Thursday, February 27, 2014

Keystone Dressage

From Alliston, Ontario, Canada, welcome Marley Filiptseva, the proprietor of Keystone Dressage

Marley is an expert in equine care, classical and modern dressage training, and the development of exceptional, competitive dressage horses and riders. With over 20 years in the equestrian world Marley opened the doors of KeyStone in January of 2011 to offer top level coaching and training.

KeyStone is a boutique dressage stable focused on the advancement of classical dressage training in Canada. After committing over twenty years to training and development, Marley is looking forward to debuting KeyStone as a leader in FEI dressage competition....

How long have you been riding?
I officially started riding in May of 1990, soon to be 25 years ago. I was extremely fortunate to be born on a small hobby farm. We had two dutch warmbloods and a cute paint pony.  I was first brought to barn at just 3 days old, the horses needed to be fed so my mother took me with her. I suppose that would be my first encounter with horses.

Describe Key Stone and your role there, and your horses...
At this time KeyStone is more of a hope then a place. I am very much still in the building stage. Three years ago I bought the farm that will become KeyStone in the future. When I came to view the farm I knew this was the place. The barn was (and still is) functional at best. The property had certain basics…but the feel was there. We now have finalized plans and will make significant progress towards building a world class training facility on a small scale. I believe that Canada has the potential to meet the world leaders in talent and sophistication, but we cannot pretend that we can meet them in terms of scale-yet. I want KeyStone to represent that transition in Canada as we debut a few world class stallions and a small team of world class performance horses. A tall order, but that is my hope.

To bring all this forward I am all thing- coach, trainer, groom, farm hand, business manager and planner. I am wonderfully supported by my husband and I have built a fabulous client base. So while I do everything, I do not do it alone.

My horses are a particular point of pride for me. I have two mares, Hathaway and Havana. I purchased Hathaway as a 6 month old- I was blown away by her incredible movement and athleticism. Her confidence infectious and I could see a personality which I hope will be able to withstand the psychological rigors a grand prix horse must endure. She is by Harvard, a stallion famous for his own talent and ability to better himself through his foals.

Havana, is a diamond in the rough. She is not of incredible breeding and was not raised in a manner common to top level sport horses. She came to me as a training project of one of my clients. She was a tall, awkward three year old who showed little talent for anything. But over her first year of training and after her winter break she came into herself and in the spring of 2012 I knew she was my horse.

Recently I purchased a 2013 Don Frederico x Eherntusch colt as my first stallion prospect. He shows the sweet confident personality I enjoy. His movement and confirmation are on trend with the modern developments in Dressage sport horses. I am anxiously anticipating the next few years as he matures.

As I am still building my team I look everyday at the horse market- who is breeding to who, which lines are leading market values, which lines are leading in competition, how breeding is evolving to produce the next generation. It’s all very exciting and as always I have a keen eye on several pairings in 2014 with high hopes for a Furstenball x Rubenstein foal due in the spring along with a 2 year old Quaterback x Rubinstein filly, but as always I won’t know until I meet them!

What is the best age to begin coaching?
That is a difficult question to answer. All disciplines from natural horsemanship to Dressage to Endurance require mastership.  Not only must a coach know how it feels to work through development and gaps in training- for both horse and rider- he or she must know intuitively how to explain the solution and guide the rider to bring the horse through the problem. The rider must have confidence in the coach and for this reason age has its benefits. I had been riding and training for over 20 years before I found myself faced with the challenge of teaching another horse and rider. When you have matured to a stage where the development of your students into their own best selves becomes your goal, and you no longer see their success as something about you, then you are ready to teach. Humility is essential to.

Your horses are beautiful. How do you match horse and rider?
Thank you! I always say (with a bit of a laugh) dressage is a bit like a beauty pageant, intelligence and talent are essential…but it all starts with a pretty face.

When I pair horses and riders I don’t always look for the most amazing athlete with the brightest competitive future. I know my students and I endeavor to understand not only their goals but which personality elements will connect best horse and rider. They have to feel affection for their horse, along with a training comradery and a match of skill, but mostly they need a horse who excites them- which is completely individual.

For me I know I like a sensitive but sensible horse, one with a strong aptitude for dressage- of course. Beautiful, but rideable movement and a natural tendency towards lightness are all things I very much appreciate.  Finally, a horse that wants to be better and wants to be better with me, I like that for myself.

