Janaury 2018 - Tribute Time
Written by produced by Kim F. Miller & Alicia Anthony
Saturday, 30 December 2017 00:49
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California Professional Horsemen’s Association presents its 2017 honorees.

produced by Kim F. Miller & Alicia Anthony

For the fourth consecutive year, California Riding Magazine is privileged to produce these tributes to the recipients of the CPHA’s special year-end awards. Thanks to the trainers, friends and family members who give us a glimpse into the personalities and characters of these accomplished horse people and horses. The recipients will be honored at the CPHA banquet, Friday Jan. 5 in San Diego, during the Pacific Coast Horse Shows Association meeting weekend.

Samsung Woodstock: Equine Lifetime Achievement

Susie Hutchison wasn’t too impressed with the young horse with a daisy cutter gait when she first rode him at Paul Schocklemohle’s yard in Germany in 1987. Too bad! The purchase of the 8 year old Westphalian was pretty much a done deal before she and the legendary horseman Jimmy Williams got on the plane.

In prepping for a European shopping jaunt on behalf of Samsung Electronics chairman Kun Hee Lee, Jimmy told Paul they were looking for a going Grand Prix horse. “We were told there was only one horse that would be suitable and that George Morris was coming the next day to look at him,” Susie recounts. “Jimmy said, ‘If he passes the vet check, don’t show him to George.’”

Woodstock did pass the vet check, he wasn’t shown to George Morris and Susie had a new Grand Prix horse, like him or not. “I didn’t really love him. He bucked after the jumps and he didn’t feel like he could go big.” The dislike, however, didn’t last long. “The bigger you made the jumps the more he grew wings.”

Woodstock had just entered the Grand Prix ranks in Europe and he won his first on arrival in the United States: the Derby at the Pebble Beach Horse Show, where he went directly from quarantine. Susie warmed up to him quickly and continued to as her mentor and close friend Jimmy worked his well-known wonders with the naturally-talented horse.

Susie and Woodstock’s career included 20 Grand Prix victories, three World Cup Finals highlighted by a fourth place finish in 1993, and representing the U.S. at the World Championships in 1994. At this Nations Cup competition at The Hague, the Netherlands, Woodstock was clear until the last part of the course, where he sustained a bowed tendon. He recovered and was a candidate for the 1996 U.S. Olympic team, Susie says, except that his non-U.S. ownership made him ineligible. A victory in the 1997 Los Angeles National Grand Prix stands as a late-career highlight.

Woodstock’s fame was furthered by the “war” or “squaw” bridle Jimmy devised for him, modeled on a Mexican bridle he’d been given as a gift. It consisted of a bit secured with a rope around Woodstock’s jaw, but no headstall. Woodstock originally went in a snaffle and didn’t need the bit for any training reason, Susie shares. “It just looked cool and impressive, that’s all. It gave people another reason to come see him.”

Throughout his career, Woodstock strutted his stuff in the show ring. Jimmy had trained him to piaffe and passage and spin like a cow horse, and he often showed those moves off in the show jumping ring. Around the barn, “he was a bit of an ass,” Susie says. His stall was very much his domain and he guarded it aggressively with everyone but Jimmy. At one point, the girl who’d owned Woodstock earlier sent photos of herself with the horse as he lay in his stall, her arms around his neck. “I don’t know what happened to him,” Susie says. “But something did.”

Despite the lack of warm-fuzzies in their non-riding time together, it was a long lasting love affair for Susie and Woodstock. He spent his retirement in the care of the Show Jumping Hall of Fame inductee and enjoyed a life of leisure and trail riding. He and a Quarter Horse mare owned by Susie’s boyfriend were inseparable during much of that time and, as brave and bold as he was in the arena, streams were a big deal when it came to crossing them. “He was a stupid trail horse,” Susie laughs fondly. Immortalized as a Breyer Horse model, Woodstock died at 27, in 2006, and is buried in Susie’s back yard in Temecula.

