Mid-South Eventing & Dressage Association


  • 04/06/2016 9:47 AM | Deleted user

    By Sarah E Coleman

    Ah, spring. While most of us are relishing seeing our horse’s fuzzy winter coats go by the wayside, we’re not as welcoming to one of the side effects of spring rains: mud!

    While some mud is inevitable on almost every farm, it is possible to limit its occurrence with some strategic planning. 

    Health & Safety Hazards

    There’s nothing quite like losing shoes (yours and your horse’s) to make resentment of spring rains bubble over. Is your trailer parked in the back 40? Be prepared, it may be buried when it sunk into rain softened grounds.

    In addition to being hazardous to safety, mud can create a health hazard for your horse if he has to stand it in with no ability to move to higher ground.  Not only is it hard on his hooves and legs, potentially causing everything from thrush to scratches, pooling water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes and flies, which can carry an assortment of diseases. 

    Defensive Tactics

    Combating mud on your farm can seem an exercise in futility, but here are some long-term strategies to help eliminate the sticky stuff.

    • Create a sacrifice lot that will keep all of your pastures and paddocks from turning into muddy quagmires, if you have enough space. In a perfect world, this area would be on higher ground, away from streams and ponds.
    • Install rain gutters and downspouts on barns and outbuildings. These help direct water away from paddocks and foundations.
    • Fence horses out of streams, ponds and low-lying areas on your farm. Hooves trample embankments and shorelines, creating an ever-expanding muddy shoreline.
    • Place bridges over low-lying areas in walkways between paddocks so you’re not constantly walking through a muddy bog to retrieve horses.
    • During the warmer season, don’t allow horses to graze growing grass too short. Grass without a good root system in place loses its ability to prevent runoff and is easily trampled into mud.
    • Remove manure around heavily trafficked areas like waterers, hay feeders and gates at least once a week.
    • Consider installing French drains, which intercept water flowing through paddocks and pastures using trenches filled with gravel, then flows toward a specific outlet.
    • Place sand, gravel or wood chips around gates, waterers and feeders and even in run-in sheds. These materials are always more effective when used on top of landscape fabric to prevent them from sinking into the soil. A good rule of thumb is to put down twice as much footing as you have mud, generally at least 6 inches deep.
    • Investigate soil stabilizing grid systems that allow grass to grow through the grid, protecting roots and preventing mud. Many farms use these around gates, waterers and hay feeders.
    • Move hay feeders periodically so horses are not chronically forced to stand in mud to eat. This will allow the muddy areas to dry out while horses spend their time elsewhere.
    • Plant trees and shrubs. Thought not immediately beneficial, plants use a lot of water and can reduce the standing water on your farm. Planted around paddocks (make sure they are equine-safe), shrubs can keep them drier and reduce runoff. 
  • 03/20/2016 8:11 PM | Deleted user

    By Sarah E Coleman

    Each issue, MSEDA will highlight a member who is active in the organization to give other members a peek into their horse-loving lives. Interested in being featured? Email Sarah at redhorseentrprise@gmail.com

    MSEDA: Where are you from?

    ES: My wife, Jill, and I live in Westfield, IN, just north of Indianapolis. We've been here exactly 20 years this week, and lived on our farm for the last 11. We came to Indiana for Jill's job as an elephant trainer. She's been with the Indianapolis Zoo elephants ever since.


    Jill with Zahara, one of the six African elephant calves born at the Indianapolis Zoo

    MSEDA: When did you begin riding?

    ES: I started, um, later in life than most people. I was 34 or so when I first sat on a horse. But then I saw a video of eventing (Dorothy Crowell, riding Molokai at The Hague) and thought "this is something I have to try."


    MSEDA: How long have you been competing?

    ES: This year I am hoping to compete in my first-ever recognized horse trials. I've been competing at schooling shows the last 4 or 5 years.


    MSEDA: When did you get your first horse?

    ES: Ah, Monty the Morgan. The perfect first horse was purchased in the late 90s. He was 17 years old at the time and had the patience of a saint.


    MSEDA: What horses do you own now?

    ES: We have three horses at home now. Elvis, the wonder horse, a Thoroughbred who, at 24 years old, regards anything lower and slower than training level as insulting. Tardis, my 7-year-old OTTB who is really starting to learn his new job, even if he hasn't found his brave just yet. And Doc, my 31-year-old Dutch cross, who is truly enjoying retirement.

    Celebrating a clear starter XC round with little Tardis. Photo by Lee Ann Zobbe, used with permission.

    MSEDA: How did you get your horses? What horses do you compete (and what do you compete in?)

    ES: Elvis came to us permanently a little more than a year ago, after we leased him for a while. His owner, the wonderful Mary Tinder, made the difficult decision to get out of horse ownership, and astoundingly picked our barn as this remarkable horse's final home. To say we are honored is a profound understatement. Elvis now has the unenviable task of getting me to my first recognized horse trials. Tardis came to me by way of one of my all-time favorite professionals, Sharon White.

    Eric and Elvis compete in the Derby to raise funds for the new Indiana Eventing Association's water complex at the Hoosier Horse Park. Photo by Lee Ann Zobbe, used with permission.

    MSEADA: What are your horse's favorite treats?

    ES: Anything, pretty much. Both Thoroughbreds are total treat hounds.

    MSEDA: What do you do full time? Do you enjoy it?

    ES: So, my full-time job is as the journals manager for the American Statistical Association (ASA, the second-oldest nonprofit scientific association in the United States.). I manage all of the Association's peer-reviewed journals. It's a perfect job for me and allows me to work from home.

    My second job, and how I came to the MSEDA, is as a horse show announcer working primarily eventing and dressage shows. I've never competed in an MSEDA show, but members might recognize my voice from Spring Bay, the Kentucky Classique and Team Challenge.

    Eric announcing cross-country at the Kentucky Horse Park, with JJ Johnson (left) and Karen Winn. Photo by Leigh Anne Robertson, used with permission.

    I love my announcing job, especially when working at the Kentucky Horse Park. It really is special---and I'm always a bit awestruck---driving past the statue of Man O' War as I'm going to work. I also announce in Georgia, Texas, Indiana and Illinois. I currently serve on the MSEDA Board of Directors, representing the northern part of Area VIII. I also serve on the board of the Indiana Eventing Association.

