A summer of horse shows for the Tracy family | TheUnion.com

A summer of horse shows for the Tracy family

Horse shows mean many things to different people. One can be a spectator, an owner, a sponsor, a rider, a trainer, or perhaps a show groom. These events can be local get-togethers or world-class sporting events such as the recent Olympic Games held in Athens.

Numerous competitors attend horse shows to “bring along” a young or green horse, so that in future competitions they will have a greater chance of winning.

Some participate for the fun of that day, or in the case of larger venues, for weeks. Others train with the object of being winners, tops in their class, their region, state, or country.

The past few weeks have been special for our family and friends involved with horse shows. First was the fun in joining our Emigrant Springs instructor Derek Latte in Watsonville for the West Coast Connemara Show.

Connemara ponies are an Irish breed known for their versatility. Derek took his champion stallion, and I persuaded him to also take “Lasrachai’s Cianan,” a young gelding I had acquired from local horsewoman Christine Sparks.

Monica Meteer, an Emigrant Springs working student, rode him.

The show brought together Connemara enthusiasts from throughout the West, having as much fun being together as showing their ponies. At the conclusion, there were ribbons, championship rosettes, and a perpetual trophy for the best performance gelding, all won by our “Cianan.”

Having only shown him a couple of times, I had no clue that he would do so well. Now I am convinced he should be my “old ladies” horse!

Cherie Harter, of Grass Valley, has been a lifelong horsewoman, showing Western, driving, sidesaddle, hunters and raising thoroughbreds for the racetrack. Now as a senior citizen and having recently dispersed many of their thoroughbreds, Cherie looked for a new and realistic way to keep involved with her beloved horses. She leased a lovely palomino Welsh pony mare to drive, and after some months of training and preparation, took her to the National Welsh Pony Show.

Local driving enthusiast friends accompanied her to help groom, hitch up, and hold the pony as Cherie got in and out of the cart. (She has had hip transplants). Every class went better and better for her, as Cherie won the coveted reinsmanship class, and then her pony, “Balsuma the Governess,” was awarded Reserve Champion in carriage driving at this prestigious event.

My parents, too, had a special and long-time friendship with the Harters. With my dad’s last thoroughbred mare, he decided to breed her to the well-known Arabian endurance stallion, “LS Zane Gray.” The last Schaps’ homebred, an Arabian-thoroughbred cross (an Anglo-Arab) was a filly I named “Athena.” That was seven years ago.

This week, at the National Arabian and Half-Arabian Sport Horse show at Rancho Murieta, Athena had a wreath of roses around her neck, as she was awarded National Champion Sport Horse Dressage winner at 4th level, amateur to ride.

Her owner, Rita Mason of Citrus Heights, had come to the ranch with a friend, spotted the beautiful filly, and asked dad if she might be for sale. As Rita says, it was pure luck that she found her.

Just as amazing is that 8-year-old Caitlin Thompson, whose parents own “LS Zane Gray,” recently showed “Athena” in Dressage at the introductory level, allowed for children under 10 years of age. It is remarkable that a young, highly-trained mare can adapt literally within minutes to give a child a safe ride, and then perform difficult, advanced level dressage movements with her owner, and earn winning scores for both.

The Connemara, Welsh, and Arab shows mentioned above all spotlight horses of a particular breed. Specific disciplines in riding also gather to compete. The Masters Tournament at Spruce Meadows, Calgary, in Alberta, Canada is such an event, showcasing the finest athletes in the sport of show jumping.

For the third time in as many years, our daughter-in-law, Sarah Ballou, has made the long trip to Calgary, but in September the event is titled the “Spruce Meadows Masters.” It is only for best in the sport, from all over the world.

Most of the show jumpers who went to Athens were there, as well as the 10 of the top 15 rated riders in the world. The venue is the work of one man, Ron Southern, who has privately developed this international class sporting event for which some horses arrive in 747s.

The sponsors are treated with such respect that the purses they help generate make it worthwhile for the finest athletes to participate for the largest purses of any show jumping event. The facilities are beautiful. The grass field upon which Sarah and her Irish horse, “Shannondale’s True Man” rode, is larger than a football field.

There is a “Festival of Nations” international venue, similar to Epcot Center, at which you could enjoy fish and chips from the British, or marvel at Brazil’s exhibit among the 20 nations represented.

The “Equi-Fair” is a third as large as our huge Horse Expo in Sacramento; featuring demonstrations and events such as the “Battle of the Breeds,” including mules.

But the spectator attendance would be the envy of any sport. When 49,730 people filled the stands two weeks ago, officials roped off additional space in the competition field for hundreds more to enjoy the competition.

That day, The Spruce Meadows Derby, with a $75,000 purse, was followed by the prestigious “Nations’ Cup” with a prize of $250,000. It was won by Germany, with the USA in second place.

Sunday, the Grand Prix was worth $1 million, with $350,000 going to the winner. In addition, all competitors who successfully completed the course were rewarded with $3,500. Riders had to compete in a six bar competition to qualify, with the first round starting at over 4 feet and ending at 5 foot, 9 inches.

A new record was set by Irish team member Jessica Curtin, who jumped her horse 6 feet, 11.6 inches.

Sarah has a young, green gelding, and her goal was to get him relaxed and accustomed to the surroundings, including the excitement of music, flags, huge crowds, and even a children’s play area full of screaming, happy kids near the ring. She showed 17.2 hand “True Man” in one class per day for three days, with from 40 to 70 competitors in each.

They placed in the money in all three classes, with no jump rails down for the duration of the week. Her second-place triumph missed being first by three-tenths of a second! Fantastic!

Those who have attended Spruce Meadows say there is nothing like it for sportsmanship, beautiful horses with superb riders, and a welcoming, hospitable atmosphere with every detail considered.

People love to come whether they know much about horses or not, because it is such an exciting and wonderful experience. I hope to go next year!


Felicia Schaps Tracy is the owner of Emigrant Springs Horsemanship, co-founding instructor of Northern Mines Pony Club, member and Certified Horsemanship Association and the American Riding Instructors Association. Write her in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.

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