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A Year to Remember

Saluting a year's worth of highlights and heroes

- December 1st, 2017 - Cover Story

1712A CoverJANUARY

The cow horse world lost a legend in late 2016 when Benny Guitron passed away, and on Jan. 29 it came together for a heartfelt celebration of life for the Merced-based trainer. More than 400 friends and family attended the memorial hosted by Loren Booth in Minkler. Benny, a National Reined Cow Horse Hall of Famer and the 1976 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Champion, had died the previous month from complications in his battle against cancer.

Great news came out of the Los Angeles Equestrian Center on Jan. 26 when it announced that the California Department of Food and Agriculture released the LAEC from all quarantine, ending an episode of horse health concern that had begun two months earlier with confirmed cases of the EHV-1 virus. Dr. Katie Flynn, California’s State Regulatory Veterinarian, applauded LAEC’s management, staff, horse owners and trainers for their diligence and teamwork in the situation. With 725 horses on the property, a large show facility and public trails, the challenge was large and immediate.
“Their responsiveness to regulatory recommendations truly demonstrated that they had horse health and the best interest of the horse as their priorities,” said Dr. Flynn.

Larry Langer, a part of the horse industry for 66 years — from starting lessons as a child to his induction into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame — was honored in January for his devotion to equestrian sport with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
“It was both a surprise and a great honor to be chosen for this award, and I am extremely grateful to have been selected,” said Larry. “I am very proud to figuratively stand next to the likes of Bill Steinkraus, Frank Chapot, George Morris, Jimmy Woford, and Bert De Nemethy. It truly represents the crowning achievement of my lifetime in a sport that I love dearly, and it pays tribute to the horse, who plays the essential role in it.”

Sunland horseman Dale Gibson threw his cowboy hat into the political arena as a candidate for the Los Angeles City Council. Dale’s advocacy for equestrians has been effective and heartfelt for more than a decade, and although he didn’t win a seat after the votes had been counted, he offered good advice for horse people everywhere to take a part in representing the lifestyle they love.
“United we stand, divided we fall,” he said during the campaign. “My message is to stand together – yes, it’s the motto of Kentucky, where I’m from. But most equestrians want to go ride and be left alone. I tell horse people and non-equestrian voters in this District that we REALLY need to stand together. One person rarely makes a big difference, but a community that stands together can make great things happen. Horse people are very independent, self-sufficient folks, but a loner can easily be picked off by wolves and there are lots of wolves out there. The other thing is, stand for your community. We have five acres here. Many developers have tried to buy this place with big checks, but I couldn’t live with myself if I sold out. If I sell, then it will be to another horse-owner.”

FEBRUARY

POMONA – Topping the field of six at the Super Horse Challenge, held at the Western States Horse Expo, Pomona on Feb. 2-4, was Joe Bell on his 11-year-old Quarter Horse gelding, Chalo Gun Slinger. As champion, Joe won $1000 cash, a beautiful championship belt buckle provided by Western States Horse Expo, and other great prizes after he and his horse distinguished themselves before big crowds, golf carts, crying babies, loud speakers — all kinds of environments, noises and situations that cannot be duplicated at home.
The three days of competition included ranch riding and in-hand work; a performance pattern including trot poles, jumping, side-passing, and up-and-down transitions; “dancing with cows TM” and a performance pattern; a “meet and greet” at the entrance to the Horse Expo that simulated a parade; and the Super Horse Challenge Grand Finale, where contestants found extreme obstacles including a tarp run, a ball to push, a gun to fire, and more.
Charlotte Bredahl, Matt Sheridan, Steve Bauhr and previous Super Horse Champion and trainer, Robin Bond served as judges.

An impressive lineup of horses and riders from California and around the globe gathered in Thermal to jump for the final West Coast qualifying opportunity and a $100,000 purse at HITS. Ashlee Bond and Chela LS, owned by Little Valley Farms, prevailed in dramatic fashion – -in a comeback for both of them.
“I was not expecting to walk away the winner of this class,” said Bond. “It’s been a long road with ‘Chela’ — we almost lost her, and we’re so thankful to have her, let alone have her sound again and competing and winning at this level.
“It’s amazing just being in this field and coming back after having a baby four months ago, too!” she added.
“I’m just very happy.”

Californians made their presence felt once again at Scottsdale Arabian Show, which continues to thrive in the Arizona desert, attracting international talent.

