How YouTube, WIHS, BarnManager, and Stacia Klein Madden Led to Two Sisters Dream Weekend!

Visit the Sisters Horsing Around channel on YouTube, and select any of the videos.

Within 30 seconds, it’s easy to see why our BarnManager team enjoyed meeting sisters Emily, 21, and Sarah Harris, 15, in August 2018 at the Laura Graves “Dressage for Jumping” clinic, presented by BarnManager and the Washington International Horse Show (WIHS); their kind, appreciative, and enthusiastic personalities are contagious!

It’s those personalities, the sisters’ YouTube channel, and the clinics put on by BarnManager and WIHS that – eight months later – led to what Emily Harris said was the “best weekend of her life” with Stacia Klein Madden at Beacon Hill Show Stables.

Before we get to that though, let’s backtrack to the Laura Graves clinic. Emily, Sarah, and their mom, Julie Harris, made the three-and-a-half-hour trip from their hometown in Altavista, VA, to the Aldie, VA, clinic, and it’s there that they also met WIHS president Vicki Lowell.

The Sisters Horsing Around, Emily and Sarah Harris meeting Laura Graves at the 2018 Laura Graves “Dressage for Jumping” clinic, presented by BarnManager and the Washington International Horse Show (WIHS). Photo by Jump Media 

Like our BarnManager team, Lowell was extremely impressed by the girls, and, after watching some of their YouTube videos, invited them to attend WIHS in the heart of Washington, D.C. that November. (You can watch video from their WIHS trip here!)

It was at WIHS 2018 that the girls learned the clinician for the 2019 WIHS Barn Night clinic, presented by BarnManager, would be renowned trainer Stacia Klein Madden, and let’s just say, they were pretty excited! (But, you don’t have to take our word for it…watch here!)

The Harris sisters knew they didn’t want to miss it, so they again made the drive – this time about four hours to Mount Airy, MD – to audit the clinic with Madden. (Read more about that clinic in our coverage here.)

“I was so star struck and speechless!” said Emily Harris of meeting Madden, who she and Sarah had also watched in replays of the Animal Planet series “Horse Power: Road to the Maclay.” “I don’t generally get to the point that I cannot speak, but I was just so happy and overly excited and so joyful to be there that I could not speak!”

Emily Harris did find words to say to Madden before the end of the clinic, eventually speaking with her and getting her autograph before leaving, and after attending the clinic, Emily and Sarah Harris made and posted a video, in which they tagged Madden.

Emily and Sarah Harris sporting their BarnManager hats and water bottles! Photo via Sisters Horsing Around

Madden saw both that video and the previous video the Sisters Horsing Around had made sharing their enthusiasm over her being the WIHS/BarnManager clinician, and she invited the girls to bring their own horses to Beacon Hill Show Stables in Colts Neck, NJ, for a weekend!

Emily and Sarah Harris could not believe Madden’s generosity, and quickly took her up on the incredible offer, this time making their longest drive yet – seven and a half hours – to bring their horses, Stella and Dancing Shadow, to New Jersey.

“We got there Friday, and the stalls were all set,” said Emily Harris. “It was so nice of them to have the hay and water and shavings all ready for us when we got there, and they had their names on the stalls which was so nice!”

Sarah Harris added, “It was amazing! It was in such pristine condition and order. Everything had its place, and everything was taken care of down to the tiniest detail. Everything was so nice, and everyone was just super nice and friendly.”

At home, Emily and Sarah Harris are members of the Roanoke Valley Pony Club and enjoy cross-training their horses, incorporating jumping, flatwork, dressage, and even some Western riding, but at Beacon Hill, they had the chance to really zero in on their hunt seat flatwork and jumping.

On Saturday morning, Emily and Sarah Harris helped as jump crew while taking in several Beacon Hill students’ lessons before getting on their own horses for their first lesson with Madden.

“The way that she explained things was amazing,” said Emily Harris of Madden’s teaching style. “I have trouble keeping my heels down because my ankles actually are very stiff, and she was able to set right my previous thought on how to get your heels down. I always thought that when you get your heels down, your calf stretching is a result of your heels going down, but it’s actually the opposite. Your heels going down is the result of your calf stretching.”

