A Quick Conversation: Nayel Nassar

Each month, the BarnManager team is sitting down with accomplished riders from across equestrian disciplines to learn more about how they got their start, their typical days, their biggest advice, and more! We’re asking the same five questions and sharing their answers with you!

To say Egyptian show jumper Nayel Nassar has had some good results this past month is putting it pretty mildly.

On March 17, the 28-year-old rider and his longtime partner, Lordan, finished second behind two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist  Beezie Madden in the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS Coachella in Thermal, CA.

Then, only a week later, Nayel and Lucifer V won the Great American $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS Ocala in Ocala, FL, making him only the second rider to win the $1 Million classes offered at all three HITS show venues, including HITS Coachella, HITS Ocala, and HITS Saugerties in New York! (Beezie’s win at Coachella the week before made her the first rider to win all three!)

As though two top finishes in $1 million grand prix classes weren’t enough, Nayel and Lucifer V then followed them up with a win in the $134,000 CSI 5* WEF Challenge Cup at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL – only days after winning the Great American $1 Million Grand Prix!

Our BarnManager team caught up with him following his WEF win for a quick conversation!

Q: What was the first horse or pony that got you started?

I had a mare called Romantica. She was a five-year-old chestnut mare from Hungary, I believe. She had a lot of blood and was kind of crazy, but she taught me the hard part of the sport and that’s managing difficult horses. It was definitely an interesting introduction! I was probably 10 or 11 [years old].

Q: What’s your favorite riding moment or memory?

All of the [HITS] Millions are very special. Each one was different in its own way.

I had a really good show at the L.A. Masters a few years ago with Lordan, where he won the speed and was second in the grand prix. I’ve had a few memorable moments, but those are probably the ones that stand out.

Q: What’s your number one goal right now?

We have a big year in terms of Olympic qualification. We have a Nations Cup at the end of the year for the Olympic bid for the Arab countries, so I’m trying to be informed for that and have one or two horses at least ready for that.

My goal was to qualify for [the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Finals]; I qualified, but I decided not to go. My horses are a little older, so I decided to save them a little bit for the [Longines Global Champions Tour] and for these big grand prix classes and try to keep them a little fresher for that. That was a hard choice to make, but I think that was the right one. I’m really just trying to keep them happy and healthy so that at the end of the year, when we have that Olympic qualifier, we can put in a good effort.

Q: On a typical day at home, what’s your schedule?

I’m up usually between 7 and 7:30 a.m. I might try to be on my first horse between 8 and 8:30 a.m. I flat or jump depending on what the horses need. I’m basically at the barn all day and doing whatever needs to get done in the afternoon, whether it’s a lighter trail ride or helping around the barn or whatever. Once the weekend comes around, we’re usually at a show, so it’s usually just trying to enjoy the down time when we’re at home and letting the horses be free in the paddocks a little bit.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you would give to young, up-and-coming riders?

Go out and look for as many opportunities as you can, and just try to be as involved as possible even if it’s at the lowest level. I think just putting yourself out there; that’s the most important thing. As a professional myself, I’m very encouraged when I see somebody who has the right drive and who wants to make it and be something in the sport. I’ll always try to help them out whenever I can. I think there are a lot of trainers who are like that.

If you put yourself out there and you’re not afraid of rejection and you keep trying to find a place for yourself, somebody is going to give you a shot. Then it’s just a matter of working hard and trying to make it to the goals that you have set for yourself.

Bonus Question!: What’s one thing that’s always in your ring bag or that you don’t go to the ring without?

This is new, but it’s a tie clip that [girlfriend Jennifer Gates] got me at the beginning of circuit because she got irritated with my tie always flying around! I tried to safety pin it in, but then it looked so bad, so she got me a tie clip, and now I take it everywhere!

Photos by Jump Media

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

A Quick Conversation: Adrienne Sternlicht

Each month, the BarnManager team is sitting down with accomplished riders from across equestrian disciplines to learn more about how they got their start, their typical days, their biggest advice, and more! We’re asking the same five questions and sharing their answers with you!

Adrienne Sternlicht made headlines in September 2018 as part of the USA’s gold medal-winning show jumping team at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon (WEG), but the 25-year-old was a powerhouse rider to watch well before that! The Brown University grad made her U.S. show jumping Nations Cup debut in May 2017, and since then she’s been a member of numerous Nations Cup teams and accumulated a number of top individual finishes while training with McLain Ward. Just this month, Sternlicht was part of the gold medal-winning U.S. team at the FEI Jumping Nations Cup Wellington CSIO4*.

An added bonus about Sternlicht? She is also part of our Equine Tech Collab‘s Masterclass Innovation Series: A Mindful Approach to Horse and Rider on March 19! She’ll be sharing insight into what the mental side of equestrian sport looks like for her and how she has learned to build confidence, handle stress, and manage the various emotions that come with competing at the highest levels of equestrian sport! Get all the details here!

Q: What was the first horse or pony that got you started?

The first pony that got me started was named Parker. I leased him, and actually, within six weeks of leasing him, I broke my shoulder! So my mom tried to ride him. She’d never ridden before; no one was in horses in my family. It didn’t go so great. She had one lesson on the lunge line, and then was not interested in riding him anymore! I got him when I was eight, I believe. He was a super sweet pony and kind of taught me the ropes.