MARCH

Since 2012, Legolas 92 and U.S. Team rider Steffen Peters had traveled the world together and have a multitude of titles to their credit, including a Team Bronze Medal from the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
But early this year, Four Winds Farm’s Westfalen gelding (Laomedon x Fuerstin by Florestan II) entered a whole new chapter in his career as Peters handed over the reins to 27-year-old former working student Dawn White-O’Connor, and the promising pair wasted no time getting top results as they claimed both the CDI Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special titles at Cornerstone Event Management’s Dressage Affaire CDI3*/1*/Y/J/U25/AM, held March 24-26.
“She rode that horse masterfully,” said judge Sarah Geikie (4* USA). “Her position and manner on the horse are impeccable, and you can see Steffen’s influence coming through. It looks like Legolas really likes her and they seem to have a great harmony together, and it was very exciting to see what a great partnership they’re forging with each other.”

Mandy Porter rose to the occasion against a top-notch field of 54 riders March 20 in the most popular AIG $1 Million Grand Prix class to date.
Porter, based in Encinitas, rode Milano, owned by Abigail Weese, to a thrilling finish as the second-to-last rider in a six-horse jump-off. The starting order included several prior victors of the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS Desert Horse Park including 2016, 2015 and 2014 winners: McLain Ward, Charlie Jayne and Ashlee Bond.
“It’s an honor to win this class, coming into this I always hoped that this result would happen,” said Mandy. “I always try to go into an event like this hoping to do the best that I can – —I think it’s great that the West Coast won this one!”
Entering the jump-off, they put the pedal to the metal and took every chance they could to shave time off of the clock, which showed 41.600 at the end of the go.
Milano and Porter also had success during the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Thermal CSI3* week with a win in the $36,400 Desert Classic win and a $25,000 FEI SmartPak Grand Prix win.
“This horse is just amazing,” Mandy said of Milano. “I have a feeling this is just the beginning for him. He definitely hasn’t reached his peak and we are excited to see what the rest of his jumping career holds.”

James Wyllie, a fabled Los Angeles equestrian educator, father, and grandfather, died March 16 in Agoura Hills at age 98.
Wyllie’s remarkable teaching career spanned six decades, and he continued to instruct students in the ways of the horse until shortly before he died. From preschoolers to senior citizens, Wyllie taught over 65,000 people to ride.
Wyllie taught courses at UCLA, Cal-Lutheran, and for 30 years at Malibu’s Pepperdine University, plus ongoing courses for Santa Monica College.
Wyllie blazed trails throughout the Santa Monica Mountains, embodying the Western ideal of horsemanship. His program continues at Malibu’s Saddlerock Ranch.

After a prolific rainy season, the “rein-y” season kicked off in the spring. Californians claimed their share of titles.
At the venerable Cactus Reining Classic, held March 22-26 at Westworld, major winners from the Golden State included Tom Foran in the Open Derby Level 2 and 3 and Non Pro Dana Avila in the Novice Horse Non Pro Levels 1 and 2 as well as Intermediate Non Pro.
This year, the event was pushed into late March, a move that didn’t slow down Temecula-based rider Avila. With her gelding Gunna Spook Ya, by Smart Spook and out of Gitty Annie Gun, by Gunner, Avila won the High Point Championships in Novice Horse Non Pro Level 1 and 2, and Intermediate Non Pro.
“I opted not to show my horse in the Derby ,as my husband, Bob, and I felt he wasn’t quite as seasoned as the other Derby horses,” Dana said. “I ended up having a terrific show. As they say, winning is always fun.”

APRIL

The grassy knoll of the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park at San Juan Capistrano was filled with fans April 9, as Peter Petschenig galloped to a sweeping victory aboard Saint Quentin in an unbeatable time of 40.24 in the $40,000 Spring Classic III Grand Prix, presented by The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel.
He topped 36 horse-and-rider combinations who were trying to master a difficult track set by Puerto Rican FEI Course Designer Mauricio Garcia Ballesteros.
“He can be super fast,” Petschenig said of his 14-year-old partner of six years. “I tried to stay on the inside track, but I didn’t force it too hard because the other ones weren’t that extremely fast. Today was lucky.”
Petschenig noted with a laugh that he has never jumped a track designed by Ballesteros clear before. This was a benchmark day for Petschenig, as he managed to pilot three to the jump-off — one of which was double-clear.

907671-1712A YIR PHOTO_04 Apr-Cutting.jpg
(Credit: John O’Hara photo)
The El Rancho Cutting Horse Association, an NCHA Affiliate, prides itself on promoting one of the last outdoor cuttings on the West Coast. Competitors come from all over the Western U.S. to compete at one of the premier cutting facilities.
This year’s event paid out a $102,000 to competitors. With over 761 entries, the facility was packed with athletes, horses and excited spectators. Tim Smith rode Cowan Ranch’s Disco Crat to the El Rancho Spring Classic Open Circuit Championship.