After enjoying a dinner near the beach with Madden on Saturday night, Emily and Sarah were back in the saddle on Sunday, this time first taking a flat lesson on two Beacon Hill mounts.

Click to watch Emily and Sarah Harris’s video from the Stacia Klein Madden clinic

“Every time I think of that, I’m reliving the moment all over again,” said Emily Harris, who has been riding for about four years, as has her sister.

“They rode so nicely, and they were so well-behaved and everything,” said Sarah Harris.

Following their first lesson of the day, Emily and Sarah Harris enjoyed a trail ride with some of the Beacon Hill students before another lesson with Madden on their own horses.

“She was able to enlighten us further on previous things that we had learned and teach us even more,” said Emily Harris. “We brought back a lot of new things, a lot of new techniques and ways to better help our horses. That was amazing.”

Emily and Sarah Harris not only brought home new lessons when they left on Sunday, they brought home lasting gifts.

“WIHS had heard that we were going there, and they sent us a t-shirt and saddle pads which was really amazing! They were so nice to send us those things,” said Emily Harris.

“Then one of the students there gave us some of her older pony’s tack as a present for when we went home! That was so special,” added Sarah Harris.

“The people were just so nice,” continued Emily Harris. Down south, there’s southern hospitality where everyone is really nice to each other; being there at Beacon Hill it felt like we didn’t leave home. It was like having that southern hospitality up there. Everybody was so nice and so friendly and welcoming, and the hospitality was just great.

“That was the best weekend of my life!” concluded Emily Harris. “That was better than in our wildest dreams. I’m still in shock at how amazing that was.”

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!

Six Ways to Make Horse Showing More Affordable

Horse show entry and office fees, transportation and travel expenses, tack and equipment costs, training fees, and grooming and braiding charges can be enough to make many an adult amateur – no matter the discipline – contemplate a second job or a steady diet of ramen noodles to offset expenses.

Fortunately, while the entirely inexpensive horse show may remain elusive, there are ways to greatly reduce your expenses and make horse showing more affordable.

Here are six tips that could help you decrease your costs this show season!

1) Identify your goals.

 Before heading to a horse show, think realistically about you and your horse’s level of competitiveness and what you hope to accomplish throughout the show season.

If your aim is to use horse shows simply as a way to test all that you have been practicing at home, to enjoy the competition with your horse, or to gain experience or exposure, unrecognized or schooling horse shows could be a great cost saver. These shows generally have much less expensive entry and office fees, paid memberships to governing organizations such as US Equestrian or the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) are typically not required, and US Equestrian fees are not imposed.

If your aim is to earn rated points, awards, or titles or to qualify for prestigious year-end finals and championships, you can still be smart and save money when it comes to selecting which horse shows you attend. Consider your travel expenses and what is realistic for you. While that beautiful horse show in Kentucky might look fun, perhaps the one of equal rating and just an hour drive from your home in Pennsylvania could be far more affordable for you and offer you the same opportunity to accrue points.

By identifying your goals in advance and selecting horse shows that fit those goals, you could save a great deal of money!

2) Submit your entries on time – or even well in advance.

Many horse shows penalize riders with an added fee for entering a horse show beyond a set entry date, while some others even offer reduced rates for early entries. Submitting your entries on time or in advance is a simple way to save money.

3) Be well organized and prepared for horse show day.

No one wants to have to purchase new gloves or spurs at a horse show when they know that they have perfectly good ones sitting at home, and having to purchase any tack or equipment at the horse show can be a good way to quickly exceed your budget! Instead, get organized and ensure that nothing is forgotten.

Make a thorough packing check list (fun fact: you can do this within BarnManager!). Be sure to include any items that you might need at a horse show that you might not typically use at home like ear plugs, Show Sheen or other show grooming products, rain gear just in case, and yarn or rubber bands.

Review your packing list a few days in advance of the show to make sure that you have everything that you need and that everything is in good repair. You don’t want to be left scrambling to get to the tack shop the night before the show!

As you’re packing and getting organized, it’s also wise to clearly label all of your belongings. That way, nothing gets inadvertently put in someone else’s tack trunk at the show or left behind at the ring with no identifier.

4) BYOS – Bring Your Own Stuff.

