Sonrisa de Santa Fe

If you’ve visited Andalusia, festivals and ferías are the norm during the summer months. The sonrisa weeks are many. Generally, the ferías are connected to celebrating patron saints while the festivals are more connected to celebrating the regional culture like dance and music. On most evenings, it is not uncommon to find a sevillanas parade. In Seville, the annual exhibition featuring the Andalusian PRE draws many horse aficionados. The stallions and mares, very striking. The foals, off-the-scale cuteness.

A few of the traditions carried over to the New World. The festivals and ferías were fewer but incorporating traditions from the native cultures – Native American Indian, Aztec, Mayan and Incan. Horses made an impression in the American Southwest, particularly in the northward migration of Spanish missions into California, New Mexico and Texas. Equine bloodlines, from PRE thoroughbreds to quarterhorse to pack, were highly valued.

The revival of equestrian sports in New Mexico has included adding some of the festive sonrisa traditions. It may not be Seville, but the influence and atmosphere is undeniable.

equestrian review: Simeon Krestrel, Sonrisa de Santa Fe (Jul 2018)

When EquiCenter de Santa Fe closed their doors in 2009, it seemed equine sports in Santa Fe, and New Mexico, was finished forever. The fallout from the 2007-08 economic downturn was devastating. Riders were leaving the sport in droves, often selling their horses at “best offer” rates. So few competed in 2008, many sponsors left for other venues. Those riders who chose to compete opted to ride in Colorado where the equestrian scene had more stability.

Guy McElvain and his business partner, Brian Gonzales, entered a bid to buy the bankrupt equestrian center. Brian’s wife, Phyllis, had the more difficult task of rebuilding the thin equestrian ranks in New Mexico, and attracting riders from elsewhere to give the Grand Prix de Santa Fe another chance. Sponsors were initially, and rightfully, reticent. To change minds, they had to bring perspective, knowledge and expertise to the table. Guy, a respected adult-amateur rider, businessman and horse rancher. Phyllis, an experienced horse show planner and organizer. Brian, respected businessman and avid horseman. Also, their deep community and familial ties in Santa Fe aided in attracting investors and sponsorships.

After six years of planning and work, August 2015 signaled their new beginning with two shows, Sonrisa Week and the Grand Prix de Santa Fe, at the renamed equicenter, HIPICO Santa Fe. The two, smaller A-rated shows did well enough to expand the two shows into a four-show summer series in July and August 2016. Though overlapping with the Summer In The Rockies series in the Denver area, there are differences. The Summer In The Rockies series feature the large AA-rated shows, with the ability to attract riders, including top amateurs and professionals, from across the nation. The Santa Fe series with smaller A-rated shows, similarly aims to attract top amateurs, and possibly a few professionals. The difference maker, the uniquely Santa Fe atmosphere against a majestic southwest backdrop.

Invited since 2015, my daughters have struggled fitting the Santa Fe shows into their show schedule. A choice had to be made: compete with some of the best talent on the AA-circuit in Iowa or compete in a series in the process of regaining their footing in the equestrian world. The choice was easy, Iowa. Phyllis understood emerging talent riders need to compete with increasingly better talent to move to the next level.

With an already tight calendar, my girls committed to riding a private charity invitational over the Labor Day Weekend. In making the commitment, they also added Sonrisa Week to their show schedule, and tightening their calendar further.

USHJA Hunter Derby: Marianne, fellow RRC member, on the course (Sonrisa Week, Jul 2018)

warm-up session: Tara and Candace before the USHJA hunter derby (Sonrisa Week, Jul 2018)

During the mixer on opening night, Phyllis acknowledged several top amateurs riding Sonrisa Week – including a few she had been wooing for 2-3 years. After introducing the new faces that arrived during the day, Phyllis invited them to say a few words, if they had any. Elizabeth raised her hand. “We had wanted to come here for awhile, and we finally made it,” she began. “Someone said this could be the beginning of a tremendous legacy.” Pausing for the brief applause, Elizabeth finished, “I think that’s what you said, Brian.” He nodded yes to much laughter in the tent. “May everyone ride their best and ride well.”

