Category Archives: USEF

Letter from US Equestrian CEO Regarding Racism. Plus: Life as a Black Equestrian

The protests and political unrest ignited by the murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis have dominated the news throughout the world and motivated hundreds of thousands – including many of our employees – to protest peacefully against racial injustice. This has been a difficult and emotional time, and we wanted to share with you the steps US Equestrian is taking to listen, learn, and do more.

Last Tuesday, US Equestrian participated in #BlackoutTuesday and issued the following statement:

We pause in solidarity and support of the black members of our community. We are committed to listening and learning from you. We hear you. We stand with you. We can and will do better. Black lives matter. #BlackoutTuesday

We are energized by the overwhelming amount of support from this community for Black equestrians and your desire for us to do more.

We believe it is important to be very clear: Black lives matter to US Equestrian. We stand firmly against racism and discrimination of any kind and are taking steps to further educate our staff and create a more inclusive and diverse community for all staff and participants.

  1. Educating ourselves is the first step. Going forward, every employee will be required to take Diversity and Inclusion training, as well as Unconscious Bias training, each year.
  2. Board approval and implementation of a US Equestrian Diversity and Inclusion Commitment Statement and Action Plan. Over the past several months, Ashley Swift, a dedicated member of our Communications Department, has been leading this work and her recommendations will be presented to the Board of Directors at the Mid-Year Meeting. There will be opportunities for members and staff of US Equestrian to engage with and contribute to this program.
  3. Increased communication to members on US Equestrian’s commitment to do its part to fight against racism. This includes providing members with educational resources – including training on Diversity and Inclusion, and Unconscious Bias – and ways to work to end racism. We know we cannot do this alone, but we can – and will – do our part.

We understand this is an emotional and difficult time for many. Remember, US Equestrian paid fan and competing members have access 24/7 to a mental health first aid hotline at 1-800-633-3353. Please do not hesitate to reach out and take advantage of these free services.

Thank you all for your efforts to spread the joy of horse sports to as many people as possible, and for advancing our goal of increasing diversity in equestrian sport through an educated and open equestrian community.

Respectfully,
Bill Moroney
Chief Executive Officer
US Equestrian

Life as a Black Equestrian, by Camille S.

Originally Posted by The Hunt: An Equestrian Life & Style Blog

“I will admit I was nervous to sit down and write this. We live in a time where it seems like you are not only damned if you do, but damned if you don’t. Many are afraid to speak up out of fear. Uncertain if what they say will be correct, whether politically or otherwise, and how it may be perceived by others. Nonetheless here I am, to give the perspective of a young working student/exercise rider who is also biracial, black and white.”

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Lee McKeever’s Impact on Castle Hill Farm

For over 30 years, Lee McKeever has been the head groom, right-hand man, and trusted counselor to arguably the most influential modern American show jumper – McLain Ward. An equestrian phenom, Ward has left little to prove in the arena, winning gold medals at the Olympics, the Pan American, and the World Equestrian Games, topping the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Finals, and being ranked #1 in the world. As anyone at that level of competition will say, ‘it takes a village’ of dedicated, organized, and highly specialized people behind the scenes to make it to the summit of sport. McKeever has played a pivotal role in every step of Ward’s decorated professional career. With tremendous hard work, dedication, grit, and a bit of Irish superstition sprinkled in, Lee McKeever is indispensable to the Castle Hill dynasty and fortunately is not slowing down anytime soon.

“He knows the horses better than anybody. He knows how to have their conditioning, their health, how to prevent as well as deal with injuries. There’s never been a moment when I doubted that my horses were in anything but the best of care and had the best preparation to compete.” — McLain Ward, 2-Time Olympic Gold Medalist, Show Jumping

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From the US Equestrian Federation

USEF Update on COVID-19: Suspension Extended through May 31

We continue to carefully monitor the COVID-19 Pandemic situation and the position of health experts, including the CDC and other public health authorities.  It appears that in several areas of the country, restrictions put in place by State Governors, such as the “stay-at-home” orders, are making a positive difference.  Federal, state, and local governments are discussing plans for re-opening the environment in the near future.  However, this will not occur overnight and will very likely consist of a graduated easing of restrictions over several weeks, which may vary greatly state-to-state, as well as within the states themselves.