Throughout their unforgettable run together, Jimmy wore his big cowboy hat and Susie her braids, and they were known as the Cowboy and The Indian. With Woodstock, they went and won just about everywhere. “The most wonderful thing about horses of his caliber is that they take you around the world, to places that you would have never gone otherwise.”

photo: McCool Photography

Augusta Iwasaki: Special Achievement
by John French

I think I’ve been riding for Liz Reilly (Makoto Farms), Augusta’s mom, for almost a decade. Back then Augusta was just a kid that was always at the shows. Liz always says that she grew up watching me ride the horses and picked up on it. Even my habits: she won’t wear gloves, just like I won’t wear gloves. (OK, we both give in and do for the equitation.) I didn’t help her much in her early short-stirrup and pony days, but started helping her more and more over the past few years.

Augusta is wise beyond her years and she is a natural talent. She has a confidence about her, and has matured so much recently. To see her evolve into the rider she is now is amazing and she is still so young. She loves her horses and cares about them very much, even the catch rides.

Augusta is easy to teach. You don’t want to change her style too much; she can do a lot of it naturally. I’ll tell her in a handy class: “I don’t know, do you think you can make that inside turn?  I don’t think I would do it. And she says, ‘Sure I’ll give it a go.’ And she will!” That’s the way she rides: confident, easy-going and a can-do attitude.  No nerves, just carefree. The horses sense that and like it.

Plus, she’s not afraid to take on challenges - ride difficult horses or ride a difficult track. If she needs to get it done, she will.

She also really works at it. She rides from sun-up to sun-down and never complains. She’s happy to help and be a part of it.

I remember one year in Wellington recently, we were there for the Hunter Spectacular. You had to qualify for the Spectacular and she did on both her horses. I noticed that her eyes welled up with tears and I asked, “What’s wrong? You made it into the class.” And it turns out the tears were for her friend who didn’t make it in and she really wanted her to. So, I think she is likely a really a good friend to many.

Augusta is definitely one I’m going to be watching out for in the derbies and open classes.  Last year she already came in second to me several times. The day is not far off when she will be one of my strongest competitors. But it will always be rewarding to watch her do well not only because she wanted to copy me from an early age but because we’ve worked together closely and will continue to do so.

When Augusta is out of the juniors and becomes a professional, then I think that will be the time I retire.

Author John French is a many-time champion hunter rider. He trains out of Waldenbrook Farm, at Templeton Farms, in San Luis Obispo County.

photo: Alden Corrigan Media

Mandy Porter: Special Achievement
by Abby Archer

I went to Europe in 2013 to find some more horses to compete in California. I can tell you that jumping in the AIG Million Dollar Grand Prix, or any of the many other wins we have had this year were hardly on my mind. But what I can tell you is that when I was in Europe, and Mandy was with me, she saw something very special in Milano… and I guess the rest is history.

Mandy has a knack for bringing out the best in each horse she rides, for being an incredible horsewoman, and a kind and caring individual. She knows exactly how to get focused before a class, and right before she walks into the ring, but also has the kindest soul and greatest heart.

Her accolades are a mile long, but she would never tell you. She’s been to FEI World Cup Finals three times, she’s represented the USA on Nations Cup teams, she’s ridden young horses to the YJC Championships, but she’ll chat with you about you, about things other than horses. About your family or your riding. She’ll sit at an autograph table and talk to every child and adult that walks through that line until there isn’t anyone left. She is the most grateful, takes nothing for granted, down-to-the-earth person.

Two years ago, when I was in a different point in my life and I needed to take a step away from riding, it was a no-brainer that I wanted to ask Mandy to ride Milano. I remember it so clearly: we had just finished a show at the Paso Robles Horse Park, and she and I went for a walk around the grounds. We talked about life, about how the year went, about what I saw for the future and the entire time I was so nervous to ask her if she would take the ride on my horse.

Would she say no? Did she already have too many horses and another one was going to put her over? Was her business plan shifting to her own personal horses? We kept walking and talked more about the future, and about what next year had in store for our schedule.

Then we found ourselves sitting amongst the trees on this random bale of hay, chatting away, but I think she knew something was up.  So I finally spilled the beans. I told her I needed a break, that I wanted to take a step away, but most important to me was my horse. That same horse we had gone to Europe together to try. I told her that we both knew he was something special and I wanted him to be able to reach his potential and that she was, without a doubt, the perfect jockey.

