Rider Profile: Young Horse Lessons Extend Beyond the Saddle for Andrew More

Langley, BC —It’s not unusual for a professional in the equestrian industry to have a side hustle.

Andrew More has taken that to the next level. The well-established Calgary-based professional has two full-time jobs.

Not only does he run Iron Stone Farms alongside his wife Erin Taylor More, but he’s also (hardly an also-ran) the manager of the Spruce Meadows Horse Program—a program of 35 horses, four full-time riders (Brian Morton, Alexander Grayton, Hope Enders, and Isis Landsbergen), a stable manager (Prudence Hagenimana), and a team of dedicated grooms.

Soft-spoken and purposeful with his word choices, a most-humble More is quick to credit the team around him—and especially his wife—for making what he does possible. But given his background, it’s evident that he boasts a skillset that makes him uniquely suited for both roles.

Even before he was a professional, he was working with young horses.

“Mike [Crooks] was the first person to teach me about starting young horses, from groundwork to riding, developing, [and] competing,” More says. “I was very fortunate to have someone provide me the opportunity to do that and someone who was very good at that.”

More’s first job in the equine industry was a working student position with Mike Crooks, a longtime west coast trainer whose family is still very much entrenched in the sport. Mike’s daughter Lauren Crooks-Brennan and son Sean Crooks are successful professionals, and their Crooks Show Jumping has supported the Young Horse Showcase series at Thunderbird Show Park for the last several years.

Fittingly, More brought two 5-year-olds to tbird’s Spring Festival for the young horse classes, coming away with a win in the Crooks Show Jumping 5-Year-Old Showcase jump-off class aboard Spruce Meadows’ Off We Go.

“Really what I learned from Mike, I would describe as the fundamentals—the sound basics of starting and working with young horses,” More describes. “In that context, I use those things every time I’m riding. A lot of them don’t apply simply to young horses, but to all horses. It’s been sound advice that has served me well over the years.”

During More’s time with Crooks, the barn received young homebreds from Mike’s mother, the late Phyllis Crooks. Over time, he came to learn that recognizing talent in a young horse is the easier part of the job. The proving ground comes in the form of character.

“I think when you’re looking at young horses, it’s often easier to identify talent at an early age, and character is more difficult to assess. It’s something that maybe develops overtime or becomes more evident over time,” More shares. “Both of these 5-year-olds [that I have with me at the Spring Festival] I believe show quite a bit of promise in the sport, but it’s a long way from the beginning to the top.”

More stayed in Mike’s program for three years before moving to Calgary in 2000 and stepping out on his own. He knew Thunderbird Show Park long before that though, competing as a junior rider at the old facility before it moved to its current location in 1999.

He now brings a large and varied contingent of Spruce Meadows and Iron Stone horses and riders to the venue, with young horses nearly always sprinkled in.

“It’s been certainly the last several years we’ve been participating with 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds,” he says. “I think when you have young horses, it’s always exciting to have the opportunity to compete and develop them in young horse classes.

“These types of events allow [young] horses to develop in a way that is most appropriate at their age and for their stage of development, where they are competing against their peers and over courses that are designed for them specifically,” he adds.

Despite the many tasks on his to-do list, More is a man far from burnout. He is continually energized by the talent—and the support teams—that surround him on a daily basis and emphasizes that he’s just one individual in two highly skilled villages.

“I get the rare opportunity to be around a lot of top riders throughout the year, and I’m always struck by the fact that nobody gets where they are on their own,” More reflects. “They always have a team supporting them—grooms, sponsors, mentors, assistants…In our sport, we focus on the rider in the ring on the horse, but the reality is, there’s so much support behind the scenes to make that happen.”

He’s certainly among that specialized group.

Mimosa MHJ, Casallina Shine in Crooks Show Jumping Young Horse Showcase

Langley, BC — For young horses, development comes in various forms and at a very wide range of paces.

With every round acting as a learning and information gathering experience, clear rounds can be hard to come by. That was truly the case as the Crooks Show Jumping Young Horse Showcase series kicked off for 6- and 7-year-olds at the Spring Festival.

Just one clear round was produced in each class, with Mimosa MHJ and Casallina’s faultless efforts resulting in their respective wins in the 7-year-old and 6-year-old jump-off classes.

Hannah Evans rode Mimosa MHJ to the top of the 7-year-old division, and while she didn’t need to jump off to secure her victory, she used the opportunity to practice some tighter turning. Her homebred mare (Etoulon VDL x Casantos Lord) aced the test with another smooth, faultless performance.