Q: What’s your favorite riding moment or memory?

Probably my favorite memory personally was the Sunday of WEG for the individual final. I was the most relaxed that I think I’ve ever been to jump. It just was such a surreal experience being able to share that moment with my horse.

Q: What’s your number one goal right now?

Tokyo! All eyes on Tokyo [for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics]!

Q: On a typical day at home, what’s your schedule?

A typical day when I’m not competing: I typically start around 8 a.m. Sometimes I work out before. It depends on my motivation level that day! Normally, whatever horses are showing that week, I’ll jump them at McLain [Ward]’s farm. So I’ll trailer over there. We don’t really do anything but gymnastics. That’s a huge part of our program. Then I’ll flat the other horses. I have two homebred hunters that I’ve been showing as well. So, I’ll go over to Linda Langmeier’s farm when I’m done riding my horses, which normally happens early to mid-afternoon, and I’ll go ride my hunters. Then I’ll hopefully get a workout in after. I either like to do a barre or pilates class, and I run a lot.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you would give to young, up-and-coming riders?

Be patient. And listen to your trainer.

Bonus Question!: What’s always in your tack trunk or ring bag?

I have a wide array of spurs. I have a tack hook that has at least eight to 10 pairs of spurs on it so that I’m always prepared. I’m quite particular about what spurs I use on what horse. In my ring bag, I have the little individually wrapped Neutrogena wipes because I tend to get quite dirty during the day, and those are awesome. I also have my Equestrian Wellness hand sanitizer; I love that stuff. And sunscreen!

Photos by Jump Media

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

A Quick Conversation: Hannah Selleck

Each month, the BarnManager team is sitting down with accomplished riders from across equestrian disciplines to learn more about how they got their start, their typical days, their biggest advice, and more! We’re asking the same five questions and sharing their answers with you!

Hannah Selleck, 30, has made a name for herself as a successful jumper rider – most recently with her mare, Barla – but the Los Angeles, CA, native’s equestrian endeavors aren’t limited to the grand prix ring. In 2010, Selleck founded Descanso Farm, a boutique breeding operation dedicated to producing high-quality sport horses within the U.S. Now, nearly eight years later, the young horses of Descanso Farm are seeing great success in both the jumper and hunter rings – as is Selleck.

BarnManager caught up with Selleck amidst her busy winter competing at HITS Coachella in California where she is showing Barla and bringing along the hopeful future stars of the sport!

Q: What was the first horse or pony that got you started?

We lived on a ranch, so I was always surrounded by different animals: cats, dogs, sheep, rabbits, cows, and horses. My dad had Western horses that he had from filming some of his Western films. He enjoyed trail riding, and I started riding when I was four. My first pony was a small black Shetland pony named Sheba.

Q: What’s your favorite riding moment or memory?

Hannah Selleck (center) double gold at 2008 NAJYRC

I have a few. I would say winning both individual and team gold medals at the 2008 North American Junior and Young Rider Championships and winning the USEF Talent Search Finals that same year.

Then, more recently, seeing our Descanso Farm bred horses winning in the show ring. It’s such a great feeling as we’re now beginning to see the goal through. For a while, when they’re very young and in the field, it doesn’t feel like as much of a tangible thing if you’ve never done it before. Now, we’re seeing it working and we’re seeing them really develop into great horses, and it’s very rewarding.

Q: What’s your number one goal right now?

Getting back in show ring after breaking my leg last summer. I showed for the first time midway through Thermal, and my goal is to be back in the FEI classes by the end of March.

Q: On a typical day at home, what’s your schedule?

The last six months or so my schedule has been a bit different than usual. I would typically start riding every morning at farm by 8 a.m. We normally take Sundays or Mondays off. Right now, I am still making physical therapy a priority a couple times a week, so those days I start early with my physical therapist, then workout with my trainer, then head to the farm and ride the remainder of the day. On the days I don’t have PT or my personal trainer I still like to get a workout in after I ride doing spin, tennis, or swimming.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you would give to young, up-and-coming riders?

Immerse yourself in the sport and in learning more about the horses – not just the riding. Spend time taking care of them and getting to know them. It’s so important and can go a long way in your success.

Photo Credits: Top Image – Ashley Neuhof Photography. Bottom Image – PhelpsSports.com

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

Tips and Tricks from the Best Show Jumping Grooms to the Greats

The warm-up ring of the International Arena at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) is an incredible place to learn. Pull up a chair during a FEI class, and suddenly you have a front row seat to watch many of the top riders in the world at work behind-the-scenes.

Not only is the schooling ring a place to take in valuable riding lessons gleaned from the warm-up rides of the sport’s best showjumpers, it’s also where you can find and learn from many of show jumping’s top grooms, always on hand and attentive to their horses’ needs. So that’s just what we did. Our BarnManager team caught up with grooms from around the world to learn their tips and tricks, and now we’re bringing you insight from four of them!

Meet This Week’s All-Star Grooms


Denise Moriarty
– Originally from Ireland, for the last six years Denise Moriarty has groomed for U.S. Olympian Kent Farrington.

 


Tia Stenman
– For the last three and a half years, Finland native Tia Stenman has groomed for Torrey Pines Stable where she currently cares for the horses of the USA’s Spencer Smith.