    MSEDA: How did you get into this job?

    ES: I've been working for the ASA for … a very long time! I got into announcing first by volunteering at dressage shows, and it morphed into something really unique and fun. I owe fellow announcer Cyndi Kurth (who also works at MSEDA shows) a real debt for patiently mentoring me on how to announce and how to best help the show organizers.


    MSEDA: What are your goals for the 2016 season and with whom do you ride?

    ES: My goal this year is to ride Novice at a recognized show. My second goal is to have Tardis competing Beginner Novice at schooling shows. I have the BEST coach, Lee Ann Zobbe, in Sheridan, IN, at Come Again Farm. I try to take two or three lessons a week, splitting them between the two horses. And it is through Lee Ann that I've been able to ride in clinics and eventing camps with Dorothy Crowell, Lauren Lambert, Leslie Law, Leslie Grant-Law, Sharon White and others. It's been an amazing journey.


    MSEDA: What are your favorite brands?
    ES: Mavorite eventing store is IndyEquestrian (
    https://www.indyequestrian.com/). Amanda and Brian are the best---they know the sport and what riders need.


    MSEDA: What is your favorite part of you’re the barn where you lesson?

    ES: I love riding at Come Again Farm, and trailer up there (20 minutes--I am spoiled!) a few times a week. The people at CAF have become sort of a second family for us, and we love the facility and schooling shows that are held about once a month during show season.


    MSEDA: What other animals do you own?

    ES: Just two barn cats and a house cat … between the horses and elephants, we enjoy a lot of critter company!


    MSEDA: Is there anything unusual about your horses now?

    ES: All three of my horses seem to possess an over-abundance of personality. I am fortunate that Elvis is a benevolent dictator and manages the herd firmly, but (for the most part) gently.

  • 03/20/2016 9:01 AM | Deleted user

    By Sarah E Coleman

    MSEDA sponsors two scholarship opportunities to members in good standing who wish to expand their equine education: The MSEDA General Education Grant and the Christine Brown Memorial Grant. 

    The MSEDA General Education Grant is $500 scholarship that can be used for anything related to equine education. The recipient for 2015 was Anastasia Curwood, who used the grant to go South and complete some dressage training. As a give-back, she will be bringing in Sandy Osborn for a MSEDA-sponsored clinic in November of this year. In 2014, Reese Koffler-Stanfield was the grant winner.

    The Christine Brown Memorial Grant is a 2-year-old scholarship of $1,500 that can also be used for equine educational activities. The 2015 grant was awarded to Katie Hagerty, who is using it to be in Florida from January through mid-April with her trainer, Ali Knowles. Katie is trying to get one of her two horses qualified for the 2* North American Junior and Young Rider Championship in Colorado this summer! The 2014 Grant winner was Kaileigh Nida, who used her grant money to travel to Florida as a working student for 2 1/2 months and also worked with her event horse schoolmaster Houdini, who was given to her from Tracy Corey. Kaileigh also had weekly training from Pete Rodda, a Level 2 Parelli instructor. Kaileigh put her training to use and earned a top award in her 4-H horsemanship competition in 2015.

    To be eligible, MSEDA members must complete 8 volunteer hours, and half of them must be completed by the person applying for the grant. The remainder of the hours can be donated. 

    MSEDA currently funds both of these grants. To apply, candidates must describe how they plan to “pay back” the equine community for their scholarship in a way that might benefit MSEDA or through a program related to the scholarship activity. The deadline for both scholarships is December 15. The application can be found here: https://mseda.org/resources/Documents/MSEDA_SCHOLARSHIP_APPLICATION%202015%20(5).pdf

    Grant recipients are determined during an educational committee meeting and are awarded at the MSEDA Annual meeting. Recipients are notified before the banquet takes place. 

    Scholarship winners are asked to submit a report about their educational experience within three months of completion. These pieces are then used in the MSEDA newsletter and shared on the MSEDA Facebook page. 

  • 03/20/2016 8:47 AM | Deleted user

    By Jen Roytz

    It’s hard to believe it’s that time of year again. Spring. That means spring cleaning, springing forward with our clocks and, of course, spring vaccinations for our horses.

    Core vaccinations are simply vaccinations against diseases that are the most common risks to our horses’ health in their given region, pose the most significant risk to a horse’s health if infected and/or are required by law. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), core vaccines include the following:

    -        Eastern/Western Equine Encephalomyelitis
    -        Rabies
    -        Tetanus
    -        West Nile Virus

    Vaccinations for additional diseases can be given on a risk-based, as-needed basis. This means that the disease might be prevalent in your area; there has been a recent outbreak or history of outbreaks in your area or an area in which you ship;  or that your horse has shown previous susceptibility to a specific disease. Risk-based vaccinations include, but are not limited to:

    -        Equine Herpesvirus (EHV)
    -        Influenza
    -        Streptococcus equi (Strangles)
    -        Rotovirus
    -        Potomac Horse Fever (PHF)

    Information on risk-based vaccination types and schedules can be found at http://www.aaep.org/custdocs/AdultVaccinationChart.pdf?osCsid=bnlmf3d1ou3j3dpfvppdj713i0

    Of significant interest to many horse owners, especially those who ride in or stable their horses near forests, tall grass or particularly dense brush is Lyme disease. Just as with humans, horses can contract the disease from the bite of an infected tick. Also as with humans, the disease can have severe effects on horses.

    While the bulls-eye pattern seen in humans at the site of a tick bite to signify Lyme disease isn’t visible in horses, there are signs to look for. Not all horses will show signs of infection, those that do may present initial clinical signs that mirror those of other diseases, including low-grade fever, lethargy, undiagnosed sporadic lameness, swollen joints, neck or back pain and weight loss, tests can be done to diagnose whether or not the cause is Lyme disease, as well as whether it is in the early or chronic stages of the infection.

    If a horse is infected with Lyme disease, a one to two month round of antibiotics will be prescribed. If left untreated, the disease can significantly impact a horse’s organ and neurological health.