“I’ve been working a lot all winter on ride-ability. She can get a little fussy in the mouth, and we finally found a bit (a Trust Eggbutt Snaffle with Sweet Iron) that works,” Evans said. “We need to work on some speed, but the turn-ability is there!”

The Crooks Show Jumping Young Horse Showcase has become a key component to Mimosa MHJ’s development. The mare has jumped in young horse divisions at tbird as a 5-, 6-, and now 7-year-old.

“It’s been a goal of ours to get ones in the young jumper classes here. She hasn’t quite hit her seventh birthday. She’s a little bit young. But she’s been awesome,” Evans said. “There was no pressure in the jump-off [today], but I wanted to put the pressure on her a little bit and practice some inside turns, and she rose to the occasion.”

Linda Sferra had the reins aboard Casallina, a mare she bought sight-unseen as a yearling. Sferra knew exactly what she wanted: a filly by the stallion Casall. She entered the keywords in to Google, and Casallina is what the search engine produced. She bought the filly from Tallin Farm in New Jersey and has been Casallina’s sole rider every since.

“The great part about this horse is that if I make a mistake, she is so forgiving. It’s amazing. She puts it behind her immediately, and she makes me feel so safe,” Sferra said. “Today she had just the right amount of energy and was very rideable.

“She’s all heart,” she added. “She loves her job.”

Keepsake Kiddos Claim tbird Hunter Derby Teams Challenge

Langley, BC —Amanda Sinnett, Sophie Tupper and Dane Anson will leave the Spring Festival with an extra “keepsake.”

The trio, who called themselves the “Keepsake Kiddos,” linked up to win the tbird Hunter Derby Teams Challenge.

The unique competition features teams of three horse-and-rider combinations, each of which jumps a course of fences at a different height—2’6″, 3′ or 3’3″. Scores are accumulated for an overall score; the Keepsake Kiddos—comprised of riders hailing from Cheryl and Kassidy Keith’s Keepsake Farms in Langley, BC—won with a total score of 220.

Anson led the way for his team, receiving a score of 88 from the judges at the 3’3″ height aboard his partner Franklin, a former dressage horse who has found his niche in the hunter ring. Anson meets up with the Keepsake Farm team at shows while getting help at home from trainer Jenny Payne. He and Franklin have been paired for nearly two years.

“I like that with these teams, you can ride with your friends. It’s fun hearing the scores and celebrating with them,” said Anson, 14, Nanaimo, BC. “My favorite part of the round was the bending lines. They rode nicely.”

Despite coming together late—the roster was finalized the night before—the Keepsake Kiddos squad was amply prepared for the unique challenge. Sinnett was the most unfamiliar with her mount, pairing with a catch ride for her round. She navigated the 2’6″ height with Sarah Welch’s large pony, WW Rock the Cashbah.

“He’s eight this year, and this is his first derby,” Sinnett said. “I’ve done one derby before, and [today] I was a little nervous with it not being my own horse. [It was great to] have the support from my team behind me.”

Tupper completed the squad and delivered with a score of 82 at the 3′ height aboard Cuba Libre Z, better known as “Cubes.” The 9-year-old gelding was formerly a jumper in Europe before being imported and transitioning to a career in the hunter ring.

“I like having a team I could rely on,” said Tupper, 16, North Vancouver, BC. “I liked having a team to help and cheering them on.”

Can’t Catch Keith in tbird Grand Prix 1.40m

Langley, BC — You’d be hard pressed to find a sport more difficult to predict than show jumping.

That is, unless you’re watching Kassidy Keith (CAN) and Havana jump 1.40m at Thunderbird Show Park.

“I would say that at 1.40m, Havana is always on her game. I can trust her 100%, and I can always count on a clear round,” Keith says.

Keith and Havana captured the tbird Grand Prix 1.40m Saturday at tbird’s Spring Festival, securing victory in the show’s feature class for the second consecutive week.

Even more impressive is that this is the second year in a row in which the pair has accomplished this feat, also doing so at the same two shows last year in kicking off the tbird show season. On this occasion, the pair bested a six-horse jump-off and won comfortably, crossing the timers of Kirsten Rodel’s (CAN) short course in 40.83 seconds.

Laura Jane Tidball (CAN) and Ruby finished second (41.92s), with Jaehee Jeon (KOR) and Bless You third (48.92s).

“I just tried to keep [the jump-off] smooth, because [a lot of people] had rails.” Keith said. “I kept it smooth, kept the turns efficient and kept a good canter.”

The round appeared seamless, and the numbers back up an exceptional proficiency at the level. According to Jumpr App, this duo has jumped clear at 1.40m 60% of the time throughout their career, finishing in the top three at an impressive 25% clip.

