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Horse Headliners 2015 – A Year to Remember

Some standout 2015 news items in – and out of – the arena

From News Releases and Staff Reports - December 17th, 2015 - Cover Story, Feature Article


Traveler, the striking Andalusian in his 14th year as the University of Southern California mascot, returned to lead the Rose Parade to honor the legacy of Louis Zamperini and his affiliation not only with USC, but his love of animals. Zamperini, a World War II hero and former Olympian who died the previous July, is the subject of a best-selling book and the movie “Unbroken.”

Horsepeople in Lake View Terrace and surrounding areas had three words for the State High Speed Rail Authority about a revised path for the futuristic 220-mph bullet train through their community: Not so fast.
Three alternative routes surfaced in December after an original plan for the leg from Palmdale to the Burbank airport, a 51-mile stretch along the Highway 14 corridor, was criticized by residents and officials.  Called the East Corridor, the newest trio of alternative routes cuts through Lake View Terrace and would impact horse ownership throughout the San Fernando Valley.  Further, the redirection of the Highway 14 route would require a 35-mile tunneling beneath the San Gabriel Mountains and the Angeles National Forest, with the bullet train screaming from a tunnel and over the Tujunga Wash, an equestrian paradise.

A coalition representing Shadow Hills, Lake View Terrace, Sunland,  Kagel Canyon, LaTuna Canyon and Tujunga called S.A.F.E. (Save Angeles Forest for Everyone) is still working to kill the train before its tracks are proposed through or beneath Valley equestrian neighborhoods. Thousands of horse owners have joined the cause, and more are needed.
“They would displace us,” said Dale Gibson, President of the L.A. Equine Advisory Committee, who boards 87 horses at his Gibson Ranch in Shadow Hills. “ I can’t imagine anyone, especially horses, enjoying bullet trains racing overhead. It would spook every horse and rider – and make this equestrian area obsolete.”


The American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) Board of Directors expressed anger and disgust after reports of three equine fatalities occurred at a national Concours Endurance Nationale (CEN) event held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on Jan. 31.
Horrifying photographs showing entries collapsing into the sand with catastrophic fractures of both front legs, while vehicles and onlookers continue along the course, sparked demands for action on the FEI that fell on deaf ears: The venue was a “national event” and therefore outside the body’s international regulatory reach. The AERC condemns the continuing trend within some Group VII participants towards rule violations and the racing of horses at blistering speeds leading to chronic injuries, fractures and death. The 26-member board urges USEF and FEI to demonstrate their previous commitments to change and reform the egregious offenses occurring within the international arena of endurance riding.


In Paso Robles, a star was born. After many years of planning, construction and building of the Paso Robles Horse Park, a glorious grand opening was held May 20 during the Central California Memorial Day Classic. Owner Linda Starkman’s dream became reality, as four rings kicked off the first day of the Central California Memorial Day Classic with some exciting competition on the fresh grass. Rebecca Bruce and Bombastic B will go down as the first champions.

Champions in the community of Compton, the Compton Jr. Posse, received resounding support from the horseworld during a fund-raiser in Los Angeles. CJP Director Mayisha Akbar recognized years ago the unique, beneficial bond with a horse, and since 1988 that special horse-human connection has been a cornerstone of the life-changing program she founded in the heart of an urban setting. Almost 300 friends attended the Eighth Annual Gala to support the program that endeavors to keep kids on horses and off the streets, led by Emmy Award-winning actress Patricia Heaton Hunt as Master of Ceremonies, featured hosts Will Simpson, Jami Heidegger and Joe Edmiston, each passionately committed to the Posse. The evening’s keynote addressee was Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Second District, who voiced his support of a planned 10-acre equestrian center as part of a new County Regional Park in South Los Angeles.


Dozens of good stories come out of big shows like the Region 1 Arabian Championship Show, and one of them this year was Lou Roper. Roper used the five-day weekend show for a comeback after being sidelined with a broken leg in March. The San Marcos-based trainer rode five horses to first through fifth in Purebred Open Trail.

There was a resurgence at California’s major horse expositions, and attendance and participation was especially up at the Western States Horse Expo in Sacramento. Kelly Buffington and the 8-year-old gelding, Nic-O-Lena,  won the crowd-pleasing Ultimate Super Horse Challenge.
The four days of competition included the in-hand work, performance pattern and “dancing with cows,” a meet and greet of the public at the Expo gate, plus many more interesting obstacles.

For the first time, the Special Olympic World Games came
to California, including an inaugural equestrian division. From July 25-Aug. 7, from among 6,500 competitors from 165 countries , 120 equestrians brought to life the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. Bryan McQueeney of Ride On and CalNet coordinated the equestrian effort, for which riding programs and individuals in the region donated nearly 100 horses — and also a talented group of riders/handlers/grooms to exercise, care and assist with the SOWG athletes.


After the flames had been about 90 percent extinguished in what was billed as California’s third most destructive wildfire ever, communities in Lake County had to cope with the next trauma: dealing with what they no longer had.
For many, especially in the rural hamlet of Middletown, losses were horse-related, as the flames went through the worst possible places in terms of horse density. Brenna Sullivan, Executive Director of the Lake County Farm Bureau and member of the Lake County Horse Council, worked around the clock alongside others to assist needs of equestrian victims, many of whom also lost homes. Fencing, shelter and hay for the winter were in the most demand.
The LCFB, which has obtained covered hay storage in Kelseyville, has been working with OES, SAFER and the Lake County Horse Council in receiving donations and making them available to Valley Fire victims. (For information, contact Carleene Cady at (707) 349-1993.)


Not all of the Arabian Horse Association’s top honors in Tulsa came with red roses. The AHA honored winners of its annual Club Excellence Award program during the President’s Banquet at the AHA Convention. Although the limelight may have been dimmer than the lights of the big show, the underlying importance wasn’t, as the nation’s most active local associations received praise for their innovations and energy in building momentum for the venerable breed. The northern San Diego County-based Tierra Del Norte Arabian Horse Association received top honors — and a check for $500 from AHA — for 2015.


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