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 Kevin McGinn's Equestrian Blog 
Kevin McGinn rides, trains, judges, and conducts clinics nationwide and locally in the Los Angeles area. He specializes in preparing both horses and riders for the jumper ring. As a widely published equestrian writer, Kevin provides insights on equestrian related topics in his blog and elsewhere.
Thursday, March 24 2011
 Just wondering... How do social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, Judge My ride,  Equestriancoach.com, and showjumpingunplugged.tv expand and enhance your riding interests??? Click the Comments link and let me know!
Posted by: kevin McGinn AT 03:54 pm   |  Permalink   |  7 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, March 16 2011

Linda Allen and The Benchmark Program
(reprinted from: The Bay Area Equestrian Network) 

By Kevin McGinn

Linda AllenFrom the early 1960's through the mid 1980's, the U.S. was a dominant force in the world of Show Jumping. Represented by a dynasty of equestrian elite including Frank Chapot, William Steinkraus, Mary Mairs Chapot, Conrad Homfeld, and Joe Fargis, our team won at every major venue in the world. What is often forgotten is that these riders accomplished this feat on horses bred and trained right here in America!

Then, in the late 1980's that all changed; Americans became perhaps the largest importers of European horses in the world. We bought not only bloodlines but also the thoughtful and meticulous early training and ring experience that allowed buyers to take horses straight to the show ring; much of what we pay for when we purchase European horses comes from the good mileage that they receive as 4, 5, and 6-year-olds.

Today, we have a new set of circumstances impacting our sport. Not only have American breeders brought the very best bloodlines to our own shores, but the new economy makes the model of purchasing top class experienced horses out of reach of the vast majority of enthusiasts. The absolute necessity of show ring mileage in the development of saleable horses, together with the growing cost of obtaining that mileage has become a dilemma for American owners and trainers. Developing our own horses, therefore, is a bit of a lost art. The biggest handicap in bringing young horses along is the lack of opportunity to get the youngsters an appropriate, cost effective, introduction to the showing world.

Linda AllenLinda Allen, famed course designer of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games,the 1992 World Cup Final (Del Mar), Super Leagues in both Dublin and Rotterdam, three time Nations Cup rider, and judge for many National Medals, has brought numerous horses from "local" shows to International acclaim. The Benchmark Program, a concept developed by Linda Allen, is designed to address this lack of opportunity for appropriate and affordable mileage for young horses as well as for less experienced riders. Linda's plan is for one-day rallies* that emphasize the development of a solid foundation, rather than on winning ribbons.

The Benchmark Program is carefully designed to meet the needs of trainers of young horses, as well as riders who need mileage in the arena. Each one-day rally will feature a course comparable to that at a rated show. These courses will be "horse-friendly" to encourage schooling for young horses. Riders will have the opportunity to ride multiple rounds at whatever height they choose, giving them the opportunity both to ascertain their horses' current level of training as well as to ensure that every horse has gotten a full measure of good 'mileage' during the day's outing. The Benchmark Program will also offer a permanent performance record for each horse, consisting of scored first rounds at each height. These rounds will accumulate points toward Benchmark Bronze, Silver, and Gold achievement levels, creating increased visibility for young horses and giving trainers and owners an opportunity to showcase horses in a cost-effective way. Additionally, The Benchmark Program offers Junior and Amateur a way to accumulate show-ring mileage and reach individual performance goals.

Linda AllenThe Benchmark Program offers an extremely cost-effective alternative to Rated shows. Yearly membership for The Benchmark Program costs $50, whereas membership fees for rated shows can run in excess of $175. Riders will be charged $35 for the first round, and only $25 for all additional rounds. Non-member fees at rallies are only $5 per class; at rated shows, non-members are charged an average of $70 per show. There are no late fees ($35 at rated shows) or nomination fees ($50 at rated shows) for The Benchmark Program rallies.

Today's horse shows are, rightly, geared to the competitive level of horse and rider; The Benchmark Program seeks to provide an opportunity similar to those found in European countries to put the foundation on horses and riders at a cost more equivalent to theirs. Good mileage, reasonable cost, better marketing, individual goals, in an inclusive atmosphere - these are the goals of The Benchmark Program.

*Upcoming Rally Dates: 1/9/11, 4/3/11, 9/4/11, 12/4 /11 All will take place at El Sueno Equestrian Center in Somis, CA. See more information at TheBenchmarkProgram.com, or contact Kevin McGinn.