There wasn’t a moment of hesitation from her. She so gladly, so happily, and even a little excitedly, said “absolutely.” Good thing, because I couldn’t rack my brain for someone else I wanted to ride him, so I’m glad I didn’t have to cross that bridge.

It was important to me to make sure my horse was still as loved and as cared for when I wasn’t there as he was when I was there. I wanted to make sure that Mandy knew that I was 100 percent behind any decisions she made; and that I couldn’t be happier to have her take over the ride and bring out the best in my horse.

There we were, at that point, no longer trainer and student, but friend and friend. We laughed some more, and then we started to make our way back to the barns, but first she looked at me, said thanks, and gave me a hug. 
There may be a special horse, a special owner or a special trainer – but it doesn’t always mean that individually they would all be as special as when they were a team. Mandy is the biggest part of this team, and so many other teams, and I think everyone would tell you the same thing: she is the nicest, she deserves everything she gets, she works incredibly hard, she appreciates everything big or small, she is equal parts humble and driven.

Most importantly, she is a great friend.

Author Abby Archer owns Milano, Mandy’s partner in winning the HITS Million, the Sacramento World Cup qualifier and many other significant finishes in 2017.

Katherine Dash: Junior Achievement
by Archie Cox

Katherine Dash and winning have become synonymous from coast to coast. Katherine and numerous different hunters have been champion or reserve at just about every big venue in the country. Everglow, Boss and Fine Design’s names are engraved as part of the history at the country’s greatest horse shows. To say you’ve won at one or two big shows is amazing, but to say you’ve been champion or reserve multiple times at USEF Junior Hunter Finals, Capital Challenge, Harrisburg, Washington and Kentucky is pretty darn amazing.

Winning requires great determination, focus, hard work and making choices in priorities. Mike and Shawna Dash, Katherine’s parents, have spent countless hours accompanying her to shows around the country and for the past six years have given the sport 100 percent attention.

Mike and Shawna made it very clear to Katherine that if she gives 100 percent, so do they and this lesson was learned at a young age for “Kater.” Shawna herself is an accomplished rider and when Katherine was younger they rode together as much as possible. The mother-daughter team both admit that, for a brief period, Katherine lost interest. Shawna told Kater that if she didn’t go ride she would sell the pony.  Well, there was a gap in visits to the barn and then Katherine showed up and -- poof! -- the pony had been sold. From that day on Katherine realized the responsibility of owning horses, the joy the horses bring to all of us and the horse industry has shaped Katherine Dash into one of the nicest, kindest, most responsible and lovely young ladies I am proud to know.

Author Archie Cox trains Katherine at his Brookway Stables in the Los Angeles area’s Lakeview Terrace.

photo: Eryn Leja

Kit Cunningham: Horsemanship Award
by Cheri Leja

It is my honor to celebrate Kit Cunningham on her award.

I met Kit when she was barely old enough to walk, when my two daughters began riding lessons with her mother at their family farm in Coachella. We spent countless hours together… typically playing with Breyer horses, sitting on blankets surrounding riding arenas at horse shows, rewarding ourselves with donuts for good behavior.

Kit’s understanding of horses at a young age was astonishing. She could recognize and name every horse at the barn and know which stall, paddock or pasture they lived in before she could speak in complete sentences.

Kit’s horse sense and knowledge grew along with her. She rode school horses and loved each and every one as if they were her very own. I remember visiting the barn one day after not seeing her for a while and asked which horse was hers? In a very matter-of-fact response, she told me that she wasn’t allowed to have a horse of her own yet. I stopped dead in my tracks and remember thinking how unaffected she was with this statement despite the fact there were several young riders in the barn who did. Patiently, Kit waited for her day and pony to come and I believe these early lessons contributed to the grounded person she is today.

The sacrifices of living on a working ranch are endless, however the knowledge cultured is immeasurable. Kit’s work ethic and attention to detail is a direct reflection of her family and their values. Her hard work and dedication is unwavering. Kit has worked diligently to achieve her goals.  She received high academic honors throughout her school years and was able to balance the rigors of study with her family, friends, and horses, each of which she holds dear.

