Team Spirit

This summer is extra lively here at the Thomas family’s River Grove Farm in Hailey, Idaho. Not only do we have a barn full of great horses in training, but we also have Laura Graves, Kasey Perry and Matt Johnson here to train with Debbie McDonald.

Laura and her horse, Verdades, came back with us after the Reem Acra World Cup Finals in Las Vegas, in April. We officially retired Wizard at the World Cup, and were there cheering for Laura during her incredible performances there.

The Pan American Games send-off party for Laura Graves at River Grove Farm

Laura has been staying with me in my condo since April and we have been having a great time together. It is really fun and inspiring to be surrounded by great riders and great horses, and I think it makes you elevate your own standards when you are able to watch horses of international caliber training on a daily basis.

Laura has been getting ready to leave for the Pan American Games, and headed for the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation’s Gladstone, N.J., headquarters for training camp. We just held a big barn BBQ party to giver her a proper River Grove send-off and wish her the best of luck.

In mid-June the new stallion Sandronnerhall (purchased by the syndicate of Akiko Yamazaki, Betsy Juliano, Bruce and Jen Hlavacek and Elma and Jim Cannavino) was released from quarantine in Wellington, Florida.

I made a trip down to Wellington to accompany him on the flight home. He has only been here for two weeks but so far he has been a charming horse to have in the barn and incredibly exciting to ride. He gives me goosebumps each time I sit on him, and I am eager to get to know him and start our training together. He has settled right in at River Grove. He loves to work and he also enjoys his daily trail rides by the river, after our training sessions.

The syndicate and Sandronnerhall: Bruce and Jen Hlavacek, Adrienne Lyle, Betsy Juliano, Akiko Yamazaki, Elma and Jim Cannavino.

The syndicate partners all made the trip to Idaho this week to meet their new boy for the first time. I have never been involved with a syndicate before, but it is proving to be a really fun experience. It is such a great concept and provides a path for people to be involved in high-performance dressage in ways they may not have been able to do previously.

The syndicate partners tour the grounds at River Grove Farm.

Everyone in our group is enthusiastic and excited for the journey ahead. In the mornings, the owners came to the barn and watched the stallion work, then toured the beautiful grounds at River Grove and watched training sessions of other horses. In the evening, we got together for a delightful dinner on the patio of one of our town’s best little restaurants. There was lots of laughter and good times, and it was great to get to spend time with all the awesome people involved in this syndicate.

When I brought the stallion home from Florida in June, Matt Johnson’s 6-year-old stallion, Qasanonova, also joined us on the flight from Wellington to Idaho. Matt and Qasanova represented the USA in the World Championships of Young Horses last year in Verden, Germany.

Kasey Perry and her two horses arrived last week, fresh off a very successful European tour. Kasey has been competing her mare, Scarlet, at Grand Prix and with her gelding, Dublet, she was one of four Small Tour combinations selected to compete with Team USA in Europe this spring. Kasey and Matt will be staying at River Grove until we all make the annual pilgrimage to Florida in November.

Needless to say, the barn is full of activity and I think it is busier than I have ever seen it. The Thomas family has been wonderful to open up their beautiful facility to everyone so that we can all benefit from Debbie’s amazing coaching. It is really fun to have all these top riders under one roof, and wonderful to see how supportive and encouraging everyone is. I think it speaks very highly of the great team spirit we have here in our country. Go USA!

Sandronnerhall meets the syndicate






Connect with Your Horse through Biomechanics
5 Videos to Watch for Better Balance
5 Videos to Watch Before Your First Show
pam stone lucas medium walk
A Not-So-Secret Key to Seamless Walk Transitions


71 Training Tips from Four Dressage Olympians
Are lumps or swellings under the jaw reason for concern?
Ashley Holzer USA Valentine
Updates to U.S. Dressage Team Short List for Paris 2024 Olympic Games
Steffen Peters and Suppenkasper Showcase Spectacular Freestyle and a Personal Best in Week 5 of the 2020 AGDF