first published in the October 2022 Equiery

Travel the world with Equiery readers!

Tilting in Scotland
By Barbara Miller (St. Leonard)
Mikayla Miller of St. Leonard and Stacey Gail of Fallston represented the U.S. (and Maryland!) at the Third Garleton Lodge International Tilting Tournament on May 14 at the Rockrose Equestrian Sports Centre in Scotland. This year’s competition included riders from Scotland, the Netherlands and the U.S. Both Mikayla and Stacey competed in the first tournament back in 2017.

The tournament is a variation of Maryland’s state sport of ring jousting, called “tilting.” Instead of three rings suspended under three separate arches, tilting has one arch called a “gallows.” The ring height is adjustable for tilting, unlike the standard height of 6’9’’ here in Maryland.

Each rider charged at this single ring for a total of 12 attempts. Tilting has only two classes: Novice and Open. Both Marylanders competed in the Open class, which required riders to canter through the gallows to capture the ring. The Maryland riders competed on borrowed horses and used borrowed lances.

Stacey finished fifth while Mikayla won the class after riding in a tie-off against Scottish rider Jan Simpson.

Because a few of the Scottish riders had competed in Maryland tournaments in 2017 and 2018, they also held an American Ring Tournament in addition to the tilting tournament. During this part of the competition, Stacey finished second behind Mikayla as the winner. The two wins made Mikayla the Overall Tournament Champion for the 2022 competition. She had previously won both tournaments in 2017.

Racing Through Europe
Elizabeth Scully, former Equiery intern and current Maryland jump jockey, was nominated to the Ladies World Championship Series, which is governed and sponsored by Fegentri, an international racing organization of 26 member countries. Due to a spring injury and some conflicting dates, Scully had a late start in the series but made her first trip to race abroad in August.

On August 21 at the Dielsdorf Racecourse in Zurich, Switerland, Scully drew a horse named Carya and finished fourth. The following weekend in Belgium at the Oostende Racecourse, Scully rode Xarco to a fourth place finish as well.

Next up for Scully was the Ovrevoll Racecourse in Oslo, Norway on September 15 where she rode in two races. She finished second in one of those races!

The Maccabi Games
By Aviva Nebesky (Bowie)
The first Maccabi Games were held in 1932 and were developed because Jewish athletes were prohibited from participating in the Olympic Games at the time. The Maccabi Games have grown and are now the third largest international sporting event, after the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup. Over 10,000 athletes from approximately 80 countries participated in 42 events in Israel between July 14 and July 26 of this year. Dressage was added a few years ago although show jumping has been a part of the Games for a longer period. The equestrian events were held outside Tiberius near the Sea of Galilee in Moshav Sharona at the Double K Ranch July 18-21.

I was honored to have been selected to the U.S. Dressage Team. After an application process that included videotapes of my riding, proof of successful competition through Fourth Level, and a comprehensive written questionnaire, I was chosen to join the team which included Rebecca Cord, our coach, manager, chef d’equipe and anchor of the team and Lauren Sara, an amateur rider.
Riders have the option of riding a pool horse or of arranging for a short-term lease once in Israel. My Team agreed to lease and Rebecca undertook the hard work of tracking down appropriate mounts for us. We were sent videos of quite a few horses. Looking at a lease horse for the Games is not the same as looking at videos for a horse to purchase. Even with a lease, we knew we would only have about 9-10 rides before going down centerline for the actual competition. We also knew that the Israeli Team would be riding their own horses that they had been competing year-round so the likelihood of earning a Gold Medal was low.

I was super lucky to see a video and connect with a horse right off the bat. Dan Dan is a 20-year-old “Israeli mutt” who had been competing with his rider at Third Level successfully during the 2022 show season. In the video he looked correct, a little behind the leg, and “did all the things” correctly, if not with expression. He seemed uncomplicated. I picked him right away.

We arrived in Tel Aviv and had our first rides on our horses at their home farm on July 7. Dan Dan and I did not have a great first ride. His rider, Noga, told me that he is tough and is one of those horses who has to like his rider to perform. Dan Dan and I had some good moments but he was definitely testing me and deciding if he was going to like me. That night I thought about the ride. I also called my trainer, Cheryl Loane, back in the States and discussed the ride and my plan for the next day.

July 8 was so much better! I was allowed to prepare Dan Dan on my own. What a good ride! We really connected and the things that were hard on Thursday (forward, lightness to the bridle, and the flying changes) were easy on Friday. I felt I had found a partner and it seemed that Dan Dan had accepted me.

Saturday was a day off for the horses and also the day that our plans came to a halt. Rebecca and I were diagnosed with COVID and started a one-week quarantine. So much for our week of riding and getting to know our horses. I was not terribly sick but was tired and fatigued. On the following Friday we were released from quarantine and sent to Tiberius to join the rest of the equestrians.
Finally, the next day, I was able to get back on Dan Dan. It was an OK ride but not riding for a week plus having COVID did impact my fitness. I found myself struggling to get air and my core tended to collapse rather than stay strong.