    Currently, there is not an approved vaccine for horses for Lyme disease. Some veterinarians use the commercially available canine vaccine for Lyme disease for their equine clients.

    Prevention is a horse’s (and horse owner’s) best protection against the disease. Owners should use insect repellent (those based on Permethrin or Pyrethrin have shown particular efficacy) and should check their horses for ticks regularly, especially under the mane, under the tail, and on their throat, ears and stomach.

  • 03/08/2016 9:55 AM | Deleted user

    By Sarah E Coleman

    “Spring” to most barn owners is a wonderfully frustrating season. While everyone is anxious to be rid of winter blankets and colder temperatures, mud and shedding season come right on the heels of warmer weather, leading to dirty everything as barns come into heavier springtime use. 

    Whether that means that horses on your personal farm will come back into more-consistent work, or, if you own a boarding barn, that and lessons and riding are about to ramp up for the season, the implications are the same: the barn, tack room and common areas will get much more use than they have over the last three or four months.

    So what can you do to prepare for this increased barn workload and get a jump on warmer weather?

    • Declutter. It’s exceptionally easy when winter has us in its throes to simply pile things like horse blankets, broken buckets and similar seldom-used items into corners, wanting to deal with them when the weather is a little warmer (and you can feel your hands!). Now is the time to go through everything that’s been collecting dust throughout the cold months and either fix it, send it out for repair or toss it. It’s amazing how much better your barn will look after just this one step!
    • Clean heated buckets and remove tank heaters. After you scrub the buckets and descale the heater, inspect their cords for wear and tear (and damage from curious teeth). If you don’t find any damage, roll the cords and secure them together, and store buckets upside down. If you find a break in the cord, throw the bucket or heater away instead of trying to repair it yourself with electrical tape. The same can go for any extension cords that have been used. Before simply plugging fans into them for the summer months, carefully inspect them to be sure they are not frayed or cracked. Many barn fires are caused from electrical cords that have been damaged.
    • Check stalls doors and walls for damage. Horses that have been in more than usual can have energy to burn, and can take out their frustration on the walls that contain them. Check all surface areas for damage, loose boards, protruding nails and the like, and repair as needed.
    • Level floors on stalls and walkways if they are not asphalt or concrete. While this is a difficult job no one looks forward to, it’s necessary to take care of these areas in a timely manner so that the holes don’t become so large that they trap water and manure, making cleaning a hassle.
    • Pressure wash the outside of the barn and stalls. While this task isn’t necessary, it’s amazing what a difference blasting off the dirt can make! Just be careful not to get so close that you blow the paint off the building.
    • Clean out the hayloft or hay storage area in preparation of first cut. Here is another area where cold hands can take a toll. Most areas where hay is stored get “good,” “bad” and “questionable” piles after a long winter of dark feedings; now is the time to inspect the hay carefully and toss what can’t be fed.
    • If you store your hay on pallets, pull off all the bales and clean out the loose hay that has built up under the pallets, tossing it on the manure pile as you go—it’s most likely too dusty or moldy to be fed. If you use a loft, move all the hay to one end, sweep the floor, then swap ends and restack the bales neatly and toward the front so that hay gets fed first when fresh bales start coming in. This also lets you know just how much hay you have leftover when preparing to purchase hay for the fall.
    • Inspect the barn for rodent damage. Mice, rats and the like are sneaky buggers. They love to wreak havoc on even the tidiest barn. Carefully inspect all lights, wires and switches to be sure they haven’t been chewed through by critters in search of a cozy place to nest for the winter.
    • Clean out your first aid kit. Toss all old or expired medicines, or any that seem to have changed colors or textures. Write down what you will need to replace so you can ask your vet to bring it when she comes to do spring shots. Also double-check that you have enough commonly used items like elastic wrap, syringes, ointments and similar products. It can be helpful to make a checklist of everything you have and keep it with the kit so you can denote what you’ve used and replace it as needed so you’re prepared for the next emergency.
    • Unclutter the feed room. Remove all old feed bags, and throw out expired supplements and congealed liquids. Sweep up spilled feed and make sure you have tight-fitting lids on feed containers.
    • Decobweb. Not only are cobwebs unsightly, they’re extremely flammable. This task is best done when “helpful” equines are not in stalls and after you have cleaned the hayloft.
    • Manage your manure pile. How you deal with your muck depends on your farm, but have it hauled away as soon as the ground firms up, or turn it as compost as soon as you’re able.

    • Deep clean tack. With little fear of frosty fingers to keep you from only lightly cleaning bridles, make a concerted effort to really scrub all leather goods in your tackroom. Condition them once they have been cleaned and store them in their proper places.
    • Clean out your tack trunk. When you’re really looking forward to a hot shower after a cold ride, it’s easy to toss everything in one big pile in your tack trunk or locker and go home. Now is the time to remove everything from your tack trunk and thoroughly clean the inside, scrubbing at spilled ointments and removing old containers. Put everything back in neatly once you’ve wiped it down.
    • If you come across items you haven’t used in ages, that doesn’t fit you or your horse, or that you have duplicates of, consider donating them to an equine organization in need or finding a local tack sale.

    • Clean and repair blankets. While it’s easy to jump the gun on the first warm days and send every stich of horse clothing you own out to be repaired, make sure you have at least one sheet on hand for the infamous snows we get in March. While you can wash and rewaterproof your blankets yourself, if  some blankets are in need of repair, it may be easier to simply send them out, having them washed, waterproofed and repaired in one place.
    • Sanitize brushes. Put dirty brushes in a bucket of soapy water, allowing them to soak, and then rinse them clean and leave them to dry in the sun. A bit of bleach can also be added to the water, which is especially if any horses in your barn are fighting any skin funk.
    • Clean leg bandages and wraps. Once they’re clean, roll them and make sure you have the mate. Store them in one area so they’re easy to locate later.
    • Clean and reorganize the tack room and other storage areas. If your barn has a community tack room, no doubt it’s become a bit of a jumbled mess as lessoners, boarders and their guests have come in and out all winter long, dragging in muddy tack and hairy saddlepads. Take time to move everything from one side of the tack room (or completely empty it, if possible), and thoroughly clean the walls, hooks and floor before moving on to the other side. Consider adding more shelves to help corral the clutter, which can feel never-ending. 