MAY

With $20,000 in added money and the region’s top competition, the Southern California Reined Cow Horse Association put on another marvelous springtime event, the Jimmy Flores, Sr. Derby and Non Pro Triple Crown.
The four-day show May 18-21 included two full slates of horse show classes.
In the Open Derby, Nicolas Barthelemy shined on Manuel Rojo’s WRS Shiney Diamond, outdistancing reserve champions Shadd Parkingson on Hannes Winkler’s Cattin Downtown and Tucker Robinson on San Juan Ranch’s SJR Oaks Natasha. The win paid a winner’s share of $2,560, with the riders in the two-three split taking home $1,792 each.

The Master of Faster turned on the heat with his equine partner of 15 years to clinch the $60,000 Grand Prix of California, presented by Equ Lifestyle Boutique. The unstoppable duo, known as Richard Spooner and Cristallo, executed a flawless jump-off in 33.75, less than .04 seconds faster than the previous leaders, Vani Khosla and Billy Mexico.
Spooner and 19-year-old Cristallo have countless wins in the books, and each one is still special.
“We’ve had a very long and extraordinary relationship, and it just amazes me that he is still fit and strong,” Spooner said. “He didn’t do any classes this week; he just came out for the grand prix and he nailed it. How could I possibly say enough about how I feel about that horse?”

JUNE

Middle America should be proud of the cowboys it sent to Reno for the richest one-day team roping in the world.
Jake Long, 33, of Coffeyville, Kan., and his best friend Coleman Proctor, 31, of Pryor, Okla., have roped together since they were kids, partnering professionally in five different seasons over the past 10 years.
Despite the fact that today Proctor was partnered with fellow Oklahoman Billie Jack Saebens of Nowata, he was the first man to ride over and congratulate Long, horseback, after Long and Luke Brown bested Proctor and Saebens for the coveted Bob Feist Invitational championship. The two teams earned $204,000 in cash.
The 40th anniversary of the oldest, most prestigious invitational team roping in the sport paid out $800,000 in cash and prizes Monday over six rounds of fierce competition.

Over seventy junior and amateur entries took to The Oaks International Grand Prix Field June 20 for the inaugural American Tradition of Excellence Equitation Challenge, presented by Whitethorne. Moving up from eighth to first, 12-year-old Stella Buckingham earned an impressive win aboard Nom de Guerre.
The inaugural class took place over three phases, with Day One featuring the jumping phase over a 3’3″ Hunter Derby type track plus an educational presentation and Q&A phase with all riders, trainers, and judges that evening. Day Two all competitors with a score of 60 or better returned for the second round, followed by a work-off of the top six scoring riders.
Georgy Maskrey-Segesman, owner and operator of Whitethorne, a premier hunter-jumper sales barn, created the class with the goal of providing more education for equitation riders on the West Coast.

JULY

Tucker Allen found the best way possible to celebrate the week he turned 18 years old.
The Nordhoff High grad from Oakview who is headed to Northwestern Oklahoma State University this fall topped 200 of the best high school steer wrestlers and went home from the High School National Finals Rodeo as a 2017 World Champion.
“I tried to do the same as I practice,” said Allen, who has been steer wrestling about two and a half years. “I tried to be calm and go out there and do what I know how to do.”
He credits five-time World Champion steer wrestler Luke Branquinho for his knowledge. Three times a week, Allen and friend and fellow elite high school bulldogger Tate Stickler visit Branquinho’s Los Alamos ranch to hone their skills.
“Luke taught me everything,” said Allen.

The 18th Reining By The Bay event filled Woodside with the top reiners in the region, and Californians rose to the occasion. Leading the way was Burbank-based trainer Tom Foran, who took Gunna Sail Away to a 216.5 that won both the L2 and L3 titles in the Open Futurity, and also finished high in the Open Derby L3, tying for the reserve crown on Walla Walla Starbuck.

AUGUST

The National Reined Cow Horse Association moved its World Championship Snaffle Bit Futurity to Fort Worth starting this year, but the cradle of reined cow horse still runs strong.
The California-based National Stock Horse Association held its biggest gathering of the year Aug. 22-27 at the Paso Robles Events Center, and the only thing hotter than the heat wave was the competition.
The payouts were downright cool, especially for Corey Cushing, who took first and second in the NSHA Open Futurity on SJR Smooth Rio (Smooth As A Cat X Shiners Diamond Girl), owned by San Juan Ranch, and Moonstruck Striker (Dual Rey x Moonstruck Cat), owned by Eric and Wendy Dunn. The impressive payouts for the Championship ($25,055) and Reserve ($16,006) along with Cushing’s other money-placing — aboard Kevin and Sydney Knight’s Maliblus Most Wanted in a tie for 16th ($1,539) tallied up to a $42,600 take-home in the class.

