Five courageous ladies make history as first to ride reopened trail
Last month, led by 81-year-old Ruth Gerson, the Cowgirls covered 67 miles of spectacular but rugged terrain from Pt. Mugu State Park in Ventura County to Will Rogers State Historic Park in Santa Monica. Yes, the six-day journey was a challenge, but the group’s objective was to bring attention to the Backbone Trail, not them.
“I rode this ride for a lot of reasons,” said Gerson, a former Tevis Cup endurance rider whose drive to completion remains intact. Her passion to share a trail ride along the inimitable Backbone Trail, just recently made contiguous after decades of effort, is as strong today as it was 25 years ago when she last rode it.
The ride, she says, was to inspire others to be adventurous, and to show her gratitude that she could make the trip.
Cool awards and friendly competition — plus terrific weather — made for a nice three-day reining event by the California Reining Horse Association Aug. 5-7 at Galway Downs in Temecula. Circuit champions went home with a new bicycle, and reserve circuit champs received super sharp knives.
Although it was not an NRHA Affiliate event, the two-slate show featured CRHA and National Reining Horse Association classes, as well as PCHA, AQHA and APHA classes. Dave Belson and Linde Von Koding were judges.
The next CRHA event will be the association’s big year-end Challenge Show, scheduled Oct. 26-30 at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center.
More online: Http://bit.ly/608B_CRHA
Dr. Karen Donley and Royal Patron have the right prescription for victory at 100-mile, one-day ride
Since Dr. Donley purchased “Winnie” eight years ago, they have logged about 50 miles a week in a partnership that last month took endurance riding’s greatest prize, a win at the Tevis Cup. It may have been a 100-mile race, but the journey was much longer.
This year’s version of the venerable one-day race along the challenging Great Western States Trail took place July 23, attracting 165 riders from 20 states and nine countries. Horse-and-rider pairs take off at 5:15 a.m. with only 24 hours to finish a course that features 21,000 feet of descent and 17,000 feet of climbing. A dozen vet checks along the route inspect each horse with an acute focus on their condition, inspecting heart rate, metabolism, and soundness.
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.”