“We believe he can produce the ultimate event horse,” Chris Talley and Hannah Salazar said of Faramund, the Hanoverian stallion owned by Hannah Salazar that has made a cannonball splash in the eventing world this year. Before trying his hoof at eventing, Faramund (Fidertanz x Donna Gloria) earned the 2014 Champion Stallion title at Dressage at Devon with Salazar in the irons. This year, his first year as an event horse, Talley has piloted Faramund to six top-three placings and a successful two-star finish at Plantation Field International. Sandro’s Star (Sagnol x Poetic Patter), another stallion standing at Zaragoza Acres, was named the 2017 USEA Stallion of the Year and is currently leading this year’s Stallion of the Year. With two stallions at the upper levels, Talley of Zaragoza Acres knows what it’s like to compete an oddity in the sport of eventing: a stallion.
Salazar, the dressage queen, and Talley, the three-day eventer, are the yin and yang to Zaragoza Acres in Jeffersonton, Virginia. Their support for one another, kindheartedness, and humble attitude help produce the creme de la creme of performance horses, whether it’s a Grand Prix dressage horse or a competitive upper-level event horse.
Joining the Zaragoza Acres family in 2016, Talley describes his relationship with Hannah Salazar as one that “doesn’t come along often. It is a rare thing to be able to find a friend who you can call your business partner, mentor, and role model. We have a similar eye, but most importantly we share the same vision,” said Talley. Their vision aligns similarly to the USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) and Future Event Horse (FEH) programs in aiming to provide a positive framework for young horses.
Talley and Salazar answered 11 burning questions on what it’s like to event a stallion, how to handle foals, and how to produce the ultimate event horse.
Q: From Preliminary to three-star, you’ve brought the stallion Sandro’s Star through the ranks of eventing. What is he like to ride and compete?
A: Sandro's Star has been a joy to bring along through the levels. He is such a trainable horse with a ton of quality. Every day he gives 110% and tries so hard to please, which makes it very rewarding.
Q: Your first three-star horse Unmarked Bills is an off-the-track Thoroughbred. What is he like to ride and compete?
A: Unmarked Bills (Posse XX x Kellis Ransom XX) is a horse who has such an enormous heart, which is what has brought him through the levels. We both came up the levels together, and I've always said he's the packer I never had. He takes care of me on cross-country and has always stepped up with every new level. While cross-country is the phase he lives for, he can struggle in the dressage ring and show jumping, as most Thoroughbreds can, with tension. While he can struggle with tension, he has taught me how to ride with finesse and an understanding of horses who might not be the most confident in one phase or another.
Q: Sandro’s Star, an Oldenburg stallion, and Unmarked Bills, a Thoroughbred gelding – how are the two rides similar and how are they different?
A: They are both similar in the sense that they are very bold, confident cross-country horses. They are as honest and as genuine as the day is long. Sandro was the first horse I've competed that has so much natural talent, while Billy's tension can get in the way of his talent. Billy is a full Thoroughbred, and Sandro's Star has 68 percent Thoroughbred blood, which makes them similar cross-country horses. The most rewarding thing for me is being under Hannah's guidance and her helping me be able to compete these two horses and knowing how to be a rider that helps them both succeed.
Q: Zaragoza Acres has another stallion coming up the ranks of eventing, Faramund. What is he like? Do the two stallions have similar demeanor?
A: Faramund has a wonderfully kind heart, rideability, and quality in the dressage true to his pedigree. He has always had an innate talent for jumping so developing him up the levels has come with ease. We are excited to breed him to Thoroughbred mares as we believe he can produce the ultimate event horse. Both Faramund and Sandro are alike in their willingness to work which we believe is one of the best qualities in a breeding and performance stallion.
Q: Why do you believe stallions make strong event horses?
A: We love to develop the stallions through performance because once a stallion commits themselves to working for you they will fight every step for you. They have very active minds, sometimes thinking a little too much about other things, so developing a strong relationship with them is integral for a successful partnership. Once they believe in you and trust you, their hearts are fierce for competition.
Q: What are some challenges with bringing a stallion to an event?
A: We have been very lucky with Sandro because he is so much more like a gelding at shows. Faramund has a stronger desire to know who everyone is and where everyone is that we have to manage him a little bit differently. He likes everyone to know he is there and how special he is, so we usually have to make sure he has more space to manage his ego. We make special stabling requests so that the boys have their own space, but for the most part it is similar to showing any other high-performance horse with a strong character.