As a trainer, what method do you implement?  
I believe strongly in the classical styles of dressage. Follow the training scale, spend the time, develop slowly and develop the faith that through dedicated clear aids you will find a method of communication with your horse. I agree with many of the contemporary leaders in this sport that the equine athlete has changed, but only to be more suited to their athletic pursuits. Dressage is an ancient sport, there is a certain arrogance I cannot accept that we know better than those who have come almost 2000 years before us.  Take the time, follow the training scale, understand the levels of competition as a reflection of the training scale and give your horse time to advance.

What is your favorite dressage event?
It is almost impossible to pick just one, but the very top must be the Olympics. The combination of representing your country, being on the world stage alongside the best in sport- what could be better? There is also just nothing like carrying the title of Olympian to solidify your level of accomplishment in the sport.

Where/when is your next event?
Right now there is nothing on the horizon. This will be Hathaway’s first year to compete. With young horses its all about exposure. In the next two years will be aiming to qualify for Dressage at Devon and participate in the winter circuit in Wellington FL. The goal is to qualify for the 2019 Pan Ams and then the 2020 Olympics.

What has been the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?
Resources- simple as that. There is no doubt this sport requires an exceptional amounts of time and financial resources. I have had to make my own way so far which has required that I go seek an extensive education and a “day job” which affords the financial stability to keep my pursuits alive. A detailed plan is in place to make evolve KeyStone into a fully supportive business so I can leave the work which gives the financial support but steals from the time needed to accelerate in my dressage career. Cautious planning, contingency planning, and relentless persistence (along with an ability to function on little sleep!) have been essential.

What does horsemanship mean to you?
I believe horses do as much for if not more for us then we can ever do for them. We must respect that it is always the rider’s decision to pursue athletic endeavors and individual care needed to keep them happy in their work.  We need to understand that horse’s social behaviors are based on a hierarchy and we need to insert ourselves in that system as a leader. Riders who do not set themselves as a leader risk damaging the horse’s confidence and loosing the horse’s respect for you. I have not been drawn towards natural horsemanship or the Parelli method. I keep my requests simple and consistent so that I can interact with my horse with kindness, but as a leader.

Connect with Marley....

Monday, February 3, 2014

Roland Clarke, Author

Roland Clarke is a retired equestrian journalist and photographer, who used to be a regular contributor of articles and photos to various equestrian media. In 2000, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which clipped his wings as he was unable to meet deadlines so easily and found it increasingly hard to attend equestrian events.

Roland Clarke’s debut novel, Spiral of Hooves, is a thriller that will leave you feeling exhilarated. Something of an exposé on the competitive horse riding community, Roland’s beautiful prose will leave you romancing nature. Read this exciting novel and follow Armand Sabatier’s journey in trying to forget his painful past by creating a new life for himself on a beautiful stud farm, only to be lured by the need to uncover truths and to protect the innocent, tumbling directly into the hazards of trust, friendship, and love.

Roland lives in Kent, England with Juanita and their two cats Willow and Kefira.  On his website, Writing — he signs his Blog as The Silver Scribbler, a clue to his age and hair.

Welcome Roland!

When did you realize you wanted to become a writer? 

Although I liked creating stories in my head as a child, I didn’t start to write them down in an organized way until my teens, and only then thought that perhaps one day others might read them. However, I first thought about becoming a journalist when I was nearly twenty and soon after that got a job as a sub-editor at The Field magazine.

William Fox-Pitt is jumping Lyn How's Diamond Manati in the Eventing Grand Prix at Hickstead.
Photo by Roland Clarke

As an equine writer, do you have a favorite equine anecdote? 

As an equestrian journalist and photographer, I covered various disciplines but primarily eventing and driving. Normally I remained spectating to do my scribbling but I was invited to experience the thrills of driving close up. I rode as a passenger for the marathon – cross-country phase – with British Team driver Pippa Thomas at Lowther and Brighton events. It was a chance to see the amazing skill and teamwork needed to guide four horses and a carriage through the tight obstacles. And all from what competitors call ‘the suicide seat’ – if the carriage crashes, the passenger has to make a fast exit… or there is the theme for another equine thriller. There are other stories I could tell from fallers to mobiles lost in port-a-loos, but maybe another time.

Driving horses I rode suicide seat with,
but driver Dick Lane is new owner of the team - taken at Brighton Driving Trials.

Do you have a favorite encounter with a horse? 

Certainly not those that have stepped on my toes while I interviewed their rider. Anyway, in 1995, with a friend, I created the South East Eventers League in the South East of England, a season-long rankings competition that is still running. The first winner, Vicky Collins, offered to get me back on a horse after some years confined to two feet. Maybe A Cracker, a 15h 3 mare was well-bred by Welton Crackerjack, and a joy to ride, boosting my confidence in my rusty abilities as we rode in the sand school and around the lanes. Vicky competed the mare for a short while, then a friend of mine, who is now a well-established journalist ended up buying her. So I used to see the mare out competing for many years, and joked that if the mare was moody then it was my fault.  