The success of these plans is predicated on a mindful and responsible approach to easing restrictions while also maintaining best practices that we have all learned and adopted in order to reduce exposure to and transmission of the COVID-19 virus.  Once USEF competitions resume, we must all continue to support and maintain these best practices as part of our daily activities to help prevent further disruptions to our lives.  We hope that resumption of competition comes soon.

With that in mind, the suspension of all USEF owned and named events, selection trials, training camps, clinics, and activities is being extended through May 31, 2020. This suspension also includes points, scores, money won, qualifications, or rankings toward any USEF award programs, USEF owned and named events, or selection to a US team including USEF National Championships.  Upon the expiration of this suspension, competitions must comply with requirements issued by USEF for operating sport horse competitions in this environment.

Collaborating with competition organizers, affiliate leaders, and other industry experts, USEF has been developing competition protocols for safely operating competitions and mitigating the risks associated with COVID-19.  Once finalized, we will be providing all competition organizers with these protocols as well as other risk mitigation tools for their use.  These tools and resources will also be front-facing on our website and accessible by all members and website visitors.

We have been working on amendments to qualification and selection processes for numerous USEF owned and named events as well as how USEF HOTY awards and ranking lists are calculated.  We have started announcing modifications that will make the process as fair as possible for all participants, despite the disruption to the competition year and the likelihood of a staggered regional start-up.

We have received inquiries as to whether USEF will grant exemptions to the junior competitor age restrictions, equine age restrictions, and equine eligibility restrictions based on competitive experience.  While these topics are being discussed, it is still too early to make definitive conclusions regarding these issues.

We will continue to assess the pandemic impact, and we will keep you informed of any updates to our position as circumstances warrant or as instructed by the government and public health authorities.

The safety and welfare of our members and their horses must continue to be our top priority.

William J. Moroney
Chief Executive Officer

From the US Equestrian Communications Department

USEF Provides COVID-19 Facts and Resources as Pandemic Changes Equestrian Life

The COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting equestrians’ routines around the country as barns employ social distancing techniques and increased human biosecurity practices, and, in at least some areas to date, even close to all but essential staff by choice or by local restrictions.

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Congress, President Deliver $2 Trillion Relief Package, Address Many Horse Industry Concerns

Following a week of intense negotiations, on Friday, March 27 House lawmakers finally passed – and the President signed into law – the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, teeing up approximately $2 trillion in emergency aid to American taxpayers, small business, independent contractors, and non-profits and charities. Because most equine enterprises characterize themselves as small businesses and include many non-profits such as state associations and equine rescue operations, the package addresses many challenges facing the horse industry.

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Equine Non-Profits Granted More Than $100,000 by USA Equestrian Trust – Deadline for 2020 Submissions Is April 22

USA Equestrian Trust® has awarded more than $100,000 in grants to help fund equine-focused projects by more than a dozen non-profits. The organizations receiving funding all submitted applications as part of the Trust’s 2019 application period. Since the inception of its grants program, the Trust has awarded more than $2.2 million in grants.

The Trust is also pleased to announce it is now accepting proposals from IRS-registered equine non-profit organizations for its 2020 grants program. To submit an application, visit trusthorses.org and complete the online form. Any organization applying must submit copies of its IRS non-profit determination letter and most recent Form 990, as well as a proposed budget for its project. The deadline to submit applications for the foundation’s 2020 grants program is 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on Wednesday, April 22.

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Impact of Coronavirus on USEF Licensed Competitions

Dear USEF Members,

Your health, safety, and well-being and that of your horses is paramount to USEF.  We are continuing to closely monitor communications on the COVID-19 Pandemic from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), and the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI).

