Sunday, April 18, 2010

Please sign our petition to support McLain Ward and the USEF

As one of McLain's sponsors, all of us at ECOGOLD couldn't just sit idle any more watching what has been happening to him. So on the this morning, we started a petition to protest against his disqualification, support McLain and also the USEF and U.S. Equestrian Federation show jumping team veterinarian Tim Ober, DVM, who disagreed completely with the FEI’s decision and assessment. PLEASE GO SIGN IT and share it with your friends!

Click here for the petition

McLain Ward issued this statement on April 17: "Thank you to all who are supporting us in this situation. On a personal level this is devastating, but in the bigger picture we need to use this to right the ship of our sport. The FEI has gone too far in this instance and has clearly shown impropriety. I hope we can all stand as a community and create change for the the best interest of the horse, the sport and the riders. Thank you all."

Later this afternoon, he sent this message: “New statement from McLain Ward - April 18: "Over the past few days I have experienced great emotions over two things. The first being that in modern sport such injustice can take place. The second being the overwhelming support that Sapphire and I have received. It is truly incredible and despite having one of the most difficult weeks of my life I am blown away by how you all have spoken up to support us. Truly incredible. Thank You, McLain"”

On our end, I’ve also have been receiving emails all day long since starting this petition. Some people with questions: does it cost anything? NO! It’s a FREE petition. We’re not asking for donations, we’re asking you to stand up and be counted. If you want the FEI to hear us in the equestrian community loud and clear, sign it. A Facebook group has also been created, which is great to show McLain your support, but a petition is an official form of protest to a governing body, the FEI in this case. It is the only recourse we (i.e. the regular folks) have and it helps the USEF in their appeal.

We’ve also received a lot of positive feedback, bravos and well done. Thank you. It is much appreciated. From riders, people who personally know McLain, people that don’t know him at all but admire him. A message that stands out is from a mother of a very promising young rider: “one incident like this might demolish her chances for sponsorship for an international career. So much money in lost time and prize money and crushed dreams.” Yep! This affects riders, sponsors, breeders, owners – pretty much anyone in the US equestrian community. Got a couple of negative ones too but we weren’t bothered by them. Can’t please everybody.

Some companies might be scared of controversy and prefer to not ruffle feathers, but we like to stand up for what’s right and for the people that support us: our sponsored riders, clients, employees and suppliers. I guess we have hypersensitivity of the heart.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Our Rolex Kentucky 3 Day Event Preview - Part 3: The Non-North-Americans

Less than a week until Rolex and finally, every last order of saddle pads, horse boots and Air-Coolers needed by the riders has been shipped. Yay!! Now, we just have to pray for good weather and great performances.

Peter Atkins

Helmet-cam Peter rides for Australia but lives in Vermont. His wife is American but when I asked him if he would ride for the US, he said no. He also rides in Ecogold saddle pads, which proves he has very good taste. He’s bringing HJ Hampton to Rolex. You’ve probably seen his cute little ears on the videos from Red Hills and The Fork but below are some videos where you can see the rest of the horse. At Rolex, feel free to cheer “go Hen go!”

Something you might not know… He’s looking for a web designer that's not going to charge him an arm and a leg to help him with his site and convert his videos.

Peter Atkins and HJ Hampton CIC3*W Wits End

Showjumping at 2009 Bromont are his helmet cam videos!

at Red Hills

Helmet cam at The Fork

Note: if you have a degree in English literature, stop reading right now!

OK, we are mainly going to cheer for our clients and Ecogold riders, because frankly, they are the bestests, nicests and most wonderfullest. But we can be good sports, and also appreciate riders that have less good taste in saddle pads (so far).

Oliver Townend
His horses have already landed in the US and unless that Iceland volcanic cloud keeps him from flying over, he’ll be the one to beat in Kentucky. He has 350,000 good reasons to try harder than any other rider. As he has the most to lose, you can bet he’s going to come out all guns blazing. If you’re a spectator, it puts another layer of intrigue (will he, won’t he?) to what is already an exciting show!

If he wins, I think we’ll be able to hear the screams of all his English fans watching online. I saw him win at Burghley and the roof just exploded!

Something you might not know
… We met him at the Royal Winter Fair and were pleasantly surprised. Some riders we meet for the first time are somewhat guarded until we get to know them better, but he was very friendly and quite funny, with a quick wit and dry sense of humor.

Oliver Townend wins 2009 Burghley Horse Trials!

