Riding, training and competing with kindness leads to a popular movement
When pressed to provide a moment that spawned Cowboy Dressage, Debbie Beth-Halachmy had one memory for Jessica Black, author of the exquisite book, Cowboy Dressage (2015, Trafalgar Square Books). It was her husband Eitan’s victory pass aboard Holiday Compadre at the 1993 American Morgan Horse Association World Championships.
“They wouldn’t let him leave the ring,” she said, recalling the standing ovation as the new Morgan Western Pleasure World Champion “jogged, trotted, cantered in zigzags with flying lead changes, galloped and stopped on a dime.”
That day in Oklahoma sparked a passion to share her husband’s approach, an approach as unique as Eitan’s five decades of experience before that victory pass.
Gorrell and 'Gadget' take Bridle Spectacular, as NRCHA Derby draws out the best
PASO ROBLES — After getting close the last few years to the National Reined Cow Horse Association’s wealthiest bridle contest, Jake Gorrell and his longtime partner, Smooth N Cash, just plain took it.
The Hanford-based Gorrell and Roloff Ranch’s gritty 2005 gelding topped the field of 14 elite equines to win the CD Survivor Memorial Bridle Spectacular. Held in conjunction with the NRCHA Derby June 13-19 at the Mid-state Fairgrounds, the CD Survivor Memorial is a $50,000-added contest named in honor of the late, great stallion owned by NRCHA sponsor Holy Cow Performance Horses.
It was the first time for Gorrell and the little sorrel he calls “Gadget” to win this particular coveted title, although they have come close before.
“It’s awesome. It’s nice to put it all together, finally. Last year I fell down [in the fence work], the year before I had a switch [penalty in the herd work], came back and marked a 232 [down the fence] and almost got a check, but this was the first time for me to win it,” Gorrell said. “We worked hard at it. We worked and worked and it finally paid off.”
A life-threatening disease has only made Ryan Melendez take the reins of his life even more firmly in hand
“I am sure my dad had me on horses as soon as I could sit up by myself,” Ryan, who’ll turn 18 in July, says of Bill Melendez. “I remember riding like six or seven horses a day, and it was a lot of fun.
“He didn’t always put me on the best of the best horses,” he adds. “I felt like he put me on horses that were going to teach me how to learn to ride — that’s probably the best thing that he could have done because to be a really good rider, I wasn’t going to get there by riding just the easy horses.”
His main ride, a mare named AM Liberty Parade, tried to buck off the 7-year-old Ryan in their very first horsemanship class, a 10-under test at the Scottsdale Arabian Show. They stayed together and years later, in 2014, they won an Arabian Horse Association Youth Nationals Championship in Horsemanship.
“That’s my most memorable, best championship,” Ryan says. “Years and years of hard work. In the beginning, she definitely was not happy with being out there. One year at Youth Nationals, she actually flipped over on me, and then we went in the class and got Top 10. I like challenges — what’s the point, if you are not going to work hard for it?”
Topsails Rien Maker, the only 3-time NRCHA 'World's Greatest,' dies at 17
WYNNEWOOD, Okla. — The reined cow horse world lost one of its greatest champions May 22 when Topsails Rien Maker, the only three-time winner of the National Reined Cow Horse Association’s “World’s Greatest Horseman” competition, died of kidney failure at the ranch of his longtime trainer and co-owner, Russell Dilday.
The 17-year-old stallion was a popular favorite in the reined cow horse community, and the pairing with the gutsy, colorful Dilday made for a memorable record-setting run of aged events over the last decade.
His wins are NRCHA Hall of Fame material — the three World’s Greatest titles, two National Stock Horse Association World’s Richest Stock Horse crowns, NRCHA National Championships — and other accomplishments that speak of an ability to close the biggest of deals. Not to just compete at the highest level, but to finish on top.
PASO ROBLES — It had been five years since the last go of the National Stock Horse Association’s Classic in 2011, a popular aged event that returned April 22-24 to rave reviews at the Mid-State Fairgrounds.
