Rob Burk, COO, tells us what we can look forward to in 2015 from events to awards and everything in-between. Caitlin Silliman shares her plans for her new partnership with the 2014 East Coast Young Event Horse Champion and offers us this week's Training Tip on transitions.
Chris Stafford: This is the United States Eventing Association's Official Podcast. Hello and welcome to the program and our first show of 2015 here on the USEA's Official Podcast. I'm Chris Stafford. On the show today, we're going to here from Caitlin Silliman about her new partnership with the Young Event Horse East Coast Five-Year-Old Champion Vagabon de Champdoux who she recently purchased from William Coleman. Caitlin will also have our training tip of the week, but first Rob Burk the Chief Operating Officer joins me now to tell us what we can look forward to in 2015. Welcome back to the program Rob and a Happy New Year.
Rob Burk: Thanks Chris. Thanks for having me back.
Chris Stafford: Well I thought it was a good way to start off the new year by talking about what we can expect from the USEA office because there are so many different programs and you've got some breaking news as well, some deadlines, a little bit of everything.
Rob Burk: We do. Yeah, the beginning of the year is always great for us because we do get a little bit of relaxation time. The calls slow down a little bit in December but then everything starts picking back up again in January and it's no different this year. We're on the cusp of a new competition season so as a result we're starting to get a lot of renewals, membership renewals around this time and we'll be sending out all of the membership cards this week to those who've already renewed for the year.
Then in addition to that early on here in the year, we've got some great educational activities that I know you've done some great coverage of on your program so far including the ICP, Instructor Certification Program is pleased to have Christopher Bartle coming in to town in California January 16th through 17th and then in Florida January 19th through 20th. That will be really exciting and I'm hoping we get a wonderful turnout of interested folks to sit in on that and participate.
Then early on in February we have another educational activity we're offering out there to those down in Florida and those who want to travel there, the Young Event Horse and Future Event Horse Programs are putting on what they're calling the Young Horse Symposium. They'll have a fantastic line up speakers and not to demean anybody on that list because it's a great list of speakers but I know that David O'Connor is also planning to participate with that. For anybody who wants to get involved with those, they can go to our website useventing.com and they can get their sign-up form there to be able to attend.
Then we've got in the next week or so we'll be releasing the full list of calendar dates for all of our programs as you mentioned. We've got the classic series for those three day, the long format enthusiasts out there, those calendar dates will be released. The Future and Young Horse Competition calendar will be released. The Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series will be officially released although we already had a couple of those in the books at the end of last year including Woodside as well as Plantation that will count towards this year's championship qualifier.
The Charles Owen Tech Merit Program which is really, there are ten area events highlight throughout the year where we have a guest judge sit in and judge really how well the rider rides a series of cross country jumps. It's unexpected for a lot of our competitors who are at these selected events but at the end of the day they get a prize and they're also qualified for some year-end awards which are pretty fabulous thanks to our sponsor Charles Owen.
Competition wise we've got the traditional fabulous line up of events coming forward this year and the one that we are most closely involved in every year is the American Eventing Championship scheduled for September 24th through 27th this year back in Texas. We're looking forward to that. We also just announced in the last month that we are looking for request of expressions of interest, so any facility organizer, competition organizer or operator or owner that is interested in hosting future American Eventing Championships can send in a request of interest.
That doesn't exclude anyone who's done it in the past and it definitely includes anybody who would love to do it in the future who hasn't done it yet. We're just doing our due diligence to look at all of the potential sites out there and really find the best home for the AEC. It's not saying that this is a permanent location or rotational we're just looking at all of the options and then we'll bring that back forward to the Board of Governors for their decision moving forward.
Then as always at the end of the year we're going to have our annual convention in Washington, D.C. this year and it's a big year. It's a hall of fame year so we'll have our new inductees into the hall of fame so that always is one of our biggest annual conventions. We're really excited for that.
Then just our staff will continue to do great work including putting out our Eventing USA Magazine. We've got a new editor this year. Leslie Mintz steps back into the USEA role taking over the magazine and we're really looking forward to her energy that she's going to be bringing to that. Then just as always we'll continue our online coverage of all of the goings on in the world of eventing in the USA.
Really on our website, we try to focus on all of the topics that are most important to our membership so that everybody is up to speed on what's going on. Although we are mostly just a spectator for it because it's in Canada this year, we're all looking forward to watching the Pan Am games in July so it's a big year just like always but we're looking forward to it.
