March 2017 - Area VI Annual Meeting & Banquet
Written by photos and article by Kim F. Miller
Tuesday, 28 February 2017 00:25
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Eventers don’t let a little rain dampen the year-end celebrations in Fresno.

photos and article by Kim F. Miller

Rain and mud are typically no match for the Area VI eventing community and that was mostly the case for the association’s annual meeting and awards banquet, and the CIC1*, CIC2* and Horse Trials competitions that ran concurrently at the Fresno County Horse Park Feb. 17-19.


Reconciling the auction proceeds for Area VI Young Riders.

Perennial volunteers and sport supporters Don Trotter and Pamela Duffy of Sunsprite Warmbloods receive special acknowledgement. The custom jump Don donated to the Young Riders fundraiser went for $4,000.

Awards Banquet VIPs

Dragonfire Farm friends & family

Area VI chairman Chris Scarlett auctions off an autographed ball cap signed by many of the sport’s top riders.

International Panel: Guest star Rodney Powell questions the panel of fellow international riders, from left, Tamie Smith, Lauren Billys and Bunnie Sexton

Things weren’t looking great Friday as steady rain mucked up the rings and cross-country courses. Several riders did load up their horses at that point and haul them home. However, the rain eased up that night and by the morning the whistle and chug of the freight trains running along the property’s Highway 99 perimeter were accompanied by hoofbeats as horse/riders navigated cross-country courses that had to be only slightly altered for safety.


Competition organizer and FCHP chief John Marshall and his crew were credited with and thanked for doing an amazing job keeping the riding surfaces safe. A few fences were removed from the cross-country courses, the usual show jumping arena was relocated and team members and tractors worked tirelessly to create safe tracks. It helps that the ground at the venue long known as RamTap is one of the best when it comes to handling wet weather. The property abuts the San Joaquin River and has a sandy base that has held up well in our recent deluges.

The simultaneous staging of the Area VI annual awards banquet and meeting was an extra incentive to stick it out. The festivities began Friday night with a $5 “pizza feed” and free showing of Harry & Snowman. The movie was sponsored by Friends of Jumpin’ Jack Flash as a fundraiser for Area VI Young Riders. Under the circumstances, it was a good turn-out in the big tent on the hill overlooking cross-country. The story of Harry deLeyer and his “$80 dollar champion” show jumper, the movie was great, too!

Kelly Pugh & the Englishman, 5th in Open Training

Bunnie Sexton & friends

Julie Anne Boyer, center, receives the Area VI “Wanda” award for horsemanship.

Riders in Jennifer Wooten-Macouzet’s Trinity Eventing program.

Amber Levine, Tamie Smith, Kathryn Canaro, Bunnie Sexton & Lauren Billys

Amber Levine & Cinzano, 2nd in the Open Training Division

The Awards Banquet followed on Saturday night, highlighted by visiting international rider Rodney Powell leading a panel discussion with Area VI’s international stars Tamie Smith, Lauren Billys and Bunnie Sexton. In answering questions from Rodney and the audience, the women shared several insights.

Asked about managing nerves, Tamie said, “There is no magic formula. Everybody gets nervous.” She recounted her own fears as a young rider and shared that she and Heather Morris had once “made a pact” that they would never ride at the Advanced level. Which is funny, of course, because the lifelong friends have violated that pact many times over with years of success at that level and above, including Tamie’s win of the weekend’s 1* and 2* aboard Glock Pullman and Fleeceworks Royal, respectively.

Stating that she approached the start box “just as nervous” for a Novice round as a 3 or 4 star trip, Bunnie said she has her own form of meditation in the start box, no matter the difficulty level she’s preparing for. “So long as I stay in the moment, ride every stride and focus on what I can control, that’s how I keep my focus and keep in control. I have a very spiritual kind of feeling about that.”

Jennifer Wooten-Macouzet & Patina DCF, 4th in Training Horse division.

A competitor contends gracefully with Friday’s mucky dressage courts.

And what about handling defeats?

During her last competition before representing Puerto Rico at the Rio Olympics last summer, Lauren had the “worst dressage score of my life” at the Great Meadows event. “It’s all in the way you frame it,” Lauren continued. “I took it as a critique that could make me better. Every defeat is either an opportunity or something that you let break you.”

Tamie shared her “devastation” after an injury to Mai Baum derailed what looked likely to be an Olympic track last year. On reflection, she felt that she had competed too much and been swayed away from her own best instincts as a horseman. “My advice is to surround yourself with smart people who have your back and want the best thing for you and your horse.”

Tamie drew an empathetic laugh from Saturday night’s boisterous audience when she described eventing as “a huge defeat on a regular basis.” But you’re a winner, she concluded, if you come away from every mistake “smarter and able to do better by your horse.”

With many young riders in attendance, the panelists were asked their advice about juggling riding with earning a college degree. Tamie, Lauren and Bunnie were adamantly in favor of getting a degree. Tamie and Lauren credited their college educations with making them better trainers and well equipped to handle the business aspects of the sport. Bunnie acknowledged that she “dropped out of Stanford to be a horse trainer,” but if she had a do-over, she’d finish college as all four of her children with her husband Ken have done.

There are many years available to get to the top of the sport, Bunnie advised. “These days a college degree is so important. You have to understand the business and how the world works.”

Bunnie presents her husband Ken Sexton with an appreciation award for his work as Area VI event representative.

Year-end competitive awards were presented Saturday along with several special awards and acknowledgements. Juliet Clarke, Lyndsey Myers, Julie Anne Boyer, Sunsprite Warmblood’s Don Trotter and Pamela Duffy, Ride On Video’s Bob and Debi Ravenscroft, Ken Sexton and John Marshall were among those given special recognition for helping to make Area VI eventing the wonderful scene that it is.


For complete results of Fresno County Horse Park competitions, visit For more photos from the weekend, visit the Facebook pages of California Riding Magazine and Area VI.