Effective Monday, March 16, 2020, all USEF owned events, selection trials, training camps, clinics, and activities will be suspended for the next 30 days. Additionally, USEF strongly recommends that competition organizers suspend all USEF licensed competitions across the country for the next 30 days and that equestrians do not compete for the next 30 days.  For those competitions that do run, there will be no accumulation of points, scores, money won, qualifications, or rankings toward any USEF awards programs, USEF owned event, or selection to a US team during this 30-day time period. This includes USEF National Championships.

If you choose to compete, USEF recommends that you take immediate steps to limit your exposure and create social distancing.  Based on information and guidance, in particular from the CDC, the USEF provides the following recommendations to our membership. Participate in events that:

  • Are venues within close proximity (driving distance) to your residence;
  • Limit out of state competitors (and for currently operating winter circuits limit new out of state competitors);
  • Restrict free access in stabling areas to only essential personnel (i.e. riders, grooms, farriers, vets, officials);
  • Provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer at in-gates, competition offices, vendors, and convenient places throughout the competition grounds;
  • Ensure restroom facilities are regularly cleaned;
  • Operate without spectators;
  • Limit social gatherings to less than 250 people as recommended by the CDC; and
  • Ensure that food services are of the type that limit contamination; buffets are strongly discouraged.

We are providing these same recommendations to Competition Organizers and asking them to comply within the next few days.  Some may choose not to cancel their event but, all are expected to take steps to limit exposure and create social distancing.  Some may impose additional restrictions and safety measures in line with guidance from local public health authorities.  Therefore, we are requiring organizers to post all relevant information to their website and provide it to the USEF Competitions Department.

We are counting on you to make responsible decisions based on the information available, the conditions in your geographic area and the recommendations from your local public health authorities.  USEF will continue to assess the situation on a daily basis and will update our position as circumstances warrant.

Resources from the CDC, WHO, USOPC, and the FEI are available on the USEF website (click here).  Links found on this webpage provide you with direct access to valuable information on each organization’s website which is updated regularly.

If you have any questions, please contact us using this email:  CustomerCare@usef.org and your inquiry will be addressed by the appropriate department.

by US Equestrian Communications Department

Verdades to Appear at 2020 FEI World Cup Finals in Las Vegas

Photo Credit: Shannon Brinkman Photography.

From the US Equestrian Communications Department

Las Vegas, Nev. – Verdades, one of the most popular and beloved horses in dressage history, will make two public appearances at the 2020 FEI World Cup™ Finals in Las Vegas, April 15-19. “Diddy” will headline the Devoucoux Dressage Showcase on Friday afternoon, April 17, and then have his official retirement ceremony on Saturday evening.

Laura Graves, Verdades’s owner and rider, announced the 18-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding’s retirement in January, leading to an outpouring of love and support from his many followers around the world. That spurred a plan to give his fans a chance to see the legendary superstar at the FEI World Cup™ Final.

“Diddy has so many fans and I wanted to give as many of them as possible a chance to see him before his retirement,” said Graves, who purchased Verdades as a yearling and is the only rider he has ever known. “He has performed on the world’s biggest stages and there really is no bigger stage than the World Cup Finals in Las Vegas, so this is really the perfect place for his formal retirement.”

Graves and Verdades will appear during the Final’s Devoucoux Dressage Showcase on Friday afternoon and again on Saturday evening when his official retirement ceremony will be held during the intermission of the Grand Prix Freestyle, the event determining the 2020 FEI World Cup™ champion.

As part of the special occasion, a drawing will be held to select 16 individuals among those in attendance at the Devoucoux Dressage Showcase to meet the legendary horse later that day. In addition, Graves will appear that afternoon in the Taylor Harris Club presented by Lugano Diamonds to meet guests in the World Cup’s VIP club.

Verdades first caught the world’s attention when he carried Graves to the Reserve Championship in the 2014 The Dutta Corp./USEF Grand Prix Dressage National Championship and then followed that by finishing fifth in the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games, the top U.S. finish.

To order tickets, or for further information on the 2020 FEI World Cup™ Finals in Las Vegas, please visit the event’s official website at www.WorldCupLasVegas.com.

