The Flagmount Story-

Feather and Lauren

Feather and Lauren

While many people think Flagmount is an import stamp, the prefix actually comes from the sire Flagmount’s Freedom, owned by Janet Marden. With horses sired by “Flag” continuing to gain recognition as excellent competitors in the eventing sport — particularly in Area V —and in show jumping,  Janet wrote a piece explaining how she got started in breeding. Many thanks to Janet for writing!

This means a lot to us, as this is the sire of our own Feather (shown under the name of Flagmount’s Irish Freedom) and if you look under USEF or the USEA you will find many of Flag’s progeny that are successfully showing at the top ranks of the show world. If you want to breed or purchase a horse that will have a great mind and scope to spare, look for a Flag baby or make one for yourself. 

Janet and Flagmount's Amazing Grace competing in the Prelim Amateur Division at 2013 AECs. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Janet and Flagmount’s Amazing Grace competing in the Prelim Amateur Division at 2013 AECs. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.


From Janet Marden, DVM:

Back in 1983, my friend gave me her 7-year-old Paint horse that had done little of nothing and was turned out in a pasture with kicking chains on. His original name Yambeau was quickly traded in for Dancin’ Cowboy and together, although neither of us had ever evented before, we finished sixth at Rolex in 1991 when he was 17. It was through him that I saw the benefits of hybrid vigor. “Spot” was big boned, athletic and some strange cross between a Paint and an Irish Thoroughbred that we never have been able to confirm.

He was tough, though; the bones in his legs were like telephone poles, and riding him, I was able to travel and show on the East Coast, where I was so impressed by many of the Irish horses that I saw when importing was slowly gaining popularity. I knew I would never be able to afford to import a horse, so I wanted to use my vet degree and breed that kind of horse. I saw an article endorsing Irish studs, one of which was a grade-A show jumper, Flagmount King, who was grandsired by King of Diamonds, so I bought frozen semen from him and bred my OTTB mare, beginning a journey I am still on.

Flagmount’s Freedom (Flag) was the result of that first breeding. We had also bred two Thoroughbred foals and one other Irish Sport Horse out of a different sire that year. The bone and presence of Flag compared to the three other foals let me know right away that he would be special. Flag never went through that awkward downhill stage so many horses do when growing up; he always looked like a little statue. He was always very good natured; when he was a weanling, I would walk out to the pasture and pet him, letting my then 2-year-old daughter sit on his back. The combination of his strong conformation and wonderful temperament made the decision easy to keep him as a stallion.

Natalie Lester, Janet's daughter, and Flag jogging up at the Virginia Horse Park in her first one-star, where they finished fifth. Photo by Mike Stewart.

Natalie Lester, Janet’s daughter, and Flag jogging up at the Virginia Horse Park in her first one-star, where they finished fifth. Photo by Mike Stewart.

I had high hopes for Flag. I hoped he would be a big-time horse, one for that could take me as far as I wanted to go. It seemed at first that he would be a serious upper-level mount. He was tough, very sound, had a wonderful mind and scope to burn. But as we began to move up the levels, one thing started to become clear — he wasn’t going to have the gallop. I rode him in a clinic with Bruce Davidson, and he confirmed what I had begun to suspect, telling me that it would take “one more cross.”

He liked Flag though and bred a few mares to him, one of which is Flagmount’s Nightcap, now owned and ridden by Kelly Prather. Flag was 7 years old in 2004, after we completed Radnor’s long format CCI2* that year with no cross-country jumping faults, I retired him for the first time, wanting to focus on the up-and-coming young horses that he had sired, who I hoped would have that one missing component he lacked — the gallop.

I bred Flag back to OTTB mares, all of which were completely unproven. Investing in really classy mares was not something I could do, so I worked with what I had and waited to see how they would turn out. The second crop consisted of three horses, all of which I was very impressed with. Flagmount’s Heartbreaker, Flagmount’s Sterling Prince and a beautiful bay colt we never got the chance to name all showed tremendous potential. The bay colt was our favorite; he floated when he moved, but he had a freak accident as a yearling and was never sound afterward for eventing.