Much like it’s cheaper to ensure that you have all of your tack and equipment with you rather than purchasing anything new at the show, it’s also cheaper to “bring your own stuff.” That could include packing your own shavings to avoid paying more for them at the horse shows and bringing your own snacks and lunches to avoid paying expensive food vendors. If you’re going with a group from your barn, consider working together to organize who can bring food items to share.

5) Learn to groom and band or braid for yourself – or have friends and family help.

Whether your show requires that your horse’s mane be banded, braided in hunter style, or put into button braids, learning to do it yourself can save a ton of money – especially if you are horse showing frequently!

You can find numerous great tutorials on YouTube and on equestrian websites to help get you started on learning to braid or band before getting into the barn to practice. If you get good enough at mane or tail braiding, and if time at horse shows allows, you could even braid or band for others at the show to help you recoup your horse show costs.

Similarly, if you are able to groom, tack up, and care for your horse and your stall area yourself at the show – while still having the energy and focus needed to ride well – doing so is a great way to cut costs.

If you are fortunate enough to have friends, family members, or a significant other willing to help you out, don’t be afraid to take them up on the offer! Having an extra hand to hold your horse or an extra body to run back to the stalls for that forgotten item can go a long way and can help eliminate grooming costs.

6) Take good care of your belongings.

At the end of the horse show, again consult your packing list, this time to ensure that nothing gets left behind. It’s easy to head home from the horse show with a crop, glove, or girth missing from your tack trunk; ensuring that you have everything is an easy way to avoid having to purchase the item again.

While cleaning and organizing may be the last thing that you want to do when you get home from a horse show, it’s important to take good care of your belongings to prolong their lifespan and avoid having to spend money on new tack or clothing. Try to hang up your show clothes as soon as possible instead of leaving them crumpled in a bag or in the back of your car. (If you take good enough care of your show coat, you may even be able to avoid a dry-cleaning bill until after the next show!) Clean all of your tack and equipment as soon as possible after the show, and re-organize your belongings to keep everything ready to go for next time!

What are your horse show cost-reducing tricks!? We want to hear from you in the comments below!

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!

501(c)(3) Feature: The Newfoundland Pony Conservancy Center

Through our ‘Free for 501(c)3’ program, our team at BarnManager has had the opportunity to learn more about incredible equestrian non-profit organizations from across the country. Each month, we’ll be featuring one such organization here on our blog!

New Hampshire native Emily Aho had just purchased her third pony when she received a call from a woman in Michigan.

“She said, ‘Do you know what you have?’ I said, ‘Yeah, they’re Newfoundland Ponies!’” said Aho, who had acquired her first pony, a Newfoundland cross, strictly as a pasture companion for her Clydesdale cross, not knowing much about the Newfoundland breed. “She said, ‘They’re extremely rare, and you need to breed them!’ I thought, ‘What!? Breed? Me?!’”

Aho knew her ponies were special; that’s why she ended up with three ponies from the same family after only intending to purchase one! However, what she didn’t know at the time was that the Newfoundland Ponies are what are considered an original “landrace breed” – and that there are less than 40 Newfoundland Ponies in the United States and a global population of well under 1,000 ponies.

The Newfoundland Pony breed is one made hardy thanks to the pony’s native environment in northeastern Canada.

Upon learning this, Aho knew she had to do something, and in January of 2013, the Newfoundland Pony Conservancy Center (formerly Villi Poni Farm) was born.

“[My first] little pony stole my heart,” said Aho. “She was just amazing. The connection between her and anyone, actually, was just different than I’d experienced before. It’s very hard to describe.

“We decided that the best way to save this breed was to bring awareness about them and let people meet them,” continued Aho. “I could tell you about them all day long, but until you actually experience what they’re like, you won’t get it. People say, ‘I had a (certain breed) horse that was wonderful and good with kids.’  But when 99 percent of a breed are that way, like the Newfoundland Pony is, it’s mind-boggling. So, we formed the sanctuary. It’s grown and grown.”

Today, Aho and the Newfoundland Pony Conservancy Center act as stewards of the endangered breed through selective breeding and educational efforts.

Part of the Newfoundland Pony Conservancy Center’s mission is educating others about the breed.