Bridget Hay Flying US-Bred Flag in Dressage Ring

Bridget competing on Amy Price’s Fauna, a mare Bridget bred, foaled, and trained (©2018 by Nancy Jaffer)

Bridget Hay has a simple reason why she began breeding dressage horses at her Hunterdon County, N.J., farm.

“It started years ago because I could never afford to import horses or buy well-bred horses,” she explained. “So I make them myself and train them myself.”

She has quite an array of homebreds at the Rainbow Ridge Equestrian Center, from which she has turned in successful performances at the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® in Lexington, Ky., the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions in Wayne, Ill., and Dressage at Devon in Devon, Pa.

Hay, who operates Rainbow Ridge with her mother, Barbara, is one of a growing number of U.S. dressage breeders who are enjoying success in a discipline that long has been dominated by European warmbloods. She is unusual, however, because she not only breeds and foals her horses, but she also goes on to train and show them herself.

Bridget recalled that five years ago during Dressage at Devon, a man who was watching while she warmed up her stallion, Faolan, asked, “Why are people importing horses when there are horses like this bred in this country?”

Her answer: “I don’t know why they’re not.”

But reconsidering the question this autumn, she commented, “My horses don’t start out moving the fanciest. But they have three decent gaits and the brain and temperament to be very trainable. You teach them how to move. I have to make them myself.”

And it has worked. Last year, Faolan was U.S. Dressage Federation Intermediate 2 Horse of the Year, and won the Intermediate 2 Open Finals class at the US Dressage Finals in November.

Hay takes lessons, often via video, from Olympian and FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 team silver medalist Adrienne Lyle.

Lyle competes successfully in the U.S. and Europe on a U.S.-bred horse, Duval Partners LLC’s Harmony’s Duval.

Duval was spotted by Bob McDonald in a field at Leslie Malone’s Harmony Sport Horses in Colorado. McDonald, the husband of U.S. Dressage Technical Advisor Debbie McDonald, years earlier also selected Brentina, the Hanoverian mare purchased in Germany who headlined for U.S. dressage with his wife during the late 1990s and well into the 2000s.

Lyle thinks U.S. breeders have the potential to compete with those producing horses abroad.

“The possibilities are very good. There’s no reason, structurally, when you look at our country versus Europe, that we can’t replicate what they’ve done with breeding and training programs,” she stated.

There’s an advantage in finding top prospects in America “because the Europeans aren’t always going to let the best horses go,” she pointed out. And, of course, it’s possible to save money on a U.S. purchase, because the horse doesn’t have to be flown across the ocean and no expensive trans-Atlantic shopping trips are involved.

However, Lyle noted, “Right away we’re at a bit of a disadvantage because they’re (the Europeans) scraping the cream off the top. So if we can make our own cream here and keep it in the country, that would be hugely beneficial.”

Duval, she noted, “walked into Aachen (this year) and got a 75 in the Grand Prix. There was nothing holding him back there for being U.S.-bred.”

Lyle called Hay’s efforts “inspiring,” adding, “That’s one of the reasons I make sure I carve time out to help her. I really admire people who find a way to do this.”

Lyle observed that Hay is “mainly on her own, not with a big budget, but really trying to do things the right way and trying to get help any way she can.”

Hay’s example, she commented, “could show people you don’t have to be a huge multi-million-dollar factory in order to produce and train horses up to Grand Prix.  If we had more people like that, it betters our chances. It can be intimidating otherwise for people to think there’s any place for them in a breeding program, unless they’re some big state stud or something like that, but you don’t have to be.”

During Dressage at Devon this year, USEF Dressage Youth Coach George Williams told a group of competitors that it’s a goal to have at least some U.S. riders on U.S.-bred horses for the team at the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Williams, a former Grand Prix competitor and former president of the United States Dressage Federation, said that concept came out of a meeting among USEF dressage coaches, knowing “how important it is to use an event like this to set a goal. If we could have U.S. riders on U.S.-bred and -trained horses, that would be terrific. And certainly we’d like to be on the podium with that as well.”