Flagmount’s Sterling Prince I sold, and he had just completed his first CIC3( star with no cross-country jumping penalties when we were devastated to hear about his tragic, fatal pasture accident. Heartbreaker was my favorite mare; she had just done her first two Intermediates before dying of a bone infection. For every horse that makes it to the upper levels, there’s so many who don’t and not even for lack of ability but the fragile thing that horses are, especially in the early stages of life.

Flag as a 7 year old at Radnor with Janet in the irons. Photo by Brant Gamma.

Flag as a 7 year old at Radnor with Janet in the irons. Photo by Brant Gamma.

I had a beautiful 3-year-old mare just a couple years ago by Flag who I had just broken when an inoperable tumor developed in her hock. You can’t vet check what you breed, and seeing a healthy, good-looking foal nursing is a good start but no guarantee. Just a couple of weeks ago, my daughter and I left late to a show after staying up with a sick foal who after I performed surgery on to save still didn’t make it. It’s been hard being the vet, the breeder, the owner and the trainer. Breeding is not for the faint of heart.

For all the hard times though, it’s been worth it. Only two horses by Flag have ever been campaigned by a professional — Flagmount’s Sterling Prince and Flagmount’s Nightcap. The rest have all been ridden by amateurs. It’s been so much fun to see them start to come up and compete at the upper levels now. I’ve always thought it speaks a lot for Flag how many nice horses he has produced from very unproven mares and how rideable his progeny is to be almost all ridden by amateurs and yet still coming up the levels competitively. I was so proud to see Freedom’s Sweet Thunder place third in his first Intermediate with amateur Maggie McCarthy, with it being her first Intermediate as well.

The second generation, with the extra bit of hot blood, has had the missing piece Flag didn’t, and my own two mares, Flagmount’s Patronus Charm and Flagmount’s Amazing Grace, are what I’ve always wanted to ride. Flag himself still comes with me to all the shows; for the past three years, he has given my daughter great experience at the prelim level, her first season on him and at prelim being when she was only 15. I know she is safe on him. I look forward to seeing where the Flag babies go in the future and hope to watch his progeny at Rolex at one day. As a breeder, there have been many lows, but the highs have been one of a kind.

Janet Marden’s website is

Janet tells me that Flag does best with a smaller, refined thoroughbred mare when breeding.  Guess what I am looking for now?  And OTTB owners, what a great opportunity for a really top cross with your favorite thoroughbred!

As always thanks for riding along!



Silently praying, she led her horse to a new life

By Susan Salk on March 25, 2014

reprinted with permission from


Alyssa on Stan now as a top dressage contender.

Alyssa on Stan now as a top dressage contender. Stan, a 17 hand beauty, has blossomed under his owner’s care.


Clipping the lead rope onto her horse’s halter, Alyssa Stevens began to pray.

Please let him walk off the property and onto the trailer waiting across the street.

Her heart hammered, she felt a little like she was stealing her own horse, as she lead him away from the California rescue facility where she’d found, purchased and boarded ex-racehorse Stan the Man before her experience there had soured.

“I bought him in 2008 for a $5,000 adoption fee and continued to board him in the same place, taking lessons on him, and even volunteering for them,” she says. But after nearly a year later, in which Stan had a bout with colic, and began to look to her a little shell-shocked, as if he was losing too many battles with more-dominant herd members, Stevens decided to cut ties.

Stan the Man
Sire: Welcome Dan Sur
Dam: Lil Sweetness
Foal date: April 25, 1994

When she arrived, Stan was bleeding a little, perhaps she thought, from the nips and kicks of more aggressive horses. And the facility owner’s dogs were barking a kind of aggravated if not threatening chorus, as Stevens walked onto the property to get her horse. A van and driver waited across the street, door to the back open and ready.

“It was April 2009, and up until that point, I’d never taken him anywhere off the property. We’d just ridden in a round pen. I’d never even taken him on a trail ride,” she says. “So I had no idea how he’d respond to being asked to walk up the driveway, cross the street, and get on the van. I just kept praying as he walked beside me, and it was amazing. He came right with me and hopped right on.”

Following the tense departure, Stevens and Stan rode an hour that day to his new home, only five minutes up the road from Stevens own home in northern California

imageStan, back in the day, with the nicks and cuts from other horses.