“Almost all breeds, including types of plants, are traced back to landraces that we’ve taken and adapted for our purposes,” explained Aho of how she immersed herself in learning more about the Newfoundland Ponies. “Nature makes their genetics hardy and able to withstand environmental and biological change, and they’re healthy. We as people; we can’t do that. We can’t say, ‘Okay, this one is going to survive this disease or this type of weather change.’ We look at what’s measurable. What’s measurable is their appearance, their usage, their size and ability, for instance. We can’t see the inside of what we’ve created; we don’t create them with the sole purpose being survival like nature does. So over time as we select out genetics/certain traits, we ultimately weaken species. Never having been “‘improved” or having their breeding altered for one purpose or another, the Newfoundland Pony doesn’t have a single genetic problem.”

With that in mind, the Newfoundland Pony Conservancy Center carefully breeds Newfoundland Pony to Newfoundland Pony, allowing the breed to continue. However, it’s not solely Aho who is doing the breeding – and it’s not the multi-faceted non-profit’s only focus.

“We don’t want to keep all of these ponies here,” said Aho. “Some of them are permanent residents, but others, we take them into our network. They go to breeding conservation homes that we have mentored and taught about the breed. The concept is that they breed registered ponies to registered ponies only, no irresponsible breeding. If that happens, we pull the animal, and that’s in our contract. We’re very serious about that.”

Presently, there are nine ponies living onsite at the 501(c)(3) rescue’s base in Jaffrey, NH, while there are 22 total ponies under the Conservancy’s program. The additional ponies all reside in adoptive homes within a two-hour radius of Jaffrey, NH, and with approved owners that have received mentorship and education on the ponies, their heritage, their care, and the best conservation breeding practices. Once they’ve undergone mentorship, new adoptive owners are considered “Breed Stewards,” continuing the work of the Newfoundland Pony Conservancy Center and becoming a part of the organization’s network of conservation breeders who help one another.

With less than 40 Newfoundland Ponies currently in the U.S., the Newfoundland Pony Conservancy Center is committed to continuing to grow the endangered breed through careful breeding.

“We’re all volunteers,” said Aho, a nurse by trade who serves as the non-profit’s executive director alongside five total board members. “All of our foster homes – everybody’s involved. We all stay connected together. We have quite a little network going and some really impressive people involved. We have loads of volunteers. It’s wonderful; they’re great people. We take people as volunteers that don’t know anything about horses, and we teach them. They’re a good pony to learn on!”

The Newfoundland Pony Conservancy Center also offers educational tours to the public to further spread knowledge about the ponies and equine welfare in general, as well as providing Equine-Assisted Learning (EAL) programs.

With so much going on, Aho was thankful to have found BarnManager!

“It’s incredible. I’ve never been so excited about a program in my life!” said Aho of BarnManager. “Just recently, it helped me in the greatest way!”

Due to a scheduling error, a veterinarian arrived somewhat unexpectedly to look at a filly while Aho was at work. The horse needed a health certificate in order to travel across state borders, but Aho had not planned on the vet visiting and did not have any of the horse’s necessary coggins and paperwork records prepared at the barn.

“I went into my phone at work, and there [the coggins] was!” said Aho. “I had downloaded everything in BarnManager, so I messaged it to him right then and there. It was amazing!

“It has helped immensely,” continued Aho. “It’s so great that I know who and when they had their hooves trimmed, or dewormed, etc – otherwise it’s hard to keep track of, especially when you’re the chief cook and bottle washer here!”

Aho is not the only one using BarnManager though, she’s now invited the adoptive and foster families to utilize it as well.

“It’s a super way for me to keep track of their records,” said Aho. “They can just put it in there, and we’ve got that for the future. They scan in their vet records, all of that. I know that they’re being taken care of, and I know if there’s a problem without them having to hunt me down.”

To learn more about the Newfoundland Pony Conservancy Center, visit www.newfoundlandponysanctuary.org or find them on Facebook here!

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: Andrew Welles

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!

An up-and-coming star in show jumping, Andrew Welles is known for developing horses to the grand prix level. He jumped on the U.S. team in September 2018, when he rode Brindis Bogibo in the FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ CSIO5* Calgary during the Spruce Meadows Masters tournament. With Brindis Bogibo, he also claimed top-10 finishes in the $135,000 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Columbus (OH) in 2018 and the $134,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup Round 9 and the $210,000 Longines Grand Prix of Palm Beach Masters during the 2019 Florida season.