  • 03/07/2016 9:40 AM | Deleted user

    By Stacy Curwood

    I’m Stacy Curwood, and I’m the rider and owner of Special Dark, aka Sparky.  Sparky is a six-year old Thoroughbred off the track and I am a 41-year-old history professor at UK. We’ve been together for almost two years, ever since I saw Sparky on a video and had him shipped to me sight unseen.  He’s called Sparky because he is a bit opinionated in the barn, but he’s turned out to be a very willing and athletic partner, and I’m excited about our future together.

    We completed a couple of Beginner Novice horse trials in 2015, and both times he was a superstar jumping.  I was frustrated with the dressage phase, however.  Sparky has good gaits and is more than capable in the sandbox, but I did not have him solidly on the aids and it showed. I vowed to go home and do some homework. I moved Sparky to a facility with an indoor arena and good footing, and was delighted to discover that talented trainer Megan Lynn was available to teach there.  With Megan’s help we spent the fall building basics on the flat and over jumps, making significant progress in both areas. My equitation and Sparky’s responses to my aids improved greatly.

    When I applied for the MSEDA scholarship, I decided to focus on dressage and to return to a trainer who has made a huge impact on my riding: Sandy Osborn.  Sandy is a USEF “S” judge and USDF Gold Medalist who teaches and trains near Atlanta, Georgia.  Sandy had helped me previously with my older horse Cat Burglar (“Taco”), and transformed my riding by teaching me to engage my core muscles and feel straightness in the horse. Every lesson with her was an immersion experience, both incredibly demanding and rewarding.  Now I wanted to utilize her skills in pushing horses and riders to new levels of excellence with Sparky. When I was lucky enough to win the MSEDA Education Scholarship, I signed us up for a week of dressage “boot camp” with Sandy.


    I pull into Ashland Farm, a fabulous facility in Walnut Grove, Georgia.  Ashland has belonged to multiple generations of the Calhoun family and, after farming cotton, cattle, and fresh produce it developed into an equestrian paradise a few decades ago. It has a boarding barn but what makes it special is that non-boarders can purchase a membership and use two dressage arenas, a showjumping arena, a cross-country schooling field up to Preliminary, and 300 acres of wooded trails and fields to hack in. The boarding barn is adjacent to a covered arena with textile footing.

    Lucy Calhoun, the owner, greets me. Sparky is to stay in one of the six stalls that are attached to the covered arena and reserved especially for guests. We get him settled in and she patiently writes down the detailed feeding instructions I give her. I give Sparky a kiss goodnight and head off to my friend Lynda’s house to bed myself down.


    I tack Sparky up and ride into Ashland’s covered arena.  Right away, Sandy notices me clamping my leg at the walk. She has me relax my leg and bump him lightly with both calves to tell him to walk forward.  This will be a theme for the whole lesson—bump with one leg or both, then relax and let my legs lie on his sides.  The aids should be short-lived and definite.  Not only that, I have to be certain to allow him to step forward with the rest of my body.  Sit back so more of the horse is in front of me. Weight my elbows but keep my hands weightless so that he can lift his wither and drop his neck over onto the bit. If I want to slow the tempo, I must do so with my core and not the reins, because the reins stop his hind legs and encourage him to drop behind the bit, one of his go-to evasions.

    We also address straightness. Since he is carrying his haunches to the left, Sandy has me push him from my left leg into a leg yield on a left-handed 20-meter circle. My tendency is to lean over my left hand and pull on that rein, but that solves nothing. The real problem is that he is not stepping from his left hind into the right rein, so the leg yield is a tool to push him into the proper alignment and help him start learning to step through with the left hind. She has me either leg-yielding or being prepared to leg yield every moment when we are tracking left so that we preserve the correct alignment. Going right, I am to curve his body around a right leg that is weighted and directly underneath me, keeping his haunches correctly positioned to the right. We think we have improved the straightness so Sandy has me trot a serpentine to test it.  I ask him to turn left with his haunches on the correct track—and he has a tantrum! Back to the circle, pushing the haunches left until he settles. We try again.  Much better this time!

    To finish, we do a little bit of canter.  Sandy wants me to kick forward, much more than I think I need to, almost thinking medium.  The canter seems too fast to me and I am tempted to lean forward and slow him down with my reins.  But she tells me to sit back and follow with my elbows, and to my surprise Sparky’s wither lifts under me and he balances himself for several steps.

    We finish there. Sparky and I are going to sleep well tonight!


    I meet saddle fitter Nancy Bardy at the barn in the morning.  Nancy sold me my dressage saddle two years ago, but at the time she had flocked it for Taco.  Now that Sparky is my main competition partner, it’s time to flock it for him.  Nancy finds that she can make some substantial changes that will greatly improve the fit. We’re both pleased with the result.  Sparky has his own saddle now!

    In my lesson, Sparky is already better.  Between the saddle reflock and his memory of what we worked on the day before, he is straighter and more willing to go forward. I’m still weighting and elongating my right side, sitting back to allow the hind legs to come forward, and pairing heavy elbows with weightless hands. Today Sandy pushes us to move more forward in all three gaits, keeping the energy constant. On the circle left, I concentrate on leading him with my right rein, always encouraging him to step over to it but without changing his bend so his shoulder follows the path of the circle. We spend less time leg-yielding on the circle (though always making sure the haunches don’t fall left) and practice leg yields on the center line.  He’s stepping to my right rein better when we leg yield over toward the right.  When I weight my right stirrup and gently push with my left leg, he moves fluidly over to the wall.  Leg yielding toward the left, where he wanted to lead with his haunches and fly over to the left, he is staying underneath me. Sometimes we just trot the center line and don’t leg yield, just to ensure that we can maintain straightness without the arena wall.

    At the canter, I practice allowing with my elbows again and establishing a forward hand-gallop.  This time, when I sit back and lighten my seat, thinking about lifting his front end with my lower abdomen, he lifts his wither for several circles and stays wonderfully light in the reins.  He feels like a real dressage horse now!