At the new facility, whose close proximity allowed Stevens to visit him everyday, Stan blossomed.
“When I first got him, I thought he was an aloof horse. And I thought well, that’s just the way he is,” she says. “Probably about a year and a half after I moved him, he started changing. He started whinnying when he saw me; he started being my horse.”

And now Stan is so connected to Stevens that she practically needs to reserve him a room when she travels!

“I went on vacation last year for a week, and when I got back, everyone told me it was just awful with him. He wouldn’t eat, he was moping around— he was so depressed!”

That connection has also done wonders for their riding partnership.

During a recent dressage clinic with Sabine Shut-Kery, an accomplished German equestrian, the pair received high praise.

“She told us after the clinic how it was such a pleasure to teach someone who has such a wonderful connection with her horse,” she says.
Six years together and the trust and connection is stronger than ever.
The 17-hand gelding has gone from being nearly unmanageable maneuvering around an arena to being so smooth Stevens plans to enter him in dressage shows this year.

“When I first had him, I couldn’t even take him on a trail ride, because he was considered hard to manage. Now we go on beach rides, rides through the woods,” she says.

Thinking back to their uncertain beginnings together, and even a couple of bucking sessions early on that left her in the dirt, Stan the Man today isn’t even recognizable as the same horse as he was back then.

“It was quite an ordeal for me to make the step to move him from his first barn, but after I finally did, he has become an amazing horse,” she says. “Now I take him to clinics with world-class dressage riders and he’s the star of the show, even surrounded by Warmbloods and Friesians—he’s absolutely amazing, and we have such a connection.”

I appreciate this story so much.  We have to adopt them, buy them, find their spot where they are well treated and commit to spending enough time undoing what bad other’s may have done.


Pin Oak ride. Pin Oak Win!

The doctor told Lauren that she could exercise her horses on the flat, like walk, trot, canter, don’t fall off.  Then walk, trot, canter other direction, still no falling off.  Get off.  Take horse to barn. So, what did she think would be a good way to get back in the saddle again?  Well, of course riding hot, fresh, giant Bruno bareback.  Only good news I have here is that Bruno was pretty quiet.  Lauren tired of this fun and I went back for his saddle and off they went again.

Bruno has never (and probably won’t ever be)  an easy guy to ride. And with two month.’s rest, he was ready to run. Off they went with Bruno flipping his tail in agitation and Lauren sitting quietly with a big smile on her face. Of course, just to keep things at the peak of excitement, Kona felt he should chase and   bark at the big horse all the way around the arena.  If an ape ever gets loose in the show ring with Bruno or Feather, there will be no worries.  They don’t even notice him any more.

Here is a link to the Friday ride on Bruno.  See if you can spot where he almost starts bucking.  We have so much fun here.

We got a text from our friend Kathy to see if Lauren wanted to come up to show and hack horses for her and trainer Trapp. No question about that, we changed clothes fast and headed to Katy.

Kathy and Lauren, on Ky, in such of a quiet ring to ride in.

Kathy and Lauren, on Ky, in search of a quiet ring to ride in.

Lauren called the big, imported gelding, Ky, amazing to ride.  She wanted to buy him but I told her, we would need to chose between a house and a horse and it is hard to cook or take showers  if you spend all your money on a horse.  Really, just pointing that out.

Lauren having a wonderful time on an amazing horse.

Lauren having a wonderful time on an amazing horse.

I headed home after Lauren’s ride to see my mom who has been sick and pack some more boxes.  Lauren stayed on for the night’s Grand Prix competition.  Kathy and Trapp have a partnership on a horse named Capitano.  He had been coming along well in his training but had yet to win a GP on the caliber of Pin Oak.

A large field of riders was there to take on the fences set over five feet high.  Trapp made great decisions about how to ride the course and Cappy responded with speed and accuracy to win the $25,000 Pin Oak Grand Prix.  If I had known all of that would happen I would have stayed for sure!

Congrats to Trapp, Kathy and Cappy for an amazing ride.

Trapp with blue ribboned Cappy after winning last night's Grand Prix.

Trapp with blue ribboned Cappy after winning last night’s Grand Prix.

