Triangle Farms, Inc.
Read more at the source: 35 YEARS AND OVER $2.1 MILLION RAISED FOR DUKE CHILDREN’S
Article excerpt posted on Sidelinesnews.com from Show World.
Triangle Farms, Inc.
Read more at the source: 35 YEARS AND OVER $2.1 MILLION RAISED FOR DUKE CHILDREN’S
Article excerpt posted on Sidelinesnews.com from Show World.
By Catie Staszak
Portraits by Kristin Lee
On a Monday afternoon in the desert, there isn’t much going on at HITS Coachella to resemble the atmosphere of the horse show’s Indio, California, namesake. The loudspeakers are silent, the rings are empty and the most commotion one is likely to encounter is from the sand blown in by the strong wind tunnels that form beneath the Santa Rosa mountain range.
But Carleton Brooks doesn’t miss a Monday at the eight-week horse show circuit. While others are enjoying a well-deserved day off following a long week of showing, Carleton, who, along with his wife, Traci, runs Balmoral Farm in west Los Angeles and Malibu, California, is capitalizing on the opportunity to observe his horses in a quiet setting.
He watches, and more importantly, he listens, noting the tiniest of details. He mentally records the way his horses stand and move in their stalls — which leg is forward, which hind leg rests and which way they turn around. Throughout the circuit, he rotates his horses’ stalls so that they aren’t always leading with the same leg while eating, and he outfits every stall with a manger placed on the ground so that the horses eat more naturally and inhale less dust.
“The horse has to bend over to eat the hay, encouraging him to bring his hind end underneath him, bring his back up and bend his head and neck while he chews,” Carleton explained. “Isn’t that what we ask them to do [when we ask for shape] when we’re riding?”
Carleton, 60, and referred to by many as simply “CB,” is one of the most respected and recognized horsemen in the country — and he takes the title of “horseman” quite seriously. Operating Uphill Farm, Inc. in Atherton, California, out of the Menlo Circus Club for more than two decades before joining forces with Traci in the early years of the new millennium, he has trained four recipients of U.S. Equestrian Horse of the Year titles and 17 Champions at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, Washington International Horse Show, and National Horse Show, where he has been named the competition’s leading hunter rider. He’s also an “R” judge and popular clinician; many top professionals from across the country also reach out to him for advice, coaching or training for horses determined to be difficult to figure out.
“I don’t know that there are problem horses — just horses that are not completely understood,” Carleton said.
To talk with Carleton is to speak to a figure straight out of a novel — nearly every sentence to come out of his mouth is philosophically quoteable and worthy of being recorded in a book. Perhaps it’s because he, too, is writing down anything of note that he hears. For the past 30 years, he’s been taking notes of valuable tidbits he’s heard or learned from other professionals in the industry. He’s kept all of them. The majority is boxed up in his home, but he keeps his notes from the past year with him while he’s on the road.
“Carleton is always studying,” Traci said. “If someone says something, he writes it down. He studies other sports — how they train and what they say. He’s always looking for a tidbit of knowledge. He reads a lot about coaching and teamwork. The book that [college football coach] Urban Meyer wrote, ‘Above the Line: Lessons in Leadership and Life from a Championship Season,’ is one of his favorite books.”
“I never go without pen and paper,” Brooks said. “If you write it down, you remember it. After they ride, I have [my students] write down the things that we touched upon that day or what they learned and what they have to do next. The handwritten word is very powerful.”
“Becoming the Horse”
Carleton’s horsemanship is deeply rooted, as he started out riding two horses bound for the slaughterhouse with his siblings in cornfields they cleared and plowed themselves near their Indiana home. Carleton credits that time for teaching him responsibility, work ethic and how to properly care for animals, at a young age. Eventually, he showed on the East Coast in the summers while he was in high school, and when he turned 18, he rebuilt a horse trailer from the frame up, loaded up his horse and drove with his brother Andy to California. To this day, he prefers to drive his own rig to cross-country horse shows like indoors and coordinates Traci’s and his shipping company, Uphill.
