by Kristina McCombie
As a long time rider, I have recently switched sides and have begun to work for the shows as a starter (aka, back gate girl, in-gate person, etc.) I have been fortunate enough to have been hired by a number of wonderful horse show managers who have entrusted me with some of their biggest CHJA shows of the year. It is my job to get all the rounds in the ring in some semblance of order, called into the judge on the correct card, check heights and courses, set rails, announce results, and stick to the time schedule that many people have come to appreciate. Over the past show year, I have gathered a list of ten things you can do as a ride to help the show go smoothly and efficiently.
2. Wear a Watch
Carry your phone. Wear a watch (how retro!) Use a sun dial. It doesn’t matter to what you use, but I absolutely cannot be the timekeeper for everyone, even though I’d love to. That being said, it is also good practice to learn how to calculate the time your class might go using the simple math of a horse show. Figure each horse is in the ring for 2 minutes. A course change is 10 minutes. Water and drag is 30 minutes. By using the schedule, class counts, and anticipating things like a course change and water and drag, you can almost figure out what time to expect your class. Of course, if you’re in the first class, 8:00 AM means 8:00 AM. By knowing what time it is on your own accord, you can have a better grasp on when your class might go and what time you’ll be expected at the ring.
3. Enter Ahead of Time
This one seems so simple, but really entering ahead of time can make or break a horse show day. Day-of adds are unavoidable, but entering by the closing deadline can help a show manager prepare their staff for what lies ahead. A show I did recently had 35 rounds entered the morning of, and by the time same-day adds were calculated in, our ring had over 100 trips. That’s a HUGE change. (Think of the calculations in the previous number - 65 extra rounds at 2 minutes a round = 130 extra minutes!) Also, at some of the smaller horse shows, knowing entries beforehand can help managers figure out which divisions or medals will fill, and which need to be combined. The nice thing about CHJA shows is their flexibility with classes; you do not always have to stay in what you entered, but even a rough idea is better than no idea.
BE THERE! When you sign up, I assume you’ll be there, ready to walk in the ring for your rounds. I understand emergencies happen, and sometimes you can’t make it. I horse show too, I’ve been on the other side, and I know how frustrating it is when you are supposed to go in a spot, and then that falls apart. I also know that sometimes we have trainer conflicts and some horses take extra time to school, etc. But whatever the case is, let your starter know. I am happy to stick in a few extras if you need to go change tack, or sit out a mintue. I am happy to fit you in early if I have an open gate. Whatever the case may be, let me know so I can make it work for you and give you one less thing to worry about.
5. Introduce Yourself
There’s a lot to be said for a simple introduction. I’m a person too, a horse show person nonetheless, and I understand the stress of the day. But I also have a name, try to be kind, and try to get to know those around me. So don’t be shy - come introduce yourself. (This also applies at bigger shows - gate people like being called by name!)
6. Follow the Schedule and Stick Around
Get a copy of the schedule in the office and follow along. I use the schedule to drive my day, and I will answer questions based on the schedule. That being said, if your division is next, don’t go wander off. Try to stick around and listen for when your class may go. I am always happy to answer questions about where we are on the schedule, even multiple times per day, but it is way too hard to track people down while also ushering people into the ring. Get to know the schedule and where you fit into it.
8. Offer Gentle Reminders
As mentioned before, I wear a lot of hats at the CHJA shows. Not only am I ensuring each horse gets in for the correct round, I am communicating with the judge, steward, office, manager and others, setting courses and getting rails, announcing results and entries. With that being said, if you see something I’ve missed - say a rail for instance, a gentle reminder will work far better than a harsh one. I promise I’m not avoiding you, ignoring the problems on course, or purposely not refilling the water jug, just that most of the time there is too much going on for me to control absolutely everything. If you see something that needs my attention, don’t hesitate to tell me! But please be conscious of how it comes across as starters have a lot on their plate at any given time. I’d be happy to fix that rail for you, or close the gate behind you, or even get you a cup of water when you finish, but please, think about how you ask.