Bring Spring

The newest wreath for momma's (Midge) door. Thanks Tara for beautiful job.

The newest wreath for momma’s (Midge) door. Thanks Tara for beautiful job.

Tomorrow is the first day of spring.  I hope spring finally comes and STAYS here in south Texas.  Our arena is rideable for the first time in months.  Bruno got out in the pasture and enjoyed the warm sun, romping up and down the fence line.

Spring for us this year, will not mean my usual trips to the garden center, bringing home plenty of annuals and my favorite perennials.  I grow plumarias, a flower from Hawaii. They winter in my cold, dark garage.  They come out of dormancy and start life again in spring.

Just as spring, will not mean Pin Oak for us, it will, hopefully, mean moving to our new home.  Our house has that “bare chic” look now.   Most packable things have now been packed.  And no matter how I try to anticipate what I will need that item inevitably ends up at the bottom of the last box I just taped shut.  That’s if I am lucky enough to remember  which box my stuff is in.

It is warm and balmy out.  I should go out and ride Feather (Lauren can’t ride and anyway, she is off to see Florida Georgia Line at the rodeo),  despite the terrific weather,  I am pretty exhausted from work, the stress of the move and my job, where new projects seem to pop up each day.

We have pushed the loan officer handling the buying of my new home to get the closing done fast.  Our sellers will leave for the Philippines on April 1 st.  Now, the loan and closing on my existing house seems to be going no where.  I have said many times, that it is hard to get anyone in this county to do anything in a timely matter.  Proves out again.  Maybe things will get moving and we can close before our seller leaves the country.  We will see.

Congratulations to everyone kicking off the Pin Oak show today. I know many of you all earned some great ribbons and prizes today.  But even if you showed and someone else took the ribbons home, know what a tremendous honor it is to just be in the ring today.  There are a lot of riders who wish they could be there in your place.

Happy Spring!

Pin Oak Angst

As we discussed last year, and a few times in between Pin Oak is the top horse show in all of Texas.  It is a charity run to benefit Texas  Children’s Hospital.

Last year, neither Feather nor Bruno were ready for the show.  This last 12 months, Feather has only increased her abilities.  She was on the fast track to finally show and hopefully place at the big event.

In mid-January, Lauren went off of Feather, pretty much just bailed before a tall, skinny jump which intimidated her with its size.  She hit the ground hard.

She saw the family practice doc the next day, took her prescribed meds and didn’t get better.  Then she was off to the orthopedic surgeon.  She had MRIs.  The doc said her MRI was inconclusive.  No riding!  But she was ordered to go to physical therapy.

PT lasted one day.  Lauren hurt so much after the first session, she was referred back to the ortho guy. Then the ortho guy had to leave the country.  Lauren’s pain was totally debilitating.  We then got a referral to a spine specialist today.

We have been spending seemingly every waking moment preparing for the move.  Construction plans, arena configuration, packing boxes, giving a million things to the Episcopal thrift shop all have been done.  All continues to roll on our house move issues.  Today was spent tracking down the flood elevation certificate. Another $400 to get this piece paper.   Then the new buyer of my house showed up to be sure the septic tank was working right ( it was- thank God!).  This action required totally cleaning the house.

Lauren headed up towards Houston to see the spine guy.  I wish I had been with her.  But she did just fine.  While our general orthopedic surgeon thought her back MRI was inconclusive, this new doctor (specializing in spines) told her a muscle in her back was torn badly, although not all the way through.  And he agreed with the other doctor, in saying Lauren she had a ruptured disk.  He insisted that she attend non- strengthening sessions at physical therapy for the next month.

He told her she could ride on the flat. No jumping.  He warned her a move in the wrong direction would completely tear the muscle and she would be facing surgery.

So while Lauren is really yearning for Pin Oak this year she is not well enough to ride.  While I can tell her there will be other year’s it is still hard to be on the sidelines when your friends are entering the ring.

Yesterday, Dev readily agreed to work Feather.  Although off for over two months, Feather was ready to jump.  Pictures tell the story.  She was amazing.

Please keep

Dev taking Feather for a fly!

Dev taking Feather for a fly!

Please keep us in your prayers and hope that Lauren has a speedy recovery!  Thank you.