On Sunday, I participated in the first jog. Dan Dan passed with flying colors (me not as much!) and we were able to ride in the competition arena that night under the lights for some practice. It was a magical ride and I felt we were as prepared as we could be for the first day of competition.
Monday competition: Nine people competed in dressage. Five rode Second Level Test 2 and four rode Third Level Test 2. Six riders are Israelis, although three of them competed as individuals for The Netherlands, Germany and France. I was the last rider of the night, riding Third Level Test 2. I was so proud of us as we danced down the centerline. I was third from one judge and fourth from the other with a combined score of 63.9%. Lots to improve upon but I was able to ride the whole test and left the ring exhausted but exhilarated.

Tuesday’s competition was for tests Second 3 or Third 3. Tuesday was not a good day. We warmed up well but Dan Dan got into the arena and put on the brakes. He was tired from being at the venue for a week and tired of this strange rider. He grudgingly went through the motions, but it was not a good test. Our score was a 59.6%. I was devastated to let down my Team. Our combined scores put us in second place behind the Israeli Team and our Team earned a Silver Medal. The winning Israeli Team included the national champion and reserve champions for 2022. Not an even playing field but such an amazing opportunity anyway!

That Wednesday, Dan Dan and I got the day off and we spent a lot of time hand walking, hosing, grooming, and just being together. He seemed much less cranky.

Thursday was our final day of competition, with the Second Level riders riding the FEI Children’s Test and we rode the FEI Junior Team Test, which is a very hard test with elements of both Third and Fourth Levels. I was overall happy with our ride although the judges were not. Some costly errors in the flying changes – one behind my aids and one late – two clean – brought my score down to a 61.9%, just a point behind the Bronze Medal score.

What an amazing experience overall! My first International FEI show on a strange horse in a foreign country after contracting COVID. So many things are the same – horse people are horse people all over the world. Everyone was gracious and kind and so thrilled that the three Americans had come. It was so fun to hear the good wishes in Hebrew as I entered the arena. Horsekeeping is very different, of course, but the sheer love for the horse permeates everything.

The Games were one of the most exciting experiences of my life with horses and I am so honored to have been selected for the Team and to have had the incredible support from my dressage community back here in the U.S. I felt the support of all of you every time I threw my leg over the saddle (a very uncomfortable saddle, I might add!) not as a weight to win but as a lift knowing you all wished me success. THANK YOU to all of you for your encouragement and thank you to Israel and all of the Maccabiah for this incredible opportunity.

Editor’s Note: Aviva Nebesky was presented with a Touch of Class Award from the Maryland Horse Industry Board upon returning to the U.S.

The Week of Wellington
By Valerie Pride (Harwood) – an excerpt from Pride’s weekly newsletter to clients and fans of Favian while competing and judging in the UK
And so, our adventure continues… This week’s focus: Competing at Wellington International. William [Fox Pitt] specifically selected this horse trials as my final preparation for Blenheim. The dressage is on grass, very similar to Blenheim minus no palace in the background! Show jumping is also on grass and on a lot of terrain. It’s a very big disadvantage for our American horses competing on grass over here – Last time he jumped on grass was probably as a baby 2* horse at Carolina?! I can’t even remember!

Favian and I were scheduled to run the Advanced on the bank holiday Monday. Bank Holiday Monday seems to be a random way to find an extra day off, this one falling towards the end of summer. [It did however create] a perfect collision of the holiday and the event and tourists and a traffic accident and next thing you know – it all brought every road out of Scotland [where I had been judging] to a complete halt. Like immobile. [to read Pride’s hilarious full account of how she made it back to England, visit her webpage:]

The crew back home [at Fox-Pitt’s] had taken impeccable care of Favian and so before I really knew it, off we were to Wellington to run my first Advanced in England after not riding for a week and not really eating or sleeping for a day. And hoping that I had packed everything I needed.

Dressage was this blur. Don’t get me wrong, Favian felt amazing after William tuned him up all week! The cross-country was a very fair test and a very long track for a horse trials (over seven minutes) and I had to face the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to walk my Advanced track three times per [my] usual [routine]. William gave me strict instructions and his electric bike, and off I went (even though the instructions weren’t about how to ride an electric bike. I got it sorted and wow do those things fly). I got to “walk” all of the lines and did see each fence at least once!

William told me what to do in show jumping and while I heard him clearly I didn’t listen because I got up there and was like what on earth was he talking about. My apologies because I know I have done this to my own students 27 times! In hindsight it all made sense; but I watched two people jump to learn the course and then tried a new warm up routine, because why not, and then into the arena I went committed to making every inside turn because I thought those were the instructions I was under. Not exactly. Luckily my unicorn remembered how to jump and we made the time.