 


Ninna Leonoff
– Ninna Leonoff has been a vital part of Markus Beerbaum’s team for more than 20 years after first moving from Finland to Germany to groom for the World Equestrian Games (WEG) gold medalist in the 90s.

 


Josie Eliasson
– A Gothenburg, Sweden native, Josie Eliasson has spent the last three and a half years grooming for the USA’s Jessica Springsteen at Springsteen’s Stone Hill Farm.

 

Q: What’s one thing that you don’t go to the ring without?

Denise: “A towel. You clean your horse; clean your rider. It’s the most useful piece of equipment.”

Tia: “A towel. Often it comes to the rescue for a lot of things.”

Ninna: “A towel.” (We’re sensing a theme!)

Josie: “A towel. It’s so handy for everything – for your rider, for the horse, for everything. It’s just very handy and such a simple thing.” (Okay, it’s unanimous!)

Q: What’s your favorite or the most rewarding part of the job?

Denise (pictured left): Seeing the horses do well in the ring.

Tia: I love my horses; they’re my hairy children. I love the travel. There’s nothing better than when you get to know the horse, and you kind of can read their mind. I couldn’t do it like in a factory way. For me, it’s really important that I know my horses and that I get to be with them as much as I can, because this is the only way I can be the best possible groom.

For sure the most rewarding is when your horses jump great; they perform great, and you see they’re happy. They’re not really made to do this, what we make them do, so when I can see that they actually like what they do – like this guy here [Theodore Manciais], when he jumps around with his ears up, and he’s excited and he feels good and he’s enjoying it – I love that. If I can keep them happy during all of these travels and crazy things that they go through that’s really important for me, and that’s satisfying.

Ninna: When the horses are feeling good; when they are looking good. That’s most important for me. I think these days, to keep them feeling good soundness wise is important and rewarding. I really like to get to know my horses. I like to spend time with them so I know how they feel. Even brushing I can feel if they have sore backs or they’re tired or fresh.

Josie: Just to be with the horses. To be able to travel the world and work with them on a daily basis is just a dream.

Q: What items do you use most often in the barn?

Denise: A broom. Our whiteboard is our go to for any changes that come. Brushes, and the washing machine!

Tia: A broom. I use a lot of lunge line because I’m not big; I’m not strong. I’d rather have a little bit more time to react if my horses are being silly; I don’t like to take stupid risks. A hoof pick. I always have that in my pocket, even when I go to my car. Show Sheen is great because I hate to pull through a tail, even if it’s clean.

Ninna: A pitchfork! The curry comb. That one I use a lot; I like it a lot. Saddle soap. Probably a broom.

Josie: The different brushes, the curry comb for example, I use a lot. Nothing compares to a really good brush of the horse. Cookies! We use a lot of cookies; our different horses like different kinds of cookies.

Q: What is one time saving and/or grooming tip that you would give?

Denise: Just being organized and having your day planned. Being organized is going to make it run a lot smoother and be a lot less stressful. I make surethat my boots are laid out, that my ring bag is packed for that horse, and that I know what bit or bridle or chain and everything that [Kent] wants on the horse so that I’m not last minute panicked trying to figure that stuff out.

Tia: Maybe it’s not time saving for everyone, but I always towel dry my whole horse. After I give them a bath, I do a quick towel dry of the whole body because then they dry faster. If I leave the upper body wet, and I only dry the legs, the water from the top goes back to the legs, so I do a quick towel dry because I don’t like them to be standing wet for hours.

Ninna (pictured right): What I normally do – let’s say now I go back from the ring. I take his tack off and put him back in his stall so he can pee and drink. In the meantime, I normally always clean the tack. Then I go wash him. That way everything stays nice and tidy. I don’t like anything that is on the floor or looks dirty. I like to keep things clean. I always try to stay organized right away so that everything looks nice.

Josie: It’s really good to have the horses used to getting this care. For example, after jumping, we wash them, and we put them in ice and put on the magnetic blanket. Then, if they’re good and used to it, they can stay for a little bit, tied up or not tied up, while you have time to clean tack or do other small things. That really saves time too. Instead of just sitting there watching and waiting, you can get things done.

But also, when they’ve been really good jumping for you, I often also do just want to give them the time to take care of them! I just love to curry them. It does so many good things. It helps them with the blood circulation and everything; it’s a kind of massage. Obviously, it gets them clean, and you spend time with your horse at the same time.

Photos by Jump Media

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

Tips and Tricks from the Best Hunter Barn Managers in the Business! – Part Two

Our BarnManager team recently caught up with some of the best hunter barn managers in the business to learn their tips and tricks, and now we’re back with more insight from two women working hard in the saddle and behind the scenes to help their hunter operations run smoothly!

Meet This Week’s Managers

 

Karli Postel – Karli Postel rides and assistant trains for Archie Cox at Brookway Stables in California.

 
 

 

Cara Meade – Cara Meade manages for John and Stephanie Ingram, LLC, based out of Tennessee.

 

Q: What is one thing that you or your horses never go to the ring without?

Karli: The grooms never come without a backpack, and in the backpack there are back boots, hoof oil, brushes, hoof pick, and rags; they always have a whip in the backpack. They always have a little bit of boot polish in the backpack. Show Sheen, rubbing alcohol, and fly spray. The backpacks are heavy!