Kit finds joy in the moment and I appreciate that she shares her enthusiasm with others.  She is delighted to recap the latest horse show, music festival or shopping adventure.

I am extremely proud of the young woman Kit has become. Upon meeting her you will find a humble, unassuming, respectful young woman. Her sweet nature is gravitating, her smile is contagious and her laughter is heartwarming.

The California Professional Horsemen’s Association recognizes the importance of true horsemanship and has acknowledged Kit’s accomplishments. I cannot think of a more appropriate award for a deserving young woman.

Congratulations, Kit!

Author Cheri Leja is a family friend. Her daughters Eryn & Alex rode with Kit’s mom, Laurie Cunningham, at Tahquitz Equestrian Facility in Thermal.

photo: Lisa Jesse

Jacqueline Vail: Sportsmanship Award
by Kaitlin Perry

I cannot think of a more deserving person to receive the Sportsmanship award. Jacqueline exemplifies the true meaning of a sportsman in every sense of the word. Not only is she a gifted equestrian, she is one of the most kind-hearted, generous, compassionate young women I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Although the majority of riders on the California circuit have seen Jacqueline ride - or at least have seen her name at the top of the list at many shows - many don’t know all that she does for her community outside of the arena. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing her for a couple of years and I didn’t even know of all the time she spent volunteering for local charities and non-profits at the same time she was taking multiple AP courses at a highly rigorous high school and competitively showing a couple weekends per month!

Yet it’s Jacqueline’s demeanor and personality that I feel are what people connect to most. You would never know all that she takes on when discussing weekend plans at the barn or horse show. You would never know that she spent most of her free time (I don’t even know how she managed to have free time!) tutoring elementary school students, teaching children with disabilities how to play basketball, serving meals to the homeless, developing book drives and more.

Just from her impressive resume, it’s clear to see how authentic of a person Jacqueline is. However, after being fortunate enough to know her and ride with her for the past couple of years, I’ve noticed her generosity travels far beyond her actions. It’s never a struggle for her to do the right thing. You can tell it comes naturally.

Whether it’s being a mentor for younger students at her high school, raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, sharing her equitation horse with her younger sister during her last junior year, or the way she truly cares for her horses, Jacqueline is the true meaning of the word sportsman.

The respect and love she carries for her horses travels beyond her own needs. She regularly puts her horses and others before herself (I mean, with the ounce of free time she has, she donates it to those in need) and she maintains that level of respect for herself and her horse when in the arena. Don’t get me wrong, she definitely gets upset (like any of us) when she doesn’t do as well as she hoped or when something out of her control goes haywire. (Perfectionists unite!)

The way she reacts is what makes her the person she is. I’ve never once seen her take it out on her horse, sister, trainer, friends or parents. She doesn’t internalize and carry it with her to her next round. It’s actually pretty remarkable to watch her confront the issue, work through a solution and, ultimately, fix it. What’s more, she brings that level of maturity, morality and thoughtfulness to her school work and friendships.

Like anyone else who is lucky enough to know Jacqueline, I could go on and on about how deserving she is of this special award. The integrity of her character carries beyond her generosity and talent when it continually reminds others around her to act in fairness, to recognize the need for harmonious teamwork and dedication to the partnership. That your character can be molded by this sport and it’s your choice to choose every time you get on your horse to not indulge in weakness or deception, but to aid and be aided by one’s friends, teammates and family.

To be recognized by your peers and competitors as a good sportsman is an incredible honor and there is no one more deserving of that honor than Jacqueline Vail.

Author Kaitlin Perry is a friend and barnmate of Jacqueline’s at Kelly Van Vleck’s barn, Van Vleck Sporthorses, in Sacramento.