Carleton focuses his training methods on understanding horses and treating each as a unique individual. His program is the antithesis of “cookie cutter,” and he never forces a horse to do anything. More telling, he is not afraid to fail.
“It’s all about structure. You have to become the horse,” Carleton explained. “I have a philosophy of failing nine out of 10 times. Most of the time, I don’t fail 10 times before I figure it out. I used to laugh if I failed two or three times. I used to go, ‘That’s three down, that’s four down … I’m getting closer!’”
Carleton has used some unique methods to bring out the best in his horses. Neither Vested, the 1992 First Year Green Working Hunter Champion at Harrisburg, nor Penn Square, a top Regular Working Hunter, jumped in the schooling ring before showing. Clay County, a top ribbon getter at both Harrisburg and Capital Challenge, had to be ridden in a driving rein.
“Clay County didn’t like you pulling on his mouth. I rode him with a driving rein and he was butter,” Carleton recalled. “He had a special rope that he wore to the ring, which I got out of reading a book about a man who trained vicious and cruel horses using completely humane methods. I took him to the ring in that, trotted him up and down [the schooling ring], and then put him in the ring.”
“He’s a genius.” said Lexi Wedemeyer, Carleton’s assistant and rider. “I’ve worked with a lot of people, and there’s no one I’ve worked with that can think like a horse and put himself in that situation more than Carleton does. It’s amazing to work with him like that. Every day, I learn 10 things.”
The Professional’s Professional
Carleton is kept busy with the day-to-day ongoings of Balmoral. Traci does the teaching at their West Los Angeles facility, while Carleton works with and develops horses at a newer Malibu facility, which the couple has worked out of for two years. The horses often rotate between facilities so that they can receive ample turnout on the sprawling Malibu property, where the barn and the riding ring boast an ocean view.
While he doesn’t show anymore, Carleton is still riding regularly and teaching riders of varying levels, and on any given day at Thermal, you can find Carleton anywhere from the pony ring to the grand prix arena, educating his own students as well as other professionals.
“Over the last 10 years, he’s started to become more in demand for other professionals,” Traci said. “It started out where he’d help them in the schooling ring and give them pointers. Now, whenever somebody can’t quite fully get something, everyone says, ‘Ask Carleton.’”
“Anytime I have any questions or need help at a jump, especially if Mom and Dad aren’t around to help me, he’s the first one there to lend a hand or bounce an idea off of,” said Olympic veteran Guy Thomas, who grew up under the watchful eye of Carleton while the horseman spent a time working for his parents, Butch and Lu Thomas. “He’s 100 percent about everything. If he’s going to help you, he’s going to give it his best shot.”
“Carleton taught me to think outside of the box,” said Mandy Porter, a three-time World Cup Finals veteran. “Each horse is an individual, and what works for each can definitely be unconventional.”
When amateur rider John Zambrano saw the success his partner, top hunter professional Peter Lombardo, was having at indoors with Carleton’s help, he wanted to work with him, too.
“I swear, he can speak to the horses in their language,” said John, who is also bound for the indoor hunter championships this fall. “The first time I worked with him was 2013, and he was helping me with a green horse. She was a little horse, and I’m a big, tall person, so there was a lot involved with balance and upper body control. Carleton put it all together so nicely in the way he explained it. I ended up champion that weekend. Ever since, he and I just clicked working together. I feel lucky to be able to work with somebody like him.”
“At indoors or a very big show, he helps me and my horse get ready from the ground, and it’s been really helpful,” said Peter, who rode to two championship titles and a reserve championship at the 2013 National Horse Show while receiving help from Carleton. “I do everything myself, and it’s such a luxury to have somebody like that helping you. My whole career, I’d have to ask the groom, ‘How did that look?’ To have somebody like that on the ground has been especially helpful.”
By the number of calls Carleton receives daily, it’s become increasingly apparent that his skill set is rare, his methods a throwback to another era.
“In our business today, the true horsemen are becoming fewer and farther between,” Mandy said. “A lot of people don’t understand the depth of his knowledge.”