Cara: A towel. There are so many uses for a towel at the ring. Horses always need to be dusted off—legs, belly, sweat marks, green mouth, tack—and your rider’s boots can always have one last wipe-down. It can also be used on the jump or ground as a way to prep a spooky horse.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge of the job?

Karli: Orchestrating timing is probably the hardest, just because of the nature of our industry. Nothing generally runs specific to the laid-out time schedule, so you have to make your schedule but then be flexible within it. You have be able to recognize “Okay well this ring is running a little bit faster, and this ring is running a little bit slower,” so it’s going to work out a little differently than I had accounted for originally. I think if you’re not good at time management and you can’t be flexible within a schedule that you make, you’re going to have a hard time because you might get flustered.

Cara: Communication! Whether it’s with someone who speaks a different language or just simply how someone else translates the task, idea, or information you are trying to explain. Clear and consistent communication between all parties is always a good challenge.

Q: What’s your biggest time-saving trick in the barn?

Karli: Using your resources and using your network. I see it all the time where people are at one ring and they’re like, “Well I need to check on the other ring, so I need to walkover there.” You have the resource of the gate guy. Go and ask him to radio over. He won’t mind as long as you aren’t rude and you wait until he has a convenient moment to do it; you’re saving yourself the trip. When we go to HITS Thermal where there are seven hunter rings, four jumper rings, and the barn is way far away, those 10 minutes that it takes you to walk from one ring to another are valuable. So I say definitely you need to use your resources. Sometimes getting the gate guy’s phone number is helpful. If you’re in the warm-up ring and can’t hear the count, it’s nice to be able to reach out to them personally.

I also like to keep my schedule on my phone so that I always have it on me, and I try to make sure that everyone has a schedule. Archie [Cox], myself, and then our head guy Carlos, just so that all three of us have an idea of what’s happening.

Cara: My time-saving trick is organization. I’m not naturally the most organized person, so the more organized I can be with all of the supplies I use each day, my thoughts, and the order of how tasks get done makes a big difference in how long the days take to get finished.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

Karli: It’s so fun when you get to the weekend, and the clients come. You had your whole week and feel like you’ve done all the prep.When they go in and they have success, and they come out and they’re happy, that’s the most rewarding for me. Especially when it’s kid; I love the amateurs, but with the kids it’s really rewarding because you can really see it on their face when they’re so excited about winning. Even if they just went in and had a really good round, when they ride well it’s exciting!

Cara: The most rewarding part is seeing the horses perform well. There is SO much effort and detail that goes into getting each horse prepared exactly right to go to the ring. To see all of that effort pay off for horse and rider is definitely the most rewarding part.

Q: What’s your best grooming tip? And what five things do you use most in the barn?

Cara: My best grooming tip is to be organized as best you can. The more readily you can have all your grooming necessities and tack available the easier it will be to work quickly and efficiently.

I definitely use the dry-erase board; I wouldn’t make it through the day without it. A towel and some Pledge; there is never something that doesn’t need dusting. Scissors or a pocket knife, sunscreen, and tack soap.

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

Managing for McLain Ward: An Interview with Erica McKeever

On September 21, spectators and show jumping fans from around the globe watched as McLain Ward and Clinta delivered an incredible jump-off performance to anchor the U.S. team and clinch the USA’s first World Equestrian Games (WEG) team gold medal.

What most spectators did not see however, was Lee McKeever outside of the ring, overseeing every last detail of Clinta’s care or McKeever’s wife, Erica McKeever, coordinating all of the logistics involved with Ward and Clinta’s WEG appearance and managing the 30 additional horses back home at Castle Hill Farm in Brewster, NY.

Behind every great rider is an equally great barn and horse management team, and while they might not be the ones atop the podium, for the last 30 years, Erica and Lee McKeever have been an essential part of that team at Castle Hill.

With more than three decades spent overseeing horses at one of the top show jumping barns in the country, there are few with more ongoing, high-level barn management experience than the McKeevers, so we asked Erica to share more about her own management career!

Q: How did you get started at Castle Hill?

When I came to the U.S., I was working for Tim Grubb in New Jersey, and Brigette that was working for Tim’s barn brought me to Castle Hill during the horse show at Old Salem.

I first met Barney Ward that night. It just seemed like a really fun place. Everyone was hanging out together, and he called everybody his family several times while we were there. I felt like, “Whoa what a really neat place that is to work.”

Then I guess he must have called Brigette shortly after and said that he was looking for someone who could manage the show horses and go on the road with him. She asked me if I thought it was something that I was interested in doing. I said, “Oh I don’t think I could.” I had experience but not being in sole control of the horses. She said, “Well I think you could do it.” I did a trial, and we kind of hit it off right from the go. He was awesome. He taught me so much about horses and horsemanship. It was really special. I figured it out, and I never looked back.

I went on the road with him for a lot of years. McLain and Lee kind of went their way, and we went our way. I pretty much ran the show side of this barn. He had his managers at home, and that’s kind of how it started.

Q: You had your son, Bradlee, in 2002, and your daughter, Baylee, in 2004. How did your role at Castle Hill change after having kids?