Janet Fall: Horseman Of The Year
by Jill Gaffney

My younger sister, Claire (Prieto), and I began our competition careers in Northern California. At the ages of 6 and 8, our first “big A” show was at The Cow Palace in San Francisco. I remember being totally awed by the other competitors, the vastness of the Cow Palace facilities, and the whole experience of being at a “real show.” Despite the knowledgeable guidance of our trainers, the entire competition process from stabling to show arena was overwhelming. Where were we supposed to go to learn our courses? Where’s the warm-up arena? What time are our classes?!? Who do we ask all these questions???!!!

My worries were soon to be eased for at the helm of the back gate, which was on a raised platform 8 feet up at the entrance to the indoor arena, was a small woman with a loud, carrying voice and a trucker’s cap on. Her fine, light brown hair hung to just below her shoulders and she was wearing Wrangler jeans (was that tobacco in her back pocket?), an untucked polo shirt (bright yellow, maybe?) beneath a rodeo letterman’s jacket, and a pair of heavy-duty work boots. She was assertive and competent and when she laughed – that laugh – I remember feeling slightly intimidated, yet comforted at the same time.

Her name was Janet Fall. She may have been small in stature, but she was larger than life. I could hear her talking to other competitors perched around her back gate long before I turned the corner to the arena entrance. Her voice over the loud speaker was instantly recognizable and some parts encouraging, annoyed, joking, and stern. She laughed – that laugh – with everyone who stopped at her set-up: trainers, riders, grooms, jump crew, parents, adults, kids. No one was left out. She commanded the arena and kept everyone in line so that the show day would not lag. She had the thankless job of keeping the ring running on time and all of us competitors marching in the right direction; a bit like herding cats into a bag, I’m sure. And she knew everyone.

Her back gate quickly became my and my sister’s favorite place to be when we weren’t riding that week. She always made us feel a part of the continuous stream of riders and trainers with their endless questions, “What time do you think….?” “How many until….?” “What class are you on…?” The queries were always the same but she amazingly never lost her patience, answering them over and over again! Although we may have been more underfoot than helpful, she never shooed us away and, instead, enfolded us into the world at the back gate of a show arena and we received the inside scoop on some of the competitors as they filed into the ring.  It was my favorite place to be because Janet was there.

Fast forward 30 years (say what???) and many, many, many shows later, Janet has become synonymous to me with laughter, gruffness, competence and warmth. Although I know she has taken on many roles in the horse show world throughout the years – steward, manager, announcer, liaison – she will always be “Janet at the back gate” to my sister and me. Whether we were little kids, or teenagers, upon arriving at a show one of our first musings would be “I wonder if Janet is here?” It did not matter whether I was 8 or 18, practically the first stop I would make upon coming to a show was Janet’s back gate for a hug, a laugh, and a big smile. And a horse show never felt the same when she wasn’t there.

As a professional trainer now, I have had the opportunity to work with Janet while she was a steward, manager and announcer. She brings to each job the same proficiency and aptitude as she did the back gate, and her knowledge of all things competition related is so expansive I feel I can ask her just about anything and she will have the answer. And if she doesn’t have the answer, she knows someone who does.

In November at the Las Vegas National Horse Show, Janet was absolutely tireless in her role as steward/director/manager/organizer/cat herder. To be honest, I am not sure what her official title was, but I do know that she began each day well before any of us competitors and she ended her day long past when we were finished in the stables. She may have been on call 24 hours every day of the show. She was everywhere at once, doing just about everything: down in the stables keeping order among the stalls, directing trucks and trailers for the unloading and loading of equipment and horses, at the warm-up arenas during all the competitions, on the radio to announcers, sound check, and crew, marching the hallways of the horse show from one duty to another to another. She was dedicated and indefatigable and it was the highlight of a day to see her and be able to give her a quick hug. It felt like a show, because Janet was there.

I was very excited when I heard that Janet was to be honored by the CPHA for her involvement over the years in the horse industry and for what she has meant to us and inspired in those of us who have had the privilege of knowing her. Just as horses, horse shows and competition make up the bulk of my life and my memories, so Janet fits neatly in there with all of it, because without Janet my horse show experience, from the very first to the present, would be vastly different.

