Skip to main content
site map
rss feedemail usour twitterour facebook page linkdin instagram
share this page
Add to favorites
 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.
Tuesday, February 18 2014
Part 1: Tips for Young Equestrians - Kevin McGinn

I recently interviewed Kevin McGinn, a trainer at Ever Wood Stables, part of the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. When asked what advice he had to give to young equestrians, click here to read what he said.

Posted by: Reprinted from Find My Horse Job - Interview AT 09:05 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, August 23 2011

Benchmark Program founder Linda Allen at the El Sueno Equestrian Center in Somis.El Sueño Equestrian Center in Somis hosts the second of three 2011 Benchmark Rallies on Sunday, Sept. 4, 2011. The events are part of a program developed by renowned international show jumping course designer Linda Allen.

Allen (shown left at the El Sueno Equestrian Center in Somis) developed the Benchmark Program in response to what she sees as a need for an affordable system of putting miles on young horses that would be comparable to what is offered in Europe.

Lisa Westin, Kevin McGuinn and Samie VallaAccording to trainer Kevin McGinn, who, along with Westin and El Sueño events manager Samie Valla (pictured at right), has worked closely with Allen in developing the program, the main constituents are “dealers, breeders and those with young horses, in addition to people who want to get in one more big practice before a show.”

The third Benchmark Rally at El Sueño will be held on Dec. 4, 2011.

For more information on both events, contact Lisa Westin, 818-426-8668, or visit

This article is excerpted (with permission) from the full article that appeared August 17, 2011 in The Equestrian News.

» Click here to read the full article. (Photo credits: Paula Parisi)



Posted by: Kevin McGinn AT 06:52 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, July 12 2011

Saturday July 9th saw the marine layer lift over Huntington Beach Equestrian Center to reveal the latest incarnation of Linda Allen's concept franchised by Ms. Julie Golden and fully realized with the assistance of one of Southern California's busiest course designers, Scott Starnes. The 1.30M track met every one of Linda's priorities by being a legitimate AA Quality course while remaining inviting to the greenish horse or rider. The advantage in the simplicity of this H.S. model is so obvious one wonders why it hasn't been done before.

The idea of dealing with only one ring and course in descending heights allows both riders and trainers to breathe and not just walk, ride, and run to the next arena.
Every detail was secured by Julie Golden, including jumps leased from Blenhein Equisports, a carded jumper judge, a first aid tent, and a local charity that provided snacks and beverages.

The fiercest competition of the day happened in the closing hours with large ponies battling it out over .75 and .70 M. And that is the idea: To make this sport an inclusive one that has a hand reaching "up" while the other is reaching "down" to guide the ones that follow.

For more information on the remaining Benchmark Rallys on the calender at both Huntington Beach Equestrian Center or el Sueno, go to The Benchmark Program website at

If you would like to host a Benchmark Rally of your own, please see the The Benchmark Program Forms page for more details.

Posted by: Kevin McGinn AT 02:50 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, June 17 2011

By Paula Parisi June 6, 2011
Pegasus Equestrian Center has scheduled its third Hunter/Jumper show. Taking place June 25, this one will feature a Thoroughbred division. Proprietress Erin Rorabaugh promises “a fun-filled day of great classes and great prizes!”

Main hunter ring at Pegasus Equestrian Center (Photo by Paula Parisi)
Main hunter ring at Pegasus Equestrian Center (Photo by Paula Parisi)

Rorabaugh said she conceived the series after hearing from many local riders that there was a need for one-day shows that would provide green riders, as well as busy adult amateurs, the opportunity to compete, hone their skills and enjoy an afternoon with their horses without the huge investment in time and money that the major shows entail.

Trainer Kevin McGinn applauds the fact that the show will feature a Thoroughbred Hunter division. “In the old days, they used to have special ‘non-Thoroughbred’ hunter classes. Now it’s reversed: most of the horses showing are Warmbloods, and the judges’ have become conditioned to the way they move. But the Thoroughbred is a wonderful breed. They cover the ground so beautifully.”

The Pegasus shows welcome all breeds, and the earlier shows had a substantial pony contingent. “Erin’s event is a great introduction to showing,” said McGinn, who is based at Pegasus. Even those who aren’t competing would be well-entertained spending a day under Pegasus’ majestic oak trees, checking out the beautiful facility, located in Thousand Oaks.

2972 Triunfo Canyon Road, Agoura, CA 91301 ~ Phone: 818-597-9727

For more information, visit

Posted by: Paula Parisi AT 08:41 am   |  Permalink   |  1 Comment  |  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, 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


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, 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." — Finally a breath of fresh air!!!