“We’ve had a lot of building up and bonding through the U25 classes at 1.40m,” said Keith, a two-time MarBill Hill U25 series champion at tbird. “[Havana] is so comfortable and confident at 1.40m, and this is just her favorite place to show.”

This year marks Keith’s first season out of the U25 division, having turned 26 in February. She continues to ride and train professionally alongside her mother Cheryl at their Keepsake Farms, just down the road from tbird in Langley.

It’s a little different [for me this year], because I have to set different goals and look at the schedule closely,” Keith said. “For Havana, I want to get consistent and start jumping the three, four and five star [events] more. I want to do the World Cup qualifiers [in the fall], so maybe I can qualify to go to World Cup Finals next year.”

The preparation has started early. Keith spent her winter a bit differently with Havana, bringing her to California to jump two international competitions in February and March.

“I jumped some quite-big tracks in Thermal with Havana, and I think it helped. It put her that much more ahead to start the season here,” Keith said. “[Havana has been] able to come here and not do too many classes, and then she’ll have a break before May tbird.

tbird Grand Prix 1.40m
Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time

1. Havana / Kassidy Keith / CAN / Kassidy Keith / 0/0 40.83
2. Ruby / Laura Jane Tidball / CAN / Thunderbird Show Stables / 0/0 41.92
3. Bless You / Jaehee Jeon / KOR / Brother Fortune Equestrian Ltd / 0/0 48.92
4. Kadans van de Mispelaere / Jaehee Jeon / KOR / Brother Fortune Ltd / 0/4 41.87
5. Jane Avril des Terdrix / Hannah Evans / USA / Hannah Evans / 4 41.95
6. Fenelon WF / Kassidy Keith / CAN / Cheryl Anne Keith / 5 59.84
7. Gallup / Shauna Cook / CAN / Gallup Syndicate / 1 88.69
8. Samba de Landetta / James McDonald / CAN / Diana McDonald / 3 90.77
9. Calloway / Ayla Martinoff / CAN / Ayla Martinoff / 4 78.14
10. Glacier ZF / Shauna Cook/ CAN / Zeidler Farm Canada 2017 Ltd / 4 81.92

tbird Grand Prix is a Family Affair for Sorine and Taylor Winther

Taylor Winther grew up watching her mother jump at the Grand Prix level. And while she was always full of admiration for the way Sorine Winther tackled the largest tracks at the horse show, she didn’t have much of an interest in joining her—at least, not at first.

“I watched her jump at Spruce Meadows when I was [about] five years old, and I remember thinking, ‘Those jumps are huge. I’m never doing that!'” Taylor recalls. “Now, I guess I am jumping jumps that big.”

Both Taylor (21) and Sorine Winther (55) will come forward in Saturday’s tbird Grand Prix 1.40m at Thunderbird Show Park’s Spring Festival, marking just the second time the mother-daughter duo have gotten to compete against one another at the top level. The family ties couldn’t be much stronger, as their horses are also related. Homebreds Cella and Chaco are both out of the same mare, Ganadora Negra (Graf Top I)—a former mount of Sorine’s.

“We call it the ‘mother-daughter-brother-sister team,'” Taylor says.

And there’s another sister involved, too, as Colby Winther (16) has had success in her own right, joining her sister Taylor as a winner of the prestigious CET Medal National Finals last year. Both riders punched their tickets to those Finals by way of tbird’s CET Regionals, and all three Winthers are former winners of tbird’s Good Hands and Seat Medal.

“One thing I will say, is that I think tbird sets up kids for success in the equitation division—more so than any other province. The results speak to that,” Sorine says. “Having both girls go through the equitation and do that was a huge family bond. To have them both win was incredible.”

Home Grown

The Winthers are based out of Prince George, BC at their RidgeCountry Farm, where Sorine coaches a small group of clients and runs a Kids Club for children between the ages of 3 and 12 that want to immerse themselves in “all parts of daily horse life.”

They also have a small breeding operation that has boasted exceptional results for its size. In addition to Sorine and Taylor’s Grand Prix mounts, Colby’s equitation horse Big Ticket is also a homebred.

“I started with a mare Ninemo that I bought out of a Canadian sale years and years ago,” Sorine recalls. “It took me a few tries to figure out what she crossed best with. Colby’s equitation horse is a grandson of hers.

“It’s been really amazing, and honestly we’ve been lucky. We only ever have one or two foals on the ground in a year, and some years we have none. This year, we didn’t have any,” Sorine adds. “Most of the foals have ended up on this circuit, and all of us have had at least one really special horse that we’ve developed.”