I took care of Sapphire when we first got her. I’d just had Bradlee, so I tried to go on the road and still be a mom, and it actually was about virtually impossible. We had a fabulous babysitter who was with us from when Bradlee was six months old, so I tried to still go on the road and keep the same role, but it was really hard. I couldn’t do it.

Then I started to stay at home and run that side of it. Instead of having a bookkeeper or a secretary, I did it myself. I still tried to occasionally go with Sapphire. I still traveled to Florida, and I still tried to do the barn as well because that’s really important to me. That’s what I love to do. Then I had my second child, and it became very difficult to do it all. So, I stayed home, and I run things at home. It’s great because now there are so many horse shows, you constantly have horses getting ready for the next event, which makes it really exciting at home too.

Q: What’s a typical day like at home now?

I like to be home until my kids leave for school on the bus, and then I go to the barn. I usually do a couple of hours in the office. We do a plan for the day of what horses are going to be doing–who’s riding which horse, who needs clipping, who needs the vet. We plan all that early in the morning.

The key to this is to surround yourself with great people, and then it’s easy. If you have good people in the barn that you trust and are good at what they do, it makes our jobs really easy too. You have to find good people that really want to do this and love the animals.

Q: What do you think it takes to be a good barn manager?

I think you have to be responsible. You can’t leave it for someone else to do. You have to do it. I think managing is the perfect word – you have to pretty much manage everything from the help to the horses to the farrier. It’s a huge role, and it’s a huge responsibility. I love it because I like to be in control a little bit.

Organization is important. We have a plan in place because McLain’s a huge planner. The horses are planned where they’re going now through week 12 of Florida.

Again, I think the most important thing is that you have good people around you that care as much as we do, and they do this not for a job but because it’s what they love. We try to encourage the people to be a huge part of each and every horse. They all ride; they all take care of them. When McLain wins, we all win. Everybody contributes to that.

Q: What are the challenges of the job?

It can be a little stressful; sometimes it’s a little overwhelming because there’s always something going on,

Now my daughter shows. She does the ponies. That’s become stressful in itself! I feel like I’m managing a whole other operation; I don’t know what’s going to happen when she’s doing the equitation! I just spent some time at the [ASPCA Maclay] Regionals last week, and that looks more stressful than ever. We just did the world championships, and that didn’t seem as stressful as some of those kids!

Q: What’s your favorite thing about working for Castle Hill?

The family aspect. To be appreciated by McLain as much as he does. It’s so special the way he involves our children in the whole thing – his father was the same. It was always about family. McLain’s really, really kept up with that. I would think he would make his dad very proud with how he is. I think giving the appreciation to the people around him, that’s huge for everybody. Not just for me, but for my husband, and Virginie [Casterman] who took care of Clinta at WEG. That’s so important to be appreciated.

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

Tips and Tricks from the Best Hunter Barn Managers in the Business! – Part One

The Capital Challenge Horse Show attracts the best hunter horses and riders in the country – and in turn, the best hunter barn managers! While at the show, we caught up with several of them to learn their tips and tricks and the challenges and rewards of their jobs. Now, we’re sharing their feedback in a two-part series of blog posts!

Meet This Week’s Managers

 

Kassie Gustafson – Kassie Gustafson manages for Hunt Tosh Inc., based out of Alpharetta, GA.

 
 

 

Molly Sewell Schott – Molly Sewell Schott is a rider and assistant trainer at Over the Hill Farm in Sanford, FL, where she has worked with Bill Schaub for the last 17 years.

 

 

Kate Wood – Kate Wood has managed for Liza Boyd at Finally Farm in Camden, SC, for almost two years.

 

Q: What’s the biggest challenge of the job?

Kassie: At a show, I’d say just communicating. Making sure that all of the pieces are working together – whether you’re getting horses to the ring or you’re in a situation where you have a lot of clients. It really just depends on that – getting your whole team to work together. If you’re at home, not at a horse show situation, I would actually say pretty much the same thing: just making sure that everyone is communicating. There are a lot of moving pieces that make a barn run efficiently. Being able to manage all of that is probably the trickiest part.

Molly: For me, I think my challenge is juggling multiple roles. I ride and also manage the grooms and the horses. That’s the hardest thing. I’d also say, making sure that communication is good between all of us.

Kate: Keeping all of the pieces moving; making sure that if there are lessons for the day that need to get done, that they’re getting lined up in between showing – just trying to make sure that the day runs as efficiently as possible. It’s really hard to do, because you’ve got horses showing in the ring, and you’re trying to get other lessons put together. The time management is really the big thing.

Q: What’s your biggest time-saving trick in the barn?

Kassie: I’m a huge multi-tasker. At the end of the day when you have a tack hook full of bridles, tack cleaning takes up a lot of time. So, any little stuff you can do throughout the day – like tack cleaning, those little types of things – they really help.

If people ask me, “What can I do to help you?” I hand them a pile of polo wraps to roll. Hunt’s daughter, [Maddie Tosh] is great. She always helps us in the barn. I call her my little secretary because she is just fabulous. You don’t realize how much it helps you when someone can do those kinds of little things for you. It allows you to have that time to do something else that you need to. Keeping up with the little things like cleaning tack and rolling polos throughout the day makes a difference.