Andrew’s first star horse was the diminutive mare Boo Van Het Kastanjehof. They placed in the top ribbons consistently during the Winter Equestrian Festival (FL) and at the Tryon International Equestrian Center (NC) from 2011 to 2017. In 2013, they were second in the $100,000 Wells Fargo Grand Prix of Devon (PA).

Andrew, 31, grew up in Minnesota, but moved to Wellington, FL, at age 16 to further his riding career and worked for Missy Clark and Chris Kappler before going out on his own at age 22. Now Andrew and his wife, Alexandra, run Andrew Welles LLC out of Wellington, FL.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge in being a young show jumping professional, and how do you deal with it?

This is a hard question to answer! There are many challenges, but at the top of my list though would be time management. There are so many demands that often there aren’t enough hours in the day. I have learned that it is important to have good human resources skills so you can surround yourself with the best people and then you are able to delegate when appropriate. Sometimes the most productive and important time you spend is the time not on a horse.

Q: What horse has made the most impact on your career and why?

Boo Van Het Kastanjehof. She kept me relevant in the sport for the better part of eight years. I owe the horses that I have under me now to her work!

Q: Who is a mentor for you?

Chris Kappler has had a big influence in my career, both as a rider and in stable management.

Q: What’s one thing you work to fix in your own riding and training?

Focusing on producing the best canter to the fence instead of becoming consumed by looking for a “distance”.

Q: What’s your biggest challenge in managing your barn?

Keeping up on the organization that comes from the communication with all of the vendors, farriers, vets, supplies etc.

Q: What quality do you value most in a horse?

Heart—the horse has to understand what you are asking and want to do it.

Q: What’s your biggest mental struggle in your riding?

Focusing only on the next jump I have to jump, not on all of the other things that my mind has to keep track of.

Q: What do you do in your barn routine to make sure your horses are happy?

Have time out of their stalls. They get turn-out in the morning, grazing when drying after a bath, and then they graze again in the afternoon. I also find ways to work them occasionally on the trails so they get out of the ring.

Q: What’s your favorite non-horse activity?

Anything sports-related!!

Q: What horse competing now would you like to ride if you could?

Big Star has always been my favorite, but for one currently competing, I’d choose Explosion W or H&M All In.

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!

Five Fundamentals of Equitation from Stacia Klein Madden and the Iron Bridge Hounds Pony Club

Stacia Klein Madden can typically be found ringside during major equitation classes at top horse shows across the country or at home at Beacon Hill Show Stables training some of the country’s most competitive junior and amateur hunter, jumper, and equitation riders.

Two weeks ago, however, our BarnManager team found Madden somewhere a little bit different: in Maryland amidst 11 young U.S. Pony Club riders and their adorable, fuzzy ponies and well-schooled mounts.

The riders – ranging in age from seven to 16 and in skill level from walk-trot to those competent at jumping three feet – generally focus on dressage, eventing, and beginning show jumping in their lessons, but Madden’s presence meant something different for them as well: a special clinic with a focus on the “Fundamentals of Equitation.”

The clinic was awarded to the riders as the winners of the 2018 Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) Barn Night Group Video Contest, presented by BarnManager, thanks to this winning entry!

This year marked our BarnManager team’s second year in a row partnering with WIHS to put on the clinic, and for the second year in a row, we walked away having gained valuable insight! (Read about last year’s clinic with Laura Graves here.)

With Madden, the emphasis on equitation provided the participating riders – and us! – with tips and reminders that can be beneficial to riding across disciplines – and across all skill levels.

While using the full ring properly in your hunter or equitation class or halting squarely in a straight line after a fence in your lesson may not be exercises you need to work on, it never hurts to revisit the fundamentals!

In fact Madden herself said, “The basics are the same, whether you’re teaching somebody to be on a horse for the first time, or whether you’re trying to win a national championship. It’s just levels and degrees of what you’re trying to fine-tune. Having taught these levels might inspire me to go back to some very simple things with my students at home when I teach this week!”

Here are five of our favorite fundamental reminders from the clinic with Madden:

1) Always remember that you are the pilot – not the passenger!

 Ensuring that the rider had full control of the horse was an over-arching theme of Madden’s for the clinic, no matter what level the rider was.