Chris Stafford: Well you mentioned the new program calendar that will be ready shortly and of course there's a new program with the Charles Owen Technical Merit isn't there?
Rob Burk: Yeah, it's still relatively new. We've for the last year or two we've been experimenting with it, but I think we've found a really good formula and what happens is we have the judges at these ten area events throughout the country. They will be selected from either our highest level ICP instructors or from eventing officials and really people who know what they're looking at when they're looking at the safe riding. That's the key here.
They observe the rider as they go along and it's less of an observation of the horse and more of an observation on how safely the rider is approaching the obstacles. It's pretty exciting and as I said, it's a really nice addition for those people who are already competing at these events and didn't know that hey at the end of the day they might get a helmet or they might get a vest out of it or a voucher. It's a pretty special thing to tack on to that list of awards for the person who might not have won the division but yet they displayed really good riding around the course.
Chris Stafford: There was also news of a new sponsorship from Ride Alert.
Rob Burk: Yeah, Ride Alert bracelets. They are as you said a new sponsor for us. They've been reaching out to us for quite some time trying to come on board really with a strong interest in providing their services to the USEA members and along with the sponsorship they'll be offering a discount so anytime someone wants to purchase a bracelet from their company, they will be eligible for a discount on that purchase.
I'm trying to look it up right now as I talk to you…a twenty percent discount for current members and new members in 2015 off of the regular registration, Ride Alert registration so it's a great deal for our USEA members. It keeps in with our focus on safety.
We're always working to make this sport as safe as we can possibly make it and this really follows along with that. They're a great company and we're very happy to have them on board.
Chris Stafford: Do you want to speak to the Gold Cup Series at all, Rob and where that's going to kick off?
Rob Burk: Sure. Yeah, so with the Gold Cup Series we did have at the end of last year, like I said, we had our September competition at Plantation Field as the first qualifier for 2015 and then followed by Woodside and that was in October but coming up in March we'll have Red Hills. They're a three star. One thing that is going to be new this year for the Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series is that those riders who are trying to qualify for the end of the year championship to be held at the AEC they will now be able to count their qualifying scores.
Essentially what we're going to do is at the competitions like Red Hills, both their CIC Three Star and their Advanced division will be considered a qualifier for the AEC Gold Cup Championship. We're giving a little more opportunity for riders whether they're going in the CIC Three Star or whether they're going in the advanced competition at the same event we're designated as a Gold Cup Series Event. A little more opportunity for those folks to qualify. We know we had a couple of people who really wanted to ride in the Gold Cup last year and they might have been competing in the advanced division but not necessarily the CIC Three Star so this will give them a little more opportunity to make it to the championship.
Chris Stafford: As always you can find a lot more information and details on the website. That new website is keeping everyone up to date, isn't it Rob?
Rob Burk: Yeah, we're very happy with the redesign. As with anything I always hear from some people how much more they love the new design. Then I'll from a few other people who say, "Oh they really miss the old." I understand change is difficult, but I really think it's a lot easier to navigate the new website especially if you are coming in to the sport for the first time and don't necessarily understand all of the terminology that those of us that have been in for a while know without having to think about it. We're pretty excited about the design and I think our members will be able to benefit a lot more from the current layout.
Chris Stafford: And not forgetting the continual updates on social media?
Rob Burk: Yeah, we've got great staff. I should definitely mention Caroline Culbertson has really done a fabulous job over the past year. She has taken over the duties of the Editor of our website and social content. What we try as I said before, we try to put forward all of the information that our members absolutely need to know and she's done a fabulous job of creating a very logical calendar and layout and it makes a lot of sense throughout the year for you to follow. It's not all over the place.
You know you're going to get some new content throughout the week. It's going to have some very topical, social media posts that relate to the online coverage so we're very happy with what's going on right now online.
Chris Stafford: We will of course keep people up to date through the podcasts with news, views and interviews that happen throughout USEA as always Rob and I think this is one way as we've found out with the podcast, it's reaching the audience in a new way and also we should mention that for those who are unable to listen to the podcast that there is a transcript of the full shows each episode on the website too, isn't there?