For Sorine, breeding has offered a way to keep her daughters well mounted in a more affordable manner, while also developing their horsemanship. It’s become a group effort to select the best stallions for their mares. The Winthers mostly breed to Canadian stallions, largely due to their location and a preference for fresh over frozen semen.

“We talk about what we think the mares need a little bit more of, and we try to balance that with stallions that we have access to,” Sorine explains.

A Cella-Bration

If you ask one of the Winthers about their horses, expect a big story. Having been part of truly every stage of their horses’ careers, it’s not entirely surprising. But Cella and Chaco have made especially big impacts.

Cella, for instance, made a grand entrance at Sorine’s wedding.

“She came into this world in the middle of my mom and stepdad’s wedding ceremony,” Taylor shares. “It was kind of chaotic. Her name is short for celebration.”

Sorine developed the mare, by Carbardino N, until her 6-year-old year, when Taylor took the reins. They’ve since recorded wins in the U25 division, tackling their biggest tracks and all of their “firsts” together.

“When we did the 6-year-old classes that year, it was the biggest tracks either had jumped in our lives,” Taylor recalls. “As we move up, I’m green, and she’s green. It’s a slow process, taking our time and making sure we’re doing it the right way. My mom has been on the ground helping us along the way, and she keeps Cella going while I’m at school.”

Chaco, meanwhile, is out of the Carthago stallion, Carthago Sun III. During the bay’s 6-year-old year, he suffered a mysterious injury while out in the paddock. Exploratory surgery was done to repair the issue, but the lameness returned. It was eventually discovered that Chaco had a cyst in his coffin bone.

Sorine’s vet originally told her it would be career-ending, but Joanna Virgin at Paton & Martin Veterinary Services refused to give up. Her research uncovered a new and promising surgical option, for which a surgeon from Colorado State University was flown in to perform. Taylor, an aspiring vet, even got to scrub in for the surgery, which was a success. After a lengthy rehabilitation timeline, Chaco returned to the show ring as a 9-year-old. He’s now jumping his biggest tracks yet, even taking on international competition at tbird in 2022 and 2023.

“It was unreal. He’s a miracle horse,” Sorine says.

The Three Musketeers 

Sorine’s first trip to Thunderbird was more than 40 years ago, before the venue had reached it’s 10th anniversary (tbird celebrated its 50th birthday last year). The Winthers have now come tbird as a family for nearly 15 seasons. You’ll find them doing much of their own care, and when one of the self-proclaimed “three Musketeers” can’t make it, it’s friends that are filling in on the ground. This week, Colby is at a basketball tournament. Last week, Taylor was presenting her undergraduate thesis at the University of Northern British Columbia, where she is studying biology.

“Not a lot of families get to bond like this. We’re all super close, and it doesn’t come without its challenges for sure, but at the end of the day, we always have common ground to come back to,” Taylor shares. “When one of us isn’t here, it definitely feels like a piece of the puzzle missing. We’ve figured out how to work so well together, and everyone is part of each other’s success.”

“I think the reason I still really want to do [the sport at a high level] is because of our family experience,” Sorine says. “It’s such a nice thing to share with the girls; it’s our common ground. I get to have a really different relationship with them than most parents, because we do this together.”

Keith and Havana Turn Up the Heat in tbird Grand Prix

If Kassidy Keith (CAN) experienced a sense of deja vu Sunday at Thunderbird Show Park, it wouldn’t surprise many—certainly not those in attendance at the $10,000 tbird Grand Prix 1.40m at the Spring Festival.

For the second consecutive week, Keith and her longtime mount Havana led the victory lap following the feature class of the week’s competition. Besting a five-horse jump-off, the pair cruised around Chris Jones’ (CAN) shortened track in 42.17 seconds for a comfortable victory.

Kassidy Keith (CAN) and Havana. Photo ©tbird/Quinn Saunders

Sarah Lottis (CAN) and Rhapsody finished second (43.62 seconds), with Jaehee Jeon (KOR) and Kadans van de Mispelaere third (45.73).

“[Havana is] so game. When she’s on it, she really doesn’t want to let you down,” Keith said.

There was a turning point in Sunday’s jump-off. Keith was happy with how her horse jumped the first fence, but a sharp angle to the following oxer led to a lot of airtime. Upon landing, Keith knew she had to apply some extra leg.

From there, the pair turned the heat up, navigating the winding track swiftly and accurately. In fact, they almost turned too fast.

“We almost slipped inside after the oxer (the penultimate fence), because I caught it on such a hard angle!” Keith exclaimed.

But Keith didn’t need to take that much risk to secure another win. She and her mount took the longer route and expediently navigated the final vertical, crossing the timers more than a second fastest. Having now jumped their first 1.60m Grand Prix in the fall, the pair’s confidence at 1.40m is evident.