There are precedents for U.S.-bred horses succeeding in key international championships. Hilda Gurney’s Thoroughbred, Keen, won team gold and individual silver at the 1975 Pan American Games, a pair of gold medals at the 1979 PAG, and was part of the 1976 Olympic bronze medal team. More recently, Paragon, from the Oak Hill Ranch in Louisiana, was ridden by Heather Blitz to team gold and individual silver medals at the 2011 Pan American Games.

“The thinking is that we want to use a major event, like having the Olympics back in this country for the first time since 1996, as a motivator to come together as a community of athletes, trainers, breeders, and owners and see what it can do for the U.S.,” Williams commented.

He believes it is realistic to think “we should be able to have at least part of the (2028) team on U.S.-bred horses.”

The prospects for future U.S. success are in the cards. A few years ago, Williams watched Lehua Custer’s horse, FJ Ramzes, at a California clinic and was impressed.

“I said, ‘This is the best horse I’ve seen in a long, long time,’” he recalled about Ramzes, who was bred by Cornell University and competed at the U.S. Nationals in 2017, when he won the Third Level Open.

Another of Custer’s promising horses, Fortunato H2O, was bred by Kendra Hansis’s Runningwater Warmbloods, located in the same New Jersey county as Hay’s operation. Hansis, an adjunct English professor at several colleges who began her breeding operation in 2001, explained, “I wanted to breed the kind of horse I could not afford to buy.”

Custer, who trains with McDonald and was Hilda Gurney’s assistant trainer for 10 years, spent the summer at Betsy Juliano’s Havensafe Farm in Middlefield, Ohio. The owner of Lyle’s 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games mount, Salvino, Juliano was inspired to buy a foal from Hansis and purchased the filly Starlight H2O earlier this year.

Juliano understands what American breeders have to go through to produce their prospects, and appreciates the desire to see U.S.-bred horses with U.S. riders in the Olympics and other championships.

But as she puts it, “Until you get behind these people, it’s not going to happen. I feel one of the next phases of development in my ownership career is going to be to look very seriously at the U.S. horses, and, when possible, buy them.”

by Nancy Jaffer
© 2019 United States Equestrian Federation

Costume Inspiration from US Equestrian Breed Affiliates’ National Championships

Sjaantje as a honeybee and Gail Aumiller as a beekeeper at the IFSHA World & Grand National Championship Horse Show (Avalon Photography)

With Halloween just around the corner, equestrians are brainstorming or perfecting costumes for themselves and their horses. Several of US Equestrian’s breeds have costumes classes at their national championships that allow competitors to get creative and show their individual style. Costumes ranging from whimsical creatures to native tack and attire acknowledging the breed’s heritage impress the judges and spectators at the national championships. US Equestrian spoke with three experts to hear about their creations and tips they have to help you be successful in the show ring.

Molly Rinedollar and Welsh Pony Helicon Just Notice

The Welsh Pony & Cob Society of America’s American National Show was livestreamed on USEF Network this year, and the costume class was arguably one of the most entertaining classes to watch from the show. One standout entry in the class was Helicon Just Notice, owned by Molly Rinedollar of Helicon Show Stables in Parker, Colo. The Welsh pony entered the ring dressed as a piñata with children from the barn dressed up as M&Ms who tossed candy into the crowd.

Rinedollar’s barn has worked together to create other impressive pony costumes, including the flag of Wales, which involved Helicon Just Notice masquerading as a red dragon and children from the barn dressing up as knights and peasants at the 2018 American National Show. Rinedollar’s inspiration for the flag of Wales dragon costume was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the WPCSA.

“One of my [barn] moms, Sue Williams, helped me with the piñata,” Rinedollar said. “She sewed all the felt pieces on for the piñata. So we had to cut strips and sew them on, then we did the cuts up to make the layers of the piñata.”

The dragon costume for the flag of Wales was more time consuming. “Laurie Grayson, from Boulder, and her group helped with the dragon, which was a little hard because she lives over an hour away, so trying to get that together was tough,” Rinedollar explained. “We got one of those blow-up dragons that go in your yard and cut it up, sewed it, and painted it. That one took a lot of time. It had wings and the tail, so it was pretty time consuming.”