Rob Burk: There is. Yeah, we learn a lot and we've got some fabulous members out there that might not always be able to pick up or hear the online podcast. I know I listen to your podcast Chris as you know I listen to it on my commute into work every day and on the way home so for me I can't live without it but for those that aren't able to access that podcast they can still read the transcript. We've started that at the end of last year and I think we've had some really good response to it.
Chris Stafford: Well lots to look forward to. A busy season ahead. I'm sure everybody back in the office is gearing up now after the holidays too. For those that do compete because there's a lot of interested riders that work in the office too aren't there?
Rob Burk: Yeah, there are. Yeah. Some of us who aren't riding as much as we used to but would love to be out there competing, we do have a couple of members or a couple of members of our staff that have already been telling me what their competition season looks like. I know that you'll see them out there so if you know who our staff are say, "Hi" and they'll do the same when they see you.
Chris Stafford: Very hands on and knowledgeable staff as always at the USEA. Rob thank you very much for coming on the program again a very Happy New Year to everybody in the office as we kick off 2015 here. Lots to look forward to. Thank you so much Rob.
Rob Burk: Thank you Chris. Happy New Year.
Chris Stafford: Joining us now from her winter training base in Aiken, South Carolina is Caitlin Silliman. Caitlin welcome back to the program.
Caitlin Silliman: Thank you it's good to be back on it at the start of a new season.
Chris Stafford: Well you have lots to look forward to with the acquisition of your new partner Vagabon de Champdoux who I understand call James in the barn it's a lot easier.
Caitlin Silliman: Much easier.
Chris Stafford: Well let's talk about this new partnership because it's a horse that we obviously know about at the USEA here because he was the East Coast Five-Year-Old Champion at the Young Event Horse at the end of 2014 of course. A wonderful, wonderful young horse and lots of promise there so lots to look forward to but tell us from the beginning here Caitlin how did you first meet him?
Caitlin Silliman: Well I've been on the hunt for a talented young horse and I guess the end of the April or middle of April last year when we decided to retire or move Remington to the next leg of his retirement with Densey Juvonen's granddaughter Camilla where he is happily running around the training level. I'm pretty sure [inaudible 00:15:10] I think it is what he was meant to do. He is happy as can be and Camilla is learning a lot so it's so much fun to watch him out and about with her and I've certainly learned so much from him in the two seasons that I rode him so I'm forever grateful to Boyd and the Juvonen's for that.
Since then, I've been looking for a young horse to bring up the rank behind my wonderful mare Catch-A-Star. I've been searching and searching but haven't made a big trip to Europe or anything like that. I've been looking around the competitions and people coming in for lessons and during teaching clinics and that sort of thing.
I think about in May I saw Will Coleman at Virginia Horse Trials. He told me about this horse that he had just bought in France while he was over there. I'm pretty sure he actually bought him off of video and he thought the horse was much bigger. He's a beautiful horse. He's a thoroughbred who looks the real athletic type, very classy looking. He came over and got off the truck and was a big skinny from traveling and I think Will was bit shocked at the size.
He had mentioned to me that maybe it would be a horse that would suit me but said, "Give me a couple of weeks. I'm going to turn him out and fatten him up and then get him going and then maybe you can come down and check him out."
A couple of weeks went by and I asked him about it and again and he had him going. He was getting ready to take him to his first event and he was still skinny and a bit small looking but I think as Will started riding him he was hoping that he would bulk up and get a bit bigger and maybe be a good sized horse for him because he's quite talented and Will started to get to know him.
He rode him a bit and competed him all summer and fall and then took him to the championship at Fair Hill and I watched him go there and fell in love with him and begged Will to let me try him. Actually the weekend of his wedding down in Charlottesville because I was down there for him and Katie's wedding. I rode him and fell in love with him right away. Love at first sight. I think that's how it has to be when you're picking a horse for yourself. You know right away. You can't convince yourself into buying him. That was that.
I tried him and we talked back and forth a bit about whether he would sell him to me or not and I think with the help of his lovely wife Katie Thornton we convinced Will to let him go to me because he certainly fits my size a little bit better. He's not a tiny, tiny horse but he's very short coupled, short neck, short back, he's a small package and Will is a very tall guy so anyway that was that.
Chris Stafford: Well when you say you fell in love with him, Caitlin as you mentioned there it really is important to have love at first sight relationship with a partner that you're going to hopefully take to the top. What was it about him that endeared you?