Molly: I like to make sure that everything is organized when I close up shop every day. It saves time in the morning. I would rather stay at the barn later and then have everything smooth and efficient in the mornings, as far as tack being perfectly organized and that sort of stuff.
I like everything to be done the night before because you have very limited hours in the morning. When I get to the barn, I want to be able to pull every piece of tack out of the trunk and have it exactly where it needs to be before everyone starts riding. I even pack the trunk at night based on what we’re doing first, so I’ll put the schooling bridles on the top so that we can just get them out and get the horses out the door and to the ring. That’s probably my biggest time-saving thing as far as being organized.

Kate: Just really overcommunicating – even if you repeat yourself five times. Making sure that everyone knows the game plan; writing everything down. Liza and I don’t leave the barn before we go over the board together and make sure that Jack [Towell] is clued in on what the morning is bringing. We just like to have a good game plan before we leave that day.

Q: What item or items do you use most in the barn?

Kassie: Anything I post for them I always hashtag #ShapleysSavesLives because it does. We’re a huge fan of Shapley’s products. Whether it’s the High Gloss, the Spray Paint, whatever – we’re huge fans. We use a lot of MagnaPaste for hoof packing.

Molly: Venice turpentine – at least that’s what I’m always buying! It’s for their feet; we’re always making sure their feet are comfortable because that’s the most important part. If you don’t have any feet, you don’t have any horse.

Kate: We love our Seashore Acres products. We use a ton of that stuff for scratches and for fly spray. I also have to say our rubber jump poles. They’re safer than regular jump poles; if you want your horse to land a little further out off a jump, you can place them on the ground. If they land on those, it’s a lot safer than if they were to land on a wooden pole. And again, our radios. Our radios are very important to us.

Q: What is one thing that you or your horses never go to the ring without?

Kassie: I never go anywhere without my backpack. I always say that it’s full of my magic tricks. I always have a hoof pick and a tail brush. We take all of our horses up with a chain lead shank. It makes it easier to hold them while they’re getting ready. I’m a really big fan of the baby oil that’s a gel; it’s super easy to carry in a backpack. You don’t have to worry about it spilling or anything like that. Baby powder of course, hoof oil, all the basic stuff. I have a kit of makeup that I take with me, in case we need it for any touch-ups. You never know what’s going to happen!

Molly: Our horses and ponies are very spoiled; they definitely never go to the ring without peppermints! Then our grooms all have their essentials like hoof picks, fly spray, and towels in the backpack that goes to the ring with each horse.

Kate: My radio. That’s how we survive. And normally my hat and my boots just in case!

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

Kassie: Any time that a horse goes well – especially if it’s one that I had to get ready in the morning. With Hunt’s farm, I love seeing Maddy do well because they’re such a close family, and they’re all so dedicated. They put so much into it. The whole family gives 150 percent every single day. That’s wonderful to be a part of.

Molly: I think the most rewarding part of my job is of course going in and showing – that’s my favorite thing and my passion. But it’s also so rewarding when the ponies and horses go to the ring and they’re prepared beautifully – when they’re perfectly tuned and schooled and yet they’re also gorgeous to look at. It’s very satisfying to see them all braided up; they go to the ring and do their job and then they’re champion our reserve.

Kate: I really love when the horses go in and do their job and everyone is happy. I like it when the horses are happy most of all. That’s the most fun for me, preparing the horses and then watching them go in the ring.

Q: What’s your best grooming tip?

Kassie: Fly spray. I use the wipe and spray. It is phenomenal. If you put it on their hooves instead of hoof oil, the footing doesn’t stick to it. I’m a huge fan of that. You can fix anything with some fly spray – brush it into their coat, wipe off the dust – fly spray is my go-to trick for sure!

Molly: I would say our biggest, best grooming tip would be for the wintertime when we do body clipping. We always clip our horses if they start getting the slightest bit of hair on them because we find that if you clip them when their hair is shorter, they keep their color longer. If you let the hair grow out long, they lose all their color.

Kate: I think just being aware of the details, not just with the horse being turned out well, but making sure that they don’t have fungus; making sure that their coats look good, they don’t have hives or bumps. It pays off to just pay close attention and know your horses.

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

A Quick Conversation: Laura Graves

Each month, the BarnManager team is sitting down with accomplished riders from across equestrian disciplines to learn more about how they got their start, their typical days, their biggest advice, and more! We’re asking the same five questions and sharing their answers with you!

Dressage rider Laura Graves is fresh off an incredible individual silver medal win at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Tryon (which she adds to her 2016 Rio Olympic team bronze medal), and we had the privilege of catching up with her before WEG at the BarnManager-sponsored “Dressage for Jumping” clinic! (Read more about that here.) She took the time to talk to us about everything from her 4-H beginnings to the hardest part of making your career out of riding.

Graves and Verdades

Q: What was the first horse or pony that got you started?
There were actually two of them. My parents ended up trading our old, used washer and dryer for these two ponies. One of them was jet black, really handsome, and some sort of cob mix. His name was Rafter. Then we had a little Appaloosa whose name was Spanky.

It started out with just those two, but then you know, you have a barn, and you have property – I don’t think my dad really understood that then my mom would just start collecting horses! Anything free or if it didn’t have a home or if it had some sort of tough situation needing rehabbing – there were a lot of horses that had mental issues. They were either really nervous or they wouldn’t get on trailers or for some reason or another people didn’t want them. So, we ended up with all of these free horses.