Posted by: Kevin McGinn AT 02:57 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, April 20 2010

Kevin McGinn Stables - Horse Sales and Training - Los Angeles CA, Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I recently had the honor to be tapped to host JMR's page, Thursday night Trival Pursuit presently being presented on Facebook by Jennifer Parsons and Noelle King with "R" rated judges Carol Dean Porter and Rob Gage.

This is a just-for-fun evening that goes out on Judge My Ride's Facebook page at 9pm Eastern time (6pm Pacific time). It's a great way to reminisce about equestrian heroes and equine stars of yesterday, and to teach the kids about equine theory.

It's a fast-moving stream of questions of the historic events of all disciplines; dressage, foxhunting, show jumping, polo and racing.

So join me or even better send me your most coveted questions to my private page on Facebook or visit the contact page of my website.

See Ya Thurs !!!!!! Be There / be Square !!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Kevin McGinn AT 01:15 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, March 03 2010

Kevin McGinn Stables - Horse Sales and Training - Los Angeles CA, Wednesday, March 3, 2010

One of my newest finds...and favorite things to do, is playing Equestrian Trivia served up by none other than Jennifer Parsons and her side-kick Noelle!

This is a weekly event that has quickly become an obsession of mine: every Thursday evening from 6pm-8pm Pacific time! What better way to sharpen your equine "theory," reminisce, or battle the wits of pros like Dianne Grod, Carol Dean Porter, and countless other trivia masters??
Great fun on these cold winter nights!!!!!!

Don't think it's a "walk in the park" -- Jenn digs DEEP into the history of our sport,
testing young and old alike with name that horse/rider/pony, and horse show rules ad infinitum.

The competition is fierce and it captures something I feel is lost in today's Horse Show world. It conjures up magic moments, forgotten heroes, and the excitement that comes from the love of the sport. It's a great way to re-connect with friends from all over the country as it resides on FACEBOOK on the “Judge My Ride” page AND the Price is right (FREE )!!!!

It's just a nice example of having simple fun, kind of like what we did in "THE OLD DAYS."
A warning -- these girls take their "trivia" DEAD SERIOUS!!! Check it out!!!

Every Thursday, 6pm-8pm Pacific time
Facebook/ Judge my Ride

You can also submit photos and video clips to be critiqued by the one and only
Rob Gage -- Check It OUT !!!!

Posted by: Kevin McGinn AT 01:12 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, September 20 2009

Kevin McGinn Stables - Horse Sales and Training - Los Angeles CA, Sunday, September 20, 2009

In a sport that is financially demanding even in "good times," one may wonder how to satisfy the instinct in many equestrian to compete on a budget?

Back in the day, when I rode on Long Island, horse show management seemed so much more innovative -- rather than having a calender etched in stone and dates carefully calculated and "divvied up" between a few "horse show czars" as we see almost exclusively here in California, there seemed to be a less monopolistic approach.
When I was a junior rider back in the seventies there was a variety of nicely run two day shows, along with the old standards like the famed North Shore Horse Show, Piping Rock, and C.W. Post HS. Much like the spontaneous parties that are announced and happen in a matter of a few hours in the Twitter age, show managers would select a date and a venue and make it happen.

We showed at dairy farms on the grass cow pastures, old potato farms, etc. In fact, one of those rough and ready lean-to style horse shows was (and is )The Hampton Classic Horse Show (which I rode in its inaugural outing in 1976).

It consisted of a "roach coach caterer," some snow fencing, and modest jumps in what I believe was an old potato field. It was a long way from its current glamor on Snake Hollow Road. However, there was a "riding standard." And once that is in place the rest all becomes interesting because its so much less about "the space " and so much more about the caliber of riding, which is what should "fuel" the sport after all.

Now, to the point of this installment

One of the events that always gets its dates circled on my calender is the Foxfield Jumping Derby in Hidden Valley, at one of the last true riding schools that really start and "make" riders! The Foxfield gang have been at it for 42 years, teaching kids real horsemanship as well as sportsmanship. The Foxfield Derby is exactly what I feel we need more of! It attracts a much more diverse group than the standard Hunter/Jumper event, the touch of cross-country natural obstacles demands a different skill set, and in my opinion separates the "Riders" from the stride-counting cookie-cutter set. There are real Irish banks, drop jumps, coffin jumps and some places to turn and burn.The best thing is its uniqueness fused with its enthusiasm from the entire group (the Postel Family) that put the day together.

The kids and the pros get a shot at some classic stadium along with some good old fashioned "gallop-and-go."