9. Be Patient.
We all know the age old saying that horse shows are all “hurry up and wait.” Such is the case at many of the CHJA shows I work. Perhaps a rotation took longer than expected, or a division ended up with six more horses than anticipated, or even a course has to be adjusted prior to the start of the class. These things will happen, but I beg you to opt for patience rather than impatience. I understand the emotions of a horse show day - you warm up and you’re ready to roar in that ring only to get up there and realize you’re actually three rounds out. All of a sudden you feel deflated and the nerves kick in and you start feeling anxious. Trust me, I’ve been there! But I have found that patience at a horse show can go miles when you’re trying to have a successful day. As I learned a hard lesson in Estes just a week ago - unless the “barn is on fire” (or something similar), nothing is a major emergency. Take the time you need to be successful, and offer others the same courtesy.
your horse. I find that the kinder you are to others often comes back tenfold - especially at a horse show. Be sure to thank your show staff, and those who work so hard to make it possible for you to come and have FUN! Because after all, isn’t that what it is all about?
Kristina McCombie, better known around the shows as “Tina Harkin” is an amateur rider who shows her horse Linus in the Low A/Os and CHJA Amateurs. When she’s not hanging out a horse show she has a real job teaching kindergarten to some of the cutest kiddos ever in Arvada. She rides with CHJA President Jill Pelzel at Fall River Farm and almost always has peppermints in her pocket for horses at the gate. You can contact her at Harkin@Colorado.edu or say “hi” at your next horse show!
by Emily Baker
It’s funny the way life works out. As hard as we try to plan and organize – and if you know me at all you know how hard I try to do both of these things – it never works out the way we had expected.
Now I know what you’re thinking: Emily, nobody buys a horse on accident. You have to deliberately sit down and write the check, or wire the funds, or withdraw the cash from your account and physically place it in someone’s hands. You’re right; I did have to physically (and intentionally) do those things. But when I went to try horses, I was an elementary school teacher making less than an office assistant makes in a year (that hasn’t changed) and I knew that I couldn’t afford a horse. I had no intention of actually buying one of the horses I tried. Until I found Coco.
would happily be eating chicken flavored Ramen noodles for the next five years if it meant I could have a horse.
So you see… I did deliberately put money in other people’s hands to buy Coco, but I had never had the intention of doing so. It was an accident you might say. But it was the best accident of my life.
Until of course I got her home and rode her for the first time. She resembled a hot off the track thoroughbred that day (and for the month or two following.) And then the immediate buyer’s remorse set in where I was trying to control my blood pressure with my mind to stave off the impending heart attacks.
There was no amount of leverage I could get in order to keep my new mare at a manageable pace. Not to mention what would happen when you put a jump in front of her… I’m lucky I didn’t go flying off unwillingly into the sunset with that mare in full control of the steering and brakes every single day.
Coco never did slow down. But I caught up to her a little bit. Meanwhile all of the mothers watching from the viewing room were still wide-eyed and white-knuckled gripping the nearest object as if they were pulling on the reins for me. We played around at some A shows, something she had never done before in her life. I can’t even count the occasions that I would collapse on her neck after a course proclaiming “holy crap I love this horse!” A sentiment I echoed verbatim just a few days ago on what was to be my last day getting to ride that marvelous creature.
You see, I learned at those A shows that, as much as Coco loved to jump, she herself was limited to a height that was lower than what I aspired to do. That same darn teacher salary could not afford to pay for a horse I couldn’t show. She was put up for sale and sold just a few short days ago. It was the hardest thing I have had to do in my life thus far.
Granted, I have sold horses in the past, ones I had owned for many years longer than I owned Coco. But this little horse that I bought on accident was different. She was the horse that got me back into riding and competing after a two-year hiatus. She was the horse who showed me that riding could be fun and not a fear-ridden leap of faith at every obstacle. She was the horse who reminded me why I've loved this crazy sport since I myself was in elementary school. For that, and so much more, I will owe that little horse for the rest of my life.