Lauren doing a selfie with her buddy Bruno.

Lauren doing a selfie with her buddy Bruno.

I am out-of-town again.  Another three days in Bartlesville, Oklahoma is being spent teaching classes.  It is hard to be away when so much is happening at home.  My real estate transaction on my new house is beset with daily amendments to the contract and arguments over property lines, driveways and fences.  The sale of my house, ironically, the old house, is going perfectly.  Soon, I will close on Six Meadow Farm but have no level of confidence, just prayers and hopes, that I have somewhere new to live and stable my ponies.

Lauren turned 21 with a family dinner to celebrate, and a second dinner with friends.  I am sure alcohol was involved but she got home safely and I was grateful. The next night, I was already in Oklahoma but Lauren headed up to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo for some Jason Aldean.  Pretty good birthday I think!

I have had good training classes here where my audience has laughed at my jokes, been interested in the subject matter and seemed to grasp what they were supposed to learn.  Another couple of classes tomorrow and I will be homeward bound.  I tend to review my photos when I am on the road, missing my animals and family ( not necessarily in that order but maybe) and I came upon this video of Bruno blazing down the fence line in a match race with poodle Kona.  Lauren is at home alone entertaining herself with selfies with Bruno while I sit in a hotel room watching the beast on video.  We are pathetic.

Watch the video but turn down the sound -lots of wind in this one.

Who do you call as the winner of this race?


Cleaning and Packing

Six year-old Lauren, not having a care in the world about her impending move to Texas. Her nice mare, Silver, would stay in Florida.

Six year-old Lauren, not having a care in the world about her impending move to Texas. Her nice mare, Silver, would stay in Florida.

I don’t think six year-old Lauren remembers much of the details that surrounded us moving from Florida to Texas.  Although just 12, Ally came west with me to house hunt while Lauren stayed with some horse friends from Wickham.

I am sure Lauren should remember the infinite trips from Sugar Land to Wharton, when we moved here in 2007, but as an eighth grader leaving her friends, the details of contracts, inspections, appraisals and surveys were well beyond her.  The excitement of having her horses, particularly Mickey, in her backyard, overrode  any concerns I was having about the move.


The first house I ever purchased myself was a tiny bungalow in Kansas City.  It had green siding, was nearly 50 years old and looked remarkably like the one I live in now.  I paid $2000 down on a $20,000 house.  Really.  My payment was $210 a month.  I just bought a used truck for more than I paid for that first house.

Maybe that resemblance was why I was always so comfortable in this Wharton house. I didn’t pay much for it either although I got six acres as well with this one.  I honestly thought I would be in this house until the kids finally carted me out, kicking and screaming, off to the old folks home where my mother who is never going to die will still be living.  We can be roommates. My horse, Kid, will need a stall out back because he is living on  indefinitely as well.

But things change.  I never dreamed my mom would live here or that the job for which I came to Wharton would end and I would live in a world of endless commuting heading up to Houston each day.   I have been making the commute for five years.  One hundred and thirty-five miles a day to go to work for five years.  I could readily do that math but it would only freak me out.

I would look half-heartedly at the property ads Lauren would present to me.  I went off to look at the properties that Lauren and Tracy would find for us.  A couple I liked but not for more money than what I had and EVERYTHING was more money than my little green house.

Actually, that was part of the appeal for me.  All around me, everyone (trust me on this) lived in a bigger, nicer place.  Both of my daughters and their families live in places twice as big and twice as nice.  I kind of was proud to live in the dumpy house.  It went a long way to provide credibility to my hourly employees working for me that I lived simply.  As a kid I was taught to be humble, that no one was better than anyone else and I used my house and old car to prove it.

When this latest property came up, I had no more initiative to move than before until I saw the house and walked the green, tree filled pastures.  I just fell in love.

It has been harried weeks of continued negotiation over who is building the fence and putting in the driveway.  It has been a time of cleaning out long forgotten items from the shed and throwing out bags and bags of trash.  This week we even taped a big tip to the lid of the trash can so they would continue to take all the junk we are throwing away.  I could have a tack sale to rival Charlotte’s Tent Sale.  Anyone need a bridle or blanket?  I have a million.  And probably every English bit ever produced in one fashion or another.