The List of winners is a Who's Who including Susan Hutchison (5 times), George Meyer, Hap Hansen, Will Simpson and Julia Balcom Spreen to name a very few from its 30 years. I can claim entering the youngest rider to attempt the demanding track -- Brooke Faber tackled it at age 11, and placed the following year at age 12.

Anyway, that's it on the Foxfield Derby. Its a great day to ride or spectate, and see something a little bit outside the Southern California box!! And, it's a trailer-in, do-your-thing, and go home deal; which, in today's market can get you alot of "bang" for comparatively little"buck"!!
I know my riders are ready !!

PH # 805- 495-5515

Posted by: Kevin McGinn AT 01:09 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, September 20 2009

Kevin McGinn Stables - Horse Sales and Training - Los Angeles CA, Sunday, September 20, 2009

As I was saying how lovely the el Sueno Horse Show was to Judge, I remembered the schooling shows that I attended as a kid growing up on Long Island. They were similar to "real shows" in that the infrastructure and management was comparable to the rated shows. Perhaps the competition was a bit less intense, but the disciplines of the format and the habits we formed directly translated to recognized showing.

Schooling shows (or riding club shows) as they are known happen every weekend in innumerable little towns all throughout Europe as well. And in case no one has noticed, the Europeans are pretty good at show jumping. They are particularly hard to beat indoors.

In our current economic state even MORE people are being excluded from the joy of riding and the concept of show jumping as a spectator sport is a lost dream long given up. WHY?????

Because we have bought into the old stereotype that horses are for "the elite" and thats just the way we like it!!! The clients get to play "Queen for a day," and the trainers can cash in on that fantasy. In Europe, the best riders are received by the public like rock stars. They sign autographs in airports and on the street (not just at the table directly following a grand prix win).
WHY ????????

Because in Europe even people who have never sat on a horse follow horse sports because its leaders have come from a grass roots level and everyone knows someone who has been televised on the 6 o'clock news sports segment.

I really feel that an interest in riding needs a wider bridge to the show ring if we want to attract new people to the sport, which can only enhance its value and quality in our day to day life. I feel that if we want this sport to thrive (especially in the "new economy") and cultivate talent, keeping the standards a bit higher and the costs a bit lower is the answer!

The reason it was possible to find quality horses with significant ring experience from Europe is that it doesn't cost upwards of $1500/week to show a horse in Europe -- classes are cheap, there are more levels of shows, and people aren't afraid to trailer in for a day and do some of the "dirty work" themselves -- I promise you that no one "over there" spends $300 on a braider.

Posted by: Kevin McGinn AT 01:07 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, September 07 2009

Kevin McGinn Stables - Horse Sales and Training - Los Angeles CA, Monday, September 7, 2009

Firstly, I must say that the management of el Sueno on Kingsgrove Road in Somis have designed a perfect equestrian venue.

With its perfect climate, (Somis is the most temperate climate in the California) el Sueno is both picturesque and functional -- with an impressive indoor riding hall and perfect footing, it's quite a place.

I was thrilled when Lisa Westin invited me, on behalf of the ownership, to judge the 3rd show on their calender. Aside from being non-rated, there was nothing second rate about this show. It was perfectly managed by Patty Littman, with perfectly turned out arenas thanks to the the help of Esteban Rodriguez and what seemed to be enough staff to put on an "A" show. Everything was organized, and the classes started on time. The back gate stewards kept the show moving. The courses made sense and were level appropriate for each class. And most impressively, el Sueno's owner, Gina Atton Thomas, was often seen bouncing from ring to ring to hand out the winners' prizes -- beautifully made baseball caps and directors chairs.

There was only one thing missing for me on the day; (happily) absent was any feeling of "ATTITUDE" or "One Up Manship" that, in my opinion, is far too often seen at far less opulent show venues !! These kids had a first-class introduction to the world of horse showing, and I believe they went home having had more fun than stress! And maybe even having made a new friend or two?

For the Parents' part, el Sueno kept the fees on the nominal side, and hopefully other show managers can "CATCH ON" so that horsemanship can once again become a sport that can, at least on some level, be accessible to everyone. This, to my thinking, is the most certain way to insure its place as part of the American lifestyle.

More on schooling shows in my next entry!

Posted by: Kevin McGinn AT 01:06 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email

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

    Hansen Dam Equestrian Park •  11127 Orcas Avenue • Lake View Terrace, California  91342

    Phone: (818) 512-4550

    Copyright © Kevin McGinn - All Rights Reserved.
    Website design and hosting by Precision Computing Arts / Fastwebdev