Rinedollar estimated that the piñata took two to four hours to assemble, while the dragon for the flag of Wales took at least 10 hours. The dragon costume also required several sessions to make sure the various pieces were fitting and coming together properly.

Rinedollar recommended trying costumes out before competing in them, especially if you plan on riding your horse or pony in the costume as things can shift unexpectedly. Having an easy-going pony to dress up was another tip from Rinedollar, as Helicon Just Notice was unfazed by his elaborate costumes. “He’s very tolerant and really likes it,” Rinedollar said. “He is pretty simple about the whole thing. I think he likes wearing costumes.”

Rinedollar enjoyed that the whole barn – kids and parents alike – can get involved in the costume class.  “I think it brings everybody together,” Rinedollar said. “The camaraderie of it is fun, and the kids all have a great time. They like dressing up, too.”

While the next American National Show is about 11 months away, Rinedollar and her barn are already making plans for next year’s costume. “We kind of have one that we want to do, but I don’t know how we will pull it together,” Rinedollar said with a laugh.

Gail Aumiller and Friesian Sjaantje

Gail Aumiller of Dreams Come True Farm in Carlisle, Pa. is frequent competitor at the International Friesian Show Horse Association World & Grand National Championship Horse Show, and she has partnered with her Friesian mare Sjaantje to make two carriage pleasure driving costumes come to life. Aumiller and Sjaantje teamed up as a beekeeper and honeybee in 2019, while they were a ringmaster and circus horse, respectively, along with Aumiller’s friends joining as a trick rider, a fortune teller, and a clown for a circus theme in 2016. Both years, Aumiller and Sjaantje claimed the World Champion Friesian Carriage Pleasure Driving – Costume title for their efforts.

Aumiller said she tries to come up with unique and novel costume ideas. She had seen a Friesian dressed as an eagle, and the costume’s wings that fluttered with the horse’s movements inspired Aumiller to have a winged costume for Sjaantje, thus the honeybee costume. For the circus theme, Aumiller acquired a period costume for her horse, which got her brainstorming on ways to highlight the costume. Being able to include her friends in the circus theme was highly desirable for Aumiller, too.

“It was really a lot of fun because, from an exhibitor’s standpoint, you don’t often have the opportunity to share your show ring competition with friends,” Aumiller explained. “But in a costume class like that, where you can take others and you can share it with your friends, made it very enjoyable for me.”

Aumiller spent a full year working on her costumes, from coming up with the idea to perfecting details. She handled the dressing up herself and her horse, but her cousin helped her with anything that needed to be built and added to the carriage. She did one dress rehearsal at home with two to three helpers before each of the costumes’ debuts at the IFSHA World & Grand National Championship Horse Show.

“It seems like every time I use a costume, I tweak it a little bit more. One time with the circus show, I had to use a different carriage, so I didn’t have room to put more than the trick rider and one other person in it so I had to lose the fortune teller,” Aumiller said. “And with my honeybee, the second time I used it I thought, ‘I should have a basket with honeybee products,’ so I put honey in it and beeswax candles and different things like that.”

Aumiller recommended gradually introducing a costume to a horse, so there are no surprises and you are ready to shine in the show ring. “You just have to desensitize them, like if you are putting a flowing robe on them, you just have to do it and get them used to it,” Aumiller explained. “Sometimes it takes more than one or two sessions for them to get used to it.”

Aumiller pointed out that it is important to know what the judges are looking for in any costume class you enter. “In the costume class, originality is supposed to be one of the main things that the judges are focusing on. Of course, in a period costume class it would be on authenticity. If you really want to have a chance at winning, you need to know what the criteria is that the judges are judging you on. Then, you need to focus on that and develop that.”

Aumiller has begun working on her costume for next year’s IFSHA World & Grand National Championship Horse Show, and her cousin has already created a cardboard mockup for the carriage. Sjaantje will have to wait and see what her next costume will be.

“She is a true champion,” Aumiller said of Sjaantje. “She does anything she can to please me, so I like to think that if I like it, then she is going to like it.”