    As I’m finishing my ride, Dr. Kim Keeton, a sport horse veterinarian who happens to be a dear friend and the person who helped me find Sparky, watches him at all three gaits and then walking in hand. He shows some asymmetries, so we decide to acupuncture and do a chiropractic adjustment.  I’m excited to see how he feels tomorrow.


    I’m excited to see the sun when I wake up in the morning because the past two days have been rainy—and then I hear the wind howling. Trees are swaying and when I get on Sparky and ride into the arena leaves are dancing around his feet.  He has a little spook at one end but, when we start to work, he becomes steady and attentive.  He’s easier to straighten today and Sandy notices greater swing behind the saddle, very likely a result of his bodywork yesterday.

    My hands are still bouncing around, however, and Sandy decides to have me put a bridge in my reins for better stability. Then she tells me to think about “sitting him through” instead of pushing him through to the contact.  This image helps me sit taller and counteract my frustrating tendency to tip forward in the saddle.  It also helps me push his hind legs so that he opens the angle of his throat latch into a more correct outline rather than ducking behind the contact as he tends to do. I engage my core to moderate his tempo—and I am the one who dictates the tempo, not him. I am also more able to drape my legs on his sides, especially at the canter, and give more definite leg aids.

    At first I feel that I am not riding him round enough and that he is above the bit.  But the video another of Sandy’s students shoots of me shows a different reality: he is carrying himself correctly, with a longer neck and lighter on the forehand.  My leg yields are far more consistent and I am riding both sides of him more classically, with true bend each way. His canter is far more coordinated. We wrap up with a short hack around one of Ashland’s wooded trail loops.  Even though it has started to spit cold rain, I’m warmed by a sense that we are getting somewhere and I don’t mind the weather anymore.


    Sparky’s last day of work before two days off is very similar to the previous three rides: the theme is bringing his hind legs under his body and ensuring straightness.  But that second item is becoming easier each ride.  I’m still using the leg yield on the circle left in order to straighten him here and there, but I can ride with classical bending aids most of the time in both directions.

    This time, Sandy increases the demands somewhat.  We leg yield from quarter line to quarter line, with no wall to catch us at the end.  This requires me to keep him between my right and left aids, neither allowing him to trail his haunches nor escape my outside rein and fly outward. We start with bridged reins again but I drop the bridge halfway through the ride, working hard to keep the feeling of having the same bearing and independence of the reins.

    We also pay more attention to trot-canter transitions. In preparation, I ask for a bit more step with the hind legs, again keeping the tempo steady.  Sparky doesn’t like that!  He kicks and bucks, behavior that Sandy tells me to ignore.  I keep up the pressure and his trot grows more expressive and I can even sit in preparation for canter departures.  I’m to keep the hind legs under and the correct bend, thinking about keeping him pushing toward the outside rein and maintaining bend in the ribcage with inside leg. Some transitions are mediocre, but some of them are the best I’ve ever felt on him.

    We finish the week practicing carefully letting his neck out into a stretch at the trot, then picking him up again, and then allowing stretch again.  Sandy suggests that I add this exercise into his repertoire, as well as near-transitions to walk followed by trotting off again, in order to keep his hind legs responsible and stepping underneath him, even when we are wrapping up a ride.


    Sparky gets some well-deserved time off while Sandy and I travel to Pine Top Farm for the Advanced Horse Trials and CIC. Sandy is judging all day Saturday, and I am her loyal scribe (aka fly on the wall).  Since I first met Sandy scribing at this same event, I know that I will learn much from the day and it doesn’t disappoint.  The theme of the day is balance: depending on the level, the horse should be in level or uphill balance.  The majority of Sandy’s comments relate to the horse being on the forehand (I write “4hd” at least 50 times throughout the day) and the balance makes a big difference in the scores each movement gets.  She also makes many comments that horses need more bend in circles and in the shoulder-ins and haunches-ins.  She notes that eventers tend to do better halts and rein-backs than dressage horses do, in her experience.  The day reminds me that the judges can only evaluate what they see in front of them during the four to six minutes of a test, and that the test directives dictate how the judge evaluates each movement.


    After a morning of cross-country jump judging at Pine Top, I’m back at Ashland for another lesson.  Sparky seems refreshed after two days off, and I’m happy to be back in the saddle too. As in the previous two rides, I start out with my bridge and work on pushing him out in front of me, creating the feeling of pushing the energy from his hind legs up and forward. As we keep going, I drop the bridge and Sandy asks for more and more of that uphill tendency. She has me visualize his shoulder and front legs reaching up and out, and lift my own core to facilitate that.  He feels more swingy today, and he’s not dropping behind the contact. I still have to work hard to keep my right leg positioned correctly at the girth, but he is moving in better alignment.

    Sandy introduces an exercise that combines the bending figures and lateral movements we’ve been doing during the week.  We do a ten- or twelve- meter half circle on to the center line (or just off it), then head back to the track.  As we do so, I change the bend and ask for a leg yield to the track.  Once on the track, I do a ten-or 12-meter circle, and then continue on down the track in shoulder-in.  After several rounds of this, Sparky feels much more supple, and asking him for more uphill work yields a satisfying feeling.


    We squeeze in another lesson on Monday morning before I have to head back to Kentucky. We do leg yields right out of the box (they are a warm-up exercise, Sandy likes to remind me) and some canter work that includes baby counter canter on a shallow serpentine along the long side. Today it is really helping when I visualize a small circle from the side that includes my elbows and my hip bones, and I want both parts of my body to stay in the circle.  Expand that circle, and it includes my seatbones, the tops of my legs, and his withers—in other words, our shared center of gravity. We finish with walk-trot-walk transitions around the outside of the arena, working on preserving the energy through the down transitions (I should feel like I could trot off again at any moment during the process) and the suppleness during up transitions.