Walking to [cross-country] warm up, I told myself I would surely remember what fence two looked like when I got there. Egad, this course review isn’t going well [and I told myself to] just look for all of the blue squares and ride tight lines in between! The ground was hard and so I was supposed to run slow which gave me a lot of time to find my next fence. [I was] so thankful to be sitting on Favian, my cross- country machine! His big ears were looking for the fences. l tried a new bit set up and was really focusing on it at the start. He wasn’t exactly galloping with a purpose. Why? Too much bit? Too hard of ground? Not fit enough? I told myself to think about this later but I must make sure to loop him enough rein bouncing into water. It was a big bounce and he needed to be able to use his neck… Blame it on exhaustion, dehydration, starvation, or just plain stupidity – but I completely dropped my rein in the bounce. Suffice is to say, Favian proved himself to be a 6* horse in our final outing.

Before you know it, we are driving home and I’m so thankful the crew lets me ride shot gun next to William because these are just opportunities of a lifetime! We get to debrief about our day, which included everything from young Intermediate horses to the super special campaigners on the team that are about to tackle WEG. Our conversations take place among William talking to his owners and supporters.

Full speed ahead to our next adventure! Love you lots and thanks for the support!

Horses of Menorca
By Alejandra Abella (Annapolis)
This past May, a delegation of U.S. and Maryland horse industry officials and professionals traveled to the Spanish Balearic Island of Menorca in the Mediterranean Sea. From May 25 to 30, the group attended several important equestrian events on the island. The delegation was comprised of Anne Litz of the Maryland Horse Industry Board, Cheryl Stambaugh of the Maryland Standardbred Fund, Lisa Watts of Rosecroft Raceway, dressage trainer Julie Anne Staiger and Jack Burke of Winbak Farm, the largest East Coast breeder of Standardbred horses, with farms in Maryland and Ontario, Canada. I led the delegation, as an equine industry consultant based in Annapolis.

The delegation participated in the Second Annual International Menorca Horse Convention, which drew unique historic and equestrian parallels between Maryland and Menorca, including a historic naval connection through Admiral Farragut, of Menorcan descent, and the importance of harness racing in both Maryland and the island. Our delegation was featured on the front page of the Menorca newspaper the day after the Convention, as well as in several other news outlets. During the convention, Maryland horse industry professionals were able to share important lessons on how the state’s varied industry were united with the help of the Maryland Horse Industry Board.

Other important stops for the delegation included the Hipodrom Municipal De Mao – Mahón, one of Menorca’s two harness racing tracks; the Escola Equestre Menorquina to learn about the Purebred Menorca Horse (PRMe); and harness racing and the fifth edition of Hats and Horses, an Ascot-style social event held at the Hipódromo Torre Del Ram. The annual Hats and Horses event includes antique cars, live music, several harness races and betting, and demonstrations of several equestrian disciplines on the island. Our delegation was again featured in Menorcan and other news outlets the day after the event.

The visit was sponsored and organized by Ariadna Vilalta, founder of Hats and Horses. Gemma Alcaraz of Menorca on Horseback/Son Bou Rutes a Cavall organized the non-harness equestrian events, and the Meliá Cala Galdana Hotel, a Meliá Hotels International beachfront property, hosted the delegation.

Mongolia Trek for Charity
Betsy Cooksey of Solomons Island has been covering thousands of miles on horseback through western Asia helping raise money for children. What started as one trip back in 2016, has turned into a life mission for the 70-year-old who calls herself a “philanthropic athlete.” She told the Capital Gazette in August, “I’ll run, ride or swim for a good cause.”

Cooksey’s first trip to Asia was with a friend, Paula Southern, with whom she often went hiking and riding. Southern was planning a trip to Mongolia for a 250-mile ride to find the Dukha people, a nomadic reindeer tribe. The ride was difficult but Cooksey came back to Maryland invigorated and returned to Mongolia six months later.

In 2017, Cooksey completed the Gobi Gallop Crew Ride, which is a three-week ride and one of the longest annual horse treks in the world. The ride started outside the capital Ulaanbaatar and ended near the border of China. The riding service that hosts the Horse Trek Mongolia also partners with the children’s charity, Veloo Foundation. Money from the ride goes to pay the salaries of teachers, librarians and psychologists, to community outreach programs and summer camps, as well as books and arts/crafts supplies. During that 2017 ride, Cooksey raised $30,000 for the children of Mongolia.

This past May, Cooksey set out on the Blue Wolf Totem, a 90-day trek on horseback covering 2,236-miles. The ride covers the entire breadth of Mongolia. She was one of 15 people to be selected to take part in the ride. Cooksey told the Capital Gazette that the ride was difficult and she had to be “hooked up to an IV seven times due to her diet changing dramatically on the trek.”