Mario Contreras and His Andalusian and Lusitano Mounts

Mario Contreras of MC Horse Training LLC in Elgin, Ill. has claimed multiple titles at the International Andalusian & Lusitano Horse Association National Championships while displaying the native tack and attire that acknowledges the origins of the Andalusian and Lusitano horses, horses from Spain and Portugal, respectively.

When Contreras first got started showing in Andalusian/Lusitano classes highlighting the native tack and attire for the breed, he didn’t have many options until he found the right distributors, Lisa Oberman of El Sueño Español and Bill from Iberian Connection. Contreras said he now has eight to 10 outfits that range from traditional native attire to exhibition costumes.

While Contreras has a variety of outfits, each class has specific criteria that is being judged. “I have shown in the Nationals with Andalusians, the Spanish horses, and it is very important that you match the saddle, the saddle pad, the bridle, the [rider’s] shoes, the spurs, the hat, everything has to go with the Spanish outfit and a Spanish horse,” Contreras explained. “And it’s the same thing if you are riding a Portuguese horse, a Lusitano, you have got to make sure that you have everything that goes with it.”

Contreras noted that judges are taught to know the difference between Spanish and Portuguese tack and attire. “When you go into a competition, some judges are nice enough to tell you that that doesn’t go with the outfit and eventually you get more education,” Contreras said. He suggested that competitors in native tack and attire classes do their research or have an experienced individual guide their tack and attire selections.

In addition to compiling the rider’s outfits, the horses have specific tack that they wear as well. “If you see some of the bridles, the buckles that go into the bridles are actually different and sometimes it gives it away if it is Spanish or Portuguese,” Contreras said. “Also, for the doma vaquera classes (pattern work highlighting the breeds’ maneuverability and impulsion) on the presentations, the bridles have what we call a mosquero. The mosquero is actually made out of horse hair and it goes on the forehead on the browband of the bridle. You can use the same bridle, but you can use a different mosquero depending on the horse’s colors. … It is called mosquero because it kind of gets the flies away from the horse’s face. Also, when you are riding and doing doma vaquera, you want the mosquero to swing side to side and, to the judge, that will give a good sense of the horse having a good rhythm on the walk.”

Since some of the native tack pieces may seem out of the ordinary, Contreras suggested treating each horse as an individual as you introduce them to something new. “It just depends on the horse. Some horses are very sensitive, more so than others, just like people,” Contreras said. “I think the mosquero is one of the most difficult things because not all horses accept the mosquero right away, so you have got to be careful how you introduce it and, of course, doing it slowly will be the best thing to do. Sometimes just pass it by his face. What I usually do is when I see a horse who is not too comfortable with it in the beginning, I usually put a little shredded plastic bag at the end of my whip and slowly start petting him with it until the horse gets used to it. Then, eventually you put the mosquero on the browband of the bridle.”

In addition to native tack and attire and doma vaquero classes being fun, they also give a valuable recognition to the heritage of the Andalusian and Lusitano breeds. “It is important to continue the tradition, and I love that the association continues to promote and have those classes for people,” Contreras said. “Every time I go to Nationals, I think that is one of my favorite classes to dress up and really show the breed because, at the end of the day, we are promoting horses. There is nothing better than continuing to show their beginnings and the culture of how horses became what they are now.”

by Kathleen Landwehr
© 2019 United States Equestrian Federation

Wheatland Farm and Marie Vonderheyden Named as Finalists for FEI Awards 2019

Lausanne, Switzerland – The Fédération Équestre International (FEI) has released the list of finalists for the FEI Awards 2019, which includes United States Equestrian Federation/U.S. Para-Equestrian Association Para-Dressage Center of Excellence Wheatland Farm in the FEI Solidarity category and U.S. para-dressage rider Marie Vonderheyden in the FEI Against All Odds category. Public voting to help determine the winners closes Monday, October 7. Category winners will be honored at the FEI Awards Gala on November 19, hosted during the 2019 FEI General Assembly in Moscow, Russia.

Public voting will count towards 50% of the overall selection for each category. Click here to VOTE NOW.