Posted by: Kevin McGinn AT 10:48 am   |  Permalink   |  4 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, March 10 2011

A Day at the Kick-Off Benchmark Rally

"BENCHMARK" — A standard against which others can be measured

"Rally" — "bring into "order" again / a renewal of strength / a call to come together/ revive

WEBSTER'S DICTIONARY

California delivered its best as the sun rose over Somis, CA, known as the most temperate climate in the United States. Linda Allen was already putting on the finishing touches for the first horse of the day, a 6 year old Argentine horse ridden by California based trainer Laura Santana. She had mentioned to me earlier that week that although 6, her horse was quite green to step into the YJA ring at Thermal and the pressure to keep up with more experienced jumpers would be to her horse's detriment. Laura realized that what she really needed was a "real" yet inviting track where she could "practice" in show ring environment, and who better to provide that venue than Linda Allen? Aside from her Olympic credential from '96 Atlanta, Linda is constantly advising, consulting, judging and clinicing.

Her broad perspective was dead on when she combined both a practical and an "esthetic shift," offering a setting where professionals /amateurs and developing horses alike could compete over the same track with descending heights throughout the day so that you could Jump - Assess - Repeat. Opposite the "convention" of Big, Bigger, Biggest by day's end, this system offers a logical reprieve from that formulaic approach.

First, you can be scored in the data base on your first round (after all, how accurate is a jumper score if the horse has addressed the same jumps 3 times prior til they get it "right").

Secondly, if you want a "RE-DO," it's about 1/2 the price of the already reasonable first round ($35 dollars /then $25 for each subsequent round). But more importantly. if you had hit a rough spot, you can go jump it. Again, but lower so the green horse /rider leaves with MORE confidence NOT LESS.

How may times have you had a tough time in the AA jumper class and your choices are limited to (A) waiting for tomorrow or (B) jumping a bigger track? Neither of these make sense to anyone who has just felt a bit "over faced."

Linda wasn't there to CLINIC per se, but her generosity and real desire to make sure everyone learned and had fun had her dispensing tips that made all the difference!!!! This is a GREAT IDEA that was beautifully executed.

Real jumps, perfect footing, efficient ring crew, and a USEF official. It was a perfect beginning to what we hope will be a groundswell of interest and a return to the business of training horses and riders to compete on their own merits and efforts. Like so many things that have become out of reach for the shrinking middle class, good horsemanship and riding (particularly competitive riding) have become increasingly elusive.

Almost 20 years ago, George Morris predicted in The Chronicle of the Horse column "Between Rounds," that the American love affair with buying "made" horses from Europe would come to an abrupt halt at the first sign of any financial distress here in the USA. That event surely did come to fruition in 2008 and the horse business has, as a result, made a huge adjustment. Gone for many are the easy shopping sprees through Germany and Holland to pick up the new "winner," oftentimes without the background to sustain the import's "winning ways"!!

Change can sometimes be challenging, but then isn't that the nature of sport???

Linda is correct and her timing is perfect. The Benchmark Program isn't a horse show, nor is it a "clinic": it's a hybrid venue where the word "elite" refers to an "aspiration" to strive for, NOT merely "EXPENSIVE."

Linda has drawn heavily from the one-day local European one-ring concept of a gathering of horsemen; thus the term "rally" is applied. With one "rally" under our belts, strong support from you, Bernie, countless online publications, and our friends at Show Jumping Unplugged -TV, I feel confident that this program, found online at www.thebenchmarkprogram.com, will re-open the sport (by remaining affordable) to many equestrians who increasingly have been out priced from the sport they love.

They say for every dark cloud there's a silver lining. For me the "silver lining" comes in the form of a "Back to Basics" concept of exactly what "horsemanship" is: it's certainly more than collecting ribbons that get left behind when the horse trailers go off to the next show ground.

I'd close by saying that at our "debut rally" — with very nice trainers /amateurs and horses in attendance and only one ring to be accountable for — we actually stayed and watched each other "GO" rather than jumping on the nearest golf cart to quickly get on the "next one."

www.thebenchmarkprogram.com — Finally a breath of fresh air!!!

Posted by: Kevin McGinn AT 02:57 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email

    Contact Kevin McGinn
    Kevin McGinn
    Horse Training, Lessons, Judging, Clinics, and Sales

    Los Angeles Equestrian Center • Ever Wood Stables •  480 Riverside Drive • Burbank, CA 91506

    Phone: (818) 512-4550
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