The West Coast Spanish horse community is abuzz with excitement over the debut of Copa California. Set for June 16-18 at the Sacramento area's Murieta Equestrian Center, this annual Pura Raza Española competition and Saturday night Spectacular is a first in Northern California, but its appeal spreads well beyond that.
Sanctioned by ANCCE, (Custodians of the PRE studbook of Spain, and the world's largest national breeders association), and sponsored by USPRE Association, Copa California has a competitive agenda that centers on morphology (conformation) classes officiated by a morphology judge from Spain. It will be held simultaneously with The Golden State Dressage Classic CDI. Veteran event organizer Connie Davenport will manage both shows, ensuring smooth sailing. Copa competitors will have a chance to earn high point awards for USDF Dressage classes and USDF Sport Horse classes, and there will be ample opportunities for the Spanish horse and dressage aficionados to interact and learn from each other.
In addition to a full slate of morphology classes, Saturday night's Spectacular will live up to its name in celebrating these horses and the culture of their origin. Dancing horses, a cobra of mares and la garrocha exhibitions are sure highlights of the night.
A cobra of mares is a class in which identical mares, usually three to five, are linked side by side with leather collars and are shown off by a single handler, who sometimes works with a "tailer." The mares move together through walk and trot maneuvers on a circle and in lateral work. "If you are a horse person, you'll realize the skill that's involved in getting all these mares working in unison," explains Copa California show coordinator Jacqueline Suechting.
"The more closely the mares resemble each other, the better," she continues. The cobra originated as a tool in threshing wheat, today it is a showcase for the consistency and success in a breeding program and it's connected to the highest honor that can be earned at a traditional Spanish Horse show: that of best breeder, or Mejor Criador.
La garrocha evolved from a type of mounted bull fighting in which the rider used a pole to fend off particularly dangerous bulls, the Brave Bulls of Spain. Today the art form consists of a horse and rider showing off their skills with the pole in an elegant routine.
Caballo Bailadores, a.k.a. dancing horses, will also be showcased at the Spectacular. Popular in Mexico, horse dancing features the horse and rider spontaneously dancing to the music. Piaffe, passage and lateral movements are incorporated in the dance, ornately carved and decorated tack and costume are hallmarks of this demonstration.
Even the competitive morphology classes can be highly entertaining for spectators, Jacqueline says. The horses are exhibited in Spanish tack and handlers often dress in traditional Spanish garb. In short, the whole event is more a celebration of the horse-centered Spanish culture and art than a "horse show."
The thriving Northern California PRE community had been discussing staging a show for years, Jacqueline relays. "It took a special person to say, OK, let's do it and I'll underwrite it.'" That person was Raul Bucio. The proprietor of Andaurora Ranch, he is a breeder himself but will not be competing any of his horses as he serves as president of Copa California. Fellow USPRE board members Alexander Zilo (show vice president) and Kimberly Van Kampen Boyer are among many other major sponsors.
Getting the sanctioning of the Spanish studbook was perhaps the most challenging and important of the myriad details that go into organizing such an event. Thankfully, everyone who'd talked about how great it would be to have such a show in Northern California has put their time where their talk was and is helping to produce what is expected to be a terrific gathering.
Staging the show concurrent with a major dressage competition and adding Copa Espectacular were part of the organizing committee's desire "to expand our vision," says Jacqueline. She is particularly excited about Friday night's progressive barn party, during which the PRE exhibitors invite dressage competitors and all fans to visit their horses, ask questions and get a great meal as they move from barn to barn. An opportunity drawing for a filly by Dorado Andaluz' Botijo M and a stallion breeding auction that will culminate in December are among many other highlights.
For the latest on Copa California, visit
www.copacaliforniapre.com, friend the event on Facebook or call 209-722-8375. Join the party!