    The horse I bring home is much improved from the one I started out with a week previously. He’s easier to keep straight and more responsive to my leg and weight aids.  He’s helped by a rider who is sitting taller and more evenly (though I think I will need to be aware of keeping my right side long and my right leg underneath me for the foreseeable future!). He’s swinging and rounder behind the saddle and he’s gotten a better idea of how to use his abdominal muscles to lift his wither and take more weight on his hind legs. All in all, it’s been a tremendously educational week and we are leaving with plenty of homework.  I can’t wait to try out our new skills this season—catch us trotting down center line at a competition near you soon!

  • 02/23/2016 4:05 PM | Deleted user

    By Sarah E Coleman

    As with most girls, Erin Pullen, owner of Go Big Eventing in Shelby County, Ky., was drawn to horses as a young girl. Erin fell in love with the sport of eventing because of influential force Jennifer Crossen of Windy Knoll Farm in Winchester, Ky. Jennifer taught Erin on some very kind lesson horses that instilled in her the confidence to run cross county. “I owe Jennifer so much,” says Erin. “Without her guidance I doubt I’d be the rider I am today.”

    Erin began Go Big Eventing in 2012, catering to a vast array of horses and riders, though her specialty is off-the-track Thoroughbreds. Having worked on the track for 13 years, in positons ranging from galloping, assistant training and eventually having 30 racehorses under her care, Erin loves and truly understands the Thoroughbreds. “They have their own language, one I very patiently learned to understand,” she explains.

    Erin’s clientele also includes adult riders who started riding a little later in life, and Saddlebreds that have recently flocked toward her. One of Erin’s favorite parts of Go Big Eventing is seeing horses and riders learn and excel at new disciplines. As with the Thoroughbreds, Erin is extremely patient in helping her students reach their goals, whether that is the American Eventing Championships or a one-star event.

    In addition to training and teaching, Erin has lofty goals for her two personal upper-level horses, Big and Tag, as well: She would love to compete at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event and abroad.

    Erin’s OTTB Big is currently competing at the Intermediate level. Erin and Big have an extensive history together: Erin owned and trained him during his racing career, then retired him as a 4-year-old after he suffered a minor injury. “He and I have the greatest partnership, he’s a beast and a blast on cross country, and has so much grace and elegance in the dressage ring. He has helped me with every other horse I bring along,” Erin says of Big           P
    hoto by Liz Crawley

    Tag, Erin’s second horse, is also an OTTB. In 2014, the duo was 11th at the AEC’s at Novice, and at Team Challenge that same year they were second at Training. In 2015, the pair moved to Prelim, where they completed the CCI* at the Hagyard Midsouth Team Challenge and then finished seventh in their first Intermediate at River Glen in November. 

    Photo by Liz Crawley

    The Fitness Formula

    So what does it take to keep her upper-level horses fit and ready to compete? Diligence. As Erin doesn’t go South to train in the winter it’s absolutely imperative that she be based at a facility where she can continue to ride year-round. Erin is based out of Allday Farm, owned by Dr. Steve and Kim Allday, who were Erin’s first sponsors. Erin has 16 stalls on the property, which includes 82 acres with some cross country jumps, a generous covered arena and an outdoor arena.

    PC Walter LehnerPhoto by Walter Lehner

    After the conclusion of her show season in November, Erin allows both her horses to have the month of December off, then begins to leg them back up in January. Her goal is to compete her horses, on average, once a month. As she is now riding at the upper levels, more travel is necessary to get to events like Poplar Place and Chattahoochee Hills.

    Erin begins to bring her horses back into shape with lots of flat work, riding them six days a week. She works on the basics, including transitions, balance, straightness and lateral work. She incorporates in ground poles, raised poles and cavaletti before starting any sort of conditioning work. Once the flatwork becomes easier, with fewer breaks needed before being pushed, Erin begins to get her horses out of the ring for conditioning work, which she can do on the farm. She can then ask them for hill work, with lots of walking up and down hills first, then trotting.

    “I let the horses tell me when they’re ready to start galloping,” Erin explains. “I have to be careful galloping Big and Tag, they tend to keep themselves pretty fit. They both have knack for having silly antics in the dressage arena if they’re a little too fit!” 

    Depending on the level of horse, they’re in work at least a month before going back to competing, Erin explains. “With Big, I always drop him down a level when he starts out in the year. As he’s getting older, I don’t ever want to push him past what he’s ready for.”

    “He’s a funny one—he’ll let on that he is tougher than he is, but I have to be able to recognize that and protect him from himself,” she comments. Here again, knowing Thoroughbreds and her horses is imperative to getting Big properly conditioned for his show season.

    Photo by Liz Crawley

    Maintaining Human Fitness

    Erin doesn’t have to do any specific training to get herself ready to perform at the upper levels, as her job tends to keep her quite fit. “The farm has a lot of space in between paddocks, so I do a lot of walking. I ride at least six or seven horses a day, and I do stalls,” she explains. “When I teach, you’ll never see me sitting; quite often I will be constantly walking or sometimes running next to one of my beginner riders.”

    However, Erin does pay close attention to her diet. “I don’t eat junk food or drink soda,” she says. “I always have a bottle of water nearby and healthy snacks that are easily grabbed” so she can fill up on the good stuff instead of quick, tide-me-over-for-now junk food.

    Photo Credit Xpress Foto

    She keeps grapes, cheese cubes, smoothies and protein bars on hand, and constantly drinking water keeps her from getting the “oh my gosh, I have to eat right now!” feeling.

    A conscientious approach to horses, which Erin honed on the track, has served her well with Go Big Eventing. Taking care of herself, as well, can only help her on the path to success. 

  • 02/23/2016 3:55 PM | Deleted user

    By Sarah E Coleman

    Midsouth Eventing and Dressage Association has a unique requirement for membership in addition to paying dues: members must volunteer at events to be eligible for year-end honors.

