Tamra Smith and Sunsprite Syrius receiving their National Championship trophy from USEA President Brian Sabo, September 2013. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.
Top eventer Debbie Rosen is a little miffed at Pam Duffy and Donald Trotter, owners of Sunsprite Warmbloods in Temecula. "I'd always wanted to ride a Sunsprite horse, but they had never asked me," she says. "I was getting a little grumpy and pouty." She's kidding, of course, about being mad at these pillars of the California eventing community, but she's very serious about the honor of riding one of their horses.
Debbie is aware that Pam has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of sporthorse bloodlines, but what really stands out to the rider is a less tangible quality. "She has that very unique ability, a gift, to look at a mare and a stallion and know they would produce a fabulous baby. It's like, she dreams it and it is so."
Tamra Smith on Sunsprite Syrius.
Debbie's Sunsprite wish came true nearly two years ago, in the form of Sunsprite's Cali, and today she's very happily competing the 6-year-old mare, Sunsprite Belissima, who Pam and Don imported from Germany.
Sunsprite's Cali is now competing for his new owner, a junior, but Debbie will never forget him. The son of the late Thoroughbred Coconut Grove and out of a Sunsprite foundation mare, the Hanoverian Econda (by the noted jumping sire Espiri), Sunsprite's Cali came to Debbie as a "freak of nature," she explains. Then just 15 hands, "he jumped the moon" and was "totally fancy. There wasn't a dressage judge that didn't fall in love with him." Debbie and Sunsprite's Cali won just about everything they entered in their year and a half together and Sunsprite's Cali is poised to help his new rider do the same at Novice level.
Gregoire Solente on Sunsprite Patronus in Del Mar.
Photo: Captured Moment Photography
The fact that, at just 5 years of age, Sunsprite's Cali was already a suitable mount for a junior, albeit a talented one in 15-year-old Angela Cricelli, speaks volumes about the breeding program's top priority: temperament. "Their horses are really bred and trained to do their job," says Debbie.
Pam and Don are famously not horn tooters. "I like to let our horses speak for us," Pam laughs. But she can be coaxed to brag a bit when it comes to her horses' approach to life. "Every breeder says their horses have great temperaments, but it is really true for us," Pam allows. Some of it is luck, she acknowledges, but the majority comes from the parents. "The sire and dam have to have a good work ethic and that 'thing' where they want to please you."
Deborah Rosen riding Sunsprite's Cali.
It's tricky. That desire to please needs to be balanced by "a tiny bit of independence," Pam explain. "Horses have to be able to think for themselves, especially future eventers."
Yet even after a relatively short eight years officially in the breeding business, the performance results are racking up. Most recently, Tamra Smith, who currently campaigns two Sunsprite steeds, rode Sunsprite Syrius to Training Level National Championship in Texas at the USEA finals last fall.
Year Of The Mare
Sunsprite has been a mare-focused program since the get-go, but this year will be the "Year Of the Mare" more than ever as many of them hit the show circuits. "This is in keeping with the idea that future broodmares should have a competition record before retiring to the breeding shed," Pam explains. "Future owners of Sunsprite mares will be able to take advantage of the depth of our bloodline selections for many years to come. Sunsprite's motto is 'Your Gateway to Top Performance Blood' and we take it very seriously."
Sunsprite Syrius in Texas at AEC Championship.
Photo: Terrie Hatcher
Don and Pam have found kindred spirits in the eventing community, and their sane body, sound mind emphasis has made their horses super suitable for the multi-faceted disciplne. Thanks to their athletic abilities and elegant gaits, Sunsprites excel in dressage and jumping, too.
Temecula dressage trainer Nicholia "Niki" Clarke is thrilled to have the ride, for a year now, on Sunsprite's Parody *M*. Out of foundation mare Piroschka *M*, and by Guy Laroche, Parody was champion filly, 3-year-olds and under, at her first show, the Annual American Trakehner Association convention in 2008. In 2010, the mare earned the ATA's Model Mare status.
Elizabeth McConnell on Sunsprite In-Zukunft.
Photo: Jutta Bauernschmitt
Now 7, Parody and Niki had a terrific 2013 at Second Level dressage with scores consistently in the 70s. Niki sees FEI potential in Parody, much of that due to her temperament. Started by Tamie Smith on an eventing track, Parody easily switched to dressage. "She's very trainable and reliable," reports Niki. "She was young and inexperienced last year, but she was confident and relaxed and nothing we did proved to be much of a challenge for her. I think her trainability will enable her to move all the way up."
One of their first homebreds, Sunsprite's Woodstock Magic (Woody), made his mark in the jumper ring. A Weltmeyer grandson by Welt Klasse, the 1997 foal is out of the Thoroughbred mare Rodan's Princess. He was trained by Canadian show jumping breeder Isauro Flores, who recalls the handsome chestnut as "extremely athletic. He would often put his hind end up two to three feet over the 4'3" fences." Woody also had the trace of independence Pam seeks. In Woody's case, that manifested in a "tremendous sense of humor" and his knack for nipping Isauro's cap and flinging it far away. Sunsprite, Isauro concludes, "is a breeding program that is at par with those in Europe."
This is exactly what Pam set out to do in modeling Sunsprite on the carefully researched pairing and continual refinements for which European sporthorse breeders are known. Sunsprite conducts business as Sunsprite Ranch, LLC, which breeds, trains and sells young sport prospects. The company has also bred two foals in Germany, with the cooperation of Stephanie Herken-Wendt of Gestüt Majenfelderhof.
Sunsprite's horses are the undisputed stars of the program but, much as they don't like it, Pam and Don are widely recognized for their generosity and joie de vivre, toward individuals and the equestrian sport as a whole. Don was not a horse guy when he met Pam, a lifelong horsewoman originally from Mexico, but he has endeared himself to the equestrian community in many ways. As a tireless volunteer ring steward, he is beloved for calming nervous young riders with gentle jokes and encouraging everybody. His handmade stadium jumps are favorites on the circuit. Not surprisingly, Don was honored with Area VI's Exceptional Volunteer award last year.
Debbie Rosen sees her wait to get a Sunsprite ride as part of Don and Pam's commitment to perfect pairings between horse and rider, and also part of their mission to "spread the wealth."
"They are single-handedly putting a bunch of us on great horses," says Debbie. "They are always thinking of ways to promote us as riders and the sport, and I think that is kind of remarkable when you think about the big picture."
Galway Downs event organizer Robert Kellerhouse is another influential fan. "Sunsprite is a great supporter of equestrian sports because of their vertically integrated equestrian program which includes breeding, raising and training of sport horses at all levels of eventing, as well as helping to support eventing competitions in the region through volunteering, sponsorship and providing a quality entry base."
At present, the following riders are part of the Sunsprite team: James Alliston, Taren and James Atkinson, Kristie Bigham, Niki Clarke, Emilee Libby, Attila Rajnai, Debbie Rosen, Tamie Smith and Gregoire Solente. "It takes a highly competitive team of like-minded individuals to produce good results," Pam says. "Don and I are extraordinarily grateful and feel fortunate to work with the passionate and gifted equestrians that have partnered with us to form the Sunsprite team."
For more information on Sunsprite
Warmbloods, call 951-506-3048 or visit