“I think the biggest change in [Havana], is that she’s so much better in the turns,” Keith said. “She used to jump so high in the air, and I was basically hanging on. Now, she so smooth, especially at this height. She jumps hard, for sure, [but] when she kicks out [on course], I know it’s going to be a good day!”

Kassidy Keith (CAN) and Havana stand for the winner’s presentation. Photo ©tbird/Quinn Saunders

$10,000 tbird Grand Prix 1.40m
Place / Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time

  1. Havana / Kassidy Keith / CAN / Cheryl Keith / 0/0 42.17
  2. Rhapsody / Sarah Lottis / CAN / Kevin Lottis / 0/0 43.62
  3. Kadans van de Mispelaere / Jaehee Jeon / KOR / 0/0 45.73
  4. Jericho / Laure Jane Tidball / CAN / Thunderbird Show Park Ltd / 0/0 47.11
  5. Cunningham 4 / Christopher Lowe / CAN / Christopher Lowe / 0/0 48.80
  6. Heartvit ZH / Tracey Epp / CAN / Tracey Epp / 4 78.53
  7. Dustin 254 / Aren Ozker / CAN / Aren Ozker / 4 82.5
  8. Buddy Bounce / Darrin Dlin / CAN / Dorothy Dlin / 4 84.81
  9. Pesgo Adelheid Z / Lily van Elliot / CAN / Yvonne van Duin/ 7 89.82
  10. Iowa B / Travis Root / USA / Lindsay Wendt / 8 84.38

McLean, Wall and Arnoldt Shine in tbird Hunter Teams

For barn mates Hazel McLean, Ruby Wall and Ashley Arnoldt, cheering each other on at the show ring is nothing new.

But sharing scores was.

Friday at Thunderbird Show Park, McLean (Northwind After Eight), Wall (Momma Citta) and Arnoldt (Light My Fire)—all of whom train with Eliza Hunt at Delta, BC’s Obsidian Hunter Jumper—joined forces to top the tbird Hunter Teams. The uniquely formatted class combines scores earned by three riders, each at a different height, from 2’6″ to 3′ and 3’3″.

The group of Wall (Velocity), Chloe Mache (Ursa Major) and Sloane Betker (Crack) finished second. Mariah Costley (Roulette), Nyha Leclerc (Ivanhoe F) and Sophia Schliessler (Jembey van’t Eigenlo) were third.

“I’m new to this team and new to the barn, so it was really nice to win something with the whole team and with these people in particular, who are just amazing riders,” said McLean, who received a score of 80 for her 2’6″ round aboard Large Pony Hunter, Northwind After Eight.

Wall, who showed at the 3′ height, led the team with a high score of 87 aboard Momma Citta, her 13-year-old Westphalian mare.

“I’d never done a team event before, so it was really fun,” said Wall, who hopes to qualify for the USEF Junior Hunter National Championships this year. “We’ve always been such an amazing team—not working together—so it was nice to be able to do this with collective scores.”

Arnoldt anchored the team at the highest 3’3″ option with her veteran partner, Light My Fire.

“Doing something team-related is not something we’ve ever done, especially up here in Canada. It was definitely really fun and new and different,” Arnoldt said. “I think it definitely brought another level of difficulty and a bit of pressure in a way where you don’t want to let your teammates down.”

The winning team stands for presentation. Photo ©tbird/Quinn Saunders

tbird Picks Up the Tab for Five More Exhibitors at Spring Festival

Navigating its 50th anniversary show season, tbird is feeling grateful, nostalgic—and generous.

During each of tbird’s 10 major show tournaments, five exhibitors will be chosen at random to receive a free entry at the horse show. Throughout the course of the season, tbird will pay for 50 entries total.

After debuting at the April Season Opener, “tbird Picks Up the Tab” continued Friday with five additional lucky exhibitors learning that their show bill would be significantly lower.

Harriet Arney (Dark Reflection), Reese Washburn (Won for Love), Chloe Mache (Fanta), Lindsay Uyesugi-Lacey (Miles Dyson) and Mairead Gurney (Sporty Spice) were drawn as winners in the tbird show office.

Arney has already earned top results in the Junior Amateur Jumper 0.90m division; Washburn took the win in the Child Pony Equitation Flat; and Mache won the Thunderbird Good Hands and Seat Medal.

Uyesugi-Lacey will contest the Training I Jumper 1.10m Stake, and Gurney has entered the Open Jumper Classic 1.0m.

Every horse entered at tbird is automatically added to the draw each week. Check back in May to see who tbird picks up the tab for next!