Photos by Kristin Lee Photography, www.kristinleephotography.com, unless noted otherwise
By Doris Degner-Foster
Being able to do 10 back handsprings in a row and vault over 20 people seems like an unusual ability for one of the country’s leading hunter riders, but that’s only one of the surprising things about John French. Another unexpected ability was revealed recently when he beautifully sang the National Anthem at the World Cup Qualifier in Thermal, California. While it may seem like John is full of surprises, these are actually lifelong talents — he sang professionally in an ensemble group as a teenager and even made some recordings. Although his singing talents are still in evidence, the middle-aged trainer and rider laughed when he said, “I don’t think I could do a back handspring now; I might hurt something.”
Although handsprings are no longer a part of his training, he is still open to other challenges. “I like pushing myself, putting myself where it’s a little bit uncomfortable and seeing if I can overcome that,” John said. “If I can [meet those challenges] I can do anything, so why not try it?”
John hasn’t had to look far for challenges. Until recently, he ran a large full-service show barn, often traveling to shows on the East as well as the West Coast.
Managing the Time
John grew up in the barn near his family’s home in Maryland. His mother was a trainer who instilled a good work ethic, encouraging him to make the most of his time. “She used to give me lists every day of what I needed to get done that day, whether it was to clean 10 stalls and tack up these horses for lessons and clean tack or whatever else,” John remembered. “On that list it would indicate how much time those things would take. If I wasn’t ready to go home on time, then obviously I’d been goofing around and not been doing the work.”
Those responsibilities and the freedom to ride out of the arena shaped John as a rider in a way that he feels that too many young riders of today have lost. “I got to practice on my own, not just during lessons. I could go cross-country, jumping over coops and natural fences and up and down hills — not just in the arena,” John remembered. “I think it helped teach me timing, feel and the love for riding. That’s where I had the most fun, getting on my pony and taking friends out trail riding. I think that’s what started the love of riding for me.”
Although he acknowledged that such unsupervised freedom in today’s world is not entirely feasible, he fears that too many young riders of today have lost that relaxed sense of play with their horses that has the added benefit of teaching a good feel for riding. He bemoaned the fact that many young riders of today don’t even ride unless they are having a lesson, and don’t have the opportunity to think and make decisions on their own. Some students don’t even tack up their own horses — let alone groom and care for them in the stable.
“I was always taught to be grateful to ride anything, whether it was my 15.2-hand palomino of unknown breeding or a nicer horse,” John said. “I was always happy to ride and I wanted to see how I could try to make the horse better.”
As a junior, John foxhunted and evented before he won the Maryland Equitation Finals and was Reserve Champion at the Virginia Equitation Finals. He met the requirements to achieve a B rating in Pony Club, but since he was too young then to be given the rating, he turned his focus to showing. He liked the precision of the hunters more than the jumpers.
“As a kid, I thought eventing and jumpers were less technical, and that people could just go in and run around and as long as they made it over the fence and didn’t knock anything down, they had a clean round,” John said. “I wanted it to be better than that. I didn’t like the fact that you could get the same score as somebody who didn’t ride it correctly and just happened to leave the fences up. I wanted to do all the jumps well.”
As John aged out of the juniors, he was ready to start right away in the horse business. “The first person I went to work for was Daniel Lenehan and his son Brian. They were such incredible horsemen about taking care of a horse, not just in training but behind the scenes with the feeding and grooming,” John said. He later worked for Patty Heuckeroth, whose father, Otto, was the manager of the Ox Ridge Hunt Club. John said that she is an incredible horsewoman who expanded his knowledge base. “Patty taught me how to pick out a good horse and about conformation — how to really be more than just a rider.”
After a few years of working for others, John started his own business in New Hope, Pennsylvania, with a small number of clients and horses. While looking for a horse for a client, he was invited to California to try several horses that might be suitable — and by the way, could he also help out because their trainer was in the hospital? While there helping clients at a show, the news came that the trainer was diagnosed with AIDS and would not be returning to work. John was asked to come back in a few weeks to help with another show, and another.
