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California's first 2015 Regional Championships reveal Arabian versatility -- and fun

Horsetrader Staff Reports - June 18th, 2015 - Cover Story, Show & Event News

1506BwpcoverDEL MAR — From reining to park horse, young exhibitors to the not-so-young, the Arabian Horse Association’s Region 1 Championship Show brought the Del Mar Fairgrounds to life May 27-31 in an energetic showcase of versatility.

Entries were up in the regional finals — always a good gauge of the state of the industry — and so were the moods of exhibitors and trainers.

“It was a good show,” Region 1 Director Mary Ann Hughes said of the five-day weekend that featured a “Pre-show” Wednesday and Thursday, followed by the Nationals-qualifying Regional Championships Thursday night through Sunday. “Two things. Regionals are where a lot of them qualify for nationals. “Regionals are where a lot of competitors qualify for Nationals, but there are a lot of people who don’t intend to go to Nationals, and the Regionals is the big show for them for the year.”

Hughes and the Region 1 Show Committee enlivened the event with a stream of special activities designed to increase the element of fun. Thursday night’s halter competition featured a concurrent wine tasting near the patron lounge where anyone over age 21 could sample Ramona area wines during the competition. A catered Barn Fiesta Friday night drew 200, while the youth in the main arena attended a pizza party in the main arena that included judging tutorials designed to help them hone skills for the youth judging contest the following morning.

Lou Roper, here on MR Asmar, enjoyed a successful return to the showring at Region 1 after being sidelined with a broken leg in March. He took first through fifth in Purebred Open Trail.

Lou Roper, here on MR Asmar, enjoyed a successful return to the showring at Region 1 after being sidelined with a broken leg in March. He took first through fifth in Purebred Open Trail.

Laurie Taylor photo

The focus, though, remained on Regional Championship competition, and there were many highlights.

Lou Roper entered show arena for the first time since March when he broke his fibula in a training accident. The San Marcos-based trainer picked up where he left off, taking the first five places in the Pre-Show Purebred Open Trail class. He took the title on Karen Gavin’s Pretty Boi McCoy +/ with a 75.5 — the high score of the entire show. In the Region 1 Championships, he rode James Callan’s El Monaco to the Purebred Western Trail Junior Horse title.

He was quick to credit his staff, led by Jessica George, for the barn’s success at Del Mar.

“I am so proud of my staff,” said Roper, who has been assisted by George for 14 years. “Jess works her butt off, and when I was laid up, she jumped in and showed everything.”

Gavin also took Pretty Boi McCoy to a Region 1 Arabian Western Trail Horse AAOTR Championship, plus a Region 1 Reserve title in Purebred ATR.

Trainer Debbie Price of Priceless Arabians in Alta Loma was upbeat, too.

“Numbers were up a little bit, which is always good — that’s what we hope for, that people get out and show,” she said.

Between them, Margo Minissian and daughter Natalia, 8, picked up a Region title and three reserves with Maxim LOA +.

Between them, Margo Minissian and daughter Natalia, 8, picked up a Region title and three reserves with Maxim LOA +.

Rick Osteen photo

With eight Regional Champions, six Reserves and a dozen other Top Fives, Price had to be thrilled with her barn’s performance, as well.

One of the Priceless stars was PA Raptor, a 13-year-old gelding owned by her daughter, Samantha, who took four diffrent riders to regional honors. Tami Pacho rode him to the Champion Arabian Reining Limit Rider crown, and Crystal Garcia of Glendora won both the Reining Seat Equitation Junior To Ride and the Champion Reining JTR titles, and Samantha claimed the Reserve Championship in Arabian Reining Open. Samantha Nicholson also took him to Top Five In Showmanship 14-18.

He is known in the reining world as being a little hot, but he always comes through at shows,” said Price. “Crystal has been showing him for a little over a year and is heading to Youth Nationals next month, coming off her Scottsdale Championship in

Reining JTR and Top Ten in Reining Eq. Tami wanted to learn reining and Raptor has won the Scottsdale Reining limit rider the last two years. Her first show was in January and then on to Scottsdale, where she earned the Reserve Championship in the select class., and now is Region 1 Champion Limit rider.

“Samantha usually lets the clients show him, but had a blast showing in the open,” she added. “Plus, she was thrilled to get to carry the flag for the opening ceremonies.”

Keeley Bullard of Temecula and Renee Mercer's Musk Be My Way won a pair of Region 1 championships in Reining.

Keeley Bullard of Temecula and Renee Mercer’s Musk Be My Way won a pair of Region 1 championships in Reining.

Laurie Taylor photo

A special team seems on the rise with trainer Jim Lowe and SF Stonewoods N Cooke, also known as “Cookie.” The pair won Region 1 Championships in both Half Arabian English Pleasure and Half Arabian English Show Hack — and they looked terrific doing it.