Caitlin Silliman: I loved the look of him. Then working for Boyd, Boyd loves thoroughbreds, always has and he certainly has bought a couple of warmblood horses now but especially after watching the WEG in Normandy, I think the horses have to have at least between seventy and a hundred percent in them. Otherwise if the weather conditions aren't perfect, they just can't make the time cross country. It's too hard on them at a big competition like the ones in Normandy this summer, the footing was knee deep and it's was a long track and probably the biggest track any of those horses had ever seen.
I think they need to have a lot of Thoroughbred in them. I think the sport has gotten away from that a little bit because all of the riders want their horses to trot fancier in the dressage and be able to show jump on the third day and I think we've lost a bit of blood along the way with those on everybody's wish list in horses that they buy, but it's hard to find. It's hard to find the racehorse that, if they’ve been at the track and they've raced, it's a long road with them turning them over into event muscles. It's different muscles. It's a different sport. It's a different lifestyle and so I think although there's a lot of them it's hard to find the very good ones that will make it to the top and you have to be very patient.
Now this horse never went to the race track. He is all Thoroughbred which I love about him. He's very good old French breeding. He's out of Secret Singer by Lute Antique mare which is old jumping blood. I learn more and more as I do more research on it. I think they trained him to run just a little bit. There's a video of him online breezing at the farm at home where he lived but he never went to the track. I think he went to an event rider there that was just getting him started and ready to go to his first young horse competition when Will bought him.
Anyway that was the first thing I loved right off the bat about him is that he's all Thoroughbred. Then I just loved the look of him. He's the perfect size for me. He's about sixteen hands, sixteen one so he's not tiny but he's also not huge. I'm not a very tall person. He's narrow. I've got short legs so my leg hangs down him. Then he's got a short neck and a short back so he's easy to put together and ride very collected.
Then I sat on him and I love his gaits. I love the feel of his jump. He's a different feel from my mare. My mare is hot and zippy and spooky and she's much different ride than many horses but because I've gotten to ride so many different horses at Boyd's and all kinds of older, younger, all different levels of horses I know what I like and what I don't like now, the ones that I enjoy riding and the other ones that don't suit my riding style as well. This horse just really suits me from the moment I sat him I just loved the feel of it.
Chris Stafford: Tell us about the owners then. Did you put together a consortium? How did it work?
Caitlin Silliman: I'm working on it. I'm very lucky to have enormous support from my grandparents Tom and Bell Maher and they helped me to buy the horse and now I've put together an LLC for the horse so all of the legal stuff is sorted and Seema Sonnad was the first one to purchase a share in him so now I need to work on syndicating the rest of him. My grandparents will hold some ownership in him. I'm sure they'll keep one or two shares of him but I'm going to syndicate him, ten shares of him so I need to now get working on it.
It's hard to sell shares of a horse when you don't have him in your barn, so now that I have him and I can make videos of him and people can come out and see him I'm really hoping while I'm down in Aiken I'll be able to put a good group of people together to own him and support him and I think it's a really good opportunity for people who want to get into the sport.
I know I'm a younger rider but younger riders need backing as well. I think often people get a bit confused. I get to compete so many horses which is wonderful, but they're all Boyd's so at the end of the day I don't get to produce any of them all of the way to the top level. I need to have a young horse that is mine to keep and produce hopefully up to the four star level. I hope this guy is going to be it. I'm hoping to put a group of people together to own him and see how far he goes.
Chris Stafford: Well of course he's at that wonderful age, five coming six now perfect for you, well turning six now. That obviously must be very exciting to have a horse of that age Caitlin to produce the way you want him to because he's obviously had a fantastic start with Will. Tell us about your schedule with him now. Is he doing gentle work? What are the plans?
Caitlin Silliman: He's in work. I was just playing around with him in Pennsylvania when the weather was good and jumped him a bit there and did a bit of flatwork on him when the weather was bad and now the same thing down in Aiken I'm getting to know him, getting a feel for him. He's on the schedule to do quite a few events down here. He's going to do a couple of trainings and hopefully move up to preliminary at the end of the Aiken season.
Then because he's only just turning six and I think he doesn't turn six until the summer, he's a young five-year-old, or sorry young six-year-old this year, I'll leave him at preliminary for the whole year.