“Air Force One is the most technologically advanced airplane in the world, but it can’t fly itself! It still needs a pilot,” Madden said. “Think of your horse as the plane, and you as the pilot. No matter what kind of horse it is, you have to fly the plane. If they want to go off the course you planned, you have to correct it.”

2) Don’t allow repeat disobediences from your horse, but tailor your correction to the crime.

As the pilot of your horse, you should expect the horse to go where you direct them to go and do what you have asked them to do. When they don’t, it’simportant to correct them properly the first time and not continue to let the disobedience go on or even build into a greater problem.

In the IBHPC clinic, Charlie Atkinson had a good ride in her session on the pony, Emmie, but the chestnut mare had a habit of rooting the reins in a quick motion, pulling Atkinson out of the tack.

Madden showed Atkinson how to quickly set her hands to prevent the rooting as well as teaching her the proper timing for the correction. “When you feel her neck tense and her head go up a bit, get ready, because that’s what she does before she roots down,” Madden advised Atkinson. By the end of the session, Atkinson had a feel for the timing and correction, and Emmie had stopped rooting at the reins both while moving and in downward transitions.

There is a difference in the type of correction a horse may need, however.

“There’s a difference between a horse that stops and a horse that ducks out, and you correct them differently,” Madden said. “A horse that stops is one who loses momentum on the approach to the jump and stops straight right in front of the jump. A horse that ducks out is one that keeps his momentum but turns away from the jump.

“When the horse stops, you need to correct the loss of momentum, so you circle right away, and use your stick behind your leg to get the horse going forward,” continued Madden. “Ducking out is a steering problem, so to correct it you need to turn the horse the opposite way that he went past the jump, then re-approach.”

3) Utilize a three-second rule when it comes to your transitions.

Young Pony Club rider Penelope Roesler had only been riding Fleetwood Mac for a short time before the clinic after transitioning from a pony, and at the beginning of her session, Fleetwood Mac was a bit sluggish off of her leg aids.

Madden taught Roesler how to use the crop behind her leg to reinforce the leg aid and increase Fleetwood Mac’s sensitivity to the leg, and she instituted a “three-second rule” for her transitions, calling out a new gait then counting aloud to three to encourage Roesler to get a prompt transition. The improvement in Fleetwood Mac’s responsiveness was dramatic, and by the end of her session, Roesler was cantering a small course on him.

Particularly when schooling or hacking solo at home, if you have a sluggish horse, it can be easy to get lazy yourself and give your horse a little extra time to accelerate, or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, a little extra time to decelerate! It never hurts to remember to be crisp and timely in your transitions.

4) Incorporate ground rails into your routine.

Madden incorporated rails on the ground before jumping for each one of the groups. “You can get a lot done with rails on the ground. You want your horse to have a long, healthy career,” she said.

“I have multiple horses in my barn in their 20s, still sound and showing. You do that by saving their legs and not always jumping. You can keep a horse pretty fit over cavaletti, and they’re a great way to work on riders’ skills as well. Cavaletti work prepares you for jumping and gives you the skills to be ready to jump. There are a gazillion things you can do over cavaletti. Get creative with them and figure out what would help you and your horse.”

5) Be thankful for the opportunity that you have to ride in any capacity and enjoy it!

Maybe it was the way they carefully groomed their ponies, brushed out their tails, and showed their mounts how much they appreciated them, or maybe it was the way you could almost see each of them taking in and absorbing everything that Madden said and truly valuing her expertise, but watching the Iron Bridge Hounds Pony Club riders was a valuable reminder of what it looks to really be thankful for this incredible privilege that we have of riding and working with horses.

No matter what your discipline or riding level, I think we can all agree that love and appreciation of the horse is the most important fundamental of all.

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!

Inside the IEA Hunt Seat National Finals!

The Barn Management Team that Helps Bring it All Together

Riding in equestrian competitions of any discipline requires an important prerequisite: the actual horse on which to compete!

At most horse shows and events available to young riders, that means either owning a horse of their own or leasing one. Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) shows, however, are an exception.

The organization, now open to students in grades four through 12, makes riding in hunt seat, western, and dressage competitions more accessible to many young riders, as competition horses are provided at all events. Competing riders show up to the event and randomly draw which horse they will be riding that day. For flat classes, they even enter the ring with no prior warm-up!

