider was hooked and has worked her way up to being an assistant trainer, which is no easy feat in the racing business.

Kuhn, who owns two race horses of her own besides training, was able to give us an inside look into what it takes to run a successful racing stable and with three horses scheduled to race, was able to show us what it really took to produce a winning race horse.

And they're off! 

First thing you have to know if you’re ever going to get into racing is everyone has to be licensed, down to the hot-walkers. To become a licensed assistant trainer, Kuhn had to pass a 60-page test, get two letters of recommendation and complete a barn test. On top of all that, you need to be licensed at each track you’re racing at because the drug rules are different (their rules are closer to the FEI rules).  
If you want to be an owner of a racehorse, you’re in luck, it costs no money to board and no money to enter races, the betting handle provides the purse. You do still have to pay for certain things like vet bills and shoeing.  If you have an owner’s license and a trainer, you can buy a horse in a claiming race (the cheapest is five thousand dollars). Trainers charge a day rate, which covers their fee, the overhead like feed and tack, they make their money on the horses winnings, 10% goes to the trainer and the jockey.

As with any aspect of the equestrian sport, it’s not just finding the right horse, it’s finding the right trainer and creating the right program. For Kuhn, finding the right training method depends on the horse.

“We’re more conservative, we run once a month or every three weeks. We’ll train every day or six days a week slow training, trot two miles, gallop really collected or slow. Depends on what they need or what their bodies are telling you. It’s building endurance. Since these horses are bred to go fast, training is really slow, its about educating the horse and not pushing them past what they can do since they’re still growing, ” Kuhn affirmed.

There is a strict routine for before and after the race as well. After a race, the horses are walked three to four days for them to recover and usually before they are set to run, walked so they’re fresh. Race day routine can be different for each horse however, Kuhn’s own horse gets a little nervous so she’ll train him the day before the race or even the day of a race so he doesn’t know he’s running.  
Being one of the few women on the track has provided Kuhn with her own set of obstacles so her motto and the truth of anyone in any equestrian sport is simple- “The key is finding your motivation is to keep evolving and never take no for an answer.” And that method is paying off, the stable is winning at a 20% rate, which is huge in the racing the business.

The wonderful thing about equestrian sports is truly how diverse they are. Hunter/jumpers, horseracing, eventing, dressage, polo, reining, pleasure riding around the world, there are truly so many facets of the sport anyone with a love of horses can participate. This trip to Arlington provided one look into another part of our sport, with hopefully many more like it to come.