Lauren may have missed the details of the last move but has learned all the house buying details between Tracy and I guiding her.  She has represented me at home inspection ( learning a little more about septic tanks than she ever wanted to know). She has talked in depth with the contractor about her vision for the barn and Arena.  She can probably tell you more about surveys and easements than you would want to know.  With me working and traveling so much, she will be the contractors point of contact.  She will remember this move for sure!

Our house will be inspected tomorrow.  I have spent the entire weekend cleaning, packing and cleaning some more.  The attic is now free and clear.  Nothing left up there.  Lauren has been less than useful, complaining about her back and whining about her knees.  Geez!  She just up and left with friends today.

Well, I better get out and get the horses fed and watered. It will be late early tonight with the time change.  Tomorrow is Lauren’s 21st birthday.   I told my mom today about how she had come to Florida to be there with me when Lauren was born.  She had not been able to be with me with either Amber or Ally.  Twenty-one years ago, my momma was bright and beautiful.  Twenty-one years ago tomorrow, my Florida surprise baby was born.  What a journey we have had! What a blessing she has been.

Thank you for being part of our journey!


A photo courtesy of Mike King of Sealey, Texas on a frozen morning.

A photo courtesy of Mike King of Sealy, Texas on a frozen morning.

I think I share with the rest of the US, that this has been our worst winter in years.  Certainly at my little homestead in south Texas, usually known this time of year for flowering gardenia and the beckoning beaches of Galveston for Spring Break, ice is not a norm.  I do not think we have ridden any horse for weeks now.  Not the way to keep them in show condition for Pin Oak.  Oh, we are not going to Pin Oak.  More on that in a minute.

Green grass and ice on the wire.  Photo couresty of Mike King.

Green grass and ice on the wire. Photo courtesy of Mike King.

I have not been writing (or riding) as much as I would like.  Work has turned up the volume about five notches and I have been traveling, teaching courses. The weather, clearly, has shut down my little farm, saturating the arena, leaving the horses standing remorsely in their stalls blessedly out of the wind and leaving my dogs to romp from one end of my tiny house to other for exercise because except for the Corgi, none of them want to go out!

I have talked several times of wanting to move closer to work, closer to the Equestrian Center, closer to our trainer, closer to the world.  We found a place that is in Richmond, the same town Ally lives in.  It has a great new house on acreage.  The barn, fences and out buildings need work but it is our dream home in many ways.  We put a contract on it and then listed our home.

In the weird ways of the world, when the stars are aligned and things are meant to be, the very first person to visit Six Meadow Farm, immediately wanted to buy it.  We are under contract and should close very shortly.  Fortunately, this buyer has agreed to lease the property back to Lauren and I for one month as we get the new place closed and built out.  Fast times at Six Meadow Farm.  New Six Meadow Farm is underway!

I drove straight from work yesterday to meet the contractor who will be doing our barn build out.  It took me 30 minutes and was 27 (27!!!!) miles from my office instead of the 72 I am driving now.  I will still be getting down to Wharton several times a week to see my mother but the every day marathon drive will be over.

Lauren will have the upstairs of the house to herself.  Her current bedroom is barely 8×10 and now she will have a whole floor.  It will take some pinching ourselves in disbelief!  We are very excited.  Plus, yesterday even after literally months of rain, the new pastures were damp but did not have standing water anywhere.

Lauren is working with the physical therapist for her back and knees.  She is not riding right now.  This was to be the year we would take Feather to Pin Oak for the first time.  But we must try to dodge the surgery bullet by doing everything we can to get Lauren healed and well.  There will be more shows when Lauren is ready to ride again.

Spring Break has new meaning to my band of horses.  Once it dries up I will be soliciting some of you to come down and help out with the riding chores!  Hopefully we will soon be in our new place and much closer to everyone as well.

Hopefully, Dev is still thinking about taking Mickey for a while for his students.  I have had some offers for help with Bruno as well.  When we finally move past frozen once and for all, and I can put the blankets away for the year, I know we will be well on our way to better times.

Thanks for riding along.  Please keep Lauren in your prayers.

p.s. Thanks Mike and Jennifer King for the use of your great photos!