The girls rode extremely well, continuing their incredible run this season.

NOTE: If you haven’t experienced an A-rated hunter/jumper show, please watch the video below. It is best viewed in full screen HD, which can be found here.

 

Advertisements

Happy Birthday Musketeers!

They came from very humble beginnings.

A tightly knitted trio of littermates. Their mom cat, Miss Grey, a Russian Blue Mix, teaching them how to live in the outdoors. Miss Grey taught them where safe harbor could be found.

Today, the Musketeers – Maxie, Midnight and Tuxie – are 13 years of age.

Maxie the brave

Midnight, the little sister

Tuxie, true blue loyal and forever loved

The sudden loss of Tuxie, two years ago, was a test of the Musketeer ethos of “one for all”. Maxie and Midnight met and passed the test.

the Musketeer baby kittens (Nov 2005)

Happy Birthday Musketeers!

xoxo
mom and dad

Dino: Rainbow Bridge Day

At times, the ten years seem like yesterday. Other days, it seems so long ago.

From his kitten days to his very last, Dino was the best of cats. He always understood. That made him special. Dino was a friendly and happy boy. Most of all, he was loyal – not only to his one but also to his littermate, Pebbles.

greenhouse scents: the container pot

outdoor scents: peach harvest

Dino loved his fresh scents, from fresh cut flowers to Kona coffee to babies. When the gardenias began to bloom, he was right there to inhale all of its scent. Similarly with babies. Dino loved sitting and sleeping with Deborah, Elizabeth and Kyle, taking in their baby freshness.

We were fortunate to have Dino for nearly 19 years, and to be blessed by his undying love and devotion. We love and miss you.

mom and dad

xoxo

Egypt: Marking Two Years

It has been two years since we said goodbye to our beloved Miss Egypt. Though she continues to remain in our hearts, her physical absence is noticed very much. Simply, our tabby girl gave much of herself. Playful, friendly and sociable, she was always ready to visit with anyone. Yet, she only had eyes for her “one”. Egypt knew her “one” would do anything for her.

Wood and carpet squares, her favorite toys. Lounging in a sunny window, her favorite activity. Egypt left her scratch marks on wood surfaces, nose prints on every window from which she watched her world, on a daily basis. A well-lived home, after all, needs all of these markings.

in motion: Egypt leaving her mark on the door jamb leading into the greenhouse

Without a doubt, Egypt was the cat-in-charge. The other kitties of the household understood the order of things. Her position as top cat remains unfilled, the title and role she made her own.

may be: Miss Susie trying to ignore Miss Egypt

Occasionally, we’ll catch a glimpse of Egypt from the corner of our eye. On rare occasions, we’ll see Egypt jump onto her favorite chair. And, yes, she made the trip to the ranch.

We love and miss you very much.

xoxo

Riding: In The Southland

It was a short turnaround. Four days to be precise. Time enough for laundry. To prepare for a new set of shows. Knowing and choosing which horses will compete the best.

dressage moves: Elizabeth and Secret Agent Man warming up (North Ranch, Mar 2018)

“It is keeping yourself and your horses in a daily routine,” is how my daughters describe the four weeks away from home. Their June calendar, at first glance, appears busy. Practice, events and times marked for every day of the four show weeks, and in between. Their notebooks are filled with notes and observations on every hoof beat taken in practice, and in the show ring, this season. And, making sure they and their horses are ready for travel. “Preparation and organization are key, attention to detail required. But, you need to be practical and resourceful.”

warm-up: Elizabeth and Brie before the $15,000 Grand Prix qualifier (San Juan Capistrano, April 2018)

The four show weeks in San Juan Capistrano are well attended with riders from every skill level. Around 350-400 riders and nearly 850-900 horses compete every week, with a few calling it home for the month. “Each day is taken as they come. keeping it simple and relaxed makes for a better experience.” The four weeks may seem long. Large shows, though, have a way of making the days pass rather quickly.

