Competition Coach Specialist
It was 25 years ago that I rode in my first WCQ 1.6m Grand Prix. Since that time I spent 20 years trying to get that type of performance out of every horse I rode. It was only in the last several years I came to really understand that willingness was the most important aspect of the relationship, not what we could make them do, but what they did for us.
I was first introduced to riding on Vancouver Island and later moved to the lower mainland of BC to learn from my mentor and friend Leslie Reid. It was there I pursued a professional career, gaining my first two coaching levels and developing several training and lesson stables, working up the food chain coaching, training, teaching, and riding. Instrumental to my evolution was a stint in the early 90s to the Netherlands where I was introduced to deeply schooled horses that were more structured than the NA hunters that were at that time informing our jumpers.
It was at the pinnacle of my professional career, just hitting my stride, competing at the highest level, that the reality of having only a dream and no financial backing shook me to my core. The stable where I lived and served a large clientele showed me that I was not as secure as I believed I was. It turned out to be a blessing as I spent the next 20 years outside the horse industry managing my own businesses from start up to sale. The education was worth the price of admission as it provided me insight into different businesses I would not have experienced in the horse industry. I kept horses, rode, trained and even sold a few, but at the amateur status.
Along with my wife and full partner, Rebecca Benedict, we built equity that would allow us to purchase and develop a beautiful plot of farmland that would become Skystone Farm. Over the years, we rode, showed a little bit, but always redefining what we wanted from our journey. Rebecca was always reminding me of a lesson I taught her 20 years earlier, and it is the core of our philosophy today, that is to "Love the one you're on". It is amazing to think that so much satisfaction and joy can come from doing the best you can for the horse you have. I am thankful of being reminded of this often because sometimes we can forget where true success lies in this sport.
The influence on my riding by the top riders in Europe still drives my sensibilities today guiding my philosophic outlook on my horses, teaching, the industry in NA, and the future of the sport. It is the never-ending pursuit of mastery alone that propels me forward and why we built the dream that is Skystone Farm. Now we have the chance to share the experience by helping students and young professionals sort out the useful bits from the over-burden of information that interferes with their relationship to their horse.
Maybe I'll write Rebecca's bio since I owe everything to her. Besides if she wrote it, y'all would think she was bragging even if she humbled it beyond the pale. I met Rebecca riding. Well, she came for lessons. Her concern at that time was whether she'd get the same instructor next lesson since her experiences to date had been a bit chaotic. So in my wisdom of giving students what they needed to hear, I told her not to worry, as long as she was riding, she'd be married to me. I believe I was seeking the metaphor, not being flirtatious. Seriously. However the prophecy was set and we did marry and she is still riding. Hope she stays riding!
Rebecca's skills with our horses have, like everything else, continued to evolve to the point that she starts our horses in their education and sees that they learn to manage themselves appropriately to being around people. Her eye is most valuable to my riding and we have long conversations about our horses' characteristics and what will help them move forward from where they are. Skystone Farm performs at its peak because of Rebecca's leadership skills and ability to keep everything and everyone on track.