I know I am not the only one whose life and memories she has touched in this way. I know I am not the only one who is “one of her kids.” There are a lot of us out there and I hope Janet realizes how deeply she has touched some of our lives. I truly can’t imagine looking back on my years in this wonderful, crazy, one-of-a-kind horse world and not hearing her contagious laugh – come on, people, that laugh – or hearing her voice over the loud speaker calling for the next class, or seeing her buzz around in a golf cart or tractor as she yells at someone to move their vehicle, or correct someone’s jump in the warm-up ring so it is legal. Horse shows just wouldn’t have been or be the same if Janet Fall was not a part of them.

Thank you, Janet, for the countless memories like my first A show at the Cow Palace and thank you for all that you have done for horses and horse people everywhere. We are blessed to know you!! Congratulations, this honor is well deserved.

Author Jill Gaffney and her husband Trevor operate Freestyling Farms in the Bay Area’s Nicasio.

Newsworthy: Equine Lifetime Achievement
by Tracy Esse

“Cheers” was his barn name and any child rider was lucky to ride and show him. Andrew Ramsay, Paris Sellon and Jessica Springsteen all won important championships on both coasts. Olivia was so lucky to have the chance to ride him, too.  He was incredibly reliable and his favorite treats were peppermints! The Chad sisters got him after Olivia.

He is now retired in Canada and I hope he is enjoying his retirement. Cheers, Newsworthy!

Author Tracy Esse is the mom of Olivia Esse, one of Newsworthy’s star riders.



photo: Paul Mason” style=

Karen Healey: Lifetime Achievement
by Melissa Jones

In many ways you could say I spent my formative years working for Karen. I was still in my 20s when I began what was to be an incredible journey.

A year or so before I went to work for her, Mickey Hayden, my current boss, and I were at another barn looking at horses. We had gone to lunch with one of the trainers from this barn, who will remain nameless. He asked Mickey, “What are we going to do about this Karen problem? She is ruining everything here on the West Coast. She’s out there at 6 a.m. teaching lessons, then still out there schooling horses at the end of the day. What now? We’ll all have to do this??”

My thought at the time, and Mickey’s, was, “What’s wrong with that?” Now in my (oh God!) 50s, I still say, “Works for me.”

That drive, work ethic and willingness to go the extra mile are part of what makes Karen great at what she does. We joke all the time, on her tombstone -- hopefully not for a long time -- it will say  “Why couldn’t Rome be built in a day? Would have been if I was there!”

I remember her telling one of the kids, getting ready for USET Finals, who couldn’t get past the first gymnastic line Karen had set. “I can stay here all night, I have no life.” Obviously this was pre-Fred. But she’d still be out there now, however long it takes.

I think her greatest legacy, even more so than the wins, is the horsemen she has helped to create. From Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum to Jill Prieto, Nina Alario, Lindsay Archer and Kasey Ament, to name just a few. These are not just riders, but horsemen, and there are dozens more. Those of us who have worked for her will tell you how lucky we’ve been to learn that system. I know Archie Cox and Tasha Visokay would agree with me, that we would not be half the teachers we are without her, nor, in my case, half the person.

No one cares more about this business than Karen, No one is more honest, more hands-on, and yes, more stubborn than Karen. She is my hero. I hope when I grow up, I can become even half the teacher and horseman she is.

Author Melissa Jones was Karen’s assistant throughout most of her 34 years in California with Karen Healey Stables.

Maggi McHugh: Hall of Fame

by Paul Bennett

Ten years ago, Maggi shared the PCHA’s Mark Mullen Memorial Trophy award with Anne Blecker for their remarkable efforts for the organization: tracking points and rule changes and organizing the convention and special banquets. Then and now, those are under-rated and under-appreciated tasks, yet Maggi always did them with grace and good humor. I’ve only known her for 25 years or so, dating back to when she convinced me to be the NorCal Hunter Jumper Association’s liaison with the PCHA. Over the years, we spent a lot of time together working on the banquets and she was a pleasure to work and travel with.

With everything she did for the PCHA, it was always about making things better for the horses, the horsemen and the association. She was always an extremely dedicated employee. She is very deserving of her place in the CPHA Hall Of Fame.

Author Paul Bennett is a former president of the CPHA.