I have found from this that so many of the best things in my life have been “accidents.” Or perhaps you might say they were serendipitous- destiny even. This is a lesson that I will always remember from Coco. Though I will never stop planning and organizing (I can thank my mother for those qualities) sometimes it’s important to just let life happen. Thank you, Coco, for teaching me that.
A few weeks ago we introduced you to long time equine photographer, Christy Burleson. Burleson has turned her passion into a career which has allowed her to travel the country shooting for her own personal clientele as well as various companies in the industry. Burleson’s raw talent and creative eye shines through in her image portfolio which ranges from rugged cattle branding shoots to delicate sunset beach horseback rides. Christy strives to capture her subject's individuality and inner beauty.
Since Burleson’s photography career started at such a young age, she is an excellent resource for the up and coming equine photographer. Here are her five tips and tricks for photography:
1. Using The Right Camera
Whether you are maneuvering around a horse show or exploring a cattle ranch for your next photography project, it is important that you have the the right camera and lens for the job. Burleson first began her career shooting with film cameras and moved to the digital version 11 years ago in order to further develop her career. “At first I was more comfortable with the film camera, but digital allows me to preview all of my photos and know if I have achieved the best shot immediately,” stated Burleson. Currently, Christy’s camera of choice is her Canon 7D with an 18 to 200 lens. She further explained that she has found this camera and lens combination to be the most versatile and lightweight when traveling for shoots and trying to keep up with her equestrian subjects.
2. Optimize All Of The Angles
In Part I of the Christy Burleson article series, we featured a photo of Christy riding along side of her photography subject. Burleson claims that she spends approximately 50% of the time on the ground during her equestrian photo shoots and the other 50% of the time on the back of a horse to capture an array of different angles. “ Being able to ride during my shoots has allowed me to target a different perspective and assist with accomplishing my goal during a session.” While Christy may not have her own horse when she is traveling, her gelding ‘Rebel’, or “Mister” as she calls him, will occasionally accompany her around the more local shoots.
3. “All You Can Do Is Ask”
We as equestrians know that working with our equine partners is not always the simplest task and capturing that adorable photo for social media often leads to a handful of bloopers and one quality image. For Christy, the language between her and the horse seems to come naturally. Christy outlined that a horse's ears do not always need to be pricked to capture the greatest picture. With the goal in mind of creating an image that symbolizes her subject's personality or relationship, attentive facial expressions are not always necessary. Burleson stated, “ If I am shooting a horse and rider pair where the horse is very attentive to his rider, his ears will be back listening rather than forward towards the camera. For those images, I want to show the attentiveness the horse has to his rider.” Christy then when on to say, “ If you really need a horse's ears to be up, all you have to do is ask!”
4. Choosing Your Mentor
When trying to develop your skills in any type of photography, it is important to browse the portfolios of other photographers to better identify your interests. Whether you find yourself drawn to portraits or actions shots, it can be beneficial to narrow your focus to see where you are the most passionate. “ If you are interested in pursuing photography, study the work of a photographer that you like and understand why you like their images.” Find out what it is about their style that draws you into their image and ask them questions about their best practices. The more you practice the better you will become.
5. Developing Your Style
As a photographer for over 20 years, Christy Burleson is a firm believer in owning your own opinions. She stated, “as a photographer developing your individual style, you need to do what you think looks good and shoot the images that represent you as well as the subjects.” Christy explains that it is important to understand the basic rules of lighting and composition, but in order to develop your eye it takes practice and experimentation. Having worked with horses for many years, Burleson claims that her innate ability to read people and horses has helped her achieve success outside of her original comfort zone and create her own style that is represented in her image portfolio.
Photographer Christy Burleson actively travels around the country, capturing unique photo shoots for all equestrian disciplines, along with weddings, graduations, family shoots, etc. Burleson is currently accepting new clients and is planning her next visit to Colorado the FIRST WEEKEND of August! To plan your shoot with Christy Burleson, contact her via the link below.