Oliver Townend and Carousel Quest, XC at 2009 Burghley

Clayton Fredericks
Another rider from the other side of the pond, he was 5th at Burghley Horse Trials with Poilu (Zara Phillips now rides that horse). He’s bringing The Frog to Rolex - don’t know who names his horses... We met Clayton and his wife Lucinda a couple of months ago in Aiken, SC but it was so cold, we could have been in Siberia. They kept on giving the clinic without complaining, joking around. The riders really appreciated the lessons, they are very positive trainers and came across as genuinely nice people. Big thumbs up! So we’re hoping he does well too.

Something you might not know…
Clayton not only rides, trains and gives clinics but he is also the chairman of the Event Riders’ Association, runs a saddlery business with his brother (Southern Stars Saddlery) and apparently, sings in a band.

Here are a couple of videos, one from 2009 Burghley Horse trials and the other one is a look at Team Fredericks, filmed before the 2008 Olympic Games

Our video from Burghley – Clayton and Poilu, Showjumping

Video about Team Fredericks – filmed before the 2008 Olympics

So that concludes our Rolex preview, with a look at all the riders we'll be watching. Become a fan of our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter as we will be posting updates next week. If you are coming to Rolex, come see us in the shopping area (next to Prestige Saddles), and don't miss our autograph sessions with top riders Boyd Martin, Buck Davidson, Karen O'Connor and Phillip Dutton. See you in Kentucky! :)

- Patricia

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Our Rolex Kentucky 3D Event Preview - Part 2 - Team Canada

We don’t need to be patriotic to cheer for Team Ecogold’s Canadian riders. They are all very talented and accomplished riders. On top of that, I don’t know if you have to be amazingly good-looking and have a great personality to event in Canada, but they could definitely all be on the cover of Vogue and win the congeniality award if there was one.

Diana Burnett

Diana is coming to Rolex with Manny, who was an alternate for the 2008 Olympic Games in his first year of competition at the advanced level. Manny is homebred, raised and trained by Diana, which makes this partnership and accomplishment extra special. Last September, Diana and Manny were the top-placed Canadian team at Burghley International CCI4* and only, the 3rd Canadian combination in history to finish to complete the event.

Something you might not know… Diana rescues pitbulls, trains them and turns them into the sweetest barn dogs. She’s like a Canadian Cesar Millan!

Here's Diana and Manny, riding at the 2009 Burghley Horse Trials

Here they are at Rolex 2009

Jessica Hampf
Jessica Hampf rides for Canada but lives in Alabama (yep, you read right). Born in London, Ontario, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee when she was 6 and rode hunter-jumper before getting hooked on eventing.

This will be her first Rolex, which is pretty exciting but nerve-racking at the same time. She will be riding her top horse, High Society III who competed at the 2009 Blenheim Horse Trials, where they gained valuable international experience. Jessica trains with international event rider Jan Byyny, who suffered an unfortunate accident earlier this year. This could be a set back for a lot of people but not for those two pros! Amazingly, the training has continued according to plan and it’s all steam ahead for Kentucky.

Something you might not know… Her generosity and sportsmanship is quite incredible. When we sent her a couple of saddle pads to compete at Blenheim, she generously gave one to a fellow competitor as she thought it could help him. Her team kept washing and re-using the one saddle pad she had left.

Hawley Bennett Already an Olympic veteran (Athens 2004 with Livingstone), Hawley has been to Kentucky many times but this year, she is bringing her little mare Gin and Juice. And when Hawley says “my little mare”, she’s not using an endearment term, that mare is really tiny (15.3 h.h.)! I guess, like a Ferrari, you can be low to the ground but have loads of power. They won the 2009 Bromont International CCI*** and earlier this year, finished 3rd in the CIC*** at Galway Downs . Hawley lives in California (who can blame her!) and is one of the featured Rolex riders, with a blog on their official website. This year, one of her dreams came true when she carried the Olympic torch in her hometown, for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.

Something you might not know… At Fair Hill International, Hawley made the difficult decision to not run Gin and Juice in the cross-country, because of poor weather conditions. This represented a great sacrifice – both financially, as she had flown all the way from California, and personally, as she needed the scores. But her horse’s well-being came first, which is a testament to her great horsemanship and integrity.

Here's Hawley and Gin and Juice, riding at Galway Downs 3* in March 2010 - Hawley starts at 1:49

Kyle Carter
We don’t know Kyle personally as well as some of the other riders, as we only met him in February. Kyle is based in Citra, Florida where he runs Five Ring Stables with his wife Jennifer, an advanced-level competitor. Kyle is an accomplished member of the Canadian Eventing Team, having represented his country at the 2008 Olympic Games riding Madison Park. He was also a member of the Silver Medal winning-team at the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Something you might not know… Kyle founded Safer Building Materials Inc. with fellow Olympian Mike Winter. Their company makes frangible cross country jump logs made of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS). Designed to increase safety and reduce the severity of a fall, PROLOGS™ absorb energy in the event of horse impact and are frangible when hit with enough force and/or velocity. Their technology is already being used by many horse shows, including the Red Hills Horse Trials, Galway Downs and the North American Young Riders Championships.