    While this may seem onerous to some, the number of hours to volunteer is not a burden: Members must donate 8 hours of their time total, over the course of the competition year (December 1 through the end of the Hagyard Midsouth Three-Day Event in October as it is the last horse show in the area). Four of these volunteer hours can be at any MSEDA-sanctioned show, but the other four hours must be at either MSEDA Dressage in the Park or Hagyard Midsouth Team Challenge. Members can obtain hours by fence judging, stewarding, bit checking, scoring and jump crewing, to name just a few possibilities. Riders, too, are eligible for these awards in the division in which they compete. For example; a rider who competes in Preliminary Eventing is eligible for awards at that level. If the same rider competes at Preliminary Combined Tests and First Level Dressage, they will be eligible in those categories as well. If they garner the most points of all of the competitors in a given discipline (Eventing, Dressage or Combined Tests), they are eligible for overall High Point Rider, Overall High Point Horse or Mare of the Year, Master Rider (for adults over the age of 50), Junior/Young Rider (for anyone under the age of 21), or special awards such as the Grasshopper Award, for the High Point Thoroughbred, or the Pony Club Award for active Pony Club members who are also MSEDA members, to name a few.

    Volunteer coordinators at each show must sign off on volunteer hours. Forms can be found and printed from the MSEDA website.  Completed forms must be sent to Mary Margaret Sterling (sprgcrk@bellsouth.net). All forms MUST be SIGNED by the Volunteer Coordinator at the show for the hours to be counted. If a member is interested in a special award such as the Pony Club Award, the Grasshopper Award, the Adult Amateur Award, or the Hall of Distinction they must notify Mary Margaret Sterling in writing that they would like to be considered. Points for those awards will not start accruing until Mary Margaret is notified.

    In addition to being eligible for year-end ridden awards, there are also year-end awards that recognize the people who accrue the most volunteer hours during the competition year called the Volunteer Awards. Twelve people who accumulate the most hours are recognized at the MSEDA banquet. Incredibly, the top winner of the 2015 MSEDA Volunteer Awards, logged over 158 hours helping at events!

    Click here to read the Volunteer Awards from 2015.

    Download the form to begin tracking your hours here.

  • 02/23/2016 9:03 AM | Deleted user

    By Jen Roytz

    Around this time each year riders young and old are thinking about what competitions they want to enter throughout the upcoming season with their horse(s). What is the best way to create a plan that will be easy to follow and allow you and your horse to peak at the right time?

    Lexington-based trainer Jenn O’Neill, barn manager and trainer at Antebellum Farm, says it is important to be goal-oriented.

    “I suggest my students pick one or two goals for the upcoming season,” said O’Neill. “They don’t have to be big ‘riding career-defining’ goals, like winning the AECs or a big FEI competition, but they need to have a goal,” said O’Neill.

    The goals can be simple, like moving up a level in competition throughout the year, qualifying for the American Eventing Championships (AECs) or competing in their first one-star event. Then, it is all about mapping out a plan to get there.

    When moving up a level in competition, for example, O’Neill suggests deciding well in advance what specific competition will be the least intimidating to move up to a more challenging level, then plan your competition schedule using that as an end-goal. She also strongly suggests making sure your coach can be there for support and guidance.

    “Moving up a level can be stressful, and having someone there to remind you that you can do it is really important,” said O’Neill, an advanced level rider who has competed at the CCI** level. “I find that meeting the minimum requirements to move up a level is seldom enough to be prepared, so I want my students to be overly prepared and confident to go out and get the job done safely.”

    Be considerate of your horse’s abilities as well as your own. If he or she is struggling to comply with what you are asking, they may not be as ready as you are for such a big challenge. An outside perspective from your coach or a trainer can be helpful.

    Photo credit JJ Sillman

    As is the case with everything in life, even the best laid plans often need to be adjusted along the way. So many things can impact your progress, from weather and injuries to having an uncharacteristic poor performance. Be open to modifying your plan, allowing you to stay focused on your greater goal.

    “It’s always good to have a back-up plan in case an outing doesn’t go

    as anticipated,” said O’Neill. “So much of the sport is mental, so talk with your coach if you get frustrated or overwhelmed, or if something makes you start to question the plan you’ve set for yourself.”

    The bottom line is that the goals one sets should be fun an achievable. It is good to have a bit of nervous excitement when attempting a new challenge, but the task you are facing should never feel overwhelming or scary.

    “Choose goals that are realistic and achievable with hard work, but don’t forget to dream a little,” said O’Neill. “Go out of your comfort zone a little with that end-of-year goal, but don’t forget, this sport is supposed to be fun for both the rider and the horse!”

    Photo credit JJ Sillman

  • 02/23/2016 8:24 AM | Deleted user

    Congratulations to our door prize winners and a huge THANK YOU to all those who donated prizes! We are so grateful for your support of MSEDA!


