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Taking Up the Reins: Jordan Crabo and Taylor McFall Partner with Their Mothers’ Top Mounts

by Kathleen Landwehr | Jul 25, 2019, 6:07 PM EST

The hard work of qualifying for and competing in the Adequan® North American Youth Championships presented by Gotham North is made possible by the support of family members. Two families, two mother-daughter teams to be exact, share a special bond on display this week at The Event at Rebecca Farm. Jordan Crabo and Taylor McFall have taken over the rides on their mothers’ top mounts and found much success. In turn, mothers Barb Crabo and Jen McFall have experienced a newfound joy in being able to share their horses with their daughters.


The Crabos and Over Easy

Jordan Crabo of Area X is riding her mother’s former mount, Over Easy, a 13-year-old Swedish Warmblood mare, in her NAYC debut. Barb is the owner and trainer at Four Peaks Farm in Scottsdale, Ariz., as well as a five-star eventer. When Jordan was looking for a new horse to continue moving up the levels, the family realized that “Easy” could be a great match. Jordan and Over Easy quickly formed a partnership. In 2019, they were third in the Fresno County Horse Park CCI2*-S in February and were second in the Intermediate horse trial at The Spring Event at Woodside in May in the lead-up to NAYC.


How did the decision come about that Jordan would ride Over Easy?

Barb: “[Our family] bred her and she was my horse first. Jordan was riding a pony (and is still riding the pony), but we were needing something that she could move up the levels a little more. We actually tried having her ride Eveready, [my former CCI5* mount]. He was pretty much retired from upper level eventing, then he showed us pretty quickly that he needed to just retire. We had actually tried to send Easy back East to try to be a hunter, which she was pretty good at, but oddly enough was almost too lazy to be a hunter. It wasn’t working out, so I brought her home to work on selling her because she didn’t want to be a five-star horse. I was going to work on selling her back as an event horse. She was back about two weeks before ‘Ready’ needed to retire, so we thought, ‘Hey, why not let Jordan try Easy?’ [Jordan] just started riding her and took her Training level a few weeks after that and won it, then moved her up to Prelim and won it. They just kept doing stuff and winning it, and it has turned into a fantastic partnership. It is really fun to watch them go together.”


Jordan, what was it like taking over the ride on Over Easy?

Jordan: “It was really, really cool to get to ride a very experienced mare, especially because she is so different from the pony and [my other horse, a Thoroughbred named Santino.] She is very much a kick ride; you have to go as fast as you can. She is a huge teacher to me. She is teaching me how to ride and be a positive and forward, but still collected and together. She is teaching me how my position needs to be and how she needs to be packaged.”


Jordan Crabo riding Over Easy with Barb Crabo
(Kathleen Landwehr/US Equestrian)

Barb and Jordan, has your relationship grown during training and competing Over Easy?

Barb: “We have always had a really good relationship. I don’t think her riding Easy has changed anything. I joke around with people when [Jordan and Easy] are out on cross-country, I say I am watching both of my children on cross-country. I think of Easy as my kid. Jordan was two when Easy was born. I fell in love with Easy the minute she was on the ground, I was like, ‘Oh my God, I love this horse!’ And Jordan was just learning how to talk, and we went to look at Easy and Jordan said, ‘I want to ride that!’ I looked at Jordan and said, ‘Get in line. She is mine.’ So, Jordan waited for her turn.”


Jordan, what have you learned from Over Easy?

Jordan: “I have learned how to cut turns but still be accurate. Especially in show jumping, how to ride a forward, but not running, ride. And how to, while creating a pace, still keep my upper body back. She has a very specific way that I have to ride her, and it is very bold and very positive. I am used to that, I like the Thoroughbred, I like the speed, but it is different for me to create the energy and to know when to wait and when I have the room to go and accelerate to the jump.”


And what have you learned from your mom?

Jordan: “Everything!”


Barb, what have you learned from this experience?

Barb: “This goes with all of my students, but it is especially true since I know Easy so well, but learning how to put to words what you do instinctually is huge. Easy is a very specific ride; she is a very quiet horse, but she is not uncomplicated. When the jumps are little, she is super and you just point and kick and she jumps. When the jumps are bigger, we are talking 1.15 or 1.20 meters, if you want to go clean you have to have it just right. I have had to really think about how I rode her, and I went back and watched some of my videos of when she was doing Intermediate and Advanced. I was like, ‘What was I doing there? And how can I get Jordan to do that?’ Because she was always a clean show jumper. Jordan has had these horses who liked her to be in two-point and a little bit of a forward ride. Easy will jump from that, but she will take rails like crazy. She really wants you sitting in the saddle, much more of a European kind of show jumping, where they are really sitting back but moving really forward to the jump. I just kind of felt that with Easy since I got to experience it instinctually. I have had to really work on how to relay that to Jordan so she can start having some clean rides. … I would take Easy back in a heartbeat. I always tell Jordan, ‘If you don’t like her, I will take her back.’”  


How did the decision come about to aim for NAYC?

Jordan: “It has been always like a dream that I would go someday, but I didn’t know when. I never really thought about it with Easy. When we moved up to Prelim, I was like, ‘Let’s just do the one-star [now two-star] at the end of the year.’ Next thing I know, we thought, ‘Well if we can do the one-star, we can go to NAYC.’ So, it just kind of happened. It was always in the back of my mind.”


What are the goals for the future with Over Easy?

Jordan: “We are hoping for the CCI3*-L at Galway Downs at the end of the year, so we have been doing some Intermediates to prepare. If it goes well [at NAYC], we will maybe do another Intermediate, then a CCI3*-S and a CCI3*-L. If not, we will aim for a spring CCI3*-L.”