“The horses were not really getting schooled in between and it was hard to start a business in the East while running back and forth to California,” John remembered. “The trainer there had maybe 15 horses in training and I had three on the East Coast, so I thought maybe I should just start my business in California. Even though it was an unfortunate way, I stepped into their trainer’s footsteps and business and moved to California. I never planned it but that’s why I moved and I love it here.”
Although John’s calm, undemanding personality and his interest in precise rides were ideal for the hunter ring, he found new opportunities in the late 1990s. A barn he had his business in was sold and a client who was more interested in jumpers suggested that he come to work for them, and it proved to be a good choice. John hadn’t previously done much competing in the jumpers, partly because of his demands as a catch rider for the hunters and his responsibilities of schooling clients in the hunter ring.
“I thought I would help this one client and maybe just see how far I could get in the jumper ring,” John said. “The first year I was Rookie Grand Prix Rider of the Year and two years after that I qualified for the World Cup Finals. The next year I qualified again for the World Cup Finals and also for the Olympic trials. I was a second alternate for the Olympic team that year and I also rode on several of the Nations Cup teams in Europe.”
John credits Bernie Traurig with his successful move to the jumper ranks where he learned to ride precise, fast rounds. Applying those techniques when he returned to the hunter ring was helpful to improve his rounds and make him a better hunter rider. John won the 2009 USHJA Derby Finals and Hunter Derby classes at Thermal and Lexington aboard Rumba, a grey Danish Warmblood — the Chronicle’s Show Hunter Horse of the Year for 2009 — that he also rode in the Olympic trials.
While John enjoyed the excitement of riding jumpers, his personality is more suited to the hunters. “I love to pick out hunters and bring them along,” John said. “I want to try to do my best at one thing and I don’t think I’ll be able to do my best at both.” He has added more derby wins to his already vast accomplishments, winning West Region USHJA Hunter Derby Rider of the Year in 2016. Recently, John finished both first and second aboard Skyhawk and Center Court, respectively, at the 2017 USHJA International Hunter Derby.
Being in the Moment
John’s calm, relaxed personality was a good fit for his busy business. He routinely took around 30 horses to the big shows with 10–15 clients to school, and he also managed to catch ride as many as 50–60 rounds in a day. John attributes sitting in the stands as a child, watching ride after ride while counting strides before each jump, to helping him develop a good eye. “When catch riding, you have to go off feel,” John said. “Not knowing the horse, you have to concentrate on the feel and not overthink.”
That ability to control overthinking was challenged recently. “I had a fall last summer, which was kind of a scary accident, when I was trying a horse in England,” John said. “When I got on, it went crazy and I could tell that I either had to try to get off or something bad was going to happen. The horse reared up and I fell to the side. It was scary but I didn’t think that it left a lasting effect. I’d hurt my ribs so I couldn’t ride for about a month, and when I came back to riding again, I didn’t realize how much it had affected me. I started worrying and just getting way too much in my head thinking that something bad could happen, and I never used to think that way.”
In the horse showing industry, being judged constantly can make a person start to feel that everyone is judging more than just their ride, which can contribute to anxiety. John credits being aware that he was just overthinking and his ability to focus on the job at hand to help control the anxiety.
A practicing Buddhist, John went on a retreat where meditation and yoga were taught and he found that he was not alone in being self-conscious or unsure of himself. He was relieved to find that it wasn’t just him or his profession — everyone can feel anxious about doing a good job. John said, “These retreats helped me to be happier with who I was and realize that you can be happy doing anything as long as you are happy with yourself, and not worry so much about what everyone is thinking. It was just what I needed at that point.”
John has recently moved from a barn near the San Francisco Bay area further south to Templeton Farms in Templeton, California, near Paso Robles, scaling back from a full-service show barn. Although he continues to be in demand as a catch rider, coach and clinician, he plans to have a select group of sale horses at home to train and compete.