Here's Kyle and Madison Park at the 2009 Burghley Horse Trials

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Our Rolex preview – Part 1

We’re only 10 days away from Rolex and you can definitely feel the excitement. At Ecogold, I wouldn’t exactly call it excitement…more like complete mayhem and total exhaustion. It’s all hands on deck, 7 days a week, trying to supply all the orders that need to be delivered for Rolex. The pressure is definitely on.
But enough about us, let’s talk about the riders with a bit of inside information you might not know… Here’s our Rolex preview: the riders we’ll be cheering for.

Phillip Dutton

Believe it or not, Phillip Dutton is the first event rider we ever met, in October 2008. At the time, we were completely clueless with regards to eventing and didn’t quite know who he was. He was extremely nice, really liked the product and even offered to give us a hand in promoting it as he had “some name recognition” (his words). After our meeting, we googled him and almost fell out of our chairs. I guess there’s nothing like starting at the top! Since that first meeting, Phillip and his team have been invaluable, helping us immensely on the product side of things.

Phillip won Rolex 2 years ago and will definitely be the busiest man this year, with 3 horses plus another horse on its way to Badminton. Here are some videos from what seems like our “2009 Phillip Dutton-stalking-tour!” and a very special video of his 2008 Rolex win.

Something you might not Phillip's True Prospect Farm, there is a wall of fame and a wall of shame, with pictures of those not-so-flattering moments.

Phillip and Kheops du Quesnay at Fair Hill 2009:

Phillip and Woodburn at Wits End CCI-W:

Phillip and Connaught win Rolex 2008

Karen O’Connor
One of the most successful riders in history, Karen has won the USEA Lady Rider of the Year title a record ten times, won Rolex three times, completed Badminton 5 times and is the recipient of numerous awards. She missed Rolex in 2009, but is back with a vengeance, riding her 2008 Olympic mount Mandiba.

Something you might not know.. the O’Connor barn definitely wins the “cutest dogs” trophy! There’s a menagerie of precious little terriers, who seem to be all related but I couldn’t quite keep track of which one was the aunt, grand-mother or 2nd cousin.

Here is a video of Karen riding Mandiba at Fair Hill International 2009

Boyd Martin
Boyd had a very successful year in 2009. He finished 3rd overall on the USEA Leaderboard, officially changed his citizenship with the FEI to become a member of the US Team (he was previously riding for Australia), struck out on his own with his training and sales business Windurra USA LLC, and had a series of wins, most recently at Fair Hill International 3* with Neville Bardos, in the most horrendous weather conditions. So if it rains at Rolex, no worries!
Boyd will be riding Neville Bardos and Remington XXV in his own colors (navy and white) but he rides Rock on Rose in Bruce Davidson’s colors (red and white) as he owns the mare.

Something you might not know… it has been reported that he practices yoga regularly.

Here are videos of Boyd's three Rolex horses.

Neville Bardos winning at Fair Hill International 2009

Remington XXV at Wits End CCI3*-W

Rock on Rose at Jersey Fresh CCI3*

Buck Davidson
Buck will give his top horses Ballynoe Castle RM and My Boy Bobby a well-deserved break, and is bringing Titanium to Rolex. Last year, Buck was 2nd on the USEA Leaderboard and finished 3rd at Rolex, winning the Pinnacle Trophy with My Boy Bobby for being the highest placed US rider (which he also won in 2004). He just won the Fork CCI*** in April, as well as consistently placing at or near the top at every show.

Something you might not know… Buck told us how to design the straps on our XC boots.

Buck and Ballynoe Castle RM at Burghley Horse Trials

Buck and My Boy Bobby win Wits End CCI3*-W

Allison Springer
Allison is one of our great supporters and super nice, so how can we not be rooting for her? In 2009, she gained valuable experience competing in Europe against the best in the world. In 2010, she seems to be on a roll with Arthur, finishing 2nd at the Fork CCI3* last week. We’re sending good vibes for a great performance at Rolex and a place on the WEG team.

Something you might not know… Allison trained the Haiti 3-Day event team, hoping to get them ready for the Central American and Caribbean Games in July 2010. After the earthquake hit, she posted updates of what was happening to the riders. Thankfully, they were all ok.