My goal would be - there's rumor of them putting a six and seven-year-old one star class and that's the big Plantation Field Event at the end of the year so I would love for him to go to that and do quite well. That's the plan for him but it's nice to have a horse that is mine for as long as I want and I can do whatever I want with him so I'm hoping to get him trained really well and keep working on the base that Will and Katie have put on him because he's been really well started. I think he's going to be champion.
Chris Stafford: Yes, he's certainly graduated from kindergarten with flying colors, didn't he?
Caitlin Silliman: He did. He did.
Chris Stafford: Well that's obviously exciting for you but tell us about the other horses that you have in the barn Caitlin now that you're riding. As you said, down in Aiken now for the winter with Boyd and Silva. What else are you riding and where can we expect to see you showing this spring?
Caitlin Silliman: Lots of them. I'm very lucky. Boyd and I have a very good system going and I have the support of all of Boyd's owners and they all feel comfortable with me competing their horses when Boyd can't because Boyd can't do all of them all the time. You'll see me out at all of the local shows in Aiken and I think I'm out every single weekend riding lots of the young horses in the novice and the training so I'm looking forward to that. I love starting the young horses and taking them up the levels and watching them grow and change, so it should be a good Aiken season.
I obviously have my wonderful Catch-A-Star down here as well and she's in good form. She finished up last season so well so I'm really looking forward to this season and after a break this fall after falling at Fair Hill, she's feels like million bucks coming back so I'm really looking forward to this year with her. I'm aiming her for Kentucky again.
Chris Stafford: Well you have obviously a very busy season ahead of you so good luck with your new partner and we look forward to following him with interest of course at being a Young Event Horse Champion.
Caitlin Silliman: Thank you.
Chris Stafford: Now I know that you have a training tip for this week, Caitlin. You're going to talk about transitions - something you have to consider constantly.
Caitlin Silliman: Yes, I've been thinking on this since you told me to think of a training tip and coming down to Aiken all of our horses you know they're a bit rusty. They've all had a little bit of a holiday and just been jogging coming back so they're all getting restarted on the flat this week and just really getting them over their backs and through and round and on the bit again and going in a straight line and moving off your leg - just all very simple stuff whether you're riding a four-year-old or whether we're riding around the thirteen, fourteen, fifteen-year-old seasoned advanced horses.
I think it's very easy especially on the older horses to stop practicing lots of transitions you get sucked into doing the same thing all the time especially not so much this time of the year but in November and December and I think it's really important for the young horses and the older horses to always keep doing transitions whether it's trot halt trot, walk trot walk, trot canter trot canter, walk canter, just simple, simple transitions and being able to keep them in the same frame in the transition whether it's a lower frame or a higher frame and that they're easy transitions. They're doing it off your seat and leg and it's not so much hands and stopping and starting. It's got to all be smooth.
It's a very easy way to get to them soft over their backs and really pushing from behind it's not difficult to do ten, twenty transitions going around the arena and I also think doing trot, canter, trot canter transitions on the straight line on the long side is something that most people never do because you get caught up in doing them on the twenty meter circle when the horse is bent to the inside because it makes it easier. Being able to do them on the straight line and pick up your right lead or your left lead depending on how experienced the horse is I think is really important and gets the horses really tuned in to what you're asking them to do and very focused and pushing from behind and obviously you can modify the transitions you're doing depending on the level of the horse but I think that's an important thing to keep track of.
Chris Stafford: All right, well very good advice as obviously you've worked through those training exercises in preparation for the new season and this applies to horses of all ages doesn't it, Caitlin?
Caitlin Silliman: It does. It really does. Like I said you can modify it and doing transitions within your gait as well, trotting on the spot then going into your medium trot then trotting on the spot, changing your speed. There's got to be ten speeds within each gait and the horses have to be listening to what speed you tell them to and the advanced horses have ten speeds in them, four and five year olds might have three speeds within each gait but it should be an easy transition between the different speeds you're asking them to go.
Chris Stafford: Very good. Well thank you very much for that training tip.
Caitlin Silliman: You're welcome.
Chris Stafford: Again the best of luck with your new horse and the other horses for the season and thank you for coming on the program.
Caitlin Silliman: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Chris Stafford: As always this podcast is available for download from the iTunes podcast store to your smartphone podcast app so you can listen to them on the go at a time to suit you. Don't forget that you can keep up to date with all of the latest news on social media at Facebook and Twitter and also online at useventing.com. Until the next time thank you for listening and enjoy your eventing.