SEPTEMBER

The third time in the top 10 was the charm for Halie Robinson in the Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals – West. Having placed second and fifth in years past, Robinson rode with precision, consistency and previous experience that earned her the top call in this year’s challenging four-phase competition.
The format of the Talent Search has evolved considerably since it originated in the 1950s, but it has always been a method for identifying and helping prepare young riders aspiring to represent the U.S. in international jumping competition. McLain Ward (1990), Lauren Hough (1994) and California-born German rider Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (1986) are among the Talent Search winners who went on to become show jumping Olympians. Several winners of the West Finals are major players on the Grand Prix circuit, Joie Gatlin (1982), Richard Spooner (1988), Kirsten Coe (1996) and Kasey Ament (2004) among them.

OCTOBER

Sponsored by Thrifty Horse Consignment Shoppe, the inaugural Norco Horse Affair attracted attendees from throughout Southern California to Ingalls Park Oct. 13-15, featuring a collection of clinics, shopping, demonstrations and education with a special HorsetownUSA flair. Dates for 2018 have been set.

The best of the best in the Morgan breed was celebrated at the 2017 Grand National & World Championship Morgan Horse Show, held Oct. 7-14. Since 1973, this show has represented the pinnacle of achievement in the Morgan horse world, and this year more than 1,000 of the world’s finest Morgan horses from across the U.S. and Canada met to compete in over 300 classes for $400,000-plus in prize money.
Several West Coast Morgan stables were extremely successful, bringing home multiple World Grand Championships and Grand Championships.
Kate Ramsower of Alamo, won the highly competitive AMHA Youth of the Year Award after competing with other youth from all over the nation in four different areas, including written exams, oral presentation, judging contest, and horsemanship pattern. She is trained and instructed by Merin Maggi at Maggi Stables in San Martin.
Another bright light from California was Majestic Farms, with Eric Antman’s and Austin Eversman’s training. They won several Morgan World Championships in addition to the Equitation World Championships. Eric Antman, showing Merriehill’s After Hours, was a repeat champion in the Grand National Stallion In Hand 5 & Over, World Champion Senior Champion Stallion and World Grand Champion Stallion In Hand.

They can take the National Reined Cow Horse Association’s World Championship away from the West Coast, but they can’t take the West Coast out of the Snaffle Bit Futurity.
At least not this year, the first ever since the NRCHA moved its signature event for 3-year-olds from Reno, Nev., into the Will Rogers Coliseum. Jake Gorrell of Hanford, from the breadbasket of reined cow horses in Central California, rode Kevin Cantrelle’s Plain Catty (Bet Hesa Cat x Miss Plain Plain) to an exciting Open Championship, using a gutsy fence work to top Zane Davis on Bet Hes Black.
“I never know what it takes to win it,” said Gorrell. “It’s persistence, consistency and trying to stay in the game.”

NOVEMBER

Lehua Custer of North Hollywood felt like she’s been living in a fairy tale at the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®. She and her mount F.J. Ramzes traveled more than 2,000 miles to Lexington from the West Coast on a plane filled with Thoroughbreds returning from the Breeders’ Cup for just one championship class. And they won it.
Custer and Wendy Sasser’s 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Juventus x J. Rambiance by Rampal, bred in the U.S. by Cornell University) have been on a roll all season, and after earning victory at the Great American/USDF Region 7 Championships in September the pair were ready to relax at home and enjoy their success. But there was more to come.
In a matter of days, a whirlwind fundraising campaign organized at the urging of friends raised the funds needed to fly Ramzes to Kentucky. Before she knew it, Custer found herself a long way from her home in sunny California and shivering on a frigid November morning at the Kentucky Horse Park as she prepared for the ride of her life in the Third Level Open Championship, which she and her mount won decisively with a top score of 72.991%.
“We think anything under 65 degrees is cold in Southern California, so the temperature this morning was a bit of a shock,” Custer laughed. “My hands were frozen and I have no idea if I was actually doing my half halts, but Ramzes came through for me. He loves to show, and once we were in the ring he knew his job and was just amazing. This whole event is bigger than anything I’ve ever seen, and it’s been an incredible and unforgettable experience.”

It was a spectacular Saturday night Nov. 19 at the one-and-only South Point Equestrian Arena, as 30 competitors representing seven countries vied for valuable North American League points in the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Las Vegas.
Three riders posted clear rounds and returned for a remarkable jump-off that required the precision of Longines timing to clarify. Second to last to go, Richard Spooner aboard the 10-year-old Hanovarian gelding Chatinus, beat the leading time held by Alison Robitaille to take the win. This was the third victory for Spooner during the week at The Las Vegas National CSI4*-W, on three different mounts.

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