Anything else you want to add?

Barb: “We are really glad we didn’t sell her. Now that she is back, I will never let her go. I love her so much. It was hard for me to send her away, and when she came back, I wasn’t sure if I could sell her. So having Jordan be the match for her, it was meant to be. It was just totally meant to be.”


The McFalls and High Times

Taylor McFall of Area VI made the step up to the Preliminary and two-star levels this spring with her mother Jen’s High Times, The High Times Syndicate LLC’s 15-year-old Holsteiner gelding. Jen McFall is a trainer and instructor at Dragonfire Farm in Wilton, Calif., and she became a five-star eventer with the help of High Times, also known as “Billy.” Taylor’s move up to Preliminary came about as a goal to complete by her 16th birthday, made possible with the help of Jen and Billy. After solid results this spring, including an eighth-place finish in the Galway Downs CCI2*-S in March, the McFalls decided to aim for NAYC and see where the partnership could go.


How did the decision come about that Taylor would ride High Times?

Taylor: “It came about in February because we were really late with New Year’s resolutions. So we were going around the dinner table asking what do you want for New Year’s, what do you want to accomplish, and it came to me and I said I want to ride Prelim before I turn 16.”

Jen: “Taylor has a really nice six-year-old mare, one that we bred, who she has been bringing along herself, but she is only six and just going Training level. There would have been no way she would have been ready to go Prelim before April, which is Taylor’s birthday. We all kind of sat there for a minute and were like, ‘Oh, that’s nice you want to do that, but Pixie’s not ready.’ Taylor said, ‘I know, I just really wish I could have.’ She knew that Pixie wouldn’t be ready.

“We continued on with dinner, then I sat there and I thought, ‘Why don’t you just take Billy around Prelim before you turn 16?’ And she said, ‘Okay!’ And broke out in tears and got all excited. That is really how it all got started. It was really not anything more than that.”


Taylor, what was it like taking over the ride on High Times?

Taylor: “Honestly, I wasn’t too scared. I am lucky to have my coach/mom around all the time, so I always had reassurance if I was doing it right, if I am riding him correctly to be round, all that sort of stuff. I actually had a lot of fun with it; I am not one to get nervous about stuff.”


Jen and Taylor, has your relationship grown during the time training and competing High Times?

High Times, Taylor McFall, and Jen McFall
(Courtesy of Jen McFall)

Jen: “Being able to share a horse of a lifetime, and getting to share that with someone you are so close to, that is pretty special. I actually had another horse, my childhood horse who I did a lot on. Taylor was very, very little when he was getting older, and I insisted that she was going to make it to a walk-trot class on Khan. She had to ride Khan in at least one show. We did, we barely got her through the walk-trot. Her little feet were not even over the flaps, and she won her class, which was so great. Having her ride Billy feels so much the same way. Two horses that I just trust with my most precious cargo here.”

Taylor: “I also feel really good to be trusted to ride Billy because, obviously, giving away your five-star horse, even if it is to your child, seems a big deal, especially if you do love them a lot. I just feel I am capable enough to take care of him.”

Jen: “She did say after she started riding him, ‘You know, I was always jealous of Billy about how much you liked him, but now I know why.’”


Taylor, what have you learned from High Times?

Taylor: “I think I have learned a lot more horsemanship and barn care, because a five-star horse is a lot of high maintenance. ... I have also learned how to sit the trot a lot better, because he has that big, giant step and it is super-bouncy up there. He is probably the hardest to sit in our whole barn. Once again, riding ponies, they are really smooth and easy. Riding small horses, I have always kind of been scared of jumps that were bigger. I always felt like I had a very finite limit of whatever I was riding; I could look at something and be like, ‘I can definitely not jump that.’ But on Billy, I have gotten braver, just because he kind of doesn’t have a limit. I think I have gotten a little bit better at showing, because I am not ever really scared about the fences and I can focus better.”


Jen, what have you learned from this experience?

Jen: “I don’t know if I have learned anything new, but I think it has really confirmed for me just how special a horse he really is. Also, how capable [Taylor] is. She hasn’t had a chance to prove herself, really. She has put in a lot of tough work on some ponies and some tougher horses; we have never given her anything that was going to do it for her. I always knew she had it in her, so seeing her on a horse that can take her wherever she wants to go confirms that for me. I knew she had it in her. For me, just seeing them together, two capable and competitive spirits together, is really fun.”


How did the decision come about to aim for NAYC?

Jen: “The original plan was just for her to go around a Prelim. It went so well; she really did well. Of course, I got the million questions of, ‘Oh, is Taylor going to go for Young Riders this year?’ We were just having a go at the Prelim, but being that we don’t have a lot of qualifiers in our area. So, if she did want to go for it, she had to go to Galway and do the two-star.”

Jordan: “And I would have to go clear at every show I went to because there weren’t that many left.”

Jen: “It ended up that we just said, ‘Well, let’s just go for it, and at least get that qualifier in.’”


What are the goals for the future with High Times?

Jen: “It seems like this journey just keeps unfolding. I hear, “Oh, mom, now I want to do …”

Taylor: “AECs! We’re qualified!”

Jen: “I am like, ‘Okay.’ I think we are just letting it take its course where it wants to go.”

Taylor: “A goal of mine is to make the Eventing 18 training squad. Obviously, that is really hard to do, but I think it would be a really great experience. If I were going to keep doing Young Riders, I would be able to start out doing a three-star next year. Who knows; we will work on it.”


Anything else you want to add?

Jen: “I think we are pretty lucky to share the love of this sport together. It is such a great environment for any mother-daughter team to share something. I would say that we are just about as lucky as any mother-daughter pair could be.” 


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