While the first show week ended Sunday afternoon (Jun 10) with the last rider finishing the final event, my daughters had a short workout with their horses in one of the practice rings. It is not too early to look ahead to the next show week, which begins on Wednesday (Jun 13).

It is the equestrian way of life.

Deborah and Comet: the late afternoon workout (San Juan Capistrano, June 2018)

 

Riding: Grand Prix of Texas

Over the past four years, their riding season would begin in Texas. It made sense to begin here. Quality riders, from emerging talent to top amateurs to professionals. The shows are very competitive. The hospitality always inviting. The setting helped my daughters to develop in a highly competitive sport, and hone their skills and professionalism.

Tara and Cameron in 1.35 m GP Qualifier (Tyler, TX – May 2014)

When the four-show series concluded last year, the show managers were hinting of a change. It would be more than a refresh of the schedule and the adding of more sponsors. They wanted to make the shows more exciting and more entertaining. There were whispers of competing head-to-head with the more prestigious shows found in the Midwest, SoCal, Virginia and Kentucky. It would involve attracting top-level riders and expanding the audience base. Additionally, they would be competing head-to-head with the Texas rodeo season. A tall order by any measure.

With the new associations and commitments firmed, the new show series was announced. The Grand Prix of Texas consists of three Grand Prix events. The three-event, total-point series would begin in Tyler (Week One), move to Fort Worth (Week Two), then end in Dallas on Memorial Day. While riding three Grand Prix events in nine days sound daunting, in addition to other events, it isn’t in practice. It is a matter of knowing your horse, and a matter of the rider being prepared for the next event.

graphic courtesy of Southbound Shows®

Not beginning their season here, it has a different feel for my daughters. This series, though, comes at the right time for them. It is about stepping outside their comfort zone as it is about making adjustments.

The new championship, the quest begins on Saturday.

Tara and Cameron: 1.45/1.50 m Grand Prix warm-up (Tyler, TX – May 2017)

Odyssey

odyssey – noun  (od-ys-sey ˈä-də-sē

  1. a long wandering or voyage marked by many changes in fortune.
  2. an intellectual or spiritual wandering or quest.

It was the regular, Monday morning groom. The music on loud, the horses waiting their turn in the ties for a brush down. With their coats trimmed to competition standards, keeping them dust and burr free is an imperative – especially when it’s windy.

Finishing her work first, Deborah raced to the loft office to check her email. The new update said they were ahead of schedule. She checked the time on the office clock, rechecked on her watch, then again on her Blackberry. Deborah raced back down, then walked about a hundred feet down the drive. She saw the dust plume headed our way. “They’re coming!” Deborah shouted.

She walked briskly back to the barn. Her precious cargo from SoCal was arriving. Though they weren’t expecting anything of their own, Deborah’s excitement had rubbed off on Elizabeth and Tara. The horse trailer pulled around, and was positioned to unload the new addition. Deborah signed the paperwork, and was given her ownership portfolio. She carefully reviewed each document in the portfolio. Lastly, the transport and transfer documents, paper and digital, were signed and copies distributed.

Odyssey: welcome home

It was time to unload. Odyssey cautiously poked out his head, not sure if he wanted to step off the trailer. Deborah whispered in his ear. Whatever she said worked; he unloaded easily. The music track playing when Odyssey stepped off the trailer seemed appropriate. It was a cover of the Amy Grant song, “House of Love”.

About Odyssey

He’s a nearly three year old OTTB bay stallion. Officially, he stands at 18.0 hands. On the racetrack, his record is 4-7 in 14 starts. His previous owner said Odyssey wasn’t cut out for the racetrack, but may be destined for success in show jumping. An evaluator said he has natural jumping ability, and would develop under proper ownership and a sound rider.

House of Love

It is the title track of Amy Grant’s ninth album, House of Love. Performing the song with Amy on the album was Vince Gill, singing the high harmony vocal. The song reached #5 on the AC chart and #37 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. A video of the Amy Grant/Vince Gill studio session can be found here, and their appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno here.