Building a Program of Horses Who Make Great Partners

Erin Lane of Erin Lane Sporthorse Sales with Westminster’s Chalamet at her Thermal home base, MTN Equine - Photo: Anasofia Vazquez Photography

Erin Lane Sporthorse Sales & Westminster Sport Horse Sales

BY Piper Klemm

Blending values and experience, Erin Lane Sporthorse Sales and Renée Ruder’s Westminster Sport Horse Sales have built a program sourcing and training the horses that juniors and amateurs want most—the ones that make them feel good.

“There is so much focus on importing quality horses and then the next layer of that is to find and produce horses that try the hardest for their riders and offer their riders the most confidence and the most consistency,” Erin Lane tells The Plaid Horse.

Westminster Sport Horse Sales

Ruder has been a lifelong horsewoman, growing up with a veterinarian father, years of riding Western and dressage, playing polo while at university, and going all-in when her daughters specialized in sport horses. The family’s love of all things equestrian led Ruder to purchase an elite equestrian center in Bend, OR, now Westminster Show Stables, where she has learned about equine management and actively participates in the development and marketing of her sales horses.

“It was a huge learning curve for me as a parent to do a deep-dive into the business of selling horses. When my daughters were young, we were so green and knew little about the complexities of sport horses,” she says. “It’s an amazing sport and business to become involved in, and its been fascinating to learn about all the pieces needed for the success of each individual horse. I have utmost respect for the trainers who manage every detail.”

Launching her equine sales business, Ruder traveled to and imported her first horse from France, and became hooked on studying records, reading vet reports, and developing relationships with trusted European agents. She started to match horses to a diverse group of trainers throughout North America to develop each sales horse. Ruder studied how her horses developed once they arrived in the U.S., and keeps tabs on their continued progression and success, even after they have been sold.

“Every year is different, every horse is different. I get really attached to every horse. I’m so invested in their development, their character. The health management of the horse itself is so key to this sport and my business. I’m at the barn five days a week as a facility owner. The little things are fascinating to learn—it’s complicated and rewarding,” says Ruder.

In looking to align with a trainer with similar ethos for a long-term business model selling horses through successful trainer partnerships, Westminster partnered with Erin Lane.

Erin Lane Sporthorse Sales

Photo: Anasofia Vazquez Photography

“Horses are my first love, but it’s been a unique journey to being a full-time rider and trainer,” says Lane with a laugh. She started on a pony bought out of someone’s yard and rode anything and everything through ten years as a working student, showing in her first Grand Prix at age 15 on a Thoroughbred purchased for $5,000.

“I don’t think you could do that now, but I took advantage of any opportunity and learned everything I could so that I was very useful in the barn,” says Lane. “I was in the position that I had to make it in this industry my own way and pay my bills, so I built a career outside of horses in commercials and live tv production. I rode four days a week throughout and started riding and teaching polo so that I could still be around horses as much as I could.”

Combining her interests, Lane was eventually named media director for Noelle Floyd, and helped create the popular Equestrian Masterclass program.

“I got to learn so much from the top riders, trainers, and grooms in the world as I listened, watched, and they explained their riding, horsemanship, and programs to me. From Anne Kursinski to Ian Millar, to Karl Cook, to Margo Thomas, I soaked up every minute I spent with the most accomplished people in our sport,” she adds.

“I think so many people overlook heart. You spend so many days with these animals and the horse’s heart often determines how the relationship will go long after the actual sale is over.”

—Erin Lane

While working remotely, Lane was also an assistant trainer for a large client-based program, taking meetings on the road from horse shows and between lessons. While shopping for horses and subsequently training them, she saw how horses with certain characteristics buoyed a rider’s spirits and abilities 5-6 days a week, year after year. The relationships she wanted to make were for those riders, who varied in ability from learning to canter through the 1.50 m Grand Prix, but all of whom needed horses who loved people, loved their jobs, looked forward to work, and could handle learning.

“I love the training and development side and that is where I have always wanted to spend all my time. Going out on my own, I get to focus on the horses 24/7, which is what fuels my passion. I am in Thermal for five months and get to do everything myself, from creating feed programs to using all the skills I’ve developed from stable management, training, marketing, doing my own market analysis and research, and really understanding the client who walks into the barn ready to buy a horse,” says Lane.

Based at MTN Equine for five months a year, she has all the benefits of being close to the show and also having horses at home. The quiet, private farm has grass turnout, an Equicizer, and their own ring conducive to unrushed horse trials. Horses get to relax anytime they’re not showing and have plenty 
of opportunities to move around. Lane spends summers in Northern California at Opus Sporthorses near Sonoma Horse Park and isn’t afraid to hit the road to showcase special horses.

“There is so much pressure when you try a horse at a horse show. Everyone is around and watching. It can feel high-emotion. You often only have one jump to jump and lots of traffic. By having clients come to the farm, it’s much lower pressure. You can hand graze your horse and get to know them, you can sit on them as many times as you need, and it’s a less stressful way to get a better read on the match, the horse, and how you both feel when you’re together,” said Lane.

Working Together

Photo: Meraki Creative

Bringing together so many pieces, Ruder and Lane get to “nerd out” every day, obsessing over their horses and often find their shared values mean sending each other horses that the other independently found.

“I think so many people overlook heart, which is really hard to tell unless you meet a horse in person. Matching horses over the years, it is such a very personal and emotional sport. You spend so many days with these animals and the horse’s heart often determines how the relationship will go long after the actual sale is over,” says Lane.

Working with boutique numbers, Lane and Ruder both use their experience to value and select each horse in their program for having a great brain. Every horse is sat on in Europe by Lane or a trusted associate, and personality and heart are the top criteria. With Ruder’s daughters in the sport and running a sport horse facility, both understand comprehensive care and management from the ground up.

“I get really attached to every horse. I’m so invested in their development, their character.”

—Renée Ruder

“It should be a horse that enjoys their job, enjoys people, loves to learn, seems happy, and is a lovely horse to be around. They don’t need to be perfect, but we’re looking for the pieces to put together. My favorite thing is getting the message months later about how the horses make their owners feel,” says Lane.

“I want to be here for a long time, and that is what we are already building—a bespoke business full of repeat customers. I want to sell horses to people who love them so much that they want to come back to us for their next horse. It’s not about one type of horse. It’s Long Stirrup through Grand Prix horses that all share commonalities of being good, well-trained, and expertly matched for success. My daughter rides and shows some of our sales horses and I want to put her on the same type of horses that everyone wants in their own barn,” says Ruder.

On Buying

Renée Ruder of Westminster Sport Horse Sales

“The best thing you can do is align your goals with the personality of each horse. I find there is sometimes stigma with clients doing a lot of research and asking questions, but I really encourage that. Riders should go into the process knowing how they want to feel riding the horse and how they want to feel after the first year riding the horse. These goals are related to budget and that’s a realistic conversation with your trainer, who you have to trust in this process,” says Lane.

“Horses who have incredible hearts and have proven to do their jobs well might not have perfect pre-purchase exams,” she adds. “And sometimes a greener horse with a better brain might be a better fit for a junior or amateur than an older horse who is more challenging. Making a team and partnering with a horse is the best way to have a successful match—it might not be exactly the horse you were expecting!” 

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