In the Ring with Tom Hern
I began riding at eight years old, my sister (who is six years older than I am) rode at a local south shore riding academy and I began riding because I was bored going to the farm watching her ride every day. She continued on to pursue riding in the saddle seat discipline and my interest in jumping was peaked when my family and I went to watch the International Jumping Derby (held in Newport, Rhode Island where Amy and I would eventually be married in 1998). I enjoyed a successful junior career in the hunter, jumper and equitation rings, winning the Rhode Island Equitation Medal Finals at age 12. I graduated Cum Laude from Johnson and Wales University with a Bachelor of Science in Equine Business Management, while in college I started an equine training business, Kingsway Farm which my wife Amy and I manage and operate to this day.
What made you decide you wanted to be a course designer? I began course designing at age 19 as I feel its important in the equine industry to pursue several revenue streams and to prepare for the future. As a trainer and professional rider it is important to understand that riding, training and showing at the top of our sport requires an extreme commitment to your own physical well being. Blending course designing and training has allowed me to ensure that I will be able to stay active and relevant in the industry for many years to come.
How do you balance being a trainer and a course designer? Balancing my roles as a course designer, show manager and trainer requires detailed planning, focusing on time management. I build my show schedule 1-2 years in advance and focus on an equal amount of time between training and course designing/traveling to horse shows. Part of what makes me successful at the balancing is a great team of people, including my wife Amy who works working behind the scenes managing the horses and planning my travel and commitments.
When designing a course, what are the top things you think about to challenge the horse and rider? A responsible course designer challenges horse and rider without over-facing them. This is always related to the caliber of horse/rider and the experience of the pair at each show/venue. Knowing the industry and the successful trainers throughout the country allow me to understand the type of horse/rider they will bring to a horse show. There are so many factors to consider when designing courses, things that most riders do not think about but are at the forefront of every course designer’s mind are: footing, weather conditions, time of year/amount of showing the horses have had recently.
After being a course designer for many years, and knowing some of the challenges given in a course, how do you prep your kids for a show? Course designing is an art and its important to stay current and relevant. Evaluating what other well respected course designers are building allows me to keep my riders on top of the industry trends, not just in what I build at the horse shows.
What is your process in course designing? Designing a course begins with evaluating the ring, the footing and “scaling” the ring on paper, then reviewing the jump inventory and what challenges each course will encompass. I design each course on my computer in a design program. Factors that go into course designing at this point include not blocking the judges view of any fence or end of the ring, determining which elements should be jumped “away” from home/the in gate, related distances between the jumps, time allowed for jumper tracks and potential “handy” round tracks.
What is your biggest piece of advice for anyone going into a big show like a medal or hunter final? My biggest advice to anyone attending any level of horse show is spend time with your horse…..practice, practice, practice. Nothing can replace time in the saddle and knowing your horse in and out of the ring.
What is one food you could eat forever? Peanut M&Ms
What has been your favorite course you’ve designed? The $25,000 Hunter Spectacular at Bleinheim Equisports San Juan Capistrano, California
What is your all-time favorite TV show/movie? Anything car related
What is one thing you always say when walking a kid up to the ring? Have fun
3 items you could never live without during a horse show? Yellow coat, rain coat, tape measure
Biggest pet peeve? Shavings left in a horse’s tail