Here's Allison and Arthur's dressage ride at Burghley Horse Trials

So there are the US riders we'll be rooting for. Check out Part 2 later this week as we focus on the Canucks! :)

- Patricia

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Monday, April 5, 2010

A tour of Jessica Hampf's Aiken barn

Earlier this year, we visited Canadian Event team rider Jessica Hampf's Aiken barn. Jessica was born in London, ON but moved to Nashville, TN when she was 6 years old. She now lives in Auburn, Alabama - I made her repeat the Alabama part twice when she first gave me her address...Wasn't sure I heard right. Her top horse is High Society III, an Australian thoroughbred who competed at the 2009 Blenheim International Horse Trials in England.
Jessica trains with Jan Byyny, who is based in Aiken, SC in the winter. She rents a barn next door to Jan's which we had the chance to visit. Enjoy the tour!

The house on the property The barn - Jessica came to Aiken with 5 horses High Society after his dressage training session Jessica and High Society (aka Trevor) who will compete at Rolex Kentucky 4* for the first time. Nolan, Jessica's #1 fan!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Louise Serio and Castlerock win $50,000 Chronicle of the Horse/USHJA International Hunter Derby

Clara Lindner/ Equestrian Sport Productions Press Release/photos: Randi Muster/Mustphoto Inc. Wellington, FL - April 3, 2010 - Louise Serio rode to the biggest victory of her career when she piloted Castlerock, owned by Bryan Baldwin, to the win in the $50,000 Chronicle of the Horse/USHJA International Hunter Derby at the 2010 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. The class was also Serio's first derby win ever. Second place was awarded to Scott Stewart and Fashion Farm's Summer Place, while the yellow ribbon went to Tamara Provost and Peridot, owned by Stephen Martines. The prestigious class is part of the Chronicle of the Horse International Hunter Derby nationwide tour, and offers one of the biggest purses in the hunter world.

The class was scored cumulatively over two rounds, and the final round took action under the lights in the International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. The first team of judges was made up of Danny Robertshaw and Bob Crandall, while John Roper and Paddy Nyegard were slated in the second position. Keith Hastings and Pat Dodson were the scribes for the two judges' panels. Judges awarded competitors with a score for their jumping rounds, as well as a bonus point for any large height option they chose to jump (out of five available), and a bonus score out of ten points rewarding riders for their handiness.

Bobby Murphy co-designed the course with Skip Bailey and was assisted by USHJA High Performance Hunter Committee Chairman, Ron Danta. The course was set in the International Arena and offered five different height options over sixteen total elements. The course featured a horseshoe bank, a table bank, as well as an interesting one stride in and out that was made up of hay bales, which were arranged in a large circle. Each fence on the course emulated a natural element that would be found on an old-fashioned hunt course. The course had several areas where riders could show off their handiness and flowing hunter strides, and finished over a long run to an oxer option heading towards the in-gate, where riders were asked to hand gallop almost a quarter of the way around the International Arena to the final fence.

Louise Serio and Castlerock were untouchable over the two rounds of competition, and Serio earned the highest score of her entire career when the second panel of judges awarded her with a 99 after her brilliant second round. Serio talked about the course, and said, "Obviously the course went quite well for me when I rode it. I wasn't sure when I walked it exactly how it was going to go. I think the circle of straw was concerning to all of us because we really didn't know what our horses would do with it."

"I have to say I thought it all came up really well. I liked my turns, I liked my jumps, and my last jump was long! But, once you commit to something like that you just have to keep going," she smiled.
Serio went last in the class, and entered the International Arena with sheer determination. "I'm competitive, but I wanted this class. Especially when I was coming back (for the second round) on top," she admitted. "That's a hard position to come back in and that's a lot of pressure, and I really wanted this class."
Serio did not show any signs of nervousness when she galloped the nine-year-old gelding around the International Arena and chose the most difficult tracks and heights at each option. Serio finished the class with a bang when she flew to the last fence as the crowd erupted before Castlerock's feet could even touch the ground. "I wasn't thinking much (on my way to the last jump). I was just hoping that I saw something in the future out there. After I jumped the oxer I thought 'reorganize a little bit, then just go like hell.' Scott had just had a fantastic round, and that's a lot of pressure to know that he was right there," she remarked.

Riders spoke about how the derby classes are advancing the hunter sport and industry, and Serio commented, "I think the derby is just the whole new level of hunters. It is exciting, challenging, and moving forward to become more and more difficult."

A beaming Serio had a storybook end to the 2010 FTI WEF, and finished by saying, "Anytime you win a class like this it becomes your biggest win. I have to tell you that I'm so grateful and I'm the luckiest person alive. I have great family, friends, and great horses. It's just fantastic."

Here's a video of Louise Serio riding Castlerock at the 2010 AHJF Hunter Spectacular, earlier this year:
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