“I haven’t had rides on a horse like that in a while — Cookie was on the button,” Lowe said of the 7-year-old gelding he trains for owner Nancy O’Reilly. “He’s a helluva horse. This year, he won his class at Scottsdale, and Nancy bought him for herself. I told her she’d have to wait a year on him for a little more seasoning, and he’ll be ready. Show hack has brought him along to be a better English horse. He’s a really big mover. He’s special.”

Lowe also drove Prince James SF to the Champion Half Arab Country English Pleasure Driving title to join other Lowe Training Centre successes that included Dante Afire, who was ridden by Shelby Scanlan to the Arabian English ShowHack JTR title and by Lowe to the Arabian English Show Hack Open Championship; ROL Cycret Service, ridden by owner Melanie Ronen of Long Beach to the Arabian Country English Pleasure AAOTR Championship; Vendettaa, Champion Arabian Country English Pleasure Driving with Lowe and Reserve Champion Arabian Country English Pleasure AOTR with Beth Jupp; and SAS High Exxpectation, the Reserve Champion Arabian Hunter Pleasure JTR and JOTR with Madilyn Glaser of Rolling Hills Estates.

“We had a good show, an a pretty unbelieveable show,” added Lowe. “Ray LaCroix came out before the show and he schooled with me for about three days and put on a clinic. So we had a lot of these horses in the clinic, and so the energy of the clinic kind of pushed us into that show.”

Temecula-based KRE Show Horses enjoyed a brilliant showing at Region 1, too, coming away with 10 Championships, 10 Reserve Championships and 30 Top Fives.

“I am most proud that we had winners in nearly every discipline, from main ring halter, performance, equitation and showmanship to sport horse and reining,” said trainer katherine Rich-Elzig. “All of my riders work very hard at becoming the best they can be. They know their horses really well and it shows when it counts.”

Among the KRE victors in the Region 1 Championships was Musk Be My Way, owned by Matt and Renee Mercer and shown by Keeley Bullard to the Half Arabian Reining JTR and Limit titles; Diana Coach, owned by Rolland Russell and shown by Molly Donth to the Arabian Sport Horse Mare In Hand and ATH titles; CSP Worthy Wager, shown by owner Saylor Weidauer to the Half Arabian English Pleasure JTR title; and KD Kontagious, shown by owner Olivia Welch to the Hunterseat Equitation 14-18 Championship.

From seasoned to newcomers, Regional Champions ran the gamut. Theresa Oakley was new to the horse scene in 2012 when she fulfilled a lifelong dream of riding and showing with the acquisition of KD Elijah Bey.

“I was totally new to riding and showing,” said Oakley, who now serves as the energetic President of the Tierra Del Norte Arabian Horse Assocation. “I made it a personal goal to become the best rider and horseman I can be. I continue to work toward that goal nearly every day and take several riding lessons per week. I even take bareback dressage lessons to improve my skills.

At Region 1, Oakley and KD Elijah Bey won the Arabian Country English Pleasure ATR Select Rider title, and they also were Top 5 in Arabian Native Costume. She trains with Kimberly VerHage, who also had a Region 1 Reserve Championships in Arabian English Show Hack Open aboard Teri Gonzalez-Reichman’s Ecstasy TJP, and in Arabian Hunter Plesaure AAOTR 19-39, with owner-rider Megan LeFave.

At the young end of the spectrum, 6-year old Devon Lougeay won her first Region 1 Championship, in Arabian Trail 10-under Walk-jog. The daughter of Greg and Theresa Lougeay rode 25-year-old Hoku Alii +//, owned by Stella Brown, to the victory.

Devon and “Hoku” became acquainted a couple years ago. Now they are Regional champs.

“Her mom and I board at the same stable, and Devon used to come as a 4-year old — and to get her out of her mom’s hair, she used to hang around with me,” said Brown, an amateur who has trained Hoku on her own for 20 years. “She’d sit in my western saddle, and we’d ride around the ranch on this horse.”

Brown said the youngster “learned to steer” while riding in the saddle with her.

“She liked watching me go over the poles, because I do trail,” said Brown. “I’d let her steer him over the poles and around — that’s kind of how it started. Then I let her ride him bareback on a longeline, and then someone donated a little saddle — and it just kind of snowballed.”

Now, she’s going to the AHA Youth Nationals in July.

“She is awesome,” added Brown, who won a Region 1 Championship of her own with Hoku in Arabian Trail ATR and a Reserve Championship in Open Arabian Trail. “She is so smart, and she loves the course stuff. If I give her a pattern, that’s what she likes to do.

“And he loves Devon,” she said.

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