The IEA, now open to students in grades four through 12, makes riding in hunt seat, western, and dressage competitions more accessible to many young riders, as competition horses are provided at all events. Photo by Jump Media

But if the riders are not bringing all of their own horses, where do these magical, ready-to-show horses come from? And who is taking care of and managing them? And how do the riders know that the mount they are getting will be cooperative?

Our BarnManager team caught up with the barn manager and horse coordination team working seamlessly behind the scenes at the IEA Hunt Seat National Finals in Harrisburg, PA, on April 26-28, to learn more about what makes it all possible.

Here’s an inside look at the process, from months before the show to the moment that the last horse ships out of the show!

Before it All Begins

Several months before the first horse arrived at the IEA Hunt Seat National Finals, barn manager Simon Towns – who has worked for the IEA for 15 years – spent a lot of time on the phone.

Part of her role as the barn manager for the Hunt Seat National Finals each year is searching to find the horses that she will ultimately manage at the Finals, and that means placing numerous calls to horse owners within the IEA’s network and in the area surrounding the finals’ venue.

“This show is in April, so usually in January and February the initial calls are going out to people that you know just from having done it or from knowing the area,” explained Towns. “This [year’s Finals] happened to be in Zone 11, so we went to Zone 11 [in Pennsylvania and New Jersey] first, but we’ve also got some from New York, some from West Virginia.”

This year, 13 providers stepped up to the call, with a total of 72 horses coming to the Finals from universities and schools including Delaware Valley University, the Grier School (PA), Bethany College (WV), and Morrisville State (NY); independent owners including Megan Mendenhall; and riding schools and farms including Black Horse Stables (PA), Candy Lane Acres (PA), Briarwood Farm (NJ), Innova Riding Academy (PA), Stellar Riding (PA), Cavalier Farm (CT), Granite Springs (NY), and Serenity Farm (PA).

So that should be it than, right? The horses have all been acquired; their owners will bring them, and the IEA riders will pull a name from one of those 72, get on, and show! Not quite. This is where the management and coordination really begin!

Settling in at the Show

For this year’s Hunt Seat National Finals, the horses arrived on Wednesday and Thursday morning, where they were greeted by Towns and horse coordinators including Ashley Wilson of Concord, GA, and Kathryn Bordua of Manchester, CT.

IEA horse coordinators Ashley Wilson (far left) and Kathryn Bordua (far right) with Morrisville State-provided mount, Pappy, Morrisville State rider Hannah Guindon, and IEA barn manager Simon Towns. Photo by Jump Media

After being unloaded – on a shipping schedule coordinated by Towns and the horse coordination team – the horses are led to their stalls, which have already been completely set up and bedded with shavings by that same team.

“Simon does a lot of the pre-work, months ahead of the show, basically doing the barn format, how the stalls will be set up, how many providers need to go where, who’s working with who, who’s shipping in with who, organizing the shavings and things like that,” explained Bordua. “Then, Ashley comes in a couple of days ahead of time, and she and Simon work together to get the barn all set up.”

Once settled in their stalls, some of the horses come with owners or handlers to care for them, but others are generously donated for the weekend without a handler.

“At this show, we have some horses that were dropped off to us, so we do things like feeding in the morning,” said Wilson in describing the various hats that the barn management team wears throughout the weekend. “We actually pick stalls for a lot of them and fill waters. Sometimes you have a provider who will bring seven horses but have one person, so you help out there.”

Competition Time: Maintaining an Even Playing Field

Once the horses are situated, Thursday is a full day dedicated to schooling, and for Bordua, Towns, and Wilson, evaluating the horses.

While the horse providers supply background information on each horse, it is up to Bordua, Towns, and Wilson to assess what division, or divisions, each horse is best suited for – which is no easy task and one that continues to evolve throughout the show weekend.

“We watch the schooling with information on what the providers say that the horses can do,” said Towns. “Kathryn adjusts their duties appropriately within the show framework so that we can establish what we want the standards to be.” They divide the horses into Beginner, Novice, Intermediate, or Open divisions.

Bordua added, “I start by watching the horses go. I say to the horse provider, ‘Where do you want me to put this horse?’ They tell me. Then we decide their suitability and their level appropriateness. It’s a lot of watching them go around and saying, ‘We like this one over fences more, or I really like this one on the flat more. This one is better suited in Open because the playing field is more equitable that way.’