“Before, when I was home between shows, everybody wanted to take a lesson and I didn’t get to ride my own horses,” John said. “For now, I would like to be able to have some young ones around to bring along and have some time when I am at home to ride them. I will take a few clients but I don’t want to have that number anymore. I’m just ready for a simpler life.
“I’ve often heard how important it is to just do whatever makes you happy, not try to please anyone else. In the long run that’s probably what we should all be doing.”
About the writer: Doris Degner-Foster rides with Harvard Fox Hounds foxhunt club in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when she’s not interviewing fascinating individuals in the horse sport or writing fiction. Soon to be available is her middle-grade series about teenagers who ride and solve mysteries, and a mainstream murder mystery where a horse appears strangely to an ER doctor to help him through a crisis.
By Britney Grover
Though horse showing in Gulfport, Mississippi, may be off the beaten path for some, it’s a cherished annual tradition for others. Coastally located on the Gulf of Mexico, Gulfport has been home to the Gulf Coast Winter Classics for 20 years, with classes from lead line to grand prix and now over $1,000,000 in prize money. Cheryl Rubenstein visited the show at Gulfport in one of its inaugural years after a 20-year hiatus from riding, and has been showing there every year since 2002.
In her youth, Cheryl rode ponies and through juniors to one year as an amateur owner. Then she lost two horses in a row. “I stopped showing for school and a career until my husband asked if I wanted a horse again. He clearly had no idea what that really meant,” Cheryl said. “I’ve been showing again now for 15 years.”
Cheryl was a corporate finance and investment banker, but now fills her time with volunteer work — including being on the board of directors and executive committee of the USHJA, the board of the USHJA Foundation, and the National Breeds and Disciplines Counsel and Awards Committee for US Equestrian. “So, in other words, I was an income-producing asset and now I am an expense and a liability on our personal financial statement,” she joked.
Cheryl knows the South. She lives in Houston, Texas, but rides out of Memphis, Tennessee, with Phoebe Sheets, “who has been a friend and my trainer for more years than either one of us would like to admit,” Cheryl said. Her time-tested showing relationship with Phoebe regularly pays off in the adult amateur hunters 50+, including during her annual trip to Gulfport.
The Gulfport experience is what you make of it — from nightlife, big-name performances and numerous parades at Mardi Gras to simple ocean views and quiet hotels. “If luxury, spas, gambling and shows are the preference, I would recommend a casino hotel,” said Cheryl. Gulfport and nearby Biloxi host many large casino resorts with fine dining, all-night gaming and well-known performers.
“However,” Cheryl continued, “if proximity to the horse show due to an early wake-up call is one’s priority, I would look for a hotel closer to Highway 49.” Located just north of Gulfport’s action, the Gulf Coast Winter Classics are held at Harrison County Fairgrounds, within 15 minutes of highly-rated chain hotels.
When not at the horse show, Gulfport offers something for everyone, from golf, beaches and hiking to museums, gambling and shopping. “There are attractions like the Center for Marine Education & Research, breweries, and the Stennis Space Center,” said Cheryl, “but what I think most attracts people is the proximity of nice casinos with known entertainers. The Beau Rivage, part of the MGM network, has a piece of the skyline and clearly attracts top entertainment.”
At the Center for Marine Education & Research, guests can explore a museum as well as see ocean life like stingrays, sharks, fish and even dolphins. Take a tour of NASA’s Stennis Space Center from its visitors’ center and museum, the INFINITY Science Center, where the entire family can also enjoy hands-on learning experiences. Shopping can be one-stop at the Gulfport Premium Outlets, featuring Polo Ralph Lauren, Under Armor, Lacoste, Sunglass Hut and more. With so many top performance venues, checking the calendars might seem daunting — but Gulfcoast.org makes it easy to check all upcoming events at once, and to plan your entire trip at once.