    1- E-Z View Number System A Friend of MSEDA Susan Posner
    1-Horseshoe Ornament X/C  KVT ART Carol Lee
    1-Horseshoe Ornament X/C  KVT ART Tiffany Smith
    1-Horseshoe Ornament Dressage KVT ART Janice Holmes
    1- Thoroughbred Pillow Friend of MSEDA Chelsea Smith
    1- Thoroughbred Pillow Friend of MSEDA Susan Moran
    1- Blue/ Gray MSEDA Halter Valley Vet Supply  Marianne deBarbadillo
    1- McCauley's All Natural Rice Bran Oil McCauley's & Alltech Mary Margaret Sterling
    1- Black Crown Crystal Dressage Bridle Dover Saddlery Cincinnati, Ohio Pam Kimmel
    1-Horseshoe Wine Holder Nonesuch Horse Shoe Design Marianne deBarbadillo
    1-Black Halter Luckett's Tack Shop Joe Carr
    1-Horseshoe Design Drink Coasters Nonesuch Horse Shoe Design Shawna White
    1-Avon Big Tote Bag Friend of MSEDA Chris Hayner
    1-Avon Big Tote Bag Friend of MSEDA Rachel Henson
    1-Avon Big Tote Bag Friend of MSEDA Shawna White
    1- Wine Cards/42 Facts and Quotations/Nectar of the Gods Friend of MSEDA Julie Congleton
    1- Hasbro Fur Real Friends Life Size Pony Friend of MSEDA Mary Margaret Sterling
    1-Framed Artist White Head Fox Hunt Print Friend of MSEDA Marian Zeitlin
    1-Pair of Horse Pierced Earrings/ Valley Vet Supply T-Shirt Friend of MSEDA/ Valley Vet Supply Katie Hagerty
    1- Camargo Hunt Calendar A Friend of MSEDA Elaine Farr
    1- Camargo Hunt Calendar Friend of MSEDA Anastasi Curwood
    1- Picture Frame Horse Shoe Nonesuch Horse Shoe Design Chris Hayner
    1- Gold Filly Pins/ Mouse Pad/ T Shirt Valley Vet Supply/ Friend of MSEDA Robyn Munson
    1-EquiOtic Ice Pack Cooler and Pastes Doug Froh/EquiOtic Elaine Farr
    1-EquiOtic Ice Pack Cooler and Pastes Doug Froh/EquiOtic Chris Hayner
    1- Fine Art Custom Design Show Bowl Beth Goldstein Designs Sara Hubbard
    1- bag of Buckeye Nutriton EQ 8 Gut Health Buckeye Nutrition Mary File
    1- bag of Buckeye Nutriton EQ 8 Gut Health Buckeye Nutrition Lynn Miles
    1-5lb-McCauley's Hydrolyte and Calendar McCauley's & Alltech Ellen Thomson
    1- 5lb-McCauley's Hydrolyte and Hat McCauley's & Alltech Linda Lauren
    1- Bath Perfume Cubes Along/ Scented Candles A Friend of MSEDA Bev Henson
    1-T-Shirt/ Musical Box Old Kentucky Home Valley Vet Supply/ Friend of MSEDA Erin Woodall
    1-Fox figurine and Hunt Pin A Friend of MSEDA Anastasi Curwood
    Gift Cards and Certificates    
    1-Annual Maintenance Service Mark Kubicki Trailer Service Janice Holmes
    1- Certificate for DEVER 3- Day Upgrade to 4 Golf Cart Dever Inc Julie Congleton
    1- Equine Movement Therapy Sesson EHB Elise Bealer Anita Bolen
    1- KHP Family 4 Pack/ General Admission KHP Janet Rivers Erin Pullen
    1 Hr Full Massage Janet Grisco Mandy Alexander
    1- $25.00 Amazon Gift Card Friend of MSEDA Pam Kimmel
    1- Annual KHP Parking Pass Kentucky Horse Park Julie Congleton
    1- DVD Taped Combined Test at Participating Show Another Point of View Anita Bolen
    1- DVD Taped Dressage Ride at Participating Show Another Point of View Ellen Thomson
    1-Gift Certificate $25.00 The Tack Shop of Lexington Elaine Farr
    1-Gift Certificate $25.00 The Tack Shop of Lexington Mandy Alexander
    1-Gift Certificate $25.00 The Tack Shop of Lexington Jolene Fullerton
    1-Gift Certificate $25.00 The Tack Shop of Lexington Mary Fike
    Gift Certificate Suzanne Fisher Photo Suzanne Fischer Meg Upchurch
    Gift Certificate Suzanne Fisher Photo Suzanne Fischer Chelsea Smith
    1-X/C Shooling Fee at Land's End Farm Martha Lambert Bev Henson
    1- 2016 X/C Shooling Session at the KHP KHP Foundation/ Laura Klumb Marian Zeitlin
    1- 2016 X/C Shooling Session at the KHP KHP Foundation/ Laura Klumb Mandy Alexander
    1- 4-Day General Admission to the RK3DE Vanessa Coleman Robyn Munson
    1- 4-Day General Admission to the RK3DE Vanessa Coleman Shelley Ryan
    Horse Show and Clinic Entries    
    1- Horse Trial Entry Fee Spring Bay Horse Trial Erin Woodall
    1- Horse Trial Entry Fee Kentucky Classic Horse Trial  Linda Laurel
    1- Certificate for entry to Combined Test Wilderness Trace Pony Club CT Suan Posner
    1-Certificate for entry to Combined Test Wilderness Trace Pony Club CT Cathy Jacob
    1- Entry Paul Frazier Combined Test and Dressage Show Paul Frazier Show/ Anita Bolen Jolene Fullerton
    1-MET Hunter/Jumper Entry Fee Masterson Equestrian Trust (MET) Mandy Alexander
    1-Hunter Pace Entry Masterson Equestrian Trust (MET) Rachel Henson
    1-Spring Run Farm Dressage Show Entry Spring Run Farm/ Susan Harris Carol Scherbak
    1-Spring Run Farm Dressage Show Entry Spring Run Farm/ Susan Harris Martha Lambert
    1-Lands End Farm Mini Horse Trial Entry Fee Lands End Farm/ Martha Lambert Carol Scherbak
    1-Covered Bridge Pony Club Combined Test Entry Peggy Bindner Anita Bolen
    1-Mid South Pony Club Horse Trial Entry Fee Midsouth Pony Club/ Erin Woodall Carol Scherbak
    1-Entry for Stone Place Stables Hunter/Jumper Show Stone Place Stables, Prospect,  Ky Chelsea Smith
    1-Entry for Stone Place Stables Hunter/Jumper Show Stone Place Stables, Prospect,  Ky Kristin Posner
    1- Entry Fee Stone Place Stables Mini Horse Trial Stone Place Stables, Prospect,  Ky Erin Woodall
    1 Entry Fee either Combined Test or Dressage Class Sayre School Combined Tests and Dressage Show Sarah Andres
    1-Horse Trial Entry Fee Jumpstart Horsetrial Mary Margaret Sterling
    1-Dressage Class Entry Snowbird Dressage Show March 2016 Martha Lambert
    1-Dressage Class Entry Snowbird Dressage Show March 2016 Nany Wentz
    1-Entry 2016 Camargo Hunter Trials Camargo Hunt Mary Ann Andres
    1-Entry Camargo Hunt Pace 2016 Camargo Hunt Julie Congleton
    1- Entry 2016 Camargo Hunter Trials Camargo Hunt Mary Lynn Garett

Midsouth Eventing & Dressage Association is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

MSEDA’s mission is to promote and preserve the sports of Eventing and Dressage in the Mid-South area, by providing leadership and education to its members and the community at large. To further these goals, MSEDA will provide educational opportunities, fair and safe competitions, promote the welfare of the horse and rider and reward the pursuit of excellence from the grass roots to the FEI level.

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