“You also don’t want to put the tiny little peanut pony in the class with the big warmbloods,” continued Bordua.

Skout, one of the adorable and well-behaved ponies used the IEA Hunt Seat National Finals. Photo by Jump Media

“When the coaches look at the class, they want to see what appears to be even competition,” added Towns.

After watching all of the horses go, Bordua and Wilson create a complex grid that details which horses will be used in what classes throughout the weekend, and the show begins! The start of the show, however, does not mean the end of the evaluating of the horses, and Bordua’s ongoing updates to the grid are frequent.

Wilson explained that the Open and Beginner levels were the most difficult to place horses in, as the Beginner horses need to be complacent with greener riders while the Open horses should have the ablility to let more experienced riders show off.  “You want the super fancy horses for the Open kids, but there are sharper edges to those horses,” continued Wilson. “Then the Beginner group has to go around and show well, but nothing is going to faze them. It’s just hard to find.

At the end of the day, Bordua, Towns, and Wilson want all the riders to have a fair and fun competition experience, but perhaps even more importantly, they want the same for the horses.

“Our job is also a lot of horsemanship,watching, and trying to assess a situation. I If we see the unraveling start to happen, we try to, at least for the horse’s sake, make sure that we make a decision before it actually becomes made for us,” said Bordua.

“We all have the same basic goal of making sure the horses and the kids are well-matched and used appropriately,” said Towns. “We all have that same philosophy.”

“We really have to think about the horses’ mentality and safety,” concluded Wilson. “We’re approaching the show from those 72 horses’ standpoints, instead of ‘Let’s see what the kids want or what the coaches want.’ Our side is, ‘What is going to make the horses happy and comfortable?’”

Learn more about the IEA by visiting www.rideiea.org.

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!

501(c)(3) Feature: Saint Francis’s Sunny Side Up Farm Animal Rescue

Through our ‘Free for 501(c)3’ program, our team at BarnManager has had the opportunity to learn more about incredible equestrian non-profit organizations from across the country. Each month, we’ll be featuring one such organization here on our blog!

In 2016, Michele Hughes spent nearly a month in the intensive care unit with a blood clot and pulmonary embolism. When she got out of the hospital, her husband bought her several chicks and brought the young chickens next to her bed.

It was a simple gesture, but for the life-long animal loving Hughes, it was enough to spark an idea. Hughes began raising chickens and taking in animals of all types at what became known as Sunny Side Up Farm in Lecanto, FL. Before long, Hughes’ reputation for helping animals had spread, and she and her husband began receiving calls asking if they could take in animals that were unwanted because of unfortunate situations or moves.

In April 2018, following the continued growth of Hughes’ rescue efforts, and with the help of her husband, mother, and daughter-in-law, Saint Francis’s Sunny Side Up Farm Animal Rescue was officially launched as a 501(c)(3) non-profit rescue organization.

“Our goal is to positively change the relationship between people and animals, and one of our main focuses is on teaching children how to care for and have compassion for animals,” explained Hughes, who runs the rescue with the help of three part-time volunteers.

Presently, Saint Francis’s Sunny Side Up Farm Animal Rescue is home to three goats, seven pigs, five rabbits, numerous chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, and cats, and 20 horses – enough that Hughes new she needed to find a solution for managing all of the information and medical records that went along with each horse.

“I was looking for something to help me organize all of the horses; it’s so hard to keep everything written on paper,” explained Hughes, who began looking in the iPhone App Store before coming across BarnManager.

Now, Hughes is able to use the software to manage the horses available for rescue, as well as her own gaited horses that are the backbone of Saint Francis’s Sunny Side Up Farm Animal Rescue’s fundraising efforts.

“We rely on donations, and for fundraising, we have been offering trail rides out in the Withlacoochee Forest,” explained Hughes, who helps oversee up to six riders at a time on the daily trail rides through the beautiful forested landscape surrounding the rescue.

All of the funds raised through the trail rides go directly to helping the horses and the other animals being rehabilitated or available for rescue at Sunny Side Up Farm.

To learn more about supporting Saint Francis’s Sunny Side Up Farm Animal Rescue through trail rides in Lecanto, FL, visit their Facebook page here.

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: 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!