With time for a relaxing cocktail, Cheryl recommends anyplace with a waterfront view. “Chimneys or Salute, but I’m not the best person to ask because I’m going for the food — I’ll take a drink, but I want the food!” Cheryl admitted. No matter how you fill your itinerary, Gulfport has dining options for every palate. If you don’t leave the show grounds for lunch, as Cheryl admits, food vendors offer a variety of salads, burgers, smoothies and more. But dinner away from the fairgrounds is really something to look forward to.
“I really enjoy Chimneys for a good meal, good service, a relaxing ambiance and a place I can actually talk to others I’m with,” said Cheryl. At Chimneys, experience an upscale plantation home-style meal either indoors or on the wrap-around porch. Classic Southern and seafood are sure to make your mouth water, with menu options such as Cheryl’s personal favorite, Oysters Chimneys: oysters baked in a house version of creamy Bienville sauce with shrimp, mushrooms and onions, with fresh-baked bread, house salad and your choice of side.
Speaking of oysters, Cheryl also enjoys Half Shell Oyster House for oysters or traditional gumbo in a French Quarter-inspired setting. “Koi has never let us down,” she said of Koi Sushi, an authentic sushi restaurant conveniently located nearer to the horse show along Highway 49. Visitors and locals alike take seats at the entertaining hibachi bar, or at a more peaceful table to enjoy teriyaki, tempura and other classic Japanese flavors. And don’t worry if you’re headed straight from the barn. “Koi has been gracious to let us in when we have been our dirtiest from the horse show,” Cheryl said.
While Gulfport has much to offer, the Gulf Coast Winter Classic shows may still be the highlight of your trip. The series emphasizes the adage that all of Gulfport seems to echo: something for everyone. When asked what makes showing at the Gulf Coast Winter Classics special, Cheryl was quick to respond. “Easy! Good management, exhibitor-friendly decisions, kind office staff and multiple options for showing whether the horse or rider is inexperienced, needs to build confidence or wants a high-performance opportunity,” she said. “Anytime I have had a wish, a request or a concern, all I have ever had to do is say ‘knock, knock.’” As Cheryl said, the door to the Gulf Coast Winter Classics — and Gulfport — is always open.
By Doris Degner-Foster
Many riders have a distinct preference for either the slower, precise striding required to compete in hunter classes, or the adrenalin-packed challenge of jumper competition, riding over high jumps as fast as possible. But not Daniel Geitner.
“I get just as excited winning a class at a small show as winning a class at a big show,” said Daniel. “It’s the same thing, whether it’s a pre-green hunter or a grand prix. Every facet about horses interests me. If I wasn’t riding, I’d be building rings or cutting hay.”
Daniel, with his wife, Cathy, and their children, 10-year-old Wyatt and 8-year-old Lilly, all live at his farm, DFG Stables, in the horse community of Aiken, South Carolina. The farm has over 150 acres with a permanent derby field and a 150-foot arena with GGT footing for an ideal training surface. “Our kids enjoy the horses and they love the farm life,” said Daniel. “I grew up on a farm with chickens and pigs and I’m lucky my kids can enjoy the same thing.”
Staying on the Pony
Daniel’s earliest memories of horses involve foxhunting with his family. “We hunted with a great little hunt, the Yadkin Valley hounds in North Carolina, and they were just the neatest group. We looked like country people but they welcomed us anyway and I had a great time,” Daniel remembered. “I really learned how to ride with good balance by riding ‘by the seat of your pants.’”
Daniel laughed when he said that he’d fallen off hundreds of times as a kid but that it was beneficial. “A lot of times, I was hunting or trail riding when I fell off and you don’t want to let your horse or pony get loose or you’ll end up walking back,” Daniel said. “So I learned to hit the ground and jump up and catch my pony before he ran all the way back to the barn.”
When he wasn’t foxhunting, Daniel rode at local horse shows and just had fun while learning through experience, which laid a good foundation when more opportunities arose later. He went on to ride with Jack Towell of Finally Farm, and Pat Dodson and Keith Hastings, all known for their record of producing great horses and riders. At the beginning of his high school years, he rode with trainer and USEF “R” rated judge Sue Ashe. “That opened all kinds of doors,” Daniel said. “We showed in Palm Beach and I met people I’m still friends with.”