Longtime NSHA supporters Mark and Shari Luis spearheaded the resurrection of the three-day show that was headlined by a pair of aged events — a Derby sponsored by Cactus Saddlery and a Bridle Challenge sponsored by DT Horses and Hickory Holly Time. Many other sponsors came on board to make the show’s comeback a big success.
“The response was tremendous,” said Shari, who along with Mark joined the NSHA Board this year with founding partners Russell and Tanna Dilday and Jake Gorrell. “What made this show a success, in addition to the team that does such a good job making the NSHA run, were the sponsorships. The sponsors were amazing and overwhelmed us with their generosity.”
California jumpers shine as San Juan Capo spring wraps up
The 2016 Blenheim EquiSports show season has departed Orange County for the Del Mar Horse Park, host of this month’s Ranch & Coast Classic and the $60,000 Grand Prix of California. Four veteran riders from the region — Michelle Parker, Susie Hutchison, Karl Cook and Lane Clarke — will hope to continue their winning ways established the last two months in Orange County.
Hutchison, named to the Show Jumping Hall of Fame in late March (California Horsetrader April 7 issue, “Show Jumping Hall adds Susie Hutchison”), has impressed all spring long on Ziedento, owned by St. Bride’s Farm, Brisbane, owned by Barbara Phillips, and SIG Firecracker. Her win on Ziedento in the Blenheim $25,000 Markel Insurance 1.40m Grand Prix against 37 other entries was a highlight.
BURBANK — With a name like the “Bunny Slide”, there’s a tendency to take this springtime reining event as something cute and cuddly. But any reiner who has competed in this growing California Reining Horse Association event knows it’s no Easter egg hunt.
The four-day CRHA Bunny Slide, held April 1-3 at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, this year featured more than 500 go’s, as competitors filled two areas all day Saturday and Sunday. Show officials reported more than $24,000 in pay-outs.
“Since the conception of the Bunny Slide in 2013, the show has far exceeded the expectations and goals set by the CRHA Board of Directors,” said CRHA Secretary Marilyn Scheffers. “I think the success of the CRHA shows has come from many things — quality judges that know reining, consistent footing and grooming of the arenas, organized show management, and most importantly, the loyalty of the members, volunteers and sponsors who support and attend CRHA events.”
Varian’s impact on the world of Arabian breeding in the U.S. is diﬃ cult to exaggerate—70 percent of show horses winning today carry Varian blood, according to her ranch website, and according to Arabian Horse World magazine’s statistics, Varian Arabians is the alltime leading breeder of English horses as well as the alltime leading breeder of Western horses. Nine generations of Arabians have been bred by Varian Ranch since it imported *Bachantka from Poland in 1961.
Raised on the Central Coast with a strong horse interest, she was introduced early on to the vaquero, or “Californio”, tradition of western riding. A major inﬂ uence was Sid (Mary) Spencer, owner of a ranch in Lopez Canyon where Sheila, in her teens, learned from Sid about training hackamore horses and spade bit horses and how to work cattle in the mountains.
With the assistance of her parents in 1954, she started her horse ranch. By 1963, she was raising and training horses full-time, drawn to use the vaquero-inﬂ uenced methods of training on Arabians, a breed she thought required a smart yet gentle approach.
Looking to escape from everything BUT horses? Here's a guide of prospects for you
Dude Ranchers Association
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THERMAL — As the crowd gathered to watch the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Thermal Feb. 13, an impressive line-up of horses and riders from around the globe gathered to jump for the final West Coast qualifying opportunity and a $100,000 prize purse.
Filling the last qualifier on the West Coast, riders were hungry for the opportunity to get on board the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final, scheduled March 23-28 in Gothenburg, Sweden.
German course designer Martin Otto had set a course that created excitement for spectators in the stands and challenged the skill of each horse and riders, which would ultimately separate three riders from the field for the jump-off. Tenth to go was France’s Eric Navet and Catypso, owned by Signe Ostby, testing the course of 16 jumping efforts—Navet and the powerful bay gelding took their time on the course as they navigated the track fence-by-fence in a precise, clear first-round.