Ellie Hughes, riding her own Spread the Word is the journalist friend, who bought the horse mentioned in encounter question, Maybe A Cracker. Photo by Roland Clarke

Do you have a favorite celebrity horse?

If I was confining myself to celebrity sport horses, then it would have to be the iconic grey Engish racehorse Desert Orchid. But as a writer I would have to choose another grey, Shadowfax from my favorite novel J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings

Why did you switch from writing horses to crime novels? 

I had already started writing my first novel while I was an equestrian writer. However, when I retired in 2005, due to ill health – multiple sclerosis - I focused on my first novel, Spiral of Hooves, a mystery thriller set against the eventing world that I had covered as a journalist. (Novel details below). Naturally, the leading lady, Carly Tanner rides two grey mares.

How do you maintain thoughts and ideas? 

Dreams seem to provide a lot of inspiration for my ideas. Trying to maintain the thought process is hard, especially when multiple sclerosis causes memory lapses. I find that I have to scribble even stray thoughts down if they are to be of any use. I have various notebooks on the go, one for each novel, one for blog ideas, and one for random inspirational scribbles. Pacing and small goals keep me going each day, but I can have bad non-productive ones. Relaxation is also important, and rewarding myself playing online fantasy games can be better than chocolate.  

Who is a favorite character of your own creation?

Difficult as I don’t want to upset any of them, especially the villainous antagonists. Favorite would have to be the shaman Coryll created for the fantasy element of my Gossamer Steel series. She was a challenge to develop as she is mixed race – elf-Sami – and has an alter-ego that makes her feel possessed. Her best quality is the relationship with her Akhal-Teke cross mare Windsong.

What are you currently writing? 

I am currently working on the Gossamer Steel series, which comprises a cyber-crime mystery and some fantasy/sci-fi short stories and novellas. Gossamer Steel is an online game that is central to the cyber-crime being uncovered in the novel. The shorts and novellas are set in the world envisaged in the game. However, there are sequels to Spiral of Hooves in the pipeline: I’ve done the first draft of Tortuous Terrain, set against endurance riding in the US, and have a rough idea for Suicide Seat, set against carriage driving, of course.

Do you have advice for novice writers? 

Never give up, keep writing and reading because that’s the key to learning your craft. Avoid writing without some sort of map if you can; but it only needs to be a rough guide not a fixed itinerary.

List 10 things that people may not know about you...

I am a quarter Chilean as my maternal grandmother was from Chile.

I went to Eton College, but was asked to leave because I was not up to the right standard = I was making their educational statistics look bad.

When I was at college in Canada I considered joining the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but instead became a journalist.

While in Canada I went on a white-water expedition in the Yukon. Nearly thirty years later I floated down the Boise River in Idaho, but with minimal white-water and human crutches.

When I started taking equestrian photography I earned the nickname CET, because of the maple leaf badge with those initials = Canadian Equestrian Team.

The fruit & vegetable wholesale business that I ran was in danger of turning to compost when I closed it down.

I hate roller-coasters and get so terrified that I’ve been known to bite. Suicide seat in a marathon carriage is way less scary.

I love the smell of fresh coffee but can’t drink it. Instead I drink lemon water.

Fear of flying is an irrational thought that won’t leave me, even if I know what all the noises are. Best way to fly is with my own wings or on a mount in a Massive Multi-player Online Role Playing Game.

Most of my MMORPG alter-egos are far sexier than I am, but maybe that is because they are female.

~ ~ ~
In Canada, researcher Armand Sabatier witnesses what could be the murder of groom Odette Fedon, but traumatic images from his past smother his memory, and a snowstorm buries the evidence. Harassed by nightmares but fighting through them, Armand remembers the crime a few months later. By then he is in England, where he is dragged into a plot involving international sport horse breeding.
Suspecting everyone around him, Armand is forced to brave the past that he has kept buried. But what made Armand leave France? Where did he learn to survive and fight for justice? Why is the English rider Carly Tanner treading the same path as the first victim, Odette?

If you are tempted to read more murderous mystery, visit:

Or to purchase a copy, visit:
Penny Sangster is jumping the paint stallion, Greenbank Harlequin in front of Borde Hill, Roland's family home and a horse trials venue. Photo by Roland Clarke

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