Daniel finished high school at The Kent School, a boarding school in Connecticut with a successful riding program. Sarah Dalton Morris was the instructor there at the time and it was she who introduced him to jumpers.
The College Decision
Although Daniel was seriously considering a career with horses, he decided to attend college instead of going directly into business. “College is a great thing for growing up,” Daniel said. “Your higher-end clients are business people and well educated. It can be intimidating if you don’t have the schooling and education.”
He chose St. Andrews College in Laurinburg, North Carolina, a college with an equestrian program that competed in the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA). At St. Andrews, equestrian sports are valued as much as the more traditional sports such as football. He enrolled in the business and equine program and learned more about equine care and nutrition.
“I kind of knew what I wanted to be in the horse business, but going to college kept me from jumping into the business right away and I made some great contacts,” Daniel said. “The coach at the time, Shelby French, was just fabulous. She was and still is a great mentor and friend.”
Daniel said that he enjoyed the camaraderie of the St. Andrews IHSA team, cheering on the walk-trot riders the same as the higher-level team members. As regional high-point rider in 1994, Daniel competed in the National Individual Championship, winning the competition and the USEF/Cacchione Cup. He also won the American National Riding Commission Intercollegiate Championship in 1996 and 1997.
Always interested in every aspect of horses, he had a short steeplechasing career where he rode in over 20 races. What Daniel learned from caring for steeplechase horses, with an emphasis on the care of legs and fitness, he applied later to the care of jumpers.
Out on His Own
Riding different horses on the college team, Daniel learned that he loved finding the key to an unfamiliar horse quickly and did a lot of catch riding as he started out on his own. “I try to ride each horse and make that horse better while I learn something, too,” Daniel said. “It’s just a matter of putting them in a place where they’re comfortable and to get the most out of them with the least amount of effort. I think that horses will perform their job if you can keep from making it a struggle for them and keep them in a level where they’re comfortable.”
Keeping himself comfortable, however, didn’t used to be as easy. Daniel remembered that he was more prone to stress earlier in his career than he is now. “I’d get uptight and I’m definitely more laid-back now. I realize that what happens, happens, and if it’s not your day, just put the horse back in the stall and move on.” He emphasized that dwelling on either losses or wins can be counterproductive and that it’s more important to learn something from a situation and move on.
Daniel admitted that there was no magic bullet to managing stress. “Honestly, I got so big and so busy that I just got to where I didn’t even have time to panic,” he said. “You’ve just got to shake your head and hop on the next one. I’m probably harder on myself and on my own horse than a customer’s horse. With a client’s horse, I certainly want to win just as much but I’m a tougher owner than most of my clients. I’m a tough one to answer to, looking in the mirror.”
Daniel and his wife, Cathy, whom he met at St. Andrews College, work together in their business. She does most of the teaching, but during shows and other busy times, he pitches in to help. “It’s great that we’re both able to spend time together in the business. It’s not easy, I’ll admit, but we’re both very good about when we leave the barn, it’s done,” Daniel said. “Everybody laughs that we don’t communicate very well but a lot of times, a customer will call at night and we may not even bring it up to each other because we try to leave the barn in the barn.”
Upgrading his horses and his riding is a continual goal for Daniel. He’s always on the lookout for quality horses, watching videos and regularly going on buying trips to Europe. But he tries to keep from watching videos of horses for sale when spending time with his family in the evenings; to leave the barn at the barn. “My kids don’t care if I win or lose,” Daniel said. “I’ve started to realize that there’s a whole lot more to life than that.”
About the writer: Doris Degner-Foster rides with Harvard Fox Hounds in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when she’s not talking with interesting people in the horse sport. She’s also at work on a middle-grade book series about kids who ride and solve mysteries and a mainstream mystery about a horse who appears in an ER doctor’s life to help him through a crisis. Check out her blog: https://dmdegner.wordpress.com/.
Photos by A & S Photography