Q: How does Zaragoza Acres select their stallions and mares? How do you determine which two horses to breed to produce a future event horse?
A: We start by looking at our mares, their temperament, conformation, movement, and pedigree. Once we identify these qualities and their weaknesses we look to see which stallion will hopefully produce an improvement of her overall. We want to produce more quality for the future. We have worked diligently to grow a strong group of quality broodmares because they are the foundation when breeding.
Q: What are some tips to giving a foal the correct start in their journey to becoming an event horse?
A: Our best advice in taking care of foals would be to start with a good vet that has experience in foal management. When there is a problem, you will need your vet in your corner to advise you and support you through decisions. If you have a good mare they will do most of the work, but you will need to make sure she is managed well through nutrition. Proper handling is also important. Foals are easy to spoil because they are small and sweet in the beginning, but they need to know their boundaries so they grow up to become respectable horses. All in all, horses have survived centuries so if you have a clean and safe stable, high quality feed and hay, and a good vet it can be fairly uncomplicated to raise a foal.
Q: Any advice for people interested in breeding event horses?
A: Breeding any type of performance horse is a labor of love. The best advice we could give about breeding would be to start with a mare of the highest quality, pinpoint her weaknesses, and find a stallion that will improve her. Research as much as you can, watch videos, learn conformation, learn about movement, and talk to other breeders. There are a lot of great breeders and associations in this country with a wealth of knowledge that are willing to share their experiences so use the most of them.
Q: Outside of the saddle you are known for your jog outfits. What has been your favorite jog outfit so far?
A: I think my favorite jog outfit was the outfit from the Fair Hill International CCI2* in 2016. I think it was something that was unique, edgy, and different than the norm. Which is a bit of my motive with all my outfits; it's okay to be different, it's okay to be yourself.
Q: Bonus question – Your favorite four-star horse?
A: Teddy O'Connor. He was so fun to watch compete and to see how easy a horse of his size made it look.
About the USEA Young Event Horse Program
The Young Event Horse (YEH) Program was first established in 2004 as an eventing talent search. Much like similar programs in Europe, the YEH program was designed to identify young horses that possess the talent and disposition to, with proper training, excel at the uppermost levels of the sport. The ultimate goal of the program is to distinguish horses with the potential to compete at the three- and four-star levels, but many fine horses that excel at the lower levels are also showcased by the program.
The YEH program provides an opportunity for breeders and owners to exhibit the potential of their young horses while encouraging the breeding and development of top event horses for the future. The program rewards horses who are educated and prepared in a correct and progressive manner. At qualifying events, youngsters complete a dressage test and a jumping/galloping/general impression phase. At Championships, young horses are also evaluated on their conformation in addition to the dressage test and jumping/galloping/general impression phase. Click here to view the jumping standards and specifications.
About the USEA Future Event Horse Program
The USEA introduced the Future Event Horse (FEH) Program in 2007 as a pilot program in response to the popularity of the already established USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Program. Where the YEH program assesses 4- and 5-year-old prospective event horses based on their performance, the FEH program evaluates yearlings, 2-year-olds, and 3-year-olds for their potential for the sport based on conformation and type. Horses are presented in hand and divisions are separated by year and gender. At the Championships, 3-year-olds are also required to demonstrate their potential over fences in an additional free-jump division.
New in 2017 was the FEH 4-year-old division, designed for youngsters not quite ready for the rigors of the Young Event Horse program. These horses are presented under saddle at the walk, trot, and canter before being stripped of their tack and evaluated for their conformation. Additionally, 4-year-olds also participate in the free-jump divisions at Championships to show their potential over fences. Click here to learn more about the Future Event Horse Program.
The Charles Owen Technical Merit (COTM) Award aims to reward juniors and adult amateurs that demonstrate safe and appropriate cross-country riding technique and educate riders and trainers as to what constitutes safe cross-country riding.
Eventers are brave, resilient, smart, strong minded, hard working, confident, goal-oriented, tough as nails, and ‘MacGyver-like’ problem solvers. So are entrepreneurs. So, it’s not surprising I took the path that has led me here.
If there is one type of horse that has stood the test of time in the eventing community, it is the off-the-track Thoroughbred. While breeds such as the Irish Sport Horse and Warmblood types have grown in prominence, OTTBs still seem to outnumber them, and many riders at the upper echelons of the sport agree there is no horse better than a promising OTTB.
As a rider and coach, I am striving each day to be better at my craft than I was the day before. In that quest, I spend a lot of time reading about and studying people who have achieved success in their chosen fields and the many theories behind achieving success.