Many of the clients aren’t ambulatory and they experience the world from a wheelchair looking up. Putting them on a horse allows them a whole different view on life."
by Emily Baker
Every year the Boulder Derby party plays a huge role as a fundraiser and benefit for Front Range Hippotherapy, and this year was no exception. The title was a bit of a misnomer this year, however, as CU graduation forced the fundraiser south to Denver. But this just meant that they were fortunate enough to hold the party in the spacious and opulent West Club Lounge at Mile High.
The rain poured down in sheets as partygoers pulled up to Sports Authority Field this past Saturday for the Boulder Derby Party. Attendees dodged rivers and streams as they navigated the waterlogged concrete landscape to the stadium, but this did not deter them. In spite of the weather, the turnout was impressive and the donors generous.
Every year since its incitement, the Boulder Derby party has benefitted Front Range Hippotherapy, a Colorado 501c3 founded by Amy and Rob Meilen. Front Range is located in Longmont, CO and is truly an incredible organization. They use trained physical therapists accompanied by equine partners to provide physical, speech, and occupational therapy to people ages 2-60.
This event is crucial to Front Range’s yearly operation. The cost and expense of running their organization came in at almost $180,000 in 2015. $62,603 of this came from donations, 99% of which came from the Boulder Derby Party fundraiser. In spite of this amount, Front Range is still operating on a shoestring budget. They desperately need an indoor arena, as last year they lost 55 days of therapy due to poor weather conditions. And their human therapists are severely underpaid. Not to mention they currently have a waitlist almost equal to their total number of clients, because they lack the funding to provide help to any more people at the present time. Hopefully fundraisers like this one can help Front Range provide their amazing services to more people year round.
I had the privilege of speaking with Rob Meilen who proudly stated that Front Range was really his wife, Amy’s, dream. As a physical therapist who had worked in many different clinics, and a rider since her teenage years, Amy envisioned a practice that combined her two passions to provide the best possible care and therapy for her clients. This dream came to fruition with Front Range Hippotherapy.
Now ten years old and boasting a herd of ten horses, Front Range has touched the lives of many. Rob states of the program, “Many of the clients aren’t ambulatory and they experience the world from a wheelchair looking up. Putting them on a horse allows them a whole different view on life.”
Front Range has a team of excellent human therapists, but the equine therapists are crucial to their work. “The horses and clients pick each other,” Rob said. For as we equestrians are well aware, the bond between a horse and rider is irreplaceable, and is changing the lives of each of Amy and Rob’s clients.
The party itself was also a hit. The West Club Lounge is a cozy indoor space with numerous TVs, a bar, and a welcoming fireplace. In addition, a large projector screen, copious seating, a buffet arrangement, and space for the silent and live auctions completed the scene for this special occasion. From time to time, a flash of light burst from one corner of the ballroom where partygoers could have a professional photo taken of them in their derby finest.
For the hour preceding the big event, the hosts also held a live auction complete with an authentic and talented auctioneer. This year, two of Front Range’s families bravely told their stories that brought them to the organization.
After the auction, guests migrated outside into the heart of Sports Authority Stadium to watch Nyquist take home the Kentucky Derby prize. What better place could one ask for to get a taste of the action?
At the end of the event all the partygoers were offered a gift bag with treats from the event’s sponsors.
The live and silent auctions were indeed successful, but Front Range could always use more support. It’s not too late to donate money or time if you go to their website. Or, better yet, mark your calendars to attend the Boulder Derby Party May 6th of next year in benefit of Front Range Hippotherapy!
by Anna Jensen
Derby dressing is really not that difficult, but take one look around at any stylish Derby party in any town and it's easy to see that when hats come into focus, a lot of women's style savvy appears to go out the door.
