|Thunderstruck Farm at El Sueno|
Lisa Westin, owner and head trainer at Thunderstruck Farm in Somis, California, is leading the way in innovative thinking regarding the training and sales of young horses.
|Lisa Westin, Linda Allen, Kevin McGinn and Benchmark Show Secretary Samantha Valla|
Westin started riding at the tender age of three and has over 20 years of show ring experience, including four years living and training in Europe. As a competitor, with backgrounds in hunters, jumpers, equitation and dressage, Westin is able to offer students a unique insight into the dynamics of the show ring.
Since opening the doors to her business in 2003, Westin's skill and knowledge brought in a broad base of clientele. Over the years she's made a conscious choice to center her program on starting, training and developing young horses and also takes pride in her ability to retool problem horses.
Westin focuses on helping a horse find its best niche in the jumpers, hunter and equitation disciplines, and also works with dressage horses that may be ready to take the leap into the jumper ring and change careers. This led the training business to expand into sales and consignment. She feels time is of the essence ??? spending quality time.
"I like to focus on a solid foundation and making sure that the horses are well broke on the flat and started correctly," Westin explained. "So many times we get horses that show some talent and they rushed through the stages. It can be the same for riders. A lot of times the basics are not taught well. We are quick to advance up the ladder and are doing a disservice to so many young horses. My main goal is to take the time to develop a well-rounded horse. One that is properly prepared to go on whatever career path it ends up with."
Innovation in Equestrian Sport: The Benchmark Program
As an innovator, Westin has been instrumental in the development of the Benchmark Program along with the program's founder, world-renowned course designer and clinician Linda Allen. Designed to address the lack of opportunity for appropriate and affordable mileage for young horses as well as for less experienced riders, the program hosts a series of one-day rallies that emphasize the development of a solid foundation.
"All of the courses are designed by Linda and the arena is ???dressed' like a show ring," Westin remarked. "It's great for horses in my program and for young horses everywhere! We start at the highest height, 1.30m and work our way down to .75m. So if you've been doing the 1.10m and you want to see if your horse is ready to do the 1.20m, you can start in the 1.20m, and then can drop back down to 1.15m or lower and do the same track to iron out the kinks and solidify a horse's confidence. That way your horse ends on a positive note and you end feeling like you accomplished what you set out to do."
In its second year, the Benchmark Rallies are not horse shows. There are no ribbons or awards, but members of the program can log into the website for results from their first round, creating a way to begin a show record for a young horse. Professional video opportunities are available. So at the end of the day an entry gains experience, recorded results and a marketing video.
The program also gives junior and amateur riders a chance to practice meaningful goals to work towards even if they are not campaigning on the rated circuit. It is a great opportunity to develop show ring ready horses and riders at a small fraction of the cost of putting on ???practice' mileage when going to horse shows.
The cost to trailer in and jump two or three classes through the Benchmark Program is just over $100 (not including transportation or training fees). A great option for good show ring type miles. Three rallies remain this season July 8, August 12, and September 9, all to be held at the El Sueno Equestrian Center.
Westin explained how the idea came about, stating, "Linda was here for a clinic and we ended up talking for a couple of hours afterwards about how challenging it is to develop young horses at the show level. The difference between showing in Europe and showing here is huge. You import these horses as five year olds and they are used to going to horse shows every weekend because it's so easy and inexpensive. Although there are nice horse shows here, it is expensive to compete. The whole idea was to come up with a program where people can put mileage on their young horses, or riders can work out issues, without the major cost and then move into the show ring."
Allen and Westin have worked to establish the program in Southern California, and would like to see it expand throughout the country. The innovators would like to see more facilities throughout the country choose to participate, offering a bridge from young horse to show horse or inexperienced rider to show rider. Rewarding for all involved.
For more information on Lisa Westin, please visit www.thunderstruckfarm.com.
For more information on The Benchmark Program, please visit www.thebenchmarkprogram.com.
El Sueno Equestrian Center is a beautiful training facility with a covered arena, an outdoor dressage court for flat work, two jumping arenas for lessons, a Derby field to school natural obstacles, and a galloping track for conditioning. For more information, please visit www.elsuenoequestriancenter.com.
Top of Page