I have two sisters, and we were all members of our local 4-H club and my mom ended up being one of the leaders. I just wanted to be a part of the presenting of the horses. I didn’t even want to ride. I just liked to groom them and present them. They judge you on how clean your tack is and your own turnout. Then it wasn’t until years and years later that I decided that I really wanted to ride.

The other 4-H leader would give me some lessons. It didn’t really turn into dressage until that 4-H leader said, “You know, if she really wants to ride, she needs to get some real lessons,” and sent us on to a woman who also taught lower level eventing but focused mostly on dressage.

Q: You’ve had a lot of incredible success, but what’s your favorite riding moment or memory?
I have probably two stand-out moments. One was the [FEI World Cup Dressage Final] in Omaha. We had tweaked my final centerline for my freestyle a little bit. I remember the crowd cheering so loud that I couldn’t even hear when my music was supposed to stop. That was pretty amazing.

But probably the biggest stand-out moment for me was in Rio. I had just finished my Grand Prix Special, and we were discussing how not many people came to watch the dressage. With jumping at the end you know how many rails you had down; you know how fast you went. You can look up at the clock. But in dressage, you don’t know for a minute. You kind of count on, “Well that felt pretty good,” and then if the crowd is loud, you go, “Okay, that must have been really good.”

In Rio, I was thinking, “We just delivered the ride of our lives!” and it was like crickets. I heard maybe four people clapping. I was so confused. But I said, “Good boy. I think you were pretty good.’”And then when we turned around to leave the stadium, my three teammates came rushing down because they could see the score, and they knew that we had just won the bronze medal! That moment was amazing.

Q: What’s your number one goal right now?
The World Equestrian Games.

Graves and her WEG mount, Verdades

Q: On a typical day at home, what’s your schedule?
I’m not a morning person. If I don’t have any wrenches thrown in, which is unusual, I get up around 7 a.m. I try to get the dogs out of bed – that’s usually the hardest part of my morning. They like to sleep in also.

I’m always at the barn and on a horse by 8 a.m. Then I schedule my day so that the girls and I are getting barn chores done and horses turned out, and we just go through the riding schedule. Maybe I ride five or six in the morning, and then after lunch, it’s just teaching. I have three clients that have horses in the barn or trailer in. Then the horses are all done by 4 p.m. The barn is totally closed up, tucked in, lights off by 5 p.m.

I just think the quiet time is so important for them. And if I can keep the part of their day where they’re being bothered shorter, I think all together they’re much happier. It’s something that I’m pretty strict about.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you would give to young, up-and-coming riders?
We fall in love with this sport for the horses, but when you decide to turn it into a serious career, you have to be really prepared to fail. I say nobody else cares that you take down a rail. Nobody else cares that you missed a flying change. And that sounds a little bit mean, but it really can be very isolating.

Even the people around you, your parents or your spouse, they’ll say, “Oh I’m so sorry that you missed the flying change.” But nobody gets it the way that you do, and you have to be prepared to deal with that totally by yourself. I think that’s the hardest part of what we do.

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

Leveling the Playing Field: The USET Foundation

In my work with BarnManager, I have the privilege of experiencing a number of opportunities that I most likely wouldn’t otherwise have. This includes sitting down with Laura Graves during the Washington International Horse Show Barn Night clinic and getting more involved with the United States Equestrian Team  Foundation. Both of which have led me to write this blog post.

The first of these great experiences has been the opportunity to begin volunteering my time with the USET Foundation. They were looking for young voices to come in and help them communicate their mission to a younger audience and to help them launch a grassroots fundraising campaign to complement their existing fundraising efforts. I am one of many who are volunteering their time and experience, and I am so grateful to work with and learn from all of the people that this opportunity has afforded me.

I, like many young professionals, am very busy and constantly juggling a million responsibilities and requests. So I don’t give my time to people or organizations that I don’t believe in. I love horses. Every time I ask myself why I am driving hours to the middle of nowhere to compete or getting up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday, I spend five minutes with my horse, and all of my doubts disappear.

You are here, so it is safe to assume that you understand this type of irrational and sometimes frustrating love that we never outgrow. Part of this love is an awe and admiration for those who compete at the highest levels of the sport. They often appear super-human, completing extraordinary efforts time after time. We become devoted fans and cheer for their successes and mourn their failures. But the story that isn’t told often enough is the role of the USET Foundation in their successes, in our successes.

So first things first, the USET Foundation is NOT the same as the U.S. Equestrian Federation. The USEF is the governing body for equestrian sports. The USET Foundation is a non-profit organization with the mission of supporting the competition, training, coaching, travel, and educational needs of America’s elite and developing International High-Performance horses and athletes in partnership with the United States Equestrian Federation.

To me, that is a long-winded way of saying that the USET Foundation levels the playing field at the highest levels of equestrian sport. And I never really understood this until sitting down with the hard-working team at the USET Foundation and talking directly to Laura Graves, one of the many athletes whose successes at the international level would not have been possible without the Foundation’s support.

A flight to the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Normandy, France, for Laura Graves’ Verdades would have cost Graves roughly $20,000 – the approximate going rate for a trans-Atlantic horse flight.