Wheatland Farm, founded by Mark and Muriel Forrest, is one of only nine USEF/USPEA Para-Dressage Centers of Excellence and is a leading member of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.), providing therapeutic riding and equine-assisted activities and therapeutic programs. As a Center of Excellence, Wheatland Farm is instrumental in providing educational and developmental opportunities for para-dressage athletes and coaches in the United States, offering services which include classification, trainer/coach identification, and sport opportunities, as well as programs in both human and equine sports science and medicine. Wheatland Farm has remained heavily involved with the U.S. Para-Dressage Program and serves as an important touch point between the Developing and High Performance teams and the therapeutic riding community.

“We are honored and humbled to be shortlisted for such a wonderful award. Wheatland Farm’s mission is to provide healing and hope through an excellent, world-class adaptive sport program that is inclusive of all equestrians,” said Muriel Forrest, co-founder of Wheatland Farm. “We are grateful for the support of US Equestrian, who together with the United States Para-Equestrian Association, are providing amazing support for para-equestrian sport, and we are honored to be a Center of Excellence for them in that capacity. We believe that this nomination will help to raise national and global awareness of para-equestrian sport in general and para-dressage, in particular. Thank you to the FEI for considering Wheatland Farm, and we humbly ask our friends in the equestrian community and the general public to lift up para-equestrians by voting for Wheatland Farm.”

Marie Vonderheyden, the only U.S. athlete nominated for this year’s awards, suffered a devastating riding accident in 2015, which led to medical professionals placing her in a medically induced coma for seven weeks. When she awoke, her family was informed that the regulatory part of her brain controlling personality and speech was irreparably damaged and her chances of walking again were slim. She showed tremendous perseverance throughout the recovery process, in which she re-learned how to swallow, the alphabet, colors, emotions, and balance. She reconnected with horses through therapeutic riding rehabilitation and progressed from there, ultimately learning how to ride again without assistance. She competed in her first para-dressage competition in 2019 and has intentions of qualifying for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. Marie’s commitment and determination to return to the saddle is truly inspiring.

“A friend of ours submitted Marie’s story. We’re just amazed and so thrilled. We’re very humbled. We have so much thanks and appreciation for the people supporting and promoting Marie,” said Cecile Vonderheyden, Marie’s mother. “This is going to help us tremendously in our quest for Marie to go further in this sport and to help her accomplish her goal of competing at the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.”

About the FEI Awards
Launched in 2009, the FEI Awards have celebrated the champions of the sport both on and off the field, inspiring individuals and organizations from all over the world. The nominated categories presented at the FEI Awards Gala are the Longines FEI Rising Star, Peden Bloodstock FEI Best Athlete, Cavalor FEI Best Groom, FEI Against All Odds, and the FEI Solidarity award.

More about the FEI Awards here: https://www.fei.org/awards/about.

From the US Equestrian Communications Department

Graves Earns World Cup Silver for Third Time in Gothenburg

Laura Graves and Verdades (Shannon Brinkman Photo)

Gothenburg, Sweden – In the dramatic conclusion of the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final, Laura Graves and her loyal mount Verdades piaffed their way to silver in front of an enthusiastic Swedish crowd of more than 11,500. Showing the strength of the American dressage program, all three U.S. combinations broke the top seven with scores over 80%.

“I was thrilled. [Verdades] was so rideable, and I was just really thrilled with his focus and his energy today,” said Graves. “Like Isabel [Werth] said, the crowd was amazing. They all have this ticker of a live score, and as riders you are going ‘yeah, this feels pretty good.’ You kind of hope that the judges are agreeing with [the crowd]. You hear the crowd clapping along and you think ‘okay, well at least everyone is enjoying it as much as I am,’ and that’s really special.”

With a final score of 87.179%, Graves (Geneva, Fla.) and her and Curt Maes’s 17-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding gave now three-time World Cup champion Isabel Werth (Germany) and Weihegold OLD a run for their money. With 10 combinations scoring over 80%, it was a tight race to the finish and Graves rode 14th in the order.

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