Although I have yet to attend the event at Churchill Downs, I have attended and been a guest in the Queens Enclosure at Royal Ascot WHILE attending Fashion School in London so that makes me doubly qualified to pass judgement on horse racing attire. Kidding, only kidding. Honestly, it is a very different and therefore difficult occasion, sartorially speaking, for ladies and gents alike. Hats are undoubtedly the centerpiece of most women's outfits today, ranging from exquisite to ridiculous, but why has having an ostentatious or eye-catching one become the thing to strive for? First, let me backtrack to how The Kentucky Derby became such a fashion and celebrity event in the first place: marketing. That's right. Back in the early days of the race, the "Sport Of Kings" had a pretty sleazy reputation here in the U.S. Racetracks were not a place for women of any standing and races were not at all the kind of social event they were in Europe. Events like The Epsom Derby and Royal Ascot required full morning dress, much like what we consider "formal attire" for men, but with a daycoat, and an appropriately fancy dress and accoutrements for women. These continental fixtures drew the upper class and were as important as anything else on the social circuit. Derby founder Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr.' s idea was to send a carriage-full of high society ladies around to talk about how they were going to _be picnicking at the horse race and what lovely clothes they'd be wearing to create an aura of chic around the race. Hats at horseraces have always been a "thing" mostly because they are a stylish way to keep the sun off. Hats at the Derby and elsewhere didn't become SO outlandish until around the 1960's due to ladies competing to stand out now that the races were televised. So, whether you are headed for Kentucky, or any one of the wonderful parties going on in Denver and beyond, here are my tips for looking like you belong in Millionaire's Row:
1. Start shopping early. If you see a good "Derby Hat" any day of the year in any city or country, buy it. Seriously. You know how hard it is to find a special occasion dress when you're under the gun? Same for a great Derby hat, times 20. If you are under the gun, you're lucky that this year hat's are so "in" you can find adorable ones everywhere from Target to Charlotte Russe to Nordstrom and many boutiques. For Denver shoppers I'd say Neiman Marcus has a wonderful selection of quality milliners, after that you can head any direction in Cherry Creek to find a dress to work with it! Which brings me to #2
2. When you're planning your Derby outfit, start with your hat or fascinator. Fascinators only came into the common fashion lexicon on this side of the pond after the wedding of William and Kate...and essentially a piece of felt covered by fabric, netting, feathers, etc. and attached to the head in a variety of ways. The bonus with fascinators is they are sometimes more comfortable, definitely less hot, and they don't give you the dreaded hat-head look once it's removed. If your hat or fascinator is more ornate, go for a more simple sheath or flowy chiffon dress that doesn't take away from or compete with the hat.
3. You don't need to have your hat match your dress which matches your purse which matches your shoes. That just looks like you're trying too hard or you are indeed the Queen's mother. Just make sure there is a unifying theme. In general- a more elaborate hat calls for a more simple dress, a more elaborate dress calls for a more simple hat.
4. Plan for your footing! If you are going to a party where your on the grass you really don't want to be sinking in and ruining your heels in the grass. Either pick up some "Solemates" heel protectors (Bed, Bath and Beyond or Nordstrom) or find a beautiful jeweled sandal or ballerina flats. I think with most Derby attire being colorful, and wanting to keep the hat as the star of the show, nude tones are a good choice for footwear. "Statement" footwear is usually just going to be overkill.
5. For the men out there, have some fun! This is such a great opportunity to pull out the pastels, the seersucker, the bowties, bowlers and derby hats. Seeing a man get out of his comfort zone and transform into a southern gentleman, a preppy stud or anything out of the ordinary scores definite points with the ladies. That said, you don't want to totally look like you're part of the cast for "Newsies" so I'd avoid too much of the rolled up sleeves/vest/cap look that was oh-so-popular last year and the "I'm just gonna put on anything colorful that I can look". Choose a seersucker blazer paired with khakis and a white shirt, or some cheerful spring-hued pants with a white shirt and complementary hat are good ways to ease into it until you're more confident. Remember to wear a nice belt and good shoes and if you're really wanting to look smart and charming go with the bowtie...it worked for the men's style winner (below) last year!