However, Graves—like I venture to say the vast majority of us—didn’t necessarily have an extra $20,000 readily available to ship Verdades overseas to compete in Europe that summer. But that didn’t stop her from competing at the 2014 WEG and bursting onto the international dressage scene in a big way after finishing fifth in the Grand Prix Special, fifth in the freestyle, and fifth with the U.S. team in Normandy.

From that point on, Graves and Verdades together have become a much-loved face for dressage in the U.S. and for the bond between a horse and a rider. They’ve been a vital part of U.S. dressage teams, including the bronze medal-winning team at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, and they will represent the U.S. again at this month’s 2018 WEG in Tryon, NC.

But what if Graves had never been able to pay to get Verdades on that flight to their first WEG – or to any of the major competitions since then for that matter? And how do she and so many other riders like those representing the USA at WEG come up with that sort of money on a regular basis?

 

The answer is the USET Foundation – the secret to leveling the playing field in team equestrian competition in the United States.  

Now don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that equestrian sports, much less at the elite levels of international competition, are easily accessible to everyone regardless of their backgrounds or access to means. But if you can navigate the challenges and obstacles of getting to the top levels of the sport, shouldn’t talent, ability, and preparedness be the only determinants of your ability to represent your country?

That would not be the case without the work of the USET Foundation. However, what is not widely discussed is what that really means. It means that the USET Foundation is ultimately making it possible for the team selections to be fair and not impacted by a rider’s financial circumstances. There are many intricacies in USEF team selection that I may not understand or be privy to and many that are imperfect, but it is because of the USET Foundation that selection can be based solely on the horse and rider’s ability and fit for the team at the time.

Once a horse and rider have demonstrated the ability and qualifications to be selected for a team, they are able to be a part of that team no matter whether or not they can afford it, thanks to the USET Foundation.

“For me, that support is the only way that the dream works,” said Graves. “People tend to think maybe at this point in my career I’ve just made it and now it’s different. This is an incredibly expensive sport. When it comes to supporting the travel and the competition of these horses, it’s a whole other ball game. There are times still where I think ‘How am I going to pay that bill?’ I am someone who could not have achieved what I’ve achieved without the financial support of the USET.”

And it’s not just dressage riders like Graves or riders in the Olympic disciplines of dressage, show jumping, and eventing that the USET Foundation is supporting – it’s all eight of the high-performance equestrian disciplines that will be represented at the upcoming WEG: dressage, eventing, jumping, driving, endurance, reining, para-equestrian, and vaulting.

“It’s impossible to overstate the importance of the support from the USET Foundation in the success and growth of reining on the international stage,” said Jeff Petska, the Chef d’Equipe for the U.S. reining team at the 2018 WEG. “The opportunity it affords athletes to compete on the international level and represent their country is remarkable and has had a great impact upon each athlete’s career.”

The WEG is the only event of its caliber in which all eight of the disciplines are showcased. That means eight times the U.S. teams and eight times the expense. But thanks to the generous support of donors, the USET Foundation is making the 2018 WEG dream a reality for the approximately 50 U.S. riders traveling to compete in Tryon.

“The United States is shipping and caring for 50-plus horses and a delegation of approximately 125 [people] for the WEG,” explained Bonnie Jenkins, Executive Director of the USET Foundation. “This includes providing travel and accommodations for athletes, coaches, team leaders, grooms, veterinarians, farriers, physiotherapists (horse and human), team doctor, chefs d’equipe and a chef d’mission.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have wonderful friends and supporters of the USET Foundation that help make all this possible and ensure our athletes and teams have the financial resources necessary to achieve competitive excellence, not only in the WEG year but also in the critical years leading up to the WEG gaining international competitive experience in preparation for international championships.”

Not all of us are destined to compete on the international stage, but we all revel in the joy and sorrow, the sweat and tears, the patriotism and the passion of the athletes that represent us at the highest levels of the sport. But imagine what this sport would be like if the USET Foundation did not exist. Who would we be cheering for if we didn’t feel like we were sending our best and most able to represent us on the world’s stage? Sure, some riders would find wealthy sponsors to support them, as they do today. This is necessary, and we can thank these sponsors for many of the top partnerships that we see today and that have earned medals and accolades for the US Team for decades. However, we cannot allow team selection to be limited to only those with financial means and to the riders who can secure the support of a generous sponsor. Without the support of the USET Foundation, it wouldn’t be our team, it would be their team.

It is also important to note that many of these sponsors are tremendous supporters of the USET Foundation and responsible for some of the grants and programs that facilitate the leveling of the playing field when it comes to USEF team selection across disciplines. But the USET Foundation exists for all of us. And it is the reason we can proudly cheer for OUR team at the WEG and beyond.

That is what I see as the crowning accomplishment of the work of the USET Foundation. Not the medals, trophies, and coolers, but their commitment to supporting a team that belongs to the U.S. equestrian community as a whole. Like fans of any other team, we can love or hate, take issue with or support blindly any individual player. But we can still cheer for them with abandon knowing that they are ours, and they are the best that we have on that day. Not the wealthiest, not the most connected, the best.

That is how the USET Foundation levels the playing field, and that is why we need this organization to continue to grow and evolve in their support of the athletes we admire, and the dreams that do come true.

To learn more about the USET Foundation and how you can help level the playing field in U.S. equestrian sport and support riders in representing the United States in international competition, visit www.uset.org.